Intellectual property!?

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The boys and I were chatting this afternoon when they came back from school. I was sharing with them some stuff that Amu said to me today…he is talking so much and is just so aware of stuff around him that i was pretty impressed. Not wanting the boys to feel like i was suddenly praising the little one too much, i was quick to add, “See how much that little fellow is picking up from you guys”. while Sid seemed very thrilled at the compliment, Nish looked almost distraught. “I don’t want him to pick up me!” he said. “If he picks up everything from me then I will have nothing left!”

Time to introduce copyright and intellectual property i suppose!

The blues…and pinks

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Who decided that blue was for boys and pink for girls? Nish came to me the other day with sa very serious look on his face. OK…time for some conversation of gravity i figured.
“why do you always get me brown or tan or navy blue pants?” he asked “my favorite color is purple…and pink”
“Sure” i replied. “The next time we pick up clothes I will certainly keep that in mind”
Next time was actually quite soon after that. I was at the mall with my cousin and since Mothercare had a sale I decided that I may as well pick up the pants. Needless to say, the boys section only had brown, khakhi, blue and believe it or not…white! I looked again…definitely no purple and absolutely no pink. The sales girl came over to help me. “I need purple shorts for my son” i told her. She looks amazed. “we have white if you like” she told me. No no purple is not white…and who buys white pants for little kids other washing machine and washing soap ad makers? “For boys we don’t keep pink and purple” she said…So i wandered over to the girls section. The shorts here were significantly shorter and hotter. But in addition to being pink, magenta and purple they all ended with s little frill and had some glittering floral embellishment. Now, nish may like pink and purple but I know he would not enjoy the fancy add ons..heck..he is into ‘fancy motor bikes and construction vehicles’. The glittering flowers would not impress him. “Anything without the frills and glittery flowers?” i asked. “No, this is for girls so it has to have these” Sure, now clothing lines have taken a call on what is appropriate dress and color for the different genders and never the twain shall meet?!
I walked out disappointed. Spotted a Pantaloons store in the mall and finally found a pair of beautiful purple shorts with no embellishments other than large purple buttons in the girls section. Immediately picked it up! And boy was Nish excited. He was super happy and promptly wore them the next day when we went to the botanical gardens for a flower show. he was certainly one of the bright happy flowers there!
Anyway, this just reinforced for me how closed we can get in our thinking…frills and flowers for girls and no pink and purple for boys. Just look at what is happening around us here…there are killings and war and rapes happening everywhere one looks..if wearing pink and purple gives our boys some more caring and empathy then lets flood the stores with these colors…we certainly dont need more ‘tough men’ than we already have.
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Lego logic and Tangrams

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So much conversation happens around simple things like playing with blocks. And so much learning too! Blocks are not just building materials..they teach patience and perseverance, push kids to imagine, plan and execute…they are an introduction to basic physics and math.

I saw so much of this playing out a couple of days ago when the three boys were playing with their Lego blocks. Amu was trying to make the tallest possible structure he could. He kept adding to his tower of blocks and then tried to walk with his completed structure only to watch it topple over. “it’s too big amu!” said Sid a few times to his baby brother. Amu tried again and again, persistent in his efforts to create his own colourful high-rise. His look of triumph when he finally made it upto the chair i was sitting on with the building breaking was worth a million words. “Look so big! Amu make big building!” he announced proudly incase i hadn’t noticed!

Nish was trying something different. Using the duplo blocks he was trying to make a truck. He made a really fancy looking one but when he placed it down on the ground it toppled over backwards. His acceptance of the fate of his blocks was not quite as sporting as Amu’s and he got really upset. Sid was once again quick to jump in “Look the back it too much!” he said. “make it less”. He was right…Nish had got so carried away with building his fancy truck that he had put quite a few blocks on the rear of the “truck” making it lopsided in how the weight was distributed. With a little help from Sid, Nish restarted on his ‘vehicle’ and soon they had a modified truck that balanced quite well. It was really nice to see the thinking and use of logic and common sense as the boys worked with their Lego blocks!

