Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Week That Was

Monday started off with preparing mango pie to be taken to Nithin's school for the Diwali celebrations at the Montessori.

Tuesday was the Diwali party. All the Indian moms contributed to a couple of hours of Diwali joy with music, food and crafts from India. It was a beautiful sight to see all the kids dance to Bhangra and Bollywood Music. We indulged in eating the goodies and savories made by other moms.

The week day evenings were busier than usual for the past few weeks due to practices for the upcoming Diwali Party for our community. Nithin was going to the Diwali dance with his age kids. I was happy that he was not clinging to me like last years' practices. I could just drop him off and pick him up and he went into the routine without issues. He is growing up fast and he is already 6!

Nikhil also was going to ramlila practices. B was playing guitar in the band that practiced songs for the Diwali party. I sang two songs - so music practice meant we four would go to the venue and the kids would play DS - but they were being good boys letting us sing. In fact, they also would sing our songs when we are back home.

Wednesday I had lunch with two of my fellow friends/moms. As usual, we chatted a lot about us and kids and this time we had lunch at the Thai restaurant near by. Fun times.

Friday was the arrival of B's parents. Their flight got delayed and it took them much longer in the travel than usual. They all got home at 1pm in the night.

During the day was the Halloween parade at the school which I missed at the last minute. I had mehndi applied in my hands by my beautician neighbor and that made me handicapped totally. I did not factor in the time required to get the mehndi dry, so I figured B has to go to the Halloween parade! It was a torture because I could not even make a phone call or pick up a call using my iPhone. I had gloves on my dried mehndi, so my swipe action would never work. Finally I had to use the thumb of my foot to swipe it ON and receive a call. Next time, I swear I will get it done towards the night, so I can sleep without feeling handicapped (pun intended!)

Anyway, mehndi was done and it looked colorful!

As I wait with bated breath for the much awaited Diwali Party in Saturday evening, Saturday morning begins with snow. All of a sudden, the weather turned unbearably cold. We had different engagements throughout the day and B and I were in the car on and off over the snowy roads. We did get through the commitments, went to party hall and set up music instruments and mic etc and came back home to get ready for the party.

The attire was decided already this time. B had bought me a saree just for this party from his India trip. I had also got the blouse stiched by an Indian lady. I discovered her through a friend and thank God, she had the bandwidth to stich my blouse in this festive season. So I was super thrilled about getting a blouse stiched in the US for the first time. With B's mom's help, I wore the saree, jewelry and the rest of the boys wore jubba.

The evening went by smoothly with our music performances. The disturbances of the mic were annoying. It was hard as usual to get the talking crowd to pay attention and keep quiet. But I was happy with our performance. I have to mention here that I could sing one of my all time favorite songs - I had been suggesting this song from before but the time time came now. It is 'Janeman Janeman tere Do nayan'.. from Chhoti Si Baat. I love Amol Palekar's innocence in this movie. So being able to sing my favorite song made the day for me!

Also I sang a duet with B - 'Sham' from 'Aisha'. Of course the whole orchestra gang did a great job and we all enjoyed the practices and the performance. The public review was encouraging as well.

Sunday was marked with the halloween parade within neighborhood. We lost power for the whole day almost. Heating up food in the stove without microwave is a pain. Thank God it came back toward evening and life soon became normal.

Monday evening was trick or treating. So finally it feels like we can breathe. That is the story of how eventful and happening last week was.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


It was a pleasure attending our favorite Zumba class once again last evening.

Some of my friends were pretty regular at a point months ago in attending this class. That is how I started getting hooked to this one. The instructor is very good and she plays vibrant lovely music. Also, my experience says that if you are regular, even somebody like me (!) can pick up dance steps. The class gets filled up so much that if you need a decent spot, you have to arrive early. Decent means that you can get a good view of the instructor to copy her moves - or you are right behind one of those good dancers so you an refer to them when in doubt - and also there is enough room around you so that you don't risk stepping on somebody.

When each song ends and the next song begins, it is a pleasure to realize it is a song that you know and you have danced to in a previous class. She does bring in latest hit songs and introduces many new ones. It takes a while to get used to them and from then on, I am happy to hear them being played since I can manage the steps. She also brings in some Bollywood songs. I was super thrilled to hear this catchy song as a Cool Down song. I would have almost been dancing instead of doing stretches yesterday when I heard this particular one. Since I am not so up to date with new songs, it took some googling to locate this one.

