Monday, September 10, 2012

Sunflowers, swim tales

KB & KG both love nature.  KB at the going rate might grow up to be an organic farmer living in rural Montana walking bare feet may be!  He wanted me to give seed packets as return gifts for his birthday.  He read up information about quinoa on the ipad and while doing so told me about this plant called Kinnikinnick.  That's how crazy he is about planting seeds, watching flowers bloom or looking at the instructions for planting on different seed packets.  And what brother loves, sister does.  So KG too is into all this stuff.  Sadly for them, I don't let them plant too much new stuff because we might be moving houses and I don't want to again go through tending to plants and then having to leave them behind during the move.  Even if it is a local move, it is a hassle really to take these along.  And most of these anyway we plant in the ground, not in pots.  However, I let KB and KG pick one set of flowering plants and we bought seeds and planted them.

KB planted mammoth sunflowers and KG snapdragons.  Her snapdragons for some reason are stunted and are not really growing much.  KB's mammoth sunflowers on the other hand grew taller than him and they gave us bright and beautiful sunflowers for the last two month.  Despite planting some stakes next to their stems for support, they began sagging under their own weight and are now touching the ground.  KB is so matter of fact about it.  "Mamma, that is the natural cycle.  The flowers will wilt and the stems will sag and the seeds will fall to the ground and in the next cycle new plants will grow!  That's just how nature works" he tells me.  Since he gets excited about learning fun stuff in math, his father took a nice close up shot of the sunflower heads to teach him about Fibonacci sequences found in nature.  KB's eyes lit up when he counted those himself and discovered the pattern!  It is pure joy, those moments when their eyes light up when they figure out something new and understand it.  I will leave you with a couple of pictures of his sunflowers.

Quick update about the swim team that I had talked about in my previous post.  KB went to two more (one hour each) sessions of the swim team.  Before he went to the second class, I got him the fins, the kickboard etc and also told his teacher to teach him how to use those when they went for the swim lesson.  This time around he was a little more prepared.  He did not enjoy it but he got through the full one hour.  The third time around, he was not happy when I was driving them to the pool.  But he still went ahead with it and actually enjoyed himself and felt happy when he finished the full hour! 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Who is in charge?

Raising children in a different culture than the one we grew up in, sometimes I find myself wondering if the perspective the teachers or people in positions of authority who come in contact with my children are "correct".  There is no one right way.  And who is to say what end result means you have done a good job as a parent? 

I took KB and KG to try out a new swimming class with the head coach of a swim team.  She gives private lessons as well as coach the swim team for the kids who join the team from the neighborhood.  She is a strong, somewhat reticent, but friendly enough person.  I took KB and KG for one trial lesson with her and we all liked her teaching.  She is firm with them without yelling at them.  The next day, I decided to also try out the "swim team" lesson.  After their half hour class, they had a half hour break and then they had to swim for another hour as part of the swim team lesson.  This was the first time KB was doing anything longer than half hour of active stroke swimming.  He plays with his friends in the pool for two hours.  But it is not the same since it is just play.  So when they started the swim team lesson, KB was OK with it for a short while.  But about 20 min into it, I saw his face looking tense.  Ten minutes later, I knew he was on the verge of tears.  The coach standing outside his lane said, "He is OK". 

Ten minutes later I saw him at the end of the lane with tears in his eyes.  I asked him if he was OK and he said he feels left out because every one else was better than him.  I didn't know that the other kids were all wearing fins for that segment of the session.  Naturally KB was not able to keep up with them.  I went and told the head coach that I was pulling him out since he had just had a class and he was also not happy since he was not prepared for this with fins etc.  She shrugged very disapprovingly and said, "OK if that's what you want to do".  KB's friend who was trying out the team also looked very unhappy.  He complained that he was tired.  His mom went and asked the coach what she should do about it.  The coach said, "If you pull him out now, he will think he is in charge.  Let him be in the water. He will manage". 

That got me it so bad for a seven year old to feel like he is in charge of that situation? If he is really feeling tired, if it is the first time he was trying it out, he has had a class just before this and doesn't feel like he has the energy to cope, is it so wrong for him to want to come out of the pool just then? Why shouldn't a seven year old have reasonable rights like that? Why shouldn't he feel in charge? I know that if I had left KB there and insisted he finish it he would have survived.  But why put him through that torture?  I still feel I did the right thing.  KG too was in the same class but her attitude is totally different.  She does not get perturbed by all this and she has a little more stamina than KG because she is a better eater.  She enjoyed herself, finished the class and came out after the hour.

I went the next morning, got him the fins and kickboard and scheduled a semi private lesson for KG and KB with the head coach.  KB learned how to use the fins and kick board.  He learned intently the butterfly stroke.  I then took him to a friend's community pool and he practiced all four strokes with the fins on.  He told me today that he is now prepared for the swim team.  I feel, for his personality, I did the right thing.  He likes to be in control of the situation, feel prepared and do his best.  He did not enjoy not knowing what he was doing and he pressured himself to keep up with the kids who had fins on and he was truly exhausted.  It remains to be seen how he will fair in the next swim team class.  But culturally, the head coach is sure her way is right.  I should not have pulled him out.  She said to my friend, "It would be a realllly bad idea to pull him out" when she wanted to get her son out because he was tired.  But the way I raise my children, I feel they have their rights in certain situations and it is especially my responsibility as an adult to make sure they know that their wishes are respected and that I am in charge of it and not some teacher who does not know them.  To her it might have seemed like helicopter parenting, to me it seems like responsible parenting.  It is probably how one sees it.  I don't know what is the right thing to do except to do what "feels" right.  Well, let me see how the swim team lesson goes next week.  At least I feel he is prepared for it now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A summer day

I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts that this summer has been pretty much lazing around and/or playing almost all day for the kids.  I thought I should write down about what we did on some day so I can at least remember something when I look back.  Time just goes by in a flash every summer day.  I am barely able to talk to people on the phone.  And some of my friends whose kids are home for the summer also feel the same way.  I have not talked to my mother in nearly two weeks.  The windows of time I have, she has not been available at the phone.  And when she calls me back, I am out of the house.  She doesn't usually try my cell phone if I am not home.  I am going to try and recollect my day yesterday.

