Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wonderboxx Time

The pattern is now clear to me.

Every month after the Wonderboxxes arrive, Peanut attacks hers with great concentration. Within a period of just a couple of days, she'll be done creating her new gizmos.

Her October box was ''Optics & Illusions'' - you can check it out here.

This was a particularly neat box. We opened it up to discover that it contained, amongst other things -

a. A little book on optical illusions: Some of the time tested ones like whether you're seeing the face of an old woman or a beautiful princess, and some new ones I'd never seen. She was thoroughly tickled by these and even spent time copying them out in her own notebook.

b. A spinner toy: this was thoroughly entertaining for Peanut. She spent a lot of time showcasing how the spinning patterns caused the effect of something entirely different while in motion.

c. A periscope, a telescope and binocular making set -she was done with these very quickly, although with the last one, she insisted on my 'helping' her - this was also when she saw me helping Pickle and Papad with their box, and I suspect she was feeling left out. Otherwise, as far as the Ginomo boxes, meant for the older kids go, they can be handled pretty independently.

My verdict: Overall, pleased with the way Peanut is taking to the Wonderboxx. Happy about the time that it keeps her busy and away from trying to get in screen time. Of course, she's a big reader, but it's nice to see her building stuff. She also intends to take some of these creations to her Show & Tell at school, which is a great thing from a confidence building point of view. So good job to the team at Wonderboxx!

Peanut's verdict: (from her private blog)

This month another wonderboxx came. I think this one was the coolest for me so far. My wonderboxx subject was "Optic Illusions." In this wonderboxx I made a pair of binoculars. They were blue in color and had pictures of sea creatures on them. The parts were really easy to get as they came in the wonderboxx itself. I also made a telescope,periscope and a spinner toy. The spinner toy was the coolest. The paterns were different and beautiful. One patern was created in the way some persons eyes were getting hypnotized. When it was spun the circles moved round and round. Another had dots which were like circles when spun.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               I also got a book which was called "Inside Out". It had so many cool things. Like there was a dog which ears shaped like cats. It asked below it "Dogs or Cats?" Then there was a picture of an old lady in which when I turned the book upside down was a princess. There were many examples like this. So long till my next blog!

The twins, on the other hand, got a box for the Kiddo age group, called 'Words & Storytelling'. You can check that one out here. 

It consisted of stuff like a story-telling puppet-making kit, a calendar, a word-building folder, alphabet puzzles.

Unlike with Peanut, the twins, since they're smaller and not quite as dextrous, this box as usual required a lot more parental involvement. Something that Wonderboxx is making me discover that I still need a lot of patience and work for. I was glad for the theme since I'm really trying to get them to read more as THE most key skill for them. The box had puppet-making, which we did together and which actually turned out nice because they made this frog and tiger-type-cat set and performed a little impromptu skit behind the sofa.

The one thing about the Wonderboxxes is that they don't always come with a LOT of instruction. I assume this is because they want kids to figure stuff out on their own. For someone with limited time and patience like me, this is really an exercise in patience, and we definitely have a lot of near-melt-down moments with the twins deciding that they want to do something their own way. As far as the twins boxes are concerned, I think they're as much about getting a parent more aware of their parenting styles and flaws as it is about firing up a kid's creativity and imagination. I approach each Kiddo box therefore, with some trepidation.

Over time, though, I think the twins are also getting reconciled to the fact that they have to share a box, that things won't always turn out perfect as shown in the colourful manuals, and so on. So overall, there's growth involved. And especially since these two aren't readers like Peanut, I am glad that there's something to distract them on a monthly basis.

We've yet to finish exploring their box thoroughly, even though it's been with us for a while. I want to take out the time to do it myself rather than leave it to them to tear through the box and lose the pieces. Maybe I should let go a little, eh?

In the meantime, I'm already looking forward to opening their November box...since it's the one on handling emotions - ''Superheroes & Feelings'', which you can take a look at here.

Wonder what I'm going to learn ;)

Keep up the great work, team Wonderboxx :)

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Proud Landowners

I can't believe he's actually doing it.

Vijay is turning into a Farmer. Experimenting on Rented Land. 

