30 January, 2008

Speechless Moments !!

It was one of those moments – the kind where your child says something and leaves you totally choking and speechless. Words just refuse to string together inside of your head and you don’t know what to say.

And while you are still basking in the glory of what your child just said to you, in the background you hazily hear the cacophony of other people – total strangers - voicing their approval and delight at what your child just said.

Yeah – one such moment. Mommy had one such moment and all thanks to who else but the innocent looking and ever so cheeky Abhay.

It happened yesterday.

Abhay and Mommy were getting back home from school. There were no school buses around yesterday and as a result no bus mothers around. Especially after the bus mother episode the other day, spotting a bus mother has kind of become a favorite pastime. Oh !! The surroundings can get so boring sometimes without bus mothers around !!

So on we went, trudging up the flight of stairs that would take us to our apartment block. On the way, as is normally the case, Abhay treated Mommy to a narration of the day’s happenings at school.

We got to the road and quite ritually, before crossing the road, Abhay looked left and right to make sure there were no vehicles and gave mommy the green light saying we could now cross the road. Sometimes Mommies just don’t have an idea of the traffic and pedestrian rules, you see. Always better to take extra care when helping Mommy cross the road !!

Once we reached our apartment block and were in through the second door without having to punch in the security code, as is normally the case, Abhay ran off to talk to the “security uncle” while Mommy waited in the lobby for the elevator. Mommy could hear Abhay chattering away to the “security uncle” in English and the uncle chatting away with Abhay in Cantonese. Even though neither one of them can really understand what the other is saying, they seem to have struck some kind of an equation. It is nice to watch the banter :-).

Both elevators were being held by someone in the upper floor and we could not take the fire escape stairs as the stairwell was being thoroughly washed and there was water and soap all over.

It was a while before the elevator got to the Podium. By then, there was a teeming mass of humanity waiting to make their way into the elevator. Abhay got back to the lobby and dutifully waited for the others to make their way into the elevator.

Simple reason why he waits – because he wants to jump into the elevator. Just in case anyone started to think that his motive was altruistic !!

Once he had jumped into the elevator he wanted Mommy to jump in as well. Now that would have been some sight.

“Jump Mummy Jump” he squealed in obvious delight.

Mommy decided to use Reverse Psychology and said

“OK. Here I go.”

Mommy was just about to holler "Brace !! Brace !!" for the benefit of the others in the elevator before she jumped in when .......

“Wait Mummy Wait” said Abhay, his voice going up a few octaves.

Incidentally, the others there seemed in absolutely no hurry to get home and were enjoying the spectacle that was unfolding in the elevator.

“No Mummy. Mummy don’t jump into the lift” said Abhay

“If Mummy jumps into the lift and falls down then ……”

Those little eyebrows had crinkled together and he looked really worried. And Mommy was rather pleased that the little guy was so thoughtful that the idea of Mommy falling down in the lift actually had him worried.

“Awwww. Sweetie” thought Mommy … while Abhay finished his sentence

“If Mummy jumps into the lift and falls down, then ……… the lift will broke.” said Abhay with a satisfied look on his face. The look of a job well done.

Mommy was rendered speechless.

And Mommy could hear the cacophony of other people – total strangers - voicing their approval and delight at what he'd just said.

The “Ha Ha Ha” in the elevator was resounding.

Mommy just went ahead and joined them too.

It is worth having a good laugh anytime.

So what if it is at one’s own expense !!!!!

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28 January, 2008

The Interview is Done and Over with .......

...... and Abhay has been accepted and offered a Primary One place in the ESF School.

We’d been for the interview today morning and about 45 minutes into the interview process, he came walking down the stairs with one of the Primary One teachers who was on the interview panel. And this is what she had to say .......

“Abhay has been accepted for a place in Primary One. It took him about five or ten minutes to warm up to the place. But once he did, he started to speak up well. His language skills are very good and so is his sentence construction. He immediately volunteered when the children were asked if they wanted to draw and color something. He could also explain and articulate about his drawings very well.”

