Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Paper Play!

As a kid, I was never into arts or crafts and envied others who had a natural flair for it. In fact, I used to turn to my mom for all my craft projects in school. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the roles would switch and my son would expect the same from me! Abhay loves cutting, pasting, drawing and framing and other crafts activities and his favorite show on Television is Mister Maker, the arts and crafts show on Cbeebies. But he doesn’t stop with just watching the show, but wants to recreate the same or rather wants me to don the role of Mistress Maker of home!

Not sure if I can live up to his expectations, the least I can do is read “Paper Play” written by Mala Kumar and illustrated by Ruchi Shah, a level 2 Early Reader from Pratham publications. A sheet of paper flies in from the window into Manju’s room. Manju picks it up and tries to draw the sun on it. Not very pleased with her drawing, she crumples it up and throws it out of the window when it falls it on Wasim’s head who thinks it’s a ball and plays ‘catch’ with his sister Syeda. Syeda picks up the paper ball and sticks a pencil into it and pretends to lick it as a lollipop and then offers it to her friend Bittu. Bittu rolls up the paper lollipop and sings a song holding it as a mike! After Bittu’s scintillating performance of a film song into his paper mike,  Manju reclaims the crumpled sheet of paper and smoothens it and makes a paper boat which Bittu rides with Wasim, who then folds it up and cuts its corners into a semicircle. He then unfolds the sheet of paper with a circle in the center and asks his friends to pose for his paper camera. Finally, Anil comes in with his donkey and draws lines around the circle to resemble a sun – as originally intended by Manju! But the finishing touch is lent by Anil’s pet donkey who grabs the paper sun and gobbles it up with a burp! Abhay loved the story and I know what to expect as I get back from work tomorrow! So it’s not just a piece of paper – its paper play!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Just me and Sanna-ajji!

Today is my mom’s birthday, my mom who is now more known as Abhay’s“Sanna-ajji”(meaning the younger grandma). Abhay, who has always been grandpa’s little fella has now grown attached to his grandma too. In fact, I should say that grandpa has been unconditional (read blind) in supporting his grandson whereas grandma has been more practical, often chiding Abhay when he is wrong. What I mean is, when it comes to disciplining my five year old, I can count on Abhay’s grandma to side with me more than his grandpa and it’s not only me who has realized this distinction! Abhay knows whom to look for, when in trouble! At the same time, Abhay knows whom to look for when he wants a story time sans books! Sanna-ajji’s stories aren’t the run-of-the mill grandma’s moral stories you’d expect. But hers are more state-of-the-art, meant for five year old boys who love the fast and the furious -   stories revolving around race cars, regular cars, trucks, buses, sleeper coaches, trains, jets –  you name the mode of transport and there is a story on it! All of a sudden when Abhay declares his fascination for a certain type of transport for the first time,  you can be sure that his grandma has started a new series of stories! Despite a hectic eight hour work day, she is always all ears to Abhay’s stories and ever ready to regale him with hers! No wonder my five year old can’t wait for Thursdays and Fridays when he has his fifty-nine year old “Sanna-ajji” waiting to pick him up from his school bus! Happy Birthday to Sanna-ajji!

So today on the occasion of her birthday, I had Abhay’s grandma read “Just Grandma and me” by Mercer Mayer, part ofthe  little Critter series. Little Critter gets off the school bus to have his grandma plan a trip to the beach. On the beach, the wind is too strong to set up a beach umbrella and so they decide to fly a kite. Little Critter then buys some hotdogs for his grandma. As he walks up to his grandma, he drops them on the way only to wash them with sea water and offer the salted hotdogs to his grandma. Determined to do something nice for his grandma, he unearths some sea shells  but finds them full of crabs. His grandma helps him blow up his sea horse tube and takes him into water where he pretends to snorkel with grandma holding him afloat. Little Critter returns the gesture by digging a hole and covering up his grandma with sand and tickling her toes. Finally as they both head back home, grandma appears tired and Little Critter offers to watch for their stop while she rests, but instead it is Little Critter who is seen dozing off after a day trip with just grandma and him! So …how about a trip to the beach this summer…sanna-ajji?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Flap your wings......and let you go!

