Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winter trip to yosemite

Sometimes, with a great meal, the flavors linger in your mouth for hours afterward -- it's called umami. Likewise, some trips can leave an impression that lasts for days and months -- the trip we took to Yosemite during the holiday break in December still echoes in my mind. Yosemite is beautiful, any time of the year and it's open the whole year. But because of road closures, a majority of the people avoid Yosemite in winters. Its mainly a summer destination. Since we are not skiers, nor have any intention to learn to ski, with two small kids we wanted to go somewhere, where we could enjoy the surroundings as much as the snow. Yosemite was perfect for that.

We intended a day trip, but ended up spending the night. The good part was that since it's not a popular season, we were able to find accommodations easily, just outside the park and cheaper compared to at other times of the year. Of their annual visitor count, this time of the year accounts for only 3% of tourists. At the visitor center, the ranger recommended a bus tour that we could take the next day around the valley instead of driving ourselves. For the remainder of the evening we took the free shuttle that runs in the valley of the park to the lower falls, completed a small loop around it and then saw a few more points of interest from the shuttle, finally heading to the parking lot. For the overnight stay we shopped at the well stocked store in the village for night clothes and other supplies.

We did take the bus tour the next morning at 10 am. The buses are heated, with a bathroom inside, really convenient with kids and for me. It's a fantastic way to learn about the park, it's history, appreciate the culture of the natives who inhabited this place for centuries and made sure it's still there unmarred from logging and development for us to enjoy. I expected a standard guided tour with some funny remarks and a few lines about each stop. However, the ranger, who conducted this tour had extensive knowledge on all aspects of the park and tried to immerse everyone on the tour in it. We were not simply marveling at the views at each stop, but rather learning about things that made this park so great and appreciate the life around us and the harmony that has been maintained thanks to the Native Americans and later environmentalists like John Muir and like-minded people. I have recently been reading about some famous Native Americans and their struggles to save their culture. To hear it from someone, obviously erudite on the history of the park, made for a very interesting and fun two hours.

So is the bus tour good with kids -- yes! Surprisingly, both my boys -- 2 and 6, usually restless in long tours, loved it too -- inter own words. They did not follow everything, however, they enjoyed participating in chanting a prayer in the tongue of the native americans that our ranger/guide asked us to repeat and the ice crystals everywhere. They admired the vistas as much as we did, and enjoyed the freedom of scampering around on the frozen meadows. Back at the Curry Village, there is an excellent restaurant, that carries great vegetarian options as well.

Oh, and on the way back we visited a tunnel tree -- a big old sequoia that was cut in the center to make way for some path. Yup, it was a great trip, and one that I am still savoring.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Taking stock at 35

I can still fit in a pair of jeans sized 27. Not for too long most likely, with the way my belly has been expanding. I am considering starting to color my hair to cover up the grey strands now stubbornly showing up, no matter how I try to part my hair. I finally know why all the nice restaurants are so dark. They can hide your belly fat, laugh lines and your graying hair much better.

While I don't worry about my aging body, I do realize I am looking at my best possible self. After this, there's only one way to go and while it may not be very ugly, it does start with crisscrossing wrinkles on my hands.

At this point, I don't yet feel like a mature woman, but I am way past the girl stage. I remember cringing when I was called 'auntie' (as a sign of respect) by some kids. I was still in my twenties and would have much preferred to be called didi or just by my name. These days, pretty much the only things that make me cringe are mice, cleaning up vomit or cleaning up my son's potty after he has had an accident and has unknowingly spread it on his clothes.

Jokes apart, I am at a point where I am unsure of my next steps. I am ready to move on to a different phase, but unsure about my next steps. Should I simply try to get back to copyediting and proofreading, should I go for further studies (sounds challenging with two small kids, but it can be done), or should I follow Rahul's advice and be entrepreneurial. One thing I know is that this is the time for me to figure out what I want to do. If I don't try something now, I feel like I may get too lazy and more importantly, too hesitant about doing anything outside the house later. Writing about it seems like the most logical and easy thing to do at the moment.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Moments of Eureka for Sameer and some other things going on with him

A conversation that I had with Sameer in the car a few days ago.

