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March 19, 2015

37.

It was my "Happy Birthday" last week. Why does 37 seems so much older than 36? Antu gets a kick out of telling "When I am zero, you were 30 Amma and when I was one you were 31, when I am two you were 32,... ". She can't wait to turn 7 so that our ages are in sync once more.  Little joys of life! I told Hd to stop buying gifts for the sake of buying and get me a bicycle instead and he obliged. I realized I have never had a brand new cycle. I always got my sisters bike while growing up. And once I got my Kinetic Honda in college, there were no more bicycles. We bought an used rickety cycle here in Swiss a few years back which we sold when it looked like we were moving to the US! Between breaking my leg 2 years back and Antu being quite small, we four never cycled together as a family. Hd and Ashu used to go once in a while and Ashu enjoyed biking a lot. Then last year Antu took to cycling quite a bit too and this year seemed perfect for the four of us to go biking as a family and the new mountain bike could nt have come at a better time. We set out with our bikes on Saturday. Spring is almost here and it was a beautiful day. While Ashu and I rode like the wind, the two slow pokes lagged much behind. We managed about 10 Kms and loved it. The last 500 metres to home is totally uphill and I almost died. I found a better bike trail without much uphill and tried it out the next day and loved it. Thanks to Hd for the great gift.

Ashu made me a beautiful bead necklace with bottle caps as lockets and her photo and mine in each of the bottle caps and I almost cried when she showed me and wore it proudly the whole day showing it off to everyone. Antu made me a necklace too and showered me with hugs and kisses the whole day. She even refused to go to her BFFs house for a playdate and stayed home with me. Hd took me out for a fancy dinner and we had a great time. A very good friend had a birthday breakfast for me with a few friends at her house and I felt like a school kid going to school on her birthday wearing "colour dress"! It was a great day. Antu was very curious about our "in sync" age and asked, "How old will you be when I am 50, Amma?"  "I will be 80", I said. "And when I am 80?" "She will be dead, Antu", answered Ashu quickly! That kid will do anything to get out of a math question, I tell you.

March 05, 2015

R.I.P Lulu, the Fish.

Sometime around July last year, Ashu walked to the nearby pond with her friend and came back all excited with a tiny little fish in a plastic cup. My immediate reaction was "Go back and leave the fish back in the pond right now!" But I want Lulu as my pet, Amma, begged Ashu. Any parent out there knows that once the kids have named something, we as well give up. So I put the fish in a flower vase and the doting dad took the girls to a pet shop to buy fish food. Ashu tried to ask me if she can get another fish since Lulu was lonely but I told her she has to choose if she wants me or another fish. And thankfully, she chose me! I had my doubts, to be honest.

In the beginning, I really felt bad about this little fish who was happily swimming in the pond with his family and now swimming in circles in a tiny vase. I even told Ashu how he misses his family and how his dad is looking for him and she should go and put him back in the pond but she rolled her eyes and told me, "This is not a movie, Amma. And its just a fish!" She also went on about how people eat fish and she's only keeping one as a pet! So I kept quiet. Hd cleaned the vase every week and changed the water. We added some pebbles to the vase. Everyday we had to remind Ashu to feed Lulu. ("peru vachiye, soru vachiye" moment*!) Months passed. Lulu survived a few weekends without us. Lulu survived the house move. Lulu stayed at a neighbors for 10 days when we were vacationing in December. And everyday I used to wonder how long does a pond fish so small would live.

Some days I even threatened Ashu that I will take Lulu back to the pond if she is not responsible. Every time she nagged us to buy her a dog, I used to say "You can't even take care of a tiny little fish." Antu used to stand near the fish and talk to him or show him off to her friends and over feed him. Except for feeding him twice a day, most of the time we even forgot his existence. And then eight months later, he died. Yesterday. I gave an involuntary scream when I found him dead and like a chain reaction, Ashu ran away to her room while Antu ran towards the fish. Both of them cried unconsolably and even I was choking a bit. Ashu did nt want to see Lulu again, did nt walk to talk about him or say goodbye. On the other hand, Antu wanted to know how he died, what we are going to do with him and whats going to happen to all the fish food! 

