Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A car

Anjali came back with a McDonald's happy meal car.

"My teacher gave it to me"


"Because I did my chinese work first. Mikeala did second and she has a car just like me, Tricia did third and Gwen did fourth"

She demonstrated the car to me, the way it transformed to an airplane and a submarine and how the driver came out.

"I did my chinese work first!", she said.

And then

"I copied Mikaela"

"You copied Mikaela?"

"Only the date, i copied Mikaela"

I am not quite sure what to make of the episode, but the car is cute

Water beads

The water bead sensory play activity has been going arouond the blogosphere for a while now. And I finally managed to get my hands on a couple of packets at the florist. They didnt have too many colors - after all they have a functional role, but we decided to go with the available pinks and purples. The girls had seen some water beads at the dentist last week and knew that they were beautiful and looked aesthetic, but they had not much clue about how it worked.

So here's how it looked after we had dropped the whole lot of them in the required amount of water. Correction - they were a lot smaller, but grew by the time I got the camera
The girls naturally wanted to put their hands on the beads, and they didnt want to wait till morning when the soaking process (4 hours) would be completed
They watched in fascination as the beads grew slowly from the snall mustard size to something that looked and felt like a raspberry.
It was Sophia's idea to add the marbles to them. Afterall, they looked like marbles, just smaller and softer. Would the marbles grow? Evidently not. This is what the tub looked like in the morning
And how the beads looked in Anjali's hands
There is a lot of Science in the water beads, as long as the kids dont pop them in the mouth. They reflect the color of the surface they are put on in very pretty beads, and are probably excellent on a light table, as many blogging parents have explored before. There is the aspect of expanding to absorb water, which Anjali noticed when she pointed out why the pink beads were growing bigger than the purple ones. They act as lenses as husband discovered, and they are simply too pretty.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A bit of this and a bit of that

We have been dabbling in a lot of things these few weeks, and there are photos and such, with lots of opportunities for craft and playtime, though there has not been any solid effort on my part to capture these on camera. Here are a few of the things we have been doing.

The girls helped me to paint hears on this suspicious looking artifact which actually has a role to play in our house
Since husband is at home a fair bit these days, the girls have been taking the guinea pigs out a lot and playing with them a lot
We did indoor camping one day. The girls fell asleep in the tent, and I moved them to the bed at around midnight. In the morning, Anjali woke up and wanted to know why we werent in the tent, whereupon, I explained that I had gotten a couple of insect bites during the night. That was partly true, but the other reason was that it is not very comfortable in the tent and very hard to turn.
The girls played with the tent in the morning until husband convinced them to dismantle it. Ofcourse, by that time, it was full of toys and Sophia's sensory stuff. We did batik on Saturday. Not the white glue stuff, but the real stuff with hot wax. I didnt get any pictures during the process as I was keeping a close watch on the girls, but I did get a couple of photos of the end product. The batik was simply using the slow cooker filled with boiling water with an old biscuit tin willed with paraffin wax.

Updates on the teeth situation

'Mummy, Mummy, I make a little fuss to byush mu teeth. I make little fuss because I am a baby. If I dont make any fuss I will be a big girl"

Now, tell me how a little fuss transforms into a full blown screaming battle which makes the kid throw up? She let herself get way too carried away. And then she wasy

"Mummy, I cryed because you are holding me too tight"

General question, brushing teeth is supposed to be a two minute job. How would you feel if you had to take twenty minutes to do it?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

an adventure with teeth

I knew that all that drama with toothbrushing had to add up to something. We took Sophia to the dentist yesterday. It was a pediatric dentist,l who was very nice to her and gave the kids stickers after the checkup, and she revealed what we had suspected.

the kid has a magical number of cavities.

The most powerfully magical number.

No idea how that could have happened. Apparently, her back teeth are weak, possibly attributing to the chicken pox she had at eight months which prevented the teeth from developing, but the dentist was very sure to emphasize that it all boiled down to the brushing.

