Friday, June 25, 2010

Cloud Nine

This morning Nikki was up as usual at the crack of dawn and merrily prancing around on our bed, as P and I lay there, caught between that state of deep slumber and impending wakefulness, trying to grab those blessed last five minutes of shut eye before the child decided to attempt her standard early morning deep dive off the bed stunt. Suddenly Nikki bounded over to my side of the bed and began peering at me closely to see if I was awake already. I opened one eye groggily, bracing myself for a possible nose tweak or a punch in the eye, our daily morning 'let's wake The Mommy Woman up' greeting. Instead Nikki suddenly bent over, gave me a soft kiss on the cheek, then put her arms around me in a hug, buried her face in my neck and babbled something softly in my ear. I just lay there, stunned initially, then overwhelmed, holding her, wishing I could hold on to the moment forever too.

Guess who's been walking around the house with a beatific smile plastered on her face today? :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

If The Mommy Woman is not alert AT ALL TIMES.....

......she may find herself drifting into gentle slumber as little Nikki plays nearby, only to awaken to the feel of some strange sort of scraping on her posterior. On closer examination she may find that the source of the gentle scraping is little Nikki herself, busy doing up The Mommy Woman's  posterior (in need of renovation, yes, but this may not quite have been what The Mommy Woman was thinking) with The Mommy Woman's favorite lip gloss. Further inspection may reveal that little Nikki is quite the budding artist and has generously given of her talent to paint the bedspread, the pillow covers, several patches of the floor and The Mommy Woman's new handbag as well. Just as The Mommy Woman is recovering from the effect these startling sights are bound to have, the doorbell may ring to announce the arrival of the not so friendly new neighbors, stopping by to ask some questions about the neighborhood. The Mommy Woman may ask them inside and offer them a cup of tea but as she walks into her living room she may hear some strange sort of squeaks and snorts and the new neighbors may quickly excuse themselves citing that all important purchase of groceries as the excuse. The Mommy Woman may feel a little perplexed at this strange behavior until she catches sight of herself in a mirror as she turns a corner and sees that her posterior, encased in white tracks, is now a brilliant, shiny, glossy PINK. Did you know that on a pristine white background pink stands out really well? Well it does. Vivid.

And to think this is a child who eschews crayons unless it is to generally toss them around.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

First week at playschool and other assorted tales

We've finished our first week at the mother toddler playgroup and Nikki seems to be settling in rather well. She was a little wary of the general proceedings on the first day, keeping a keen eye on me to ensure I didn't wander off too far, but the next day on it was like she'd been doing this all along. She's already made a couple of friends and has even gotten herself a little admirer who has taken quite a fancy to her, insisting on hugging her hello and goodbye every time they meet. Nikki is quite scornful of all this attention though and brushes the poor little chap off disdainfully each time, but he is nothing if not persistent. The sessions at the playgroup are divided into motor skills, language skills and drama and no prizes for guessing which is Nikki's favorite! Its drama all the way; I knew I was being prescient when I christened her the little drama queen. She has an absolute blast in the drama class and is quite the life and soul of the music  and movement party that is an integral part of each session, with her little 'balle balle' jig and general shake that booty baybeh happening in full flow. At one of the sessions there was a puppet show and Nikki was beside herself with excitement at all the animal puppets that made an appearance. At first she was content to sit at the foot of the stage and wave a cheery 'hi' to each puppet that made an appearance but soon she figured out, from some clever peering under the screen, that there was someone back there making all the action happen and she made a beeline for the poor teacher-puppeteer's foot. I was quite enjoying the sight of the teacher hopping around to avoid her, when I noticed the other teacher glaring at me and quickly moved Nikki away. The other big hit with Nikki has been an activity where all the babies get to dress up like monkeys and prance around. Nikki took to her little monkey headgear and tail immediately,and spent a good ten minutes preening in front of the mirror, even giving herself little kisses in the mirror!

