Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My mom, a beautiful lady inside and outside!

My mom, a beautiful lady inside and outside!

After our many daily byes and see you laters, my mom and I said our final goodbyes yesterday. As you all know, Amma was a beautiful lady inside and outside. She was not only my mother but also my best friend and our relationship took a unique turn the past 5 years as we worked as colleagues in our little school, Awesome Blossom daycare! 😊 She loved being in charge of the school and adored the little ones. She was an early riser and loved to dress up for the little ones with coordinated clothes and enjoyed their attention as they complimented her about the colors or designs of her sarees and sweaters. She loved to read and write and enjoyed reading out her favorite articles or write ups out aloud. She was always full of stories about her childhood, siblings, her many nieces and nephews and immensely proud of all their achievements. She was extremely patient when cooking and it was well worth it as her pachadis, pickles and specials were so tasty! She was a pious lady and a devotee of lord Venkateshwara and did her pooja every morning and Saturday was an important day to offer her preparations before she ate. She was very clean, super tidy and orderly. She always took pride in doing her chores, cooking and keeping things organized and she did so till the very end. She was an honest, frank and open person. She found it hard to lie or pretend. She always wanted to go before my dad and she did, on a Saturday and in Sravanamasamu which was her favorite month.

People are praising me of how I took care of her but I feel privileged about having my mom around my family and me. My boys, Satya and Sathwik have enjoyed her thoroughly since their births and are super attached to my parents. I lovingly called the four of them "The Grands." Ammamma gave them their first baths, helped me figure out their first solids, told them stories and morals, they pulled off April Fool jokes on each other, got lectured by her when they needed it, had endless board games and cards, they had their Friday Dosa parties where ammamma would make a different type of dosa with different chutney every week, the boys helped with their groceries and shopping, driving them for their doctors’ appointments and blood work and even staying at the hospital during the nights of her hospitalization. It has been a beautiful journey for them. Nagender and my mom shared a special bond, both had many things in common; both have same birth star, have the same pet names, shared a great love for Indian TV and she showered him with her specials and cooking the past 24 years of our marriage. During her stay with us the last few weeks, she looked forward to spending time with him when he returned from work and they watched Kapil Sharma show together and she shared some of her memories and opinions with him. During her last week, he fought long and hard every day with all the doctors telling them to try different treatments as they told us she was getting critical.

She extended her love to many families in the community. When asked why she wanted to run a school, she said it was always her dream to help the community. She enjoyed greeting all the children in the morning and set high expectations for each of them and worked hard to help them achieve their successes. She guided the young families with her advice on children, foods, cooking and life. She considered the parents of the children her own sons and daughters and the little ones her great grand kids and laughed that her name had changed to “Ammamma.” She took immense pride in being part of the school and told me many times it gave her purpose in her older age.

As for me, she taught me grace and poise. She taught me rituals, poojas, about religion and acceptance of all faiths. She taught me the nuances of cooking. She taught me to be independent, strong and proud. She encouraged and supported everything I wanted to do. She taught me how to love my children. She taught me how to take joy in the little things in life. She started calling me her mother the past few years and thanked me numerous times for keeping her close to me. She told every nurse and doctor that I was a ‘Gem of a daughter!’ The doctors called us the best mother-daughter pair they have ever seen. I feel honored.

We all love our moms, I do too. Please take the time and be patient and keep your parents close to you - if & when they need you. It’s an honor to be part of their lives when they need you the most. With expanding opportunities for us and the world getting smaller, unfortunately the distance between our parents and us is actually getting bigger. Do a bit more than yearly visits and sharing videos of your little ones over social media. It’s hard sometimes and they are difficult at times due to their age and wisdom but go the extra mile and figure things out to help the ones who raised you - for soon you might have missed the opportunity. I am super glad that I had the honor and privilege of being there with amma, the beautiful lady inside and outside!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Qualities that we cant measure with tests...

Qualities that a test does not measure – like leadership, empathy, creativity, humor, curiosity, endurance, reliability, self-awareness, self-discipline, sense of beauty, resourcefulness, responsibility, and others.

