Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Building Blocks

It was exactly a year back when I got my son his first set of building blocks. My brother and I grew up playing Lego toys building tractors, houses, building, and cars. But what I forgot was we were over four or five years old when we made interesting things out of those colorful blocks. Wasn't it a little too early for a one year old to be attracted to some random shapes? This was at my mom's last January. After that I got another set in Pune a few months back which just occupied one corner of the huge toy box. A few days ago, out of the blue LG started making shapes sitting patiently in his room struggling to fix atop another. Was I surprised? Well, not really because if I start acting surprised for everything he does these days then I would stay in that state the whole day.

Going to school has opened up a new side of LG altogether. Earlier we would plead with him to play with toys and now we have to plead to get him out of the room because he doesn't want to eat or sleep. Such an immense transformation in a matter of five weeks. Last evening, I had an opportunity to take a picture of one of his latest creations with the blocks...sure the CG seemed out of balance for the structure..but who cares when it comes of a two year old. Here I present to you his latest:

Monday, December 22, 2008

I Can Open a Sabzi Mandi...

... and I mean that in all honesty. Going by the number of times I and Li'l General's grandfather buy potatoes and beans, we sure can supply a truck load of vegetables to the entire neighborhood. Earlier whenever his dadu stepped out of home, LG would say, Dadu ummachi" (read: a visit to the temple). After last week's episode, if we are going out then it's definitely to buy beans or carrots so much so that after his Polio vaccination yesterday when we were returning home, LG stopped by a shop on seeing vegetables to pick a few. Needless to say, it took a lot of reassurance from my side to convince him we did have potatoes at home. And what do I see after getting home, that we are running out of potatoes. Maybe he is more efficient at the kitchen than I ever will be.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

When Signs Give Way to Words...

I was talking to a friend this evening; she mentioned she was eagerly waiting for LG to start talking. "What?", I wondered. Because he has been talking by the dozen, alright not full-fledged meaningful sentences but related words strung together that definitely make sense - if you are paying attention :). Then it dawned upon me that I haven't been writing about his latest speech milestones here so it's natural for people to be in the dark. Many of my friends who I don't correspond with regularly over e-mail do know what's going on as they are regular readers of this blog and Reflections.

There was a time when I worried a big deal about raising a multilingual child - an entry that gained tremendous popularity. It's been a year and half since that post. Li'l General mixes words in English, Tamil and Hindi with ease now. Most of the common objects are said in English and that's one language he is the most comfortable in for now. Things would have been a little more simpler if I was the only one living with him as before..with in-laws moving in and Hindi thrown in, progress on the language front has been a little slow over the past four months. The most significant period has been last month. True to the saying, "One to walk, two to talk" LG expresses himself or atleast tries his best. To strangers, it is all still goobledygook. But to m, it is an important milestone when he no longer points to his bum with "ooooooo" which means it is time for potty. He now says, "Mamma, potty."

Some of the cute phrases from the past that I would want to remember forever. The replacement term is the one after hyphen that he has begun using these past few weeks.

  1. ooooooo with a sign - Potty

  2. Owwww -hot

  3. Ta - Light

  4. Ta - Fan

  5. Pi - shoes

  6. Pi still the same for chappal

  7. Boiche - Ball

  8. Pappe or Papi - Papa

Some words that he can't still pronounce correctly:

  1. Pe - thengai or coconut

  2. Tchea - TV

  3. Pooch - Spoon

  4. Cooch - School

  5. Pipi - Chappati

  6. Pow - Polu Teddy Bear

  7. Dolchie - Dolphin

  8. Aby - Heli

  9. Kho - open

  10. Chaku - Kachu

  11. Capsicum - Pacsi

He is clearly going through the vocabulary explosion phase, one that I longed for. Happy Talking.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Turning Two was Thrilling!

LG turned two yesterday. We had a fun day though the morning started off on a chaotic note. I woke up startled with the cellphone ringing first and when I cut the call out of drowsiness, the land line blared aloud within minutes waking up both LG and me this time. After I managed to get a few incoherent words to Dad something to the effect that I would call him later, I snuggled into bed with LG who had managed to drift into sleep by then. Five minutes later, the door bell rang - a neighbour who had stopped by to wish LG and present him with a gift. There you go - that's how our morning began. We didn't leave room for anymore interruptions and woke up. I walked LG to his toys room and he couldn't believe his eyes. He dashed all over the house for the day was full of surprises for him - balloons all over the place, his room decorated, momma singing Happy Birthday non-top and his dadu was back - with Potatotoes and Beans! It took a while for LG to gain his composure. In the morning frenzy, he forgot his morning milk, so I walked him back to his bed but he just couldn't gulp it down. There were gifts to be opened and some that were already open were lying on his bed...so how could he waste precious moments drinking some milk. I had gone to bed the previous night after decorating his room well after midnight after trying in vain to blow up balloons. I felt disgusted at not being able to blow up balloons - imagine Googling for "how to blow a balloon and watching wikihow videos at 11:54 p.m." Blowing balloons was a feat I had successfully achieved many times in the past - blame it on the superior quality this time. All I could manage in a span of 57 minutes was 1 balloon. Exhausted, I crashed deciding to worry about th balloon project next morning.

The whole morning was a race against time. I dropped him off to school; got caught by the traffic police and his dadu went to buy a balloon pump and got further delayed. The best cake in Bangalore is apparently from Sweet Chariot. But it didn't work out good for me as they didn't deliver before noon and I was against the idea of collecting a day before and storing it in the fridge for a day; we had arranged to cut the cake at school around 10:30 a.m. We reached by 10:40 a.m. and felt so bad for not making it in time. Damn traffic police! Anyways the kids had finished singing and dancing with LG by then. So we cut the cake. LG was super thrilled but was clingy at the same time uncomfortable with all the extra attention bestowed upon him. After a small party at school, we returned home well past 11:30 a.m. and boy was I surprised. The cook had managed to blow a dozen off balloons in the meantime ..she did it to surprise us. Just before I left for school, she saw me struggling to blow but the morning was way better than the previous night. I managed 5 in a matter of 15 minutes :) With more gifts, cake, ribbons, and balloons LG couldn't control his excitement. He had stuffed way too many pieces of cake at school and chips. Eventually, he skipped lunch and went to sleep well past his nap time at 1:00 p.m. woke up a fresh boy at 2:30 p.m. to have his lunch and got about methodically for the next round of toys.

He has been very fond of pizza these day..not that he has ever tasted it jut the ads on TV and the outlet near our place. So we went for a walk and surprised him by stopping by the Pizza place. Usually, we just walk past every evening so he couldn't believe it. H kept telling "Momma Pizza" and then announced the same over phone to his granny and Papa that he went to ate pizza. Bread makes him puke so he is off bread and cheese products..didn't matter to him. He was happy just being there, running around, and the thought of actually stepping into a place that we never went to. He was super thrilled to have just the vegetable toppings. Isn't it amazing how small things in life can make a child so happy? We spent the rest of the evening at home playing and having a good time. I also discovered that evening that his molars are surfacing now. No wonder he has been in so much pain and that should explain his reluctance to eat any food at all for the past week. On his first birthday, he had 16 teeth and four more on the way on his 2nd. And this kid was born with a calcium deficiency!

I don't have any more to say than I have said through the year on his milestones. Just that he talks a dozen now! So I leave you with some of his latest pictures...

An example of his resourcefulness: If it's 7:00 p.m., then it's time to have dinner. If I haven't made pi-pi (chapathi in LG's language), then he decides to make one himself. Caught in the act below...

The occasions he empties the pepper/chilli powder container far exceeds when he does something useful for me. Yesterday afternoon for instance, I had just got vegetables and had not put them away in the fridge. He got back from school, saw the bag, then sat down and took one of those vegetable bags from the platform
and meticulously stuffed 1 KG of tomatoes in it, opened the fridge with the intention of placing it in the tray. The tray was too heavy to be pulled out so he called out for me instructing me to keep it in. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed. In this one, he is peeling onions for me.

When he gets hurt which is so very often through the day, I apply an ice pack if he is really hurt. Most times, he is just faking it. If his friends - car, dolchie (dolphin), po (polu), buco (buco kiddoo), stucha (stuart little), or holse (horse) get hurt, he tends to them himself by fetching the ice pack from fridge and then rubbing their eyes because they are supposed to be crying out of pain. And then soothes them with an ice pack.

The drama king in action...

Edited to add a picture of the birthday cake below:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Birthday LG : You Turn 2 Today!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It takes a day to buy beans and potatototo

As an adult, I understood the meaning of the word "innocence" through my two-year-old. How easy it is to make them believe anything despite all the perceived smartness of kids these days!

