Thursday, October 17, 2013

Once upon a dream...

'Something poofy or something fun?' My daughter and I sat at the dining table with piles of paper and markers scattered out in front of us. The doodles and pointers in the various sheets held testament to the fact that there were some very important decisions that had to be made, starting with the dress. After all it was that time of the year again. The time both she and I had been eagerly waiting for all year; her birthday. 

December was still two months away but the wait was getting a bit too exhausting and there was always a lot to be done. Unlike many other moms, who found their kid's birthday rather stressful and a bit too heavy on their pockets, for me it was somewhat the contrary. Well firstly, it was the one time in the year when I got to do all the things I loved the most at one go (conceptualize, plan, organize, shop, write and cook) and secondly unlike those showy extravagant parties with a DJ, pony rides and what not, mine was simple, minimalistic and totally budget-friendly. Agreed, I love my daughter and wouldn't hesitate to go all out when it came to her special day, but how could I forget the poor guy paying for it all, my darling husband.

So like all parties, the first big step was to decide the theme. For me it was a no brainer; a magical Disney princess party. I must be honest here and admit that though I clearly knew that my daughter would be equally happy with some jungle gym theme or a pajama party and was also well informed that according to the parenting bible, it was almost a crime to use your child as an excuse to relive your unfulfilled dreams, I didn't care.

And why should I? I was certain that she would have a blast as it would be a dream come true for any five year old to have her very own special fairy tale party. But especially because I knew this was going to be my one last chance. My little Kindergartener was growing up fast and had even started substituting her play dough and little kitchen sets with virtual tennis and lego friends. I had very little time left and knew it wasn't long before she completely left me and her papa out of the planning committee. 

Yes, I admit it. I was guilty as charged. I had always wanted a princess party with magic wands, glittery tiaras and sparkly gowns. I had always thought of it, dreamed of it and craved for it, since the time I saw my very first Disney movie.

It was eons ago. And I still remember that day as if it was only yesterday. I had sat huddled with a friend in her floral printed couch in her fancy English home in London. My little blonde friend had squealed when her mom announced that we could watch 'The Little Mermaid.' I hadn't understood what could have probably evoked such intensity of excitement and thrill. I remember even feeling a bit embarrassed when her mom repeated the title again with a little more gusto lest I hadn't heard it clearly the first time. Little did she knew I had no clue what she was talking about. 

But all that was going to change in a matter of minutes. Not only was I going to be some kind of a genius in merpeople and other enchanted mythical creatures under the sea all in the hope of becoming one in the near future to getting entangled in a fairy tale so deep that it would take me twelve years, several heart breaks and a couple of surgeries to realize that my life was going to be far from a magic carpet ride.

But at that moment, I was floored. I remember praying by my bedside the same night, desperately wishing that my boring black locks would one day magically transform into Ariel's flaming red hair; hoping every time I walked past an aquarium peeping into it, in the hope of finding a little friend, who too would remain as loyal to me as little flounder. I remember combing my hair with a fork, proudly calling it a dingle hopper as my mother watched in utmost horror. I remember the times I had flitted around in the 'oh-so-not' pretty pool in my neighborhood pretending to be a little mer princess, flipping whatever little hair I had back then. I also remember the flutter of excitement I felt every time I laid eyes on Prince Eric and how I had made big plans to marry an English boy as I firmly believed that was my only chance at a real first kiss. I remember imagining myself in a puffy sleeved wedding dress but most importantly I remember in believing in the magic of true love.

Years later, as a married woman, I had walked the streets of Kuala Lumpur. I was on my honeymoon and I remember seeing the pirated DVD of 'The Little Mermaid,' displayed on the shops' wooden stands in China town. I remember the same flutter of excitement I had felt. I didn't have my English Prince or a white puffy sleeved wedding dress. But I did have my kiss and I did have my true love.

So here I was, almost twenty three years later since I saw my very first Disney movie; the outcome of my fairy tale ending, sitting right beside me, doodling on her pink birthday invites. And though I was certain that one day she too would have her own dream fairy tale ending to write about, right now, it was time for her to get a sneak peak...

