Friday 30 March 2012

A new school year and a new toy

My first baby's going to Grade 2! Terribly hard to believe, and yet, it must be true :) It seems like only yesterday that a heavily pregnant me was sitting in the front seat of our car parked in the preschool parking lot in Sunnyvale, fighting tears and feeling like throwing up while S went inside to drop Ads to his very first day of school.
School starts Monday and we are all set with uniforms ironed and books labelled. The bummer is, we still don't have his results from Class I. Yeah, I know, utterly ridiculous. Instead of doing it the simple old-fashioned way and giving us parents a physical report card, the latter were supposed to be e-delivered. I have been obsessively checking the school intranet for the last week. Today I called his class teacher and she said some other parents have complained. So I will call the school tomorrow and hopefully will know his grades before he enters the next class :) 
Y goes to nursery this year, but she has a couple more weeks of vacation before she starts school.
And, ooh, before I forget, moi is now the owner of a brand new ipad 3!!! Husband's gift to me when he came back from NYC this time. I'm still exploring it, and I can understand (having played around a bit with the earlier versions), why the new ipad is called Resolutionary. Do weigh in with kid-suitable apps which I can download - I'm basically stuck for any ideas beyond Talking Tom and the (despised) Angry Birds.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Crafty hours

I try to do some craft with the kids every week - but there are times when weeks go by without us working on something together, and I don't like that. We seem to get out a lot during the weekends and in addition, these two days of the week are the only time S gets to spend with the kids. I am left with the weekdays when it is hard to schedule anything between tennis lessons and homework and playtime.When S travels and is out over the weekend, that's when we are able to do crafty-artsy stuff together and this weekend was one of those.
It actually started with Y's school teacher sending me a note informing me that the end of the year class party was going to have a 'Garden' theme and Y needed to come to school in a homemade costume. I figured a flower was the easiest thing I could rustle up with the stuff I already had at home. I used thick card stock (I had pink), cut them into petal shapes, glued them together onto a green band of chart paper and decorated the 'petals' with floral patterns (bought from my absolute favourite shop in the whole wide world - Michael's!). Y wore a green t-shirt and leggings and I pasted 2 green leaves onto the front of her t-shirt. The 'flower' was turned into a crown to wear on top of her head. I didn't like to make petals framing the whole face because I think that's too uncomfortable for a small kid to have stuck to her face for several hours.
This is the floral 'crown'.

I don't suppose she looked terribly like a flower but I guess the basic idea was communicated :)

Yesterday, Ads had his end-of-year PTM and we wanted to give his teacher a small gift. Of course, it had to be handmade. I had a couple of glass bottles (in which we get scented candles?) with me. I got him to stick strips of glaze and crepe paper and decorate it with a bead bracelet. We placed a tiny scented candle inside, and packed it in a pretty bag.

Today, we've done Tape-resist painting which is very easy and a whole lot of fun! I have been meaning to do this for months ever since I read Rashmie's post over here. Ads and Y loved yanking the yellow tape out once  they had finished their artwork :)

This one is done jointly by Y and me.

And this one by Ads, a mixture of superheroes and abstract doodlings :)

A batch of shells and pebbles picked up from NZ beaches were painted.

And, finally, a really cool project - to make cute plastic lanterns from mineral water bottles. I saw this on Mindful Meanderings recently and it really appealed to me. We didn't use glass colours but regular acrylic ones. I cut open two bottles and gave 2 pieces each to Ads and Y. Later I added some beads from a couple of broken anklets we had lying around, and voila!

