Sunday, May 26, 2013

Good Job! : Quotes from Isaacland

So while reading up on raising kids, I read a portion where it says that we need to continously encourage out kids.
We did not use it much till potty training time arrived for Isaac. It seemed from that point on when he did something well we encouraged by 'Good job Isaac'. We took it a notch up by 'Good job Isaac! Give me a high-five!' We did this when he said 'Please', 'Thank you' and 'Sorry'.

So now it Ziva's turn for potty training. And we are high-fiving again!
One day I leave Ziva on the potty in front of the computer. Its the only way to get her to sit still so she can finish her job. Isaac is sitting next to her and watching the videos that I have playing. A few minutes later I hear this conversation
Isaac: 'What did you do Ziva? Show me'
A few seconds of silence and then
Isaac: 'Good job Ziva! Give me a high-five!'
I run back to see brother and sister high-fiving over a little pee in the potty!

A few days into Summer Camp and Isaac has his favorite naughty buddy Husain.
One morning during activity time the two are sitting together and happily painting.
Isaac: 'Wow Husain! Good job! Give me a high-five!'

Love my little boy!

Someone once sent me a mail about encouraging kids with  'Good job'. This person sent it after watching the number of times we used 'Good job'. The article actually was not in favor of 'Good job!' I am so thankful I did not listen to it. I realized that my son appreciated someone else because I appreciated him!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Lesson 2: Artsy Craftsy : What do you do on a Vacation in Goa? Collect star fish!

You may think what kind of crazy lesson is that. Well if you want to me the crazy person who did collect star fish on her vacation in Goa ... Do go meet Artsy Craftsy's proprietor/CEO/teacher/Mam/Aunty - Kanchan Yadav.

When she pulled out a box of star fish during an activity of week 2, I thought she picked up from some craft store.
'No I picked it up in Goa from the beach. I processed it in xxxx solution. And then I dried it' Kanchan replied with a sparkle in her eyes and a smile on her face. I did not clearly hear the name of the solution she used because I was in a state of shock! Just kidding. I was too amazed by the star fish. It reminded me of the song 'Climb every mountain.... Ford every stream ... follow every rainbow ... till you find your dream'
It seems that Kanchan has sifted every grain of sand on the beaches of Goa till she found her 'star fish'.
Lesson 2: When you have a passion ... amazing things can happen.
I know I will be telling Isaac (and Ziva) about Kanchan's passion to collect star fish. I know I will be looking for something crazy to collect on my next vacation. I know I will not look for it in a shop. I know nature will carry lots of memories for me to take with me.

Shell Art
Week 2 started with a bang and lots of sugar.
First the bang! I had planned on leaving Isaac alone. I had him all prepped up. 'Isaac - no ones amma comes with them. I should not stay there ... its not nice '
He finally responded to one comment with a ' OK Amma - you dont help me at Summer camp OK'
I was all excited. I started dreaming about finishing my grocery shopping at the Namdhari's some 100 feet from the Summer camp. I walked in to a room full of kids and a few extra! Kanchan had this look on her face 'Please can you help me from Wednesday onwards with Art and Craft'
A family incident had taken our dance teacher out of town. So Kanchan was left alone to do Art, Craft and dance! I was a little confused and then very flattered. I had left  cell phone in the car and had to jog back to get it. I had 5 minutes thinking time. Yes of course I would do it. In all likelihood Isaac was not going to be happy at camp alone for more than 1 hour. So I would be back in the flat. My thought : I might as well learn something!

Biscuits and sugar - What fun time
The week began with non-heat cooking.  Non-heat cooking was done by Sharmi Komal from Neivedyam.  Lots of sugar and biscuits of all kinds. 

While the seniors had the patience to wait for a completed project, the juniors happily ate the biscuits before the icing was even put. 

                                                 Sugar coated biscuits

The Jelly beans  were a big hit and every  one was jittery at the end of one hour. A lot of fun!

 Chocolate spoons

And then it was the turn of the yummy chocolate spoons. Again so simple and so much fun. This time we managed to wrap the chocolate spoons and put it away before anyone got to eat them. After all you need something to take home from Summer camp. Isaac and Ziva enjoyed the chocolate spoons at tea time!

Tuesday was shape mobile day. Kanchan repeated the words shape mobile so many times that now Isaac will call it nothing but that - 'Where is the shape mobile Ziva?'

