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In my career as a journalist and television personality, I have been fortunate to have met extraordinary individuals from all corners of the world. Their lives are as unique as their DNA, but they’re bound by a common thread – passion. Here are their stories.

Decluttering & Designing Your Bedroom Closet

Decluttering & Designing Your Bedroom Closet 1225 1062 Kanika

 

Reminiscent of the closet montage in Sex and The City (the movie), organizing can be fun when you decide what want to ‘take’ or ‘toss,’ especially if it involves 80s music and a fashion show with friends! I declutter my closet each season and recently decided to take it a step further by adding design elements that reflect my personal style. 

  1. Purge
    1. Rather than organizing your closet on a yearly basis, do an audit of your clothes and accessories each season. Better yet, when you buy a new outfit, donate one that has been sitting in your closet. Out with the old, and in with the new!
  2. Optimize Space
    1. Use skinny velvet hangers.
    2. Use a tiered shoe rack so vertical space from the ground up is being utilized.
    3. If you have two hanging racks, use them. Pants and belts on the bottom, tops and dresses on top.
  3. Design
    1. Inspired by a pearl and silver monogrammed jewelry box that my mom-in-law bought me, I went with a white and silver color scheme for my closet. My bins, curtains, and add ons match this theme.
    2. Use bins for other perishables, pastas, condiments, spices, etc.
  4. Store & Hide
    1. Keep items you access regularly out in plain sight (e.g. perfumes, vitamins)
    2. Hide your shelves with woven curtains. I am not one to sew, so I bought the curtains, had my tailor resize them as per the dimensions of the shelves, strung rope through the top, and hung them on adhesive command hooks. Since there’s no drilling required, this was a cinch!

Many ladies subscribe to the adage, “a girl can never have too many clothes.” But, believe me, purging and streamlining your closet is much more liberating, especially when you donate for a cause. Soon you’ll be swearing by the words of #viviennewestwood, “buy less, choose well, make it last.”

How to Organize Your Pantry

How to Organize Your Pantry 1678 944 Kanika

 

What’s the most dreaded place to organize in your kitchen? Could it be…your pantry? Well, don’t fret. It’s not as bad as you think. Here’s what I did to keep our pantry clutter-free and organized (especially since it serves as storage for condiments, lentils, baby food, snacks, the works!)

  1. Empty It Out
    1. I know this may seem tedious, but believe me, when all the things in your pantry are out there in the open, you’ll feel inclined to get rid of unnecessary items. And, believe me, the final outcome will feel liberating!
  2. Organize Into Sections
    1. Create sections within the pantry (e.g. lentils, cereal, pasta, condiments, baby food, snacks). Keep unused items and lighter items up top, the ones you reach for all the at eye level, and cleaning supplies on the bottom.
  3. Storage
    1. Use a plastic liner to keep shelves clean.
    2. Buy glass canisters and jars to store food – they’re BPA-free and allow you to see how much you have of something at a glance.
    3. Use bins for other perishables, pastas, condiments, spices, etc.
  4. Label Everything
    1. Use chalkboard labels and a white chalkboard pen to label everything. It’ll look oh-so Pinterest-worthy when you’re done!

Fridge Organization Tips

Fridge Organization Tips 1731 973 Kanika

 

What’s the easiest place to purge in the home? The fridge! I decided to kick off my Spring Cleaning Series in the kitchen, the lifeblood of our home. It’s easy to forget about all the food and leftovers you have piling up in the fridge (yes, condiments do expire), so cleaning it out every few weeks is a good idea.

Here are some of my tips on how to keep your food super fresh and your fridge easy to navigate (we have family and friends helping us with our kids all the time so this is key!)

