Friday, September 27, 2013

Beastly boys!

With both mom and dad working in most households, routine-parenting tasks are no longer the woman’s forte – be it getting the kids ready to school, drop off and pick-up from school, following up on their homework, putting them to bed and so on and so forth. Like most couples, we too follow certain ground rules of routine jobs –  the “Good cop- Bad cop” rule  while disciplining Abhay; or the “Early Bird in the evening gets to check on Abhay’s homework” rule or the “Homework helper  is exempted from the bedtime routine” rule that is most often overruled by “Winding up of kitchen entails an exemption from the bedtime routine”….so no prizes for guessing that it is my husband who most often ends up with Abhay’s bedtime business, with an exception made for a special bedtime book that I may want to read to him! The only problem being that both my boys (yes….you read it right!) do everything there is to do under the moon but go to bed! So as the daddy finishes reading the bedtime book, I expect the voices to die down into a total silence from the room upstairs, but instead I hear them giggle and guffaw at their own private joke or pretend play that I am not and cannot be a part of! It is only after repeated reminders of how it is way past time Abhay’s bedtime and warnings of the consequences of a late night for Abhay  that the boys do  finally go to bed! Hmph! …..boys will always be boys!

So imagine my surprise when we found the above situation mirrored in a book titled “Mr. Beast” by James Sage and illustrated by Russel Ayto that the boys ( it was a working Saturday for me!) found at Hippocampus. A hilarious account of nighttime banter between a father-son duo, this one is definitely worth a read by the daddy himself! Charlie loved monsters as much his mother’s sugared doughnuts and so his mother asks him to fetch the larger frying pan lying in their garage, supposedly belonging to Mr. Beast. Mr. Beast lets him have the frying pan with a condition that the same must returned with a brimful of sugared doughnuts. Just as Charlie lugs back the pan to its designated place, carrying a batch of doughnuts meant for Mr. Beast, Charlie gets greedy and finishes off even the last one left! So naturally Mr. Beast is angry and threatens to eat him up at night! At bedtime, Charlie is all ready and waiting for Mr. Beast who Charlie believes is clambering up the creeper, clattering about the roof, sliding down the chimney and stomping down the hall to thrust open the door as Charlie is shown to be eagerly waiting for him! As the suspense continues, you cant help but notice that Charlie is all smiles and goes along in the pretend play with Mr. Beast who is none other than his very own daddy! The father-son pretend play wakes up Charlie’s mommy who in turn hauls up the daddy for all the silliness that has gone way beyond Charlie’s bedtime with strict instructions to go to sleep without any delay! So the boys promise to be as good as gold and are shown heading to bed…..but only for a moment until they get back to their beastly ways! So if your boys give you trouble during bedtime….bring home Mr. Beast!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dont forget.....Abhay!

I guess Abhay isn’t the only one who is careless about his belongings at school, but that still doesn’t get him off hook when he returns home without his school stationery or his school jacket or having misplaced the same at school for the umpteenth time! I don’t understand what it is with children of this millennium and their total lack of compunction over their recklessness. I have been a middle class single child myself and I don’t ever remember possessing as much stationery during my entire school life as my seven year old son now has! So much so that he takes a new pencil/eraser every day only to have forgotten/misplaced/ been allegedly stolen (really??) at school the same day!   I guess we as parents ought to take a fair share of the blame too as we don’t think twice before buying them a new set of  oil pastels before they are finished with their old one! So if the children grow up with a jaded sense of abundance and entitlement, whose fault is that? So we decided to do  a stock-check of his pencil box as soon as he returns home and I must say that we managed to follow it up for the first week or so. But seriously, after a hectic day at work, maddening traffic on my way back, amongst fixing dinner and getting his homework done, the last thing on my mind as I enter home between 6.30 and 7.00 PM is to check if Abhay has his stationery box in place!

