Saturday, May 24, 2014

Old school

I sing a lot of old songs for Xena, especially before her afternoon nap. Lately, the song 'Kajra muhabbat wala' from the 1968 movie Kismat had been stuck in my head and I'd been singing a lot. The first time she heard the song, she immediately asked me which aunty had sung it. (I always tell her whatever trivia I know about the songs I sing for her.) So I told her, "Asha aunty and Shamshad aunty". Her immediate response was, "Woh kis tower mein rehte hain?" ("Which tower do they live in?") She thinks the whole world lives in our neighbourhood! Vasudhaiva kutumbakam indeed. :)

This evening, the whole family went a little nuts singing it over and over and luckily I managed to capture one of the instances on camera.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The warrior princess diaries - XV

I just realised that my last post in the warrior princess diaries series was in October last year. Of course, I have been blogging on and off about her, but posts in this particular series help me to put all the happenings together in one place, especially those about her health.

As usual, let me start with the health update. Since our last run to the hospital a night before her 3rd birthday party, we haven't had to rush there (*touchwood*) but we've had a couple of appointments with the 239847389745 specialists she's seeing. Her pediatrician was concerned at her poor growth (after years of waiting to hit that 10-kg mark, she's down to 9.4 kg again) and referred us to an endocrinologist. We saw him and he had a very very long meeting with us, where he explained a lot things. Genetically, she is designed to be tall because Viv is very tall and I'm above average, but if she follows her current growth chart, let's just say the numbers don't look good. He said that we will monitor her growth this year but if things don't look up, we might need to start growth hormone injections when she turns 4. We were horrified to learn that these injections will need to be administered to her every night for 10 years or more. Overall, it was a very depressing hospital visit. We have less than a year to somehow make her shoot up on the graph. I don't care so much about the weight, but I hope her height goes up soon. It's so scary, but I'm hopeful because Mom says I used to be very short as a toddler, but I had a sudden growth spurt in pre-teenage, and now I'm 165 cm. Fingers crossed the same (or better) happens for Xena.

Just when we thought we had to work harder on her eating, and I started listing ways to further increase her calories such as melting cheese over everything, adding more oil/ghee to her meals, we had an appointment with the gastrointestinal specialist that changed everything. He had put her on this anti-reflux medicine called omeprazol to see if it helped fix the issue of her throwing up. (Basically, the doctors suspect that reflux is causing food to enter her lungs, causing the frequent episodes of bronchiolitis, so we need to fix the reflux first, which in turn will fix the lungs and weight issues.) She was on the medicine for two months, but it didn't help at all. So now he had a radical suggestion for us. He said we need to look at the possibility of food allergies to see if anything she's taking is irritating her gut. Well, she pretty much lives on Pediasure, a very high-calorie formula milk. He asked us to cut out not just that, but all forms of dairy for a month. That means yogurt, cheese, butter, ghee, everything. In other words, anything that I was actually able to feed her or sneak into her food.

So for the last few days I have been crazily researching on dairy alternatives. Now that Pediasure is out, I not only need to match her caloric intake from before, I need to make sure she has enough calcium for her bones to grow. It's really really tough and I'm going slightly mad all over again. Fortunately, she has taken well to soya milk thanks to food colouring. At one point, she even asked me for milo. Viv was so amused and impressed when I mixed a drop of red and a drop of green food colouring to soya milk to make 'milo'! It's still the first week of the test and so far things look okay. She hasn't thrown up but I am not yet rejoicing because she's not eating enough; she's still only just nibbling on the dairy alternatives I've offered so far. She's very hungry for sure without Pediasure, because she wants to snack all the time, but there's very little she actually eats. Quantity is a huge issue at the moment, because she's happy to just have a lunch consisting of 10 banana chips. My fridge is now stocked with soya milk, almond milk, coconut milk, soya chocolate milk and what not. I've also become a crazy mathematician, trying to add up her calories and calcium RDA. If she loses weight because of this test, I will surely go mad. But I'm keeping my hopes up. I'll let you know in a month.

Okay, I'm done with the depressing stuff. Let's pretend the three paragraphs above don't exist, and move on. Someone sent me this very funny image, which I thought was so apt in my case. Mom tells me I was a picky eater and gave her more than a fair share of frustration, but my daughter is of course the mother of all picky eaters.

