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August 22, 2016

Summer Vacation & another School Year.

Four glorious weeks were spent in sunny california and this trip coming after two years was a lot different. Girls are older, sis and bil have moved to a bigger house, parents were also there and it was nothing but fun. As always, we had a big jingbang group of 18 people flying from different parts of the US for an Alaska Cruise for 7 nights. Hd flew directly from Zurich to Anchorage, Alaska (where the cruise began) and flew back from Vancouver, Canada (where the cruise ended) If California was fun, this was mega fun! Kids had a blast. They did nt want to jump ship at any of the ports and wished the cruise was longer when it ended. Except for the trip in a Sea Plane, God knows why I chose to get in knowing my motion sickness, I had a fabulous time! The whale watching tour was the best part of the cruise for me. We saw a pod of humpback whales bubble netting and a humongous one breaching twice and it will be etched in my memory forever! Bil took a fantastic photo so I can see it in my old age to remind myself! Theres something to be said about animals in the wild! Sigh. I could spend the rest of my life whale watching, I tell you! Even the sight of a tiny bit of tail fin or the blow hole sent me into a frenzy and screaming "Whale Whale" on top of my lungs. Which will invariably matched by a even louder "Vetri Vel" from my annoying sister and an "Arogara" from the hubby! Idiots!



The other three weeks went in shopping, eating, more shopping and more eating. Kids were totally heartbroken to leave the two sets of doting people and came back on the plane with grumpy faces as if Im taking them as prisoners! Anyway, while still trying to beat jet lag for the past 3 days, kids began school today and Ashu is in 6th Grade, the oldest class in the school campus much to my shock! When and how did that happen? Antu moved to 2nd and suddenly I felt that she has grown up too much while she was standing next to the fresh off the boat first graders this morning! :( Another year of madness begins. And in this circus, I fell like I am the prisoner!

June 27, 2016

27.06.2016


Dearest Antu,

My 8 year old baby! Now I get why in almost every family, theres always an aunt whose nickname is Baby whatever old she is! The youngest in the household never gets old. Its a blessing and a curse. Ask me! But however annoying it is for you to be called a baby by everyone in this household, I will never stop doing it. So be warned. Whether you like it or not, you are special. Sometimes you complain that you are the odd one out in the family. "Why am I the only one who is left-handed, Amma?" "Why am I the only one who does nt wear glasses?" One day, I even found a note under your pillow begging Ganesha to make you wear glasses, being the drama queen that you are. This year, daddys girls kind of sort of leaned towards her mother and it felt like a sweet victory to me though it breaks your fathers heart. Well, no one can certainly take you for granted, thats sure. You sure keep us working. 

You are learning Piano this year and you love it. You love to dress up, sing, dance and read. And you are extremely imaginative when you are playing. You have a very nice singing voice and since I could nt find any suitable vocal music class for you, I signed you up for the local Choir group for kids and you had loads of fun this year with that group. Your school teacher also told me what a good singer you are and that you pick up lyrics very easily. Since your ballet school danced for some Mary Poppins song last year during the recital, you have listened to that soundtrack a hundred times and have memorized all the songs. You get deep into everything. You can’t just skim through books, movies, music, friendships,… You get into the bottom of it. You have a dozen follow up questions. You discuss it. You explain it. My god, its exhausting to just listen to you every day. I love it but its exhausting.

If theres one thing I will remember about you this year, it would be your laughter. You find everything funny. Every joke is hilarious. And your laughter is infectious. Your friends mean a lot to you and you tell me everything about them. “Don’t tell anyone, Amma but I have decided R is my BFF not A.” “I have a had a bad day today, Amma. R said she won’t play with me.” “Why are boys so mean, Amma? I hate them!”  “I like D and N though. Those two boys are ok”. And A who lives downstairs and her little sister are your constant playmates. You pretty much spend almost every evening in their house. As usual, Ashu means the world to you and even with all the fights, you can’t live without her. The one week she was in a school trip, you were miserable. You will do anything for your sister and Im amazed how strong your feeling are for her at such an early age. Tread softly, my dear.