Parenting is all about loving and nurturing your little ones, prioritizing their interest over yours, providing them with the best you can and finally the toughest part, letting them go! Letting them go, while sounding lofty, is easier said than done! You need to let go not only when they are all grown up and want to break free, but the necessity of “letting go” arises even in the early days of parenting. When your infant just doesn’t want to nurse anymore, even though you are pretty much sure he is hungry, when your two year old insists on doing something on his own when you know he cannot, or your four year old does not want to pursue something you know he is good at, or your five year old refuses to do something that is a must for his well- being. To let go or not to let go – that was the question I battled with yesterday as I saw my son come home with his lunch box untouched to the extent of even the aluminum foil remaining tightly wrapped – that too for the 15th day in a row. Did I let go ? Well, let’s just say I let my anger get the better of me last evening, leaving me to stew in my own guilt, after that! While everyone talks about letting go of parental control, nobody ever talks about letting go of guilt!!! 

So in order to assuage my guilt, I turned to the known comfort of reading a book with my son, at bedtime. “Flap your wings” is a 1969 classic by P D Eastman figured on the Much Loved books of 2011 on Saffron Tree, one of my favorite children’s books blogs. So I had picked it up from Hippo campus days ago, only to forget about it as soon as it landed on my book shelf. As I randomly chose the same to be our bedtime book, little did I know that reading this book would be a therapeutic experience for me, and for the state that I was in! Mr and Mrs. Bird come home to find a big egg in their nest. Mrs. Bird squawks that the egg is too big to belong to them and it is surely not theirs. Mr. Bird observes that it doesn’t matter whose egg it is, since it is in their nest, they are to keep it warm. So Mr. and Mrs. Bird sit on it and keep it warm. One day, the egg cracks open and out comes, what is obviously a baby alligator. Having no clue as to the kind of creature it is, Mr. Bird proudly christens him “Junior” and proclaims that he is a beautiful baby. Mrs. Bird though appears unsure and expresses doubt as to whether this funny looking creature is their baby after all. But Mr.Bird declares that if he is in their nest, he most certainly is their baby and orders Mrs. Bird to bring some food for their hungry baby. The Bird parents bring worms, berries, cherries, butterflies, caterpillars, dragon flies, ladybug, centipedes, hour after hour and day after day. Whatever they bring, Junior never stops  eating and he never stops  growing. He grows bigger and bigger until he can no longer fit inside their tiny nest. So the Bird parents decide it’s time for their not-so-little one to fly out of their nest. So both of them try to teach him to fly and demonstrate how to jump into the air and flap his non-existent wings! So Junior jumps into the air and flapps his limbs hard but down he goes and falls into the water in a splash! And so both Junior and the Bird couple discover who he really is and where he belonga. So when Mrs. Bird concludes that Junior may not have been a bird at all, Mr. Bird reflects that it doesn’t matter at all, now that Junior is happy!  I can almost feel the author speaking to me, conveying a subtle message as to ‘let go of the small stuff’ and it doesn’t matter in the long run, as long as Abhay grows up to be a happy man!  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Abhay's colorful pencils

I’m not sure if the advantages of having a working mom outweigh the disadvantages, but like everything else – it has its pros and cons too (or at least I’d like to believe so!) We all know the cons – not being around all the time. For instance, I work on Saturdays whereas Saturdays are off for Abhay; Today was a holiday for Abhay for Maha Shivratri, but I had to work half day. Having been brought up by a working mom, I know that there are definite advantages of not having your mom around all the time. Of course, I didn’t realize it then…..but do value it now. When my mom was away at work, I took to reading and discovered the wonderful world of books. So when I had to spend my mid-term vacations alone at home, I didn’t feel lonely but had a book to keep me company. I can say the same for Abhay who  I see is always immersed in his drawing and coloring books, as I return home from work. So much so, that unless and until he has turned in three colorings/drawings in a day, he is not happy! Abhay was always into drawing/coloring and ever since I have begun work, he is ‘drawn’ to it even more! So…hopefully Abhay too will give me credit for his interest in art just like I credit my mom for my interest in reading!

I guess Abhay is not the only to be fascinated by crayons and there are many more who share his passion. Today we read about one such girl in “My Colourful Pencils” by Maasoumeh Ansarian and illustrated by Fatemah Fazel, a Level 2 Early Reader by Pratham publications. A little girl is cross that no one at home has the time to play with her. Her mom gets back from work and heads straight to the kitchen to fix dinner; Her dad gets home and relaxes with a newspaper in hand; Her brother returns home to lots of homework. Upset, she lies on the floor with eyes closed when suddenly something falls on her foot and when she opens her eyes, it is a green pencil who offers to play with her. Then one by one, blue, yellow and red pencils jump down from the table and all of them play a drawing game. The little girl is unsure at first but the color pencils reassure her and help her draw her mommy – green pencil draws mommy’s skirt, yellow pencil draws her blouse, brown pencil draws mommy’s long hair and finally green pencil gives the finishing touches. When the picture is done, the girl runs up to her mom to show the same. Her mom is astonished to see her daughter’s blossoming talent and hangs her picture by the kitchen cupboard. The girl feels encouraged to draw more and ends up making wonderful sketches of her father and brother.  When they both seem surprised and ask her how she managed to draw such beautiful pictures, she winks at her colorful pencils and says “The Colorful pencils and I did it” So Abhay - what did you and your colorful pencils draw today?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wont you smile....!