Xena loves the hospital visits for a special reason. The animal rides! She's too small to ride them by herself so she picks the animals, and either Viv or I accompany her.

Speaking of animal rides, a few weeks ago, she had her first pony ride! I'd met another blog bewdi who also has a 3-year-old so we made plans to take the kids to Pasir Ris park which has a tiny stable where kids can ride a pony. It was absolutely fabulous, and she loved it.

My little rider

I'd actually never been to Pasir Ris park before, so I was amazed at how big it was. The playground there was truly the coolest playground I've ever seen. Kids can do actual stunts there! Of course, there were also the regular playground rides, and Xena and her friend hopped into an 'hydroplane' piloted by another toddler.

This shot of her in the hydroplane amused me to no end. I don't even know what on earth she was doing, but it really looks like a 'Miss World wave'. 

We got her a proper outdoor scooter for her birthday (she had an indoor Hello Kitty one for the longest time, on which she would zoom in and out of rooms). She took to it instantly, and lately I'm finding myself actually having to run after her at times. That's my daily workout regime.

Xena and me, on our way to the beach

Fast and furious

In the later afternoons, after her nap, we sit down and play together. She makes me chai and vegetable soup using her kitchen set, sprinkling both with a generous amount of pepper, and we race cars and solve puzzles and build blocks and read books. She loves all her toys - the kitchen set, the race cars, the dinosaurs, the dolls, the blocks, so I have not faced a gender-stereotype issue yet. Play with everything I say, just not guns. I've noticed though that most of her clothes and toys tend to be pink. I suppose that's because people tend to give pink gifts to girls so that's one colour she's seen a lot of, since her early days. No wonder when we asked her to pick between the green and the pink scooters at the toy store, she picked pink. In general, I buy all sorts of colours for her, but I don't force her to pick non-pink stuff, if that's what she wants.

She got two doll sets on her birthday, so I merged both and made a whole family out of them. There's Felix and Fiona, and because Xena insisted that they were both 6 months old, I had to explain to her that though they are twins, because Felix doesn't eat much, he's much smaller than Fiona. Xena loves them to bits and every time she sits down to play, she uses her stethoscope to check their breathing, gives them their medicine, makes them poop, bathes them, and dresses them up.

When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "I'm giving the baby some medicine. Please don't disturb me." 

Recently, we even had an almost-scandal, involving Felix.
Xena - Mama, where is Felix?
Me - I don't know. Why don't you look around for him?
A few minutes later, she rushes over to me.
Xena - Mama!! I found Felix!!
Me - Good. Where did you find him?
Xena - I found him in the bathtub with Angelina!!
(Relax, bewdas. Angelina is Felix's bath ducky.)

Though she still doesn't watch any TV, she knows a few cartoon characters by name because of books and merchandise. Mickey mouse, Minnie mouse, Winnie the pooh, Hello Kitty, Dora, etc. I'm familiar with some of the characters, but not those in the new cartoons and movies. Sometimes she points to cartoon characters in the newspapers and asks me who they are and almost always, I have no idea. Her all-time favourite character is still Hello Kitty and now she has two pairs of Hello Kitty footwear, three Hello Kitty tops, a Hello Kitty scooter, a Hello Kitty toy camera, and loads of Hello Kitty plates and cutlery (anything to get her to eat!). She's even given all of us Hello Kitty names. She calls Viv Poppy Kitty and me Mama Kitty.

Speaking of cartoon characters, Viv had gone to Sri Lanka for a cricket tournament and came back armed with Mickey Mouse slippers for her. Here's a video of her talking about it, and also describing how a washing machine works.

We read lots of books together, and now she's making attempts to identify simple words, and even use a bit of phonics to read. I go to the library every fortnight to refresh her book collection. Being surrounded by books has also made her very creative and imaginative. Once I was reading the story of Dilly duckling to her. Dilly duckling was very upset about losing a feather until her mother told her that her downy yellow feathers would all go one day and she would become a white duck too. Xena later recounted the story to me and in her version, Dilly duckling relentlessly searched for the lost feather, found it and stuck it back on herself... using scotch tape!