So the story goes that a fortnight back my dad was here to meet LG to wish him Happy Birthday well in advance because he was traveling before the 18th and couldn't come down to met his grandson even if he wished to. Destiny had other plans with my grandpa passing away a week back and Dad is still in the country. Anyways, while dad was here for two days Li'l General and his grandpa bonded a lot over two days listening to music, playing the park, going for a drive in the car, an auto ride, a trip to the mall, making weird sounds, and most important of all playing with the camera that I never allow. As Dad was leaving and kissed his grandson goodbye from the auto, LG's face changed color and the smile was gone. Soon, he was sobbing and within a minute started wailing "thatha, thatha". Dad had not gone too far - maybe a hundred meters by then. An otherwise openly inexpressive person, he couldn't hold back his emotions and asked the auto guy to stop for a minute. He came back and comforted his grandson close. Both of them felt miserable and having Kleenex would have been handy. It took a lot of me to stop LG crying that night and put him to bed. He was so mad that he refused to talk to his thatha the next day over phone for leaving him and going.

I learned one big lesson that night. That goodbyes are for those who are grown up and can understand what it means. My son is barely two now and there's ample time for him in life to understand separation and the pain of seeing someone one. Reality can wait. Last night, his paternal grandfather who he calls "dadu" left to meet his thatha for a day to offer his condolences. LG was seated on his high chair having dinner when his dadu left. He saw the bag and asked where dadu was going. I had the presence of mind to tell him he was going to get "Potatototo" (his favorite word of late and yes, the "to" doesn't stop). That got him excited and he chipped in with, "Dadu beans callot." There you go, the boy has my veggie list ready for me. This morning he woke up as usual and after looking for his dadu said, "Mama, dadu beans." I nodded in agreement. A while later when he asked me once more I said, "Dadu has gone to get beans from thatha." So he promptly called up his granny and asked for thatha and beans so that his dadu can return home early. Surprisingly, he was teeny bit anxious about his absence but not cranky or sad. Heartbreak avoided and There goes the story of how it takes a day to get beans.

His dadu would return tomorrow morning in time for LG's birthday with beans, carrot and potatoto.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ready to Leave the Nest

My son turns 2 years next Thursday. I can't believe he thinks that he is already old enough to fly out of the nest. He has done it before and repeated it today. Once before, in a bag he packed his belongings that he deemed were important for his existence. This evening, he packed a bag yet again. Since the two incidents were atleast five months apart, the contents of the bag varied - a sign that he is growing up and so his needs are changing :) The earlier one had just a comb and water bottle.

Today's bag contained :

1. Water bottle (aware of hunger, thirst)
2. Books - one needs certain things for entertainment
3. A pair of dress comprising shirts and track pants - yes, after susu one needs to change, right?
4. Two sweaters - it's cold in Bangalore

After stuffing this, the plastic packet was full but he needed more essentials inside it before leaving home. So the packing continued.

5. Sandals
6. An elephant toy
7. And how can I forget his pillows? He smelled the pillows to see if they smelled fresh.

Am I surprised that he has his travel checklist ready? I can entrust him with the job of packing from now onwards.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Business Lessons Begin Early

Scene: Li'l General seated in his high chair for dinner. I'm feeding him vegetable soup. NDTV Profit is playing in the background. Tired of watching Aamir Khan and SRK battle it out with endless promos of their upcoming movies in Zoom, I flipped the channel to settled on NDTV Profit. The program "The Unstoppable Indian" was playing. YC Deveshwar, Chairman of ITC Group, was being interviewed. YCD was recounting how Madhavrao Scindia had persuaded him to take up the offer for Chairman of Air India to turn around the national carrier similar to British Airways; how he left ITC for a period of three years from 1991-94 and how under his leadership Air India's gross profit margins improved.

To my surprise, LG did not want the channel to be changed. This has never happened before. So I took the cue and told him who the gentleman was. Strangely, YCD spoke as if he was in a stupor and in a very unimpressive manner. It was kinda odd for a man of his experience and all that he has seen in his 40 year career. At one point, when he was emphasizing on how rural people empowerment was more important for the group in it e-choupal initiative than aiming for a higher share in profits, I pushed the discussion a bit further and told LG, "This is where papa worked once. Say I T C." And there he went for the rest of the evening....

I tche chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
I tche chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Haven't been able to stop him ever since.

After nights of research on pre-schools and nurseries in Bangalore, endless discussions and advice from other parents in the apartment on the good ones in the vicinity, and numerous visits to most of the schools that made it to my shortlist, I've decided to keep Li'l General out of a big school until June 2010 when he will turn 3.5 years.

When I started this process in early September, it seemed to me that the decision I make now will be life-altering one with dire consequences on LG's education. It has taken me over two months to realize that my son turns only two in a couple of weeks and this is not even nursery education. There is whole life time ahead and I was unnecessarily getting worked up. As I sit back and think, these were the pressures of making the decision as a mother alone with inputs or advice coming form the father which may have been biased because he just heard my side of the story. The Seniol did not visit any of the schools. As it is I was spoilt for choices which only got more complex with LG's age and which grade he should get into - nursery or pre-nursery in June 2009. The schools were not unanimous in this ..I'm actually surprised at this. Shouldn't there a mandatory age the child should have reached before admitting him/her in a nursery class? Thanks to many parents I spoke to and the Principal at Kidzee who advised it is always better to take it slow as the child stands to benefit in the long run which is when I made up my mind to try for nursery admissions next September for June 2010. In the process, I've spent over a thousand bucks in application fees. Never mind, so long the head is clear.

We were all set to see admissions in VIBGYOR High but as it turned out the school had a chaotic procedure this year. Around the same time, LG fell very sick that I couldn't make it to the agreed dates for interviews and eventually canceled it. Seeing LG react and finding it difficult to get adjusted in his present playschool combined with the difficulties in communication, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I'm quite happy with the present playschool and saw no harm in letting him continue for a year more rather than pulling him out in a few months and pushing him into a bigger intimidating environment than the current one.

In parenting, decisions are endless. Every choice seems right. Coming out unscathed without a shred of guilt on the choice made, I've realized over the months is like a dream come true. And I hope this is one decision I wouldn't regret.

If you ask me, what are the two biggest challenges in raising a child in the initial years it would be feeding and establishing a sleep routine for me. Feeding has been a far bigger task than establishing a sleep routine. I learned my lessons on parenting when it came to sleep routines long before Li'l General was born. Had seen enough friends struggle with their babies and toddlers who stayed up until well past midnight night after night.

Consciously, I got Li'l General into the habit of being in bed by 9:00 p.m. every night ever since he was 12 weeks old - as soon as his colic state relaxed. With the exception of maybe one or two nights in all these two years, he has gone to bed by 9:00 p.m. every night to be up by 6:30 a.m. every morning. I've always been a early to bed, early to rise person and appreciate the benefits of this practice in the long run.

Night time sleep routine hasn't been so much of a problem as his day time naps. When day naps are altered, every thing else goes for a toss. It's a vicious circle - not enough sleep leads to a cranky child which in turn adversely interferes with eating pattern. Until about we was eight months old, he napped once in two hours. When he turned a year old, his number of naps reduced to three and he napped once in three hours - once in the morning, once in the afternoon and then early evening. The challenging of all these was the time between 14 months and 20 months when he took two naps - one mid morning around 11:00 a.m and another around 4:00 p.m. which meant there wasn't a minute of rest for me in the afternoons.

I'm the most happiest now that it has been over 3 months since LG got into the pattern of one nap lasting three hours every afternoon. Getting into this routine takes a while because stopping the morning nap and shifting it by two hours is a little difficult. Some days before he got into the routine when he was highly sleepy, I've had to distract him or take him to the park so as to keep him awake for a little while more. With one long nap, during the day, a toddler of 24 months gets about 12 hours of sleep a day and it also means he sleeps once every six hours. He is up by 6:30 a.m and naps next around noon. Wakes up at 3:00 p.m. and goes to bed between 8:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. The biggest driver in all this for me has been to creating an environment that means it is sleep-time: drawn curtains and sounds to the minimum even if it meant muting cell phones. A well rested child is a happy kid!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Are you Overdressing Your Child?

Socks, Mittens, Leggings, Sweaters, Hats - looks great on kids with barely any skin showing. But is appropriate clothing when you are not living in Alaska or a region that receives snowfall with temperatures plunging to sub zero temperatures? In a tropical country like India where most cities down South except Northern India do not experience severe winter, such dressing is uncalled for, in my opinion. As parents, I feel we tend to overdress kids for fear of their catching cold. I wonder if they feel any colder than we do. Often, I notice kids sweating profusely under layers of warm clothing. Since may are under the care of nannies who are afraid to use their common sense for fear of being reprimanded by parents fail to make the kids comfortable. Very often, when kids demand to have their caps or socks removed, it is seen as a tantrum or not being cooperative.

