Monday, January 31, 2011

Patience with Division...

To remind myself the next time I lose my patience while trying to teach D something - that patience goes a long way in make learning interesting :).

In general I don't consider myself a good teacher - not enough patience - and that's the first attribute necessary for teaching of course :(. Thankfully for me, D is usually a quick learner - she picks up stuff mostly from school and retains it and needs very little fine tuning from my end, so we survive without too many battles.

But on some days, I understand that she has not completely grasped what she has learnt in school - like Division for instance. When they do it in some sort of a game in school, she found it very easy to do, but the concept as such as was not yet clear. In their Maths workbook, they use a number line, with a bunny jumping backwards - say from 10 to 0 - jumps of 2 - count the no. of jumps(5) hence 10/2 = 5. Very nice way of demonstrating I thought, but my DD didn't quite agree. As usual I lost my cool for a few mins, then tried to breathe slowly and get into her head to see how she could understand it.

Finally I hit upon using the bathroom tiles, to demonstrate to her how to jump forwards and backwards in 2s and 3s and 4s and how the numbers progress accordingly. And Voila!! In the next 10 minutes, we had the homework all done :).

Friday, January 28, 2011

It's my Life!!

I don't usually try my hand at stuff like this because writing for a subject doesn't come easy, but this one really struck a chord :). Here's the challenge: What's Your Story?
Have you ever had a magical moment when you felt two strongly opposite emotions? Love/Hate? Elation/Sadness? Anger/Sympathy? The desire to move forward yet run away at the same time?

I saw this and said to myself - Sounds just like what life as a mom is all about!
  • Aren't there moments all the time when you feel like you hate your children because they drive you crazy yet you know you actually love them?
  • Times when you're bursting with pride and happiness because of their achievements but also overwhelmed with sadness that they're growing up and away from you?
  • And especially those times when you know you should be really really angry with something that they've done, but looking at their expressions or explanations can't help but feel a little sympathetic about it ;) ?
So here I am writing as a mom(my daughter is 5.5, son is 3) who's just bursting at the seams with memories that fall under all these categories! So no fiction, no buildup, no suspense, no poetic language cos I'm definitely not an expert on any of that - but being a mom - that's what I AM :) So here goes !

On any Weekday Morning:
Start waking up the children starting from 7:00 am, keep listening to grunts and groans and excuses until finally they're up maybe by 7:30am. Same story to get them to drink their milk or eat their breakfast - everything atleast half an hour after what is planned. Not to mention the unscheduled toilet breaks in between! You really start wondering if you can keep up with this schedule every weekday for about the next 15 years!! There's that love/hate thing i was mentioning earlier.
I was an only child and always wanted to have two children so they wouldn't grow up "alone". But I had no idea that siblings could be really sweet to each other - like one stands up for the other when I scold them, but they can also beat each other up for the smallest thing! Love/Hate all over again :).

The same afternoon:
My daughter comes back from school at 3 o'clock. Before her TV time in the evening, the rule is that she must get her homework finished. When she first started doing homework - she was 3-3.5 years old, she used to need me to sit with her, ask for help with everything, be really dependent. But now at 5 and a half, she goes to her room, takes out her books, finishes her work and then comes and shows me what she's done (more because I insist on checking it than because she actually wants to!). I am so bursting with pride at my dear girl doing an entire page of addition or subtraction, and mostly correct too, within a few minutes. But I also oh so miss the days of her being a baby about it! What paradoxical creatures parents can be!!

Usually by the evening:
Just when you are unwinding and ready for the end of the day, will come all the arguments and fights between siblings, with both explaining why the other is in the wrong :). I am at the end of my patience, and really ready to boil over, but just seeing the expression on my son's face when he has done something wrong and is trying to get out of it by making a sorry face are enough to bring a smile to my face (which I hurriedly look to the side and hide - cos he already gets things a little too easy being the younger one ;)).

