Friday, May 30, 2014

5 life lessons I’ve learnt while painting with my baby boy

A few days ago, I wrote about how Baby N and I paint together. We get messy, splash paint around, play with brushes, dip our hands in the water. 

We’re right at the beginning of our mother-son art journey. There’ll be lots more of art work in the years to come (I’m hopeful). Pictures of stick figures and zig-zag hills, smiley suns and pointy stars. Pictures drawn with crayons and salt, water colors and corn flour paints.

As we dabble in art now, dipping fingers in paints, making hand prints and just being merry without a goal in mind, there are a few lessons I’ve learnt about life.

It’s okay to be messy (or to mess up) sometimes. This is how life is many times…messy and in the moment. So embracing this mess, living in the now rather than fighting for perfection, makes a whole lot of sense.

Do what you can at this time. Whether you have small kids at home and very little time for yourself, busy schedules and very little time to relax, you live in the back-of-beyond with very few work opportunities…wherever we are in life, the idea is to work with what we have. Whether it’s starting a blog or a small business, reading a book or starting a fitness program, do what you can now (rather than waiting for the situation to change, for more time, for the kids to grow up).

Enjoy the process rather than focusing on the result. Our art sessions are more about splashing around with paint and water, than creating a perfect picture. Often, the joy is in the journey than the destination, in the learning than in the goal.

Start somewhere. Often, we get so tangled up in the yarns of success and results, goals and fear of glitches that we do not take that first step. Whether you want to start a new venture, apply for a job, take a course or start writing that book, the idea is to start and take that first step.

Every skill evolves over time. Whether you’re an amateur artist/writer/photographer/cook or a new mother, it’s so important to remember that the more you do something mindfully, the better you get at it. It takes time and patience, faith in yourself and the will to learn.

photo credit: shimelle laine

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sketchbook Story: Saving up for a...(read on to find out)

Remember her – the girl with the blue hair?
Here’s she without her ponytail pair.

She drops another penny into the jar,
Hmm, it’s filling up fast, or so it looks from far.

Do you want to know what she’s saving for?
A doll, a dress, ballerina shoes or a book drawer?

Joy here is waiting to fill up her piggy bank –
Full of glee at her lovely new plan.

She wants to buy a baby elephant,
“I’m sure I’ll get one at the pet store,” she’s confident!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Good Morning Monday + Ways to get 'arty' with your kids

Good Morning Monday & Hello New Week!

How was your weekend? Did you do something creative? Maybe you drew in your sketchbook, took a picture, cooked a delicious meal, changed the décor of your home? There are so many ways to be creative within the realm of our daily lives,  and I’d love to know how you infuse creativity into your days.

This weekend, I cooked a birthday meal for my husband, S. And we painted with Baby N.

Painting with our 10-month-old boy is more about spreading out the paper & brushes and laying out small tubs of paint, and making a mess. Baby N dips his chubby fingers in the paint, plays with the brushes, gets ‘war paint’ on himself, crawls over the paint-smeared paper. It’s a whole lot of fun!

I’d love to do more art with little N. Try new things. Introduce him to a variety of art-based activities. And in this quest to find more ideas, I’ve been hanging around a few art-with-your-kids blogs.

Choc-a-bloc with interesting ideas, these websites might become your fav go-to places too. Take a look.

The Artful Parent is a treasure trove of art ideas for kids and parents. I love the rich array of activities, all of them doable and interesting. I also love Jean’s (the author) passion in being a hands-on artful parent, in writing about her arty adventures with her children, in sharing everything. (Thanks Jean, for putting together this blog!)

Kids Activities Blog is another online resource for moms who’d love to sit down on the floor, get their hands messy and do a whole lot of simple yet fun stuff with their children. I’ve been scrolling through the pages of this website, mining the ideas, tweaking them for our life, and lovin’ the enthusiasm with which these have been presented.