I feel it’s not just about monitoring and enforcement, the key is to inculcate a sense of responsibility early in them so they realize the value of what they have. So today I had him read “Don’t forget Lara” by Julia Green and illustrated by Guiditta Gaviraghi  which though speaks of being responsible albeit in a different way nevertheless conveys a valuable message. Being an emergent chapter book spread over five little chapters, this is an endearing tale of a little day-dreamer named Lara who keeps forgetting things she needs for school. (Well, it’s the other way around with Abhay!) This book can prove to be a good transition between an early reader which your child has probably mastered and a chapter book that may still be a challenge. Lara can’t stop thinking about her cat who is to have kittens soon,  and is often caught staring outside her class window by her teacher! (Does it sound familiar?) That is not all, Lara has trouble remembering all the things she needs for school-  first it’s her lunch box (landing her with no option but to have school dinner which is not to her liking!), then it’s her book bag ( which her friend later offers to share hers) or her spelling tin (which ends up being a good memory exercise!) or her apron ( as she borrows her mom's artist apron). Finally, Miss Button, her teacher assists her with making a list of things so as to help her remember everything! Does the list come to her rescue the next day? Have your little day dreamer find out as this story could just be his that hopefully should help him not to forget his things too! J

Monday, September 16, 2013

Poetry for kids!

I had read in the recent issue of Books and more that children are natural with poetry and though they are exposed to catchy rhyming verses quite early in their childhood the form of nursery rhymes, the same trend does not continue as they grow up. Vaishali Shroff, the  writer laments that poetry seems to have gone out of the lives of children these days and emphasizes the importance of reading age appropriate poems to children. In introspection, I am not a great fan of poetry myself, partly because I am guilty of harboring the belief that that poems are profound and layered sometimes making the same a difficult read for us adults, let alone for the kids. I found myself able to relate much better to prose rather than the poetry prescribed for study at school or college.  Anyway, while it is true that the essence of a great poem lies in its underlying meaning, it is also true that all poems need not be deep and weighty, especially poems for the young. As mentioned, parents have been advised to read poems that children can easily relate to – poems which make them happy, make them laugh or cry, or poems that get them to think and reflect – in short poems that connect with them! As once they grow up with poetry, poetry grows on them too!:-)

Taking a cue from Vaishali Shroff, I looked up some works of poetry for the young, besides the recommendations featured in her article. I have delightful “Beastly tales from here and there” by Vikram Seth…which of course deserves another post altogether! Co-incidentally, last week was Roald Dahl’s birth anniversary and I happen to find at the British Library the hilarious “Revolting Rhymes” by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake. This book features six classic tales recited in verse with a unique twist in the end. I particularly liked “Cinderalla” and the “Goldilocks and the three bears” retold from the perspective of the bears and Abhay’s favorite was the “The three little pigs” that has even Red Riding Hood making a cameo appearance!  It’s not just the magic of words in verses but the unconventional yet realistic treatment of the story’s ending that makes it a “must-read” for your little one on her way  to  discovering Roald Dahl! Take for instance, when the fairy Godmother meets Cinderalla, “Cindy” sounds just like a kid of today’s generation – she wants it all!

“She beat her fist against the wall,
And Shouted “Get me to the ball!”!
There is a Disco at the palace
The rest have gone and I am jalous
I want a dress, I want a coach!
And earrings and a diamond brooch!
And silver slippers, two of those!
And lovely nylon panty-hose!
Done up like that I’ll guarantee
The handsome prince will fall for me!
The fairy said “Hang on a tick!
She gave her wand a mighty flick”

With each line better than the previous one,  you know it’s nothing but the master story-teller’s sheer brilliance that translates into a whole lot of “LOL” and “ROFL” moments for you as  and your little one!  Roald Dahl’s poetic rendition of age old fairy tales has not only the kids but the parents enthralled….especially after a revolting day like I had today!J

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Birthday - Handcrafted!

