Zoya had a powdery experience that resulted in her being scared of her own reflection in the mirror 😀
And she poses in her ‘first ever’ salwar kameez…. dupatta and all.

We, Ravi’s mom, Ravi, kids and I worked over the w’end on a watery space (large blue sheets) in our balcony and a conversion of the wagon into a pirate ship…. thanks to Abucha and Nikhil Kaka for the wagon!! Shall post more pics of this pirate ship as we work on it. Here you see the kids from our building clambering for rides on the wagon…. when we took it downstairs for some wind in the sail.

Raghu used burnt wood from our bonfire to make powdery charcoal powder.

Ravi is often in the mood to force laughter… Gabbar takes over and the kids go wild.

A reminder to myself :-)

With these meditative techniques, raising children can be a spiritual practice.

1. Try to imagine the world from your child’s point of view, purposefully letting go of your own. Do this every day for at least a few moments to remind you of who this child is and what he or she faces in the world.

2. Imagine how you appear and sound from your child’s point of view, i.e., having you as a parent today, in this moment. How might this modify how you carry yourself in your body and in space, how you speak, and what you say? How do you want to relate to your child in this moment?

3. Practice seeing your children as perfect just the way they are. See if you can stay mindful of their sovereignty from moment to moment, and work at accepting them as they are when it is hardest for you to do so.

4. Be mindful of your expectations of your children and consider whether they are truly in your child’s best interest. Also, be aware of how you communicate those expectations and how they affect your children.

5. Practice altruism, putting the needs of your children above your own whenever possible. Then see if there isn’t some common ground, where your true needs can also be met. You may be surprised at how much overlap is possible, especially if you are patient and strive for balance.

6. When you feel lost, or at a loss, remember to stand still and meditate on the whole by bringing your full attention to the situation, to your child, to yourself, to the family. In doing so, you may go beyond thinking, even good thinking, and perceive intuitively, with the whole of your being, what needs to be done. If that is not clear in any moment, maybe the best thing is to not do anything until it becomes clearer. Sometimes it is good to remain silent.

7. Try embodying silent presence. This will grow out of both formal and informal mindfulness practice over time if you attend to how you carry yourself and what you project in body, mind, and speech. Listen carefully.

8. Learn to live with tension without losing your own balance. In Zen and the Art of Archery, Herrigel describes how he was taught to stand at the point of highest tension effortlessly without shooting the arrow. At the right moment, the arrow mysteriously shoots itself. Practice moving into any moment, however difficult, without trying to change anything and without having to have a particular outcome occur. Simply bring your full awareness and presence to this moment. Practice seeing that whatever comes up is “workable” if you are willing to trust your intuition. Your child needs you to be a center of balance and trustworthiness, a reliable landmark by which he or she can take a bearing within his or her own landscape. Arrow and target need each other. They will find each other best through wise attention and patience.

9. Apologize to your child when you have betrayed a trust in even a little way. Apologies are healing. An apology demonstrates that you have thought about a situation and have come to see it more clearly, or perhaps more from your child’s point of view. But be mindful of being “sorry” too often. It loses its meaning if you are always saying it, making regret into a habit. Then it can become a way not to take responsibility for your actions. Cooking in remorse on occasion is a good meditation. Don’t shut off the stove until the meal is ready.

10. Every child is special, and every child has special needs. Each sees in an entirely unique way. Hold an image of each child in your heart. Drink in their being, wishing them well.

11. There are important times when we need to be clear and strong and unequivocal with children. Let this come as much as possible out of awareness, generosity, and discernment, rather than out of fear, self-righteousness, or the desire to control. Mindful parenting does not mean being overindulgent, neglectful, or weak; nor does it mean being rigid, domineering, and controlling.

12. The greatest gift you can give your child is your self. This means that part of your work as a parent is to keep growing in self-knowledge and awareness. This ongoing work can be furthered by making a time for quiet contemplation in whatever ways feel comfortable to us. We only have right now. Let us use it to its best advantage, for our children’s sake, and for our own.

Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn is the author of Wherever You Go, There You Are. Myla Kabat-Zinn has worked as a childbirth educator, birthing assistant, and environmental activist. Excerpted from Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting. Copyright 1997 by Myla Kabat-Zinn and Jon Kabat-Zinn.

The post below was published before i realized that the kids were asleep. So now i have time to quickly add photos… only as a separate post though. The lovely grass, complicated Gotham City and half finished City Aquarium, Zoya’s little dance video clip and a pic of our bonfire. A Shiny day indeed.

Today is a day i would add to the Bharadwaj annals as a SHINY day. I’ve been a part of the Shine with unschooling Yahoo group for a few weeks and have begun to love Anne O (the list owner). There is something powerful present in her words. When one works on themselves it comes thru to everything else. I never understood the importance of true inner work until recently…. and its impact on our children and their true selves.

This morning Raghu poured the pancake batter onto the hot pan by himself. He then proceeded to flip the pancakes all by himself. I TRUST him now…. I never fully did before. Even now… the need to say “be careful” or some such is still present in me. Being able to stop those words from coming out and perhaps adding a safety net without compromising the child’s need for independence is the way to go… as many times as is possible. We had a great time and enjoyed the pancakes. Z enjoyed watching us flip. Raghu singed his knuckles a bit during one flip. He cried and then allowed me to wash his hands with cold water and apply a burn cream. The he went on to make another pancake for me… smiles and all.

Raghu had been building a train station in the front room. Its been an ongoing project for about 2 days. He decided it was actually a part of Gotham City. He then placed the Batman Lego Car he had built at one side and declared Batman the protector of the city. He took out all his old wooden buildings, blocks, etc. He created a complicated city with lots of city services like hospitals, garages, homes, high-rises, police station, express train stops, etc. Then he took a round shallow bowl and added water and voila a lake in the middle of a park was created. he created a park with wooden trees all around. Now i could not help myself… i had to ask if i could help and play with him. he said yes. So then we added blue watercolor to the lake. We created an aquarium in a large tray filled with water. We got out all the fish, crabs, octopuses, turtles etc and placed them. Then some potato press green playdough and our park was really rocking.

By then i had to watch Raghu and see if he still wanted me to be a part of it or not. I told him i would be his helper/fetch-person… and he loved it. He told me to paint roads and also asked me to do things in a particular way. When i noticed that there had been enough discussion, fun for both of us etc… i retreated. But he asked me to build the zoo with Z. So on we went. We never did finish the zoo as Z was not in the mood. But it was a gorgeous experience for me…. and i think a very shiny time for R. I am also amazed at how precision oriented his building, arranging and organization of the city was.

Also thru the morning I was playing The Chieftains… lovely fast paced, Irish, Celtic type music. Ravi’s rocking BH (before Hema) collection always surprises me. Z kept nodding her head and kept beat with her curls swaying and head bobbing. Amazing time really for her and my camera.

Late in the evening when dinner turned into pizza and wine night… Raghu suggested a small bonfire. When i put up blocks… he simply said… candles, some wood and a clear space around it is all he wanted. Geesh… i went ahead and found an old tin box, some lovely wood chunks, candles and start-up paper. And it turned into a shiny, bright tin box, bonfire. We danced, ate pizza and laughed for a while on the balcony. Our 8 feet square balcony was enough for this little boy’s fire wish to come true. We switched off all the lights in the house and enjoyed the bright flames. We were consciously silent as the kids ripped up the empty pizza boxes and lit them with the candles and then threw them quickly into the tin box. Z too!!

We did not have the energy or ability to fulfill Raghu’s next wish… which came about after the bonfire was almost done…. a camp-out in the balcony. He wanted us to set up the new tent we bought in Sg., challenging enough even when we aren’t tired. We were already pretty woozy. It was not just the wine 🙂 I’d had a long day with Z pooping in new places and peeing enormous quantities into the portable potty, besides all the other fun I’ve described above. And a playdate in the evening…. and some bicycling downstairs. And Ravi’s day and week even had been rough. So sadly just could not do more. But we’ve promised him a camp out on Saturday night. Hopefully his wish will still be flaming till then.

