About 2cuteblog

2cuteblog, also known as Mama and Mommee to her two twin toddlers, lives in Ottawa Canada along with her husband, Mr. Mama. After staying at home with Mister and Missy for close to two years, she is back at work fulltime and trying to maintain some work/life balance. She is always looking for ways to stretch a dollar for children’s items and family-friendly activities – including travelling with toddlers in tow! In her blog posts, you will find advice for first-time parents, stories about her twins, and the places they go, things they do. Visit her personal blog 2Cute – Adventures in Twin Parenting or follow her on Twitter@2cuteblog to find out what they’re doing next!

Foodie Friday: Five Days of Kindergarten School Lunches

Every parent of school-aged kids has the same dilemma – how to pack healthy lunches their kids will eat.

Everyone in our house has been waiting all summer for September to come. Our three year old twins started full day Junior Kindergarten this year. They are really excited about going on the school bus. We are excited to no longer pay for daycare times two!

Of course, time is money because now Mister and Missy need to take their own lunches to school. We (I) agonized in over what to pack in their lunches, how to pack it, how heavy it would be for their backpacks, how to keep their food warm or cool, and so on. Lucky for us, our kids like to eat and get excited with simple foods.

We decided to go with bento box-style containers called Lunchblox by Rubbermaid™. They are amazing and affordable! Aside from having to label and wash the individual pieces, it gives you the flexibility to pack lunches with different configurations. For days we want to pack them a hot (cold) lunch, we got the Funtainer by Thermos™. Finally, for juices, a litterless Rubbermaid™ reuseable juice container. All these items are available at Walmart or our local supermarket, Loblaws.

We (I) had grand plans to make a monthly menu just like the kids’ daycare to take the guesswork out of making lunches and help with weekly groceries. Instead we are winging it and somehow things have been working out well, despite a few late nights spent making their lunches. First was a big shopping trip to Costco to stock up on those essential nut-free snacks until I heard that schools in our area are recommending healthy, nutritious and litter-free snacks. So those Costco purchases (granola bars, applesauce cups, animal cracker pouches, juice boxes) are now a treat once or twice a week.

We have tons of ideas for snacks, but find it difficult to come up with options for the main lunch. Generally, we have been sending them whole wheat bread and cheese, one fruit or vegetable, a small yoghurt or applesauce, and alternating the packaged treats with some homemade baked goods.

I believe the following factors help to makes these lunches disappear into their tummies and not just nibbled on by our little munchkins:

1. Asking M&M what they want in their lunches. Surprisingly, I have been getting some very detailed specs, especially from Mister.

2. Packing the lunch the night before. To keep things dry, I toast the sandwich bread and place the cut fruit/veggie in a paper towel before placing in the lunch container before placing it in the fridge.

3. After breakfast every morning, we take a moment to do the lunchbox “reveal” where they get to see what’s for morning snack, lunch, and dessert. This gets them excited about eating! If there’s something objectionable in their lunch box, now is their chance to tell us.

4. Giving some kind of dip on the side, whether it’s jam for muffins or ranch dressing for veggies, to make the food go down easier.

5. Keeping the portions small, but giving them variety without letting it get overwhelming. For example, we’ll give them half an apple because we know they will eat it, but only 2-3 small pieces of a vegetable. They are more likely to eat a piece or two of the vegetable this way and something is better than nothing!

Here is the menu, more or less, of the first few days of junior kindergarten for our little ones:

Day 1: applesauce, yoghurts, apple slices, seedless red grapes, buttered toast, cheese cubes, water

Day 2: oatmeal-carrot muffin, strawberry applesauce, ½ egg salad sandwich, ½ boiled egg, yoghurt, water, homemade popcorn, 11 goldfish crackers

Day 3 hot lunch: yellow split-pea lentil (daal) and indian flatbread (roti), ½ oatmeal-carrot muffin, raisins, dried blueberries, shreddies, ½ banana, watered down juice

Day 3: Cream cheese pinwheel sandwich (wrapped in the roti), lemon poppy seed loaf, yoghurt, granola bar

Day 4: swiss cheese stuffed in pita pockets, homemade hummus, zucchini sticks and carrots, fortune cookie. Notice the pink and blue compartments are mixed up. This caused a fight at the lunch table which had the kindergarten teachers in stitches. Our Boy/Girl twins are very territorial about their colours!

