Happy 17th

Dear Adi,

I can’t believe that I missed to write birthday letter to you this year! Is life at such a crazy state? Well, better late than never so let me at least write a birth month letter.

You are continuing to grow as a beautiful young lady. I am super proud of your college application journey. You did it all with very little support from us right from researching to short list colleges to apply, go through application process and apply for colleges. You received few of everything rejections/waitlists/acceptances. It was very hard to see you walk around when the rejections came in one after the other but the best was saved for last. Finally, you received acceptance from your second most dream college and committed to this college after the campus visit. This is not in our league in any possible angle. The campus is not closer to home, you are not choosing a familiar career path course and the tuition is a stretch for us but this is where your heart is at this point and we decided to honor your decision as it was earned by you with your hard work and dedication. You may choose a different path later but I am confident that you will learn a lot in this journey and make wise choices as you go along!

It was a very stressful year for you dear and I must admit that you managed it pretty well. You are good at balancing life. Now that all big decisions are done and dusted, you are spending more time with your friends and having good fun times! You were sick on your birthday and your friends A & J came home, played birthday song from front yard, dropped off presents and had a little conversation with you from a distance!

As it has become a tradition now, I drove LHB to store and he bought cute little presents for you. When I tried to suggest a gift, he told me in a firm tone, “Amma, you may have spent more time with her but I know her better, just follow me and I will pick up the presents for her!”

You are independent in all ways darling, we share our own annoy each other moments but you have grown so much that I am struggling to draw my line with just offering suggestions. You will soon start to drive on your own too.

You planned and hosted an art theme birthday party with friends at local park. We just assisted you with some logistics.

I will do a separate post about the senior assassin fun game experience πŸ™‚

I can’t believe that you will be living far from us from your next birthday! As I always say, have “empathy” for people around you and try your best to take “morally right” decisions though it may not be “politically right” always!

You are the pride of our family kannamma! Stay happy, Stay healthy!

Here is one of the gift your brother bought for you πŸ™‚


Loads of love,
Amma

Promise I kept

I promised you all and more to myself that I will read every posts all my fellow blogathon friends. Realistic promise to self was to complete it by end of February and I did it yayy!! I took my own time reading one blogger at a time, MTW, Tharani, FV, RS, Prachee, Seema. Am I happy or Am I happy? I am super happy.

Life is as always happening on full swing in all directions with mixed bag of emotions! If one day is painted all bubbly, next day is painted all gloomy and the very next day is painted with no time to breathe!!

I want to write about one more challenge that I started to follow around end of December but that has to wait till end of March as that’s the next milestone I had set for myself.

For all our old bloggers reading this post, its a humble request for all of us (FV, MTW, Tharani, Seema, RS, Prachee), please plan to join next year blogathon. I know its too early to commit but please think about it. The more the merrier and others have also requested the same in their posts!

I feel so accomplished and happy today πŸ™‚ Planning to make a quick trip to local temple in the evening to attend one of the Maha Shivarathiri kaala poojai!

Another exciting news to share is we are returning to work starting 1st March. Its once a week for now and I am so looking forward to it as we get complimentary food *sheepish grin*

Take care you all! I will see you all by end of March!

Happy 9th

Dear LHB,

This is your last single digit birthday da! I was just reading your 8th birthday letter and most of it holds true still!

You are a mini version of me in all aspects. What would a typical 8 year old do when they grab an ice cream? gobble it? You offer to everyone around you before you take the first bite. This is you and this is me in you! Am I proud or Am I proud?

You are learning base guitar and have a good rhythm for it. Its going slow and steady! You have learned to play twinkle twinkle little star this past year!

One day you came home with an application form to join student council. I didn’t encourage claiming you have no idea about it. But, Akka supported you, both of you filled in the application form and later that week you came home running to share the news that you have been elected for student council. I couldn’t believe it at all and was planning to talk to the teacher to make sure this is not a mistake. You take this very serious and your teachers are very proud of you. Your first grade teacher told me how proud she feels when she hears your voice announcement in speaker about student council news! Am I proud or Am I proud?

