Monday, June 25, 2012

Hands up those who dislike hot summer days

ME, for a start! I like rainy summer days. Rain keeps the pollen count down. Hot sunny days like today, on the other hand, raise the pollen count to miserable levels. I had a b*stard of a day at work today - non-stop sneezing, itchy runny swollen eyes, thumping headache caused by the sneezing and eye-rubbing, and painful sinuses... all thanks to the pollen. Oh, and let's not forget the itchy, painful throat. It's like having a really bad cold, only worse. And all this after taking anti-histamines prescribed by my GP. 
I would do a rain dance if I knew how. Bring on the rain, bring it on, bring it on, bring it on!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Skype isn't the real thing

I think my little Sanaa is realising that seeing people on the laptop (on Skype) isn't the same as having them in front of her for real. Earlier - and by that I mean even a couple of months ago - she used to be quite content with saying happily "Shala athai" (or "Neha maasi" or "nanaji" (or whoever) - and then she'd run off to do whatever she was in the mood for, evidently believing that we were watching her even when she was out of camera range. 

Yesterday, for the first time, she said something like "Shala athai dekhenge" (let's go see Shala athai), even though her dad assured her that she WAS seeing me. It was pretty obvious what she meant, though, and she came very close to crying, saying she wanted to see me (I'm glad she didn't, because I came perilously close to doing the same). 

Luckily, she's still fairly easy to distract, and my collection of hedgehog figurines came to the rescue this time, along with a robin redbreast. She's got this habit, whenever I show her something (say, a "kutti little hedgehog"), of immediately repeating "Another kutti little hedgehog" - I've not figured out whether she means she wants to see it again, or if she thinks I've got an endless supply of kutti little hedgehogs or robins or kitty-cats to bring out for her entertainment. 

What's obvious even on Skype is the unmistakable light of naughtiness in her eyes along with the realisation that I can't do anything about whatever naughty thing she's doing while I'm watching her on Skype. She loves sucking on her fingers, and every time I caught her doing that when I was around, I would pull her hand away, saying "Ewww, that's dirty". It became a game for her (anything can become a game, with her saying "Again, again" each time) - as fast as I pulled one little hand away, she'd put the fingers of her other hand in her mouth. 

And now she's taken to doing that all by herself while I''m watching her, putting one forefinger in her mouth, taking it away, putting the other forefinger in and taking it away and so on, giggling all the while. Like amma says, her pollathanam (mischievousness) is increasing exponentially every day. And damned if she doesn't look incredibly cute (I know - word in serious danger of chronic overuse, but what can I do) with it!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My niece smartest, cutest, adorablest, cleverest, quickest, beautifullest

This is an unashamed (non-commercial) plug for my will-be-2-on-July-8 niece, Sanaa. Non-baby people may kindly stop reading right here. Actually, no, on second thoughs don't do that, because I wish to sing her praises to EVERYBODY, not just the baby-mad! So read on, read on.

Recently I managed to spend some quality time with Sanaa on a family trip to Utah and Nevada (Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Las Vegas) last month. For quite a lot of that time she was strapped in her car seat while we drove around, and I've never had so much fun on a road trip before, ever! I know for certain, poor baby, that she felt quite desperate to get down and run around. There's nothing that she loves more than being allowed to run around freely, without having to hold anyone's hand - unless it's "pidi pidi", otherwise known as being chased round and round any stationary object in endless games of "catch-me".

And how do I know she was desperate? Because, every so often, she would say "Want to get down", sometimes cry to get down, even - but for long stretches, it was possible to amuse her and take her mind off being imprisoned in her seat. I have to say I never got tired of entertaining her.

There's nothing babies like more than repetition, and certainly I could not get enough of her expressions and reactions to the same things, so I was happy to repeat myself time after time just to watch her and give her/get from her the reactions she loved and expected. I guess we made a pretty good pair, really, because we kept each other sane (or so I like to think).

I'm not going to write a coherent piece about her on our travels. That would take too much organisation of chaotic memories into the required orderliness. So I'm just going to jot down whatever I recall at random, and wait for my family to add their bits (or ask me to add it for them - I dont mind).

- We spent a lot of time listening to her singing along with MS Subbulakshmi's Hanuman Chalisa or Bhaja Govindam, or Lata's Om jai jagdish hare, which were played regularly as clockwork on phones whenever possible, every time on request. If not, she would sing them on her own anyway.

