Friday, June 27, 2014

2014 Fathers Day Special

Dear C,

This post is dedicated to you; the fabulous dad you are to our kids, the superhero they see in you, the smartest person they want to emulate, the one they adore day and night, the one they feel is working so hard for our family,the one they love having wrestling matches with, the one who is their forever ready partner at board games, the one whose bear hugs and kisses they look forward to, the one in whom they cannot find a mistake, the one they always want to be with…

Sorry this post is a little belated; as usual my laziness got the better of me…

Anyways heres wishing you a WONDERFUL FATHER'S DAY…The three of us are endlessly thankful for having you in our lives - We LoVe YoU tO bItS aNd PiEcEs…

Heres what your kids have to say about the wonderful fantabulous dad that you are -

From your dearie little 3 yr old Akhi:

He colored within the black lines for the first time. And he wrote a little message - he told me the message, I dictated the spellings and he wrote it. As it looks more like hieroglyphics ;), here is what he meant to tell you "To Nana, I miss you. I love you, I will buy you a car. You buy me a car."  The McQueen on his card is you and the two smileys on tops are your two little monsters.

From your dearie little 5 yr old Siddhu:

I don't have to really talk about his writing and drawings - they are all pretty self-explanatory. :)

Does God exist?

One day S asked us, "Why does Lord Ganesha have an elephant head?". To this C told him the entire story of how Lord Ganesha was created by Goddess Parvati until how Lord Shiva beheaded the small boy. At this point we changed the story to, 

"...Lord Shiva then asked his army to search for a dead elephant with its head towards the north. The soldiers went on a search and once they found such a dead elephant, they cut its head and put it on the neck of the little boy, Ganesha, whom Lord Shiva unknowingly beheaded. Lord Shiva then blew life into this new form. That is how Lord Ganesha came back to life this time with an an elephant's in stead of a human's head…" 

Today while waiting for our food at the restaurant, 

S: If they put a dead elephant on Lord Ganesha's head, did they sew/stitch the neck and the head? If yes, why can't we see any marks (like the ones mom has after her surgeries)? If the elephant is dead its eyes and other parts of the face will stop working, then how can Lord Ganesha see with those eyes that do not work? And human body tan/white/brown etc in color and elephants are grey in color, then how did Lord Ganesha's head become tan in color?

I tried to answer to the extent possible with answers like, "Once the head came onto Ganesha, Lord Shiva did magic and everything became normal etc etc.." But after having answered S's questions for a straight 3 yrs now (ever since he could talk), I knew S will not be satisfied. And I also knew that more of my answers will lead to more complicated questions. Noticing my plight C answered him thus, 

C: Gods and goddesses live in a different world. The rules, logic, science and all that stuff which is used on the earth does not apply to those in the God world. It is like a magical world.
S: Then how did Amma see God. 
Myself: I did not see God, Siddhu.
S: Yes, you saw. You saw Swami who is God. But he looks more human than the other gods in the story books.
C: That is called an incarnation. When the world becomes full of bad people, from the God World one God comes down onto earth in a form that humans will not be scared of. That one God will correct some people and when it is time to go back into the God World, that God goes back. That form which God takes when he is on the Earth is called incarnation.
S: Nana, then another question. First of all, how was God made? Like, was He made when the earth was made? before that? after that? did He have parents? If so, how did His parents come into existence? did He just some out of space? does God really exist?
C(tired) : Siddhu, of all our family members your PTP Thatha is highly educated. He reads a lot, much more than any of us. So, I think it is best to ask him. 
S: How come Amma you did not get any of these questions when you were a kid? Am I the only one with so many questions? 
Myself : I asked questions, but never about God, His existence etc. I grew up seeing my parents worship come Gods and goddesses and just believed that they were gods. And most of my childhood was spent in a boarding school where questioning delicate matters was not commonplace. But it is very good that you have questions - just get them answered - don't settle with answers that don't satisfy you. Listen to all the answers and decide what you want to believe. 

…and we went on talking about atheist and theists…

OMG! Answering S's questions sometimes make me question my very belief.  Lord Ganesha, please come to my rescue.

Any of you out there with ideas for satisfying a 5 yr old's curiosity about Indian Hindu mythology, please let me know.

June 26th, 2014 - A, a swimming SeaHorse

Last Thursday, A's swim teacher told us that he is very code to being in the second level. All he was lacking is consistency while doing kicks on back. After kicking on his back for a couple of minutes, he seems to wander away his legs in all possible directions. This makes him lose balance and A ends up laughing.  

Today (Thursday) while we were getting ready for swimming A said, "Amma, I am going to a new class because I am in the next level of swimming." To that I replied, "No dear. You are going to the same class. But you are doing extremely well and just need to be kicking for longer. And don't worry - you will soon be in the second level."

Ever since S went into the Dolphin level, S's class is at 5:30 pm; that means a half hour wait for A's class at 6:00 pm. That half hour A tests my patience to the utmost - walks away to the pool, starts crying when i tell him not to, grinds my feet with his shoes, sits only in my lap (not in the chair), does not want any reading , wants only one thing and that is to go swimming NOW!!!

So there we were at the swim school, S was done swimming. It was 6:00 pm and A been his swim. All the while I was secretly hoping that A goes to the second level today. It just would have been a wonderful feeling for my dear little A. Suddenly towards the end of his half hour swim, a teacher came by and assessed A. While I was eagerly watching, C was pretty relaxed to bothered about if A will go to the next level or not.  A seemed to do an excellent job with underwater bubbles, independent back float, independent kicks on back, ring retrieval from pool bottom, jump into water and swimming to the pool edge. And finally while in the changing rooms, C and S walked unto A and gave him his small little STARFISH badge… 

A made it to the second level of swimming at his swim school, SeaHorse. 

YAY!!!!! Time to Celebrate!!!!!

Per the three boys' request and a family tradition, we went to a local Italian eatery - the boys love love love Italian food, they can never get enough of it. True to our expectations, the food was phenomenal and the service was impeccable.

Another day came to a close just like that with wonderful moments turning into everlasting memories!

