Saturday, March 29, 2008

Chennai Chronicles - South bound!

[Note: I am unable to access any blogspot pages from my home in Chennai. It is very strange but true. I can make new posts but I cant read or respond to comments. I am also missing out on all your wonderful blogs!! Hope to get this rectified soon.. meanwhile here is the next post in my India Chronicles!]
Last week we ventured further south into the interiors of Tamil Nadu. The land of the beautiful temples and lush green fields. It was such a relief to see the green fields after the concrete jungle called Chennai. Unfortunately it was not a good time for the farmers. The rains lashing through Tamil Nadu (South India) have destroyed their crops and livelihood. So it was with bereft tales of the farmers that we were greeted at our destination. But that did not abate our merriment in meeting relatives. Nantu was off to meet his paternal grand mom, aunts, uncles and cousins.
He saw the real India of the villages.

With long one-roomed houses and livestock roaming the roads. People with bare bodies walking bare footed all around. Indian Toilets and Power failures. Every day there was something new to see and learn. He saw a roadside toy seller with colorful wares to sell. He saw a river in full spate and experienced the true heat and humidity of southern India. It was a very eye-opening experience and very exciting too.

The first two days were marred (though that helped the temperature) by heavy downpour. On the third day the skies cleared and the sun was beaming again. Shining strongly and dissipating all its heat on the two unsuspecting souls - Cheeky Brat and Silly Mom! Nantu however adjusted to the new setting with little protest. He was excited to see so many relatives and meet his cousins. And all the adjustments paled against this!

And then there were visitors of another nature. There was the elephant that visited our doorstep. Nantu stood in awe of the size. While he stood and watched the elephant with eager eyes, he refused to hand the elephant bananas (pazham) and seek its blessing as is customary. However, this experience left him emboldened.

Later that day when a cow decided to make an appearance at our doorstep, it was greeted by an eager Nantu with a boisterous "Hello"! He then ran to his grand mom and said "Patti Banana Venum" (I want a banana). His grand mom was so happy that he would deign to eat the banana he had refused to touch all these days. As I watched silently, the banana was laid in front of the cow by Cheeky and his co-conspirator (an older cousin). The cow was delighted and gulped down the banana. As you can imagine, soon there was a family of cows at the doorstep all of them eating bananas which was supplied by Nantu and his unsuspecting Patti. When Patti finally found out, the bananas were packed away and the cows shooed off from the doorstep which was by then beginning to look like a barn!

There were down moments too. Nantu refused to step down in the temples at most times. Sometimes the ground was yucky, sometimes messy and sometimes Icky/ Sticky! And when I put him down forcefully, he stood balanced on my feet hugging my legs! When the power cut happened the first time Nantu bewildered asked "Amma where did all the bright go?" The next time he knew what it was, and I urged him to pray to God. After every prayer he stopped to ask, "Amma why wont God send the light back?". The staple food in the village was Idli and Rice much to Nantu's annoyance! I had to get creative with the menu. Thankfully, my sister in law brought in some supplies that got us through! Back at Chennai though, rice and idli evoke violent reactions and have therefore been banned from the menu for the time being!

Overall the trip was a great success.. the highlight being the Panguni Thirunal (Festivities in the month of Panguni) celebrated at the temple of the residing deity Mahara Nedun Kuzhai Kadhar. More on that and pictures in my next post.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chennai Chronicles - On the road

K3 asked in her comment to my previous post about Nantu's reaction to car rides in Chennai. The discussion started back in Colorado. The plan was to bring the booster seat along with us. Nantu uses a steering wheel back home to do some back seat driving! When asked he refused to bring the steering wheel with him to India. In the last minute the booster was forgotten too. And it was with dread that I landed here. The first ride went off in complete excitement of meeting his aunt and grand dad. The booster and seat belt was forgotten.
Next stage in the reaction was refusal to sit in the front or alone at the back. I had to wear the seat belt with him on my lap.. slowly I moved him to the front occassionally still strapped in on my lap. Now that too has passed and he sits in the back on his own and has resumed back seat driving. Now his driving is interspersed with beeps and Bhams!!! At first his reaction to horns was complete bewilderement. Now he says "Naan safe aa horn adichukaren" (I am honking safely). The road experience while surprising has been fun for him... So there another stress off my list. However walking on the roads is the biggest challenge. I have to pick him up and cart him around in my arms all the time. Mostly due to my fear of the traffic and pot holes.. and is turning to be quite an experience!
Overall I have found that so far all my fears have been baseless. Except food wise. He promised me that he would eat rice for all meals, but then that is probably too much to expect. Rice has now been banned from his menu again. And now that there are no quesadillas and mac and cheese or the cans of pasta... it has been a rough ride. However we are taking well to the Indian substitutes.. Cheese Parata, Sunfeast cheese pasta, dosa and of course the staple bread! So even there we are doing alright!!
Meeting people of course is the biggest treat for Cheeky. More and more relatives and friends who are willing to listen to his non stop banter and load him with gifts and toys much to my dismay! There is now an ever growing pile of things to take back to Colorado. I for my part am shopping too for paintings and I reluctantly leave behind all the lovely brass and clay artifacts at the various hand loom exhibitions I frequent!! Every time I buy something I tell myself I can gift it to someone but between the shop and home I find I have changed my mind and decided to keep it for myself! So far I haven't bought a single thing I want to part with!! At this rate I can imagine how the packing for the return trip is going to be!
I am back from my short trip... will list the experiences in my next post. Nantu's tryst with Indian temples, trains and buses coming up. As well as his adventures with the Indian Petting Zoo! All in my next post!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Chennai Chronicles - Becoming Chennai-Vasi

