Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Poetry, dreams and Heek magazine

Back in November, when Max was going through one of her creative poetry bouts, she wrote a poem titled "My dream world". I suspect that her second term exams being just around the corner had something to do with it. Imagine our surprise when this last week, the LW bought the latest issue of Heek magazine and we (Roz, actually) discover that the poem has been published in it. Despite her somewhat obsessive rhyming, Max never ceases to surprise us with her imagination. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
My dream world

The birds soar high
I look up and sigh
Clouds as white as cream
This surely is a dream
It feels good
Like the merry men of Robin Hood
This is my day
Everything bright and gay
I feel the breeze
And let out a soundless sneeze

This truly is my dream world!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

You'll miss all this when they go to college...

Roz and Max finally made it out the front door, after another morning of non-stop excitement before the school bus got here. Only three rounds of "She's wearing my shoes!" "Can anyone help me find my belt?" "Why aren't you wearing your sweater?" were needed before the girls headed out. And this when its only the last week of school and their final exams are underway (it's language today, so much muttering of present tense, feminine gender nouns and verbs was happening throughout the getting-ready phase.) "Why are these clothes lying on the floor?" I hear the LW's voice from the children's bedroom and try hard not to smile as the kids turn around on the stairs to yell back "I love you!"

The LW and I have tried, even without the grandparents helping or providing useful comments, to get the girls into a morning routine (you can see how successful that has been!) - no I don't refer to the screaming we do each morning - "Did you fill your water bottle? Did you pack your lunch box? Do you have money the cafeteria? What about the change for the telephone?" The routine I talk of, begins the previous night with "Do you have everything ready for school?"

You'd think as kids who can narrate every scene in last month's favorite episode of "The Sweet Life of Zack & Cody" or what Aishwarya Rai was wearing in her first scene in Dhoom 2, Roz and Max would remember stuff relating what's needed for school tomorrow. You'd be wrong! After dinner, just as the LW and I are getting ready to sit down to do some reading, Max would remember she needs blue-colored chart paper (of course right after the local stationery store has closed.) Max would discover homework that she should have done, and now she can't go to bed without doing it. And that is on a good evening. Finally the homework is done, promises have been extracted to go to the stationery store in the morning before the school bus gets here at 715AM (the stationer lives behind the store) and admonitions about "make sure your schoolbags are ready, I don't want to hear any whining in the morning about socks, shoes or school badges" made before we get the two of 'em in bed and the lights turned out. Some more "Girls! Quit talking (loud giggles follow) and better get to sleep" on my part results in bouts of silence and usually the LW & I fall asleep I suspect before the girls call it a night!

Despite all the reminders of the previous night, some fairy seems to wipe my children's near term memory banks so that when they wake up, it's usually "I can't find _____" (pick your favorite thing, that they put out last night but now can't find) delivered in that particularly shrill tone intended to set every parental nerve ending quivering. Of course now we have a new parental litany - "Drink your milk," "I thought you polished your shoes last night? Don't just stand there - and while you are at it, polish your sister's shoes as well." "Wear your sweater." Anita Renfroe said it best in her "Mom's song" set to the William Tell Overture


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Eating vegetables - creative ways to get the girls to do it

As every parent, the LW and I wonder how can two kids that are barely two years apart be so different - particularly when it comes to eating their veggies. Roz, is a true south Indian lass, who loves her vatha kuzhumbu and sutta appalaam and eats her veggies, be they ladies fingers (okra for all you yanks!) or bitter gourd. Max on the other hand, seems to have some Italian blood - she could eat pasta every day. Of course every week she claims "I haven't had pizza in months!" Truth to be told in recent times she has discovered a love for Thengai poddi and the LW's rasam but refuses to eat most vegetables, whether done as dry curries or in gravy. And if cooked veggies are hard salads are nearly impossible. So we have gotten to figuring creating ways to dress up the veggies, so that she can consume them with the least amount of drama. Thanks to Hobees restaurant we came up with the Tofu Scramble ala Max. This was one way to get some salad vegetables in to Roz and Max's diets. But clearly I had to expand my repertoire beyond this one dish, its popularity notwithstanding.

Having more-than-2-digits of college years between the LW and myself, we tried to study what both the girls liked - veggie tacos, bean and veggie burritos and California style veg sushi were ever popular favorites with both the girls. Also many mornings there was the challenge of how much new stuff can be cooked and what best to do with leftovers. Thus was born the Kati Roll ala Sri!
Kati Roll ala Sri!

