Sunday 13 December 2009

Jingle bells and reindeers

Yesterday afternoon, we attended the holiday performance in Ads' school. Ads had not given me any dope on what he was doing in the play, other than that he was a reindeer. The school had asked us to outfit him in a white turtleneck, brown pants and black shoes so that's what he wore. As it turned out, he wasn't doing anything much at all other than looking cute with reindeer horns upon his head!! Some 15 kids, all reindeers, marched in and jingled hand-held bells and that was it. Ads was nervous, we could tell, and jingled and jangled with no particular enthusiasm. Then they were sent off-stage to sit on the floor and that was it. I was taken aback because the rest of the 45-odd kids from the Primary classroom remained on the stage the whole time i.e. for almost 45 minutes. There didn't seem to be any good reason why the other 15 weren't on stage too, and allowed to do their thing. It seemed so unfair and I really wish Ads had got a chance to be in on the chorus or something. Even if he didn't sing, I did want him to get that exposure of being up there in front of a large group of people.
I would talk to his teacher about my reservations if I didn't know that we would not be around next year, so it seems rather pointless to argue. The teachers had told me a couple of weeks back that they don't "force" the kids to do anything, and the child has to "show" interest in performing. Well I think that a 4-year old might not necessarily evince enthusiasm at first. He may however, start getting interested in the whole exercise after a few days when he sees his friends practicing. Or, he could be a shy type (all the more reason why he should be brought out of his shell!) and might not volunteer to sing and dance. I used to be a painfully shy child but when I was 6, a teacher decided that I should dance on stage, and so I did. When I was 7 or 8, another teacher in another school decided that I would be perfect to play Red Riding Hood's mother in the class play, and so I did. These small beginnings led to a zeal for dramatics which continued to college-level and increased my self-confidence no end. The point is, sometimes you can bring a child out of his shell, or get him interested in performing, by giving him a little push - just a little push, not a shove. Why not?
That apart, the kids did a fabulous job, rendering Xmas favourites such as Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, Jingle Bells, the 12 days of Xmas and so on. It was a treat to watch how self-assured some of them were, and how cute all of them were!

Friday 11 December 2009

Snapshot - 30 minutes in the life of Ms Y

Climb on dining room chair, and from chair onto dining table. Methodically throw down on floor all of Anna's crayons and assorted drawing tools, also his precious artwork. Climb down to carpet, start chewing crayons, markers and bits of paper until Amma stops her.
Toddle over to bookshelf and bring back a book for Amma to read. Amma tells her it is Anna's book. Throw down that book in disgust. Toddle back to bookshelf and bring back more age-appropriate book.
Sit down on Amma's lap. Read book. Go get another. Read that one.
Amma says " Please play with your toys for a few minutes, Y, while I finish cooking". Toys = paper cups, paper plates and plastic cutlery in a cupboard right under Amma's feet. Start throwing plates and cups all over kitchen floor. Amma silently cursing Appa for not installing child locks on kitchen cupboards inspite of being reminded 10,000 times. When alumninum foil starts being chewed on, Amma picks up Y and deposits her near the toy basket.
Looks at 122 toys the basket and decides that none of them are worth playing with. A couple are worth chewing though. Mmmmm.
Horribly bored. Stands next to amma and whines until Amma picks her up.
Kiss amma. Practice saying "amma, appa, anna, bow bow, quack quack."
After 10 seconds, get bored of being held. Push pudgy knees against Amma's chest while simultaneously propelling herself backward by pressing toes against Amma's stomach. Treatment is successful (as usual) - Amma lets go.
Run to couch, leap casually onto it, then climb to the very top, near headrest. Rock back and forth on the recliner, all the while shouting and laughing gleefully.
Climb down from couch, toddle to kitchen, rummage through drawer where extra groceries are stored. Decide that maggi masala packet beongs to the trash can. Throw it in trash can. Decide that popcorn packet should ideally be in laundry basket. Hurtles to laundry basket, open it and throw popcorn packet in. Laundry basket lid falls on top of hand. Wail in distress until Amma retreives hand and soothes ouchie.
Drama queen continues to shed crocodile tears until appropriate amount of fuss has been made, and kisses bestowed.
Kicks amma in belly, demands to be let down.
Amma tries to engage her in some constructive activity, like beading. Beads are examined, licked, (almost) swallowed and finally chucked at various things around the house. Some roll under couch/bed where they will lie in oblivion for several days.
Helps amma unload dryer, carry a few clothes to the bed.
As amma folds the clothes, finger anna's socks. Walk with socks to bathroom, throw socks into the toilet.
Amma is furious, so some tears are shed (again!)
Plonked into the highchair. Lunch time. Blow raspberries at Amma and spatter food all over the high chair tray and Amma.
And so it goes on....

Friday 4 December 2009

Ad-lib #3

Conversations with Ads are becoming more interesting by the day.

Ads: Is Hanuman real?
Me: He is real if you believe that he is real. Do you think he's real?
Ads: Actually yes. He's right next to me with his gadai (mace). He protects me.
I stay mum because I don't want to have this conversation just then :(

Ads (whining when we drag him through downtown Santa Barbara): I don't want to walk. I'm tired.
Me: Just a little more okay?
Ads: Mommy I want to tell you something. I don't like such trips where you make me walk so much.
Me: Ok baby, this is the last such trip ok? (Yeah right!)
Ads: But I should keep an open mind right?
Me: What?
Ads: I should keep an open mind. The Berenstain Bears Mama bear said so. (in the episode where the bear cubs were complaining just like Ads and their mom tells them to keep an open mind and look for interesting things while travelling - I was surprised how he could correlate the two situations)
Me: Yay for the Berenstain Bears Mama Bear!

Ads: Amma, when I grow up, I want to be a Appa.
Me: You mean you want to have kids?
Ads: Yes. But I need to find a mommy too right?
Me: Yup. You can marry someone.
Ads: I will marry some aunty (Nooooo!)
Me: Yes...some girl that you like. How many kids will you have?
Ads: Two. One boy and one girl. No, actually, I will have two boys. I don't like girls.
Me: (No answer to that one :))

Ads: I don't like this soup amma.
I try to coax him into drinking it up.
Ads: I want to have a hole in my neck. Then I can pour food that I don't like, into that hole.
What a terrific idea! We could all have two mouths, and all the yummy stuff could go into one, and all the healthy and yucky-tasting stuff could be poured into the other hole so that we wouldn't have to taste it!

Thursday 3 December 2009

The buzz in our house is...

Yes he is holding his underwear in his hand! He wraps it around his face to simulate Buzz Lightyear's mask. I only stipulate that it must be clean underwear :)

Board games ahoy

One of the fondest and clearest memories of my childhood is the board games that my parents, my brother and I used to play, very frequently in the late evenings after dinner, starting from the time I was 8 or 9 to maybe around 14 years. Ludo was the universal favourite but we also played Snakes and Ladders and Parchisi. In later years, Pictionary and Scrabble ruled the roost, and I remember my brief flirtation with Chess and Carrom. Playing these games involved a lot of laughter, teasing and fun and the bonus was, that in my case atleast, it created enduring and precious memories. We had Family Game Night in my family before Hasbro decided to make it a National occasion.

So obviously I couldn't wait to introduce Ads to some of these board games. I picked up a nice Sesame-Street themed version of Chutes and Ladders very cheap at a second-hand kids' store that I frequent. My cousin bought him the Dr. Seuss ABC game and he got the I never forget a face memory game as a birthday gift. Then I researched the best board games for preschoolers and being the sort of person who goes overboard when it comes to shopping, just HAD to buy him Candyland and Hi-ho Cherry-O! So now we have 5 games, all of which he likes thankfully and I try to spend some time with him everyday playing these. The only drawback is that we can only play when S is at home to watch Y, because she grabs all the pieces, sits on the board and generally makes a perfect nuisance of herself.

