Friday, March 02, 2012

A Quick Weeknight Curry (And Mama Goes To Parenting School)

This week has been a milestone of sorts. Our darling 5 month old started falling asleep (!) in her crib (!!) at 7 PM (!!!), allowing V and I to actually sit down and enjoy a meal together. Eating dinner together at a reasonable hour is a rare and novel concept for parents of young babies. I am knocking loudly on wood as I type this, for fear of jinxing this whole thing.

Last night I celebrated the new routine by making a luscious curry. The recipe is pretty generic but it was quick and tasty so here it is. The leftover curry made for a tasty lunch this afternoon (that's my lunchbox in the picture). I made the curry in a deep wok instead of a shallow saucepan, making it easy to dip in the immersion blender and puree the ingredients to a smooth sauce.

Luscious Curry with a Few Variations

  1. Heat 2-3 tsp. of oil.
  2. Peel and dice 2 large onions. Fry the onions until soft and golden brown.
  3. Add 1 tbsp. ginger garlic paste, 1 heaped tsp. Kitchen King masala, turmeric, red chili powder and salt to taste and fry for a minute.
  4. Add 1 cup tomatoes (fresh or canned) and fry for 5 minutes.
  5. Add 2/3 cup coconut milk (1 mini can) and 1 cup water (or more or less, depending on the consistency you like). Simmer for 10 minutes, then puree to a smooth sauce using an immersion blender, (or cool down the mixture and use a regular blender or food processor).
  6. To the sauce, add any of the following ingredients to customize the curry, and garnish with lots of chopped cilantro and a dash of garam masala.
  • Meatless meatballs (this is the version I made last night)
  • Halved hard-boiled eggs
  • Sauteed or boiled mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, cauliflower)
  • Roasted butternut squash
  • Vegetable koftas 

On The Bookshelf
(Mama Goes To School)

V and I live our life together in a rather practical, low-key manner. When we were expecting Lila, we knew we wanted to give her a secure and modest upbringing without obsessively making parenting the be-all and end-all of our existence. We joked that we have raised a dog together and he turned out OK (...I think, on most days!) and we would raise the baby the same way, with rules and routines and an abundance of love. I declared to my friends that I was going to raise Lila using a novel parenting technique called common sense. The point is that I don't think for a moment that you need to read parenting books or adhere to some idealized parenting style in order to be a good parent.

But the fact is that I like to read, and the other fact is that parenting is a whole lot more fun that I ever imagined. I really do want to read more on the subject and perhaps learn some tips on how to raise a kind and well-adjusted child who will be an asset to her community.

I often forget what I read, and my blog is my reference book of sorts, so starting with this post, I will occasionally write a mini synopsis of parenting (and other) books that I read. I'm jotting down what I see as the take-home message of the book, points that I want to remember. This is all very subjective, of course. But if you are interested, I invite you to read along and chime in with your thoughts.

The first book I chose is Nurtureshock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman.  They take 10 parenting topics and discuss child development research which has surprising findings that go against popular notions about these topics.



Chapter 1. The Inverse Power of Praise
Praise effort instead of praising smartness. To be effective, praise needs to be specific and sincere (no distracted and generic "good job" and "you're so smart"). Let kids develop accurate awareness of how well they are doing instead of automatically giving them a gold star for every small thing, effectively making them praise junkies. The information in this chapter is available as a magazine article here.

Chapter 2. The Lost Hour
Lack of sleep is taking a toll on kids in many more ways than we ever imagined (physically, intellectually, emotionally) so make sure kids are not over-scheduled. School start times are scheduled very early in the morning for adult convenience. If you can't change the school timing, then get kids to sleep early and be extremely committed to protecting sleep time. The relevant article is here.

Chapter 3. Why White Parents Don't talk About Race
Children are inherently prone to categorization so they notice external differences such as differences in skin color. It is important to have explicit discussions about race, especially when the child is 5 to 6 years old. Read the article here.

Chapter 4. Why Kids Lie
Children learn to lie from an extremely early age, and in fact intelligent kids are better liars. Young kids lie to keep parents happy, because they see the parents' displeasure when they admit to using crayons on the walls (or whatever). To reduce lying, explain to kids that telling the truth will not result in punishment but telling lies will result in punishment:  "I will not be upset with you if you (did the bad thing) and if you tell the truth, I will be really happy". Another point is that kids learn to lie from us, because even the most honest adult tells plenty of lies (white lies, like "I love the gift" when you don't). Kids learn that lies are an easy way to prevent conflict. Read the article here.

