Monday, March 31, 2008

Bye-bye Easter Bunny!

Before she fell asleep, M asked me," Amma, do you believe in the Easter Bunny?"

"No, I don't."

"Well, I still believe in the Easter Bunny. He's going to come and set up an egg hunt for me tomorrow."

"I don't think so. Now I'm going to have to go rushing off tomorrow morning to get stuff for this", I grumbled.

"Never mind, you can set it up with the Easter Bunny' s help."

Thus it was that I found myself standing in line at the local drugstore the next morning, with assorted egg-shaped candies, a bag of Hershey kisses and a tiny plush bunny.

"What happened to all the plastic eggs?"

"They're all sold out since yesterday."

"I have several extra at home if you would like", offered the friendly lady in line ahead of me.

"No, thanks, I have a few from last year", I answered.

The cashier rung up the purchases and ended with a cheery "Have a Blessed Easter!" to the lady before me.

She rang up my purchases next, ending with a "Have a good one!" (After all, it would only be a desperate infidel who would try to purchase plastic eggs on Easter Sunday at the only drugstore open for miles.)
I drove back carefully, trying to make up for my morning lack of caffeine and driving over the curb that had jolted me awake earlier.

I reached home and tried to sneak the purchases upstairs, but was promptly waylaid by M, risen from her bed early, in anticipation of the Egg Hunt.

"What's in that bag?" She demanded. "Just a few things I needed to get." as I slipped it into another room.

A few minutes later, on pretence of going out to check for the newspaper, I sprinkled the ground with assorted foil wrapped eggs and candy in about a dozen plastic eggs that survived the last year's hunt. After positioning the plush bunny on a strategic rock in our winter-weary flower bed, I went back inside and ostentatiously asked "M, can you fetch the newspaper for me today?"

She donned her coat and boots with alacrity and stepped outside, eyes widening as she saw the dashes of colored eggs. Tiptoeing delicately past the eggs and bunny, she ran down to the driveway and picked up the newspaper. First things first. Duty beckons ahead of pleasure, etc. etc.

By the time she had brought it to the door, I was ready with her basket and a camera in hand to record the fun. Barely two minutes later, she was done picking all the eggs and candies.

"Amma, you should have hidden some of the eggs. Then it would have been more fun", she sulked.

So she was more practical than she let on regarding the existence/non-existence of the Easter Bunny.

I wonder what the next year will bring. Will she insist on an egg hunt or let it go the way of other discarded traditions?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Created Crazes

If you remember, I had an insufferably self-congratulatory post a month back on how my kids had escaped the standard American crazes, like the Hannah Montana and High School musical madness. My perorations on that account got a bit of a jolt, when dear(not!) Hubby pointed out that I was merely driving the latest book mania for M.
S being all of 14 years old and of male gender, showed resistance to all the girl-oriented fiction that had been my mainstay all these years ( though that hasn't kept me from pushing P.G. Wodehouse, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke on him).

With M, the cycle has run thusly: Enid Blyton, with all her 'golly, goshes and golliwogs', was introduced to her at the age of 5 in the Noddy series. She took to it like a duck to water, falling in love with the ridiculous adventures of Noddy in his car and the red-nosed constable Mr.Toots. Never mind that the politically-incorrect intruded, with the reference to itinerant tinker( Roma, please forgive me) and his thieving family trundling about the town with their gypsy caravan.
She is now currently addicted to the adventures of the Magic Faraway Tree, but hasn't yet been introduced to the Famous Five, Secret Seven and others or the school series. All in good time. (I'm definitely going to avoid the new Famous Five avatars that the Disney conglomerate are trying to milk for more cash in the age of the Ipod.)

