The Very Ravi Caterpillar

The Very Ravi Caterpillar

The Very Ravi Caterpillar

Ravi has a couple of books that he used to love as a toddler and one of them is “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. It tells the story of how a very hungry caterpillar ate lots of food over a week and then turned into a butterfly. We have it in the board book format with little cut outs for where the caterpillar eats through different foods each day. It’s a very cute book and little kids love it. But it really is meant for a one or two year old and as Ravi got older we read it to him less and less. We now read this book to Max on a regular basis and, for awhile, Ravi wasn’t interested in it at all.

But that’s before daddy started to play around with the books. It all started with a different book of his- Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit. This is another great children’s book for an older audience (3 and up) and I had been reading it too him for a couple of months now. One night I could see that Ravi was enjoying the book, but his attention was also wandering. He was still sitting in my lap with the book in front of both of us, but he was looking around the room, seeing what Max and Mommy were up to, and, in general, half listening half goofing off. So I decided to play a mean trick on him. Near the end of the book where Randy was supposed to make the big hit, I decided to instead change the story… ‘and Randy’s Robot got ready to hit the meteor and oops, he missed! The town went up in smoke and all the people had to move. The End.’

Ravi didn’t say anything. He looked a bit weirded out. What just happened? Slowly his jaw started to drop… Before he could fully react, Mom stepped in. “Hey what just happened? That’s not how the story is supposed to go. Is your Dad playing games? Let’s hear the right story.” Mom was a bit miffed at me for changing the story on Ravi. She thought I was being mean to him. At that point I started to laugh and apologize for my trick. ‘I’m sorry I changed the story. Please forgive me. etc.’ But instead of getting mad, Ravi started to laugh. He got the joke. He was like- Mommy the story’s different, and Randy missed. That was hilarious. Ravi never knew that it could be different. And unlike earlier, I had his full attention. ‘Daddy do another story…’ So what book to do next? At that point, I spotted The Very Hungry Caterpillar book. I decided to re-invent the story with this one.

‘Let me tell you the story of the Very Ravi Caterpillar!’ Now I had his full attention. Not only was he going to get a brand new book, but he was going to get a book about him! Wow! ‘Yeah Daddy tell me about the Ravi Caterpillar!’ So we started out the same, but when we got to the food things got interesting.

Just to give you a bit of background, our kids are on the skinny side. And not just a little skinny, but very skinny. Mommy is always trying to find great meals for them to eat so that they can get fatter and not be so low on height/weight charts. Meal times in our house are a bit of an effort. We have to force the kids to eat a balanced healthy meal and they sometimes resent us for it.

So how does this affect the Ravi Caterpillar? Well let’s just say that he’s not a really hungry caterpillar, but more of a picky eater. When we got to each food, I’d say that the Ravi caterpillar would or wouldn’t eat that, or I’d ask him would you eat that? And the Ravi Caterpillar only ate the cake, the chocolate, the ice cream and lollipop, while skipping out on the fruits and other unappetizing vegetable options. He’d only eat two of the three peaches and skip out on plums all together. The funniest thing is that Ravi and I would play around in saying yes to this food and no to that food for the whole story. At the end of the story, the Very Ravi Caterpillar didn’t turn into a butterfly and stayed a caterpillar because he wasn’t fat at all… The End. Ravi’s reaction was wow. He loved the book. He loved being the center of the story and deciding what to eat and what not to eat. He thought it was all a big joke and loads of fun. Ravi and I had played our game, messing around and changing stuff and making fun of the whole magical story.

Catepillar food

Will The Very Ravi Caterpillar eat his food today?

And in my opinion, that is still magical. Ravi, I love your curiosity and penchant for changing things and creating new and different things. Right now it’s all about the poopy and pee jokes, but that will mature. And hopefully, when you’re much older, you’ll still have the ability to look at things differently and change them. Because deep down that will help you to stay young forever.





Ravi, please remember all our fun times together.

Ravi’s Favorite Books at Two Years of Age

When my nieces were little, I used to ask my sister what I should get them for their birthdays or holidays, and most every time she answered: books.  Needless to say, they got lots of children books. Additionally, my sister takes them to the local library regularly.  No wonder my older niece, Do, reads every night before she sleeps just like my sister and I used to do; my younger niece, Jo, has reading ability way surpassed her grade level.  I am so very proud of them, and would like to think that I contributed in a small way with some of the book I got them.