Monday 19 March 2012

Reading and more

It's taken Ads a while to start reading all by himself. Atleast, I thought he would be reading a lot earlier, and somehow I had the mistaken impression that kids in India start reading by 3.5 or 4 years. Clearly that's not the case and he seems to be on the same literacy levels as most of his peers. Indeed, I'd say he is doing somewhat better than most. I give a large share of the credit to his school and class teacher, who is also his English teacher. The school in general, and she in particular lays a lot of emphasis on reading and getting the 20-odd children in the class to read aloud in public every single day has had tangible results. Over the last year, S and I haven't had the time to read to our kids as much as we would have liked. It's a fact that we don't read to Y as much as we used to read to Ads. If she does not develop a love for books and reading, I will know whom to blame :(
What really kick-started Ads' current obsession with reading (yes, YAY! Obsession it is!) is his abiding passion for big cats. More than a year ago, I had picked up some books on the big cats. A few months later, his maami bought him a lovely set of 10 books. They are called 100 facts - each book deals with one topic such as inventions, big cats, gladiators, myths and legends, mummies, sharks and so on. All of them are beautifully illustrated, printed on high-quality paper, and written very engagingly. Though Ads loves all of them, the big cats and sharks have been particular favourites.

The former has been a big reason why he started reading by himself. For more than a month now, we have rarely seen him without a book in his hand. He has even been comparing 3 different books on the big cats and finding inconsistencies between them :) The fellow is turning into a veritable encyclopedia on the cat family. Our vacation planning for the year now needs to be rapidly modified to include sightings of some big game :) I am hoping we get to do one tiger or lion park this year - I have been hearing wonderful things about Bandhavgarh and Kanha.
This mother's heart swelled with deep contentment during our break in Alwar, when we asked the kids to pose for a photograph and they did this. 

Friday 16 March 2012

Inspiring community action in making our little corner of the planet greener

I have long been inspired by Aparna's very successful experiments and initiatives in greening her world by composting, reusing and kitchen-gardening. As an aside, have also drooled a lot over her baked goodies! :) I just wanted to share a video that she had shared in turn, about the community initiative in Koramangala 3rd block in Bangalore, where the RWA (Resident's Welfare Association) decided to segregate their dry waste from kitchen waste. Why this is so important has also been explained in the video.
I've started doing my bit - very very recently - by segregating the dry waste from kitchen waste. The good thing is that I found that we have very little dry waste. Cardboard/paper boxes are reused for the kid's art and school projects (or simply to play with). Newspapers and printed papers are recycled to the raddiwala. Ditto for the glass and plastic dabbas that I can't reuse - they are washed well and given to the raddiwala. One-sided paper is always used for the children's artwork, or else I cut them into smaller sheets and staple them together as writing pads.
Here's the video. Thanks for sharing, Aparna. 

Thursday 15 March 2012

What drama!

I swear my life hasn't been this exciting since.....well, it's been a long time anyway :)
Our landlord had asked us to move, right? We found a place, a really nice apartment, in another block of the same complex. Before we signed the lease, there was a spat between the current tenant and the owner with the result that the current tenant refused to vacate before April-end. Too late for us. Now I ran around like a headless chicken, trying to locate another apartment. In between our homeowner called us to say we could stay until May end - if we liked. I found and liked another apartment, even paid a token advance (there was nothing token about it!) and I was harrying the broker to get the lease signed before S starts traveling again next week.
Yesterday, I met our current landlord in the elevator and he shocks me by saying we can stay for another year! Yes yes it was a shock of the nice kind. Still, we had already paid up for the other flat and I spent a lot of time making phone calls and explaining the situation to an annoyed broker and a relieved husband. How does the husband manage to stay out of all the drama and stress? It beats me!
I have been so stressed about the impending move. The welcome news is that we now can stay put for another year. I asked our homeowner again and again, in many different ways, if he was sure about his decision. After all, the last thing one wants is to be told in September to look for another flat! The fellow seems to be a confused lot and hopefully he won't change his mind again!
So - now's the time to say - All izz well :)
Some respite - until next year! Watch this space :)

