Between the Lines

It’s 7am. Leila follows me into the bathroom. I notice her reflection in the mirror – fiddling with the drawers that store extra towels – as I brush my teeth. She’s not really interested in the drawer handles or contents.

She’s working on something else.

“Rawul did it!” she says over and over.

Every time she says his name, her lips take on a life of their own. She’s focused. It’s 4 or 5 more rehearsals before I stop her; ask what it is that he did.

She grins; laughs with gleaming eyes. Her cute as crazy cheeks look up at me. I cup them in my palms and kiss her.

I wonder if she’s imitating me, or if she came up with that line on her own. And to what end.

She says it again, intonating every syllable with assertion.

Some Music for the Birthday Girl

My little cousin turned 23 yesterday. Here are a couple of YouTube videos (that’s I’m accessing via the proxy server),for you Saloni.

The first is a Talvin Singh electronic piece, Jaan, with beautiful vocals. I travel through enchanted worlds of love when I listen to it. I discovered it in 1998; when I was in Chennai taking dance lessons.

And the second is a TV5 show, again of Talvin Singh, but this time improvising with Angelique Kidjo. I found it today on YouTube, randomly.

Jaan because of Chennai, electronic music, and the vocals. And then, the Angelique Kidjo one because you know, strong female African performer!

Hope you enjoy it.

http://onolisa.tumblr.com Saloni’s blog: Everytime I visit, I dream big, I travel far, I’m beautiful inside and out, I’m hip, alive, and connected.

It’s no small feat, not only to be all that, but also to inspire those around you to feel it!

Thanks

Pancakes, Chocolate Milk, and an Award.

I got an award. The Versatile Blogger Award. The last time I was awarded anything I was 16. So man was I shocked, and ecstatic! And it’s for my blogging. I only started doing this a few months ago. I’m a novice. It’s encouraging to know that someone is reading this stuff though, and even liking it.

The blogger who awarded it to me, whose blog, The Valentine 4 you have to check out, is a good, spirited writer. I stumbled upon it from a comment she made at another blog I was reading. I was immediately hooked to her strong, sensitive, and honest, writing style. So I subscribed.

She has two children, runs a household, runs a home daycare, runs races as a triathlete, does yoga, reads, writes both thought-provoking and thoughtful posts…Wow!

So back to the award. I told M immediately. I smiled, and thought of cart-wheeling, jumping up and down, and running around the house. Maybe I should have, but that morning R and L were doing enough damage.

The chocolate milk that was accidentally knocked off the table turned into on-purpose spilling. I cleaned it up while discussing the Zambian elections with my parents on Skype. Every time they said anything L sang a loud song in my ears.

I was also chatting with a friend in NY. He still had a few more hours in the evening to go, while we had just woken up. I grew up hanging out with him, in Zambia. He hoped the democratic process would win. In other news, he told me that a mutual friend and his wife would have twins soon. I was even more excited. R tapped the keyboard. Strange boxes appeared on the screen.

The computer crashed.

I was clearly trying too hard. And the whining and crying that went on a lot of the night, was worse. It was getting to me.

What we all needed was Savasana.

I walked into the kitchen where M was making pancakes. “I can’t handle it today. I’m going crazy….” I said this to him, almost shaking.

Our ayi (nanny) walked into the apartment at the same time.

“What do you want to do?” he asked.

“My Pranayama.” I replied.

“Ask xiao He (ayi) to give them a bath. Do your Pranayama in the spare room. Close the door. I’ll take them out for a walk,” he replied.

I was proud of myself for talking to him right then. For asking for help. Grateful for his response.

As I was doing my breath-work practice, R burst into the room naked from his bath. I froze. I didn’t want to erupt, not again today. Not now.

He gave me a sweet, long hug.

I melted.

Maher walked in, asked Rahul if he wanted to make R, L, and N shaped pancakes with him. Rahul rushed out of the room.

—-

A few days on, a little more calm, probably just because I’m the only one up in the house at this hour, I’m showing off my award!

The “award rules” state: Thank and link the blogger who awarded it to you. State 7 random things about yourself. Award it to 15 newly discovered blogs you enjoy. And let them know.

Here are my 7 things:

1. I used to be a classical Indian Bharatanatyam dancer. I went to Chennai, India right after high school for a three-month stint at a renowned dance school. I Chose to go to uni in Canada instead of continuing seriously with dance.