Cheese pita pockets, hummus and veggies

Cheese pita pockets, hummus and veggies

The aftermath

The aftermath

Day 5: whole wheat croissant stuffed with cheese, applesauce, yoghurt, red bell peppers, pear, cheese cubes, 15 mini cheddar crackers and watered down pineapple juice. We used the Pillsbury bake-your-own croissant dough and placed cubes of pizza mozzarella cheese inside. Yum!

Cheese-filled croissant with sides

Cheese-filled croissant with sides

Missy generally has been eating almost all that we give her while Mister has a more discerning taste.

What our picky eater doesn’t like (and why): homemade baked goods (too dry), homemade hummus (too much garlic), zucchini sticks, red bell pepper (not crunchy)

What has been a crowd pleaser so far: homemade popcorn, bread and cheese, Grandma’s daal, shreddies and crackers, anything that comes in a package.

Tomorrow we will try roast beef sandwich squares, red grapes, and their favourite – daal and rice.

What are some of your go-to school lunch options for your kids? Do you find it gets easier or harder to make school lunches as they get older?

Foodie Friday: Vanilla-Date Smoothie

This foodie post is centered around a nutritious, filling smoothie recipe that a three year-old can make – and drink – on the porch.

The days I am able to pick up Mister and Missy early from daycare, we try to do something fun. A couple of weeks ago, I decided that we’d make smoothies with the Magic Bullet once we reached home. We’ve done it before, and they love to throw ingredients in the mini-blender which is perfect for little hands, and help to mix it under close supervision.

Well this fine day M&M asked if they could play outside. Not wanting to leave them unattended while I made the smoothies myself, an idea struck. Why not bring the smoothie ingredients, which were already set aside, and the Magic Bullet onto the porch and make it out there? Sure the neighbours may think I was bonkers but then again they may just think the sound of the blender is a lawnmower or something.

So in the time it took M&M to choose their sidewalk chalk colours for drawing on the driveway, I was able to bring out all the ingredients. We were making 2 smoothies today based on ripening fruit in the fridge: one strawberry-vanilla and one vanilla-date using those sweet treats left over from a month of fasting in Ramadan. I combined two recipes for date smoothies from the Internet: Creamy Date Shake and Vanilla-Date Breakfast Smoothie to make this recipe.

Keep in mind the vanilla-date smoothie may need a stronger blender to mix than the Magic Bullet. Since we were on the porch, I used the Bullet for portability. Below is a picture of the ingredients for the date smoothie, which included honey, vanilla, yoghurt, milk and pitted dates. Luckily all the ingredients (minus the dates) were also used in the strawberry vanilla smoothie.

Vanilla-Date Smoothie
½ cup dates (pitted) – I used the big, juicy kind that originate from Iran or Saudi Arabia, found at specialty Middle Eastern supermarkets
½ cup whole-milk yogurt
½ cup whole milk
1 cup crushed ice (use more for desired smoothness)
1 tablespoon honey (optional)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Missy was in charge of the vanilla-date smoothie. Here is how it went down:

Step 1 – Set out all ingredients and plug in blender

Ingredients

Ingredients

Step 2 – Place pitted dates in blender cup

What do we put next?

What do we put next?

Step 3 – Pour milky into blender cup, add honey and other ingredients as per recipe

Pouring milky

Pouring milky

Step 4 – Blend, shake, blend, and enjoy!

Minnie Mixer

Minnie Mixer


Smoothie on the porch

Smoothie on the porch

Tips: With the dates being naturally sweet, you don’t need very much honey. For a low-fat version, substitute whole milk and yoghurt for skim, or use almond milk.

Letting Toddlers Dress Themselves

It’s amazing to think that children as young as two years old can develop their own sense of fashion and clothing preferences.

When Mister and Missy were between two and two and a half, they started dressing themselves (“I do it myself!”). Proudly putting on their own pants, socks and even trying to remove/put on their diapers! (that’s when we knew they were ready for potty training) At first we thought it was limited to dress-up time.

twin_toddler_dressup

Twins dressing up and getting dressed


Then at some point, they started paying attention to the clothes I would set out for them the night before. Then things got interesting and their personal clothing preferences came out. We quickly discovered that Missy is all about pink, purple, dresses and generally complicated outfits. She would be the one trying to zip up her jacket and fiddling with buttons.