Shape mobile

We (Isaac and me) had to skip Wednesday for a conference in Hennur.

Chocolate signals

We are sad we missed the traffic signal - again with chocolate and some lovely chocolate hearts. Non-heat cooking seemed like a big hit on Wednesday

Chocolate hearts

Kanchan did a fabulous job of reiterating concepts with a puppet on Thursday for the junior kids. The puppet had a signal and a moving car. The kids were fascinated with the very real looking grey street and the bright yellow car ... Windows and all!

 Car puppets
The senior kids did a fabulous cherry blossom painting on plaster of paris. It was so pretty that I wanted to do one with them.

I was rewarded for my self-control. Kanchan gave me the sample she had drawn for the kids. It hangs proudly on the railings of my steps.
Cherry blossom - Kanchan gives credit to Mystic lady art

Friday was the day I was sure I had met the most crazy entrepreneur yet! It was shell art day. It was one common project for both the senior and junior kids. And boy they had a blast! There were so many pickings. Small tiny shells, large pretty one and then there were the pretty star fish! Hats of to Kanchan. Shell art hangs proudly on our fridge.

And just like that week 2 was over. I was exhausted! But I was very happy. Interestingly I yelled a lot less at the kids that week. I guess getting involved in something other than kid raising was good for me. It was also fun because I could do it with at least one of my kids. Next year Kanchan can expect three from the Joel- George household at Summer Camp!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The story of a heart

A few days into Summer camp at Artsy Craftsy, I heard the following announcement.
'Kids take the slip of paper for instructions on your first project'
In my head I was thinking 'Great - at 3.5 yrs ... I was probably going to be doing Isaac's project'
I wanted to shake Kanchan and say 'Why ... why are you spoiling camp? ... We are having so much fun!' . But I guess she has done enough number of these to know better than me.

I was very nervous.... I thought Isaac doesn't sit still for more than 5 mins. How will I get him to do this. I thought the project was for the next day and was all stressed out. I have now realized - Homeworks and projects are actually fun ... Its us parents that make it all stressful.

I took out the paper in the evening. Suresh drew the heart (per the instructions) and I divided it into three parts. 
I sat Isaac on the high chair and said 'Isaac color this part red' I opened his paint box. He finished it and went on 'Now this one amma' pointing to the next part.
Me:"Isaac you will need to wash your hands". He jumped off ran to wash his hands and came back. I gave him pink. 5 mins later. 'Now this one amma' . Me:'We will do it tomorrow morning Isaac'. 'No. I want to color this one'. We finished the 'project' in 1/2 hr. Isaac spent the next 1 hr showing it off to Ziva (20 months) and admiring it himself. 
Thanks Artsy Craftsy

Isaac's heart
Every school I visited the past few months, I kept asking is there homework. I wanted to make sure they didn't send back anything. I realized, had Kanchan not sent this home ... how would we parents know how much our child can do ... on their own. All they need is a little guidance and a lot of encouragement.

We parents ruin all the fun of projects and work at home (I do not like the term homework!). We either make it competitive or insist on a time line  ... which fits our schedule.

Arsty Craftsy posted Isaac's heart painting on her wall. I was super proud. Not because how pretty it looked or because it got xx 'likes' ... but because the caption said 'by Isaac (3.5 yrs)' ... He was just my little boy... If I could just let him enjoy his childhood!  I have all these plans of doing all these things with Isaac for the coming school year ...
But I promise to look at this heart and remember .. to let him enjoy himself!

Have a little heart.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lesson 1: Don't be afraid of colors - Artsy Craftsy - Week 1

Well I got Kanchan's permission to talk about Summer camp. So the next few blogs will be about Artsy Craftsy!

So Monday May 6th dawned up. First day  of summer camp. I was prepping Isaac to go to summer camp and he  was having a lot of mood fluctuations ... yes I want to go to summer camp ... no amma I don't! Finally Suresh said 'Isaac there will be lots of painting'. Isaac smiled.
Suresh looks at me  'There better be a lot of painting!'
As I drove to Brigade Metropolis, I kept thinking - man this is far! We walked up the steps and rang the bell! The door opened to a smiling face 'You must be Isaac!'  It was great welcome.
16 kids sat in two semi-circles in a large hall devoid of furniture. I did wonder where all the furniture was and later found out that Kanchan pushed everything into the rooms inside - smart move with all the paint around!
We found a place near a sweet little girl 'M'. She soon became a favorite for Isaac to sit beside. Kanchan then asked Isaac 'Whats your favorite fruit?' Luckily there was strawberry tote bag left.

