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A new leaf in an existing chapter

After a break of nearly three years, I joined Bharathanaytam classes a couple of weeks back. I figured I am not the self-driven kind that practices quietly behind the scenes purely for the love of the art form. I need a routine, a structured class, and a sense of camaraderie with other dancers to keep the flame burning.

Last Sunday, as I was driving back home after my first class, I felt immensely thankful and humbled. Thankful for being able to pursue the opportunities that come my way as and when the inspiration strikes. And humbled by the unwavering support I receive from my family, especially Da, who is thrust with the responsibility of holding down the fort while I am away merrily pursuing one interest after the other.

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Ram Leela

Ram Leela

Ram is seventeen months old. February has been a rough month for the little fella. Nothing serious, just some minor health setbacks – a stomach bug here and a broncholitis there. But did that stop this pint sized person from scaling new heights when it comes to ransacking the house? Far from that, he has been steadily extending his territory room by room.

One should learn how to be in the NOW from little toddlers. Whatever Ram does, he does it with so much focus and intensity as though that is the only thing that matters in the moment. It doesn’t matter that it is monumentally impossible to do what he wants to do. Be it wanting to peal the vibrant designs out of the Ikea rug, pull and drag the window blinds along with him, or blow raspberries on his own belly, the child gives it his best without a grain of doubt.

Words are overrated, it’s all in the context according to our little toddler. If Ram is next to the sofa and says, “appu, appu, appu”, it means he wants to climb on the couch. If he is close to stair case and says the very same words, it means he wants to go upstairs. But if he is inching to the basement stairs, “appu” would then mean down!

He is barely half his anna’s height, but that doesn’t hold him from putting up a good fight with him. When there is a conflict, he pushes his big brother with all his might. Hari knows that he is not allowed to fight back and so is becoming quite the expert at redirecting the toddler. And every now and then Hari would scream in desperation – “Oh no, rowdy kutti is here!” as he scrambles for his lego pieces and comfort items.

Remember how I told you Ram likes to watch me cook? These days I get a running commentary while he is merrily seated on my hips taking in all the entertainment. When I make tea, he would eagerly exclaim, “tea tea”. When I spill something, it is accompanied by background humming of “uh oh”.  He knows where the tea strainer is, that scissors could be used to open packages (oh no!), and the milk can with the red cap is the one that’s meant for him.

I could spend all my day just watching the silly antics of this little child and find every second of it endearing..! That is, as long as I overlook the ruckus surrounding us.

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Ram Leela

Toddler Tales

We haven’t talked about Ram in a while, have we? Want to know what this little mister is up to these days? Please note that this post is more for the purpose of recording his milestones than for reading pleasure.

We rejoiced the onset of toddler tantrums, stubbornness and meltdowns late last month. Very natural and age appropriate behavior. After all with every passing day he is realizing that he is not a mere extension of his mommy. And with that knowledge comes the need and desire to be independent and figure out where his boundaries lie. The first few meltdowns left me exasperated, but with time I am learning to identify the triggers and what battles NOT to pick. I am teaching myself to  be compassionate while being firm and consistent. To be firm and consistent without being rude. These days I actually find these episodes darn cute. When he is in tantrum mode, I would tell him – “Sorry kannama, amma cannot give this to you. But amma can give you a hug. Want to come?” The second he hears me utter those words, he would do the exact opposite. He would distance himself from me, face the wall and weep uncontrollably. The very next moment he would come rushing  for some cuddles and kisses. I would hold him tight wanting to freeze that split second when a smile spreads on his face even as the last drop of tear stays firmly planted on his eyelashes.

Ram is capable of carrying out any instructions. As soon as we come downstairs to get ready for the day, I would tell him, “Kannamma poi ommachi kapathu pannu” , meaning go say your prayers, and he would rush to the altar to hum a little slokam and would throw himself down as a mark of salutation. Of course, it is another thing that there are times when he would choose not to indulge us depending on his interest in the underlying request. For instance, he hates to have his diaper changed. When I call him for a change, he would swiftly nod his head from left to right, and would try all tactics up his sleeves to dodge the said activity.

Ram is learning his body parts. He likes to point to his head and say “head” when we sing the head and shoulder, knees and toes song to him. He can recognize his mouth, nose, hands, and others. The belly button is his favorite though. We call it Bee-bo (from the Belly Button book by Sandra Boyton), and he likes to call it Baa-bee. He loves to lift his dad or mom’s t-shirt and blow raspberries on their bellies early in the morning. Yes, that’s his payback time for all the raspberries we blow after his diaper change.

