Monthly Archives: November 2014

Look! The moon is moving!

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We were in the play ground yesterday and the twins were swinging fast and high, enjoying the breeze and the thrill of the swings. Nish bent his head back to stare at the sky as he was swinging. Suddenly he called out to Sid in excitement :Look Sid! The moon is going back and forth back and forth back and forth!!! It’s swinging like us!” Sid threw his head back too in order to better appreciate what his twin was saying. Then after a few minutes of deliberation he responded..”it’s moving yeah…but the moon doesn’t have a swing. I don’t see one!” Nish gave this some thought. “Maybe it’s just happy that we are on the swing and so it’s moving back and forth” he concluded.

A few minutes later Nish yelled out again “Sid look! actually everything is moving…look at the trees and the building! it’s all moving with us!”

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I did not jump in, did not question, did not correct. It was simply too fascinating and too perfectly adorable to add my two wise scientific bits. As far as they were concerned…everything was moving and the moon was happy they were having such a good time! Oh, the small yet wondrous joys of childhood!!!

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some thoughts on school and self respect

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Last evening i was sitting down with the kids as they had their dinner. My two year old took a bit of his kheema and paratha and looked up with a smile saying “hmmm…deeelishus!” Nish of course, wanted to add to that and he said..”you know..it’s actually scrumptious!” “i like how you are using different words in stead of simply saying yummy” I said to them. Not to be left out, Sid immediately jumped in, nodding his head in a new funny way he has recently acquired. “you can also say it is yummilicious! Aunt S told me that” (i remember my sister in law telling Sid this during our recent holiday together. Then it was back to dinner as they happily giggled and took “baby sparrow bites” and some “humongous bites”

I smiled to myself as I thought about how much these kids were learning and picking up all the time. Exposure, a safe space to explore and try things out and as much as i can manage- respect for them as individuals…these are things which i feel helps them become continuous and engaged learners. Just a couple of days ago when I was short with one of them, I sat down and deliberated on how to react differently because I did not want to hurt their self esteem. In the end, they pick up so much from what they see, the last thing I want to expose the kids to is rude disrespectful behavior.

My morning visit today to a low income private school lead to an invariable juxtaposition of two realities. On the one hand were my boys and I could see them grow and learn so organically. I was careful how i talked to them and I looked for a school that would respect them for who they are, hear them out, allow them to stumble and yet be there to give a hand…On the other, I was in this classroom where a teacher pulled a kid up for having “such big big handwriting”. She took a red pen and made an ugly slash across his paper, held his book up for all to see and then asked him to stand through lunch break and rewrite the whole thing. This was just a few seconds before she yelled at a kid, told him he was lazy and always causing problems…she compared him to his neighbor in class and basically ran him down in front of everyone. Her instructions were short orders pretty much barked out. This was 6th grade….

4th grade was not much different. The teacher was giving a pop quiz to the class and did not hesitate to ridicule a child, his spellings or drawings publicly. Punishments were arbitrarily meted out…stay inside during recess and rewrite all the spellings, remain standing and so forth.

The 6th grade class got me teary eyed. If this is how much you respect a student then why are you expecting him to turn out into a self respecting and people respecting person? How do you expect him to succeed when you don’t even believe he can? How does reducing his self worth in this manner provide any impetus for him to succeed? How are you teaching respect and discipline in this way?

I few months back I was upset because a teacher told Sid that his crayoning was like scribbling. It upset him and it really bothered me that someone could affect his self perception and confidence with a small un – though through statement. And then here today…what I saw was so much worse…so disturbing.

It is time for us educators and parents to recognize and appreciate a child for who is his and respect him for that. Sure we want them to learn and grow and become lots of things…but for me, it is important that before any of that stuff, my child needs to be comfortable with who he is, happy with how he is, respectful of himself and the world around him. Everything else will follow in due course…

Going easy on my boys

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There are days…and there are days. On some days I feel like I am going crazy…on others I realize I already have. Seriously, while it is fun being a mom to three boys there are times when I feel ready to pull my hair out. And then, every little thing piles up till I finally lose it!

