Friday, December 31, 2010

Llama n' Mama

Staying on the subject of baby animal parallels, another unusual little one is featured in the “Llama llama” Series by Ann Dewdney. There’s “Llama llama misses Mama” and the recent “Llama llama holiday drama” The facial expressions of baby Llama can easily compare to that of your little ones'. Today I read Llama Llama mad at Mama” in which your heart really goes out to the baby Llama who is shoved around from place to place not being allowed to enjoy his play or fall into sound sleep. Much like what we do to our kids……just when they’ve started on something ….we tell them to clean up…..just when they’re falling asleep in their car seat…..its time to go shopping!! Phew!!….a kid’s life is not easy!!

I also read the first one in the series “Llama Llama Red Pajama” which is the story of every mom after tucking in her little one at night. At every stage of early childhood, your child’s bedtime is a nightmare before sleep!! At each stage…you think this is a bad one only to realize the next stage is probably the worse!! It all begins with sleepless nights during infancy deteriorating to co-sleeping during toddler years and then what I’d like to call sleep deception at the pre-schooler age. It’s been a few months since Abhay sleeps on his own bed in his own room at night……if you think that’s fantastic ….think again. Earlier, I had to just lie down next to him for a few minutes until he falls asleep in our bed…..and that was it. Now I assume he’s asleep… fact, he's only pretending to be asleep but all ears to what’s happening outside of his room. So even after all the ‘good night, sleep tight’ and ‘sweet dreams’, it’s not a surprise to find him tip toeing into the living room every 15 minutes or calling out for either one of us with his inane demands or ridiculous questions!!! One of those rare nights where there’s not a sound from his room, we almost can’t believe it…..we peek into his room…..then we see a pair of eyes looking at us with a grin!!

So in “Llama Llama Red Pajama” after reading a bedtime story and being tucked in, the little Llama feels alone and calls for his Mama asking for a drink. Mama is busy first at the kitchen sink and then attending a phone call. Baby Llama getting impatient starts to wail for his mama. Set in rhyming verses, you cant stop laughing when Mama Llama breaks into a limerick while saying “Baby Llama, what a tizzy! Sometimes Mama’s very busy”!! Taking a cue from this book, after being tucked into his bed, my little Llama calls out for his Mama every night saying he’s thirsty!!! When will this drama end O! Rama!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Animal antics!

Does your little one ever remind you of a baby animal or a bird at times? I’m not sure if it’s only me….but I find Abhay closely resembling a tiger cub especially when he's trying a hand at wrestling with his dad!! :-) At times, kids are more like animals than humans! This is probably the reason behind the success of animal characters like bunnies, pigs, bears, turtles and even bugs modeled after children with similar challenges and idiosyncrasies!!

One such unusual comparison has been made in the famous Mo Willems’ “Don’t let the Pigeon…..” series. I have so far read “Don’t let the Pigeon drive the bus”, “Don’t let the Pigeon stay up late” and lastly “The Pigeon wants a Puppy”. Abhay was amused with what he recognized as Abhay-like tantrums thrown by the pigeon. These books are good material for a mono-act/role play in front of your kids

The Pigeon represents a pre-schooler- aged kid all prepared to engage in a logical argument on why she should be allowed to do something otherwise forbidden, like drive a bus or stay up late!! You will see that the arguments advanced are tough to refute….much like all our kids when they are trying to prove a point!! I love the way the Pigeon insists “Im not sleepy” with a BIG yawn….just like Abhay asserting “Im full of energy” while struggling to keep his eyes open!!

Today I read “The pigeon wants a puppy” wherein the Pigeon likes something that she has no clue of …but her liking is in the superlative ….just like our kids!! Haven’t we heard them say “I love xxxx” ( a new object or a toy) only seconds after they’ve spotted it the first time in the store.....or claim "That's not fair" when refused. Similarly, the pigeon wants a puppy and in exchange promising a lifetime of good behavior. When nothing works….she gets desperate and left with no option …….she unleashes her most powerful weapon ….. ‘a full blown TANTRUM’!!! When she finally gets what she wants ........she is petrified of the puppy declaring that she has changed her mind and wants a Walrus instead!!!! Does the baby pigeon sound more like your baby?? Mine too!!!:-)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Learning made fun!

I enjoy reading to my son as I love seeing his eyes light up as we explore the fascinating world of picture books together. For me, reading does not necessarily have to be associated with learning or serious study…..but more for fun and spending some quality time with my little one. Having said that, there have been times when I look to a book for introducing my pre-schooler to some learning concepts like alphabets, number, phonics. To put it in a clich├ęd way…..a book to make learning fun!!

