Sunday, September 30, 2007


I thoroughly enjoyed this post by The Madmomma. Her children are a few months older than mine, but the age gap between our first and second child is the same – 22m.
I often wondered how she managed while nursing her little one and now this post made me feel less alone in what I go through. It is not harrowing or difficult – just something to deal with. Managing the first child who is also still a very young child (and would have been treated really like a baby had he been the only child) while nursing the second child.
I have KG (kutti girl) down on the “Boppy pillow” and sit down to nurse her on our bed. No matter what KB (kutti boy) is doing, the moment he sees me go upstairs to nurse, he follows me. So I just tell him matter of factly, like it is some kind of team work, “KG, vaa, kutti baby’ku fiding panlam”! (“fiding” he says for “feeding”). And the little troop of three marches on upstairs for the fiding mission. I never even thought for a second about closing the door when I nurse baby girl. It would have made my life and my mother’s life hell if KB had been shut out. He simply had to be allowed in the room and I just could not even imagine shutting him out every two hours when I nurse the little one.
Now, how do I tell this little toddler that she is a tender little baby and that he should not shriek in top pitch right by her ears “kutti kutti” or hold her little feet and pull and push on it while she is nursing? I know he won’t understand, I know he wont’ stop. She just has to learn to live with her brother petting her while she feeds. And I just assume she enjoys it.
I sit there like a captive cow watching his antics and often screaming on top of my voice when he suddenly darts out of my sight, and I maw “Amma…Amma….”, calling out to my mother to keep an eye on him. He suddenly runs out of the room carrying my water jug or doing peekaboo with KG’s blanket. I have horrible visions of little Jack tumbling down the stairs and us having to rush to the ER and I raise my voice even louder “Ammmmaaa…”. If the decibel level is particularly high, the poor little child gets startled. KB suddenly rushes back in, satisfied I suppose that he has rattled me enough and jumps back on bed and acts like he has missed his little sister all that while and bends down and rams his big head towards us. I just push him aside only to have him do it again. If he rams hard enough, KG pouts in the most adorable manner and I am secretly thanking him for bringing out such a cute expression on her face. Then he sits around talking about world affairs to me: “Flower, Bee, Jooch” he says, meaning “Bee went and drank juice from the flower”. “Kitty cat. Varave ille. Maadikku. Olinju. Yengyovaa” meaning “Kitty cat did not show up on his morning walk with Patti, it went upstairs and hid far away some place”. I am happy to keep him in conversation and away from anything that will stress me out. And suddenly he spots his Crayola washable markers. And sits down to draw “spilal” (spiral). Draws a spiral rapidly and suddenly throws the yellow marker on the bed and watches the ink seep through to the beige, just laundered bed sheet while I scream “No, no no, don’t do that. Take it off KG! Take it off NOW! And he looks at me wide eyed. Pauses. And then picks it up”. And says “Messy! “. Oh really? I didn’t know!
And then he looks out the window and says “Poochandi, vaa vaa vaa”. My mom tells him that the big bad guy on the tree top way up there “Poochandi” will come and get him when he does some mischief. He invites Poochandi lovingly waving his hand looking out the window because I screamed at him for messing up the bed sheet. Clearly this tactic is not working! He then orders me to stop feeding her and put her on the pillow next to him so he can pet her! I say “Wait Kanna, baby not done feeding” He starts raising his voice – “Pillow, Pillow….PILLOOOOOW”. And when she is done nursing, I triumphantly put her on the pillow and stretch and watch him fondly playing with his little sister tenderly putting his index finger on her cheeks or doing “nochee nochee” and put his nose against hers.
Challenging as it is to breast feed a second baby when there is another older sibling to take care of, it is also a lot of fun. There is company first of all. And then it is interesting to see how the little child just copes with all this and after a few days she is so cool about it – big brother keeps mauling her and I scream and chat and she learns to cope with it all. She doesn’t seem to mind and if she minds she lets us know. The first few weeks are a little difficult though until supply/demand is established and the older also comes to terms with mamma being tied up every two hours with nursing the little one. But the benefits of breast feeding are way too many to give up on it and it is worth persevering. My point is the one mentioned in this article: “"It can't do all of the things that are being claimed for it," Dr. Kramer said, injecting a note of caution into the debate. "But it probably does some of them." And even that makes it worth it. Because once we tide through the change phase for all of us – the mother, the first and the second child – it is smooth and becomes easy. Even if you confer one of the health benefits mentioned in this article (and many more), it is worth it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Kodi's mom in all her sweetness graciously permitted me to post kutti boy's quirks instead of baby girl's (the second one gets less attention being her original reasoning). In our case it is quite the opposite it seems like. Well of course as parents we are being way more relaxed with our second compared to the first child. But in terms of attention I can see that this little girl is slowly and steadily hogging away attention from my sweet son! Well something about being a girl child and being chubby I guess..and may be because after a long time there is a little baby girl in both sides of the family - every one is enjoying the girly cuteness...
My brother who used to be mad about my son (and still is but likes to tease me by deliberately acting like he now only favors my daughter) - after he came for baby girl's naming ceremony - is all nuts about her. He calls me and asks me first about her and then about kutti boy. I get upset and refuse to answer him unless he tells me "ok ok they are both No.1 to me"! :) In light of this I humbly requested Kodi's mom to permit me to post on the first child rather than the second! And also because Kutti boy has more quirks I can write about than baby girl who is only 3m old and is one "chill out" happy camper!