Love you to infinity and beyond, my dear boys…

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Swimming - Relaxed A and Excited S

S started off with Mr. Tim in the Starfish level (this is the first level) at Gold Medal Swim School in June 2013. His first few sessions were difficult. But once he lost his fear of water (under extreme circumstances detailed here) he just kept going. January 2014, he completed the Starfish level and started with Miss Liz in the SeaHorse level. And couple of weeks back he had his survival jump, a requirement to complete the SeaHorse level and move into the Dolphin level. Survival jump implies that the student jumps into the water in his regular clothing (shows included) and swims flipping on his back and front to the other end of the pool. S did a wonderful job and was promoted to the Dolphin level… 

HURRAY!!! Time to celebrate… Given his fear of water, I never thought he would like swimming, let alone love swimming…

On the other hand, A has been with Miss. Amy in the Starfish level ever since June 2013. Though we wonder when he will move into the next level, it is a stress buster to watch A in the pool. He relaxes (to the extent possible) during his swim class. To us who are watching from outside, it feels like he is happily sleeping on the water. Instead of keeping his legs straight to do a  back float, he bends them, curls them and puts them at right angles to the water too. Suddenly he just sits up on the water because of which he goes underwater, gets water into his eyes and nose and, finally laughs about it. In his last class, Miss Amy asked the head coach to see if he was ready for the next level. And the only thing he is missing right now is consistency. He swims on his back really well, but only when he feels like doing it; not if he is in a 'not listening' mode when he is asked to do it. Sadly, that does not work for the coach. So he still is in the first level, extremely close to the second…Right now A's temptation to perform well during his swim lesson is swim goggles - we promised him swim goggles if he moves into the second level.

Give A's love for water, I never thought it would take this long for A to move into the SeaHorse level. But then I understood being comfortable in (and under) water is totally different from being able to swim comfortably.

Eating meat - live and let live.

For those of you who directly came here, please read my previous posts related to this topic hereMore of S's conversations after he got to know that C eats meat. The one good thing happening from all of this is that he is beginning to understand the whole concept of Live and Let Live, a very important yet undermined personality trait...

April 2014 (at dinner time):
C and the boys were eatings eggs for dinner and I was eating some vegetables, when the following conversation took place:

S: Nana, serve Amma some eggs. 
C: Amma does not eat eggs. So she has will eat some other curry instead.
S: Why does not Amma eat eggs?
C: I do not know. I asked her to, but she does not.
S: May be Amma thinks that there is a chicken inside the egg. And since chicken is meat and she does not eat meat, thats why she does not eat eggs.
C: May be, I just am not sure. (These are C's typical answers)
S: No Nana, eggs are very healthy. Amma will be strong if she eats. Why don't you break one and show her that there is no chicken inside the egg.
C (more hungry than tired): Lets do it the next time we cook eggs, OK?
S (satisfied): Ok. :)

May 2014 (at Costco)
While waling past all the aisles in Costco, we were sampling the food that they usually keep at the different stalls. That day it was ravioli, cheese popcorn and crackers. C and A were walking ahead when C suddenly stopped at another tasting booth. Noticing that it was a salad with bacon pieces, he avoided it.
S: Nana, give me that food.
C: It has meat in it dear. May be some other item.
S: Then you eat it. You like meat, so why not?
C: That's Ok Siddhu. I will eat some other item. 
S: No Nana. You like meat. So, you should eat it. You should not stop eating just because I don't eat meat and I am with you. I won't feel bad. 
C: Its Ok raa. I don't like that item.
S: How do you know you do not like it until you eat it? Go, get some for yourself. Eat it. Its Ok, Nana.

….This went on between S and C for quite some time and none of us are sure how the conversation dwindled away. But by the time we were out of Costco, we were done with that conversation…

Cutie Little S! He just loves his dad so much but he does not know how to show it…Looks like he got his "Live and Let live" nature from his dad…

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

One year into sunny Arizona - good or bad?

We make lots of choices in life. Most of the time we make a certain choice thinking that it is the best choice at that moment. Only time will tell if it really was the best one or not. I am the type of person who dwells a lot in the past; as in I think a lot if a decision I made earlier in life was the best one or not - trying to overcome this bad habit.

On that note, I thought, thought (actually over thought) and still think about our move from WI to AZ (detailed out in my post here) exactly one year ago. And finally am jotting down my thoughts in this post here.

We were a very well settled family in WI - few nice friends, wonderful preschool for the boys, excellent doctors and two very stable jobs for both of us. People asked me, "What more do I want?" And I only thought "settlement". I could never picture myself settling in Green Bay. And I thought if I will not take life into my hands and make the change, then nobody can help me. We were so scared to get caught up in that comfort zone, in that quagmire, that we did not want to have a second thought about moving out. So, we just took that leap and jumped at the first opportunity that we got to get out of that place. 

I do not have a job in AZ and immigration makes it very difficult for me to get employment here. Job offers have come and gone, but I could not start working due to immigration issues. And neither of us are able to estimate how much longer before I can start working. Paying for my school, taking care of family and sending kids to various activities has only made it tighter financially. And above all I am yet to see the ROI on my MBA (as I have another year to go). A masters education requires a lot of time and effort that I hardly find any time to spend with my family, let alone pursuing my personal interests like updating my boys' year books, planning family trips, updating my blog, work-outs and so on. So when I think on these lines, I feel that it was a bad decision.

But when I look at my children's development and the winter weather (:-P), it feels like a good move. S has finished Kindergarten (if we were in AZ he would have started KG this Fall). He lost his fear of water and swims all by himself (given his fear of water, this is in fact something we are extremely proud of); his Kumon teacher always tells me that he is much ahead of his school level. Both my boys go to Balvikas every Sunday and participate in sandwich making service every month. S learns tabla and tennis too. There are music lessons, painting lessons etc to enroll him into. We have not put him into these classes because of the time constraint due to my MBA evening classes. Hence there are lots of activities for children's development in AZ when compared to Green Bay.

Now-a-days, this battle of thoughts goes on in my head; sometimes I am in a very positive mood thinking everything happens for a reason. At other times I just feel like I am at the bottom of a pit. :(… One year into AZ and I still cannot say if this was a good decision or not.  I moved my entire family from WI to AZ just for one reason - did not look at Green Bay as a settlement place (my MBA was the chance that we found out of there). Is this worth it or not? Only time will tell... 

