Appreciating discipline

A shout-out to my mom and dad for inculcating the early habits of discipline, both before and after A 🙂 We have been very particular about A’s bedtime, nap-time and meals pretty much since she was born. We were taught about babies and their circadian rhythm in the hospital itself. Well, A is 16 months old today and I am pleased to share that the rigorous setting of routines has paid off! She is very particular about her schedule. Even if I try to take a day off, she ensures that I provide her with food and she is put to bed at her specific times. I realized this especially now as she’s been following her routines as per CA time, while in HI! She’s been getting cranky if her dinner isn’t provided within 5:30 PM, and 8:00 PM is like the middle of the night for her. I decided to allow her to eat and sleep early, not bothering too much about jet lag and such. The only difference it makes is that she is early to bed and early to rise, and that isn’t too bad in my book! As long as we follow her routines, she is happy but should we deviate too much, she brings the roof down!

I don’t like to dole out parenting advice, but one of the few tips I would share is to establish a routine very early in your child’s life. There is no such thing as an in-disciplined child, any child can be disciplined if this is introduced early enough in life. To say babies cannot have a bed-time for the first 3 months of their life is a myth, in my opinion based on my experience. By establishing healthy eating and sleeping habits in your child, you are setting them up for a healthy lifestyle. The best thing? A’s routine has reinforced a sense of discipline in me!

And that’s the end of my advice-sharing session. Suffice to say, this worked for me and I hope it works for you. I’ll add that just like anything else, there are good days and bad days. But overall, A is cool with her sense of discipline. I am a proud mom!

 

First family vacation!

Tomorrow morning, we leave for our first family holiday! We’re off to Hawaii! Although we have traveled plenty before A was born, this is our first big holiday with a baby. We traveled to India when she was younger, but since that was to visit grandparents and more like going from one home to another, it was very different.

This time, we’ve tried to pack all that we can think of… clothes, diapers, wipes being the least of ’em. Toys that can keep her occupied for longer, beach toys, favorite books, items of comfort, basic medication and of course the biggest item on the list being FOOD. Let’s hope we’ve remembered everything important, and that if we haven’t, we can find it there locally. Let’s hope everything goes well! Excited and nervous. Fingers crossed! Yay!

Biggest change since parenthood

I used to love sleeping in, 5-minute snoozes on my alarm were my favorite thing and the longer I slept the fresher I would feel.

If you’d told me then that my best days after parenthood would be by starting my day early well before A wakes up, doing chores while the coffee brews and enjoying a quiet cup, I wouldn’t have believed you then! And yet, today these are a few of my favorite things 🙂

Fun at the park

I’ve realized that there are some amusing little things A has been doing of late, mostly at the park:

  • Trying to understand sharing: She has learnt to give and take. She has also learnt to help herself to other kids toys and play! However, she hasn’t fully gotten that to take a li’ll, you gotta give a li’ll. When she sees other kids playing with her toys, she goes around “collecting” them! I try to teach her to share (“one for her, one for you”) but looks like she hasn’t quite got the hang of it yet 😉 I have to admit it is interesting to watch the kids resolve these things amongst themselves.
  • Trying to “socialize”: she loves “talking” to the other kids; squealing, waving, following. When she sees one of her cute little friends, she recognizes them and points. When she sees an older kid, I see her trying to imitate and follow. For a kid who had severe stranger anxiety around her first birthday, it is amazing to watch her take these strides!

Just wanted to record these so that I could look back on them someday in the future and smile 🙂

Climbing everything

A has been climbing stairs since she was 9 months old. We bought the IKEA Patrull gate soon after, only to have the product recalled. Although she’s capable of climbing up and down, we prefer she does not do so unsupervised. We try out best to block the entrance to the stairs, only to have her figure out a way to circumvent that.

Lately, she’s been climbing everything she can possibly climb. Sofas, beds, baskets, tables, chairs, you name it, she’s on it. I’m a tired mom!

Goodnight!

