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You went to India for three weeks in October-November 2016.

You did very well with international travel once again, though your increasing independence made it tougher to keep you close by as we waited in security lines, boarding lines, and immigration lines. 

You asked Mama to read you the safety card in every airplane we were in. We were in 10 airplanes. On one of them, we bought you a reusable shopping bag printed with the plane’s safety information.

You watched far fewer cartoons on the planes than you did during the same trip two years ago, and slept less.

You ran straight to your Avva (Indian grandma) at the airport, and gave her a big hug. (Two years ago, you burst into tears when she said hello to you.)

You were again fascinated by the light and fan switches in every house we visited, and figured out that you could only reach them if you stood on a chair. Thus, you started asking for a step stool in every house we visited. 

You asked Mama why you had to use your right hand to give someone a gift. She told you it was the tradition in India. 

You were told the story behind the leopard your great-grandfather shot (it was a maneater and he was the chief conservator of forests for the state of Madras). The animal’s skin lives in a storeroom in your Avva’s house, and you had a lot of questions about it. 

You loved all the Divali fireworks you got to see and help light. Somehow, you managed to fall asleep with thunderous booms happening all night. Mama brought this up when you said you couldn’t fall asleep on a plane because of a crying baby. 

You woke up sick the day after Divali, first saying “my tummy is tickling me” then going back to sleep only to wake up vomiting. True to form, you puked for a few hours, slept for a few hours and were fine by that afternoon. A doctor who lives across the street came to check on you three times, which made us all feel better. 

You met Daddy’s cousin and her family in Chennai, and enjoyed playing with the daughter in the family. You had a great time asking questions about the switches, “helping” make dosas, and playing with a neighbor boy your age. 

You came down with a cold when we came back from Chennai, but it didn’t slow you down. 

You spent a lot of time at your great aunt’s house (next door to Avva’s house), doing exciting things like sweeping, washing pots, and going over the details of how her well pump works. You pretty much bounced between the two houses all day, running in and out through perpetually open doors. 

You discovered a cartoon called Chhota Bheem, which you watched devotedly even though you didn’t understand the Tamil dialogue. You also liked Tom and Jerry, which was also in Tamil.

You had a great time at the beach in Chennai, where you ate ice cream, played in the waves, rode a horse (with Mama), collected shells, rode a hand-cranked merry-go-round, and shot balloons (with help from your cousin).

You said you missed your Grammie (American grandma) two weeks into the trip.

You had a lot of questions for the guy who came to service the battery for the back-up power system. You also got to see the system in action during a six-hour scheduled maintenance outage. 

You developed a taste for oatmeal (plain, or with a little salt) and appalams about two and a half weeks into the trip. You were willing to try Indian sweets exactly once; other than that you stuck to your old pals, Milk Bikis and vanilla ice cream. 

You claim that this stove lighter was your favorite thing about India:

But we’re pretty sure pushing switches was your favorite thing, just like at home. 

Image courtesy of MoWillemsDoodles.blogspot.com

It’s rare that I find a book I have no quibbles with, but this one is damn near perfect. I had no idea it existed until it called to me, loudly, from the Staff Picks shelf of my favorite library branch. 

You may know Mo Willems as the author of the super funny “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” and associatled children’s books. Turns out he’s been publishing small runs of sketchbooks every year for over 20 years. This coffee table book contains 20 of them, with cartoons ranging from hilarious to heartbreaking. There are also essays from his famous friends, but those don’t hold a candle to the simple genius of the man’s work. 

If you are an artist or writer, this book is for you. If you are a doodler or noodler, this book is for you. If you love cartoons, like to laugh or prefer your comedy smart, this is definitely the book for you. 

You get the idea. For more info, go here: http://mowillemsdoodles.blogspot.in/2013/05/dont-pigeonhole-me.html?m=1

First of all, if you need a mile-long title to hook a reader, that’s a bit suspect. Secondly, the Kennedys? Really? Aren’t they done to death at this point? But hey, both the mile-long title and the K-word intrigued me enough to give this book a shot. 