  1. Deep Clean
    1. Empty the fridge and wipe it down with an all natural homemade multipurpose cleaning spray (2 parts H2O, 1 part vinegar, 3-4 drops of doTerra lemon essential oil).
  2. Identify Categories
    1. Decide how you want to compartmentalize your fridge for dairy, meat, fruits, and veggies.
    2. Store milk on the bottom shelf, not the fridge door, which is susceptible to the most temperature fluctuation.
    3. Keep fruits and veggies separate since they emanate different gases and can spoil quicker if kept together.
    4. Store eggs in a clear stackable egg tray and mark hard-boiled eggs with the letter “H.”
  3. Storage
    1. Whenever possible, we opt for glass and stainless steel to store food since they’re BPA-free. We transfer our organic milk from the gallon bottles into glass pitchers, which have a spout and are easier to pour from. 
    2. Keep greens (spinach, arugula, kale) fresher, longer in glass storage containers lined with paper towels to soak up moisture.
    3. Use mason jars to prep your smoothies. When it’s in front of me and all I need to do is blend it in my Nutri Bullet, I am more likely to have one in the morning.
  4. Labels
    1. Use clear labels and a white chalkboard pen to label your refrigerator bins (e.g. cheese, meat, fruits, veggies)

Michelle Ranavat – Ranavat Botanics

Michelle Ranavat – Ranavat Botanics 1024 820 Kanika

Equipped with an engineering degree and management consulting expertise, training in ballet and Indian semi-classical dance, and a keen eye for detail, there’s nothing this LA-mompreneur of two can’t do. Michelle Ranavat is disrupting the beauty industry with Ranavat Botanics, a luxury skincare line inspired by ancient traditions of Indian royalty, formulated with high performance botanicals. 

Featuring masques, toniques, and serums that are paired together to address unique skin concerns ($40 – $175), the brand is rooted in its simplistic approach and minimal, yet highly potent ingredients. For instance, the Flawless Veil illuminating masque is made up of organic wild turmeric, organic sandalwood, and organic bakuchi seed which work in harmony to uncover fresh skin and help kiss hyper-pigmentation goodbye. All the masques are in their raw powder form which provides for prolonged use (no fear of drying out or cracking!)

Michelle and I chatted about her foray in the beauty sector, mommyhood, and our love for dance (we both are members of Payal Kadakia’s Sa Dance Company). Read on below and shop Ranavat Botanics here.

You said your life started after you became a mom. How so?

Becoming a mom forced me to set a high bar for my career. After graduating, I worked at Lehman Brothers simply to have a brand name on my resume. As I got older, I began to care more about aligning my passion and talents with my job. I figured if I was going to spend time away from my kids pursuing anything, it should be incredibly fulfilling. I am lucky to have a supportive husband and two cheerleaders now.

What was the seed that blossomed into Ranavat Botanics?

I had always been in love with beauty and skincare from an early age, though never saw it as more than a hobby. My mother in law is an aesthetician and when I was pregnant with my older son, she came back from India raving about how well Ayurvedic botanicals worked on her skin. I gave them a try, especially since I was only using all-natural, paraben-free products on my skin at the time. I tried to source them on my own but noticed a major lack of quality and consistency. So I decided to use my experience in supply chain while working at my father’s chemicals company to solve the problem. 

So the concept for the brand came about organically (pun intended)?

Yes! Ranavat is a true representation of my personal style and ethos. For instance, I only have a few key pieces in my wardrobe – they’re simple yet made really well. I want to show skincare enthusiasts like myself and the beauty industry at large how effective a small list of curated ingredients can be when they are made incredibly well. The industrial engineer in me is always fascinated by how things are made. I always say “every ingredient has a story.”

How do you feel India’s ancient philosophies are perceived in the west and how are you looking to push the envelope in the beauty sector?

Often times the masses equate India with yoga and ayurveda. To me, there’s so much more to our culture and I wouldn’t want my beauty line to live in a crunchy environment. Much like what Sabyasachi has done for Indian couture, through Ranavat, I hope to bring out a different side of India – its rich history, ornate palaces and temples, and intricate jewelry. 

What’s unique about Ranavat Botanics?

Ranavat Botanics is treatment based focusing on hydration, detoxification, and illumination. There is one masque and one tonique (a hydrosol) created to address each skin concern. We have also launched Mighty Majesty, a hair and body serum that is lightweight and incredibly hydrating.

As moms, we rarely make time for ourselves. How do you aim to change that?

I used to live my life for those moments I went on vacation or time away. Not with kids, there is no such thing as a vacation so you need to find small ways every day to recharge and feel special. To me, using Mighty Majesty in the morning after my shower takes me to that special place where I feel cared for and nourished. I think that feeling of self-indulgence is even more important when we have kids or are caring for others. 