I can’t believe that it’s been seven years since Abhay was born on this day of September! A couple of years ago, the number seven seemed so distant and grown-up for a boy like Abhay. Now that it’s actually here, I am still not able to digest the fact that my baby is seven now. It means that I can no longer watch people gush over my reply as to the age of my little one or that I am are officially out of the “moms of little ones’ clubs or that I can no longer share my “infant experiences” as they are no longer “current” enough to be of any use or that I am probably expected to be able to work a little late on some days as my  little one is not so little anymore or that people think I have a lot of free time on my hands as my seven year old is supposedly mature and independent (I wish!)! Seriously people, age is nothing more than just a number! J

Anyway, as Abhay is supposed to be a big boy…isn’t he too old for a birthday party? “No” burst out his doting grandparents who offered to throw a party for their darling grandson (who will always be a baby for them!) at their farm house “Shristi” in Dharmasthala. What was supposed to be a low-key gathering with a few of the neighbourhood kids turned out to be a grand get-together with the extended family also joining in, as they had traveled to attend the annual “Ganesh Chaturthi” celebrations at our ancestral home the next day. In keeping with last year's tradition, we hung a handcrafted piñata which the children enjoyed breaking with a baseball bat. Inspired from two children’s plays, “Jujubee” and “Raja Tantra and Choo Mantra”, we also weaved a story around the piñata a.k.a “Raja Bringa-Brigada”,  who despises children and imposes unfair rules on them. So the children decide to rebel against the despotic king and rip him apart only to find candies inside! 

Also inspired from a friend and a fellow blogger, I had Abhay personalize the return gifts by handmade origami “Thank you” cards that were placed in the books that I had handpicked for all the kids according to their age and reading levels.

On the occasion of Abhay’s birthday, I had Abhay read “Ben Elf’s Birthday” from Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom series. It is Ben Elf’s birthday and just as he is about to open his gift from his parents, the door bell rings and Holly, the fairy princess walks in apparently a little too early for the birthday party. When Ben asks her if she has brought a present, Holly appears unsure prompting Ben to guess that she may have actually forgotten Ben Elf’s birthday. Holly then rushes home so that she can make a card for Ben. She tries to use Nanny Plum’s magic spells to make her card but uses all the wrong words. What ensues is a kitchen disaster that is sorted out only when Nanny Plum stops all the magic going on in the castle, including the magic spell that creates a comfortable invisible chair for the Holly's father. Due to the forced ban on use of magic in the castle that day, Holly has to make a card without using any spells. Holly then draws a beautiful picture card for Ben and marvels at the amazing things that can be done without using magic. She then rushes back to Ben’s house just in time for the party with the handmade card as a gift. Ben is appreciative of her genuine effort sans magic which in many ways makes up for Holly having forgotten Ben’s birthday! So be it a piñata, card or a return gift – the experience is richer when you put in your sincere effort. Just as much, we enjoyed hosting Abhay’s birthday party based on certain “handmade, handcrafted and handpicked” ideas and events ….and so did Abhay and the kids! Happy Birthday Abhay! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi!

A drive along RV road  in Bangalore signals the beginning of the festival season with umpteen rows of Ganesha idols lining the sidewalk! For years, this very sight had me excited as it had meant that the annual Ganesha festival at my native town,  also known as " Chouthi" is here! Of course,  there was also a time when as a jaded teenager, I would rebel against observing these traditions! But as time passed,  I began to accept and appreciate these family customs, more so after marriage when everything of your family seems dearer.  Now life has come to a full circle as we try to initiate Abhay into the same traditions that I tried to escape from! 

On the occasion of Ganesha Chaturthi,  I read "It's all the same " by Nina Sabnani. This is a story of Ganesha that is narrated from two different perspectives by two different kavadi story tellers. Both stories explain why Lord Ganesha is worshipped first before all the other Gods. Pappuram, a traditional Rajasthan kavadiya story teller believes that the race between Ganesha and his brother Kartikeya around the universe resulted in Ganesha being rewarded for his victory and the reward being that Ganesha  being the foremost to be worshipped. Whereas, Kojaram,  another Kavadiya storyteller opened his storytelling box and describes how Ganesha being upset at having been left out from Lord Rama and Sita's wedding,  was finally appeased when he was assured of being worshipped first. Both of them finally conclude that it's after all the same! The author brings out plurality in thinking while intertwining mythology and folklore.  So howsoever you may choose to celebrate today's festival,  here's wishing everyone a very happy Ganesha Chaturthi!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Happy Teachers' Day!