Her speech is a lot more refined now, and she's stopped mispronouncing many words, which is nice but also makes Viv and me nostalgic about the days when she couldn't say them properly. She's now able to say 'r' quite clearly, and I am reminded of this incident from the time she couldn't. We were taking a walk when she came across a root sticking out of the ground. "Go over it, baby." I told her. She did. The next time it happened, she turned to me and said, "Go over it, mommy." Except that back then she couldn't quite say 'r' yet, and said 'w' instead. So what she said sounded exactly like "Go, overweight mommy." I was, of course, horrified for a second, before realisation hit me.

Another reason why she doesn't put on much weight is that she uses up a lot of calories talking. (Yep, it's my theory.) Seriously, 3-year-olds talk non-stop all day long. Almost every minute of her awake time is spent talking. She has theories and opinions and what not. This video shows her advising people to close their mouths when they look up at a bird sitting on a tree.

Here are some other conversations we had recently:

Xena - I don't want to brush my teeth.
Me - If you don't brush your teeth, they will become...?
Xena - Dirty!
Me - Yes! And...?
Xena - Smelly!
Me - Yes!
Xena - Just like a garbage truck!!!!
Me - .....

Xena (trying to draw with a light pink crayon on dark brown paper) - Mama! It's not working!
Me - Why isn't it working?
Xena - I don't know...
Me - Think?
Xena (thinks) - Hmmm... There is no battery!

Xena (watching the rain) - Oh no, Mama!
Me - What happened?
Xena - It's raining! Poppy did not take an umbrella! How will he play cricket without the umbrella??

I recently attended the sports day in her school, and my camera almost made a tumble for the ground because the moment she spotted me, she forgot the rules of the game and headed straight for me! But she did make the basket in the end.

At the parent-teacher meeting last week, her teachers told me she likes music and art, and also telling her classmates off if they don't tidy up after playing. They have appointed her as the manager of the library corner in the classroom, and she makes sure that everyone puts the books back properly. Viv and I are both a little Monica about different things, and I think she might have inherited it.

Almost every day, we do some art activity at home, and she really enjoys it. Here she is, drawing a face.

Just like how Xena talks all the time, no matter what she's doing, I sing all the time, no matter what I'm doing. Yes, ours is a very noisy household, but Viv balances it out by being the silent one. (Or maybe, he's just not able to get a word in.)

If a song gets stuck in my head and I end up singing it all the time, she starts to pick it up after a day or two. This video has me teasing her by singing the lyrics of Sooha saaha wrong. She patiently corrects me thrice.

Viv and I don't really celebrate days like Valentine's day, Mother's day and Father's day, but the school makes a big deal of the latter two, so this time when Viv realised it was Mother's day, he had this conversation with her at breakfast, while I was in the shower.

Viv - We will get a gift for Mama today. Don't tell her, ok? It's a secret. Shhh...
Xena (nodding) - It's a secret. Shhh...
5 seconds later, as soon as I stepped out of the shower...
Xena - Mama! Poppy and I will get a gift for you today.
Viv - :|

After I was done laughing, I only had one thought -- may such transparency in communication extend to her teenage years and beyond!

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Yesterday, I laughed non-stop for 2.5 hours.

No, I was not watching Andaz Apna Apna or anything. I was just watching the man play dumb charades after a very long time. Viv and I are both DC buffs and used to be fierce competitors in the inter-hostel DC tournaments during our university days. For the record, I beat his ass in the last tournament we took part in. Now I just get my money's worth by sitting back and watching him mime. As some of you would know, he's a timeless man. As in, he has no sense of time when playing DC or pictionary. Those who have seen him in action would know how very entertaining it is to watch him mime a very simple thing using his extremely complicated thought process that leaves everyone baffled.

A few years ago, we had a chaat party at home, followed by DC using Hindi movie names. I gave him the word 'shagird'. He started showing a kid with glasses, a baby, a magic wand, a big guy, a motorcycle, a baby again, a motorcycle, a baby again and so on until everyone was totally lost. Later, when he explained himself, the guessers wanted to kill him. Apparently, he was trying to show Hagrid from Harry Potter and somehow from there he was going to move to Shagird (like... HOW??).