Bedtime:
My darling daughter still asks me to read bedtime stories, but can nearly read as well as me herself ! Goes to sleep by herself in her own bed, thought it feels like just the other night she needed me to rock her to sleep. I am currently holding on dearly to the fact that my son still needs amma to read to him.

Postscript:
Here's a link to http://www.facebook.com/closeupindia where anyone who reads this blog can post your comments (but also post here please :)!). Apparently I can win also based on your experiences/stories posted as comments :).

Linking here to fellow mommy blogger and one of my inspirations to start writing Forever Mother's entry http://crib-crib.blogspot.com/2011/01/blow-hot-blow-cold.html. Please vote for her too!

Proud Owner of a Kindle 3 Wi-Fi - A Quick Review

There are enough technical reviews out there, so I just wanted to put down my thoughts just as a book lover who wanted to move to the Kindle. Going green, not having space for more books - whichever way I want to put it, I was looking not for a lot of technical brilliance and hoopla, but really something that can seamlessly substitute my beloved books.

I know this is probably too early to be posting a review considering I got my hands on the Kindle about 4 hrs back but I am just too thrilled and need to put down my feelings somewhere. My FB friends have already heard enough since the time I've been tracking my Amazon package and then finally received it :). So to you my blogger friends here goes !

Bullet points to make my ramblings look more organized ;) :
  • I chose the Kindle Wi-Fi after much thought. The "free worldwide 3G" was a very tempting idea, and nearly until the last day I had more or less set my mind on the Wi-Fi + 3G which costs 189$. But then I thought about my kind of usage - mostly at home, definitely not a jet-setting lifestyle that I would suddenly decide that I need a book right NOW and need to order it :). Also the additional 2$ cost of ordering a book from India really put me off and I settled for the most Value for money(VFM - my latest acronym) proposition.
  • At the beginning of my search, I thought of various means of getting it - the usual being asking someone in the US to pick it up and then wait for someone to visit before getting my hands on it. But to my surprize, this was one electronic product that Amazon offered international shipping(Yes - even to India!) ! And the Amazon delivery - I am just super impressed by - Ordered on 24th night, Received on 28th morning - and able to track it every step of the way(Believe me I checked 4 times every day!).
  • My first reaction - Wow it's so sleek and so light!! I knew it was supposed to be light and easy to hold and read, but I didn't expect it to look the way it did. Pleasantly surprized and looking forward to taking it along in my handbag everywhere unlike some bulky books that I had to specially take a larger handbag along for ;).
  • The process of transferring a book to it seems simple enough. I had already downloaded a few free books in readiness. Just copied one of these (*.mobi format) to the Documents folder of the Kindle and I was all set!
  • Read a few pages and am quite wowed by the e-ink format. Don't know if it's less strain on the eyes than reading an actual book, but it's definitely not more :).
  • Amazon offers to package a power cord(at half-price) along with your Kindle. What comes along anyway (in the International Edition) is a USB cable which you can use to charge your Kindle from your computer. The power cord options were US/UK/EU/Australia so instead of ordering one of these and anyway needing an adapter I decided to just use the provided USB -- this seems to work just fine!
  • The eternal question - to cover or not to cover? I like the simple look and would have preferred it coverless, but in a house with children this is not usually a good idea :). The Kindle covers at Amazon cost 59.99$ (like the good old Bata prices - cos that sounds better than saying 60$ doesn't it ;) ). These come with a light and I'm sure must be worth their price but were too expensive for my taste. The only unlighted covers(34.99$) were from different vendors who wouldn't ship to India. Finally found some nice covers at the Amazon UK site(GadgetPlus) for 11 pounds - cost about double with the shipping charges but still seemed like a decent deal. Unfortunately didn't find anyone making tailormade covers for Kindles in India yet :(. Maybe a good market to jump into?
  • Edit: Forgot to mention the zillions of free books available out there. Not just through Amazon but also other sites and downloads. Most books out of copyright are available for free, some otherwise too ;). I have 400+ books waiting to be read already and I just started looking! Leave me a comment if you need any pointers.
There there I'm ending it now - my impromptu review of choosing and buying the Kindle and some first thoughts :). I seem to have become incapable of writing a short blog post - thanks to you all out there who humour me and read them all the same!
Oh and if my review makes you want to buy it immediately, please use the link on this post ;).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

To Sleep or Not to Sleep.. that is the question?

