Something Else

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The great thing about having found a lovely bookstore is that I now am finding (obviously so) lovely books. I came across an especially wonderful book last week called Something Else by Kathryn Cave and Chris Riddell.

For those of you who have read my earlier reviews of kids’ picture books, you know that I absolutely love illustrations and the way picture books can handle the mst complex of topics in the simplest of ways. This is another example of just that.

A simple yet stunningly touching way of looking at difference Something Else poignantly captures the essence of tolerance (and the lack of thereof as well) with lovely illustrations and a story line that even the youngest of readers can relate to. It allows for a lot of conversation, discussion and interpretation because it avoids stating the obvious.

A story about a creature who simply does not fit in, does not belong…he tries so hard to be a part of the group, to fit in…but whatever he does, he is always ‘something else’. The another ‘something’ comes along…so different from ‘something else’ and helps Something Else come to the realization that you can be different and yet be friends. the books captures the emotions of aspirations, rejection, empathy, tolerance and happiness with such facility and the text and illustrations convey so much feeling with such little effort!

A book for a range of ages, I would strongly recommend this to teachers as well as parents,

stray thoughts…deeper questions

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I was talking to my kids as we sat and painted yesterday. We were all on the floor on our painting mat and i had laid out the water color cakes and some crayons. Nish was busy choosing his brushes and getting some water for his painting while Sid sat lost in thought…kind of pensive. “You want to paint?” I asked him. “Sure” he said though not super enthusiastically. “You don’t have to” I said. “Nish wanted to so I set it up. You can do something else”

He fidgeted with some crayons and asked for a paper. “Will you give me a star?” he asked. I thought he was generally asking for a tattoo…though he usually chose cars or spiderman for that. “Why not?” i replied. “Why do you want a star?”

“Didi does not give me star. Everyday Nish gets a star but I never get”

“Why does he get one? Why don’t you get one?” i asked

“Because didi says me coloring is ‘kacha-pacha’ (half baked, not proper)”

“Why is that?” i prodded

“Nish colors neatly inside the lines but mine is not so neat and inside the lines. Will you give me star?”

I cringe and feel sorry for the little fellow. For one, I had avoided keeping the focus on rewards like stars so far…it was more about feeling great about what you are doing…So if they paint  something, we talk about it, ask them to describe it, and we either put it up, frame it or use it to make cards. We can be pretty candid while doing this…i do not hesitate to tell them if i feel they are not really putting in their best. I know what they are capable of and I know they feel proud when they do something well. And a lot of times i simply let them explore the paints and different media, recognizing that there is different learning happening at all points. But to have it all come down to a silly star on the hand??? that is what your art needs to mean to you? Is there perhaps a different way of pushing kids to do better or more. And do we need to revisit why we are getting them to do things? Sid has always lagged a little behind his twin in fine motor skills and initially even gross motor ones. He has slight muscle hypotonia and consistent physio and timely early intervention brought him fairly upto speed. But Nish generally has a better pincer grip and control while Sid is still working on it. I don’t want his self esteem tied to a star or him thinking that his art is “kacha pacha”. He has always enjoyed paints and art and I want it to stay that way. He does not have to be picasso or monet…i just want him to be able to create something, be able to look at it critically, be proud of something done well and recognize something that it not.

Am i over reacting?

Devious devious…

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Ok…so the era of innocence is fast getting over…i mean seriously…my 3 1/2 yr old twins have started thinking deviously. I was so taken aback when i saw this yesterday..
So the boys are pretty territorial…while they do share their stuff with each other they are also pretty clear on “this is MINE!!”
Yesterday, Nish was desperately trying to fill a small bottle of bubble liquid with water from the tap. I asked him what he was trying to do. “I am filling this with water” he replied. yes, i could see that. “Why?” i asked. “Because it is Sid’s and I poured out the liquid”…”accidentally” he added as a not so convincing afterthought. “So why are you filling it with water?” i pushed. “The level is looking low” he replied. “so i am filling it up again. Otherwise Sid’s going to get upset!”
The bottle was ceremoniously ‘found’ and returned to Sid in a bit…filled to the brim..the level ‘restored’. However, I guess his conscience was pricking him just a teeny weeny bit so Nish pointed out that the “liquid seems to be a little less. Maybe someone spilled a little”
Amu was quick to take the blame. “amu spilled-aa-little…amu spilled..aaa…little” he chanted like it was an achievement. Sid got really upset and Nish seemed relived that he was not at the receiving end. I finally stepped in and asked Nish, “Any idea who REALLY spilled the liquid?” Nish looked sheepish and admitted it was him…”accidentally OK Sid” he added.
Fortunately Sid interest in the bubble liquid had now been replaced by a Spiderman towel and that was the end of that conversation!