Now, despite the fact that she has a magical number of cavities, the kid refuses to brush her teeth and both last night and this morning, husband and I made sure that we pinned her down to brush her teeth. It is a herculean task, requiring great strength and courage, not least because the kid is muleheaded enougfh and smart enough to resort to underhanded methods to deter you from the task. Such underhanded mehtods include persuasion, very credible excuses and when all else fails, extreme violence that involves, among other weapons, the very same entities that we are interested in polishing and safeguarding in the hope that she might use them in the future for more rewarding and purposeful tasks.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Les Virtues

A lesson learnt

I learnt a very important lesson yesterday and that is that children under four years old cannot whisper.

Swati spoke sternly to Deepika because she was making noise at the beginning of the program and Deepika burst into very cute very loud tears.

I kept insisting to Sophia that she ought to be quiet. Patti took her out just after the children's program to feed her and she came in half way through the closing meditation.

"Mom", she said, half way across the room completely unmindful of the fact that everyone was meditating. "Mom, I eated already and patti give me food. "

She plomped down on my lap and wiggled out of it to sit next to Anjali and Ramya.

"Mom, I eated idli and chappati. Patti gived me idli and chappati"

She continued like this, totally unmindful of the looks that i gave her until I got up and threatened to take her out if she didnt stop making noise.

The meditation stopped around then.

As I got up to make pranam, she goes

"Mom, the lights are on, can we make noise now?"


Just before leaving, Sophia threw a tantrum. It went like this

She wanted to wear a white pearl bead necklace and had selected it. She was making a fuss about dressing and Suganti aunty was coming in the taxi. So I grabbed the makeup and a comb and popped them in my bag. i forgot the necklace and it was on the sofa in patti's room.

After reaching downstairs, i realized that I had forgotten a hand kerchief too. Suganti aunty will take another five minutes and so husband ran up to take a handkerchief. I gave rather clear instructions to husband on the necklace and also asked him to bring it down.

Husband couldnt find the necklace on the sofa (the reason for that came apparent later) and Sophia threw a tantrum because the necklace that he had brought down was pink and tangled (it was one of those twisted bead necklaces)

And the taxi driver refused to take us because there were three adults and three kids in the cab. some drivers are rather finicky about this.

As we had a rehearsal, and the program wouldnt begin till seven, husband decided to get the train and he called me after getting back home to find out about the necklace. It turned out that the imp had kicked the necklace to the floor and it was on top of the lego box

I convinced Sophia to wear the pink necklace in the meantime and as often happens with children, she forgot about the necklace issue and kept on wearing the pink necklace for the program.

Later at night,p before bed, as she was toying with the pink necklace, i remarked to her how in the end, she liked the pink necklace after all.

The lower lip stuck out and she went

"I want to go again to the center and wear a necklace with no tangles and do the show again!!"

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A first almost full craft

I think this is some kind of a red letter day. We were working on yet another cushion for the bicycle seat. And this time, Anjali took the lead in the making of the cushion.

She drew on the fabric, colored it up and stuffed it with torn up pieces of foam. What impressed me was how she kept cooming back to it, while playing, after eating supper, and after playing with her sister. At one point, the foam ran out, and I had to cut up more. And all the while, she was lugging the half stuffed cushion behind her and when i took it from her, I found that she had taped the opening with masking tape, a step in the activity that I would never have expected of her.

I spend some time every day reading through different blogs for inspiration for activities to do with the children. My favorite are the artful parent, crafty crow, messy kids and the like. What always surprised me was how, according to these blogs, the children did the activities with lots of enthiusiasm and the activities ended up being perfect learning opportunities.

I should say that I have had a larger than my fair share of activities that didnt turn out as expected. There have been occassions when we had set up a huge free for all painting station for the children to explore and they painted for two minutes, and left such a huge mess on the floor to clean up. The same goes with sensory play or sewing or any such thing. It is often rather disillusioning when you take the trouble to set up an activity that the children are less then enthusiastic to do.