Party fit for a princess!

Though evites are always the easy way out, nothing says royalty more than a hand delivered scroll with a magic wand

   Every princess needs a little make up station

A few pink balloons and streamers are all you need to transform any room into a page straight out of a fairy tale... 

A cardboard castle, passing the poisoned apple, and placing the tiara on Rapunzel; just a few things to keep the little princesses busy

A princess cake, cupcakes topped with edible tiaras and pizza: They maybe royalty but when it comes to food, keep it simple!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

5 going on 15!

'I want to wear this.' My five year old diva sat clad in a plaid kilt skirt and a black tank. On her left hand she was waving her silver colored twirly skirt. 'What would be next?' I wondered as I watched my little one jam to a Katy Perry song blaring in the background. She had already started picking out her own clothes. Could cropped tees, colored highlights and tattoos be next? I shuddered...Could 5's be the new teens? 

'I am not wearing that tomorrow,' my five year old whined as she stared at her pair of green corduroy pants and matching printed tee that I had neatly laid out in her bed for her to wear to school the next day. 

I couldn't understand what was wrong. It was one of her favorite and she had only recently gotten them as a gift. They fit her perfectly and looked great. 

'This mommy,' she said waving a silver colored twirly skirt in front of me. 

But fall was almost here. The trees had begin to shed and the the temperature had slowly started to drop. I couldn't hear the birds anymore and the sky had turned to a warm golden hue. Even with my sweatshirt on and windows closed shut, I could still feel the chill against my skin. 'It's too cold for that sweetheart,' I replied. 

'I want to wear this mommy, ' she continued, her tone low yet firm...lest her 30-something mommy had failed to notice the ongoing trend in her little kindergarten class. 'Everyone is going to wear this and Savannah thinks jeans are only for boys.'

I hadn't missed the changing trends nor failed to keep up with the latest in five year olds haute couture. I was well aware that floral printed sun hats were now replaced by polka-dot fedoras, comfy sketchers by glittery Mary Janes and boot-cut jeans by tutus and twirly skirts. I had seen it everyday; at school, five year old girls' birthday parties and even playgrounds. 

Though I was well aware of the peer pressure my little Kindergartener was feeling and that it was highly possible that 5's could after all be the new teens, I wasn't yet ready to let my little curly haired princess turn into some glam doll just because everyone else did so. After all, this was the very same girl, who not long ago had mispronounced butterfly as bullakite and pajama as jampaja and I wasn't ready to say bye to her...not just yet!

So as always, it was time for an important life lesson. To teach her, why it was so special to be different. But I was no preacher. I was a mommy, a story teller and that is what I had...a little story to tell her why it was okay to be different, to stand out from the crowd. A story of a little red flower who didn't want to be different...inspired by a little glass vase of flowers that stood besides my daughter's night lamp. 

The little red flower!

Once upon a time, there was a little red flower. And Flora was her name. 
She lived in a shimmery, shiny glass vase, besides a little girls bed frame.

The girl loved her very much. And gave her kisses day and night. 
She said she looked so special, glowing in the morning light.

She would call her pretty and always say something nice. 
It made Flora happy and always made her smile. 

But one day, it happened. The little girl was gone...
The little red flower felt so sad, as now she was all alone.

Though there were other flowers, who too lived in her glass room
All yellow dandelions, who had just begin to bloom.

You are not one of us, they said, as we are all the same
You look so different, it's better you go away.

Flora now had no friends and she felt so sad.
Wished she too was yellow, being red was just too bad.

She thought of a plan and wondered what she could do
She could paint herself yellow, in a few strokes, maybe one or even two.

Now she looked no different, they all were now the same
But the others still didn't want to talk, coz now they hated the smell of paint

The little girl came back and saw her red friend gone.
She felt so sad, as that was her special loved one.

There were no more kisses and everything felt so strange.
The poor flower felt so sorry. 'How I wish I had never tried to change.'

   (My little inspiration)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

She is ready for Kindergarten, but the question is am I?

