Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Who am I ?

After a gap of three years, we’ve come back to live in a full house and as Abhay is fascinated by how people are connected, he couldn’t have asked for more! In fact, he is obsessed with relations and family patterns to the point that it gets embarrassing when he asks long widowed grannies where their husbands are or newlyweds if they’ve had kids yet! He is quick to notice the different roles people play- his paternal grandmother is his father’s mother who in turn is my mother-in- law; His great grandmother is his father’s grandmother who in turn is his grandmother’s mother- in- law! (When I put it this way…it certainly sounds confusing right?)This led him to the conclusion that his mother will be mother-in-law to his wife!! As it is, it took me a while to get comfortable with the idea of being a mom, even after I became a mom and here I find my son already setting the stage for the next role!

After this kind of deduction, I couldn’t let matters be….I looked for a book to explain the different identities he needs to be concerned with. “Who am I” by Sakshi Jain is a bilingual book that highlights different identities and roles a boy or a girl plays in the world, at home and the social set up– as a human being amongst all living creatures, as a child amongst humans, as a son, in case of a boy, as a grandson, as a brother to his sister, as a friend to his pal and finally as a student in the outside world! Though not a story, it conveys the message pure and simple with appropriate illustrations. Im not sure if Abhay got the inner meaning that the author tries to bring out when the book begins from the front and the back with a boy and a girl respectively, displaying their differences as you turn the page only to narrow down as they converge in the center of the book. So a son, grandson, friend and a student – That’s all you need to worry about, I told Abhay! To which my futuristic five year old….asked me “Amma, you will be a grandmother to my son, right?”!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Playing Fair!

How do I get my five year old to be a sport? How do I convince him that winning is not everything? How do I teach him to play fair and cope with the disappointment of losing? Any board game that we embark on almost always ends prematurely as either Abhay can’t take a fall or I lose my temper over his immaturity! So Abhay prefers playing all his board games from Candy Land to Tumbling monkeys with his 94 year old great-granny!!! Why? Because it means he does not have to stick to the rules of the game and instead can bend his way to victory! So in a game of Snakes and Ladders, he can climb up the snake and make his nonagenarian opponent step down the ladder; or choose to act only on beneficial picture cards in Candy land, or make up non- existent words in a game of GNU! This is what happens when the oldest in the house plays with the youngest!! Desperately need same age playmates who are just as competitive and cantankerous  as my five year old!

So in an attempt to get him to understand the rules of fairplay, I read Charlie and Lola’s “I’ve won, No I’ve won, No I’ve Won” by Lauren Child. Like any other Charlie and Lola story, this one is narrated from the perspective of big brother Charlie.  Charlie says that his younger sister Lola always wants to win at everything, without any exception! Charlie tries to pick a game at which he thinks he is a better player, like a game of spoons, or a game of cards, or a game of snakes and ladders, but Lola always manages to declare herself a winner, either by cheating, or by her absurd logic, or by simply altering the rules of the game!!! She turns a deaf ear to Charlie’s big brotherly advice that “You don’t have to win all the time”! SO finally Charlie thinks of a game that his little sister Lola cannot possibly win -   a race around the bendy tree, then swing on two big swings and finally down on the big slide. When Lola hesitates as she has never been on the big slide, Charlie challenges her to it and the race begins. Charlie is way ahead of Lola and when it is obvious that Charlie is winning and nearing the finish line, it appears that his little sister needs help sliding down the giant slide! Being the big brother, he retraces his steps and gets his sister down the slide. As both of them reach the ground at the same time, Charlie speeds past Lola to reach the finish line and screams out “I won, I won” when he remembers his father’s advice that he must give Lola a chance as she is younger. As he checks on Lola, it turns out that she had a lot of fun, even though she didn’t win! When Charlie is surprised, it is Lola’s turn to counter him with “You don’t have to win all the time, Charlie”! So with regard to Abhay, did the message sink in? We’ll have to wait to see if I won this time!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving memories!