Do share your thoughts about your experiences have been personally and how do you work with your child to foster these. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Disciplining Toddlers

Toddler discipline is an art. You have to be compassionate, play according to their moods and yet bring them to the standards of socially acceptable behaviors. You need your toddlers to eat, play, rest and be happy to grow and learn according to their developmental levels. Typical toddler challenges and how to deal with them are outlined below:

Biting, hitting, and scratching:

These are serious issues that have to be disciplined immediately. The child that did the act has to be removed from the area with a stern: NO biting and made sure to have them sit – based on their age, typically 15-17 months. Attend to the child that got hurt and administer first aid. Give lots of hugs and console the child simultaneously. When the child has calmed down, bring back the biter and talk to them and tell them it’s not okay to bite and it hurts. Tell them they can only use their lips on their friends (if age appropriate) and nice touches. Have them practice nice touches and tell them they can only eat foods and bite apples, etc. After this incident, do watch the biter closely. Most of the time, it will be out of frustration that they bite – help them sort through their emotions and play.

Throwing toys/whatever is in their hand:

When a child is throwing toys, stones, bins or other things, provide them with a ball and tell them they can throw a ball and not other things. Practice this may times and redirect them. They will understand pretty soon. Sometimes, they will resort to throwing toys repeatedly for attention or to test you – redirect them with a warning that will be asked to sit-down and maybe suggest they take a break from playing. Remember to keep your cool because they will test you to see if you will follow through with your warning. At that time, do not escalate your voice, simply walk them over to an area away from they have been and have them sit down. This should last 5-30 seconds based on their mood and even the child. Ask them if they are ready to listen and only throw balls and not toys. They will usually agree right away and join back in play. Next time, try to catch them before they throw a toy and just warn, “Be careful, don’t throw the toy, you don’t want to hurt your friends, throw only a ball. If you can’t listen, I need you to sit down.”

Climbing furniture, shouting, being rude and loud:

When children first start experimenting with these, they are just trying out their ideas and voices and strengths. There should a lot of redirection, talking, instructions on appropriate behavior. Praise them when they sit down at the table or use their soft voices or are nice to their friends or teachers. Recognize their efforts and give a lot of positive reinforcement. Once they start testing or repetitively performing the act to get attention of teachers or friends or trying to disrupt the class dynamics, do remove them from the area and take them to a different area and talk to them. Tell them that if they continue their behavior, they will be asked to sit down there. Ask them if they are ready to join in and let them join in and watch them closely and if they test you; do proceed to give them a sit-down.


Recently I had a group of children building with legos. Another child walked into the group and tried to reach for a bin behind the teacher on the shelf. The teacher working with the group said that it was almost time for moms and dads to come and hence we were not going to get another bin out and suggested that since there were legos out, he join them and build. The child fell on the floor and threw himself right on the towers being built by the other children and started his tantrum. The other children were upset and started to cry, push him off. I stepped in, removed the child that was throwing the tantrum and walked him to another area and told him that we were playing with legos or he could play ball or read books with me (and other bins were closed) – when he was done. He stopped within a few seconds and walked to the area where his friends were building with legos and started building. I praised him for making good choices and playing without crying.
The above may have to be repeated a few times before some children catch on it. Sit-downs are not a punishment but a way to let them re-group their thoughts and next course of action. Always use calm, conversational tone unless they have hurt somebody, hurting somebody or going to hurt somebody. Remember that we are not scaring the child into behaving properly; we are just trying to teach them appropriate and acceptable social behavior.

Manipulative Crying:

Infants as young as 4 months are capable of manipulating adults J There are children who will figure that they can get what they want by crying pathetically or loudly. They see that the heart of parent or teacher is just ready to break into a 1000 pieces when they cry and they will use this every time. I can promise you that this will only escalate as they get older. I can also tell you that if this continues, you may actually help in creating a ‘cry baby’ for life. Please step back, realize when they are manipulating you. Give them and you a few moments before you react. When they are calm, do talk to them about using their words when they need help and you are proud of them when they do.

Recently, a dad asked me if as teachers, we played good cop, bad cop. I explained that we never do. We just cant! We all give sit-downs when needed and when all else has failed. I always advise parents not to intervene when the other parent is disciplining. Talk about the technique and modify later on when the child is not around and the incident has passed. When a parent/teacher is disciplining a child and the other adult is all sad and cajoling the child, you are basically creating a child’s behavior that neither one will be able to handle. One other tip: Never use the other parent as a threat , example, “Do you want me to tell your dad what you are doing?” This will create a sense of fear against the other parent and the child will also sense that he can get away with anything with you.

Remember that sometimes children are in a sad mood, they may be getting over an illness or may be tired or dealing with a change in their lives. Handle them gently during this time. Lots of hugs, talking, re-direction will help. Sit downs may be put off for some time as this might be an uphill battle for both you and the child.