I had a vague idea that board games are both fun and educational. But I didn't really appreciate how educative they could be, until I started playing with Ads. Mastery of colours, letter & number recognition, counting, grouping & pattern recognition, are some of the concepts they teach, not to mention the improvement in small motor skills that inevitably results. The social skills they teach are even more important - courtesy, waiting and taking turns, not intruding on someone else's space, and so on. An interesting observation I made was how difficult it was for Ads to lose a game. In the beginning, he would tell me that "I will be very upset if I lose". For a child, the joy of winning is as intense as the despondency of losing. Given their very limited ability to manage frustration and cope with loss, it is a tough balancing act to incorporate the teaching element into the game; i.e. it is okay to lose, there are ups and downs in life and we have to take the good with the bad. Since he (like all children) takes game-playing so seriously, it is very important to him that he win; he does not yet understand that these are games of chance and not skill. I have been told by other moms that it is okay at this age to "let" the child win most of the time since the concept of rules and fair play is not something that they easily understand.

I think Ads gets it now, somewhat. He seems to understand that he could win a game, and lose the next one. He could ascend a ladder to the top of the board, and the next moment his luck could change and he would be sliding down a chute to the bottom of the board. Learning moments aside, I am enjoying every bit of the few minutes we spend poring over a dice, some cards and a game board.

Monday 30 November 2009

2 trips in 7 days

S went off to Mexico 2 weekends ago, leaving me to have my first brush with the single-parenting gig. I was feeling quite resentful I tell you, visualizing all the uninterrupted meal-eating, shower-taking, newspaper-reading and computer time S was going to have while I would be walking around unwashed exhausted and hungry for 4 days. My imagination was overheated thinking of how difficult it would be to have no backup. However, thankfully my kids like to prove me wrong and they were ANGELS for the 4 days that S was away. In fact, I got more rest/sleep than when S is around which led me to believe that he is the principal work-creator in our household.
In fact, the only really difficult thing to do without another adult in the house is to take a bath. S had suggested that I strap Y in her high-chair and keep her in the bathroom while I showered but I knew she would scream her head off if I did that. I left the bathroom door open and she was pottering around in there, pulling aside the shower curtain every now and then. I kept pulling it closed and she thought I was playing peekaboo with her. We did this for a couple of minutes and then she started chucking things into the bathtub - a plastic pail (which, with deadly accuracy, landed on my little toe), a few toys, a board book, and some baby wash (of course the bottle had to be partially open; in a few seconds the assorted items and I were standing in soapy slippery water). That was when I decided to stop my feeble attempt to take a decent shower.
S got back on Wednesday and on Thursday morning we were off as scheduled for our annual Thanksgiving weekend trip; this time to California's central coast, a couple of hours north of Los Angeles. We were supposed to spend a day cruising the Channel Islands, something I was looking forward to very very much; unfortunately due to large swells and high winds our trip to the islands got cancelled not once, but twice. That was a disappointment. But the rest of the holiday, to Santa Barbara and Solvang, was just wonderful.
Is there any part of California that is not gorgeous? Nature has definitely blessed this state with remarkable beauty. In the last 3 years, we have covered all the must-see regions of this state, all except two that is; we have not been to the far north of the state, where the redwood forests are; and we have not been to Death Valley, which is desert. As our R2I plans get crystallized, it seems unlikely that we will manage to see these places before we leave, so they shall be added to my MUST-SEE list which is getting longer by the day!

Monday 23 November 2009

Ads' update (1 of ?)

We had a parent-teacher conference at school some days ago. Teacher H started off by saying "When I think of Advaith, colouring and drawing are what come to mind." I had posted earlier about their concern that he spent too much time on artwork, at the expense of learning new stuff in school. He had stopped drawing after I had my little chat with him, but only for a few days; apparently he now does his other work/lessons quite half-heartedly and it is obvious that he is in a tearing hurry to get back to his drawing. Teacher H even mentioned that he is very "far away" from starting to read because he simply has no interest in it. Any other school would pretty much force him to start reading whether he liked it or not, but not a Montessori school. As much as I love the overall concept, I have to admit that probably Ads is not the best candidate for it. A child who is naturally self-directed and self-motivated will flourish and learn beyond measure in this system. A child like Ads, at the age of 4, will know that crabs walk sideways and snakes are invertebrates and that a circle has an infinite number of sides, but cannot (because he will not) read even the simplest of words.
Coming back to the conference with his teachers, overall they are happy with him. He gets along well with kids and adults alike and is polite and considerate. We still have to work on getting him to display more interest in subjects other than art.
And the Buzz Lightyear obsession continues. I saw an ad for a Buzz costume on craigslist for $3 and promptly snapped it up. He has been thrilled with it and parades around in the costume every afternoon. I haven't been able to upload a photo of him as Buzz since Blogger has been acting funny. Maybe I will have better luck tomorrow.

Thursday 5 November 2009

Happy birthday Yukta

Our little pumpkin is 1 today. It has been a year of family, travel and learning the ropes as the mother of two children. My learning curve has never been this steep. We largely ignored Y in the initial months, preoccupied as we were in tending to Ads’ issues and tantrums, supposedly common for a 3-year old. I might have given her more attention if my parents and in-laws weren’t around; as it was, she thrived without me doing much more than nursing her every couple of hours. As she grew older and more demanding, she began getting her share of attention, and well-deserved it was too.
My beautiful, feisty, vibrant and adventurous baby. What a pleasure she is, every moment of every day. We call her “little princess” and indeed it’s almost impossible to imagine that our family was complete without her. She seems to have overcome her stranger anxiety and is much more comfortable with people she doesn’t know, unabashedly staring at them (I love how un-self-conscious kids are!) and waving her little hands at them. She is unafraid – we frequently find her sitting on the floor in a room with the lights off, quite happily playing with a toy in the dark. She is incredibly affectionate – when S or I enter the house, she drops whatever she is doing and runs, nay hurtles, towards us on her little chubby legs, a large toothy grin fixed on her face. At that moment, the heart turns over. Always up for a game, a big laugh or some giggles, some dancing or some rough-housing, she is going to be a confident, gregarious girl. I can already tell that she shows every sign of maturing into a typical Scorpio; and it’s a foregone conclusion that she will be able to wrap her father and me easily around her little finger, something her much-too-innocent brother has never figured out!
When I was pregnant with Y, I used to (naively) wonder whether I would love my second child just as much as I loved Ads. Could anything match the fierce protectiveness and heart-stopping love I felt for Ads? How could it be possible that I feel the exact same thing for another child? I knew it would happen; after all, don’t our parents love us and our siblings equally? Maybe in different ways, but equally nonetheless.
The strange thing was, I fell in love with Y immediately. There was none of that waiting period which I experienced with Ads. It was unadulterated, unconditional love at first sight. As intense a feeling as I felt for my first-born. I think I enjoy my time with her a lot more than I did with Ads. Perhaps that is the magic of the second child. You are less paranoid and less focused on being the perfect parent, and more on just being there and savouring every moment.
And yes, we take as many pictures of her as we did of her brother!
Happy birthday, munchkin. It makes my heart break just a little bit to know that you are entering the strange new world of toddlerhood. Soon you will not be a baby any more. That heavenly baby smell, that velvet baby hair and that sweet baby taste will vanish much too soon. When will science allow us to bottle touch? 
I hate letting you go (don’t all mothers?) but the coming year will be filled with new joys and adventures. Here’s to a long healthy and happy life, Yukta.

Sunday 1 November 2009

Y loves her milk

Y started drinking regular milk 2 days ago. I picked up a half-gallon of whole vitamin-D supplemented organic milk from Trader Joe's and she has been having a quarter glass twice a day, which she enjoys.
Here is a picture of her reading. She is developing an interest in books and has a couple of favourite books already. Incidentally this book is a very well-thumbed one which was also Advaith's favourite!