I hate yelling at my little chaps. But at times, although I breathe (deeply and a lot) and try to keep calm I can’t. The shouting, fighting, crying and tantrums culminate in me just snapping and then I raise my own voice up a few notches and let loose!

But then, after I do that, and I see my boys’ bright little faces crumple I stop and feel worse than I was. I cannot expect them to not yell if that is what they see me do when I am upset. And I think, sometimes as an adult i get overbearing in terms of what they should do. Just because they are little kids does not mean they don’t have the ability to choose for themselves. And I really need to pick my battles and reserve my judgment for issues where they can hurt them selves or others and not over what they have to eat or wear. I realize that it is more important for me to treat them with respect because they will truly learn to respect themselves and others if that is what they see. I expect them to sit still in restaurants, not touch things in shops, not talk loudly, not argue or get upset when we are out….there are seriously so many NOs.

Today my 2 year old came up to me when I did not respond to something he had asked. “Aai!” he said in a serious and firm voice “Now, you listen to me please!” I realized exactly what I sound like and decided that i did not quite like it.

I am going to try harder tomorrow…because I want my kids to be loving, respectful, kind human beings..and for that I first need to try and be a better human being too!

Birthday Party!!!

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Okay…don’t get too excited by the title of the post. This was a super peaceful and low key birthday party. I did not go overboard, did not spend hours prepping and decorating and did not get any clowns or entertainers.

I decided to focus on the reason for the party…our 2 year old bundle of joy. The party was about him and for him…not about all that I wanted to turn his day into. And honestly, I have realized over the years that it takes really simple things to make a child happy. While bouncy castles and jugglers and puppeteers are fun..so are simple thing like just being with your friends and family and playing together. After much thought, I decided that I would plan the party around what Amu likes.

I have this thing for themes…so I figured I would go with that. Amu absolutely loves Eric Carle’s Brown Bear book…he has since he was a little over a year old…and while a lot of the other books have been passing favorites, this is one that he has carried forward even as he has moved on to longer more complex paper back picture books.

The twins thought it would be a fun theme too and so we sat and designed a simple invite that i got printed on photo paper. I take no credit for the idea…it was from the wonderful world of pinterest and google images but basically it had a pic of the brown bear and one of Amu, and it read: Brown Bear Brown Bear, What do you see? I see a birthday boy looking at me”

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Going along with the general Eric Carle theme, I painted a canvas with balloons that had HAPPY BIRTHDAY on it. I picked up cute polka dotted plates, cups and napkins from a local party shop and lots of round colourful balloons. That along with 5-6 cloth buntings (made by our company Printed Elephant Designs) gave the room a really festive cheerful feel. It took hardly anytime and I felt like instead of using paper streamers this was faster, easier and really pretty too!

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Snacks were again around what Amu liked…freshly popped corn (popcorn is of of Amu’s all time favs), ragi/nachni crisps with hummus and salsa, pizzas (bought whole wheat pizza bases and made the sauce at home), jello set in individual cups and of course the birthday cake (which this time we ordered from a place called Aubree).

I picked picked out some of Amu’s favorite music CDs, made a big batch of glitter play dough and set it up with a baking tray, rolling pins, silicone cup cake molds, cut up straws to use as candles and bits of colored plastic beading string as sprinkles. In addition to that, we set up blocks, a reading corner and a puzzle mat. My cousin drew outlines of the animals from the Brown Bear book which we kept in the balcony along with little cups that had crayons.

Once the kids came in, they went straight for whatever activity they chose. Since these were all Amu’s school friends, everyone knew each other and they seemed very comfortable. The playdough was a hit…they were all playing with it. A couple of kids sat in the reading corner while another girl focused on the puzzles. Amu waled excitedly round the room on his tiptoes (a sure sign of being happy-excited for him) and showed off his territory to his friends.  Sid and Nish helped collect the presents and put them away inside. They showed the little kids around and tried to engage with them too. it helped having their friend from school there too so that they had one more person in their age group.