- Singing "Old MacDonald had a farm" with all the traditional animals and noises, a few dozen times. Then she got tired of the same old same old cat, dog, pig, horse, donkey, duck etc and began adding her own animals to the menagerie - "On that farm he had a lion" - which was easy enough to supply a noise for. Then Old MacDonald acquired an elephant, a lion, and a monkey, which were sorta manageable for noise. The "golla" (gorilla) was harder, but I managed to wing it.

- But when she went on to "On that farm he had a giraffe", and then looked earnestly to me to supply the corresponding noise, I had to say "I don't know what a giraffe says, Sanaa". Then she'd ask "rhino?" "hippo?" - and I'd have to turn those down too.

- Eventually, after being assured that I (and everyone else) really couldn't tell her the noise made by giraffes, rhinos and hippos, she gave up and went on to add random things to Mr MacDonald's farm - aeroplane, car, bus, UPS truck, train, motorcycle. By the time we were done, it was a p.r.e.t.t.y crowded farm!

- Every so often, though, she would return to the giraffe, rhino and hippo, possibly in the hope that we would NOW be able to supply her with the right noise, or possibly to catch us out.

- Every time she saw a cow or horse in the fields (this was rural Utah, so there were plenty of opportunities for both), she'd start singing "old MacDonald", where he had a cow or a horse. It was like she was programmed to start up every time! Really funny.

- If we were walking anywhere outside, and we came across a grating on the roadside, she would not move away until she had peered down at the pani below (she's a multilingual baby - Hindi, Tamil and English). Every single grating had to be inspected.

- She would not often let both her hands be held (while walking by the roadside, for instance, when it was definitely not safe to let her walk/run free) - it was as if she felt she retained some measure of independence if she had a hand free, even if the other hand was firmly in someone's grip.

- When we were having lunch in Provo (Utah), she refused to eat anything substantial, but was interested in the fruit cup. Which she insisted on eating by herself, neatly spearing the orange segments with a plastic fork and conveying it to her mouth - no spills, no accidents. (I don't know about the hand-eye-mouth coordination capabilities of most toddlers less than 2 years old, but I was really impressed, mainly because I can't claim to 100% accuracy for myself even now!)

- Sanaa usually will not eat eggs in any form unless they are unusually well hidden, such as in cake. But in Vegas, while we were all having breakfast, she was distracted enough to take a couple of bites of an omelette from her mother. Pretty much immediately thereafter, she got very cranky and started crying, refusing to even be comforted by her paatti (grandma) and insisting on clinging to her mother - which was really unusual, because she's a happy, good-natured (if stubborn) baby most of the time, ready for any distractions that come her way.

We discovered the reason for her crankiness back in the car when she threw up quite spectacularly all over herself and her seat. I didn't know what projectile vomiting was until then, and I hope to never see anything like that again. Poor baby, she must have been feeling so queasy and ill, with no way of letting us know. Luckily she was fine after she got it all out of her system, and she was ready for more "run-run" back at the hotel after she had been cleaned up. But how the heck do paediatricians manage to diagnose anything in babies before anything obvious happens to clue them in?

- The weather was quite cool in Vegas when we got there - enough that it was nice in the sun and somewhat uncomfortably cold in the shade with the prevailing breeze. But Sanaa LOVED the wind blowing in her face and always had a delighted grin when it happened, even if she was shivering at the same time. - She would say "Wow, look at the wind" (the "wow" said exactly like her mom!) on random occasions if a sudden gust blew.

- "Karadi Rhymes" sung by Usha Uthup is one of Sanaa's most favourite song collections ever, but even among those she has super-favourite ones (and so do I, if she's singing any of them!). For instance, for the last 8 months at least, every time I saw Sanaa on Skype, I've begged Kumar or Tanu to sing part of the first line of a particular song that goes "When I am feeling...", just to hear Sanaa chime in to finish the line with "saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad and hurt" - and it was just so incredibly cute to see and hear her. She KNEW it was cute and that I (and everyone else) loved it, but it didn't stop her or me. Eventually, as she grew up just that bit more, she would go all shy and duck her head after saying "saaaaaad". That was cute, too. Once in a while, to amuse myself in the car, I would sing the first four words very softly, just to see her ears perk up and watch her delighted but shy grin as she sang her part.