Deedee’s, Santa Clara

Today we went to Deedee’s, Santa Clara for dinner. I love buffet style restaurants because we get to try out so many different kinds of food! It’s hard to order as much when the three of us go out otherwise. Deedee’s has some chaats, followed by a main course of rice, rotis and curry. Today the theme was “rajasthani”. We started off with some truly yummy bhel puri and pani puri. The bhel puri was the best I’ve had in a long time and had me going for more and more. We followed it up with a bunch of curries like rajasthani kadhi, dal, channa masala, mutter paneer with a couple of varieties of roti and rice. My husband says the Shrikand was awesome (I’m not a Shrikand person). There were a couple of other things, but this was filling enough and we’ll have to go back to try the rest another time! The best part of the buffet was that there are so many varieties that there is a higher probability of our picky toddler eating at least one item. 😉

All in all, a good meal and a fun family dinner!

Travel recipes, Part 2: Instant oats idly mix

I distinctly remember that as a child, I did not like the taste of anything sweet anytime of the day, but especially during breakfast. I hated cereal, bread with jam, pastries, etc. To be honest, I still hate all those for breakfast. For me, breakfast has to be savory and preferably Indian. I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been for my mom that I didn’t eat the most ubiquitous of foods!

However, it all comes back – my daughter now has almost same food preferences! She hates sweets and prefers a savory Indian breakfast. Her favorite is dosa, and idly comes in a close second. I’ve been experimenting with different varieties of idly and dosa, in order to balance her nutrition. One of my favorites has been oats idly.

Coming back to our trip and planning out A’s meals, I decided I would make some instant idly and dosa mixes which could be mixed with water / yoghurt and used to prepare idly or dosa quickly at our AirBnB accommodation. I have a microwave idly plate similar to this one. While I’ve not had great success with idlies made from the standard fermented urad dal + rice batter, I have been quite satisfied with rava idlies. Oats idlies are similar to rava idlies in principle and lend themselves well to instant formulae, so I figured why not. There are two stages to this recipe: making the mix, and then making the idlies. In this post, I’ve shared both stages. I’ve shared the stove-top method for making the idlies here, plus a guideline for the microwave method. The microwave method may vary across microwaves due to differing powers, differing sizes of microwave idly plate, etc. Anyway, on to the recipe. It is inspired by Veg Recipes of India.

Mix:

Ingredients (makes 4 cups of mix):

Oats (rolled or quick-cooking) – 2.5 cups
Semolina / rava / sooji – 1.5 cups
Oil – 2 tsp
Dry Red chillies – 5
Urad dal – 2 tsp
Cumin seeds / jeera – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Green chillies – 6 -8 or to taste
Ginger – 1 inch, grated fine
Asafoetida / hing – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste (I used 2 tsp)
Dehydrated coriander leaves (optional) [*]

Method:

  1. Powder oats, keep aside.
  2. Heat oil. When oil is hot, add mustard seeds.
  3. When mustard seeds splutter, add cumin seeds, urad dal, dried red chillies broken in half and asafoetida.
  4. When the above ingredients turn brown, lower the heat to a minimum. Add the green chillies and ginger. Fry these until the green chillies and ginger are both crisp and all the moisture has been cooked out. This is important as we want the idly mix to last for a few weeks and for that, the mix shouldn’t have any excess moisture.
  5. Add the powdered oats and the rava. Roast until the entire mix is golden.
  6. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Add salt and dehydrated coriander leaves [*].
  7. Store in an airtight jar and use as per need following the method below.

[*] If you love coriander in your food as much as I do, you can add dehydrated coriander leaves to your mix! Here’s what you do. Heat the oven to the lowest temperature you can. Finely chop a couple of tbsp of coriander leaves and spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (important – the leaves shouldn’t be in direct contact with the baking sheets). Leave in the oven until dried out completely. I turned off my oven after 10 minutes, and then left the leaves in there for 6 hours until they were dehydrated.

To make idlies from mix:

Ingredients:

Instant idly mix – 1/2 cup (makes 6 idlies)
Plain yoghurt – 1/2 cup
Eno fruit salt – 1/2 tsp
Water – 1 tbsp if required

Method:

  1. Beat yoghurt and idly mix together. Leave aside for 5 minutes.
  2. Grease idly plates.
  3. Add water if the batter has thickened too much.
  4. Add Eno fruit salt.
  5. Stovetop method: cook for 15 minutes and allow to cool for 5.
  6. Microwave method: cook on high for 1 minute, flip, cook on high for another 30 seconds.
  7. Serve hot with condiment of choice.

