Friday, January 18, 2013

“What is that called?”


Well there are many ways you can explain stuff to a child, but the most innovative and expressive ways come from kids themselves.  Its amazing what a kid can learn and assimilate if the knowledge comes from their peers. In my home that happens often. My elder triplet children have a lot to share with their younger sister and you can imagine how much that can be if the ratio of sharing to receiving is 3:1 right?! Smile

Recently, one night, R came to me wanting to explain something to me. She had forgotten what to call it. Needless to say, it was something she learnt from her elder siblings…whom she calls “Didi(s)”  (a title given to elder sisters in Hindi)

She started

“Mama..there are these wiggly things in your body…with a dot”, she said, while she drew in the air…her fingers tracing a perimeter made of C’s (lots of them…) and ended it with a dot.. The dot ofcourse, was meant to be the eye!

Then she continued as I starred blankly into her eyes..

“I don’t know what its called and there are germs that could swallow it. It could make you sick sometimes!”

“Didis know what its called…Do you know?!”

“I don’t know beta!”, I said with a blank face..

She ran to her sisters and came back with an answer. Well! I could hear her talking with them and them blurting out the answer to her riddle.

“White Blood Cells!  Right!”, she exclaimed.

She went on to journal that in her book as follows:

“ When you have 4 white blod sels, you will get sik and you will not go to scool”

Then she went on to explain her statement to me.

“If you have a 100 germs…”, she showed to me the magnanimity of the situation by stretching her arms and running across the room this way and that…showing how far 100 germs would stretch!

“and you have 4 white blood cells, then the germs will eat up the white blood cells. You will need 100 white blood cells to not get sik!”

Such a simple explanation to why somebody gets sick.  And I didn’t need to do the explaining! There’s always an advantage for younger siblings as they get to earn lots of such information from their elder ones and they also become the perfect candidates for the older ones to play mom … teacher.

Now I know, what was that happening the other day when I saw N at the board..drawing something for R as they played Teacher and Student!


And another evening .. the phrase “don’t have guts” popped up in a Dr. Seuss book and it became a perfect moment to know what guts meant?

“What is that?"!”

“Its your intestines..the one that absorbs the food, for your body and throws out the rest of it as poop”, I said.

Her antlers stood up. Well..we were talking Poop, right!!

“Does food have poop in it?”, comes back a valid question.

“And how does pee form, mama?”

“You know your body has so much water in it..It needs it, and gets it from all the food and liquids you have. It uses it to wash your insides and collects it in a bag kind of thing that when full…makes you feel like you want to go!”, came my brief, layman kinda explanation.

“Oh!! that’s why we got to wash our hands…because it has so many germs in it….”, Suddenly all the hand washing made sense to her.”

Its been such a joy to see this kindergartner expand her knowledge this year..She has suddenly realized the joy of writing and is filling out books with no more than 2-3 lines per page. 

She’s listening..and is doing that hard, I can see. The other day as I picked her up from school, she exclaimed.

“Mama,…Mother nature is going crazy!”

“ Its winter and upposed to be cold but, look its warm”, she said.

I’m sure she must have picked that up from some teacher at school. She loved it.  She made sure to make it her own. and who else to show that to, than your mom!

and yet another day…she says…

“Mama, I’m moving!”, as she takes her brush from my bathroom to her sisters bathroom.

Introduction to minimalistic living 101 ?!!!

Life would be so easy and uncomplicated, if that is all we needed to do, during a move, wouldn’t it?!

It sure is a “houseful” at our home here..mostly noisy and boisterous with lots of laughter and double the number of cranky moments..although the moments of laughter manage to shadow the crabby ones.

Most times we even manage to surprise a guest or two with total silence as they enter, and then comes the moment when they realize everybody was home!!!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Little Darling…turned 6 already!


My youngest child turned 6 years last week and the first thought that came to mind was, “time sure flies!”.  Didn’t realize when the effort she put into rolling onto her tummy got diverted towards rolling her eyes. Didn’t even see it coming!

Not only was she so eager to turn as soon as she was three months old..she was in a hurry to walk , talk and bid goodbye to her day time naps too! With that went my last chance of enjoying those brief quiet afternoon time.

She hadn’t had a afternoon nap since the time she turned a year old!!  Surrounded by 3 kindergartners…the world had felt like a place to stay awake rather than waste time sleeping. What if she missed out on something so exciting...