It’s the Thanksgiving weekend in the US and Canada and though just a regular weekend in India, I can’t help but get nostalgic about this American Harvest holiday and the associated events like Black Friday – when you can literally shop till you drop!! Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November every year and is historically a celebration of the year’s harvest. Like any other festival, this one too calls for a feast and the centerpiece being a large roasted turkey, with cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy……not very appetizing for vegetarians like me!J Anyway, for non-American residents like us, Thanksgiving was a time to party, travel and shop!  Thanksgiving also means the onset of cold hard winter that is of course well compensated by the holiday season that lasts until the end of the year. In Bangalore, I happen to notice the traditional American holiday featured in many local newspapers and even on a couple of radio shows! In fact the Hippo campus in Bangalore has a special thanksgiving themed event meant for kids. Coming to think of it, it should hardly be a surprise as every fourth person in Bangalore has probably lived in the US at some point of time in their lives….so now almost all American holidays have been Bangalored!!!

Last year at Thanksgiving
In keeping with the same spirit, today I read “The First Thanksgiving” by Linda Hayward and illustrated by James Watling, a Level 3 in Step into Reading series of Early Readers. Being a little too advanced for Abhay,  I read this book like any other picture book. This book is about the First Thanksgiving dinner held by the Pilgrims who sailed to the US aboard their ship named “Mayflower”. It brings to light the challenges and difficulties faced by the Pilgrims in the new land. Added to that was the constant fear of attack by the native Indians, who were in fact equally apprehensive of the new settlers. The first winter takes a toll on the Pilgrim community with many losing their lives due to extreme temperatures, starvation, and strange diseases. It is only when the weather gets warmer, things brighten up and they befriend the native Indians with whose help they manage to build their houses, cultivate the lands, grow food and finally harvest their crop around November that year. Feeling extremely thankful, they decide to have feast and invite their Indian friends who are more than eager to attend. The feast begins with a prayer of thanks and lasts for three whole days and that is the origin of Thanksgiving.  This book definitely makes an interesting read not only for kids but also adults who are fascinated by history! To all our friends in the US and those who celebrate it here – Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Parks and Peak hour traffic!

It has now been three months since we moved back to Bangalore and though we’ve been doing pretty well on the transition front, there are still some issues that we seem to have an issue with! Patience is indeed a virtue and you definitely need lots and of lots of it, when living in Bangalore. Though we’ve been doing our best in trying to tolerate the otherwise intolerable, yet there are times we just can’t help sounding like “US returned” – something we’ve been consciously trying to avoid! For instance, our internet was down for the whole of last week (which is the reason for my absence on onestoryaday) and there was nothing we could do but wait; Traffic on the streets has been my sole problem ever since we’ve moved to Bangalore and l continues to be so even after three months! Walking on the non existant sidewalk is a nightmare and walking with a fiercely independent five-year old totally oblivious to the dangers lurking on the streets is a catastrophe waiting to happen! Anyway, though the weather has been ideal for outdoor play, I haven’t been able to take Abhay to the park very often as I probably should, partly, because the parks don’t even seem half as inviting as the ones in Portland and partly because jostling through the evening traffic is the last thing we want to do when heading to play! Though it is a too little early to say, in just three months of summer in Portland, we’ve gone to the park more number of times than we probably will in one whole year in Bangalore!!!

So as if to motivate myself, I got the book “Pam had a Map” by Francie Alexander and illustrated by Ken Spengler, a Scholastic Early Reader. Highly recommended for the preschoolers working on their short “a” sounds and blends, this is about Sam, his sister Pam and his dad. Sam has a map that has directions to the park. SO he sets out with Pam and his dad wearing a cap. But Pam who has a jar of jam, grabs the map and the map now has jam! So now they are faced with the prospect of trying to locate the park with the help of a jam smeared map and when they do, Sam and Dad have fun playing ball at the park and Pam has her fun too – she naps happily in the park! Not much of a story, but was glad that it helped my early reader nap while I tried to map the parks in the vicinity!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Children's day Costumes!

November 14th is celebrated as Children's day in India. Unlike other Appreciation days like Mother's day or Grandparents day,this one owes its origin in India, commemorative of the birth anniversary of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was known to have loved kids. Im sure those who've grown up in India can relate to this day as there being no class in school and instead a host of cultural and competitive events held amongst the children, for the children and performed mainly by the children! When we graduated from school to go to college, we'd often shy away from even ackowledging this day, or run the risk of being deemed "children"! As a young adult, this day is as uneventful as any other day except to feel a little nostalgic of the days of that were! As a parent, children's day means business - getting your children ready for children's day is no child's play!  In our case, it was time for hunt for costumes for Abhay's fancy dress, and this is when we missed the good old Target or Party city that would have been a sure stop, had we been in the US. But  thanks to our regularity in celebrating Halloween during  the last three years that we were in the US, we could breathe easy for Abhay's first children's day event ever! I know I will not be that lucky next year....but let's cross the bridge when we come to it!

