Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pizza & Pet Stores

The neighbours and I took our kids out for lunch to Pizza Hut yesterday. My craving for some hot, gooey and fatteningly delicious pizza made me suggest the lunch date. We were 3 adults, and 6 children; ranging from my youngest, who's 14 months to the 7 year old, who lives across the street. All great kids, but certainly could take lessons on table manners!! My little one insisted on echoing the 2 year old, who decided to test the strength of his vocal cords at the table. And of course, the other kids insisted on battling each other with the silverware.

Lunch wasn't too traumatic.....for the other diners!! Once the kids got their food, there was some peace, until the 2 year old started yelling," Ice-cream truck". Which then made my 3 year old start whining for some ice-cream, which Pizza Hut does not have. Seriously, it wouldn't kill them to have a bucket of some vanilla crap with a container of sprinkles on the side!! I spent the entire time, trying to bribe my older one into taking at least 3 bites of his pizza (he insists on everything happening in threes because of this age). He managed to nibble on the edges and didn't even get to the good part!! And then, of course, since I couldn't bear to see all that food go to waste, I finished his share as well as mine......double burp!!

My 14 month old is usually easy to feed; he opens his mouth to anything that is edible. But lately, he seems to be exhibiting an independent streak. He kept waving the food away and crying every time I brought it near him. I finally gave him a bread stick, which he happily wiped the table with. Honestly, trying to achieve world peace somehow seems more plausible than getting my kids to eat these days!!

After lunch was finally over, and I apologised several times to our server for the mess, for fear of being banned from eating there again, we headed over to the pet store across the road. It was like a trip to the zoo but even better, because firstly, it was free and secondly, it was indoors, so the kids were all contained, and not running around like wild animals. Shiv and I tried making small talk with a parrot at the counter, who kept giving us the "eye"!! But he was quite friendly, and didn't look like he would bite at all, as the sign behind him suggested he might. Of course, we didn't attempt to stick our fingers near his beak or anything, so I guess we'll never know if the bird can be a viscious little creature!

My neighbours kept suggesting I get a pet, either a little shitzu or a kitten, but honestly, with my two monkeys at home, I don't think I have the time or energy for a pet at home. Shiv seemed really excited about all the fish though, so that's something I might a year. All in all, it was fun morning. We got home just in time for the younger one's nap time, while Shiv and I read a couple of books in the afternoon. I'm still wondering where I could keep the little fish bowl, if we got one. Maybe it would be good for Shiv to take care of a little pet; name it, and feed it. But first I'd like to wait for my little one to start vocalising; just in case he accidently flushes the poor fish down the loo; at least he might be able to tell me what he did, instead of us turning the house inside out looking for it!!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Water (What a) Week!!!

So this summer, I decided to enroll Shiv in swim lessons. I have to confess that I haven't exposed him to the joys of a swimming pool as often as I should. Yes, yes, my children are deprived and all that!!! But Shiv is unpredictable, which makes it tricky trying to figure out whether he will enjoy something or not. He's all tiger on the outside, growling at other kids with a mean look on the playground, but deep down, he's a little mouse; scared of the dark, loud noises and....water.

Not the water in the bath tub, which is all warm and soapy, but the kind that sends a shiver down your spine and gives you goosebumps on your skin, when it splashes all over you. I'm talking about when the kids in the neighbourhood decide to have a pool party and run around the yard with their water pistols, screaming at the top of their voices. Or when the family across the road, turn their front yard into a soak zone with an inflatable water slide. It's amazing how children appear out of nowhere in seconds, as soon as Mr. J starts setting up the apparatus. And all appropriately dressed in their bathing suits, ...with matching towels!! And so, Shiv runs around the house like a crazed kid, yelling for his swim shorts and towel. I try to change him while trying to calm him down, assuring him that the slide will not be torn down in the next 5 seconds, only to have him stand at the side for the next half hour just watching the other kids dunking in the delicious coolness.

So I thought that maybe a couple of swim lessons would encourage him to get more comfortable. We talked about the swim lessons, and everyday till they began, Shiv would whine about wanting to go into the pool "right now". I was secretly glad that he seemed to be showing so much enthusiasm but alas, little did I know that this was all just bravado. Oh, he went into the water on the first day, all right, only to come out in 2 minutes, and insisting that he wanted to just watch. So for the next 4 days, we would get dressed for the much awaited swim lessons, drive to the pool, only to have him sit on the side of the pool, yelling out instructions to the other kids.

The instructors tried everything. They would coax and cajole him. I would promise him treats. The other kids would try to hold his hand. But no, the child declared the water too cold and just sat on his butt. I have to give him points for being attentive though, because when we got back home, he would lie down on the carpet, and demonstrate the kicks and paddles!!! He would jump up and down on the concrete, while the others did it in the water. He always had a long explanation about why he couldn't possibly get into the water. It was either " too crowded", "too cold" or he wanted a better view of the action!! He would engage in lengthy conversations with the instructors, looking very serious as his hands moved in the air animatedly. He would make them laugh, give them high fives, tell the other kids that they were doing a good job....but never get in the water. Every morning on the way to the pool, I would try and negotiate with him; today he had to sit on the second step and put his feet in the water or today he had to let the instructor hold him in the water. We never got past the first step, and although he did get his feet wet, he had them out in the blink of an eye. Sigh!!!!!!!