We gave him a proper burial outside our apartment. Antu was so sad that she could nt celebrate his first birthday. We called Hd and Antu cried her heart out to him while Ashu refused to talk to him. Antu also broke the news to her grand parents and aunt while Ashu refused to talk to them. "I just don't want to talk about him or remember him because it makes me sad", was her logic. Sigh. Anyway we went about our day and whenever we looked at the empty vase, we went silent. The house was too quiet and I don't know how its even possible. I have always had dogs while growing up and felt incredibly sad when each one of them died. But I never thought the death of a tiny little fish could bring so much sadness.

I talked to the girls about my dogs, how futile life is and how we should enjoy every minute, etc.. and gave them the whole spiel about being nice to each other. A mom has to milk every opportunity with a life lesson, no? Antu of course is one up on me when it comes to milking opportunities. At one vulnerable moment, she asked me in a sad voice, "Can we watch Finding Nemo today, Amma?"

* you named him but did you feed him? (but it rhymes in Tamil! :)

February 23, 2015

Bhaktha Antu.

Antu has been waiting for her teeth to fall and the tooth fairy to visit for a long time. Last month when her first tooth fell, we all did the needful by clicking photos, sending the said photos to grand parents, uncles and aunts, getting very excited, remembering to sneak the tooth away from under her pillow and to put some money there. And Antu was the happiest child in the universe when she found the money and promptly we all oohed and aaahed at the Tooth fairy's efficiency and did the needful by clicking photos, sending the said photos to grand parents, uncles and aunts, getting very excited, etc.. etc.. Two weeks later when the second tooth fell, she was nt every pleased that we were nt as excited as we were for the first tooth! And she also remembered the fact that Ashu had got a gift from Tooth Fairy and not money when her second tooth fell and told us that she was expecting the same! I felt bad for the poor kid and hid a gift this time. (A left handed pencil that the doting father had picked up from an airport somewhere a long time ago and had forgotten to give it to her came in handy!) Little Missy was very thrilled the next day and flaunted the pencil to everybody she met and we all did the needful! 

Antu loves gifts and this was proven when she she kept wiggling her tooth and made it fall this week. The third tooth. I don't even remembering getting anything for Ashu after the first two teeth and not like she cared anyway. And three teeth in three weeks was too much for me! So I thought I will put an end to this nonsense but Ashu and Hd kept telling that they will keep a 1 franc or 2 franc coin and make Antu happy so I said fine and left it at that. But Little Miss Greedy kept telling the whole day how Tooth Fairy gives cash only for the first tooth and how she gives gifts for the rest! That got my goat and I told her that thats not the case. 

"But I wished for a gift, Amma. Tooth Fairy also gets gifts like Santa. She will know what I wish for and give me that gift."

"Antu, listen to me! Theres no Tooth fairy ok?"

*Antu starts crying immediately*

(Meanwhile Ashu was giving me a look as if I was drowning a puppy.)

I got so mad but I have had enough of all this tooth fairy business and calmly started telling Antu that she's old enough to understand that its the parents who give the gifts and there is no tooth fairy. And that she's being greedy.

She was howling now as if I told her that I stole her as a baby for her magic hair!

Ashu could nt believe her ears and that her mother could stoop so low and was trying to pacify Antu. One would think I would have shut up right about now. But once I start, theres no stopping me! I kept telling Antu that theres no tooth fairy thinking that its better this heart breaking information came from me instead of her friends.

"You are lying, Amma. Tooth fairy is real and she is the one who gives gifts. I do not believe you", she screamed while still crying her heart out.

I got a bit scared now having grown up with the Prahalad story and Antus conviction was as strong as his! I imagined The Tooth Fairy flying into our house through the window and breaking all my teeth and wearing it as a "Maalai" and strangely could empathize with Hiranyakasipu like I could never before! 

"Listen Antu! I am just telling you that you are being a little greedy by wiggling your teeth and wishing for gifts. And I don't like that. You can believe in the Tooth Fairy if you want but you are not getting any gifts anymore, ok? So don't be disappointed when you wake up tomorrow and find nothing!"

