Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lunch Box challenge!

Ever since Abhay started after-school day care, my biggest concern has been packing his lunch! If getting your little one to relish piping hot meals at home is a challenge, then having him  polish off his lunch box is an extreme version of the said challenge! Needless to say, Abhay is not exactly thrilled at the prospect of eating out of a box packed in the morning. So I’m still in the painful process of figuring out what clicks and what doesn’t! Besides, I have to work my way through several cooking challenges that in fact closely resembles a Master chef contest -  Abhay’s lunch should neither be spicy nor bland, neither sticky nor dry, neither mushy nor hard, neither contain too many vegetables nor made plain and finally not-to-forget perfectly fermented curd or curd rice!!! To top this, I have bear in mind the nutrition quotient of the meal!  With such high standards to meet, can you blame me for being on an obsessive prowl for lunch box ideas all over the internet …… so here's message to  all you food bloggers…. HELP!!!

 So today, I read about a girl whose aversion against her lunch could well be Abhay’s story! “Samira’s awful lunch” by Bharati Jagannathan and Preeti Krishnamurthy throws light on how to tackle picky eaters who treat lunch boxes as mere samples rather than full meals! Samira,  (whose mother I sincerely pity) cannot appreciate what her mother packs for lunch – noodles remind her of worms; upma feels like wet sand and idlis taste like mud and not surprisingly, she does not like the day's  lunch - parathas and brinjal curry! Determined not eat it, she closes her lunch box and heads out for a stroll in the school grounds when she meets a row of ants who empathize with her and decide to offer her their lunch – a cockroach wing! Disgusted, she runs into the garden when she meets a butterfly who agrees that vegetables are boring and in turn encourages her to drink the nectar off the flower! So Samira meets all her animal friends from the crow to the cow who seem more than willing to share their lunch with her. But compared to the half-eaten mouse offered by the crow, or the barley-seed lunch of the sparrow, or a cow’s meal of grass and hibiscus bush, Samira runs to open her lunch box to find parathas with brinjal to be the most delicious lunch she’s ever had!!! So a good read to help turn your little one's lunch box from awful to awesome!:-)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Heavy duty trucks at work!

Like most boys, Abhay too is fascinated by any construction work, especially when the work involves huge earth movers and excavators. In fact, there’s one happening right across my parent’s apartment and Abhay’s favorite pastime at his grand-parents’ house now, is to gawk at the giant sized crane and backhoe, while admiring the construction crew who work those machines.  My mother who is adept at weaving stories around Abhay’s favorite themes (like race cars, buses, trucks) has now graduated into making up stories with construction vehicles as central characters and Abhay is the protagonist calling the shots at the construction site, in Bob-the builder style! Similarly, we have a house being built opposite ours and Abhay couldn’t have asked for anything else! Since in the US, one doesn’t get to see a house built from the ground up, as often as in India, we too had forgotten what it feels like to have huge piles of sand, cement and bricks unloaded literally in front of our doorstep!  While we adults consider any construction work as nuisance, children don’t see it that way!!! They can’t be bothered by the inconvenience caused, or the emanating noise and the dust; instead all they see are mighty machines at work! May be if we see the world through their eyes, we wouldn’t have that many complaints! J

Anyway, making up stories of rivalry between cement mixers and excavators is something only Abhay’s grandma can do, I am a traditionalist – I look to books! So today I read “Heavy Duty Trucks” by Joyce Milton and illustrated by Richard Courtney. Since it was a Level 3 Early Reader, I read it more like a picture book. This book makes an interesting read to your little truck lover, as it has him wonder what would it be like to drive a big truck. In fact, this book figures as a mini-encyclopedia of trucks – describing different kinds of trucks, their different names, their various features, how they are operated, and in what circumstances they serve best, so on and so forth. From trailer trucks and auto haulers to tractors and corn planters, from street sweepers and garbage trucks, to bulldozers and back hoes – it has everything your little truck lover wants to know about heavy duty trucks!  You read this to him and don’t blame me, if he says he wants to grow up to be a truck driver! J

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An evening well spent!