This year, you started playing video games online with your friends. You all do a group video call in iPad and play on a different device while you continuing to talk on the video call!

So in the video call, one of the guy from the group was very mean to you and I am truly amazed at the way you handled it. At times you ignored him and at times you gave it back to him. I was worried if this would affect you mental health as your other friends also listen to him when he is in the group call. But, I watched you from a distance and let you handle it. The second he joins the call, he will ask you to leave! Eventually, you stopped playing with them and started playing on your own, even made your own another small group and moved on as if nothing happened! Am I proud or Am I proud? For the records, you play Fortnite, Roblox and Rocket league.

The same gang bullied you in school bus and you promptly reported to bus driver. Now, they call you tattle taler and you care less. You just move on by doing what is right!

On the day a new season was released in Fortnite, you made plans with your friends to wake up at 4am. You told them “My Amma will not allow me to wake up so early but guys I can convince my Appa. See you all at 4am”

Another day when one of your friend asked if you can gift him a skin in Fortnite, you replied “My Amma doesn’t buy any game stuff for me. She always says kids have to ask their own parents if they want to buy any skin or game, I am sorry. My mom will not allow me to buy”.

It is true, we didn’t allow you to buy any game stuff for a long time. You were using laptop to play with friends. Very recently we bought you Xbox series S as your birthday gift. Now you get ration hours every day to play in Xbox. All your robux and skins are only earned as reward points!

You can easily make me a “bad momma” with all your random comments but I try not to succumb! We both are the best pair πŸ™‚ We push each other beyond our limits every single day!

You are an easy goer, doesn’t bother much about how people perceive you. You don’t care to impress anyone. You are not teacher’s pet. You give ample chance to others. You can be easily convinced. You make lot of trade offs. I often call you “dra” short form for “drama king” when you act up!

We cut short most of the words in our daily conversations! Some samples are “imag” for “imagine”, “quesh” for “question”, “dra” for “drama” and so on..

You have recently joined basket ball team and learning the tricks!

I spend most of my weekday evening time with you helping you with homework, make you read at bedtime and very recently we have started work out routine. You walk and do tricks in tread mill while catching up on your favorite Youtube videos. Ah, you want to be a Youtuber when you grow up and you want Akka to make tik tok videos so you can use those moves to create characters in Fortnite. You also want to be a Vet! You were asking Akka very seriously the other day “What does it take to be a Vet Akka?” You do homework just to satisfy me! Math and science are least of your interest!

Another quality time we spend together is art session. We pick a drawing of your choice from Arts for Kids hub channel and draw it together following the video instructions. So far, we have drawn Husky, Marsh mello, Kai ninja character and a Phoenix bird! I love these art sessions with you. Wish we can do this more often though!

You call me Amma few times and if I dont respond then you call me loudly with my full name (first and last name). When I ask why you do this, you respond with shrugging shoulders that only then I pay attention to you!!

You are smart in your own ways. You call iPad to find when we hide it and claim that we are fools to hide without putting it on silent mode!

You broke my heart last week by declaring that Math is your least favorite subject 😦 We take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to complete 1 sheet of Math homework! You are not an academy strong person like Akka. I am yet to identify your true interest as right now most of your time and energy is taken away by the game monster! Whenever you throw tantrum, I claim that the “game monster” has taken over you!

You are a great friend and your close friend G’s mom adores you! She keeps praising you for the way you protect her son G!

This is you and Akka splitting the candies that you got from neighborhood trick or treat. You gave away some share to her happily πŸ™‚

This is you at Cub scout booth helping visitors to play some games.

I can keep writing πŸ™‚ We all love you to the moon and back kutty! You are our lifeline!

You have a very generous heart and stay the same is all I want to tell you. God bless you chellam!

ETA: I woke up to see this in the morning. Our favorite plant “redda” decided to wish you in his own way! He holds a bloomed flower for you after many weeks. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, he decided to bloom today! Nature’s gift to you da! Are you lucky or are you lucky?