In contrast, we noticed that Mister started resisting wearing anything with collars, buttons or zippers. That meant no more jeans or cute hoodies over the winter. It also meant no traditional Pakistani outfits comprised of a tailored collar tunic and baggy trousers. When my cousin got married a few months before their third birthday, it was nearly impossible to get him into the cute traditional “kurta pajama” for the wedding festivities. It took 3 people to coax and wrestle this screaming toddler into the clothes. If this wasn’t a family wedding where Mister and Missy were part of the procession, we would’ve compromised.

To this day, Mister prefers to wear his Elmo jogging pants or any track pants with a stripe down the side. His favourite and only tops to wear are slip-on shirts, preferably with a favourite character on the front. To make weekday mornings easier, I would take out at least 3 outfits each and hang them up in both their rooms. It definitely helps to plan out kids outfits beforehand so we are not searching their closet in the early morning darkness. Once they turned three, our twins started to pick out their own clothes.

A few weeks ago we were going to a community luncheon where Missy wore a traditional outfit (purple) and I wore a red one. Although Mister refused to wear the outfit I picked out (shirt with a collar, buttons and dress pants), he chose another outfit to match what I was wearing. He came over, showing the red long sleeved shirt he picked out with black fleece pants. My first reaction was to tell him to put back the fleece pants. Then I noticed the excitement on his face and sensed he was seeking my approval. The look of pride on his face when I said: “Good choice! It match!” was enough to make my heart melt.

Missy likes to be cozy and will layer her clothes. One day this past winter, she wore 6 layers: undershirt, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, dress, hoodie, and coat. And on her head were 2 headbands, 1 hair clip, and her usual requested hair style featuring three (yes, 3) ponytails… a la Punky Brewster.

There have been some (many) mornings when one or both would fight with us on their clothes choices, and even want to wear pajamas to daycare. The daycare educators suggested we offer up two choices for tops so they feel like they have some control. And let them wear pajamas if there is great resistance. That appeared to help a bit but we still had our morning challenges.

Amazingly, in the last 2 months or so and as Mister and Missy are nearly 3 ½, they have taken full control over their clothing choices. They even learned how to take their clothes off hangers and how to put them back on (their closets are child-sized).

Here is a description of recent favourite outfits:

Mister: Spider-Man underwear, blue top, blue Elmo jogging pants with white stripes, Elmo socks

Missy: Pink underwear, pink pants, pink long sleeve top, fairy dress, white & red Canada hoodie, pink socks

What’s the fashion in your house these days?

2Cute is a Canadian mom to 3 year old Boy/Girl twins who will be starting Junior Kindergarten this coming September. Their new school has a dress code (navy blue and white), which is going to cramp her twins’ sense of style.

Foodie Friday: Mini Master Chefs in the Kitchen

Our three year old twins are at the fun age where they want to help out around the house, and they can actually do things in a helpful way! Yesterday after picking them up from daycare, I decided to get them involved in preparing a side dish for dinner: a vegetable stirfry. Taking some of the week’s leftover vegetables like broccoli, baby carrots, zucchini and cherry tomatoes, I chose to make it Asian style with a mix of ingredients for the sauce.

Missy was in charge of washing the cherry tomatoes and zucchini while Mister took care of the broccoli and carrots. Both took their little stepstools to our double kitchen sink and washed their veggies (with some help from Mama) in their respective bowls. As an added bonus, a bunch of the cherry tomatoes and baby carrots ended up in their mouths.

Kitchen Safety

The tricky thing about the actual cooking part was to make sure both kids are safely away from the flame while I was cooking and had a task to do at all times. I would keep the knife well out of reach on top of the counter and helped them to add ingredients to the pan from a safe distance. Also, I was within arms reach of them at any point, whether they were hovering around the stove, or at the kitchen sink, or rummaging around in the pantry. Lucky for me they stayed together so I wasn’t chasing anybody around the kitchen.

Mini Chefs at Work

In the spirit of teamwork, Missy opened the cupboard I asked her to while Mister retrieved the big plastic bottle of olive oil and even helped pour it into the pan. I searched the fridge and pantry for different base ingredients to use for the sauce like soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic & ginger paste to name a few. When I asked for ‘masala’, M&M ran to the pantry to grab some spices. Missy chose the red pepper flakes and Mister got the parsley flakes.