Yes tote bags - that was the first painting project at Artsy Craftsy's Summer Camp. While the kids began pulling out brushes on their cloth tote bags, Kanchan quickly called out 'Does any one know what tote means?'

senior tote bags

Art class and a little  general knowledge.A few seconds into painting and Isaac had paint on his fingers 'Amma --- paint'. Kanchan quickly came over and showed Isaac her hands full of color.
'Look Isaac - paint - don't worry we can wash it off. Kids - Don't be afraid of colors' : Lesson 1!

color on my hands 

We finished painting in about an hour. And I kept wondering - OK two more hours... I wonder what they are going to do next.
Snacks boxes were opened and friends were made. I realized that this was an excellent buffer for kids who were a little slower or those who needed more help. 

Junior kid pot holder

Next it was time for some dance. Deepa - the dance teacher - sorted them into their sizes and spread them out. I realized that I never really danced with Isaac. He kept looking at everyone and not dancing. About an hour into dancing everyone was exhausted and it was then time for Story telling. Kanchan has been reading to the kids form Sudha murty's books and I noted to myself on how it would make great reading even for me.  They are kind of like Aesop's fables. Perfect for a three year old.

It did seem like Isaac was bored since he was used to story time with books that had lots of pictures. This story time involved a lot of 'listening'. I was very happy to later realize that even though he never really paid attention to the whole stories, he heard bits and pieces. He was talking about a fisherman the next day on the drive to Artsy Craftsy. Small pleasures!! And just like that it was time to go home.

Make and play Shaker

In one week we made a wall hanging of a mosaic bird, a pot holder (which Isaac needed a lot of help in) , leaf print on the cover of a drawing book and a shaker with paper cups. All this was interspersed with plenty of dancing, outdoor games  and lots of stories from Sudha Murty's book 'The bird with the golden wings'.

Drawing book cover using leaf stamping - Junior kids

At the end of week one, Isaac was doing a fairly decent job of some coordinated steps at dancing. He was looking at the dance teacher on what to do next. He was not afraid of paint or glue or any other arty/crafty things.

 Senior Kid pot holders

He was making a lot of friends. More importantly his friends were not all aged at 3.5. There was the 11 year old M who dotted on him, the 11.5 year old A, who thought he was cute. There was the 7 year old S who got annoyed with his games. There was the 7 year old K who kept asking him about his dogs! His favourites are two little chaps R and H. The three of them act all crazy and drive Kanchan and the rest of the kids nuts with weird sounds, screaming and occasional rush of tears!

Junior kids tote bag

Many have asked me - Gosh you go all the way too Brigade Metropolis- Its 10 Km. You sit there for 3 hours.  etc etc..
It did make me feel like I wasted a lot of time or I was mollycoddling Isaac. But I learnt a few lessons and Week 2 brought in a surprise I never expected.
1. Stop worry about colors spilling over the floor. I dont think I was mollycoddling Isaac by being at Summer camp all time. But I was definitely teaching him to be paranoid when I kept yelling at home not to spill colors. A couple of times when I told Isaac - dont spill, Kanchan always reassured me 'Don't worry we can always wipe it' . She just about didnt show me her hands to indicate 'Dont be afraid of colors'.
2. Interaction helps a lot: Isaac became comfortable with kids of all ages in one week. He became less whiny during week 2.

Don't be afraid of colors!

For more Artsy Craftsy ideas visit the facebook page and 'like'. Most of them are very simple and can be done at home too. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

An 'Artsy Craftsy' time of my life

When I was in school, we had art class. I dreaded the day we had art class. I did not like carrying my drawing book. I did not like my paint brushes and most of all I had no self esteem when it came to putting the paint on paper.
I remember always getting very low scores in art exams. I wonder why they killed the subject with exams. After all its so subjective. How do you grade it? I was very glad when I knew that after 8th standard I would no longer need to do the dreaded painting and drawing. My biggest fear was when the art teacher would walk past my table. I wanted to cover my work. I was way too conscious. I remember having to draw a pot once and she walked past me. She looked at my painting and said ...
'Don't you see how its dark on one side because of the sunlight coming from the other side?'
In my head ' No!'
Lesson: I wasn't very artsy!