Sunday 11 March 2012

Alwar, Sariska and a tiny village called Kesroli

A month ago, I booked a quiet and short weekend getaway in one of the Neemrana properties, which call themselves 'non-hotels'. I'd heard good things about the Neemrana Fort Palace, which is really close to Gurgaon. But this property has a lot of stairs from what I've read and I did not think those would be very pleasant for S to navigate. So I booked a couple of nights at the smaller and more intimate Hill-Fort Kesroli, which is a few kilometers from Alwar city.
The fort is a very small one. It was built in the 13th century and stands atop a small hillock, overlooking the village of Kesroli. It is very serene, and that is its USP. Not a place to gad about sightseeing and indulging in a ton of activities. There's a restaurant, a TV lounge (no TVs or phones in the rooms), passable wifi connection, several books and magazines, and that's really all there is by way of entertainment. A perfect place to unwind, spend time with the family and laze. Watch the sunrise and sunset, sip leisurely cups of masala tea, and watch the village life. You get the picture. 
We went to the Sariska Tiger sanctuary, where we saw no tigers, leopards or hyenas (all of which were on Ads' wish-list), but plenty of neelgai (Indian Antelope), deer (spotted and sambar), jackals, crocodiles, wild board, peacocks and a lot of migratory birds (storks, egrets among them).
Here's our room and the reading alcove.

Just before sunset, from the ramparts of the fort.

Village scene.


 The entranceway.

Going towards the reception area.

Central courtyard.

The staff is extremely good - friendly without being intrusive, very helpful and courteous. This was one of those places which made me run to tripadvisor and post a glowing review as soon as we came back :)

First Holi

The children celebrated their first Holi this year. We were in the NCR last year as well but we had picked the day before Holi to move from Noida to Gurgaon. The day after we landed (Holi), I fell really sick with a bad viral and was out of action for a few days. I don't remember much, but I do know that all the kids did in 2011 was to peek out of the balcony at the colourful fest downstairs as their father unpacked and kept them out of my sick-chamber.
I was more prepared this year. I bought a lot of organic colours and the obligatory water pistols. S exclaimed at the sheer number of packets of colours I'd purchased. "Do you really think all this is going to get used?!!" I wasn't sure, myself. Ads in general hates to get messy and Y hates getting wet, both of which seemed to bode ill for a fun Holi.
But children have a habit of surprising you and boy, did my kids get into the swing of things! After a big breakfast, Ads packed up some colour sachets, filled up his water pistol and headed downstairs. I followed about half-hour later with Y. They located their friends and within minutes, they were unrecognizable in the crowd of multi-hued, sopping wet children. Ads did not mind getting wet while Y preferred to stay dry and pour pink colour all over herself. They had a lovely time and next year I'm sure they'll be up there on the dance floor grooving to Rang Barse!

Tuesday 6 March 2012

I'm growing up :)

It's a measure of how far I've evolved that I did not have a massive cardiac arrest on viewing this scene. Though I did have to count *v.e.r.y v.e.r.y s.l.o.w.l.y* to 10 before finding my voice :)

Sunday 4 March 2012

My missing daughter

Every time I sit down to write a blog post, it seems as though I have a lot of things to say about Ads, but very little about my daughter. You know how some kids are so independent, and so mature and all-sorted-out? Y is one of those. And yes, maybe because she's my second, I don't worry and obsess about her as much as I tend do with Ads. Also, while I can predict my son's moods and reactions to the minutest extent, with Y I tend to proceed more cautiously, with a larger basket of logic and reason, as opposed to sheer maternal instinct.
At 3, she has a level of maturity and seriousness which I cannot help but compare to Ads' terrifying threes, when everyday was an exhausting parade of emotional highs and lows. Y does not have to deal with a younger sibling (which Ads did), but still, I believe her personality is so much more like her father's - she's quiet, patient, serious, affectionate, rock-solid. She takes time to warm up to anybody. Ads is a good example to her and as her role model, she will follow him to the ends of the earth. He has taught her to be more friendly and social and better-mannered and one day I hope she will teach him to be less temperamental!
At the same time, she is definitely the big sister too. Running to give him a proprietorial hug and kiss as he returns from school, patting his head and saying "My baby!" and whispering conspiratorially to me "Amma, why is anna in a bad mood?" :)
She knows to keep quiet (and away) from Anna when he is moody. She wants to have 3 kids - a girl, a boy, and another boy, in that order. Apparently I will have to live with her and take care of her kids while she goes to work, although she has promised me she will come back home early every day and take over childcare responsibilities :) She loves jewellery and long hair. Her glasses make her look quite serious and she now understands when random people ask me why she is wearing them. Some days, she is quick to answer in Tamil "Enakku power irukku" or "Enakku squint irukku."
I find it weird (absurd, even) how she quietly plays second fiddle to her vastly more high-maintenance brother. She observes every single thing, right down to how that Aunty pinched Anna's cheek and not her's. Yet, although she remarks on it, she rarely complains. It's a strange adjective to apply to a preschooler, but in her calmness and strength, I find her utterly dignified. 
So that's my beautiful, wonderful daughter. Wise beyond her years. And doesn't give me half as much trouble as her brother does, even now! No wonder she doesn't figure much in these pages :)