I woke up at 6.25 a.m.  Got changed and wore my shoes and went for a walk at the park.

7.30 - coffee/news on the net/email check.

Yesterday I made an extra effort to keep the bedroom door closed and lowered the temperature for the AC even more so it would be extra cool all in an effort to try and get KB to sleep a little longer.  He has been sleeping at 10.30 p.m. or so and waking up by 7.15 - 7.30 a.m.  I wish he would sleep till 9.00 a.m. during the summer holidays.  Am sure come school days it is going to be a struggle for me to wake him up at 6.30 a.m.  Every morning he wakes up and comes to me at the dining table and declares "7.19" or "7.23" etc to tell me exactly what time he woke up.  He has the habit of looking at the clock the moment he wakes up just the way I do.  I cannot sleep well in a room that doesn't have a clock.  I just need to know the time if I wake up at night or I feel disoriented.  Anyway, back to our day.

8.04 was the declared time that KB woke up yesterday.  He came to me and said, "Mamma, KG wants  you to come and lie down with her for sometime".  So I went and lay down with KG and she was so happy that I immediately obliged her request.  And we called out for KB also to join us and the three of us lay in bed with them literally piled up on me like sacs and laughing and playing.

8.35 - get out of bed.  Made up the bed.  Gave KB his milk.  He promptly sat down in the corner seat of the couch and started reading his Calvin & Hobbes book (he has been reading them all, all over again for may be the third of fourth time, obsessed).   KG went on to her refuge from the madness, her hot wheel cars.  She makes up her own world with them, introduces prince/princess/animals - everyone if part of her imaginary world there.  I read some more stuff on the net and then put away some dishes etc and tried to get them ready for breakfast.  I had to look up gift items for a friend's daughter in the meanwhile also.

9.30 - Sat with the kids for their breakfast for a while.  Usually I sit with them the whole time but I suddenly had the enthusiasm to make "Milagai Pachadi" since B had bought a ton of green chillies on the rare day that he went to the Indian store when I had asked him to buy some green chillies.  I made that and some rasam.  I had to return some of my friend's containers, so I packed some of the stuff I had cooked for her.  Around 10.15, I started rushing the kids to go get ready to leave for KB's friend's house for a play date.  Got him to finally get into the room and practice his music for half an hour.  Shower and be ready.  I cleaned up in the kitchen, ate a quick breakfast, showered and got ready.  Went and dropped off the containers with my friend and then went to KB's friend's house.

11.40 - reach KB's friend's house.  Both those boys were excited and waiting at the door.  One other boy and his sister joined us a few minutes later.  Plan was for the moms also to stay on and eat lunch there together.  After and hour and half or so of running around, the kids wanted to watch TV.  But the remote control battery was not working well and we could not get netflix to work.  So I drove back home to get batteries since my friend ran out of new ones.  I got a great welcome when I got back obviously because the kids were waiting to watch some useless show called "Avatar" on netflix.  In the middle of all this, there were pillow fights, tears, screaming and the works.  When I walked in with the batteries, the oldest girl in the group told me "Aunty, KB was not listening at all.  He was throwing pillows around even though my mom told him many times not to".  I had to take KB out and lecture him to listen especially when I am not in the house with them.  It put me in a restless mood for a while because of the bad feeling I had from scolding him when he was having the kind of typical fun kids have when they get together.  I finally somehow composed myself to get back to normal.  Finally around 1.45 p.m. the kids finished their lunch, we turned on the TV and sat down to have our own lunch.  Half an hour later there was more fighting amongst the kids because one of them did not want Avatar show and the others did!

1.45 - 2.45 - lunch/clean up etc.

3.15 - leave the house.  Feeling kind of wiped out dealing with the kids fighting,screaming inside the house.  We usually meet in the park but this was the third time this month the kids were meeting at our houses for 3 or 4 hours at a stretch.  I prefer the park play dates if it involves more than two other kids I think!

3.30 - come home, give KB his milk, KG her yogurt.  Make myself tea and drink it peacefully.

4.15 - leave for KB's piano class. Drop him and get home at 4.45 p.m.  Answer some emails I had received regarding their swim lessons.

4.45 - 5.20 - sit with KG.  She read one of the books "Lucky for me" from the hooked on phonics first grade series.  I then asked her the comprehension questions they have for that book.  I had to make a choice between doing this or going to buy veggies and fruits in that time.  I told myself that can wait and instead spent this quiet time with her when KB was not around.

5.30 - KB pick up.  Bumped into another mom I know at the parking lot.  Talked for 10 minutes with her.  Got back home around 5.50 p.m.  KB wanted to look at some more sun flower seeds to buy for him.  He planted some sun flower seeds around mid June and now they are blooming beautifully.  Will post pictures of those sometime.  Gave KG grapes and KB a cup of yogurt (after much trying finally he has accepted store bought organic stony field farm vanilla yogurt this summer!!!).  Got their razor scooters and helmets in the car trunk.  Packed their water bottles etc.

6.30 - 7.30 - kids were scootering at the park near us.  Normally they meet with some friend or the other for a play date at the park.  But after the morning play date I told them that we could just go ourselves and do something quietly even if no other friend was coming to the park.  I was looking to just sit and quietly enjoy the breeze.  But I bumped into someone I know who had come with her whole family (three boys) because her oldest boy was in the soccer team and had his practice there.  So I sat down talking to her and playing with her 8m old baby for a bit.

