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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

First day of school

Long overdue, but here is a photo of my little (Big!) Appu on his first day of primary school back in October.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

We are back

Back in Chennai after a week at a conference in Bangalore - a massive (and very selfish) operation in which half the family was mobilized just so we could attend a few talks. At least they were good talks :)
Rajiv has one more week of holidays before he starts school but for everybody else things get back to normal.. NOW! (And so I go to prepare my lecture for tomorrow's class, trying to forget for now all the amazing things I heard about this week and that I will not be working on.. ) 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Baby origami

Lila is almost four months old and some baby moments have already become memories. One thing that comes to mind: we don't swaddle her anymore. These are photos from a mock swaddling session more than a month ago - the actual swaddling normally happened when she was already asleep and with the lights off, to ensure that she had a good night, but for obvious reasons I couldn't photograph that (it's the usual sleeping baby measurement problem).

I couldn't do a great job with her awake and kicking and taking pictures at the same time (me, not her), so I also included a little chart (from the Aden + Anais site) of how it should be done, in case you want to try that at home.

I really did a sloppy job here, but at least she had fun!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

First puzzling chats about identity and skin color

Yesterday night, and again tonight, we read this book: "Ci sono gli orsi in Africa?". It is the Italian translation of a book by Satomi Ichikawa and like I often do with books in Italian for the kids, I ordered it without knowing much about the content. It is very hard to find good books in Italian for the youngest readers and often there aren't any reviews available online at all, so it is hit and miss. Mostly miss, actually, and this is a source of great frustration for me, but let me keep this rant for another post.  Because this is a translated story I could rely on some information from foreign sites, like Amazon, and after reading a couple of reviews I decided to give it a try.

The plot: Meto is an African boy living in a village on the African savanna. One day a group of tourists comes to visit his village and among them is a little girl with a teddy bear. Meto looks with curiosity at these foreigners who wear too many clothes and take lots of pictures and he is especially fascinated by the stuffed bear, because that is an animal he has never seen before. After the tourists have left, Meto finds the girl's bear abandoned on the ground and decides to try and return it to her. He rushes after the jeep taking shortcuts and meeting various animals - all of them just as puzzled as he is by the bear. One after the other they start following him and they help him get to the girl just when she is about to board a small airplane that will take her home. The girl thanks the boy and gives him the ribbon she wears in her hair as a gift for his own pet, a baby goat that he had shown to her back at the village. The teddy bear has a red ribbon too, so now they match. The end.

In a way this book is exactly what I was looking for: the illustrations are beautiful, the plot is simple and there is a pattern in how the story is presented - all things that help me keep the kids interested while I try to teach them some Italian. However, the book is quite stereotypical - or perhaps you could say downright  racist - in how it represents the interaction between the western tourists and the African villagers. As I was reading to them, translating to English after every sentence, I wondered whether I should say something about this and what, but our discussion about race was in fact initiated by Rajiv himself, in a very unexpected form.

Me - "Meto is a little boy who lives in Africa"
Rajiv - "He is African-American"
Me (to myself) - "What the.. !!"
Me (loud) - "Actually he is just African, he lives in a village in Africa, see the village in the picture?"
Rajiv - "But mamma, you have to say African-American"
Me - "Well, no I really don't, because the boy is not American at all. African-American would mean that he lives in America but maybe his family came from Africa, you know, a long time ago.."
Rajiv (obviously not convinced) - "Ah.. Uhm.."

I can surely expect him to come back at me with that one when I least expect it, but for the moment we were able to move on. It's beyond me though, why he would think that the proper way to refer to a dark-skinned person should be "African-American". From school? Half of his teachers are German and might have some strange ideas about politically correct speech, but given that we all live here in India this is especially bizarre.

Moving on, this picture:

Here I asked the children whether they could see why Meto thought the tourists were strange and I must have said something about how the tourists looked like us, because Rajiv said "They look like Indians!". While trying not to fall off the bed, I said "Uhm, really? You think they look.. Indian??". And he said "Yes, like us, and we live in India."

The fact that they are white doesn't seem to be a factor for him this time, even though it is something that other times we talked about and he does notice it. He can arrange people by gradation of brown, all the way down to white/pink. He notices this much more than me and I think in part it is because it is important to him that he is not exactly the same color as his mom and not exactly the same color as his dad, but somewhere is between. On the other hand, I remember how a few months ago he saw a quite dark Indian woman wearing jeans and with her hair in a pony tail and he said "Mamma, you look the same!".