We also added onion flakes, sesame seeds and flax seed (yes, flax seed!) to the stirfry. With every ingredient, I would place some on the palm of my hand and let them taste it. Another playful way to sneak in some fibre without them realizing it! Good thing they were tasting throughout the process because when it came time to eat the finished product, they weren’t interested!

Here are the instructions for this easy-peasy 5 minute stirfry. You’ll notice there are all approximate measurements. Since I allowed Mister and Missy to shake in the spices, a lot of the ingredients just got sprinkled or poured in!

veggie stirfry

Mixed Veggie Stirfry

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:13]

2Cute lives in Ottawa, Canada and is mom to 3 year old fraternal boy/girl twins. She and her hubby are quickly learning the benefits of utilizing child labour to get the simple yet mundane household tasks done. She blogs at 2cute.intiaz.com and tweets at @2cuteblog

Twinfant Tuesday: Napping Routines for Daytime

As most parents know, getting infants and toddlers to nap can be a real challenge. Getting TWO or more to nap at the same time is nothing short of a miracle. A typical day at home with any baby involves up to 3 nap and bedtime routines. Double that for twins, triple for triplets.

During the first two years of Mister and Missy’s life, I was fortunate enough to stay at home with them full-time. That meant dealing with 2 to 3 daily naps until they were about 9 months old, then 2 daily naps until about 18 months, and finally 1 nap each which continues to this day.

Some days (okay, most days) it felt like all my time was spent rocking them to sleep. I would first give each of them milk together in one room. Then burp Baby # 1 (usually Missy as she burped quickly) while the other was in an elevated position either on my leg or a bouncy chair. Next, Baby # 2 got burped and taken to their crib. Because they are fraternal twins, they have different sleeping patterns so we found it better to keep them in separate rooms. For example, Missy tends to take short naps and is a light sleeper during the day while Mister takes longer naps.

It was always a guess as to who would go to sleep first. Some days, Missy fell asleep right after drinking her milk, burped while asleep, and didn’t wake up while I burped Mister. Mister usually took a longer time to fall asleep.

Then, a short 45 minutes later, one or both of them woke up for a diaper change, snack, play, then lunch. Then it was soon time to redo the napping routine again for a (hopefully) longer afternoon nap of up to 2 hours.

Napping routine for twins

Napping routine for twins

With all the naps out of the way, it was time for dinner, bath and bed. This time with Mr. Mama’s welcome help. We were fortunate enough to have our family coming in to help especially in the first 5 months so I often got a break.

And when you are doing baby sleep routines 6 times each day, all you want to do is take a nap yourself!

2cuteblog is Mom to three year old B/G twins where at least one of them still naps every day. For that she is utterly grateful, especially on the weekends. You can follow her on twitter @2cuteblog or read more on her personal blog

Foodie Friday: Parsnip Fries

In a recent post, I shared my neighbour’s recipe for thick cut French fries made on the stovetop.

Now that our little ones are older and like the crunchy and oily taste of real french fries, I started thinking of a new way to serve my own version of this tasty treat. Like many kids, Mister and Missy don’t like to eat their vegetables. Veggies have to be cleverly disguised or served with an interesting dip for them to munch on them.

So the perfect french fry for Mister and Missy would have to be crunchy (for them), not fried (for Mama), and count as a full serving of vegetables (for Mama). So far I have tried baking French fries using regular and sweet potatoes. Then one day I felt adventurous and decided to try it with an unusual vegetable.. the parsnip. Parsnip is a sweet root vegetable which cooks or bakes quickly and tastes delicious with herbs and salt.

I found an easy recipe for Oven Roasted Parsnips here, and it was a hit! Try it out! One word of caution, the recipe calls for heating the oven to 450F which I found is too hot. Try roasting it at 375F.

2cuteblog enjoys experimenting with new recipes and is always looking for ways to let her three year old twins enjoy eating new things. You can check her out on her personal blog or follow her on twitter @2cuteblog.

Advice for Pregnant MoMs

You’ve just found out you are pregnant… and with twins! Congratulations! So many thoughts must be racing through your head. Are there really TWO of them in there? How did this happen? What does this mean? Can I still have a natural birth? What if they come early? Do we need to get a bigger car, bigger house? How are we going to PAY for TWO babies at once?

OMG what are we going to do?!?!?

