Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for twos

Twos. More (un)popularly known as the terrible twos. That developmental stage of toddlers characterised by temper tantrums and misbehaviour, arising from the inability to balance reliance on grown-ups with a growing sense of independence, and a lack of control over their own emotions. A friend of mine had posted a photo of his 2-year-old daughter sitting on the ground in front of a shop and howling her lungs out because she wanted a toy and the parents refused. Another shocked friend actually witnessed her toddler go through the most dreaded of all -- 'the supermarket tantrum'.

It all looked and sounded very scary, and something unavoidable. After all, parenting is all about experimenting and often, there is no right or wrong way to do something. Viv and I were prepared for the twos, yes. But we were also apprehensive. And then, something miraculous happened. Xena's twos were not terrible at all. They were terrific to say the least. For the most part, she was a delightfully well-behaved two-year-old. And while Viv and I do think that maybe we just got lucky, we did put in a lot of effort to maintain sanity in the household. Of course, we don't do everything right, but some things we do work well and are worth sharing. I had written this post on how to stay sane for the first two years of parenthood. Carrying the series forward, here are some tips and strategies we used that helped make Xena's twos a truly terrific experience.

Early training
I was really thankful for all the things we had done in the first two years. It really made it so much easier for us to establish our authority without stepping on her independence. We also took the 'Let's all be reasonable' approach forward, and she was open to it because she had been exposed to it from a very early age.

Benefit of doubt
It's not that Xena never gets cranky. She does. And when she does, instead of getting all worked up, the first thing I do before trying to correct her behaviour is to ask myself - is she hungry/sleepy/bored/unwell? If either of the four is true, I give her the benefit of doubt and take a gentler approach. On the way back from school, she's often rather cranky in the bus. But I know that it's because she didn't eat anything or much at school (story of my life), had an active day and is tired and hungry. Also, when she's unwell or bored, she tends to throw things, which she generally does not otherwise. I don't tick her off then. So how do we deal with such situations where they have a "valid reason" and we can't exactly tell them off? The answer is in the next point.

I love distraction as a tactic to correct bad behaviour, though I'm not sure how long I can keep using it. Sooner or later, she will catch on. But it works wonderfully at the moment. If I know that the bad behaviour comes from a "valid reason", I don't want to stretch the situation further by telling her off to trying to make her see reason. If I'm taking her to the beach and I bump into an old friend and start chatting with her, it is inevitable that she would get fidgety after a while. She's three, she really really wants to go to the beach, and Mommy is not moving. It is unreasonable for me to expect that she would understand that I need to stop and chat with my friend. So if I need a few more minutes of talktime, I distract her. Show her a butterfly, or ask her to 'show aunty how you blow bubbles'. Distraction also helps to make sure the tantrum situation is as short as possible, because if it is stretched too long, the kid will remember how it went and take advantage of it the next time. For example, if a kid realises that crying for ten whole minutes or writhing on the floor eventually gets him what he wants, he will use that every time. So it's important not to show your true emotion, no matter how frustrated and/or embarrassed you are, because you need to stop that memory from forming in the kid's brain. So no matter what, don't give in just to bring the situation to an end.

I can't hear you
One of the most annoying things toddlers can do is whine without a reason. When Xena cries or whines for no reason, I get annoyed but I simply tell her in a very calm voice, "I can't hear you if you talk like that. Please speak in your normal voice." And then I actually ignore her and pretend that I can't hear her at all. It took her a few times to get the hang of this, and now she can simply tell from my body language that she needs to talk in her normal voice and only then will Mommy listen to her. And obviously, if I can't even hear her, she would not be able to convey to me why she is whining. If she continues, I simply walk out of the room, really pretending not to hear her. This also prevents any tantrum from escalating to louder and more frustrating levels, especially in public.

Intolerance for bad behaviour
Xena is now very clear that under no circumstances will bad behaviour be tolerated. I can't stand badly behaved kids, even if it's my own. Rules are rules, and Xena knows them. For example, she knows that no matter how much of a hurry she's in, she needs to tidy up her play area before we leave for the beach or the playground. On some days, when she's in the mood to test limits and flout her individuality, she refuses to tidy up. I then tell her calmly that we can leave after the mess is cleared up. There was once she still refused and even started defiantly throwing more things on the floor. I immediately cancelled the beach trip we'd planned. I really did. I can be mean mommy at the snap of a finger. She had her castle-building equipment and digging tools all ready, and had been really excited about the trip because it was going to be the first sand play session after a long hospital stay. And even though I had a nagging feeling that I should just take her before she fell sick again, I was unmoved. She knew that bad behaviour would not be tolerated and I didn't want her to see any exceptions.