7.40 p.m.  - got back home.  Immediately rushed to the kitchen to start cooking their/our dinner.  Usually I keep their dinner ready at least.  But last night I hadn't done so.  Made dal/rice.  Washed and cut the spinach from the organic spinach box they sell at Costco.  Sauteed spinach and green peas together for them.  And made spinach/garbanzo beans with a "more kozhambu" base for ourselves.  Had that with rice and also had my yummy milagai pachadi from the morning!  One of those rare evenings when I got to have a south Indian meal instead of our usual chapathi and subzi.

8.15 p.m. - finished cooking.  In the meanwhile B was sitting with KB and KG playing scrabble and helping them both.  I went and joined them and the kids were so excited when I went to join them screaming "hey, mamma's here! Mommy, mommy, mommy"!  Played till 8.45 p.m.

8.45 - 9.20 - kids ate dinner.  I usually sit with them and read or talk to them while they eat.  But since it was so late, B and I ate along with them.  KB was reading "Micheal Jordan" book by Matt Chirstopher.  He got to the chapter where MJ's father got killed and I was worried that KB might get night mares.  So I told him to put away that book and read his Calvin book instead.  KG was looking at her "D.W. rides again" book while she ate her dinner.  I had loaded the dishwasher with the dishes up to the point before dinner.  B then loaded the after dinner dishes while I sat with the kids for 10 minutes in the couch talking to them.  Finally at 9.30, the brushing etc started.  KB wanted a new brush that he has spotted in the drawer.  KG felt it was not fair he got to open a new brush.  Had to settle that fight first.  at 10.00 p.m. the kids settled in bed.  These days they want me to come lie down with them.  Some days I read to them, some days I just talk to them in the dark. KG usually lies down on my back for a few minutes.  Usually I get out of bed after they fall asleep.  Last night I felt sleepy as well and I just slept along with them.  Much earlier than my usual sleep time (around mid night).  Because of which I woke up at 2.15 a.m. and could not sleep. So here I am writing a blog post and finishing it up at 3.12 a.m.!  Will go back to bed soon and wake up to another day! Strange feeling when I write that line - wake up to another day!  Who knows what another day will be like!
Well as long as it is like this day, I guess it is not a bad deal!  

Monday, August 13, 2012

KB turns seven

I started writing this blog sometime in June 2006 when KB was ten months old.  KB turned seven years old ten days back.  I think back to his baby days and I try to remember how he looked, what he did etc in my mind.  Funny how days and nights of nursing, feeding, diapering, marveling all collate into quick flashes of memory when you think about it without watching any video or looking at photographs.  If I read some of the posts on KB in his infant days, it brings things back to memory in a way that feels deeply personal.  It makes me wish I had written more about both my children, more often and in greater detail.  For reliving the small moments.  Well, I am glad I at least have this much to go back to! 

We had gone to a wild life sanctuary last weekend and hung out there for a few hours.  It is a very low key place with a lovely bird porch, a 75 year old desert tortoise, a small nature center with live snakes, and a few small trails and a pond with a lot of fishes and turtles perched on rocks.  The kids love this place and fondly go back there to see their friend, “Henry” the tortoise.  While we were at the nature center, I asked the man in charge if he could bring one of the snakes out of the cage for KB to touch.  He was nice enough to bring it out and show “Bob” the corn snake to KB.  He then asked him if he wanted the snake on his shoulder.  “Yes”, KB said without batting an eyelid.  These are the kind of moments that remind you that your child is really growing up.  Suddenly there, handling the snake on his shoulder bravely, controlling his excitement and may be some nervousness too, smiling with excitement as Bob slithered around his neck, I saw KB as a seven year old boy.  Still my little child, yet a person on his own.  I felt proud in a way that only a mother can about something so small, a snake on his shoulder.  I was proud that he was brave enough to say yes, adventurous enough to open himself to that experience and calm enough to smile through it.  And because I could never have done it myself, I felt excited for him.  Which mother does not live a little through their children?!

KB is in so many ways all that I saw in him as an infant and more.  Sensitive and opinionated.  Obsessive. Particular about the way things are done.  Happy, yet intense.  A real talker.  Give him a few minutes of your time and he will be glad to go on and on.  If he goes into academics to become a professor, it would be no surprise to me.  And I hope he does, considering how much he loves to tell people what he knows and elaborate on it.  He loves to laugh and laugh loudly.  He dotes on his little sister and is always proud of every little thing she does much as he gets on her nerves by troubling her all day long.  A small example – the other day I was going to give a box of left over chocolate chip muffins to the gardener who comes every Monday.  I asked KG if I could give it and she said to save 3 or 4 of them and give the rest.  KB came to me and said, “Mamma, save the ones with a lot of chocolate.  Save all the special ones for KG, okay?”.  This, even though he keeps lecturing KG on how she needs to stop eating junk food.  

Speaking of junk food, I am still amazed by his conviction and his self control when it comes to certain things.  I am not saying this in any tone of bragging.  I really just feel plain and simple amazed because I don’t have the self control he does at his age.  He used to love mac n cheese, pringle chips, cheetos, dum dum lollipops.  He was never one for too much snacking anyway and he never wanted to have ice cream or chocolates.  I always assumed that when he started school anyway he will go on junk over drive and I didn’t particularly encourage him to eat it if he didn’t ask for it.  But even the few comfort foods he liked, he just stopped eating because he has learned they are not particularly healthy foods.  Lollipops with artificial colors make some children hyperactive.  The day he learned that, he just instantly stopped eating them.  Something he used to love!  Cheetos have that horrible orange colored processed cheese, he just stopped eating them.  I did not once ask him to stop eating any of those entirely.  He just did it on his own.  At age six.  And at age seven, his resolve when it comes to certain things really makes me wonder how he is that way.  For his seventh birthday, he insisted there be no sugary cake.  I had to get some “cake” like thing with fruits.  He wouldn’t even permit a muffin in the midst of fruits to insert a candle.  I had to insert candles in the middle of a pineapple in the center of a fruit arrangement I made with apples, strawberries and grapes.  I just had a play date for him with 15 or so of his first grade classmates and I had to sneak in some ice cream just so the kids (including his little sister) don’t complain that I did not bring any cake!  KB complained later that I should not even have brought any ice cream to his birthday play date! 