We all remember doing something special for our teachers on the occasion of “Teacher’s day” on September 5th , when in school or even at college. But how many of us actually remember the same teachers as we grow up? For most of us, September 5th is like any other day except for a few articles in the daily newspaper or a few dedications on FM radio! It’s only when Abhay came up wanting to make a card for his class teacher that I remembered my past teachers at school, college and law college. When in school, a class teacher plays a pivotal role in a child’s school year, both in terms of academics and otherwise – a class teacher can make it your best or the worst school year!  For instance, the first thing you look out for as the school reopens is who your class teacher is and similarly the  class teacher figures uppermost while reminiscing about a particular school year or during school reunions. In a recent meeting with school friends, it was fun recollecting all our class teachers from Kindergarten to Class X…..and we remembered each and every one of them! The role of a teacher can never be undermined - beginning from a more nurturing yet instructive role at primary and middle school to a more supervisory yet involved role in high school and finally to a more understated yet insightful role in college – a huge thank you to all  the teachers in my life!

This week’s “Young World”, children’s supplement of the Hindu has a Teacher’s day special and today I read “"Teacher's Pet?"” by Indira Ananthakrishnan  from it’s Quick Read section. The school reopened and Mrs. Verma was the class V teacher and as she was recapitulating the lessons from the previous year, she noticed that all  students had done well except Muthu, who was a C-Grader. As she made enquiries with other teachers as to what was wrong, she learned that Muthu, a bright student otherwise, was trying to grapple with the tragic loss of his mother who had passed away during summer vacations. So Mrs. Verma took it upon herself to help him overcome his personal difficulties so that he could concentrate and excel in his academics. Muthu after all didn’t disappoint his teacher and came third in his final exams. On teacher’s day, Muthu thanked his teacher with a special gift – his mother’s pearl bracelet! Years went by and Muthu graduated from school and went on to pursue further studies. Years later, on Teachers’ day, the retired Mrs. Verma received a surprise package from one Dr. Muthuraman, M.D….whom she instantly recognized as her favorite student Muthu! An inspiring story dedicated to all the teachers who shape us into who we are! Happy Teachers’ day to all the teachers! 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Super Dad!

 Like most boys, Abhay too hero-worships his dad and no prizes for guessing that Abhay is out and out a daddy’s boy! Appa is his “go-to” person when he wants to get done something or get away with something or get himself something! If he wants to be entertained or humored …. then Appa is his man! Abhay’s is his Appa’s loyal audience ….guaranteed to laugh at all his PJs! Even some of Appa’s amateur artistic endeavours has Abhay referring to him as “A Great Artist” to his drawing teacher!  When Appa and Amma have an argument, Amma is always asked why and not Appa! Well, I have no problem as …..Appa is the parent Abhay turns to if he wants to cuddle sleep! Appa is the parent he wakes up if he has had a bad dream in the middle of the night! Appa is the one he approaches when he wants to use the restaurant restroom just when the food is served piping hot…. and.believe me I could not be anymore thankful for the same! :-)

Anyway, Abhay loves to slip into the Super-man costume that was handed down to him by his older cousins. Just the other day as I was returning from work, I saw a little Super man running up the street with a boy who looked like one of Abhay’s friends….it took me a couple of seconds to realize that he was none other than my little one! J So imagine my delight as I came across an Oxford University Press Early reader titled “Super-Dad” by Roderick Hunt and Alex Brychta that has dad donning a Superman costume on its cover! J  I had meant to post this on Abhay’s dad’s birthday, which was exactly a week ago, but unfortunately, Abhay’s mom is not the supermom she wishes she be!:-) Anyway, a Level 2a Early Reader, Wilma and Wiff’s dad dons a Super-Man’s costume for the school charity. Wilma is embarrassed as she thinks dad looks silly but Wilf thinks he looks good (Of course…..a son!) But Wilma soon eats her words as her dad chases the thief who steals the donation money and nabs him in true "Super hero" style! So its not only Wilma, but the entire school cheers her Super –dad! Abhay loved this book …and as it was only level 2a, he managed to speed read this to his “Super-dad”! Hmm....all I can say is …..enjoy this phase until it lasts! J