2. I was at an all girls dorm for my first year in uni. I was scared shit-less because it was the first time I would have to “deal” with girls. I have two brothers, a male cousin I used to hang out with, and mainly guy friends. Despite listening to the other girls on my floor whining about their boyfriend issues, and to my screaming neighbour if anyone woke her up after she went to bed at 8pm, she and others became some of my closest friends.

3. The last time I went “home,” to Zambia, was over 8 years ago.

4. I started to drive when I was 15 My brothers were even younger. I stopped at 17, when I left Zambia. I’ve changed many wheels, and fixed other basic car stuff. Now I don’t can’t drive or do any car related things.

5. I’ve bungee jumped off a 110m high bridge in Livingstone, and jumped out of a plane. With a parachute! And an experienced teacher.

6. I saw a psychic in Calgary.

7. I was under 5 years old when the car my dad was driving in the middle of the night, at high-speed, on an unlit highway from Lusaka to Livingstone over-turned. I was in the back seat. A family friend was next to my dad. I don’t know if I had my seat belt on. None of us were hurt.

And now, finally to the best part. Here are the 15 bloggers who get The Versatility Award:

OnoLisa
Tuesday2
Hedvig’s Permaculture Adventures

Momma Be Thy Name

Seana Smith
Peaches and Curry

Balance Yoga Wellness
Pakistani Ashtangi

Culinary Adventures


The next two are young cousins of mine who trusted me enough to start blogs!

Anu Madrid
Catawampus Kid

The next four are twin mum blogs that I have only occasionally dipped into, either because I have very recently discovered them, have two toddlers running around all day and up often at night, or because of the internet censorship with certain blog carriers like blogspot here in China.

Goddess in Progress
Double the Fun

Life Not Finished
Little Grovers

Thanks for reading, taking the time to comment and discuss, even like posts on my blog.

If you’re on this list, pass on the love.

Dragon and Phoenix Twins

“Are they Dragon Phoenix Twins?”  I am asked every day, everywhere, and by everyone around me in Chengdu. “Yes, they are,” I reply.

“Waaaaa” they exclaim with glee, and huge smiles, “You are very lucky. How happy you must be.”

Twins generate as much or dare I say more excitement here in China as anywhere else; in particular, the Dragon / Phoenix (boy/girl) combination. The ancient Chinese emperor was symbolised by a Dragon, and his wife by a Phoenix. And since, boy / girl twins have the honour of being called the Dragon and the Phoenix, they are associated with being at the top of the hierarchy, the best outcome possible, and so the highest blessing.

Total strangers seem genuinely happy for me, and always remind me of the gift of having them. They smile, caress the children, and try to carry them. Almost without fail I am told: “how cute, what curly hair, and big eyes they have.”  This line sometimes reminds me of the scene where the wolf pretends he is Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.

But I have yet to come across someone who is envious or jealous. This is amazing considering the one-child policy in China.

Quite the opposite in fact. People here associate twins with joy and luck to such a degree that almost no one seems to realise that at times raising two same-age babies can be tricky and tiring.

Our ayi (nanny ) once asked, “Isn’t it strange that out of all the people who stop to talk to you and the children, no one ever mentions how much work it must be to take care of them?!” This came up on a day when both L and R were sick and in need of extra attention. M was out of town for work.  Our ayi and I were exhausted and had to laugh at that thought.

Only once, a mum playing with her two year old son in the kids area of a neighbouring housing complex asked if I wasn’t exhausted taking care of two. Almost immediately the three mums around us responded for me: “It’s pure joy to have two, and especially if they are a Dragon and a Phoenix.”

Had my Chinese been better, I would have answered myself: True I complain at times because I am tired from lack of sleep, or irritated by L and R’s constant hair pulling, biting, snatching… But man am I happy to have my Dragon and Phoenix.

Raksha bandan – our version

L and R pick out their outfits

Frist Leila gets a rakhi!

L ties a rakhi around R's wrist

R hugs L

They snack.. at one point R feeds L a piece of banana.