KB loves to learn as all children do.  But they are all different in their own ways.  Even between KB and KG, how they process things and what they are curious about is starkly different.  KB has been one of those academic learners – just taking in tons of information and remembering it and building on it.  But the strange thing is for how much he loves to learn new things, he is not that much into reading different kinds of books.  He reads a lot at school during their reading times.  But during summer holidays or weekends, he reads a lot, but only those books that he is obsessed about in that phase.  Right now he is reading “all” the Calvin & Hobbes books ever written, probably for the fourth time.  Cover to cover.  He has poems, lines etc memorized.  He laughs to himself and constantly reads out lines to me and expects me to laugh.  He asks me meanings of new words from those books.  Today he asked me what “panache” meant.  He went through this phase with his Harry Potter books early in January this year.  He read books 1, 2 and 3 and half of book 4.  Suddenly his attention got diverted to some basketball books and he started reading those books.  That stopped and now he is back to Calvin & Hobbes.  I try to coax him into reading other kinds of books and novels.  But he doesn’t really want to do it.  He wakes up in the morning and runs to his Calvin & Hobbes book as if his friend Calvin is waiting for him!  He still learns a lot from the nonfiction books he skims through on his own.  And I still read to him every day at least for a short while.  Since age four he eats on his own and will not let me feed him any meal.  But he still wants me to read books to him!  

KB reads (I read to him mostly that is!) books on Margaret Mead, Albert Schweitzer, Nellie bly, Gandhi all with equal enthusiasm and tells us details as if he knew them.  Today we were at a botanical garden with the kids and I asked him if he wanted to have his milk.  He said to me , “I am fasting today for the milk, I don’t want any milk”.  I had to tell him in strong terms that he is not allowed to “fast” at this age for sure.  He asked me all about fasting while I read about Gandhi and I told him how I used to do semi fasts on Tuesdays (no food after dinner) etc.  Knowing him, he too will start on fasts pretty soon!  

 For how curious he is about different kinds of cultures, KB is pretty bad at geography.  I don’t know if it is a lack of interest in knowing where exactly places are or if it is because I have not done enough to make him learn it well.  I have tried to get him to memorize where the fifty states are.  He has a “photographic memory” according to his class teacher, so I can’t imagine he cannot remember it if he puts his mind to it.  But he just doesn’t still remember those exactly.  He is totally into wild animals, nature, planting seeds, observing nature, hiking, basketball and learning about physics and biology.  He says he wants to be an inventor and a conservationist.  His plan is to invent a space suit that is safe for astronauts since his sister wants to be the first person to go to Mars!  He said to me, “Mamma, while KG is in training to become an astronaut, I will work on inventing a super safe space suit”.  .  And before I forget, the biggest change these last few months have been his interest in carnatic music.  He never used to listen to carnatic music in the car which is when they get a lot of music.  Now he is totally into it and listens to all kinds of instrumental music – Lalgudi, Kumaresh/Ganesh, Flute Raman, Kadri and also a lot of vocal music.  I am most excited by this change because it used to worry me that he showed no interest in carnatic music.  

KB will always have a special place in my heart just the same way KG does in her own special way.  KB, my first born brought to me the joy of being a mother.  While giving up having a good career because of various reasons makes me very sad at times, I have no regrets when I think that I have not missed a single moment of their early childhood.  Especially for KB who is the sensitive, demanding one, I am so glad to have been there for him, comforted him and made him feel secure at all times.  KB has given me the gift of learning things I never did or don’t remember and his curiosity and ability to grasp things has made me relive the wonder of being a child.  It has also set the tone for KG to be curious and excited about all that is around them.  As I always say, I pray mainly for their good health and safety and for them to grow up feeling secure and self assured. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mountains, bisons, geysers...

We got back from our trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.  It was wonderful to be in the midst of nature and of course great to be internet free for a few days.  The long drive from SLC was a bit of a pain going in especially but somehow we got through it.  The day after reached YS, we went around the huge park seeing a lot of the geysers.  "Old faithful" of course didn't disappoint and dutifully erupted around the expected time.  We managed to get a place to stay inside the park the second night, especially considering we booked at the last minute.  The cabin was in the thick of the woods and we checked in late evening.  After KB rested for sometime, we again went out to see some wild life and got caught in the middle of a "bison jam".  A herd of bisons were crossing and cars were backed up in the one lane road.  One bison was walking along the side of the road and started coming towards our car which scared me a little.  But it just walked away soon after.  We got some really nice pictures of the bison though.  Sadly that night, KB woke up with a fever while B and KG were fast asleep and it was raining outside and the drops were pelting on the roof of the cabin.  KB was so hot with the fever and woke up crying with nightmares.  I sat up half the night cooling him down with a wet towel until the medicine took effect.  Thankfully I had taken the medicines with me because nothing was open or available in the middle of the park.  Somehow he managed to be energetic in the morning when he woke up.  We drove around some more and saw more interesting geologic formations and then drove to the next hotel inside grand teton national park on the third night.  I had called the morning before to try my luck and managed to get a hotel reservation inside the park.  Normally people make these reservations one year in advance it seems!

Yellowstone has its own charm and the wild life makes it very interesting.  But grand tetons - god, that place is so majestic in its beauty and so serene and peaceful during dawn and dusk.  It is the kind of place you should go to to relax and just soak in nature's beauty.  The lodge we stayed in was incredibly good and the view from the restaurant attached to it was a panoramic view of the tetons.  It was a pleasure to be there with the kids.  If I were rich, I would be going there very often!  By some divine grace, KB managed to muster enough strength to see things during the day and also pull through during the drive back to SLC.  We visited our friends there and then flew back to our place.  KB gets motion sick and is also the kind who will think about it so much and psyche himself before he gets on the plane.  So he threw up many times on both flights.  One time in the car, I could not be prepared since it came without any warning.  But at other times I was prepared and had a barf bag ready for him.  Somehow managed to get through all of it.  He pretty much survived those three days on apple juice and water and air! Ate two slices of bread for the whole day.