This one is prompted by a post about a sleepless night by Forever Mother :). Like I mentioned in a comment there, I realized I had too much to say about it so thought might as well make a post of it ;).

Enter May 31st 2005: After hours of futile labour pains and finally a c-section my darling baby comes into this world. From the moment she is born, she is the loudest baby in the entire hospital. I was expecting people to come to our room to enquire what we were doing to torture this little bundle to make her scream like that ;).
In a few days, we are back at home, and I am faced with the reality of a baby who NEEDS to sleep but doesn't WANT to or doesn't know HOW to!

Somewhere in early 2006: Finally after a lot of trial and error and sleepless or sleep interrupted nights, I have figured out a way to rock/sing/comfort her to sleep and to my wonder at about 7-8 months she starts sleeping through the night !! By now I have also perfected a mechanism of making her sleep on my outstretched legs (her feet facing my stomach, head on a pillow on my knees) by which I can seamlessly put her down after she's slept without waking her up.

May-June 2006: D is a little more than a year old. Suddenly one day she comes down from her usual position on the pillow on my legs and says she wants to sleep near me (of course there was no actual saying involved, but we understood each other :)! ). She instead compromised by lying down on my arm so I have to actually lie down with her to put her to sleep. Enter many nights when I dozed off at 9 :), but finally this was also perfected with lifting her head off my hand and onto the pillow after she was fast asleep. This phase continued for a long time.

All through 07,08,09: D graduated from not needing to sleep on my hand anymore to just wanting me to sit near her and hold her hand --- to finally being such a trooper and going to sleep all on her own since the time she was about 4 years old!! She still needed the comfort of knowing that amma was going to join her later and so we were nowhere closer to her sleeping on her own bed. But around this time, like Forever Mother mentioned in the above mentioned post, whoever slept with her used to have really disturbed nights because of her arms and legs and knees being on our face and other soft parts through most of the night :(.
Two big deterrents to our trying to make her sleep on her own were
  • She moved around so much when she slept I was really worried she would fall off the single bed.
  • Somewhere along the way probably because of something we said, she started thinking of sleeping on her own as a sort of "punishment" so started being afraid of it!
First we set about tackling point 2. Started telling her "big girl" stories, and how only big girls could sleep on their own beds. There was a Barbie book about a little girl starting to sleep on her own bed with a big teddy bear(thanks Deepa for that gift - you couldn't have known what a difference that made in our lives!!) and  the bear to sleep with was the ice-breaker on this one :). Also picking out bedsheets with her favourite characters !!
For point 1, we first tried out with her sleeping on a double bed on her own.

May-June 2010: D is about 5 years old, and the double bed experiment went off fine. So we finally ordered her a bed !! She was also quite excited about it by then, and the transition went pretty smoothly. She picks out which stuffed toy she wants to sleep with each night, and reassures herself by asking me if she's tired enough to go to sleep immediately and then she's all set! I keep a couple of pillows on either side, and weirdly (and thankfully) enough, while i find the pillows on the floor, and her feet off the bed when I check on her in the morning, she has never fallen off :).
Couple of points here:
  • If she has had an afternoon nap, she'll take a much longer time to go to sleep and gets fidgety if she's lying on the bed for ages. So we usually avoid naps, or delay bedtime accordingly. 
  • Also anyday she wakes up in the middle of the night and wants to join amma or appa on the big bed, she is welcome to do so - this is a big comfort factor for her and has helped the process a lot :). Though she hardly does so anymore, just the fact that she's allowed to do it is such a big deal for her!
Love you so much my dear baby girl - you have moved through all the phases so easily and smoothly that I cannot believe that my "loudest in the hospital" infant is now this independent darling child :).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Road Rules 101

That's what a beginner course is called, and I wish this one was among the compulsory ones!