The motor skills class, with its fun educational toys is another hit with Nikki, its the language skills class with its rather large dose of structured activities that she likes the least. For this class requires the kids to sit down and go through a series of quiet-ish activities, and that doesn't go down too well with Nikki.  She likes doing things her way and any attempt at doing otherwise is met with instant and ear shattering mutiny.The teachers are finding this out the hard way. At one of the sessions a variety of toys were laid out in different corners and the mothers were supposed to spend a couple of  minutes playing with one toy and then move on to the next. Some of the toddlers didn't mind being moved around once their time was up at a particular toy, but not Nikki. She insisted on playing with the toys she wanted to, and moving on to the next toy at her own time and pace. When the teacher tried to direct her to a particular toy she promptly turned up her nose and marched off purposefully in the opposite direction to another toy just to make her point. Personally, I think its  fine if she wants to set her own pace and choose the toys she plays with, as long as she's not bothering any of the other kids but the teacher seemed to think otherwise. After a few more failed attempts at getting Nikki to play with toys in a particular order, the teacher finally decided she would try and teach Nikki to play with the toys the 'right' way instead of using her own creativity. The toy in question was a large bowl of colored  rice and a  shovel and the activity consisted of shoveling the rice into another empty bowl. Nikki was enjoying playing with the rice, feeling it slip between her fingers, scrunching it up in her fist, when the teacher tried showing her how to use the shovel. At first Nikki continued playing the way she wanted to, but soon she was done with   the interfering and the bowl of rice was emptied unceremoniously in the teacher's lap. Next, another teacher tried being helpful when Nikki was messing around with some colored play dough. She had been given a little rolling pin and board and was 'expected' to roll some chappatis with the dough. Nikki had turned the board upside down, placed the rolling pin in it and converted it into some sort of boat which she was busy decorating with bits of the dough. Pretty innovative, I thought! But the friendly teacher again interrupted her play to show her how to roll chappatis the proper way. Last seen, she was observed desperately trying to scrape off the dough from the seat of her pants where Nikki had plastered it. Overall though, its been fun so far and I think Nikki quite enjoys the entire experience. Yesterday, when I announced that we were off to 'school' she even got out her little bag and got S to pack a little box of raisins and her sippy cup of water to take along :) The other great thing about this school, like I've mentioned before, is the wonderful collection of books they have. We've been borrowing one every week and Nikki has been having a wonderful time with Spot The Dog's Big Touch and Feel Book and Itsy Bitsy Spider, which has brought her favorite rhyme wonderfully alive.

In other news, Nikki's artwork at school now occupies pride of place on our refrigerator, proudly displayed for all to see. Speaking of the fridge, Nikki seems to have developed a strong fascination with it and all that lies within it. She comes scampering up whenever the fridge is opened and trots off at top speed with whatever object catches her fancy. She's also lost interest in the collection of toys we had amassed for her playing pleasure and now insists on playing only with random household objects; kitchen utensils and fruits and vegetables being the favorites. We've had to write off many a mangled banana or a squeezed into inedible mush cucumber, after Nikki's done with them, all in the name of the greater good of learning. The Papa Man's empty beer cans are another hot favorite, but can have unfortunate consequences as I discovered recently. I walked into our balcony where Nikki and The Papa Man were playing last evening only to find our new neighbors giving us strange looks as  Nikki, in an effort to imitate her daddy, pretended to take long swigs from the empty beer can while The Papa Man chatted on his phone!