A proper apology
If she shows disrespect towards her toys or books (e.g. by throwing them, standing on them or being rough with them), I give her one warning. After that, the toy or book immediately goes to the storeroom where she's not allowed access. If she wants it back, she knows it's not a simple case of saying 'sorry'. She has to tell me what she did wrong and why it was wrong, with a promise that she won't repeat the behaviour. (Sometimes my weird insistence on 'respect for toys' lands me in odd situations. I remember a play date we'd gone to and as a gift, I'd taken a lego airplane set for her friend. The moment we gave it to him, he wanted to open it. I thought they could build the airplane together and how fun it would be. I almost had a heart attack when his mother opened the box and poured all the tiny pieces into a large container that was already half full with millions of other lego pieces. And then she threw away the box and the instructions. My heart sank as I realised that the airplane was never going to be built. That was the end of that toy.)

The TV ban
I'm infamous in my neighbourhood for my no-TV stance. I kid you not. Many mothers have indicated to me in a not-so-subtle manner that they think I'm crazy. The thing is that most people think that banning TV is all about addiction. It's not. First, it's proven that TV literally switches off the brain and if your kid watches TV before the age of 3, he/she will have fewer brain cells than he/could have had without TV. Now that Xena's 3, the pressure is off and I probably won't be as strict as before. However, there is no reason to watch it for the heck of it. I'd much rather she watches butterflies in the garden below than a cartoon programme or an 'educational' programme featuring butterflies. I'd rather read books with her than have her watch some baby Einstein DVD on the alphabet. My issue is the instant gratification that devices such as the TV and smartphones provide to these kids. You turn it on, you get something amazing. This generation is already over-pampered and has everything. I need Xena to know that she has to work to get things, and rewards only come after hard work and even then, not everything comes with a reward. It's probably just my theory, but I feel that the lack of TV has made her a patient person, ready to work hard and wait it out. The TV ban also helps her connect and interact more with people rather than devices, and show a true interest in them. She's much more of a people person than Viv or me. Other than the kids she plays with, she also makes a note of the names of all the babies she sees in the playground and how old they are and how many teeth they have, and which tower they live in and what their parents' names are. The other day, I was packing up her old clothes to donate to an orphanage in Cambodia, and explaining to her what I was doing. She listened patiently and then asked me what the names of the Cambodian kids were, who would be getting her clothes. (I made up names from A to Z.)

Set the right example
I had an epiphany the other day when she was tidying up and I was sitting on the couch with her doll on my lap. I neatly tossed the doll across the room into her toy hamper. Feeling rather proud of my accurate aim, I turned to see Xena staring at me. It was then that I realised that after all my 'don't throw your toys' lecture, I had done precisely that. I had just thrown a toy. So we talked it out and I told her I would not throw any of her toys. That's why I don't believe in hitting kids (though sometimes I really really feel like giving her a tight slap) because it just tells them that their parents tell them not to hit other kids, but don't follow it themselves. Another incident was when one day she started swishing a pointy stick in the playground. My first instinct was simply to snatch it from her before she poked someone in the eye, but I also remembered my 'don't snatch things from anyone' directive to her. So I went over to her and gently told her what could happen if she swished that stick around. She understood and was more than happy to throw it in the dustbin by herself. That day, I learnt that I need to adopt a 'Do as I do' approach rather than just a 'Do as I say' approach.

Correct wrong behaviour, no matter whose it is
It's tough at the playground because she sees kids do the very things that I always tell her not to do - don't snatch, don't pluck flowers, don't push, don't cut the queue, etc. I get around it by always explaining to her why she shouldn't do these things. From a young age, I've been organising play dates for her and getting her to understand the concepts of playing together and taking turns and sharing, so by now she's great in these aspects. However, I realised that a few days ago that because of her puny size and agreeable nature, she gets pushed and shoved at the playground quite a bit. For example, she always gives way, even if she's first in line for the slide or the swing, because she's scared of being shoved. I started to reiterate to her that since she was in line first, she does not need to give way to anyone and their turn will come soon after. I have to tell the other kids that too, that they can't push her and get ahead. I literally stand there with a 'I will destroy you if you misbehave' look on my face, and that look is meant for everyone. It's a little weird but I have to be quite firm with them at times because their parents are not there in the playground. Only the helpers are, and not all helpers bother to teach manners and good behaviour.

The right words
Terminology is very important because whatever I say will come back to me in weird ways. I try to avoid saying things like, "Xena, you're making me very angry." or "Don't be a bad girl." etc. As much as possible, I take the path of reason and she responds well to it. I avoid if-then statements because they can cause her to pick up a pattern. Instead of the 'If you tidy up, we will go to the beach.' I use a 'We will go to the beach after you tidy up.' approach. There's a difference between the two and it's huge. These days, she insists on picking out her own clothes. This can take forever, and is frustrating if I'm in a rush. So instead of 'What do you want to wear to the party?', I ask her 'Do you want to wear the red dress or the blue jumpsuit?' This makes her feel that she's still in control as she's the one who has the final say, but saves a lot of my time. Similarly, if it's getting dark, but she wants to continue playing, I don't drag her back. I simply say, "Do you want to leave now or in two minutes?" Obviously, she picks the latter, but she sticks to it.