Chapter 5. The Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten.
Intelligence is very fluid in young children and it is better to wait until third grade to test children for being placed in gifted programs in school. Testing before then misses the mark in many cases.

Chapter 6. The Sibling Effect. 
The theory that "only" children lack social skills has never been proven. Kids have no incentives to be nice to their siblings because the sibling will always be there, whereas you lose friends if you can't get along with them. So don't feel guilty if you decide to have an only child, and if you have more than one child, work to create opportunities for them to have fun together.

Chapter 7. The Science of Teen Rebellion
Teenagers lie a lot to their parents, especially to avoid arguments. To reduce lying, set consistent rules for your teenager but be open to discussing them and making exceptions when necessary. Whatever- I'll re-read this chapter in 10 years.

Chapter 8. Can Self-Control be Taught? 
This chapter discusses a particular preschool and kindergarten program called Tools of the Mind.  Even at that young age, kids learn to think critically about what they are doing instead of completing assignments mechanically. For instance, practicing writing the letter "A" over and over again is a common activity for this crowd. Make the child circle the best example of the letter on every line to see the difference between a good attempt and a better one. Another good idea is "buddy reading" where kids take turns reading to each other. There are complex play scenarios and plenty of room for imagination. There is more of this concept in this NYT article.

Chapter 9. Plays Well With Others
This chapter asks the question: Why are kids aggressive? For me, the take-home points for raising a kinder kid are (1) Realize that some TV shows for kids are clearly violent but even the ones that qualify as educational television are full of relational aggression (gossip, rumor-spreading, merciless teasing, etc.) and verbal aggression (name-calling etc.). (2) Children are very sensitive to the relationship between their parents. Since some amount of bickering and arguing is bound to happen in most relationships, you can protect the child by letting her witness not just the argument but the happy resolution of the argument. (3) Make sure kids get social time with people of all ages and not just peers of the same age. (4) "Progressive" dads are much more involved in child care than "traditional" dads but paradoxically, progressive dads have kids who are more aggressive because they typically fail to discipline effectively and consistently. V is a progressive dad in every sense and has a long history of playing "good cop" with Dalu (guess who plays "bad cop" every single time?) so we'll have to work on this one as Lila gets older.

Chapter 10. Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn't
This chapter was immediately relevant to me because it discusses how infants develop verbal skills. Babies benefit when you talk to them often, but make it a mock conversation and respond to their sounds instead of simply chattering non-stop to the baby. Seven practical tips from this chapter are listed here.

Conclusion
(1) We need to understand that things don't necessarily work the same way in children as they do in adults. (2) Children seem to be walking contradictions- we tend to categorize things as either good for kids or bad for kids but child psychology is often more complicated than that.

This blog has discussions on all the chapters in this book.

Enjoy the weekend! 

43 comments:

  1. Beautiful article Nupur!
    Happy parenting.

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  2. Loved the post Nupur...And those ten topics are really bang on ! My son is 6 now and I like to read up articles on parenting at every stage and it really helps..Of course, you can't raise a child just by reading these books, but it does help a lot..All the best !!

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    1. I agree- I'm learning that it does help a lot to read and to think about parenting at each stage. Glad you liked the post!

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  3. Good you are getting some much wanted time together with V and making the best of it too. Thanks for your comment on my blog Nupur.

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    1. It was nice to see you posting again, Anjali!

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  4. Curry looks yum..Ihappy weekend

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    1. Thanks :) Hope your weekend was lovely too.

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  5. Lucky you! We do have nights when Pilu is asleep by 9 and we can have dinner together quietly, but this year has been rough sleep-wise for all of us - from 5 months till 7-8 he slept fine through the night and then the nightmarish 4-5 wakings began! I dream of nightweaning and sleeping 8 hours myself.... someday!

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    1. Oh she definitely does not sleep through the night- wakes up 3 to 4 times! But she does sleep early which gives us a little time to eat and finish household chores :)
      I think the sleep deprivation is by far the hardest thing about having a baby.

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  6. I'm about to have my first baby so found this really interesting. I haven't read any books yet myself either but have read a lot of things on the internet.

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    1. Congratulations and good luck with your first baby!

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  7. You have seriously good karma, Nupur! At 3 months, my son slept the night through, and he hasn't repeated that feat since. He's going to be five this year! I know kids who're eight and still wake up at night. I'm crossing my fingers for you that Lila's wondrous behavior continues!

