Friday, October 13, 2006

Baby's first class

On Wednesday Oct.11.06, I took my child to his first class – “Gym for tots”. It is a class where kids and their parents get together in one room filled with interesting play items (a tunnel leading to a play house filled with colored balls for example). Kids indulge in playtime that is then followed by some music time where everyone sings children’s songs sitting in a circle. I keep telling myself that I am not going to be the kind of parent who will overdose the child with an assortment of classes that fills up all the free time and doesn’t leave much room for just being a child. My friend says “There is so much peer pressure…I visit my friends and relatives and their children are in so many classes and know so much, I feel nervous if I don’t do the same for my child”. I think of what she said when she called me while driving her five year old to a Kumon class. Will I be able to subscribe to what my husband believes is a good thing – benign neglect? He says we should nurture what the child enjoys doing and provide the environment for him to learn but not push him. I agree with him and I too believe in that. Yet, when I look at the assortment of classes offered even for a child as young as one plus, I waver a little and wonder where to draw the line. The advertisements are meant to lure you to bring your child in and tap the genius – just in case! I tell myself I will not subject him to unnecessary pressure which I certainly did not enjoy myself and I do strongly believe that it kills creativity when you leave no breathing room for a child to just be. Well, even just ten years from now I hope I look back on this post to see how I have faired in this respect! My child may have more to say on that topic then! :)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Single moms

Every night after our baby goes to bed (he sleeps between 10.00 and 10.30pm) I come to the living room (usually to find husband dear snoozing away with a book in hand!) and we try to get some quiet time when we either watch a movie or “Law and order” or just read/chat. But whatever it is we end up doing, invariably we will talk very fondly about something that our baby did that day. He could have done that very thing just the day before yet we like to discuss it like it is some major achievement.
Me - “You know today in the park Bubbly (oft used pet name) touched a dog for the first time”
Hub - “Wow, really?”
Me - “Yeah, he saw the dog by the soft ball field and he kept saying “Baa Baa” and the lady said “He can pet him”…so I took him near the dog and he scratched it’s nose…it was so cute you know! It was a Golden retriever. Dog looked so kind or I wouldn’t have gone near it”
Hub - “He is so cute!”
Me - “Yeah, you should have seen him, it was so cute how he scratched the dog!”
Hub - “Can I go and bring him here now?!”
Me - “NO!!!!”

As I think about how much joy both me and my husband get from talking to each other about our baby and all the little things he does, I wonder how it is for single moms. I really wonder. I cannot imagine not being able to tell someone every single day about all the little things that my child did. Something about sharing makes the experience so wonderful. Being a mother is an incredible joy but it also brings with it incredible amount of work, trials and frustrations. Depending on the choice you make, be it a working mom or a stay at home, it still is a lot of work – just the kind of work is different. Stay at home moms have to bear with the monotony of life while knowing that they could have been working or studying during that time had they chosen to do so. They enjoy all that time they have with the child and they also grudge all that they had to miss out on because of that even if it was their own decision. The monotony is given some respite when the father comes home – gives the mom a person to vent to freely, a person to share concerns and joys with the one person who is sure to enjoy it and have the same level of care and concern as the mom. For a working mom, the father of the child can share in the duties of dropping off the baby in day care, in having a choice as to who will take off from work if the child falls sick and all the rest of the same issues with regards to raising a child.
Do single moms ever get a break? How do they find the energy to do it? Some of them do have the fathers visiting but I cannot imagine that it would be the same as the father being an integral part of the household. I have renewed respect for single moms ever since I had a child because now I know what it entails. It is not just about providing for a child. It is about all the little moments as well as the big ones. To have the other person right there to look up to and see their face also light up in joy when the baby does something new…to have the other person also stay up at night and worry when the child falls ill. To have the other person say "OK, you go rest, or you go talk to your friend, I will take the baby out for a walk". If I had to do it alone, I would probably be shouting hysterically at my child if he gave me a hard time and I did not have any one right there giving me a break. I cannot rave about all the little things my child does to any one else so freely without worrying about boring them. With the father, I can. Any number of times! Knowing he too will feel the same joy. Single moms with a lot of money probably have nannies helping them with the physical work. But that is just one side of it anyway. There are plenty of single moms with not just one but two or three children who have to do it all on their own. What ever it is the life circumstance that made them a single mom, my heart does go out to them. I admire them for their patience and courage in facing it and moving on with their lives. Now that I am a mother, I think of the scores of women all over the world who have lost their husbands and hence the father of their child/children to war, to fateful accidents, to terrorist activities, to disease…I wish that whatever power it is that took something so important away from them also gives them strength and makes up for it in the bigger picture of life by giving them and their children good health, luck, success and happiness.
And I can't help but add "Thank you god for big mercies, knock on wood" thinking about my own life now.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Okra dish