Yesterday, we had a small dinner party at home. After downing rounds of ginger tea, shikanji and pav bhaji, we decided that there were enough of us to play some games. My first suggestion was, of course, a very excited "CHARADES!" I'd missed playing it, and also, I really wanted to see if Viv's skills had rusted.

There were five of us so we couldn't really form teams. We decided to play it in our usual way -- one person gives another a movie title to mime, and the rest do the guessing. The mimer then gives the next person a movie title and so on.

Someone gave him a movie title with the word 'body'. Instead of pointing to his body like a regular-normal-sane-non-crazy-human-person, he decided to take a different route altogether. He showed the sign to switch language, switched to Tamil, pointed to his sister and flicked his hand dismissively, trying to show "po di". True story. I swear. How he intended to get to 'body' from 'po di' is anyone's guess.

I was waiting for my turn. I had the perfect movie for him. It was a very well-known one, with the simplest title ever, and I knew he was going to turn it into something out of this world. So I whispered the title in his ear and he got started.

First, he indicated to the guessers that it was a two-word title and that he was going to split up the first word. Then he pointed to his side. The guessers went through "this", "that", "there" before they got to "he". He indicated multiples and they guessed "they". He indicated that they had guessed correctly. He then moved on to the second part of the first word. He pointed an imaginary gun at them and they immediately guessed "gun". He then finished with a flourish, showing the victory sign.

The guessers looked totally lost but eventually they realised that he was showing '2', indicating a sequel. They just needed to figure out what on earth the first word was. Much as they tried to put together "they" and "gun", they couldn't come up with anything coherent. Being the only person in the know of what was going on in that genius brain, I just sat back and laughed and laughed and laughed. At one point, I did want to stand up and say "Oh, is it Devgn?" just to rain on his charade, but I resisted. He kept slamming his hands together asking them to put the two words together, but they seriously had no idea what the word was. Then, looking frustrated, he tried to show "give" and "take" and did some really weird dance-type moves which no one understood.

And then finally, somehow, someone got it.

The movie was 'Taken 2'.

Told ya.

1...2...3... say with me... "Heyyyyyy bhagwaaaaaaan!"

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Terrific trio

"I feel like watching an old Amitabh Bachchan movie," Viv said. I nearly fell off my chair.

You see, this kind of quote never originates from him. It usually originates from me and almost all my friends, but him craving an old Hindi movie? That was something. And that is why even though I am not an Amitabh Bachchan fan, I promptly dug up his old movies on YouTube. We settled on Amar Akbar Anthony and after putting Xena to bed, started watching.

Though I'd watched it countless times as a kid, I realised that I'd not really noticed a lot of things until this viewing. Especially the unintentionally funny things.

- The very first scene starts with Pran returning home from jail to find out that his wife has TB. That wife then goes through a LOT of stuff in the next 22 years, including losing her family and eyesight and then getting them all back, but never once is her TB mentioned again.

- Oh dear lord, did they really show the three brothers tandem-donating blood to their mother?

- I always thought Amar was the eldest, followed by Akbar and then Anthony. It turns out Akbar was the youngest. Why? I mean, even if they thought Rishi Kapoor was best suited for the role of Akbar and looked the youngest of the three, why didn't they name the movie Amar Anthony Akbar? Okay fine, it doesn't have the same ring and the title song would be totally ruined, but still, why? [Btw, Wikipedia tells me that in the Telugu remake it was Ram Robert Rahim and in the Malayalam remake it was John Jaffer Janardhanan.]

- The movie moves at such an incredibly fast pace that it's almost comical. Take the scene where the brothers get separated, for instance. Akbar's foster father doesn't even wait for 10 seconds for the parents of the abandoned kid to turn up; he just takes off with the kid!

- Anthony's foster father knew his mother was called Bharti and yet he brought him up as Anthony. However, Pran brought up Parveen Babi as a Christian knowing that she was Robert's daughter. Hmmmm.

- I'd forgotten who was cast opposite Vinod Khanna! I was shocked to see Shabana Azmi in yellow flared pants. I kind of expected someone like Bindiya Goswami or Zeenat Aman. But then after her 'rescue', Shabana went right back to her bharatiya nari avatar, appearing only in saris after that.