Obviously Rajiv's world is a very confusing place and I don't mean it as a joke. My children are my favorite people to talk to, because they are never boring. Lots of stuff to think about.

Friday, September 14, 2012

On the road

This is us at our usual hotel break half way to Bangalore. The kids always like to roll on the big plasticky white sofa in the lounge after their snack and I am quite proud of this shot taken quickly through the ceiling mirror with S nagging for us to please get back to car already :)

I am even more impressed with my earlier attempt though:

Note how the square light covers my face exactly. I suppose I could say there was some deep existentialist meaning behind this one.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Miscellaneous cuteness

Rajiv-in-the-box (and Rohan-in-the-box a little too) at achamma's house

Baby Lila, five days old, under the mosquito net tent - still achamma's house

Little brothers sleeping side by side.. yup, achamma's house

Dad put together a great outfit here, I think (and you are never too young to start accessorizing). Under her is our living room rug, my fourth baby.

And don't tell me this is not how you watch your favorite tv shows (this was Rohan home from school sick a few days - weeks? - ago, watching Little Bear on papa's computer)

Monday, September 10, 2012

He is getting there :)

The Coughing House

We have all variations of coughing and sneezing represented here right now, with and without sore throat, with and without headaches. Grab a Combiflam before walking in..

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Various updates: school, earrings, cello

Qualche aggiornamento qua e la': Rajiv iniziera' la prima elementare a ottobre, abbiamo rimandato i buchi per gli orecchini a quando Lila avra' sei mesi, e abbiamo finalmente trovato un insegnate di violoncello per Rajiv

In recent developments:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Please tell us a story

Tulika, my favorite Indian publisher of children's books, is holding a nice online initiative. You can read about it here.

In short, the idea is for everyone who wishes to participate to think of what different versions of Indian myths they have heard and write down a few. They also ask for some details of when and where that version of the myth was heard, to complete the story. All of it in 300-500 words, so no full Ramayana required :) Then all of these stories will be linked to from their page and that should be quite interesting and entertaining, I think, especially for someone like me - and my kids - who hasn't heard many of these stories before.

I think it would be fun to participate and it would be a good opportunity to collect some traditional stories to share with Rohan and Rajiv. The catch of course is that I don't know any of these stories, let alone multiple versions of them, so I was hoping to enlist the help of the most gifted storytellers of this side of the family. Can anybody spare the time to tell us a story, or a couple of them?

To participate in the Tulika event we need to have the stories by September 10, but even if we miss that deadline I can guarantee you publication on my humble blog and a bedtime reading of your masterpiece to the kids.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Should we pierce Lila's ears?

We probably will, but I am still a little undecided. I just know that it has to be done either now, as soon as possible and before she can notice too much and try to take the earrings off, or much much later, when she is old enough to decide for herself and care for her own ears.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Isn't it how we all feel?

"There is so much books I need to read and I don't have plenty of time", Rohan said.
(As an answer to "Would you like some toast?")

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

An old video from Appu's babyhood

This is from when Rajiv was little, maybe about five months old. We were still staying in a flat in Waterloo - we didn't move into the house until after his first birthday.
I had not posted this video earlier because I took the first part with the camera tilted by 90 degrees ("portrait"), which is a silly thing I often do without thinking. Now that I have found that editing movies is fun, I am correcting a lot of these mistakes, so that history will not have to do without my masterpieces.

Here you go:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday morning

Papa' and sons at the pool. Rohan was a little uncertain at first, but it turned out he is not well, so that explains it. He still had fun though and he finally got to wear his clown fish swim cap in the water - as opposed to around the house.
Rajiv loves the water but rejects any kind of swimming instruction. Here however, you can see give the kick board a try for about a minute.

Photos by Reji.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why Rosalind

To celebrate her three month birthday tomorrow, I intended to write about how we picked a name for our baby girl - formerly known as Picu. I started writing and it seemed only right to make a few comments about her brothers first, but then the thing got a little bit out of hand and it has now become an extensive monograph on the subject of naming my children.

Here it is, if you have the stamina. (Otherwise just jump to the end for some photos)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

You can(not) stand in an artist's way

As is the trend these days, I made sure the kids have a little corner of their own where they can write, draw, paint and generally express their creativity - and plenty of supplies. And yet we don't really seem to have art time very often around here.