Sophia often tells me, "Mom, lets do an activity", and then she adds "A dry activity, not a wet activity", since she has had too much experience with me dunking the kids in the bathroom wht a load of water, bubbles and food coloring.

So yesterday, in parallel with the cushion stuffing, i also cut up a couple of my overflowing stash of milk cartons to make a small dollhouse. Sophia's job was to put toys in her house. She promptly brought along, not just her dolls, but also her animals, making the lower layer a doll house and the upper layer a zoo (what fun to live in a hose where the zoo is just a climb away!)

So my question is, what kind of activities get the best response out of the child? It seems to be an important question, because the last time I did cloth drawing with the kids to make the previous cushion, neither child was very interested. But this time, Anjali spent close to an hour drawing and coloring on the cloth with very brilliant colors.

Pictures to follow

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The conversation that every parent dreads

I was telling some zoned out bed time story to the kids about vampires and such which featured two best friends - poppy and james

"My best friend is Mikaela", says Anjali

"And My best friend is Gabriella", says Sophia

"My best boy friend is Kang Yi", says anjali

"Best boy friend?"

"And my best boy friend is no thing!", says Sophia

"when you gyow up, you will marry Mikaela?", asks Sophia

"No! You cant marry a girl."

"Will you marry your boy fyend?"

I thought it best to just keep quiet and let the conversation roll.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Causation, Correlations and the laws of independence

Yesterday, it occurred to me that the kid who keeps asking us kaapi Kappi is probably a mite too chubby. Here is the conversation that followed

me: sophia, You are a tad fat. you keep asking us to carry carry
Sophia: I am not fat. mummy is fat
Me: Maybe, but I dont say carry carry. I still walk. But if you say carry carry, you will have a fat bum
Sophia: Mummy has a fat bottom, Anjali has a fat bottom, Daddy has a fat bottom. Mummy, you ave a fat bottom whether you say carry carry or not.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It worked

The tutu was ready.  Anjali helped me to cut up and thread the elastic.

"I dont want to go to ballet"

I tried a bunch of arguments, including taking away her marbles until she agreed to go to ballet.

"I will make a ladder until the ceiling to take the marbles", said Sophia, when she saw that the hiding place for the marbles was out of her reach.

And she began to drag chairs and put her toy cars on top of them and everything.

Then i pulled the last trick out of my sleeve.

"Dr Birute learnt Ballet you know"

That got her attention, and I took my advantage.

"I'll read you the section from the book"

And I took out reflections of Eden and read the paragraph out for her.

Again it is amazing what Hero worship will do to a child.

"I want to go to Orangutan Ballet" she said

"You can go to Anjali's ballet"

"No. I want to go to Oyangutan Ballet like Dr Birute"

"See.. Anjali has gone to this Ballet class and after one year she is going for the Royan Academy of dance exam, then she will go to another ballet class. If you go to Anjali's Ballet class, after one year, you can also take an exam, and we can tell your teacher to give you the exam for Orangutan Ballet."

"Ok". And she tried on the tutu and everything


Hopefully, in a year she will grow out of this phase of hero worship

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tooth brushing

Sophia has a dental appointment next Wednesday afternoon. She has a corner tooth where food gets stuck and refuses to come out on brushing, and every couple of days, husband I have to pin her down and tackle her with a tooth pick.

It was quite fun at first with us playing dentist and Anjali shining the torch in Sophia's mouth. And then the torch ran out of battery (possibly one of the kids were playing with it and left the light on) and so Sophia doesnt want to show her mouth without a torch.

But her attitude toward tooth brushing has improved (marginally). She still yells as if all the monsters in the world were behind her, and she still doesnt want to use tooth paste. Each time she needs to gargle, I lose a couple of hairs on my head, but she has learnt to sit still while yelling her throat hoarse.

Of course, i can tell her that if she doesnt brush her teeth, they will become like Swati aunty's and the image of Swati aunty's tooth in the plastic is still fresh in her mind.