Of late, I've noticed with LG that if he is cold, he puts on the cap himself. When he is hot, he removes the sweater himself or demands to don one. Often I'm told by friends after seeing LG's clothing and seeing him comfortable that maybe they are indeed overdressing their kids that makes them a tad uncomfortable. Every child is different and dressing needs are different but I think we can do ways with mittens and monkey caps inside home.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Inviting Breakfast Ideas For a Toddler

LG will turn two in a few weeks' time. And I hate to admit that his breakfast is painstakingly boring for me though he enjoys it. He has a variety spread for lunch and dinner but breakfast is mainly either Cerelac or cornflakes in various flavors or Sabudana khichdi or Idli or powdered beaten rice mixed in milk. I ensure that his breakfast is milk based so that the daily quantity of milk intake is there and breakfast has a huge share in it. Idli or Sabudana khichdi is just once a week otherwise it is milk-based breakfast.

I would appreciate if you have some breakfast ideas that I could introduce. The challenging task is getting LG to drink milk separately after an ordinary breakfast which is why I have made it a milk-based one until now. Any ideas most welcome.

The last time Li'l General had a bout of dysentery was when he got his first pearlies at five months. After that, we haven't had a diarrhea episode in like 1.5 years. Trouble began last week when he passed watery stools for more than 3 times a day. I let it pass the first day but it got me worried when the frequency increased to more than 4 times in a span of 6 hours. I usually have all his medication handy. This time I failed to notice that Pegtoline Plus that he is usually prescribed for loos motions was opened. As a practice, I throw the bottle once opened after completion of dosage that time. It is advised not to use pediatric medicines once opened after 30 days. So I generally stock the cabinet with a new bottle. Pegtoline Plus is not available in Bangalore so had to call up his Paed in Pune for an alternate medicine. He was prescribed Nor Metrogyl this time.

Medicines are usually the last resort - for a time when I start getting worried. Until then, I believe in home remedies. For dysentery, these are a few things that have helped me :

1. Electral solution at frequent intervals. Urinating atleast once in 4 hours is a sign of not being dehydrated. However, if you feel your kid is not active and rolls back in bed, signs of dehydration are setting in. Feel the sunken spot in the head and look out for dry lips. Keep giving liquids. Loose motions along with vomiting, set in dehydration quickly and it is best to seek medical help.

2. Avoid milk as much as possible. LG was very hungry and it was only 6 in the morning. He kept asking for milk. I wasn't sure what to do. Granny advised diluting the milk and feeding him. I did that and it didn't lead accentuate loose motions. It also helped LG settle for a while and by then it was breakfast time.

3. Sabudana - again with very little milk and more of water and sugar. You can either soak it before hand and then boil it with milk and water. Or alternately, if you haven't soaked it you can fry it a bit, grind it in the mixer and then mix with water and milk until it thickens.

4. Arrow Root Powder - This mixture to be prepared in the same way as Sabudana helps a great deal in controlling loose stools.

5. Go easy on gheee (avoid if possible) and anything that's gassy or difficult to digest.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Teaching My Toddler to Be Independent

Today was Li'l General's sixth continuous day at school - an achievement in itself after all that we've been through since he started about three weeks ago. There has not been a dull moment with initial excitement the first two days followed by a fortnight of cough, cold, and fever which in turn gave into no-mood-for-school days - the last being the toughest of them all when I had to see him cry the whole time he was there. It has barely been three days since he has adjusted to the 1 hour that he spends there that he has taken ill again - this time with a bout of dysentery.

Sickness apart, the playschool lady's advice has been very helpful in getting LG to be school-ready. We tried the mom-n-me part for two days but when that didn't help she suggested we go with the cry-it-out method. Very painful for two days but eventually he got adjusted to the point that he has started enjoying his stay. I wouldn't say he actually looks forward to going there as the first two days. Even now he cries miserably when I drop him but comes back home smiling with pictures of cats and stars on the back of his palm.

After every session, the lady advises me what changes I can mildly bring about at home that would make him more comfortable at school. We started with tackling the clingy part first where I consciously ensured that he would be away from me for a while every now and then. That helped. Now her advise is to make him LG a little independent as she says he loves doing things. Which is very true. I see the happiness of accomplishment when I ask him to fetch the thermos or keep a cup in kitchen or get his socks from the wardrobe. When I run out of things for him, I keep inventing stuff like emptying a bottle of peas onto a plate and asking him to fill it back. Ofcourse, there are times when it gets messy creating more work for me and there are occasions when he enjoys it. It's all about experimentation and it gives me an opportunity to name things as we go along.

One of the things the lady wanted him to do was to pick his pair of sandals from the shoe rack. She picked the wrong pair on purpose and asked if it was his. He shook his head and got down to pick the right pair. She put on the sandals for him but said, "From tomorrow onwards you are going to do it yourself." As soon as we got home, I asked him to remove it himself and place it on the shoe rack. To my surprise he loved doing it with a big beam on his face. For me he is always too young to do anything by himself which is why I step in for everything. No wonder at 30, my parents think I'm too young to decide anything for myself.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Taste of Maggi

During our growing up years, there were no McD's or CCD's to indulge in French Fries over the weekend. Outside food was restricted to once a month outing when we ate lunch at Kamat Cafe. This was about 20 years ago. I remember how excited my brother and I would be for this day of the month because it meant dining out. All the other delicacies that we resort to buying from shops today out of ease were made at home then by mom ranging from biscuits to cakes and chole bature. Junk food was not in the lexicon at all.

Then a few years later, Maggi came along to qualify as the only junk food we ever had. Well, not really because so many veggies were added to make the non-healthy food healthy. Again, those were lucky Sundays when one had Maggi instead of the traditional Pongal, Upma, Dosa or Poori. In many ways, LG's food until now resembles that for he has been exposed very little to food bought outside - maybe just once or twice. We don't stock junk food at home either unless if I'm going through a bout of low BP when you'll find plain salty Lays packet. Last Friday, when he got back from school I made Maggi for him. Naturally, he couldn't contain the excitement of seeing something new and colorful: green peppers, carrots and beans. Atta Maggi sans masala prepared with vegetables and a pinch of salt and pepper made his lunch. He was only happy to finish the plate so much so that he can relate to what he ate when he sees the ad on TV now.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dolchie : New Addition to the Family

Dear LG,

Known as Dolchie to you and Dolphie to me, the pink-and-white teddy was born on 16th Nov '08 around 17:32 hrs. We got her home wrapped in pink and you fed her her first glass of bournvita making a fuss to drink it yourself. The bonding has grown ten times this past week as Dolphie made this her home. She sleeps on the bed next to you hugging you through your afternoon naps and at night. Once you wake up every morning, after snuggling up to me the first thing you ask for is Dolchie in the cute voice of yours sounding low so as not to wake her up. The beaming smile once you see her in a corner of the bed cosying under a blanket says it all as to how much happiness she brings in to your life.

Often, you ensure that she has a pillow under her pointed head and you keep her warm by covering her with the soft woolen blanket that I'd be happy to be see you tucked in through the night instead. Bournvitas, water and juice are now shared between the two of you. You insist on taking her for a walk with you every morning but it's a little tow much to lug around both of you so we leave her behind now. You are lavish in your kisses with Dolchie whereas Momma has to plead for one. You were keen on getting her a haircut yesterday along with you. One thing that's still intriguing about her is you are not quite able to find where her ears are. You are able to point out her eyes and nose but not the rest. Recently, you insisted that Dolchie do susu in the bathroom along with you and when she didn't you poured your glass of water on her tail finding it amusing.

The other members of the family especially your brother Buco Kidoo is not very happy at this new found friendship for he has been displaced from his rightful place on your bed to the toy's room. Dolchie goes on those lovely car rides now from NY to Malibu. Neither BK nor granny seem to be appreciating this. Well, I just hope this friendship of yours stays forever and maybe it's time to introduce Dolchie to the rest of the family.

Your momma.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fixing His Drink

There are certain activities that Li'l General likes to do by himself, not appreciating any interference in the process. One of them is fixing his favorite drink : tang, that he calls "tchuice" (read: juice). The meticulous process makes me wonder if he sometimes acts too old for his age. The kid insists on getting a spoon first, then reaches for the container from the rack full of plastic boxes filled with spices, and finally fetches the thermos containing his hot water. Once the ingredients are in place, he looks around for his yellow water sipper adding two spoons of tang first and then calling out "mama, mama" because the flask is too tight to be opened for a two-year-old. Sometimes he does manage to open but knowing its hot, he doesn't risk pouring out the hot water and waits for me to prepare his drink. Once ready, he chooses a quiet corner where he can finish it at peace. There are times, when he asks for more else the sipper goes in the sink to be washed for use the next time around.