We haven't gone back to the pool for the second week of lessons. Maybe gymnastics would be a better bet. There's no water involved, and he's on the ground (for the most part!!). Maybe art lessons. Maybe we'll just hang out at the park and the library for the rest of the summer. Maybe we'll revisit the pool next year and see what happens. For now, I'm going to be content with him splashing in his bath tub with his rubber ducky and frogs....all by himself!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kids & Cacophony

Today I decided to visit the library with my girlfriend and our kids. So there we were in the children's section with my three and one year old, and her four year old. All boys. Not a good idea at all. I'd just lectured my three year old on the importance of being silent at the local "bibliotheca" but I might as well have been talking to a chicken on the loose. Now I have to admit that I have not taught my son the concept of the "inside" voice. Honestly, that confuses me a little. What do you do when you're watching the Penguins score on TV against the Red Wings? That definitely call for a holler, right? And then, an "outside voice" is absolutely inappropriate during a eulogy. Instead, I've talked to him about loud and soft voices. He definitely understands the theory. Unfortunately, he normally talks in a really loud voice, so I guess it's a little challenging for him to whisper.

Okay, so I'm trying to find some books, and the three and four year old decide that they're going to play "horsey" with the bean bag horse. So, there they are asking each other, who would like to sit in the front or the back, and "galloping" around like crazed kids, while I'm chasing them both, shushing them the whole time, while my one year old decides to go off on a little adventure outside the children's section, and is crawling away at a million miles per second. I kept expecting to be asked to leave any minute, or one of the other parents reading to their children to give me that "look".

Ah, the power of the "look". It says it all. It screams one or all of the below mentioned thoughts:

1. "Oh my God, did you just arrive from the jungles of Africa?!!"

2. "I cannot imagine what goes on in your home, by the looks of that child darting around like a hysterical creature".

3. "Oh, thank heavens, your kids are not in the same play group as mine."

4. "I will pray for you tonight. God give you strength, you poor unfortunate woman!!"

5. "You should think about getting that child tested. Definitely some form of ADD or ADHD, or HAADHD (Hyper advanced attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)."

Well, we weren't asked to leave, and the only person who was affected was a really cute five/six year old, who was trying to read her book in the corner. I think she found the boys' antics quite amusing actually.

My friend and I finally separated our boys and there was peace in the room again......until they found the 'Bob the Builder' DVDs. And they decided to launch upon this exhausting debate as to who could keep both the DVDs and who would be left without one. And so began this ruckus and bickering that made my friend and I want to tear the remaining hair from our heads. And all along, my one year old didn't want to be held, but decided to take it upon himself to continue with his tour of the library and chat with strangers... and eat books.

My friend decides to wait outside the library with her son, while I get our books checked out. Does it help? Not really, because my one year old decides to test his lung capacity at that point, and is desperately trying to wriggle away from me, while my three year old decides that he is a frog and is hopping all around the woman in front of me in line. Anyway, we survive the check-out process with the wriggling and hopping children, and head out of the library, only to have the two older boys resume their argument about the
proprietorship of the DVDs. And that's when we decided in the parking lot, that the only reason we would bring them to the library together again was if we were seriously delusional, or they were drugged. I just hope we're not known as " that woman with those kids" ever!!! My kids are normal, I promise you. They're just a shall I say it.....loud.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mission accomplished!!!!!

Move aside, Nobel Prize Laureates, Olympic gold medalists and Golden Globe winners!!! We have achieved the impossible dream!!! My 3 year old is officially and undeniably one hundred percent potty-trained since the last 2 months!!!!!!

That's right!! Bring out the balloons, pinata, hats and noise makers; we are ready to celebrate!! No more smelly, leaky, gooey diapers!! No more hauling back-breaking diaper bags all over town. No more "But I just changed you!!!!". No more trying to get poop stains out of clothes. No more trying to fit a 3 year old on a tiny changing table. I'm done with all that!!!

The child goes to the bathroom all by himself. He pees and poops all by himself. (I have to wipe him, but that doesn't count, does it?). He flushes, washes his hands, and shuts the door behind him (since my 11 month has a habit of sneaking into bathrooms when possible!!). He can be declared "a big boy" now!!! Ahhh, freedom!!

Now all that he has to do is learn to stay asleep in his own room...and find a cure for cancer, maybe!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lions and tigers and flamingos, oh my!!!

Today was our trip to the Pittsburgh zoo with Shiv's school. No, not just any ordinary day!! We were all set to ride the school bus with the other kids....and my 10 month old!! So, why didn't I just take the car instead? Well, let's just say that I'm indulging my 3 year old's fascination with school buses and decided to take on the challenge of traveling on one with diapers, wipes, change of clothes, snacks, fruit, water, juice, sandwiches, yogurt, formula, change of clothes (Did I say that already?!!!) and a really large stroller. Yup, everything but the kitchen sink!!! This is when the whole cloning process would come in handy...but then again, I'm not sure how I would handle another me in the same room. Or in this instance, on the same bus!!! You know when they say that it's the little things in life that bring a smile to your child's face. Well, all I can say is that Shiv was beaming the whole way; looking out of the window and waving enthusiastically at other cars beside us. Shome, of course, was Shome. My little munchkin; so full of happiness and contentment. He just "da da daad" as the bus chugged along.

For some reason, Shiv kept wanting to see only the lions and tigers. The strange thing is that the child always complains of not wanting to sleep in his room because of the lions and tigers residing somewhere in the closet!! He seems to have developed a genuine fear of all animals with sharp teeth. (Note to self: must track down author of book with illustrations of sharp-toothed creatures and tell him/her a thing or two!!!). Of course, since the animals looked like they weren't going anywhere, he suddenly assumed this air of bravado and insisted that he was going to roar and scare them away!! I didn't want to let down the poor child by informing him that the lion could probably eat him up in one big bite, so I just patted him on the head and prayed he wouldn't be the only kid making weird noises at the animals. Luckily for us, there were hordes of school children making their rounds, so my 3 year old seemed like an angel in comparison to the groups rushing around, like the candy store had just been opened!!