Over the weekend, I met up with some of my school friends, whom I happen to see after almost 17 years….and as I write this I still can’t believe it’s been that long since I passed out of school! It was a nostalgic evening indeed – a time to recollect and relive those bittersweet moments of the good old school days. As we tried to remember how we were back then, in our green and cream uniforms, wondering who was in which section, recalling the names of our favorite and not-so-favorite teachers, revisiting those moments of mischief and banter inside and outside class, and while harking back to the age of adolescence and innocence, we were also excited to reconnect with each other, all over we never left! Though it was a reunion of just over 11 of us from the batch, it felt like we had the entire class of ’95 with us…..we remembered each and every one of you who couldn’t make it this time! For the ones, who made it happen, Three Cheers to the first Reunion of MIHS-95 and here’s wishing many more to come!!!!!

I took the liberty to post a couple of pictures on my blog considering we are all over Facebook!

 While I was catching up with my old friends, I had my husband take care of my son, and so had many of my friends. The father-son duo had the whole evening to themselves and I must say, they didn’t miss the mommy at all!!! So…is that a good thing or a bad thing? Hmmm….you can’t have the cake and eat it too! Right? Anyway, just like Abhay, today we read about a girl who likes to shop with her daddy! “I Shop with my Daddya level 1 Scholastic Reader, by Grace Maccarone and Denise Brunkus. A little girl is excited to drive to the store with her daddy, where they pull a cart and shop for groceries and vegetables when she eyes a packet of cookies.  (we’ve all been there, dealt and still dealing with that…right?) Her father asks her to put it away when they head to the bakery section and she picks a chocolate treat to which her dad refuses to  give in ( Not bad!) As they complete their shopping and it’s time to go home, the little girl makes a last ditch effort to extract some goodies from her dad and both of them make one more stop before they return home -  the ice cream counter! No wonder the kids love to go shopping with daddy! Similarly, when Abhay and daddy came to pick me up after their jaunt, he had a new toy to flaunt! So Abhay for one…is all for reunions….and so am I!!!:-)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Uh Oh!.....Look what I am going to do!

I have been frequently asked by many as to how do I manage to pick a book ideally suited to the situation discussed. The truth is I don’t always go looking for the perfect book. Of course, I try to find books associated with the different events and experiences Abhay goes through or may go through in the future. But it is also true that as any parent, I do pick up books in random and go “Hey…this is so much like the situation at home!” Similarly, there have been times when I have been just lucky to find the right books at the right time – like the book on washing hands..  That said, there have also been times when I wasn’t so lucky and had to make do with the available titles, even if I would have preferred to read something more appropriate to the situation. For instance, I looked everywhere for a specific title on daycare but found none as there were no Indian publications on the said subject and the foreign publications were not available. So I had to settle for one on schoolToday’s book is something I picked up while aimlessly browsing through the children’s books section of the library, though it didn’t relate to any particular context/situation in our lives. But Abhay liked the book so much that he decided to imitate the mischief in the book and provide a future context to the story!

Uh Oh! Harry and his bucket full of Dinosaurs is a step 1 early reader written by R.Schuyler Hooke and illustrated by Art Mawhinney. Little Harry is seen holding mom’s cup and Uh Oh! he accidentally breaks the cup. He first thinks of hiding the cup from his mom, but then decides to fix it with the help of his Dinosaur friends from Dino World. He jumps into his bucket full of dinosaurs and is transported into Dino World where he glues the pieces back to form a cup, only to realize that it leaks. He then heads home to find his old cup and repaints it to make his mom a new cup. Just then, his mom arrives and not only forgives his mistake but loves her new cup! So inspired from little Harry, Abhay too thinks breaking my cup is an exciting proposition! So ever since we’ve read the book, I have been safeguarding my favorite coffee cup from being shattered into pieces as a re-enactment of Harry and his Bucket full of dinosaurs!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Busy day at School!

Abhay started day care from yesterday and though it was him who was being sent to after-school care, I was going through ‘separation anxiety’! Since Abhay’s school is only for half a day and I plan to get back to work soon, I decided to enrol him into an after school program. Of course, he can always come back straight home to his grandparents (a Godsend support structure for any working mom), but I didn’t see anything wrong in having him spend his afternoons in a structured set up, in the same school where he spends his mornings!  Besides, this would also prep him for a full day school that he is scheduled to attend from the next academic year. Having said that, right before I dropped him off the school bus, I had second thoughts about whether to send him or have him come home in the afternoon like he used to for the last three years! Though it was conscious a decision on my part to send him anyways, I must admit that, afternoons are not the same without my baby at home! I hate to say it….but I do miss receiving him at the bus stop in the afternoon along with other pre-school moms, nagging him over finishing his lunch, cuddling up to him with a book just before his afternoon nap and watching him fall asleep in the light of the afternoon sun! As far as Abhay is concerned, since many of his classmates attend the same day care, he didn’t have any complaints. A part of me is relieved that he seemed to have got on well with the new arrangement, and another selfish part of me is sad to see his dependence on me decline!  As our kids grow up, it is important for us let them go and watch them fly ….which I now feel is easier said than done! :-)