On the flight back, I was at the receiving end of a random act of kindness.  Just to distract KB, I asked the steward standing next to our seat if I could get head phones for the kids.  The guy said I would have to wait till the flight took off since they would be selling head phones only then.  He then paused for a moment and asked if it was for the kids.  I told him KB gets motion sick during take off and I was hoping to avoid him throwing up.  He told me to wait for a second and then went in and got two head phones for the kids even before the plane took off.  He said, "I know how it is...I know the routine!. It was really nice of him to have helped me out.  It was an early morning flight and KB threw up three times even before he entered the plane.  So pretty much there was nothing left to throw up.  But still the distraction helped since there was some show on cartoon network (we don't have premium cable at home) that he wanted to watch at that moment.  Such simple acts of kindness make such a big difference.  I always tell myself the only way I can thank that man for his kindness is to pay it forward to someone else and try to go the extra length even when I don't have to.  Just the way he did.

I was so cut off from world news those two days that I got to know of the CO shootings only when I got back home on Sunday.  On friday night when that horrible incident was happening in that movie theater, I was up at night in that dark cabin with the sound of rain and cooling KB's fever down with wet towels.  My prayer then was that KB's fever should not get worse, that it should not escalate into full blown bronchitis or asthma and mentally I was making plans as to what we would do if his condition got worse by morning.  The next morning, I was so relieved and thankful that he woke up feeling much better and energetic.  I was so thankful to what ever power it is that controls these things.  Now when I think back, I think of the victims of the shooting and their families and how for them their world had descended into horror that Saturday morning to be rudely woken up to such unimaginable tragic news.   It is strange how we all learn to cope with these different worlds - our own, the world immediately in front of us and that world which is remote but brought closer to us by the media.  How else can the world go on? We just have to move on no matter what happens.  We have to survive things that happen to us and to others and keep on going for there is no other choice.  If I pause to think of this person, how destiny chased her, I find it so bizarre.  How can the same thing happen to someone twice?  Sometimes you just cannot make sense of this universe and nature's ways.  Why would a brilliant neuroscience student do this to others?  What did he not get in his childhood that turned him into a monster?  Or would he have turned out this way despite what ever his parents did to raise him well?  Such a torrent of emotions and thoughts when you read such news. 
One can only hope that somehow such tragedies don't happen again.  I have digressed far from the world of bisons and elks but I am glad to have that world to turn to to find some calm and peace in our confusing existence.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer stuff...

I have been meaning to write a post or two but I don't seem to put pen on paper.  Or fingers on the keypad?
Summer holidays started third week of June for the kids.  Since then it has been a lot of relaxation and non stop fun for the kids.  No schedule really.  No camps.  Play dates.  Playing with each other at home for countless hours.  Some music practice, a tiny bit of math, some reading.  Other than that, this summer especially has been one of those lazy summer types where the kids get to play and while away time.  One week, my family was visiting us and then we drove to my sister's place for her daughter's arangetram.  That was a lot of fun for the kids.  It moved me to tears of course when my niece fell at the feet of her parents to get their blessings and get the salangai from them.  It takes being a mother to feel that moment.  I don't know if I would have been as moved before kids.  But knowing what it takes to take the child week after week to class, get them practice and go through the ups and downs with them through it all...and that moment felt like the culmination of all those efforts and it really moved me to tears.  For me, am at the beginning of such journeys with my children, but I was trying to imagine what it would be like ten or twelve years from now when they are at the point of an arangetram.  I had to just stop myself from dreaming of such things and just stay in the present.  After we got back from that, we went through a round of sickness.  Next week we are headed to a national park for about six days.  Looking forward to it.  But also very nervous as to how the kids, esp KB will do in terms of food in the middle of the wilderness.  He has to just survive on fruits I think.  Let's see how it goes.

The other big thing that happened was celebrating KG's fifth birthday.  I still cannot believe she is five.  Second children just grow up in a flash.  Each year goes by faster than the previous one it feels like.  She is so different from her brother in many ways.  But she looks up to him and dotes on him.  I don't know if him being there for her is why she doesn't try hard to make friends of her own.  She is most happy to be playing with him or tagging along his play dates.  I do feel bad that she doesn't have very close preschool friends etc.  It is what it is!  She fights with him non stop, compares between him and herself all the time.  I can't even give him a hug or a kiss without making sure she gets one at the same time.  If by chance I give him a hug when he happens to come to the kitchen, she will run to the kitchen and ask "Mamma, did you just hug KB?".  If I just said yes, she would immediately have a sullen face and say, "You only like KB".  But I am of course careful and I say, "Yeah KG, I am waiting to hug you too" and I have to give her a hug.  She plays beyblades with her brother non stop all day long.  She is becoming better at reading.  She is able to read words like "sweater" , "lobster" etc on her own from flash cards.  KB worries that she should be reading "Level 2" books. He is the worry worm.  Not me.  I feel like she is doing fine and she will get there soon enough.  KB is always happy when she reads well or does some math well.  KG also seems to really enjoy math and loves it when we give her arithmetic problems to solve mentally.  She is OK when it comes to writing, she writes well, but she writes so many letters and numbers as mirror images.  She is fiercely independent as she has always been.  She laughs with abandon and is generally a carefree soul.  I hope she retains that ability to move on with things and generally live life without worrying too much about it.

I managed to write a quick post before our trip.  Hoping we will all have a good time and get to see a lot of wild life too!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What brother does, I have to too!