I also introduced the boys (the twins not Amu) to tangram yesterday and they absolutely loved the concept. Using simple shapes (squares, triangles, diamonds, circles, rectangles and semi circles) i had them make composite shapes (we used ready templates but i am sure that with a little thought one can create templates to use with these shapes). We got through about 16 templates, each one a little harder than the earlier one. I had expected the boys to get bored or give up but they enjoyed the challenge and have already decided they want to do more! (for more ideas visit http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/tangrams)

It is good to see how many things something as simple as blocks end up facilitating…so far we had negotiations, sharing, patterns, role play and imaginary play and now we have planning, ideation, discussion and logic with blocks! (and it keeps my little monkeys occupied for a good 45 minutes or so at least if i am lucky!)

Another recipe…yummy scrumptious (healthy?) cookies!

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My quest for interesting food for the kids led me to another fun and delicious recipe today…actually Nish was flipping through a cookbook and spotted it and we decided to make the cookies.

The cookies are quite unconventional. The recipe calls for rice crispies and chocolate chips and walnuts (optional). I used puffed barley instead of the rice (picked up from a place called Vriksh which is a nice small organic store in our neighborhood). I also tossed in a handful of cranberries for good measure and they only enhanced an already stunning cookie…crunchy, chocolatey with a tinge of tartness from the cranberries and a delicious nuttiness from the roasted pecans (which i used in stead of walnuts). You can pull them out in 10 mins if you like your cookies slightly chewy or leave them for about 14 minutes if your wan them crispy. I did a couple of batches of both!

Here is the original recipe
Crunchy Jumbles (Source: The Complete Book of Baking by Carole Clements)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter at room temp
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
50 gm crisped rice cereal (I used puffed barley that i roasted to make it crisp)
175 gm chocolate chips
50 gm walnuts- optional (i used pecans because i had a few lying around)

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Method
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcious (350 F)
With an electric mixer, cream sugar and butter till light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Sift over the dflour, baking soda and salt and fold in carefully.
Add cereal, choc chips and nuts. Stir to mix well.
Drop spoonfuls of thre mixture onto greased baking sheets and bake until golden. (10 -14 minutes)
Transfer to a rack to cool.

Like i mentioned, i also tossed in some cranberries to cut through the sweet elements! Absolutely yum. Sid wants to eat it again first thing in the morning!

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Writing our first stories!

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We are a family of book lovers…we start and end our days with stories and books are an integral part of our day. The boys reference them all the time…”oh! that is like Eric Carle’s caterpillar” or “Aai..he farted…like Stinkysaurus” and so on.

Also, the twins are now into a lot of self conversation as well as make believe as they play by themselves or are painting. So I thought I would push them a little to try their hand at creating their own stories. Instead of starting with a story and then illustrating it, we went the other way because I have noticed how the twins are often talking about what they are drawing as they draw it.

So i let them work on some art and when they were done, I asked them to tell me what it was. “Can you tell me the story of your picture?” I asked. “I can type it up for you and we can read it many many times then if you like”

This sounded pretty exciting and alluring and thus we got started. Sid went first. I did not interrupt much or challenge his logic in any way. This was after all, his story not mine. And to me the process has always been more important than the product.

Nish and Sid had very different approaches and content as well as styles. I found Sid pulling in stuff from his everyday world and making up thinks about that while Nish seemed to veer more towards references from books and building around that.

Bear with us as I put down what we got:

Sid’s art and story:

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(just for ref…the pasted stuff on the coloured sheet is supposed to be the Enfield bike)

Once upon a time a policeman was talking at the signal (traffic light) and his Enfield bike handle was talking to him and the wheels and the engine too. Then, the policeman was going on his bike. He saw a car coming towards him and he had an accident and his full bike was broken. He was sad.
Then he was choosing a happy color for his full Tshirt (full sleeved Tshirt which Sid is obsessed with wearing) and he came back home.
Then he went for a ride on the bike to a garden with his brother. The end

(ok…so not super rational and no deep plot but this is a start! His current obsession with bikes and clothes comes out too!)