- All of Vinod Khanna's angry scenes start with his back to the camera and a sudden turnaround.

- In all his movies from that era, Amitabh Bachchan just has to find a statue of some god and start scolding him for the injustice he has suffered.

- Amar calls Nirupa Roy 'maa' or 'maaji' to her face, but when talking about her to Anthony he says, "Maine kal jis budhiya ko khoon diya tha..."

- I suppose Vinod Khanna was the Salman Khan of those days, huh? In both major fight scenes, his clothes come off. Well, he still had a vest on in the first one, and only one sleeve came off in the last fight, but still.

- The scene where two lamps travel from the eyes of the Sai Baba idol to Nirupa Roy's eyes, instantly restoring her eyesight, will possibly be one of the funniest in Bollywood history. And I just didn't get why she suddenly started crawling towards the idol after that. Woman, you can walk. You just got your eyesight back. Why on earth are you crawling?

- Vinod Khanna and Rishi Kapoor are such handsome men. Why why why oh why did they have those pencil-thin KL Saigal type moustaches?

- Everyone in the movie kept talking about the incident that happened 'baees saal pehle', but when Zeenat Aman calls Pran from the church phone, she says 'Pachees saal pehle'!

- Anthony's foster father died of a stab wound, but there was no sign of any blood on his white robes when Anthony found him.

- What on earth was Helen doing in the movie? And Pran just let her go into the lion's den to die?

- Parveen Babi was so so so gorgeous. Of course she was known to be one of the 'western' type Indian actresses, but I was impressed at the panache with which she spouted the unconventional dialogues given to her - bloody, none of your business, bastard, etc.

- Parveen Babi was always seen in typical Parveen Babi outfits, but I simply loved the practicality of the one they gave her in the chase scene. A thigh-slit long skirt, perfect for her date with Anthony, but with shorts underneath for still looking ladylike during the sudden and rapid running away from the bad guys.

- All the leading women in the movie have such glossy hair. In Amitabh Bachchan style, why, god, why? Yeh nainsaafi mere saath hi kyun?

- You gotta hand it to Pran for his preparedness and quick response time. He goes to visit his daughter, armed with a bottle of chloroform, simply sees some window blinds flicker and immediately deduces that the bodyguard has held her captive in that room and knocks him out with the chloroform.

- I literally burst out laughing when Nirupa Roy started knocking on the doors of the operating theatre asking the doctors to open the door so she could give the pooja ke phool to the patient in the middle of his surgery.

- The villain telling Neetu Singh - "Tum doctor ho na? Isko hosh mein lao!" was classic.

- Why on earth did snakes keep sprouting all over the place? At one point it felt like I was watching a nagin movie.

- Holy cow. Now Viv wants to teach Xena to say "You see the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the haemoglobin in the atmosphere, because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated with the exuberance of your own verbosity."

- The movie had every fathomable element of a masala movie - brothers separated in their childhood and reunited in adulthood, brought up under three separate religions, three heroes and three heroines, many villains who just happened to know one another, gold biscuits, murder, smuggling, jail, kidnapping, mother losing sight and randomly gaining it back, and what not. And I had totally forgotten about the villain's good-guy twin brother; I thought that had only happened in Andaz Apna Apna. And of course, the police arriving only in the last 30 seconds of the movie. This has to be the most masaledaar of all masala movies.

Feeling bored? Watch Amar Akbar Anthony. Aka entertainment entertainment entertainment.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Big talk

Lately, Viv and I have been getting cheap thrills by having Xena repeat multisyllabic words after us. Though I have to admit that she seems to love it too. Check out this total gibberish ("The juxtaposition of the exponential is too complicated." it seems) he made her say, and how thrilled she was.

A friend of mine saw the video above and remarked, "I'm just waiting for the day she says 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious'."

So there. :)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Break-ing research

Groundbreaking research in medical science must be shared with the world immediately, if not sooner.

A friend of mine fractured her fifth metatarsal. Xena and I went to see her and I simplified it for Xena by telling her that 'Aunty had bumped and broken her toe, and had a cast on'. She asked if she could touch the cast. I told her she could, and if she wanted, she could even put some stickers on it to cheer Aunty up. She was thrilled. She went through her sticker book and picked some of her favourite animal stickers.