KB had to do a shoe box project for his homework.  It was a "think out of the box" homework.  He wanted to make an asteroid spewing out blue fire and such exotic stuff.  But there was a clause in it that said that the project had to be self explanatory.  So KB decided he wanted to show an exploding volcano.  He cut out some brown paper and stuck them together.  He wanted to put some play dough on it and luckily we had a whole box of play dough gifted to him by my cousin's daughter who visited us a while back.  He made the volcano with the lava flowing out.  Then he wanted to show ash spread out in the surrounding trees.  So he himself mixed white and black play dough and made it look like ash and spread it over the leaves.  I helped him stick the background paper inside the shoe box.  Project done.

But what KB does, KG has to do.  Right away she grabbed a shoe box, cut out the top and cut out a long strip of paper and made it look like a handle, stuck it on the box and told me, "Mamma, look, I made a basket for you.  Now you can keep your things in this basket, whatever you want".  I thanked her for it and took it and found a few things to put in it to please her.  The next morning, she wanted to make something more grand like her brother had done.  So I asked her if she wanted to do a ocean diorama and told her that it would mean making something that looks like a ocean using the shoebox.  She was all excited.  I printed out the background paper.  She cut out all the edges, the animals (I did some trimming) and I taught her how to make a star fish etc using the multi pack play dough.  It was a lot of fun doing all this with her.  She learned some more about ocean animals from doing the project.  I didn't know myself that clown fish were the only few fishes that would hang around a sea anemone (orange flower like).  The sea anemone has stinging tentacles but the clown fish has a kind of slime that protects it from the venom of the sea anemone and they share a symbiotic relationship.  She could not wait to go pick up KB from school the other day and show him her project.  He was most impressed with her project and that made her feel so good! Big brother gave her a check mark! Wow! All his friends crowded around to see her project.  Later at home though, he of course had to steal her thunder (and mine!) when KG excitedly told him - KB, look, these are stinging tentacles of the sea anemone.  He casually said, "yeah, only clown fish go near the sea anemone.  They don't get killed by the sea anemone. They both share a symbiotic relationship".  He likes to read up or learn such facts from his nature shows and just remembers them.  Thankfully I had read up on why the clown fish are able to survive the attack of the sea anemone and could tell him about it! At least from having read up just then, mom appeared to know a a little more than him! :).  Here I present happily KG's ocean diorama from a shoebox.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Letting them be...

I took KG to a birthday party this afternoon.  KG is relatively shy compared to her brother - but not entirely so.  She is very courageous on the inside and often in surprising ways.  She can talk to a tall and hefty man with absolutely no fear or hesitation if she is in her comfort zone, say if she knows he is a guest visiting our house.  But if she feels like she is being noticed in a crowd she will be quiet.  At the party today, she wanted to play with a girl two years older than her.  But that girl already was good friends with another girl who was KG's age.  KG kept running with them, behind them, was watching them, playing with them when she got the chance.  But over all it was clear she was tagging along more than being included actively.  I had to stand away and watch it happen.  This was for her to experience on her own.  When the two girls decided to just lie down on the grass with their parents, KG who is always ready for some physical activity said to me, why do they want to just sit there? I want to play with them.  I told her I would play with her if she wanted to but I cannot force them to play.  She did not want to play with me.  But she was OK with the situation.  It was my heart that felt a tug.  Did she feel left out? Why is she not more outgoing like those girls? Will she have friends when she starts KG? Will she be a lonely teenager? Will she then try to do the wrong things to please her friends so she can fit in?!  Projecting years into the future in just two seconds of seeing her sitting bored on the grass. 

I guess it is that tug you feel each time your child experiences some seemingly difficult situation that reminds you that you are a mom.  You want the absolute best for your child without a doubt.  You want to help but you have to hold back.  And there you grow as a person and a mother.  Being able to let go.  Being able to let them grow.  Experience the world.  Within safe territory.  To find that balance between protecting them and letting them be. 

The other day, someone told me that they felt it would be better not to purchase a house where an old couple had lived until then and the old lady had died just a few days earlier.  They felt it was not such an auspicious or blessed place after all.  My perspective, after seeing some unfortunate situations amongst friends or family where children are left behind without a mother or a father when a relatively young parent passes away, has completely changed.  I felt they were a blessed couple to have lived that long in good health in their own home for all those years and to have been there for their children.  Any adult who has had the privilege of being there for their children and getting them through up to adulthood is truly blessed.  Reading about such situations completely breaks my heart.  But it is also a reminder to keep perspective and sift out the trivialities of every day life and feeling blessed for having all that is going well in life. 

Wishing you all a very happy mother's day! 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Warm ice

Warm ice.  What is this about, you wonder? Sounds like the mood I am in when we have had a fight, the house is quiet and the lights are dim and we are watching some crime show on television.  There is a feeling of peace and relaxation in the air but then I don't want to give in since the anger and coldness is still brewing inside.  It sounds like warm ice.  No, but that's not what this is about.

KB suddenly came to us last morning and said, "Mamma, I want to do an experiment.  I want to put warm water in the freezer and see if it still turns into ice".  Since he is fond of these sort of "states of water" experiments I said, "OK, sure, go ahead".  I didn't think anything of it.  Gave him a cup of warm water which he thrust into the freezer.  Later in the evening, KB asked to see the cup.  And of course, the water had turned to ice.  He looked at it wide eyed with his big eyes and exclaimed, "So my experiment flopped!".