Next, I tried the Winnie the Pooh originals, figuring that the much-loved Disney version needed to be supplanted with a true dose of Poohisms. To my delight, it caught on as well. M loves to read out lines like these aloud from the original A. A. Milne books.
First of all he said to himself: "That buzzing-noise means something. You don't get a buzzing-noise like that, just buzzing and buzzing, without its meaning something. If there's a buzzing-noise, somebody's making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you're a bee."
Then he thought another long time, and said: "And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey."
And then he got up, and said: "And the only reason for making honey is so as I can eat it." So he began to climb the tree.
This effectively ended the enchantment with the faux Winnie-the-Pooh Disney scripts which had Poohesque language and little else to recommend them. She has since meandered her way through the entire"House at Pooh Corner".

I used to have a Raggedy Ann doll when I was about 4 years old,and got my first chance to read the original Johnny Gruelle series some years later. I used to tell M tales of my (long deceased) Raggedy Ann doll, christened 'that scarecrow doll' by my father, for her wild mop of stringy yarn hair and staring eyes. M lapped them up all eagerly. One fine day, she popped the surprise on me "I want a Raggedy Ann doll for my birthday, a large one". This was a bit out of the blue for me, and I ran pillar to post to FAO Schwartz online before I could find a Raggedy Ann of suitable dimensions (this was a once-in-a-year request, after all.) Next, she wanted a Raggedy Andy to go
with it, but I chickened out and got her a miniscule version of Andy. So now we have a huge pile of vintage Raggedy Ann books, which she picks up and reads whenever she likes, a 16" Raggedy Ann and an 8" Raggedy Andy who is let out of his 'Collector's Edition Box' once in a blue moon, plus a Raggedy Kitty, given as an extra special gift from her best friend.

Running out of contemporary children's authors who appeal to M in her school and the local library, I mentioned the intriguing name of "Moomintroll" from an ancient series read a long time ago. She caught on to the name and insisted that I try to locate the books for her. Thanks to online searches and inter library loans, the first book duly arrived 2 weeks ago and enchanted her with the world of Moomintroll, Moominmamma, Moominpappa, Snork Maiden, the Groke, Hattifatteners and all.
I hope no media conglomerate will come up with marketing plans to revive these old-but-gold book series into a world-wide megacampaign akin to the Harry Potter mania. But one thing we can always be sure of: it may be obscured by the years, but there will always be a website devoted to these arcana that you can rely on for some 'modern' context to the younger generation.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Moss Meditations

This is the time of the year when the neighbor's lawns start to green up, while ours remains a realm of sparse and ancient fescue battling yellow green moss for survival. The ground is highly compacted and sloshy as I squish my soggy path to the newspaper half soaked on the road side. This will be the year of the moss, I presume, gazing at the vast expanses of our yard sporting the yellow-green tinge.

We're neophytes to the American Way of the Lawn. We watched in awe as our neighbor industriously crew-cut his lawn without fail every two days. My husband pored diligently over catalogs, trying to identify the best possible lawn mower to deal with all the (to us) huge acreage of grass carpeting our yard. Rather than going for the lightest and cheapest model, he picked a massive self-propelled model (to deal with on our sloping yard.) Easy enough for him to maneuver, but I loathe trying to walk behind it as it drags me up slope and barrels off uncontrollably down hill. I sense my teenage son bears the same aversion, disappearing to write magically due reports the moment his father tries to enlist his help with mowing.

The lawn companies stop without fail at our mailbox, enticing us with deals to fertilize and 'regreen' the lawn for $50 a pop. We had been desperate enough to try them in the early years, but my husband got utterly disgusted that they would come and spray at inopportune moments, such as 1/2 hour before a thundering rainstorm that washed all the fertilizer down the drain, or before we had the chance to rake leaves fresh-fallen from our trees in autumn. The lawn looked no greener for all the money we were throwing at it. So I peruse the mail, and add the lawn fliers to the trash pile.

To my jaundiced eyes, even the yellow-green moss looks like a winner. It carries me back without fail to those days of listening to my botany teacher droning on about gametophytes and spores, haploid plants and diploid seeds, precise line drawings punctuating the paragraphs with italicized must-remember terms. I had never seen a moss up close, but religiously learnt to reproduce all those pictures of moss plants and cell structures of spores for the examinations.