Relax. You are in good company. We’ve all been through it, that’s why we are blogging about it now. It’s been a tough road for many of us, but hey who said raising kids was going to be easy?

If you are new parents, you will be evenly matched. If you already have an older child… well… better prepare your house for battle because YOU WILL BE OUTNUMBERED!

Here’s what you can do.

  1. Arm Yourself With Knowledge

    Read up on books which will help you prepare for twin mommy-hood. You could buy them from your local bookstore or online, borrow from a friend, get them second hand or borrow from the library. Our local library has an online book reservation system which made it really handy to place books on hold. You get notified when the books are in and they store them on a special bookshelf near the entrance which makes it quick and easy to pick up. Plus you can renew books online. All you need is a library card, which is almost always free!

    Some of the books that a very thoughtful friend gave as a gift:
    • “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins” by Marc Weissbluth, MD
    • “Ready or Not” series on raising twins by Elizabeth Lyon

    Not-twin related but still very helpful books I borrowed from the library:
    • “What To Expect When You Are Expecting” – with a special section on multiples
    • “Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, How to Calm, Connect and Communicate with your baby” by Tracy Hogg
    • “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy” by Vicki Lovine
    • “Baby Bargains, Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on baby furniture, gear, etc” by Denise & Alan Fields

  2. Register for Bootcamp

    Find a prenatal class offered in your area either by your municipality/county, hospital or local Multiple Births Association.

    We took a combination of classes. First, we signed up for a local prenatal classes which at the time were a series of evening classes led by a Registered Nurse (RN) from the Public Health department. Now unfortunately those courses are only offered online with an optional one day workshop at the local library.

    Once we found out we were having twins, we then signed up for the Multiple Births Families Association (www.MBFA.ca) “Multiple Expectations” prenatal course where we met other families in the same boat.

    Finally, I signed up for a special Breastfeeding Multiples session at the local Hospital to get some “hands-on” training with dolls. It sounds funny but you will need the practice. It’s less nerve wracking to position 2 dolls and not worry about dropping them than a pair of REAL babies!

  3. Make Allies

    Start building your network with some of the couples you met at these prenatal courses. Join your local Multiple Births Association to meet other families. If you live in Canada, check the Multiple Births Canada website to find a chapter near you. It’s worth the annual membership fee, especially for the first couple of years.

    Again, it may sound funny to some (“They have a twins club for you guys?”) but trust me, if you meet another twin mommy with multiples close to your age, you will want to exchange numbers and stay in touch! Many of these clubs also hold events like: summer picnics; holiday parties; meet and greets; and playdates.

    You can also join online communities such as right here on HDYDI to connect with other moms, either though facebook groups or blogging websites. Great way to connect with MOMs across North America!

    Another great resource we have here in our city is Breastfeeding Buddies. It’s another program offered by the City of Ottawa’s Public Health department for new moms with babies under 6 months old where they pair you up with another mom who has successfully nursed her baby or babies. I was grateful to get a phone call every few days from my BF Buddy to ask how things were going and encourage me along. If it wasn’t for her, I would have given up well before my twins weaned themselves off around 9 months.

    Yes, this person is a stranger to you but sometimes you can be more candid speaking with someone you don’t know very well. Plus, these ladies are screened and trained by a Ottawa Public Health nurse on being discreet. They are there to offer advice, not pass judgement. Check your county’s Public Health department website for a similar program.

  4. Select Your Gear

    Many people, when having their first child, will buy things brand new or get items as gifts from families and friends. That is not always practical when you are preparing for multiples.

    So in addition to joining your local Multiple Births chapter for the events, attend their Mom-to-Mom consignment sales. At our local ‘Twice As Nice’ sale, we have scored new or nearly new snowsuits and winter boots, not to mention toys, nursery essentials and big ticket items like high chairs and toddler bed frames. For more details on what these “Twins Sales” are about and why they are so popular, check out details on our local sale website here.

    Before you go, make a list of what you need so you don’t get carried away with buying too much or too little. Luckily, you DON’T need two of everything.

  5. Stockpile Supplies for Survival

    The biggest expenses for babies in the first year are diapers and formula. Now is a great time to start stocking up on those essentials.

    You will be needing diapers until your babies are at least 2.5 years old. When shopping for diapers, it’s handy to do a quick calculation on the cost per diaper to know whether you are being ripped off or not. Each diaper can cost between 16 to 40 cents.