Anyway, this post is just to proclaim that ZUMBA is fun and if you have a chance to try it, PLEASE DO!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bidding Good-Bye and the emotions associated with it

As we stand on one side of the security check at the airport, while Appa and Amma are on the other, putting their hand bags in the conveyor belt for scanning, I felt helpless. I was wondering what more could I do at this point. The truth that we all will have to go back to our own lives, stared at me. Just 10 minutes before, I knew this moment will come and I can tell both Appa-Amma and me were dreading this moment. We don't want to break out into tears and make it awkward and difficult for each other. But the emotions associated with the good-bye moments were overwhelming us.

As B and the kids hugged them one by one, I did not know what to do. May be because the culture of hugging is not in our family, even though I am accustomed to doing it with US friends, wasn't I still not able to hug my Appa-Amma?

It was weird and it felt sudden when Appa just moved on to the line of security check. He did not want to break down. I could see that. Amma waved ta-ta at the kids and us too from the line.

As we watched them complete the processes and as I hoped he would turn back and see that I am still watching them, I could see them walk into the airport. He did not realize that we are still watching them. They don't have cell phone, so the only thing I could do was to wait for his call when they are completely settled.

Throughout the car ride back home, B and I were talking and talking about how life would be for them when they go back. To continue with my own life, there are challenges awaiting me.

Finally the phone rang after I had gobbled up yummy Appams at our friends' place in our street. Appa and I caught up. He sounded energetic and we laughed about surviving the emotional moment with minimal tears. As we walked home from the friends', we saw an airplane up in the sky and my younger one goes, "Amma, I think Thatha and Paatti are in that airplane" and waved at it!

The quiet of the home is not new to us. Whenever B's parents left, the front room has stared at us with the void. It was the same this time. The kids tried to find something that Thatha and Paatti have forgotten by mistake.

I hope everything goes well for my parents as they step into the retired life and restart life in Bangalore.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Life's new routine

When kids had school, I was lost in a different kind of routine. Now it is different. No school for the boys. My parents are visiting us. So days are flying by so quickly. When you are in a routine bubble, it is so hard to break out of it. Each day has to be following the current routine and I cannot think of how I spent my days before this all started. I know when they go back, I will go back to the same old life - but it seems unthinkable now.

Timetable - we sleep late, but I don't like it when it is too late. I prefer to have the breakfast done by a certain time, then cook everyday for lunch and finish lunch by the same time everyday. Just because we don't have school does not have to mean that we do things out of schedule. That is just me and I stress myself around this a little bit.

Highlights of the summer so far are:

  • I thought I would not be able to remember how to make Tamil oriented dishes since we cook mostly Mallu at my home. But I have been doing a good job so far with making good meals for my parents. My joy knew no bounds when my parents say they like what I made.

  • I was amazed that I could go into this Tamil mode of cracking jokes and making parodies just because I have my Appa here. Some relations don't change over time and it is possible to be pick up from where we left. I am talking about being together in person - talking over phone is fun but different. To say the least, we do enjoy our conversations and a lot of time, listen to him talking whatever he chooses to.

  • Making travel plans to take them to some places and making them happen has been fun.

  • The best part is seeing the kids interact with them. When they enjoy and laugh at the pranks the younger one does and when they appreciate the older one for being the mature boy - I thank God for making this trip happen. Because I could not have showed them how my life now exactly is better than this.

  • Nikhil is hooked to the 7 Little Words' app in the iPhone. I am happy he can connect with Thatha and learn the valuable lessons of vocabulary and English that I got from my Appa. When we three jointly work on each puzzle, I know in my heart I had always dreamt of this to happen if my Appa visits.

A.C is running constantly. It is so hot these days. But I like the way it has been going.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Beautiful School Year

When I started Nithin at this new school, he cried one day - much less compared to the months of wailing in the car during drop off to previous school. Very soon, he made very close friends. What is more surprising is that the moms of these kids became real good friends. New friendships are interesting and fascinating. We enjoyed watching our kids play together and enjoy.

Pick up times during noon had an automatic chat session built in. We could not leave home with our own child without at least saying Bye to each other - even in case of hurry. All the kids in the school would leave, but our kids would play and play and we moms would chat and chat. Now I am not sure who was waiting for who? :-)

The kids learnt a lot during the school year. Socially, I could see Nithin blossom into a totally fine kid from the shy boy he was. It was truly a pleasure to see him open up with his pals. In the middle of the year, he used to cry if his close friends were absent from school. If they got picked up early, he has cried. But now, he seems to handle that much better. I am really thankful to his tiny friends for the role they played unknowingly in his social development.