Now is my chance to admire the moss, delicate lines of the almost plant, going back in history to the Permian era, c. 290 million years ago. They have the right to remain in my lawn, more so than the grasses, against whom they have won a hard-fought competition. I would definitely defer to the older species, who are so low maintenance as to require nothing but the space to grow, the sunlight and rain with zero mowing.

So I say nothing to my husband regarding removal of moss, nor complain about uncut grass. The moss will remain my secret friend, taking over the lawn inch by hard-won inch. One day, I will wake up to a magical soft and short green carpet under the trees, one that will be reminiscent of the sense of peace of the woodlands that our suburban backyard displaced.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Big Brother's Primer

The Rules of Bothering

Written by S

1. Bothering is defined as:
An act which involves the enjoyment of one person at the expense of others.

2. You must bother a person at least for a total of 4 minutes per day.

3. The person being bothered will be affected in such a way that they are not physically harmed or hurt.

4. The means of bothering shall include annoying noises, poking, frequent touching, light pulling, invasion of personal materials, and other ways.

5. No person may be bothered if eating (for mess purposes), crying, or in pain.

6. In order to identify if success has been achieved, the subject will command you to cease bothering or they shall attempt to call an adult.

7. Remember the 3 Fs. Fluff, Feel and FUN!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Confessions of a Tooth Fairy

Let's admit it- I'm the Tooth Fairy ( and the Tickle Fairy, and the Cuddle Fairy...) in my house. And I am a cheapskate (like many other parents out there!).

M's first baby tooth fell out with much fanfare, and considering what it had cost me in sleepless nights while she was cutting it, I thought it deserved a celebratory amount 'Five dollars and five cents'.

Why the five cents, you may ask? Just a strange conceit. In India, it's quite customary to offer gifts in the amount of 51 or 101 rupees and such, mine was to make the age of first tooth loss more memorable by making it $5.05.

Everyone had fun asking M what her haul was from the first tooth and everybody gaped when they heard the amount. "You're going to be rich by time you lose your last baby tooth!" In the mean time, the Tooth Fairy was seriously in doubt of her lapse of judgement. Perhaps she should have stuck to the traditional shiny new quarter after all.

Second tooth: M placed her tooth in a ziploc baggie under her pillow. When she eagerly lifted it up the next morning, she found a slightly grungy one dollar bill. " Look, Amma.The Tooth Fairy has given me only one dollar this time!"
" Maybe she's on a strict budget. Your first tooth must have been a very special one for you to get five dollars for it". M didn't look too happy, but she didn't question my reasoning, either. Bullet dodged- for this time at least.

Third tooth: Same old routine. M lifted up her pillow in anticipation to find the ziploc baggie intact. "Where did the Tooth Fairy go?", she wailed.
"Perhaps she's vacationing in Aruba, where the Tickle Fairy went last year. She'll get to it when she' s back from her holiday, I'm sure."
" Hey, where did the Tickle Fairy go? When will she come back to play with me?" (Oops, that wasn't such a good idea to remind her of the Tickle Fairy who went on a permanent sabbatical to Cancun earlier last autumn. )
The Tooth Fairy showed up a couple of days later with a brand new crispy clean note straight out of the ATM.
" least this isn't dirty like the last one." M placed it with care in a little purse she designated for her Tooth Fairy money.

Fourth tooth: Snore. Same delayed effect.

Fifth tooth. Sixth tooth. Seventh. They fall with never failing monotony now, as the dentist peeks into M's mouth and assures me some of them might have to 'come out to make more space as the jaw is getting crowded'!!!!!

Eight tooth: This comes home from school in the cutest little tooth shaped holder necklace, courtesy of Mr D, a classmate's dad who is a dentist and gave a small supply to the class teacher.
The Tooth Fairy didn't arrive any faster for this one though. She still took her time to show up.

The last tooth didn't fare so well, having gotten shaken out while changing the bed sheets. M took it with a philosophical expression. "Next time, maybe!"