I had never heard of Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, and the blurb made her out to be ahead of her time in terms of political savvy and ambition. Unfortunately for a feminist reader like me, her ambition seems to have been mostly focused on bagging the man with the biggest fortune and wheedling favors out of her well connected father. And unfortunately for a picky reader like me, the author’s voice was alternately breathless and ham-fisted. I prefer a more neutral, journalistic tone in my biographies, thanks. 

On the plus side, the detailed account of Kick’s adventures among the upper-crust set of pre- and post-WWII Britain appealed to my love of English-accented costume drama. While I skimmed a lot of the sections describing who attended this or that fabulous house party,the machinations of the blue-blooded kept me intrigued enough that I stuck with the book to the end.

So if you’re looking for a true story about an ambitious/manipulative debutante written by someone who is unabashedly in her corner, this is the book for you. But if stories of the self-obsessed rich and famous leave you cold, leave this one on the shelf. 

Artwork

Last week I went to the Boo’s school open house, a lovely event where parents talk to teachers and learn more about what their kids have been up to. One of my favorite things about the evening is seeing the kids’ art, so I eagerly scanned the walls. This year, they’re doing self portraits. Here is the Boo’s:

As I saw it next to depictions of fully articulated hairdos and facial features, disappointment washed over me. We all stood around saying nice things about the drawings, and about the Boo’s, someone said, “Oh! Those are nostrils! That’s great!” So kind, really. I muttered something about my kid not being interested in drawing. Then one of the teachers said he’d been very willing to try. It was awkward, at least for me.

The morning after the open house, I asked the Boo a few open-ended questions about his self-portrait, and he answered them in a matter-of-fact way. Turns out that parent was right, those are nostrils. I sat there thinking about how nice it is that he’s cool with his drawing skills, and my mind wandered to the things he does well.

He can explain how an electric circuit works. He tells me (often) when I’ve skipped a word in a story he last heard a month ago. He is proficient with a screwdriver. He knows the French words for head, nose, eye and bottom, and most of the words to a Japanese children’s song.

And here’s the deal – I know that my child is mainly interested in drawing as it pertains to practical applications, like watching me sketch a diagram of a three-point turn:


Oh look, my little apple fell right next to the tree.

Down the Rabbit Hole

The title of this post is where I’ve been for the past few weeks. See, when I was asked to helm fundraising for my kid’s school this year, I came up with this great idea. A wine tasting, I told the board. It’ll be fun, and we should make a decent amount of money, I told the board. And no one will have to buy or sell wrapping paper, I told the board.  

And then the board said go, my child, and make it happen. 

And then I realized how much work it was going to be. And I gave thanks for my hastily assembled committee, who stepped forward in playrooms and parking lots, with full-time jobs and eight months pregnant with Number Three. Volunteers, like me. Moms, like me. All willing to spend hours cold-calling for donations, like me. I don’t know if they’re losing sleep over it like I am, though. I want it to be a great event. I want to be able to put it on my resume and talk about it with pride. 

Now, a mere month after I sold the board on my idea, we have a decent number of auction items. We have strategized while sitting on the benches outside our amazing little school.  We’ve sold half the tickets. We have parents who are excited about coming out to sip (and hopefully spend). We selected the wines yesterday, and they are dee-licious. It’s all pretty cool. And none of it would have happened without the efforts of my committee. 

My friends, countless schools, places of worship, hospitals, libraries, and golly knows what else are supported by the efforts of (mostly) women like us. We may be delaying getting back to the workforce to help out, or we may be volunteering on top of working and momming. Either way, we are donating our time and energy and smarts and earning potential. We are donating ourselves.

Go, my children, and thank a volunteer today. Better yet, become one. 

