Wednesday 30 March 2011

Another summer begins...

I managed to squeeze in a heavy-duty viral infection within the first week of moving to the new apartment. After being mostly prone for 2 days, I was back on my feet and racking the brains about how to keep the kids occupied and busy during the two weeks of summer break (Ads starts school next week). Inspiration and motivation came in the form of some amazing ideas from Gorgeous Karma, who is one amazing crafty mom. The first project we tried out was the Leaves and Crayon collage. Ads took a few minutes to get the hang of it, but then got pretty excited as he captured the veins, big and small, of each leaf. The end result, as you can see, is pretty :)

We did a lot of vegetable painting, with cauliflowers, carrots and green peppers, even onions. I made them do this on thin scrapbook paper, with the idea of using it as home-made wrapping paper. A nice touch to any gift!
They did some finger painting and painting with brushes and poster colours too.
The big challenge I have is to devise activities that would engage them for atleast an hour. I haven't hit that magic figure yet :( No art project which involves both the kids ever stretches beyond 30 minutes, and that's the absolute outer limit. If I leave Ads to his own devices then he can amuse himself with books, legos, drawing, puzzles or other toys for a substantial period of time. But then Y keeps popping in to see what he is doing, scribbling on his work, rearranging the puzzle, pushing the blocks etc etc - leading to enraged howls and shrieks! It's practically impossible for me to sit down with Ads for any activity that requires any concentration, because of Y's constant interruptions. Making him read, making him write, playing board games, or reading any non-fiction book to him are big no-nos because I can never focus on him alone. I feel like I'm shortchanging him and at the same time, involving Y in only the 'big-brother' activities seems unfair too! What I really seem to need is 2 heads and 4 arms so that I can attend to both their needs :)
Lest anyone get the idea that we were always productively and happily employed, let me state for the record how I just left them to their own devices when I needed a break from the two monsters angels. They managed to be at each other's throats most of the time. Every now and then, they would give me a pleasant surprise by concocting their own silly games and rushing around shouting and laughing :)

Thursday 24 March 2011

The graduate

We'd been practicing the kindergarten speech for so long without being totally certain that Ads was even going to attend his graduation that I once asked him directly if he would mind if he missed it. He didn't seem to care one way or the other. In hindsight, considering how awesome it turned out to be, I'm glad we didn't move to Gurgaon a week earlier, I'm glad that S attended it (even though I missed it), and I'm so very glad Ads got to be there, robe and all, and pick up his graduation scroll from the Principal :)
Now - a disclaimer. All this while, I've thought the whole fuss about KG graduation, elementary and middle-school graduation, which is part and parcel of school life in the US (perhaps in other western countries too, but I'm not sure) was all so much hogwash. Absurd, even. It seemed to be an excuse for promoting mediocrity. I mean - you're supposed to study hard and pass on from one grade to the next. That's your job as a student. Why make a big song and dance about it? And it also seemed to me to take away from the final high school graduation, which of course is a big deal; especially in countries where a lot of people don't go on to college. However I suppose I'm hypocrite enough to support songs-and-dances as long as my kid is involved ;-) Perhaps for little boys and girls, it's a nice way to transition them to 'big' school. And as S wryly observes, for all the money that we are shelling out for tuition and other extras, the school better put on a show for our benefit!
Ads spoke his rehearsed few lines very well, and thankfully, my camera-ignorant husband managed to get a good video of it. Father and son had a sumptuous lunch at school and clicked a few pictures including one with Ads very wonderful class teacher. Father in particular really lucked out that day because he left home just as the packers arrived and returned after they had left. The mayhem in between was unimaginable. 6 guys - all in different rooms - throwing our stuff randomly into cartons, no labelling being done on any of the boxes, mattresses being dragged all over the common areas in the dust and dirt without any packing, and Y whining incessantly. I was close to tears. I'd planned ahead and asked one of my maids to come in around 9 and take Y to the park so that I could focus on the packing. Guess what happened. The maid walked in two hours late. I couldn't even yell at S because I had insisted on him going to school. The last straw was when one of the guys managed to pack the pulao that I had cooked at 5 am that day, along with the raita that accompanied it!!!!!!! The imbecile apparently didn't notice the two fat ladles sticking out of the pans. This was the same fellow who also managed to tear the legs off from my computer table so he was both clumsy and not very bright.
Go ahead and call it plain stupidity on my part to have volunteered to do this by myself with Y around to provide backing vocals :) Sometimes I just think I'm so smart and capable and bite off more than I can chew. Finally, the moving guys left, we handed over the flat keys, stopped by for a quick goodbye to the folks at Y's school, and headed down the highway for Gurgaon. It was only when we were halfway there that I remembered to ask Ads how the graduation went. By which time he was fast asleep!
So that was our moving day. Pure nightmare from start to finish (for me). I'm not posting about how we worked round the clock to get the new house up and running in 2 days flat. What was the tearing hurry, you may ask? None whatsoever. We just wanted to be done with it. And to prove we could :) The A-type personality lurking within us comes to the fore every now and then ;-)