"I believe in tooth fairy, Amma! AND SHE IS REAL, OK? And you know what you are doing? You are just spoiling my fun, Amma. That's what you are doing. You just want to spoil my fun!"

That stung.

Hd was duly informed about my failure as a parent and he took over and Antu got up the next morning very happy to find a 5 Franc coin under her pillow!

The fourth teeth is wiggling now and she did nt even mention it to me once. When I enquired about it today, she kept on talking about different things and when I persisted, she said "I believe in Tooth Fairy, Amma. I want Tooth Fairy to know that I believe in her, ok?"

This time, I shut up.

ps.
Chalk and Cheese.

February 03, 2015

Meta.

Antu had borrowed a Dictionary from her English Teacher and was browsing through it.  

Antu: "Does the Dictionary have all the words, Amma?"

Me: "Most of them, da".

She started flipping a few pages and settled on a page and started reading aloud.

"Dictionary: A dictionary is a book where you can find what words mean and how to spell them." And then with a big smile, she continued "You are reading a dictionary now."

Me: "Oh my God, thats so meta!"

Antu: "Whats meta, Amma?"

Me: "What you just did! Reading a dictionary to find out what a dictionary means!"

Antu: "flips the dictionary pages to letter M"

But the children's dictionary did not have the word "Meta" in it. Whoa! Is nt that kind of meta too? *shudders*

February 01, 2015

Breakfast in France, Lunch in Italy and Dinner in Switzerland.

Last year when it looked like we might move out of Zurich, we started writing lists of things to do before we move. Hd and I had a long list of places to see, Ashu wanted to go to a theme park with her BFF and Antu, of course, did not want to move and refused to make lists. Smart one she is because she's the only one who got what she wanted! :) Anyway, one of the things we wanted to do was this day trip where we drive around and see three countries on the same day. We have technically done this before while driving back from Austria or Germany or France. (Even 4 countries at times if we include Liechtenstein!) But we also wanted to sightsee and relax and enjoy the trip. When a friend suggested we go to Geneva region and go to France and Italy, we thought it was a great idea.  The kids had never seen the Chillion Castle in Montreux so we decided to make a weekend trip. 

We drove to Montreux from Zurich on a Saturday, visited the castle, ate a packed dinner there and then drove on to Chamonix in France and stayed in a most charming B&B with a view of the Mont Blanc. When we got up the next day, the weather was awful and it rained non stop and we could nt even see the mountain because of the fog. The couple who ran the B&B cooked us a scrumptious French breakfast and we ate home made breads, cereals and crepes. We read and played board games and lingered there for a bit before driving on through the Mont Blacn Tunnel. (11 kms long and a bloody 41 Euros one way to pass through it!) 

Once out of the tunnel, we were in Italy and the sun was shining and all was well with the world! :) We continued to Aosta, parked our car there and roamed around the charming town centre full of Roman ruins. We window shopped, people watched, walked in to churches and of course found a great Pizza place to fulfill our "Lunch in Italy" plan. After a fantastic pizza and bruschetta, we found a shop which was selling "Gelato in a Stick" in all kinds of flavors and colors. Slurping on it, we got back to our car and started driving towards Zurich, wisely skipping the tunnel and taking the longer, scenic route instead.

While we were debating whether to go home and eat a home cooked meal for dinner or stop at a restaurant, the girls voted for a Mexican restaurant and we planned to stop in Bern and have dinner there. Around 7.30 pm, we reached Bern and parked our car near the city centre and were walking towards the Mexican restaurant, when we crossed a restaurant serving Swiss food! The universe had to conspire even for a silly whim of ours, huh? We high fived each other and entered the restaurant with our cameras ready! :) Fondue was out of the question since it was not yet winter but we lucked out with a fantastic selection of Rosti! They had a special Rosti menu with 12 kinds of Rosti and half of them were even vegetarian! (Thank you, Universe!) 

Thus a trip we decided on the last minute without much planning turned out to be one of the most interesting weekend trip we have ever had! I strongly recommend.

January 27, 2015

Sri Lanka.