Did you have any qualms about becoming an entrepreneur? 

I was a little nervous about launching Ranavat because ultimately if it was successful, it would mean leaving my dad’s company. When I told him he said, “I didn’t build my company for you to further my vision. I built it to teach you how to further yours.” When it came time to travel to India to source the best ingredients, my dad came with me. We hit the ground running from farms to factories and we had a blast!

Soon after launch, Ranavat Botanics got picked up by Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. What was your reaction when you got the news?

Honestly there are times I still can’t believe it! I think having a very unique and strong point of view, aesthetic, and story to tell has played a role in standing out. It has been a combination of timing, the people who have believed in me since the very beginning, luck, and the Ranavat brand.

You and I are both lifelong members of the Sa Dance Company. How has dance shaped you as an entrepreneur? 

I think being an entrepreneur to me is less about solving a problem or inventing something and more about creativity. My passion for dance allows me to express my creativity and has exposed me to my Indian culture in such a deep, meaningful way. 

How do you strike a balance between motherhood and your business (your third baby if you will!)

I feel it’s about the average balance that I establish over the next 2-3 years. Right now, I am pretty work heavy but I hope to scale that back over time so that I can spend more time with my family. I do have some flexibility in my schedule and see the kids as often as I can. There are a lot of night and weekend commitments I hope to slow down in time. 

What advice do you have for mompreneurs?

If you can create a living of something you love and are passionate about, you should do it! There is nothing more meaningful than leading by example for your children and showing them they can bring their dreams to life.

What’s a mantra you live by?

Don’t compare yourself. I think I was really scared to launch my company initially because the skincare market is so saturated. Ultimately, I believe there is always room for quality and individuality. If you have either of those things, it doesn’t matter if it’s the water business – people will want it. 

Soon to Be Party of Five!

Soon to Be Party of Five! 1940 1295 Kanika

It has caught us by surprise that after our twins, I am now expecting baby #3. A lot of friends have warned, advised, and damn-near scared me about what it’s like having three kids under the age of two (the twins and our littlest one will be 18 months apart), but my husband and I are bracing ourselves for the adventure that lies ahead. 

Here are a few checklist items we got started on since we found out the good news:

Organizing our Hand-Me-Downs. Since we have boy-girl twins, we already have every single piece of clothing (blue or pink) along with toys and essentials for each milestone from newborn on up. Whew! I organized the twins’ clothes in separate bins (I love these Container Store Long Underbed boxes), which I labeled (0-3 months, 3-6 months, etc.). Easily being able to find what we need will be super handy when our baby arrives.

Be Prepared for Anything. Since this isn’t my first rodeo, it’ll be interesting to see the nuances of this baby’s needs vs. our twins how our twins were at that age (e.g. will the child take to a pacifier or not? Will he/she sleep through the night? Will he/she take to breastfeeding?) I am prepared for anything. Our twins are already so different, whether they’re gravitating to various toys (Suhana loves books, Krish likes playing with his toy basketball and soccer ball) or soothing mechanisms (Suhana likes to be held with her hair stroked and Krishie prefers his pacifier and falling asleep being rocked in the glider), so we know baby #3 is going to come with his/her own personality and preferences.

Go On a Couple’s Getaway. We aren’t doing a babymoon since we don’t want to the leave the kids for too long, so my husband and I are doing a mini spa retreat over a weekend. I can’t wait to relax, indulge in prenatal massages, and relish our adult conversation which won’t be centered around questions like, “did you remember to order the size 5 overnight diapers for next month?”

Book a Family Vacation. We are booking our very first beach vacation this summer prior to the baby’s arrival. Our twins were only 6-months-old last summer and weren’t quite sitting up so we avoided taking them to the beach. (Can you just picture them doing tummy time in the sand. No thanks!) So this year, I am very excited to be taking them on this trip where they’ll to explore unchartered waters (literally!) and we enjoy quality time as a family. 

If you all have any tips on what else to do prior to baby #3 arriving, please leave them in the comments below. Any advice is welcome! Thank you for you good wishes!

Mommy Makeover!