The cake was a big success…All the kids stood there excited as we waited for Amu to cut it. The cake had a big brown bear sitting on top and lovely fondant animals from the story all around the sides.

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Popcorn and jello worked really well too.

All in all the kids had a blast and Amu was super happy through the party. It meant less stress and more fun for all of us!

The return presents were these really lovely eric carle style flash cards made by Art for Akanksha! (www.artforakanksha.org)

Happy children’s day to my wonderful boys!

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My boys were sitting and coloring in the balcony a couple of days ago…I walked in and looked at what they were drawing. Sid’s picture looked like random scribbles and Nish’s was all kinds of curvy lines in bold strokes and different colors. I walked over to the other side of the balcony but the picture still did not make sense to me. Then Nish looked up at me and asked in a voice full of excitement and anticipation, “You like what I drew? I am making this for you!” “Oh, it is so pretty” I replied, cringing instantly at the shallowness of my remark. I did not think it was pretty and I had no clue what it was. “What is it?” I finally asked. “it looks like a lot of pretty swirls” I added so as not to discourage him.

Sid looked at me. “It’s not swirls Aai!” he said indignantly. “Nish is drawing the playground and all the slides and the kids going down the slides”
“See this?” Nish asked, happy to explain. “That line is going up and it is me sitting on the swing. This one is Suraj going fast down a slide”
“My painting is motorbikes…so many of them. They are racing” said Sid. The two went back to their papers and as I sat and listened they created fascinating stories as they drew. Oblivious to my presence for the most part and graciously including me every now and then, the two drew more squiggles and lines…only this time they really did look pretty!

In a bit Sid started on another paper…more squiggles and frantic slashes of bright color on the paper. “Is that another motorbike race?” I asked. “No…just scribbling” he replied.

I marveled at their imagination, and their ability to keep it simple. Here I was looking for form and structure, ready to push my notions of art onto them, and they were on their own little happy adventure. They were happy to scribble for scribbling’s sake…it did not have to be something … it was about the process and not the product. When was the last time I was able to do that? Usually I am so focussed on the product that the process is lost on me…a blur while I treat to meet a target of some kind.

With kids, it is so much simpler…they see things for what they are, and where they want to see something different they simply create it for themselves; they marvel at the simple things in life…a shade of blue, a funny word, a leaf, a bird, a fallen seed. It takes a swing to dry their tears, a hug to soothe a bruised knee. They fight and forgive, they scream and forget a minute later what it was that they were screaming about. They don’t think before launching themselves at someone to envelope them in a big hug. They love people for who they are not for where they come from. They are honest about their feelings and don’t overthink or over complicate…and honestly my world is a much much better place because of my three little boys!

Happy children’s day to my precious little artists…my weavers of magic and giver of hugs!

bee in my bonnet

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I have the proverbial bee in my bonnet…and  i guess it is time to try and blog about it. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a 5 yr old boy when he sneezed…without thinking twice, i said “bless you!” and without batting an eyelid or wasting a moment in though, the little boy looked at me and declared that he did not believe in my gods or anyone else’s but his own. I was too surprised to respond…i did not think that saying ‘bless you’ had religious connotations or would at any level offend a 5 year old boy. I dwelt upon it for a bit and then got busy with other stuff.

Fast forward to today when I was at a school and was told that the kids could not learn christmas carols because the school stayed separate from religion. We were talking about Jingle Bells and Rudolph the reindeer. For whatever reason this whole scenario has been bothering me. The school gives vacations for christmas and dassera and diwali and eid but does not talk about any of the above in the school?

In a time fraught with religious clashes, hatred, lack of understanding and acceptance of the other, I would imagine that the school would be a safe space where one could broach the topic of the other without any indoctrination..a place where exposure, exploration, understanding and tolerance would be possible to work on. Religion is all around us…from what we eat and what we wear to how we talk and how we react and respond to things. I am no devout follower of a specific God but I believe there is a greater power there and while I may not understand it I believe God exists. You can call him what you like and find him where you want. By that same token, I totally respect people who don’t believe in him.