Baked Okra

I made a baked okra dish recently. Okra has this problem that unless it is cooked right, it can get sticky. Either it should be dry before putting it in oil or you need to fry it for a while and in a good amount of oil if you want cooked okra that is not sticky. But I found that baking the okra gives good cooked okra that is not sticky and doesn’t need a ton of oil.

Pre heat oven to 425F

Okra – I don’t know how much okra I used that day – let’s say about 50 okras! Cut into 1 or 1.5 inch pieces.

Tomatoes – 2 – cut into small pieces (Vine ripened tomatoes preferably)

Onions – 2 medium – cut into medium size pieces

Ginger and Garlic – optional – according to taste – one or two pods of garlic chopped fine and ½ inch of ginger – I use big pieces so I can take it out!

Hand full of finely chopped coriander.

Cut all three vegetables, ginger, garlic, coriander and keep in a flat glass pan. Add 2 or 3 table spoons of oil, add chilli powder (depending on how hot you like it), salt .

Mix it all well. I added MDH garam masala powder (just 1 tea spoon to give some masala flavor but not too much). Spread it evenly flat on the pan.

Keep it in the oven for 15 min. Check if it is cooked. Keep 5 min longer if it could be cooked a little more. I judge it based on how the tomatoes look. If they look nicely cooked and mashed, then it is done. Mix it well.

It tasted quite good. Goes well with rotis. And it was easy to make – I just cut the veggies, added the powders and mixed it and 20 min later it was ready. I didn’t have to add it one by one or stir it or anything. And okra was not at all sticky. I find that if I wash the okra a couple of hours before cutting it , the water dries out and dry okra is easier to cook.
Okra always reminds me of how my mom (and several other moms I knew) used to tell me to eat more okra because it makes you good at mathematics! :)

Friday, October 06, 2006

mami arattai

Not sure how many of the few bloggers who visit my site know tamil. In anycase hopefully at least one or two may understand (and hopefully enjoy) the tamil/mami lingo.
Mylapore mami at the local temple.

Mami 1 - Yenna mami aathule yellarum sowkiyama? Paathu oru vaaram aardhu. Kovil pakkam kooda kanam ungla velli kazhame anniku?

Mami 2 - Amam mami, romba busy ayiduthu. Pone velli kazhame nanga oorle ille…

Mami 1 - Yenga poirndhel?

Mami 2 - Bengloor poirndhom. Ivar mootha Anna peranukku poonal potta. Pathu vayasu dhan aardhu. Aana ava rendu perum nanna irukarcheye podanum’nu ippove pottutaa.
Appdiye Sridhar’ku oru varan vandhrundhudhu, ponna poi pathutu varalam’nu ponom.

Mami 1 - Appdiyaa! Yaaru ponnu? Yenna nichyam pannitelaa?

Mami 2 - Kitta thatta nichyam pannirkom. Indha kaalathule yenga mada mada’nu nichyam panna mudiyardhu. Ponnum pillayum pesindrukka phone’le. Avo ippo oru varathule states poga poralam contract’le. Appo ivarode thambi aathule New Jersey’le poi nere meet panni, OK’nu sonna nichyam’nu sollalam. Namma kai’le yenna irukku mami. Ellam bagavath sangalpam.