And now another of my recent favourites. Creative with Kids is as much for the parent side of you, as the person side. There are several ideas on things you can do with your children and I really enjoy going through those, but I equally relish the articles that are meant to nourish your soul, offer a pick-me-up when you need it. Honest is the word that I’d use to describe this site. Go over with a cup of coffee in hand, and let Alissa nurture you a bit as you read her wise words.

So dig in. Bring out the paints and paper. Get messy. Have fun.

What kind of creative things do you do with your kids?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Happy Birthday, S!

Long ago, I’d read a beautiful story. It went something like this.

God creates a soul and then breaks it into two. He puts these two halves of a whole soul into two people and sends them to earth. When the time is right, destiny brings these people together, and once again, the soul becomes complete.

A simple little tale, but one that I’ve remembered and believed in. Two people, one soul. A marriage or partnership that is equal amounts work, and equal amounts of fun. This seems so much like my story, our story. And as my husband touches mid-thirties on May 24, I thank God for placing the other part of my soul in this person. For having created S. For who he is. For what we share. For what we have.

Happy Birthday, S!

The candles and cake and chicken will be waiting for you when you come back.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What I've learnt about dealing with distraction...

For the last few days, I’ve been buzzing with distraction. Especially in that little surprise window of time, when my son decides to take an out-of-the-routine-nap or is happily occupied with a new toy. These little windows of time pop up every now and then, a surprise package offering me the gift of doing something else or…squandering away that time as I buzz with distraction.

When suddenly presented with a square of time, a sand timer with its quickly emptying grains, a time to call my own, I’m excited at the prospect of hopping onto my laptop and writing something, dipping into that e-course, or surfing aimlessly in the web world, looking for some interesting blogs to read, websites to cruise over.

So, as my glass promises to brim over with all the things I can do with this little uncertain span of free time, I go into distraction mode.

Should I write that blog post?

Could I check out those new links?

Would I like to learn something?

What happens finally is that, I try to do a little of everything, pack in each of these things in those 15-25 minutes that have suddenly opened up in my day. I click on a website, quickly type another blog URL, snap open my email and Facebook accounts, write some thoughts on a blank document, then go back to check the blog and website. And so it goes. On and on, round and round in a futile circle till I’m lost in the haze of distraction, wondering what I really wanted to do, what needed to be done first.

And as my son wakes up or crawls up to me, bored with the toy, I leave the laptop with a sense of frustration, irritated at myself for not prioritizing and sticking to one or two things.

Of trying to do it all and failing to do any.

Of spending that time in a blank haze, wandering aimlessly in the web world, checking the same updates, skimming through half-a-dozen blogs without reading anything, writing just a few sentences that I’ll have to re-write anyway.

So, now, instead of giving myself a hard time about it, I’ve decided to prioritize. Instead of trying to do it all, I’ve learnt to list the top three things that need to be done and a couple of others that can be done if there’s enough time or else can be left to tackle on another day.

This is what I’m doing to tackle distraction – something a lot of us deal with as we juggle our multiple roles:

1. I think about the Big Rocks and the Small rocks i.e. what’s more important that particular day or what I feel like doing that day. Maybe it’s that e-course or that blog post that is begging to be put into words. Maybe, it’s a bunch of blogs that I just have to read. Maybe, it’s an assignment, the deadline looming large.

2. I write these down (most of the time) in my planner at the beginning of the day.

3. I tackle these one after the other whenever a window of time opens up and cross them out.

This way, I can leave the itch of distraction behind and do what makes me happy or needs to be done, and spend the rest of time, playing with my son (without the itch of getting onto the laptop bothering me).

How do you tackle distraction?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sketchbook Story: Selfie

Clad in a summer dress
My hair a tousled mess
I swing my camera along
Hoping to take a snap that won’t go wrong.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Good Morning Monday + Link Love for Wannabe Photographers

Good Morning Monday & Hello New Week!

How was your weekend? Did you slow down and treat yourself to a siesta? Did you dig into a good book and spend time with your family?

I slowed the pace of my life for the weekend, soaked in the feeling of doing less, read and played, and rested. (Of course, since I very much belong in this age of busyness, it took me all my will power to shut that voice in my head that urged me to pack my day with writing, work and activities.)