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    1. Oh goodness she doesn't sleep through the night- just goes to bed early! then she is up at 9, midnight, 3 AM and rise-and-shine time is 5 AM :) And Lila is high strung so I think I might sleep through the night when she is in college- doubt it will be before that.

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  8. Curry looks delicious Nupur. I looked forward to eating lunch more than the dinner itself.

    You are my kind of parent Nupur. I don't have very strict rules and such but the kids seem to do alright. I have seen parents with really strict routines like to bed at 8:00PM even in summer during the holidays. I am real slacker of a parent by those standards but I agree common sense is what is required than rules.

    That sounds like a good book. I know I am going to read each one of those articles.

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    1. I'm with you- I enjoy the dinner leftovers more than the meal itself :)
      Somehow, I doubt you are a slacker as a parent! I guess we all have to find that sweet spot between being too tough and not tough enough.

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  9. Came here generally browsing, Thanks for sharing this info, very nicely written with the additional links.

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  10. recently i am doing the montessory certification....its so interesting and as a mother of 2 kids(6,4), i feel like every parent should at least read maria montessory's books...they are really informative and useful in a long run.
    your curry looks good but i would love to use some 'kala masala' or at least 3,4 cloves and black peppers crushed ofcourse.
    love to read more from you.
    Meghana.

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    1. I've heard good things about the Montessori school of thought. Is there a particular book you recommend? I'll see if I can find it in my library.
      Yes, the curry can be customized! But my garam masala is so flavorful that I didn't feel the need to add anything else.

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  11. Lovely post as usual, and insightful. Am a mother to a 3 yr old, and (knocking wood as I say this), he has been a joy to parent so far. Reading the topics you mentioned in the post, I think if parents take parenting seriously - and agree on the fact that it does need some effort ( than just hanging on to 'these things come naturally') - kids will shine through. As is true with all good relationships, parent-child relation too needs to be worked on to make it a good, solid one!

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    1. I SO agree with you, that all good relationships need to be worked on and you can't just take them for granted. It is easy to bear a child, so much harder to raise her/him well.

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    2. That's absolutely true and this is where I was a laughing stock. I always thought "Child of our time", a BBC research program was great. It was of immense help.

      Always followed your blog but commenting for the first time Nupur. Enjoy your time they grow up so fast.

      Madhavi. (mother of Mythri.)

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  12. Hi Nupur! I love, love, love this curry--but don't have the Kitchen King masala? Is this in a jar? Is it something I can get at WF or Global Foods. IT just looks perfect and yummy--especially for a cold day like today. On the parenting front--I am no expert, but have every confidence your child is a very lucky girl!

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    1. Kelly- hi! Kitchen King masala is an Indian spice mix and comes in a packet in a small box. You won't find it at Whole Foods but Global should have it (and local Indian grocery stores like Seema). You can substitute it with your favorite curry powder. I think you will love this curry!

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  13. Nice curry! I love reading about the everyday food people eat - those recipes that they make without even thinking about them. Thanks for this.

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    1. I know- these everyday recipes- I always wonder if they are worth posting and then sometimes I do post them.

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  14. Hi Nupur, Glad you got some 'you' time. How did you make the meatless meatballs? Can you share that recipe when you get a breather between being a mom, wife and a professional? Thanks!

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    1. Amishi- I bought the meatless meatballs from Trader Joe's- I keep a pack or two in the freezer and use them every once in a while.

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  15. I have a two and a half year old daughter. I read Nurtureshock last year and some things have really stayed with me. Another excellent book I would recommend is Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. I think every age has its challenges and what I've learned in the past two years is you have to keep adapting. I agree that we don't have to read every parenting book but sometimes it helps to have new ideas when the ones we have aren't working.

    Anu

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation- I have requested the Kohn book from the library and look forward to reading it.

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  16. Congrats on the 7pm sleep time! Most parents I know say it gets better after 3 months, so here is to hoping for more sleep :)

    Love this new blog addition of parenting book snippets and take-aways, Nupur. Looking forward to more!

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    1. Yes- more sleep would be nice. Any stretch of sleep longer than 2.5 hours would be nice in fact :)
      We're practically on the same parenting stage, you and I, glad you enjoyed the parenting snippet.

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  17. Lovely post, curry looks delicious and I am sure coconut milk had a hand in it :-).

    Lila seems to be growing up nicely, enjoy the additional time in the day, it only gets better from here. I agree with you completely on the common sense parenting, it is rare to find and practice but probably the best one out there.

