Today is 09.09.09

Ravi landed in the US for work on 09.09.90, 19 years ago. He stayed there till 2007 when we moved to Singapore and then here to India a year ago. He worked there for almost 17 years. Ravi and i were just enjoying the rare number combinations.

Raghu and Zoya created a Bed-Cushion-Sleep-Game. We rolled in all our cushions on the floor this morning. The 2 have been inventing games… mostly raghu invents and zoya adjusts things to suit her tastes… like blankets and dollies must be part of the said game. Raghu has been hooked on his DS… which got a whole bunch of new games loaded thanks to an adult-gaming-friend we’ve met recently. Raghu is in gaming-nirvana.

We are getting ready for our trip to the US. Amazing that it is really happening. Ravi has been incredible at making this trip happen. He has been wanting to go back to NJ/NYC with us… for a trip at the very least. So we leave end of October and get back end of November. All in all about 5 weeks. We will get to spend the first 6 days in London as he has work there as well. Our US trip will include a week in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe region. Since we could not time our trip to match any of the unschooling conferences that happen thru the year across the US…. Sandra Dodd ( very kindly offered to plan a conference for when we are there. Her generous offer means we get to spend time with her and other families and watch unschoolers in action. Can’t wait 🙂

Raghu is very thrilled about the upcoming travels. He has been reading about castles, Robin Hood and talking about Harry Potter and related stuff. He knows Roald Dahl was British and we’ve been talking about visiting a castle with a real moat and seeing a portcullis in action. Interestingly its not like i said “we’re going to London.. lets read things that relate to it”… nope. He has been connecting the dots and telling me about all the books he borrows from the library or hte ones he likes at home and how they have roots or are based in London. Even Asterix and Obelix speak of Londinium 🙂

I’m looking forward to the US part of the trip so i can spend time in familiar places with family and friends, enjoy playgrounds and museums and such, eat lots of old familiar foods, walk the streets of NYC again, and very importantly… meet and interact with Unschooling parents and children. Something that we as a family are sorely missing out on here in India.

Zoya is talking in bigger more complicated sentences and is engaging Raghu in conversation more often these days. The age gap is reducing. Till now she was only a physical playmate… someone Raghu could run with and catch or jump with. But she is changing rapidly. She is 3 inches short of Raghu’s height and is wearing shoes that are one size behind. Raghu says she is the biggest 3 year old he ever saw 🙂 She cracks jokes and will look at us with delight when we get her jokes.

Raghu, reading and ramblings

Its been a big deal for Ravi and me to see Raghu reading more and more this past week. We come upon him standing in underwear and pants around his ankles with an intent look on his face and his mouth making phonetic sounds, sometimes just plain reading and otherwise sounding out words silently… its such a delight. It might be the cover of a cd or cartridge or a comic book or like this afternoon a book on ants that he is trying to read. Its magical to watch. Just like when he learned to walk. Perhaps i feel validated a bit? I feel like saying YAHOOOO…. you see they do learn to read… because they want to. Of course we go on reading to them and do not say “well you know how to read that… so why do you want me to?” or some such short-sighted comment. I can see how reading to them whenever they want me to is the best thing to do.

I think I have been a struggling a little lately with Raghu being so focused on the PSP and hence i am the primary playmate for Zoya. I miss the game sessions and other lovely times the 3 of us enjoyed before this psp phase. I keep reminding myself that Raghu is happy pursuing his interests. So perhaps seeing him read makes me feel a bit like…”right… there are many processes at work… even as they watch the 100th re-run of Little Bear or Magic School Bus or play seemingly endless video games… they are processing so much info inside their heads” They are contacting the world around them on their own terms. I shall strew interesting things and be available to converse and be a good facilitator etc… yet the final word is theirs. And that is how their inherent interest in learning (whatever they want) is preserved.

Its beginning to rain a little each day… even just a small drizzle… but enough to feel monsoony in one’s heart. Its a delicious feeling. The smell of wet earth and the knowledge that the surrounding hills will be green soon makes me so happy.

Raghu has been explaining rain-shadows and other interesting weather related things. He asked me to walk without bending my knees. Impossible unless i allowed my hip bones to lift. He is so alive and full of information these days. He may spend upto 6 hours a day in his DS nintendo. Something that i’m getting used to. Its like getting used to a new family member almost… he is busy and involved in things that can’t involve his little sister any more. She is not even able to use a mouse very well or perhaps just has no interest… or perhaps we’ve not found the right software for her yet. All in all.. she has been fending for her self and finding her own fun.

She took her Barbie doll and a scissor and looked set to do some serious hairstyling. I asked her to cut in the balcony… not in the house. So she went out and wet the doll’s hair and cut it. She had fun. I was slurping soup and watching her. Earlier today Z allowed me to cut a fringe for her… she wants to grow most of her hair so she can put it up in a pony soon like me.

Raghu and Zoya are having a lot of fun-filled moments with their cousin. My s-i-l, Meghna and her daughter will be with us on and off these next few weeks. Its lovely to watch Z and Kaveri in the bathroom. They had shaving cream and baby powder all over the bathroom adn themselves today. Its a routine… every few days they get into a long session in the bathroom and then shower together.