Loads of ❀
Amma

And it’s a wrap

It was little hard this time and I had to pause few tasks to take part in blogathon but I am super happy that I participated this year. Thanks to below bloggers who joined along and special thanks to Seema for initiating it. This is special as its my 10th year of blogathon.

Seema – https://seemabbas.wordpress.com/
RS – https://lifeslittletwists.wordpress.com/
MTW – https://mylifenthoughts.wordpress.com/
Freakyveggie – https://justblissandlittlemore.wordpress.com/
Tharani – https://onarollercoasterride.wordpress.com/
Prachee – https://admiringlifedaybyday.wordpress.com/

I am behind on reading all your posts and replying to comments on my posts. Will get to them all very soon. Its a promise to read every single post.

Now, I will go back to the leadership training at work which is intense. I say intense as it comes with weekly assignments and case studies πŸ™„

As it is every year, I will see you all around the corner with LHB’s birthday letter πŸ™‚

Until then, stay safe, take care and eat well.

2021 trips to remember

Recording the trips we made last year amidst pandemic. This wraps up all that I wanted to record about 2021 in this little space of mine.

April:
Pennsylvania and NY day trip:
Visited Neshaminy state park in the morning and went on a drive through trip to NY in the afternoon. Its funny how kids didn’t even let us roll down car windows because at that point they were scared if Corona is air borne! 6 hours of drive from PA to NY streets to back home.

LHB gave this bouquet to me


June:

Popcorn Zoo:
Day trip to Popcorn Zoo with LHB and neighbor kid. The zoo was filled with peacock roaming around freely and to my surprise we spotted White tiger, Lion, Brown tiger and many more zoo animals. Kids were allowed to feed pop corn to some animals which made it an interesting trip for them.

July:
Atlantic City:
Day trip to Atlantic City with friend’s family during 4th of July long weekend. Spent most of the time in beach and amusement park. Loved the beach view from top of Ferris wheel and rainbow was an added bonus!

Boston:
This is the only college visit we did last year for Adi. We had plans to do more trips but couldn’t as M had to travel to India in summer. This was a 2 day trip. We visited few colleges in and around Boston, stayed at an extended family’s home and ate at famous food joints near college campuses. Canes chicken near Boston University, Peri peri chicken near Brown University, Qdoba near North Eastern, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream near Yale and this is how we identify each college now, with food place near the campus πŸ™‚ I was lucky to find a local artisan shop and bought this handmade basket to store couch pillows in family room. Its made in Bangladesh, you can read more details in the image below.

August:
Canoeing:
This was my first time experience canoeing. It was organized by LHB’s scout group and I enjoyed though kids kept complaining about constant rowing and having unexpected visitors in the boat (spiders were everywhere). This place is around 40 minutes away from home and we did this for about 1.5 hours.


NY upstate:
I wanted to take kids out for few days before school started and our friend’s family agreed to take us. It was 2 day trip to upstate NY. We visited Watkins glen state park, Corning glass museum, Winery and had good food at local Mexican restaurant. The state park had steep hike around water falls and it was breathtaking. A must place to visit if you haven’t been there yet! I absolutely enjoyed every bits of this park filled with nature, hike, water falls.

In addition, we occasionally dined out at few local restaurants and visited local park!

Of Snow day, Pool maintenance

I am making up for yesterday with two posts today. We are dealing with Snow storm this weekend. I am typing this post while LHB and M are busy clearing our driveway outside!

I am dealing with this nagging headache today. Woke up thinking I will take a break from kitchen today but ended up making mutton liver fry, chicken pepper masala and peas jeera pulav. Story of my life!! *rolls eyes*

Alright, coming to the today’s topic, I want to write about how I single handled pool maintenance last year. As you all know, M was in India almost all summer and I decided to maintain pool so kids can have some fun! As its my luck, pool filter stopped working few days after M left to India. Let me tell you something, I call pool as M’s third baby as it requires that much of attention. Its high maintenance from all aspects.