Lets see how all this ends up - as always only hoping for the best. The best for my boys, my husband, my family...

June 2013 - Snowy WI to Sunny AZ...

Exactly a year ago on June 9th, our entire family arrived at Arizona after an eventful road trip. For some background story as to why that move happened:

I was raised in a small town. I got wonderful education, but I lacked life skills - judging/trusting people, prioritizing self above others, how to talk in a given situation etc. This often landed me in trouble during my engineering days. My husband, my then boyfriend, tried to advise me on the same, but I just could not get it. Then I decided that I will live only in an urban environment. Luckily for me, my work took me only to cities - Hyderabad in India, LA and Minneapolis in the US. But in Oct of 2009 when I decided to quit work to be with my husband we moved to a small peaceful town, Green Bay in WI. As I discovered more about the place, I made up my mind that it was not the place where I wanted to raise my kids. I just wanted to be in a city where my children will have many choices, know their choices and choose wisely from amongst those (of course with parental guidance). Also, at the same time I wanted to pursue my MBA for that next career step. C too wanted to get out of there due to various reasons. All these put together, I looked for admissions and got selected into the Fall 2013 MBA program at WP Carey (ASU's School Of Business) at Tempe in Arizona. Again I left work to pursue further studies. Thus the move. 

We decided it would be a road trip of three days with two stops. The trip turned out to be eventful.

Day 1 - June 7th, 2013: We started off on time at 6 am. I got my first speeding ticket of $250. Apparently I was driving at 79 mph in a 65 mph freeway. OMG! Now that I think of it, Wi freeways too had 65 mph as the speed limit. :(. But the day ended really well. We checked into a wonderful hotel at Omaha in Nebraska. We found wonderful food to eat - Little A got to eat some okra, his favorite vegetable.

Day 2 - June 8th, 2013: Given the fact that C and I are late risers, we were surprised at the fact that we started off really early. Just only to lose time because of another of my great deed. C walked into a store to pick up some stuff and asked me to fill the tank. And very confidently, I filled in diesel in stead of gas. Luckily for me, I noticed it even before I started my engine. The first thing i did : remove my kids form the car , walk to the store and call for AAA. After a really long wait, our car was carried on one of those trailers and we were driven 30 miles on a freeway in one of those huge trucks. The kids just loved the truck ride. We lost around 7 hrs in the repair shop. Upon arriving at Denver, Colorado we checked into a really cheap hotel (as it was already late) and were just waiting to get out of there. 

Day 3 - June 9th, 2013 (Sunday): As other days, we had an early start. Caught a glimpse of the majestic mountains at Colorado and after a couple of hours notice the changing landscape - mountains to desert. And OMG! we got used to the subzero temperatures in Green Bay for the last 4 years that the desert heat was too much for us to take. We reached Chandler around 10 pm and were waiting to hit the sack.

I will never ever forget how thankful I am to my dearest little boys - 2yr old A and 4 yr old S. They were extremely well behaved during the entire trip. We took walking breaks at rest areas, read books, talked about containers/trucks/trailers, counted vehicles passing by, played various games, watched movies, listened to and sang songs and move all chatted a whole lot. In spite of controlled screen time  during the trip, my boys just did not fuss. A would get cranky when it was getting hotter but he would drift off into sleep or just talk to us...

Luckily we arranged to stay at our dear friend's house and then head our way the next day. Though our first impression of Arizona was not the best, it was definitely better than Green Bay. 

We enrolled the kids into swimming at a wonderful swim school, S into Kumon and above all I found a very nice spiritual center (Sai center) that we all visited every Sunday. Though Phoenix is abundant in temples, restaurants and outdoor activities; the anxiousness of how the year ahead would go by was far more than the excitement of a new place…

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dad eats meat !!!

For those of you coming directly to this post, please read about S and his eating meat question in previous posts here.

March 2014 ( my cousin Rama and her family from Boston visited us):
One afternoon during my cousin's visit we went out for some Indo-Chinese lunch. We ordered some very good food (meat included) and C began to partake his food. S suddenly stopped him saying, "Nana, that is meat! Don't eat it. We don't kill animals and eat them.". Once C said, "It's Ok, Siddhu. I eat meat and I like it.". He was shocked - his face became pale and he looked totally confused. He had more questions and we gave more answers. Even while placing the order, S had questions about why we were ordering meat etc etc. No explanation was satisfying to S, but we finally made him stop just so that the situation does not become uncomfortable for everyone at the table. 

The truth behind his questions was that C never ate meat when we went out on family dinners/lunches. It was not intentional, but he really never had anyone to share a plate with. And eating one complete appetizer and entree was too much for me. So we usually ended up ordering vegetarian food. Thus S was under the impression that his dad does not eat meat. And after he heard my opinion on that topic until now (documented in my previous posts here), he was flabbergasted at the reality that dad enjoys eating meat !

That was the day S got to know our family's complete eating habits - dad eats meat, mom does not and mom does not give S and A. But growing up they have a choice to make and whatever they choose, they got to make an informed decision. Thats all!

March 2014 (@ Sprouts, a local grocery store in AZ):
S just got to know that his dad eats meat and the rest of us in our family do not. He started negotiating with C about the frequency of his meat eating.
S: Nana, don't eat meat. I don't like it when you kill the animals.
C: I don't kill animals. Someone else kills them and packs them for me. I just eat what they cook. And also I really like the taste of meat. So, I don't want to stop eating it.
S: Ok, then you eat only once in a month, ok?
C: OMG! That is too infrequent. May be once a week.
S: No Nana, that is too often. It is a lot of meat.
C: Na raa Siddhu. I really like meat. So I will try and limit myself to once a week.

Then I had to intervene to put an end to the whole negotiation…Though C eats as and when he pleases, listening to the negotiation between my cutie 5 yr old S and C was heart warming…

PTP Boarding school - God vs kids?

One night recently while getting ready for bed S began to have the following conversation with me -

S: Amma, day and night, day and night day and night…you were at the same boarding school?

Myself: Siddhu, boarding school implies that you are away from your parents for a long period of time. So, yes my entire childhood I was at the same boarding school for every day of the year. I got two months summer vacation and that was when I saw my parents.