So we made our way through the zoo. To be honest with you, the idea of gawking at "caged' animals is something I'm not really comfortable with. I guess, on the one hand, zoos are about conservation of wild life, but then again, when I see a polar bear trying to stay cool in 70 degree Fahrenheit weather, I feel that's just not right. But hey, who am I to pass judgment, when I enjoy a juicy steak every now and then!!! It was remarkable though to see all these beautiful animals and birds from up close. We pretty much covered the whole zoo, including the aquarium. Unfortunately, there were some animals that were absent from their respective "abodes". No giraffes or gorillas!! Yes, I should have been content with the zebra, penguins, ostrich, and flamingos. Hey, there was even a little Nemo look-alike at the aquarium, and a camel, who looked like he was in dire need of a shower!! We saw the elephants splashing in the water. (Watch the video of the baby elephants at the end!!). The penguins were all out, flapping and waddling about. And how can I forget the boa constrictor!! Shiv went right ahead and patted the snake, like an old friend. Of course, it was straight to the hand sanitizer area after that!! But I was quite impressed at how unafraid he was.

Sadly, the gorillas were on strike!! Or so it seemed, because there was absolutely no sign of them. I always love watching them and their human-like qualities. Twiddling their thumbs or swatting flies, or trying to stay dry from the much like ourselves!!! I guess what made up for the lack of our hairy cousins was the peacock who strutted around our table, while we took a break. I'm extremely embarrassed to say that I've never seen one this close even back in India!! I managed to get a snapshot of Shome looking at the bird, all wide-eyed. It was priceless!!

You know, it was a great day after all!! I told the mothers, we were hanging out with, that if I started hyper-ventilating about all the stuff I had to carry and the baby, that they should just smack me in the head!! But that wasn't necessary at all. Shiv and Shome were absolute angels the whole time. We had no accidents, tantrums, fights or drifting away. We bonded with the animals (or so I'd like to think!!), and the other kids and their mothers. There was just a lot walking, laughter and sharing. We got back home in one piece on the school bus and everything was A-okay. Of course, Shome then threw up all over himself while I was trying to feed him, and Shiv decided to take a poop and needed to be cleaned at that precise moment!! So, I placed Shome in the tub, wiped Shiv's butt, bathed, diapered, clothed and fed Shome; got him to take a nap; read to Shiv, negotiated with him about when he could get an ice-cream, got him to fall asleep. And then I sat down with my cup of tea, and thought, "Dear God, thank you for a beautiful day!! But if possible, don't make me go through it again!!!".

Sunday, April 19, 2009

DIM - Did It Myself!!!!

1.33 yards of fabric: $29.98

All purpose sanding sponge: $2.17

Comfort Spray Grip: $6.28

4 cans of Satin Black Rust-oleum spray paint: $18.68

Dinette make-over from this.....

to this......

and the look of amazement on my husband's face: Priceless!!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The science of gender.

The other day, I handed my first born the first pair of socks I could lay my hands on.

"No, Amma, those are girl socks!!!", said my 3 year old.

They turned out to be yellow, pink and purple. Explanation: I received a bunch of girl stuff along with boy hand-me-downs for Shiv. I've managed to get my son to use the clothes (pink pajamas, a white sweater with flowers, etc.) at home. I thought I was getting away with it...until the other day!!! He was pretty adamant about not wearing them although he couldn't really explain why he thought they were girl socks. I didn't push the issue and trudged upstairs for some dull brown ones, which he happily wore, exclaiming, "Good job, Amma!! These are boy socks!!".

When I was pregnant with Shiv, I made a very conscious decision not to go crazy with the whole blue vs pink issue. I very deliberately didn't find out if we were going to have a boy or girl, and ended up buying neutral coloured clothing. So I went with whites, greens, yellows, oranges and even purple. Now, before you begin to feel sorry for my little boy for not being dressed in the appropriate colour, I will let you know that after he was born, we were flooded with the blues. Invariably, a clothing gift would turn out to be some shade of blue.....powder blue, royal blue, steel blue, sky blue, light blue, baby blue, etc, etc.

Of course, my son's favourite colour turned out to be pink at one point!!! (Hey, haven't you heard the phrase "Real men wear pink"!!!). Anyway, he keeps changing his it's yellow!! I don't really remember at any point telling him that girls and boys did very specific things. I've always tried to use gender-neutral terms like firefighter, mail person, flight attendant, etc, etc. It's really interesting though how children develop their sense of gender from interacting with other kids and what they watch on TV.

Shiv and I were watching 'Dancing with the Stars'; he loves anything with music and movement. During the commercial break, he looked at me and said, "Amma, boys and girls dance with each other". I thought for a while, and said, "Well, boys can dance with boys too, and girls can dance with girls." What I meant was when you have an all male or all female entourage on stage.

"No, Amma!!! Only boys and girls dance!!!", he said vehemently. I just smiled at him.

And then he decided a few days ago that his best friend was Simran. She is the cutest 3 year old with sparkly eyes and a charming smile. "Amma, I love Simyan!! I'm going to tell Simyan that I love her!!".

"Sure!!", I said, smiling at him, and thinking to myself, "Just don't say it in front of her Dad!! You don't want a restraining order on you this early in life!!!".

I asked him in the car today, on the way to day care, whether he loved his friends Jackson and Ethan. He shook his head and said, "No, only Simyan.", and then after a while, added, "And Ashley". Our neighbour's 4 year old across the street.