Last Friday, the academic year ended. It was quite an emotional moment for me to see him walk into the stage with the graduate hat on. This whole year, whenever I picked him up in the noon, I have experienced the satisfaction of things working out the right way for him. When the boys giggled and ran around in the playground, my heart soared. I was never driven by the pressure of going to office after pick up. I let him have his fun time and then carried on with my mental ToDo list for the day.

Some afternoons, we headed straight to the restaurant where he wanted to have soup or Dosa. Some times we went to library. Most of the noons we relaxed sitting in our bed with the books he chose to read. Some we fought over Kumon while I yelled at him for not writing neatly. He would write one letter and run away from me and jump on the bed while I lose patience. I will really cherish the one academic year I spent with Nithin as a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes I stared at the clock which displays the date and time worrying about what lies ahead for me. I tickled him and cuddled with him and sometimes I was gloomy when he checked if I was sad.

The plan is to take care of the kids during summer. But I could not begin doing that without writing about the beautiful year that went by.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mexico Times

Once I got this idea of all inclusive vacation in a resort, my mind was so determined about making it happen right away. Here are the reasons:

  • I am still unemployed by choice (so far!), and I wanted to reap the benefits of not having to take a vacation to go on a family trip.
  • My boys are not too small - so traveling with them should not be a nightmare anymore.
  • The 9 year old and 5 year old have similar interests and get along well with each other regarding what they play and watch in TV. WHILE THIS LASTS, I wanted to make a memorable family vacation.
What started as an attempt to go with a bunch of friends' families, ended up as a family vacation. No regrets whatsoever!

All set with sunscreen and swimwear! On the day of departure, we were stuck in the Philly airport within the air plane for 3 hours - which was actually the duration of the flight itself. There is something with us and flights - we got stranded in the airport during our Disney trip and the connection flight would not take off due to mechanical issues. Anyway, when the flight finally landed in Mexico, I was more than thrilled.

Walking out of the airport, I was almost in tears because it felt like landing in India. The surroundings and the people all reminded me so much of the old Bangalore airport. For a moment, I could even picture my dad waiting there for me. That explains the teary eyed part, I guess.

Driving to the resort in the van arranged by the travel agent, don't laugh if I say it felt like
driving from Trivandrum airport to home. The weather, the coconut trees and the surroundings reminded me of the Shankumukham beach - all these came to memory.

As soon as we checked in to the room, we had decided to bid adieu to the sneakers and slipped on to flip-flops. We took it easy, had dinner and figured out where everything was in the resort.

The next morning, after breakfast, we headed to the beach. Pretty much every morning, we were at the beach until lunch time - when it got hot. The sea looked as blue as those pictures in the calendars. The sand was pristine and super clean. Nithin mostly focused on building sand castle. Nikhil helped him most of the time and also had his fun in the water. As days went by, my comfort level with the beach went up. Thanks to B, I ventured going the farthest into the ocean in my life.

One day, there was a sand castle competition. I motivated the boys to participate in it. B helped them a lot. I came up with the caption for the castle and we got a third prize of our team work called 'Templo Antiguo'. We were also called upon stage to receive the prize in the theater that evening.

One day, we went on a trip to Tulum to see ancient Mayan ruins. It got so hot so early in the day quite unexpectedly. The boys could not take the heat and would not let us listen to the tour guide's interesting talks that peacefully. After Tulum, we went to Xel Ha - the natural water park. B and kids ventured into snorkeling. I was not up for it, so I stayed in the land. Eventually Nithin was cranky and sleepy, so my not getting into water found its own meaning!

The dinners at restaurants within the resort were fancy. The only trouble was my being a vegetarian. They made some veggie stuff for me, but it is always a tension and I have go reminding them to make some.

It was funny to note that in Mexico, the Mexican food did not have sour cream as part of it. I had a tough time explaining what it is only to find out they don't use it that much. So the Mexican food we ate in U.S is what I expected, but it was not exactly the same. Thank God for the spicy salsas!

Overall, a trip for my lifetime. I will definitely cherish the memories of this trip always.

Monday, March 28, 2011

On raising the younger one

Not to be mean towards the older kid, but with the younger one - there is a lot of 'first-time' things which makes it interesting. It is too gratifying to see the younger one go through different phases and get exposed to new things. But with the older one, those phases are over and I have to work harder than ever before to come up with such new things.

For example, during this school year, Nithin started in a new school. He cried a lot in the old school, but I thought that is the only choice. Now in this school, may be due to his age or sheer luck, he has found 2 best friends. Every time I go park the car for pick up , seeing him play in the school playground with them happily, I thank God for bringing him where he is now. It looks as though I was forcing him to adjust with his fate in the older school and that he is now truly happy where he is. This friendship will have to come to an end when this school year ends for all practical purposes. We truly owe the confidence boost and sense of feeling at home with this school to the friendships he has built.