S: But why did PTP Thatha put you in a boarding school?

Myself: He had no choice, dear. In the place that we lived, there was only one school and that was a boarding school.

S: Then, why did not PTP Thatha search for a job in a place which had both, boarding schools and day schools? That way he can send you and Peddamma to the day school so that you guys could live with your parents when you were children?

Myself (blank mind): That's a tough question. May be you should ask Thatha yourself.

S (after 2 mins of thinking): I think I know the answer. I think Thatha likes Swami more than you and Peddamma. if he moved away form PTP, then he will miss Swami. Thats why he stayed back in PTP even though he had to send you to boarding school.

…The next question was imminent. So, even before he asked I said, "Maybe. But I love the two of you more than anything and anybody in this whole world - even more than Swami. So, you will always be with me till you decide to go farther away for your studies."

I was amazed at S's thought process. I am a little above 30 and I always got the same question about my dad's job. But I never even got close to the answer that S got. On telling my dad, neither did he tell if S was correct nor did I ask him. I only realized how important it is to allow children to question with an open mind. I think in that questioning capability they search for satisfying answers which is a wonderful skill to acquire for future years. For that matter, studies have revealed that a child's mind is capable of extensive thinking - how creative the thinking gets depends on how well the child's environment fosters such thinking.

Pearls Of Wisdom from 5 yr old S

Even before I start, I apologise for the long silence - school (yes, I am getting my MBA with two kids under 5 in tow), household chores, job hunts, career plans and most of all trying to be the perfect planned parent (which I gave up very recently for the good) - have kept me so busy that I usually have no time to breathe. 

Thanks to my wonderful husband for being so supportive while I am busy trying to finish case study write-ups, assignments, classes, credit hours, network and what not. During my summer break, I decided (have not promised) to blog daily so that I can make up for all the exciting - :-) and :-( - stuff that happened in the past year (my bad I never really prioritize my blog - hoping to change that).

Here goes my cutie little 5yr old's pearls of wisdom -

One fine Thursday evening in January of 2014, the three boys were getting ready for their swim class and I was in my MKT 502 (Marketing) class at school. C suddenly heard loud knocks(actually bangs) on his bedroom door saying, "Nana, something really bad happened with the kids toilet. It is really bad. We promise me and Akhil did not do anything. It happened on its own." On running to the kids bathroom, he found that the toilet overflowed. Later S told him that when he flushed once, the water did not go down easily. So, he flushed again and again and again - about 4 times. Suddenly the water just came out of the toilet wetting the bathroom floor and the carpet nearby. 

C began to clean up and while doing so, he muttered to himself, " I hate this life…". Actually, there were various other things going on that were bothering us - my immigration, a sense of settlement, etc etc. So everything put together, he was just so irritated and muttered, "I hate my life…". On hearing this, S immediately said, "No Nana, you should not hate your life. Your life is nice. You should say, I hate this apartment. It is this apartment that you don't like not your life." He had just turned 5 and C was shocked hearing such wise words from him. 

My dearie Siddhu! your tiny little reminders about what really matters in life are so important and we are ever thankful to you. Keep up this spirit no matter where you are, how you are and how old you grow...Love you to infinity and beyond. :-)


Monday, February 10, 2014

Animals and their young ones..

Last week S was doing a puzzle that required him finding young ones of animals. He solved it perfectly well, but he came up with all the following questions…

S (pointing to deer, lion, tiger, bear): All these animals live in the forest. Now I know that deer does not eat meat but a lion and other animals eat meat. So does it mean that a lion can eat it's own cub?

Myself: No, I don't think a lion or a tiger eat their own children. At;east as far as I know, I think that is true.

S: OK, then since a deer and a lion and a tiger and all others live in the same forest, does it mean that a tiger can eat a fawn?

Myself: Yes dear, a tiger can eat a fawn.

S: But that is so bad and cruel. How can the tiger eat baby animals. You don't eat other people's babies. You play with them and take care of them - like how you play with Kamakshi when we go to Meenakshi's house. The fawn's mommy deer will feel so bad.

Myself: But that is exactly how it is, Siddhu. Thats why the fawn should walk very close to the deer and should always listen to their mommy deer. Also, that is the difference between animals and humans; animals cannot talk though they can express but animal mommies take care of their children in a very different way than people…

I went on to explain him more differences between animals and humans, but still…

S: But still a tiger should not kill a fawn, Amma. God will punish the tiger for doing so. Imagine if you killed a puppy because you wanted to eat a hot dog? We don't do that and thats why tigers and lions also should not do that…

Myself: Yes nana, I understand and how nice if the world was like that but because it is not, you should be careful and may be you will understand animal thinking one day ; when you are much bigger. For today, just believe that a tiger or a lion can eat a fawn…

OMG! The questions S asks are throwing me off my legs these days. He is so inquisitive that he forgets to eat his lunch even some days as school… 

One fine day during the week of 01/13 he came back from school with his sandwich untouched; that means he just had a small handful of grapes for lunch. And I was so irritated that I yelled at him and gave him the same sandwich for supper. 

I was so engrossed in yelling that I did not even ask him why he did not eat his sandwich and then at the end of the day I felt so bad for yelling at him. Sometimes I am just so lost in so many different things that I take out my tension / irritation on my kids for very small misdoings and I HATE MYSELF for that…

Eventually before going to bed, C spoke to S and asked him why he did not eat his lunch. To that he replied saying, "Nana, I have so many questions in my mind and not enough time to ask. If I don't ask my questions how can I clarify my doubts. You keep telling me to ask whatever I can't understand. So I used my lunch time to ask my friend, Versailles, one such question." C asked, "And what was that question, Siddhu?" Siddhu said, "How do you dribble for a really really long time?" 
That was the question which led Siddhu to not touch his sandwich at lunch. :-)

Now as parents we don't bother about tiny little whys, whats and hows. But if we want our children to explore the world, embrace the creation and find their way in it; we got to let them question, not just question but question without inhibition as much as they can. Sometimes the questions are very simple and some other times they are more complicated. But answering a child's questions or at least trying to do so increases our understanding of this world that we inhabit…

I grew up in a conservative family and hence was limited to how much I can question. But   I don't do that for both my boys; both C and myself keep a very open environment at home and that nurtures our boys' little minds more than I can imagine. Some of S's questions are really strange - I wonder if I had questions like that when I was a kid.