Thursday 29 October 2009

R2I Part I - Schools

So the R2I (Return to India, for the uninitiated) decision has been taken. The hunt for schools and, incidentally, a job, has begun. Predictably, the state of affairs in Bangalore (and I am sure, in most other Indian metros) with respect to school admissions is so bad that the problem of LKG admissions assumes a strange sort of fake importance which overshadows the wee fact that the father of the LKG applicant doesn’t yet have a job which will take us back to India.
The not-so-exhaustive hunt for suitable schools led us to short listing the 2 schools that we will be applying to. The National Public School (NPS) and the Delhi Public School (DPS). The international schools are too pricey, some of the well-known ones are too distant, and (to my mind) elitist. The well-known Bangalore schools (like Bishop Cotton, FAPS etc) are too hard to get into, oversubscribed as they are by alumni’s kids and grandkids. There seem to be a lot of new schools which don’t fall into either of these categories and about which I read mixed reviews. Not being in a position to tour the schools and make up our own minds, we have fallen back on friend’s recommendations. Which have the drawback of being biased because absolutely everyone has jumped onto the NPS/DPS bandwagon. The one school that I was really interested in, a Montessori one called Sishugriha in Indiranagar, has closed admissions.
In any case, we had asked a friend to pick up the forms for NPS and they only managed to pick up one form, that of the Koramangala branch. Apparently the queues for picking up the forms were a km long! The whole experience seems to have been an unpleasant one, and what I don't understand is why all this hype and exclusivity just to apply. Stanford and Wharton are highly exclusive too, but even they don't make it so hard for a candidate to apply to them! Why not just put the forms online and make it easy for everybody? More people will be able to download and apply and the school will make more money out of this unholy racket!
So, we'll apply and hope Ads gets in, simply because the school is so close to our apartment in Bangalore. It will be a breeze of a commute for the little fella.

Friday 23 October 2009

Thoughts from a crazy day

S has had such a crazy work schedule for the last few weeks (conference calls at 4 am - can you beat that!), that I have begun to feel like a single parent. It’s a hard 12-hour shift everyday and the only “me-time” I get is a long hot shower after S gets home in the evening. Yes, a simple bath has begun to seem like a luxury!
I have to admit that it has gotten easier with time. Managing 2 small kids all by myself and playing the multiple roles of chauffeur, maid, cook and nanny no longer appears to be that scary. Part of the reason for this is that I have started working smarter and managing my time much better than I used to.
So we were plodding along and just when I started patting myself on a job reasonably well-done, Y brought me back to earth by sponsoring the “Day from Hell Part 1 (to be continued)”. She whined and clung and cried and was so cranky that she dragged me down along with her into her pit of misery. What compounded it was the fact that I could just not understand what it was that was so upsetting her, a fact that gave instant rise to feelings of being a bad mother because I could not diagnose the source of my daughter’s crankiness.
By noon, I was faint with hunger because she didn’t allow me to cook and decided I didn’t have the right to even fix myself a simple sandwich for lunch. By 3 pm, I was ready to climb to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge and thrown myself down into the Bay, thankful that I didn’t know how to swim. I did what I usually do in these situations – packed all three of us in the car and head to the nearest part – convinced all we needed was some fresh air. It always works. And it did this time as well.
A bad day in the life of a stay-at-home mother is bad not simply because it’s - well, bad. Not simply because you want to throttle your kids and then throttle yourself – I know that all mothers want to do that at some point in their life, not that most of them would admit to such unmaternal feelings!
It’s bad because you are forced to confront the hard fact that your entire life has come down to this. Soiled diapers. The smell of milk and vomit (when your kid cries so hard she throws up on you). A frazzled you who looks worse than a Chennai ragpicker. And worst of all, a baby who is unhappy inspite of your best efforts to the contrary.
And when all of these things happen, it’s almost impossible to maintain perspective, a bird’s eye view so to speak, and not think about how your life would have been without kids. A glittering career (HA!!). A social life not involving playdates. Unencumbered travel. Sleep. Fine dining. The list goes on and on. I *almost almost* envy my friends who decided not to have children.
And then the moment passes. Y laughs as we watch a train pass by on the tracks near our apartment (I don’t know why that is so funny, but then she’s a baby) and looking at that dimpled smile, that snub nose and those big brown eyes that look at me with love and trust even though I am the lousiest mother in the world, I remember that there was a good reason why I had children in the first place.
So, my prescription (to myself) when a bad day gets worse: Get some fresh air. Take several deep breaths. Live in the moment. Remember that kids grow up.
(And leave you. And ignore you. And make you miserable all over again!)

Friday 16 October 2009

To draw or not to draw

I've been somewhat concerned for many weeks now that all Ads seems to do in school is draw. He spends 3 hours every day, from 9 am to 12 noon, drawing. Which wouldn't bother me all that much except that for 850 bucks a month, it would be nice if he actually learnt something once in a while. I was about to talk to one of his teachers about this but fortunately Teacher M herself brought up the topic.
First she asked me whether he watches any TV.
Can you wilt in guilt? Cos that's what I did. I'm sure she noticed. Ads watches much more TV now than he did before Y was born, but I wasn't admitting that to Teacher M's beady disapproving eye. I admitted that he watches a little bit of TV (HA!!), mainly real-life action videos like firefighters, police officers etc and yes he has watched some of the DISNEY movies as well. The school has a strong distaste for cartoon characters. You are not supposed to send your kids with cartoon-or superhero-themed clothes or shoes. No lunch boxes or bags with such motifs. And definitely no Halloween costumes. It has always seemed a little extreme to me, but that's the rule.
Teacher M says that Ads needs to stop watching movies or videos because he gets so involved with the characters and the stories that he wants to spend all his time translating his imaginative thoughts onto paper. They have asked him several times to learn a new lesson or do some other work and apparently he always says "I'm not done with my drawing yet". Teacher M says I need to "stop the flow of information" to him so that he concentrates on other work also, in school. I was happy to concur.
So Ads and I had a little chat later that day and he has agreed to a) confine his drawing to when he is at home b) take a new lesson or practice existing lessons everyday at school. I used the opportunity to sneak in another bit of legislation that I wanted. They get about 15 minutes of outdoor playtime everyday which Ads spends inside the classroom when I would much rather he stay outside and run around. I negotiated that he could keep his existing TV privileges as long as he played outdoors every morning.
So far, it has been working well. The good thing about all that drawing of course was that it improved his fine motor skills to the extent that he has started writing alphabets and numbers by himself, with little or no intervention either by his teachers or by us.

Sunday 11 October 2009

First few concrete words and actions

Yukta has started saying 2 more words.
Anna - she stretches the N out so that it sounds like this: A-nnnn-aa.
And Appa too - A-pp-aa.
Train is The-the.
But still no Amma :)
We ask her Thala engae, and she touches the back of her head. Thoppai engae, and she pats her stomach/chest area. Yukta clap-clap, ta-ta, bye-bye and high-five all elicit the appropriate responses.
I really can't remember how verbal Ads was at the age of 11 months. Probably around the same. He has always been very advanced in verbal skills, especially more so compared to other boys. It is wonderful to experience the same stage again with Y.