One of things that I would like to remember as part of his growing up days is that he hates the house to be dirty. He either says, "aai" (read: dirty) if there's a morsel left on his high chair or if something's spilled on the floor and we've been like 34 seconds late in cleaning it. This evening, my FIL was sipping his tea when he accidentally spilled it over. He wanted to finish drinking before cleaning. But LG who had been observing insisted on opening the utility door to get a cloth to wipe the surface clean. I was done with my cuppa when he walked over to me to watch the Hutch ad on the laptop. The finished cup which was by our side bothered him so much so that he walked away mid-ad (something he's never done before) to deposit the cup in the kitchen sink before placing him back on my lap. Do I see a Monk in the making?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thank You For the Flowers

There was a time when The Seniol had earned the nickname "Florist" because of a sizable chunk of his earnings he spent on flowers. He didn't need a reason to buy a made-to-order bouquet: carefully chosen one with the right combination of flowers making sure there were never any red roses - only pink, orange and yellow ones. Let's just say he was very popular with the florists of his neighborhood.

After a really long while, he sent us a bouquet of pink roses - a bunch of fresh ones with a lot of green leaves and thorns carefully wrapped in cellophane secured in place with a light orange ribbon. The package arrived around 5:00 p.m. with two chocolate bars. I told LG, "This is a gift for you from your papa. He misses you and loves you very much." I'm at a loss of choosing the right words to describe the sequence of events after this. He hugged the bouquet keeping it close to his chest carefully touching the pink flowers one by one. He walked up to the photo frame we have in the living room of LG and his dad, and sat next to it. He was beaming not letting anyone touch the flowers. After showing the bars of chocolate I kept them away and got a smaller one instead. Then he walked up to his grand-pa asking him to remove the wrapper. The usually chocolate-jealousy kid this time went over to his dad's picture and placed the chocolate on his mouth. Satisfied he had taken a bit, he then proceeded to relish it himself. He showed off the flowers to anyone who came by last evening and started his day today by caressing the flowers. I was touched by his gesture. And I now know that he misses his papa a lot!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Green Star

Today was a new beginning. A happy one. All I was looking forward to was a vomit-free day at school; one where he didn't cry while going in and come out sobbing uncontrollably waiting to jump into my arms. The preparations for the day started much before with my reminding LG what a good time he had last evening playing with his friend H who lives across us - the kid is 4 months younger than LG. It took some more narration of the colorful cycles at school, the wonderful aunties, the bubbly kids who were all eager to play with him, fun on the slides and so on. Somewhere in between I slipped the part that I would be away for a while but will come back to pick him up and we can go back home and have more fun; that his daadu would join me today for the picking up part and we can have a great ride back. It worked a bit I must admit - he wailed on entering but stopped a few minutes later, before I could cross to the other side of the road which was a good sign. I went in after 35 minutes and was cheerfully told by one of the teachers that he was comfortable and was listening to rhymes inside. I left it to them if they wanted to have him for some more time or if I should take him back. I was advised to win his confidence and take him back. He came out laughing but broke down on seeing me. The ma'am was quite happy about his getting adjusted today.

Then came the proud moment. She showed the back of his palm which had a bright green star - a token of appreciation for being a good kid (which in turn means not crying). So we've been showing it off to every person we meet ever since making a big deal out of it. Alright, it's not like clearing Civil Services or getting into the IIMs but so what? When we do indeed clear the major exams of our life, we become such cynics that we stop celebrating (or rather I). So this is a huge deal for me - a moment of celebration! Here's to my son's first achievement!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It Breaks My Heart to See My Child Cry

There were moments yesterday when I wished I could be away from Li'l General for a week. It must have taken a lot to feel that way towards my child - yes, the same one with whom I have spent sleepless nights through his colickiness, cough/cold, teething, falling down episodes, his feeding troubles over the past two years. There have been rare moments when I have felt so strongly for a LG-free week. This fortnight has been different. Handling the toddler for most part of the day by myself has started draining me. With his clinginess knowing no bounds and demanding to be held for a good part of his waking time, saps my energy physically and mentally. When day after day every breakfast, lunch, and dinner session becomes a tug of war for a relatively non-fussy eating child, I look for reasons that has caused this sudden change in behavior and to understand what's bothering him - if its the school or just a part of his growing up or something someone said or just his health.

Yesterday morning after talking calmly to the lady who runs this playschool advised me to leave him and go as he wailed my heart broke. The crying out method doesn't sit well with me. It's a known cycle of crying followed by throwing up all that he had for breakfast or whichever meal it was. I stood outside on the road under a tree watching the traffic pass by counting every minute anxiously what the kid was up to. When the clock struck 10:30 and it had been 30 minutes, I went by the gate to get him back home. There he appeared in changed clothes sobbing miserably making me feel guilty if what I was doing was right. It's tough to come to terms with the decisions you've made when it involves a child. With The Seniol away from Bangalore, it makes it all the more hard for me as a parent to seek support from the partner and the one other person who loves LG as much as I do. All his tantrums just vanish into thin air when all that LG wants is to be held by me - I can see it in his eyes, doesn't matter if he doesn't talk. The expressive child conveys more than words can ever let me know.

As I got into bed beside him last night, he was blushing in his sleep probably seeing a good dream. That one smile was enough to make my day. All the tiredness of the day just disappeared and I went to bed a happy mother looking forward to a bright day the next morning.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What does one do when the power goes out?

Curse the infrastructure, the Government for reckless handling? Light candles? Get a torch or emergency light and watch your step if it's dark?

Not really..if you are like Li'l General and have an inverter. LG does it in sequence once power goes out. Seeing the red light on the meter for the high load phase is not glowing, he goes on to check if momma has switched off the fridge, then checks if the inverter is buzzing meaning it has come to life, then climbs on the sofa to switch on a fan to make doubly sure there is power in the other phase.

Once these items in the checklist are crossed, he fetches the torch to inspect why the light inside the fridge isn't working. The boy clearly isn't paying attention, is he? We just switched off the fridge. Considering, there is no electric supply for nearly 8 hours in Bangalore of late and power cut happening once every two hours, LG has a lot of work on his hands to go through the routine every time. No wonder he is a busy man!

[Inspecting the insides of fridge with torch in broad daylight. Rules are rules after all; who said torch is not needed during the day?]

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Need a Magic Wand!

...so that I can just disappear for a while and come back at my wish! I wonder how mothers manage with two kids who are under two. That calls for some patience and I have no words to express my admiration for them. As it is with one, I am often perched on the ceiling.

The past fortnight has been quite rough with LG contracting a viral infection on his first day at school. Just when I thought he was getting alright last Friday, it relapsed - this time from me. And it has just gotten worse over the days with his crankiness multiplying by 100 times every day. The day before and yesterday in particular was hard on him and on me. Refusing to go to anyone else, he positioned himself comfortably on my shoulder all day for most of his waking time. Considering he napped for about 1.5 hours yesterday, I was lugging around a 10+ heavy boy on my shoulders for what seemed like ages. With long feeding sessions followed by a throwing up and cleaning cycle soon after in good measure, I had a wonderful time.

As if it weren't enough, the lady at work requested to do two pieces. Which meant I sat up until past midnight with words barely coming out of my head and fingers refusing to type away, it took forever to get work done. No sooner than I got into bed, that LG started coughing so hard I felt bad for the kid. Had to keep propping his head high on the pillow and lay him on his back to soothe his throat. But as is his habit, he went back to sleeping on his tummy making the cough worse. Another sleepless night, another tiring day.

But last night was a lot better. And I realized one thing. Getting on the bed is so soothing and comforting after a long day - something I haven't experienced since my working days when I looked forward to crash in.

We have an interview scheduled at one of the schools today. But we will barely make it with the kid running temperature and fast asleep now. So the school trip will have to be replaced with a visit to the Paed.

Just hope it gets better over the weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Get Trouble Out of the Way, First!

The Horse gets to sip the milk first, followed by the car, and Buco Kiddoo - the doggy and just about anything else that's present in the drawing room at that point of time. After all this melodrama, I get Lil' General to sit on the couch for his evening Bournvita session. If he is in the mood, he will gulp it at one go else drink half way and be so stubborn that the remaining half will have to wait another one hour before it can find its way inside LG's tummy.

With the cold demon attacking him, it's been all the more tough. It's generally a protest (from him) and pleading (from me) session to see who gets their way. Often, he ends up irritated and so do I. Today, he took it upon his hands, acted cool after finishing half the cup. Then took it from me, ensured the lid was tight enough walked to the kitchen, placed it atop the counter and walked back to the drawing room with such casualness that left me dumbfounded. This coming from a 22-month-old.

In a similar act, later in the evening after nibbling tiny apple pieces, he emptied the remaining in the sink ensuring repeatedly nothing was in the plate. Then walked over to the other end and placed the clean plate in the rack. I lack the smartness to counter this kid is what I feel at times.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Momma's Little Helper

Every time either my FIL or I step inside home, a thorough investigation of what's there in the bag has to be carried out by LG. He opens it with great anticipation that there might be something in it for him and derives great pleasure when indeed there is something. Clothes don't interest him much. On many occasions, I've asked him if he would like to wear one shirt or the other and he would pick up a random one other than two I've held out totally oblivious if I put on something else because what he picked wasn't just right for the weather.