Mommy Makeover! 2560 2311 Kanika

My mom squad and I often commiserate about how we never get a chance to treat ourselves whether it’s getting our hair done or going to the spa for a relaxing massage or mani/pedi. I was ecstatic when Marie Lou&D Salon in Soho, New York invited me and two of my mommy friends, Minila and Rachna, to get pampered. A second home to high-street fashionistas and celebrities like Hilary Duff and Jill Zarin, MLD and its touted European stylists have been featured in InStyle, Vogue, and Marie Claire.  

We all were treated to consultations with top hair stylists, blow outs, and recommendations on what we should do to maintain our hair based on texture/length/coloring. 

 

Long, Fine Hair:

My hair is fine and very, very long (I don’t get hair cuts, just trims!) I have long layers and got a balayage hair color treatment four years ago that is still going strong (there are strands of caramel/brown that peak through). Hair stylist Tre Wyrosdick, advised that I use Kerastase Elixir Ultime Metamorph oil as a pre-treat before shampooing and conditioning, once a week. 

The product turns into a milk and penetrates each strand. Leave it in for 2-3 minutes, and then shampoo.

To add volume to dull, flat hair, look for shampoos that contain hyaluronic acid and collagen. The Kerastase’s Densifique Bain Densité  shampoo and Fondant Densité conditioner add body to thinning hair. 

Before & After:

Dry, Damage-Prone Hair:

Minila is an Indian semi-classical dancer and founder of the Ajna Dance Company. She and her troupe perform a few times a month for TV segments, live shows, and private events and they’re often straightening, curling, and putting up their hairs in intricate up-dos which has left her hair dry and damaged at the ends. 

Shu Uemura’s Urban Moisture Hydro-Nourishing Treatment for dry hair adds intense nourishment and moisture to parched strands. The lightweight formula enters the hair fiber to soften and smoothe while protecting against future dryness. Recommended for normal to thick hair, the hair mask leaves hair tamed, detangled, and shiny with a healthy glow.

Before & After:

Short, Layered Hair:

Rachna is a a marketing executive who travels a lot. She prefers quick fixes to keep her tresses manageable with plenty of volume. 

Shu Uemura’s Texture Wave Dry Finishing Spray provides buildable texture with long-lasting, flexible hold. It leaves hair with a soft, matte finish which is ideal for any hair type or length. The spray helps to build volume and movement in fine hair, helping you achieve that perfect blow-out look. By absorbing oil at the roots without any powdery residue, it feels especially rejuvenating on second-day hair much like a dry shampoo.

Before & After:

We all loved our salon-ready hair and were happy to know that we could easily achieve results at home with the right products. #MomWin!

Our Twins 1st Birthday Bash

Our Twins 1st Birthday Bash 2048 1367 Kanika

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Ahh…the joys of party planning! In the age of Pinterest, Instagram, and Etsy, it seems parties, whatever the occasion (birthdays, bridal showers, bachelorettes), are on steroids. I knew what I was getting into when I decided to throw our twins a themed 1st birthday, and now that it’s all said and done, I have to admit it was well worth it. We have memories and beautiful photos to last a lifetime and most importantly our friends and family from far and wide got to celebrate the little ones who have made us a family.

Our theme for our boy-girl twins was Ties & Tutus. (So cute, right?) I created a Google doc of all the logistics and am sharing all the vendors we used for their special day.

Invitation
If you haven’t heard of Fiverr, your world is about to change. Fiverr is a marketplace of graphic designers, video editors, and other creative professionals you can hire based on their portfolios and reviews. I wanted my twins birthday invite to look like a chalkboard with pops of baby pink and blue and came up with a concept that my designer Sachi executed to a T. She specializes in kids invitations which is big plus.
Graphic Designer: diplomadon

Venue
Since we were expecting 75+ guests, my husband and I decided it would be best to have the kids’ party at a venue which allowed for catering rather than hosting at home. Big win! I just googled “clubhouse New Jersey” and happened upon a place called The Clubhouse in Montclair, NJ. It was perfect. I love the industrial interiors, which appealed to the adults. Someday, we’d like to go there for a get-together with friends and actually make use of the pool table, darts, and the private theatre upstairs. The event manager was extremely helpful throughout the booking process (you have to register for insurance and sign a contract to reserve your date) and the staff member who helped us on-site the day of was excellent.
The Clubhouse, Montclair, NJ