And now you can read how it all began below -

In Chapter 10 from my book 'Just Married, Please Excuse' - get it on Amazon here

The Proud Landowners
‘You know what? We should look at putting some money in some land.’
Vijay had been reading the property supplement of the paper while I applied my mind to the cryptic crossword. He folded up his paper with a businesslike rustle and waited for my reaction.

‘Really?’ I said. I had no idea about these things, but it definitely sounded like the kind of responsible and vaguely boring thing that a married couple would do. ‘Cool! What kind of land? How do we go about it?’

For a moment, Vijay looked like he didn’t have a clue either. But then he said with determination, ‘I’ll find out about the options.’

As I had already learnt, nothing made Vijay happier than finding out about the options. This obsessive behaviour applied not just to new purchases or investment decisions – even when he had to choose which socks to wear, he would first check out the options. Basically, he liked having a choice in every matter. Perhaps it made him feel in control. Privately, I put the matter of land completely out of my mind. After all, I reasoned, it had taken us four weeks to buy a sofa. Land would probably take four years.

To my surprise, when we got home that evening, it turned out he had already done some research during the day. ‘I got the number of this broker fellow called Dilip and spoke to him – he’s showing us a plot of land on Saturday.’

‘That was quick,’ I said with admiration. ‘So what kind of land is it? Will we build a house on it or are we just buying it for investment’s sake?’

Vijay could not contain his excitement as he announced, ‘It’s an agricultural plot in Devanahalli. We’re going to farm on it!’

Devanahalli was about thirty-five kilometers from the heart of Bangalore, basically in the middle of nowhere. I waited a moment to see if he was joking, but it didn’t look like it. His smile turned dreamy as he continued, ‘I’ve always wanted to own a piece of land on which I could grow my own stuff. Maybe even eventually make a living out of it by growing some medicinal crops, there’s a lot of money to be made in those. And the fresh air and the feeling of being close to nature – wah!’

He was saying something about vanilla, amla and something that sounded like Jethro Tull to me, but turned out to be jatropha. My mind was wandering a bit. I liked Nature as much as the next girl, but had never seen myself as a farmer’s wife. Out loud, I said, ‘Achha, that’s all very nice. But don’t you think we should perhaps look at something more practical? As in, maybe buy some land and sell it for a profit so that we can get our own flat or something?’

Then I noticed Vijay’s expression. He looked like somebody had punctured all his tyres, including the spare, and so I continued quickly, ‘But there’s no harm in checking it out, right? Just as an option.’

Vijay was happy again and I thought maybe it actually wouldn’t be such a bad idea to own some land near Bangalore. The busy corporate couple that we were, it could be our weekend sanctuary. A place where we could perhaps even entertain good friends. Get away from the madness of the city for a couple of days of rustic rest and relaxation.

Saturday rolled around and the two of us got ready bright and early. We were meeting the broker Dilip in the city and then driving together to the land.

It was a beautiful morning. The weather was pleasant and mild and there was a cool breeze. We drove with the windows down, enjoying the fact that we were putting some distance between us and the pollution and chaos of the city. The drive was long but the view was scenic and Dilip was a quiet, honest-looking sort of chap who struck me as the antithesis of the loud, obnoxious type that I had thought a broker should ideally be.

He spoke only a little, to tell us a bit more about the land. It seemed that it was owned by a family in Bangalore, who had been unable to spend time and money in cultivating it and now wanted to buy some land closer to the city. According to Dilip, they wanted to get rid of it at a throwaway price of five and a half lakh rupees. This still sounded like quite a bit of money to me so I firmly resolved that there would be negotiations – if we liked the land at all, of course.
With Dilip’s directions, we finally got to the land. It was quite far from the main road and we had to travel on a dirt track for about a kilometre, which Vijay noted with a muttered ‘Bad approach road’ as he struggled with the wheel to stay on the track. Finally, in a cloud of dust, we pulled up in front of the gate of the plot.

We got out, stretched and looked around appraisingly. The plot was fenced off, in the middle of a fairly barren stretch of land. As we walked through the gate, we were greeted by an old Kannadiga couple who served as the caretakers.

The place itself was beautiful. It was running a bit wild here and there but it seemed to be teeming with all sorts of vegetation. It was segregated into different parts and to my delight, one portion had mango trees. Vijay walked around with Dilip and the caretaker and carefully checked the various crops. There was a vegetable patch with potatoes, cauliflower, tomatoes and so on. I had a feeling Vijay was already imagining the taste of his all-time favourite dish – alu gobi – cultivated from scratch.