A tough nut

"Mummy, I dont want to go to Ballet", says Sophia.

"Why not?" I asked.

"I dont want to go to ballet because all the childyen are teasing me"

"Why for?"

"Because I have no ballet skirt"

"I will make you a beautiful ballet skirt"

"No. i dont want to go to ballet, but I want to go to my yeal school"

"I see. "

Half an hour later, husband and I are discussing the logistics of making a tutu.

"Mummy, I dont want to go to ballet"

"You always complain that Anjali goes for class and you dont go for any class. This is your class"

"No. Mummy please... i dont want to go for ballet, but I want to go for other class."

"You have to try it"


Now trying reverse psychology

"OK Sophia. You dont have to go to ballet class and you dont have to go to piano. Mummy and daddy will work with Anjali on her ballet and piano and reading and we wont work with you for anything. Ok?"

Bottom lip comes out in a perfect sulk.


Shucks. IT backfired. Is there a Maisy goes for ballet book that i can borrow? Of courrse, I could tell her that Dr Birute Galdikas learnt ballet. That would work better than Maisy. And it is true

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fairy water and jogging


Sophia: Mummy, can I make fairy water?

Me: Yes, after Anjali plays her piano

Sophia: Please. i want to make fairy water.

Anjali settled in the piano with husband and I took a tub out for fairy water.

Sophia: I want to do fairy water in the hall

Me: No. Water play is in the bathroom only

Sophia: But the bathroom is so wet!

Me: thats kind of the point. I am going to hunt up stuff too put in fairy water and you tell me when you are ready.

Sophia (with an expression of self sacrifice): I am eady to make fairy water in the bathroom.

Anjali finished her piano and the girls played a while putting bottle caps and marker caps and beads in the water


Husband: I am going jogging

Anjali: Can I go with you?

Me: Your bedtime is in half an hour

Anjali: Please, can I go.

Husband: I will run very fast Anjali

Anjali: Its ok. I can take my kick scooter and go with you

Sophia: No!! Anjali, dont go jogging.

Me: Do you also want to go jogging

Sophia: Anjali, dont go jogging.

Me: Sophia, what do you want?

Sophia: Mummy sniff, mummy sniff, I want to go jogging but I want to finish the fairy water first.

Me: Ok, let Anjali and daddy go first and then when they come back they will take you again.

I was, of course secretly hoping that she would forget about this and then we could send her to bed. I should have known better after five years of parenting.

Anjali and husband left for jogging. Sophia and I played with the fairy water, made fairy dust, put fairy spells on each other, and then played dress up (with Sophia wearing my old shirt as a dress and a sash around it) and drank vanilla milk shake


Anjali came back with husband. The girls began to play and at some point began to take out brooms from the closet to sweep the floor.

Me: Its bedtime.

Sophia: But I want to go jogging.

Me: There is no bicycle tomorrow. You have to wake up early.

Sophia: But you said that I could go jogging and you are not taking me. You said...

There was nothing for it.

Me: Can you take her for a quick round the playground?

Anjali: Wait, I will get my water bottle and come.

Sophia: You said you will take me jogging

Me: I never said that i will take you jogging. I have never jogged in my entire life.

Sophia has the sense to look rather mollified. But

Sophia: You said htat daddy will take me jogging,,,

Me: i know what I said, now change and go.

And they went

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On the role of heroes in the bringing up of children

Yesterday evening, Sophia opened the sensor box, took out the marbles and the pista shells and began her favorite game.

Sophia's favorite game is the orangutan pretending game. She gets two marbles as orangutans, puts them on a plate, a binch of pista shells as food and she is Dr Birute and goes on like this for a long time.

In our home, Dr Birute has become a sort of hero amongst the girls. To add to the richness of the hero worship, I am currently reading her Reflections of Eden, and names like Louis Leakey and Jane Goodall have now become part of our daily play.