Catering
Our cuisine of choice was Mediterranean – it’s healthy, flavorful, and has plenty of options for non-vegetarians and vegetarians alike. Once we reserved our venue, I was on a hunt to find a restaurant nearby and came across Mediterranea. My family and I reserved a tasting session with the chef a few weeks prior to select our menu. We decided on the following:

  • Greek Salad
  • Falafel with Tatziki Sauce
  • Cheese & Spinach Borak (phyllo rolls)
  • Hummus and Pita Bread
  • Chicken Shawarma
  • Mussakah (sauteed eggplant, zucchini, onions, tomatoes)
  • Rice Pulao

For the kids, we ordered a few large pies of pizza. 
Mediterranea, Villa Victoria Pizzeria

Entertainment
Since we had a winter birthday party, our entertainment was confined to indoors. We wanted to cater to our kids who were 1-year-old up to kids who were 5. I was referred to a company called Parties for Peanuts which has characters (Elsa, Paw Patrol, Elmo, you name it!) who do circle time music, balloon making, the parachute game, and face-painting. We chose Daniel Tiger, my kids’ favorite and ours too since my hubby and I grew up watching Mr. Rogers. He was a hit!
Parties for Peanuts

Cake
We had two separate cakes rather than a 2-tier that way each kid got to cut their own cake and have “Happy Birthday” sung to them. Krish’s cake was a butter cream and fondant chocolate cake with vanilla icing. Suhana’s cake had rosettes made of butter cream; it was a yellow cake with raspberry and white chocolate ganache filling. We ordered custom tutu and bow-tie sugar cookies that were a nice touch on the desserts table. Everything was delicious!
Pink Petals Cakes

Photographer
I can’t say enough about our photographer, Melissa of Little Spoon Events. Not only does she take stunning photos and specializes in kids photo shoots and events, she was my right hand woman throughout the party and helped my vision come true. She had props for our dessert table, crafted poufs for our backdrops, had photo stands, our handmade cake toppers, the works! We’ve done several photo shoots with her including a holiday family shoot, the kids 1st portraits, and of course their big 1st birthday. We couldn’t be happier with the fun moments she’s captured for us.
Little Spoon Events

Decor
Decorating was the lion share of the planning, but it was only possible because of the amazing women who are so talented and crafty to bring my vision life! Here are a few of my favorite pieces.

Misc.
For all the extraneous items, my go-to shopping destinations were Amazon, Walmart and Michaels, Home Goods, and Trader Joe’s.

  • Amazon: Gold-trimmed plastic plates, Gold-trimmed plastic bowls, Gold plastic utensilsGoody Bags, Gold curling ribbon, Apothecary jar set
  • Walmart: Hershey kisses (2 lb. bags in pink, silver, and navy blue), 9 oz. clear Solo cups, 2 oz. clear Solo shot glasses, Sheer white curtain panels, White & black table cloths, Burners for buffet trays, Gold balloons, Pearl balloons
  • Michaels: Cookie packets, Jute twine string, Vase for Photo Booth props
  • Home Goods: White dessert trays, Cake stands, Ice buckets, Water Pitchers, Silver frames for printed signs
  • Trader Joe’s: Sparkling Lemonade & Pink Lemonade

Printed Signs
I designed the printed signs using Canva, an online portal for designing graphics, posters, and signs. We had signs that read Milk Shots, Photo Booth, Lunch is Served, and Sweets & Treats. Download the Photo Booth Printable I made for your upcoming event!

Enjoy birthday planning — these milestones go by in a flash! 🙂

Our First Family Photo shoot

Our First Family Photo shoot 2560 1546 Kanika

We had our first family photo shoot when our twins turned 7-months-old. This was a special day for us since if felt like our life had come full circle. Sunil and I actually met on a photo shoot. We both submitted our headshots (he sent in his Friendster profile photo. Throwback to 2005!) for a casting call for Indian models in New York. Don’t get me wrong, neither of us had aspirations of walking the ramp in Paris, we just wanted to have some professional photos of ourselves. We were both selected and assembled at renowned wedding photographer Jay Seth‘s studio with a group of other young working professionals. We were told the photos were going to feature in Bharat Matrimony’s new spin-off magazine, Desi Match, and as billboards for Khazana boutique in New Jersey. Jay picked Sunil and I out of the lot and said, “you two are going on my cover.” We went in to hair and make up (by the one and only Sushmita Patel), and I donned a pink and gold wedding lehnga and Sunil a gold sherwani. Here we were, pretending to be a newly-married couple on the very first day we met.