    If you are using formula, you may want to wait until you figure out what your baby can handle. Not every formula is the same. We found the liquid Similac which the hospital gave us was easily digested but the more inexpensive powder form was hard on them and causing constipation.

    So we switched to the iron-fortified President’s Choice* baby formula from our local grocery store which often came on sale for $12.99-$15.99 for a big tin. (regular price at the time was $19.99, compared with $32.99 for other leading brands) A second brand we found worked well was Heinz. Find a brand and stick to it.

    Since we were doing both breastmilk and formula, we went through one tin a week for the first few months. Then 1 tin every 4 days until our twins were able to take cow’s milk at one year old.

    *President’s Choice label is only available in Canada at our grocery food chain, Loblaws. Their products (including affordable gourmet food items) are worth the trip up north!

  6. Line Up The Troops

    Make note of all the well wishers in your life that offer help, whether they be neighbours, parents, siblings, other relatives, friends, or co-workers. If you are like me and have a hard time asking for or taking help, pray that your family and friends know you well enough to know when you need it. We are fortunate enough to have both sets of parents in town, helpful aunts and uncles, friends and neighbours. They all came over on a regular basis (daily or weekly) to help out in some way whether it was taking over the kitchen, folding laundry, bringing over food, and of course caring for the babies.

    Have a short list of people you can reach out to by phone. These are well wishes who want to be there for you but can’t physically due to distance and their own situations.

  7. Have a Gameplan

    Manage your expectations and logistics of what’s going to happen when the babies’ arrive. Is your house going to be a disaster or will you work yourself to the bone trying to keep it clean? Can you afford to get outside help for a short time to help maintain it?

    Will you allow visitors in the hospital and in the early days at home? If so, ask them to bring lunch, or grocery essentials like milk and eggs. Tell them to expect you to open the door in your pyjamas. Let them hold the babies while you go take a shower or a nap.

    Are the babies going to sleep in your bed, your room or in the nursery? In one crib or two? Upstairs or downstairs? (depending on whether mom can climb stairs in the early days)

    Is hubby going to stay home for a few days, weeks or months? Will you invite your folks to move in with you for a short while? When will you go back to work? Will you go back to work?

    If you are nursing, will you hire a lactation consultant to help you? Will you consent to a wellbaby visit by a Public Health Nurse, if this service is offered in your area? Read a previous post I wrote on how to survive the first three months with newborn twins.

Pregnant with twins? Relax. It's going to be great. from hdydi.com

Hopefully these tips and suggestions will help you organize your thoughts and figure out how to prepare for your upcoming bundles of joy. Most of all, DON’T PANIC! Soon, you will find yourself saying you “wouldn’t have it any other way”.

Ambereen lives in Canada with her husband and Boy/Girl twins. They survived the first 3 years of raising twins and lived to blog about it. Check out her blog at www.2cute.intiaz.com or tweet her at @2cuteblog.

Foodie Friday: Stovetop French Fries

At our children’s day care, Friday is “French Fry Day”. I know this because that is how Mister answered my question about what day it was. And why not, who doesn’t like French fries?

As a mom, I’m not too crazy about the idea of feeding my kids salty French fries from the Drive-Thru. And although I don’t mind the occasional treat of French fries, I am always trying to make healthy food for the kids.

Our neighbour N showed me a great way to make homemade French fries for Mister and Missy when they were toddlers.. boil the potatoes on the stovetop! This is a great meal for little ones who wouldn’t know the difference between boiled, baked or fried! Not only is it healthy and quick to make, it’s easy to little mouths to chew.

Below is the uber-simple recipe for you to try. Enjoy and let me know how it turns out.

Oh and stay tuned for my next post on how to make veggie fries.

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:8]

Do You Celebrate Christmas?

It’s hard not to get swept up in the ‘Christmas spirit’ when you are immersed in a winter wonderland that lights up every December with magical lights, Christmas carollers, bustling shopping centres and generally happy people.

Every year around this time people ask me if I celebrate Christmas. My answer is this: I celebrate it on a social level – not on a personal level.