Now for a few quirks that come to mind - in some random order.

a) Kutti boy (KB) is a stickler when it comes to certain things. For example - when it is night time he has to go around the living and dining rooms and close all the blinds. He goes around saying "Kalose, Kalose" and closes them. If he pulls something out of the drawer and he hears his father come back from work, he rushes to go downstairs to see him...but even in that excitement he remembers to close the drawer before he goes downstairs.

b)He loves to act silly and play silly. For example - he will pick up a little flash card and suddenly put it against his ears and say "hallou" as if it is a phone. And then he will put that on his head and say "Hat". And put that same card on his eyes and say "Gulass" (glasses). Put it against his neck on the back and say "Jacket"! :) All in quick succession smiling away!

c)He loves music. Among the music quirks: he stands by the synthesizer or the CD player as it plays songs and he acts like he is a music conductor and sways his hand up and down (with his fingers cupped as if he is holding a stick in his hand - I have no idea where he got this - he has never "seen" a symphony ever).

d) Sometimes he sits in his car seat or on the couch and for a few seconds one can see a song is playing in his head because he is swaying his hands like a conductor.

e) He makes up random silly little songs...For example he calls Butterfly - Balasee. Last night before going to bed while his dad was changing his diaper he started singing "Light ona non anon anon" a sing song tone. B repeated in the same sing song tone after him. He immediately looked around and saw a butterfly balloon and said "Balasee lasee lasee lee" in the same musical way. And went on with other objects in the room.

f) He is crazy about shapes. Has been since he was a baby. Especially circles. He used to call circle "Ka Li". Now he says circle and Kali interchangeably. When he was close to one he used to look at the full moon and say "Ka li". And I used to worry as to how to make him look at the object rather than it's parts! Because I would show him the picture of a bus and he would look at the head lights and say "Ka li"! If I remove two square shaped dog stickers from the sticker book, he asks me to pick up the rectangle (says it as "duguthang") from underneath and give it to him! He looks at the stalk of a bell pepper and says "hesagan"!

g) He is a drama king. Loves fake coughs. Always a real cough is followed by couple of fake ones for effect. And he then looks at me. If I don't ask him "Are you okay?", he will prompt me and say "Are you okay?"! And of late every day for either lunch or dinner - we play this drama. He will adamantly refuse the food. Then my mom will come and say "Paati kudukanuma, Amma kudukanumma?". (You want Patti or Amma to give it?") And he will say "Vendama". (don't want food). And my mom will say "Patti dhan kudukka poren" (Patti will feed you). And he will say "Mamma, Mamma". And my mom will tell him "Appo, koopdu Ammave, Vaa maa koopdu. Sapadren maa sollu" (Call out for your mom, tell her "I will eat"!). I will be in the living room all this while and I have to come back to the table when he says "Sapadren maa...vaa maa..!" Sometimes we have to go through two rounds of the same drama before he starts eating!

h)He gets so frustrated if while playing blocks a piece doesn't fit where he wants to put it. He starts crying! I don't know what to do about this!

i)He loves his little sister to bits. He calls her "Sister Papa" or "Kutti paapulu" - all his own terms. When I am nursing her and her little feet are sticking out, he drops what he is doing and comes running to her, holds her feet with shrill shreiks of "Kutti, kutti"...and grinds his teeth while petting her.

j)He loves to imitate people. When he sees my mom eating Chapathi he imitates her jaw movements. When he sees B drinking Gatorade and swishes it in his mouth after a run, he imitates that. When he sees B stretching after his jog, he imitates that in the most adorable manner with his little legs outstretched and his hands trying to touch his feet. He imitates my nephew's sudarshan kriya breathing exercises...imitates his little sister crying exactly in the same tone!