She showed me the drawing too. It is a drawing of “his family”. All four of us sitting together and building something with Lego Blocks.

“He said all of you like to sit together and make things with Lego Blocks” said the teacher. “He said that you all play together a lot”.

“He spoke a lot to me about space and rockets. He really loves the subject and it was lovely to hear him talk about it.”

"The only area I feel he can do better is in interacting and playing with other children. Get him involved in larger groups of children so that he gets more confident interacting with them. It will also help him a lot in the classroom which will have 30 children”

As for Abhay, the moment we stepped into the school campus his eyes all but popped out of his head. From being used to a small kindergarten to a huge campus like this one. With a bit of encouragement, he was off and running, exploring the place.

The gleam in his eyes was visible and his excitement palpable when he started to look at the many different boards set up all around the school - all full of artwork done by children from various different classes. "So many artwork" he exclaimed before he ran off to look at another wall which had been decorated to resemble an aquarium.

His mouth actually dropped open when he saw the playground. "Aaahhhh. The play area is so biiiiiiiiggg" he said, and the look on his face was almost as though he had come face to face with one of the planets in the solar system !!

No wonder he kept running off to the loo - cos to get there he had to navigate through the area which led to the playground !!

On our way back home, as Abhay chattered on excitedly about the steady stream of traffic on the road, my mind did drift rather idly to two little bits of conversation from the past.

Two voices resonated a thumping beat inside my head.

One voice belonged to his Year One Kindergarten Teacher – screeching and shrill as she shrieked with absolute finality like the high priestess of some cult decreeing “There is absolutely nothing independent about him. He has learnt nothing from this year of kindergarten. And I am definitely not putting up his name for Year Two of Kindergarten because he just is not ready for it. He will not be able to cope, he will not be able to handle it. He is just not mentally and emotionally developed enough for his age”

The other voice belonged to his Year Two Kindergarten Teacher – calm and soft as she said “He’ll do just fine. Have faith in him.”

And in his own way, he disproved that first voice which had been wrong all along.

Come August, both siblings will be heading off to the same school, albeit at two different campuses. There will be plenty of challenges heading his way as he navigates and negotiates his way through school. There may be teething troubles, there are definitely bound to be hurdles - but that is the initiation into this journey called life. To fight against the odds and give it your best.

As was the case with Aparna four years back, Abhay too will, in a few months time, take those first few steps towards a whole new definition of independence.

And as is the case with just about every phenomenon, the beginning is a particularly notable moment.

Like the Chinese Taoist Philosopher Lao Tzu said

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

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24 January, 2008

The Bus Mummy !!

The Abhayisms continue to roll in, albeit at a slower pace.

But then I’m not complaining. As long as they don’t go extinct, I’m game.

The other day, I’d been to school to fetch Abhay and as is normally the case, he stood on the sidewalk watching the school buses and their blinking hazard lights with total fascination. He wanted to wait there until the buses had left the school. And as is normally the case, Mommy dissuaded him. With a strong wind blowing the temperatures dropping, waiting around did not seem a very good idea.

Abhay, as always, wanted to know why the buses were waiting there – all empty.

Mommy, as always, explained that the bus driver was waiting for all the children who normally take the school bus home.

"Oh Goodie !!" exclaimed Abhay. "Let’s go get a rope."

"Rope ???" asked Mommy, quite puzzled and a wee bit alarmed.

“Yeah. Rope.” said Abhay

“Why do we need a rope ?” asked Mommy, her perplexity increasing by the second.

“We put a rope on the children and then all the children will go in a line to the bus fast fast. And the bus driver can close the bus door and then the bus will go. Yaaayyy !!!”

It took Mommy a couple of seconds to recover her footing. Her head was quite dizzy with thoughts of children being “roped in” towards a school bus.

“Abhay – there is someone called a Bus Mother” explained Mommy.

“Bus Mother ?” queried Abhay with a rather quizzical expression on his face.