Nish’s art and story

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(the background is watercolor, the train is pasted on with rectangled Nish stuck and what he has drawn above the train is a mouse)

Once upon a time there was a mouse and a train. It was going “dhing, dhang, dhang”. Then a lion came to eat the mouse up and a tiger came to eat the train. But the mouse scared the lion with his pokey tail. He poked him very hard and the lion ran away and the mouse started chasing the lion who went back to his cave. (i think he was probably influenced a little bit here by the Gruffalo’s Child). Then the mouse also came to the cave.
It was a big mouse with a big tail. The tail had big pokey things on it. It was dangerous for the lion to touch it. One of the pokey things went into the lion’s paw. he ran inside his cave. Then the mouse pinched the lion. The lion told the gardener to take out the pokey thing. Then the gardener threw the pokey thing straight inside the mouse’s eye. it went in his body and went everywhere with his blood. Then it came out and he was safe.

Then the mouse went inside a farm tractor and scared the sheep. The pokey things got stuck in the sheep’s wool. The end.

My ‘masterchef’ dinner

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Earlier tonight, after the boys were done with dinner and their shower, they were playing in their room, and I decided to watch some TV. So i turned one of the few non-violent, non abusive shows …also one of my favs – masterchef australia! When they heard the TV all three boys came out from their room to the family room and Nish asked if he could watch my ‘cooking thing show’ with me. For my boys who generally get no TV at all even a cooking show seems like a luxury and so Nish cozied up to watch. In the meanwhile, Sid and Amu came up with their ELC cooking set and set it up on the floor. Then began an elaborate cooking session while i tried hard to continue watching Masterchef.

I was served a lot of interesting dishes in rapid succession…broccoli with a delicious sauce and cold coffee to go with it (Sid got into the groove and gave me some chilled water just to make it more real). Amu gave me “yummy yummy chichen” and “cold juice”. Then I had lovely boiled eggs with a specially made ketchup and fresh veggies on the side. Sid even loaded up 2-3 plates and a glass of water on a tray and very slowly and cautiously got it to me without spilling the water.

“Are you having a good meal?” he asked. “Aai, good meal?” Amu repeated after his brother.

Yes indeed little boys I am!

Felt board stories

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All three boys love to sit and sing their songs and rhymes together. The twins like to tell each other stories or pretend read and I am constasntly seeing elements from their books incorporated into their other play. So i decided it was time to introduce them to the felt board.

This meant a trip to an art and craft store and boy was I happy when I stumbled upon Itsy Bitsy, a hobby store not too far from where we are in Bangalore. I picked up some felt sheets from there.

All the other stuff I was likely to need I had lying around at home.

I started by taking a sheet of blue felt (of the softer more flannel kind that i had from before) and gluing it onto one side of a cereal box.

Then I chose to cut out 3 baby monkeys, a bigger monkey, a strip for a bed,a crocodile, some small fish and a tree. (picked things that featured in more than one rhyme the kids know).

It was actually much simpler to cut these out than I imagined it would be and it was fun! I stuck to simple shapes that were easy to draw and cut and i guess the next round i can work on making fancier cut outs because i can see how much they are getting used by the boys.

Then we were set. When the boys got back to school, they saw the cereal box covered in blue felt and were immediately curious about it. So I introduced them to the concept using the monkeys and the rhyme 3 little monkeys jumping on the bed (i was a little lazy and made 3 not 5 for starters!) They absolutely loved it and we did 3 little monkeys swinging from a tree next followed by a fish and crocodile song they know.

A little later, I came out of my room to see Sid totally engrossed in recreating the fish rhyme while Amu watched with great interest.

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Next on the list are 5 ducks (and mommy duck) and the Three billy Goats Gruff!

This is really super easy and lends itself to so much! Retelling, singing, making up your own stories, sequencing events…just plain fun!

Art attack

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It is now getting so interesting to watch the boys paint. Nish especially takes his painting stuff pretty seriously. Now at 3yrs 4 months he has developed a rather good control over the brush (and markers, crayons, etc) and he concentrates as he tries to execute what he plans beforehand. He usually decides he will paint a car or a bike or a bus and then chooses a medium. Having recently discovered water colors and flat brushes he has started developing a couple of his own techniques. So he either picks a thin brush and carefully draws the outline of what he wants and then fills it in with water colors using a flat brush or markers. After he saw me using different tools for textures, he tries it too.