Wednesday 23 March 2011

The butterfly

Founder's day at Y's school and Y's role as a butterfly in her first ever public performance at the ripe young age of 2 years and 3 months = a red-letter day for us. Her costume was a yellow and blue affair - a halter-neck blouse and a frilly skirt. She paired it with a pair of black tights and sparkly yellow shoes and I sent her off on the school van on the day of the function. S, Ads and I followed an hour later, agog to see our princess on stage. Have I mentioned before what a lovely serene place Y's school (I should say ex-school now) is? Low buildings surrounding a large lawn flanked with lots and lots of trees and saplings. A duck and geese-pond as soon as you enter. A couple of gazebos where rabbits frolic. A good chance that you will spy their resident peacock. A walk-in aviary. A hen-house and a birdhouse. Stone sculptures of animals dotted all over the place, which children can climb and play on. It's paradise, no two ways about it and my enduring regret will be that Y could not spend atleast another year in that special place. However, we got to experience it for a few months and I am thankful for that.
Y's performance was the second one and consisted of about 10 2-year olds dancing to the well-known Hindi song, which I remember parroting at school when I was a baby myself - Kisne banaya phoolon ko.....ishwar sab mein hai. The song talks about God who made the leaves, butterflies, birds, flowers, mummy, daddy, you and me; so each kid was dressed up as one of these creations of God. Oh my God (pun intended), they were all so unbearably cute!!!!! It was heartbreaking. Y was right in the front, along with 2 other butterflies. They had stuck a large pair of polka-dotted wings on her back and some antennae on her head. The antennae kept falling forward onto her glasses and she had to keep pushing them back :) She did a decent job of miming. Every now and then she would forget what she had to do and just stop and stare into the audience. Then she would look at the girl who was next to her (and who, incidentally was awesome - a born performer) and start copying her. All the other kids were in the same age group that is, the babies of the school - between 18 to 30 months old. Some were crying for their mom/dad and had to be either whisked off the stage (if inconsolable), or else cajoled into staying put by the concerned parent kneeling clumsily in front of the stage and shouting bright words of encouragement! Later on, Y's teacher told me what a big achievement it is for kids of that age to simply get out there and do something - anything - rather than cry to be let off. She's right of course. I can't imagine being all of 2 years old, dressed in something uncomfortable and asked to dance in front of a few scores of people under dazzling lights.
I don't have pictures of Y from that day. The school asked that the parents not click their own photos since the small kids would get distracted and distressed if they spotted their parents in the crowd. They were supposed to give us the photos clicked by the school photographer. I'm a little bummed because I can't wait to share the photos with friends and family but apparently we have to wait until April for the pics. C'mon....nobody told them that the world has gone digital?????
She looked so vulnerable and small on stage. A little lost, a little confused, but bravely plodding on, doing what she was supposed to. She didn't smile or have the easy confidence of her neighbour. She was just a 2 year old baby searching for her family in the audience, in between executing a few dance steps. All I wanted to do was to rush up there and fold her into my arms; however that impulse was successfully resisted and I watched her with pride, joy, awe and just plain love. What emotions these kids can excite in us silly parents!!!!