Sunday 4 October 2009

Friday morning artwork

Ads had an unexpected holiday on Friday and I used the opportunity to engage him in some artwork. We have a string of birthdays coming up in the family (Sanjay's dad, brother and niece), and Ads made cards for each person. I try to recycle his artwork as much as I can, so the base for each of the cards is a drawing that Ads had already done, at school or home.
The first photo for example is the inside of the card he made for his 3-year old cousin. It had paper cuttings of the 3 little pigs and their houses (made in school) and I got him to redecorate it and convert it into a greeting card (frontage in the 3rd photo, the brown card with a "3" stuck on top)
The second photo is the inside of a card made for his grandfather. He has drawn the whole "CARS" series, since the CARS movie was something he and Thatha enjoyed watching together, multiple times. The exterior of the card already had a butterfly motif, all he did was stick some feathers and decals on it.
The third card is actually the nicest one. I used a nice drawing he had done, of Buzz Lightyear (from "Toy Story"), made him stick it on a foam board, and mounted the latter on another, larger foam board. It's the large pink card. Then he embellished it with paper cut-outs and stickers.
We wrote (or rather, I wrote and then read it out to him!) a personalised message for each recipient and bingo, the cards were ready.
I see a gradual and distinct improvement in his drawngs every month. Where there were weak squiggles (he calls them "scribble-scrabble"!), there are bold confident strokes. Where there was just a mess of paint and colour, there are decipherable images and coordinated colour schemes. It just warms the heart :)

Friday 2 October 2009

Driving without (or with?) a purpose

Yesterday H aunty, a cousin of my mother-in-law, spent a few hours with us. During the course of the afternoon, she said she had to buy a few things and could I take her to the shops? So we bundled Y in her carseat and off we went. By the time we finished shopping and set off for home, Y was distinctly antsy due to a lack of sleep. As we entered our parking lot, I glanced back at the rear seat to see her starting glassily out of the window, a sure sign that she was about to drop off very soon. Rather than yanking her out of the carseat at that time and running the 100% risk of a meltdown, I told H aunty I was going to drive around a bit more to make sure she fell asleep. So out of the parking lot we went.
I drove around quiet residential streets in Santa Clara for 15 minutes, maintaining an even 25-30 mph and taking care to keep the sun on my left (Y keeps tearing off her carseat canopy with the result that the sun hits her directly on her face). H aunty was dozing. The silent houses seemed to be slumbering in the afternoon heat, just like Y at the back. The only sounds keeping me company were the purr of the car engine, the gentle hum of the air conditioner and the barely audible squawks from FM 106.9.
It occured to me what a large proportion of my time as a mother I have spent in activities like these. Driving aimlessly through city streets in an effort to calm a fussing child. Parked in a quiet street, the windows down and an afternoon breeze blowing through the car as both child and mother dozed. Swinging Ads with both arms, back and forth, back and forth while belting out garbled version of 60's Hindi film songs. Rocking Y, up-down up-down, on the Lazy-boy. All in a bid to grab that grand prize - SLEEP baby sleep so that I can get some rest.
As much as parenting involves to such a large extent performance of such repetitive, mind-numbing and monotonous tasks, I have to admit that my most serene and reflective moments have occurred while engaged in such tasks. If God lies in the details, then surely peace lies in a sleeping child cradled in your arms.

Sunday 27 September 2009

A favourite festival

The title of this post reminds me of the essays we had to write in school. My favourite things. My hobbies. And yes, my favourite festival, too! Navarathri has in recent years attained the status of my favourite festival, although as I was growing up, it didn't hold a special place in my heart. My mother didn't keep a "Golu" (probably she would have if I had shown the slightest interest!) and the whole pattu-pavadai, paattu and socialization business simply left me cold. When I was married and living in Bangalore, I suddenly developed an interest in Golu (a spanking new apartment and a spare room contributed to this new-found interest!) and for 2 years I did keep a Golu. Here's a picture from the first year (2004).

Sadly, I had to give away my beautiful dolls when we relocated. This last week, I have been decking myself up in sarees and Y in her one-and-only paattu paavadai and we have been attending Golus. It has been a lot of fun. I have promised myself to reestablish a Navarathri celebration, complete with sundal and Golu, from next year.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Newbie walker with hiccups

Drunken weaving in and out at home.

Mini-pizzas at 6 am

I decided to make mini-pizzas for Ads' lunch today, and I took a picture of them before I popped them into the oven because they looked so colourful.
Drat -- still can't get perfectly round rotis or pizzas!!!

A tomato

What is she thinking - the tomato is almost as big as her face!

I was waiting for this

The Superhero obsession, that is.
It started with Spiderman, moved briefly to Superman and Batman, hovered enthusiastically over Mr. Incredible, and has now fixated on Buzz Lightyear (from "Toy Story"). I have to admit I am a little relieved to get some respite from the firefighting and policing squad. Yesterday Ads was most offended when I told him to please please stop talking non-stop about police and fires and fire trucks and all that otherwise my head was going to explode with the massive headache I was having. I wasn't exaggerating - two years of non-stop natter about the same topic has me craving for other subjects. It's time to move on, little fella.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Shots, tears and 3 Ferraris

I really should have double-checked before we left. I smugly promised Ads that he wouldn't be getting any shots at his 4-5 year well-child check up yesterday. Turned out he needed not one, or two pricks - but FIVE!!!! Yikes - that was enough to freak even me out. It doesn't help much to tell a very apprehensive 4-year old to relax his muscles while getting the shot in order to minimise the pain. The waiting room in Pediatric Injections was bursting to capacity and we had to wait for almost an hour before we were called.
Ads sat on my lap for most of that time ( ever see a 4-year old boy sitting in one place for that long....not that I'm complaining!!), talking non-stop and bestowing nervousness-fuelled kisses on me every 5 seconds. Like I said, I'm not complaining :)
He yelled and cried for each of the injections. The funny thing is he used to endure vaccinations with just a minor whimper when he was a baby. It used to be such a breeze. I panicked and promised him a gift when we got home if he stopped crying (yeah I bribe my kids even when I don't need to; I belatedly realized that the nurse was going to give him some Batman and Shrek stickers and the fella would have been happy just with those). So I had to uncover some loot from his birthday stash (which he doesn't know about and which I have locked away in the store-room). He got a set of 3 Ferraris which he happily played with in the evening.
Another 2 months before I have to endure vaccination-related trauma again, this time with Y who I know will not calm down so easily :(

Friday 11 September 2009

A new school year

School has started from Wednesday and this year, Ads stays in school for an hour longer i.e. until 1 pm which means he has lunch at school. There were a couple of reasons I needed him to be out of the house for an extra hour.
a) It gives me an additional dose of one-on-one time with Y.
b) He has lunch at school, which crosses off one major task on my to-do list. Hopefully he will learn better table manners as well by observing other kids.
c) He doesn't come back home starved and half-crazy at Y's lunchtime. Managing two hungry and cranky kids was a nightmare.
Thanks to this new arrangement, he has been coming back home full of beans (the result of a satisfying meal ). The only struggle we have now is to get him to nap. He is clearly transitioning to a no-nap schedule, a fact we exploited to the hilt during our recent vacation.
Now that I have to pack lunch for the little fella, I have been looking for recipes suited to packed lunches and nifty presentation ideas for the same. I stumbled upon the Bento lunch and have been completely sold on the concept. I'm going to try it one of these days.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Thank God the 3s are finally over

We missed the terrible twos. Endured the terrible threes with great difficulty and hope the fours aren't Formidable, Frightening or Fearsome! I took Ads to Costco and bought him a police costume which he was very thrilled with. He wangled a post-lunch ice-cream sandwich from me saying that "How can this be my birthday if there is no cake?!!"
In the evening, we rounded off a quiet 4th birthday with dinner at his favourite restaurant, Sweet Tomatoes, a soup-and-salad bar.