Flopped? I was confused as to why he said that.  "Why KB, why do you think it flopped?".  "Because it is just cold ice".  So I asked him what else he thought would happen.  He said, "I didn't realize that the refrigerator would cool down the water to make it cold and then it would turn it to ice".  I said with a casual tone, "Yenna daa solre KB?! Of course you know the water will cool down and it will turn to ice.  I don't understand why you think the experiment flopped!".  He looked kind of at a loss for how to explain what he had in mind. Again he said, "But Mamma, I didn't realize the water would first cool down.  I wanted to see if the warmth will still be there under the ice".  Then I got it.  "Oh, KB, you thought the ice will form but the ice will feel warm instead of cold?".  He felt relieved that I understood what he had in his mind.  B told him, "KB  you just did an experiment that teaches you the second law of thermodynamics!".  "What is that?!!" KB asked us.  We then told him that heat will always flow from a hot object to a cold object".  Then I explained to him what the word thermodynamics meant.  He was quite excited about his experiment.  He didn't seem upset that it had "flopped" in his mind.  I don't know how much of it he understood but for me it was really special because it is one of those moments when you witness the beauty of a child discovering and understanding the world around him.  I wanted to write about it before I forgot about it even though I was falling asleep just a little while back.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I had borrowed a couple of amar chitra katha books and of late KB and KG have been very interested in us reading those books to them.  Especially "Dashavatar".  KB suddenly asked a very matter of fact question, "Daddy, why is it that the Asuras skin color is always painted grayish and the devas are always peachish?".  It was a good observation, one that I took for granted in my childhood.  But in light of the Trayvon Martin news, one begins to wonder, how much of this kind of stereotyping starts at a very young age?

We saw a movie on netflix, I just cannot remember the name of it.  In it, a black man and his wife get pulled over by a cop while they are driving home.  The white officer than insults the man by groping on his wife while checking if she has any arms on her.  He stays quiet without defending the wife and just plays it safe so as to not get them into further trouble.  I found it rather ridiculous when I was watching it and thought, come on, no one will be this bad and so daring.  But now I hear more and more of how a black person has to play it safe and make sure he doesn't get harmed because he seems threatening. Sometimes it is so hard to explain these sort of things to children when they ask such questions. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


KB woke up a few times last night (March 20) and somehow managed to fall back to sleep.  He woke up earlier than usual this morning (March 21) and said to me, "Mamma, you know why I woke up last night, because I am so excited about today.  It is March 21! It is a very special day".  He had already told me a little about why he thought it was special so I said "Yeah yeah" and I tried to get a few more minutes of sleep.  A little later he got out of bed and had a bath and was getting dressed when he told his dad about why he was so excited.  He listed a three or four reasons to which B just nodded and came to the kitchen.  Suddenly in typical KB style we heard him sounding frustrated in the verge of tears.  B went in to ask him what and KB said loudly and sadly,  "Daddy, I don't remember all the reasons why I said today was so special, can you tell me what I told you?".  B was in a spot.  Obviously he had not paid full attention while KB was talking.  He said one of the reasons to KB.  But KB was very upset.  He said, "No Daddy, can you please tell them in the order I told you?".  B came to me in the kitchen and said, "God, I don't remember anything of what he said".  Of course for the sake of KB, I rescued him.  Thankfully KB had told me the reasons the night before and I remembered.  1) It is the first day of spring 2)It is early release day at school 3)It is his roll no at school 4)It is Tim Duncan's jersey number 5) We were meeting our close friends for dinner.  B heard these from me and went and reported back to KB.  KB felt relieved that all the reasons were mentioned. 

When I was driving him back from school, he told me, "Mamma, one thousand six hundred and eighty divided by eighty is twenty one".  And then he said, "Mamma, these numbers all have fun patterns".  I asked him what and he said, "for example, for twenty one, the units place of the top number and the denominator are the same.  Like forty two divided by two or eighty four divided by four or one hundred and sixty eight divided by eight".  I hadn't really noticed it until he pointed it out to me.  Even the other day he said something like this about some other set of numbers.  Children and their minds. It is a clean slate. They are able to see things differently more easily.  Even with KG, her innocent queries sometimes makes me wish my mind was as clear. 

I had gone to KB's school yesterday because he got one of those semester awards they give out to a bunch of students within the class.  KB and another student in his class got a writing excellence award.  I was happy for him but I realized I just don't enjoy all these award ceremonies.  I feel some tension in my system when they are giving those out and I find it hard to get rid of it the whole day.  Even if my children were getting a prize.  I don't like how it makes the other kids feel and I don't like how it makes the other moms whose children did not get any awards feel.  Children do deserve recognition but I just don't enjoy it.  I told B that in the future, if either of our children won awards, I don't want to go to these award ceremonies and he should somehow find a way to take time off from work and attend them. 

Well, spring is here.  Joyous time of the year.  Birds chirping, flowers blooming, grass looking fresh and green, kids playing outside till late evening.  I just love it.  Happy spring every one!

Friday, March 16, 2012

High notes and low notes

A few weeks back I went to the doctor for my annual physical exam.  Only in the last two or three years, I have tried to be regular about it.  In the past though, I never gave it a second thought.  It was a thing to be done with and I just got it over with and came home.  She would go over the blood test result in two minutes and I would be out of there very quickly.  This year though I was actually nervous when I went because I had some kind of pain that I had never experienced before.  Without going into details, I was really worried what if she sees a lump or some such thing.  Words like biopsy and the dreaded C word came to my mind leaving me anxious until I forced myself to shirk off such thoughts. 

I have been extremely scared of such things of late because of what I saw my second cousin go through before she passed away leaving her only son and her husband.  She was diagnosed with cancer, treated, went into remission and was totally cancer free for two years.  Suddenly one day she found herself walk slowly compared to her brisk pace and others started noticing it and asked her about it.  Tragically enough, the cancer had spread to her hip bone. Six months later, she passed away.  Since this happened in India, I still am not able to feel it.  That she is no more.  She was so full of life and energy.  She used care of me when I was in school and she was working (mom was away for a few months) and used to stay at our place.  She used to laugh so loudly, make jokes and talk on and on and on.  How can such a life be taken away so abruptly.