I found a nice series called “Get set for Kindergarten!” by Rosemary Wells. This series is based on the lovable characters of the famous story “Timothy goes to School” by the same author. The series makes Abhay feels like he is also a student in Mrs. Jenkins’ class at the Hilltop School where kindergarten concepts are introduced and taught in a creative and engaging way. Today I read “How many? How much?” - the students of Mrs Jenkins class learn about numbers, concepts of measurement and money. There’s also “Adding it up” which introduces the concept of addition through a child-friendly method. The books also suggest simple activities to enable a better understanding of the concept. I also read “The World Around us” which helps children make sense of their surroundings…..their families, communities, transportation, professions. "What kind of a home do you live in – A house, an apartment, farm, townhome; What color is your house ? Do you know your address ? What about your friends’ homes?” Simple questions like these can be a revelation for your little one inspiring him to question and discover the world around him. Other books in the series include “Letters and Sounds”, “Ready to Read” and “Discover and Explore”. A recommended series if you want your pre-schooler to get set for Kindergarten!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A cookie loop

Remember those days of chain letters? If you were lucky enough, you’d get a nice little postcard from the subsequent recipients in the chain that made you feel good. Initially….it was just for fun and a good incentive to get us to write as kids (which seems like a long time ago!!).Of course, then came those annoyingly superstitious religious- chain letters that were unbelievably lame……and technology made it worse…..send 10 sms…..or 10 emails and receive great news!!!! C’mon….you must be kidding me!!

Anyway, chain letters or chain songs are in themselves benign ……unless you attach any other sentiment to the same. Speaking of chain songs……I remember there was a fun chain song “There’s a hole in my bucket….Dear Lisa, Dear Lisa” …...first introduced to me by my mom…… a great song for journeys and long drives!! The song creates a loop which finally takes you to a place where you started in the first place. I found one such book which is really a part of “If you give….” Series by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond. Today, I read the first in the series “If you give a mouse a cookie”. The other books are ‘If you give a moose a muffin’ and “If you give a pig a pancake”. ‘

If you give a mouse a cookie’ is a delightful tale on the consequences of giving a mouse a cookie to nibble on…..the chain of events leading back to the first one. Such havoc created by one simple cookie!!! I had Abhay guessing at every turn as to what the little mouse is up to after having the cookie!! Make sure to read this book after dinner/lunch…….as we all know what happens after you read this book to your little cookie monster!!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Most wondeful time of the year!!

For people eagerly awaiting Christmas to indulge in its festive spirit and for people waiting for all this holiday mania to be over so that life goes back to being normal….. as the song goes “ Most wonderful time of the year” is finally here!!! Being a universal festival for people here, Christmas also means a complete shutdown…..everything from grocery stores to restaurants are closed for the day. So it means you have a holiday on hand with nowhere to go!! This sort of complete closure is unusual in India as we are a country of multiple festivals…….if one is closed for Diwali, the next door shop has its turn during Id!!

Today I read the book “ Jingle Bells” by Iza Trapani which is more akin to ‘Around the world Christmas’ book letting us into the Christmas traditions in different countries. Abhay liked seeing the Mexican Pinata, Swedish Gnomes and Filipino star-shaped lanterns that represent Christmas festivities in different parts of the globe.

I was curious to find out how this day is observed here in the US and wanted a book that covers it all and I found a vintage one… "The Sweet Smell of Christmas” by Patricia Scarry. This book that I read to Abhay was a scratch and sniff version with six different smells of Christmas……and believe me… love to sniff the essence of apple pie, pine tree, candy cane, gingerbread cookie and the best of all hot chocolate, all of these being the time tested Christmas traditions followed in the US. We attempted at some of these …of course using the ‘ready to use’ packages ( something we’ve mastered in the US, I guess). I bought some pre-baked ginger bread cookies with a fully equipped icing tube and embellishments that Abhay and I worked on. I tried my hand at Apple crumb pie which I thought turned out fine but Abhay’s final verdict was otherwise. We also had an improvised in-house Santa come in with gifts for Abhay…..Ho Ho Ho!!!!

Merry Christmas to one and all!!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Night before Christmas - Santa at home!

As most people living here in the US know, the frenetic holiday rush is at its peak today being the day before Christmas. Like most Indian immigrants, I am not traditionally into celebrating Christmas except for the seasonal trappings like Christmas tree, hanging stockings by the fireplace and wrapping gifts for kids. So the downside of this season being heavy traffic in strip malls, difficulty finding parking, malls getting suffocating, serpentine queues at check-out counters!!! Remember the song It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” ……I’d rather be singing…. …..“ It’s beginning to look a lot like …India” !! Well…….it only goes to show festival frenzy is the same everywhere!

The day before Christmas or the day before any popular festival for that matter is a day of heightened excitement and anticipation and in some ways better than the day of the festival itself!! For kids celebrating Christmas, it’s seems like the longest day of the year as 24 hours seem like a lifetime of waiting. Since it’s the day before Christmas ….…I cannot do without reading “The Night before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore and illustrated by Tasha Tudor. A Christmas Eve classic on Saint Nicholas, better known as Santa Claus who comes dashing through the snow on a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer and slides down the chimney to fill up the stockings with goodies for everyone…..when “not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”! We grew up with Santa stories too….but the “chimney” part didn’t really seem to fit in as most houses in India don’t have one.

One book on what to expect the night before Christmas is “ The Polar Express” written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. The Pyjama clad children get a dream ride of their life on the Polar Express taking them to the North Pole where they meet Santa and his elves. Abhay was more fascinated to hear about the train journey than the destination it pulled into….Santa’s workshop. Even when we took him for a photo op. with Santa in a local mall…..he wasn’t as eager as the other kids. It seemed as if it was more for his mom than for himself. Not to mention….my husband agrees!!! Well....I am after all …reliving my childhood!!!:-)