Sleepless in St. Louis


A few nights ago we had a hellacious storm roll through at 3 a.m., a grand finale to three days of pouring rain that brought cooler temperatures and skyrocketing mold levels. It is exceedingly rare that the Boo wakes up during a storm, but this time the thunder shook the house and he emerged from his room, agitated and wide awake. 
I crawled into his bed with him and once the thunder subsided, kissed him and left. All was well until the next line of storms came through about half an hour later. He did try to go back to sleep on his own, but the continuing light show and his anticipation of more thunder was too much. Also, he suddenly became pregnant with two small bears, and who can sleep in that last trimester, right? And then he got hungry – a syndrome I understand, having eaten more than a few bowls of 4 a.m. cereal during my own sleepless nights. 

And so down we went, Cheerios for him, Honey Nut Cheerios for me, nearly silent, bathed in the glow of the dimmest light in the kitchen as the rain beat on the windows. It was peaceful and simple, and as much as I wanted to be sleeping, I looked over at my boy, planted a kiss on his head and thought, “Remember this. This is a Moment.” Days later, I realized why: the light, feeding him, the wee hours all took me back to his newborn days. Four-ish years ago, and four nights ago, the simple acts of cuddling him and feeding him brought deep contentment and satisfaction. 

We finished our cereal and the Boo fell asleep about an hour later, shortly after declaring, “I can’t rest because there’s nothing for me to do.” We were both a mess the next day, but that sweet kitchen moment kept swimming up to soften the rough edges.

You are four and a half years old. 

You asked, very casually, about the box below, “Why does it say ‘go’ on there?” 

You are in heaven when your Daddy takes apart something electronic for you. Usually this happens on weekends. 

You enjoyed summer camp, though you declined to go in the sprinkler even on super-hot days. 

You inherited a floaty from a good friend, and now you are plunging into the pool, intentionally dunking yourself, asking Mama to dunk you, and opening your eyes underwater. These are new developments in your swimming career.

You have recently discovered U2 (Daddy), Green Day (Mama), Blondie (Mama again), and Fleetwood Mac (the car USB on shuffle).

You started having bad dreams, or at least started talking about them (but only a bit because you believe talking about them will make them come back). The most recent one involved a bad car, a house alarm, and the inability to run or talk.

You are newly afraid of the dark, and require your chair to be draped and your closet closed at bedtime. 

You sleep through fireworks and thunderstorms. 

You clipped your own toenails last week — and did a very decent job, without drawing blood. 

You still wear a diaper at night, and have told Mama that you pee in it as soon as you wake up. 

You have expanded your diet a tiny bit and are now willing to eat cantaloupe, green beans and nutritional yeast, which Mama plans to use as a gateway to cheese. The big shocker was your request to try a fish stick, which you didn’t like, but agreed to try another day with lemon. 

You have lost your zest for scrubbing toilets, but you still enjoy helping Mama vacuum and view working with cleanser as a privilege. 

You are continuing your love affair with My Little Pony, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Peg + Cat. Justin Time and Ready Jet Go are new discoveries, and you’ve circled back to Word World and Octonauts. Most days, you still watch less than two hours of TV.

You traded your long-neglected easel for a “science table” which tends to be heaped with whatever you’re fiddling with. Right now, it’s egg cartons, scissors, a screwdriver, two rolls of blue painter’s tape, empty water bottles completely wrapped in painter’s tape, paint stir sticks intermittently wrapped in painter’s tape, and bits of string and drinking straws you decided to cut into very short pieces. Mama’s just happy you’re using the space and enjoying yourself. 

You are trying out stronger ways of asking for what you want, e.g., “Mama you have to get me a snack NOW!” Mama never tires of finding new ways to say, “Would you like to rephrase that?” Her hands-down favorite is the raised eyebrow. 

You recently visited a farm, where your favorite thing was turning the electric water pump on so you could test all the sprinklers. Your second favorite thing was the robotic vacuum cleaner, or maybe the waffles the lady of the house made.

You are four and a half years old, and you are still very snuggly, just with pointier elbows. 

I'm over 40. I'm at home with a preschooler. Hear me roar.

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