More of S's questions are here...

S's Q and A

More of S's question /answers - 

S:Mom, if a cow gives us milk. It must be drinking a lot of milk too, right?
Myself: No, Siddhu. A cow eats grass; don't you remember from your trip to the petting zoo?
S: Then some of the grass turns into milk in the cow's body and some of it comes out as poo-poo, right?
Myself: After digesting, the waste comes out as poo-poo. You are absolutely correct.


S:Amma, does God really exist? If yes, does he live amongst us? If yes why can't I see him?
Myself: Siddhu, God is in you.
S: Amma, how can he breathe if he sits inside me?
I gave up - for some reason I am not comfortable explaining mythology and religion.

S: Is Kamsa, the bad guy from the Krishna story, still living?
Myself: No, he was dead a long time back.
S: No, Amma I think he came back but this time around he promised that he will not be hurting little boys or babies.


S: Our van does not have an emergency exit like my school bus has? So if 4 or 5 bad people surrounded us how can we escape?
Myself: Siddhu, people who want to hurt children know that they can find children for sure in a school bus. On the other hand a van might have big people too in it. So usually people who attack vans do so either for money or for some other reasons. And don't think about someone attacking children - as long as you listen to what me and nana say about being safe (hold hands while outside, don't run away from our line of sight…) you will be very safe.

S: When children fall sick, parents take care of them. Thats why if you and I fall ill together, then you always make sure that I am taken care of first - see a doctor, have all my medications and only then you take care of your sickness, right?
Myself: yes, Siddhu. Thats what all parents do.
C (jokingly): Don't worry Siddhu. Amma's parents will come from India to take care of her.
Myself: No Siddhu. I am big enough to take care of myself. So, nobody will come to take care of me. Your dad is there to care for me.
S: Even though Nana is there your parents should come from India to care for you when you are not well.
Myself (giving up) : Ok….:-)

Most of the time S's questions leave me wondering and wanting for more…

I don't like PTP Thatha

My in-laws went back to India end of May 2013 and we moved to Arizona in June of 2013 so that I can pursue my MBA from the W P Carey School Of Business (@ Arizona State University).  I left my current project and C had couple weeks of vacation that he took for the relocation. So our entire family was at home waiting for our U-pods to arrive so that we can start unloading and setting up our new home. We spent a lot of quality time with the kids - talking, dancing, singing, swimming, co-sleeping, playing weird games, inventing more such games and what not…Both me and C do all of these, but just in very different way - C asks more personal family/self oriented questions and I ask more general imaginative questions…Below is one conversation between C and S during that time that caught my attention and started me thinking.

C: Whom do you like most - Ammamma(mom's mom), PTP Thatha (Mom's dad), Nainamma(dad's mom) or KKD Thatha (dad's dad)?

S: I know what KKD Thatha and Nainamma did for me - they took care of me, fed me, put me to sleep, bathed me and played with me while we were at Green Bay. Hence I like them the most. I don't know what Ammamma or PTP Thatha did for me. So, I don't like them.

C: Siddhu, Ammamma took care of you when you were a baby. She came to US when you were about to be born and once you were born she bathed you , fed you, put you to bed, changed your diapers and played with you.

S:Yes, I remember seeing her in my baby photos. So, I like Ammamma same as Nainamma and KKD Thatha. But I don't like PTP Thatha.

C: PTP Thatha also took care of you when you were in India at his home. He played a lot with you and you enjoyed you time in Puttaparthy.

S: Yeah, I know that form the photos. But he never never ever came to our house in USA. And thats why I don't like him. May be I will start liking him if he comes to our USA home and takes care of me and Akhi…

There was a time when PTP Thatha was S's favorite person - this was when he was 2-4 yrs old and suddenly this drastic change. 

…And I just knew S would say that one day, sooner or later. He is a people person and all he wants at times is that people he loves and cares for are around him - nobody has to really do much but the presence is all that matters to S…

Monday, February 3, 2014

I love myself

As a child I was in a boarding school since my kindergarten. I saw my parents once a week for an hour on Sunday and went home for vacation for 15 days during the fall break (usually Dusherra festival) and two months during the summer time. I always wanted to tell my parents so much, but time was so limited on Sunday that I felt that the stuff I wanted to share with my parents were too small to take up such valuable time, but were not that small that I would forget. And so I always wanted to know most of what was going on in my kids' lives. I know it sounds very stupid - what is a mom going to know from her pre-schooler. But no harm in trying, right? And that is exactly what C and I do as parents.

Ever since S and A started going to school (or day care) in Green Bay - Children's Montessori, whoever picked them up made it a point to ask them different questions about what happened during their day - whom did you play with? did you eat all your lunch? did you like your lunch? whom did you sit by during lunch? what games did you play? did you learn something new? etc..etc..etc..This gradually became a part of our schedule and we just loved every bit of it - A usually gave us lots of answers (rambling when he was 1yr old, broken words when he was 2 yrs old and complete sentences once he turned 2 and a half yrs old). But S never spoke much; he gave us half baked answers and did not show much interest in sharing his pre-school happenings with us except on very rare occasions like playing the violin or making a new friend.

On such evening C had the following conversation with S while driving them back home,
C: Siddhu, whom all do you love?
S: I love 4 people - Akhi(brother), Amma (mom), Nana (dad) and myself. 
C (feeling positively amused that he included himself): How can you like yourself, Siddhu?
S: I like the way I am, Nana. See I am so cute. I study when Amma asks me to. I play with my toys, I help at home, I don't cry... And it is very important that I love myself because only then I am very happy. Thats why I love myself too…

I really never gave it that much thought until then (30 yrs of my existence on this planet) but when C told me about this conversation, I had a shocking realization. 

...Love yourself for what you are and you feel much more happier…

This was one of the first few lessons S taught me - he was just a naughty little 3 yr old...