Ok I think I need to stop here so any lone reader who actually makes it this far doesn't fall asleep totally! I realize also this is more for my own record! I may forget all this about him! Thanks Kodi's mom - thanks to you I have some of this in writing!

Friday, September 14, 2007


A few days back was the festival of "Avani Avittam". When I was a child, it was something I took for granted - that my father and my two brothers would change their sacred threads (Poonal) on that day followed by Gayatri Mantram the next day. I did not think much about all this then. Now my mother is staying with us. She is deeply religious and follows a lot of traditions and rituals. (I have to add she is also very liberal and progressive in her thinking in many ways). I do not have anything against her beliefs and in fact I enjoy a lot of the traditions we follow, well for the sake of tradition at least. It gives us a sense of joy, a sense of discipline to some extent, a sense of belonging. But I do not necessarily believe in everything in the way she believes... I grew up believing God in much the same way my mother does. Worshipping Rama, Krishna, reciting slokas and going to temples, performing pujas, celebrating Ganesh Chathurthi, Deepavali and what not. I did not question God then. I suppose growing older can make you go in the direction of further believing in God and going further down the religious path or it can make you more cynical, question God and in some ways form your own version of God different from the one you grew up with. I fall in some in between category here. I still follow some traditions and I still would go to a temple and pray in front of the deity if the surrounding are peaceful. I enjoy singing some religious hymns. I have a little shrine in our home with pictures of different Gods. I celebrate or try to celebrate some of the festivals. But my version of God has changed. As a child I probably had a simplistic version of a carrot and stick God - do good and he rewards you, do bad he will punish you. And later it was more of a benevolent God who was all powerful and made amazing things happen. And with time, I started questioning my understanding of God and also saw that religion and God were two separate entities. God then became a deeply personal entity and I still grapple with its identity in my mind. I still believe in prayer, yes to the same deities I grew up with, but it is a meditative prayer not a religious one in the traditional sense. This is my current state.
B on the other hand is agnostic. Well at least as I see it. He too has his own version of God I think - but he definitely does not believe in the rituals we perform but will go through it for the sake of having grown up with it and to just go with the flow when others are involved. He used to wear the poonal thread (since our wedding which is when he started wearing it) but it was me who told him to not bother with that since anyway he does not know or believe in what it stands for. It did not make any difference to him. His parents though religious always gave him the freedom to be who he chose to be and did not force him to do anything he didn't want to. A few days before Avani Avittam when my mom asked him if he will be changing his poonal, B plainly and frankly said that his poonal was upstairs in the closet. That set off a non stop rant for one week as to how it was so important that we follow these rituals and I should be telling B to follow them etc etc. I told her even his parents did not force him, how can I...and that got her further upset with me. B was indeed going to change his poonal anyway for the sake of my mother. We don't mind going through the motions of certain rituals to just please people like my mother. But when my mother started praising certain people just because they are religious and follow these rituals to the dot, I found it very upsetting. One person she praised is someone who is hot tempered and will be unreasonable to anyone and every one irrespective of age and is that way with his wife too. B on the other hand may not follow these religious traditions but is an incredibly genuine, kind person and is extremely respectful to people like my mother and has integrity and is principled. I don't say this because he is my husband (which is what every spouse says I suppose) - but he is that way sometimes to the point of irritating me because I feel some people don't deserve kindness or respect. When my mom insinuated that person X is worthy of praise because he is so religious it made me angry but I did not lash out at her and further upset her. I controlled myself and just said a few things mildly. B just performed the ceremony and now wears the poonal just to please her (and to save my back or I will get yelled at).
I was glad to know that even Mother Teresa had a crisis of faith. I wonder if every one has a crisis of faith at some point in their lives. At the least they may question the version of God they believe in I suppose. I could not have said it as eloquently as Einstein did when asked if he was religious (and I subscribe to this line of thought): "Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in fact, religious." (More on Einstein and faith here).
I believe that God is omni present and all-powerful - that divine grace that somehow orchestrates the complexities of this universe from the atom to the galaxies - something beyond our comprehension. I cannot fully comprehend God but I do believe in a force stronger and bigger than what my mind can conceive of - I find it in the beauty of nature, in the industry of one's own job, in music, in beautiful writing, lyrics, in science and in the minds that unravel the mysteries of nature, in the love I feel for people, in the innocence of children, in the unadulterated joy my children show at times, in the goodness of people that comes through at certain times. I cannot define it but can only feel it. It is not the Rama or Krishna I grew up with who I still worship just so I can give form to this abstract concept that I believe in. I struggle like every one but I hope I am able to give my children the freedom to understand and form their own version of God and form their own religion that adds beauty to this world rather than tarnish it in meaningless ways.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Myriad thoughts...