Today being a busy day at school, I read “Busy School” by Melanie Joyce and illustrated by Sue King, a Ladybird publication. It is Cilla’s first day at school and she is experiences what is known as “first day nerves”! However, as soon as she enters her class, she feels reassured by her teacher Miss Miller who helps her settle into her new environment. Miss Miller helps her find a place next to Annie and Viv who both greet her cheerfully. As the day progresses, Cilla begins to feel at ease as they move from Math to playtime and then to story time, when Cilla feels uncomfortable in the presence of a noisy Freddie. But soon she and Freddie are friends and all’s well that ends well. This book features the highs and lows of Cilla’s first day at school - something I guess Abhay could easily relate to as it was his first day at daycare too.  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

This is the way we wash our hands!

Children often test your patience when it comes to doing their routine chores like brushing their teeth, finishing up food, putting away their toys, taking off their shoes and the list goes on. With Abhay – it is washing his hands after coming home which he stubbornly refuses to do throwing me into a tizzy, every time he gets home from school. As much as I want him to clean up the first thing after he returns home, Abhay is hell bent on doing everything but wash his hands! I admit I am little obsessive about washing hands ….(which I know has everyone comparing me to Lady Macbeth behind my back!) but hey…what’s wrong in wanting to stay clean…right? It is the same reason that whether or not my handbag has a wallet, it sure will have a hand sanitizer! In fact, when we left the US, I had got a year’s supply of travel size perfumed hand sanitizers and I’m already running out of stock! I’m even thinking of getting them shipped from the US through my friends or relatives visiting India! We even have a sanitizer placed at the front door to be used when heading out and when heading back in, much to the amusement of my in-laws who consider it all too American for our Indian household! So as soon as Abhay puts on his shoes to go out, or leaves the playground after play or is ready to eat his dosa at a restaurant – I have my favorite weapon ready! That said, it is also true that no matter how many times I make him wash his hands again and again and again….he still catches cold as often as he washes his hands!

I went looking for a book that teaches Abhay on the importance of staying clean and look what I found “I Don’t Want to Wash my Hands a Little Princess story by Tony Ross, conveying the message as directly as possible! Little Princess loves playing in sand and getting her hands dirty. As she tiptoes into the kitchen hungry and looking for something to eat, her mother asks her to wash her hands before she touches the pastry. When she wants to know why, pat comes the reply that it’s because she has been playing outside. As she pets her dog and cat, she is asked to wash her hands again…..“why”? – because she has been playing with her pets. When she goes potty, her father asks her to wash her hands which irks the little princess as she claims to have washed her hands twice already!  Then she lets out an “acchoo” when her maid asks to wash her hands again…when the little princess declares that she is tired of washing her hands again and again and again! (That sounds so much like Abhay!) Her maid then explains the logic behind washing one’s hands – to wash away the germs that can get into the food and then the tummy and can eventually make one ill. As the little princess realizes the importance of washing hands, she asks the maid serving cake if she in turn has washed her hands! As I tuck him into his bed, Abhay coughs into his hands and he smiles knowingly as he is well aware of what Im going to make him do next - wash his hands, of course!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Performance Pressure!

Some kids are born performers while some are born bathroom performers! Some love to hog the limelight while some love to stay away from it! Whether they love to entertain others or only themselves, one thing is for sure – you can’t force them to be what they don’t want to be – at least not when they are kids!:-) Abhay falls somewhere in between and my wanting him to sing or perform never coincides with his desire to show off! Though I have never been those moms who love to show off their kid’s talents, there have been times when I have hoped my  five year old obliges when someone asks him to sing a nursery rhyme. Instead, he pretends as if he has never heard Twinkle Twinkle Little Star! But when he is all alone playing with his legos, or laying his hot wheels tracks, he  just doesn’t stop singing!! Or his performances are reserved for his “circle” of friends, which sometimes excludes even his parents! I guess he is shy or gets conscious in the presence of others but is most comfortable when all by himself or is amidst his close family. Similarly, the other day, when asked to sing a song by a music teacher in whose class I had planned to enroll him, Abhay refused to even open his mouth! But when we got back home, he went straight up to his room and began to play while singing his own cover version of “Wanna be my chammak challo”!