L chills out

R styles it up

Wormwood Scrubs Park

A bright London day at Wormwood Scrubs Park. Maher often runs there when he is in London. We went with a couple of my close girl friends and an uncle. The endless grassy space mesmerized me. The four of us ran around and spun circles. R learned how to roll in the grass. The colorful wild flowers were pretty. L was attracted to them. An unforgettable afternoon in June.

One-and-a-half

R and L are now officially a year and a half. Their love for music and dance is growing with them. R has a very cute new dance move. He shakes his head and shoulders very fast and then swings his arms around freely. Leila does cha-cha-cha type steps around the house. She also goes down down down and then up up up.

When the moment and music inspires them, they hold hands and look into each others eyes. Their smiles are contagious. They make each other laugh. The couples dance turns into a bear hug. Then there is hair-pulling, screaming, and crying. An adult intervenes. We pull them apart and ask them to be gentle. Sometimes there is a make-up stroke through the others hair, or a peck on the cheek. Other times there is no reaction. This is sort of how our days go – the activity might be different, the fun, laughter, drama, and crying always there.

So what has changed for US?

-We haven’t read anything longer than a few pages on a computer screen in a while.

– We only watch animated movies.

-I hum nursery rhymes all day long, even after R and L are asleep.

-Maher plays children’s tunes on his classical flute. He did take it out of its case after many years though.

-We eat overcooked, car and plane shaped pasta. The big secret we are keeping from the Lebanese family and friends is dinner is at six-thirty pm now.

-My brothers and guy cousins are jealous of my big shoulders and biceps. When I was pregnant a friend with twin sisters told me his mum developed strong arms. I looked at him strangely. Now I understand.

-Maher’s practice takes even longer than it used to. The little yogis don’t miss their chance to practice with and even force feed him.

Now that L and R are eighteen months old they will sleep soundly through the night, eat heartily, drink out of cups, and play calmly with each other. No, but one Mum of Twins (MoT) blogged how things lightened up for her at one-and-a-half. So hey, some positive thinking and hoping can’t hurt!

Restorative day

With slight fever, a head ache, and general fatigue my first thought is “rest day”. That is with respect to asana of course. A typical Ashtanga practice is out of the question the way I am feeling. My muscles and joints feel like they have sat through a ten-hour flight. It’s a holiday weekend so there is no help from the ayi. L, R, and M are all a bit sick too. The children need to eat and have their diapers changed regardless of my dull aches and malaise. There is a feeling of stagnation, as though prana isn’t getting to the extremities, heels, arches, fingers, knuckles…(I think I developed plantar fasciitis, same as Nanu and mum, after the bed rest and immense weight gain during pregnancy) The practice has kept it at bay so far. So a rest day, and there have been a few too many in the last two weeks doesn’t seem to be the best solution.

A twenty to thirty minute restorative session is. Long and gentle breathing. One to three minutes in each position. Sun salutations or not, (today is not), any “lunge” types asanas, kneeling postures especially with the toes curled under, a long down dog, child’s pose, pigeon, relaxed baddha konasana including while on the back, a gentle supine twist on both sides, and whatever else comes up along the way. Some viparita karani or legs up the wall. A nice long savasana.

Such a short and simple session can be balancing and invigorating. I seem to have some life in my arches and toes again. Headache all gone.

Me…start a blog?