So here they are --- some tips which really helped us and which might just help other parents too as they go through the terrible twos with their kids. I, meanwhile, am focusing on something even more challenging. A time when according to experts, defiance is at its peak. I can actually see it already.

Threenage, it's called.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for smartphone

I don't take my mobile phone out much, especially not in company, so it was years before a close friend had the opportunity to see it. He looked at my phone and then at me, and then at the phone again. And then he asked in exactly the kind of tone that Katrina Kaif had used when Hrithik Roshan took out his 'Japanese schoolgirl' fluorescent pink phone in 'Zindagi na milegi dobara' - "Is that your phone???"

Nope, my phone is neither fluorescent nor pink. It's just a simple Nokia phone. I don't know what model it is, because frankly, I don't care. Every time I renew my contract, they give me a free phone. A phone that is probably too outdated to be sold to anyone. I accept it with gratitude. I don't really care what kind of phone it is, as long as it can send and receive calls and sms messages. My favourite phone so far was the first phone I had -- the Nokia 3310, also known as 'the blue brick'. I made calls with it. I sent messages with it. Sometimes I even played snake on it. I dropped it several times and it never died. It was also a handy self-defence tool; I was pretty sure that if flung appropriately, it could crack a skull with ease. So there, that was all I needed in a mobile phone back then. And nothing's changed now.

I've not yet jumped on the smartphone bandwagon. Yes, I'm that tadipaar dinosaur. Most of my friends think I'm anti-smartphones, which is not exactly accurate. Smartphones are great. They are indeed very smart and have amazing features and apps and what not, which make our lives very easy and convenient. What I'm anti- is the behaviour that humans exhibit when they become slaves to their smartphones. And the thought of having a smartphone and turning into one of 'them' scares me a little bit.

Every evening all of Xena's friends congregate at the playground. Almost all of them are accompanied by helpers. On some rare occasions, some moms turn up and then spend the entire evening fiddling with their smartphones. I know judging others' parenting styles is an absolute no-no, but it really bothers me when I see the kids trying to get their moms to play with them, or look at the cool things they are doing such as hanging upside down dangerously from the see-saw, but the moms don't even look up from their phones. I don't want to do that. And I think if I had a smartphone, I might be doing that. Or not. I don't know. I just don't want to risk it.

It annoys me when a bunch of people are together, and someone or the other is busy with a smartphone instead of joining in the conversation. Fortunately, my friends though armed with smartphones, know better than to fiddle with them when we are together. We don't have to implement the phone stack rule, which is brilliant by the way. I have also read that some restaurants require you to check your phone in at the entrance, and you get it back on your way out. And did you know that there is a restaurant in Jerusalem that offers a 50% discount on meals to diners who switch off their mobile phones?

Not having a smartphone has made me an outcast on several occasions. I'm not oblivious to the weird looks that I and my phone get when I'm exchanging numbers with someone. And don't even get me started on the current bane of my life -- Whatsapp. If only I had a penny for every time someone said, "Why aren't you on Whatsapp?" Recently, I was part of the group organising an Easter egg hunt. The discussions started on the group's page on Facebook, which I have on my iPad, so I participated actively. As the event neared, at some point the conversation moved to Whatsapp and I simply had no idea what was happening, until the day of the party when it started raining heavily and I received an sms from one of them telling me that they were discussing what to do on Whatsapp, and someone would sms me the outcome of the discussion. Of course, I don't blame anyone. Whatsapp is indeed a very convenient medium for such things, and it was also easy for the organisers when they were buying stuff for the party as they could simply take a photo and Whatsapp it to everyone before buying it, and have live discussions together. And I could imagine their frustration at not being able to include me. I knew the feeling because I remembered how perplexed I was when I met someone who has chosen not to have a mobile phone.

Once in a while, I wonder if I should just stop frustrating everyone around me and get myself a smartphone. And then something happens to make my stance stronger. Like what happened last week. I take the bus every afternoon to fetch Xena from school. One day, I received an sms from my editor - "Going to WA you the diagram, please advise on changes.' I was never more thrilled to message back that I was not on WA and that she could email me the diagram and I'd look at it when I was at home on my computer. What I really wanted to say was -- I will not work in the bus. I simply won't.

