Friday, July 25, 2008

Spaced Out

Stardate 42009.7.

I was forewarned but not so much forearmed. BigGeek informed me that his important design work on a new machine for peace with the Soxulans would take priority over domestic issues. For seven whole stardays. And as Murphy’s law goes, my own important work with life-matter, was and will continue to be until the next solar equinox on Earth, in an uber-crunch mode. I am battling secret, alien bugs. Exhausting, yes.

So, on this evening, as the thermometer continued its upward rise – well it really had no choice, it’s hard to do a downward rise- Chip and I decided to go to the Final Frontier of the known world. To explore strange stores, seek out new deals and new discounts and to boldly go where no man really wants to go. The engines of our middle-class starship were fired, warp drives engaged and the two crew-members put on their space suits, slathered ultraviolet protection (For Type A and B solar UV rays) and headed to the city on the edge forever. We pulled our starship in to the docking bay, aside a bigger, fancier, more expensive starship, climbed down and walked a few feet in the intense, exhausting heat into the glass enclosed nerve-center.

We did not know it then, but we had now entered a fragment of the space-time fabric where space and time and sensibilities warped. And its effects were instantly perceptible. A few minutes inside the city and Chip’s personality underwent a drastic transformation. This child, who sat quietly in his seat watching other spaceships and spacetrucks whiz by, had a sudden, inexplicable adrenalin rush. He twisted his body and shouted and ran. I ran behind him, for mighty dangers in the form of the ColorfulJellyBeans lurked ahead. They beckoned him as the sirens do to lost soldiers at the sea. But Chip, this time turned out to be stronger. My intense mind-lock sessions seemed to be helping him control his crystalline disaccharide urges. He seemed to gravitate towards them, the pink ones in particular, but withdrew himself suddenly, as if a switch in his brain had flipped and released a flood of “artificial-colors-and-preservatives” mumbo-jumbo down his hypothalamus.

He ran again, but stopped in a few feet, mesmerized by a little red contraption. It was a small car; you know the kind popular in 21st century America. This one wasn’t a real car of course, but a replica. Chip immediately wanted to take it for a test drive but wasn’t self-propelled. They were primitive little machines; they had to be propelled by an organism at least 5 feet tall. Since I fit the bill, in not just one, but three dimensions, I seemed like a perfect candidate. Not that there were any other to speak of. Chip, the dare-devil he is, jumped right in that car and sat. I looked for the propeller bars, found them and for a lack of better word, pushed the replica around.

The city was strangely quiet. No buzz, no crowds. Also, no deals, no discounts. I liked a garment fit for an Empress of the Tribbles that cost an arm and a leg. I almost cut off a limb, blame it on the triple warp of space-time-sensibility, but the rabid fear of the billattheendofthemonth jolted me back to my senses. Chip, in the meanwhile was showing an interest in a mannequin displaying garments. In a microsecond that I looked away, he stood up in his replica and peeked inside the plunging neckline. Of the mannequin. Thank Mouse*. I caught him in the act and he flatly refused he was peeking at the anatomical-parts-that-shall-remain-unnamed, pointing to her collarbone instead. I blamed it on his y-chromosome and we continued to explore and soon found over selves on the upper level.

A gay music was heard. We followed its direction and were rewarded. A giant rotating platform with replicas of medieval chariots and horses. Chip looked at it wide eyed. He had many starweeks ago, been rewarded with a ride in this carousel. He begged for one. I feigned to look for an appropriate currency. Chip looked on expectantly. I shook my head. Chip then asked me if we were impoverished. I nodded my head. But he looked so forlorn, that I decided to look, really look. I found some acceptable monetary token and Chip bought himself a ticket and enjoyed the ride.

Ride having finished and attempts at more thwarted by me, Chip sought nutrition, in what has got to be the most nutritious food in Chip’s mind. Dough slathered with crushed tomatoes and soured milk. He had a slice of that, while I nibbled at leaves that looked like lettuce. Thus our adventure came to an end. It didn’t really, but I am getting tired of writing this now.