Xena examining the cast, or as I like to call it - calf-high peep-toes. 

Xena's handiwork on the cast

Later at home, I asked her about it and she was ready with a mind-blowing, path-breaking, home remedy for fractures. 

I strongly suggest all of you try it the next time you break a bone. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A fiery field trip

Xena had missed a school trip to the fire station because she was in the hospital. I'd promised her that we'd take her after she recovered. So I furiously googled on what I needed to do and which permits were needed and what was the fee to take a tour of a fire station.

I was in for a pleasant surprise. Apparently, several fire stations in Singapore open their doors to the public on Saturday mornings and all you need to do it to turn up. No permits, no fees, no restrictions. The firemen show you around and even give you demonstrations of the fire-fighting equipment. At the end of the trip, all kids get a complimentary firefighter's uniform and a hat. Her teachers had been nice enough to get her a hat during the trip that she missed, but we were all set to see what a real fire station was all about.

This is an old photo of her in her homemade firefighter uniform for her school project. 

Her school had visited the Paya Lebar fire station; I picked Changi fire station because it was easier to get to by bus. We planned the trip with with another family -- their little girl used to be in Xena's class before she moved to another preschool.

Xena is thrilled to be reunited with her old classmate (cropped out of the picture). Remember the good old days when we held hands with our best friends?

A few other families too were there too. We were greeted by very friendly fireman who'd just finished a drill. They showed us the huge fire trucks and patiently answered all of Viv's geeky questions, while Xena and I explored around.

Xena 'driving' a real fire truck!

Xena operates the fire-fighting hose. The friendly fireman taught her how to control the force and volume of the water jet. 

The firemen slide down the pole.

Xena trying to copy 'fireman uncle'

Try #1

Try #2

Try #3

She's finally done and hops off.

The firemen then invited us to take a tour aboard a firefighting truck -- in the part that actually goes up 10 storeys to douse the fire! Viv, with his vertigo, promptly declined so I turned to plead with Xena. She took one look at how high the thing went and promptly sided with her father. Sheesh. I didn't want to be the only one going up so I declined it too. 

The other family went up without hesitation, and even took their 1-year-old along!

Xena saw her friend travel up and down and seemed a little excited. One of the firemen saw her face and asked her if she wanted to go. She shook her head. He then said, "What if we don't go too high? Would you want to go then?" She said yes. I was thrilled! Viv said he'd stay and take pictures of us from below. 

The fireman strapping the safety harness on Xena and me

Up, up and away we go! I loved it, and so did Xena. 

Overall, it was a great family outing. It was more fun than educational, in fact. Viv was perhaps the only one who came back a little more educated about the fire station, the firemen and the fire-fighting equipment. We will definitely be going back in a few months' time, and I'm sure Xena will understand a bit more of the goings-on then. 

Dwellers of Singapore, if you're interested to go, here is the link to the SCDF website, listing the fire stations that offer this. 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

A flying start

On my way to go pick up Xena from school yesterday, as I crossed the garden area downstairs, I skidded to a halt. Was it what I thought it was? My heart skipped a beat. I could have sworn it was Lydia. It fluttered past me merrily, heading straight for the flowers, where the other smaller butterflies were. I'm dead sure it was Lydia because Xena and I are in the garden area all the time spotting tons of butterflies and we'd never seen Lydia's species there before. I felt a rush of relief and joy to know that it was doing okay, and had apparently, in Revolver Rani's words, phound phood, phriends and phun.

Too bad Xena missed it. She does remember Lydia, and just yesterday she was trying to sing 'Lydia rani' to the tune of 'Gudiya rani' from Lamhe (a very regressive song, but with a very soothing tune that I heavily rely on when Xena refuses to take her afternoon nap).

Later in the evening, I asked her about Lydia to see what she remembered. Here's the video, with subtitles.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Have a Bolly good time VI

Recently, I came across an old email exchange between one of the bar's bewdas and me. He had mentioned the bar's 'mind-boggling Bollywood quizzes' that he used to try to crack whenever he got together with his other Bolly-crazy friends. My first reaction when I read it was "What quizzes??" And then I suddenly remembered. The Bollywood A to Z quizzes I used to come up with! Gosh, it's been three years since the last one. I'd forgotten all about them. But they were so fun to come up with, that I have decided it's time to revive them.