Saturday 3 March 2012

Like mother, like son

As Ads is growing up, I can't help but notice many many similarities between his personality and mine. To name just two or three striking ones:
1. He is shy yet confident. He is far more comfortable with adults, especially elderly people, than with kids his own age. Every social thingy we attend, he is a big hit with the uncles/aunties. The kids can take him or leave him :) In our condos, he will strike up a conversation very easily, with my friends. Yet, when I ask him to go and play cricket with the other boys, he hangs back, reluctant to join them. I don't force him, recognizing myself in him at the same age. Shy, introspective, sometime tongue-tied - it took me many years to gain the confidence to be at ease with my peers. He'll get there too :)
Yet, his class teacher tells me, he is different in class, amongst the kids he sees every day. Being the class monitor for 4 weeks gave him a lot of confidence and the teacher says a lot of the kids really like him for his helpful nature, non-aggressiveness and yes...just the fact that he's a very simple kid who doesn't tell tales and doesn't bully anyone.
Some people might call 'em boring! I know that's what I used to think I was, for many years. Quite an un-interesting specimen. The more I think about it, the more I realize I had some serious self-esteem issues :) 
2. He is conscientious. Oh boy! Conscientious to the point of irritating me. Yet, I should know better, because that's exactly the way I am, even today. A couple of days ago, we had an incident at home which illustrates this really well. Ads had tennis class that evening, followed by an hour of playtime, then bath and dinner and before we knew it, it was just half-an-hour left before bedtime. He was busy completing his Hindi workbook which had to be submitted the next day. Now the lil fella struggles a bit with Hindi and is quite slow at writing. I have been noting him working on that workbook methodically, every day for the last 2 weeks. That night, he was looking really sleepy and tired and yet he was plugging away at the last 4 pages that needed to be completed. I knew his Hindi teacher would not mind if he gave it in a day late. I was even ready to give him a note to that effect. I also suggested that he get up 15 minutes earlier the next morning and finish it then. None of my well-meant suggestions worked. On the contrary, he got very worked up and started crying. I felt terrible to see him so sincere and hardworking (when it was not required!) and also extremely annoyed with him. Anyway, we sorted that matter out somehow and I asked S to put both kids to sleep since I had a proposal to be sent out that night and needed to work on it.
15 minutes later, just as I am furiously typing away, S reappears with Y, who looks wide-awake. The minute she sees me, she wants me to put her to sleep. By this time, I was really tense and said a lot of things I shouldn't have. S was really annoyed with me. He asked me later why I was so tense and worked-up and   wasn't I doing exactly what Ads had done just some minutes ago? I had been annoyed with my son then, for not being able to lighten up, and here I was doing exactly the same!
3. He can turn on the waterworks at a second's notice. Sensitive, emotional inside and bravely stoical inside; that's Ads for you. I remember being the same as a child.
Like mother, like son? I keep complaining that neither of my kids looks anything like me (or my side of the family), but now it looks like Ads has picked up some personality attributes from me (including my finicky Virgo ones). I'm ok with that, as long as my short fuse isn't one of them!