The sleep files continue to be tempestuous and unpredictable with the latest development being an abject revulsion to sleeping in the cot. Every night at 8.30ish, I put Nikki to bed in her cot. Every morning at 4am she wakes up screaming blue murder and insists on being transferred to our bed where on good days she nods off almost immediately, and on bad ones, frolics around for an hour or two. On the really screwed up days, we just give up, go with the flow and head out for an early breakfast to any place that serves extra strong, knock your eyeballs out coffee so that we're fit and fighting for the day that lies ahead. We went through a phase recently where Nikki took resistance to being put down for a nap or for the night to new levels. The Papa Man and I would take turns on the battle field before finally flopping down in weary surrender on the bed while Nikki would continue playing gleefully before tiring herself out and eventually retiring for the night. Thankfully that phase didn't last long else we would have made the dehydrated raccoon look a new fad in these parts. The resistance to sleeping in the cot has been on for a while though, thanks to which anyone who wanders into our bedroom anytime between the hours of 4 and 8 am will be spectator to the strange sight of The Papa Man and I lying at perpendicular angles on the two open sides of our bed to preempt any attempts at diving off the bed,  which Nikki is wont to do every time the thought strikes her fancy.
The other thing with Nikki is that because she resists sleep with such admirable tenacity, she often finally falls asleep in a strange pose resembling a long distance runner with her body all hunched up over the starting line. The fact that she also resembles a baby Spiderman with her newly tonsured look (although the hair is growing back at quite a brisk pace now, thank the Lord) makes this a strange sight indeed. And when she finally wakes up, oh joy!, she sits up with a great sense of urgency like she's running late for an important business meeting and starts chattering at top speed, to make for all the lost time when she was forced to sleep.

And now, since this seems to have turned into another one of those long, rambling, all over the place kind of posts ( I seem to be doing that a lot these days) and also because Nikki has deigned to take a nap, I think I will stop and catch up on some sleep myself (those 4am jaunts are TOUGH!). Will be back with bath tales 101, food fetishes, current fave activities (all I can say now is they involve cars and much shrieking) and other things Nikki!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A special rainy day recipe

Ingredients: A large helping of torrential rains, some blustering wind, one weary adult and one cranky toddler

Preparation time: Take as long as you like!

Serves: Enough to knock out an army!


1. Take a generous helping of a toddler who wakes up at 4 a.m. and promptly attempts to careen headfirst over sleeping parents into the fascinating abyss that lies beyond the bed, thereby causing parents to snap out of slumber pronto with near panic attacks.
2. Stir in some wailing and crying and resisting all attempts to go back to bed, deigning to finally do so only at 6.30 a.m. when it is time for the hapless parents to rise and shine, all bleary eyed.
3. Sprinkle some shrieking like the mother-is-an-axe-murderer when attempts are made to lather/ rinse/ wipe or any other such activity that takes away from the all important task of playing and splashing around in the bath water. Ensure that you add at least one teaspoon of getting the hapless mother soaking wet in the process.
4. Gently fold in some more screeching and prancing around on the bed immediately post-bath, wriggling out of the mother's grasp and making it a point to stay in the middle of the bed which she can't get to because of afore mentioned soaking wet status.
5. Briskly whip in a couple of kilos of the stuff babies make, making sure the diaper is freshly blessed only after the help has left the house so that there is no one to aid the defenseless mother from The Attack of The Fingers That Squish.
6. Deftly add The Fingers That Squish to the mix, making sure you use them for other purposes like touching all objects that the eye can see, thereby necessitating Operation Clean Up No. 1.
7. In the micro nano second that it takes the mother to slip on a fresh diaper, stir in the wriggling-out-of-the-grasp act again and pee in at least three empty spaces. Stir briskly to a smooth consistency.
8. Add some relentless wailing and being a general crank to taste.
8. Add some finely chopped messing around in the freshly peed in spaces, necessitating Operation Clean Up No 2.
9. Repeat Steps 3 & 4. This time make sure to add a generous helping of shrieking and relentless wailing as mother attempts to put on a fresh diaper and change of clothes.
10. Whip to a smooth consistency, stirring in some of throwing up of the dinner, necessitating Operation Clean Up No. 3.
11. Add a generous smattering of taking approximately one hour, forty five minutes and 15 seconds to go into a state of gentle sleep insisting only on the finest patting and rocking to get there, ignoring the fact that mother now looks and feels like a sixty year old on the brink of senility. Wait for the flavors to infuse.
12. Garnish with waking up at the sound of the slightest peep for at least thirty minutes more, drifting off finally into a resigned sort of sleep. We have a 4 a.m. appointment to keep after all.