Monday 24 August 2009

A fun party is over

S and I had to pop a Tylenol before bed last night. What a day it was! Very tiring, very hectic but, in the end, a LOT of fun. I've always had some reservations about my ability to throw and manage a successful party. But all it took is some (ok, a lot!) of hard work and some intense organization over the last couple of weeks. Takeaway: Fun dos are not the perogative of the highly imaginative or the extremely creative (neither of which I am!); plodders like me can do just as well by adopting some party best practices and weaving them all together in an elegant manner (with a little help from Google of course). For example, although we hosted the party in a park (which might seem to preclude the need for organizing any party games and the like), we also sensed the need to keep 15+ kids occupied for 3 hours. Enter juice and fruit to snack on to stave off hunger pangs before lunch and cake; colouring pages to keep the quieter ones happy; individual bubblemakers (always a big hit); a tent for them to wander in and out of (though I would have done better to stock it with some toys); and two organized games which occupied almost half an hour.
The killer app, so to speak, was the venue itself. Agnew is a little-known park tucked away in the heart of Santa Clara, large enough not to feel crowded, but small enough to give the effect of a private space. The 5 picnic tables which we commandeered were in a very shady spot - an oasis of coolness on a hot summer day. The lunch arrived piping hot and delicious. The cake was suitably sickeningly sweet and thickly frosted and therefore a hit with the kids.
We had a ton of help in the form of willing volunteers who shepherded the kids to the games (and kept them there!), cut the cake, picked up and served lunch, clicked the pictures and generally allowed S and me to circulate and speak atleast a few sentences with each guest (quite a challenge considering the large number of people we had invited).
S and I got up bright and early and were at the park at 7.45 am. Santa Clara park tables are not reservable. They are available only on a first-come first-served basis which means that you need to land up early and make sure no one else is there before you. It took us about an hour to do the initial set-up - cleaning the tables, spreading the tablecloths, unpacking the snacks, cutlery, plates etc, and getting started on the decorations. At 8.45, S left to pick up the balloons and also his dad who would stand guard while we rushed back home to get ready and pick up my m-i-l and the kids. The party start time was 10 am and we were about 10 mins late in reaching the park, more than confident that our first guests would not arrive until 10.30 am but we were wrong! Bhavana (a school friend) and her husband and daughter were already there and were instantly at work putting finishing touches to the decorations. By 10.30 as expected, the crowd started to wander in and Ads was running all over the place in a frenzy of excitement. As people greeted him, I found him going straight for the gifts without even saying hello-thank you and I was trying to keep up with him and ensure he displayed some basic manners.
At 11.15 or so we started on the games. I played a bit role mostly on the sidelines while some friends and cousins took the leading roles and managed the unenviable task of keeping a bunch of excited 3-5 year olds in line and organized. The first game was a variation of pinning the tail on the donkey. In keeping with the party's firefighter theme, we tried pinning the badge on the fireman's helmet. Some of the kids were enthused enough to want multiple shots at sticking the badge in the correct place.
The next game was a simple one - we arranged a lot of small goodies on the ground and each kid had to throw a hoop over the goody that they wanted. Each kid was allowed 3 tries. It was hard because the hoop kept bouncing off the ground and anyway most the kiddos obviously had lousy aims. So we ended up asking each kid which gift they wanted, moving that item close to them so that it would be easy for them to throw the hoop over that item. It was hilarious watching my son, Mr. Easy-Way-Out, stand right over the toy car that he wanted, bend down and carefully place the hoop over it!
S was insistent that we get all the kids together with Ads on one side of the table as we cut the cake. He said it "looks very cute". I agreed, but it's a nightmare squeezing 15 or so kids all together on one side of a picnic table. I was actually planning to stay out of the cake-cutting and let my in-laws do the honours. Somehow in the chaotic moments leading up to the grand finale, I found myself right next to Ads and poor S was left out of the picture. He has been a little miffed with me for losing it and leaving him looking like a bystander. I wonder why the cake-cutting ceremony always becomes a little crazy. It's like people get into a sugar-deficient frenzy and start singing "Happy Birthday to you" before the birthday boy or girl is even ready to do their bit.
Anyway, these kind of parties are always a blast. But infinitely exhausting for the parents. Yesterday I thought -" Never again, it's too much work". But I can't deny that I enjoyed myself thoroughly. During one of the games, my camera suddenly died on me. Try as I might, I kept getting all sorts of error messages. Rather than fiddle futilely with it, I decided that I would look at the short cute excited people in front of me and no matter if we don't have pictures - I will imprint the happy memories of that sunny afternoon in my mind. Hopefully Ads will look back fondly at the memories we created yesterday.

And she finally looks like a girl!

Or so we hope. I am getting a little sick of everyone asking me "how old is he?" when talking about Y. We got her ears pierced today and she cried quite a bit, but cheered up pretty quickly once the ordeal was over. She is now wearing a pair of pink daisy-shaped 18k gold earrings.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Party planning

The food has been ordered - rotis, mutter paneer, chole, raita and veg pulao. The cake too, a massive concoction from Costco that is supposed to feed 48 people (white cake with chocolate mousse filling and white buttercream icing) has been ordered (at 18 bucks, it's the cheapest by a long shot and it actually tastes as yummy as anything ordered from another bakery/store). Balloons too have been organized (all we have to do is pick up a dozen or so inflated balloons on the morning of the party). Yesterday S picked up a large carton of water bottles from Costco, as also large bottles of juice and chips to feed the hungry hordes. I have a large suitcase packed with party favors, decorations, cutlery, utensils, party hats and the like. Two simple party games have been planned. Bubblemakers have been purchased. I spent most of Saturday morning wrapping the return gifts and affixing thank-you notes to each gift. I had bought a large carton of paper collage scraps from Michaels and used the beautiful printed sheets of paper to make the Thank you notes.
Now I can just kick back my heels and relax until Saturday - if I could just shake off that feeling that I have forgotten something major!

Thursday 13 August 2009

My movie buff

It's almost a relief when I am left alone in the house with Y. It turns out that those are the only times when I can truly DO NOTHING. Not that I have a choice. I would love to accomplish a few things on my mile-long to-do list but Y ensures that she monopolizes my attention. She has the knack of getting into trouble. Pieces of plastic, scraps of paper, bits of food dropped by Ads which have escaped my notice -- all of these find her way into her mouth. I need to keep an eagle eye on her to ensure that she doesn't choke or strangle herself. Multi-tasker that I am, I tried (and was foiled) at these activities that I tried to do with her around:
1. Reading. She starts clutching at, and tearing the pages of the book/magazine. She is really quick and really good at this. I seldom react quickly enough to prevent the page from being torn, though I have become adept at flicking the papers out of her hand before she swallows it.
2. Working on the laptop. If I sit down at the table, she pulls herself up to a standing position using my leg and wails inconsolably until I pick her up. Once she is within strking distance of the keyboard, all hell breaks loose.
3. Talking on the phone. She doesn't like this. Period.
4. Cooking. What a joke!
5. Laundry. This is actually no problemo, since it takes just a few minutes for an expert like me to throw stuff into the washer. I can definitely distract her for that length of time.
6. Folding clothes. And have her unfold them as rapidly as I fold? No way.
7. Eating. Do-able, as long as I am holding my plate or bowl over my head. No fun for me, as you can imagine.
Funnily enough, the one thing that my cinema-aficionado doesn't mind me doing, is watching a movie. Because she can then watch it with me (yeah yeah I know children under 2 shouldn't watch any TV --which jerk made that one up?). So, when we are alone together, we watch movies! What kind of a mother have I become?


It has been a crazy busy last couple of months. Between studying (or trying to), starting to hunt for a part-time nanny (no success there), working@ Benetech, managing home and the two kids and now getting started on the planning for Ads 4th birthday party, it appears that I have been running along on some buried reserves of adrenalin.
We celebrate Ads' birthday on the 22nd of August at a park in Santa Clara. We have invited 38 adults and 18 kids. 56 people in all! Since my in-laws leave the country on the 28th, this party is more of a social get-together where they bid goodbye to all the relatives living in the Bay Area. Then there are Ads' school friends, and our friends, all of whom have similarly-aged children whom Ads knows and likes. Two and a quarter years after moving to the Bay Area, we are building up quite a network.
Today Y had her 9-month checkup. The doctor has proclaimed her healthy and possessing very advanced motor skills for her age. But she is still tiny. She is way down the scale in terms of weight but the doctor didn't seem concerned. He claims it's a mix of various factors - racial (South Asians are leaner than Caucasians/Blacks), genetic (he says both parents and sibling are so slim, he doesn't expect Y to be chubby), and the fact that she is super-duper active. Always on the go and burns her calories at a blistering pace. I know I shouldn't be too concerned given that she is a healthy baby but she is in the 2nd percentile in terms of weight. That's ridiculous!!! She started off as a heavier-than average baby so I can't help beating myself over this aspect -- I'm sure that somehow it's all my fault. Mommy-guilt strikes again!!!