I’m feeling much better today and am beginning to look forward to our road trip. We head to Dharwad tomorrow.

Raghu has been asking a lot of questions about words in the english language. He said the word Night is spelt wrong. I have to look up why the english language is this way. Pneumonia and Psychiatry. I mean there are millions of exceptions. Its hard to read this language. Sanskrit-devanagiri based languages are so clear. Hindi is read as it is written. Rare exceptions. However Raghu is into the english language and very keen to read. I mean not overtly. But he has been reading steadily these past few weeks and i’m surprised at his new skill.

Clarifications and DVDs

Clarification about the post about the Dharwad trip and DVD player: I meant a Car-DVD player. We have a DVD player at home.

DVDs: Just wanted to post here our favorite videos these past few months:
The Clone Wars
Dunstan Checks In
The Magic School Bus series
Motorcycle Diaries (Raghu sat thru this and asked me to read the subtitles)
Angelina Ballerina
Little Bear Series
Batman.. cartoon
Asterix and Obelix… cartoon
BEN 10… should have been posted as number 1 🙂
Snoopy come home
Richard Scarry Busy Town
Night at the Museum
Tom and Jerry.. old and new
BBC series on Gerald Durrel’s My family and other animals
Dora the explorer

I’m sure there are more… but these are the ones we’ve seen off and on over the past couple of months.

We can all be happy.

We are going on a 6 hour road trip this Friday. Meeting up with family in Dharwad for a nephew’s ceremony. And then we return on Monday.

I have been a bit under the weather since last afternoon. So while Raghu and I were settling into a nap.. he asked who would be coming to this family meet and how long the trip would take and other related questions. Then he asked me if the Car/jeep we are hiring has a DVD player. (we don’t have one .. portable or otherwise. But Raghu had experienced a Family van with inbuilt DVD player a while back…. again a longish road trip… the DVD player was used non stop by Raghu. It bothered some of us. We were a large group.)

Back to his question…. I barely did any deep breathing or checking of my emotions… i simply blurted out “Raghu if you want to keep watching videos while we travel thru lovely fields.. the trip is on a good road known for a beautiful ride…. then you may as well stay back with your grandma.” He looked surprised at my outburst and said “no, no i’ll come.”

At that moment i could think of nothing else to say except “we really want a road trip to enjoy the sights and be exchange stories and sing along with our CD player etc. So we did not consider hiring a car with a DVD player.” Then my head throbbed too much to talk. and we fell asleep.

A few hours later i had a quiet walk (baby sitter at home) and called sister for advice about this… she is my baby-sister all grown up now… and she is the one who gets RU the best. She and i discussed my choice. But i did not feel good inside. I felt rotten.

I called Urmila (the only other RU mom in Pune). Based on what we exchanged…. i felt a lovely shift happening inside:

Raghu’s choices are as best as they can be for him… as are mine for me. I love watching the rolling fields and talking to Ravi and kids and exchanging stories/singing along with cds etc. I love stopping and tasting some local food item (food and language changes every 50 km in india i think 🙂 Or taking a small detour and stretching our legs and clicking a few photos. Raghu, per his current interests, would love to carry his DS Nintendo and enjoy our company alongside his playing. He does not mind not having a DVD player since he has his DS. He may want different things from this trip than i do. If he does nto choose to enjoy the scenery the way i do… i need to stay smiling.. happy for his choices. And i can continue to enjoy my choices… i can stop the car and stretch and take in the view. And i shall smile at my child’s and husband’s choices. We all make different choices and they must be honored as far as possible.

I immediately felt a weight lift and i felt light and airy. We can all be happy and supportive of each other. I can’t even begin to write the ramifications of coercive living… but i can begin to write about the beauty of RU living. No one is martyred.

Zoya has been feeling sad whenever Raghu is on the DS for too many hours of the day and he refuses to join our games. But i make up for his absence as best i can. Last evening she told me that she wanted to get her own DS. I said yes… that was a great idea. She smiled and kissed me and said… “me happy, you happy?” Then she thought a bit and said “I will play with Raghu”. 🙂

Sure… i’m not fond of screen time for myself… but if it is a passion for my child or children… i shall make shifts within and accept their choices… as they accept mine. Raghu i’m sure would never stop me from taking a break for photos while we are on the road. He is so reasonable about our choices. Why can’t we joyously accept his?

So looking forward to this trip and to making it joyous for all of us with our different/overlapped/similar needs.

Our little conference and other things…

My dear sister and her endowed with the most fantastic sense of humor husband are coming down from Bangalore to be with the kids for 3 days. This while Ravi and I take 6 hours off each consecutive day to read/talk/discuss/delve into/play with/explore UNSCHOOLING in all its glory 🙂 We plan to read Sandra, Ren, Pam, Kelly, and so many others who dish it out well cooked, seasoned perfectly.