I wanted Ravi to be a reader too, so I started reading to him when he was just a few months old.  But he never showed any interest before one.  Sometimes I get lucky and he would let me read couple of pages, but his impatience would kick and turns around to find other things to amuse himself with.  I loss hope for a while and stop reading to him for a few months.  When we visited my sister’s family in Albany last year, she gave us dozens of toddler books from Do and Jo’s library.  We were so excited and encouraged to pick up reading to Ravi again.  Slowly from 18 months on, Ravi started to show interest in reading.  Finally by 2 years of age, he would demand to be read to regularly.

Mario and I take turns to read to Ravi.  There are some books that we love as adults and some Ravi loves.  Out of the dozens we have, here’s the top 8 ranked in order of how much all of us enjoy them.

1.  “One Hungry Monster”, by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe.  This is one book that all three of us enjoy tremendously.  The story is in rhymes and counts from one to ten.  It is well written, and the pictures are fantastic.  Overall, it is just the cutest book ever.  For a span of  a couple of months, we read this book every night!

2.  “The Day The Babies Crawled Away“, Peggy Rathmann.  Mario and I fell in love with this book the first time we read it!  It took a while for Ravi to like it since there are quit a few words in it.  Graphic and story are both are great.  It is probably more of a three year old book rather than a two year old book.

3.  “Olivia Saves the Circus“, by Ian Falconer.  I got to be honest, none of us liked this book the first time we read it.  But more and more it grew on us.  Now we think it is the cutest book ever!  Ravi requests to have it read to him all the time and Mario loves to act out and exaggerate the voices when he reads it.  We even started to watch Olivia on TV.  Fun, fun, fun!

4.  “Knuffle Bunny“, by Mo Willems.  This is a story about Trixie and his security bunny, Knuffle.  Ravi loves reading this one.  Story is simply, graphic is innovative, lots of fun for everyone.

5.  “Knuffle Bunny Too“, by Mo Willems.  This story is about Trixie and Knuffle Bunny a few years later.  I thought the original was going to be hard to beat, but this one definitely hold its own.  It maintained its edge and story is still new and fun.

6.  “ABC“, by Dr. Seuss’s.  We actually have both the cardboard and hardcover copies.  Ravi loves the inside covers with alphabets all over the place.  We would generally begin or/and end the book by singing the ABC song at least once.

7.  “Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now!”  by Dr. Seuss’s.  I contribute Ravi’s new angry phrase: “you, get out!” from this book…  But I do like this book myself and I always act out the words when I read it to Ravi.

8.  “Hop on Pop“, by Dr. Seuss’s.  This book seemed to be Ravi and Mario’s favorite book to read together.  Ravi rarely asks me to read it to him.

Since we moved we haven’t been very disciplined in reading every night.  But we are now getting back into the habit.  Reading time is our family time where we all laugh and cuddle together.  It is as fun for me and Mario as it is for Ravi.  We all look forward to it everyday.  I hope you all like our book choices too.



I don’t believe in buying lots of toys for my child, nor being obligated to buy presents on birthdays or major holidays.  I know that I can be a tight wad sometimes, but in this case I feel good about my policy.  The pressure of getting gifts for a specific occasion is not an efficient way of spending money, nor is it reasonable to defer an important purchase till the arrival of a special day.  I have no problems buying Ravi anything he really needs independent of time and price, as long as the needs are real and justified.  Besides, Ravi has been getting lots of great gifts and hand-me-downs from family and friends, so there’s really no reason to buy any more toys ourselves.

That being said, Ravi is not very addicted to actual toys.  He much prefers to play with random things he finds at home.  He’s favorites are bottles and smaller objects he can fit into a bottle.  He would open and close the bottles like hundred times, pretend to drink or pour from it, drop items into it and take them out, put cap on and rattle it…etc.  The fun is endless.  The latest new “toy” he found is straws.


Ravi's Straws


A while back we bought a pack of colored straws for $2 from a local store.   One day Ravi opened the drawer where the straws were kept and pour half of the bag onto the floor.  Instead of getting mad at him, we picked them up one by one and practiced identifying colors together.  He was fascinated and particularly fond of the orange ones.  From that day on, he played with the straws every night.  Mario even donated his fancy pencil holder for the cause, so now when we clean up we put all the straws in it and display them on the shelf.


Ravi picking up the orange color straws from the pile

I was amazed that the $1 worth of straws can get so much play time.  I definitely would not buy another toy if I can find more of these great toys around the house.