This December we were in Srilanka for 8 days. It was an amazing trip and what a beautiful country! It was also a family/friends reunion with my parents, sister, brother in law, my In laws, sister's In laws, A's family and her parents. We were 18 people and had a blast! Hd,Sis and Bil had work in India and all of them flew to Colombo from Chennai while the girls and I flew directly from Zurich and came back with Hd. Organizing the whole trip was a nightmare with loads of ifs and buts and I still can't believe we did it. Adding to the confusion was to keep A's trip as a surprise to my sis! A's girls and Ashu and Antu were the perfect company for each other and it was heart warming to see them bond and give us parents a well deserved break! Ashu and Antu were like kids in a candy shop with all the attention from grand parents, uncles, aunts and friends! Not to mention feeding milk to baby elephants, touching a 2 weeks old baby crocodile and petting  2 days old baby turtles! That and the beach - they could nt ask for more!

Sis, A and I with our respective husbands went white water rafting and it was my first time and I loved it! It was an awesome experience and the highlight of my trip. It rained non stop the first few days and it was a total bummer! But that could nt stop us from visiting the Pinnawala elephant orphanage or climbing the Sigiriya Rock or going to the Golden Buddha Temple. Thankfully it stopped raining and we could enjoy the beaches later. Nuwara Eliya was so beautiful too with its scenic tea plantations and water falls. The hotels we stayed were lovely and the breakfast and dinner spread were unbelievable! Sometimes it felt that all we were doing were eating breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday and seeing things in between! We had a van for ourselves with a driver and a guide and on the long road trips, we did what else but eat more! Whether it was Rajaram kadalai mittai or Karachi bakery biscuits or Swiss chocolates - everything vanished in an alarming speed!

Sis was turning 40 on 18th January but we decided to surprise her on New years eve with cake and gifts and the hotel we stayed had a great party with music, dancing and fireworks. We brought 2015 in with loads of fanfare. Everyone but the four of us left for Chennai on 1st morning and the kids did nt take it well. "Its so unfair" they declared! End of holidays does that to everyone, I guess. Our flight to Zurich was late in the night and we just chilled the rest of the day. We reached on 2nd. From Tropical island to Winter Wonderland in just 24 hours. Sigh! Anyway, it was a great trip with great company. All I remember about the trip is the laughs. God, we laughed a lot! Here is to fun and laughter and wishing you loads of that in this New Year!

December 04, 2014

Confusion.

Before I know, its going to be a brand new year again! The second half of this year has been Crazy! Around June/July, Hd decided he needs a change in his job location and sent feelers out in his company and before we knew what hit us, it was Destination Chicago! (We are still in Zurich. Wait for the full story!) Antu was in tears because she was going to miss her teacher, her friends and the house! Ashu was in her "whatever" mode and I was having a break down! Come August, we told friends about our move,  informed the school that we were leaving in October, gave notice to our house, cancelled all the kids activities, started disposing/recycling/selling/giving away stuff and international movers were coming to give quotes! Friends were even planning farewell parties! And then everything came to a stand still mid october because Hd got another job offer here and he was keen to take it. For about three weeks, we could nt do anything. I was planning an india trip in Oct which did nt happen. Our house was rented to someone else already! I could nt inform the school yet because we did nt know what was going to happen! Sigh! It was pure torture! Hd was walking in egg shells around me because if looks could kill, he would have died a thousand times!

Finally, things fell in place and he accepted the offer and luckily we found another house to rent in the same neighborhood, the school was ok with our craziness, most of the kids activities could be renewed and the girls are extremely happy that we are not moving! But there was no time to rejoice as we were moving houses and the last few weeks were so stressful. It has been two weeks since we moved to this house and finally there are no more moving boxes in the house. Its a very nice, spacious house and Im slowly getting used to it. Antu who was crying buckets that she would miss our old house is much happier here since theres more space to spread her clutter! But everyday she crosses our old house to walk to her school and says hi to it! :)

Never a dull moment in my life but alls well that ends well, I suppose! Also, my friends are still throwing me a farewell party this weekend but they have renamed it "The Not Leaving Party!" Now who would want to leave such friends and move anyway? :)

August 29, 2014

Pillayar Chaturthi Special - 2014.