Today we read about one such chameleon who has a mind of her own and cannot change colors like a chameleon is supposed to! “Colour Colour Kamini” by Radhika Chadha and pictures by Priya Kuriyan is another story revolving around Baby Bahadur and his friends. Kamini, the chameleon has a minor problem, she cannot perform her color changing trick in front of her teacher Kapila aunty whereas she manages to do just fine when all alone or with her best friend Bahadur. So in the Basic Colors class, when all the students are instructed to match the color of a tree branch, Kamini gets excited and goes pink, indigo, red, purple and orange, as Kapila aunty stands horrified at Kamini’s mutli-color flashing predicament! Kamini cannot stand the prospect of falling behind her other classmates as they move on to the next class - spots and stripes and seeks the help of Baby Bahadur.  Pondering over how to help his friend, Baby Bahadur goes home to find his Anna and Akka (brother and sister) being pulled up by Kapila aunty for stomping around the banana patch where the chameleons were color matching. As it turned out that Anna and Akka could not spot the color changing chameleons, Bahadur hits upon an idea – to use Colour Colour Kamini’s unique quality to warn the elephant teenagers of a chameleon class in progress. So it not only allows banana lovers a peaceful use of the banana patch but also helps Kamini stay close to her friends while keeping them safe from the meddlesome intruders! Needless to mention, any book from the Baby Bahadur series is a delight to read! Abhay has always been fascinated by the names of the characters; Last time it was Ritu the rabbit who had him fondly remember his friend from Portland and this time around it was Kabir, the chameleon who reminded him of my friend’s son.  Overall, a great read if you have a shy little one lurking around your house! J

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wheels on Bangalore's roads!

It’s been six months since we moved from the US and I still find the traffic in “Namma Bengaluru” mind boggling! In fact, Bangalore has been my Alma Mater when it comes to driving and I sincerely thought if I could drive in Bangalore, I could drive anywhere…..and this was true until I went to the US!  Driving on US roads is an experience by itself! It is all about observing rules, following lane discipline, stopping and yielding at intersections which meant I had to unlearn whatever I had learned on Bangalore’s roads. But once I started driving in the US, driving became much more than a necessity ….I started to enjoy it – the predictability of the roads, the rules and the drivers obeying the rules! But little did I know that at the same time, driving in the US would also disable my reflexes to drive on Indian roads! So its “dejavu” for me as I try to unlearn whatever I had learned in the US! So in place of lane discipline, you’ve got to find your own lane; Instead of yielding to pedestrians, they yield to you; Waiting for the traffic to clear while merging on to the main road is unheard of and frankly impractical, so the trick is to conquer the road inch by inch until the oncoming traffic has no choice but to grant you the right of way! At intersections, it’s not who stops first (as in a stop signs in the US)…it is who blinks first!  Finally, the ground rule if you plan to drive in Bangalore - “Just go with the flow!”J

Speaking of roads and traffic, today we revisited our old favorite Richard Scarry’sCars and Trucks and Things that go”. A wonderful book that features all kinds of vehicles one finds on roads and the detailed illustrations mirror the chaos on Bangalore’s roads. I guess this one is a classic that has been around for a long time and has even adults nostaligcally flip through its pages. This book is not only teeming with accurate representations of both commonly known and lesser known vehicles but also has toothbrush and toothpaste cars, ladybug size cars and alligator shaped convertibles sure to make your little one laugh! A must have for any car crazy boy who is fascinated by all what he sees on roads!