Shape sorter, wooden puzzles, and balls are some of Ram’s favorite toys. He builds towers with simple blocks, and with a bit of luck he manages to put the shapes in the right slots. He also loves to play with toys that have  sounds. He would turn the music on and sway this way and that. And the child loves to pretend play. He likes to wear anna’s broken goggles, his crazy hat, etc. He would bring two of his plastic sippy cups and offer a “drink” to us and wouldn’t let go unless we tell him “nalla irruke, rhombha nalla irruke” (tastes yum!). If he runs out of things to play with, he would grab his lunch bag, and declare to all of us “Bye bye” and head to the door. However, no matter how many toys he is surrounded with, his eyes are always tracking anna. Anything anna has should be more interesting and cool than what he has.

Ram loves things that are grouped together like pencils, markers and crayons in anna’s stationary box, chess and checkers coins stored in a zip lock, and the plastic containers tucked away in kitchen cabinets. It is not uncommon to hear one of us shriek his name n fury after stomping on these small coins or pieces that sure is very hurtful.

He also loves to stay perched on me and observe with his eager eyes when I am cooking. Be it making dosai or seasoning with mustard seeds, he finds them amusing and entertaining. Da and I think he will become a chef some day.

He continues to be a foodie but he is becoming more selective about what he would eat. Blueberries, bananas, and kiwis that were once his favorite food are now treated with disdain. Pasta, veggies, and curd are doing the rounds these days. He eats very well with a spoon, even semi liquids such as oatmeal.

Want to know the sweetest of all developments? He can give hugs and kisses, sort of.  After I drop him off at day care, I would ask him to come to me for a hug and kiss. He would immediately rush to me with overflowing affection. No wonder we are all head over heels in love with this little shaker, faker and trouble maker!

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Hari Katha, Ram Leela

Teething Troubles

Hari was uber exuberant when he came home after dinner at Panera Bread. It must be the mac n cheese and fruit punch, his usual at Panera, that has him soaring high in the sky, was my initial thought. But even before I could pop that question to him, he came rushing to me wearing the widest grin ever, and stuck his face inches away from mine, which left me dancing up and down in excitement.

The wiggly tooth at the bottom right that kept bothering him endlessly was now missing. No, this was not the first time he was losing a tooth. In fact, it was his fourth. But the jubilation was because this was the first time the missing tooth left a gaping hole. In the earlier three instances, the grown up tooth established its presence stubbornly before the milk tooth could make an exit. Not this time though. He was finally an otta palla. “Amma I am now equal to my friend D, who has four fallen teeth”. Of course, for the past couple of days he has been dutifully trying to expedite the falling of his top tooth, which has been sliding this side and that, in an effort to beat D’s record.

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If Hari has been losing teeth, Ram has been gaining them. Every time Ram has a tooth cutting in, he goes through a miserable phase. He swims in his own drool. He gets bouts of fever and diarrhea, and has sleepless nights. Poor child.  But all is well that ends well, isn’t it? You can now spot eight shiny white pearls when he giggles and he sure puts them to good use.

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Hari Katha, Ram Leela

Ram Leela

The period around a child’s first b’day is a huge turning point. Not only is he more mobile, but also his intellectual and emotional capabilities are very tangible. You realize that he is more  than a cute, tender, cuddly, and dependent being. Someone with a little personality and a mind of his own. Little wonder that we have been oohing and aahing at some of Ram’s developments.  Here are some recent ones.

– When I drop Ram at day care, he understands that this is where he is going to spend most of his day. He happily waves and says bye bye to me, and even before I can reciprocate the gesture he hurries up to shut the door. Likewise, when I go to pick him up he would take his lunch bag from its designated spot and wave bye bye to his caretakers. The beauty of consistency and routine.

– Sure, being a second child has its advantages. For instance, the connection between a ball and a bat or a pen and paper comes naturally. When Ram sees a bat, he has to get hold of a ball as well. For now, he is happy to hand over the ball to one of us, and roam around the house with a bat in his hand.

– Ram loves playing catch with anna. You should see him trying to walk sooner than his little legs can carry him with a naughty smile on his lips when Hari calls out for him to play catch. When it comes to going out, appa is the man even when amma is dressed in jacket and shoes. But when it’s time to eat, nap, or some TLC, he is a mommy magnet just like anna.

– If you thought that Hari can boss him just because he is older to him by six years, nothing is farther from the truth. Yeah, there are times when Hari would call him “Ram baby” with frustration in his voice, but the anna loves him too much to use his age as an excuse to be bossy. Ram for his part will put up a good fight and stand up for himself to make up for his size and age.

