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Sharing a working mom's ideas, dreams, joys, sorrows and struggles © Lavanya Krishna 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What I didn't learn in school...Keeping a 5 year old occupied

Unending energy, the urgency of now, short attention span, needs to be busy every minute of the day.....these are phrases I would use to describe my 5 year old. He's an early to bed, early to rise kinda guy who doesn't take afternoon naps (sigh!). Keeping him occupied is a challenge and at times a physically and emotionally draining one at that. As a first time mom I was initially quite daunted by it. I am stickler for neatness and order. Well all that has changed now! In trying to keep a hyper 5 year old off the useless idiot box we have devised over a period of time things that he can do that keep him mentally and physically occupied and that save his eyes!

1. Boys and cars.. (girls and dolls?)
Boys and cars just go with each other. We have devised several games over the period of years where A plays make believe games with his cars and races them...and I have learnt over these years to learn let go of the need to have the house in an orderly way. Small price to pay for keeping A occupied...and not seeing TV. I have allowed my kitchen to be invaded by airplanes, cars, trucks..and other obstacles. Below is one of A's fav activities called "Whooosh Car" where he sends down a bunch of small "Hot Wheels" car on a slope and tries to make his favorite car come "first".

Average time occupied: 45 minutes

2. A the super hero...

A LOVES dressing up as a caped crusader, in his Karate dress and running around the house beating up some make believe robbers and "bad guys". At times he also becomes Darth Wader, I guess maybe because he's tired of being the good guy. Not only does this keep him physically active but it's also very amusing to watch and hear (from the sidelines). The best I have found to enjoy this to be as quiet as possible listening to his dialogues (he's talk for both sides - the good guy and the bad guy).

Average time occupied: 1 hour (if I can add on some bad people into the mix!).

3. Let's go...Lego!!

Around the time A was 4 we discovered that he has a penchant for doing Lego. He's currently into doing Lego pieces that are for 7-8 year olds. I was initially amazed by how much his attention span has increased. In learning Aryan's like for Lego I learnt something interesting about him...he likes Lego because "it gives me instructions on how to do it". Hence he doesn't like jigsaw puzzles which he says "I don't know where to start". Hmmm....very interesting I thought. Below are pictures are from his favorite "castle" lego and "pirate ship" lego.

Average time occupied: 1-2 hours!

4. Origami, Kirigami, Painting et al...

Another of A's favorite past times (albeit a very messy one, which causes me a lot of post-activity work) is craft work. He LOVES making Origami and Kirigami work. It's his penchant "for following instructions" that makes him like creating these handicrafts. During the Halloween season (October) he can keep himself occupied for more than an hour carving a pumpkin.

Average time occupied: 1 hour.

On a typical day (weekend) at this point my (our) patience pretty much begins to wear thin. That's when we resort to the TV and some video games that we have for him (which he of course just loves!). I wish there was a school where I could have learnt these skills rather than having picked them up on the fly! I am yet sure there are other activities that other savyy moms have invented/discovered to keep their over energetic kids busy and off the idiot box. If so please share!!

Anyway now I don't mind if my house is in a mess with light sabers, fireman caps, cars and flysing saucers. The price is worth the pleasure of keeping a 5 year old occupied :))

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The chore chart to the rescue...

As a working mom, my weekend and week were spent wrestling chores, chores and more chores. Make breakfast, pack snacks, iron clothes, do the dishes and laundry, do school projects, groceries, make dinner, fill gas, pay bills and on and on...my life at home was very similar to my work. At work I manage a large team of software developers and testers with umpteen software projects in progress at one time. Managing the work of 10 people meant I had to keep multiple things in my head so that work got done.

My head used to swim...overwhelmed by the enormity of it all and I used to often find myself caught in the web of procrastination and confusion just because I was not sure where to start. I had to get out of this vicious cycle I thought...surely I was not the first working mom to deal with this anarchy.

And through this confusion came a ray of clarity...I was walking through Target (like I did every other weekend) when I glanced upon a chore chart. Well it was a magnetic chart to organize..chores..by days of the week. Interesting I thought! And that's when it occurred to me that rather than planning out my chores in advance I was dealing with them as they came along. In management speak this would be "dealing with putting off fires rather than preventing them". Ting!
Brain wave # 1: Plan out weekly chores ahead of time and better still...distribute it to your family members.