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    1. Yes, the coconut milk lends such flavor and creaminess!

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  18. Glad to hear you took up my recommendation on Alfie Kohn's book! I'd love to know your thoughts on kids speaking an Indian language at home. I am not very overly anxious or anything about it but, have been thinking about this topic. Even though we speak to our daughter in Marathi, she only responds in English. She goes to a daycare/preschool and it's the language she hears the most. I have recently noticed that some multi-lingual bloggers and friends especially French and Spanish speaking households make it a point to ensure that their kids speak in their native language. I even have some Indian friends who are zealous about this. So far since she's young, I didn't want to keep correcting her or asking her to speak in Marathi in case it frustrates her and keeps her from learning new words. But, she is quite fluent in English now and is starting to show some interest, asks for her marathi story books and things like "what means cow in marathi?" (she's not 3 yet, so grammar isn't exactly our concern :)). I'm wondering how to approach this whole thing. Have you thought about this aspect as you raise Lila?

    -Anu

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    1. I haven't really thought of it much. But my husband and I speak "hinglish" (mostly English with some Hindi thrown in) at home so I doubt Lila will learn an Indian language if we continue to live in the US.

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    2. I was on a flight to Bombay and met a maharashtrian physician with 2 boys several years ago. The older boy about 5 spoke fluent marathi. I complimented her kids and asked her how the kids managed to speak so well. She told me that her son spoke very fluent english by the time he was 4 and she knew that he understood marathi. She encouraged him to speak in marathi but he would talk only in english. So she would respond in just a yes/no/nod to him whenever he spoke in english but a conversation in marathi was always welcome. Don't know if it works with other kids but its worth giving a try :)

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    3. Hi Nupur, its the same with us, I am a Bengali, and my husband is a Gujarati, we speak Hinglish at home too. Since I know both Bengali and Gujarati, I would try to speak to my 1 year old son in both languages, but he would get very confused...we switched to English, and he started picking up words faster..maybe after a year or so I will try again - its a bit sad, but as long as the big picture is okay, I think its all good..

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  19. Nupur, it's good to hear that Lila is doing well. I still remember the first night my baby slept through the night. I kept checking to see if she was still breathing. Yes, I was petrified and didn't sleep all night! :-D

    Parenting is by far the toughest thing I have ever done in my life. Nothing has quite gone according to all the parenting books I have read but they have offered direction, support and solace, especially in pre-teen and teen years. What has helped me more than books over the last 3 years is a parent support group. It started off as a book group organized through the Parent Engagement Network in our school district. It still is a book group and we are on our 4th book (Yes, Your Teen is Crazy) which is by far the best book we have read. Perhaps because all our kids are smack in the middle of the very adolescence that this book addresses. Some of the situations discussed in this book are immensely scary, especially the ones that deal with drugs and sex. We meet every 2 weeks and discuss one chapter in the book or, if any of us has a situation they need help with, we put the book aside and focus on what that parent needs from us. You could call us slow readers. The strangest thing is that if we had all met at a social gathering, we might not have become friends but here we are, sharing deep concerns with one another.

    Happy parenting, Nupur and V! I have no doubt that you will raise a charming, responsible and happy little girl!

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    1. You are SO right Manisha, the social support from other parents is so important. Your group sounds absolutely wonderful! I hope to be part of something like that.

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  20. This is one absolutely gorgeous recipe. One that can fit into any bill. Great post Nupur! Such a keeper :)

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  21. Lovely post Nupur.., I can understand how you like to have your own five minutes.., Happy parenting dear, Mine are too old now to take few things to think about from the article (Aishu turned 18 on Monday March 12th)!., Have been busy going with her to Uni's.., can't get it into my head how she has grown up quick!, I agree with you common sense is the thing makes us good parents.., Living in UK, I was totally scared when I brought my kids my turn out to be bunch of idiots.., with two different cultures clashing.., I think the first few years (8yrs my twins and 10yrs my eldest) living in India, have got their basic Indian culture still strong in them and they are stuck to it., touch wood I am so happy they are such good Kids.., even with different kind of nature in different way the kids are grown up here hasn't changed them at all.., I think it is totally us as parents who are responsible for their growth the atmosphere created at home is very important, of course that's my thought.., It's funny Nupur I keep writing such long comments in your blog all the time., It is not my mistake it's your's your posts make me write about lot of things I start thinking when I read your posts! :).., sorry for this again.., Love to read about lila's upbringing., you will make a wonderful mother dear

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