                                        Guess what this is called. Isaac and amma at home making a Con....

Enter Suresh: I found a new love for art. I appreciated it more. Probably because of the passion with which he spoke about it. He seemed to think that art class should have been there all our life. 'Yikes'. But he made a good statement. If I had done art at a later stage in life I would have enjoyed it. Mainly because I would not care what anyone else thought about my paintings. I would do it to enjoy it.

                                                  Isaac and my rendition of 'Up,Up, Up'
Enter Isaac: I realized I would not be able to stay away from  the paint brushes. As I write this bit ... I am actually thinking ... I may never have really touched a brush since my drawing class... till when I got one for Isaac. No - its not because I didn't like it ... it because I was scared of what it could produce. But we (Isaac and me) finally ventured into lots of painting and drawing. I realized I wasn't so bad. I mean I could please a 2 or 3 year old. A month ago I discovered Isaac loved coloring... he enjoyed it and he could sit still for 1/2 hr with paints and brushes. He enjoyed coloring and he even used his magna-doodle to draw strange things. I realized it would be fun to get him introduced to an Art teacher.

The very hungry caterpillar - by Isaac

Enter Artsy Craftsy and the fantastic 'Kanchan Yadav': Since Isaac was not going to school this year, I wanted to try a summer camp. I wanted him to be able to take instruction from a person other than me or suresh. More importantly I wanted him to follow those instructions and be respectful of the person. I had hoped for something close by. But it did not work. I had heard about Artsy Craftsy from Mili (who lives in our community) and decided to try it.

                                          First day - painting a Tote bag - Isaac's work at Artsy Craftsy

Initially I was a little skeptical about the distance - Brigade Metropolis seemed far! more than 12 kms. But the fees were so reasonable that I decided to try it out! I am so glad I did! I have not been disappointed. Every day is fun. Every day is new. I do not know where Kanchan gets her ideas from. I am not sure how she thinks it up. But whats more important is the way she executes it! Phenomenal. She has two batches going on.

Mosaic hanging - Isaac's work at Artsy Craftsy

One a group of 8 kids between 6-12 years. Another group of 8 kids between 3-5 years. 16 very attention seeking kids.... and she manages to give her attention, opinion and correction equally. I have had to sit in summer camp for the last one week because Isaac is going through separation anxiety. There has not been a single moment of boredom. The first few days I took a book to read. But I found myself putting the book away to watch the kids at work with their hands and minds and creativity. I realized how art and craft could develop so many fine motor skills.

                                         Cover of drawing book -Leaf stamps by Isaac at Artsy Craftsy
We also had dance by Kreative Steps last week. I even found myself practicing one of the steps in front of the mirror. This week I really miss Deepa with her dance moves that make Bollywood music so much fun and not lewd!
We have been through one week of arts, crafts and dance and I enjoy it as much as the kids.
The highlight of the week is Isaac taking a bath and telling Suresh 'Appa I am going to summer camp O.K.'

                                         Chocolate spoons - non heat cooking by Isaac at Artsy Craftsy

I have so much more to say about Artsy Craftsy. But I think it deserves a separate blog. I also need permission from Kanchan to yap about all the activities!

Isaac's piece of work at non-heat cooking

So for now its time to craft my life away!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Love the way ...

I love the way you pout when you are thinking ....
I love the way you pout when you are sad
I love the way you wrap your arms around me for a nap
I love the way you pretend to be sorry ...
I love the way you pretend to read a  story
I love the way you make me read the same story ... again and again
I love the way you flutter your eyes when you are afraid of me ..
I love the way you say ' no vadi no vadi' ... like I ever give you one too many
I love the way you shut your eyes tight when I tell you to close them to sleep
I love the you drop off to sleep doing just that
I love the way you nod your head in deep conversation with me
I love the way you walk away assured that I have understood every  word
I love the way you hold my thumb ... as if no other finger would be secure enough
I love the way you say 'hold hand ... hold hand'
I love the way you poke your own belly button and squeal with laughter.
I love the the way you love being tickled ... it makes me happier.
I love the way you come looking for me in the night.
I love the way you roll you head all over me even if its midnight

But most of all I love the way you leave everything and everybody when you see me ... just to give me a hug!
Love you Ziva from the tip of your tallest hair to your cute little bottom. Love you Ziva all the way to the moon and back!