By Aswathy Kumar

It was 6.30 am.There was still 15 minutes left for the alarm to go off. But I couldn't sleep anymore. I felt tired as I pulled the heavy comforter off of me and dragged myself to the kitchen to make my morning tea. Though I had gone to sleep as early as 9 the previous night, I felt exhausted. After all I had barely slept.

First there were these crazy thoughts. Thoughts of my daughter missing her school bus and finding herself stranded in the abandoned halls of her elementary school, just because her mommy had overslept. And once I did manage to sleep, there were these nightmares. Nightmares of my daughter's lunch leaking in her backpack, of her getting locked up in the school bathroom, and a few others that didn't even seem to make any sense.

But the clock was ticking and there was no time to dissect and trisect the depth of my dreams. Today was her big day and we had a lot to do. I had to iron out that perfect dress, team it up with the perfect bow and matching shoes, shower her, fix her lunch and go through my check list that I had meticulously scribbled down on the back of my cook book, one last time.

Emergency name tags....check

And after a big bowl of cheerios, we were all set...atleast she was. As for me, I was feeling hot and cold at the same time as our elevator made way to the the lobby, stopping at each and every floor, making the ride even more nerve wrecking than what it already was. 

     (Drawing by Vedika Kumar)

My first thoughts when I saw the shiny yellow bus menacingly pull into our front porch, was to run back home as fast as I could with my little one. What if the driver was some psycho? What if the bus was hijacked by some bullies or antisocial elements masking themselves as a bunch of five year olds? What if this wasn't a school bus but some weird time machine to transport our kids to some distant planet. After all this was the US if the movies are to be believed,  weird stuff happened here all the time.

My thoughts were disturbed with the shrill sound of my daughter talking. She had already made a friend and was deciding who was going to get the window seat. I could also hear a kid crying behind a group of other anxious parents? 'Why can't Veda be like that?' I thought. I would have taken her right back home.

As I slowly watched the bus disappear into the corner of the street, I could feel a tiny droplet of tear beginning to well up in the corner of my eyes. I felt miserable and most of all I felt guilty. Guilty that the whole of summer when she had followed me around like a little kitten behind a ball of yarn, I had actually wished for this day to come.The day when she would magically disappear into the yellow bus and reappear later in the day. I felt guilty that I had silently wished for summer to be over when she had asked me to drag her in my clothing cart during my trips to the laundry room or asked me tell her the story of Krishna for the hundredth time. 

I had made big plans for this day. I would do yoga, go get a latte with my girl friends, get back to writing my blog and what not. But I walked into my empty apartment with a whole load of free time yet clueless about what to do with it. I sat staring at my tv all day long and once I had enough of the channel surfing, I made a few trips into my daughter's closet to rearrange her clothes. I opened my fridge a couple of times to see what I would pack for her lunch the rest of the week. I made a chart, a to-do list and I checked the clock for the zillionth time to see if it had struck three. 

I couldn't wait to get her back and hear all about her new school. I was going to take her swimming, biking, read as many stories as she wanted me to. Today I wasn't going to complain.  And I didn't. 

As soon as she walked out of the bus, I told her I was all hers. First she wanted me to give her a bubble bath while listening to her favorite stories. I told her all the Hindhu mythological stories, I could possibly think of, often checking the internet to see if I missed any. 

Then she wanted me to dance to her favorite songs and I did. I was to be the boy, she was the girl, who I had to twirl over and over again. 

She wanted to finger paint. And as soon as I set the paint on the floor, she changed her mind. 'I am done mamma, how about we play the operation game?' 

And after multiple games of operation, perfection, uno and zimbos, it was almost 7 and I was so glad it was time for dinner. ' You have to sleep Veda, I said as we finished washing up. 'Sure mommy, but tomorrow we play mommy and baby crocodile.'

And as I said one last story before tucking her in, I felt glad that that tomorrow I will see that yellow bus again. Maybe I will get back to my yoga. After all I do need all the energy I can get, especially if I am going to be crawling around the house like a four legged amphibian. 

                                                                 The End

Tickle Tickle Brush Brush!