*mouse: It was proved beyond reasonable doubt in the late twentieth century by Douglas Adams that a common mouse was really god.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Be Better For Me

It’s still light outside. It’s close to eight in the evening. Chip and I enter the cool, dark house, hauling grocery bags, away from the blazing mid-summer heat. “Are we going to another store today, Aie?” Chip is asking, hope bubbling on the edge of his voice. “Not today honey. It’s almost eight. Time for your bath now.” I say thickly. I leave the groceries in the lobby and go inside the study. “Are you working?” Chip asks. “No.” I reply. “I am trying to call Baba.” I dial BigGeek’s number, once again. Work and Cell. They both go to voice email. Not unexpectedly. I have been trying to reach him for a better part of two hours now. Worry creeps up to me. Unwanted thoughts gathering for a storm. I open my email and send a one-liner to BigGeek. “Call me”, it says.

I lug the groceries into the kitchen. Keep the refrigerated items in the fridge, the rest in their bags, on the counter. No energy to keep them away now. I shoo Chip upstairs and run his bath. He topples his bucket of bath toys and is soon engrossed in quiet play. I enter the bedroom and collapse on the bed. The long day, the mid-summer heat, the hormones, and my inability to get in touch with BigGeek all mutiny against me. Tears sting my eyes.

“Aie!” Chip calls out to me loudly. “What are you doing Aie?” “Just lying down.” I say, steadying my voice. He doesn’t miss the slight quiver. “Are you OK?” he yells again. “Yes, I am.” I reply. Just then, the phone rings. I pick it up. It’s BigGeek. I tell him I am not talking to him. The battery had died and he hadn’t realized it, he’s is telling me. Chip calls out again. I go inside the bathroom.
“Is that Baba?” he says pointing to the phone.
I nod. He looks at me. “Are you OK, Aie?”
“Are you crying, Aie?”
“No.” I hang my face.

He bends down, trying to look at my eyes. “Are you crying, Aie?” he asks again, softly this time. I shake my head, unsure of how long this could go on. “You are crying.” He says. “Are you feeling sad?” “A little. But I’ll be better soon.” I admit, hesitatingly. “Is Baba doing silly things?” I smile a little, unsure whether to answer his question or not, but nod in the end. BigGeek is listening to all this. “Oh-oh. Aie. But you be better for me, ok, Aie? Don’t cry. Be better for me, OK? Will you be better for me?” I nod, speechless. The storm passes on and the evening continues.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This day, last year

One year ago, on this day precisely, I started to blog. 161 posts and more than 49000 visitors later here I am. Still utterly fascinated by writing and blogging as I was a year ago. Not jaded or tired. Not of writing. Because here, on this blog, in these words, I live and relive. I live once in reality and once when I write about it and many, many times when I go back and read it.

What started as an outlet for my creative(?) expression, morphed into a mommy blog – you can’t blame me, blame Chip and his father– and has now, sort of weaned itself away from that topic exclusively, trying to find a new ground. Mixed metaphor be excused. I never imagined I would be here one year ago. Not on my blog and not off my blog. The blog has witnessed my moments of extreme anguish and moments of extreme joy. Moments of pride, moments of peace, moments of confusion, moments of confidence and moments of unanswered questions. All here. Wrapped in these blog posts annotated with thoughtful comments. Your comments. From you who turned out to live across the street from me and you who live half a globe away. You who shared my happiness and shared my distress. You who engaged in a fierce debate with me, questioning my dogma. You who patted my back and gave me a hug. This blog would not have been where it is without you. And so on my very first blogivesary, I am going to leave with with a recipe for something sweet. Like you'all. A batch of sweet, nutty but healthy cookies. Bake em on your blog anniversary every year and let me know how they turn out.

Blogiversary Oatnut Health Cookies

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2 tbsp fine semolina
1 ½ cup brown sugar
½ cup walnut meal (run walnuts in a food processor)
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
A good pinch nutmeg
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 cup fat free yogurt
¼ cup fat free milk

Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix together all the dry ingredients except sugar. Beat the yogurt, vanilla and sugar together until fluffy. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, alternating with small quantities of milk. Do not over mix. Spoon with a table spoon onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet (or grease the cookie sheet a bit) taking care to space the cookies. The cookies spread while baking. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes or until the tops turn golden brown. Transfer immediately to a cooling rack. These cookies are chewy. Enjoy in a within a week. Makes about 30 cookies.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fruits of my labor...

and leaves and pods and shoots and tubers!!!!
A few pictures from my kitchen garden this summer!