I'm half-dreading and half-welcoming the day when her last baby tooth vanishes into the trash without so much as a 'By your leave' to the Tooth Fairy. It won't be long in coming, I think.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Reading Level

Googling for something else, I found this link which purports to gauge the readability of your blog. It comes with a nifty piece of code that you can use to embed it in your page as well, and I was highly flattered when it tagged my blog as being in the 'College Post-Grad' level. What marvels of prose made it adjudge my blog to be worthy of that honor, I wondered. More importantly, was it my deathless prose, or my ease of using French phrases or poetry quotes?
What was the algorithm behind this rating?

I started checking out all my favorite blogs and came up with a bunch of mixed results: Some that I rated very highly came up with 'High School', while others such as '', '', '' came up with 'Genius'. Could this be a sort of negative rating , meaning the higher you score, the more meaningless the result?

There are, fortunately, more reputable ways to check on the readability index, as this suite of tests provided by Juicystudio. The disclaimer for the interpretation states:

This service analyses the readability of all rendered content. Unfortunately, this will include navigation items, and other short items of content that do not make up the part of the page that is intended to be the subject of the readability test. These items are likely to skew the results. The difference will be minimal in situations where the copy content is much larger than the navigation items, but documents with little content but lots of navigation items will return results that aren't correct.

It's a relief to know that Rush Limbaugh is less likely to be a genius, and just has a lot of navigation items on his page that have skewed the results to show up as 'Genius'.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Flat Stanley visits Saudi Arabia

M's class had mailed out their Flat Stanley packets to different states in the US, and as far afield as India and Japan. When I asked M where she wanted to send hers, she gave me an unexpected answer: her cousin M2 in Saudi Arabia.
So off he went, along with a brief journal in which to chronicle his stay. That was over 2 months ago.
M came home moping 3 weeks ago. "They've taken down the Flat Stanley display in class. Mine hasn't even come back yet."
We called M2, and she confirmed that the Flat Stanley was now mailed and should be reaching us soon.
One week, two weeks... No sign of Flat Stanley. I had a sneaking suspicion that with the Saudi Arabian return address on the packet, Flat Stanley might have made a detour to Guantanamo Bay for a round of interrogations.
Yesterday, finally, M came home fro school, waving a huge envelope. Flat Stanley was back from his Saudi Arabian trip, with postcards galore to show the sights of the Kingdom, a flag, and an account of his adventures, including a visit to the mall where he counted no less than 100 Mercedes and 75 Lexuses (Lexi?) passing by.
I'm sure that M's class had an intriguing peek into a country that they probably knew very little about from those fantastic postcards. And, I'm so relieved that he might have dodged the visit to Guantanamo, as well!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Telemarketing: Old vs. New

Old method:

Ring, ring.
Me: Hello
Lalita (in an approximation of a mid-Western accent): Good morning, am I speaking to Sujatha (pretends to struggle with last name)?
Me (wearily): Yes, this is she.
Lalita: this is Lisa with ABC communications. How are you today ma'am? I would like to talk to you about an offer for...
Me: Thanks for calling, but I really don't have time for this stuff. Please put my name on your do not call list. Bye
Click (as she burbles on.)

New method:

Ring, ring.
Me (wrong, ancient phone without caller id here): Hello
Senthil Kumar: May I speak with Mr or Mrs. ( perfectly pronounced last name) please?
Me: Yes, this is she.
Senthil: (switching to Tamil): Madam, I am Senthil Kumar with XYZ communications company. I would like to talk to you about an offer for reduced rates for India calls, madam.
Me (switching to Tamil): But we are already customers, shouldn't we be automatically getting the new rate?
Senthil (sounds faintly deflated): Yes madam, but the new rate is 3.29 cents a minute for India calls now.
Me: OK, will check online and see if we are getting it. Thanks, bye.
Senthil: But, but madam, there's another offer. (as phone descends on downward trajectory)