I laughed nervously, but Sunil put me at ease. He whispered, “Relax. Let’s have fun with this.” He still has a unique way of making me feel secure and bringing lightness to any situation. 

 

After the shoot, Sunil and I went our separate ways. We reconnected five years later and went on our first date. We reminisced about our shoot and then just hit it off as we talked endlessly about growing up as Indian Americans, our love for all things Punjabi from bhangra to rajma chawal, and our take on what truly matters to us in life. We married (for real this time!) in 2013 and of course Jay was our wedding photographer of choice. We enjoyed our newlywed years, and had our twins, Krish and Suhana in 2017.

Jay was so thrilled for us and said when the kids are sitting up on their own, let’s do a big Gupta family shoot. It turned out so well. They get it from their mama and papa! Here are a few of our favorite shots.

 

Here are a few things I learned when it comes to photographing kids:

  1. Be prepared. Pick out their outfits, backdrops, accessories (headbands, sunglasses) the night before so you have seamless transitions from one outfit or location change to the next. 
  2. Let there be light. We shot indoors with natural light and no flash (this is distracting for the kiddos and they will inevitably blink). We also shot photos outside around 11:30 when the sunlight was not too harsh, yet they still got to rock their little sunnies.
  3. Stick to your schedule. All kids are happiest in the early morning after they’ve had their first feed of the day. We blocked 10:00 – 12:00 pm for our shoot which was perfect timing. Their tummies were full from their 8:00 am feed, we gave them a bath, and they were active and energetic by the time we were rolling. They got a bottle at 11:00 am at the halfway point and then we went outside for the second half of the shoot. As soon as we came back home, they were put down for their nap and they slept soundly. Whew! 
  4. Play with your built-in backgrounds. Our best shots were on our bed with colorful throw pillows in the background. I used a grey wood vinyl backdrop I found on Etsy which we hung from the foot of the bed and had them pose on our shag rug. These photos looked like they were in studio! We also captured the babies on their play mat, doing what they do best – jumping, bouncing, and giggling. 
  5. Do a monkey dance. In order to get your little ones to look squarely into the camera, you’ll have to entertain them! Use jingling toys, rattles, bells and shake them near the camera lens. Their gaze will be fixed on the toy and if you sing, dance, shake, rattle, & roll, you’ll get them to give you their million dollar smiles.

Doing a photo shoot around the 7-month-mark is best since babies are able to sit up on their own and even crawl around a bit, but aren’t walking and getting into everything. We loved this phase of their lives and are going to cherish these photos! Thank you Jay Seth Photography for your matchmaking skills, and capturing these family memories.

Rupa Parekh – Jai Jai Hooray!

Rupa Parekh – Jai Jai Hooray! 600 600 Kanika

 

I am always on the lookout for educational, cultural toys to teach my kids about our Hindu religion in a fun, captivating way. When I attended Brown Girl Magazine‘s “Mimosas with Mom” event in New York (thanks for hosting Trisha Sakhuja!), I was thrilled to meet fellow mompreneur Rupa Parkeh. Her company, Umani (named after her daughter Uma and son Niko), creates beautifully-crafted, simple learning tools that introduce our Indian culture to new audiences with modern flair. Rupa told me about her first product launch, the Jai Jai Hooray flash card set, which showcases the nine deities of Hinduism in a SAY-SEE-LEARN framework enabling anyone to be a teacher or student. I thought the concept was brilliant and bought a set for my twins.

Rupa and I stayed in touch as she relocated from New York to Houston and she included me in a focus group for her next launch, The Goddess Power Tower.

