I was puttering around the kitchen, our morning routine at its peak. Hot water with elachi, ginger, and mint simmering on one burner for our morning tea, another set of boiling water with salt and olive oil getting ready for pasta, the third burner with the dosai that was turning crispy, the chopping of veggies for the dinner happening simultaneously, the usual morning juggling act in motion. However, a cloud of doom was hanging over my head. I knew that all it needed was a small prick and the cloud would burst open with a torrential rain of words.
Da came down, and posed his standard question – did you sleep well? I did but I am kind of feeling down, I replied curtly. Then came the first born – “Good moring ma, how are you doing with the post birthday blues ma?” he asked me teasingly. And that cracked me up unexpectedly in a good way. I knew I was feeling down but I was not labeling it right. I was feeling the blues, blues of all shades and hues – the monthly hormonal imbalance blues, the post birthday blues, the monday morning blues, you name it and I was feeling it. And what was great about labeling it? If you name it, if you identity it, it has less power over you. By calling it blues, it freed me from the other emotions (PMS inflicted inadequacies, the pangs from know that a year has passed by, the urge to be productive and in high power mode during the work week etc.) that imprisoned me. More importantly, a tone of empathy when Hari said, feeling the blues? It was not something that only I went through. It is normal. It is acceptable. And you accept the blues for what they are – passing clouds, nothing more. I just need to let them drift away.
With a throbbing headache and incessant coughing, the child woke up feeling miserable. “Amma, take my temperature. I know I have a fever.” I placed my hand on his forehead and then his neck, and knew that he did not have a temperature. “You are feeling feverish kanna, but you don’t have a fever,” I tried to convince Ram.
We did the usual things that we do when we have a coughing child at home – two pillows stacked on top of each other, the third one resting on the two so the child can sleep in elevated position, and a mug and a bottle of water next to his bed for possible throwing up scenario. “Amma, can you sleep next to me?” the child asked. Of course, anything to make you feel better, I responded and settled down on his twin bed.
The child while still coughing, relaxed a bit. His head resting on my chest, as I wrapped my hand against his body. My belly rising and falling, his hand rising and falling with it. His breathing in synch with mine, we slipped into a rhythm, and the child drifted off to sleep. This is what primal feels like.
Remember I had mentioned about Destination Imagination a few months back? It’s a team based competition that encourages problem solving and critical thinking in young learners and have them work towards a grand challenge. The best part about this extra curricular activity is the policy of non-interference from parents.There are strict rules around what parents can and cannot do, and interference of any kind would result in the team being disqualified or penalized.
Ram participated in this challenge with five other first and second graders. The team was managed by Da and another parent. The team opted to compete in the category called “Game on”. They chose Monopoly as the game based on which other elements of the challenge would rest on. They had to come up with a story that had two points of view, weaving in some research about the game, making up a song, building a gizmo and props that should fit in a container. And the thing is, the kids had to build all of the elements from scratch on their own, be it writing the script of the story, lyrics of the song or building the 10 by 8 feet monopoly game that would fit in a “container”.
The team was formed in November, and the challenge took place last week. It took a good couple of months for the kids to warm up to each other, understand the challenge, and brainstorm ideas. Until about the winter break in second week of February, it was all abstract with progress made here and there. An amazon box was used as a container, with the four sides painted with different scenes, that would serve as a backdrop. The song would explain the monopoly game to the princess who was lost in the woods and had to win the game to get out of jail and escape the witch. The story was told in Princess’ viewpoint and the witch’s view point.
Although play based, the kids worked very hard, thinking actively, drawing enthusiastically, and improvising constantly. When the weather got colder and it was difficult to get together in person, they worked on their dialogues on Google Hangout. They reminded each other’s dialogues, filled in when there was a gap, and went berserk over snack time.
They were one of the youngest teams in the competition and they secured the third place. Prize or not, we could not have been prouder of them. They totally owned it! Go team DInausaur!
Gold start to Da, it was as much a delight to watch him (and his co-manager) run the show as much as it was to see the kids in action.