Sameer: Mumma, I know how we can get to a place faster if we sleep in the car. (One of the many 'useful fables' that we have used with Sameer)
Me: Accha, how?
Sameer: We don't get there any faster. It's just that if we fall asleep, we don't know how much time has passed.
Me: That's true! You are getting wiser by the day.

Today he repeated the same thing to Rahul, while returning from an outing. He is really interested in figuring out how things work and wonders about that all the time. So a couple of times, at bath time, he has tried to explain to me how does the water that comes out of his shower head gets there. It was a correct explanation, although a bit incorrect. I tried to explain to him a little bit more, since he raised the topic, but realized he was too engrossed in his thoughts to listen.

We recently got him a book called the National Geographics First Book of Why. We have only looked up one thing so far, why do some things float in water and some sink. He was able to grasp the idea that as things push down, water pushes them up. He used his hands and words to try to explain it to me in a really nice way.

He has started kindergarten since last week. His classes run for only 3.5 hours most days. On Wednesdays, they run for about 4 hours. Starting first grade it'll be longer. I think I was more excited that Sameer was starting school than he was.

I do wish he would learn to communicate his thoughts and feelings. If somehting is troubling him, he tends to keep it inside. That ends up frustrating him more and he'll show his anger in ways that only ends up in him getting a scolding from us till we realize that maybe he is troubled with something. Already, I can see Ashwin is much better at communicating his problems. Maybe Sameer will learn from his younger brother.

He really craves social company these days. he has always enjoyed being around familyand friends nad lately has been making an effort to make new friends too. Only, now he is not satisfied with just me and him playing or Ashwin joining in; unlike earlier, when he was happy going to the park and playing with Ashwin and me. A couple days back, he told me he was not interested in going to Neilsen Park (he usually loves that park) as he does not have any friends with whom he can play there.

Papa Aaye!

Ashwin has always been fascinated by motor vehicles from birth. When we were in Virginia, he used to love watching cars on Rt. 50 from Sameer's bedroom. Now he is able to make out a Honda civic on the road. The moment he sees it he'll say 'Papa aaye'. That's the car that Rahul takes to work. What I find amusing is he can recognize the car make and model.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ashwin's potty training

Ashwin just turned 16 months and he is now able to indicate when he needs to poop. He'll clutch his diaper and call for me, "mumma." He had started indicating his need to go before his first birthday -- specially if he was in a sitting position, at breakfast or lunch time when he would be in a high chair, although it took me a while to understand that. Finally, two months ago we got him a potty seat and he has taken to it almost immediately.

Currently, Ashwin's grandparents and his bua are over visiting. So one day when I was out picking up Sameer from school Ashwin managed to communicate his urge to go, to his dada. He crawled upstairs to the bedroom, went inside to the loo, picked up his potty seat and tried to fit it on the pot. That's when papa realized that Ashwin wants to go potty.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sameer at 5 years