The land was also much larger than I had imagined. I asked Dilip about the size and he said it was ten acres. It was so large that I stopped following Vijay around after a while and just sat down on a tree stump.

It was quiet and peaceful. The cool breeze brought with it scents of the different plants and trees. The only constant sound was the buzzing of insects. There were also a cow and a few goats owned by the caretakers which, I thought approvingly, gave the place just the right sort of rustic touch. It was intoxicating.

The clincher for us, especially as far as Vijay was concerned, was the borewell. It was not very well maintained, as Dilip admitted, but with some work, it could supply almost all the water required for the irrigation of the land. Vijay was fascinated by the borewell, insisting on drinking its water from it because the caretaker told him it was very sweet. I protested, afraid that he might keel over clutching his throat and die on the spot, or perhaps less dramatically, develop a stomach bug – but he simply cupped his hands and downed a mouthful of the water, leaned back to savour it and pronounced it indeed the sweetest water that he had ever tasted. His exact words were, ‘Wah!’

I observed him as he sat crosslegged next to the borewell. The white kurta that he had donned for the visit made him look like some sort of benign, mild-mannered young thakur. He asked the caretaker all sorts of questions about the different types of soils on the land, discussed with him and Dilip the merits and demerits of the various crops, which had thrived and which had not, and even held forth on what, in his opinion, the owners could have done differently. They had an extended conversation and the caretaker’s wife then served us steaming tea in steel glasses that were so hot that they were a challenge to hold. ‘Made with goat’s milk,’ she said in Kannada and Dilip translated for us. We were a bit sceptical about how it would taste, but after a sip or two, we were pleasantly surprised.

Dilip asked us what we thought, and Vijay and I looked at each other. I gave him a smooth, almost imperceptible nod. He missed it and continued to look blankly at my face for my reaction. I pulled him aside and hissed, ‘It’s nice. But negotiate.’

Vijay nodded and we went back to Dilip. Vijay said that we were prepared to look at the land, but only for five lakh rupees. Dilip said that five and a half lakh was already a very low price and that we could ask anyone about it. But he would try and convince the landowners to consider this price for us because he thought we were a very nice couple and he hadn’t seen any of the other prospective buyers take such an interest in the different aspects of the land as Vijay had. We also seemed to have the blessings of the caretaker and his wife, as they stood around eavesdropping blatantly, with ingratiating toothless grins. We shook hands with Dilip solemnly and left, thanking the caretakers for their hospitality.

We were now very excited about the prospect of owning the land. It was a fair amount of money for us, because I had just started work and Vijay had not felt the need to save a single paisa of his earnings till now. But we were certain we would be able to arrange it through some means – maybe a loan.

When we got home that evening, we talked about the various things that we would do with the land, maybe construct a little farmhouse on it over time or even a small guest house, eventually developing it into a resort. Vijay started off on his agricultural plan, but I tuned out again somewhere around jatropha and instead closed my eyes and imagined indulging myself in the jacuzzi of my very own spa-resort, while he rambled on happily about the various crop options.

By the time Monday rolled around, we were convinced that Dilip would have swung the deal for us and that we now fell in the category of landed gentry. In fact, as we discussed it on the way to work, we recklessly said we would be prepared to pay fifty thousand rupees more for the land, if it came to that. In the office, we talked about it with a few people and they seemed quite impressed, saying that five lakh rupees did sound like a throwaway price for ten acres – in fact, they warned us to be very careful because the price appeared to be so low that perhaps there was something wrong with the ownership of the land. We scoffed at them, saying that of course we would ensure we checked everything out carefully with the help of a lawyer. After all, it wasn’t like we were stupid.

That evening, Vijay got a breathless call from Dilip. ‘Sir, they are close to getting an offer for five point five lakh. I am telling them that if you pay even five point two, you are the people they should sell to – is five point two lakh okay?’

Vijay was very capable of making quick decisions on the spot. ‘Dilip, I’m not even discussing this with my wife. Just go ahead and tell them that five point two is fine for us.’
‘Great, sir. I will call you back in one hour.’ Dilip hung up.
Vijay looked over at me and nodded. He held out his hand and I high-fived it.