– Ram has taken to reading these days. His favorite book being Good Night Gorilla. He loves to see and point all the animals lined up behind the zoo keeper. He loves to flip the book in a hurry as though he cannot wait to see what’s happening next although it’s the same sequence every time he reads the book. The wonder never ceases.  I love to see Hari drop everything and gravitate towards us when I am reading to Ram. Very nice to see that at a time when he has graduated to reading by himself, he still takes delight in skimming through board books.

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Hari Katha

Emails, passwords, and spammers

We had created an email account for Hari a few years back but never really used it. Now that he reads and writes, we have started using it as a medium to keep him posted on things pertaining to him. He seems to be getting a flavor for it. His first few emails were around, “Amma, you are the best mom in the whole world”, then he used emails to coax me into doing things, “Amma, do you think we could go to park today, please, pretty please?”. Sometimes he would reply with maturity, “Amma, thank you for your encouragement. I hope to do good”.

I love love getting these emails with so many different flavors. The formal tone of the emails laced with stretching spelling, typical for a seven year old, is another reminder to me that although he is so matured and grown up on the outside, deep down he is still a little child. The reserve of innocence may be depleting but it’s still there.

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“Amma, do you want to know my email password”, asked a rather excited Hari. “Only if you want to share it with me”, I replied pretending not to know what it is. He whispered the password and told me to keep it as a secret. “Why should it be a secret Hari”, I asked to pick his brain. “Because if you say it loudly some robber might hear it and break your computer”. Ha, password security through the eyes of a first grader.

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“Why does Yuna keep writing to me always amma”, asked a rather puzzled Hari as he was checking his email account to reply to folks that had wished him for his b’day.  The question cracked me up as I explained to him, “Hari, remember the last time we talked about it? Like how we have strangers in real world, we have strangers that write to our email ids. They are called spammers. Like how you are not suppose to talk to strangers unnecessarily, you should not open emails from someone you do not know.”  Yuna was so real to him. Someone who doesn’t know him would know his email id and would actually write to him was so unfathomable to Hari. I think he gets it,  sort of. In his words, “I am going to call Yuna as Junk Girl from now on mama.”

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Hari Katha

Turning seven

Dearest Hari,

If last year we were coming to terms with your  growing up right under our noses, this year we have been soaking in that experience.

This year you got your  first hard earned pay – a Quarter for sweeping the leaves on the drive way and collecting yard waste in the recycling bins. You worked on it close to an hour, and gave it your all. You thought the earth would get cleaner because of this noble act of yours – “Mama, I think the neighbors will be jealous looking at our clean drive way and would want to clean theirs. If everybody gets jealous then the earth will become cleaner”. Yes child, when you take pride in what you do, the possibilities are endless. And there is no better reward than knowing that you have made a difference in your own little ways.

You have been a sports maniac this year. An indispensable part of your morning routine is checking sports news, and scoreboards, and discussing them with appa. Likewise a non-tradeable part of your evening routine is playing some cricket/soccer/baseball with appa. Not wanting to be left out, I indulge you once in a while. You and I go to the tiny room in our basement, and play some cricket while we fight over songs that we want to play on YouTube.

You are a stellar big brother material. I love how you carry Ram around and take him to the door knob to see his reflection on the metal – “is he happy that I am lifting him amma? Do you think he loves me more than he loves you?” As much as you love him, sometimes you feel like he gets special treatment from us.  “Amma why does Ram have nicer parents than I do? You treat me like I am already in college”.  And I tell you, “Wait a little longer child. Very soon you will notice that Ram’s parents are not so nice after all”.

You have become an expert in coming up with wisecracks. The other day I was teasing Ram and you, “From now on I am going to call Ram, who can turn the world upside down with his budding vocabulary and  body gestures, as Prince Rowdy, and Hari, who somehow can find an excuse to not do what he is asked to,  as Prince Dodger”. A couple of minutes later you came up to me and said, “Amma, I have a new name for you. How about Princess Maddy (because you get mad a lot) or Princess No (because you are an expert at telling no).”  Sigh! those who are in glass houses should not throw stones at others.

I like how you dislike being late to school or classes. I like how sometimes when I try to take the easy way out, you point the rules to me black and white. I like how although you can read anything and everything by yourself, you want me to read to you at bed time.  I like how sometimes when I am upset, like an old soul you tell me, “Amma do you want to snuggle with Ram or I? or may be you can read a book to make yourself feel better?”

As you turn seven today, here’s wishing you with the bestest of all things on your b’day and forever. Be happy, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, be kind and gentle to everyone, and always always remember to do three scoops with cherry on top in all your endeavours.  Love you kutti.

Hugs and blessings,
Amma

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