Lego Pyramids with Personalities

Ravi and I love to play with his box of legos. He’s had them for awhile, but only recently has he been able to put them together. Before he learned how to put them together, he was only able to take legos apart. Typically, I would build stuff out of legos and Ravi would take my creations apart piece by piece until they were no more gleefully waiting for me to build something else for him to destroy.  A couple of days ago, I was in one of my weird moods and tasked with building lego creations, while Ravi was preoccupied with something else. ( I think it was his cars) Either way, I had a theme. My theme was Pyramids!!! But these weren’t just your basic pyramids! Heck no, I started building representative pyramids of myself and some of my close friends. Imagine the pharaoh of the land orders a pyramid to be built in his honor and commissions his engineers to build one. Since the engineers have never built a pyramid, they ask him what a pyramid is and he describes it to them. The finished pyramids are shown below:

I initially started with the multi-color one on the right. This pyramid was mine! It’s basically a boring exact monotonous representation of what a pyramid was, is, and should be. A pretty bland and feature-less replica, that while exactly correct, isn’t anything different or new. My wife always tells me that I’m a pretty boring person and so was my pyramid.

The all yellow one on the right is my wife! My wife is the cost cutting, hard-bargaining, no-holds barred person that will fight for a deal no matter the cost. (She should tell you the story of how she fought for a discount on our wood flooring! Bargaining while being pregnant and with a toddler limited her to only a 15% discount on the list price!) So when the pharaoh tells her to build a pyramid, and gives her a strict budget (like less than 15 blocks), she goes at it with gusto- cutting costs and trimming expenses! In building her pyramid she decided to trim dimensions!!! Why build a three-dimensional standard model when a newly designed two-dimensional one will do just as well and at a fraction of the blocks used!!! Way to save dear!

The next one on the list is the green one in the far right corner. I have a close friend of mine who is hyper-competitive. And when I mean hyper-competitive I really really mean hyper-competitive. His favorite past time (if you consider the amount of time spent) is arguing. No matter what you’re talking about or his level of experience, he’s got an opinion and gosh darnit, it’s the right one!! If you disagree, he’s happy to spend the next few hours convincing you (usually through sheer fatigue) that he’s right and you’re wrong. So he decided to build a pyramid as well as my wife’s, but only taller! It is kinda hard to tell, but his is the tallest and, therefore, gives him bragging rights. Naturally his is the best and, if you’re not convinced, he has the time to convince you!!

The next one on the list is the inverse pyramid in the back. This is another close friend of mine who happens to be severely dyslexic. If you put more than five letters together to form a word, chances are he can’t spell it. If the word is six letters long it’s almost guaranteed. His severe dyslexia has caused problems for him in the past, but isn’t that much of a hindrance now that he has a laptop. It automatically spells for him and now he doesn’t mess up. Before he got his laptop, he would always tells us of stories about how some high school (middle school, heck any school) teacher would give him an assignment in the middle of class that you would have to write down and then go do. Which he could never do very well because he would always misspell one (or two) crucial words and totally misinterpret the assignment and do it wrongly. I can totally imagine the pharaoh telling him that he needs  to build a pyramid  and what a pyramid is, but, tragically, my friend writes down the wrong instructions and builds an inverse pyramid!!!

Finally, the weird one with the white domes in the front is my son’s. His looks nothing like a pyramid, because who really wants to build a pyramid anyway! He’s much more interested in doing something so totally weird or different that you wonder what world he grew up on or what his parents taught him!!! (Shame on me and my wife!) The last time we took him to the playground all he wanted to do was climb up the slides and walk down the stairs. Sure you could go down the slides, but for him it was much more fun to climb up them. Or have daddy help him climb up the monkey bars!!! When we went to the park for a walk the first time and he encountered a hill, he decided to go up the hill backwards (naturally). That’s why he built such a weird pyramid!


Ravi’s Stool

During last weekend’s shopping trip, I bought a small red plastic stool ($3) for Ravi’s 23rd month birthday.  It was not a conventional gift, but he enjoyed it tremendously.  Even though I bought it, I didn’t quite support Ravi’s potential uses for it.  As we have previously mentioned, Ravi loves high and dangerous places, and he especially loves to play with water.  But being too short to reach most dangerous things, he usually have to rely on adults to get him there, which means he doesn’t necessarily get to do the dangerous things that he wanted to under supervision.  The stool is the perfect solution for him.  It is small and light enough for him to carry around, short enough for him to step up onto easily, and it gets him to just enough height so he can reach some of his favorite things, like faucets in the bathrooms.  This is why I have to watch him all the time.  If I let him wonder off by himself, there’s a high probability that he’s up to no good, like opening cabinets full of china or toppling over a fancy vase or something at grandparents’ place.  What’s great about living in a dump of an apartment is that I don’t have to worry about him breaking anything.  We don’t have anything worth worrying about.  That’s the only thing I will miss about our little apartment when we move out.