 

Lego & all the learning benefits: Part 1

As expected, A’s first set of Lego Duplo has opened up a world of learning opportunities for her. Obviously, we have all read numerous articles on how Lego promotes STEM education. However, what I would like to analyze is the specific skillset attained by blocks. To do this, I’m going to revisit an old friend, the competency.

Let’s start off with the formal definition. A competency is defined as an effective ability, including attributes, skills and knowledge, to successfully carry out some activity which is totally identified. While the term competency is typically applied in formal learning environments, I firmly believe that competencies are achieved at every stage of life. Since the first pediatrician appointments, we have been asked about A’s milestones such as feeding, laying down for tummy time, rolling over, etc. In my mind, these milestones are competencies achieved by the child. Taking the concept further, each competency has a number of sub-competencies as well. My mind was blown when my nurse at the hospital explained why it was so difficult for the newborn baby to learn to feed – the child must learn to a. suck; b. swallow; and c. all while breathing. The competency of “feeding” had so many sub-competencies!

Coming back to blocks. The obvious first competency to be achieved by the child is to put two blocks together. But wait! That isn’t the first one! While A was fascinated by the first sight of the Lego blocks, and even though it seems elementary, she couldn’t start off with putting two blocks together! So we started with what seems like the second competency: Taking two blocks apart.

So, why is this the easier competency? Let us look at the sub-competencies for the two competencies of putting together and taking apart Lego blocks:

C1: Taking blocks apart given a set of blocks that are joined together
C1.1: Identify where the two blocks meet
C1.2: Grip the blocks in the right way that they come apart
C1.3: Pull in the right direction until they come apart

C2: Putting blocks together
C2.1: Identify two blocks that will fit together
C2.2: Identify the right location to join them
C2.3: Grip them appropriately to push them together
C2.4: Join the two blocks together

We shall now identify the easier competency. Is difficulty a subjective factor? To some extent, definitely, but we can break it down into as many objective factors as we can as well, and allow learner subjectivity to be a factor too. Factors are also task-specific – while some factors are common ones, many factors are specific to the competencies we are analyzing. For recap, here is an overview of the cognitive, psychomotor and affective domains. Let us identify a set of factors for difficulty in this case:

  1. Number of sub-competencies
  2. Cognitive processes required for each sub-competency
  3. Psychomotor skills (fine and gross) required for each sub-competency
  4. Affective stimuli induced by each sub-competency
  5. Subjective difficulty of each sub-competency

Here’s an analysis of each sub-competency with respect to the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains:

Sub-competency Cognitive Affective Psychomotor
C1.1 Analyze Characterization Perceptual abilities
C1.2 Evaluate Characterization Skilled movements, Perceptual abilities
C1.3 Apply Organization Fundamental movements, skilled movements, perceptual abilities
C2.1 Analyze Characterization Perceptual abilities
C2.2 Evaluate Characterization Perceptual abilities
C2.3 Apply Organization Skilled movements, Perceptual abilities
C2.4 Apply Organization Fundamental movements, skilled movements, perceptual abilities

So, C1 has 3 sub-competencies to master, while C2 has 4. While this does not automatically make C1 the easier competency, it is certainly a factor. The sub-competencies of C2 require more cognitive, affective and psychomotor processes as well. Another factor is how difficult each of the sub-competencies are. With A, she certainly found it easier to accomplish C1 before C2.

While this is not conclusive evidence to prove that C1 is easier than C2, the logic has certainly worked in the case of A. One of the reasons the logic may not work is the assumption of higher cognitive levels being more difficult than the lower ones. Another reason it may not work could be differences in psychomotor skills. Every learner is different especially in the case of little ones. It is important to identify these differences and guide learners in the way that suits them best!

Disclaimer: As with any course design process, this is iterative and I may have left out some obvious sub-competencies. Please let me know if I have!

 

First blocks!

We got blocks for kiddo today! She got Lego Duplo, nice and big blocks so she can’t put it in her mouth. She was fascinated from the first moment she laid eyes on the box! First she was excited by the rattling in the box. Then she opened her eyes wide at the bright colors! Her dad showed her how to join two blocks together, and she was amazed! She was thrilled to make a small plane and watch him fly it.

All in all, a great buy! She’s only played with it for ten minutes so far and we’re already very excited. Bring on the Lego, bring on the creative learning!