Mami 1 - Amam amam indha kaalame vere. Namballam moonjiya koode seriya pathomo illayo. Yedho periyava sonnanu thalaya attitom. Nalladho polladho appdiye kaalatha kazhichutom. Indha kaalathu kozhandhagal, ponngalum seri, yellam idhu venum adhu venum’nu kekardhugal. Yenna pannardhu – adhugal cinema ginuma paathu vere kathukkardhugal. Kadhal kathrika’nu. Appdi illame ponaa, jaadhagam pathu panna kooda ivaa decide pannarthukkulle vidinju poidardhu.

Mami 2- Yennamo, naa idhule thalaye idala, dho paaru paa nee pesi pidichirundha sollu’nu solliten. Namma romba sonna pechu dhan mami vizhum. Kalathukku yeatha maari nadandhukka vendirku parungo. Nalakki adhugal sandhoshama irukkanume…

Mami 1 - Adhu seri. Ponnu yenna panraa? Periya edama?

Mami 2 - Software ponnu. Paatu nanna padaraa. Maa nerama irukka aana nalla kalaiya irukka. Nalla family. Padichurkaa nanna. Oru anna, kalyanam ayiduthu. Mattu ponnu’um nanna irundha mookum muzhiyuma. Mariyadhaya pesinaa. Ava appa chartered accountant. Nalla position’le irukkar. Mami housewife. Yellam nanna irukku, pakkalam, yaarukku theriyum yenna potrukku’nu.
Seri mami, varen naa – potaadha potta padi vandhen, pona varam kooda kovilukku varalayen’nu. Rendu suthu suthitu aathule poi samayala mudikanum.

(Mami 2 thinking to herself as Mami 1 is leaving) - “panandu pradhakshanam pannalam’nu irundhen, nazhi ayidthu, mami vere pidichuntaa…seri adutha vaaram pathukalam. Nallabadiyaa nichyam aana marudiyum vandhu thenga odachu, abishegam panren.”

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Meal time joy!