The other day, I was in the middle of cooking dinner and you came to tell me something and I shooed you away. “But its very important, Amma”, you said. I panicked, switched off the music, switched off the stove, washed my hands and came and sat at the dining table and asked you to tell me what it was. “I have swimming class tomorrow at school and my teacher asked me to tie my hair for the swim class. Otherwise my hair comes to the front of my eyes. So tomorrow morning, you should tie my hair, ok? Don’t forget!” I just gave you a look and was about to yell at you. But the way you kept such a serious face and how sincerely you told me this information brought a smile to my face. Every little thing is extremely important to you. Whether its your stuffed toys feelings(!), or a slug on the walking path, they are equally important to you. Love you, baby.  Never change. Happy 8th Birthday!

Love,
அம்மா.


June 10, 2016

Budapest.

It was our 16th wedding anniversary on 5th June and we went to Budapest to celebrate it. A dear friend has lived in Budapest before moving to Zurich and she said 3 days will be perfect for the city trip and off we went. I know I am easy to please when it comes to places. Give me a museum, a cathedral, a park bench with a view and I am sold. But still I can't describe how beautiful Budapest is. I was not prepared at all and I fell head over heels in love with the city. As always, I had this unbelievable look in my face and wondering why we did nt plan a trip ages ago! Sigh. How is one to see all these beautiful places in one life time?

We reached our hotel in Buda on Saturday afternoon. Freshened up and got out to take a boat trip. We had a wonderful two hours taking in the sights. Found a cute vegan restaurant very near our hotel and ate an early dinner. And called it a day. Day 2, we would have walked about 10 kms and covered the castle hill with the Mathias church, fisherman's bastion and the castle. At the castle, during the changing of guards exactly at noon, one of the guards got on his knees and proposed to his girl friend with a ring and she said yes! A collective awwww from the huge audience. Of course, being our anniversary on that day, I got all romantic and locked eyes with the husband only to be getting a blank look back and he asks, "Whats happening? What is he doing? Who is that girl?" Sigh. 


Then we took the funicular down and walked on the historic chain bridge to go to the Pest side and visited the St. Stephens Basilica and climbed up for a spectacular view of the city. We had lunch at an Italian restaurant nearby with amazing food and the food was much much cheaper than the uber expensive Swiss! It rained a bit on that day but thankfully not much. We walked around some more and got back to our hotel. Ate a late dinner at a pancake place nearby and paid less than 10 euros after stuffing ourselves! Another reason to love the city, I tell you.

Day 3 was bright and sunny. We finally decided to try the public transport and bought a 24 hour family ticket and took the metro to Heroes Square. It was beautiful with a huge park nearby with so many statues, play areas, restaurants, etc... Then we took a metro to the Pest side and did a guided tour of the Jewish Synagogue which is one of the largest in the world. It was an interesting tour even for the kids. Then we had a late lunch at a Hungarian restaurant nearby and tried the famous Langos. The classic langos is fried dough with cheese and sour cream. Here, they served it with vegetables too. It was yum like bhatura. Only the chola was missing! :) 

After the heavy lunch, we decided to walk it off and walked to the Parliament. My god, what a beautiful building! It was even more breathtaking up close and after a million photos, we walked to the Margaret bridge and to the Margaret Island. It is a quiet hideaway from the city with a huge garden, a big fountain, lots of trees, cafes and lots of entertainment. There was a bubble making guy there and Antu had a blast catching bubbles. Ashu was busy eating ice cream cones one after the other as if there was a contest going on! We ate the classic Langos at one of the restaurants there and the kids loved it. Then we walked back to our hotel as it was getting dark and my God, what a magical view once the lights comes on! I had to be dragged to the hotel. I could have just stood at the Margaret bridge and looked at the spectacular view all night long!

Day 4 dawned and we took the metro to the parliament to see if we could visit inside but they were fully booked so we just walked around, went to the cathedral again to do some souvenir shopping and walked back to to the hotel to get our luggage and got to the airport and were back in Zurich for dinner. One more anniversary done and dusted. Blank looks not withstanding, I would travel to the end of the world and back if its with you, R. Heres to many more! :)

On guard duty.

A certain soon to be 8 year old is a little young to lock the bathroom door by herself but needs her privacy too. So what does she do?




May 08, 2016

Mother's Day.

A couple of weeks back, Antu and I were walking back home from somewhere and Antu said,

Amma, I want to tell you something very sad.
What Antu?
The new twins who have joined my school? A boy and a girl? you remember?
Yes Antu.
So we were all making mothers day card and the twins don't have a mother. She died. So they made a mothers day card for their father.
Oh my God, Antu. Thats is so sad!
I am so happy I have a mother, Amma. I love you. *hugs me with tears in her eyes*
I love you too, Antu.