Caution: This is a major VENT.

Walking or driving around on the roads close to my home, it makes me really angry to see the way people walk/ride/drive around with no regard to others and it bothers me that this is the kind of road discipline they would be passing on to their children. So this is my small attempt to put these "Rules" out in the blogosphere and hope it reaches some of the people out there on the roads! Call me paranoid or over-protective of my children on the road but they will grow up being considerate of others on the road for sure :).

For Pedestrians:
  1. I had missed this one while writing the post originally but when I saw it this morning, I knew it deserved no. 1. Please do not talk on your mobile and cross the road - that is not the place for "Walk and talk" !!! Stop, talk and then cross. This is especially to a mom out there whom I saw pushing her baby in a stroller and talking on the mobile, and just walking across the road without even looking left or right :(.
  2. This is what I come across most times in a day -When walking with little children, PLEASE keep them on the side away from traffic i.e. closer to the side of the road. Small children have a way of darting here and there, and not all drivers are parents themselves and cautious about stuff like this. Plus I cannot see your 2 foot toddler when I am driving close to you!
  3. If you allow your children to play cricket/badminton/football in the middle of the road (even if this road is right outside your house, it doesn't make if your private playground!), then also teach them to watch out for oncoming vehicles.
  4. When crossing a road, especially a busy one, look at the traffic signal first. If it is GREEN for vehicles, even if you don't see a vehicle right next to you, there could be a speeding vehicle heading your way with the driver trying to make it through the green signal and not bothered about looking out for your life. Look out for it yourself!
  5. 4 of you walking together - please don't walk shoulder to shoulder on a road that measures 10 feet across!
  6. In general, when you hear a vehicle or atleast when you hear someone honking, look about - it just MIGHT be meant for you because you're walking in the middle of the road or crossing without looking first. Don't wait until the vehicle is really close to you and then look irritatedly at the driver like it's all his/her fault.

    For cyclists:
  1. When in the middle of traffic, don't just suddenly cut to the other side of the road and assume the drivers will all brake to avoid you. Look around, maybe even signal with your hand to make others behind you aware of what you are going to do.
  2. Before allowing your child to ride a cycle on their own on busy roads, follow them a few times without their knowledge to see how they behave when you are not around.
For Drivers:
  1. You're driving a car/2-wheeler on a narrow road and you see a group of parents/children on either side of the road not giving you way. Don't drive faster and then honk urgently to make them move out of the way - Slow down instead!!
  2. Don't drive like a maniac on residential roads then feel the urge to honk without reason every 10 metres - wake up - there are people actually living on either side!
  3. You're at a junction, or even just a crossroads. Slow down, maybe honk lightly to make others aware you're coming through. DON'T increase your speed and drive through please. Sometimes the shrubbery in Bangalore makes the visibility at these junctions really poor and someone could get hurt.
  4. Before parking your car please do think about the following:
                    a. Is it a corner - it completely blinds anyone trying to make a turn.
                    b. Is another vehicle parked on the other side of the road? Then check how much space you're leaving for other vehicles before deciding where to park.
                    c. Are you parked as much to the side of the road as possible? As most residential roads have just about 10 feet of space for vehicles to pass, it doesn't help if you take up 5 feet into the road, just because you're scared of parallel parking!

MOST OF ALL, let's not pass on this disregard for rules to our children. They will learn what they see, so please let's mind what they see and teach them to be safe rather than disrespectful.

Feel free to add more of your own :).