But manifestations of religion and belief are all around us…the temple bells and the call of prayers from the mosque both drift into my balcony every morning. The almost innocuous looking cross that my cleaning lady wears…my husband praying at the altar in the morning. The beggar on the street who blesses you…the colourful brightly lit streets during diwali, the caroling around Christmas…how can you escape it? And why must you? We are in a secular country and a country of many religious beliefs. Looking at those beliefs and their manifestations in a safe and constructive environment is, in my opinion, dearly needed. It can help build understanding and respect. I don’t think the school should teach religion..that is for each family and child to choose or not choose…it is a personal choice…But, that does not mean one continues as if none of it exists at all. I see no harm in kids celebrating different festivals together..seeing similarities and understanding each other better.

I graduated from a protestant school…we sang hymns every morning at assembly and learned christmas carols and as far as i can remember there wasn’t a single protestant or catholic kid in my class. I walked out with a better understanding of crtain beliefs and way of life and I feel I am richer for it if anything.

Any thoughts on this? I would love some inputs because for some reason this very small thing has destabilized me..it has been bothering me through the day…Should schools celebrate religious festivals? Should the school try to expose children to other ways of life that the ones that the kids come in knowing? (once again, I am not in favor of the school ‘teaching religion’)

Experiments with ‘pot’?!

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Last weekend on a rare occasion I decided to take an afternoon nap. My littlest fellow was curled up fast asleep with my husband and the twins showed no signs of being remotely tired. I tried to get them to lie down but with no success…so i finally let them be as they seemed to be playing well together and thought I would grab myself a little shut eye.

I woke up about an hour later feeling much better and refreshed and walked into the kids room. They were playing quite nicely with some puzzles and had many toys strewn on the floor.  As I plonked onto the floor to join them, Sid came to me with quite an enlightened expression on his face..”Aai!” he started with some visible excitement, “You knoooooow, some things don’t get flushed down the pot. “Like what?” I asked, a little concerned where this was headed. “Like the old phone. It is stuck in the pot. i flushed and flushed but it is not moving” Ok..shit was about to hit the fan…literally… I sprinted to their bathroom and sure enough, the old (anyway non functional..thank God for that) phone was lying in the pot, refusing to go down the drain. I yanked it out, ditched it on the side of the bathroom and washed my hands.

Satisfied that I had addressed the issue I went back to my spot on the floor. Sid and Nish returned and Sid started again. “But somethings don’t even sink. The phone sank” I looked at them, pretty annoyed. “What do you mean some things float? What else did you put into the pot?” Sid looked at his brother and pushed him forward “You tell her” he whispered. “The phone doesn’t float” Nish stated the obvious. “I know that” I replied, “I just fished it out of the bottom of the pot. What floated?”
“not the phone” replied Nish looking edgy and a little stressed.
“Guys you need to tell me what all has been put into the pot” i said
“The cricket bat did not fit into the pot at all” said Sid
“And the soft smiley face balls just sat on the water…right on top..they did not go in at all” said Nish looking like Archimedes…almost ready to jump screaming eureka.
“What else?” I asked. “Is there anything that you managed to flush down the loo?” (I was running their toys through my mind trying to figure out what might possibly begin causing some massive plumbing issue in our apartment now).
“The balls floated and even this small stick floated” said Sid
“What did not float and got flushed???” I repeated
“The phone did not go” quipped Nish
One by one we managed to list a whole bunch of things that did not go. I have yet to figure out what did go down…anyway, it has been a week now and no plumbing disasters so i guess if anything went down the pot it was fairly innocuous. (i hope).
“Quite cool right?” asked Sid
“Yeah and it was so much fun!” added Nish
I managed to hide my smile…and told them very very firmly that the pot was not a place to try their experiments in…we can reserve the sink and float stuff for the bath tub…and the ‘flushability’ of objects…well…let that just continue to be a mystery!