Today when Antu gave a card and a book mark she made for me for Mothers day, I thought of the twins and what mothers day means to them and to so many other kids who don't have a mother. Broke my heart a bit. 

I read a quote that said "The death of a mother is the first sorrow wept without her". That broke my heart a lot more. Heres to all those kids who don't have a mother this mothers day. I wish I could hug them all.

April 29, 2016

Proxy.

Me (From the kitchen) - Antu! Eat your breakfast.
Antu : Ok.

(2 mins later)
Me - Are you eating?
Antu -  Yes, Amma.

Since the voice was coming from another direction, I go to the dining area to check. And I find this!


Me - Antu, come here! Whats this?
Antu - Thats me. She will be eating my breakfast from today.
Me - !!!!!!

April 27, 2016

27.04.2016



Dearest Ashu,

My very special 11 year old girl! What do I say? You are almost as tall as me and wear my shoes. You are so independent that I wonder why you need me at all. You are so cheeky and so full of attitude that this is the first time I ask myself, she is only 11? I can tell you lots of things now and sometimes even ask you for relationship advice! This one time, I was ranting about someone and wondering how to deal with them and you interrupted me and told me, "Amma, you are not their parent. Its not your job to teach them a lesson or give them consequences". I was shocked. And only yesterday when I was upset with your dad for coming home so late from office, you said "I know you are mad at him now, Amma. But don't be mad at him tomorrow, ok?" Sigh. How did you get so mature, Ashu? Certainly not from me! 

Of course that does nt mean there are no meltdowns, fights or arguments! Life would be so boring then, would nt it? The bone of contention has been the iPhone, of course! For a year, every other month you would begin a conversation with "All my friends have one..." and I would counter that with the age old, "If all your friends jumped off a bridge..." and the end result would be you shutting yourself inside your room and me trying to find my iPhone to google - why iPhones are evil! I get it, Ashu. I get it. Dealing with peer pressure is not easy for kids. For one, you are the only Indian kid (other than your sister!) in the school. You don't speak like them, you don't look like them and you don't eat like them. And when your mother would nt even let you have a bloody phone like them, it does hurt. Especially when your father can be swayed either way, Mom comes across as pure evil. I have sat with you and explained. I have yelled and screamed. I have asked you to read about the dangers of it. I have given you the classic, "Because I can". Sorry Kid. I hope you understand one day.

You and your sister! Where do I begin? Im wondering which will come first - you ending up killing each other or you together killing me! Argh! The fighting! The curse of the sisters is up on me and I cannot wait for this phase to end. If its a phase, that is. "She took my book. She ate my cookie. I was sitting here first. She is looking at me. She is breathing." Why do you do it, Ashu? Little Sisters are annoying, I get that. But why are Big Sisters so bossy? Please be kind to your sister. She adores you and would do anything for you. You only have to ask. Nicely. That said, you both get along fabulously well when I am not in the picture. So I guess the problem is me! As always. You have a select few friends you are close to and of course your grand parents and uncle and aunt are the most special people in the world. Thatha and Paati were here for 3 months last year and you just blossomed when they were here. You were the happiest when a friend left her little dog with us for three days and we took care of him. I guess you are waiting for the phone in hand first before going on a food strike to get a dog!

You have become even more quieter than usual these days. All you need is a book. You started writing a list this year and proudly announced that you have finished 100 books even before January ended. Even though I swore I would never be that kind of a mother, I have been telling you to cut down on reading and to get out and talk to people. Please find a balance, Kiddo. You are interested in many, many things and I wish we had the time and the energy to do all the things that you want to do. You went for a few sewing lessons and you love it. You took to snowboarding this year like a pro. You spend hours on rainbow loom to create amazing things. You came up with such a clever treasure hunt for my birthday this year that I was blown away. You don't do hugs and kisses that well but you touch our souls by being thoughtful and kind. Happy 11th Birthday, Kannamma. Always be true to yourself. 

Love,
அம்மா.

February 29, 2016

Solden.