The pediatrician had suggested that I pull the curtains and darken the room, make it quiet, lock myself inside the room with her to put her to sleep..she had hinted persistence..but, can you imagine leaving  3 kindergartner’s outside the room while I do that..Not practical at all! Not for me! I failed miserably.

She enjoys the company of her triplet Didis as much as she complains about them. They’ve always been her second set of arms to run into, another chest to bury her face into whenever she feels down..or, .. just plain, let down by mommy dear!

They’ve also become her new set of teachers now!! They have found in her .. a perfect student, to practice their teacher’s idiosyncrasies on! And R gets to experience a 5th grade class through this pretend school!

The homeschooling that happens on a sight to watch. There are Science classes, Reading, Free time, Hindi class and 3 teachers. Student Report cards and behavior reports all updated placed in baskets..properly me a nightmare when it comes my time to organize their clean it up!

They love to please her as much as they don’t like her ..trying to be one among them.  As queer as are the ways of siblings, she received more gifts than she had asked for..thanks to her “Santa” sisters…who made sure that the magic of Santa was not lost to this yet to be 6 year old, back in December…or, in R’s own words “5 and three quarter years old”.

She had found quite a few letters addressed to her, written to her by her “Santa” Didis, under the Christmas tree. The letter’s appearance, as magical as Santa’s very existence, approving of her behavior, reassuring her of her gifts…and even suggesting some more to be added to that annoying Christmas list.  They made were delivered to her before we left for vacation and more waiting for her after we came back, under the Christmas tree.

R had made sure to leave a letter to Santa explaining the missing glass of milk…reassuring him, the cookies had extra milk and cream to make up for the missing glass of milk..

“Mama…I got more gifts from Santa!”

“I had asked for a Barbie..and he did give me it!”, she exclaimed, leaving me to my realization that I’m not done, I still have a few more Barbie years at home to endure.

“Richa..didn’t he know .. u haven’t been a good girl ?!”, I had asked her pretending to be so surprised that she even got a gift.

“I don’t know about that..I got my gifts!!”, she replied swiftly, bouncing away.

They made sure each gift appeared as magically as Dad had made it appear to them when they were 6!!  One day, R came back from school saying…

“ friend K in school says..Santa is not real..she said that Santa is our mommy and daddy, or elder sisters!”

PNK, her elder triplet sisters, got right to work..trying all they could to brainwash her back to Santa-dom.

And the excitement with which they helped R make her birthday wish list…like they are all set with their check books ready to write off any amount for her.

“Mama … get some more boxes ready to fill them up with Barbie s”, N comes back to me saying..”She wants the pool party Barbie now ”

“No! She had wanted a watch and to play musical chairs with her friends”, I exclaimed back.

“I’m sure you asked her if she wanted a Barbie for her birthday?”, I continued trying to decipher what must have happened.

I started to realize the truth a little too late…instead of Richa wanting to play like a 10 year old…her 10 year old triplet sisters now, want to play Barbie and Legos!!

In spite of all this lovey dove show by her sisters, there is no dearth of lone battles that she fights with these 3, 10 year olds…most times trying to convince them that they have been mean to her.  It mostly culminates with her stomping her feet and walking away from ME!! This will just make her stronger..I try to convince myself deciding not to intervene.

Then there are times I see this curious side of R..trying her best to fit in with the world around her. She has had words like multiplication and division thrown at her so many times by her triplet sisters…Its amazing to see this fire of curiosity inside of a child, that age.. No learning seem of limits to these tiny minds.

“So, Multiplication is nothing but addition done so many times?!!”

“and, Division is diving a group into smaller equal ones and see how many groups you can make?!!”, she continues.

“Wow! that’s easy too!”, she remarks and showed off her worksheet to her sisters letting them know, she’s conquered these 2 beasts too!  She even went about creating her own problems…let her sisters know, they can’t just take her for granted. 

Its really wonderful you look at the world from a 6 year old’s eye. Everything seems achievable to them. The hunger to know, the gusto to learn new stuff, to draw monsters and happy families along with those silly stories they write, those wonderful spellings they create, mumbling silly dialogues during pretend plays with their platoon of Barbies, all that inexhaustible energy, it’s a joy to watch and a pain to endure sometimes, when they ask you to participate! 