So up it went on the fridge and all weekly chores were logged and assigned to appropriate people (not that there are too many...it's just my hubby and I!).

As I started using this chart I realized that I could also use it to plan out weekly dinners so that I didn't have the daunting task of thinking daily, what I had to make for that evening. Only to realize that I didn't have what I needed. Voila!
Brain wave # 2: Use the chore chart for the weekly "meal plan".
Now I have the weekly breakfasts, snacks and dinners all planned out on the weekend and dutifully logged on the chore chart. It takes me about 10 mts to do the planning. I do my groceries according to what I need, accommodate left overs into the meal plan so that nothing goes waste and am able to leave work early or late depending on what I have to make that evening!

Note the stars on the chore chart...well turns out this chore chart is also a "reward" tracker. Every time Aryan does something good, I give him a star for it. Let's say he helps me with laundry, eats a meal without too much fuss, reads a book by himself, keeps himself busy without seeing TV...well he gets to pick a "star" and stack it up for the daily reward. We have struck a deal that 64 stars = 8 Bakugan cards. Of course the reward keeps changing based on the "toy of the day".
Brain wave# 3: Double up the chore chart as a great motivational tool for a 5 year old!

So yeah the chore chart has been a huge relief and rescued me from the sea of anarchy my work week used to be. It has helped me relax a lot more through the week since I know what I have to do, that I have everything I need and that my little boy will strive to be a "star".

One doesn't necessarily need a magnetic chart on a fridge to do this. I realized after all this that I could have achieved the same using a simple piece of paper or even a white board (I do the latter at work, on a 10' X 5' white board).

So bring on the work week baby...chores are not scary anymore!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Taking time off on the weekends!

Our weekends are pretty crazy. Between shuttling Aryan for karate, swimming and skating, doing groceries, reading him books and making him read some, cooking, cleaning etc etc...I am not sure where the 48 hours of so-called rest and relaxation go. It's not so much a weekend but a week-start!

This weekend was different. I got an invitation for a Tea Party. My immediate thought was to say no. Excuse #1: There's too much going on (when is there not?). Excuse # 2: What is a tea paty anyway? Googled it to find out some interesting history, enough to perk up my curiosity. So I decided to give it a try and maybe my home would not, after all, come down on a pack of cards. Very bravely and cheerfully I left my husband and son after lunch, off to meet the 'girls', curious whether I would find it interesting or infinitely boring.

How wrong I was (fortunately). I met 5 other women, mostly working moms with kids around the same age as Aryan except one with 24 year old. We spoke about our kids, husbands, schools, admissions (yeah...the topic continues), our roots (turns out 4 of the 6 are from different parts of China, 1 from Scandinavia and yours truly from India), our interests...over warm tea and a delicious three-course snack plate. It struck me, that no matter how diverse our backgrounds were, our day-to-day struggles, challenges and joys were so similar. Dropping and picking up kids from school, parking, snow days, finding sitters for date nights (what's that?), deciding on which school was the best for kids, dealing with their weekend classes, wanting that self indulging mani and pedi...we were all so similar. And I think that created a wonderful connection on a dull, snowy afternoon in Evanston between 6 women from diverse backgrounds. It was an awesome afternoon, one that went way faster than I would have liked it to. Alas!

For those uninitiated, the tea party starts with the hostess bringing out a selection of teas. Hint #1: Be sure to choose a strong one, as the prix-fixe menu only includes 1 tea bag so it has to last the whole 1.5-2 hours of the party. As the group settles in and starts the chatter, the 3-course snacks are brought. Ours had finger sandwiches, absolutely yummy scones with whipped cream, jelly and strawberries and an assortment of desserts. Hint #2: If you are vegeterian or have dietary restrictions, be sure to check with the restaurant in advance and order items that suit you.

Fond memories of this weekend...where I took off from my normal chores and enjoyed myself! I strongly encourage all mothers out there, who devote all their time for their families, to do this once in a while. Great for you and for your family!

Monday, February 15, 2010

School admission time...