So, my 3 year old already has a sense of the gender issue. I just hope he doesn't develop stereotypes about it. I mean, honestly, I have no qualms with him wearing pink, and being in the kitchen. Yes, I do want him to follow his dreams but be practical in life as well. I want him to grow up with the knowledge that one can accomplish anything they set their minds on. After all some of the world's best chefs are men, and countries have been protected by women on the battle front! I guess as long as he respects himself and others; that's what really matters.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Going Green.

I've never really thought of myself as an environmentalist, but growing up in Africa and India has allowed me to appreciate the little things in life. Yes, we live in the suburbs, drive an S.U.V, throw out an incredible amount of trash, still use plastic bags at the grocery store...yes, yes, we're still that percentage of people who are unfortunately contributing to the demise of our beautiful planet and its resources!! But we're changing; really we are!!!!

Firstly, I'm very very proud to say that I've been using cloth diapers with my second child. I haven't been able to do away with the disposable ones completely, but I know that the garbage has several less dirty diapers now. (Is that an oxymoron?) Now using these special cloth diapers (they're really cool with a fleece lining and snaps) led me to switch to a non-toxic bio-degradable vegetable based cleaner. It claims to clean ANYTHING from false teeth to diesel engines!! My husband was so impressed with the product that now we use it on all our clothes. What's great about it is the clothes come out smelling just clean; not of lavender or vanilla or anything like that. In fact, there's a line on the cloth bag that the stuff comes in, that says, "If you want fragrance, then pick some flowers!!!". Anyway, I was inspired then to try some other natural cleaning products, which I must say, are pretty good. They smell really really good!! You know, if they hired me to be their spokesperson, I' m pretty sure I could sell the product. Especially the laundry detergent (Charlie's Soap, by the way!!); I'm practically gushing about it!!

My husband and I made an effort to buy energy star appliances. Yes, they're good for the environment, but they're also saving us money. And then of course, there are the reusable grocery bags, which can carry a ton of stuff. Not good in some ways, because then that just causes me to buy more. But then again, it's less plastic in the land fill, right? Unfortunately, what's happened a couple of times is that I forget to take the bags, and then end up buying more bags out of guilt!! Hey, they're only 99 cents each, but I think I have enough bags for a month's supply of groceries now!! Shh, don't tell the husband!! I promise I'll remember the next time!!

So, are we making a significant difference to the environment? I don't know, but if each of us did our part, etc...etc...The whole is certainly greater than the sum of its parts; the effects will be multi fold as each individual participates in this change. (I've always wanted to use the word 'multi fold' in my blog!!). Can we go back to a simpler way of life? That really is a tough question to answer. I won't call myself materialistic...well, I guess it depends on whose perspective it's from.....but I know that there are certain amenities and luxuries of modern day life that I have grown accustomed to. Would it kill me to give them up? Probably not. But one does want to live in the real world; not some secluded forested area, where people don't' shave, or use deodorants, or watch no television, and weave their own clothes. I agree, the great Mahatma Gandhi did the last one; maybe all of the above. Of course, there was no such thing as deodorant in his time....But the point I'm trying to make is: are we too far gone to change? Or is there hope for us, or at least our children? Well, right now, I will continue to recycle and reuse....and pray.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tomorrow is Monday!!!

It's the end of another weekend. You know, when they say that time flies, they aren't kidding!! It's funny that even though I love Fridays because of the days after that, I sometimes dread it too. I know that a Monday and the routine that goes with it, is going to follow soon. Yup, wish I could make time stand still!! But I have been forcing myself to focus on just one day at a time, or else I feel like time is slipping between my fingers.

I'm always so focused on trying to accomplish something significant over the weekend, since my husband is around, and that means more man power (so as to speak!!). So, I have this long list of stuff that I need to get done. And I usually end Friday night by asking my beloved what our plans are for the weekend. It doesn't really matter what he says, because I always have one up my sleeve, and I let him know it. It always involves the words " clean up", "sort out" and "purchase". The first two are a drain on our energy while the last drains our wallet!! My complaint is that our home is not clean enough, neat enough, or practical enough. I'm shaking my head now as I write this, because I realise how complicated I make life. Honestly, right now at this moment, if I were to take a look at our home, I will say that it looks like that of a happy family with two kids; a three year old, who is still trying to grasp the concept of putting away one thing before taking out the other, while the 10 month is experimenting with food and the laws of gravity!! As for the, he's no neat-freak, who straightens the cushions on the couch before he goes to bed, or repositions the soap container just so....but he cleans as much as he can, bathes the kids, tucks them into bed, love me unconditionally every day, and of course, brings home the pay check. And that's the reason we have this beautiful home in the first place.

I did get into my weekend mode on Friday night again. Did I accomplish everything on my mental list? The office room is still a mess; there's "stuff" piled even higher on the floor of my bedroom; I have dirty dishes in the sink; the laundry is accumulating.....but you know, it's not the end of the world. It's not like we didn't accomplish anything at all. I mean, we had a great dinner tonight, thanks to some grilling on my husband's part. My kids were happy most of the weekend, especially today, since we had a favourite cousin visiting. We watched a "feel-good" movie, which is going to allow me to sleep peacefully at night, since it ended exactly the way I wanted it to! We enjoyed the great weather with boys in our background and bonded a little more with our neighbours. I had the opportunity to volunteer three hours of my time at my son's school with their consignment sale. I didn't make any purchases despite being surrounded by incredible stuff for kids!!! (More stuff would defeat the purpose of me trying to clean out my house!!). In short, I think we did pretty good this weekend.