“Yeah. Bus Mother. She makes sure that all the children get on to the bus before the bus leaves and she also takes care of them on the bus” proferred Mommy, by way of an explanation.

By then, the Bus Mother in question appeared, herding all the little children onto the bus. And he seemed to be staring at her in utter fascination. Mommy had absolutely no idea why. Little did Mommy realise that everything would become crystal clear over the next couple of minutes.

Just then, Abhay spotted one of his friends and started exclaiming “Hey let’s see the bus go”.

The friend in question was only too happy – to stand there and watch the buses leave, I guess.

Then, looking at the bus mother, the other little guy asked his Mommy “What is Aunty doing ?”

Abhay just had to pipe in – “That’s the mummy of the bus”.

“Bus not have any mummy” said the other little guy.

By now they had caught the attention of the “Bus Mummy” who smiled very benevolently at them. They were just two little children, after all. And I’m sure she had absolutely no idea that the conversation right then was pretty much revolving around her.

In an attempt to explain as to why he thought buses do have mommies, Abhay piped in “See the bus have lights behind. Bus Mummy also have lights behind”.

I understood what he meant. Thank God the Bus Mother didn’t !!!

It so happens that the jeans that the bus mother was wearing had two huge (I mean really huge) phosphorescent, shining circular yellow patches on both the backpockets of her jeans.

If one can actually die laughing, Mommy would have gone directly to heaven !!!

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23 January, 2008

The Christmas Concert....

I really don’t know how I forgot. But forget – I did. To post the pictures of the Christmas Concert at the Kindergarten.

This was the first time Abhay was “performing” on stage. He missed participating in the Xmas concert during his first year at kindergarten as we were in Bombay during the Christmas Break.

The kids danced to the song “Rockin’ around the Christmas tree” ...... and boy – what a performance it was :-)

Rockin' around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party hop
Mistletoe hung where you can see every couple tries to stop
Rockin' around the Christmas tree let the Christmas spirit ring
Later we'll have some pumpkin pie and we'll do some caroling

You will get a sentimental feeling, when you hear voices singing
"Let's be jolly, deck the halls with boughs of holly"

Rockin' around the Christmas tree, have a happy holiday
Everyone's dancing merrily in the new old-fashioned way, hey

You will get a sentimental feeling, when you hear voices singing
"Let's be jolly, deck the halls with boughs of holly"

Rockin' around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party hop
Mistletoe hung where you can see every couple tries to stop
Rocking around the Christmas tree have a happy holiday
Everyone's dancing merrily in the new old-fashioned way

Rocking around the Christmas tree have a happy holiday
Everyone's dancing merrily in the new old-fashion way

There’s no better way to say this – The Kids Just Rocked !!! Absolutely Rocked !!

And they left the adults tapping away on their feet as well :-)!!

Like Plato once said

"Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul."

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21 January, 2008

The Joys of Reading ....

I’d forgotten the simple pleasure of teaching a child to read.

By read, I mean – as in putting the phonics of each alphabet in a word together and reading the whole word.

Sounds easy, I know.

But look at the whole process from the viewpoint of children and all of a sudden “reading” gets tinted with a whole new light. For children, learning to read by themselves is a huge step. From reciting the phonetic equivalent of just a single alphabet to putting those phonetics together, making a word out of it and pronouncing it – is no easy task.

Both the siblings, right from very young ages, have been in the midst of books – a lot of books. Be it the “touch and feel” books, the hardboard alphabet books, hardboard number books or the books that came a little later – the little story books with big block letters ....... books have always been a mainstay of their lives. Regular trips to the public library, almost every week and sometimes twice during the vacations, further cemented their love for books.

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." — Walt Disney

Books stirred and spurred a world of imagination, of fantasy where words, colors and pictures come together to create vivid, vibrant, beautiful stories. They soon came to realize that such “flights of imagination” with books for company could be totally “out of the ordinary”. The appeal lay in the fact that they could lay open their imagination, their creative senses and give each of the stories a twist and a turn, as they chose.