LHB’s friend’s dad from our neighborhood stopped by to take a quick look and we found that the pipe closer to filter had air leak. He suggested to either call someone professional or try some DIY options. I spent next few days visiting local home improvement shops and seeking google baba’s help. Google and Youtube babas gave suggestions about a plastic mix that can be used to seal PVC pipes. I decided to give it a try as calling a professional would take long time and cost exorbitant money! Ordered the package in Amazon, it arrived 2 weeks later and one fine day I followed the instructions and applied this mix to seal air leak. In these two weeks, more algae formed and pool turned into dark green color!!

It was few days of wait time again to validate my DIY fix! And it worked yayyy! The happiness I felt on that day didn’t let me sleep πŸ™‚

Now that filter started working, I let it run 24 hours and started following instructions from local pool store to kill all algae and bring water back to usable state. It took another 2 weeks with every day trip to pool store. The store guy could spell M’s last name by heart by the time the pool was ready πŸ™‚ I woke up at odd hours to add shock as shock works better in absence of sunlight. I acted like a new born’s mommy caring for the pool 24×7. I had to feed the pool every two hours, brush the sides and floor, check filter, clean surface, check pH level et all.. Liquid shock gave better results so bought 5 gallon jars of liquid shock and dumped them in intervals. All this was learning at different level as I didn’t even know what a shock was until few weeks back!

One afternoon after few weeks of following all treatments religiously, Adi summoned me to backyard. She was like you have to see this Amma, just come for few minutes. I wrapped up my work call and went to backyard to see this beauty! I don’t know how to express that moment of happiness!

It was all worth the effort as pool was accessible. LHB used it many times, Adi/her friends had fun one of the days and I got to dip my feet πŸ™‚

16th birthday party

Yesterday was a crazy day with back to backs from the time I woke up until it was time to crash that it slipped my mind to do a post!! One of those days πŸ™„

Its easier to write about facts so let me write about Adi’s 16th birthday party. She wanted to keep it low key, invite few of her friends and have a simple party outdoors in a local park. In Amreca, 16th birthday is a big deal. Some make it a grand affair more like a marriage function printing invitations, renting hall and inviting families/friends.

She planned it all and I just helped with execution. M had a medical procedure around that time so I had to execute the plan all alone. One same day, LHB had a scout event so it was crazy day for me but it all ended well and everyone was happy.

Speciality cake was pre-ordered at Nothing bundt cake. Adi bought cup cakes of all flavors, we made it a family task to taste each one of them, rate it to settle on the flavor to buy for her party!

Food was Pizza, Guacamole (made at home), chips and soda. One of her friend was Vegan so we bought Vegan pizza and cup cake for her.

We all left home at 12pm. First stop was at the park. M and Adi got off to find a spot and setup the space for party. LHB and I went to his scout event, came back home to change his dress, pickup black mask for Akka (she is specific about black mask) and returned to park. I dropped LHB at the park and went about next set of pickups!

I was on road for next 3 hours

  • Pick up cake
  • Buy return gift for LHB’s friend who is also little brother of Adi’s friend and decided to come for the party
  • Pick up my surprise for Adi (It was number 16 humongous balloon, costed a bomb but worth it) She kept asking where did you get it and I replied with my standard smile πŸ™‚
  • Visit home, heat up Vegan pizza
  • Pick up pizza
  • Return to party

We spent about 5 hours in the park, Adi and her friends spent time playing some games, roaming around the park and chilling out.

It was a tiring day for me but all is well that ends well and everyone is happy! I couldn’t believe that I have a 16 year old daughter and the urge to make her feel special on her birthday kept me going πŸ™‚

Sigh update

Do you all remember my post about how LHB picked up Sigh-ing from me? So, the mommy brain came up with an idea after squeezing it like an orange! LHB’s birthday is around the corner and I decided the make the best use of it. We came up with this chart and its been taped to the refrigerator door. I can see considerable difference with the Sigh-ing and Whining! *evil mommy laughter*

He started the chart with 100 robux credits (he later corrected it to 400 robux). For uninitiated, robux is like points you can use to buy items in Roblox game. Plan is to deduct 1 point when he does something from every category and he will get remaining robux on his birthday! He got 2 points on 22nd and as you see he strike it out! As of today he stands at 396 robox!