Once you’ve lived abroad, especially the US, you get accustomed to nodding or smiling at strangers; Wishing “Good morning” to a fellow jogger on your morning walk, or waving at a fellow driver who yields to you at an intersection or simply smiling at someone you’ve never met simply because you share a seat on the subway! It is not uncommon to  even strike a conversation with someone while waiting for the doctor, or waiting on your kids at the park or a swimming class, or waiting in line at a grocery store. Well, it’s a different matter that the conversation may last only for a couple of minutes or that it may be about something as inane as the weather or the kids in general. But it does leave you with a pleasant feeling, at the end of your short encounter. In fact, I hadn’t realized the power of a smile or a simple ‘hello” until we moved back to India – the land of grumpy faces! Leave alone smiling at strangers, folks here don’t even say a hello, even if you bump into them every day!!! Your eyes may meet every day as you drop off your respective kids to same bus stop or the same music class, or you live in the same community, or you visit the same grocery store – but its still a crime to smile until you've been formally introduced! :-)

Anyway, off late, I have noticed that Abhay is equally guilty of not warming up to other kids he meets. As soon as he sees someone his age in the park, his instinct is to cross his fingers meaning “two” ( You’ll know what I am talking about, if you have studied in Indian schools! For those of you who haven’t had the good fortune to go to an Indian school – it means he no longer wants to be friends!) So as soon as I learned about a book titled “Siri’s smile” by Amarendran R and illustrated by Bhakti Phatak, I immediately placed a request for it and was delighted to discover that it has become one of Abhay’s favorite books. Set in a rhyming prose, this is a charming little story with vibrant illustrations sure to everyone to ..well  smile…..from three year olds to thirty year olds alike. Siri, a curious little princess of Chennaipuri, is always asked to smile. One day, when no one is watching, she slips out of her palace and wanders into the garden. When she looks up and finds the sun shining in the sky, she asks "Smile Sun...wont you smile?"  But the sun replies that he can shine and burn but smile he cannot as he is hot! Disappointed, Siri then moves from monkeys to peacock, from the  moon to the fish…..asking all of them to smile but no one obliges. As she sits by the pond, she sees a little girl’s face in water and asks her to smile. To her delight, the little girl smiles back and as she Siri waves back, the girl in water waves back too and Siri is happy! From that day, nobody asks her to smile as Siri always has a smile on her face! So….smile Bangalore….Wont you smile?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Too busy for Valentine's day?

Today’s date bears momentous significance for the diehard romantics, the youth, radio stations, television networks,  cards and gifts stores, flower shops, restaurants and retail stores in general. At the same time, it’s just another day for many, with offices to attend and schools to go to. For me personally, it was a bit of both – an awareness of what the day means without any time to mull over it! Back in the US, Valentine’s Day was and still is a day to celebrate love – be it maternal love, paternal love, love of a child towards her parents and other family members, friendship, and basically any relationship defined by love. But in India, Valentine’s day has come to mean only romantic love, the celebration of which can sometimes be overshadowed with your little one down with a throat infection, your husband swamped with back-to-back conference calls and you are nervous about an important matter in court. All this leaves you with little time or energy to buy roses that suddenly cost 30 bucks a piece!

Anyway, leaving Abhay under the care of my in-laws, we did manage to eat out at a noisy restaurant that probably had the whole of Bangalore South dining in! Since there was nothing for Abhay to do this Valentine's day, I decided to read to him a book on love - the only kind he is most familiar least as of now! "Mama Do you Love me", by Barbara M Joose and Illustrated by Barbara Lavallee is a classic that Im surprised I havent read to my son till now. A little eskimo girl asks her mama if she loves her and how much and how long. When her mother claims that her love is more than that of a raven for his treasure  and that her love lasts until the stars turn to fish in the sky, the little girl wants to know more. She asks if her mother will still love her if she was careless ( drops the eggs she carries), or mischievous( puts salmon in her mom's clothes and footwear), or meddlesome (pours water into the lamp) or if she runs away and stays with the wolves or turns into an ox or a walrus or a polar bear and chases her mother into her tent? Her mother smiles as she replies that she may be sorry, surprised, or angry or scared - but underneath  it all, she would still be her little one, whom mama will always and forever love! Happy Valentine's day to everyone!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Circle of guilt!