Nantu is making inroads into becoming a Chennai-Ite! I thought he will take to the change rather roughly... but not at all.. the minute he landed he was off to the arms of his aunt and granddad and I wasn't even spared a backward glance. More often than not I am forgotten these days. The iron walla and "Taxi Dude" are greeted with a "Hi" and when they fail to ask the follow up questions, still get the reply "I am good"! (Uh!!) The shy kid I knew in Denver is long gone and here is an eager, exuberant chatterbox who wants to talk to everyone on the road.
The other day his granddad stood outside talking to some neighbor. And Nantu stood next to him. The neighbor made the mistake of striking a conversation with Cheeky.
"So did you fly here" he asked!
"How can I fly, The plane flew I just sat in the plane" came the reply!
"Really the plane flies" he asked
"Yes the plane flies that is why it is called flight" came the reply! Whew.. I did not think of that!! Cheeky of course lost no time in informing the neighbor all he knew about planes. And went on to describe every book he has read on planes. The poor neighbor was forced to listen to the non-stop chatter!
The neighbor not to be outdone, made another stab at coming out of this sounding smart "You know big birds fly like a plane they don't flap their wings" he said
"That is an imaginary bird" said Cheeky after some thought! That silenced the Neighbor, poor man! He obviously doesn't know 3 yr old's! Nantu was talking about the Big Bird in Sesame Street by the way. Now he knows all about Eagles and Kites thanks to an over-enthusiastic mother!

And then he went on a play date with my cousin's kid! He had a swell time there! My cousin's kid goes to one of the best schools in Chennai and speaks lovely English. He is also 3. So Nantu was really excited with his new found friend, he could also converse comfortably with! The little boy lets call him Pesky shall we? For that he is.. an Adorable Pesky Brat!! Pesky is a true blooded Chennai-ite. We were in awe to see him ride his bicycle. He can go through all sorts of gaps, turn in the obscure places, Ride one handed, make difficult turns and of course go at a head spinning pace. Cheeky on the other hand had to stop every once in a while. And if he dashed against something stop and estimate damages. Tell Pesky how to ride "Don't dash, No Crashing, ride Slowly" and then slowly start the cycle again, slow down at every turn! We had good fun laughing at these two brats! The contrast between them was such good fun to see!

However the Chennai heat is finally here.. and I am finally getting sane and deciding to stay indoors. Still the temptation to go to every sweet shop and chaat place is too much! We have also been visiting temples that Cheeky finds very strange. He had to take off his shirt at one temple. "Mom don't take my clothes off" he whined. And then insisted I carry him all the time and held on to my dupatta (shawl type cloth worn with the traditional Salwar Kameez) in utter dismay!

I had my first run in with the telephone company here. And amazingly things seem to have changed with the privatisation and the inset of competition. The lady I spoke to over the phone is an Assistant Engineer at Telephones. She was so courteous and assisted me so patiently and solved the issue without any delay. I was pleasantly surprised! There is sign of progress everywhere. In the couple of years that I have been away there has been so much more development. I am so excited!!

I am off on another little adventure next week.. Will be back with an update after that.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chennai Chronicles - The journey home

Oh yes we are home.. what a lovely word isn't it HOME! Just the feeling of getting down on the tarmac in humid Chennai with the unmistakable stench of sweat was a nice feeling! I know I make it sound gross, but seriously what is it about the sticky air and the wafting stinks that gives you the sense of belonging that nothing else can? I am jumping for joy like Tigger below.