Each day is interesting to see the things he speaks now - the new words he learns from school or his big bro'. The first time for many things - new friendships, play dates, first swimming lesson, first Kumon class, first skiing lesson and first Ice Skating lesson. It is a challenge to get him started with anything new and it is truly satisfying to see him get over that initial stumbling block and flow freely with the routine.

I don't know how to put this into words - but isn't this easy to achieve compared to dealing with the older kid where we have already finished all these milestones? Teaching the 5 year old ABCs and getting satisfaction when he is able to read a page in an easy book is the EASY way to get parenting satisfaction I feel. And in every step with your previous experience, you already know what to expect in the next step and you are mentally prepared for it.

Another point is that, with the younger however little they do, we are thrilled and satisfied because it for God's sake - just their first time! Shouldn't we have a celebration that he went into the class without crying? He stayed without us near him for 2 hours! And for his age, this itself is a big deal! The level of expectation from the younger is very less and so is easily achievable for him.

But with the older one - it is not easy anymore. You have to work harder to maintain what you have built and you have to put extra effort to find NEW things for him to do! To challenge him further is not as easy as it is teach the younger one ABCs!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Playdates and more fun

John Lennon said: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

I would like to rephrase it to say: Life is what happens to you while you're taking kids to birthday parties and play dates.

What an eventful week that was!

Tuesday was B and my 11th wedding anniversary. I scheduled our annual physical appointment with our physician that day, so we both can go together to the doctor and B will take off also. I like to flow with the habits enforced by the health care culture here in the U.S. So if anyone of you have been skipping the annual meeting with doctor - here is a reminder from my side. Please go!

We cut a chocolate cheesecake (I love cheesecake and Nikhil loves chocolate, so he picked a chocolate cheesecake from the grocery store!) in the morning. Kids were excited because only on these occasions they get so much sugar as part of breakfast!

It was a week full of play dates for Nithin. Back when Nikhil was small, I should confess I never knew the concept of play dates. I never consciously arranged one for him so that he could develop social skills. I was too busy for them and I was not aware too. Now Nithin is having so many play dates with compatible friends. It is fun time for the kids. It is also chat time for the moms. The weather was so beautiful and we spent some time outside in the park soaking in the sun. Make hay while the sun shines!

Yesterday, we bid farewell to another family who are moving to India for good. The potluck dinner was delicious and too much fun with Antaksari and Dumb Charades. Another set of families where the kids played well and adults had some game time. I am glad to be where I live.

Weekend marked B taking Nikhil to soccer game while I took Nithin to a fun birthday party. It is a relief to see him not shying away from people and taking part in fun activities with other kids. It was again moms' talk time - a different set of girls this time. It was a week filled with a lot social interactions and laughter and fun.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Heritage Night

In Nikhil's school every year, there is a multi-cultural evening called Heritage Night. Since we have been with the school for 4 years now, we knew what to expect. There is a big crowd of Indians who dress up in Indian clothing. But it was more colorful that what I had expected.

For the past one month, volunteers from our development had coached the kids to do a traditional Gujarati dance. That was one more thing to look forward to. It is always exciting for every mom/dad to watch their kid perform and there were many many parents who went through similar feelings that night.

I had volunteered to help man the India booth. There were so many yummy things people cooked and brought for sampling. People walked around from booth to booth sampling foods of different countries. India booth had delicious sevai upma, besan halwa, fryums, banana chips and gulab jamun which we all digged in along with serving the visitors politely :-)

"Do you want your name written in Hindi in a bookmark?"

Right at the booth, I landed the job of writing the names of visitors (mostly only kid visitors) in Hindi, the National language of India in bookmarks. I enjoyed this task since it put my Hindi writing skills to test. Of course, writing Indian names was easy - but I did have a real challenge with writing American names in Hindi. I managed to survive with Andrew and Zoe! But almost every kid and parents were excited when I wrote the kid's name in Hindi and handed over the bookmark to them. Some even got it written for other kids at home!

My initial reaction before going to the event was "Been there, done that!" But over there I met many folks who are attending this for the first time and seeing them I remembered my excitement of the facing the unknown years back- "when is the fashion parade", "what time is our kids dance"! I realized that the Heritage Night this time takes a new meaning for them. It is these newcomers who keep the spirit going every year!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


For the past one week, me and my Appa were laboring to submit a Passport renewal application for him using the new website called Passport Seva Portal. He could not successfully get past the login screen at his end in India, so he officially appointed me his travel agent in US. After getting through the creation of application and uploading the documents, we were shocked to note that the Normal appointment at the passport office is too far away for our needs. We needed to get an express appointment to proceed with our plans. Looks like these appointments open up a 8AM IST and they get filled up in no time and you had to wait the next day or another.