With both the siblings, their love for stories and books initially started with books being read out to them. With Aparna, that need to “read” a book started sometime very early on in her Primary One year. I still remember how we’d sit and pore over the big letter books together in an attempt to piece each and every word together phonetically. And if ever a word eluded her, she’d seek help from the pictures in the book – looking at the pictures and trying to piece the story together and then get back to working on the elusive word.

The going was slow but it sure was fun. Gaffes were aplenty but they just served to make the whole process more amusing and entertaining. Now, seldom do we see Aparna without a book. She’s a very avid fan of Enid Blyton and her works as also authors like Mary Pope Osborne.

"There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all." ~ Jacqueline Kennedy

Abhay, until a few months back, had been quite content in having the books read out to him. It was about three months back that the need in him to “read” the books by himself began to take hold and manifest itself. Picking up on the cues, all we did was follow them. It first started with the hardboard books. He would pick out the books and then we would sit and spell the words out together. He was already conversant with plenty of spellings – thanks to the time we spent on SpellTime.

We borrowed a couple of “Starting to Read” books – Level 1 from the library. And got started. Books had caught his interest and once he's hooked onto a particular activity, he is like a dog with a bone.

And slowly but surely, we’ve gotten to a point where he is able to read the Level 1 books by himself. He concentrates, he perseveres and he enjoys that feeling of having accomplished the goal of putting the alphabets together and reading them.

Initially, his concentration was so intense that he would be hellbent on just reading the word – paying very scant attention to the storyline. Now that the art of reading a word is being steadily mastered, he reads the words individually, takes time to absorb the pictures in the book in all their colorful detail and once he reaches the last word of a sentence, he starts all over again – this time around stringing the whole sentence in one go. And now, over the past week or so, he is more or less able to keep abreast of the storyline while reading the words and stringing the sentences.

And that smile just keeps getting wider.

Like someone once said

"TV. If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they'll have with twenty-six. Open your child's imagination. Open a book. "

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18 January, 2008

School is fun ............

....... "I like going to school" says Abhay nowadays.

A mighty far cry, I would say, from last year, when the very word "school" used to make him cringe.

Through the whole of the last academic year, school had turned into an aversion of sorts for Abhay. There were plenty of incidents, some of which I wrote about here and summed the whole year up here. All in all, the first year of kindergarten for Abhay was nothing short of mental torture.

So when the second year of kindergarten began in September 2007, me and Abhay went to school on the Orientation Day. About a week – 10 days before school began, we had begun to mentally prepare him for that fact that the vacation was almost over and that schooldays would begin soon.

The anxiety in him was palpable. The disquiet was creeping upon him surely and steadily and his apprehension and disquiet at the very idea of going back to school was quite apparent.

New timings, a new classroom, new classmates and a new teacher. Lots of elements of change. How would be cope ? was the question uppermost on our minds too – especially given the fact that the previous year in school had left him with way too many negative memories.

Little did we know that he would soon come across a person in his second year of kindergarten, who would slowly, surely and steadily prove to be one of the most positive turning points in his academic life. A person, who did not think twice about going those extra five miles in helping the children settle into class and school. A person who was so spontaneous in giving and displaying her love and affection towards the children. A person who built up his confidence levels to such an extent that the “I can do it” attitude has started to slowly but steadily shine forth.

That’s Ms.S, who was, until recently, Abhay’s teacher in his second year of kindergarten.

The one thing that had always struck me about her was her warm, cheerful and sunny personality. Always natural and liberal with her hugs and her smiles and her “love you” to the children, she proved beyond doubt that love, warmth and affection go a long long way in creating and making for the right kind of atmosphere for a child to grow, thrive and learn. More importantly, for a child to blossom and flourish happily.

The manner in which she connected with the children and the kind of bonding that took place in such a short span of 3 months is nothing short of amazing. It was all pretty simple – she showered her affection on the kids from the bottom of her heart and they responded.