Over the last two years my world has revolved around taking care of Leila and Rahul, my almost year-and-a-half twins. So to start a blog now, seems a bit strange. What could I possibly have to say? I don’t know which regimes are being toppled over, I haven’t seen photos of the effects of the recent earthquake in Japan, I don’t know what yoga workshops are on in the region, don’t know if Federer is still kicking ass, or who presented at the Chengdu Bookworm literary festival; or anything for that matter. Outrageous, I know.
Only a few years earlier I didn’t even know what a blog was until friends in Chengdu complained that they couldn’t access blogspot. Facebook, YouTube, and a number of blogging sites can’t be accessed in China.
After some complications in my pregnancy while in China, I ended up spending 4 months in bed including 7 weeks in hospital, split into 4 different hospital stays.
A number of foreign doctors here, in Shanghai, and Beijing recommended that we leave for the birth, due to the high risk of going into preterm labour and possible lack of high level care for premature babies.
So went to Hong Kong at 26 weeks gestation. L and R came at 31 weeks, and were cared for at the Queen Mary NICU.
The bed-rest, high-speed internet and open access to all sites meant lots of time on the internet, and my initiation to blogs. But it was only when L and R were five-months-old, after my mum who had spent 9 months with me left, and both of those things coincided with our return to Chengdu that I really got into it.
I came upon some blogs that MoT’s wrote. For the first time in a long time I felt like I could relate. They wrote how exhausted they were, how they only bathed their babies a couple of times a week, rarely dressed them in anything other than pyjamas. I didn’t feel as guilty anymore that L and R didn’t go out everyday. They weren’t the only ones. To have them both ready to go out meant nappies changed, both well fed, not too tired, and a big diaper bag full of provisions.
I remember a post by a father of twins about how his two-year-old girls were finally sleeping through the night, most of the time, anyways. So my two waking up a few times each and every night means I can still be considered in the norm.
One mum wrote about her birth story; similar to mine – it included flights, hospital stays for both mum and babies, pumping pumping pumping, stress, fear, pain, relief.
Then there was one couple that blogged about their micro preemie twins birth, NICU stay including all the medical details, the obsession with weight gain, the monitors, breathing, digestion, good days, bad days. It wasn’t the most fun blog I ever read. They were born much earlier than L and R, but I could relate to much of it and realised that I would have to deal with this part of R and L, and in fact all of four of our lives one day, and to be at peace with it somehow.
Reading these stories was like holding a mirror out in front of me. a way to see what we had been through, a way to realize we were not alone – and importantly to let go of it.
There were honest, touching posts as well like the one HDYDI MoT, rebecca, who wrote One Baby Envy ( http://hdydi.com/2008/03/02/one-baby-envy/ ). Others complained about the silly questions (  http://multiples.about.com/od/familyissues/tp/aatpquestions.htm) they got when they took their twins out. If I get started on the questions and comments I got in Chengdu it would never end.
Sometimes the comments were funny – MoM’s bitching about how J Lo (on the cover of People Magazine March 2008) could possibly look as perfect so soon after she had her twins.
I related to these parents and it helped with the isolation I sometimes felt being in China without my family and with no experience with babies whatsoever. Neither of my brothers or brothers-in-law have children. One of my childhood friends has a son in Zambia who I haven’t yet met. I had held one of my friend’s tiny babies in Lebanon a couple of times last year feeling clumsy and incapable all the time. So yes, I had that experience.
I had a few parenting books. They only briefly covered twins if at all.
But, we were together again, the four of us in Chengdu. That was our main source of strength. I had help from people here. L and R ‘s nanny or “ayi” meaning aunty as she is called endearingly is a superwoman, a great source of real support and help.
A friend as close as I imagine a sister to be was strong and present when I needed her most.
Another friend lent me lifesaving books at every stage along the way. And there were many others who made up my “village”, both in real life and in my blog life. The crazy thing now is that sometimes my kids both sleep for a few hours at the same time, but silly me stays up to blog.
In addition to relating to other mums and dads on blogs, I found tips, such as this post ( http://hdydi.com/2008/04/05/product-review-double-strollers/) that gives advice about choosing a double stroller that works for you depending on it’s use, tips like store big quantities of diapers, wet -wipes, food etc. so you don’t need to go out to the stores until really necessary. Obvious, but hey at least I don’t feel crazy when I walk into my pantry and see the hoarding.
There were videos of calm mums simultaneously feeding their babies. R and L were rarely on the same schedule, so it didn’t apply, but still nice to see how others do it.
So even though I live in this tiny world of eating, playing, bathing, trying to schedule, exploring and sleepless nights, I feel like I am above water, some of time at least.
So now I have the occasion to share my own stories and maybe get some interaction going. Perhaps a new mum, even a MoT will come across it and feel she can relate, find some useful information, or just have a laugh. I would be glad to contribute to that somehow.
These are stories for R and L to read one day if they want to. And if nothing else a way for friends and family to keep up with our lives in China, or wherever.
The other day I read a blog about the therapeutic effects of blogging. That did it for me, a few minutes later I signed up! Not really, but it made me realise that every time I put down my thoughts they rarely came out negative or depressive, but rather I manage to find the “funny” in things, now that I am not sinking all the time, of course.
It reminded me of a phrase from a song my dad often used to say to his not so smiley teenage daughter, “When you smile the whole world smiles with you. When you cry, you cry alone.”