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Baby feet through the years

The original and only Piccolo Rajiv! 12 June 2007, less than one month old.
Rohan, with puppy socks. 14 July 2009, three weeks old.
Our latest addition to the Feet Hall of Fame. Viola, 18 June 2012, almost one month old.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lila smiles in her sleep

All babies do, I know, but how many parents have a movie to prove it? I thought so.. :)

Plot: It is bed time. Baby Lila has fallen asleep in her playmat (!!!). Mamma bothers her a little to make her smile, but she keeps sleeping. Rajiv reads Kipper's alphabet book for his brother and declines to be interviewed for this movie. Baby Lila keeps sleeping, but finally agrees to show us her famous sleeping smiles.

Sorry for the background noises.

* * *

E' ora di andare a dormire. Lila sorride nel sonno ma non vuole essere disturbata. Appu legge per Rohan e - anche lui - non vuole essere disturbato.

* * *

Monday, August 13, 2012

Three brothers

Last week we had company. Jayadev, velliamma and velliacha staid with us for a few days and I don't need to say how excited the kids were to have their cousin here for the first time. We had ups and downs, the way you would expect when you have three boys but not three exact replicas of each toy car, but we also had a lot of fun.

We hit a low when Rohan asked me to send his cousin back home, but even while he was saying that he was also already elaborating on how much he was going to miss him after he was gone.. That's when I thought of taping a huge long sheet of paper to the floor so that they boys could color together. I was really proud of my craftiness, until I heard the first "He is coloring on my picture!" scream.

They also played pirates, cars, puzzles, cars and other fun stuff, being very loud most of the time. Just like brothers.

I thought I would show some drawings that Jayadev made while he was here:

In the first he is with his two little brothers and in the next picture you can see that there is a car for each of them - at last.. :) The boys got to choose their hair color and Appu is wearing a shirt of his favorite color, which I think is a really nice touch. Appu and Rohan were quite happy with all of this.




Friday, August 10, 2012

Self-portrait with baby

School readiness

Tomorrow is going to be a big day for our Appu! He is going to take a "school readiness" test, to determine whether he is going to join first grade this term. This is something that is apparently a fixture of the German school system (Rajiv is in preschool at the German School here in Chennai) and, as far as I understand, is a way to make sure that a child is not pushed into a formal school environment before being ready for it. Rajiv will probably not even know that he is being "tested", so there is no pressure on him, or at least that is the intention.

I really like the idea of evaluating the overall development and maturity of a child before making the transition from organized play to a classroom. As far as I understand the test is not about checking who already knows how to spell and add, it is instead about observing the children and making sure they are able to concentrate on a task, have adequate fine motor skills, feel secure enough to face a new environment and so on.

Appu can read very well and can do some simple arithmetic. He used to have a lot of trouble holding a pencil and in fact never even wanted to draw or color, but in the last few months he seems to have suddenly figured it out. Now he can write legible words in huge sloping letters and he even enjoys it, provided nobody is asking him to do it. He is curious - exhaustingly so - and likes to learn new things. He also has that annoying habit that little kids have of remembering word by word everything they hear. He doesn't mind spending the whole day at preschool now, but he does need a few hugs from his favorite teacher to get through the day.

Is Rajiv ready for school? If school was tailored to each individual there would be no need to ask this, but because that is not how it works I think it is actually a very important question. Rajiv's teachers think that he might enjoy a little more challenge, which is why they are thinking of making him join the bigger kids' class, but they are not sure he is emotionally ready. Neither am I, in fact. I think tomorrow's evaluation will be fine, but then we will have to talk more with the teachers and see if we want to just go ahead with it or maybe find some sort of middle path. This might be possible and is probably the main advantage of being in a small private school with very few kids.

Does it sound like I am overthinking this whole school readiness thing? I just think it is so important to get it right and I am glad that the school we have chosen takes this holistic (I hate this word, by the way) approach. Most of all though, what I am thinking is: I am officially the mother of a big kid now, a kid who might be starting School soon! Amazing..

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Back to work

As of August 1st I have officially gone back to work, so to speak, even though I haven't spent any time in my office yet.