Sameer turned 5 years a few weeks ago. There are so many things I want to write down about him, but now I hardly remember anything. Life has been very hectic since Ashwin's birth. Sameer enjoys having a baby brother to cuddle and play with. Although, he hates it when Ashwin gets into his stuff. Sameer is himself not very careful with his things, but he does not like someone else messing his stuff. When we have a kid visiting us at home, it's the same way.
He is developing a more and more assertive personality. He wants to do things his own way and only that way. He will get defiant if either one of us says no to him. That has led to more and more arguments and tussles between me and Sameer as he spends the maximum time of the day with me. Some days, it feels like I am constantly fighting with him, yelling at him and getting frustrated with his non-cooperativeness. I have to figure out a better way to communicate with him. Lately he has been tellign rahul that his favorite days are the weekends when Rahul is home.
Sameer is trying to be more and more independent. He wants to take his baths on his own, brush his teeth on his own and sometimes even feed himself. However, eating on his own lasts for the first 10 minutes. After that, he begins to get tired. Plus he tends to get easily distracted and wants to talk all the time. Then Rahul or I have to constantly remind him, "Eat your food". Usually that reminder falls on deaf ears, as he will continue with his thoughts with no indication that he heard us or he intends to follow our directive.
He is at an age where he really wants to have friends with whom he can play. While he is enjoying his new preschool in Pleasanton, he does miss his school in Virginia, specially his friends there. He still talks about them and wants to know when we will move back to Virginia. So far, I have no answers for these questions, along with a lot of other ones that he has been asking me.
He wants to know how life began, where did humans come from, where did dinosaurs come from, what was there before life began and numerous others that I can't remember right now. His latest interests are dinosaurs and mickey mouse. He likes to play games online on Sesame Street and that is where he played a game on dinosaurs. While he continues to play other games on Sesame Street, dinosaurs have stuck with him for almost four months now. He loves to draw and color and wants to do it all the time, is reading more and more fluently, enjoys learning spanish words, read hindi books. His favorite author these days is Dr. Seuss.
He used to enjoy Lego quite a bit, but that has faded since Ashwin started breaking up his creations or interrupting his work. I don't really have a solution for that except that Sameer play in his room. He would hate that, he still does not like to sleep on his own and most nights he wants Rahul to lie down with him till he falls asleep.
Sameer has a really good long-term memory. Just recently, while talking about Mickey Mouse, he tells me that Gunjan, the preschool that he used to attend in India, had a Mickey Mouse painted on the walls of it's playground. He was a few weeks short of three years when he stopped going there and, in fact, he attended that school for less than 3 months.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ashu is one!

My boy is getting older and wiser. He turned one year old last month. Some of the developmental milestones he has reached are:

He has started taking a few steps.
He has started calling Rahul papa.
Around the 11th month, he started waving goodbye.
He can say ma ma ma or mummy. Sometimes it feels like he is trying to call me, but when Rahul asks him call mumma, he stays quiet. Whereas, if I ask him call Papa, he will say Pa pa Pa Pa (पै पै पै पै).
He loves playing games with us: आटे बाटे दही चटाखे बीच की चंदिया हप. एक खूंटा गाए का, एक खूंटा पापा का, एक खूंटा मम्मा का, एक खूंटा भैया का, एक खूंटा अशविन का. और बछिया कहाँ गयी? खो गयी पा गयी, खो गयी पा गयी, पा गयी पा गयी पा गयी! Peek-a-boo is still fun, he wants to growl like a bear, he loves to wake up Sameer. He screams with joy when I take him to Sameer's room to wake up his big brother and tries to jump right away from my arms onto Sameer's bed. He will pull on his hair and scream some more to wake him up. Sameer enjoys it too most of the time. In fact Ashwin wants to play with Sameer and do everything that Sameer is doing. He wants what Sameer is eating, in the same plate, play with Sameer's toys, read Sameer's books.

Ashwin is getting really interested in drawing (discovering using pencil colors and crayons) since Sameer loves to draw. So a couple weeks ago Ashwin started demanding crayons as usual when Sameer was drawing. I finally let him take one and this time, instead of putting it in his mouth, he actually used it to make some scribbles. He enjoyed it so much, he kept doing it for almost 4-5 minutes!

He enjoys his stacking rings, playing with a ball, taking things out of drawers and cabinets and putting them elsewhere, including the trash can. We are missing two fridge magnets that I let him play with and one soft red ball. We have looked everywhere, and I have a feeling they have ended up in the trash. He loves to scream. Maybe when I manage to record a video of the screaming matches that take place in our house, I will post it here. Ashwin starts them and Sameer takes on from there!
He babbles quiet a bit and he will point at things and rattle off a string of sentences in his own language. Sometimes I am able to understand them, but when I am not, he gets frustrated very quickly. Then, he will scream (the crying one), he will scratch at me and anything else he can find, throw things and just act like a mad baby -- why can't you understand what I am trying to say! Sameer finds this behavior and anything else  Ashwin does is funny for him. Sameer actually loves babies! I did not know that until now. He has sung to our neighbor's baby and cuddled another baby he met at a party.
Ashwin enjoys people's company for the most part. He loves it when people play with him, as long as he in our lap or sitting with us and he loves being coddled.