Here's the sixth of the Bollywood A to Z quizzes. The theme for this one is 'item numbers'. See if you can identify A to Z?

Last year, former beauty queen A, also known for bringing the dead back to life at international beauty pageants, performed an item number in movie B starring reel- and real-life lovebirds C and D. D performed an item number E with actor F in the movie G. The song didn't make much sense, but was apparently about her fitness levels. F's arch-rival H has a relative I who is known more for item numbers than anything else, the most popular of them was perhaps the song J featuring a pain-relief product in H's movie K. L, another relative of H, is often referred to as the undisputed item number queen of all time. L performed an item number M in movie N, co-written by her husband O, starring P in one of the lead roles. P was also part of an item number Q in the movie R, which also featured his son S and daughter-in-law-to-be T. T also performed an item number U about wretched love with F in the movie V, starring P's almost-became-daughter-in-law W in the lead role. W's close relative X was seen in an item number Y (which was performed by L in the original movie) in the remake Z. To close the loop, Z starred F who had been a judge at the national beauty pageant that A won.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Spread your wings

Okay, so Xena and I concluded a really phodu, really kickass home project today, and I absolutely have to blog about it.

About a week ago, one of the ladies in my mommies' group found a contact from a butterfly farm that sells caterpillars. Basically, you buy a caterpillar and you can watch it as it eats, grows, changes to a pupa and then emerges as a butterfly - the striped albatross. I was amazed because I'd not even thought it was possible to do this at home. But I was super excited; it sounded like a great project to do together with Xena. A few of us pooled our orders to get free delivery. The farm asked us to wait as they were waiting for a batch of eggs to hatch. In a few days, we had word that the eggs had hatched and the farm delivered 30 kits to the lady who was coordinating the purchase.

I got mine the next day. With trembling hands, I opened and studied the very green caterpillar, a tiny box of leaves and the instruction leaflet that came with it. The detailed instructions included how to feed the caterpillar, how to clean its poop (!) and what not. It really felt like I had just had another baby. Xena helped me out in taking care of it, but also kept asking to see it every 5 minutes so I placed it on a high shelf where she couldn't disturb it.

Our caterpillar, chilling amidst its food and poop

Watching the caterpillar eat made me realise how true the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar is. My caterpillar was devouring the leaves at an alarming rate and because it only eats the leaves of its host plant, I was worried that I'd run out of leaves and have nothing to feed it. (Why do I always end up with kids that have feeding issues? One doesn't eat and the other eats too much!)

If you don't believe me, watch this video evidence I captured. Check out how fast it eats the leaf, almost like how characters in Tom and Jerry eat corn on the cob. Viv and I call it 'typewriter-style eating'.

Though I was worried about running out of leaves, I was also glad to see it eat so well because a couple of the caterpillars in our batch of 30 had already died. The farm told us that the survival rate is about 80%. In the wild, it's apparently only about 2% because of predators and harsh environmental conditions.

I couldn't get myself to go to sleep that night for fear of the caterpillar running out of leaves. The instructions asked to add in new leaves after the caterpillar had eaten everything to prevent drying out of the leaves, in which case it would reject them and go on a hunger strike! Stress stress! And just like how I used to wake up at odd hours at night and feed the newborn Xena, I found myself following a similar routine for the caterpillar. This continued for about two days. Feeding, cleaning poop (it kept pooping every few minutes!), feeding, cleaning poop. I told you. Exactly like a newborn.

On the third day, when I woke up, I saw it stuck to the wall of the box it came in, with not a single leaf or stem in sight. I panicked. Had it starved to death? I quickly put in new leaves but it didn't climb down to get them. I kept one near its mouth, but it didn't move. My heart sank. And suddenly I saw it move ever so slightly. Phew.

But it still didn't move down to eat the leaves. Perhaps it was pupating. There was hope. And then a day later, it started curling up from one end. At one point it looked like a seahorse. I kept thinking it was gone, and then something would happen to bring back hope. Finally, a day later, I saw the pupa shape that made me breathe a sigh of relief. I donated the rest of my caterpillar's leaves to another lady whose caterpillar had eaten the leaves, stems and the kitchen sink and was nowhere close to pupating.