When Dilip called back, Vijay put him on speaker phone. ‘Sir, they’ve agreed. Can we set up a meeting tomorrow evening, five p.m., at their residence in Koramangla?’
‘That sounds fine,’ said Vijay. ‘Thanks a lot, Dilip.’
‘It’s okay, sir,’ said Dilip modestly. ‘It’s a good deal, sir.
68 Yashodhara Lal
Getting an all-white deal for fifty-two lakh rupees is not easy nowadays.’
His voice was all amplified and tinny and his words seemed to echo in the ensuing silence.
Vijay attempted to keep his voice level. ‘What did you say, Dilip?’
‘Sir, all-white deal for fifty-two lakh is not at all easy ...’
Fifty-two lakh rupees?’ Vijay’s expression as he looked at me was a mask of horror. I was sure mine mirrored it.

Dilip went on to say something else, but I had stopped listening. It all fell into place now. He had always said five point two lakh – of course he had meant five point two lakh per acre. I decided this was Vijay’s fault, as usual. He was the one who had started the entire discussion with Dilip. He should have been more careful. He should have been more aware. He should have ...

Vijay was saying, ‘Er, Dilip, you know what? We may need to get back to you on this.’
Dilip was taken aback, ‘But sir ... the meeting tomorrow?’ Vijay said, ‘Okay bye’ and hung up.
We stared at each other wordlessly, and then the expressions

of horror faded as helpless laughter took over instead. Vijay pointed at me and laughed. ‘And you thought five point two lakh rupees was too high ... ha ha ha!’
I retaliated by mocking him. ‘What about you? Drinking the water from the borewell, sitting there like some sort of thakur ... Haan, yeh paani toh bahut meetha hain ... Wah!’

‘Poor Dilip,’ he said once the laughter had passed. We maintained a respectful silence for him for a minute. Then Vijay asked me, ‘So exactly how do you plan to explain this to him?’ He deftly ducked out of the way to avoid the pillow I threw.

Poor Dilip was quite disappointed when Vijay finally called him to explain why we were backing out of the deal. Vijay said that we had consulted with some legal experts and there were apparently quite a few issues with the registration for ownership of agricultural land, especially in Karnataka, and it was not a hassle that we were willing to take on at the moment. He also added that we had decided we needed to be a bit more practical and purchase a flat before thinking about any other large investments. He thanked him for his efforts and apologized for the wasted time.

Dilip, who seemed to epitomize the expression Nice Guys Finish Last, said that he understood and respected our decision. He also agreed that the registration issue was a real problem in Karnataka if you didn’t happen to be originally from the state and said it was wise of Vijay to have found out about it. Of course, said Vijay smugly, it was our investment, so we had to look at it from all angles.

After all, it wasn’t like we were stupid. 

(Get 'Just Married, Please Excuse' Here)

And seriously? Like father, like sons. 

My men all believe in getting their hands dirty. 

Conversations with Some Random Kids I Made

(Crossposted from my Facebook page here)

Part 1: 

We're trying to get ready to go for my brother-in-law's birthday party and I'm very hassled because the kids are running here and there and refusing to get ready.
I spot Pickle fiddling with something and shout 'Pickle! Why aren't you getting ready?'
He looks up at me, chin quivering, with big innocent eyes. It takes him a moment but he swallows and manages. 'I'm packing for Shaunak-Uncle party, aren't I?'
I'm immediately chastened. 'Sorry, son. Go ahead. You finish packing and then we will go.'
'Thank you.' He pulls himself up to his full height and says with the greatest of dignity. 'Have you seen my Stapler?'
On the way, I can see the kids are falling asleep. So I try to divert their minds.
'And so, when we're older, Mum and Dad will live with Pickle for the first four months of the year....with Peanut for the next four and with Papad for the last few months. Right?'
Papad chimes 'What will be in mine?'
I understand because we've had this conversation before. 'Christmas. We'll be celebrating Christmas in yours, and Diwali, of course, and...we'll have presents for your kids too...'
I notice that Papad looks very worried. I sigh. 'Now what, son?'
'I don't wan to have a baby.'
'Why?' I ask gently.
'Because when they cut my tummy open, it will HURT.'
I realize there may be a fundamental error in education here. But before I can say anything, Peanut pipes up irritatedly.
'Oofff Papad! Boys don't have babies, only girls do.'
'Yes, that's right.' I confirm, smiling at him reassuringly.
'Why boys can't have baby?' Papad asks.
'Well...' I really don't feel ready for this right now. 'It's like that only, beta. Even amongst animals if you see, it's always the female who has the babies, and...'
Peanut, interrupting with the most heart-felt anguish, holding her head dramatically 'WHY? WHY is it always US?'