When we come back from grocery shopping, it goes without saying all the packets are ripped open. And, if I'm not quick enough to secure the vegetables on the kitchen platform then they meet with this fate. It works to my advantage in a way that he carefully peels layers of onions without so much as shedding a drop like the one in this picture. He is already working his way through the second onion. Considering he spent a good amount of time growing up in the kitchen until the last few months, this doesn't surprise me. If only he could talk better, I would ask him where the spices are kept.

If you have a son like LG, it's wise to ensure you're carrying your purse (with money ofcourse) before stepping out of home. I believe very strongly that he has taken after my brother in this character trait. My brother, as a kid, was known to throw tantrums in the middle of the road if he didn't get what he wanted. My mom often cites the incident when my brother was a 5-year-old and we were visiting a temple near Madurai. After the darshan when it was time to board the bus (autos were unaffordable those days), he refused to leave unless mom got him a bottle of Limca. He argued that he was so thirsty that he might even collapse if he didn't drink something in the next five minutes. It's a no-brainer to guess who had his way.

In more ways than one, my dear son has taken after his mama. I try my best not give in to every demand. He makes it very embarrassing for me at times with his high-pitched shrill sounds. Last Saturday evening, we were on our way to the temple as is customary every week. There is a huge showroom on the way which goes on to mean one will encounter numerous hawkers too. There is this guy who sells wind-fans (I don't know what you call them) - it's this colorful circular thing held by a stick that rotates in the air - for Rs.10. Sometimes when I'm on my visits to the temple alone, I get them for LG. This time however he saw it for himself and got down from my shoulder insisting I buy it immediately. I distracted him and led him on the path to the temple. We wouldn't have gone very far when he saw another hawker selling balloons. Now he understands what balloons are and can actually say "ba ba..". Not wanting to disappoint the child again, I gave in and bought him one. Which in turn meant peaceful moments at the temple.

He has an eagle-eye for toy shops that line the street. So I have to be watchful even if we are going to buy vegetables. I don't give in so easily as my FIL does. Yesterday morning, I believe he created a huge ruckus until he got a new ball from the FIL. Again not proud moments. I guess it's alright to a point where these cost Rs. 5 to Rs.10. Since he obviously doesn't understand the difference between asking for a balloon that costs Rs. 5 and a cycle that costs Rs.3000, it's for us to exercise caution and not convey wrong signals. The question is not whether I can or I can't! By giving in to every demand now, I'd rather not want him to grow up thinking mom can buy everything and not value money.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

First Sentences

So many posts have been swimming in my head but I can barely keep with the frequency of posting one per day. LG and I have been under the weather which translates to round-the-clock crankiness, foul mood, upset feeding schedules, liberal usage of tissues and napkins and when the Dettol odor outdoes all the scents of home.

LG was just recovering from his week-long series of sore throat, running nose and cough when he contracted it last evening again from me. So much for the affection towards his mom - damn virus! Anyways, today marks a milestone in his vocabulary and I didn't want to miss writing about it. Sneeze can wait another 10 minutes.

LG spoke his first sentence today. A BIG deal. In all honesty not so much as a first sentence - just two words strung together in quick succession that made some sense. He pointed to his granny who was entering the bathroom for a shower and said, "Daaadi jo jo." Wow. I though when it registered after 5 mins. Yea, the brain stops working when you have a cold.

And then later this evening annoyed by the overdressing he wanted his socks removed. However, cold it is I think he is about the only kid in this neighborhood in shorts in t-shirts while the rest go around with the two monkey caps (seriously, no kidding!), sweaters, leggings, and woolen socks. I put on my best patient face and requested LG to sit on my lap for his Bournvita session the Nth time. He agreed but not have his cup of milk but to blackmail me into removing the sock if he were to so much let the cup near his mouth. On seeing me reluctant, he ordered, "Tsockssss kho kho." (read: remove the socks.) Again two words but said in quick succession that made a lot of sense. Boy, we are doing better!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Is Cross-dressing Healthy For Kids?

This is the story of a cook we had until a year ago and his three daughters. Tapan, the cook was a very hardworking man who cooked at homes fixing lunches and dinners, organizing parties, gardening in multiple homes through the day. His day began early and never ended before 11:00 p.m. Our advice for him to take it slow for it will eventually affect his health fell on deaf ears. He was all too keen on working in too many places eventually picking up fights where he worked so as to lose the job in a few months because of his temper and ego. Often, I reasoned with him why not work at a fewer places and he had seen the benefits working whole heartedly at limited houses than not doing a good job at many. Anyways, he was a unhappy man because he had three daughters. He yearned for son but had daughters the second and third time around. To be happy and to come to terms with what he had, he and his wife decided to upbring the last daughter as they would have reared a boy. One of the first things, they did was to always dress the kid in the clothes of a boy. She was never allowed to wear dresses, sandals, or even hair bands. Her hair was always cut short in the style of a boy. The kid who is about seven years old goes to school in shorts and shirts while the other girls in her class in pinafores. He confided once that he has been cross-dressing the kid ever since she was born. I told him in the long run this might adversely affect the way she thinks of her sexuality which may not be healthy. Logic never works with Tapan, so I left it at that. What bothered him was the fact that she was more girlish in her manners, the way she talked and behaved while the second daughter was more outgoing, aggressive and fearless - the traits he wanted to see in his last daughter. Not that the traits displayed by the second one are anything to do only with boys - can't boys be shy and fearful..it's just what he perceived. Anyways, to this day the kid dresses in boy's clothing.

Once I moved to Bangalore, I came across another kid who demands to be dressed like a girl. This boy, all of years, hates wearing shorts and shirts demanding to don only dresses everyday. His parents oblige, and the boy is not Scottish :). I know he is too young, all of 3 years, to understand sexuality and the difference between male and female gender. Daughters wanting to wear jeans wouldn't get parents as worried as sons wanting to wear dresses. It is more acceptable to see daughters dressed only in jeans but not the other way round for obvious reasons. In the case of Tapan, I found it odd because he was forcing his daughter to wear only boys clothing laying foundation at an age where she was beginning to understand the difference between the genders. For fun, a cross-dressing day can be great. We've all done it as kids. But for a prolonged time? I don't know. How do you deal with kids who demand to be cross-dressed all the time?

I've heard and read only good things about Gear Innovative International School. However, strangely something about the school has always put me off. This was one of the first names I heard from people who live in my neighborhood. A few kids from our apartment study there. Also, it's the only school around Outer Ring Road and Marathahalli that follows the Montessori system so I was keen on checking the school. Good feedback raised my hopes.

I spoke to the school authorities who were very helpful in directing me on the application process. The form was available off their website so it just meant filling it up which included a essay on the child (can you believe that?) and then posting the form or handing it in person. The first time I went to visit the school was just before Dusshera. Following the directions from a friend whose son studies there, I almost made it before getting lost. The school is right in the middle of nowhere which is one of the major letdown factors for me. It's definitely not the place I would want a 2-year-old to go to. The route was so deserted with unwanted looks from odd folks on the streets, I retreated after going about 2 Kms off Outer Ring Road - a path that has no proper roads and is full of construction sites and workers lined with Eucalyptus trees on both sides. Perfect setting for a horror movie in the night :) So the first visit was a total disaster and I cam back disappointed doubly sure of not seeking admission there. So I just let it pass and started pursuing other schools.

A few weeks later, again the school was mentioned in a conversation so I decided to try one last time. I sent in he application through a friend who was going for admission. Two days later, I got a call from the school saying LG had gotten through and that I should come in and start off the formalities and enroll for the Prospective Parents Meeting to be schedule that Saturday. This time I had the school numbers handy and reached the school with a little help from the receptionist taking another route. This is when I realized I had gone back the previous time when I was only about 250 meters away from the school. This different route didn't change my mind about the location and only reaffirmed my decision of not enrolling LG here. The thought of dropping him every morning and picking up again was intimidating. A two-year-four-month-old by all means is too young to travel in a school bus by himself.

It wasn't just the location but the environs that kinda put me off. It resembled one of those residential schools or more like an ashram I should say than a school. Very quiet, hut-like-structures, and something extra serene about the place. I may change my mind next year. But until then, its a big NO for Gear. The fee is exorbitant. Since I did not attend the PPM and have not taken a tour of the school, can't comment on its facilities or interaction with the principal.