Monday, January 27, 2014


As a baby, S was not really scared of big sounds - vacuum cleaners, food processors, fireworks, and darkness. In fact he did not have stranger anxiety too. When ever anyone new came to our house, neither was he very excited nor was he afraid. He just continued to do what he was doing. When we took him to the fireworks in St. Paul, C was so scared that S would be terrified of the lights and sounds from the fireworks that he closed S's ears. Seeing this, S just gave C a stare and continued to enjoy the fireworks.

But once he became a year old, he would cry on hearing the whistle of a pressure cooker or run into the bedroom on seeing the vacuum cleaner. We worked hard to get rid of this fear - we kept the vacuum cleaner among his toys, gave him the pressure cooker as a toy, acted as if the vacuum cleaner was a dancing partner and more... As S got over these fears, new fears took their place. Slowly it was fear of water, slides, swings and play areas. That just meant more trips to the play area and the swing set in the park - that helped him ease his fears of sliding, swinging and play areas. As mentioned in detail in my post here, no trial was successful to get rid of S's fear of swimming (I must mention though that he overcame his fear after our move to AZ). By the time he was 2, S's fear of swimming developed further into a dislike towards getting wet while dressed. His dislike was so much that he did not like even a couple of water drops on his shirt while brushing his teeth or washing his mouth/hands after food. He enjoyed a tub bath with all his bath toys and the bubbles right from the start but he was averse to the fact that someone can get wet with clothes.By the time he turned 2, he had long standing fears for water and darkness.

On the other hand, A had no fears at all - loud noises, darkness, strangers, swimming (everyone around us called him an aqua-baby) etc. If he felt sleepy, I would put him in his crib, put on his bed light and he would fall fast asleep; he wasn't at all scared of the darkness.  When we asked S to bring his clothes from his bedroom closet, he would decline because the light was not on; immediately A would accompany him into the dark bedroom. Now, as A grew up he was getting difficult to handle - he would not listen during food time, bed time, bath time. He always had his way - he loved the water and made a mess every day during bath time, he played around with his food every meal, bed time turned into play time for him and it started to become very difficult for us to manage him. So, then we started to tell him, "Akhi, if you do not sleep Wiwilliwinkie will take you away." 

One fine day during winter of 2012 while we were at a restaurant, we tried the same thing to stop him from doing something naughty and he asked, "Show me, where is Wiwilliwinkie? Where is the Boochie uncle (the Telugu word for Wiwilliwinkie)? " Immediately C pointed to the hotel manager and said, "That is the Boochie uncle." To that A started shouting, "Hey Boochie uncle, you cannot take me away. I am not scared of you." The hotel manager on seeing A pointing to him thought that we were trying to tell him something and came over to our table. From that day on he started calling the hotel manager at every hotel Wiwilliwinkie... Now that turned out to be a lot for us to handle. So that trick was out the window, at least not in hotels. Actually everywhere; one day he offered to give away his nainamma (C's dad) to Wiwilliwinkie when she tried putting him to bed.:(

No trick to scare A worked with him, it always backfired. He just became more and more fearless and we just began having a more and more difficult time...He was not unmanageable, but he was just so active that it was taking a toll on us and that's why we tried to scare him with Boochie (Wiwilliwinkie). From being such a fearless toddler he suddenly turned into a timid toddler - he developed fear for ants, dogs, cats, birds, food processor, slides and vacuum cleaners. 

Till date, C and I cannot understand how this drastic transformation for the bad came along during the summer of 2013. If he says a black dot in the bath tub, he does not get off the stool mistaking it for an ant. A bird on the sidewalk, a dog walking almost a mile ahead of us, sound of anybody else's vacuum cleaner other than ours, loading the food processor - everything make him run. In spite of these fears, if he is sleepy he will get into his bedroom and sleep (even if his bedroom is dark). Both of us try to make him overcome his fears but most of the time our efforts are futile. 

On one hand, as parents we keep thinking, "Oh My God! why is he so scared? how to make him get rid of his fears? will he ever get rid of these fears? how did he develop these fears?  are we doing something wrong?" We try to reduce his fears by telling him fairy tales in which there is a little boy called Akhil who had 20 ant friends, slept beside 4 dogs, vacuumed the entire house every day and was not at all scared; that the birds fly in to kiss him, the ants crawl up to wish him a very good morning; that the food processor is singing a rhythm for him to sing to; and that the vacuum cleaner is an excellent dance partner when mom is not around. 

While on the other hand, we try to get our way with A by saying, "Akhi, eat otherwise I will call the bird.", "Come on Akhi sleep, else we will call the doggie uncle from next door." It looks like this is the only trick that is working right now to make him eat his lunch in 30 minutes, sleep without troubling his older brother who has to wake up early for school the next day, not go out onto the road opening the house main door on his own, not sit on the carpet without cleaning his bum after going poo-poo, not cry once he hears a "No" for an answer; I tried sticker charts (he will take the stickers without listening to me), ice cream rewards (he will climb his chair and bring the ice cream out of the freezer without listening to me) and 2-min / 3-min time-outs. Nothing except this fear is working right now.

Growing up people have their own fears - C has acrophobia and I am claustrophobic. Is it even necessary for me to use A's fears to get him to obey? I just did not like the concept itself and I began to wonder - I am the one putting the fear in him and I am the one trying to get him rid of it? Am I even justified in my expectations from a little 3-yr old? Am I logical in my requirements? If I am facing a catch-22 with him, I wondered how confused he must be with the contrasting messages I am sending to him as a parent (in different situations)...

 This got me thinking as to how can I make A listen to me without scaring him? And I took a resolution last week - do anything but scare A with his fears to get him to obey. And I shared this to S too so that I have an impartial witness/judge (I share my resolutions with S because S will stop me right when I am going to break my promise - at least this way he does not give me the scope to regret for my actions). I told S, " No yelling, no shouting, no scaring - only talking and very firm talking in our family. But you boys have to listen to my firm talking, else Amma will not talk to you for one hour..."

And to be very honest, this has worked from Thursday last week (that was when I resolved so) - neither did S nor did A act up. But another very good trick of the trade was to get to eye contact level with my boys and then they know that mom means business.

Looking forward with fingers crossed for another such rewarding week...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MLK is still alive...