One little snippet of conversation that I remember till date was one that took place sometime in early October. Some topic came up about children being naughty and I remember asking Ms.S if Abhay was being naughty in class. To which she replied “I personally would say that children should be naughty. It is perfectly alright for them to be naughty as long as they know when to stop.” A very balanced approach that was.

Over these past 3 – 3 1/2 months, the change that she brought about in Abhay’s attitude towards school was astounding. Gone was that “chip in the shoulder” attitude about not wanting to go to school. In its place was a burgeoning sense of wanting to go to school. A growing and mushrooming sense of self-confidence soon evidently began to manifest itself.

The best teachers teach from the heart, not just from the book. ~Author Unknown~

And that was precisely what Ms.S did. She taught these little children from her heart, showering on them her warmth and understanding them for what they were. Little children.

Even today, when Abhay looks at the pictures from school and spots Ms.S, the smile that lights up that little face is a very fond one. It is a smile that mirrors his delight and affection. It is a smile that shines through his eyes. It is a smile to behold. And that smile speaks volumes.

As Carl Jung once said

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.

Ms.S has left the kindergarten for furthering her education. We wish Ms.S all the very best of luck in her future endeavors.

Wherever she goes, children there will be lucky to have her teach them.

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14 January, 2008

Noisy Nicknames and then some ...

The nutty siblings have quite loony parents. Even when it came to giving the nutty siblings nicknames, their loopy parents have just been getting better and better – with regard to innovative names that suit the situation.

I had written about all the eccentric nicknames that we have bestowed on both siblings in the past.

The going just gets better .......

The horrendous amount of noise that the siblings generate, proved to be the inspiration for their latest nicknames.

Here's Aparna now known as Noisy One

And here's Abhay now known as Noisy Two

They quite bring the house down and they screech and scream in total abandon and pure delight when they play together. The tiffs are more muted and serious – invariably followed by a short span of sulking – until they realize that it just is not worth wasting time sulking. I mean, when they can be creating a holy din around the house and turning the house into something that looks like a tornado just hit, why fritter away the precious element of time. When you can scream and yell like a banshee, why squander time being silent ? Sound logic actually !!!

If their friends are around too, hoo hoo – more the merrier !!! We then even have some live circus acts thrown in.

Just the other day, Mommy was casually mentioning to both the siblings about the screeches and the squeals and the yells and the yelps that they were busy generating, completely oblivious to the fact that onlookers were seriously considering investing in a pair of earplugs. To Mommy’s credit, she was trying her level best to look serious as she told the siblings that they make too much noise. And quite obviously, Mommy was failing quite miserably in keeping up that “serious look” on her face because laughter threatened to erupt at just a moment’s notice. And the siblings must surely have noticed the smiles that kept “creasing” Mommy’s “serious face”. Just when she thought they were not looking. Oh !! Moms can be so DUH at times. The siblings were visibly and quite apparently delighted to be at the receiving end of such a “lecture”.

Couple of days back, they were eerily silent for an unnaturally long time. Each lost in their own bubbles of thought and imagination. Just a span of total inertia. Indolence was in the air, lethargy was evident and the total apathy towards the resulting silence was quite deafening. Even when they were playing together, it was very very quiet. Everything was hushed, there was hardly any noise and the stillness and tranquility bordered on being disturbing !!!

“How come you guys are so quiet today ?” asked Mommy.

They looked at each other and the smiles began to line their faces, growing wider by the minute.

“Because I’m so tired” said Abhay with that cheeky grin reflected in his twinkling eyes.

Aparna had that look on her face as though she’d swallowed a bee – that look which says “I got you”. And then came the statement ........

“Just two days back Mum, you were telling us about the amount of noise we make. And today you’re asking us why we are so quiet ?”
A very mischevious grin split her face as she said “Mum – you sound confused” !!!!!

And that was followed by laughter that I can only describe as a mixture of mischief, glee and enjoyment. Needless to say, the younger sibling too followed suit without much delay.