I'm sitting in the office room right now, with things that need to be put away. But I will worry about that tomorrow. Right now, I'm going to focus on cuddling with my husband, and then my son, when he decides to join us in the middle of the night. And most of all, I'm looking forward to seeing my children's smiles when they wake up tomorrow morning. Tomorrow is Monday, and I will love every minute of it!!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Just one of those days....

I'm sitting at my computer, trying to decide what to do with my incomplete blogs piling up in the draft folder. I'm so exhausted from feeding the kids, cleaning the kitchen, doing the dishes, cooking dinner, etc, etc; the never-ending list of duties and chores one has to do on a regular basis. I wonder sometimes when it will all end. But then again, it might mean not having my husband and kids around. And that, I do not want.

I have to admit that it's a good kind of tiredness that I feel right now. The kids are tucked in bed. My husband is watching TV, waiting for me to join him, so he can annoy me with his hugs and kisses. Of course, I fuss about him wanting to cuddle too much, but secretly, that's what I really love about him. Even after 10 years of being married, he still loves me...perhaps even more. And as for me, I know that my love for him has grown so much stronger over the years. I haven't made life easy for him, but he has stood by my side and held me through all the rough times. He has allowed me to give him two beautiful children.

My precious ones. I can't believe they're growing up so quickly. I was telling my neighbour the other day, that I wanted to put my little baby, Shome, in a little box. I would open it and look at him everyday and he would never ever grow up. Well, actually, I said that I wanted to freeze him into an ice-cube but I realised that it was a really morbid thought!!! You get the idea, right? I just want to be able to hold both my boys and feel their little heartbeats and never have to let them go.My husband teases me about how the boys will be stomping around the house, raiding the fridge and draping themselves all over the furniture in several years. There's a lump in my throat just thinking of them as young men, eager to make something of themselves in this world. I only hope I can give them the confidence and courage to look the world in the eye and be true to themselves. To be able to find their true calling in life and to be able to reach out to people. Yes, I do want to them to be financially independent, but I also want them to be an inspiration to others. I want people to say, "Now, that's a good guy!!!".

Wishful thinking? I don't know. Ironic that's it's April Fool's Day, huh? You know, 10 years ago, I would have laughed at myself and my thoughts. But not today. My husband and my boys have given me hope. They've shown me that I can dream and dreams can become a reality. They've made me look at the glass half full and silver lining of the cloud and all that. They've made me believe in myself. And especially today..... I want to just lay down in bed and shut my eyes. But I have to acknowledge all that is positive and good about my life. I have to say, "Thank you, my darlings!!". Like I said, it's just one of those days.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy Birthday to Shiv!!!

It's been a little over a week since my first born turned 3. I can't believe we've had this beautiful, creative, intelligent, spirited (and really loud!!) child for three whole years now. I can't imagine life without him. No, let me correct myself; I can dream of a whole night of uninterrupted sleep without our little night bird. But I would be awfully bored during the day without his endless laughter and singing.
I realised how simple Shiv is, in the way he thinks, when he said he wanted a candle on a cake for his birthday. He never asked for anything grandiose because I guess we've never really indulged him with fancy stuff. The one thing I told myself I would never do as a parent, was buy every and any toy advertised on TV. Instead, every month on his birth date, I would buy him a book.Of course, one could argue that a trip to the library instead could save me a lot of money too!!! But the experience of re-reading a favourite book any time of the day is something else.

Anyway, I asked Shiv what kind of cake he wanted and he immediately answered, "Yocket cake, Amma!!". Like the one in Little Einstein. And as luck would have it, Giant Eagle did every other kind of cake except that. So, I asked him if he would like a Winnie "with" Pooh (as he likes to say it) cake and sure enough, he nodded enthusiastically. Then, I asked, "How about a Mickey Mouse cake?", and my darling child said yes to that as well!!! So, in short, I guess he just wanted a cake as long as it had a candle and lots of icing.

I decided to go with a Spider-man cake. Shiv seems to have a sudden fascination with the character, thanks to the McDonald Happy Meal promo toys. I don't think he really understands what "Spidee-man" does or who he is, but he's figured out that he's a good guy and he "shoots". I'm not too happy about the whole "shooting" bit because what makes me really nervous (and this may sound a little silly) are toy guns and toy weapons of any kind. Ah, all the gun-lobbyists are arguing right now that anything can be used as a weapon, so I need to lay off the whole "guns are dangerous" debate. Anyway, without digressing too much, let's just say that I'm trying really hard to instill in Shiv that boys and aggression don't have to go hand in hand. Well, the other concept that really confuses me is the whole "super-hero" thing. I mean, the world doesn't comprise of just blacks and whites; there is that whole grey/beige area in between. Which,of course, can be very very confusing sometimes......but hey, that's life!!! But I guess ultimately what people want to see is this - good guy kills bad guy; good guy saves the world. Period. No negotiation, no mediation by a third party, no pacifism, no compromise.

Back to Shiv's turned out to be a great party, with the Spider-man cake, and Spider-man plates, and Spider-man cups. Sigh, guess I did go a little overboard with the whole theme. But the parents and kids thought it was cool, and they all loved the cake especially, with Spider-man crawling on a wall made of whipped cream icing, covering 24 cupcakes. Didn't even need a knife for that one (staying true to the whole "no weapons" thing!!!). And the flame on the candle was blown out within 5 seconds of being lit, so there!!! (Oh God, I think I'm sounding a little paranoid now. Must stop watching Law and Order reruns!!). In short, Shiv had a blast. Most of his friends turned up. He got some great gifts. And he was one happy three year old.
In some ways, I can't wait to see what Shiv will be like in a year from now. And then again, I don't want my baby to grow up. He's become his own little person. And to think that this was the little creature who my husband and I created. He was so beautiful when he was born. All I can say about him now is that he's growing up to be an affectionate and caring child. I know he's going to be a great big brother. He will be a good friend and confidant. I mean, he's such a great kid already!! It's incredible how Shiv has helped me find my inner strength not only as a mother, but as a person as well. He's certainly not the perfect child. But this three year old makes me proud to be his mother.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's a delightful day for a 'donut'!!!