How to get there:

This can be a huge challenge. I searched on wikimapia and yahoo maps to no avail. The school authorities were of help. If yen you are coming from the Marathahalli side along the outer ring road, then when you reach the first signal after Innovative Multiplex, you will see some Durga Apartment on your left. Take that left off the outer ring road and then take the first right and keep following the mud path. The school s about 3-4 Km down that road. A hotel is coming up and there are some other construction work going on.

Alternatively, continue on the Outer Ring Road towards Sarjapur. Once you reach the signal that leads to Intel Offices, you will notice a temple arch on your left. Follow the arch and then take the first left again and keep going until you reach a dead end. There take right. The school is about 250 meters from this junction.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Gentle Side

Lil' General never ceases to surprise me with his actions. He does the most unexpected catching you off guard when you least expect something. For the past week or so every morning when I greet him with a cheery "Good Morning", he walks up to me gently brushing the hair off my face strand by strand and quickly hugs me. I don't know if this has anything to do with his starting school. There are times when he walks up to me and kisses me even without my asking. Otherwise, I have to do umpteen "please" to get a peck on the cheek once a day. It now comes with no strings attached - unconditional innocent affection from a child!

This doesn't stop here. If I get hurt or burn my fingers (I've of late been getting hurt :(), he would do "ooh ooh" and blow the bruised part followed by a quick thrashing of the object for hurting his momma. On severe occasions such as the one time when he accidentally poked his finger in my eye and it turned red almost blinding me, he ran frantically to get his grand-pa conveying with his actions that momma was hurt. The kid didn't stop until some adult understood what happened and came to our rescue.

It's hard to understand kids at this age. There are times when the terrible twos take over him and I get a tight slap for fun (he understands it's not funny and hasn't repeated it in a long time).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Gross Moments of the Day

There are some days when one is subjected to more than a tolerant measure of gross tricks (read : embarrassing moments) from one's own kids. Today was one such that I'd rather forget never existed. There were times when I felt like disappearing into oblivion or just rewinding time and ensuring it didn't happen again. How bad can it get is what you are wondering right? Wait until you finish reading the post.

To begin with, which sane human being would put their hands inside the toilet bowl to tease one's mom? I'd rather not describe it in detail. And, yes please don't start off on what I was up to while LG immersed his hand in the clean bowl. Moms need wash their faces at times and get ready to step out of the house. The lid is always shut and who would have imagined in 9.7 seconds, a 22-month-old kid can actually push open the bathroom, flush the already clean toilet, open the lid and immerse his hand to irritate his mom for fun. Not funny in the least!

A few minutes later we go down for a walk. He is potty trained completely but not yet for urination. So I wouldn't term his susu session accidents - they are natural. I believe he understands that he needs to go to the bathroom every time he has a urge but he has fun doing it all over the place that I've no idea how to impress upon him this is not right. About three months back, for almost two weeks he did it in the toilet every time of the day with no accidents at all. And then out of no where he draws fun doing it in the kitchen, on top of the mattress, in the common area of the apartment - it just gets crazy at times. Today of all places, he climbs over his granny's mattress to relieve himself. Yet another time today, while I was changing him downstairs near the garden area, he peed on my hand! Not a proud moment. And followed it up with a second session in front of the flat so much so that it drew a concerned remark from someone who was observing, "Haven't you trained him yet?"

I wonder if there's a boundary for experimentation and a limit to the inquisitiveness. LG was in no mood for his fruit session this evening. But a while later, he opens the fridge to fetch a chickoo; runs into the toy room to get a bat and promptly calls, "Mamma Mamma, ba (for bat) and boi (chickoo for ball). In one shot he smashed the chikoo with the bat before I could react."

These are the moments I should remember before planning for the next one. Seriously.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

LG at School : First Day, First Hour

After visiting every play school in the vicinity, I finally made up my mind to send LG to one closer to home that satisfied most of my criteria.

Since I'd decided only the evening before, it meant last minute shopping for water bottle, snack box and getting the clothes in order. It's not exactly like the first day at a new job though it pretty much seemed like one for me. I had called the lady who runs the school that we would come by 10:00 a.m. for registration. All along I had conjured up images of this being an eventful moment for Lil' General with The Seniol and I driving him to school on the first day, waiting in the lobby whiling away time in the company of a few magazines while he spent carefree moments away from the eagle-eyed mom. I had imagined how we would be dressed in our best, with pictures taken of LG as he got ready for his first day so as to show him when he grew up - not quite liking graduating from Harvard but what the heck - it's these small moments that you live for!

But none of that was meant to happen. The day turned out to be a pretty ordinary one but will always be equally memorable to me. I don't have any pictures from the day; what will stay with me will be these words recounting the experiences of last Thursday - LG's first day at school. He made it easy for himself and me by getting up early as usual and going about his routine in order - with milk, potty and brushing session, a walk in the pram, quick shower, breakfast and we were all set by 9:30 a.m. It was an unusually hectic morning for me with the cook on leave and the maid turning in late; which meant my hands were working overtime and I was flying around the house doing laundry, fixing breakfast for everyone, cooking lunch considering I would return home only by afternoon with LG and his lunch needed to be ready when we got back. As if it weren't enough, the car started acting up and I couldn't risk driving him. The servicing guy for pick-up who was supposed turn up later in the afternoon showed up early morning, so he had to be accommodated in the short window available. Sometimes it amazes me as to how much work gets done when you have to be somewhere. Otherwise, work just expands to fill all the time and I'm left wondering what I had been up to the whole morning.

Both of us were all set to leave home by 9:30 a.m. with a bright red bag in tow and neat handkerchief clipped to the favorite blue-and-red shirt. I can't say with much conviction if LG really understood what was in store. I had prepared him all morning saying we were going to school where he would play, meet akkas, auntys and that we would get back home by afternoon. I can't gather what he made of this. We made the eventful ride on our ever faithful 'chotu' scooty. The moment we entered the school to the smiling face of the lady, LG was only too happy to leave my hands to rush to the cycles parked by the side of the lawn. I stopped by to see if he would turn back or join me after the initial excitement died. He didn't and it did break my heart for a moment. The lady ushered me in as we completed the formalities in the next 10 minutes. I wanted to stay back and I did; not because I thought LG would miss me for lose himself in the new environment but I knew I would miss him; the thought of going back home alone wasn't exciting. Those were the longest 2 hours I've waited anywhere and the fastest I've read in a long time. 3 magazines - 2 issues of Week and 1 issue of Outlook Money - back to back in 2 hours! In the hurry to get out of home, I forgot to take along books to keep me entertained while I waited. The lady was kind enough to fetch a few recent issues of some magazines and I figured if I finished them all as soon as I can, it would be time for LG to go home.

I saw very little of him through the two hours. The lady suggested if he knew I was around, he would expect the same every morning and it was a good idea to stay out of sight. I did steal glances once in a while when he was out playing in the lawn on the cycle. I had made a small aloo paratha for his snack that the lady struggled to give. LG resisted as he'd had a heavy breakfast. And I learned my first lesson - always to give a lighter snack preferably a fruit. Having never eaten from anyone else other than me , I wondered if they would have the patience to feed him. It's probably this insecurity that makes me ensure he has a good breakfast before stepping out every morning.

He played by himself the entire time that he was at school while the other seasoned kids went about their routine playing games, singing rhymes together. The lady reasoned it takes kids about a week to settle down and get over the enthusiasm of experiencing new things.

A few kids started early for home - at 11:45 a.m. Was I surprised to see our young man standing in line along with kids much older than him? This is when I couldn't resist and I stepped out. He was so happy to see me that he came running only to go back inside for yet another ride on the slide. This was more than enough to let me know that he had a good time. LG doesn't talk yet; I make an extra effort to draw meaning from his actions about how he feels - the smile after he got back home, the sleeplessness in afternoon from the excitement of being at school, the urge to cling on to is bag, the long face on knowing we were leaving school, and the happy good-byes!

In all, it was more than a perfect beginning. The only regret was The Seniol's absence. And I hope we can make up for that when he starts Big School next June!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Why should momma take a nap?

Do you remember the days your mom fell sick when you were a child and how much you hated it? Not having mom go around the house, doing the usual stuff, cooking up delicacies and i nothing else screaming at you for having entered the tidied drawing room with muddy shoes from the park? My first recollection of seeing mom sick was in my 6th grade. Mom was bed-ridden for a good 3-4 months from diagnosis that went wrong for typhoid. One thing led to another and before we knew she was sick for a good part of the year with medication ranging from common flu to malaria to para-typhoid. I was all of 10 years and my brother, 4 years younger than I, rushed mom to a hospital for IV as Dad was away at work. It's been 20 years since and she has never been in the pink of health. Seeing parents' fall sick is depressing for kids even if it were so much as a head ache.