(Pict Courtesy: http://www.ezthemes.com)

The trip in itself was quite a nightmare. Air traffic control played villain by delaying my start at Colorado. The customer care centers were first closed and the only open one had a mile long queue which would just not move. At the next stop I rushed out the plane while yelling frantically about my connecting flight to anyone that would hear and to some that wouldn't! Only to find out I had to exchange boarding passes as the one I had won't work (Uh?). I then found out that my ticket itself wont work as it was exchanged (??) A frantic phone call to the travel agent and later a swipe on the credit card had me hopping on the plane 30 minutes late. Yes I set a record by holding up a plane for my royal arrival! The rest of the journey as they say is history!

But finally the final prize of all... landing home! All the worries and trials in getting here has been forgotten .. just the sweet ending remains. And what a welcome. Its cooled down in our honor. Its been pouring in Chennai and we are having wonderful weather mostly!! I feel as though all this has been done just for me!

And now I must stop lazing around, and start calling the few thousand relatives and friends. And then the biggest whirlwind of visiting all of them. But before that a dreamy sigh to say I AM HOME!! Meanwhile Nantu has been directing his chatter in every direction but mine these past few days.. and there are so many eager ears to listen to his non-stop entertainment. He is turning into a radio that just wont turn off! Oh God I get to take him back with me in a couple of months.. and then where will I be?

A quick note to say all is well, and that I have seen the tags some of you sent my way! I will get to them soon! Meanwhile I will be lurking around in the blogger world for sure!! :)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Parenting Diaries - Handling the tantrums

Oh yes I am back with part 2 of Parenting Diaries. As all parents of toddlers know the tantrums are here and back again and we have by now learnt to live with them.

And each of us have perfected our style of handling the tantrums. But these tantrums show us something ugly sometimes. Like this kid who was having a tantrum at Nantu's school the other day. She told her teacher "I want to kill you". The teacher was shocked and so was I. When the initial shock and fear had passed out of my system, I grew rational. The kid probably did not even know what she was saying. She was just having a fit of anger and she probably said what she had heard someone else saying at that time. More reason to watch what they hear! (Pict Courtesy: www.childrenofthenewearth.com)

How I handle this personally is to invite open discussion. Every afternoon Nantu and I sprawl on the bed and talk. I prompt him to talk about school and friends and the shows he watches on TV. This way I understand how he perceives the world. I am forewarned on the language he picks up or the habits! And I gently correct him. And teach him good from bad!

I learnt this from my mother. She encouraged us to talk to her and the result, every time I learnt a bad word or even the time when I learnt about the truth of birds and bees; I talked to her about it! As time went by she turned out to be my best friend. And that is what I try to be to Nantu as well. His Best Friend! To this end, sometimes it is good to just listen and not be judgmental or adult about it!

Now about the tantrums. We all know that temper tantrums are unbelievably common and every child has these emotional outbursts. Temper tantrums need to be handled with a cool head. What has seemed to help in my household is calming down.

When Nantu was younger a distraction seemed to help. And I would remove him from the source of the tantrum. Or the location of the tantrum. For example if the tantrum happens at a mall, we drop everything and head for the car. Soon he learns that he stands to lose by the tantrum and stops!

At home, I have Nantu go to his room and finish crying. I never ask him to stop crying. I believe he needs to get him out of his system. I tell him "Go finish crying for as long as you want. When you are done come to me and we will talk". Once he has had time to calm down, invariably he is ready to listen to reason. At this point I usually have him tell me what the problem was, what he did wrong and what he should have done instead. Then I have him apologize and immediately after everything is forgotten and I give him a big hug and tell him how much I love him.

If the tantrum is triggered by hunger or sleep as they most likely are. I hold him till he is calm without saying a word, let him have a good cry. And then proceed to attack the root cause. After the food or a good night's sleep, reason prevails but not before!


But there are times when nothing works and he can't stop crying himself or he just can't calm down. After all he is a kid. Then I drop all reason and hug him and coddle him or tease him and tickle him till all is well again.

All children are unique. But my attempt here is to share some experiences and gain from your experiences. This way we can all be better parents! Please do share how you handle tantrums.

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Writer's Island Poem available at Creative Outbursts - Dear Son - From a Mother's Heart
Sunday's scribblings inspired Post available at Confessions of a closet geek - My Experiments With Truth - MK Gandhi

And now a true vacation begins. I will be holding still for a while, I promise. I will keep you updated though.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Parenting Diaries - Rules are good!