Last Sunday, after Ravi had already played with his new red stool for the entire night, I let him out to the backyard to do more damage.  At some point, he picked up grandma’s stool and headed for one spot that he has been wanting to get to for a long time…

Ravi carrying grandma's outdoor stool.

The lemon tree.  He had watched me hopping up onto that high side of the garden to pick lemons, and he always wanted to come along.  We let him up couple of times but he always ended up doing something really dangerous and his daddy banned him from going there again.  I guess ever since then he’s been plotting on getting back up there again.  This little stool gave him just enough height to reach some of the fruits, but not tall enough to allow him to crawl up.  At least he’s much closer to his goal.  So Ravi stood like that for while, probably thinking and plotting, and imaging how it would be when he can finally get up there again.

Ravi putting the stool to good use.

I think I am okay with my choice of present.


Eggs Toys

My sister always pick really cool gifts for Ravi, it must have something to do with her years of experience being a great mom!  In a sense, she opened a door into the world of exotic toys from all over the world for us.  I love her different point of view and enjoyed playing with every single toy she sent to us.

Last Christmas she gave Ravi a set of toy Eggs (International Playthings Hide’N Squeak Eggs, aka Tomy Eggs), which I’ve found extremely fascinating.  The toy itself is rated for age twelve months and up.  It is extremely cute to look at and is more complex than what meets the eye.  There are so many features that can be explored as the child grows from infant to toddler, and even to a pre-schooler.  And what surprised me the most was the price.  It ranged from $12 to $15 at different stores. At one point, it was $9.99 on Amazon, but that didn’t last long.  To me, the quality and fun factor really worth lot more than it is priced.

When you first open the yellow box, you find six little eggs each with a different little face on it.

International Playthings Hide'N Squeak Eggs

Once you open the each egg, surprise, there’s a little chick inside with the same face and a cute little beak.  The chicks come in three colors: two in purple, two in orange, and two in blue.  As you press on each chick, they squeak!

As you remove the eggs from the box, you find that the bottom of each egg has a different shapes to it and can only sit in its dedicated slot in the box.

Last Christmas Ravi was nine months old.  He enjoyed taking the egg shells and the eggs out of the box, turn the box upside down, and sometimes chew on the chicks.  He couldn’t press hard enough on the chicks to make them squeak yet, but he had fun watching me doing it.  Then when he was done, I had fun collecting the eggs, putting each egg into its own slot, and match the egg shell with the chick.  The older Ravi got, the longer he played with the eggs.  Now at twenty months of age, Ravi can put the shells on the eggs, though he hasn’t got the idea of matching the faces yet.  He can also match the shapes of the eggs with the box, but mostly with my help.  Certainly making the chicks squeak is lots of fun since he can do that all by himself.  Last weekend we had a bunch of older kids come by, and I was surprised how three to five year old enjoy playing with the eggs too.

I love this egg toy.  It is cheap enough so I don’t have to worry about loosing the pieces.  It is so cute and fun to play with, we always manage to distract Ravi with it for at least twenty minutes at a time.  This is the toy I pack up with us when we visit friends and family.  For the last year, this egg toy has also been my go-to-toy for birthday parties and other gathering.  From the way things are going, we will be playing with the eggs for a long time.

Ravi Plays In My Kitchen

Ravi is not a kid who has hundreds of toys, but he certainly has plenty to play with.  What surprised me was the fact that he prefers to play with random things he finds in the household as much as his favorite toys.  For example, he has a passion for empty bottles.  He loves to take the cap off and put it back on, pretend to drink from it or pour it out, putting things in and take them out, or bang the cap onto the bottle to make “music”.  A simple bottle of any size can amuse him for at least half an hour, which is an eternity in kids’ time.

Ravi also loves to play in my kitchen.  This makes me extremely nervous when I am cooking, so normally daddy is called in to distract him.  When the kitchen is cleaned up, he is allowed to come in.  He loves to play with small kitchen appliances and equipments, so I purposely leave them in a lower cabinet where he can open and reach in.  His favorites are the magic bullet blender and his small little pot.  He loves to take the cup or top off and put it back on, much like the bottle game.  He also loves to bang on various things to make noise.  There are so many items and so many combination to try, he would usually play with them for quite a while.  In the meanwhile, mommy can sit right by him and watch.  It is always good when he can amuse himself and I don’t have to carry him.