Thankful this Mother's Day for my two buttons of love. Love how special they make this day for me.

State of Mind

I have recently met and heard of a few couples where the wife would like to return back to the U.S. Every time we hear one of those cases Suresh will turn to me and say 'Do you want to return to the U.S.?'
He is asking me. He is confirming that I am still happy with my decision. He is making sure I haven't changed my pleading mind. Pleading because I begged of him 2 years ago for the Exodus from  U.S. No we were not slaves in the U.S. But I was missing home.
I have firmly said 'NO!'. At least so far . I am not sure what tomorrow will bring. Maybe we may have to return back. I do not know.  Please do not misunderstand. U.S. was wonderful and I had 11 wonderful years there. I would not exchange a second of those 11 years to being in India. I just love being here - in India. Close to family. I love that I can afford help and that the help I get - I am very comfortable with. I love that If I decide to suddenly book tickets and visit my folks, it is not an emergency. And I love that I do not have to spend over $5000 of hard earned money every time I get homesick .... Now it costs me about Rs 5000.

Maybe I provoke Suresh to ask me the 'return question'. My last conversation that ended up this way was because I was talking about my friend's wife who wanted to return to the U.S. A little bit about that couple, my friend grew up in the U.S. His wife grew up here in India. My logic is she would adjust perfectly. My insensitive words were ' I cannot understand why she wants to go back'
Suresh's reply 'You would too if you lived in a village like she does. Loosing your freedom. Not being able to go in and out at your pleasure.'
I silently agreed. Today, however, on my bike ride as I went to buy a few veggies and found myself arguing with the veggie vendor, I realized something. I would not lose my freedom. No one can take that away from me.
A little tour on our locality. We do not exactly stay in a 'happening' place. My facebook 'about' may say  Bangalore. But we stay about about 25 km away from Bangalore city. Per Google maps it would take us 1 hour to get to our house from Bangalore city. When I tell people where I live, they squint their eyes and say 'where?'.  So you really cannot say that I live in the hep 'Bangalore'. Its true that the community I live in is really nice. In fact it is so nice that I hardly miss the U.S. for its facilities.   There is the strange HOA which is very unlike U.S. But I am used to it. If you met my family you would know why!
But step outside my gates and its a complete village. Now I could choose to stay within my gates. But I don't. Because there is so much outside. Right outside. There is a bakery and a 'wholesale' store. I can get eggs and masala's. If you go at 7 am to a little street corner in the center of the village, there are veggie vendors selling beans for Rs 5, Orka for Rs 5 and tomatoes for Rs 5. I can make a meal with those small quantities I buy. I will be back the next day for fresh veggies. I am trying to think and possibly the only thing I do not get there is diapers. I hope and pray that Ziva will be potty trained soon and I will not have a diaper emergency.
Is it safe? Well I do not go when its dark. I go only to a few places where I know the people. I have made a few friends who greet me 'Madam - Happy New year!' 'Madam -did you vote?' No they are not all women. I have one lady friend who gives me eggs on credit if I do not have change. She gives Ziva a chocolate once in a while. But the rest are men. Do I get stared at? Yes - because I wear pants, I ride a cycle and I have weird gear on my cycle. But will that keep me from going there. No! I have decided - no one can take my freedom away from me. Of course I will not venture into unknown spots or make conversation with strange people! But I will buy my veggies from the street corner, the eggs from the shop outside the gates. And I will enjoy Kannamangala Village while I live here.
Another thing I am grateful for is my car driving skills. This owe to Suresh who insisted on buying only stick-shift cars in the U.S. I drove in India before I left for the U.S. Having a stick-shift in the U.S. made adjusting to Indian cars very easy. The rest is the crazy traffic - well I pray a lot in the car! The past one week I have been  driving Isaac to summer camp. Some one asked me how to do you come all the way from Kadugodi! By car! No one can take my freedom from me. Not even a stick-shift car.

In retrospective - I do not think my friend's wife is returning to the U.S. because of lack of freedom. Because lack of freedom is a state of mind. I am sure there are other reasons. I can venture into a thousand on why I would go back.
But for right now - this is home.