Saturday 8 August 2009

Y at 9 mos

Y turned the 3/4th of a year landmark a couple of days ago. She has two teeth and a third one coming in, and today she took her first independent steps -- two of them! It is as thrilling this time around as it was with Ads.

Thursday 23 July 2009

Is NASA worth it?

There is no shortage of sceptics questioning the raison d'etre for NASA. The latest addition to the list appears to be our own Ads. He asked us "If there's nothing in space, then why do rockets go there?"

Sydney is a fish town

On a trip to San Diego in late 2007, Ads (then 2 years old) watched the beginning scenes of "Finding Nemo" in our hotel room. He got very agitated when the big bad shark polishes off the mama clown fish and all the eggs, save Nemo.
Fastforward 2 years. When S brought home a video cassette of "Finding Nemo", Ads threw a fit saying " I DON”T want to watch that fish movie!"
We finally convinced him to watch it and he loved it. He watched it a dozen times before we had to return it to the library.
Today he told S that "Sydney is a fish town" (Sydney plays a prominent role in the movie; its the city to which Nemo is taken from his home in the ocean deeps). S explained to him that Sydney is a city just like San Francisco or Bangalore but Ads is adamant that it is a city only for fish and birds!

Saturday 18 July 2009

The hazards of sleep-sharing

The sleeping arrangements at our house are always pretty elastic. Most days, Ads sleeps with his grandma in the guest bedroom but ocassionally, he will insist on sleeping with mommy and I will oblige. It would be nice if the four of us could squeeze into the bed we have but our Cal-King, the largest size there is, doesn't quite make the cut. So S ends up in a sleeping bag on the floor and I end up cozying up with Ads and Y, on the bed. I have to sleep in the middle because both want to be next to me (so flattering!) so I protect Y from tipping over by lining the her edge of the bed with two large cushions. This leaves even lesser sleeping space for the three of us; we are all bunched up together. Which starts off by being quite nice - I enjoy hugging Ads as we sleep, knowing that it's only a matter of time before he will find it mortifying to cuddle up to his mom. And Y is such a warm soft bundle to nuzzle upto. Pure unadulterated bliss. AAAH.
Unfortunately my tender maternal feelings only last for so long. Ads has the irritating habit of sliding up, stealthily and in stages, to my portion of the bed. I wake up every hour to find him almost on top of me, his hand thrown over my face, choking off a signficant portion of my air supply (another reason I keep myself as a buffer between him and Y). Ever so often, I
gently pick him up and deposit him to his end of the bed. Until the next time.
Sometimes, I simply give up these nocturnal activities, pray that Y can fend for herself and change my alignment so that I am perpendicular to both of them, sort of forming an inverted Pi. There's always the risk of a heel busting my eye, but hey, have kids, will live dangerously. Who says sleep deprivation is the exclusive domain of parents with small babies?

The ups and downs of parenting without help

My in-laws were in LA for the last week for a sightseeing jaunt and so S and I have had our second dose of managing two kids without our parents to help us out. It hasn't been too bad, all things considered. Fewer number of people in the house translates into less cooking, less cleaning, less laundry and less dishwashing. And, it turns out, fewer tantrums from Ads' end as well. With no grandma around to support him against the evil mommy and her inflexible rules, he has mellowed down and accepted me as the Ultimate Boss............YES!!! The few fits that he does throw to enliven up each day, never last for more than a few minutes when faced with parents who completely ignore him and pretend he is not having a meltdown.
On the other hand, with no one around to take the kids off our hands for even a few minutes, I have not managed to do any studying. I had refrained for even planning to study this week, knowing that it would only lead to disappointment. With Y experiencing intense separation and strange anxiety nowadays, she has been literally attached to my hip for most of the last week.
With Ads in summer school for the next one month and in-laws back again tonight, I'm hoping I will get some studying done at last.

Wednesday 15 July 2009


It was a hot day today, with temperatures in the 90s. Y and I dropped Ads at his gymastics class and then moved to the adjoining park for some fresh air. I placed our picnic blanket on the ground. This particular park has a lot of trees and is very shady. Lying there under a canopy of trees, the sweet-smelling grass soft underneath my feet, and one very cute baby playing alongside - it was a peaceful and relaxing interlude in the midst of the typical exhausting day.
Never mind that I never got around to reading the latest issue of the Economist that I had, in a fit of foolish optimism, brought along with me. Never mind that every third second, I was putting my fingers into Y's mouth and extracting blades of grass that she was solemnly chewing on.
Y didn't seem to mind the constant interruptions as she chewed the cud, and neither did I.

Monday 22 June 2009

Good luck, girlie

A friend remarked to me recently that "Baby sisters have to be tough". She speaks from experience because, like me, her first-born is a boy and her second is a girl. Every day, I pray for Y's well-being as she spares space with her rambunctious and hyper older brother. She crawls underfoot as he dashes from one corner of the house to another with no regard for any tiny hands and feet that he might encounter. If he finds her examining any of his toys, he lets out a high-pitched shriek, catches her around the tummy and bodily flings her into another corner of the room. This happens atleast twice a day. For that one terrible instant when she is up in the air and I am transfixed and powerless to save her, I find myself holding my breath and praying for a relatively smooth landing. She falls with a thud, a mildly puzzled expression on her face -- and I exhale.
At that moment, what I would really like to do is shake Ads really hard and give him a good spanking. It takes every ounce of control not to do so and I vent by yelling at him. We have explained to him that hitting or shoving his sister is not warranted under any circumstances but he does it anyway. So we don't leave the two of them alone without one of us being close at hand to supervise.
It's easy to forget that Y is only 7 months old, given how enthusiastically she wants to join in with any horseplay that's happening around her. Last night, S and I and the 2 kids were in bed. Ads was in ice-cream-induced high spirits, jumping and kicking. S and I ducked every few seconds, trying to avoid major organ damage and shielding Y from the worst of the blows. She was unfazed, laughing, standing up and raring to be a part of the crazy game her brother was playing.
Yes indeed, baby sisters have to be very very tough.

Sunday 21 June 2009


A few months ago, we were approached by a 'talent scout' at the mall who asked us whether we would be prepared for Ads to model. This was actually the second time that someone had asked us (the first time, Ads was only 2 and I promptly declined). This time, the lady first approached S who, as is his wont, promptly passed the baton to me. Thus ambushed, I didn't have a readymade reason to say No; and I thought, why not go and see what all the fuss is about? mother can resist the tiniest chance that her cherub could appear on TV or in a billboard.
So anyway, Ads was asked to appear for an audition in San Jose yesterday afternoon at a well-known and reputed modeling agency. There were more than 30 people auditioning - mostly kids of various age-groups but also teenagers and grown-ups. We were asked to watch a short video touting the benefits of this agency and the stellar representation they could offer a wannabe model/actor, followed by an "interview" where we (the parents) were asked a few questions. Ads was plonked in front of the camera where he had to say his name, age and sing a song (the cameraman requested that he sing the ABC song which he did in a barely audible voice, while tightly holding onto my hand). We were pleasantly surprised at how quickly they shepherded everyone through the whole process and Ads' performance was in line with our expectations. He is a shy child and freezes in front of strange and new people. As we were going out of the building, we heard an Indian man say to his wife in Hindi: "Abhi iski awaaz nikal rahi hai" (Obviously he was sorely disappointed by his son's on-camera persona :))
During the interview, Y was sitting on S's lap. The lady asked us whether we had applied for both our kids and when I said we had applied just for Ads, she looked surprised and disappointed. She told me I had two beautiful kids (I bet she says that to everyone!) and that Y had a lot of "personality" and would we be interested in getting her to audition as well? Y had cooed, laughed and gurgled all through the video session and the interview and basically upstaged her brother while hogging all the attention :)
We got back home and they called us an hour later asking us to come back. Apparently Ads has a "lot of potential" and they would like to represent him. When I said that the financial commitment was too much for us (which was just a different way of saying that we had just attended the audition for a lark and were not serious about Ads modeling or acting), they offered us a scholarship which would cover two-thirds of the cost. It's nice to know my child is considered handsome enough to be a model but sorry Y and Ads - your modeling careers are stillborn!