All that talk about school and her day during bedtime and within the next minute…she’s fast asleep wandering somewhere in dream land…and I just looking at her…this poem ringing in my mind,  the best seller poem

by Maryann K Cusimano

I am your parent you are my child
I am your quiet place, you are my wild
I am your calm face, you are my giggle
I am your wait, you are my wiggle
I am your audience, you are my clown
I am your London Bridge, you are my falling down
I am your Carrot Sticks, you are my licorice
I am your dandelion, you are my first wish
I am your water wings, you are my deep
I am your open arms, you are my running leap
I am your way home, you are my new path
I am your dry towel, you are my wet bath
I am your dinner you are my chocolate cake
I am your bedtime, you are my wide awake
I am your finish line, you are my race
I am your praying hands, you are my saving grace
I am your favorite book, you are my new lines
I am your nightlight, you are my sunshine
I am your lullaby, you are my peek-a-boo
I am your kiss goodnight, you are my I love you

I wish for you my baby, a healthy long life, I wish for you to be go places, to learn from your mistakes and not be afraid of taking chances..and at the same time I wish for myself the courage of the lady “Sally Field”…from Forrest Gump when she says to her son having braces on his legs..

“Don’t let anybody tell you that they are better than you, Son..If god wanted everybody to be the same..we would all have had braces on our legs”.

Here is a birthday video I had created for my child …. I hope you enjoy it.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Getting it right?! How?


I’m sure the past holidays must have been a lot of fun with family and friends and I know how many of you kids may have had a point and shoot camera in your christmas list…other than a PUPPY, ofcourse!! 

Most of you may even have gotten a point and shoot for a christmas gift  cause it was easier for mommy and daddy to get you the point and shoot than a PUPPY!  Yeah…”The real one!” ofcourse. I know, the camera was your second choice.

You must have even started to click at whatever came in front of you…as soon as you got the battery charged and a memory card in place. Trust me..I was no different even when I was big enough to be married and got my first decent point and shoot! Yeah..that was when I got my first decent very own one.

I’m sure all those pictures you clicked during the holidays, will become memories of a lifetime for you. I can so easily see you..running after your cute little cousin as she played with her toys, trying to capture some pictures of her..or of your parents sipping coffee with your aunt and uncle, as they talked early in the morning after you finished unpacking your gifts.

Then you would have immediately hit on the blue “display” button to check out your masterpiece. While some of them might have been nice, for most others, you might have wondered, why, it didn’t look like how you saw with your eyes.  Some of the shots that you had taken were so crisp and clear while most may have been blurred, unclear or dark. WHY?!  you might wonder…why these inconsistencies when you had clicked them all alike.

Well … there are a lot of things that need to come together, for the camera to record what you see. One of the most important, fundamental of them all  is, Light! The word Photograph means “Writing with Light”.  So, light forms the most important part of taking a photograph…next to the fact that you will need a camera to write it with, right?! Smile I’m sure you know that..Silly me!

So, if there isn’t enough light for the camera to see, the camera will not be able to write an image that is clear enough.  Or, was your subject…moving when you clicked?! Maybe that’s why the image was blurred out?!

There are a lot of simple steps you can take to make sure your images are crisp the next time you click. Let me list a few out to you. I am sure … with your curious minds and will venture out to find more stuff on your own. Assuming that you know how to operate your camera..I will start with

1. The first and most important that messes up most of our images is not holding your camera the right way. Hold you camera straight and steady.  Sometimes we are so eager to take the next shot, that we don’t’ wait for the click to complete before we move to click the next subject. This could cause image blurs. Setting up the camera on a tripod will surely help you make clear shots by reducing blurs due to camera shakes and hand shakes. You may find it very restrictive but, hang on..Make sure to use the grid lines, you see on the camera screen or viewfinder, to straighten horizon lines..That way your landscape images are not tilted.  Your horizontal and verticals will stay that way and not become diagonal.

2. Most blurs also happen during the act of pushing on the shutter release button rather violently.  Make sure you tug you elbow into your body to stop that from happening.  And while that is a preventive..we need to learn to click on the shutter release button, very softly so as not to cause the camera to move while clicking. If you are using a DSLR camera, then you have a viewfinder which when pressed against your forehead..helps in reducing camera shakes too. Another way, if you are not using a tripod, use your body as a tripod. Lean it against a pillar or something. It gives you greater stability, thereby, reducing hand shakes, and reducing blurs.