My 3 year old loves spelling words out aloud. I often catch him with a picture book, his face all scrunched up with intense concentration, pointing out each letter and then reading the word. Well, when I say "reading", what I mean is that he looks at the picture and says what it is. I guess what one would call a picture-word association (I just made that up!!!). Most often he's correct. Except on occasion, he looks at the wrong picture and then the egg becomes "e-l-e-p-h-a-n-t"!!!

Today as we were driving to his daycare after lunch, he suddenly spotted the big 'DONUT' sign at one of the intersections. " D-O-N-U-T!!", he said aloud. And then he had a quizzical look on his face as he asked, "Amma, what is D-O-N-U-T?". Ok, ok, I confess I've neglected my child. I admit to have never taken him to a Doughnut shop ever. Honestly, now as I'm blogging, I really have no idea why we've never managed to go into one. I mean, we've eaten them at birthday parties and at play dates. But actually walking into the store, and pointing out the ones we want? Nope, never done that.

So, anyway, Shiv decides that he would like a doughnut after day care. He was very clear about the afternoon schedule. "First, I go to Tender Care, then I eat doughnut." And I decided why not. I headed straight for the doughnut shop after day care with Shiv and my 9 month-old Shome, who at this stage, is excited to go just about anywhere. It was like walking into the most wonderful place on earth!!! There were all kinds of doughnuts; plain, glazed, chocolate-covered, frosted with sprinkles......I felt like the kid in the candy store!!!! I asked Shiv which doughnut he would like, and of course, he answered, "Amma, I want to eat doughnut!!". Honestly, I had no clue which ones to get. So I decided to go for a dozen, and asked for one of each kind in the box. I thought we would head home, so we could enjoy the doughnuts with enough running water and kitchen towels for clean-up, but Shiv insisted, "Amma, I eat doughnut HERE!!", and promptly got us a table. I was hesitant for a second at the thought of a doughnut covered kid sitting in my car, but Shiv was patiently waiting for me to open the box of goodies.

Oh, you should have seen his face when he saw all those delicious baked goodies. He had the biggest smile all over his beautiful face. "Amma, look at all the doughnut!!", he said in a really excited squeaky voice, like he'd just discovered Santa Claus in his living room. He picked up the one with the sprinkles, and proceeded to devour it with gusto. Of course, he decided he would eat only the frosting and not the actual doughnut. I guess that just means he's a normal kid, huh? Shome and I had a few bites of Shiv's doughnut sans the good stuff on top, as Shiv helped himself to the chocolate topping of another. Watching Shiv and bouncing Shome on my lap, I suddenly felt such incredible love for my boys.

I'm so looking forward to spending the summer with them. And I realise it doesn't take very much to keep them happy. Some sidewalk chalk, a ball, a familiar song on the radio..... Times are tough now with the downward spiral that the economy is taking. It will be a while before we can save enough money to make a trip to India again or go on vacation to some fancy place. But I know that we'll always be able to say, "Hey, let's go out for a doughnut today!!".

Monday, March 16, 2009


The other day, I was reading an Indian mythological story to Shiv. India is a complex country and Hinduism is even more complex a religion. We have so many Gods that it's kind of like acquiring the Verizon support network when you're born Hindu!!! Now there are the male Gods, who invariably have their female counterparts or Goddesses. And usually they're spouses. The story was about King Rama, who lived in ancient India, many many many years ago, and who we consider an incarnation or 'avatar' of the God Vishnu. I was trying to explain to Shiv, my 3 year old, that Sita was the wife of Lord Rama. Just like his mother, Meghana, is the wife of Ranjit, his father. And Mrs. H. is the wife of Mr. J. etc, etc. Shiv's eyes suddenly lit up and he was all excited when he said, "Amma, Jackson is my wife!!". (Jackson is Shiv's BFF...or so Shiv thinks!!). I had to laugh. It was so cute the way he said it. I shook my head and said, "Not exactly, Shiv. But I kind of think you've got the point."

Shiv is recognising and acknowledging relationships a lot these days. He's found his place in the world because he knows that he's tied to so many wonderful people in his life and they are all helping him develop his identity as a person. It was really cute how he would point to my mother and tell all his friends proudly, "This is my ganmader"!! (That's grandmother, by the way!!). He loved showing her off every time he was with his friends. Before we went on vacation to India, I made sure he was familiar with all the people he would meet. We would look at pictures everyday and he would point out the different faces in them, and state who they were. It was so wonderful to see the delight on my in-laws faces when he recognised them almost immediately once we got to India. They couldn't get enough of him calling them "Annamma" (grandma) and "Ajju" (grandpa).

In the English language, it's usually the same word for relations whether it's on your father's or mother's side of the family. In the Indian culture, we actually have specific labels for each family member, thereby enabling one to know exactly who the person is and how they are related to us. It's actually pretty cool how precisely one can explain their relationship by simply stating what they are called. For example, "Amma" and "Pappa" would be mom and dad, while, "Maavu" and "Maayi" would be the father and mother-in-law respectively. "Ammamma" and "Ajja" would be one's mother's mom and dad respectively, while "Annamma" and "Ajju" would the father's. "Naathu" is the term for grandson, while "Naathi" refers to the granddaughter. And so on and so forth. Now, my family speaks a dialect called Konkani, which is among more than 400 other languages and dialects spoken on the Indian subcontinent!!! Pretty interesting, huh??