Speech for school

This was the speech I made at the Parents day celebrations at my children's school - meant every word of it too :)

Hi Everyone, I'm Aparna - mother of Damita and Shehan and I'm here to share my experience as a Siksha parent. My first memory of Siksha is in 2007 Apr when Damita was not even 2 years old, and we were looking for a place where she would not be lost in the crowd and would be looked after well. Well both those thoughts have definitely been achieved much beyond our expectations!



I remember pestering Neetha and Harish to take Damita at 2 years itself, but since that was not possible for Montessori she finally joined at 2 years 5 months. Atlast ! (I felt because both she and I had been going bonkers trying to keep her creatively occupied at home) ! :) The child that joined Siksha knew only a few basic words of english, so much so that I worriedly told Neetha that she might need to speak tamil to communicate with her. And now the same Damita talks about a hundred words a minute and if you ask her to reply in Tamil she’ll say "I don't know Tamil!!" :). She has grown to enjoy school so much that I can hurry her up in the morning by saying "I won't take you to school if you don't get ready on time!". She has always had a great relationship with her Geethanjali aunty who has been a big reason for her enjoying her time at Siksha so much! Thank you so much Geethanjali aunty!


I wanted to mention a couple of things in particular, which are a concern for all Montessori children's parents. The first is about Phonetics. I think this concept is now a lot better known than it was even 3 years back when I heard of it mostly through Damita. But still as parents when we listen to our child saying "a" "buh" "kuh" instead of "a" "b" "c" it almost sounds like they're speaking a foreign language! Not to mention the pressure from all quarters for children to know to recite “ABC” !! But once we get over those initial apprehensions and jump into the process, maybe read up a little about it, or just learn along with your child - it can be a wonderful experience. I had such great fun with it - and because I also wanted to encourage a love of reading in Damita - as soon as she showed an interest in words printed in the newspaper or on magazine covers, we spent a lot of time figuring out the rules of reading using phonetics and I am so proud that Damita is a star reader now!


The other concern that is the biggest thing on our minds is about school admissions. I think this leads to a lot of people pulling out children after just a year or a few months of the Montessori program. But as we have seen with Damita, in 1 year the child has just about started getting the benefits of the Montessori method. As they grow into the second and third years, that is when they get into more complicated concepts in English and Mathematics, and you fill find them learning about them in such interesting ways. Damita spoke of Addition strip board and Rabbits jumping and so many more like that that it just made me wish I had learnt things that way. I definitely never thought children could understand multiplication with such ease! We have reached a stage that I hardly have to help Damita with her homework except when I want to keep track of what she is doing :). Of course there are days when I have to nag her to do it, but what's the fun of being a child without moments like that :). And more and more from a primary school's point of view, I think they are becoming much more aware of the Montessori method and are becoming open to taking children at the 1st std level. We found quite a few options when we looked around, and in a couple more years I'm sure there'll be even more!


And let me not forget to mention the extended session through which the children get exposure to a classroom (with benches and blackboard) kind of environment, and it also makes the parents get creative in packing their lunches as they start having them at school ;).


Damita has been in Siksha for 3+ years now - she joined in Nov 2007 - and we have had no second thoughts about our decision to choose this school. We have also cemented our relationship with Siksha further by admitting our son Shehan in July this year. He also has grown to love his Vini aunty and is enjoying going to school and I'm glad that the experience will continue for him for the next 3 years !! I would like to thank Neetha, Harish, Pratibha, Geethanjali, Vinaya and all the other aunties and also the help staff of Siksha for our wonderful years with Damita and wish you all the vert best for all your future aspirations for the school. Thank you!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tech Savvy Generation..