Lil' General is too young right now to appreciate the difference between good health and sickness. All he cares about is his mom to keep jumping around the house, be at his beck and call all times of the day and most importantly not nap while he is awake. It has been a struggle to match my schedule with his this past year. The number of naps gradually went down from three to two and two to one now. He has been on a single nap routine for over two months now. The most challenging was the two-nap period when he slept at odd times - morning (10:30 a.m. - noon) and late evening (3:30 - 5:30 p.m.) - giving little room for me to rest. When I would want to rest for 30 minutes post lunch, he would be all over me jumping on my tummy, pulling my hair or plain screaming. I was so glad that phase was over when he got accustomed to the single-nap-in-afternoon routine. A few days back, he got up unusually early one morning and decided to nap mid-morning which meant the ordeal of dealing with him in the afternoon was daunting. I usually don't nap for more than 15 minutes in afternoons anymore unless I'm sick. That afternoon, I was pretty much under the weather and crashed on the couch after lunch. My dear toddler son very lovingly came up to me and opened my shut eyelids to scare the hell out of me. He quickly followed it up with every body part - parting my lips, jumping on the tummy, and screaming "momma, momma" and stuffing every available toy on my face. Not amusing in the least that I gave up finally to go play with him. The only way I could associate this behavior was how we as grown up kids felt towards sick parents.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bedtime reading

Books and Lil' General are poles apart. So I often wonder when parents tell me they read to their kids who lovingly look at pictures and look forward to bedtime reading. I started reading to LG ever since he was 6 months old. Lucky were the days when I held his attention for a minute. The kid is more keen on flapping pages all eager to tear it into pieces every time he picks up a book. So for a while I got him those hard bound ones that are tough to tear - atleast for a year-old baby.

The Seniol and I are fond of collecting (and reading) books. As a tradition we write something as a signature on the first page followed by the date on which it was bought. Going back to LG's shelf in the book case, we are not surprised to see some dating back to as early as 2002 and 2003 when LG was not even in the 'thinking' stages, forget planning! But we knew all along that he would perhaps share our passion for books if he saw them in the house. Whether to read or not was his choice. I read my share of Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys early on by borrowing from the school library. And never remembered having any novels at home. You would find all sorts of books lying around the house starting with "Eats Shoots and Leaves" under the coffee table to "On Writing" by my bedside table to "The Borderless World" on the dining table. In good measure, there's LG's fairy tales books that I keep handy in his wardrobe. On most occasions, I satisfy myself reading Cinderella and Rapunzel over and over again while LG busies himself in other equally entertaining stuff like plugging in the mosquito coil or separating the pillow from its cover or trying some acrobatic motions on the bed to distract his mother.

So it was only surprising to see LG sit with me at bedtime listening to "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and not shred the remaining pages. Capturing this moment on camera distracted him and here he is crying to get his hands on the digicam.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Yes. No. Maybe. Let's do it!

This was precisely how I felt about sending my 1 year 11 month old son Lil' General to school. A few days before Diwali, one morning I was absolutely sure LG should start school soon. It was becoming impossible to match up to his energy levels and hop from one room to another pulling down stuff, unplugging TV, switching on/off DVD players, stacking 3 DVDs into the player and when it refused to open up scuttling for a screw driver and throwing tantrums on realizing it is safely locked in the tool cabinet with the key out of his reach, three trips to the park, visiting every neighbor whose doors were open, a peaceful 30 minute walk and still I would run out of things to engage him.

With nap times dwindling from 3-hour sessions to a meager 1.5 hour one coupled with his excitement on our visit to Kidzee and another playschool nearby, I knew it was the right time for him to start schooling provided he enjoyed his time there.

I was clear on what I wanted from the play school LG would go to.

1. He should enjoy himself. This came on top above everything else - size, fees, big/small etc. For I knew, if this happened everything else would automatically fall into place. If the space was open and large, it was but natural for him to feel comfortable. He loves being outside than in confined spaces.

2. Proximity. I was no way going to let him go by a bus..not yet atleast. Which meant I would have to drop him and pick him every morning and the commute had to be quick so as not to be tiring for him either.

3. Attitude of the people who run the school. It had to be something small and cosy; nothing fancy with over-the-top facilities or ultra-rich kids coming to study. I want the place to give him pleasant memories and the 'want' to go back the next morning and not dread it as I did as a child.

My first schooling was amongst 1st graders when I was 3 years old because the place we lived in did not have a kindergarten. I dreaded going to school to be among older kids and would always stare out of the window to get a glimpse of mom (the classroom had a view of our home across the road). The fear of school stayed on for long so much so that I was the most happy on the last day of my Engineering - the thought of never having to go back to studying was very comforting. On the other hand, my brother with a formal education starting with kindergarten cemented some of his best friendships at school and was quite delighted to leave home every morning. The Seniol narrates similar tales of his schooling days. I want LG to have pleasant memories and exciting tales to tell when he grows. I don't know how much of his play home days he'll remember but now when he goes there, I want him to go because he likes to be there not because I get a 3-hour-break from my active toddler.

4. Montessori - I preferably wanted a Montessori system where he would get the opportunity to mingle with kids older his age and everything else that goes with it. I didn't care as much if he learns A B C at 2 years or 3 years. It's the least on my priority. Every time a neighbor points out that their son/daughter/grandson seconds the "A" with a "B" or goes on to rat 1..2..3 I don't give two hoots to it. A lot of time to catch up on the ABCs and colors.

Of all the playschools in the area, one in particular fitted all my criteria and I was all set to enroll him immediately after Diwali until someone said someone else had a bad experience. You know how rumors spread about these things with no concrete evidence. I didn't want to go ahead even with a tinge of doubt so I met the person who supposedly had the bad experience. She said the "allegations" were baseless and that she loved the school. I met one other parent who were sending their kids there. Two visits later, I just made up my mind one evening - much to the disappointment of LG's grand parents who thought he was too young to start school.

Oscillating between "yes", "no" and "maybe" had given me sleepless nights. You know how it is - to take decisions single-handed when your partner is away on work (or study!). And when it concerns a child, it gets all the more tricky for there is no one to second you. With the much-needed support from The Seniol and my father as always, I took the plunge not caring about popular opinion. In a jiffy shopped for water bottle, snack box and a few other essentials and we were all set to start school the next morning. Don't get me started yet as to how ridiculously expensive kids essentials are. A water bottle for Rs.250..are you kidding me? Anyways, got one for him. Was excited about the thought of LG getting ready for school and no compromises on anything. Until I reached the bag section and figured nothing cost less than Rs.600. Which is when I realized, we had a whole bag factory at home with our warehouse of Nike (from The Seniol's days at Nike), and American Touristers. One particular red AT bag was perfect for LG - just about his size and compact without the standard Mickey Mouse, Donald Ducky figures.

It's funny what took months of planning and contemplation turned out to be a non-event. More on it in the next post.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Game of the Day

How do you get a ball out that's under the cot? If you are tiny and as flexible as Lil' General is, then you can just crawl underneath and take it out. But what do you do if you are a fatso and as flexible as a stick like I am, then you use a prop like a broom with minimal effort and 100% success. That was just an exaggeration; I don't weigh a 100 pounds if that's what you are imagining right now. I can't quite recollect the last time I used a broom or any such object to get something out. So it was totally mind-blowing to see LG get a broom from the utility area to get the ball from the under the bed. There was a folded mattress that got in his way preventing him from crawling underneath so he goes gets the broom; positions it but wasn't able to movie it sideways to motion the ball. With a little prompting and help from me, he was all excited to have ACHIEVED something for real, for once.

This was a few days back. So what does he do yesterday morning. Bored and ran out of games/toys to keep himself entertained, he decides to take out the parts of the Center Table. Yes, it was not the kind of day Center Table would look forward to much in the future. With its side rods mangled out of the holes, and totally satisfied with his undoing, he started fixing it back when one of the rods slid under the table. Totally calm and composed without throwing a tantrum or reaching for his subordinates (read: me, his grandpa) for help, he walks to the utility, opens the door, gets the broom and pushes the rod out with the broom from one side - goes to the other side and comes back with this huge grin which meant I am supposed to APPLAUD. Which I did. Now this praise from mom can;t be a one-time activity, can it? So he does it over and over again until totally satisfied.

Today, he found happiness in grating a cucumber salad for lunch unaided. A grown up person who knows it all and all that? You know who it works with an independent toddler two-months away from turning two, don't you? I'd rather not go into the details of the grating process' outcome. Let's just say, the cucumber went into the bin and it kept LG's mom occupied with scrubbing of the floor, cleaning for the following 15 minutes. There we go - with yet another game.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Breakfast for LG's Best Friend

The time we live in Pune, Li'l General was deeply fond of Beethoven aka Caesar. If there's one regret I'll have in life, it is not taking a picture of LG with Caesar before we left Pune. During the last few days there, despite my best efforts it didn't happen as either Caesar's caretakers were busy with other commitments or I just didn't have the time to drop by amidst all the rain and packing. So after a lot of Googling, I found a St.Bernard - Beethu's breed- that looks almost like Caesar. Beethoven is the name we had give to the dog before we got acquainted and knew his real name - Caesar. Because of Caesar's semblance with Beethoven from the movie, he got his name. Caesar was all of 17 days when he moved to Pune, we learned later. The first time we saw him, he was barely a 25-day-old and LG was all of 10 months. With time, they grew fond of each other so much so that every morning uncle would stop by in front of our house if we didn't meet them on our morning walk and LG would smile at them from the balcony. Caesar out of excitement would gallop high and insist on standing in front of the gate. They grew together seeing each other a few times every day.