**Fixed the comments section**

Strawberries (unripe) and Cilantro sprouts

Methi and Spring Onions

Lettuce and Potato (flowers)

Cucumbers and Ichiban Eggplant

Tender Green bean on the bush and Bell Pepper flowers

Radishes and Green Beans

Cucumber, Chives, Lettuce, Potatoes and Cherry Tomatoes (on the vine!!)

Beefsteak Tomatoes (still green) and Sweet Basil

You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. ~Author Unknown

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Summer Affair

Balmy Saturday morning. Post brunch. You are sitting out on the deck, a tall glass of chilled home made iced tea sweating in your hand. The flowers are in bloom, the birds nipping at the seed. Butterflies flitter about. You let out a contended sigh and pick the book you are reading. And if you aren’t reading A Summer Affair by Erin Hilderbrand, you should. Even if mile-high gas prices have put a damper on your beach vacation this year and the patio is your vacation destination, don’t fear. Through this book you will escape. From your worries, from the predictability of your routine to where else, but Nantucket.

When I picked the book it looked promising. I was all up for a harlequin romance. The book was that, but it was much more real in terms of the characters’ motivations. The story is about a glass artist and a mother of four, Claire Danner Crispin. It about the affair that she carries on while co-chairing a gala for a non-profit organization. It takes us through her present life and past, through storylines than weave in and out of Claire’s emotions. From a rocker ex-boyfriend Max West who has to be roped to perform at the gala, to her best friend and sister-in-law Siobhan, to her husband and kids and their lives and her come back to the abandoned glass blowing. It’s a good chick-lit. I was happy to know about glass blowing. I have been in a hot shop before and have seen glass blowers and it’s pretty amazing. It also offers a view of what really goes on in these black-tie type gala events. Hilderbrand has done some considerable research about politics and dynamics of non profit soirees and it was just very amusing and interesting to get a glimpse of that world.

All in all, a fun, entertaining read. For the beach or when you are sitting by the pool when you take your 3-yr old swimming (ok wading) or on those balmy Saturday mornings. You will escape in to an idyllic world in a beach community, right in your own backyard.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Raising Chip

A while ago, I had written a post about the spirited child Chip is. I refuse to call him difficult and while it is vexing to get my point across to him at times, I admire his resolve and determination. He also tends to get frustrated easily and can fly into what I call nuclear tantrums. Change is hard on him. He is a slow adapter. Traditional child rearing advice is lost on him. Never works. He is only three and as he grows up, his temperament may change little or not at all, but I sure hope to teach him how to change the way he expresses his thoughts and emotions. A few weeks ago I bought a book- Raising your Spirited Child by Mary Kurcinka. While I have yet to read it, I thought it might be a good idea to put into writing my own strategies and later compare them to those in the book.

Be very specific
While this is true of most toddlers, for spirited children, this is a life saving technique. “Don’t touch that”, “Sit here” doesn’t quite cut it. Even if you tell Chip the dire consequences of his actions, his impulse doesn’t go away. For e.g. if I tell Chip to put the fork down when he is running around the kitchen with it, he won’t listen. He wants to do “something” with the fork, and running around with it is the only thing that comes to his mind. Instead I tell him to put it in the sink or put it back in the flatware drawer. That satisfies his urge, I get a chore done and he is out of trouble.

A few months ago Chip and I visited a friend and her new baby. Chip was very excited and in his excitement pulled the little baby’s hand. Instead of telling him to not touch the baby or play with other things which would have resulted in a tantrum, I channeled his urge. He wanted to connect to the baby. So I allowed him a gentle pat on the blanket by the foot and told him to sing songs and recite the alphabet. He does that to all babies he sees now. The parents are amused and the babies gurgle and laugh which delights him.