Part 2: (An earlier post)

I'm riding in the car with my twin sons after some shopping.

Papad suddenly says, a worried frown on his face ''Don't grow old and die, Mummy.''
Pickle ''Don worry Papad. Girls don't grow old. Only boys do.'
Me ''Uh, well, that's not really true, Pickle. Everyone grows old and ...that's just the way life is.''
Papad clings to my arm and cries ''Noooooo''
Pickle stands firm. ''No, girls don't grow old. I know dat.''
Me, tickling Papad's chin comfortingly. ''How do you know dat, I mean that?''
''I never seen.'' says Pickle.
Me ''Of course you've seen old women as well as old men, Pickle!''
Pickle, with a crafty look on his face ''I seen old wimmin but never an old GIRL.''
Papad is still looking traumatized, so I just try to change tacks with ''Well, by the time I grow old, you guys will be all grown up, right? And Papad will be a pilot!''
Papad immediately looks happier and so I press on ''And he will wear a uniform and look so handsome, right?''
He starts to beam, and I'm encouraged ''And he will fly planes to America and Canada and...''
Suddenly, the exact same worried frown is back on Papad's face.
I pause uncertainly.
My little son confesses ''But I don know the WAY.''
I explain that they'll have maps to be able to tell the way.
Pickle ''I know which way is left and right.'' He holds up his right hand proudly and says ''dis is LEFT, hai na?''
''Oooh, look'' I point out ''a train!''.
Thankfully, we're reaching home now.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

To Bharatpur & Back Again: Part 1 - The Taj Mahal

Unlike a lot of other families, we don’t get to take longish vacations, but this year Vijay and I resolved we’d go on a few mini-breaks with the kids. During the summer holidays, we went to the Garden Valley Resort in Nighlaat, which was quite a delightful experience I meant to blog about but didn’t, and then we took a day trip to Jaipur and Chowki Dhaani which also the kids really loved.

Last week, we decided to make use of the Dussehra holidays to go to Agra. The kids hadn’t seen the Taj Mahal, and actually neither had Vijay – I only vaguely remembered going there as a kid. We then decided to combine it with a trip to the Bharatpur bird sanctuary – we discovered this was a decent season to see the migratory birds. I also remembered a cousin rhapsodizing about the Wildlife SOS bear sanctuary and thought we’d try and fit this one in.

The kids were so delighted that they spent several days drawing up multi-coloured Taj Mahals. Pickle’s was something else - and I couldn’t quite believe he’d made it himself – very unlike his other scrawled drawings.

We set out at 10 a.m. on the first day, much later than we’d initially planned – the drive from Gurgaon to Agra took about 4 or 4.5 hours. The trip was relatively smooth because we had our driver Kamal along in our trusty Innova. Smooth enough for Vijay, who chose to sit in front to ‘navigate’ and simply stretched out his legs and enjoyed the rode while I struggled in the back with three wriggly kids. Only when he turned around and saw my murderous face, the husband decided to come to the back for half hour, but was soon up front again, this time stating that he needed to play DJ because he had connected up his iPhone to the car’s music system but the speakers needed adjustment and so on.

He was then tempted to drive the car because the road was just so wide and empty. We whizzed along with him occasionally driving faster than he was supposed to, and yet slower than many cars around us. I reminded him to be careful – we had small kids in the car.

Papad piped up ‘100 miles Daddy!’
‘Oh, yes, beta – we were doing more than that also!’ Came Vijay’s cheery reply.
Our son repeated ‘100 miles!’
‘Yes, yes…more also!’

I waited until this exchange was repeated 3 more times, with little Papad getting increasingly frustrated each time. When I noted he was on the verge of tears but Vijay was still being thick, I informed him ‘He’s talking about the SONG, Vijay.’