The other day, I was seated in the back of the bus and saw an amazing sight. Of the 14 people seated in the lower deck, 12 were on their smartphones, playing or watching something. The 13th was fast asleep and the 14th was me. And I figured that if I had a fun phone, I might be engrossed in it too. I'd want to maximise its features. I'd be working in the bus. I'd be Googling and Crushing Candy and Facebooking and WA-ing and YouTube-ing and what not. I know it's all about self-control, but in all honesty, I'm not sure what kind of self-control I have.

I enjoy my bus time. I just want to sit in the bus and look out of the window and have random thoughts fill my mind. It's my detox time. Also, we all know how important vision breaks are, and the only time I look at distant objects is when I'm in the bus, or the beach or the playground. I don't want to be looking at a near object then. So the best solution for me is really to continue with a really boring phone with extremely basic features.

I don't know how long I can do this without caving though. Last week, Xena's water bottle started leaking in my bag, and nearly killed my Nokia. I opened it up and wiped whatever water I could spot and left it out to dry. I don't even know how on earth I managed to find another phone, but my desperate rummaging in the drawers had somehow conjured up one. It was a Motorola and even more primitive than my Nokia. I didn't know whose it was and why it was there. But I sure knew that it was not a permanent solution. It was extremely user-unfriendly and I couldn't even use the basic features properly. And suddenly panic struck me. Would I have to buy a new phone if my Nokia didn't revive itself? Would it have to be a smartphone? Should it be a smartphone?

All my questions were answered when the next day, my Nokia started working normally. Phew.

Yesterday, Viv announced that he might be ready for a new phone. He asked me if I would like to take over his HTC, or I'd prefer sticking to my Nokia. I was tempted because it looks cool and is more user-friendly than my Nokia. I just didn't know if smartphones could be 'unsmarted'.

"Can I have it without any 'smart' features?" I asked him. He said yes. Wheeeeee.

Not a bad idea at all. Win-win, in fact.

I'd still be free. And yet, friends like the one in paragraph 1 above, would not ask me silly questions like "Is that your phone???"

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Radio

I was racking my brain thinking of an 'R' word for today's post when of all people, Himesh Reshammiya, came to my rescue. While fiddling with Saavn radio, I stumbled upon his song, "Mann ka radio bajne de zara", from his movie 'Radio'. This was apparently his 500th (!!) song, and his first after the rumoured throat surgery he had in order to acquire another (a non-nasal) voice. Sure enough, the song starts off in a very low-pitched non-Himesh way, but soon switches to his trademark style. Complete with atrocious lyrics like 'Fultu attitude de de tu zara'. And I thought radio was the perfect choice for today's post because of its significance in my life.

When I was a kid, I remember Akashvani playing a lot at home. I still remember 'Yeh Akashvani hai', Amin Sayani's Cibaca geetmala, and even narrations of Chacha Chaudhry and Sabu stories on radio. But it was the songs that mattered the most to me. I used to get very upset when someone of national importance died, not because I cared, but because they would stop playing the songs and play only some depressing shehnai tune all day long. I never learnt music formally, but I'd sing along with any and every song that played on radio. I could rattle off the lyrics of any song you named. The other day, my Mom asked me on Skype for the lyrics of 'Mann re, tu kaahe na dheer dhare' and I spouted it all out in no time. She asked me how I knew the lyrics of a song which was so old. I figure it must have been all the radio that I listened to as a kid.

When I came to Singapore, I was introduced to the world of English songs. I spent four years at university listening to the likes of Backstreet boys, Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Alanis Morissette, Boyzone, Madonna, 98 Degrees, Toni Braxton, Ricky Martin, Robbie Williams, Enrique Iglesias, Santana, Cher, Ricky Martin. TLC, Whitney Houston, Sugar Ray, Savage Garden, Creed, Pink, Brian McKnight, NSync, Christina Aguilera, LeAnn Rimes, Mariah Carey, Blue, Destiny's Child, Eminem, U2, Kylie Minogue, Marc Anthony, Macy Gray, Whitney Houston, etc. etc. It was a whole new world for me. It was massive, it was different and it was totally new. I used to walk all over campus, listening to radio, all the time. Some of the RJs in those days were really amazing and funny and they were just as fun to listen to as the songs.

However, after I graduated, I grew out of it. Radio became a thing of the past. My radio time was split between MP3s and TV shows. Until I discovered the expat radio channel that plays Hindi songs every day from 5 to 8 pm. It reminded me of my childhood. It was kind of comforting to just listen to Hindi songs randomly playing at someone else's will. Once in a while, I make chai for myself and just sit back and drink and listen.