Siddhu told me the following as soon as he got back from school today:

"You know Amma, Martin Luther King (a.k.a. MLK) is still alive. Actually, my friend's (J) mother is 31 yrs old and she is older than MLK. MLK was born in 1987. He said that people in this country where we live, America are bad and that they should kind to each other. By kind, he meant that people should not hurt each other by removing pieces of their brain with a knife. Some people did not like what he said and they shot him in the head; he died but then came back to life again. And it is his birthday on Jan 20th and thats why we had a holiday on Monday."

I wondered where he saw that gruesome act with the knife and he replied that he saw it in two place :
1) a Telugu movie in Green Bay while my in-laws were there (it might be that he just got to see a scene or two before my in-laws shut the TV off before S woke up form his afternoon nap).
2) in a show that my in-laws explained to him where there were lots of huge bad boys and a guy with a bow (I guessed this to be the Bhagawatham serial in Telugu)

Lesson # 101 - I scream, U scream and we all scream for…ICE CREAM

Over the weekend while cleaning up my refrigerator, I came across a really old chocolate flavored ice cream in my freezer and planned to finish it off so we could get fresh ice cream. So, I ate it (about 2 scoops) and left the empty container on the kitchen countertop (looks like that was enough for the boys to guess who finished the ice cream). The next morning, little 3 yr old A got up, saw the empty ice cream container and came straight up to a happily sleeping me and …pulled my hair, broke few strands of hair, poked my nose, pressed my eyes and…yelling into my ears all the while, "Amma, get up and answer me. Why did you eat my ice cream?". As if this harassment was  not enough, S, my 5-yr old keeps asking me throughout out the day (even today - it is Tuesday and I ate the ice cream on Friday), "Amma, how could you eat our ice cream? You did not even share ! Why did you eat it first of all?"


Lesson learnt - Eat ice cream but never be the one to finish off the container because kids keep a track of how much is remaining. If you ever happen to finish it off, keep it a SECRET...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Some fun conversations with S - 1

Just recorded some conversations of S with others in the family - these were during the second half of 2013 (S @ 4y and A @ 2y)

Me: Siddhu, do you like me to work or be a stay-at-home mommy?
S: I like you to work so that you can get lots of money and then buy me lots of toys with your money.


S:What is Lord Ayyappa's vehicle? (like Lord Ganesha rides on a rat)
Me: Lord Ayyappa rides a tiger.
S: Oh, Amma how can he? It will bite him and eat him up.


S: Dad does a lot of office work.
Me: Should I ask him to stop working?
S: No !!! If he stops, who will get money to buys Akhi and me toys? May be after you get a job...


S: I will one day build a heart hospital in Minneapolis. And then I will buy dad a car. But how can I go to the car store to buy the car, because I wont have a car?
Dad: I will drive you to the car store.
S: Ok, then I will buy dad a car, then myself a car, then Akhi a car and then Amma a car.
A: I will settle in California - I dont want to go back to Green Bay. I like California.
S: That is OK, Akhi. I will travel to california and meet you for your birthday and you travel to Minneapolis for my birthday and both of us will travel to Arizona for Dad's birthday, ok?
A: Ok, Siddhu
Dad: Say Annayya.
A: Ok, anayya…(he never stresses on the n)

Mom or dad - whom do you like more?

I am sure this must be a question in most households - growing up I was a mommy's pet and my sister was a daddy's pet…

In our home C usually asks the kids, "Whom do you like more - mom or dad?" (I must admit I take pleasure in asking A this question because he just is more expressive with his eyes). This has been an ongoing question at frequent intervals  ever since S started talking fluently( this was about 2 and a half years old). Ever since that time, S's answer was "Amma and Nana". If we said you have to choose one he would say "Amma" (if I asked him) and then follow it with Nana right away(with a small pause). If C asked him, then he would say "Nana" and follow it with Amma. Akhi was always in the picture, irrespective of if Akhi's name was in the question or not.

Today C asked him the same question over dinner and he replied, "Akhi Amma Nana". C asked him to pick one, he said "zero, because I am not going to pick one. I said all your names in one sentence because they are all one word and I like all three of you the same amount…"

On the contrary, A's answer always is "Amma" - It just does not change. It is a bittersweet feeling, because how much I am happy that he says my name I would like that to always be S…

Mwah to my boys - how I hope time can stand still...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Little minds, biggest question

While entering San Diego Sea World on December 25th, 2013; S asked me a question that stunned me - "Mom, how do we die?" The question took me aback; honestly given his age (just turned 5), I never expected this question from him. What shocked me further was how composed he was when he asked me the question - he asked it like it was another normal day to day question. Though death is the final destination, when faced with the question I felt like I was struck in the head with a reality check...

I replied, "Siddhu, I think I am not sure of the answer- I will find out and let you know."

To that he said, "Amma, I know how people are born. But I am curious as to how they die?"

Now the story of the answer to "How people are born?"

S asked me this question when he was like 3 and a half yrs old. For that age my answer was, "Parents pray for children - God sees if parents are behaving well, are able to take good care of a child - then accordingly gives them a child."

Months went by and he came up one day (pointing to a pregnant lady) and said, "Amma, that aunt ate a lot of food and that is why her stomach is so out." I said, "yes" (I could afford this answer because my friend was in her early baby bump stages)

Few more months went by and S noticed that my overeating friend's tummy (actually pregnant) did not go in - it in fact increased a lot. This aroused S's curiosity and I modified the answer to, " Parents pray for children - God sees if parents are behaving well, are able to take good care of a child - then accordingly puts a child in the mommy's tummy." S questioned, "Why mommy's and not daddy's tummy?" I answered, "Only because mommies sometimes stay at home and have more time to take care of the baby." 

Looks like that was a satisfying answer, he has not brought up that topic again...

...just when I think the toughest question is gone, another even tougher one comes up in my children's minds to prove my ignorance, question my understanding, reaffirm my belief and broaden my knowledge...

Love my boys to infinity and beyond for all the learning I do through them...

Little minds, bigger questions..