Let them know what to expect
Even if it is trip to the tot lot or a dinner with friends or a doctor’s visit, I always tell him what to expect of the place and event and of him. I tell him names of all the friends we are visiting and what we plan to do. I also tell him what I expect of him – he has to share, no whining, no fuss when its time to go home. Or if we are going to the doctor, what will happen (stethoscope, look in your ear etc). This way he is prepared and does not get caught with surprises. For the past few days, he has gotten into the habit of asking a grown up what their name is. I personally feel this is rude, so I have told him he has to ask me softly (or I have to tell him the name of the person we are meeting before hand). I have also told him I will remember to introduce him to people. He is a young boy now.

Stop the whine with shock and awe
Chip whines. And he is persistent. I need to stop the whine before it turns into a tantrum. And like most kids, Chip’s whine does not go away when you ignore it. It gets worse. So instead of telling him again that he cannot have jelly beans today, I sit down with him and tell him jelly beans have artificial colors and preservatives and that will make holes in his brain. Shock and awe. Since he has learnt something new here, his attention gets diverted to the artificial colors and preservatives instead of the jelly beans.

Give them something to do
I give mine chores. He sets the table every night. He helps himself to cereal and snacks from the pantry. He helps me unload the dishwasher. He puts his diaper in the bin every morning and his clothes in the hamper. It gives him a sense of importance and a comforting routine and giving him safe activities puts him out of trouble for at least 10-15 minutes a day.

Teach them to identify their emotions and triggers
This is very useful. Chip has a temper that can quickly get out of hand. A few months ago, I tried this trick. Every time he would get angry and thre a tantrum, I would tell him to tell me when he realized he was getting angry and that I would help him. It took a few months and he needs a reminder every now and then, but he does come and tell me to help him because he is angry or feels like a tantrum. We sit down and we “search and pluck” all the tantrums from his head. There are usually ten – so he has learnt to count till 10 when he gets angry. He also identifies when he is sad and tells me and we deal with it. Or when he is scared or happy.

Down time and quiet time
They need this more than the other kids, I suspect. I know kids who would cry way after midnight at their own 1st birthday parties. Chip cried in the first five minutes because he wanted everyone to go home and leave him alone. Even know, he needs some quiet and one-on-one time every day with me in the evening. Undivided attention. He is much better behaved that way. Many times, when we have company over, he tells me he wants to go to bed way before his expected bedtime. I take the cue. He is overwhelmed and 20 minutes by ourselves upstairs usually recharges him and he much better behaved when we come back down. On busy days when he tends to be a bit tantrummy, we have a quiet time. Where he can do what he wants without walking/running/climbing/not leaving the room. He can lie down, draw, read books.

Sugar and physical activity
Limiting sugar does help. He is less tantrummy, more even tempered. Juice is no more than 6oz a day or not at all. No sugar in milk. Sweet cereals in limited quantities. No sugary stuff when he is tired. Or sugar combined with protein only (like peanuts and jaggery). Increasing protein intake helps him manage his temper. He also needs a lot of physical activity. He walked a mile and half yesterday and played in the water for 30 mins. in the evening and only then was he tired.

I’ll post a review of the book as soon as I am done reading it. Until then, do share your tactics too if you have a spirited child.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Cross Talk

I want to walk holding the hand of an ice-cream.
But it will melt.
No I will hold its hand and eat it.

I want to fly
You just did too. When we went to San Francisco. Remember?
Not in an airplane. I want to fly like a bird with my wings.
{Your father is not allowed to hang-glide and neither will you be}

I want a diamond
When you get a wife
Turning Aie's hand over and looking at her diamond
Are you married?
Is R-mama getting married?
Is R-Mama getting a diamond?
I want a wife.
{not so soon, dude}

I want a beer
Ajji (sipping her wine): Do you have a beard and a moustache? You can drink beer after you get a beard and a mustache.
You don’t have a beard and a mustache.

Throwing a tantrum
You are a big boy now. Big boys don’t throw tantrums.
Only big girls do?
{Where did that come from?}

I feel so sad.
Because you yelled at me.
I scolded you because you did a terrible thing.
I want you to say sorry to me. Say sorry to me because you yelled.
I will do no such thing
Yes, you will.
I won’t.
Say sorry.