When I was not working, every second mom I met was a working mother and now that I am working, every second mom I meet is a stay-at-home mom! I mean…..the grass is truly greener on the other side. I guess as women, there are no guilt free choices! When you opt out of work, you feel guilty for doing not justice to your education or your career aspirations; when you get back in circuit, you feel guilty about not being able to devote enough time to your little one – so guilt is your companion for life! In fact, ever since I’ve started work, I am yet to settle into a routine that allows me some time with Abhay. Of course, Abhay is not complaining as he is happy to have his paternal grandma pamper him on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and have his maternal grandma regal him with her stories on Thursday and Friday evenings! Even with this arrangement of shared babysitting, I can’t wait to get back home to my baby! I know that Abhay is in safe hands, but all said and done, it’s not me who is with him. But at the same time, I do enjoy my work and did feel relieved to find that not much has changed in since I left in 2008! J

Anyway, last morning I was a little harsh with Abhay as I was in a rush myself and could not afford to have him miss the bus or else I’d have to drop him myself ( as my husband was busy too). So after I saw him off, I couldn’t help but feel guilty about the way I had acted and the guilt seemed to haunt me the entire day at work. In fact, the guilt seemed more pronounced than usual as it wouldn’t be me receiving him as he got back in the evening! So at bedtime, I was comforted by a similar story of a mom in a hurry in “Don’t Forget I love you” by Miriam Moss and Anna Currey. When Billy wakes up in the morning, he begins to look for his soft toy ‘the rabbit” when his mom calls him for breakfast downstairs. Mom cant help getting impatient on seeing Billy’s tardy ways and asks him to hurry. But Billy being the ‘Abhay-type’, couldn’t care less and continues to play with his rabbit, and gets busy with dressing up rabbit instead of getting dressed himself. At last, much to mom’s relief, Billy manages to get ready and just when they are about to leave, he runs upstairs to have rabbit say good bye to his other toys. When they finally begin to walk to school, it starts to rain and Billy balancing rabbit and lunch box, drops his lunch. It’s clearly one of those mornings when everything seems to go  wrong. Billy’s angry mom gathers his lunch and grabs hold of his toy rabbit and leads the way. As it gets late for both Billy and his mom, they run the rest of the way to school. When Billy is dropped off to school, he is upset that his mom forgot to hand over rabbit and most importantly forgot to say “I love You”! Just when Billy starts to cry, missing his mom, the door flung open and in rushes his mom with rabbit in her hands that also give Billy his most awaited “I love you” hug!  So ….this book ends with a message that every mom wants to convey to her little one - even when mama is in a rush, don’t forget that she loves you very much! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Abhay's working mom!

I’m all set to resume work from tomorrow and I find myself both nervous and excited at the same time. It is with a mixed feeling that I put on my black coat again, not sure if I still have it in me and not certain if I’ll still enjoy practicing law again, after a gap of three and half years! These three years have taught me that there is much more to life than your career, there is much more to parenting than routine responsibilities like feeding your kid, bathing him and putting him to sleep, and there is so much more to see in the world, if you take the time off to see it!!! Having said that, I’d be lying if I say that I didn’t feel the urge to get out of home and drive into something that resembled a workspace as opposed to driving to a park or a grocery store with my son! I’d be lying if I say that I wasn't exactly thrilled at having to introduce myself as a “stay at home mom”! I’d be lying if I say that I didn’t feel insecure looking at the Facebook profiles of some of my working friends!:-) As I try to understand whether this urge to work is driven by my insecurity or a genuine desire for a calling of my own, I also realized that this is as much a big change for me as it is for Abhay. It means that Abhay will not have his mom pick him up as he gets off his school bus, or his mom take him to the music class or the park, or have his mom hound him for freshening up or finishing his milk….and now as I write this …I’m not sure if he’ll miss his mom at all!!

Anyway, I wanted Abhay to understand what his mom was up to and went looking for a book on working mothers. Considering that many moms juggle between work and kids today, I had expected to see quite a few books on the same subject but my search yielded dismal results. After a lot of legwork and with a little help from my friend Deepa (another working mom), I found “Pepper and Mama’s new job” from the situational story series centered on a puppy named Pepper. It’s mom’s first day at work and she has arranged for Pepper to be dropped off at Little Angels Daycare center after school. Pepper initially protests but realizes that he has no choice as he cannot be left alone at home. Visibly upset, Pepper asks his mom as to why she needs to work (good question!) Pepper’s mom explains that mama likes to work just as he likes to go school. Anyway, when in school, Pepper confides in his friend Jean about having been enrolled into the Little Angels day care, Jean looks excited. Jean admits that it is the same day care that she goes to after school and as Pepper discovers, so do many of his friends who all have moms working as teachers, banking officials, architects, etc. When Pepper’s mom picks him up, she discovers that he had a great time after all and even looked forward to spending time in the day care when his mama is at work. Here’s hoping Abhay has the same experience too when his mama goes to work tomorrow!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Days and Nights with Frog and Toad!

