Stop, and say cheese.

To parents and families; a quick question – how many pictures do you take in a month? I want to know because I want to know the severity of my own condition.

In the last seven months I clicked upwards  of 3000 pictures, using both cameras and phones, and that’s after deleting all the blurry and the bad pictures. This is double the amount of pictures from the time my eldest daughter was born. Two kids, twice the amount of pictures- the math fits. I guess I like taking multiple everyday shots of my children – eating, playing , laughing even sleeping and crying- many too cute to delete. You can guess my computer’s hard drives are bursting at the seams with pictures

When I was growing up, (in a lower middle class family and neighborhood in India) one camera film roll had 35 pictures which was to be used very wisely which meant only for special occasions like religious festivals, birthdays, picnics or outings etc…..and very few everyday shots. The Only people who moved around with cameras on them were either journalists or tourists. They were on the look out for moments and places to capture, not us common-folks. For the first two or three years of my life when my parents did not even own a camera, we have only one or two studio pictures to remember what our little family looked like. I am pretty much sure that many families in my neighborhood didn’t even have that. It was time consuming to take a picture- find a place to take a picture, gather the whole family, wait for the right expression. click and then a longer process to develop and wait for the prints and even then there was no telling what surprises lay in wait in the pictures. Copies of the good ones were made to be sent to my two grandmas and to family members who appeared in the said pictures. If you participated in school plays, you had your picture taken. If you got an award, a picture was taken. The more attention you could grab the more pictures you became a part of.

The point is some 25-30 years ago having a picture taken was very special. Equally special at that time was showing the pictures to family members, guests and visitors. May be it was because it was so rare to have a picture taken,and especially because it was so rare. Photographs were taken both as keepsakes and as mementos. To me taking a picture and printing it still feels special. It’s not hard to imagine then, how having a camera on your phone that you carry with you all the time, could escalate the picture-craze (that I have now) and how social media could become a showcase of family pictures.

That begets the second question, who do you share your pictures with? and how?

Social media was great platform for this once but now with the privacy concerns increasing, less and less pictures are shared and because of the inherent filters in some of these sites even less are viewed. Of course  I know no one has time to sift through the dozens of pictures I share and then I come across some blog post about how irritating food/wedding/baby/family cluttering the news-feed are and it makes me cringe. I am guilty of over-sharing. May be even Over-clicking.

Modern devices have made it really easy to take pictures. It does not take much time to take anymore to click and share lots of pictures but that interaction that comes from sharing is definitely lacking. I remember my aunt would complain if my grandma got a picture in the mail but she didn’t. Picture sharing was relational, relatable , it was about family and friends and how well you knew of and about each other.  To that end I feel while sometime pictures are shared on facebook for family in faraway places to see; most of the time they are not addressed to anyone in particular. Nobody is closer or farther, nobody is offended, nobody cares- social media is the great equalizer.

While most of the memories I have of my childhood are from experience, the pictures do their part in reinforcing them. I have a faint memory of walking and talking with my grandpa who passed away when I was five, even though I don’t really remember the exact moment that is captured on film. There are pictures although, especially ones taken when I was a little older,  that I remember about- when and where they were taken who was wielding the camera etc.

I have realized over the years I take pictures primarily for the audience of one – that is Me. Myself. Moi.

I take pictures and I browse through them regularly. Every anniversary or birthday. Now after two kids, there are some pictures which have seen the light of day, out of the hard disk and onto paper and in their scrapbooks. My hope though is that my children will be my future audience. That they will remember the there was an effort that went in -in taking pictures and in looking through them and when the time comes , most likely when my girls are teenagers, the time when they would want to know who they are, where they came from and what they were like ; these pictures will help them to do that and for that reason, I think it is okay to pause and say cheese – one more time!

Phir Milenge!

Champion of 100 ways to ask the question ‘why?’

Last week,  A.Cooper  spoke to a small group of young mothers at our church and in her list of things that moms do was the phrase, ” Champion of 100 ways to answer the question ‘why?’.” I so wish I was that but I have a champion of the other kind in our house – the one who asks the question why.