2 wheat rotis or tortillas
¼ cup of yoghurt
2 tblsp of pickles (or a non-sweet pickle of your choice)
¼ green cucumber
1 onion - small

2 tbsp of chutney or thogayil
dry veg curry leftovers (potatoes, cauliflower, beans)


Dice the onions and bell-pepper into small pieces. Warm the rotis or tortillas for 20 secs in the microwave or on a hot griddle. Spread the chutney evenly as you would any spread on the roti/tortilla bread. If you don't have any non-sweet chutney handy you can use a spicy mango or coriander pickle as a spread. Use a teaspoon of yoghurt for each piece of roti/tortilla, and spread it on top of the chutney. A smooth layer of the cool yoghurt and chutney mix should be spread evenly on the bread. About a third in from one edge, put down a spoon of the veg curry as a straight line. Garnish with the diced onion and cucumber on top of the curry.

Now from the edge nearest to your wall of veg, begin rolling the roti/tortilla all the way to the other end, such that a tight wrap is made. Microwave each wrap for 20 seconds, cut diagonally and place the two half rolls on a plate with some ketch up decoration and serve.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Preparing dad for social interactions

This last week, it was my dad's birthday and he happened to be in town visiting my sister and me. Despite his protests my sister decided to host a very small do - with chocolate and another spongy cake. Being a week day, just getting ready meant the Lovely Wife (LW for short) had to pick up Max from her karate class, Roz from her dance class and yours truly dashing home from work. Once all of us were under the same roof critical choices had to be made - who'd wear what (not those shorts! - what happened to your pink shirt?) and whether showers (never quick in our house) would be taken or not. Any outing in our lovely domicile, however brief would put even the shabby prep for the invasion of Iraq to shame. So finally we were ready in a manner of speaking.

As we were about to set out (which meant the LW and I were still chasing the girls to get into their outfits, turn off the lights and quit fighting over which shoes were whose) the girls decided to once again prepare me for what was expected from me - specifically what I should not do or say in public!

"You can't talk about us there!" said Roz. "You always embarrass us, by talking about us," added Max. "You think you are sooo funny, dad!" she continued, "You always promise not to say anything and all you do is talk about us." "You know Max took so looong to get ready, that's why we are late," she mimicked my deep voice.

My usual response, "But I am so proud of you, that's why I talk about you girls!" is always greeted with howls of disbelief. "I am never going out with you if you talk about us again," added Roz in that serious manner of hers. "And don't tell everyone how we told you to not talk about us!" is Max's parting warning, wanting to make sure that I was absolutely clear on the subject.

I remember being the single guy at many parties promising myself that I would never become one of those parents, we all meet, who seemed to have no life of their own. Even after marriage but before LW and I had kids, at get togethers with friends we seemed to run into parents who spoke of nothing but their kids. Certainly going by their conversation these parents had ceased to have a life of their own, even if they had ever had one. Oh cruel world, I have to be honest and admit I am one of those parents now! The LW's natural reticence makes her less likely to have attacks of let-me-tell-you-what-my-kids-just-did or can-you-believe-how-smart-my-kids-are, but I seem to no such difficulty! Roz and Max's admonishments only seem to spur me to even more tales of my kids' exploits and this blog entry is one more instance of it I suspect!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Poets and Poetry

I am not sure when it began or even how it began. While we had done our share of reading poetry with the girls, Daffodils and The Charge of the Light Brigade and even Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead and (my grandfather's and my own favorite) Lochinvar we hadn't tried to write poetry together.

Both Roz and Max have kept diaries (which I am still not permitted to read) from nearly when they first learnt to write. One day they just began writing poems. Max particularly went on a poetry writing spree - so much so, that at times when she was too restive and bugged me, I'd say why don't you write a poem. Of course her response was always "Give me a topic." Having already run through sister, school, trains (we were riding one at that time), I suggested family. And here's the poem she wrote on the fly (no rhyming dictionaries or Google!) - I have tried not to analyze it too deeply. And dear reader I will let you draw your own conclusions.
I think my father's a vampire
’Cause he says he owns an empire
I think my mother's a fairy
But fairies aren't that hairy
I think my uncle's a troll
But he looks more like a mole
I think my aunt's a monster
But she's more like a disaster
I think my grandma's a witch
’Cause she sleeps in a dark ditch
I think my grandpa's a wizard
’Cause he can stop a blizzard
I think my cousin's a sorcerer
But sometimes he's more of a lecturer
I think my brothers a devil
’Cause he says he wants to be a rebel
And me...
you can see
I’m an angel!