My favorite activity with my five year old is to read to him or have him read to me. I believe reading to one’s kids is as important an activity as taking them to a park.  So whenever we get invited to a kid’s birthday party, guess what we gift the birthday boy or the girl – books of course! Similarly, when we visit a house with kids, we are probably the only guests who arrive with books instead of chocolates! So you can imagine my delight when we received books as parting gifts as when we bid goodbye to our friends in Portland. One such book we enjoy reading is the Arnold Lobel’s classic “The Adventures of Frog and Toad”! Many thanks to Keshav and Gauri  and their mom for picking up such a wonderful gift for their friend Abhay!!

It’s been almost six months since we were first introduced to Frog and Toad and the two best friends continue to make regular appearances at our bedtime story time!  First published in the 1970s, Lobel’s stories seem as contemporary as ever. As you meet Frog and Toad and follow them through their various adventures and misadventures, you realize that your son isn’t the only one begging for more! With over four volumes of Frog and Toad stories to choose from, Abhay has many favorites. My personal favorite is titled “Cookies” from the volume “Frog and Toad Together” is a story you’d love to read to your kid with a sweet tooth!  Abhay’s favorite  is “Tomorrow” from “Days with Frog and Toad” and you’ll know why. In this story, Toad wakes up to a messy house waiting to be cleaned up. Instead Toad pulls the covers over his head and declares that he’ll do it tomorrow and decides to take life easy today! When Frog peeps in to find Toad’s pants and jacket lying on the floor, kitchen sink filled with dirty dishes, dust on the chairs and plants that need watering, Toad seems to have only one answer “I’ll do it tomorrow”! Then all of a sudden, he realizes that if he takes life easy today, then tomorrow will most certainly be a hard day…with all the chores piled up. So he is curious to know - if he picks up his pants and jackets from the floor today, he wont have to do it tomorrow ..right?  Frog assures him that he does not have to do it again tomorrow.  So Toad brightens up and decides to bring his house in order and finishes all his work one by one so that he can save tomorrow for something he really wants to do. When Frog asks him what that is, Toad goes back to bed, slips into his sheets and says “Tomorrow I’ll take life easy!” Now that we’ve read it again….I know my little Toad will wake up the next day and say “I don’t want to go to school….I want to take life easy today!”

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Morning Mania!

Once your kids start school, weekday mornings turn crazy! As it is, weekday mornings are a rush, but the added pressure of getting your little one ready just in time for the school bus leaves you exhausted even before you’ve begun your day! Of course, with schools situated at distances that you dread having to drive yourself, you cannot afford to have your kids miss the school bus! So mornings are always a struggle - when your threshold is running low and your little one launches a go-slow; when every minute counts as your tension mounts; when you don the role of a motivational speaker to get your little dreamer to hurry when you are in a hurry too! Mornings are no different in our house where the morning raaga played is a fusion of Abhay’s whining and my nagging…yelling…..pleading (in that same order!). Finally it feels as if the whole house heaves a sigh of relief as Abhay reaches his pick up in the nick of time to catch his school bus!  

So today we read about another family who might just miss the bus when it pulls up at their doorstep. “Catch the Bus” a Level 2 Early Reader Berenstain Bears story that doubles up as a Tell the time story. Its 6.59 AM and all is still at the Berenstain Bear’s tree house and Brother and Sister Bear are seen fast asleep in their room. At 7.00 AM as the alarm goes off, both the bear cubs decide to snooze on and are soon back to sleep. At 7.15 AM, the school bus starts off to pick up the cubs one by one. The school bus is on its way to pick up Brother and Sister who are  sound asleep in their beds. At 7.45 AM, Mother bear worries that her cubs will miss the bus if they don’t hurry. At 7.50 AM, the cubs are woken up by an angry mother who rushes them through their morning routine of wash and dress, comb and brush and breakfast in a hurry …and off they scurry to catch their bus just in time as it arrives at 8 0’clock! The story ends with a verse that echos my sentiments in the morning - "If you sleep past seven, you might be late when the school bus comes for you at eight!"