Wasn’t that inspiring? I’ll give you a second to wipe your tears and blow your nose. This commercial pulls at my heartstrings too and makes me think of all the strong women in my life, especially my nani who taught me to follow my sanatan dharma, or “the right way to live.” The Goddess Power Tower poignantly conveys how each goddess in Hindu mythology is a mother (Mata), and is synonymous with virtues we should aspire to, like Sarawasti Mata symbolizes wisdom and Durga Mata is a fearless warrior. We all face mom guilt from time to time and underestimate ourselves and our abilities, but the truth is, we are real-life goddesses and make an impact on our children in so many ways.

 

I was honored to be a part of Jai Jai Hooray’s #SheisaGoddess campaign where nine women were featured to represent the nine goddesses. Rupa chose me as her real-life Parvati, the ambassador of motherhood and fertility; You can read more about it here and check out photos here.

I am so pleased to have met Rupa and convinced her to share her story on Musings of a Mompreneur. 😉 Originally from Buffalo, she attended Northwestern for undergrad and earned her MBA from Wharton. Her husband Emre is Turkish American. Rupa has been working in tech, design, and innovation for the past 15 years and aims to help children, and adults alike, learn and play better.

What does motherhood mean to you?

Being a mother to Uma and Niko has been such an honor and blessing. They are growing up to be such clever, funny and creative kids. Our first and second thoughts nearly everyday that we wake up as parents are: “wow, I hope we make them proud” and “how long before they realize we have no idea what we’re doing?!”

When did you become a mompreneur?

I come from a family of business people. We talked about customers and clients at dinner; we geek out about ads. Everyone in my family is sort of a sucker for good marketing.

Umani and Jai Jai Hooray was inspired by the family I’m starting to grow. Both my husband and I are connected to our culture, but we’re not experts. It’s an overwhelming feeling to have children and suddenly you’re supposed to be a teacher of language, customs, and heritage. When Uma was a baby, I searched for tools, games and activities that were both engaging and well designed. I couldn’t find much. Not about India nor any other culture. We saw a gap in the market and went for it. Umani was born.

You believe that every day is Mother’s Day and designed the Goddess Power Tower to serve as a reminder.

Absolutely. Moms, by definition, can do more! It’s astonishing to think about the amount of thinking, feeling, planning, loving, dreaming and nurturing a mom can do all at once.

Celebrating mom just one day out of the year isn’t enough! We thought it would be really fun to create a toy that makes it easier for families to treasure mama. Afterall, for little ones, mom is the center of their universe–she IS a goddess. (Unfortunately, I think that wears off fast as they become tweens!)

Our favorite part of the Goddess Power Tower is the poem that builds when you stack each block. It’s an ode to mommy that should resonate with any family, regardless of their cultural background.

We loved your mom Rashmi Parkeh’s feature. How did your mom inspire you to start your business?

My mom started her small business when I was 6 months old. She is a force of nature–at 69 she has more energy than I think I will ever have. She is also our families culture keeper. Even before we had children, I always wondered, “how do I bottle up my mom and all of her tips and stories?” Umani and Jai Jai Hooray are a first step toward doing that.

Who is your inner Goddess?

Great question! What’s really cool about the Goddess Power Tower is that it brings to life that women have so many personas. On some days, I feel like a warrior (Durga) and other days I’m more calm and fluid (Ganga).

What are your hopes for Umani for the future?

Toys, books and media are simply not diverse–certainly not in the United States. We want to help families feel more culturally connected and we’re only just scratching the surface. We’ll be experimenting with digital learning and play in the coming year. Stay tuned!

What are your top tips for mothers and mompreneurs.

  1. Be patient with yourself. The chips are unfortunately still stacked against moms so we have to create our own opportunities AND set our own pace.
  2. Get better at vocalizing what you need and want in real-time. With your colleagues, boss, spouse, friends–be transparent about what you’re feeling, what you need and what could help you. Moms are optimizers not festerers!
  3. Make time for date night, girls time or solo sanctuaries. If we’re lucky, life is a marathon. Newborn and toddler years are exhausting. Don’t burn out when you’ve just begun!

 

My First Mother’s Day

My First Mother’s Day 2560 1707 Kanika

Dear Krish and Suhana,

It’s because of you, I’m a mother. Unlike the other facets in my life from my career to how I maintain our household, I thought I could plan exactly when I wanted to take on this role, but the universe had different plans and you took us by surprise. These three months have been the most fulfilling in all our lives. You have given us newfound purpose and the will to keep striving, the intention to be kind human beings, and hope for a brighter future. 