They do say the sweetest things

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You look at the mischief in their eyes, the fact that they hardly ever listen…you cringe as they tear up and down the stairs screaming louder than anything you thought possible..you pull them apart as they roll on top each other, fighting over a red honda city car…and then just as you are ready to throw in the towel they do or say something incredibly heart wrenchingly cute that makes your instantly forget the madness of the day in a moment. Here are a couple that I simply had to share…
We were at some exhibition yesterday..Giftex…there were all kinds of handicrafts and jute products juxtaposed with high end speakers, magnetic putty and funky giftable things by a range of high end players. As we walked by the stalls, we stopped in front of a ‘bastar art’ stall. While my husband and I were engaged in conversation I noticed that Sid was standing at the neighboring stall where an older lady (probably from a tribal region in west bengal) was busy sorting through and string some stuff through a large plastic bag. He came up to me and tugged at my sleeve to interrupt..”she is very poor Aai?” he asked. I was a little taken aback by this question. Looking at her, she did look like she came from a fairly lower socio economic background. But what had made him pick that up…she wasn’t really badly dresses. She was in a sari with lots of sequins. “Why do you ask?” i probed. “She looks like she is poor” he replied. I wondered what he was using as a cue. She was very dark skinned and I did not know whether the little fellow had picked up some of the abundantly flowing color bias that we see around us. “Is it because of her clothes, her color or something else?” i asked. “Not her color” he replied. “not her clothes” he added. “her um….expression…she looks a little sad…she looks like that other old lady at the traffic signal. She has a poor face” he tried to explain. I knew what he meant but I did not want him to create stereotypes…”Maybe she is just tired…or having a bad day” I said..”everyone can look sad or have a bad day. that does not mean she is poor”. Before we could go any further with this conversation (it was taxing because i was trying to figure out how to talk about these things and differences with them), Sid moved away and back to the stall. He took out his measuring tape and started pretending to measure the table the lady was sitting at. He intermittently stared at her and flashed big smiles till she finally gave in and smiled back at him. He came back to me looking happier in general and quite pleased with himself. “now she is not so sad” he announced.
It was touching to see how much he was able to perceive and I was moved at how he made his own little effort to make someone’s day a little bit better!

Then today we had another interesting conversation. Nish has been down with acute tonsilitis and so he stayed home from school today…he was miserable and his throat was hurting a lot so he kept whimpering and crying. However, he came with me to pick up Sid from school. In the car, i told Sid that Nish was not well and had been crying. Sid looked at his twin and asked “You were crying for me? because you were missing me?” “No” replied Nish “because my throat was hurting”. “But you missed me?” asked Sid looking at his brother. “no” replied Nish.
No remotely crushed by this response, Sid simply gave his brother a hug. “I missed you at school today. You are my Nish and I love you! you want to share my water bottle?”
Again…it was so cute to hear that frank little conversation. How easily kids say things that are actually so deep!

Felt felt felt!

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I am really discovering the magical magical world of felt. While it is nothing new in terms of a concept, the possibilities are endless and I love what I can do with it. The boys are really enjoying playing with felt board…whether it is stories or rhymes or math games or mr.potato head dress up stuff. It is plain and simple fun…not so difficult to make and quite versatile in its uses.

I am now working on a felt Quiet Book and the boys are supplying me with ideas and a wishlist.

In terms of stories and rhymes we now have: Three little pigs, The three Billy goats gruff, La Luna, Chicka chicka boom boom, 5 little monkeys jumping on the bed, 5 little monkeys swinging from a tree, five little fish, and Five little ducks went out one day. We have a ladybird counting game, a build it yourself fire trucks, matching shapes, potato head and make your own cupcakes.

It is great for literacy related devt, math skills, motor skills as well as promoting conversation, retelling, narration, imaginary play, etc. My boys are playing with the felt board all the time…the older ones don’t need me around ..they enjoy retelling stories using the felt board, they make up stories as they go along and in general have a blast. I plan to use it with the kids to practice math and phonics too.

Here are some pics:

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Finally a bookstore that I instantly fell in love with!

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Ever since we moved to Bangalore I have been in search of a nice bookstore…nice does not mean fancy…it need not have a cafe in it and I really don’t mind so much if it is air conditioned or not. I like to take the boys to a bookstore, sit with them and browse through books, appreciate the literature and illustrations and then pick something we can take home with us. It was a like a ritual of sorts in Mumbai for us..we would visit Kitaab Khana in Kala Ghoda once a month and come back home super happy and with 2 or more books for our collection.

In the past four months I have not been able to do that. Crosswords near our place in Bangalore has a large section of books for kids…the toddlers/preschool section has a shelves laden with ‘activity books’ coloring books, math for kids, handwriting books and phonics. What happened to the literature part??? The sales person had not heard of Eric Carle, Julia Donaldson or Sandra Boynton..The chap at the computer in the information section candidly informed me that they don’t keep ‘those type of books’. I guess our toddlers only need handwriting and phonics?! I had similar luck with a couple of other bookshops too.