Pre-teen vocabulary and parental headbanging!

Embarrassing, mortifying, HATE, nevver - these are words that have not merely gained great frequency but a whole new level of intensity in our household ever since Roz turned twelve. "I hate you dad" is never far from my reality and is usually followed closely by the sound of a (now I know it's sturdy) door banging! And Roz is the angel in our family, at least that's what everyone tells me, despite Max's claim to the title in her poem Family!

You'd think television would have prepared me, with stars from Lizzie McGuire, through That's so Raven to the more recent Hanna Montana being able to articulate Whatever! (also what EVER!) in so many different syllables and tones. But I must admit that I'll probably be runner-up, if not the outright winner, in the Dad-who-doesn't-get-it contest.

Apparently I have a loud voice - which has only gotten louder in my dotage (read after forty) - so constantly my angelic Roz is embarrased or mortified by nearly any statement I make to her at home or in public. It could be "That's a lovely skirt you have on" or "You got something on your chin." Either statement could set her off. She'd go storming away, the lovely wife would, in her more considerate moments be content with rolling her eyes and in less charitable moments have a pungent remark or two to make. It appears I can never do anything right when it comes to my nearly thirteen year old!

Even today, as watch Taare Zameen Par, in the darkened theatre it is okay for her to hold my hand, for me to hug her and lend her the spare hanky, but I had better not act like I know her once the lights come on!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Father of girls - two!

Whenever a new year appears, which seems to do so with ever increasing frequency, I have argued that it is just another day. Albeit, one in which we seem intent on making new resolutions and some of us go so far as to actually take stock of our lives! This year I half-heartedly fought the urge to make resolutions. However, by the time my birthday rolled around (yes, today), I realized that I had made a couple of resolutions. Worse yet, I am getting ready to commit them to writing, and at that in public. The two resolutions I am willing to admit having made, is to get my personal blog, fatherofgirls-two (fog-2) of the ground and try and get the first draft of the book I have been threatening to write for some n years done. There I have not just said it but written it down as well. I look to you reader (I don't refer to my lovely wife alone here) and any other accidental visitor, friends and assorted well-wishers to keep me honest.

A little background on the motivation behind this blog - my daughters who are aged 12.75 (going on 16?) and nearly 10 have over time made me realize what a lucky person I am. I find myself enthusiastically pumping hands and thumping backs of other dads who have just had girls (not just you Kausik, Mayank and Selva) and giving pitying glances to those fathers of boys - one or more (fob-1+) at what they are missing out. Of course all the fob1+ I have met, tell me girls are easy when they are not yet teens, but boys are a lot easier when they get to be older than twelve. I'd like to say that I have stayed above the fray in such petty squabbles but that would be lying (Resolution #1, 2001 I shall not lie (needlessly?)).

Better writers than I, from the comic (Erma Bombeck, Bill Cosby) to the serious (Anne Lamott) and the Page 3 set (Shoba De have dealt with children and the joys and travails of parenting; but why should that keep me from talking about my sweeties and how they are bringing me up.

Sweet as my girls are, breakfast especially on a school day is a big challenge. When Max wants cereal, Roz, my older one, wants a cooked breakfast. As both the girls have to make it the school bus stop by 720AM, every day is a challenge. LW's answer to this has been French toast and my own concoction has been a mean tofu scramble. Now for having gotten this far, I will share an original fog-2 recipe -Italian Tofu scramble ala Max (named after my little one).

Italian Tofu scramble ala Max!

1 small onion
1 small bell-pepper (green)
2 slices of whole wheat bread
¼ kg tofu - firm

2 tsps olive oil
4 tsps soy sauce
2 tsps Italian Seasoning
- could include some or all of
Basil, Oregano, Pepper, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme

Chop the onions into small pieces. Dice the bell-pepper, bread slices and tofu into small cubes.

Pour two teaspoons of olive oil into a small saucepan and heat over a small flame. Add the seasoning and as the oil warms up, add the chopped onions. Before the onions begin to blush, add the diced bread crumbs. A wooden spatula to keep the whole mixture stirred would be a good idea. Gently stir till the bread crumbs are coated with seasoning.

Add the chopped bell-pepper and the soy sauce and continue stirring. Finally add the tofu and mix it well over a low flame for 3 minutes. Turn the stove off, keep covered for five minutes and you are ready to serve.