There was a time when everyone had their place and name in large joint families. The concept of so many people living under one roof is gradually disappearing now though. Everyone's becoming a generic "Uncle" or "Aunt". I look back at my childhood and realise how fortunate I was to grow up with cousins and my extended family. I wonder sometimes, if I'm depriving my children of that experience, being so far away from India. But then again, I know that our cousin reunions here in the U.S allows them to bond with the other kids in the family. Being so far away from each other allows us to cherish and truly enjoy our time together, without taking it for granted. Our neighbours on our street are our surrogate family now. I feel comforted knowing that Shiv and Shome will grow up with a really great bunch of kids. Of course, they will argue and fight, and hate each other at times. But that will only make them grow stronger as friends.

I guess what I'm trying to get at in this blog is that I truly believe that we are at home in this neighbourhood. Of course, I wish we'd got the 4 foot extension on the house, but that is irrelevant, when I look at the wonderful people who live around us. They are our extended family of sorts. We may not speak the same language, or enjoy the same foods, or even eat our meals at the same time...but in the end, I know that these are families with whom my children and I can feel safe and comfortable. No matter how individualistic the world is becoming, there is some part of us that will always want to reach out to the person next door. No (wo)man is an island (John Donne (1572-1631)).

Shiv with his buddies!!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A warm winter's day!!!

We went to the park the other day with our neighbours. Did I ever tell you that we have a total of 19 kids on our street alone?!!! How amazing is that?!! Every time the kids get together to play at someone's home, it's like a mini daycare in session. Shiv, my older one, used to be the tag-along last year but now, the baby will be taking over pretty soon. Shome just turned 9 months and it was his first trip to the park on Thursday afternoon. No, he's not a deprived child; we've just been out of the country visiting family in India, so we never had a chance.

Anyway, I got the kids all bundled up after lunch, and we followed our neighbours in our car to a really great park close to home. I realised after running behind Shiv for a while, that I not only looked ridiculous in my formal coat and scarf, but I was really really hot. All the others moms were in practical gear like sweatpants and t-shirts and a spring jacket. But I decided I was too lazy to look for my "comfy" stuff and so looked like a company excecutive in the middle of the field. Justify Full
Shome was initially content to just sit in his stroller and watch the kids go completely wild. You would think they had been locked up in a dark basement for the last 3 months. Well, technically, I guess anyone would feel that way when you're stuck in the house watching all that snow pile up on your front lawn. Anyway, after a while, I decided to place him in the little bucket swing and let him experience the sensation of it. Oh my goodness!!! Did he look like a little munchkin or what? Firstly, he had on a jacket that was way too big for him, but which was serving the purpose of keeping him warm. And then, he looked so tiny in the swing. When I pushed the swing gently, he had this look of awe and wonder on his face. He didn't laugh or make any noises. He just seemed to be silently taking it all in; the kids playing in front of him, the colourful slides, the wind gently blowing and probably the feeling of nothingness under his feet.

When I left him to attend to Shiv, he just sat there, peeking from under his hood. He looked so peaceful and content. And so beautiful. He never moved his head, but his eyes wandered all over the place, following the sounds and laughter. I looked at this tiny being, cocooned in his red jacket, and felt such incredible love. I looked over at Shiv, who was running around like a little wound-up race car. And I guess you could say that I saw true happiness on both their faces. Sitting there on the park bench, I felt so truly blessed that I had these two incredible children. I always felt in the past, that it was such a cliche to say that one couldn't imagine life without your kids. But at that moment, I felt that emotion surge through me. At that moment, I felt that nothing else really mattered.

We're definitely going back to the park again. I see us together as a family, playing and running; sitting on the grass, eating our picnic lunch; cherishing every moment that we have with each other. Shiv and Shome are still so little now, but time will fly by. And many many years later, I know I will have these wonderful memories. I'm not ready for them to grow up now though!!! Oh, let it be another warm day tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

To co sleep or not to......

It's strange that the whole concept of co sleeping is such a controversial topic in this country. I mean, where I come from, it only seemed natural to fit as many people as one humanly possibly could on a bed or a room. Okay, you're probably wondering where I'm from. Let me be more clear. Growing up in Africa, I had my own room after a certain age. Although I loved snuggling in with my parents in the mornings. And the best times were when my Dad was out of town, because then, I could cuddle with my mother the whole night. I would sleep with my little back against her tummy and call it the "Kangaroo". There was something very comforting about feeling her warm breath on top of my head, and the heaviness of her arm around me.

What I really waited for were my trips to India to visit family. Being the only child for 9 years, I loved the chatter and excitement in my cousins' homes. We always had such a great time together. The most fun was at night time, when my aunt would bring out the thin cotton mattresses and lay them out in the living room from one end to the other. And my cousins and I would huddle together, telling each other stories and discussing what we were going to do the next day. I always felt like I belonged when we had our tiny arms around each other.

I remember when I went to boarding school, we would all wait to sleep in the 'common room'. It would take almost an hour to drag our individual mattresses from the two main bedrooms, and line them next to each other. One could hear little conversations all around the room, interspersed with giggles and shushes. The housemother didn't encourage this arrangement much, because we all had a hard time waking up in the morning for breakfast. But it was a special treat for us all, especially since we were so far away from our homes, and these girls were the closest people to family at that point.