I have not been able to spend much time on the internet the last one week or so. Thanks to the heat wave peaking during the Labor day weekend and people constantly running their AC we had extensive damage to the power system here in our area. We had a power outage at our place that started on Monday eve after we gave baby girl a bath around 6.30pm. We thought it would get restored in a couple of hours. But it did not get restored even after four hours. Imagine my shock when I called the electricity company that night and the phone update said that it might not get restored till Wednesday morning!
We went to my friend's place on Tuesday morn and came back that night and slept at home. Again on Wednesday morning since power had not been not restored, we went there again and came back at night. Quite an experience! My friends were extremely hospitable and nice. My mother was so touched by how kind and nice my friend D was to her and so affectionate with my children. She also had SUN TV (Tamil) in her package (unexpected since she is a Punjabi woman) – so my mother got to watch her favorite serials also. Their son is one month younger than Kutti boy and the two of them had a great time. It was in a way a lot of fun - unexpected outing for Kutti boy especially. Same way their son too was also apparently super excited that we went to their place for two days in a row...I love it when things happen spontaneously and what seems like a difficult time ends up being fun in a strange sort of way. Some people have a way of making you feel that they are "helping" you out and in subtle ways make you feel obligated. But my friend and her husband made us feel completely at home and showed us how happy they were to have us at their place for two days. She told me that it brought her so much happiness to have hosted us at their place. You know you have friends or family who will help you out if need be, but you rarely are in situations were you actually have to take it up. And sometimes it can turn out to be unpleasant. But in this case we all had a great time together. It felt really good to have made the most of an otherwise difficult two days.
I have never experienced such a long power outage even in India...amazing how life comes to a stand still without power. Glad to be back home and be able to turn the light on casually. And the heat wave has subsided and it is really cool here now.
We had a small naming ceremony for baby girl finally. That too turned out to be a lot of fun in an unplanned sort of way. Traditionally the child’s mama writes the name of the baby on a bed of grains. My brother came to visit us last weekend. So we decided to have a simple ceremony at home for the naming. My close friend happened to be in the area that weekend so he attended the function along with his wife and her family. That was totally unexpected. My friend who lives in the same block came with her daughter. It was a lot of fun because the others too came up with names on the spot and wrote it in the “nellu” for fun. We also gave her my mother-in-law’s name in memory of my MIL.
The night before this, I made a quick trip to one of the retail stores to buy some clothes for my brother and for the kids. It was past 7.30 pm and B was taking care of my son and baby girl had fallen asleep. I had an hour plus to shop and come home. As I was driving back home in the dark, amidst traffic lights and head lights and tail lights of neighboring cars…the flicker of lights far away in some fields on the way…the hum of the car ride and the mood somehow transported me to my own childhood. It is amazing how in a flash of few seconds your life and events from the past can come in snippets and zoom in and out of your thoughts rapidly. Me as a little girl standing on tip toes and looking at the dresses spread out on the store counter to select one for my sister’s wedding…me lighting the Karthigai lamps all along the long parapet wall in our verandah, with our maid’s daughter who was my close friend then… the shamiana made out of dried leaves that was erected outside our house during my sister’s wedding…my brother trying to steal my stash of Diwali fire crackers that I would sit on for ever….my mother buying ripe golden absolutely delicious “Banganapalli” mangoes from the old man who brought us the best fruits of the season…random images flashed passed my head.
At the end of each day, running after two kids and dealing with their moods and tantrums for that day can leave you feeling mentally fatigued and over whelmed that the same things would repeat again the next day. It would be so for a few years until the kids are grown up after which different struggles will begin to take shape. In the myriad thoughts that were running in my mind as I was driving home, I felt a sense of peace and joy in the feeling that the next morning we were going to celebrate our daughter’s naming ceremony. And I had my family members and close friends around. And these are the sorts of memories that will probably flash past my son/daughter’s minds when years later they have their moment of reflection. It is in creating these special moments for them that all the hard work also seems enjoyable. It is in the here and now that life takes meaning and brings with it joy along with the hardships we go through.