‘Eh? Oh! Sorry, sorry, Beta.’ Vijay immediately went back to the passenger seat much to the relief of Kamal and me and everyone else in the car, and started to play DJ to settle our whimpering son. Our car was soon filled with the sound of Not a Shirrt on my baaack, Not a Penny to my name…Lord I can’t Go back Home This-Away, which my kids sang along to with great gusto, especially Papad.

We reached Agra and just then my mother called Vijay, saying she knew someone there who could accompany us to the Taj. We protested saying we would surely find it ourselves, it was kind of famous, but she was adamant. It turned out to have been a very good decision to request Praveen-Ji, an official of the Government of India to accompany us because basically as his guests, we got to beat the loooong lines of people standing outside waiting to get in.

The Taj was very, very beautiful – breathtakingly so, almost as good as Pickle’s Drawing. Peanut took the best shot. I don't know how she managed it, but it was wayyy better than all my attempts. 

To my surprise, the kids actually enjoyed the whole thing, looking around, feeling the stones, marvelling at the snatches of the story that they overheard from the guide we’d hired for the purpose. It helped that we also took a Camel cart ride ( very very smelly) on the way in, and a Horse Cart ride (not smelly, much better) on the way out.

I took a shot as the sun was setting of this thingy right next to the Taj. I thought it wasn't that bad, but it's pretty sad that this was the best I could do. Still, here it is. 

It was actually very crowded, but according to Praveen-ji, the traffic is actually about four times more on the weekends, which I was very startled by. I was glad we were there on a Wednesday. The kids were allowed to buy little Taj souvenirs which they claimed they would all use in their class for Show & Tell. In typical Indian style, the asking price was Rs.150. I paid Rs.40 for one, and Vijay managed to haggle the other two down from another vendor to Rs.25 each.

And then we bade goodbye to the Taj and Praveen-ji, who was quite unhappy that we didn’t take up his offer for a Papadi Chaat nearby, and then we were off to Bharatpur. It was about 7.30 p.m., an hour or so later that we reached the Surya Villas hotel – a fairly large property, done up in old-world style with a big courtyard area and all – it was nothing as fancy as the Baagh where Vijay and I had stayed a couple of years earlier, but we hoped it would turn out to be good value for money. A bunch of foreigners were enjoying a puppet show when we passed the courtyard and there was a swimming pool nearby with a DJ, which I personally thought spoiled a bit of the old-world charm. We ran into the owner, a courteous man, and his warmth helped make the place seem a little better. The rooms were pretty decent, and we were given a mattress for the kids. Of course, they all immediately jumped on the bed and left the mattress for me and Vijay. Fair enough. Not. 

That first night at dinner I got a little annoyed with a waiter who delayed bringing our food and seemed to have eyes only for the white people, a boisterous contingent of about 12 men and women, the other guests staying at the hotel. The kids were getting so hungry and cranky that I got up with them and told the fellow that he might as well just have the food delivered to our room. On the way to the room, I met the owner’s son (and co-owner of the place) and told him in no uncertain terms what had happened, including the fellow’s reticence about joining two tables together for us ( Vijay and I finally ended up doing it), the delays and various other little misdemeanors on his part. The owner looked quite shocked and expressed his apology and said he’d speak to him.

Vijay followed me and the kids up to the room. He waited until I was a little calmer and then pointed out that it looked like that waiter was overworked and overwhelmed – he seemed to be one of the few guys managing the place. I hotly argued that he seemed to have enough time and attention for the white folks, and we’d waited a whole hour for our order with tired and hungry kids. But the more I thought about it, I had a nagging feeling that my husband was right. Maybe there was another side to the story and I could have been more patient. Maybe I’d got the fellow in trouble with his employer whereas maybe he hadn’t really meant to be neglectful. I really, truly hated it when Vijay was right. Would have to figure this out with the dude the next morning.

The food was quite all right except that the cooks had been rather liberal with the spices. Also, this was the first time ever that I'd had noodles garnished with dhania, and it was strangely good. 

The Kids passed out early enough and soon Vijay and I dropped out of sheer exhaustion too. Good thing. The next morning was to be an early trip to the famous Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Peanut's First Sleepover

In madam's own words:


Hiya Everyone!!!