Thursday 18 June 2009

Ads changes his name

Ads now goes by the name of Dindigul Sarathy Rumplestiltskin. It's his own concoction. It had to happen sometime - he asked me recently why I named him Advaith - apparently he doesn't like the name, instead preferring Jimmy or DSR as above.
And to think we took all that trouble trying to select the perfect name for our first-born.

Thursday 11 June 2009

Ads' brings home a gift for Dad

An inverted wooden flower-pot becomes a bell, and an aluminum bolt becomes the gong. A very clever idea and so cute. Ad's Father's Day offering has pride of place on top of our television set.

Jumping off into the deep end

I've started studying again. A distance learning course in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science. The diploma is supposed to be completed in 1 year as long as I manage to put in a minimum of 6 hours of study per week per unit. I have to take 4 units which translates into atleast 24 hours of study per week. Obviously, this is not do-able as long as my kids don't go to daycare, so I estimated that it would take 2 years for me to earn my credentials (a timeline that began to look wildly laughably optimistic as I started reading the subject guides and looked at the examination questions). And some masochistic streak in me also prompted me to write to a social venture fund called Benetech, volunteering my time with them. I've had a couple of initial meetings with them and they want me to act as a consultant, working on developing a CSR and volunteer engagement strategy.
I enjoy having a finger in several pies at once (even though this particular pie-and-finger scenario is guaranteed to raise my stress-levels big-time), so the next few months promise to be interesting as I try to balance the demands of being a mother and household-in-charge with studying and working.

Thursday 4 June 2009


Ads has been requesting us for stories every afternoon, night, at mealtimes and milk-times. That's nothing new. He loves books and listening to stories. But now he demands a "new" and "dangerous" (don't ask me what that means - something with chills and thrills I suppose!) story at every sitting, it's much more difficult to come up with something that satisfies him. He has said a firm no to "Ummachi" (God- and lord- related) stories. I have exhausted my repertoire of Arabian nights, Panchatantra and Jataka tales (he wasn't very taken with those), fairy tales and stories from my own childhood - some real and some contrived. I read up on stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata but apparently they come under the head of Ummachi stories and were summarily rejected.
So a few nights ago, in complete desperation, I started on Harry Potter, quite sure that he would not understand even my highly simplified version and would quickly lose interest. But as he listened, clearly mesmerised and wanting the narrative to continue long after his bedtime, I started spinning out the story, adding the details that I thought he could digest. We have been at it for 4 days now and I glossed over all the scary bits and ended it this afternoon.
Clearly a ringing endorsement of the gripping nature of JK Rowling's tale. This evening he wants to see the movie on Youtube!

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Bereft of my beloved

Bereft of my beloved brand-new HP laptop for the past few days!
It was the lone casualty of a heated argument and scuffle involving me, Ads and a cup of Ovaltine. You get the picture.
S was livid. Especially since he had repeatedly warned me against this exact scenario, knowing my penchant of dawdling over the computer with a cup of tea on the table in front of me, surfacing now and then to brawl with my son. (Yeah Ads and I fight a LOT!)
The poor milk-soaked laptop has gone to be patched up and I should get it back in a few days. The $$$ damage is something like a third of the cost of the laptop.
1. Liquids and costly electronic equipment don't mix (well I should have known that already)
2. Kids and liquids should stay together (away from aforesaid equipment) and in an enclosed area covered in easy-to-wipe-down plastic.
3. Maturity and a cool temper are critical attributes for 30-something mom. Work on it.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

An early birthday celebration

Ads' class held a joint birthday celebration for all the kids whose birthdays fell in the summer months (July and August). There are 13 kids all born in July/August of 2003/4/5/6. Parents could volunteer to prepare a dish and bring it to class to be served as part of the birthday celebration. I brought a fruit salad. M-i-l and Y and I landed up to observe the proceedings. Ads didn't seem too thrilled to see us, as I had suspected. Everytime I smiled at him, he would put a finger to his lips and mouth "Stop". After a few instances of this, I got thoroughly irritated with him and stopped looking in his direction. Notably, he was asked to "do the calendar" - read out the date, day, month and year and before he went up to do this, he looked at me and said "You don't look".
Our resident bully was quiet as a mouse in the classroom. I barely heard his voice. What a transformation!

Friday 29 May 2009

Y starts talking + Ads and I stop talking

I hate to have to admit that I am fighting - yes, fighting as in dispute, quarrel, disagree vehemently - with my almost-4 year old. But I am doing it. I have reached an unpleasant place in Mommyland where I am simply fed up with Ads' multiple daily tantrums. Somebody should have warned me about the terribly terrifying threes. I feel qualified to sit for an exam in Tantrum Management 101. I had a talk with his teacher a couple of days ago and it appears that I am doing the right thing when he throws a fit. I simply ignore him and do not relent until he apologizes and starts acting reasonable. It's difficult to be consistent with this discipline strategy when there are three other people in the house unwilling to play along. But someone has to do it and I have willingly taken on the role of EVIL WITCH.
Some days, like today, it is tough to say when one tantrum ends and another begins. I heaved a sigh of relief when I dropped him in school. When I picked him up at noon, he started in on another tantrum and I quickly handed him over to his grandmother as soon as I got home, locking myself in the bedroom with my sweet pumpkin daughter who is much much easier to manage! I kept my interaction with him to the bare minimum all afternoon until he apologized (at S's prompting).
This too shall pass. Or so I hope.
But the really notable thing that happened today was that Y said her first words! Thatha and Appa. Too exciting!! We are simply thrilled. It looks like we are shortly going to welcome another chatterbox into the family.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

Ads' new mantra

Ads' grandma has been teaching him some slokas. In particular, the mantra of Lord Vishnu (Shaantakaaram bhujaga-shayanam) is something he can recite perfectly. He was suffering from night terrors a few months ago and started asking me every night "Will I get bad dreams?" and I always used to respond with a simple "No, you won't". His grandma told him that he would never get bad dreams if he recited the sloka before he went to bed. He obediently went about doing this and obviously (and coincidentally), the night terrors stopped. So he attributes his peaceful sleep to the sloka. He has started saying it diligently at all times of the day and night. For the last week, he has been starting every sentence with "Bhava bhaya haram" and often interrupts himself in the middle of a sentence to say the same phrase. It appears that it has become an emotional crutch for him.
I don't know whether to be (slightly) irritated or (highly) amused by this new idiosyncrasy. I think a strategy of placid indifference might just do the trick.

Friday 22 May 2009

New acquisition

After weeks of lurking on Craigslist and some false starts, I finally managed to buy Ads a bike. It's a 12 inch Huffy bike with training wheels and he rides it very well. It's second-hand of course (I was determined not to buy a new one -- they are exorbitantly priced for something that will only be used for a year at the most) but in near-perfect condition. And I paid only 20 $$ for it!! That's the part that thrills me the most :)
He already has knee and elbow pads that came with a pair of skates (which, incidentally, he refuses to use) but I still have to get him a helmet. He's very pleased with his new "toy" and has thus totally ignored the scooter that is also a recent acquisition. The fact that the scooter is much harder to maneuver may largely account for his indifference. Ads likes things easy.