I still remember the day I surprised your Papa with the news that I was pregnant. It was our 3-year wedding anniversary and we were on our way to Cape May, New Jersey. I kept this big secret the entire 3.5-hour car ride. When we got to the lovely bed and breakfast on the beach, I surprised him with a card and a small box. I told him to turn on his phone and record the moment. This wasn’t unusual since we recorded the moment he proposed to me too. When he opened the box, he found a ring of plastic baby keys. You see, Papa keeps many spare keys at home just in case we have house guests and he gives them a pair so they can truly feel at home. In my card I wrote, “Don’t worry. I already made spare keys for our new addition.” He was ecstatic. We hugged and cried and basked in what was to come.

Ten weeks later, we went to our first ultrasound appointment. The technician wanted to make sure there was a steady heartbeat. “Sounds good.” She said. “Um, wait a minute, I hear something else. There are two heartbeats. You’re having twins!” She brought in our doctor to take a second look and lo and behold, she was right. We stared at each other in the dark room in total shock. I can still hear the cadence of the heartbeats in my head. We’re going to be a family of four! A few weeks after that, we found out that we were having a boy and a girl. “We EACH get a clone??!” We were so excited.

I took my pregnancy in stride. I didn’t complain once. I wanted you both so badly and wanted to be strong from the get go. We kept the fact that we were expecting twins our little secret. Part of me wanted to protect you against the evil eye of others and another part was just nervous as hell at how things would pan out. On the day of your delivery, I was alone at home. At 3:00 am, my water broke. Papa was on the west coast in Seattle for work. We thought we had at least a month to go so agreed it wasn’t a big deal if he traveled, especially since he doesn’t travel often to begin with. I called him in a sweat. “Jaan, my water just broke.” He couldn’t believe it, “You’re kidding!” and then quickly got into problem-solving mode. “Ok. Now what?” I said we should call the on-call doctor, then Dada & Dadi to take me to the hospital, and then Nana & Nani so they could drive from Maryland to New Jersey. Everything progressed like clockwork. It was a rainy night in January, which reminded me of Lord Krishna’s birth and how his father Vasudeva waded through the river during a torrential storm to leave him with his dear friends Nanda and Yashoda in Gokul. He and his wife Devaki made the ultimate sacrifice for their son. That is why we named you Krish. Suhana, we came up with your name because it’s similar to your dad’s – Sunil. Anyway, I digress. Dada and Dadi drove me the hospital, I walked right up to the maternity floor and when the doctor did a sonogram, she said I was contracting. I couldn’t feel a thing. She said, “We have to operate on you within an hour. Baby A is head down, Baby B is breached. We’ll be doing a C-section.” Monu masi was by my side by then and said she would scrub in. I was rolled into the OR, had an epidural (which was the most painful thing ever!), and soon after felt calm since I was numb from the waist down. The nurse asked me what I wanted to hear on Spotify and I told her to play Jagjit Singh bhajans. “J-A-G-J-I-T…” I spelled it out for her. Another nurse said we could do a video chat with Papa, so Monu opened up Google Hangouts and called him. She panned the phone so he could see the 2 doctors and 10 nurses hovering over me, the curtain that demarcated the surgery, and my smiling face (in my silly hospital gown and blue cap). I was feeling drained from the series of events and asked the doctor, “Will I be able to sleep?” She responded, “It’s going to go by fairly quickly sweetie.” As the song, “Hey Govinda, Hey Gopala” resonated the room, we immediately heard crying. Krish, you were out at 7:24 am. Two minutes later, we heard Suhana’s cries. That was it. Monu Masi squeezed my hand and we both welled up with tears. All of our lives were forever changed.

Your Papa took the first flight out and got to the hospital around 6:00 pm that day. He was in awe when he saw you both. When I held you skin to skin, you two held hands on my chest and ever so slightly moved your tiny fingers. It was the most beautiful sight. Thankfully your Papa and I have photographic memories; We can recall every instant since your birth. We are so thrilled to be your parents and feel humbled that we get a chance to learn and grow with you day by day.

Happy 1st Mothers Day to you, my sweet children.

Love always,

Mummy