It's February and that dreaded time of the year when parents have to decide whether to continue their child in the same school or in a different one. It's a scary thought, on so many fronts:
  1. well there is all the research that has to be done, of all the schools that would be in the consideration set
  2. then there is the endless form filling out, picture pasting, long answer writing...standing in queue to submit forms
  3. then waiting for the results
  4. then getting adjusted to the new school rules, procedures etc etc..

Admissions to schools is as much for the parents as it is for the kids.

So far the first day of school has not even arrived! When mommy has as many butterflies in the stomach as baby. When mommy knows that baby (atleast mine) will be nervous, scared and insecure because of the new surroundings. Constantly worrying, while at work, if her baby ate, if her baby is crying, if her baby made friends, if her baby got a loving hug from the teachers.

So to avoid all this we decided, this year, to continue Aryan in Kindergarten in the same school that he goes to currently. Phew! I feel like some gigantic rock has been lifted from my shoulders and a huge stomach ulcer disappeared! So until next year...I can relax in peace :))

Friday, August 21, 2009

Confessions of a guilty mom

I have a darling 5 year old son..well almost five. He will insist that he is four and three quarter right now. I am very fortunate to have a very supportive extended family, ever since I had him. I can say to some extent that it’s I who has been spoilt since his birth with the amount of support I have received in taking care of him.

It’s the summer of 2009 and we’re in the windy city of Chicago. My in-laws visited us in January ‘09 and we were wondering what summer camp to put my son in from mid-June ‘09 till August ‘09 end. And my in-laws offered to take him to India for the summer. And right there the plan was made. I would take my son to India, he would stay with his grandparents for 2 months or so and then his dad would go pick him up. Took me sometime to take it in. Hmmm….was this a boon or a bane?

Suddenly from getting up at 5:30 am, running around getting him ready, getting myself ready, fixing breakfast, and rushing to school so as not to be tardy now I could wake up at 7 am, read the morning newspaper (what’s that??), actually sit down with my coffee and leave for work at a sane time! My husband and I could have our second honeymoon..OMG!!

There was one part of me that was just ecstatic and another which said..stop it, that’s NOT how you should feel. You should feel guilty. Good mothers shouldn’t feel happy while sending away their children. I was torn apart. When I even ran this idea past my friends and co-workers everyone looked at me with this ‘oh aren’t you going to miss your son??’ look. To send or not to send my son for a break to India?

Every rose has its thorns. Good comes with bad. Such if life! I could enjoy the summer with my son, go for picnics, build sand castles on the beach and go swimming but would have to send him to summer camp through the day (which would really break my heart as kids need that summer break). On the other hand I could send him with his grandparents so that he could stay in his birth country, attend weddings and meet his relatives. It would be so enriching for him! And a little time for my husband and I wouldn’t certainly hurt

So off he went..and he has been gone 6 weeks now and how has it been?
Salt and pepper, good and bad, black and white.

I got plenty of ‘me’ time and my husband and I together got a lot of ‘us’ time!My son attended two weddings in India, visited my parents, met his great-grand mother and his cousins..ate a lit of different types of food and played, like how a child his age should be! I read a lot (I actually know the daily fluctuations in the DOW), improved a lot on my tennis, worked out regularly and did a lot of shopping (of course had to be).

At first it hurt that he didn’t ‘miss’ me entirely. There are other people in his life and it hurt to know that, to accept it as a mother. I am apprehensive this break may have caused some distance between him and I and that it might take me a few days to get back to where we were. This is probably me being selfish, insecure??

But slowly, after his initial joy of not going to school and lazing around, he’s beginning to miss what we used to do together. I talk to him on Skype, using a web cam, two-three times a week and he doesn’t want to end the conversation at all now! Which is heartening to know. And I REALLY miss him now.

So was this break worth it? I ask myself. Would I do this again? I am not so sure. I will have to evaluate it at the time, if and when I am faced with this decision again. I certainly can’t say I’ve not enjoyed the last 6 weeks. To be entirely truthful, I’ve had a great time though of course there have been times when I have longed to hug him, to have him run into my arms and ask me his incessant questions.

In two weeks he is going to be back…and my life will be back to the craziness it used to have. Weekday mad dash, weekend classess, cooking sprees, planning dinners, grocery shopping, parent-teacher conference..you name it. I’ll be back center stage in my son’s life. But you know what, there’s no other way I would have my life!!