I also decided to take the plunge! Finally. After years of yearning and trying, reading and loving the images of those who can create art in the everyday with their camera. So, next month, I begin my voyage into the land of photography, taking one baby step at a time into the land of Mom-Photographers.

I’ve been good with composition, but timid with the tech part of photography. So, I’m hoping, that Beryl Ayn Young will be able to teach me all that stuff that photography books and articles haven’t been able to.

If you’re anything like me and enjoy looking at everyday magic, here are some links to roll over to, whenever you need a perk-me-up:

Have you ever tried photographing your meals? I have, and haven’t much liked how the images end up looking. So, I’ve been looking into some know-how on taking gorgeous food pictures. Here’s a food photography tutorial that I’ve been enjoying.

I’m a fan of Lakshmi Arvind’s shots. She takes pictures of everyday life and things around the house, and breathes magic into them. Take a look.

What kind of voyage are your setting of on this week?

photo credit: Sandeep Banerjee

Friday, May 16, 2014

Weight Matters – does it?

Not the pounds and pounds of excess weight that need to be shed so you’re not at a risk of falling critically ill. The kind that you put on after the festive season – a couple of kilos after eating too many sweets. The type of weight you sport after a holiday, where you spent your days lolling on the hammock, reading, watching television, and tucking into lavishly laid-out buffets.

That type of weight that rounds your face, adds a hint of a double-chin, thickens your waist by an inch, and pushes your tummy out, just a wee-bit out. That kind of weight that you can shed with regular exercise and nourishing but sensible eating.

That type of weight that comes with a postpartum body.

Fuller breasts for feeding your baby. A rounder tummy and softer core after carrying around your little one in utero for 9 long months.   Thicker (and stronger) arms to lift and cuddle your baby.

A small package of weight to sustain you as your body works overtime, being a milk factory and primary caregiver. That dollop of cushioning that’ll slough away as you nourish your baby, exercise, eat sensibly and go about the business of being a mother.

When I went into labor, I had a dozen extra kilos on me – a sum total of the baby’s weight, fluids and fat. In fact, as I trundled into the last month, my health care practitioner urged me to gain a little more weight every week, than what I was managing to do. So with spoonfuls of ghee and more frequent meals, I managed to put on what was just about right and necessary as I reached the finishing line of my pregnancy.

The next time I jumped on the weighing scale, after a few weeks of birthing my son, wading through the NICU experience and overdosing on sugar, I still had 8 of those kilos on me. Much to my disappointment (I still suspect that I put on a couple of kilos as I gorged on anything sweet to deal with the stress). Because hey, all along, I had been one of those pregnant women, who put on the pounds on a crawl.

So began my battle with my self-image, as I saw my body change and morph into a being that hardly looked like my pre-pregnancy self. Depending on the day and the way my hormones were coursing through me, I’d swing between disdain (for how my body had changed and the kilos that still clung on to me) and reluctant self-acceptance (the body does change, you are left with a smattering of kilos and its all okay).

I held onto my pre-pregnancy wardrobe and armed myself with boring sweats & baggy t-shirts to see me through till I got back to ‘normal’.

I didn’t feel pretty, even in spite of my husband and my mother, and all my mommy friends telling me that I looked good and that it was okay to be how and where I was.

I bristled over and became touchy at my father’s comments about doing something about my weight (my father prides himself for maintaining the same body weight for the past 40 years and has always been my numero uno critic whenever I’ve tiptoed to the chubbier side all through my life).

But over the course of the days – those that have been filled with back-to-back feedings and very less sleep, the needs of a baby and very less of mine – I began to see how my body rose to the task. How it coped. How it nourished another being (in the womb and outside).

I also began to notice that as the weeks passed by, as I began to get a little more sleep and packed regular exercise into my day, as I continued to nourish my baby, my body began letting go of some of the weight, one slow kilo at a time.