Anyway, since Abhay is all set to wear his second favorite "Pirate Prince" costume (the first being Thomas)  that he had worn for Halloween 2010, I read "Costumes' a Curious George adventure written by Cathrine Hapka as an early reader adaptation of Margret and H.A. Rey's story. One of the 12 stories in the "Curious about Phonics" series, this one does not expect too much from the emergent reader; Being Children's day, I didnt want to hound Abhay with complex words that are phonetically tough to decipher. Anyway, Curious George is all set to go to a costume party and cannot figure out what to wear. As he opens his chest, he comes across some costumes  to be too small, some too huge, and some not the right color or some others too spooky. But finally, he finds a costume that looks too good to be true - a super cowboy costume, Yee-haw! So for all you parents, whether  on the look out for the perfect costume or not - celebrate the presence of those who made us parents - our kids - Happy Children's day!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The boy who drew .....

With Abhay's old writing desk back in place, nothing can stop him from doing what he loves doing which is to draw and drawing what he loves drawing, which off late has been houses. Each of his drawing is no different from the other except that one probably has two houses and the other has three houses!:-)Not very long ago he was into drawing trains, trains and more trains! In fact, his 'Happy Diwali' card too had trains, only those trains had diyas(lamps) on the windows! Now all his artistic tendencies seem to have transitioned from transport to dwellings and Im not sure what to expect next! Of course, as any parent, Im more than happy that he has found a way to engage himself in a seemingly constructive activity, but a whole stack of drawing sheets with nothing but houses or trains is a little too much for even the most appreciative parent on the earth!

Anyway, as soon as I saw this book on the book shelf of a bookstore, I knew I had to pick it up. "The boy who drew cats" by Anushka Ravishankar and Christine Kastl is a Japanese folk tale about a boy who drew only cats, nothing but cats! Instead of helping his parents with farming, he drew cats on the fields! As his father felt that he was not cut out for farming, he took him to a temple to study under a priest. But at the temple too, all he did was draw cats; When asked to write a word, he drew cats, when asked to do a sum, he drew cats; He drew cats even on the rice paper screens of the temple! So his head priest decided that priesthood was not his cup of tea and lets him go with a piece of advice! So he leaves the temple and sets out to find his true calling. As you read on, the story reveals that ultimately his numerous drawings of cats help him establish himself as a great artist who is always known as the boy who draws cats! Although this story was a little above Abhay's level of understanding, he understood one thing- this main continued to draw cats even when he grew up! So when I asked if he'll continue to draw houses even after he grows up, he said "No I'll draw other things" and when asked what those things were , he cooly replied "Trains"!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bugged by Bugs!

With his long lost toys back, Abhay finds no reason to leave his room except when he has unwelcome guests and when they arrive - all hell breaks loose at home! Its not only his room, they seem to be everywhere! Wherever Abhay goes, they find him, without exception - at home, on our street, at our neighbor's house, at the playground or a park, in the shop and even in the airconditioned environs of a mall! Abhay cant seem to understand why his American bred skin is their favorite  and neither can we!  They not only distract my five year old, but scare the hell out of him, they torment him and then suck his blood! You guessed it right - Im talking about the ubquitous Indian mosquito.  You may close all the windows after dark, literally shut the door on your visitors, clothe your little one from had to toe, hunt them down  using various devices, but just one is enough to ruin your good night's sleep! :-)

Anyway, its not only mosquitoes, Abhay is petrified of commonly found bugs like flies, ants and all kinds of insects! Recently I took him to an outdoor story session in the evening and Abhay was the only boy who seem to be bothered by the insects flying around when the other kids didnt even seem to notice them. So in an attempt to get him fascinated by the bug's world, today I read "I like Bugs" by Margret Wise Brown and illustrated by G.Brian Karas, a Mile 1 book in the Road to Reading series. A little boy declares that he likes bugs, all kinds of bugs black bugs, green bugs, mean bugs, bad bugs, bug in a rug, bug in the grass, fat bugs, round bugs and shiny bugs. Bugs- however they are, wherever they are - he is hardly bugged by them! Not much of a story, but one of the few early readers that is actually meant for an early reader. With short vowel sounds and picture clues,this book is a good way to get your emergent reader to perfect his or her alphabet sounds. I asked Abhay if he now finds bugs interesting to which he turned dead serious and proclaimed  "Im okay with ants but no mosquitoes"!