When my husband got his iPhone a few weeks back, picture me - handling it gently and as reverently as possible - but the two youngest members of the household took to it so fast that I was a bit ashamed of my hesitation ! I have now stopped being surprized by the complete lack of fear/doubt in my children while adopting a new and unfamiliar technology.
Here goes trying to capture the tech-friendly activities of my household. For the record, Damita is 5 yrs 7 mths, and Shehan is 2 yrs 10 mths :).
  1. D's first exposure to chess will be on the iPhone! She's fascinated when her dad plays and I'm sure she'll get to it pretty soon. She also is quick to demonstrate to me how to get to some menu item or to play some game if I show the slightest hesitation on how to do it :).
  2. S who's not yet 3 can already unlock my Nokia phone and get to the music folder and play his favourite song. Of course this also means he unintentionally calls the first number on my phonebook sometimes ;). Am planning to store my home number under "AAAAA" so noone else will get bothered.
  3. D has been playing Bowling on the Nintendo Wii for a while now and with her example to follow even S can play on his own now. He can even serve the ball while playing tennis but obviously cannot follow through :). D is also quite good at other puzzle based games on the Wii.
  4. They are both completely unafraid to handle my laptop. Initially I was very thrilled with this, and thought I should not "limit" them in exploring new stuff, but when files started disappearing or shifting location this got a bit difficult so now they are allowed to play only with "their" laptop which is the kind meant for children to learn alphabets and number related activities.
  5. S has picked up alphabets and numbers all on his own because of "playing" with the above kiddie laptop!!
  6. D of course knows the numbers of all the TV channels she likes to watch, and now to my horror even switches channels during commercial breaks! But to my complete amazement I found that even S is now able to press a 3 digit channel number(on TataSky) to get to Pogo!!!
  7. When exposed to a Samsung Galaxy Tab for the first time, S was moving his fingers around the screen and manipulating the menu like he'd done it a million times before. I was of course holding my breath as it was someone else's and I get a bit paranoid about my kids breaking something, but everyone else was just fascinated.
Sure there's lots more to that list that I can't remember right now but I'll stop for now with this experience-

I'm sure all parents know how impossible it can be for adults to have a conversation when children are also around in the room, as they are impervious to what the adults are trying to say to each other, and will keep trying to have their word instead :) !! Well I've figured that one out atlast - all it needs is one iPhone and one Android phone in each one's hand and they're glued to the games, and we can have our chats more or less uninterrupted!!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chinese Vs Western parenting ?

I was reading Garima's blog at http://mommy-in-making.blogspot.com/2011/01/why-chinese-mothers-are-superior.html and it touched a chord. That in turn points to another article where the author talks about chinese or a very strict/constraining parenting style compared to a western or more protective style. After reading all that, please come back here ;).

While the author's views sounded quite extreme, one point she made stood out to me. She said that in their methods of parenting and how they treat their child - "Chinese parents assume strength, western parents frailty". This addressed something that has been running in my mind ever since I started hearing about the suicides by young children for reasons ranging from failing an exam to being harassed at school. By being extremely protective or reassuring parents are we bringing up our children to be so frail that they are unable to face the world on their own, and any criticism or failure pushes them over the edge?
I personally am by most descriptions, a "strict" parent. I bring up my children to clean up their room after play, be polite to elders, and don't tolerate it if my daughter does an entire page of homework wrong due to inattention when she is perfectly capable of doing the same entirely correct in under 2 minutes. Although blindly pushing our children along certain paths might be wrong, it is also very wrong to let them get away with sloppiness because of being afraid to hurt their feelings! I am very vocal with my disappointment, but on the other hand I also believe in showing affection physically and in speech a lot - as this is something a lot of our generation missed out on with our parents. The "I love you"s and the hugs were more understood than said or done out loud and I don't think that's the way it should be. And I have also said "sorry" to my child when I misunderstood something she said or did :).
 
I have berated myself many a time wondering if I am doing things right. I definitely want to protect my children forever, but they need to be prepared for dealing with the outside world, and I want to equip them well so that they become truly confident people ready to face anything and come out strong at the other side.
 
Postscript: Above all else, the channel of communication between parent and child must always be open - if the child feels they can share ANYTHING with you, then they will hopefully be able to come and talk to you when something is bothering them.