Though 99.9% of the songs these days are crap of the highest order, I need my Hindi radio station. I really cannot live without it. No matter what, the radio HAS to be switched on at 5 pm. Even Xena knows this now. I just have to say, "Xena, it's 5 pm!" and she runs to switch on the radio. I even used it as an alarm clock for Viv to make sure he didn't come home too late (i.e. after 8 pm) from work. "If the Hindi music has stopped by the time you return, be prepared to face a different kind of music," I used to tell him.

 Once in a while, the channel plays the songs in the 'ek purana, ek naya' format, where they alternate new songs with old songs. They also do a 'showstopper of the week' show, where they pick an actor and play all his/her hit songs. I had reservations at first (who wants to listen to three hours of Ajay Devgn songs??), but I realised that almost every actor, in spite of some very bad movies, has some very good songs. A couple of weeks ago, I almost choked on my chai when the RJ announced that the showstopper of the week was Jacckkky (okay, I don't know how many c's and k's he's added to his name so I have played safe) Bhagnani! My first thoughts were, "Wha...??!! You're seriously going to play 3 hours of Jacckkky Bhagnani songs?? Does he even have that many movies? How much did his producer papa pay your station??" The RJ was inviting listeners to suggest songs on the station's Facebook page. I went to check and sure enough, there were many many people who were just as puzzled as me as to to how on earth they were going to play 3 hours of Jacckkky Bhagnani songs. They started off with 'Suno na sangemarmar', which is actually a nice song (okay fine, these days anything sung by Arijit Singh is erm, music to my ears), and some other random songs from whatever movies he's acted in so far. And then they stopped. I went aha, now what? And then the RJ reminded us of the date - 1 April. Good one!

Sometimes I wonder if radio is going to become a thing of the past soon. Like audio cassettes and pagers and walkmen (walkmans?).

That would be a sad sad day. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for questions

They say that the average 4-year-old asks 437 questions a day.

'They' conveniently forgot to add that an average 3-year-old asks 34457389475983472059872 questions a day.

There is a garage near Xena's school. It's opposite the bus stop where we take the bus back home, so we see it every day. One day, she saw a mechanic lying under a car. This is our conversation, translated into English.



"Why is uncle lying down?"

"Umm... he's repairing the car."

"What happened to the car?"

"It's broken."

"Who broke it?"

"Umm... nobody broke it. It's just old and needs some repairs."

"Why is it old?"

"Because... err... it was made a long time ago."

"By whom?"

"Hmmm... By some uncles, aunties and some machines."

"What are their names?"

"I don't know their names."

"Why did they make the car?"

"So that people could travel."

"Which people?"

"Ummm... uncles and aunties and children."


"Because... you need to travel to get to places."

"Which places?"

"Anywhere you want."

Fortunately for me, our bus came and that was the end of the conversation.

The next day, to my utter horror, she saw the mechanic lying down under another car.

"Why is uncle lying down?"

Oh. Dear. Lord.

I decided to adopt a different strategy this time. I turned the tables on her.

"You tell me. Why is uncle lying down?"

Her answer was instant.

"Because he is very tired."


Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Poppy

Poppy. Xena came up with this nickname all on her own. We have no idea how and why. We'd made nice plans of getting our child to call us 'Mama' and 'Papa'. But she had her own plans. She has toyed with 'Mommy', 'Mummy', 'Mama', 'Mommers', 'Mumsy', and 'Mimi' to address me, but she has been pretty consistent in calling him 'Poppy'. Though once in a while, he does become 'Poppers' or 'Popsy', she always goes back to 'Poppy'. Now even I call him 'Poppy'. I'm sure that people who overhear us might be gagging at the overly sickly sweet nickname they assume I've given my hubby.

Anyway, the point of the post is that Poppy is back! After two whole weeks! I am so thrilled and relieved.

- Family walks to the beach, yeayyyy!

- I can finally exchange the good, bad and ugly happenings of the day with someone who's not three years old.

- I can 'pass the parcel' when Xena drives me crazy. (Contrary to popular belief, sometimes she does.)

- I can catch up on my work deadlines. (He will drop her at school so I'll have more time in the mornings.)

- Xena's race cars that have raced their way under our heavy couch can now be retrieved.

- I've been eating out or packing food from outside for the last two weeks. I can finally have ghar ka khana! Not that he's the one who's going to make it. Just that it's so boring to cook for one, I prefer cooking for four (yes, contrary to his appearance, he eats for three). I could cook for four and eat it over four meals, you say? No can do. Because Xena will stand at the kitchen door with her puppy face asking me to come out and play with her. Also, one of my favourite moments is cooking to the sound of the two of them playing football in the dining room.

- When I've exhausted my barrel of self-created stories, I can always say, "Ok, now Poppy will tell you the next story."

- I can take a looooong shower in peace.

- The cockroach dead body disposal service in our house falls under his department and I kid you not when I tell you that the dead cockroach in the kitchen has been there for the last two days.