The first time your baby sleeps through the night or the first time she holds her bottle all by herself, you sense this unique feeling of accomplishment. As if you have achieved the impossible and your life is going to be a lot easier. Little do you know that it is only the beginning. Because when it comes to babies, even simple things like getting them to sit in a car seat or getting them to use a sippy cup is hard work. You can't just tell them what to do. Instead they require a lot of convincing, canoodling and most importantly a truck load of your patience. And to be honest, though I cherished every single milestone I would be lying if I said it wasn't exhausting and a bit more than what I initially signed up for. 
I knew I had to do something to make it easy on both of us. So I developed this strategy, which worked great for have a story for each of those milestone. I loved telling stories and she loved hearing them. A win-win for both of us. Be it potty training, getting her to eat her vegetables or something as seemingly easy as brushing, I had a story for all. And It definitely made the task in hand a little less tiring for me and a whole lot of fun for my little one. So here's one of the first stories I made up for my darling to teach her the importance of brushing. Enjoy!

By Aswathy Kumar

Bristles the little red tooth brush and Tootsie the sparkling white teeth were the best of friends. 

They loved playing tickle tickle brush brush every morning and splish splish splosh splosh every night.

But one day, it happened! Bristles accidentally poked Tootsie while playing their favorite game 

'Ouch! You hurt me,' screamed Tootsie

'I am sorry. It was just an accident,' replied Bristles immediately apologizing to his friend.

'Easy for you to say. You are just a silly toothbrush. But I am the strongest and the sparkliest and you better don't forget that,' shouted Tootsie still angry with Bristles.

'You may be,' said the little red brush, feeling a bit insulted. But you do need me to keep you strong and sparkly.'

'Ah! Why would a strong mighty teeth like me need a teeny tiny toothbrush like you? Go away now,'Tootsie shooed her little red friend away.

A few days passed and Bristles did not return.

And there was no game of tickle tickle brush brush and no game of splish splish splosh splosh.

And worst of all, Tootsie no longer looked white nor sparkly. 

Her beautiful pearly whites had started to turn a dirty yellow.

The next morning Tootsie woke up with a terrible pain. 

'Aaow she cried. Something hurt her, deep inside. 

'What happened?' Asked Bristles peeping out of his pretty pink caddy.

'Something is hurting and it is not going away. Can you help?' asked Tootsie helplessly.

'Of course my friend,' said Bristles, excitedly hopping out of his caddy.
'Hmmm let me see. Ah ah It is just a piece of chocolate chip you ate last night. And it's badly stuck. '

' Tickle tickle brush brush' went Bristles. 'Splish splish splosh splosh,' went Tootsie.

And voila! Tootsie was all sparkling and white once again.

'Thank you Bristles and I am sorry. 'I know I will always need you.' 

'And I will always need you too,' replied Bristles.

'Friends,' asked Tootsie.

'Best friends,' replied Bristles.