The Best part of Parenting - NYT article

It's been crazy-busy over here. But we are all moved, and set, and I have been sick as a dog. Until I update with all the happenings in Mommyland, here's an article I read today, and loved. I particularly liked a few things that the author said:
You could read human progress through the tears. The tears of a baby are often a reflex, for a toddler almost always the fruit of frustration or fatigue. The tears of a child begin to be the tears of knowledge. The older heart is more breakable.
So true!
And this:
I regret being pinkslipped from my 24/7 Mom job, although there were times over the years when I thought the inexorability of it would kill me. But it’s hard to imagine anything better than right now: the family dinner with the five of us, all talking about politics, books, work, friends, and one another. It’s hard to imagine anything better than three smart and insightful people who live in the same city we do, who make me remember that there was a point to the whole exercise, and the point was this.
So, there IS a point....that gives me hope! I was beginning to wonder *wink*.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Important lesson learnt

I did something really silly today. It was 9 am and there were 4 of us at home - Y, S, the maid and yours truly. Y had school today only from 3-6 pm so she was not heading out for the school van as she usually is at that time. Instead she was all dressed, breakfasted and playing with her toys. S and the maid left at almost the same time. A few minutes later, the bell rang. Our milk had arrived. While opening the door, I noticed that the maid had not thrown out the trash bags. I was slightly annoyed with her for her oversight and without really thinking, I stepped out to deposit the trash bags in their  designated place near the staircase (where the housekeeping guys pick it up later in the morning).
Now the thing with our front door is that it's one of those doors with the Godrej automatic locks that you find in most apartments nowadays. However, it's a much abused door; a few months ago, we had to break the lock on it as the key was getting jammed all the time; it also doesn't have a stopper (Y broke it!). The point is, that unlike most of these automatic doors, it doesn't close on its own. In fact every time we step out, we have to exert a fair amount of strength to prise it shut and turn the key in the lock. I knew all this and at the back of my mind, it also registered (dimly) that I didn't have my key and my cellphone with me when I stepped out, but I knew that the door wouldn't shut on its own and what the heck, I was outside the flat for precisely 5 seconds.
I know you know where this story is going :(
Imagine my shock when I turned back to the house, and I swear I wasn't away for more than 5 seconds, and I found that the door was firmly locked! Y was just inside the door because she had followed me when the doorbell rang. Sheer panic. Immediately I ran to the neighbour's place and asked to use their phone. There was so much static on the mobile line that I couldn't even figure out if S's phone was ringing or not. I used their landline to call S and asked him to come back home immediately since he has the only other spare key. Thankfully, on this day of all days, our car had a flat tyre and he hadn't even left the complex. 
I kept talking to Y who was bemused at all the commotion. She didn't realize what had happened.
I shudder to think what might have been. Generally, by 9 am, my cooking for the day is in full swing and I could have had the gas on. S could have left for Gurgaon and taken forever to reach home. We would have had to break down the door. 
I'm still beating myself over my carelessness. I know we all do stupid things, but that doesn't stop mommy guilt from rearing it's ugly head :( 

Baby lisping

Aren't Tantra t-shirts the cutest??? I'm so glad they have children's sizes!!! This is a new one I picked up for Y recently.
Last evening, after dinner, the kids and I were talking. Each one perched on one of my thighs (very painful!). Anyway, as we were chatting, Y said the word sweater in some context. The only thing is, she pronounced it, as she always does, as fetter. I asked her to say some other words starting with the sound sw.
Sweat. She said fet.
Swot. fot.
Swim. fim.
Swindon. findon.
Swat. fat.
Ads and I couldn't stop laughing and Y was very happy to have been the cause of so much merriment. Ads' peals of laughter were cut off abruptly when I asked him to say Rallies. He said - Yallies. I said - Oh you mean Yallies? He was enraged - No amma, I said YALLIES!!! I said - Never mind Ads I love the way you say yallies instead of rallies. He was almost in tears (time for me to shut up and stop laughing, I thought!) - Amma I didn't say yallies, I said yallies!

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Now I'm posting recipes!