Serve cold on a rainy day.

Tip: Works best in the absence of that fine ingredient, The Papa Man. Be sure to try when this ingredient is out of town, working late or is otherwise missing in action.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Of playschool hunting and stalking innocent maids

My little girl is growing up! My baby is a baby no longer *sob*, for come Friday, she will be off to playschool for the very first time! Alright, so I'm going off the deep end as usual when it comes to melodrama because its not really a playschool, its a mummy baby group and I'll be accompanying her as well but I just wanted my moment. And it is a milestone in any case; my baby's first day at the mummy baby group. I'd been toying with the idea of signing up for a mummy baby group for a few weeks now and last week I finally decided to take the plunge.

Flashback to a few months ago when I noticed that Nikki really enjoys being in the company of other children. From being completely oblivious to their presence, to slowly graduating to parallel play and then actively engaging with other kids, I realized that it would do her good to spend some time every day with kids her own age. I began by attempting to socialize with the other kids who live in our apartment complex. We live in a large society with multiple parks and there is a profusion of kids in Nikki's age group. I guess most of these kids have working parents because they're always accompanied by maids who're usually too busy cultivating their own social lives to really bother about their wards. Most of the times the kids are cooped up in their prams while the maids take endless rounds of the park, with their mobile phone or latest arm candy glued to their ear or hip, as the case may be. Anyway I decided I would make an attempt at socializing with some of the kids who looked like they were Nikki's age and with this noble intention in mind I approached one of the maids who was wheeling a little boy around in his pram and unlike the others, had neither mobile nor boyfriend attached to her. Now this is a maid I see everyday, I vaguely know the mother of the little boy and Nikki and the little boy have even played together a few times when the little boy was let lose in the garden as opposed to being wheeled around in his pram. I approached the maid, M, from behind with Nikki in her stroller. As I neared I saw her dart a quick glance at us over her shoulder and speed up. I quickened my own pace, hoping to catch up with her, but this just seemed to invoke mild panic in her because she started a semi jog, jiggling the pram in front of her.
"Hey!" I yelled surprised at this strange behavior, and then a more polite "Excuse me!"
M cast a resentful look over her shoulder but slowed down and glared at me. " We just wanted to say Hi to S(the little boy's name)" I said a little breathlessly, catching up with her."Nikki doesn't have too many friends here, so I thought it would be nice for S and Nikki to play together, they're almost the same age" I proffered by way of explanation but this just elicited more resentful glares. By now however S & Nikki had discovered each others presence and were beginning to babble interestedly and swat at each others prams. S had a stuffed camel in his hand which he handed to Nikki with a benign smile. She grabbed it excitedly and said a shy 'thankoo' followed by an excited "Hi!" as an afterthought. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.
"Do you want to put S down in the lawn for sometime?" I asked M "They'll be able to play together better there."
"You want me to go with you in the garden?!" she asked in a horrified voice, casting a few more alarmed looks over her shoulder.
"No!" I replied feeling a little alarmed myself  "We can let S and Nikki play there for a bit, while we watch over them."
She mumbled something incomprehensible under her breath but dumped S unceremoniously in the garden anyway. He looked super excited at this unexpected burst of freedom and delighted to be out and about began scampering around happily. I plonked Nikki down in the garden as well and watched as she and S began playing a little game of what looked like catch the camel with each other amidst much delighted giggling. It took me a while to realize that M had suddenly disappeared into thin air, taking the pram with her. Surprised I was scouring the park for her when she reappeared just as suddenly, with S's mother in tow. S's mother approached me with a frosty smile. "Hi" she said coldly "You're Nikki's mom right?"
"That's right" I smiled back at her.
"Actually M just told me that you were trying to offer her a job at a higher salary than what I'm giving her now" S's  mom went on in a bitter voice. "Look please don't try to poach my maid, its really difficult getting a good maid here and I've found M with great difficulty. She's a huge help because she takes S off my hands for a couple of hours everyday and at least I am able to get some time to myself...."
"Dude I wasn't trying to poach your maid!" I snapped, exasperated. "I was just trying to get S and my daughter to play together since they happen to be the same age."
"Oh?" said S's mom looking completely foxed, "but then why did you ask M to join you for a walk in the garden?"