It's so strange that when my first baby was born, I wasn't too comfortable bringing him into bed with me at night. I somehow felt I might roll over and squash the tiny thing. I just felt he was safer in his bassinet. Although, the late-night feedings were moments that I cherished; as I held his little body against mine. It was so hard to believe that I had created this little creature. We went through a challenging period after a trip back from India, when Shiv would want to sleep with us. He was 8 months at that time, and would wake up at the slightest sound. It was very frustrating for the next few months for my husband and myself, since we barely got any sleep with this child waking up every hour sometimes. We finally decided to move him to the crib and sleep in a different room. It was a difficult transition but we finally did it.

Shiv became so 'independent' that when it was bedtime, he would actually throw my husband out of the room once he had been laid down in his crib. We moved to our new home, where he now had his very own room, with the colourful Ikea curtains, and the bright rug and everything. And he was still sleeping on his own........until the new baby arrived!!

The arrival of Shome brought Shiv back into bed with us again!! So we were one big happy family sleeping in the same room; Shiv, my husband and I sharing the new king sized bed (I will never regret that purchase...ever!!) and Shome, my newborn, in his cradle next to us. And of course, we complained and let everyone know what a pain it was to have our child's feet in our face EVERY night. But deep inside, we actually began to enjoy having him in bed with us. I'm not sure what it was really. It wasn't always comfortable. I mean, the child had his legs and arms everywhere!! But I just felt complete having both my babies close to me. Shome would wake up a couple of times at night for a feed, and as I would hold him to my breast, I would sneak a peek at my other little boy, all curled up with his blanket.

Shome sleeps in the baby room now, with the Ikea curtains. Shiv has graduated to a big boy car bed in another room, which desperately needs some bright curtains. And my husband and I take turns cuddling with Shiv whenever we can. I usually nap with him in the afternoons, while Ranjit is with him at night. We both love how he holds our face with his tiny hands and kisses our lips gently. We love his stinky warm breath against our faces. We love how he puts his arms around us and his forehead against ours. We love how his face is all scrunched up with his eyes shut, when we tell him to go to sleep.

Maybe, he won't be as independent as the research indicates he should be at his age. But I know that many many years down the line, my husband and I will treasure these moments with him. It won't be long before Shome might join the gang in bed. And when he does, I may lose some sleep. But I know that at my lowest moments, the memory of holding my babies close to me will make me smile again.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Monster tot??

Growing up, I never imagined being a mother of two boys; leave alone being a mother. I think I was always very skeptical of the whole parenting thing, assuming that my children would turn out to be little horrors. They would sit all by themselves at lunch break at the playground. They would be picked last to join the team to play tag. They would never get invited to play dates. We would never be able to return to a restaurant since the place looked liked a hurricane had struck at our table. And our neighbours would invent a secret code by which they would communicate about their pot-lucks.

It's funny how little we know about ourselves. Actually, I should be more specific and refer to my ignorant self. My children are not only the most incredible gifts I've received from God, but they seem to have a knack for making me feel like the most incredible mother as well. I know, I know, everyone thinks their children are the most wonderful in the whole world. But I'm not talking about them being perfect in any way. Especially the older one. Oh no!!! Shiv will be 3 next month, and has become quite comfortable yelling out his sentences. Honestly, I come from a loud family (we Indians are a trifle deaf due to the high levels of noise pollution back home, and just a general inability to remain calm under excitable circumstances), but my older son can out-yell any crazed person. And then of course, he has this obsession with drums. Every and any surface can transform into a percussion instrument, including his baby brother's head!! And does he just use his hands? That is an affirmative no. He's drumming (I actually mean "banging the crap out of....") with his silverware, with his toy tools, with the little train tracks and even with the bread sticks at dinner!!! Arrrrgh!!! And then of course, how can I forget about his need to poop in his pants after we've spent the last half hour on the pot, having read through a dozen books and bribing him with every treat possible. And is it the kind that's easy to clean. No again!! His butt looks like he actually rolled in the stuff; not to mention a generous amount trickling down his legs!!

He's constantly rocking his chair, pushing his legs against the table. I always imagine him sprawled on the floor bleeding profusely from the head, just when I decide to blink for a second while I sneeze. He always runs, never walks. It's almost like his legs suffer from ADHD. He dances to music like a horse on a caffeine high. He's the only kid with his back turned to the teacher, vehemently shaking his head to some imaginary tune in his head, while the others are diligently playing 'Simon says'. He decides to stub his toe (really loudly) against the wall in the next room, just as I'm trying to put my younger one down for a nap. He insists on singing at the library. He decides that it's fun to run up and down the aisles at the grocery store, and push the shopping cart to see how far it can go...before it kills an innocent shopper. His vocabulary has shrunk to a single word..."NO".

But let me not digress from my original line of thought. There is something wonderful about my little boy. It's the way he makes people smile when he looks at them and says, "Hello". It's how he manages to befriend any person within minutes of meeting them, and making them feel special with his hugs. It's when he puts his tiny arms around my neck and looks deep into my eyes and says, "I lah you, Amma". When he plays peek-a-boo with his little brother and calls him 'his cookie'. When he comes running to me with his eyes wide open with excitement, when I pick him up from school. When he gives me soft kisses as I lay with him in his bed for an afternoon nap. And even when he does all those things that annoy me most of the time, there is that little moment amidst all the confusion and havoc, when I stop and look at my son, and think, "Oh my god, he's his own little person now." That moment where I feel love that is indescribable.

I look at my younger one and know that he'll be doing all the things his brother did. The forces of nature (or genetics) haven't yet transformed my sweet angelic 8 month old. But it doesn't worry me. I know my kids are alright. Shiv is a kid after all. He's growing and exploring and telling the world, "Hey, this is me!!". And I love him for that.