Zoya managed to pick up the land-line while i was in the bathroom… and recognized Ravi’s voice on the other end, despite the crackling line. She then told him that i was in the bathroom and said bye. Amazing little girl. Don’t know when she learnt to do a complete call all by herself.

What is this journey of mine like? There is a zen moment every minute of everyday. There is space to grow for me and the kids.

But would it be nice if there were similar free environs for the kids to feel safe, happy in… and places that they ‘WANT’ to be in?? Yes… a resounding yes. I wish for a few homes like ours… where the song “home, home on the range…” (part of which applies to my thoughts is pasted below) has a parallel in city dweller terms. I wish for parallel worlds where the kids roam free and learning is an all-day, every-second adventure. Where people and children mingle all day and learn from each other. But i do not have any other homes/places i can truly send my children to… or where they would want to be without me or Ravi around. And a school/institution/place of controls is only going to be possible if they (the schools etc) are open to the idea of a child being free to roam, free to say ‘no thank you’ to the day’s project, free to express thoughts as they strike them, free to ask awkward questions, free to take advantage of a particular interest even as others move onto other topics, free to assess one’s self and not be judged…… Quite a contradictory world. And i do not live physically near any like this.

So i stay home, make art, sing, play with my children, arrange playdates when anyone one of us feels the need for socializing, go to new places, explore ideas as they strike us, play with fire, make pancakes, enjoy the weather, respect each other, cherish each other’s playful and silly side, talk about death and life, and so on. Everything is grist to the mill.

I admit all the while i do have a tiny voice inside hoping to find other places for the children to hang out at. But in the meanwhile… as we search for such places… my children know that we will keep exploring and when they do try out a place where they stay without me… they know there is a door open behind them always. So there is no forced learning. Only an unconscious love for learning that seems to happen whether we/they want it or not. The line between any subject and another is blurred and wonderfully mixed up. Math and science, Lego and hydraulics, art and history, geography and biology, etc. … all can weave into each other. Cooking leads to fractions, boiling points, chemistry, love, recipes, becoming inclusive of the little sister trying to help stir, talking about how we love somethings and don’t like others or hate them even and why. Nothing in my childhood came close to this kind of learning, growing and never being blocked… by anything.

Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

Home, home on the range,
Where the deer and the antelope play;
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
Where the air is so pure, the zephyrs so free,
The breezes so balmy and light,
That I would not exchange my home on the range
For all of the cities so bright.

A studio for Amma is in the works. The middle room is now an office for Ravi, our library (all the kids’ books and ours are in large book shelves) and also houses a small desk for me! So i have a spot to sit and write/paint/sketch at. Its around the size of my ‘hole in the wall’ studio space that i worked in during the first semester of SVA. But its mine and is very precious to me. I have shelved the idea of renting out an outside studio space. I think it will take a while longer to get into that project.

Raghu is back into his wooden trains. He is doing math additions and subtractions in his head. He comes up with simple equations and states different permutations. He is treating his wooden trains differently. He is including lego creations as part of the set up and has been experimenting with different track combinations.

Zoya is simply focused on her hind side, as are we all. Potty training par extraordinaire. We went cold turkey a week ago… and the accidents are getting to one a day! Amazingly she is able to wake us up at night and go! So except for the fact that a portable small potty is the preference… so tons of cleaning involved… its been great. Oh and also… we end up sleeping on the old crib mattress (plastic covered) on the floor. But still worth it all!! no more diapers and so much fun talking to Zoya about it all… most of the time 😀

In an apartment-home where there is/are crumbs on the floor, dust balls behind sofas, spiders in residence in odd spaces, books strewn everywhere, food in constant motion across the kitchen and dining space, nude barbies having a bath in the bathroom, composting waste matter that is picked at by little hands in the balcony-garden, Lego bits that seem to have a life of their own, large projects that seem to materialize in moments, pee in the portable potty being stared at, children jumping on just-made-beds, water play being planned almost all day long, bicycle mud-tracks across just-cleaned-floors, whooping war cries at unexpected moments, etc., one can be forgiven for searching for a quiet corner to call one’s own, an adult space where the rules don’t keep changing and where pens and paper, canvas and brush, thoughts and beauty remain as one would have them be. Yeah… this is our home these days… and that quiet corner has yet to be found :-O

I visited a dear friend’s home tonight for a short visit. When i came back home from her well appointed, yet simply furnished, spacious, minty-clean, beautifully arranged home that also included a calm, serene and yet energized artist’s work room and a great space for her 9 year old… I had a “claustrophobic, crabby, eat-your-rice-neatly-dammit, yikes-the-children-will-never-grow-up” mood engulf me. It took me a longish while to get over this mood and re-focus on my kids’ needs and also focus on what I needed for myself from my home.