- I have been sweeping the house, but it can finally get vacuumed yipppeee! You see, due to Xena's lung condition, we don't use a regular vacuum cleaner. We use the industrial-strength Rainbow vacuum cleaner, and only Viv can operate it because let's just say that if I am Ravan's son Indrajit, the damned vacuum cleaner is Angad's foot.

Is it therefore any wonder that in my head, I'm jubilantly singing (very very loudly at that), a catchy but horrible song from the 90s?

Mera piya ghar aaya, o ramji!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for osteoporosis

Disclaimer: The grim topic was not my idea. This public service post has been issued courtesy my sister who holds an M.B.B.S. degree from G.M.S. (Google Medical School). I'm close to getting mine too. 

So my sister called me at 10:30 pm. As soon as I said 'Hello?', she said, "Are you drinking enough milk?" It was past bedtime for good girls like me. The lights were out and I was already in bed. Yet, my response to her question was rather long and articulate.

"Hainnnnnnnn???" I said.

"Calcium," she said. "Are you getting enough calcium?"

"You're calling me past my bedtime to ask me if I am getting enough calcium??"

"Yes. Don't take it lightly. It's very important. Adult bone mass peaks around the age of 30 and declines after that. Now is the time to get serious. These days, even young people are getting osteoporosis. It's painful and you can't do anything about it. In spite of the easy preventive measure. Calcium. Are you getting 1000 mg of calcium every day? Most people don't."

"I don't know... I drink milk every day... I think that should cover it?"




"I also eat cheese."

"Not enough."

"It's high-calcium cheese."

"It still might not be enough. There are plenty of other sources."

"Okay, tomorrow I'll check the milk carton and the cheese packaging and whatever else I eat to see if I'm getting 1000 mg of calcium every day. Ok bye thank you good night."

The next morning, I remembered her words as soon as I woke up. Like a good girl, I drank my cup of milk and googled calcium sources and osteoporosis and bone mass loss and what not. And yes, what she had said made sense. I'm not getting enough calcium in my diet, and it might come back and kick me in the butt in later years. These are not things I generally think about, but once in a while, my sister urges me to get to such 'grown-up' things.

As a kid, I'd always hated milk, packeted or fresh, and often used to secretly pour it onto Dad's houseplants. (Dad, those plants were really healthy and I take all the credit!) Later, Complan and Horlicks and Bournvita made it a little better, but milk was still not something I drank willingly. When I came to Singapore and started living on my own, I totally stopped drinking milk. Once in a while, Dad or Mom would ask me on the phone and I'd guiltily buy the single-serving carton and have it. But it was definitely not a part of my regular diet. A few years later, I started again when my sister urged me. Fortunately for me, I didn't mind the taste and smell of the carton milk here. Soon, it became a habit to drink a cup of milk with Milo (the unofficial national drink of Singapore) everyday, and I still do it.

And I thought I had it all covered. Apparently not. One cup of milk is far from meeting the daily adult calcium RDA. I'm not a fan of popping supplements, so I looked up other sources and spinach, kale, fish, egg yolk, tofu, soya milk, fortified orange juice, oatmeal, etc. are good sources too, especially for those who are vegans, lactose-intolerate or of the belief that humans are not meant to consume milk (there was a forward going around about it some time ago; I just didn't know what to make of it though). You also need enough vitamin D to aid calcium absorption. And of course, regular exercise is important to keep the bones strong.

And since I did all this research and am going to look deeply into our family calcium intake, I thought I'd share this on the bar's notice board too for all the 30-something bewdas who might have no idea that they are not getting enough calcium. Quoting my sister - "Now is the time to get serious." It's time to start reading food labels, closely noting the numbers and practising my mental maths.

Her reminder was also very timely as I was about to write my 'O' post and wasn't sure I'd do justice to the O words I could think of - oxygen, ozone, orange and ornithology.

So... Let's all be a little more fit and healthy, so that if 20-30 years later I'm still blogging and you're still reading, I won't be writing joint-pain posts and you wouldn't be saying, "Meeee toooo!"

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for nostalgia

From time to time, we all get hit by episodes of nostalgia. Perhaps our best memories are from our childhood -- stuff that happened many years ago. That's why it is hilarious when a 3-year-old gets nostalgic. About stuff that happened just a year or two ago. Lately, Xena has been relating 'tales of her childhood' to me. And as if a reminiscing toddler is not already funny enough, she tells me these stories as if I don't know about them at all.

Here are some samples of her recent nostalgic moments.

"Mama, when I was very very small, I was inside your tummy!"

"Mama, I was splashing around inside your tummy!"

"When I was inside, your tummy was big and round. Then you went to the hospital and the doctor pulled me out and SUDDENLY your tummy became flat."