"This society is full of weirdos and psychopaths!" I complained to P when he got back from work later that day, "I tried to socialize with some of the other kids here today and got mistaken for a stalker and a poacher of maids! I want to relocate!"
"Doesn't Nikki have any friends?" P asked mildly. After more than a decade of togetherness, my histrionics are usually like water off a duck's back.
"I don't know too many people here with kids" I went on wallowing in self pity "I do know a few people and we try and catch up sometimes but it all happens on a very ad hoc basis as a result of which Nikki is being deprived of the company of other kids. She'll grow up to be a lonely, reclusive child with no friends!"
"Well why don't you join a mother toddler program? There are a few playschools in the vicinity which offer those programs for babies of Nikki's age."
"Maybe she'll be chronically shy...maybe she'll never have any close friends" I went on, beginning to enjoy the wallowing, "Eh, what's that you said? A mother toddler program?"

And so it was that the last week saw me scouting for the perfect mother toddler program in playschools in our neighborhood. My first stop was an 'International' playschool, very close to where we live which is housed in a beautiful bungalow with a lovely lawn overflowing with masses of gulmohar and jasmine. The security guard let me in only after liberally spritzing me with hand sanitizer and a thorough examination of my handbag and I went in feeling mighty impressed. The feeling lasted for all of two minutes, before I was let into an office and came face to face with a weary looking woman screeching on the phone to someone as a bunch of kids milled about her. "Oh hello!" she said catching sight of me and sighed in the manner of one who would much rather be a million miles away. "Let me tell you all about our mother toddler program. We have a state of the art, world class facility and the latest infrastructure where we nurture our children in a loving, secure environment."
She stopped and beamed at me, looking a little surprised when I continued looking at her expectantly.
"Er that sounds great" I said in what I hoped was an enthusiastic voice. "So what do you do exactly in the mother toddler program?"
"Huh?" she seemed a little annoyed at this random question. "Oh the program! Hmmm, yes we follow the Reggio Emilia approach, you know, not the Montessori one so we are far superior to the other playschools around."
"Um okay. But what do you DO exactly? You know, the activities in the mother toddler program?" I asked again.
"Oh that" she waved a disdainful hand in the air "well the usual, you know. Peek-a-boo, some music and singing. There really isn't much you can do with kids in that age group!"
Which is precisely why I'm going to pay through my nose to come to your silly playschool, said the little voice in my head. I asked a few more questions, received a few more drab replies and left the place feeling a little frustrated. The lady in question, and she was a teacher in the school, seemed either clueless or thoroughly disinterested about most things and the only thing 'International' I had noted in the school were the fees. That and the Nepali cleaner and Bangladeshi watchman on their staff.