Which is why i was so delighted to find Lightroom Bookstore in Frazer town. Some one i met the other day mentioned the bookstore and it is indeed a pleasure to visit it. Went without the kids this time as I was not sure what to expect but it was absolutely wonderful. A whole room full of children’s books…Caldecott winners and all.

And the lady who run the bookstore actually understands books, can discuss literature and illustrations and was charming to talk to! It was all in all a most satisfying experience and I strongly recommend this bookstore to other children’s books lovers! (They are on FB if you would like to learn more)

Melting moments

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Melting moments

Day before, my youngest Amu was at his worst behaviour. He wanted everything his brothers were playing with and pulled all stops to make sure he got them…which included pulling, screeching, hitting and biting. He bit Sid and poor Sid came crying loudly to me saying “he bit me Aai…he bit me and it is hurting terribly!” I took him to my room to look at where he was hurt and he insisted he wanted his twin Nish with him…”Nish Nish Nish!” He kept calling till his brother arrived. “Look Amu bit me…so badly it’s hurting!” Nish examined the injury quite seriously and looked at me..”you put ice?” He asked. Yes doc. “Nish!” howled Sid again.
“It’s ok Sid, Nish is right here next to you” said Nish gently stroking his brother’s hair and giving him a kiss.
At this point I figured my injured boy was in very safe and caring hands and I left to address the biting boy.

Discovering Beads!

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We have discovered beads! Not the plastic ones that we had picked up last year from the toy store but REAL ones! At the art and craft store last month the boys discovered and aisle full of beads…and of course, in addition to felt sheets and glue that we had walked in for, we walked out with a bag of deliciously exciting beads that the boys picked up…specially for a necklace that they now wanted to make for my friend.

They got to work right away picking ones that they thought would go together and the result was actually quite pretty!

However, buoyed by the success of the necklace they decided that they wanted to make stuff for everybody they knew. The beads were not cheap and not light either…so not only was it going to be expensive to buy that many but also difficult to keep posting them to people.

A friend suggested using paper beads and so I got started on a fairly addicting project. I realized that it was going to be too difficult for the twins to actually roll the beads around a stick so i basically had them paint with acrylic on printer paper and then cut strips from that to make the beads. And i discovered mod podge in the process.

I use a knitting needle or thin paint brush to make the beads on and this way the holes are not too small so the kids can string through them easily…we have now started a bead bracelet factory in the family room :)

IMG_6220But seriously they love this so much more than the big plastic beads because i guess it ends up in a real product/object at the end of the process. And they love the fact that the people they gift these to are actually wearing them!

This is great for fine motor skills, counting as well as for creating and repeating patterns!

Beads!!

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We have discovered beads! Not the plastic ones that we had picked up last year from the toy store but REAL ones! At the art and craft store last month the boys discovered and aisle full of beads…and of crouse, in addition to felt sheets and glue that we had walked in for, we walked out with a bag of deliciously exciting beads that the boys picked up…specially for a necklace that they now wanted to make for my friend.

They got to work right away picking ones that they thought would go together and the result was actually quite pretty!

However, buoyed by the success of the necklace they decided that they wanted to make stuff for everybody they knew. The beads were not cherap and not light either…so not only was it giong to be expensive to buy that many but also difficult to keep posting them to people.

A friend suggested using paper beads and so I got started on a fairly addicting project. I realized that it was going to be too difficult for the twins to actually roll the beads around a stick so i basically had them paint with acrylic on printer paper and then cut strips from that to make the beads. And i discovered mod podge in the process.

I use a knitting needle or thin paint brush to make the beads on and this way the holes are not too small so the kids can string through them easily…we have now started a bead bracelet factory in the family room :)

IMG_6220But seriously they love this so much more than the big plastic beads because i guess it ends up in a real product/object at the end of the process. And they love the fact that the people they gift these to are actually wearing them!

This is great for fine motor skills, counting as well as for creating and repeating patterns!

Healthy dosa recipe!

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This is not an original recipe but something a friend had suggested I try out. It is a healthy breakfast / snack option and all my boys (including the big boy) love it.

you need:

1 cup mixed daals – i use tur, masoor and moon
1 cup oats (quaker or any other instant breakfast oats)
ginger (as per your taste)
cumin powder
green chilly (if you like it spicy)
salt to taste
A little yoghurt / dahi (optional..gives a slightly tangy taste which we like)

Soak the daals in water for about an hour
Soak the oats in a little water for 15 minutes

Grind the daal mixture and then add the soaked oats and remaining ingredients and put it in the mixer to for a coarse paste. You can add water based on how thin you like the batter and how thin or thick you would like your dosas.

Heat some oil on a flat pan or non-stick tawa, put a dollop of batter on and spread it into a large circle. Cook it like you would a regular dosa.

You can eat it plain or with a chutney. For the kiddos I make a simple dip using dahi (yoghurt), salt, a bit of sugar, some red chilli powder and ground peanuts. It is easy to whip up and quite delicious. You can also make it minus the red chilly powder.