Since then we bought him a set of kitchen toy pots and utensils, which also gets lots of attention.  But whenever he sees his magic bullet in the kitchen, he always demands to play with it.

Lego Duplo

Our trip to Albany back in September was a great cultural and knowledge exchange.  It was also a great exchange of goods; we brought varieties of really good Trader Joe’s chocolate and other Chinese snacks, and in return we got heaps of children book and toys.  In fact, we had to buy another luggage to put all those things in and still exceeded the weight limit.  In retrospect, we were light on the giving and heavy on the receiving, but who’s counting.

One of the toys we brought back were two big boxes of Lego Duplo.  We actually bought a $30 box a few months back and were amazed at how plain, expensive, and few pieces contained in the box.  I didn’t know something so simple could cost so much money.  So when my sister offered to give us Do and Jo’s old set, we were very happy to accept.  Apparently Do and Jo have moved on to smaller Lego pieces, so those Duplo were free to find a new home.  We were thrilled to find all the specialty pieces contained in this set.  There are knights and ladies, dinosaurs and alligators, truck and houses…etc.  Too cool!

We can tell from early on that Ravi is a Lego fan.  He can’t quite put the pieces together yet, but he’s a great destroyer of Lego structures.  Once Mario and I have built something, he will eagerly grab it from us and start to pulling it apart.  He also loves to pull out his Lego boxes and dump all the pieces onto the floor and “swim” in it.

I can’t wait to see Ravi growing up with his new Lego set.  Thanks aunt Lei, Do, and Jo!


Security Puppies?

Three toy puppies sitting on the shelf.  They are all soft to the touch with a cute red scarf around their neck.  Why do I have three exactly the same puppies?  For those of you that read the security blankie post, the answer is obvious.

The story began a month ago.  One day the daycare lady told me that Ravi loves to hold on to a small stuff animal in the form of a puppy all day, and wouldn’t let go even during nap time.  She said she has over two dozens different stuff toys, but the only one Ravi is willing to hold is the puppy.  I was surprised, as Ravi has never displayed such behavior before.  Why the puppy?  My brother-in-law and sister-in-law gave him one when he was born and it has been in his room ever since.  I noticed that Ravi has spent lots of time playing with it recently, touching its red scarf, wiggling its tail, and bitting its noise, but never really carried it around all day.  I am guessing this is likely a behavior triggered by his need to replace his security blankie outside of our home.  He doesn’t cling to the puppy at home because he has access to his blankie.

I sensed the puppy will play a big role in Ravi’s life.  I learned my lesson from the security blankie incident, so I decided to hunt down more puppies.  Luckily, I was able to find the exact same puppies on sale at Toys R Us, so I bought two!  A back up needs its back up too.  So now we have one puppy in Ravi’s bed, one hidden in a drawer, and another at grandparents place.  I am covered!

Daddy’s Favorite Stories

I’ve always been fascinated with fantasy stories. Knights, princesses, wizards and castles are what I dreamed about. The tales of far-off daring and adventure kept me engrossed through most of my early childhood. (I’ll let you in on a little secret – my favorite place in Disneyland still is fantasyland).  I started reading books at a very young age and was reading a ton of stories by the time I was nine or ten. I’m not sure why I don’t remember my parents reading to me, maybe I was such an avid reader that they never had to worry about it. With the birth of my son, I’m hoping he’ll also have fun with such stories. I want him to enjoy and experience great stories the way I did. Towards that end I’ve put together a list of stories that I want to read to him as bedtime stories. These are some of my most favorite books that I’ve ever read.

I know, just like I did, that some day he’ll grow up and have a different more nuanced view of the world. He’ll learn life’s greatest lessons and experience pain and work just like I am. There’s nothing wrong with life as an adult; I would never go back to being a kid. But I do want his childhood to be as full of experience and imagination as mine was (maybe even cooler than mine was). I know that some of the first books I ever read have stuck to me and painted my life more vividly than any book or movie does today. The first time I read about trolls and boys that could fly was the coolest time in my life. I’m hoping it’ll be just as cool for Ravi.

So without further ado, here’s the list of books that will be Ravi’s bedtime reading material:

Daddy's Favorite Stories From His Childhood

The books above (The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Peter Pan, Watership Down, Treasure Island, and The Wind in the Willows) are the basic set of nighttime reading material that we currently own. There are a couple books (like Winnie the Pooh, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, A Wrinkle in Time, and theThe Book of Three) that I don’t own anymore. I’ll have to get a copy of them as soon as he and I are ready.

Lastly, here’s a picture of Ravi already showing interest:

Ravi Playing with Daddy's Favorite Books