This month’s theme in Abhay school being transport,  both Abhay and me have been concenred with the different wheels that ply on our roads - but only one of us seems happy about it. Needless to say, its Abhay!  So another book that I had Abhay read is “Wheels” a Step 1 Ready to Read book by Annie Cobb and illustrated by Davy Jones. This book is all about wheels – train wheels, plane wheels, wheels in the rain, wheels at night (Fire Engine), wheels on the side (side wheel river boat), wheels you can ride (Ferris wheel), wheels you can steer, wheels in the store(cart wheels), band wheels and grand wheels ( a vintage carriage), low wheels (roller skates) and tow wheels – wheels, wheels and more wheels! So let us hope that I steer my car wheels through other cars’ wheels, bike wheels, bus wheels, truck wheels, autorickshaw wheels, cycle wheels …..and wheels, wheels and more wheels!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Peppa Pig's adventures!

It’s almost been six months since our move  back to India and of the three of us, Abhay is the one who least remembers Portland. Frankly, I don’t blame him as I guess he’s got the best deal of all three! :-) Being surrounded and cosseted by his doting paternal and maternal grandparents ……what more could a five year old want? Anyway, the only time he fondly recalls his Portland days is when he turns on the Television and can no longer watch his favorite shows on Nick Jr. or PBS kids! In fact, when we turned on the Television that we shipped from Portland for the first time, Abhay honestly expected to see “Wow Wow Wubbzy” and “Super Why” and instead had to make do with “Chota Bheem”! My apologies to Chota Bheem aficionados, but I find the storyline repetitive and devoid of any educative value. I’m not sure if many would agree but I feel that we lack good quality children’s programs that spark their imagination and promote social and thinking skills. I wish we had more programs that young kids can relate to, as opposed to the super hero stories that hardly seem relevant to their everyday lives.  So its not only Abhay, but Abhay’s mom too who misses Superwhy and Wow Wow Wubbzy! :-)

While in Portland, Abhay loved to watch the “Peppa Pig” series created by Neville Astley and Mark Baker about Peppa, a female pig who faces routine issues like sibling rivalry, reluctance to  share,   peer pressure and adjustment to school that any young girl or a boy may face in their day to day lives.  Since Peppa Pig is a British animated series,  I managed to find some of her stories in the British Council library in Bangalore and needless to say Abhay loves them. Today I read “Daddy Pig’s old chair”, a story revolving around Daddy Pig’s hoarding habit. Peppa’s school is holding a garage sale to raise funds for a new roof wherein everybody has to bring something to sell. Peppa and her family gather some of their old stuff to put up for sale. When mummy pig offers to put up Daddy Pig’s old squeaky chair for sale, Daddy pig is unsure and wants to retain the old junk. But when the school truck arrives, naughty mummy pig gives away the old chair and assures Peppa that Daddy will never notice. At the school jumble sale, when everyone is busy looking at each other’s donations, Daddy Pig is excited to show his family what he’s bought. No prizes for guessing what that might be – his old chair which he believes to be a perfect match to his chair at home! As always, it’s Daddy Pig’s silly little ways that bring a smile on your little one’s face…..and no wonder Abhay likes him so much….reminds him of his daddy who always makes him laugh! :-)

Monday, January 2, 2012

I know a lot of things!

Another year has gone by and here we are at the threshold of a brand new year – 2012. With the passing of each year, we become older, wiser, sometimes smarter and at times even cynical but nevertheless more experienced than we were before – in other words you now know a lot more than you knew before! For instance, back in January 2011, I didn’t know that in a year’s time, I’d be writing this blog post from Bangalore! Neither did my son know how much fun it actually is to be living with grandparents and nor did I know how relieved we would feel after moving back to our hometown!  Each year brings in new possibilities, new goals, new dreams, new challenges, and new perspectives – something new for everyone to learn, unlearn and relearn!  

Today I read a book titled “I know a lot of things”, which by the way, I didn’t know was a classic by Ann & Paul Rand. This book is also famous for the colorful and playful artwork by the legendary graphic designer Paul Rand. Narrated in witty and rhyming verses, this book brilliantly captures the excitement of a child as he discovers the world around him. You cant help but smile as a little boy confidently recounts all what he knows  - he knows that when he looks at the mirror, he sees himself and that a dog goes bowwow and that is how they talk and  he knows that the world is wide and the star is faraway and the moon is a light for the night and the sun is round as a bun and very bright  and that a book needs pages and a cake takes ages to bake! Finally, the icing on the cake is when he says “I know such a lot of things, but as I grow, I know I’ll know much more”! Abhay quite liked this book and found certain parts hilarious. He even began rattling out all the things he knew! So here’s hoping everyone knows much more this year than the year before. Happy New Year !