Sunday 17 May 2009

Of family and friends

Yesterday, we were at home the whole day. Quite rare considering it was a Saturday and we try very hard not to stay home on the weekend! It was just as well that we did because it was a blistering hot day (90 degrees though it felt like more to me). We had one of my father-in-law's cousins and his wife visiting from Toronto. They stayed for several hours - over lunch, dessert and tea-time - and in the evening another cousin came to pick them up and take them to his house.
Ads didn't want to nap because he was afraid he would miss all the excitement and talk. He brought many of his toys to the living room and was playing/drawing there in the midst of all the noise. Someone commented on the fact that both my kids seemed to like having people around and were participating in the conversation every now and then (Y's contribution was to listen with rapt concentration to the talk, as though she understood every word). It had been the same on Friday when S had a friend from India visiting.
So anyway, when people started reminescing about how life was so different when they were kids, and how summer holidays were nothing but tons of idle fun, and how children nowadays get bored inspite of all the toys and gadgets and entertainment options that they have, I began to think (not for the first time) how nice it is for Ads to have lots of people around to talk with and play with. I guess that was the biggest advantage of the joint-family system. The multitude of people (complele lack of privacy nonwithstanding), the abundance of playmates, the excellent support system, and the rapport one developed with every member of the extended family, is unbeatable.
I know that because I live so far away from my family, I tend to crave the old familial bonds just like a lot of desis do. Not all the time, not even most of the time, but ocassionally yes I do feel it would be nice for my kids to live in a place where there were a lot of cousins and family around. It would drive me crazy after a point, but then you can't have everything :)
I'll settle for our old apartment complex in Bangalore where twenty-four kids were born in 2005, the same year that Ads was born. No more agonizing over organizing playdates and coordinating the calendars of several kids. Any time the grandparents want to see my kids (or vice versa), they are just a short train ride away. At this point, when my kids are so young, this would be my biggest motivation for going back to India.

Thursday 14 May 2009

Not so fast, please

Y has been practicing standing up for the last couple of days and today, she has been catching hold of a proffered hand and getting up on her own. She has been refusing to sit down, instead preferring to practice the standing pose. If she keeps up this blistering pace, she might very well be walking in a month or two - a prospect which might have filled me with pride and delight had it happened with my first-born - but with the weight of experience behind me, only fills me with dread. Sigh -- I was looking forward to a few more months of a not-so-mobile baby.
The excitement over Y standing up has been such that we almost didn't notice that she has also started crawling well, ditching her seal-like close-to-the-floor movement in favour of the traditional baby crawl.
Exciting times now and ahead!!!

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Teacher's report

Earlier, I had posted about our first parent-teacher conference at school. This afternoon, we had the second conference with Ads' teachers (they have 2 every school year, one 6 weeks after the child starts school and one in May a few weeks before school breaks up). We were handed a booklet which had a very detailed breakup of the various activities done by the children and the rating assigned to the child at these activities. A rating of 1 is a "New Presentation" which means the child has just been introducted to the activity; 2 means "Making progress"; 3 means "Age-appropriate" and so on. Ads has made significant progress in motor skills, language skills and social skills. The feedback given by the teachers is much the same as last time. He is friendly, polite, gets along with everyone, is eager to learn and has adjusted well to school. His school persona is completely at variance with his personality at home which is that of screaming banshee and temper tantrum expert.
Nowadays he screams so much, often very close to Y's ear and never for any justifiable reason, that I find myself shouting to make myself heard over the din. I have to repeatedly tell him to keep the noise level down; not that my entreaties have any effect. He quietens down for a few minutes and then starts shrieking again. Sometimes the apartment sounds like a madhouse. I'm dreading the day when Y stops being a passive observer and adds her contribution to the decibel level.
In any case, we were pleased with the good report he got from his teachers. They asked us to work on boosting his independence by allowing him to dress himself and eat by himself. Apparently I must give him more "choices" everyday, like allowing him to choose what he will wear to school etc. Yeah that's gonna lessen my stress - waiting in the wings while Ads stands in front of his closet deciding what to wear - when we have to be out of the door in 5 minutes.

Y's movin' n groovin'

Y is all over the place, crawling, sitting up independently and for the last 2 days, trying to stand up! She holds on to whatever is available -the couch, someone's lap, a chair - and tries to haul herself up. Her pudgy legs aren't strong enough yet but she is making enormous progress. I can see incremental improvements on a day-by-day basis, sometimes even within a 24-hour span. She is on the move throughout the day. She falls on her back dozens of times (hurray for wall-to-wall carpet!), nonchalantly gets up, dusts herself off and gets back to work.
Observing her at these times reminds me of Ads' babyhood all over again. She is so much like him, and yet completely unlike him. I get a lot of pleasure in watching her grow day by day. This is my favourite phase in babies - I think they are cutest between 4 and 12 months.
I made a quick trip to Target and installed electrical outlet protectors throughout the apartment. But there is still a lot of baby-proofing to be done around the house.

Saturday 9 May 2009

My first Mother's day gift

I'm not sure Ads knows what Mother's Day is, but he made a "gift" for me at school. It's an extremely pretty glass jar with a candle inside, the jar decorated with transparent squares of paper dipped in paint. Adorning the neck of the jar is a bead bracelet that he made. A card with a butterfly motif proclaims - "Happy Mother's Day! Love, Advaith". The whole thing comes custom gift-wrapped in a white paper bag decorated with his crayoned scribblings. Obviously I am thrilled to bits :)

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Tough cookie in the baking

Ah I should have begun to blog three years ago. Try as I might, I simply can't remember whether Ads was hitting his milestones in the same manner as lady Y is. She is spunky and adventurous. He was (and still is) extremely cautious. She can't resist putting everything she handles, into her mouth. Ads was (and is) so finicky that he will examine every new food item several times before he condescends to taste it. As a baby, I never had to worry about inappropriate items finding their way into his stomach. She is quicker to anger and harder to pacify than he was. To sum up, she is developing into one tough cookie.
Y, although not crawling yet, is managing to find her away about the house quite well. She slithers and slides across the floor in a manner reminiscent of a seal/sea lion. She attacks Ads' stack of books and artwork which he has stored in a corner of the living room. RIIIPPPP - a crayoned drawing is torn in half. Before she starts working on his favourite book, he yells in dismay and yanks everything out of her reach in panicked haste. She has managed to make him clear his mess out of the living room and into the guest bedroom, where it belongs - a feat that I never managed to accomplish in the last couple of years.
Early this morning, I found her crawling with her eyes still shut, all over her sleeping brother -- in a vain quest for her morning cuppa milk. A case of mistaken identity, indeed! The day is not too far away when she will start harassing Ads in earnest. For all his bluff and bluster, my son is an innocent (we would call him saadhu in Tamil).

Saturday 25 April 2009

Swimming like a fish? Not yet!

Ads has had 3 swimming lessons so far. He bawled his heart out the first time, cried a little bit at the beginning of the second lesson but settled down soon; and got third time lucky and managed a tear-free lesson. Whew. The class has a maximum of 4 kids at any given time. The coach gives roughly 7 minutes of individual attention to each kid in a 30-minute class (more if one of the kids doesn't show up). They get carried around the pool on a dumbbell-like apparatus, get held face up in the water by the coach to practice floatation, are asked to jump into the pool from the sides and into the coach's arms and do some kicking exercises to strengthen their leg muscles. S and I stay well away from Ads' line of sight in case he starts bawling again. In a couple more classes, he will be okay with us observing from a better vantage point I think. At the end of the class, the kids form a choo-choo train behind the coach and do a few laps around their portion of the pool. Ads is hungry as a hunter by the time he is done. I am looking forward to the summer when I can take him to the many recreational pools dotted around the Bay Area and enjoy the sight of him having fun in the water.
Here are 2 photos clicked before he left for swim class this week. We got him a new pair of swim trunks+swim shirt and goggles. They give him the flippers in class.