To this day I have not shed a single tear on account of her passing away.  Yet her death is something that has affected me in a quiet and deep way.  I have to go to her place and see her house minus her to even really come to grips with her absence.  Since her passing away, I have come to know of more people who are either suffering through the dreaded C or have passed away from it.  A friend of mine I spoke to after a while told me that her father was completely healthy and strong.  Suddenly a year back he had a cough that wouldn't go away.  They gave him antibiotics and sent him back.  A month or so later he went to the ENT to see what could be done about his cough.  Biopsy, the bad news and three months later he died.  Just three months.  Somehow hearing all this and the fact that my children are so young, any pain that is unusual now leaves me feeling so anxious.  Partly because I rarely ever complain of any pain or tiredness.  I guess my mother was/is that way and somehow I hate to even admit to myself even if I am really tired.  I feel like I should push myself even if I am tired.  So when I suddenly felt this kind of dull pain, my mind went on over drive with horrible thoughts. 

Back to my physical exam.  The doctor went through my blood work etc quickly as usual and said I was fine and she said my cholesterol and blood sugar levels were all really really good.  I was happy about her stressing on how good they were.  It had not been an issue ever but somehow this time she specially mentioned it.  But since the pain kind persisted for another week, I got another test done and again went back to her.  When I called the front desk and asked them if they had the results, they gave me cryptic answers saying that I would have to wait for the doctor to call me back and that they are not allowed to communicate test results.  I told them I wanted an appointment with the doctor and the person said, "Oh, then would you like to come today?".  I thought this meant it was urgent and so I took the appointment and went to see the doctor right away.  The doctor examined me and said that it could just be some random pain that women sometimes go through because of hormonal cycles and that I was fine.  I asked her about the test result and she very casually said, "Oh yeah, totally normal.  I thought you already got the results in the mail"!  Phew.  I was really relieved that there was nothing abnormal.  Even now I am afraid to say it because the pain did go away for sometime but occasionally I feel it.

The little time I had between talking to the secretary and getting to know that my test results were normal was filled some kind of blank anxiety.  Blank as in feeling like there is nothing I can do if it were to be...and yet roped into anxiety the next minute when I thought of the children.  Before kids, I would not have been worried so much.  Kids just change everything.  You want to be healthy, you want to be strong and alive and live for as long as they need you at the very least let alone for anything else.  I want to be able to help my children with raising their children.  Greedy thoughts considering I was at that point worried that I should at least last till they are eighteen!  I feel so terrible when I think of people like my cousin who knew her end was coming and had to leave behind her only son who was just starting college.  It must be the worst kind of emotional torture.  That night when I was doing chores I felt this renewed energy for even those regular mundane chores.  I feel as if every normal day we have is a second chance at doing better in the way we live our lives.  In how we view it.  I feel like every moment I spend with my children is precious.  I treasure it even more now if that was even possible.  I try even harder to not loose my cool with them.  I do get angry but I cool down faster.  Same with my husband.  We fight (or should I say I do) like always but I cool off faster.  But the one thing I still am not able to come to terms with is that wistful feeling when I think of my career and that I will never have a stellar career after such a long break.  If at all it will be a job.  I am grateful that I was able to be the primary caretaker for my children in their very young years and from here on at least they will both be old enough to be in full day school and be able to communicate their feelings very well even if I were to get back to work.   I never for a moment regret my time with them and feel very sure that I did the right thing in staying home with them.  Nothing else would have felt right for me personally.  I completely believe that this decision resides with the mother - if the mom is able to work and make peace with that, it is the best decision for her.  For me, this has been the best decision.  But I wish I had thought of all this and planned my career differently from the start.  Well, at least, I should try to do the best of the years ahead.  Good health for oneself and family is the biggest blessing a person can have.  The scare I went through for those few days was a jolt to remind me of that even more.  I could say this in every post literally - that I wish for myself and for all of you good health always!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

KG deep thoughts

Day 1 - KG:  "Mamma, can I live for ever?"

Me: No, KG, no one can live for ever.

KG: "So I will die?"

Me: Every one dies.  Human beings live for a maximum of may be 120 years. 

KG: "Awn, I want to live for ever.  I don't want to die".

Me: It's OK KG, we don't need to worry about it now. Just play OK.

Day 2: KG sitting in the bathroom - suddenly talking loudly to me.

"Mamma, when someone dies, do they get created again?".

Me: Good question KG.  No one really knows for sure.  When we die we again become a part of the universe.

Silence.  Am sure she is still processing that information.  And more questions will follow.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Internet explorer

KB these days has taken to requesting that all four of us be together in the room while they fall asleep.  One night KB and KG were in bed and I was in between them.  KB kept calling for his dad to come and lie down next to him.  B was taking for ever.  When finally he came, KB laughed and said to me, "Mamma, daddy was as usual reading on the internet.  From now on, I am going to call him Internet Explorer".  KB only uses Mozilla and doesn't know about internet explorer except as the "e" symbol he sees on the screen.  Indeed KB, that is an apt name for your father and am sure most dads!

Another such light moment from KB happened again when he was lazing in the couch getting ready for bed.  He said to me, "Mamma, do you know what one bee said to another when it wanted to be entertained?".  "LET'S StING!".

Thursday, February 09, 2012

For my 200th post...

200'th post finally.  I did not know I was at 200 until I sat down to write a post.  It is really not much considering I started in 2006.  So much has happened and so much has changed since then.  Even in my blog world.  Friendships made, friendships that faded away.  Nevertheless, I hope to continue writing even if not frequently.
I have a couple of posts in drafts.  But for my 200th post, I thought I should post this valentine day poem that KB wrote in his class (based on the five senses).  Wishing all the lovely people I have come to know and their wonderful children that I read about a wonderful Valentine's day. Hallmark's day, yes.  But still, a chance to send happy thoughts along!  Here's the poem.

Love tastes like warm cooked green peas

Love smells like fresh homemade orange juice

Love feels like a new Harry Potter book

Love looks like a waterfall after a hike

Love sounds like when my parents say “good job” after I write a story!