Since then my job was to book a Tatkal (meaning instantaneous) appointment - which was not an easy task. Every time I check for the availability of the Tatkal, all I got was "All Tatkal appointments have been booked, please try again later or another day". I kept trying at different times with despair.

Yesterday night, I tried at exact 8AM IST and I could not believe my eyes. I FINALLY saw the tatkal slots listed. My hands were literally shaking because I KNEW these will get filled up in no time. As I picked a slot and clicked "Book Appointment" keeping my fingers crossed, I saw the words "The slot you selected has been taken by another person. Please try again later". My heart sank! All the efforts went futile, I thought.

I knew LATER I may not even get this far. I could see that all the open slots that I had seen a minute earlier for the location I selected within Bangalore were GONE. I just tried another location in Bangalore and voila, I saw just ONE slot. I pounced on it and prayed to all Gods. My dad was doing the same thing from the one end - except that he can't even get as far as I can within the website. And I got the appointment!

I was never THIS happy in the recent past. Phew..! I called Appa to narrate this success story and now we can go ahead with the plans. Interesting experience - frustrating for the whole time but since I finally succeeded - now I have a smile! Little joys of life! Sense of satisfaction and accomplishment - isn't that all we want to take away from any experience!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Deceiving Samosas

Once upon a time, in our suburban Philly area, there was only one Indian grocery store. But today within a driving distance of 5 miles, we can find at least 5 or 6 Indian stores.

These stores mostly keep Samosas next to the front counter. This is a difficult temptation for me to resist. If you give me the choice of a chocolate cake and a samosa, I will pick samosas any day. Spicy tangy items win over stupid sweet dishes. Except for cheesecake - the only non-desi dessert to which I cannot say No. I am digressing.

This fried item (fried in how many days old oil...hmm..we should not go that route) is more tempting when I am hungry and happened to enter the shop in such a state. Last week was one such occasion and a fresh tray of samosas arrived just then. I asked the shop keeper - "fresh hai kya" and he said "yes, madam". I said - "Pack 2 of those" considering the fact that B hates samosas and I have only been criticized for showing so much love buying extra ones for him.

After putting all purchased groceries in the trunk of the car, I carefully took out the samosa packet from the lot and put it on the passenger seat. I drove to the next stop which was an American grocery store , parked there and decided to eat one samosa. After all they should be savored when they are hot!

One bite and I almost broke the teeth. The samosa was super cold. It looked like the world's most beautiful samosa, but the outer coating was very hard. It was obviously taken out of a fridge just now. When I saw the tray of samosas being delivered in front of my eyes, I assumed they will be hot. I should have learnt my lesson from my previous such experiences.

How many ever shops they may open, the samosas are always cold. The filling is never great. When a mass order of samosas is catered, it is again disappointing to see the poor quality. This post is dedicated to Poor me who still forgets these lessons and keeps buying them with hope!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Snow and hours of phone chatter

Instead of drafting huge pages in my mind and never writing them out - why not, wrote about just TODAY!

We woke up today morning to see snow and the phone rang over and over.
"Is the school closing today? Is there a 2 hour delay? When are they going to make the call or email to us?"

Moms in our neighborhood called each other and said the same thing.

Schools did not make an announcement. B went early to office. I stayed home with Nithin, thanks to my neighbor/friend who offered drop the older one to school.

I made a call to my friend and we ended up talking for 3 hours. We spoke about everything under the sun - a much needed talk for both of us. I have always seen that I rediscover myself or understand my emotions more clearly when I talk to FRIENDS. I hope to have been a help to her also - but it has been months and months since I had that kind of talk with anyone.

I must also admit that talking to a girl friend is a totally different kind of pleasure than talking to guys. There is something totally different with the way girls connect, right! It is not that we have to be talking about nail polish or make up. It is our emotions which make total sense to each other - it would take a lot of explaining to make a man understand them!

I did let my younger one go wild on his computer games as I was chatting away. I felt a little guilty about it. It felt very much like a holiday with not having to drive him to school. I did spend time with him reading and helping him write a Kumon workbook.

In the afternoon, I cuddled up with him and laughed some more. I pretended that I am going away for 2 days and enjoyed him say: 'No, Amma, don't go!' . These little games we play!