"I used to be a small baby. Then SUDDENLY I became a big grown-up girl."

"When I was very small, I used to cry for milk when I was hungry. Like this - nga nga nga..."

"When I was very small, I could not sit or stand or walk or scoot or jump or run. I was lying down all the time!"

"When I was very small, sometimes I wore only a diaper! No top or pants! Only a diaper!"

"You know, Mama... when I was very small, I did not pee and poop in the toilet. I did everything in the diaper!"

"When I was very small, I used to try to eat my toes!"

"When I was very small, I did not have any teeth. Now I have sooooo many."

"When I was small, I was not 10 kilos. Then SUDDENLY I was 10 kilos."

"We went to Australia and Poppy drove us in a blue car. I had my own car seat. I sat at the back because only grown-ups sit in front. It was very cold and I wore a jacket and a hat and mittens and we saw kangaroos."

"When I was very small, I used to say 'clockloach'. Mama, it's not 'clockloach'! It's 'cockloach'."

"When I was a little girl, I had soooo many soft toys. Then Dr. Thomas said that all the soft toys needed to go on a vacation till my lungs became big and strong. They will come back when I turn 5 years old."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Me

M is for me. And no other day screams 'me!' as much as one's birthday.

As some of you might have gathered from my last post, it was my birthday on Sunday. Time to feel depressed and all that. However, thanks to Viv's company, I haven't aged at all in the last five years. How, you ask. Well, other than software. his company also produces an anti-aging product. Well, it's not so much a product as it is a strategy. Basically, every year in April, they send him off for the NAB show in Las Vegas. Smack on my birthday. And then he's off to Amsterdam in September for another business trip. Smack on his birthday. So we haven't celebrated our birthdays together for a few years now. The only way to look at it is that since we don't see each other's birthdays, we don't age in each other's eyes. So there you have it, the secret to eternal youth.

Moronic jokes aside, it's no fun to have my birthday without him. However, I've been fortunate enough to always have had some family here around my birthdays in the last few years - my in-laws, or my parents, or at the very least my sister-in-law. This year was a little different though, as no one was at home. It was pretty much Xena and me. My friends know that I absolutely detest midnight birthday celebrations (the truth is that I want to be asleep at midnight -- birthday or no birthday), so thankfully no one rang the doorbell at midnight. I'd have called the police I think. I'm not kidding.

So I had a good night's rest and technically started my birthday only when I woke up. Xena was up and smiling. At 7 am! She rolled over to me and said, "Mommy, aaj tum ka birthday hai!" I thanked and kissed her and then promptly corrected her 'tum ka'. (I'm so khadoos, no?)

I had a lunch celebration with friends at Robert Timms at Suntec City, topped off with a chocolate mousse cheesecake. Yummy! Xena was very excited because she got to blow the candle and cut (read massacre) the cake, but she refused to even have a lick of it. Fine. More for us then. Hmmmph!

After lunch, my Bollywood buddy Pizzadude came home with us. I put Xena down for her afternoon nap and then Pizzadude and I had adrak ki chai and watched... Veer-Zaara! Honestly, he's pretty much the only person in the world with whom I can watch and really enjoy movies from the 90s and 2000s without rolling my eyes. Purana bewdas of the bar would remember the hilarity that ensued when Viv, feeling left out, decided to join us for a screening of Dil toh pagal hai. We watched half of Veer-Zaara and actually enjoyed it to my surprise. We couldn't finish it though because Xena woke up and when she's up, the TV goes down.

After Pizzadude left, Xena and I had a nice, quiet evening. We played with play doh and fingerpaint, built a giraffe using blocks, blew bubbles in the playground and then took a nice long walk. Soon, the day had ended and it was time for bed. I realised that installment 1 of my birthday had come to an end. The next few will happen very soon. We'll celebrate again when Viv is back and yet again when my sis-in-law is back.

And yet again when I'll celebrate it all by myself.

It's not been easy taking care of Xena all by myself these two weeks. Between the morning chores, getting her ready and fed, dropping her off at school, picking her up, keeping her engaged, working on my own projects, this daily blogging challenge (yes, I'm aware I brought it upon myself), doing housework, attempting to feed her all her meals by myself, and not forgetting to have my own meals (happens a lot!), I'm utterly exhausted. I told Viv that when he's back, I'll take a week's vacation in Vivocity my mothership mall, where I'll abandon everyone and everything, and roam and chill and shop (I call it the real 'duty-free' shopping) and get a pedicure and catch a movie or two. I'm looking forward to my own company.

I don't think Marilyn Monroe meant to represent primary caregivers of toddlers with her quote, but it sure is super relevant - "I restore myself when I'm alone."