3. Make your scene as simple as possible by DE cluttering. In photography…most times, little is too much. If there are too much stuff in the scene you may appear messy. So, make sure you focus on a particular point/object of interest..either by zooming in or getting closer to the object/subject. If a flower is your subject..make sure you have only your flower in view..If you cannot zoom in, then, get closer to your subject. That way the attention is on the flower and not on other stuff that may cause distraction.  Here is a very nice article for you kids, to help you learn to look at your subject through the camera lens.

4. Hold your tiny camera right, please! Many may have your finger or a unintended shadow show up in your picture because you let your finger hang along the front of the camera lens or flash.  There are sensors and other holes on the front of the camera. If you block those, then either it may limit the lens’s ability to focus right or the flash light will be blocked. So, make sure you hold your camera with your index finger on the “shutter release” button, the thumb at the bottom and rest of the fingers away from the lens and other sensors. If you are using a DSLR camera..make sure you use your right hand to grip the camera, with the index finger on the “click” button, (the shutter release button), and your left hand should hold the lens from under the lens with your index finger and thumb. Make sure you lean your left elbow against your body while you hold that position as this will help you eliminate blurs due to hand shakes.

5. Before you click, you need to identify a point of interest in the picture you want to click.  A photographer is an artist too. The only difference between a photographer and a painter is that the painter starts with the clean slate, while a photographer will look around and compose his picture such that it appears like art.  This is possible only when you can identify and focus on what caught your attention when you decided to click a scene.

6. Read your camera manual thoroughly. Most point and shoots, or DSLRs, get very powerful, if you can use the various modes available to you to control your image. For eg., There are modes in the camera that let you control, where to focus, how much of the image is clear and what is blurred, or help you freeze action in the air. They are called “Aperture” and “Shutter Speed” modes. You can also control white balance and image quality in the menu.

7.  Most cameras have a self timer mode. Its not there just to click your own picture but, helps in case you want to click tack sharp images. The clicking action sometimes could cause inadvertent vibration in the camera. To avoid this, sometimes photographers use the self-timer mode to delay the click so that they are not touching the camera when the click happens, thereby getting virtually no blue due to camera shake during the click.

8. Learn how to focus lock by depressing the shutter release button half way. Most DSLR’s have some thing called focus points. These are the points that are activated when you depress your shutter release button half way.  Some cameras have 5-7 focus points while others can have 51 or even more. Every time you depress the shutter release button half way, a focus point is chosen by the camera, which is usually the point that is right in front. Some cameras are equipped with face recognition and focus on the face that is ahead of the others.  It may take a few focus locks to get your focus on the right spot, on the right face, sometimes.. And when you get it right..continue to hold the shutter button half way down.. and recompose your frame, then click!

9. Practice, Practice and Practice is the only mantra to help understand all that you just read. It’s the only way that will teach you to hold your camera right and click right. The more you use your camera the more you will be able to explore it. In this digital age…its as easy as deleting an image you don’t like and try again to get it right.

10. Try clicking at your subject from various angles.  You may notice what a difference it will make in how you notice things..Try to click from below and above, from far and near. Did you ever think of clicking at a flower from below it?!  Try that..the next time you click at a flower and see the difference in your image. This is the way to get going with composing your scenes.

11. Although you will click at images that that you are interested in..make sure you don’t take 100 images of the flower you see around you and forget your family who came along to see the flower show with you. Or, you are just clicking at your little toddler cousin’s smiles and forget to click at the beautiful scenery around you, during your Vacation trip. That’s not going to help you make memories from the trip..Will it?!

12. Don’t forget to download your images that you want to preserve….to your computer. Very important to name and organize your folders in your computer rightly, otherwise, the next time you remember a picture you had taken a year ago but,  don’t remember where you saved it, or how to retrieve it. Now…that wouldn’t help, would it?!!

This article was just to help you to get started off with exploring your camera and is just a tiny speck in what one can learn about photography.  The modern cameras, it is a wonderful device that helps us make and preserve memories of good times we had with family and friends, and forget the bad.  So why not learn to make those memories beautiful, such that you want to go back again and again to watch them..rather than just see them once and forget about it.