I feel that a few days alone to ponder the energy in my home would be lovely. Alone without kids and R around. Space to walk about and settle some of the chaos. Perhaps create a couple of nooks for projects of my own to take off. A stitching corner where my ideas for quilting and making dolls-clothing take off. A corner for painting with my watercolors from a selection of my village-doorway photos. A corner for Ravi to contemplate ideas and bills or to simply call his own. The adults in this house deserve some space separate too.

This way… when we do feel the overwhelming urge to strap the children into chairs or are unable to find joy in water being sprayed out of the bathroom and onto the bed…. we can simply retire to our nooks/corners and allow it all to fade away. We might then quickly feel recharged and rejuvenated and again turn into fun-loving-adults.

The children can be requested to respect the corners/nooks and leave those areas out of their play/work. I think our children might easily agree to this. After all they know that we respect their needs and provide undisturbed play/work spaces for them so they probably will willingly allow us ours. Or at least we can recognize our needs, express them clearly and hope for their innate goodness to bless it.

Ah… now that all this is worked out i can go to sleep and dream of tomorrow, a Sunday… when some of these nooks might be born.

Ravi’s cousin sent us plasticine from the UK. Very different from ‘play-dough and home-made-dough. So vibrant and colorful! Lovely to make fruits with and other inedible delights. R, Z and I had a neat time making sandwiches, slicing up white rolls of bread and making bowls of noodles. So a big thankyou to P and R.

There is something so stinky and sticky and playful about the craft that kids get naturally inclined. R and Z’s play made me remember Al Dhafra days…. lots of time and tons of inspiration. Perhaps Sush will remember those days with fondness? She and I were great at making pies, cakes and monsters with plasticine. Its interesting how Raghu and Zoya interact with each other and make funnies 🙂 Also, Raghu started to offer sandwiches for sale and immediately created his own minting machine and gave me my change.

Off late he and I talk about money and change, number games, sequences of 2s and 10s, different counting possibilities and also make much ado about large numbers. The larger the number, the more powerful the number is, in his mind.

Again the power of connecting dots, making simple assumptions, clearing up concepts, clarifying thoughts, thinking before talking, making games, learning without conscious attempt… are all aspects of our day. So even as i go to pick up Ravi from work and we listen to Roald Dahl’s BFG or some jazz or “pappu can’t dance sala” … its all learning!! and its happening all the time. We discover words and thoughts like ballerina, jazz, imagination, reading in our head, idibongers, catapult, what are opinions etc… and they lead to other interesting words and thoughts. Or sometimes we just listen to the rain, squabble, sit in silence or simply day dream.

Its a lovely world we live in and much of it comes about because Ravi, my dear dh, selflessly goes to work and brings home the moolah. He does enjoy his job but it means he can only enjoy with the children and be a part of our activities on the w’ends really.

Z and I are on potty training road. Lots of reasons… but essentially she eats like a 5 year old… sometimes more than Raghu… and this calls for diapers of a size and quantity that I’m frowning upon. So we’ve let her loose. My good humor disappeared the first day… but Ravi has been so patient and has humored me into looking upon it as a wonderful indoor stay for a week or more till Z is settled into a bit of a routine and forgets diapers completely. She does not ask for diapers and she always seemed to be uncomfortable in them as the size was small. You don’t get large diapers here! Good for the enviro though. Z is happy to be free but not so happy about her accidents. So still house bound and hanging loose 🙂

Z and i built a lovely geometric design. I was surprised to see how she managed to help me find pieces and also managed to make her own little shape.