                                                                 The end

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A little lost duckling

Being a full time mom is a lot of fun but I must say that it has it's fair share of challenges. One of my recent ones being that my five year old daughter who loves listening to fairy tales, folklores and fables, want to make sure she is a part of it. 'Twist the story mommy, I want to be in it,' she would say.
So here is my version of 'the ugly duckling'...with a twist of course.Thought I will share it with the other mommies who too soon might have to transform their little ones into super heroes, princesses or valiant knights.
                                                            A little lost duckling
                                                             By Aswathy Kumar
Once upon a time, a mother duck sat patiently on her eggs waiting for it to hatch. She was thrilled when one by one her shiny eggs began to crack and from it came beautiful yellow ducklings. But there was one fairly bigger egg that refused to hatch. Mother duck waited patiently giving it all the extra love, care and warmth.
Finally the last big egg popped open. But to the mother duck's surprise the duckling looked nothing like her other babies. Neither was she yellow nor was she pretty.
'You can't be my baby,' quacked the mother duck angrily.' 'You are too ugly. Go away.'
The poor duckling walked and walked searching for someone who would give her a home. She came across many other animals and birds but no one wanted to take her in.
 'Yeoow, you are so ugly, go away,' croaked the frog before disappearing into the pond with a splash.
'Those gray feathers are so not you go,' said the flamingo before shooing away the poor little duckling away from her nest.
The poor little duckling kept walking, hoping to find a place to sleep that night. She felt cold, hungry and her tiny little feet had started to hurt.
The duckling looked around to see if there was anyone who could help her. By now,  she left the forest far behind and now stood in front of a beautiful bricked cottage. A little girl with long black curls was busy tidying up her toys from her sand-pit. She saw the poor duckling and quickly hurried towards the poor helpless bird.
' Hello there...aren't you the most adorable thing I have ever seen. I am Vedika by the way.' The little girl moved forward and gave out her hand.
'Adorable? Me?' said the little duckling looking around to see who the girl was talking to.
'Of course you fact the cutest I have ever seen. Would you like to come in? I can make you some corn soup.'
The duckling felt so happy. No one had been this kind to her.
After a hearty meal and all warmed up in a cosy basket next to Vedika's bed, the duckling began to tell her new friend all about her sad story.
' Oh you poor thing. You will never have to feel alone ever again. You and I will be best buds forever,' said Vedika hugging her new found friend.
 Many many days passed. And the duckling was having a wonderful time with her new curly haired friend. They swam together in the pool and played all day long in the moist mushy lawns of the garden. But one day Vedika saw her little friend looking rather sad.
' What happened, my dear friend?' she asked.
' I know you have been a wonderful friend to me but I do miss my family?'
' But we are family,' replied Vedika, feeling a little hurt.
' I know we are...but I too want to get my mommy's kisses and hugs.'

Vedika understood. She knew how good it felt every night when she cuddled with her mommy as they read her favorite book. Her mommy would hug her till she fell asleep and wake her up the next day with a thousand kisses. The little duckling didn't have that and Vedika felt bad.
' My little duckling. I think it's time we went to look for your family.'

The next day Vedika filled her back pack with all her essential camping gear. She packed her purple folding tinker bell tent, a box of her favorite oreo cookies, her princess bottle filled with water, her favorite plush doggy and off they went to find her little duckling's lost family.
Many many days passed...but still no luck. On the last day of the search, Vedika awoke to the sound of birds chirping and a nearby waterfall splashing onto the rocks. Her little friend slept huddled right beside her.
But to Vedika's surprise, the duckling that had lay beside her the previous night looked nothing like her grey feathered friend with the deep black patchy eyes. She looked beautiful. Her beak had turned to a crimson red and her ivory white feathers glistened in the morning sun.
'Vedika excitedly shook her sleeping friend. 'Wake up, wake up, I know where we can find your family.'
They soon came by a beautiful meadow surrounded by blue snow capped mountains. Tiny drops of dew shone like little stars on its grasslands and pretty yellow tulips lay scattered all over the greens.
'Look you are home,' pointed out Vedika to a group of swans swimming majestically beside the raging waterfall.
'That's not my family. They are so beautiful,' replied the little duckling disappointedly.
Vedika smiled and pulled her friend closer to the lake. 'Look,' she said pointing out to the reflection.
The little duckling moved closer and peeped into the water. She was no longer the ugly duckling. She had transformed into a beautiful white swan, no different from the ones that stood in front of her.
The swans were very happy to get their sister back. The mother swan told them all about how an evil eagle had stolen her egg while she was sleeping and how she had been searching for her little one ever since.
Soon it was time for Vedika to go back home. They all gave her a ride home on their backs and Vedika had a lot of fun playing hide and seek behind the floating clouds.
'I will never forget you my dear friend, ' sobbed the little swan as she hugged her curly haired friend. 'And you would always be my best friend," replied Vedika. Though she knew she would miss her best friend terribly, she was happy that her little swan was home at last, right where she belonged.

                                                                         The End

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Home Delivery!

<<I confirm the subscription of this blog to the Paperblog service under the usernameaswathykumar>>

The Delivery
I am not a new mummy. My daughter is almost five and I am way past the burps, farts and the sleepless nights. So then…why start this blog now?