More often than not, stories from reflections of eden take the place of our bedtime reading routine and reading the book also gave credibility to my stories. For one thing, when Sophia asks

"How do baby Orangutans go to sleep?"

I can give her the correct answer with a clear conscience.

I do owe Dr Birute a lot for one important lesson. That heros often have to undergo things they dont like to get the things they want. Last night, I told the girls about how she had to get Orangutan urine on her when she was tailing orangutans and how her bottom got burnt when she sat on a log.

The girls listened enthralled.

And it was a fundamentally wonderful wildcard to pull out when Sophia began her

"I dont want to go to school" routine.

"I dont like my school", she said. "It is very long and very boring"

"Do you think Dr Birute found it boring to be in the forsts waiting for days for the Orangutans to come?"


"Thats what makes her a hero."

"I am a  heyo mummy?", she asked as husband belted her in the bicycle.

"Yes", I told her and off she went to school with a pouch full of her oen toys (the school toys are apparently too boring for her).

Thanks Dr Birute and hopefully we can com,e to the jungles in April.

Recycling spotlight: woven rag rug in the making

This is my current on sometimes off sometimes project, a woven rag rug.

Pretty isnt it. If you look carefully, you can see three layers, with a fouth one in the making. Let me start off by telling something about it.

THe first layer is a set of miscellaneous clothes - mostly old children's clothes. Hence the bright and assorted colors. The second off white patch is an old bedsheet that belonged to thattha and patti which patti had dropped over for me to use. It was totally ragged for thattha to use although he had gotten several years worth out of it. The Third layer is a bunch of demins. I think it was five pairs of old jeans, torn at the crotch and had to go into the bin kind. We ripped up the legs. The current layer in progression is a baby bedsheet which we never used because it was made out of polyester.

My idea is to make it a really huge focal point for the licing room or the reading corner, and put lots of homemade cushions on it and a papaer mache table.

I had started work on the paper mache table last week. the idea was to make a sort of thick central base using ktichen rolls and mache over them so that they were bound together and strong and then put a layer of paper mached cardboard on top.

It was a good idea in principle. i had loosely bound the kitchen rolls togehther using duct tape and left them in the kitchen to paper mache at my next convenient time, but Sophia decided to use them as a footstool. So wehn i got back from work, what was left there was a huge mess of cardboard rolls. I popped them right back for further work another day

Monday, February 6, 2012

conversing with the rain

I completely lost my hat yesterday afternoon. I am not even going to justify myself, but I bossed and intimidated the girls into doing a lot of work, including Anjali's reading and piano. Sometimes it drives me crazy that these kids have all these resources around them to encourage learning and creativity and play, and these things are virtually untouched unless husband or myself jump in to lead them. The sewing box is untouched. The lightbulb lab hardly gets used, and the children these days hardly draw on the floor. There is a box of sidewalk chalk left on the floor near a cupboard that they have free reign over and that is never used either. Painting activities donot last longer than five minutes.

The only thing that these girls take self initiative about is talking, jumping, gossiping, bullying husband etc. Puzzles get a fair bit of attention, but only when husband takes them out. Either there is some bad organization and an overwhelming number of toys that they have grown out of but are still within their vision. And then Anjali complains that when she is with patti' she has to do only tamil writing and no activities other than playing with toys, and when she is with me, she gets to do homework and activities. How many activities exactly can I do with the children over a period of two hours every evening?

I have read the articles that much of children's time must be devoted to free play but the organizer in my head screams when this free play time is devoted to talking, jumping and mummy carry. "If I had so much free time", I tell myself, "I would complete a hundred and fifty craft projects. I would spend less time hanging around and more time doing constructive stuff".

Not that the kids dont do creative stuff. Anjali and Sophia spent about an hour yesterday in the bathroom squashing soap and water and creating a slippery mess on the floor, and then they moved seamlessly to the toyroom where they were segued into some kind of pretend play or another, which involved taking all the seeds/ shells and marbles from the sensory box and cooking with them and making a zoo full of squirrels. Top points for imaginative play. What about constructive play?