Monday, November 7, 2011

We're Home!


Our shipment from the US arrived yesterday and with that we’ve closed the final chapter of our move across seven seas! Well…what can I say….after over three months of wait, it was an emotional reunion with all our belongings that were a part of our day to day lives for three years – the french press we used for coffee every morning; our flatscreen TV, the value of which we realised after we got back to watching a standard definition TV, our travel souvenirs that were a common sight displayed in our living room, Abhay’s red bike and its accompanying music that we gladly missed and of course his wooden train tracks that resulted in his room being in a state of perpetual clutter …they are all back!:-) I must admit that in the last three months, there were times we wondered if it was worth shipping our belongings at all, considering that we had grown quite comfortable with the existing stuff in our Bangalore home and out of sight was truly out of mind! Added to that was the space constraint we faced as we already had a fully furnished set-up in Bangalore and weren’t sure if we could accommodate those eighteen boxes that just three months ago, we felt we couldn’t do without. But all our doubts vanished as we began unpacking one by one, all the items we had associated with what used to be our home and to be using them again in a new setting, truly makes it our home sweet home!!

Anyway, we shipped our belongings from the US through Universal Relocations and I must say that we had all our boxes, including our used electronic goods safely delivered to our door step. Abhay was really glad to be reunited with all his toys  and for the first time in three months, he didn’t leave his room the entire day today!:-)Today I read “Where is Gola’s home? by Chitra Soundar and illustrated by Priya Kuriyan. Gola, the yak is upset that yaks don’t have a home like everyone else. So his friend Muri, the eagle shows him around different regions in search of his supposed home. Muri first takes him to the the sea where Gola finds the water too salty and then to the river where the mud sticks to his feet and then the desert which he finds too hot and finally to the forest where he gets bitten by insects. Fed up with his fasctidiouness, Muri gives up when Gola discovers a road leading to the Himalayas. Muri stares at him in disbelief as he climbs up the path to the snow capped ranges. As the air gets cold, his thick fur keeps him warm, and he even finds food and water amidst the snow when he soon realises that he has finally found his home! Similarly, I can see that amidst all his old toys, my little Gola feels he is finally home!:-)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Going to a wedding!

We are all heading to Mangalore tonight to attend the wedding of my close cousin. Weddings mean different things to different people. For kids, weddings mean a chance to legitimately cut school (something Abhay is also excited about) unlimited supply of food, uninterrupted masti (fun) with cousins and a chance to forge new friendships that are soon forgotten once the wedding is over. The excitement probably peaks for the youth (especially for girls) when weddings are all about clothes, accessories, make-up and the perfect look! Of course, not to forget ….your own wedding which breezes past, leaving you with a blurred memory of the specific details that only seem to be captured by the camera! But your appetite for weddings completely dissipates as you enter a new phase of life – motherhood. My heart goes out to new moms who have weddings coming up, that can’t be missed! All of a sudden, your priorities undergo a sea change! It’s no longer about the events lined up, or meeting relatives, or the clothes and make-up but about the cleanliness and privacy of the guest rooms, availability of safe drinking water, hoping for good weather ( in our case, no rain!), company of other kids the same age as your little one and most importantly kid friendly food!:-)  

Anyway, since Abhay has never attended weddings like these before, I thought he needs a little prep for the daunting task ahead of me! I found “Going to a Wedding” by Rukmini Banerji and illustrated by Santosh Pujari, a Read India publication. I expected the book to be more about the experience of attending the wedding from a child’s perspective but instead, the book is more about the journey preceding the wedding. Anyway, a little girl is excited to be heading to her village for her uncle’s wedding along with her parents and her brother. That’s not all, they are joined by her grandfather and grandmother, uncle and aunt. As they reach the railway station, typically both the kids are hungry for food and typically their mom asks them to wait until they get on the train( Even Abhay noticed the same!). When the train finally arrives, they discover their groom-to-be uncle missing! So the confusion ensues as they try are about to board the train – a quintessential story of every Indian family heading for a wedding.....including our own!:-)