The clothes I had bought just after my son was born, don’t fit snugly around me anymore. My core is getting tighter, my stomach a little less round. I’m filled with more energy. I’ve got my mojo back.

And the weighing scales? I haven’t jumped on one in the past month or two. But the last time I was perched on a weighing scale, I was within arm’s reach of my pre-pregnancy number.

These past 10 months have put what I teach to test. Through my health coaching practice, I teach women about self-acceptance, and I’ve been pushed to accept my body at this new mothering stage, with its chunkiness and imperfections, with its love handles and rounded beauty.

I talk to my clients about loving yourself for who you are, no matter how many kilos you want to lose. And I have looked at myself with a renewed attitude, and learnt to love myself and my body for all its doing, for all its capable of, for how it’s not let me down.

I ask women to create a positive body image, and I’ve embraced my mother figure with all its curviness and softness, its lack of muscle tone and air-brushed goodness.

I’ve been humbled by the power of my body. I’ve let go of my idea of a yummy mummy and learnt to focus on what matters.

Health & happiness. 
Peace & joy. 
Staying nourished & nurturing my baby. 
Gratitude & grace. 
Ignoring comments about my roundedness & having faith in myself and my body.
Being kind to myself & brushing off what doesn’t matter.

What are your battles with your body image?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sketchbook Story: Crazy Quilt - a bit like me

A patchwork quilt gone crazy
Put together by a seamstress who’s lazy?

Gingham checks and stripes, patterns and dots
Stitched together with scraps, cut long and short.

Run through the machine in a hurry
Was this quilt’s sewn in a flurry?

But wait - you see, it’s for this girl
Whimsical and with too many-a-curl.

She lives by her rules and loves the asymmetrical
And wants nothing to do with anything that’s geometrical.

So, it’s no surprise that this was stitched at her request
Just the way she wanted it, crazily imperfect!

Celebrating 10 months of Baby N’s Earth-time + 50 posts on this blog

Baby N is 10 months old today. He’s crawling and babbling, standing up on his own and sitting, asking for new flavors and exploring his little world, loving and being loved. Turning into a proper Mr. Person, and of course, into mama’s lil’ boy J.

It’s been a roller coaster ride so far. A huge lesson in patience and courage, self-acceptance and living in the moment.

I’m still learning to ride the tides and roll with the punches, swim with the waves and slow down for the ordinary.

And while I’m at it, doing all the mama-stuff, I’m learning to dig deeper and do work that talks to my soul.

Write my stories & share my words.

Find wings for my art & fill my well with knowledge.

Read more & keep pace with creatively.

So as my son turns 10-months-old, my blog toddles on its own little milestone. It’s jingling with 50 posts; it’s been floating in cyber space for four months. It’s still developing its voice, but telling the stories that matter, sharing snippets from our lives, and evolving its own blog song.

Readers – all those of you who, read my words here and share my journey, thank you for your time and for your comments. For walking by my side. For being here with me at my blog home.

photo credit: sandeep banerjee

Monday, May 12, 2014

Good Morning Monday + Link Love for Mothers

Good Morning Monday & Hello New Week!

So Moms, how was Mother’s Day for you?

Did you do something for yourself? Did you treat yourself to something – tangible or intangible? Like, maybe a new book or a dress, time at the spa or time alone, a movie with the family or a special meal?

I spent the day at home, with my mother and my baby, my father and my husband. Reading. Writing. Learning. Just being. On the slow.

And there was cake for us mothers. My husband S baked a rich chocolate brownie for me, on my son’s behalf, and my mother and I cut this confection.

And just as the day wound down, I headed over to a Sale at artist Alisa Burke’s online school and treated myself to a few art & creativity classes at a discounted price. Storing up these beautiful courses for the time when my son’s napping, curled up against me.

Links you may love (these are for you moms, but also for anyone who seeks wisdom in the ordinary):

Katrina Kenison writes beautifully about this journey called motherhood (she has two sons – all grown-up now). Gently, she talks about the beauty in the ordinary, the magic in slowing-down, our work as moms and how to savor these days that seem long, but whiz by in a blink.