The caterpillar turning into a pupa

Of course, there was no guarantee that the pupa would make it so I didn't want to raise Xena's hopes too much. I kept focusing on the current stage and pointing out whatever I could to her, and reminding her that if we disturbed the pupa, the butterfly might not come out. However, she was looking forward to seeing the butterfly. "Saturday ko pupa pop ho jaayega and butterfly baahar nikal jaayega!" She kept saying.

One night, there was a crazy thunderstorm and I got so worried wondering if it had stressed out the pupa. The instructions had said that any stress experienced by the caterpillar could make the activity fail. Fortunately, one of the other ladies reassured the paranoid me by reminding me that in nature, the thunderstorm would have been much more louder and stressful. Phew again. 

A day later, we could see the faint outline of a butterfly inside. Wooohoooo!

By evening, we could see the black lines on the wings of the butterfly. 

Close-up of the butterfly inside

Last night, around 3:30 am, I woke up with a bad headache. I went out to pop a painkiller and decided to check on the pupa too. To my utter horror, it was turning black on two sides. One of the other mommies had reported that her pupa had turned black and died, and nothing came out of it. So I took my painkiller, came back to bed, but I couldn't sleep. So I woke Viv up and told him that the pupa was turning black and that there might not be a butterfly. I tossed and turned in bed, wondering about what I'd tell Xena. However, at the back of my mind, there was a tiny shred of hope that maybe the blackness meant that the pupa was ready to open. 

This morning, we took Xena to see a fire station (she had been in hospital when her class had made the trip there, so I'd told her we'd take her after she recovered). Before leaving the house, I checked and the pupa still looked the same. I opened up a corner of the container in the hope that if the butterfly did come out, it wouldn't be trapped inside. Of course, there were air holes in the box and the instructions had said that the butterfly could stay in the box for up to a day to dry its wings before it was ready to fly off. 

We came back from the fire station around lunchtime and it still looked the same. We had lunch and though it had only been about 15 minutes, I checked on the pupa again, and OHMYGOODNESS there was a frickin' butterfly inside the box!!!!!!!! Next to a hollow pupal case!!1 Of course, that was what was supposed to happen, but it was a miracle nonetheless!!!! 

The butterfly remained stuck to the inner surface of the container's lid. Check out how much bigger it is compared to its pupal shell. 

I screamed my lungs out to beckon Viv and Xena so they could behold the miracle too. 

Xena is intrigued...


... and then just happy. 

The instructions asked to let the butterfly dry its wings properly before releasing it, so we left it in the box with the lid slightly open. In the late afternoon, I checked on it and the moment I touched the box, it fluttered its wings rapidly and flew off! Xena was taking her afternoon nap, and Viv suggested waking her up so she could witness its departure for herself. "If it's not here when she wakes up, she'd feel cheated" he said. I agreed. He got the sleepy little girl out to say goodbye to what she had named 'Lydia'. (Though google tells me that Lydia is a boy butterfly, let's not get into that.) We had meant to open the box in the garden area downstairs, but it seemed all ready to set off on its own. 

It sat on a wall for a very long time, still getting the hang of flying. And then suddenly it flew off and was gone from our lives. 

It was a very strange feeling. As I threw the box with the pupal shell and some poop and the dried leaves, a sense of wonder filled me. "I can't believe we bred a butterfly!" I told Viv. He guffawed at my 'bred a butter' (sheesh) before agreeing that it was indeed like magic. A green worm-like thing had just chomped on leaves like Kumbhakarna, gone on a dharna inside a case and within a week, turned into a beautiful butterfly.

I did miss the butterfly on some levels, because for the last week I'd been tending to it and checking on it very frequently. And just like that, it was gone. It had to go, of course. I'd explained to Xena very firmly that no matter how much she liked it, we had to release it so it could find its food and friends. And she had nodded along.

Xena seems to have taken the butterfly's departure quite well. And I have been left wondering how it would be when this other little butterfly of mine is ready to spread her wings and fly off into the big bad world.