- "Madhavi from Alleppey" is another song that she and I both like. For no particular reason I taught her that Alleppey is in Kerala. After that she would keep asking me "Where is Alleppey?", and I would keep saying "Alleppey is in Kerala", or for a change "You tell me, where is Alleppey?" (and she would say "Kella" - close enough).

- Then she came up with a variation based on her (then current) obsession with the colour orange - "Where is orange Alleppey?". At first I told her there's no orange Alleppey, but then when she kept asking, I changed my answer to "Orange Alleppey is in orange Kerala" - and her delighted smile was a thing of beauty, believe me. Her next question was "Where is orange Kella?". Can you guess? Yep, in Orange India!

- For a not-yet-two-year-old, she picks things up very quickly (or maybe that's normal in toddlers. The only toddler I know well is Sanaa, so my empirical experience is very limited.) She has been able to say her numbers from 1-10 in Hindi, Tamil and English for a while now. I've taught her to say them in Japanese, Italian and Swahili as well, and she can rattle them off at will, ending with a big smile and a flourish on 10. Apparently she recites them all to herself at night in bed!

- If I asked her to sing "Twinkle twinkle little star" (for instance), and she wasn't in the mood, she would immediately counter with "No, Baa baa black sheep", and if I said "Ok, Baa baa black sheep, then", she'd counter-counter with something else. After I'd stopped pestering her, she would eventually pick on a nursery rhyme of her choice and sing it.

- If I happened to sing along with her and she didn't want me to, an imperious "Sanaa sing" would stop me in your tracks. Then she would start over. I enjoyed annoying her by singing along anyway, forcing her to stop again and say, more forcefully "No, Sanaa sing!". (I would stop when she looked like she was going to cry from frustration.)

- It was sometimes possible to get her to sing a nursery rhyme of my choice if I went about it in a sneaky way. Basically, by humming or singing it very softly (but so that she heard it) - and she would start singing it as well without realising that she had been conned.

- Sometimes Sanaa didn't sing anything in words - she would hum or "ta ta ta" or "da da da" or substitute any other sound she felt like, but very correctly in tune to the original song. Her ability to match the rhythm and pitch of the original tune while not using the actual lyrics was quite amazing. If I was singing with her and I changed my pitch to a higher or lower one, she was able to follow me without any trouble and without breaking off her singing even briefly.

- I taught her the sound an owl makes (stylised as "tu-whoo"), because she's been obsessed with owls ever since she saw the owl pendant that I was wearing on one occasion when I was Skyping with amma (at least 6 months back). Of course, once she knew the answer to "what does an owl say?", she then went on to "orange owl?" and then owls of every colour she could think of. Unfortunately I couldn't do "orange tu-whoo" sounds (or red, blue, green, pupple, or any other hue), but luckily she seemed quite pleased with the same "tu whoo" answer. Just as well.

- I had a little pot of vaseline lip balm that smelt like chocolate (it was cocoa butter flavour). Of course, when Sanaa saw me apply some to my lips with my fingers, she immediately wanted to do the same herself. So I came up with a tactic - I applied some vaseline on my lips, told her firmly that I would put some on hers and THEN she could do it herself. Mostly I managed to ensure that she only barely touched the surface of the pot, but there were a couple of occasions when I was too slow to pull the pot away from her gouging little fingers and I had to hastily wipe her fingers before she smeared the stuff everywhere!

- If we were going somewhere in a group, she would get very agitated if anybody fell behind. It was funny to watch her in shepherding mode as she tried to pull or push the lagging persons to join up with the ones in front.

- Every time we got into a lift, she would have a delighted grin on her face, as if it was the most amazing experience. She and I went in every lift that we used, quite a few times.

- We didn't need to worry about leaving anybody behind by accident, because there was always Sanaa to do a head count to ensure everyone was there.

I wish I could post photos of my little niece on my blog... but her parents think it's not a good idea - and as a matter of fact, I'm sort of uncomfortable about it too. Not that I can imagine what anyone could do with a photo, it's just the principle of the thing. I guess you'll have to take my word for it that she's a beautiful little toddler with a gorgeous smile, big eyes and a very determined chin (like mine).