I have to come up with another idea after birthday business is over! Life goes on!

India Trip – Part 2

Rest of the India trip was spent being at home with parents. Most of my extended family came home for a quick visit and Appa and I did local trips in his two wheeler. We also played chess and rummy almost every day. Amma as always spent most of her time in kitchen cooking all my favorite items. I missed my Alto car in this trip. Hope he/she is safe somewhere!

One evening, visited Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar temple and another day was spent visiting the girls hostel supported by my local volunteering organization. Made few trips to M’s parents home, arranged to clean weeds around the home and cleared out all my things from the home. Otherwise I was mostly home bound. Two weeks sped fast like minutes and before we could blink our eyes it was time for me to return. Omicron started few days before my travel and pre travel protocol was changed to test 24 hours before boarding. It was challenging as I also had a six hour road travel before boarding. Thankfully one of the local lab agreed to test late hours and give results by next day morning. So that was sorted out!

I don’t know if I will ever be able to do a similar trip in this lifetime but this was a dream come true trip for me that I will cherish for rest of my life!

Brihadeeswarar temple through my phone camera lens

These pictures summarize my trip. Ignore the first and last picture as they were taken at US.

Amma’s specials: (in picture order)
Mudakkathan dosa
Aapam/coconut milk with jaggery
Onion uthappam with eggplant gothsu
Adhirasam (I polished off the whole dabba in 2 weeks. One of my relative brought the dough and my chithi (amma’s sister prepared at home).
Vazhaipoo (banana flower) usili
Urundai kuzhambu
Country chicken gravy
Fish varieties
All sorts of greens
Mushroom gravy
Unlimited masala chais
Fresh filter kaapi and many more that I didn’t remember to click!

I returned home with all sorts of masala powders and grocery items!

Adi was roasting me as I told her that in this trip I am going to give rest to my mom and cook for her but as usual Amma served me all my favorites and I sheepishly enjoyed them all πŸ˜„

I don’t know if I will ever be able to do a similar trip in this lifetime but this was a dream come true trip that I will cherish for rest of my life!

Volunteering Journey

Last Sunday, my volunteering organization local chapter held annual award ceremony virtually for high school children who volunteered with us for last one year. I have been associated with this organization for past 4 years. Started off at my old neighborhood as a parent volunteer, one year later when we moved to current home we decided to start a center in this neighborhood. We started with 9 high school children in first year, expanded to 20 the following year and now we have 40 children volunteering with us.

There have been so many ups and downs, learnings and challenges in past 4 years but I must say its a soulful journey for me that transformed me to be a better person. This journey helped me realize my potential, passion, values and commitment to stand strong against all odds. It connects me with like minded people whom I enjoy working with. We all have our day job and family responsibilities but the energy we share when we connect in between all these demands to keep the ball rolling blows my mind. Come what may, this core group always makes time for volunteering service. An analogy is our childhood days when we study/listen to elders all day and eager to meet with friends in the evening to play mindlessly on the street. This is how I feel when I do volunteering work!

Though we had many rehearsals and I knew the agenda/content by heart for Sunday’s event, I became emotional when the actual event happened. An analogy I could think of is marriage. Though we prepare for months, it becomes emotional, the moment when knot is tied. Around 250 people joined the event and I was given the opportunity to present ground report about the girls hostel in India that our chapter supports. I was fortunate to visit and spend a day with them during recent India trip.

I was also given the task to setup Deep Prajwalan at home and light the lamp during beginning of the event. I took this opportunity to dress up in saree πŸ™‚ and have a photo session! LHB was my photographer. Adi is too tall and her angel never comes right, LHB’s height works perfect for me.

Volunteering is a humble soul satisfying journey that I wish to continue to be part of as long as I can! I am happy to have found and settled with my way of paying it forward!