I am working from home and not that much. This is an aspect of being a researcher (in a purely theoretical field) that is confusing to anybody who has a regular kind of job, because it seems as if I am allowed to do nothing all day and still get paid. That is almost true, but the catch is that if I don't produce any original work at some point, it is highly unlikely that I will get my next - still very temporary - employment. So it is not as relaxed as one might think.

It is also quite hard to be creative and smart when you have just had a baby. There is a nearly universal agreement on the fact that, in technical terms, motherhood fries your brain. That's bad news when you need to be brilliant to do your job and you were not nearly as bright as you would need to be even to start with.

I started teaching my course and that is at least something concrete I can do, so it's a very welcome task. Viola is too small to be in daycare yet, but it's not too much of a problem and she seems to cope well with my short absence while I am in class. S even managed to get some work done while holding her asleep in his arms. I normally don't do that well, so I prepare my lectures at night while she is sleeping.

Which reminds me that I should be doing exactly that right now, instead of blogging :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lego Olympics

This is totally off topic, but if you are a Lego fan then you should check out the videos in the Guardian's brick-by-brick series.

The gymnastics one is really neat -

- and I love how they did the water in the pool here (the snack is also brilliant):

Monday, August 6, 2012

Today's new word: ROVER!

The only thing more amazing than seeing the first photos sent by Curiosity today was looking at them together with my children. Rajiv in particular is old enough to - just barely - know the difference between pretend rockets and real ones and so he gets what the excitement is all about.

Both of them were especially fascinated, of all things, by the images of the NASA people celebrating after the landing. Rajiv said he wanted to be at the party too and when I explained that those were the people who had worked really hard to make it all happen he said he also would like to do something like that. So we decided that maybe when he grows up he can be one of the people building the rocket that will take a person to Mars. Note here how I am subtly steering him away from the plan of being such a person himself, because I am the mom after all, and Mars is kind of far away. Anyway, he said he is going to build a really fast rocket. I told him it should be fast but most importantly very safe. Not a problem: "I'll put some seat belts", he said.

We looked at lots of images and animations of the rover. By the way, do you know how hard it is to explain to a three year old and a five year old why we don't have a real video of the landing? And Rajiv would like to know how the rover manages to send the photos to us. Uhm... that should be an easy one too.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

We miss Canada

Always, and especially when something reminds us of it, like this picture that Meaghan, the kids' former nanny, just sent me.

April 2011, Rohan and Rajiv sitting on the tree stump in Waterloo Park, about a fifteen minutes walk from our house. Sob..

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Apple fractions before bed

The time just before bed, when everyone is tired and the kids are dragging their feet and not doing what they are supposed to do, trying to annoy us as if making as really angry was an Olympic sport, is never easy. Today it was quite bad. There was screaming, crying, fighting, nagging, yelling and threatening - and there was a hysterical snack request after the lights were already out and the teeth sort of brushed. That last one was just one of those Rohan moments, but we all pretty much contributed to the rest. In the end we read a book quickly, we had some hugs and a little bit of singing (please don't ask), some more screaming and then with a bit of effort it was finally all quiet.

It's really a pity, because bed time could be the best moment of the day. Unfortunately, sometimes getting the children ready for bed is just too draining for us to be able to really relax with them when all is done. When it is good though, it is more or less like this:

Notice the book, "Apple Fractions", one of Appu's current favorites. And no, we don't only read math books to the kids, I promise.

The next photo is a little mysterious, but I think it had to do with demonstrating the size of a certain kind of apple that tastes like a pear (or the other way around, I never remember that part).

Rohan in the mean time, is already holding the next book, just in case we forget to read it to him for the seventh day in a row..

And Rohan's favorite, at last: "Eat my dust!". Papa' looks a bit tired at this point..

..but maybe Rohan is even more sleepy?

Nope, papa' is definitely the sleepiest.

Monday, July 30, 2012

London 2012 - Diving

We are watching the men's syncronized diving 10m platform. And the kids are diving all around the living room :)
And by the way, the commentators seem to have said that one of the Americans is also a math student at Duke. Is it true? How cool is that!

Rohan in a bucket

Guarda un po' che cosa ho trovato tra le vecchie foto: Rohan nel secchio! Ottobre 2011, Chennai.

I just found these, from October 2011. For those who haven't been in an Indian home, that is the typical setup of an Indian bathroom: an open shower area, with a faucet below the shower and a bucket to collect the water. The baby in the bucket is optional.