We're pretty healthy eaters in our household. I keep trying out a lot of new stuff in the kitchen and my mantra has always been quick-fix, healthy meals. I'm not a great cook (just average) and I can't stand around slaving in the kitchen for hours so what I really love are the "one-pot" meals where you throw everything into a pot, switch on the gas/electric cooker and 20 minutes later, it's all done! Pongal, pulao, veg noodles, veg casserole - anyone? So - I've been thinking for a while that I should post some of the new recipes I try out, on this blog. Just so that I remember them myself, if nothing else :)
Yesterday we had my tried-and-trusted staple - the veg paratha with a simple moong dal on the side. I think I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've made a traditional paratha - y'know - the aloo, the gobi, the mooli ones? Most of the time, my parathas are a medley of several things and not just one vegetable. Yesterday, I wanted to use up a lot of cilantro (coriander) that has been lying in the fridge. There was also some leftover arhar (tuar) dal. I also threw some pumpkin (cubed) into the pressure cooker. I don't know why but it was an inspired choice, as it turned out. In the mixer, I ground jeera, shredded ginger, 2 green chillies, the arhar dal, lots of coriander leaves, along with some salt and milk (the things that went into that paratha!). After the pumpkin was done, I ground that too along with all the other stuff. Poured the whole thing into wheat flour and mixed it really well. The parathas came out so soft that it was a pleasure to eat them, even plain. I suspect the pumpkin made all the difference to the texture. 
My other favourite is the beetroot paratha. The beetroot has to be grated beforehand. Saute it with jeera, red chilli powder or green chillies, salt, coriander (if you like) and ginger. Stuff into the dough and roll it out and cook. It's yummy! Unless you like the slightly sweet taste of this paratha, you might want to add a little extra salt and spice to compensate. Or one could balance it with a spicy side-dish or chutney. The sweetness of it works just fine for us because the kids can't take spicy food anyway. This paratha also looks very appealing - brown with red and green spots due to the beetroot and coriander :) I'll try and post some pictures next time I make this.

Monday 7 March 2011

Moving and movies

I've been feeling a little low lately. Partly, it's the impending move. Gurgaon is going to be the 6th city we've lived in, after our wedding in 2000; and we are moving to our 7th apartment. The whole process of packing, moving, setting up in a new place has lost some of it's allure! Partly, it's the first time I am really feeling a wrench at moving. One year ago, if someone had told me I'd feel depressed about leaving Noida, I'd have laughed in their face! But I really like it here. We have a few friends in the complex, I know where everything is, both the kids are in fabulous schools and it just seems like we're giving up a good thing to go 40 kms away and start all over again. Of course, there's no option because the 4-hour round commute every single day is killing S, but the very novel emotion of missing a city/place is contributing to my low mood. 
In addition, the looming exams are stress-inducing and the move at this time is taking up a huge chunk of my time and energy. It's been a long time since I took an exam and I think I've just lost confidence in my ability to  crack a test. The doomsday scenario - of having to repeat a year - is giving me sleepless nights. 
Ok folks, I'm just venting here - I am not the type to worry too much about anything but some days, I get all wound up and crazy! I reacted to the stress by watching three movies over the last week - The King's Speech, Vicky Christina Barcelona and The kids are all right. The last one was okay but I'm still wondering why it was in the running for an Oscar. Vicky Christina is actually the first Woody Allen movie I've seen and I loved it. And The King's Speech - brilliant. Watching films is not exactly the best way to pass exams as I'm sure you'll agree :) But now I'm feeling better for having gotten some R&R and all set to hit the books amidst the cartons and bubble wrap!

Friday 4 March 2011

What has Ads been upto?

Over the last few weeks, Ads has been taking tiny steps to independence. He's been walking to tennis lessons (inside our complex) all by himself. It's a different matter that if he doesn't see me waiting outside the court 5 minutes before the end of the lesson, he bursts into tears! A couple of times, I have been really rushed in the morning and have asked him to start walking to the bus stop and I will catch up with him in a few minutes, and he's done that quite cheerfully. Anybody who knows Ads knows that these little steps mean a whole lot to him. It's taken him almost a year of staying in this complex and getting familiar with it, to even start attempting such feats. He also had his first sleepover last weekend, at his best friend's place, which is also in the same compound.
I have been sitting with him for half an hour everyday, getting him to read. It's been a little bit of a challenge because I am not a good or patient teacher. And English is an illogical infuriating language! I always remember Dharmendra's dialogue in Chupke Chupke - "If B-U-T is but then why is P-U-T put?" It's so easy for the child to forget a new word he learnt only yesterday and it takes constant reinforcement to get him to remember it and pronounce it correctly. We started with the Bubbles and Bruno books which a friend very kindly lent us, some stuff on the Internet but now I have graduated him to more advanced books. They have a lot more words that he doesn't know but I figured he can just read what he knows and the rest I will read for him. Maybe he'll get a jumpstart on the bigger words that way.
He doesn't enjoy reading as much as he enjoys doing little sums - addition and subtraction. The Tam-bram engineering/mathematical genes are on full display! Over the summer, I plan to get him to read more. His teacher told me to start him on multiplication tables which they will be doing in Grade I. My mom has already identified an art class for him in Chennai. Not to mention the field visits that eager grandparents have lined up for him. The fella is going to have a jam-packed summer!