In conclusion, shower them with love, hugs, lots of talking about behavior, lots of positive reinforcements and praise but do take time when you need to teach your child the right way to behave. Early years in a child’s life really define the way they are as adults and everything we do in their lives will determine what kind of an adult they will be.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Potty training

Potty training is made out to be a big hurdle in the minds of many parents and providers. I have successfully trained most children within months of starting the process. If the child has developmental delays, it may take more time. There are many important steps to potty train your child and I am outlining them below:

Team effort: Both parents have to be involved – shouldn’t be mom or dad thing. Also, if your child is enrolled at daycare, the key is that parents need to discuss and follow the same procedures at home that are done at the daycare - at the same time. It is undeniably a team effort. I have seen time and again that the parents neglect to follow the steps at home assuming that the children will be potty trained at daycare. These children get mixed signals that it’s okay to go in the diaper at home but need to go potty at school. It creates confusion, delays and there is chance that they may regress at daycare as well. Don’t wait till the child is ready to tell you to go potty as that may delay the start of the process based on the language skills of the child.

Potty seat on toilet: The ideal age to start is 18-20 months. The first step is to put them on the toilet – with a potty seat. Make it a fun process of shopping for the potty seat with them and then showing them how you (parent or sibling or peer) sit on the toilet. Let them sit for a few seconds to a few minutes the first time but the key is that they need to get off the moment they get uncomfortable or they say they want to get off. Do praise them, show them what they did and give them rewards in terms of stickers, smiley faces etc. These should be reserved only for potty and the children should have no access to these otherwise.

Maintain a schedule: Next is when you train yourself to the child’s times. Children of age 20+ months typically have established times of when they have bowel movements. It’s a good idea to give them potty time during these times. It is also a good idea to sit them down on the toilet after meals and snacks. I suggest to the parents to decorate the bathroom with their favorite character on the walls or posters, etc to entice the children to get comfortable in the bathroom.

Letting them know what should be done: You can give your child underwear time for a couple of hours for a few days – outside or in an easy to clean area inside your home – so they know what is happening. Be ready to clean up messes if you do so. This might upset some of the children, so prepare them before hand and do not scold them if they had an accident. Just treat it as a matter of fact incident. There will the one time, the first time – usually by accident that will go poop or pee in the toilet. That’s awesome, go for the rewards.

Watch for signs: Since it takes more time to get bladder control, it is usually easier to train children to have a BM in the toilet. Do watch for signs that the children may exhibit such as squatting to go poop, or change in facial expressions or sitting awkwardly, etc and do talk to the children about this so they know what they are doing. Lead them to the potty right away.

Easy to remove outfits: Do dress children that are being potty trained in easy to remove clothing – soft elastics pants, shorter than longer shirts without strings, frocks, skirts or tights, long shirts, no buttoned up jeans or pants, definitely no onesies. A big part of potty training is to teach the children to dress and undress themselves. Of course, a pull up is just awesome. The children learn to pull up & down their pull ups as well as their pants.

Stay clean, super clean: The next step is teaching the children to clean themselves. They need to be off the potty seat for this. Learning how to clean well takes time and the children need to be taught. Make sure to do the checks to avoid rashes, etc. Do teach the children the proper hand washing technique as well.

Success all the way through: Soon, the children will master the entire process of going potty all by themselves. The accidents will become less and finally no more. Do shop for underwear with them and start with a couple of hours of underwear time and gradually increase the duration to eventually only underwear. Do remember that nap times and night time may be a little bit harder for some children.

Good luck and happy potty training!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Art of free play

Free play

In this day in age, many parents tend to over -structure a child’s day – planned activities like swimming, piano, learning of Math and numbers, soccer and basketball practices seem to be dominating their lives with the hope that the children will have all opportunities and an advantage over other children. Parents are notably starting off their children in these structured lives earlier and earlier – sometimes as early as two!

While it is very important to give children the opportunities that this competitive world has to offer, I would advise parents to slow down or even sometimes just stop. Let children be children and let them have plenty of time for ‘Free play.’

Free play is play time for the children that is not directed by adults. Do provide a bright room with at least 5-8 choices of toys and change the toys often. It should be supervised but made such that children make choices, friendships, communicate, play with toys of their choice, etc. Free play is very important for social, cognitive, emotional development of children.

Cognitively, when young children are given ample opportunities of free play, they tend to explore their environment on their own, test out their learning. The children get an opportunity to try out things they already know or don’t know. Socially and emotionally, it is a fantastic time for children to learn to play and talk to their peers or share their thoughts with adults. When interacting with peers, they learn what might work or not work, how to share, how to play, how to talk and communicate.  