To the best of my memory, I think the first location LG started identifying which pointed to his sense of direction was Caesar's house. It was a corner house and no matter which way we went he would promptly prop himself up in the pram and say "bow bow" and would get doubly excited if Beethu were standing at the gate. With time, LG grew like a human child would and Caesar the breed he represents which meant he was above our waist when we left Pune and beyond a normal adult's control. Sadly, uncle would wave us off from a distance on spotting us for fear of not being to control Caesar. He would get so excited on seeing LG that once he almost tripped his pram. On yet another occasion when he was barely a two-month-old he pulled the sock of LG's feet for fun.

So, it's not surprising to see LG's affection for dogs, in general. The no. of pets here in Bangalore in the neighborhood we live in is almost zilch. There's a stray dog that lives within the apartment complex. LG has grown fond of it but I don't allow him to touch it though I take him every morning and evening to see him. This morning he took him bread for breakfast. The dog refused to eat and he came back upset. Continental breakfast for a dog used to eating idlis and dosas will revolt, won't it? How do I make LG understand! Anyways, I'm glad he has found a new friend.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lil' General at twenty-two months..

-- is two months shy of turning two. I eagerly waited to do the post when he turned twenty-one months September 18, only to miss until it turned too late to be relevant anymore. So here I am, not wanting to missing the opportunity of recounting the month just gone-by again. Monthly birthdays are exciting...the steam builds up a couple of days before the event and on the 18th of every month, the day starts with "Happy Birthday" and goes on through the day everywhere - in the loo, while jo-joing (LG's vocabulary for bathing), walk in the park, eating sessions and just about randomly. The difference being, LG understands now and joins me with "Appy Appy" with this huge grin on his face gleaming with happiness that he is being made feel special. Isn't that what it's all about after all?

The milestones in the early months - from one to six months were more noticeable and easy to write about. But if you ask me the difference between what LG did as a 21-month-old and a 22-month-old it's difficult to pin-point to one particular thing saying he completely developed this habit this month. Many habits have been manifesting in subtle ways over the past few months such as his preference for using left hand over the right. His first instinct to pick up a piece of biscuit or feed himself or lift a crayon from the floor is his left. I'm not against his being left-handed or right-handed; whatever comes naturally to him is good for him. But when it comes to eating and shaking hands with others, I encourage him in a positive way to held out his right and slowly I realise he is able to use both his hands with equal ease and the first instinct still remains left.

His need to assert himself has grown over the past month. He insists on feeding himself. More often than not, he can't bring himself to eat more than 3 spoonfuls. I appreciate him on his effort but there are times when I run out of patience because the meal times just seem to take ever and at times I feel there is hardly anytime left between the previous one and the next session. As a child he was quite fond of plain milk. He has perhaps outgrown the taste and now likes it flavored with Bournvita or something similar. It's down to one bottle a day which again is out of my convenience for the morning and not because of his demand. My goal is to completely stop bottle this month and move over to the cup for all times.

I can't quite recollect when I developed a phobia for cockroaches. As far back as my memory goes, I've always been afraid of the creepy insect. Maybe LG is too young to understand fear. He doesn't battle an eyelid before picking up a big grasshopper or chasing tadpoles, frogs, ants, dogs and cats alike. The only time I saw him cry out of fear was when the power went out last night and the inverter was down. He was seated in his high-chair having his dinner with me sitting beside him when total darkness engulfed us. Tears rolled down his cheeks and he began sobbing; a good amount of reassuring that I was right next to him soothed him in a while. Separation anxiety is still there but he doesn't throw a tantrum if I step out for a while like 30 mins. He enjoys donning a hat all day and putting one on the horse and his other teddy friends too.

His curiosity hasn't died down a bit; if anything it only gets worse by the day. LG lets the whole neighborhood know during the day that the power is gone and inverter is on. He goes onto check the lights on the mains, opens the fridge to see if the lights are out, then switches on the tube light and fan to see if it runs. And this process is repeated in a sequence atleast a dozen times and if it's our lucky day, the power comes back before he is done with certifying that the power is indeed not there. Or like the other day when he was all set to open the fridge with a knife.

One significant milestone of the month is his explosion in vocabulary. It's been over a month and half that he has gotten into one-nap-a-day routine; sleeps for over two-three hours at a stretch in the afternoon which is good. But it's become challenging to keep him actively engaged during the day and later in the evening as I run out of things to do with him. We do about two or three trips to the park in the morning once before breakfast and once before lunch. And then follow it up with a longer one in the evening and one last one to say good night to the moon before going to bed. At home, it's nursery rhymes time for an hour, seeing pictures of The Seniol and rest of the family for 30 mins, a visit to the neighbours' and then toys. Still we are always short of things to do as he can't sit in a place for more than 2 minutes - has to get the dough or water the plants or throw stuff into the sink or run into the bathroom. After a lot of conundrum on what is the right time for him to go to playschool, I finally made up my mind one morning this week that it was time to let my baby go for a couple of hours for his own good. Not much is going to change between now and two months. It's tough to come to terms of letting him go for the first time to be in someone else's care considering I've taken care of him every single day without a caretaker since the day he was born through my good days, bad days, through my sickness and days of being down and out. I try convincing myself he is too young to go to a play school which he is. At the same time it might do good to him playing with other kids. I took him to two schools nearby and both the times he was all excited while there and quite sad to leave. The expression on his face said it all though he cannot express it in words yet. The boy has inherited his expressive face from his mom, perhaps! So, he is all set to join one after Diwali.

I'm told the terrible twos phase is yet to come. But I sincerely believe it's arrived well before time. Temper tantrums are more one day with the little boy pointing his authoritative finger at me with that seriously frown on his face when he doesn't get his way; and then there are days when he is the perfect little charmer with twos getting terrific than terrible. He quite understands that his mother won't budge for unreasonable demands no matter how much fist-beating and fake cries he enacts. At the same time he also understands that with half the effort he can get his way with his grandfather. So he turns to him for all the unreasonable ones which miffs me. It's a challenge to mix grand-parenting and parenting. Because then the child starts understand his mom is not on his side so much so that I get slapped by him now and in the next breath he is trying to comfort me running his fingers down my cheek. I don't like raising my hands on the kid but I do raise my voice and he understands it is not right to do what he did.

On a closing note, having LG was one of the best things that happened to us. He makes everyday beautiful and living worthwhile.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Caught in the act

What do you do if your mother locks the fridge with a key? Try opening it with a knife : practical advice from Lil' General. That's what LG decided to do yesterday after crying and beating his fists didn't work out. So much so that even his pointing an authoritative index finger with a frowning face didn't move his mom, he decided to take things in his own hand and reach for the first suitable object which turned out to be a blunt knife. I'm at a loss of words for what to call this action: presence of mind or desperation? But firstly, I'm just surprised how the brain of a barely 21-month-old works. I've secured the tool section of the cabinet with a lock so screw-drivers are out of his reach now, else his instinct would have been to fetch that. Ofcourse, the knife didn't result in a positive response because his mom took it away for one; next it didn't rotate the way he wanted it to. "Not amusing mom!", said his look.

And then this morning, he decided it was time for his mom to haul her a** and get some cleaning done around the house with Diwali less than a fortnight away. So what does the kid do? He piles up the masala dabbas from the cabinets on to the vessel strainer making it easy for me to wipe the shelves and re-arrange it again. In the evening, he was only too happy to hand me the curtain rings one by one as I hung back the washed curtains.

My toddler son was extra-delighted to create an emergency last evening. My husband frantically calls me to ask what happened. I have no clue what he was talking about. He goes on to say in one breath, "You called 4-5 times continuously." I reply in a casual tone, "Really? Oh!" It's not PMS time yet for me to act crazy! Then I ask him what number did the call come from. No sooner did he say land-line, I saw the sheepish grin on LG's face as I mentioned the word 'phone'. He had been fiddling with the instrument a few minutes ago; since we use it only as a backup for the cordless and it's a long process to dial an outgoing number, I didn't give much thought to it. Who would have thought "Redial" is the easiest way out to get through such hurdles and there he goes interrupting his dad in class! I try to keep the phone out of his reach but who is to prevent an excited toddler who goes to extremes of climbing a center table and another obstacle to reach for the phone.