My family is from a Muslim country where Christmas is observed by less than 2% of the population. December 25th is a national holiday in Pakistan, but not for the same reason as it is here in Canada. There, it is the birthday of founder Quaid-e-Azam, who along with Mahatma Gandhi, carved the country out of the Indian subcontinent. The major holidays in the Pakistani calendar are the two Eids: one commemorating the end of Ramadan, the other for the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

My hubby – Mr. Mama – hails from British Guyana where Muslims, Christians and Hindus celebrate their other’s festivals. His experience with Christmas is different from mine. A Guyanese Christmas includes many of the Canadian elements, plus a traditional meal of pepper pot (delicious sweet beef stew) and festive Caribbean music.

Growing up Canadian, we were introduced to local and Gaelic Christmas traditions by our ‘Chachi’, an Irish lady who married our uncle. As kids, my cousins and I would go over to their place on Christmas Day to decorate their tree, watch holiday specials on TV, gorge on candy and junk food, then proceed to eat a whole turkey dinner complete with the trimmings. It was an annual event, and lots of fun. Oh and it was kids only which added to the excitement! I suspect our parents were more than happy to have us out of their hair.

Back at home, my parents never put up a Christmas tree, and I don’t remember ever asking them for one. It was enough for me to go over to Chacha and Chachi’s and celebrate it in their home. I was content with watching TV specials throughout December, getting gifts for friends (if I wanted to, no pressure there), and wishing people ‘Happy Christmas’, Irish-style.

Once we all grew up, things went back to December 25th being another day except that businesses and stores are closed and people stayed home from work. Often, our family and friends would take this opportunity to host dinner parties for no other reason than to get together. These dinner parties did not have any special themes, nor were they held in homes decorated for the holiday. The food was always served buffet style with an Indo-Pakistani menu.

Other years, we would travel during the holidays as far away as India & Pakistan for a few weeks, or as close as Toronto for a few days to visit relatives. I remember being very surprised when we visited New Delhi one year in December and saw inflatable Santa Clauses all over. The lack of snow and other North American symbols made me forget it was the holidays and that many people in India celebrate Christmas.

One of my favourite things about the holiday break was when non-celebrating friends who had moved away came back to visit their families between Christmas and New Years. It was a great opportunity meet up because, like me, these friends were free on the 25th!

In my opinion, it’s not about whether you have a traditional feast and open presents on December 25th. It’s about the mood during the entire month leading up to the holidays. Over the years, I’ve learned all the non-religious Christmas carols by heart, sang at old age homes during the holiday season, and wrapped gifts for less fortunate children. Last but not least, I’ve shopped to my heart’s content up to and including Boxing Week… scooping up deals for myself to last the whole year. Why not? I was single then.

Now that we are responsible adults, we will share gifts with our close neighbours and exchange cards with office colleagues. I considered getting gifts for the educators at Missy and Missy’s daycare, but it’s hard to think of what to get so I think we will just stick with cards decorated by the little ones themselves.

I’ve embraced the best of the festive spirit of the country in which I live. All without compromising my personal beliefs and values, and without the pressure or stress that comes with finding the perfect gift or hosting an elaborate feast.

Mister and Missy are born in Canada to parents of the same faith yet different cultural backgrounds. They like their Guyanese curry and roti, Indo-Pak tandoori chicken, Christmasey eggnog, and Quebecois French fries. Now the question is: how will they view Christmas when they grow up?

It’s only one week away from Christmas Day. What will you be doing on December 25th? And do you think Christmas is mainly for the kids?

Happy Holidays!

2Cuteblog lives in Ottawa, Canada with her husband and their three year old twins. You can read about their multicultural adventures on her personal blog at http://2cute.intiaz.com or follow her on twitter @2cuteblog

Foodie Fridays: Indian Roti (Flatbread)

Growing up I used to help my mom in making roti (also known as chapatti) which is a flatbread similar to the Mexican tortilla. She would make the dough and I would sometimes help her roll it out into a circle (or a square, or the map of India, or some other shape) and help her to pan fry it.

In many traditional Indo-Pak families, the lady of the house would make fresh roti every day for dinner. That is just not feasible for most families nowadays, so you buy the chappatis in the grocery store. However since I am trying to domesticate myself by trying to make food from scratch whenever possible, here is my take on how to make rotis in your home!

It’s a simple, affordable and healthy alternative to store-bought bread.  The best part is kids love it and you can sneak all sorts of healthy ingredients without them knowing it! The one downside is it is a 3 step process and can be a bit time consuming and requires some practice to get it right.

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Anyone can make Indian ‘roti’. Just take a note from our kids when they use playdough!