Monday, July 25, 2016

A beautiful doll like me...

There might be some sort of a correlation between daughters and dolls, or not. But, Manya and mommy both love dolls :D.
In our case, Manya was gifted her first dolls by friends, and it was only on her second birthday did we as parents present her with a doll as she had been asking for a while. Subsequently, on her third birthday, she again wanted a doll, which in her words. "should be as beautiful as me..." (As an aside, I never denied we are not raising a narcissist :P)

My daughter is close to 4 now, and the struggle that I continue to face in my quest to search for a doll as beautiful as her is crazy - yes, that has to be the word. We are about 1.2 billion Indians (I agree with not all same characteristics), but how difficult is it for a toy manufacturer to make a doll with brown skin, black hair and black eyes that is not size zero. We are a nation that has produced Miss Universes and Miss Worlds more times than I can remember (never mind, my personal opinion against most beauty pageants) yet when it comes to our dolls (or maybe even most of our so called beauty models), we whitewash them - pale fair skin, blonde golden hair, blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and pink lips - why are those still our standards of beauty worldwide? It broke my heart when M stated matter of factly the other day when we couldn't spot a single suitable doll across 3 stores, "I think only golden haired dolls are pretty" (why else she couldn't understand weren't there other kinds of dolls), and it did become my mission to find dolls that were pretty and not blonde.

We currently reside in the US - In the last couple of years I am increasingly aware of the growing number of black (and I don't see why black is politically incorrect - African-American seems more factually incorrect!) dolls on the shelves beside their white counterparts - which is awesome! But brown dolls - no luck. Dora comes close but if you are a parent of a preschooler, you know she is not made to really cuddle with. So the other day, I was having a conversation with some mommy friends, and they realized that it was true that even if brown girls were fairly common in the US, brown dolls were not. I have still not taken this omission from the market too much to heart - it is the US, there are so many different people out here and so be it if certain nationalities are not represented really - (not everybody is competing with the emojis, I understand *rolls eyes*) - Also the greater problem might be state representatives rather than doll representative, just saying.

These are Manya's first dolls as presents from friends...

The great Indian vacation was surely going to be our answer - or so I thought. I was very sure that back home in India we would get the dolls like "us" - but if you think finding a brown doll in the US was difficult, it is impossible in India. Infact, when you go to a store and ask for a brown doll, people look at you as if they don't understand what you are talking about. Friends suggested the Trudi brand (Italian), and when I checked their catalogue I was thrilled to see so many kinds of dolls - brunettes and black haired, and different eye colors - well somebody is doing it right (so what if it costs an arm and a leg, and only if you can get your hands on the limited stock). So, I went around looking for their black haired doll - ready to shell out any amount but with little success. I was, however, able to get my hands on Ginger (from Trudi) and she was different - not white, a little speckled even, not a blonde and green instead of blue eyes - one takes what one gets and we bought it for about INR3500 or about USD 60.00. Expensive for a doll, but not bad considering the options we had.
Here's Ginger...

Quite disappointed when we returned after our Indian vacation, I commenced serious research and realized that there were options out there, though not readily available in physical stores. American Girl clearly tops the list. Spendy again. I mean USD100+ is atrocious - you pay a price for egalitarianism, I guess - or is that the price for being "different"? Anyhow, they have really upped their game. (Tip: check out Zulily for deals! :D)  Here's the bitty baby that Manya got on her 3rd birthday and she was absolutely delighted. I really think it looks like her baby version :).
Madame Alexander, long considered the inferior cousin to American Girl, does comes a close second - I see greater choices added every now and then - less expensive too but again not available in physical stores easily.

Manya wants a cuddly soft toy doll this time, and these kinds are much easier to find but again you have to ignore the oneness of the color. Kayla (she is supposed to be a tall 28" brunette) is waiting for M in the store room since mommy grabbed her already at a great deal.

As we aspire to bring up our children to be confident in their own skin (quite literally too); to be respectful towards the diversity that comes with origin, race, culture, religion, country, sect, gender, sexual preferences; to be able to put values of love, help, and general goodness above any such differences, we as parents would really appreciate help that can come from big corporates who manufacture toys for these young clay-like minds. In an ideal world, my daughter should be able to go to a store and see all kinds of dolls (at a varying price range), just as she walks into her preschool class and befriends so many "different" girls!  Diversity is great - ofcourse it fuels curiosity - my daughter has been asking why some girls have golden hair and blue eyes, and if only those can be princesses (Thank you, Disney! - but that would be fodder for another post). But such questions are important - whitewashing the whole toys section just seems unhealthy in a world that's already coping with issues of acceptance of the "other". Don't you think? 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sattar (70) minutes!