Reading Hands-free Mama is like walking on the thin line between meditation for mothers and a conversation without judgment. It’s like talking to a friend who lights the path with her simple everyday wisdom, who gently steers you away from the business of today’s life and leads you to seek the gold in your routines, within your time with your children and family.

And, just as I was writing this, I was filled with warmth as I started reading Abundant Mama. Inspired by its richness,by everyday mindfulness, I’m still craving for time at this online porch for mothers. I’d love to tell you more about what’s in this treasure trove for mommies, but hey, why don’t you hop over and meet Shawn at her blog?

How are you planning to celebrate the everyday, slow down and seek the beauty in the ordinary?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Find your Style Friday: Are you Spectacular?

I’ve been a nerd since I was seven-years old - the only kid in the class who wore glasses. And in those days in India, in fact till a few years ago, wearing glasses wasn’t considered chic or fashionable. There had to be something abnormal about you if you had to take the help of orbs of glass to see well.

"Maybe you were malnourished? Maybe, your mother was so busy tending to her career that she didn’t have time to slice up some salad for you? Maybe this was your disability? Maybe you had the wrong gene?" Hmmm….

So in the last 25 odd years of my career as a spectacle-wearer, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ve heard it all. Yes, ALL. The taunts and teasing, the mean little comments and name-calling, the ludicrous and silly. The not-so-innocent questions and the based-on-no-proof conjectures. All of it about why I wore glasses or who I was because I wore them. (I wonder why it bothered people so much ;-)).

People often forgot that I was a real person behind those frames, and chose to define me because of what was perched on my nose.

I learnt to deal with it. I learnt to love my spectacle-wreathed self. I decided early on that there’s no stigma attached to wearing glasses. If at all, I and all those who wear glasses are spec-tacular!

Funnily, today spectacles have become a trend, a cool accessory to adorn yourself with. Even those with perfect 6/6 vision pick up funky frames on a whim and wear them with panache to portray the uber geeky/intellectual look. 

Oh yes! Spectacles are in fashion today – who would have thought? Haha.

And these Wayfarers are wickedly delicious. So I think.

Spectacle frames are essentials + accessories for me, and while I don’t collect them like a maniac, I always have a couple of options at hand. And, I’d love to add this geeky baby to my stash.

Retro with a totally intellectual vibe, this one’s as cool as they come.

Do you love the Wayfarers? What do you like about being a spectacle-wearer?

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Collage design: sandeep banerjee

Thursday, May 8, 2014

16 promises to myself

Yesterday, I was scrolling through a messaging service, when I suddenly came upon a known face. A young mother and Air Force wife, whom I’d known from my time at another air base. Our stay at that base had overlapped by a few months. We’d often bump into each other during our evening walks. She with her new baby and me with my music. We’d exchange words and smiles. Talking about work, hobbies and life.

 Soon after we met, they moved to another base and we lost touch. What remained were memories of our chats.

So, when I stumbled upon her picture yesterday and read the RIPs below, I was shocked to discover that this vibrant young woman’s life had been cut short by cancer.

My head reeling and my heart heavy from this news, I stayed awake for a long time, thinking about her and the fickle nature of life. I thought about her little girl, her husband, her parents. I thought about what her dreams for her life had been.

I thought about the twists and turns of life, the dead-ends that can be slammed upon us at any moment, the shifting nature of our journey on Earth.

I also wondered about how often I took my time here for granted. Something that most of us do, as we let the days trickle away, confident that we’ve got at least another 30, if not more, years to fill with our dreams.

So, I made some promises to myself.

This is what I choose to remember and choose to do, every day that I wake up to a new morning:

·          Each day is a gift.

·         Each day deserves to be relished, like a glorious-but-melting ice-cream on a summer day.

·         Make learning a priority. Learn a new craft, a new hobby, a new skill.

·         Let go of mental clutter. Or at least, try to on a regular basis.

·         Stay away from drama – it just eats away precious time; time that could be used for better things.