A very important thing that all teachers and parents should remember is to provide this time – an hour or two every day for children up to the age of 5 years with little interruption and direction. When children are facing a challenge like a manipulative toy or solving a puzzle, help by asking questions rather than solving the problem for them. This will help them in the long run solve issues they might face.

Have a great free play time with your little one! Just let them be!!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Dolly baby!


Dolly was my dog, yup was. I called her my Dolly baby even this morning. She was my baby. She just passed and it just saddens me immensely that I have lost one of my best friends.

Dolly walked into our family about 11 years ago, just a few weeks old. Our older son, Satya picked her out of the litter because she was the most active. But why am I talking about Dolly here in the Awesome Blossom daycare blog? It’s because she was part of the Awesome Blossom family. Many little children of Awesome Blossom had transitioned easily and walked in enthusiastically everyday wanting to snuggle up to Dolly. Almost every child enrolled in the daycare fought fiercely for her, even shedding tears, during their “mine” phase. She participated in circle time every day. And it was also a time of war between the kiddos about who would sit next to Dolly. We sang about what Dolly was wearing in between giggles and smiles during circle time. All the kids sat on her, poked her eyes, pulled her tail, as they learned to practice their gentle touches and giving hugs while she sat patiently through all, in fact with a look of amusement and contentment on her face – she absolutely ADORED little children. She was trained early on to be nice to children – not that she needed any, she was a natural, being a golden!

Dolly was extremely insightful to parents’ feelings towards dogs. She stayed “off” parents who were not used to dogs, while she was all over others who seemed to have had dogs and loved her. Some of her best friends were parents enrolled in daycare for whom she had simple, crazy love for – Seth and Anthony were a couple of them. She loved Laura and Kim. She loved Elizabeth, a family friend, who did a dance with her every time she came. She absolutely adored our fire fighter neighbor, Russel. Russel could not step out of his house without being smothered and tackled by Dolly if she was out and about. And there were other parents like Sameena, Evelyn, Vadivu and my husband, Nagender that Dolly just never jumped on – not even once. She just knew they were uncomfortable and always stayed “off.” With Amama, she behaved completely different – she was calm and a disciplined dog. Amama called her “Yogi!”

Well Dolly, you have been a great teacher to the kids and adults too. You have taught us compassion, unconditional love, good listening, patience, discipline and being active! I know you had a naughty streak in you – when you shared a human snack with dad behind my back or when you put your face on my keyboard asking me to take you for a walk instead or when you were my “food vacuum” when you cleaned up the floor after the kids’s lunch. But seriously, you were really one good dog, my Dolly baby! I will miss you a lot and so will many adults and kids. We will always adore you...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Do you do organic?"

"Do you do organic?"

Recently, a visiting family asked me a question, “Do you do organic?” I said I don’t. After the family left, I wondered if I should do organic. I do get organic foods if they look healthy, are fresh and tasty preparations. But I don’t get out of my way to get organic foods. In fact, I always thought that they were expensive – way more expensive than conventionally grown foods. They don’t always look appealing to me either. I don’t shop particularly for organic foods, not for myself, nor for my family nor the daycare. I bring a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. I bring healthy breads, whole wheat and multi grain. I restrict the consumption of cookies as well as high sugar substances for my family as well as for the daycare children. We eat a lot of soups, lentils as well as various types of beans. In fact, we eat only vegetarian and I serve only vegetarian for the children in the daycare. I also make sure that my own children as well as the children enrolled in the daycare eat well balanced meals with fruits, veggies, protein and carbs. Is it enough? Should I be eating and feeding organic foods was the nagging question on my mind.

I dove into the research out there on the advantages of organic and came to the following conclusions:

1)      Predominantly, conventional foods have more pesticides than organic foods. The key to getting rid of most of the pesticides is washing fruits & vegetables thoroughly under running water.

2)     Yes, there are more amounts of pesticides in conventional foods but investigations have proven time and again that the quantities are very small and very well within the allowed range for human consumption.
3)   Yes, organic foods do not look appealing to the eye due to the way they are grown and do get spoiled faster as well.

4)     Dena Bravata from Stanford’s School of medicine conducted a research on organic vs. conventional foods and found NO health benefits from consuming organic foods. She studied various people including children for about 2 years and found no difference in the health of the people of different groups. More information can be found at

In conclusion, the key to better health is to consume healthy, eat lots of fruits & veggies and exercise every day. We don’t have to get hung up on organic vs. conventional and make life choices. Do get organic if it adds peace of mind to you but at the same time - don’t worry about conventionally grown foods.