So this thingamabob was on Sunday 18 September. It was my best friend A's birthday. She had decided for a sleepover AND she invited me!!! Mom and Dad said I could go. But the way Mom made me pack was hilarious. You would think I was going away for a year or two. She added sanitizer followed with Odomos with an extra Underwear.

But it was my first SLEEPOVER ever. We had so much fun. First we Passing the Parcel. And guess what? I won!!! You might not think it was that Grrrrreat but it was the first time I had ever won!

Next we played the Queen game. We first put on makeup, walked like a model. That was the first round of the Queens game. The second round was the Talent Round. We all had to dance. After that was the Kitchen round. We baked Pizzas in that round. The semi final round was the Desert Round. We decorated Ice cream sundaes in our own way. And finally it was the Intelligence round. Aanya's mother asked us a lot of questions. Then Finally the results came. My other Best friend S won the style round. She got a sash for it. Talent rounds winner was my classmate A. Kitchen round was won by A's best friend Tara. Desert round was won by Sa. And Intelligence round was won by.... ME!!! My sash read; INTELLIGENCE QUEEN. 

After that we watched a new Cinderella movie. I fell asleep at 3:30 AM and woke up at 8:00 AM.

That was the coolest day ever!!!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pickle and the Post

*Cross posted from my FB page here*

I am cleaning up my room after about a year and find an old envelope. I'm about to throw it away when Pickle, my 5 year old wanders in aimlessly.
'You want this?'
'What it is?' He asks curiously. Then, as he realizes what the object is, his face changes. His eyes almost well up in tears of gratitude as he says 'THANK you Mummy.'
He then grabs the envelope from me and runs out screaming 'Papad! I got a POST!'
Soon his twin is in the room demanding his own 'Post' which luckily, I manage to source. They start to make their own special letters.
Pickle knows exactly what he wants to make. He comes up to me and confides.
'Mama, I'm making a letter for you. It will say
I love you forever I like you for always As Long as I'm living My Mommy You'll Be.'
I'm very touched by his plagiarism. I say 'That's great, beta.'
'Can you give me a Paper?'
'Okay.' I hand him a sheet of paper.
'How do you write I love you forever?'
I can see where this is going. 'Why don't you find that book, baby, and you can copy the words from there?'
'No.' He is firm on this point. 'This is not a copy.'
'Okay. Fine.' I sigh. 'Write 'I' and then 'L-O-V-E'
Five minutes later, I'm encouraging the little boy 'Well, you wrote the spelling of Ever very nicely? ...Just that you got both the E's and the R backwards...but that's okay, that's okay...' ( Papad cackles meanly in the background as he writes his own much shorter letter to his friend Uday)
After about ten minutes and two sheets of paper and much erasing, Pickle and I have only done about half of the poem and now I'm the one who's welling up in tears.
I suggest tentatively. 'Pickle? Why don't you guys go and watch a little TV now, and you can do this later...'
Almost before I've finished, the twins are out the door, unable to believe their good luck, Pickle having immediately and unceremoniously dropped his love letter to me, like a hot potato. It flutters to the floor and lies there sadly.
I lean back onto my pillow and sigh happily. Pickle pokes his head into my room and says 'Sorry I left your door open Ma' and smiles sweetly and then slams it shut.
I close my eyes, once again, so incredibly thankful for that wonderful invention called television.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wonderboxx: September

So the nice folks at Wonderboxx have decided to send me - or rather, my kids - more boxes for review after the last time I wrote about them. Which is very nice because overall, it's a great concept and I really like the fact that the kids have something to look forward to which doesn't involve staring at a screen all the time.

The Wonderboxx is an innovative kind of monthly box that enables kids to learn as they play - each box is based on a particular theme, and contains a carefully selected set of items, which lets kids create things with their own hands. The Wonderboxx people said they'd like to send me two boxes each month, which I thought would work great - one for the 8 year old and one for the 5 year old twins! Sounds good in theory, right? Except that naturally, the twins had a meltdown at having to share their box. Still, I braved it valiantly, telling myself that this way they will learn to share, which is always such an important thing.

The theme for the younger kids' box (The Kiddos box, meant for 3-5 year olds) for September is Super Seasons.