Yesterday, i picked up a few stamps (stiff foam) for the kids..an octopus, a dolphin, a turtle and a frog. Nish decided it would be fun to first do a flat wash and then stamp on it. So both boys took large flat brushes and did a blue and green wash on the paper. We let it dry as they had dinner and then sat down to stamp. For this we used the dot markers.

Then surveying his sheet, Nish decided to use a stencil to do small fish. Here he used a regular brush tipped marker. Sid looked at it and said “These are like the Swimmy fish. (Leo Lionni.. yo can look at our earlier post – http://myfourboysandme.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/reading-swimmy-by-leo-lionni/).
“Even the picture is like Swimmy’s illustrations!” I feel so proud when they use these words!

As they both paint, they have detailed conversations with themselves, with each other, with the painting…life is discussed, elaborate scenarios played out…and i find out so many things about their world that i would otherwise have no clue about…who cried at school, which boy fell down, who likes to eat yoghurt and what another one does that is “SO cool!” Oh to be a fly on the wall!

Sid is still working on his grip and so his control over the brush is not great. But he enjoyed the stamping and then generally went berserk with the dot markers on the blue and green washed sheet producing something that looked quite pretty too.

This morning Nish looked at his work of art when he got up and declared “now for some glitter!”

Looking forward to a nice colorful Sunday!!!

a mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood

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Ok…so we did not see the gruffalo…but we did see a mouse..many mice…rats even! We had a lovely stroll through Cubbon Park last week. Instead of going to the part of the park that has the swings and slides, we decided this time to walk through the park and see what all we could find.

Our first stop was on what the boys called “the mountain”….basically a large rock that you could climb up and chill out on. We decided to sit down and have our snack there. As we were nibbling on crackers and nuts we had a few uninvited guests…two beady eyes peered at us from under a bush and then we saw more beady eyes. A brave mouse actually slowly edged out from under the bush but then changed his mind and scampered back in. We saw a few holes and noticed a baby mouse going in and out.  After a bit we decided to pack up and move on.

We stopped to look at ant hills and possible rat or crab holes (or snake holes, as nish wisely pointed out). Then we moved on to a thickly wooded part of the park which had lots and lots of bamboos. As we stood under the dense bamboo plants we heard the wind rustling through the leaves and the rtall bamboo stalks creaking and groaning as they moved and rubbed against one another. “It sounds just like a waterfall or a river!” said Sid and all three boys listened carefully to the bamboo. They spotted four different types of mushrooms growing under the bamboos…right from really tiny ones to a couple of massive white mushrooms.

We then went around looking for different types of seeds and pods. Found 3-4 different kinds and we shook each one to hear the sound and guess the size of the seeds inside it. 

We stopped to listen to the birds…saw parrots, mynahs, kites, red vented bulbuls and even a couple of bats.

The boys stopped to climb onto the low branches of an old old tree and Nish discovered all kinds of pugmarks on the mud (mainly dogs…maybe a cat).

Our grand finale was the discovery of the mimosa plant (touch me not). We decided to dig one out and take it home to plant…that is when we also discovered that it has sharp protective thorns!

All in all a lovely day…I had thought the boys would tire of the walk and ask for the other park but i was pleasantly surprised at how much they enjoyed the walk through the “woods”. I think giving them stuff to find/ look for added to the fun element and they were so excited with all their discoveries.

Next on the agenda is a picnic to the park. We have identified a couple of nice spots and it will be good to just chill there and enjoy the trees and the birds and the bees!

Empathy between the boys

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The twins fight so often sometimes…it makes these moments of sharing and empathy even more special for me to see. Last night during our post dinner stroll in the garden Nish tripped over something and fell face down against the concrete skirting of a tree. He got a bad bump and a cut on his nose which was bleeding. In the process of falling he managed to drop some balls of confetti that they had collected on the landing. When we got up, as i applied ice to his head and nose, he seemed more distraught about losing a confetti. Siddhant, who was most concerned and worried about the fall, came up to him and gave him…not some…but ALL of the confetti balls he had collected. He seemed so upset about Nish getting hurt!

5 minutes later he somersaulted right off the bed and ended up with a nasty bump himself…They both took some arnica and went off to bed all cuddled up with each other!