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.