We were hopeful of attending a conference in the US where all the radical unschoolers would gather… there are many happening thru the year in all parts of the US. But we were unable to commit for various reasons. So instead we decided to do the next best thing. Give ourselves some time to sit and mull with the internet as our conference room. We then figured out the the only way this would work was if the children got their fav aunt and uncle to baby sit… with some help of our local lovely baby sitter Anandee (a fantastic, recent manifestation :-).. happened thanks to Sandra’s chat session)

We will give the newly married couple the evening off each day. And the morning/afternoon will be ours… about 9-3. Living this life involves a tremendous effort in deschooling ourselves. In focusing on healing ourselves of past issues. Our inner voices shape our lives and if i am today able to smile at chaos (i used to be a stickler for list/order/plans etc) it is because i could let go of internal issues, could heal myself and allow chaos 🙂 So while i may still want to make lists and have a plan in place.,.. its okay if the kids make changes, cancel things or if the lists change. I”m able to go with the flow mostly. Kids are already perfect in a way… they are happy, learning, connected deeply with their inner voices… i just need to get out the way. So this conference is for me and Ravi to look within and learn to get out the way… and allow ourselves freedom to just “be”. We need to baby ourselves. We need to listen to our needs… if i want to explore eating lots of snickers bars… then so be it. LOA is also helping me here. I no longer associate food with guilt, boredom, gain in weight etc.

Ravi often has issues with Raghu’s hair falling over his eyes. Raghu has longish shoulder length hair. A while ago Ravi and Raghu played with styling hair… and Raghu found that he could use oil and water and get his hair to stay up. I coudl see that it was Ravi’s issue. Raghu was fine the way he was. But at some point Raghu foudn his hair bugged him when he was trying to concentrate on something. And that day he decided to use gel, oil, water to style his hair off his eyes. So while it was nice to give Raghu a way to help himself…. Ravi can now see that if its his own issue… he needs to be able to talk without coercing. And if Raghu feels the same… as he indeed did the day his hair bothered him….. then he will ask/use our help. Ravi is happier when Raghu’s hair is off his forehead…. but he is only now beginning to see the implications of coercion and how it affects the relationship. And at the same time he sees the beauty in simple non-coercive conversation, offering solutions/help and backing off.

Sitting with our own needs/desires and seeing how they affect our children… esp when its not something that has any true consequences… is so important to this whole process. For this and many other reasons… we hope to sit with and distill the parts that seem to act as blocks to our otherwise lovely life. I think TV, Video gaming, what are our obligations to friends and family etc… are some of the areas that we will be pondering and unblocking 🙂

Meanwhile Raghu had a wish for home-made pizzas with the works… fresh mushroom, olives, mozzarella, home-made sauce, etc… for his little party of 7 kids! Zoya, my 3 nephews and nieces down for a longish stay during their school hols, Aarohi and her brother Rushabh and Devesh. Wow it was quite something today. For about 2 hours the house was in chaos/laughter/some tears/jumping on the bed/crazy conversations about babies coming out of stomachs.. correction from Raghu… uterus etc… It was a blast. but at the end of 2 hours i requested the 3 building guests to make their way home… moms were ready to pick them up. The remaining 3 cousins and my 2 are now chilling out with individual games/interests.

Raghu in the middle of his pizza looks up and says,”Amma… 3 glasses of iced tea with one ice cube each please”. and a smile that made me feel so happy to be able to comply and give him such pleasure. He loves sharing his home, food and loves planing elaborate meals.

It has been quite an experience for Raghu to have his cousins here. He seems to find it easier to switch to Hindi from time to time so his cousins understand him. They do speak English but are more fluent in Hindi and probably think in Hindi and Marathi. They live in Indore, way north of here.

"Find the part where i marry myself"

Raghu has never, ever played a board game until this past week. I mean he may pull one out and set it up and roll the dice once… but thats tops. I love board games, cooperative or otherwise. I’m not very competitive by nature. But i do love Cluedo, figuring out how much money i can make in Monopoly, coming up with unusual words in Scrabble etc. So i was really waiting for raghu to start playing them with me.

Anyway.. time passed… and this past week raghu pulled out “Caves and Claws” a cooperative game. To my surprise he set it up, allowed me enough time to read the instructions, wanted to play by the rules (he could have made it up as he went along like his usual calvin-ball-esque games) and completely enjoyed every step of the game. It was amazing to watch.

Now to explain the title…. He asked to play “Life”. he had played it once when his cousins were playing it. He only remembered it as that “car” game. So we set it up… again he was patient and wanted everything just so. Then we played it… and it was hilarious. He went to college before me, married and had about 5 kids in the course of the game… all ahead of me. Here i thought that those things might not appeal to him… But nope… he loved it all. At a later stage in the game he had to pay 50,000$ per child (and he had 5!!) for their college tuition. Now all along he was thrilled that he had a $100,000 yearly pay. He loved collecting payday. so i thought perhaps he’d balk at this turn. But he simply said “Sure, no problem… i love helping my children out” LOL i was ready to roll on the floor.

At another turn he was on a space that said “vacation time with family at Colorado, pay X $s” Again he said “Oh so cool… i get to take a vacation with my wife and kids”. So funny, lovely and sweet. Today he said “can we play Life again? I want to find the part where i marry myself” LOL