Yes yes, i have read the articles on pretend play and free play and taking part in child directed play developes confident children... but is there a need for the child to move from one constructive activity to another? Constructive activity being defined as an activity that is constructive in my opinion and that visibly improves a skill in the child? And should the constructive activity also be child directed? Do children who perform this kind of free child directed "unconstructive play" get into a child play rut?

That is a tall order for children of three and five year old - identify what you are weak at and work on activities that improve this skill. Afterall, that is what parents are for, to identify that the child is weak at something and create opportunities for improvement.

What are these opportunities? What to do when the child ignores them or doesnot take sufficient advantage of them (Note: my currently hot headed definition of sufficient advantage is when the time spent at the activity is sufficiently greater than the effort that it took for me to set up the play)

The authors of the playful parenting book that I am currently off and on reading are probably going to go all grim and unfriendly when they read this post, but what the hell, its my blog, and writing helps me to toss arouond thoughts and ideas that are too complicated and muddle my head when I keep them in.

I know and understand that play and playing with children really helps them to become confident. Look at Vaishna, for instance. I remember her spending hours and days at a time, closetted in a room, even when she was about 8 or nine years old. A room with a black board, armed with a stick and a bunch of toys. She would go on for hours pretending to be a teacher. And look at her now, with a CA under her arm and a march into her career. 

YEs, play is important, but where should the parent draw the line between studies and play? Which comes first? Something Swati said yesterday at the IEP facilitators' meeting comes to mind. What are the tangible benefits of IEP activities? They dont help children improve in Math/ Science/ English. But then we can ask ourself - what is the advantage of having children who are good at Math, Science, English as opposed to having confident children. The director at my institute is known to tell us not to put too much importance into the fact that someone has a PhD. Gates had no PhD, nor did steve jobs. The highest IQs he said, are the school dropouts and the delinquents. They are too bored of school and dont think that what school gives them is of much use and they take their brians elsewhere. Then there is us.

And it all brings us back to the role of parents. I was about to say facilitators... but the role of parents.

I dont want to go to school

Sophia: I dont want to go to school mummy

Me: Why not?

Sophia: Because... (you could almost see her gears whirring )... because... mummy... going to school is like locking myself up in a room full of monsters.

I had to try very hard to keep a straight face about that one. it was, I think pretty serious.

She did get on to the bicycle and was pretty mollified by the new cycle cushion, but I understand from husband that she gave a good bit of trouble getting into the assembly area and clawed him a lot.

It might all boil down to the fact that she didnt quite have enough sleep last night, since having absolutely refused to sleep in the afternoon, she came up with absolutely ridiculous excuses to sleeping in the night, like

1. I am not sleepy
2. I dont know how to close my eyes
3. I cannot sleep on the bed, I need a lap to sleep on. I need mummys lap or patti's lap to sleep on
4. Baby orangutans never sleep on the bed
5. i need mummy milk shake now! I need Vanilla milk shake
6. I am very bored.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Recycling spotlight: Lightbulb lab

The old lightbulb lab that we had made for getting too ratty, and ti was time for a new one. It took a good bit of work to make it, but here it is. I am very proud of the construction, since it is both sturdy and capable of holding much more things than the old lab.

Made entirely with cardboard, styrofoam vegetable trays and plastic salad boxes, paper mached over with lots of layers of newspaper and junk mail.

Recycling spotlight: Slotted disks

There was a hure connecting disc playground features in this collossal. I was pretty inspired by that and while Anjali was doing her homework on Friday, I began this project. It could have been very simple if I had left it to just cutting the milk carton to make the discs, but since I had a lot of old clothes that could be cut up, it ended up being more complicated.

It took a bit of tweaking, since the slits needed to be a little thick. The recommended thickness, I think is approximately the width of the cardboard, but here is Sophia having a good time with the construction.