The little boss is carried by papa slave and gently placed on his booster throne. He sits there with his big puppy eyes glancing nonchalantly at the bowl of food on the table. Me, the mama slave pulled the chair in front of him and sat down for the meal time tussle. I bring the electronic rhyme book close to me on the table and then take a spoonful of food and bring it to little boss’s mouth. Swish, the face moves away to the right. The royal diss. “Chinnu, you can’t do this, it’s lunch time”.
Well he is one, sure he understands the logic there! I try again. Face moves to the left now.
OK, let’s play some songs. I open the rhyme book and move some knob and the cow maa’s and I hear “hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle” for the nth time. Little boss is distracted and I bring the spoon of food eagerly and he now opens his mouth. I try to load up the spoon fully and thrust as much as possible at this opportunity. I think of my little nephew (my younger cousin’s son who is 3 now) who saw me do this when I was visiting them. He couldn’t help but speak for his kin and said to me in his innocent baby voice “Peimaa, don’t give lot of ok, don’t give lot of!”.
“But, Aadhu, if I don’t give it like that he will eat slowly”
“Slow is OK, don’t give lot of !”, he continued to plead with me like I was a monster who thrust food into my hapless baby.
The next spoon, I load a little less food.
Two more spoons and boss is bored of the two songs in that page, he wants to move on the next.
But the spoon is in front of his mouth and I try to get my way in before turning the page for him.
“Nah ahn…turn the page”, he signals to me by moving his mouth away from the spoon calmly.
I try again.
“Which part of no don’t’ you understand?” . He moves his face away from the spoon while looking at the book and whines “Ahhnnn…”!
I give in. I turn the page.
“Old Mcdonald had a farm…”
Five more spoons in rapid succession while the boss is engrossed in moving the door of the farm and hearing the pigs oink and cows moo. He looks at me again and not wanting to lose the flow, I start singing Old Mcdonald in a high pitch. Poor Ol’McDonald will be stirring in his grave begging me to stop summoning his farm animals million times a day to make my son eat his food.
I begin to relax a little. Looks like the flow is going okay. He is taking the food easily.
And invariably it happens. I tell myself not to jinx it by thinking such thoughts and yet I do it. The boss catches me off guard and grabs the spoon at the head.
“Hmm….what’s this gooy stuff in my hand?”… Pchk pchk…he rubs his hands.
I rush in with a paper towel and wipe his hands. Before I am fully done, he yanks his hand out and decides his nose is itchy and rubs his hand over his nose, eyes. Sticky paruppu sadam all over his face now.
“Such joy” I tell myself angrily and wet the towel and clean his face up.
I try to contain my anger and start singing again.
“Wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round”!
He takes mercy on me I suppose. Few more spoons of food go in.
Suddenly he looks up to see papa slave sitting on the couch in front of the laptop enjoying the lazy Sunday morning. Papa gives him a sweet smile and boss’s face is now completely at an odd angle relative to me.
Papa shakes his head left to right that the boss finds funny and shakes his head vigorously left to right smiling just when I bring the food near his mouth. Now there is a “Got milk?” kind of food moustache on the little one’s mouth. I glare and gnarl at papa slave and tell him, “Why don’t YOU do the feeding?!”.
“I will, but he is not taking food from me, you know that” papa says in his oh so pragmatic manner.
I remember the last time I handed the food for papa to feed, I was handed the bowl back with hardly any food eaten with the simple comment “I don’t think he is interested in lunch”!
“Well, then come and entertain him now that you have distracted him”.
Papa slave immediately responds and brings the “Alphabet pal” toy – a caterpillar with each of its legs a different letter.
Boss responds to the change and allows me to feed him a few more spoonfulls. My heart is beating faster now for I am nearing the end of my journey. For now. Until the next meal. I do wonder if there is some kind of baby genie who is invoked by children to seek vengeance on mothers who insist on boring meals and adds a few more spoonfuls of food at the end phase. I mean it just never ends. I cannot have the satisfaction of a cleaned up bowl. I simply cannot garner any more patience in me to wait while the little boss listens to one full song and then swallows the food. One more song and then he opens his mouth for the next. I console myself that he has eaten most of it even if not all of it. I feel victorious. Relieved feeling that baby dear ate most of the food despite the song and dance routine, the wet towels and spilt food. I just get out of the spot abruptly and tell papa slave “Ok, he is done”.
It is understood that the rest of the clean up is not my domain. I went through the drill of feeding the little boss after all!
I call my friend (parent of a 4yr old) and invariably we discuss our kid’s meals. I tell her “Not bad, he took an hour, but he ate most of it”.
“Oh good, don’t jinx it for tonight” she says in a way only a mother can understand!
I sit on the couch and decide to check my email and forget about “solids” until it is time for dinner!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The march of the penguins

I have always liked penguins – they look so adorable waddling along in their tuxedo suits. But when I saw the movie “The march of the penguins” last night, I felt such renewed respect for them, for nature. Nature is simply astounding. How creatures in its fold manage to survive, to evolve and thrive. The movie tracks a group of Emperor Penguins in the icy wilderness of Antartica in their march inland where they breed and keep their species going. It is indeed a story of courage and determination – the penguins brave the harshest of cold conditions as they march nearly 70 miles in almost a single file, gracefully to their ancestral breeding ground. After the mating process, they manage to protect the egg under severely cold conditions (70 below zero and 150 mph winds) until it is ready to hatch. The males protect the eggs while the female goes to the ocean to feed herself. During this time the entire flock of males huddle together in a mass so as to conserve heat and resist the brutal cold. It is an incredible sight to see such cooperation amongst its members in order to survive. There are touching moments in this movie as if this were a family drama when you see the unfortunate penguin looking wistfully at the egg that did not survive the cold in the few seconds it takes to transfer it from the female to the male (while the female goes foraging for food) or when the newborn fails to survive if the mother is even a tad late in relieving the hungry male who is ready to transfer duty and go foraging for food himself. The cinematography is incredible and the icy, white glittering beauty of Antartica leaves you wishing if only you could witness it first hand. I felt thankful to the team for bringing the beauty of the continent and the story of the determined penguins to our living rooms (and theaters) for us to marvel at.