Oh !! The boisterous and animated nutty siblings were back in action !!

And all was indeed well in our part of the world.

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08 January, 2008

Abhayisms - a waning trend !!!

Abhay"isms" are quite clearly on the decline.

As his vocabulary increases, as his power of expression through speech gains force, there definitely is the Theory of Inverse Proportion at work. What is on the decline is that element of cuteness which was so much an integral part of what was construed as an “Abhayism”.

His speech is a lot more clear cut and he knows exactly what he’s saying. As such, the room for innocent gaffes has been reduced exponentially.

Over the past couple of months, there were, however, a few incidents when we got a few doses of ‘Abhayisms’. But by and large, Abhayisms seem well on their way towards being labeled “endangered”.

Abhay loves, just loves to spin around in circles. He seems to find the “going round and round in circles” theory simply irresistible. Ever so often, he is seen going round and round with his arms outstretched at inconceivable speeds. So much so that just looking at him makes the onlooker dizzy. After one such crazy spinning episode, he was seen wandering all over the house, banging into walls, laughing incoherently and dissipating into a whole spate of giggles.

We got a glimpse into how Abhay would be if he ever were stone drunk !!!!

And try as he might, he was not able to stop himself from teetering tottering all over the house because of the momentum his body had gained during his crazy spinning cycle (I’m making him sound like a washing machine now !!!) .

And when he did finally come to a stop and had finally managed to stop laughing he was heard saying “When you go round and round then the Earth goes round and round faster and faster and faster”.

There was this Sunday when we were having Chinese food for lunch. There was Chaoed Chinese Lettuce, Egg Fried Rice and Snow peas on the side. Quite apparently, this did not appeal to Abhay simply because he did not want to eat it. And this time around, he was being repeatedly asked as to what it was about the food that he did not like. Finally he seemed to give up on the elders in the family. They can really get his goat at times. Oh Yes !! It works both ways !! Just in case anyone’s thinking that we actually got him to eat it – you’d better have a second thought coming your way. Nope !! Basically his grouch was against the greens. And he came up with a rather “Abhayish” reply as to why he would not eat greens. “That is Chinese food – not People’s food !!” he chimed.

Huh ???????????!!!!!!!!!!!! What in the name of God is that supposed to mean ??

A few days later the same statement was put across at the sight of Spinach cooked very much our own Desi Ishtyle. Aloo Palak (spinach with potatoes) too was stated to be “Indian food and not People’s food” by our very own in-house anthropologist.

Pretty convenient, is it not ????!!! And pretty conniving, is he not ????!!!

During the Xmas break we had been on quite a few outings – albeit small ones. One of them was to good ole Kowloon Park where the Rose Garden was in full bloom. And as is normally the case, the plants had been watered and there were more than enough puddles for the young ones to jump into and out of. And that was precisely this little guy wanted. He embarked quite vigorously into what he termed as “making my footprints”. And sure enough, there were plenty of little footprints (or rather shoeprints) all over the concreted pathways.

This “footprinting” activity was in full swing for quite some time, after which it got a bit tedious (for us senior humans in the family, that is). To try and dissuade him from “making any more footprints” Mommy went ahead and told him that the water was quite muddy. To Mommy’s credit, the water was indeed quite muddy by then. Mommy had rather high hopes if she thought it was going to stop him from his footprinting project. Cos pat came the reply “Mummy – if the water is muddy – can Abhay make muddy footprints ?”.

Mommy chose to give up and stay sane.

So that is the picture he presents now, for the most part. The goofyness is still evident, at times. Sometimes, his thoughts are clad in a shroud of seriousness. Many a times, the clarity of thought is dazzling. And yet, there are plenty of times when the childhood innocence shines through – so pure and so sweet – as yet untouched by the winds of change.

An extremely complex little guy, he is. He sure is changing, evolving and the now evident clarity in his speech is helping a lot many more facets of his personality surface.

He is growing up. (*sigh*)

Like Pauline Kezer once said

"Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights."

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