Lack of time and last year's clay meant that we had to work hard on our Pillayar this year. Quite a team effort with Ashu in charge of the head, trunk, one tusk and two legs and Antu taking over two hands, a half trunk and the plate with laddus! Hd struggled with the thoppai, ears and the mouse and I, as usual, was the fixer upper - the Pillayar of this family! :)

I was thinking of my Thatha, paternal grandfather, so much as we were making the Pillayar. I remember I was Antu's age when I used to sit next to him in our village and he used the dark kali mannu (clay) to make the Pillayar. And I can't describe the beauty of it. The smell of the eera kali mannu (wet clay) along with the banana leaf it came wrapped in, the way his experienced hand shaped the Pillayar, the nearby kenaru (well), the whole house getting ready for the poojai,... such a heady memory! He passed away exactly 15 years ago today. This Pillayar is for you, Thatha. You would have been proud!

Happy Ganesh Chathurthi everyone!




August 18, 2014

4.Klasse and Kindergarten 2.

Five weeks of sleeping late and waking up late took its toll this morning as the entire household was in a frenzy! Antu who was so excited about going back to school got up at 4 am and then at 5 am and then at 6 am to ask if it was morning yet. And around 6.30 she was seen giving finishing touches to the cat she was supposed to color and bring to school! And at 7.30, we had to shake her and wake her up! She wanted to be the first to go to school since she wanted to choose the peg she wanted. (The one with the parrot picture in it) And we made it! Yay! Little joys of life!

Ashu was very independent and organized as usual and walked on her own to school and did nt want us to walk with her. Her new teacher has made a good impression on her and the teachers daughter is also in the same class, so there were funny stories to share. (The teacher said that we have to get a signature from our parents and the teacher in the homework, Amma! L needs only one signature, ha ha!) 

I spent the whole day trying to organize the after school activities! Antu is doing tennis other than ballet and swimming. (And she wanted to go to a painting class because her BFF is going but I said no way much to her disappointment!) And I cancelled Ashus swimming and soon I ll cancel Chess too after this term. So she will go for her violin and tennis as usual. She was also selected for an orchestra and I was very keen that she goes but that day did nt suit us so she had to let go of that too. Its all good because todays the first day and its 8.30 pm and she's still doing her home work! A fictional story half page or more is the requirement. So of course she will sit and write a 2 page fantasy story that Rama Narayanan would have been proud to direct! 

But seriously, fourth grade? I as well retire now!

August 04, 2014

Heidi Trail.

Last Friday was a holiday as it was Swiss National day and even though the weather was a bit iffy, we decided to get out of the house anyway and headed to Bad Ragaz to explore the Heidi Trail. We parked our car at the cable car station and took the cable car up to Pardiel. It started to rain a bit but soon the sun came out and all was well. At the ticket office, the girls got a Heidi passport and they have to find Peter's goats at each of the 12 stations and get a stamp on their paper and all the 12 stamps make a word (which I won't tell since it would ruin the surprise of future adventure seekers who might be reading this! ) Then they can post this on the Heidi post box and wait to see if they win any prizes! So the girls were thrilled with the whole thing. And instead of us motivating them to walk, it was them who were dragging us all the way! It takes around 2 to 3 hours to finish the whole trail since there are play areas on the way, fake goats to milk, hammocks to laze on, zip lines and swings with views to kill, water falls, bird houses, Heidi story boards and last but not least, so many photo oppurtunites! :) 


The trail was a bit uphill for about 10 minutes which the kids did nt mind but my knees sure did! The views were so amazing that the kids got very impatient with me that I was standing and staring. At one point, they went ahead of us, found the next goat, got the stamp and ran back to us because they just could nt wait! It all started as Team Antu and Team Ashu with me in Antus team and Hd in Ashus. But towards the end, it was the kids against us! :) I had packed some sandwiches to eat on the way. And then after the hike, we went to the restaurant near the cable car station and treated ourselves to ice cream and a fantastic apricot cake with fresh fruits and cream. Yum! The kids played in the play area nearby and around 5 pm, took the cable car back, posted the passports at the Heidi post box and headed home. A great alpine experience for the kids!