Kids get two weeks off every February and people usually go skiing for a week and lots of them go to Austria. Hd and I have been planning to go the last 4 years but it was nt happening thanks to my injury, then his and then it did nt make sense to go if we both were nt going to ski. Ashu took to snowboarding this year and she was very keen on a trip. Finally we bit the bullet and Hd and I decided to put our fears aside and begin skiing again this year. (Not before my passionate and intense speech to Hd on how I'm just 37 years old and I can't get retired hurt at such an young age!) Poor man was so worried about me more than himself thanks to my history of accidents! Anyway, we were in Solden, Austria from 14th to 20th February and we had a fantastic time. The kids were in group lessons and Hd and I took private lessons to refresh our memory but thankfully the body remembered what to do and it was nt so bad. I still ski painfully slow thanks to my fear and I can also see that my right knee is not as strong as my left now. Well, a knee replacement is certainly there in my future, I guess!

Antu loved her group and her teacher and did nt want to come back. Icing on the cake was that she came third in the ski race at the end of the week and got a certificate and a medal. She was thrilled to bits! But Little Miss Princess was very disapproving that they gave just french fries for lunch some days! "Just because I am a vegetarian, Amma! Really? Fries for lunch? Can you believe it?" And it seems, her teacher was a Vegan and ate only salad much to her horror. I can see her switching to fish and chicken in her future! 

Ashu is the Rockstar in the family. After skiing for 7 years(!), she wanted to learn snowboarding this year and in spite of us discouraging her, she was very determined to do it. Its amazing how fearless kids are and how fast they learn skills. Sigh, here I am in my ripe old age struggling in the beginner slopes. She wears her shoes on her own, carries her snowboard and walks like a gangster! On the ski slopes, with the ski suit, ski mask, helmet, etc... I sometimes mistake her for some young woman and my eyes search for the little girl in her pink snow suit! :( Since there were no kids her age in the intermideate snowboard group, she was put in an adults group. She had loads of fun the last day when her group went right upto the summit (3250m) and snowboarded where Spectre was filmed! Wish I had given my phone to her to take some photos. She said it was spectacular. And was very disappointed that we said no when she asked if she could go alone again! Sigh. Im sure in the near future,  she would just snowboard right through our roof!

Anyway, I am just glad we all got back in one piece. It was an interesting week doing nothing but eating and skiing and sitting in the sauna in the late evenings. Bliss.


February 04, 2016

2016.

Life is a blur. I don't know when 2015 ended and 2016 began. Kids growing up like weeds, husband traveling like crazy and I am doing what I do best - binge watching Netflix series! :) Parents went back to India in January after 3 months here. Kids and I were miserable after they left. Hd more so because his beloved Mil left. That woman is a house elf and minion combo, I tell you! Food on the table, clothes folded and neatly arranged, kids playmate, movie partner for us, shutter crazy, whatsapp crazy,... Basically crazy! I wish I have half of her enthusiasm for life when I am her age. 

Winter is non existent here. Snowed only like two days in the last 2 months. Never thought I would start complaining like the locals about the lack of snow! Antu more than me. Ice skating and skiing going on as usual and Ashu decided she has had enough of skiing and switched to snow boarding this year! Half a dozen lessons later, she's getting almost there. She's one determined girl when she wants to do something. I gotta give it to her. I have nt even mustered the courage to get back to skiing after the injury four years back and only this year I am even thinking about it. Crossing fingers.

I hope 2016 is going well for everyone and heres to more blogging! Or is it no longer fashionable? What are people into these days? I have realized twitter is not for me. I only stalk people there. Cant think of anything clever, witty or useful under 140 characters! I have never been on Facebook. (You can close your jaw now!) I have panic attacks when people add me on whatsapp groups and l Iook for the nearest exit! Hd says I have become old and anti social and a snob. Anyone out there like me? Do we have a name for it? Im sure theres definitely a whatsapp group! :))

December 07, 2015

Madras.

I have been walking around with a heavy heart for a week. All my prayers are with Chennai and its people. And cuddalore and all parts of Tamilnadu affected by the rain. Usually when disaster strikes some part of the world, one is secretly relieved to have not been there at that time. But this is the only time I wished I was there in Chennai so that I can help in any way I could. I felt and still feel so utterly useless sitting here and living this comfortable life when people are homeless and starving and slowly trying to put their lives back together. Get well soon, Madras. Wishing you a speedy recovery.