One day while I was on skype video call with my mom, he wasn't allowing me to talk. So, I said "Siddhu, she is my mom and like you love talking to me(your mom), I too want to talk to my mom. So, please go to your room and play or else stay quiet if you want to be around." Not accepting both these, he instead decided that he will talk to grandma. So the conversation went on as follows:

S: You are my mom's mom. But where is your mom?
Ammamma: She is in Tanuku. (Actually my grandmother reached the heavenly abode in February of 2013, but my mother did not want to deal with the complexity of explaining death to a 5 yr old)
S: Where is her mom? I mean your grandmother (your mom's mom)?
Ammamma (after deep thought - she knew where this was going): She went to God.
S: How does one go to God?
Myself (My mom gave up and looked at me to answer the question): Siddhu, when someone becomes 100 yrs old, they go to God. We come from God and we go back to Him.
In a few days it was my father-in-law's 60th birthday (Shashtipurthi) and we all wished him. After S was done wishing him, he asked him, "Thatha, how old are you now?" To this C's dad answered 60 yrs. Immediately S did some counting and said, "Oh Thatha! You have a way to go to God. Don't worry!"  And S turned to C saying, "Dad, when someone becomes 100 yrs old, they go to God; KKD Tata is 60; so he is not yet that old, right? "
My father-in-law did not have another word to say...:-(

To add to this question frenzy at home, every morning while A uses the potty he says, "Amma, why is my pee-pee (pe***) so big and standing? I don't like it like that. Can you make it smaaallll(A's style of small), please?" And he keep playing with it to make it small... if this is not enough, they say it gets crazier going forward. So, enjoying the calm before the storm.

Cow on a stove?

More conversations regarding eating meat follow. For those of you who have come here without reading the first post, please go here.

December 2013 (on our way back from school):
S: Amma, my friend ate a hot dog today. Which meant is it?
Myself: I think it is a cow's meat.
S: Why are we not eating a hot dog?
Myself: Because it has animal's meat in it and I do not like killing animals. Also God created us as vegetarians, so He might not like it if we eat meat. (I made up the last part to avoid further questioning, but that did not work it looks like)
S: That means all my friends who eat meat are bad because they are not listening to God.
Myself (not wanting to leave him with that thought because imagine if he said something like that in school the next day): Not really Siddhu, we might not be listening to God in some other aspects and listening to God in eating habits - this may be opposite with your friends. So you cannot say good or bad; it is a choice which you take knowing all the options/consequences/opinions etc. 
S: But then my friends are killing these animals and eating them, Amma?
Myself: No your friends do not kill these animals. Hunters kill them and then companies process the meat, send it to stores like Walmart, Sprouts etc - your friends will buy the meat from these stores. It is similar to we buying vegetables from these stores; we do not grow them - farmers grow, pluck and package veggies and send them to these stores for us to buy.
S: Oh, yes amma, I know now. So after a hunter kills the cow, he puts the cow on a stove and cooks it like we cook our dals and vegetables. But if it is a mommy cow then it will be huge and will not fit on the stove. So the hunter will chop it into pieces and then cook it.
Myself (exhausted): Siddhu, that is very creative but I have never seen how they process meat. May be we will find out when you are a little bigger...

I was already so exhausted that I just could not carry on the conversation further - I was actually running out of ideas.

January 2014 (out of the blue while playing):
S: Amma, not eating meat is your choice or you are just obeying your mother because she does not like you to eat?
Myself (OMG - what a question) : As a child, my mother did not allow me to and i wasn't exposed to a lot of eating meat because my boarding school offered vegetarian food. But growing up, it was my choice to not eat meat.

The last question revved up a lot of reflection and introspection and still play in my mind - sometimes I just discover myself via S's questions. Such innocence and honesty - hope it always is there in my relationship with my children...


Eating Meat - A big ?

Ever since S started Kindergarten in August 2013, he has tonnes of questions about eating meat (very progressive questions). To understand more about why eating meat is a question in our family there are a couple of facts to be brought to light: firstly, I don't eat meat (hubby dear does). Secondly, the reason behind not eating meat is because I believe in ethical treatment of animals (not because we are brahmins).

Until Kindergarten, S attended pre-school at Green Bay Montessori where each child brought their own lunch and there was no school cafe. And his teacher, Mrs.K would warn him with the meat items during any potlucks or festival celebrations. On the contrary, most of his friends in Kindergarten buy their lunch from the school cafeteria and all of them take meat in different forms (chicken nuggets, hot dogs, bacon strips, salami, meat pieces in salad etc etc)...Below are his progressive conversations about the same:

September 2013:
S: Mom, some of my friends eat meat? Why don't we eat meat?
Myself: Because I don't like killing animals for satisfying someone's tastes buds.
S: So, my friends kill animals?
Myself: Not exactly, your friends do not kill animals. But because there are people like your friends who like eating meat, someone people kill animals and get it ready for your friends and others.
S: So, who kills animals?
Myself: There are people who kill animals and those people are called hunters.

S became silent and began digesting these thoughts...

October 2013:
While going through the local grocery store, he read the label "Chicken Nuggets" on a packet and exclaimed, "Oh Amma! that is chicken nuggets and we cannot buy it because we cannot eat meat. We do not want to hurt the animals, right?" . I answered in the affirmative and headed to the car. Just when I was glad that there were no more questions, I heard an inquisitive little 4-yr old's (about to be 5 in a month) voice -
S: Amma, why don't we eat meat?
Myself: I do not like killing animals. Imagine that animal's babies and family? If someone cuts me and eats me, will my family be happy? 
S: No Amma.
Myself: Similarly I feel that animals should not be killed to be eaten - only because there are people who want to eat meat, there are hunters who kill animals. But this is my thought Siddhu. 

November 2013:
Being a chatty boy, he forgot his lunch box at home and I noticed it only after the school lunch time. I still called to check if I could give him his lunch because being a vegetarian I wondered what he would eat from the school cafe. Since it was still recess time, they allowed me to give him his lunch. And then while eating his PB&J sandwich,
Myself: Siddhu dear, I am so sorry. I thought you put it in your bag but apparently you did not; I should have checked again. 
S: That's OK, Amma. But they allowed me take a lunch form the school cafe.
Myself: So, what did you eat?
S: Some baby carrots, cucumbers and a salad. Everything else had meat in it. Even the salad had bacon pieces in it, but because we do not eat meat I removed those pieces and tried the salad but I did not like it.
I thought that was pretty big thinking for a 4 yr old.

Further conversations are noted in an upcoming post here.