The impulse to write ebbs and flows but my practice of writing seems to only ebb. When the impulse strikes, the mundaness of life takes over. And when the mundaness of life takes a break, the impulse also takes a break.
So what thoughts are swirling in my head on this Saturday morning?
- All my social media feeds were filled with Women’s day wishes. I will confess that I felt like an impostor, suffered from survivor’s guilt, and thought of myself as undeserving of these wishes. I mean people are celebrating certain kind of women – the ones that have shattered glass ceilings, that have succeeded against all odds, and that have shown immense strength, courage and resilience. All of which are excellent reasons to celebrate. But instead of naming days like Woman’s Day or Mother’s Day, in my not so humble opinion, I think we should have days like the Day of Resilience, Day of Nurturers, Day of Courage etc. I mean why should just being a woman be a cause for celebration? Why are men of courage and strength left out? Let ordinary women have the honor of wishing the extraordinary, women or men, in their lives.
- After a long long hiatus, Ram and I are reading together again. We are currently reading Swami and Friends by R.K. Narayan. This has been a pleasure at so many levels. Ram’s class is “collecting words” so we were collecting some “un” words in the chapter – unnoticed, unobserved, unfortunate, undoing… and few more that tickled us in the moment but that I have long forgotten. Other than Calvin and Garfield, Ram now has found a new hero in Swami. Ha, the world through the eyes of Swami is so delightful and relatable. And for me, the writing reminded me so much of how my thatha used to write. You know the kind that starts with “Seeking the blessing of Lord Rama” , with fine lanugage, immpecable grammar, no strikeouts, just the words seamlessly flowing on paper.
- Hari has registered for his High School courses. Yes, yes, this baby of ours that we dropped in preschool yesterday is going to high school tomorrow. I went through all emotions. On curriculum day, I justed wanted to turn around and go home. Then I agonized over whether he was taking up too much workload. Then I started doubting if he was taking courses that matched his potential. Then all that back and forth discussion between the three of us, and then with the counselors. It’s not as much about the process being hard as it is about being new to us. After going through all that, I feel a sense of calm, readiness, and even excitement for this child of ours…!!
- My workplace went through a significant milestone and I am in the midst of humungus changes. It is not fun but one that is needed for me to shake my inertia and pay attention to my career path. Between work related changes, and my other passions taking a back seat, I do get restless and feel like I am in a slump on some days. Thankfully, the sense that I should take ownership for making things happen propels me from that state.
That’s some unsolicited peek into my life this morning. Have a good weekend folks!
The house is quiet. Ram is drifting to sleep. Hari has texted me saying that he and Da will be home in another 30 mins after his Sunday evening cricket practice. Ha, thinking of the kids make my heart leap with joy and makes me relive some of the little moments with fondness.
Ram is Hari’s Fitbit sidekick. When Hari is falling short on his steps count, he ties the gadget around Ram’s wrist, which makes him responsible for moving the needle on the Fitbit. Ram, who has no gadget of his own, is thrilled to bits and is happy to parade around the house to help out his brother in his mission. Lately, he has figured out that he doesn’t have to walk to add the steps, all he needs to do is shake his wrist. This evening, Ram has been dutifully multi-tasking with the flipping of Asterix book on one hand, and shaking his wrist on the other hand.
I am also reminded of the conversation that we were having on our way to Sunday school this morning. Hari was generally mocking us (his parents) for our reaction to his grades. “You only got 90 out of 100? What happened to the 10 marks Hari, is what you guys would ask. But when I didn’t do as well on one challenging math test, you were ok with it. That’s my life Ram!”, he proclaimed in a melodramatic fashion that only a teen can. Listening intently to this, Ram grandly concludes, “Hari, I think it is better if we just get lower marks then.”
Da and I were having an argument over something. Hari came upto me and said it was uncomfortable to be a witness to the argument. “Sorry babes, but I have all these emotions and feelings that needed an outlet,” I explained in an attempt to keep it real. “Amma may be you can have a Screaming Day. On Screaming Day, go to a quiet place, and give it a rip I say.” “But Hari that will be no fun because nobody else other than me will be miserable,” I retort and both of us start giggling imagining the whole scenario. A few seconds later Hari says, “By the way on Screaming Day, I would like to come with you too. I have a thing or two to scream about you see.”