So M has been going for classes thrice a week now - for 2-2.75 hrs. Between driving to and fro, I roughly get about a little more than an hour or so, absolutely guilt-free, to myself, and oh my god - any parent will have to agree with me - each minute of that ticking hour is so precious! Most of the time I am just giddy with excitement - should I go shop, should I cook and clean (F it!), should I exercise, should I read, should I watch, should I surf, should I blog, should I nap!! 

Am no SRK fan but I am reminded of this scene from Chak De every time! ...It's like, "...yeh sattar minute main jee bhar ke jee loon; Sattar minute zindagi ke jo mujhse koi nahin cheen sakta...khuda bhi waapas nahin maang sakta" ha ha ha!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Busy days ahead!

One person in our house who now needs her own calendar so that everybody else can kepp up with her schedule is Ms. Manya Vishwanath.

She hasn't started preschool yet but her current rough schedule goes like this: 2 days a week summer camp, 2 days a week martial arts, 2 days a week swimming, one day a week school skills class. Add to that Library visits and story times, weekend impromptu trips, our little one is surely busy.

And she is clearly not exhausted enough as she still finds time to get bored!! The other day her highness mentions that she would like to start ballet and soccer classes - I had to be rude and cut her off with a No, Thank You - Mommy is exhausted with all the chaperoning!!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Board games!

We have finally introduced Manya to the wonderful world of board games. She got two to start with - Candyland Bingo and Hi Ho Cherry Ho - very age appropriate multi player games!

I remember doing a post on my personal blog a very long time back about the fun I have had growing up with board games - you can read it here.

It has been very exciting playing these with Manya as part of family time and thankfully she has been as enthusiastic. The other stuff that's keeping her really busy these days is puzzles. She can do upto 16 pieces now and is working on the 24-piece sets. That's one thing she can work on for a long time without having to be entertained by someone and I have been able to do my cooking and cleaning in greater peace thanks to that!

Friday, June 17, 2016

First movie in a theater!

While I would have wanted to wait a couple of more years before this first came along, but Manya clearly had other plans.

I spoke about her first movie ever (at home) - Finding Nemo, here. As luck would have it, she spotted Finding Dory marketing stuff all over the place - in clothing stores, grocery stores, book stores, and obviously wanted to know everything about it. And just like that, she decided she needed to watch the movie and if it cannot come on the computer or the TV, then she'd go to the theater.

And being the submissive pampering understanding parents that we are, we decided to go for it! So, ladies and gentlemen, it was Finding Dory in 3D with popcorn on the side and boy, did she enjoy it - she was already familiar with the characters and could relate to the story very well. So a great expereience and no, at this stage we don't want to really make this routine though she already told us, "It was a great idea bringing me ot the theater, we should do this more often!" Bleh!

Saturday, June 4, 2016


Our little MMA champ participated in the Kick-a-Thon organized by her martial arts academy. I mentioned hear how she and I both are thrilled with our decision!

She won in the 3 year old category with a record of 418 kicks in 30 mins! Poor baby was so exhausted _ she did not come down from my lap for quite some time after that - but have to give it to her to do the kicks properly even when when we were encouraging her to take it easy - she did not compromise on the quality of the kicks, so kudos to that too!!

Friday, June 3, 2016

A fruity spring/summer!

We have found great joy in fruit picking this season - strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, tayberries!

It was fun to have the mild sun on us as we picked the juiciest of them all, tasting them straight from the plant every now and then. This is a definite must do on our list every year!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

M goes to the planetarium!

All of last year, Manya used to say she wants to grow up to be an astronaut (she want to be a Vet now) and consequently she has learnt quite a bit about planets, and stars and moons. We thought she was ready for her first trip to the Planetarium and we were correct! 

She was awestruck the entire time, and listened so carefully and watched with such amazement that it was absolutely worth it to go into the chaos of downtown braving a rainy day and crowded streets!

Friday, May 13, 2016


One of those moments that need to be captured as is...

We are standing at a slightly secluded spot - there are the woods, a small pond and lots of birds chirping around. Manya says: "mommy I love how I can hear silence here"
Me: how can you hear silence - you just mean the noise the birds are making
Manya: you don't understand - you need to concentrate and then listen.
Me: Manya I hear nothing
Manya: that is right, you hear silence.
Either I have driven her crazy or she's driving me crazy! 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Rules of Engagement: Toddlers

Our little cub is not so little anymore - from a new born, to an infant, to a baby, to a toddler - she has crossed through quite a few stages; and as we prepare to say adieu to toddlerhood and hello to the preschooler, I thought I'd put in my learning in a post to share - with parents who are going thru or will be going thru this stage soon, so that they know it never gets easy - with parents who have already crossed this stage, so that they can sit back, laugh, and thank god they are done with - with friends who are not yet parents, so that they know exactly what all to consider before taking the giant leap! :P.