Today I start a new series called Parenting Diaries. I have been a parent for all of 3 years, 2 of which has been spent in close contact with my son as a stay at home mom. I read a lot of parenting articles and magazines. But that makes me no expert on parenting. But I do stumble on in this momma world like many of you. And here I share my experiences on parenting. I urge you to tell me what you think about this topic... parents and non parents alike.

(Pict Courtesy: www.mosman.nsw.gov.au)

Topic for today's discussion is Rules.

Consistent Parenting
Setting some ground rules with kids is a must. This helps for what is called as consistent parenting. And no age is too early for rules. But for toddlers rules need to be a bit more flexible. That does not mean the rules cease to exist.

Setting the limits with your toddler.
I have seen parents of 1 and 2 year olds who think their kids are too young to be disciplined. So these kids are not corrected when they refuse to share or push and shove. Especially if the kid they are playing with is older than them! Uh? It is very essential to discipline toddlers and set limits. This is the age they learn to be independent and the need for discipline thereby presents itself! Toddlers are a lot like teenagers that way. They constantly attempt to test the limits. And if you don't act now, you are going to have a very difficult kid on your hands!
Having said all this it is very difficult to discipline a toddler. They are not mature enough to control their impulses or remember all the rules that you lay. Don't push them, but every time gently assert the rule and make sure they follow it. One day they will start following it. (Pict Courtesy: www.htcacademic.mnscu.edu)

Public places
I remember this kid we saw, when we were out for dinner once. The kid was about 3 years old and running around the restaurant and getting under everyone's table. The parents enjoyed an uninterrupted meal. I wanted to walk up and say "This is a public place, where everyone comes to relax.. your kid needs to sit down and behave". This is a ground rule.
Same with movie theaters. Whats with the kids howling and screaming there? Either you hire a baby sitter and leave them at home. Or you leave the theater the minute the tantrum starts. There are 100 people there who have paid to enjoy a movie, and I bet they can use some quiet!

Whats mine is not yours!
Whats with letting your kids touch everything in your house. At a very young age I told my son what was his and what is mine. He was never allowed to play with my mobile phone or operate the remote. This indulgence I think is unnecessary.
A friend allows her kid to operate the I POD and DVD Player. Result, she can no longer control the kid's TV Schedule. When the kid wants TV she switches it on herself! I was discussing this with another friend the other day,,and she told me how a friend of hers has bought his kid a portable DVD Player. A 3 yr old no less plays with the portable player.
And another friend laments that his kids switch on the TV and figure out the password lock so he can't control them.
My mom had a simple answer to this when we were kids. We were latch key kids and would be home all afternoon , while she returned in the evening. My mom would remove the cable wire and hide that. Simple but very effective!

Off limits!
On this note.. do you leave glass bowls and pebbles on side tables? Do you have photo frames on them? What do you do when your child touches them? I have all this paraphernalia. And every time a 3,4,5 yr old comes to my house (forget the younger kids), I am forced to move all this out of sight! Kids need to be taught that everything they see or can reach is not a toy! I understand how this can be difficult for younger kids - under 2 or even 3. Then you move the temptation out of sight. But for 4 and 5 year olds, they should be taught what are off limits.

Sugar overdose!
I once took a box of candy when we went for lunch to a friend's place. The 5 yr old proceeded to open the box and devour the candy all at the same time. The parents did not think to take the box and put it away or tell her that it was not ok to eat so much candy!

Breaking rules
Even we are sometimes tempted to break the rules. So I let it go at times without fuss. And give him some opportunities to unwind. Like wrestling with him within the confines on the bed. Or letting him tear up some old paper with his toy knife (Nantu loves that). Or if the kid is not allowed to jump around at home, give him a place where they can do that. They need time to run around and jump and tumble. Make sure they have the time and place for all that.

Reward good behavior
Last but not the least, make sure you reward good behavior. The reward can be as simple as a word of praise and an applause or a toy. Both work effectively to tell your child that you appreciate the effort it took to be good!

Parenting I have found is not so easy. But it is a lot of fun. Before I go, I would love for all of you to share your take on this topic. I am a new parent too, stumbling along in this unknown world. So please share how you handle each of these issues. I would also like you to tell me if this helped you.. should I go on with parenting diaries??

[Edited to add .. I am really glad to get such wonderful response from all of you. And the arguments each of you is presenting is truly wonderful and serves as an eye opener for me! Helps me get a different perspective.. I am glad I made this post.]

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Peek-a-boo

I decided to pop in and say hello. I am running around preparing for a long vacation and can't stop grinning.. but since the end of internet will never happen to me, I will be blogging no doubt about it! But my posts will probably be more sporadic in the coming months!(Oh yes I said months.. are you jealous now? Anti-Jinx Anti-Jinx!!)