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for lie

Here is positive proof that contrary to popular belief, women DO NOT lie about their age. 
PS: They just lie about other women's ages.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for king

I mentioned in this post how I don't have a favourite actor but Shah Rukh Khan is my favourite star. I often get asked why I like him so much. I also get ridiculed when he has a bad movie out (and we all know how many of those he has). I also get looked at when he's really hamming it up in a scene. I had to go into hiding after Ra.One released. So why then do I love SRK? I have decided to issue a clarification on the matter once and for all. Here are five reasons why I heart King Khan.

His story is inspiring.
He came to Mumbai with nothing. No hero-like looks or stature, no producer papa, nothing. He started off on television. That too, the television of those days. And then he broke all the rules and do what no hero or hero-wannabe would do -- play the villain. And then he went on to rule not just Mumbai but far beyond. Of course, one can't downplay the role of luck, but there is surely something about him that attracts success. To me, he truly defines the term 'X-factor'. I would love to read his autobiography.

His PR skills are amazing.
He is one performer who really makes an effort to connect with his audience. Of course it is all PR, and I will not dispute that, but when you see him live, you can see that he knows that his superstardom comes from the people and he makes a genuine effort to acknowledge it. He said in an interview that all he wants to do is make people happy. And you can see he means it from the way he presents himself to his audience. When he went to promote Chennai Express on Comedy Nights with Kapil, he hugged everyone who joined him on the stage, even though they didn't ask him to and I'm also sure not all of them felt or even smelt clean. Would you like to hug totally random strangers? No way. But he did it with a sincerity that you don't really see in showbiz. A few years ago, I attended his live show and I saw his amazing PR skills live. He declared that he was going to ask someone from the audience to join him for a romantic dance on stage. Of course, all the girls went completely bonkers. He proceeded to totally ignore all the hotties in the audience who were waving their hands madly, and instead invited a very plain-looking and overweight girl. PR stunt? Totally. Heartwarming? Totally. Not just had he made her day, he had made everyone happy. I was cheering like a mad person.

His charisma is mind-blowing.
Needless to say, I preferred SRK hosting KBC over Amitabh Bachchan hosting it. Yes, Amitabh Bachchan is also very charismatic, but in a more towering sense. SRK's charisma is more grounded. I simply loved him in KBC. He was funny and spontaneous and made the contestants feel at ease. He underscored the idea that everyone was there to have fun. With AB, things felt a little more serious and he also looked rather formidable - I am AB, you are a commoner. With SRK, he put himself at the same level as the contestants and made them feel like they were talking to a friend. The contest is stressful as it is, and the whole world is watching. The last thing you want is the host making you feel less than you are.

And... Do you remember the bitchy contestant on KBC? I couldn't believe how rude she was to him. And I'm not even saying that one has to be gushing in front of him. Her behaviour was simply not acceptable because no one deserves that kind of rudeness. But he patiently and humbly continued the game, and when she quit and said that she had no desire to hug him before getting the cheque, he very politely said, "If you don't mind, I'd like to give the cheque to your mother. I'm sure she will not refuse to hug me."

His humour is spontaneous.
Any show he hosts is side-splittingly funny. I have stopped watching award shows because he doesn't host them anymore. I simply use Youtube to go back to his old shows (especially when he used to host them with Saif) and they're still so enjoyable. Even though he most likely followed a script, you need to have superb comic timing and a shrewd sense of humour to deliver it. No wonder all other hosts, in spite of having scripts too, seem so lame compared to the SRK-Saif pairing. I thought he was a total riot on KBC. Have you watched this video? He was HILARIOUS. Any other host might have gotten a bit irritated at the contestant's indecisiveness, but SRK made the situation funnier than it already was. I especially loved when he started talking in Punjabi and said, "I don't want to play anymore."

When the conditions are right, boy can he act.
There's a reason why this is the very last point in my list. SRK is definitely not a great actor. That's a given. Of his 80 odd movies, perhaps only a handful are good. And a lot of them depend on the age and stage you are at. I was completely bowled over by him in DDLJ and KKHH because of the age and stage I was at, but it's not like his acting was exemplary. However (and this is a big HOWEVER), it's not that he can't act. I always quote Swades (and also Chak De India to a certain extent) when confronted with the accusation that SRK is a bad actor. He may not be a great actor, he may have acted badly in a LOT of movies, but I will not take it lying down if someone says he cannot act at all.

PS: The greatest sacrifice I ever made was when my roommate and I shamelessly cornered SRK when he was rushing off from his breakfast. This was a few years ago, when the IIFA awards were being held in Singapore for the first time. He told us that he had time for only one photo (there were no smartphones to take selfies back then). Actually he said, "I have three seconds." I took the camera and pushed my roommate forward, "You go." My utter heartbreak aside, photo ki kya zaroorat hai jab SRK apun ke dil mein hai. :)