10 days into the new year already. Day by day, our overall workload is ramping up. Pausing for a serving of little moments from this week.
- “Ram, why do you have that pillow on the side in your bunk bed,” I asked him annoyed at the clutter. “My hand gets tired when I am reading amma, this pillow is to rest my hand and hold the book at the right angle,” he replied leaving me amused. “And why do you have books tucked under your pillow. If you remove them, you can sleep comfortably, right?” I rested my case. “It’s ok amma. It’s not uncomfortable. When I wake up early, I am too lazy to get down and grab a book. This way I can just be lazy and read in my bed.” Gotta love this planned deliberate laziness! Gave me a chuckle and a smile a mile long.
- Have you read about the Love Languages by Gary Chapman? It came up in one of the workshops that the middle school conducted. Curious to know my Love Language, I took the quiz and so did Hari. It sounds cheesy but trust me, give it a shot. You will learn something about yourself. It can be done with partners or with your child. The premise being not all of us love and expect to be loved in the same manner. By understanding our love languages, we can enrich our relationships. It makes a lot of sense to me. Now that I know Hari’s love language I will go an extra mile to express my love for him in a language he appreciates. Want to know mine? Mine is Acts of Service and Quality Time. It was somewhat of a aha moment! Now I just need to convince Da to take the quiz, who of course looks at it with disdain.
- Set up my new iPhone XR from work. I am not a lover of gadgets, but even for me it was nice to play with a new toy. My eyes lit up whenever I discovered a new feature.
- A NY ritual that I picked from my dad is sending out new year wishes to near and dears. Once a year, I send lengthy emails updating folks about the happenings in my life. One or two respond generally respond, and I have felt a bit silly about writing long emails. But this year, a few more folks responded and cared enough to provide a general update on their life. Their life changes were so inspiring and galvanized me into action.
Tudlu for now. I still have a couple of Costa Rica posts in my head that I hope to pen down here.
Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth in Happier with Gretchen podcast have a segment called Goldstar and Demerit. Think of Goldstar as a pat on the shoulder or a smiley face 🙂 and a Demerit as a kick on the bottom or a frowning face 🙁. In a fit of silliness, I started doling out Goldstars and Demerits to the kids during the trip and somehow it has caught on. Every now and then, the boys now come up to me and ask , “Do I get a Goldstar for cleaning up?” “Do I get a Goldstar for doing my homework on time?” I think it is beginning to mean something to them, I can see their eyes shining at the mention of Goldstar. Funny, what started of as a joke is evolving into something more meaningful.
Why not some travel related Goldstars to all of us?
- Goldstar to Da, for taking the plunge, and booking the tickets. I kept dilly dallying, procrastinating and feeling utterly overwhelmed. Not knowing where to begin, I conveniently resorted to inaction. Also, Goldstar to Da for constantly making conversations with the Ticos to get local knowledge on places to visit. Thanks to him, we visited the botanical garden and learnt about the artisans shops, which we would not have uncovered otherwise.
- Goldstar to Hari, for carrying us through this trip with his spanish. He has had only two years of training at school, so is not an expert by any stretch of imagination. Yet, he conversed with the driver, the shopkeepers, and the restaurant folks. Thanks to him, we did not feel the pinch of visiting a country that spoke an unfamiliar language. Mighty proud of him!
- Goldstar to Ram, for being a trooper. The child had ear infection, bronchitis, and was coughing throughout the trip. But he held on, did not complain, and was eager to take in the travel.
- Goldstar to yours truly, for ensuring the house was in order before we left and that our routine would be seamless following our return. I also read up a lot and familiarised myself with the Costa Rican culture prior to the trip.
- Goldstar to my friends, P and V. We went to Costa Rica from New Jersey. P’s place in NJ is like a second home for us. We go there without even packing our toiletries. Not only did we have a good time there, P helped us with all things that we would need before and after travel. My childhood friend V, did the housekeeping for us here, and welcomed us with home cooked meals and groceries for this week. Truly, I have the best of friends!