You are right! I, like most of my fellow blogger-mommies should have started the day I found out I was going to be a mom. The day I saw the two blue lines appear on my home-pregnancy stick…or when I first felt her roll around in my ever-growing belly. I should have atleast started the day I came home clumsily holding my three day old baby, clueless about how my life was about to change forever.  I should  have…
But between the burps, farts, dirty diapers and sleepless nights, sitting down in front of my laptop to pen down how wonderful my life had become was the last thing on my mind. It’s not that my daughter was a difficult baby. She was in fact the opposite. So calm and so peaceful, we couldn't help but think of her as something close to ‘divine’. She wasn't the problem.
The problem was that I wasn't among the lucky few who got to experience the whole magical feeling of giving birth in an elite hospital suite, holding my husband’s hand and listening to the kind words of my doctor assuring me that everything was going to be fine.
It’s not that I gave birth in a neglected hospital in some remote village of a third world country. In fact, I was in one of the best hospitals in the city and I was among the so-called VIP patients. 
The problem was that I was in a little state called Kerala. And here, things happened a little differently.

Men not allowed!
No matter how big a VIP you are or how well known your family is, child birth is something you have to deal with all by yourself, alone, in a grim ward that looks more like a set of some horror flick with several other strange howling woman. And it's so ironic, considering that finally when you do have the baby, people never seem to want leave you alone even for a brief second.
Unlike other countries, where your husband gets to stand next to you to help you through the process; here in this little state, the farther away your husband is from the delivery room, the better. And the only sounds you are ever going to hear are the moans from the other equally desperate, abandoned mothers in the cot next to yours or the nasal tone of angry nurses reminding you every single time you complained of a contraction pain that you are simply paying the price for the shameful act you indulged in nine months ago.
Forget delivery, your husband is not even allowed to sleep in the same room as you and your child for 42 days lest he may impregnate you all over again. (I still remember the horror on one of the nurses’ face when my husband planted a harmless kiss on my forehead after I came out of my delivery room.)

The Feeding
Paladai, a traditional
feeding device
Like most new mommies, it didn't take me long to figure out that there was nothing blissful about the whole breast-feeding experience. It was messy and I hated it. And the constant questions regarding my breast feeding skills by the numerous aunties who came to visit did not help either.
Especially because I suffered from breast engorgement and was unable to nurse. If it was for any other place, the problem would have been fixed by two simple solutions: formula milk or a breast pump. But not in Kerala, where you will be damned for even considering such an option.
I still remember the visit to the doctor’s. It was three days after my delivery and my baby had stopped feeding completely. My doctor, instead of giving me a breast pump had introduced me to what looked more like a medieval torture equipment than a feeding device. Meet, the ‘paladai’ (a bowl shaped vessel with a pointy sharp spout.) I was to sit and squeeze out my milk into this tiny spouted bowl and then pour it into the mouth of my bawling baby.  

Giving birth itself is tough but if you are in Kerala…then it’s a whole different ball game altogether. And if you do happen to be among the few unfortunate souls who end up in this beautiful green cove for your delivery, here are a few facts about this God's own country that you need to know...
1.   It might have produced one of the best doctors the world has seen, but till today, having a c-sec in Kerala is considered to be close to a death sentence. So never ask for it.
2.  Delivery is a very hush-hush process, so asking too many questions to your gynecologist is just not appreciated.
3.  Be ready to brave end number of advises regarding child birth. In Kerala, everyone has something to say. From aunties who will refer to the contractions as nothing but a mere constipation pain to others who will scare you with horror stories of how a forceps delivery left dent marks on the babies forehead.
4.    Don’t even think of feeding your baby in front of your husband. Though it’s completely fine to do the same in front of 50- aunties you barely know.
5.     Don’t ask for water. No matter how highly dehydrated you are or are suffering from a major UTI, drinking water is not an option as it is believed to make your belly pop.
6.  Be prepared to share intimate details about your breast feeding, bowel situation or any other personal matters to complete strangers.
7.  Get used to the fact that your newborn child will be kissed held and smothered by each and everyone who comes to visit (which is sure to be a lot).
8.   Be ready to answer the next big question; ‘When are you having the second baby?’

And here's the girl, who made it all so worth it...