·         Fill my day with what matters – family, laughter, knowledge, play, creativity, love, writing.

·         Write down my stories, my words, my journeys.

·         Avoid frittering away time on things that don’t matter.

·         Keep gossip & gossipy people, negativity & fluff at an arm's distance

·         Pick my battles wisely.

·         Spend time in nature, every single day.

·         Be grateful for what I have today.

·         Revel in this journey called motherhood – a journey filled with peaks and troughs, clouds and rainbows, smiles and tears, joys and challenges.

·         Surround myself with my haven – my son, husband and parents.

·         Nurture the person that’s me with exercise and nourishing food, alone-time and the arts, writing and work that talks to my soul.

·         Be less of a worrier (very challenging to practice, but I’m trying my best here!).

What will you promise yourself?

photo credit: sandeep banerjee

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sketchbook Story: When the moon is your balloon…

art by chandana banerjee

She takes the moon for a walk,
Dressed in a fuchsia frock
Holding the yellow orb on a string
Skipping along the sky with a spring.

She digs her toes in the clouds
Happy to be out and about
She sends flying kisses to the stars
Sprinkling their orangish silver glow from afar.

The evening sky is her field to play
With the moon on a string, so it won’t stray.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Good Morning Monday + Inspiration Challenge + What's your personality like?

Good Morning Monday & Hello New Week!

It’s a brand new month – another month from the 2014 bandwagon that’ll gallop by as we swirl in this summer’s scorching heat.

So, how are you planning to pack a punch this week? Where are you looking for inspiration? What have you got planned for the next seven days?

Well, I know, there’s work to do. And there’s work. All of this needs to be done. But while we’re at it, pounding at our laptops, running around our kids, checking up Facebook, prepping those meals – can we, in some way turn the everyday, the humdrum of our mundane into a work of beauty? Or maybe, just take what’s usual and normal for us and give it a happy twirl? Infuse some joy, some ‘life candy’, some sparkle into our days and hours?

For starters, how about dressing up for ourselves? Oh no – I don’t mean going to the zoo in killer stilettos and hot pants (though you’re welcome to do so). I’m talking about playing around with our personal style and letting how we dress & accessorize be a reflection of the people we are.

And, how about getting creative with what we have at hand? Here’s a dash of inspiration- Alisa Burke, one of my favorite artists turns something as mundane as embroidery hoops into this.

photo credit: karen walrond

So hey, since we’re talking about being brave, why not make peace with the people we really are! By being different. By blazing our own trail. By being a little less hard on ourselves. By not following others or copying others’ actions. The Beauty of Different by Karen Walrond is just the kind of book that you’d love to read while sipping a steaming cup of coffee and mulling about who you are, what you want to be. I finished this book just last week (unfortunately the last of the books that I read on my beloved Kindle – which has passed over because a baby boy in our house decided to plonk himself on it) and relished the stories and messages tucked in that book.

Be a firefly – lit up by your own personality.

Have an inspiring week! And let me know what you carved out of the days.

P.S. May’s list of writing prompts for you to download and start creating with.

photo credit: sandeep banerjee

Friday, May 2, 2014

Find your Style Friday: A dash of DIY Funky!

What do you do when a brand new T-shirt ends up being the victim of a laundry mishap? Do you throw it right out of the window? Or, do you turn it into a rag to dust around the house? Or…if you can muster up some time and a few pots of paint, turn it into a piece of bespoke clothing?

Well, I almost resorted to the first two options, but on a whim I chose the latter. I brought out my paints and brushes, sliced and carved a few potatoes, and used stray plastic packets around the house to print on this pink T-shirt. When I had printed and painted to my satisfaction, I turned the T into a canvas and doodled all over it with a permanent marker. And then, dotted it with fabric glitter.

All done and heat-pressed, I wore this funky T-shirt to our picnic and reveled in the happiness that comes from re-purposing something and creating art.

How are you adding a dash of funky to this Find your Style Friday?

photo credit: sandeep banerjee

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