And I am happy that I haven't broken the tradition of a post around Mother's Day - fourth year in a row! Thank you and a very happy mother's day to you too (whatever that means, because I haven't seen a non-Mother's Day in the last 4 years :D)

Alright, ladies and gentlemen, based on limited experience and research, presenting to you Rules of Engagement for Toddlers (Age range: About 1 - 3 years) - written from their perspective (ofcourse)...

I Rule of Ownership
Everything is mine - my stuff, your stuff, the neighbor's stuff, the friend's stuff, the play gym's stuff. If it is in somebody else's hand, it is definitely mine. If I can't have it, oh yeah, it sure is mine. If it is dangerous, I was born to own it. If it is broken, lying within reach, or nobody's showing interest in it, I might consider for one fleeting moment, that it may not belong to me. This poem makes a fun read on the subject.

II Rule of Time aka Rule of "NOW"
There was no past, there is no future - no yesterday, today, or tomorrow. I live in the present moment - NOW. I want candy now.  Want to go to the park now. Play now. Eat now. Cry now. Kiss now. Jump now. There's only one small exception to the rule - I never ever want to sleep now.

III Rule of Appetite
I am never hungry except when - you are using the restroom, on the phone, working, cleaning up, in the grocery store 5 mins post evening snack, at an outing where food cannot be made immediately available, when guests are home, and most importantly at nap time and bed time.

IV Rule of Night time Sleep
Fed, cleaned, brushed, changed, bed time story done, song done, all snuggled up in bed, I need to talk. I feel hungry. I definitely need to use the potty. I need a drink. As that sweet kissing mommy changes to a monster yelling at me, I quickly fall asleep so that she spends the rest of the night in guilt of shouting at me as the last thing of the day.

V Rule of Napping
Refer to Rule IV on Sleep above. In addition to that, there's a strong possibility I'll skip napping altogether and then I'll fall asleep in the car, driving to the groceries, so that mommy is caught in the eternal struggle to wake a sleepy baby or spend time browsing on her phone in the parking lot. (My mommy is getting smarter - she has a book ready on her tablet for such occasions.)

VI Rule of New Clothes
If you have dressed me in new clothes, I am surely going to soil it, spill food on it and generally make it unwearable before we have even gotten out of the door.

VII Rule of Vocabulary Building
I will pick up only those words and expressions that you don't want me to. You can never be too careful. And I will keep repeating them for everybody, till every single person knows how bad your language is. Don't even try spelling it for my sake - people find it cuter when a curse word is spelt out correctly by humans of my age.

VIII Rule of Arms against Common Enemy
Nobody is on your side - not me, not your friend, not your own mom and dad. I act extra sweet and cute when with extended family and friends, because I get sympathy, empathy, and such support that I almost begin to feel sorry for your state. Life is unfair, you often tell me. Haa!

IX Rule of Potty
Resist potty training as much as I can - as if my life would cease to exist if I were made to sit on the pot. And when finally potty trained, I sit on it all day singing, playing with toilet paper and creating a mess - potty is my favorite place to be. Also, it is of utmost importance to use the potty when mommy sits down to eat, when she is cooking, when there are guests, when in a new place and never mind there's no nature call - I just fake it. Also, I talk about potty all day - it has become the center of my being.

X Rule of Persistence
If I am told a NO, keep asking, whining, crying, in the hope that one day that NO will change into a Yes. And if that is not achieved, I atleast get the distinct satisfaction of my mom pull out her hair in desperation.

XI Rule of Unpredictability
I hate when adults are so sure about my like and dislikes. Hello! Till you get it signed on a stamp paper, don't hold me to what you think my favorites are. That includes what you think are my favorite foods, clothes, games, activities, people etc. I like to experiment and not be so predictable!

XII Rule of Argumentation
I first want to know WHO and WHAT. Who is that? What is that? Everything - everything all over a million times. Then I want to know the WHY - an infinite loop of Whys. You don't think you can keep up? Why?

XIII Rule of Positive Action
Ending the list of rules on an ominous number, I just do it. If it looks dangerous, if I know they are not going to let me do it, if I think it might cause panic and alarm, I will definitely take the plunge.

Finally, one overarching Golden Rule: While following all the above rules, I don't forget the hugs and kisses and cuddles and snuggles and the innocent puppy faced glances. These adults are suckers for such. Just as I know the dam of patience is going to break, I say or do something incredibly sweet and that gets me the get out of jail card for free!