I decided to try a different playschool. A simple, homely one where hopefully the focus would be less on the fancy stuff and more on letting the kids there have a good time.I had heard of one such school which seemed to fit the bill and I made my way there. It looked lovely; it was simple and had a warm, cosy feel and I found myself warming up to the enthusiastic headmistress, who looked rather like a pleasant bumble bee.That was till she handed me a flyer for the mother toddler program. 'Mother Toddler Program!' it screamed in a hideous shade of ochre. 'Instills Competition Spirit! Sportive Attitude! Global Diginity! (whatever that means!) Parental Advise!' and best of all, once a year the 'Free Helth Camp for Full Family!'
I staggered out and speed dialed P. "We're going to have to home school our kids" I informed him gravely. "In some far off place perhaps, where there aren't too many people. Maybe Tasmania? I always wanted to go to Tasmania."
Vision of myself in a pristine, beautiful meadow, by a murmuring brook with Nikki as I gently point out the beauty of nature, the colors and shapes and sounds that surround us. With a nursery rhyme thrown in perhaps.
" why don't you check it out" P's voice rudely interrupted my gentle reverie.
"Huh? What?" I barked into the phone.
"Why don't you check out School X?" repeated P patiently, "Its a popular chain, its well known, a colleague's kid goes there and I've heard good stuff about it."
"Hmph" I snorted, but went off to check the school anyway. Popular chain indeed, I was sure it would be as bad as, if not worse than the two other schools I had just seen. I found myself grudgingly admiring the exterior as I reached. Sure it was not as swanky as the International Playschool but it had a charm of its own. It was spacious and airy with bright cheerful rooms and a lovely play area for the kids. I met with the headmistress who took me through the carefully planned program they had structured for the mother toddler program. And then she showed me the most fantabulous library with the awesome selection of books for toddlers ever. And you could even take them home as part of the library program! She also showed me around the school, the kids there seemed to be having a great time, the teachers all seemed great, I was sold!
After a discussion with P we decided to sign up for the program and this Friday is when we start. Here's to new and happy beginnings and hopefully some new friends for Nikki!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Conversations with my daughter

Its a pleasant evening and Nikki and The Mommy Woman are out for their evening stroll. As they saunter around in the park, they run into the unfriendly neighborhood Grumpy Grandpa. Nikki fixes Grumpy Gramps with an interested eye. The mellow evening sunlight bounces off Grumpy Gramps shiny, bald pate. Nikki leans out of her pram and gives Grumpy Gramps a friendly wave. Grumpy Gramps, true to his nature, ignores Nikki and tries to walk past.
Nikki: Tak-loo!
GG (glaring at The Mommy Woman!): Cough! Splutter!...
Nikki, in a louder voice, pointing at Grumpy Gramps: TAK-LOOO!
The bright red human tomato, earlier known as The Mommy Woman, wheels the pram away at top speed, mumbling incoherent, apologetic sounding somethings under her breath.


The Mommy Woman, overcome with love for her only child, envelops Nikki in a bear hug and plants a big kiss on her face.
Nikki, looking thoroughly disgusted and shoving The Mommy Woman away with an indignant look: MIND IT!!! ( pronounced Mann-dayyy!!! in Nikki- speak)


Nikki's evening snack is finally ready. The Mommy Woman is feeling rather chuffed with her own concoction of bananas, soy milk and litchis and can't wait for Nikki to sample the stuff.
The Mommy Woman: Nikki! Something yummy for your tummy! Your smoothie is rrrrreaddy!
Nikki(looking supremely disinterested): Ohhh maaaan!!


The Papa Man: Nikki, I LOVE you!
Nikki: Aaa WUV ooo!
The Mommy Woman, jealously hovering around: Nikki, I LOVE you!
Nikki: YAWN!


Its a busy evening in a crowded suburban shopping mall. Nikki, The Papa Man and The Mommy Woman are shopping and hanging out. Nikki is looking particularly cute in a pink Tokyo Baby t-shirt and corduroys and is attracting a lot of attention from passers-by, especially young college girls who are thronging the place in hordes.
A group of hot, young college girls: Awwww SO cute!
Nikki, with a shy smile: Hi!
Hot, young college girls: SCREECH! She spoke to me! She said Hi! Awww I wanna KISS her!
Nikki: Kisssssssssssss 
Hot, young college girls surround Nikki and the fortunate Papa Man who's holding her and take turns hugging and kissing Nikki. Five minutes later...
The Papa Man, with a blissful smile: We should go shopping with Nikki more often!
The Mommy Woman: Hmph!


The Mommy Woman, back after a much needed trip to the salon, is overcome with separation anxiety at having left Nikki behind for TWO WHOLE HOURS.
The Mommy Woman: Nikki! Mommy is BACK!
Nikki and The Papa Man, looking up from a mess involving crayons and a copy of The Mommy Woman's latest copy of Mother & Baby: AIYYO!

Footnote: Nikki's conversational skills training and enriched vocabulary courtesy The Papa Man.