From a routine good morning to trip to the aquarium can be turned into a series of questions. Here is a sample:

good morning!

-why the morning is good?

because you are with me and I am happy!

-why am I with you?

because you were born to me

-why was I born ?

Now that’s an existential question too hard to answer!

Look a shark ! swimming there.

why the shark is swimming?

because the sharks need to move in the water.

Why? they can’t sit still? their momma will not tell them to sit down?

Of course she is referring to me telling her to stop running around and sit still.

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Before I became a Mom, I thought I would honestly and truthfully answer the questions my pre-schooler posed to me. That I would never give them silly answers or fabricate excuses to avoid their questions. I had had some degree of success with my little nephews and nieces but there were other things at play. I now suspect they quit asking questions out of sheer boredom of my tedious answers or that they got distracted into other games and not because of my answering prowess. I was naive then. Apart from distraction, there is nothing that would satiate the curiosity of a little adult. Every bit of a simplified response can lead to five more questions and kids can be tireless.

I have a love-hate relationship with my daughter’s questions. I love that her mind is curious and she looks to me for answers but sometimes, my answers have to act like conversation-enders which are clues for the kid to stop asking. Here are my top five question-killers and attention deflectors:

5.  I have to find the answer in a book- I use this  when the question is related to any image I can find in a book however remotely related. I have an illustrated dictionary which I often pick up with the thought of finding an illustration about something related to the question. May be the size of the book and the small print will dissuade her from asking more questions. Answer to ‘Why do birds fly?’ can be found in the dictionary or in a story which had one bird illustration. I cross my fingers and hope there would something in there which would capture her imagination and hopefully won’t have questions about. Though I must admit here that I have had lot of fun actually searching for answers with her. looking for best illustrations and explaining them to her.

4. I’ll tell you later- This only works when I am in the middle of some task like cleaning or cooking, not when I am doing other tasks like folding the laundry or doing dishes. My daughter has randomly decided  that some tasks are more important than others. It is a short term fix though because often my daughter remembers her question when I am done with the task at hand.

3. that’s the way things are- this reply works best when questions relate to the natural world or how things were made and I can elude to a factory, a designer and even God for how things came about and function. This has given me some good opportunity to talk about faith, design and intentionality.

2. I don’t know-  This is often coupled with ” you can ask dad when he comes home”. I think this is a last resort of sorts but this has the biggest risk of backfiring. If repeated often the kids would no longer come to you with their questions. I can already imagine my daughter turning this on me in her teenage years. ” you don’t know anything mom!”

1.You’ll understand when you grow bigger.- This was my mother’s go to for difficult questions. She would usually say that even if she answered my question , I would not be able to understand it because it was too big for my brain. She would later also tell me some of the other things I would be able to do when i am bigger like lifting up a bucketful of water or finish a big mango all by myself. This is the best attention deflector for me where I can ask her to tell me what she wants to do when she grows bigger.

There some other responses that I have tried as well. Honest to goodness answers work the best and seeing those tiny lightbulbs going on in our child’s understudying is a feeling unparalleled.

Phir MIlenge!!

 

ROFL. Literally.

Rolling On the Floor laughing. Really. That’s what we did for almost an hour yesterday.

Not rolling on the floor because we were laughing rather laughing because we were rolling on the floor.

My daughter and I .

And the laughter just flowed.

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I don’t remember the last time I rolled on the floor. May be it was some two decades ago.

It just so happened that my 12 weeks old r dozed off in the evening and I had both the opportunity and the energy to play with R. We rolled on the floor together , tried (and failed) to do cart wheels and tried (and failed) to stand on our heads. Amidst the laughter she insisted, ” Mama! Do it again! Do it again !!”

Honestly if you had asked me a year ago, I would have told you that I would never pass up a chance to play with my daughter, that I loved to read/paint/walk/talk with her and that I almost never rushed her. I could not imagine how things will change in a year.