The twins, once they stopped crying about who would get to grab what item in the box, started to play - there was a game that involved players picking up cards and guessing items suitable for a particular season ( e.g. scarves, boots for winter versus shorts for summer) - they were not too enthralled by this and it didn't hold their attention much.

Then there was a 3D tree which Papad picked up and tried to make. I sat down with him and told him how he was supposed to glue the sides of the tree together so that we would get four sides, one for each of the seasons. He resented my approach, which was to read the instructions and try to follow them and he snatched them away and ran into his room. He emerged a while later, proudly carrying four separate sheets of A4 paper on which he had stuck different sides of the tree. He seemed very happy with this and said he would take it to Show & Tell. I was like, whatever, dude. Have it your way. The important thing was he thought of a way to use it himself, which was nice.

The Seasons box contained a bunch of other things, including an Seasons-Wardrobe where characters have to be dressed appropriately for each season; an Activity booklet and a Storybook - the Activity booklet is something that Pickle seemed to find interesting because he started colouring in it - he couldn't play the word games, which is where Peanut took over and started to fill it all up. The storybook is one which we haven't read at bedtime yet. I have fast discovered that as far as the Wonderboxx for younger kids goes, it really does require a fair bit of parental involvement. I've also discovered in the process my own short fuse and lack of patience with my own kids when we're making something and I think this is a major flaw that I should work on. I really admire playschool teachers and in fact, all teachers of small kids for their patience. They should all get double or triple of their salaries and if I were in charge of this decision, I'd do it right now.

Peanut on the other hand, is frankly delighted with her box - the theme for her box (called the Ginomo set, meant for kids over 5 years)  this month was Air & Wind.

It came with  kits to make all sorts of little projects - so far, she's read all the instructions herself and made a windmill and well thingy, a balloon-powered little car, a pretty little fan, and basically enjoyed every aspect of the box thoroughly and is already waiting for the October one. Here's what she wrote on her own blog about it -


Ok so here is the next blog as I said. So the thing is that a few months ago mom got me and Pickle Papad a wonder boxx. The truth is that we all love it. Of course any child would love it. My theme was light tales. Inside the wonder boxx there were ever so many things! I made a kilidoscope followed with a monster projecter box. There was a free torch, Tape and glue. Pickle Papad and me were delighted to here that if mom reviewed the wonder boxx then we would get 2 free each year!!! So mom said Yes and yesterday morning we got 2 new wonder boxes. Pickle papad were sharing 1 so I got the other. This wonder boxx theme was Air and Wind. I made a windmill and a magic fan plus a balloon car. I really enjoyed myself. Pickle papads theme was Seasons. They made a season tree. I am looking forward to next month cause we will get another wonder boxx soon. I don't care what theme I am going to get, cause what I really care about is the wonder boxx.

PS Mom has told me to write this so that she can copy half of  this on her wonder boxx review!!!  


The last line there in the PS - she means I had told her to write this so that it would make up half of my own review but she clearly got a little confused. Still, that helped. 

Some pictures of the stuff she made. 

The little car powered by the balloon you can see in the picture. She'd blow up the balloon, attach the pipe to the back of the car and watch in delight as the car went a little way away as the balloon slowly deflated.

The above is the windmill she created. There's a little bucket that rises up and down from the well to drive home the concept of how wind energy can be harnessed.

The above is a fan that she made. The little strings are attached to a paper pipe and the fan obediently opens and closes as you push the pipe up or down over the straw.

Oh, yeah - and as you can see below - we actually went and used the recipe in the 'Cooking With Kids' section in the newsletter that comes with the boxes, and made Peanut Butter and Chocolate and Oatmeal Cookies - I put in too much milk and therefore they didn't really set properly but the twins loved them anyway! 

Thanks Wonderboxx folks, and keep them coming. One suggestion since I know you'll be reading this - can you look at creating a box which actually helps kids learn about, label and most importantly figure out how to handle their feelings and emotions? It's a little abstract as a concept but I'm sure you guys can figure it out. If it's not already in your pipeline of product ideas, please do consider putting it there! 

And readers - you can subscribe to your Wonderboxx here.

P.S - the Wonderboxx folks have told me that there's already a box planned in the next couple of months on the theme of feelings. Mind-readers, they are, or just good at their research!