I have not been off blogger completely.. I have been reading some wonderfully interesting blogs. It seems to be the season for discussing personalities. High Strung Kids and Shy Meek Kids seem to rule the roost. One particular post really had me shocked - read it here. Its about meek precocious Ruhi. Since when is being shy a crime?I was a kid people probably ran from.. I cornered every stranger and subjected them to an earful of preschool prattle.. never ending as it was, I bet I was feared!! I was high strung that way, I could not stop talking. My sister was this shy kid who hardly talked to strangers had few good friends, and had some really profound thoughts in the confines of our home! To me going on a stage and talking about anything under the sun prepared or not was a no-brainer. Mostly because I don't think I ever gave a thought to making a fool of myself! Needless to say, my sister hated public speaking. And now she blogs!! Talk of a turn - around!
As I grew up I would go through these silent phases every once in a while. It happened when I was working once. For about 2 months I couldn't think of anything interesting to say to this group of friends I had lunch with. And two months later I was back to talking non-stop and shocked them with my volte-face!
Anyway when Cheeky was born it looked like he was going to take after me. He started cooing at 15 days and coo-ed non stop every waking minute! He uttered his first word at 6 months, had no stranger anxiety at 9 months and would go off gallivanting with anyone who would take him. I had to tell all my neighbors that I did not want him to go anywhere without me! Imagine what they thought of me! At 1.5 he started talking in sentences and talked to every stranger on the road. There was no doubt where he got this from! And I of course got no sympathy from the family!!
At 2 this boy picked a fight with a 5 yr old who was taunting him at the play area. I had to drag my son away kicking and screaming! He was like the famous dialogue in Tamil goes "Naan nallavan kku nallavan, kettavan kku kettavan" (I am good to the good, and bad to the bad). He would share and play with the kids but every time the other kid grabbed a toy Cheeky was sure to retaliate! Sometimes I wasn't even sure how to correct this, after all he was just standing up for himself right?
Moving on, at 2.5 my son surprised me.. by becoming shy and sometimes meek! I just could not believe it. He refused to let me out of sight every time he was out playing and there started a down slide. He did it all, hid behind my legs, refused to answer to our friends. There was no way he could be lured to talk to them, not even with candy. There was nothing that would tempt him! Yet at home as most of you know he is the non-stop chatterbox!
Many have commented on his shyness and some can be truly thoughtless in their honest comments! I learnt to take it all with a smile. I think of my sister and what she is today, so this shyness doesn't really bother me!
However I must say that his teachers at school have been very supportive and understanding. They do their best and try hard to get him to his comfort zone. I try to get him to talk enough to be polite at least. And he has made some progress, though not much. When he is with our friends, he answers questions and that is progress. He still does not talk to strangers but that is ok I guess!
There is a surprise factor here. He is very comfortable with kids. He plays with kids his age and older without any trouble at all.. and he will make the first move even! This has been a source of surprise to us and his teachers. They say Nantu is so good with new kids and befriends each of them and plays with them. Last week there was a new kid who bawled every morning as I dropped Cheeky off. As they stepped out into the playground, Cheeky found out that the kid loved to run (big surprise there), so for the full half hour he ran around with the new kid and put him at ease!!! Haha!!
I often wonder how to describe his personality. And most times I am at a complete loss. But then he is being himself.. indescribable Nantu!!
My pediatrician told me once "Nantu is cautious and I think that is a good thing!". I think back of when he would go away with strangers and I believe this is a good thing indeed! I realize I am very lucky to have the support and understanding of his teachers. Shyness is not a personality flaw.. and it upsets me when people think that! Each one of us is different and we need to be appreciative and supportive of this difference in our kids! Thats what makes them unique!
[Edited to add: Some advice for parents with kids like Nantu. I prepare Nantu every time we go out. I tell him what we are going to do there, who he is going to meet and what kind of questions he is going to be asked. For example, we went to the dentist today and I told him she is going to look at his teeth , say hello, maybe ask him his name and age and so on. And amazingly that seems to prepare him enough to open up. He answered all the dentist's questions today, in a low voice but answered it nevertheless. I have found this prep talk to help, you can try it too.]
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I have a couple of pending tags, I promise I will get to them in a week or so. I will be vacationing though and like I said earlier I will be around but will be playing peek-a-boo for a while!

Post Update - New one on Creative outbursts - Empowered - A tale about Rani Lakshmi Bai
And another one My Time Capsule - A tale of love and family.