In my instinctive desire to protect the new born and in the midst of the busyness of caring for her, I have been telling R that I could not play with her right now, that she had to wait, that we will do it later and even when we do start something together, we would be interrupted by the cries of a newborn seeking attention/feed/diaper-change. I have been expecting R to understand that suddenly she was a big girl. The truth really is that she is still a little girl- A little girl who has been excited about the arrival of her little sister, who is willing to participate in caring for her and who has a lot of love that she wants to shower on r but does not how.

On the other hand, while I had all the time in the world with the first one, the attention is divided for the little one too. I don’t get enough opportunities to snuggle and stare at this little wonder long enough. There always some chore waiting to be done.

When I sit with r I think of R and vice-versa….. the disposition of the heart is such as to never be completely satisfied. It may read as unfair but it isn’t.I am one of those moms who can take a happy moment and turn it into a guilt trip. Motherhood is hard anyways and honestly no one needs the added burden of guilt with it.

In our little unit of family we are doing life together. We give some and we get some. We are getting older together. R is learning to grow & be a big sister, my husband and I are learning to be parents of two and the little one is learning something new each day. We are learnign to love each other anew. Love is not divided but it is multiplying each day.

Till the time r is old enough to sit with us or participate, R and I will have to steal moments like this and make them our own.

And when we do that I will bring to mind this day of rolling on the floor…laughing…guilt free!

Phir Milenge!

 

Sharing my two cents

Today I posted this image on my Facebook page, the next in my series of Hindi alphabet illustrations for my daughter.

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I am way past the deadline that I had set for myself and still have a dozen or so left waiting to be drawn but I am not ready to call it quits just yet. For those who know me know that I give up easily. Fingers crossed hoping to cross the finish line on this one.

If only I had a penny for every blog post idea that I thought about , began but never completed nor posted, I would at least have 2 dimes. So I thought to myself – why not just share the ideas that popped but never lived to see the light of the day.
This weekend I even thought of taking the easy (easier) route to post pictures of food from our Friday night out. I usually eat the food before I can take a picture of it ( how my artist friends ever sketch and paint their food is incredible,) but this time I remembered and even instagrammed it.

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It was supposed to be a quick costco run and we left the kids at home with my mom. When my husband asked if I wanted to grab a bite, I said yes but I didn’t expect he had a sit down dinner and fancy sushi/shashimi on his mind. An advantage of being married is that no make up is required. I was not dressed fancy, did not need to think about things we could talk about, no heart pounding nervousness there…. We had fun and the conversation just flowed. Given that we take kids everywhere with us , this was a nice evening of just being two of us.

Since spring is really eluding us in our part of the world, I haven’t been able to get out and take pictures in and around the city. Since my 10 week old daughter has not yet settled into a rhythm or routine, I haven’t really tested how much time I can get to do these things when she naps.

Few days ago I also intended to write , rather rant, about a discussion I had with an old friend of mine. I mean we don’t always stand on the same side of the fence when it comes to opinions but this time what my friend said was literally opposed to my core beliefs. I wondered if I even knew her anymore and if it was as easy to un-friend someone in life as it is in Facebook, she would not have known what hit her. But then isn’t this tolerance is about …. the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

On the subject of tolerance, I am noticing a kind of bullying happening on blogs, social media and public forums. It is as if one is being forced to agree and even celebrate and participate in certain kinds of opinion ( without being specific) and if you choose to disagree with the popular ideologies you are labelled as haters. Even if you are only politely disagreeing.

And then there is a whole list of all-time favorite topics of mine- motherhood and my children but they are enough blogs gushing over their children anyways, so I saved you another one.

The political environment in my city and my country of birth(india) also provides a lot of food for thoght but sadly even that failed to get me moving. I could go on and on about things I thought of but never developed enough to write. Over thinking on a particular topic is often as bad as jumping from topic to topic without giving proper consideration to any. The crux of the matter is this- I think it is better to write a few things than to only think of lot of things. Even sharing my undeveloped ideas here helped.

What strategies do you employ to get out of writing blocks?

Phir Milenge!!

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