Archive | March, 2015

The weekend bullet routine

24 Mar

If I don’t blog by atleast Tuesday about the weekend, I am going to end up forgetting what we did.Not that it was a spectacular weekend by any means , it was just your regular old weekend – but guess there is some comfort in routine and I will probably enjoy getting a glimpse of what we did when I read this several years from now.

– The weather is far too cold for March. But I am surprisingly not that bothered by it any more. I just merrily put on my four layers and do what I have to do,snowstorm and all. Of course , I realize that I am not driving, I am not shoveling and I live in the city, so maybe that makes going about and doing your thing easier.

– We did some skype time with the grandies on Saturday morning and feasted on Ragda Patties. This was the only meal I made the entire weekend.Cannot thank my stars enough that we both  don’t particularly mind older food. By old I mean a max of 3 days. Bandar gets fairly fresh food . Fairly being the operative word – I know, I do feed her a day or two old food sometimes, gasp! But its all good and she’s okay. I rather be reading her a good book than cooking piping hot, delicious meals on the clock.

– Talking about stories, my sister sent over some of our old Enid Blyton short stories recently and I have spent several happy bedtimes and weekends reading aloud and snuggling with Bandar. She’s only two and a half (as she will remind you) , so I do abridge the already simple stories but we have a few favorites so far.

– We did the regular, overpriced kiddie haircut for Bandar on Saturday evening and she was as good as gold. Only the blow dryer scared her a bit. She enjoyed sitting in the toy car , pretending to drive while the stylist did a decent job. She even commented that the visibly older screaming child next to her was “just scared and maybe a newborn?”  Compassion – 1, Observation – 0.

– We then went to Central Park , for the first time in months. The temp was about 32 F and we had to keep our gloves on. Hoping for more spring park days soon. Bandar called it a night with pizza at whole foods and a puke incident later on the bed. Fun times!

– We have started potty training in its simplest form at home and Bandar complies for the most part and is rewarded with Hotwheels and M&Ms. So far so good but I have no unrealistic expectation that we will be out of diapers in the next few months. This is going to be a long drawn out process.

– The bad part about potty training is the candy accessibility in the house. I went through my weight in M&Ms this weekend!

– Sunday started with a playdate for Bandar in the morning. Lunch was a quiet affair at home and the husbadoo went off into deep slumber, while Bandar and I played, read and prepared to go to birthday party . She was quite excited and I gave up making her sleep , only to have her fall asleep 30 minutes before we had to leave. Anyway, the party cheered up the grumpy, sleepy monkey and she was satiated with juice, chips and cake.

– Maybe I should be limiting sweet treats for Bandar . Some of her friends are allowed no candy, and only tiny bits of cake. Bandar gets dessert , juice and candy if its available. We do limit to some extent when it is available but maybe not enough in comparison to other kiddos her age. We previously never stocked this kind of crap but have started to off late. She’s taken to eating this deliciously , rich chocolate coated biscuit everyday after school and I sometimes have a hard time getting her to leave school, if I don’t promise this biscuit. Bad parenting, I know. We brush her teeth well morning and evening, but even if teeth rot isn’t an issue, I worry about the sugar she consumes on a daily basis. So if I am worried , i should probably do something about it, right? Need to go back to bribing with smoothies and carrots – super hard!

– I had such a New York moment in the party when the parents around me were debating local bagels! Funny!  That said, socializing with Bandar’s classmates’ parents is one of the few social outlets I have and I enjoy these few occasions immensely.

–  The weekend brought in some unpleasant financial revelations for us. But I guess that’s the mixed bag of being an adult and you deal with stuff as best as you can, make decisions and move on. Moments like this are when the fact hits you that you are truly a grown-up with real world problems. We ended the weekend with dinner outside though. Nothing to get over overspending blues like eating out again, is there? Pretty shameless indeed but hopefully this phase too shall pass,

– We did some much needed house cleaning and every time we do these short but effective cleaning sprees , I am motivated to do them more frequently. Sadly, cleaning is the most hated of household chores for me and I can live quite comfortably despite the mess all around. The husbadoo is a tad different, but only a tad and I certainly don’t see him volunteering to do all the cleaning, sorting,laundry, trash organizing chores on his own each week So our only plan of attack has to be joint and we have to be consistent each week to at the very least,  create a decent living environment for Bandar.

SPIL 1

21 Mar

When Revs announced she was starting her SPIL series some time ago, I commented telling her I would take this up as well. No rules, no deadlines, no minimal number of posts ….sounds perfectly doable to me! So here’s the first one.

I landed in the US, about two weeks before grad school began with the sole purpose of finding a campus job to cover my living expenses. A tuition waiver was out of question for a Masters program, so at best it would have to be an  hourly paid odd job around campus for 20 hours a week. I had heard stories about cafeteria jobs, tutoring jobs and jobs at the sports department which involved field set up for football games (you atleast got to hang out with hot jocks in this one!) – it was all such a wild bag of random tasks that I didn’t know what to expect before I actually found one. I spent my first week in the US, going to each campus building trying to find some job to do. Sadly it appeared that the jobs were either all taken or eliminated all together with shrinking budgets.

Finally, during a grad student orientation, a nice looking lady came to talk to us about the student services around campus – the police department, the health center, the transportation department and so on. She ended with saying that she  needed a student assistant who could write to help her maintain the website and run newsletters. Perfect! This job had my name written all over it. I barely remember what else they spoke to us about during that session – I was euphoric that I had identified the perfect job. Immediately afterwards, I hastily searched through my writing samples – small stuff like school magazine editor, college magazine contributions, some short stories published in a local magazine  and other crap and made copies . I took my resume and the writing samples to meet this lady, M. She was super sweet and oohed and ahhed over my application. When she learnt my major was not computer science though and that I had no website design experience, she sadly said she couldn’t give me the job. Her past student assistant (also desi) could write beautifully plus he managed the website and both skills were neededb for this jo. Oh well, so that job was not to be then. She did get my name and email address though as I left.

I put the whole incident behind me and found a random job entering work orders in the facilities department a few days later. The job was as dull as the day, but it paid the bills and was atleast indoors in the crisp fall that was slowly turning into a cold-for-me-from-the-tropics-winter.  And besides it was the only thing I found anyway, so what choice was there. (I need to do a complete post about the struggles of grad student life, but that’s another story) . Anyway, about a semester into my job, I got an email from M, saying she wanted to meet me again. So I stopped by least expecting to hear this was about the same job. Surprise – the computer science student she had picked was awful at wriiting and she had decided to sack him.  She had decided she wanted to hire someone who had the writing skills ,rather than the website design ones , which could be picked up fairly easily on the job. Yeah for me! Oh and this new gig paid about 1.5 times as much as my old one and made complete financial sense to take. I quit my Faciltiies department job on the same day and started work with M in her administrative department.

The department had four lovely ladies. There was R, the impeccably dressed , president of Auxilary services who was M’s boss. She had an air about her and I think M and the other ladies were a tad bit scared around her. But the few times she spoke to me during those first few months, I realized that she had a soft , kind heart despite the harsh facade her position sometimes demanded of her. There was then sweet and extremely efficient W, who was in R’s secretary. Brisk, to the point and supremely good at her organizing. There was B, the finance director , who I had my first actual managing your finances talk with in life . B was a whiz at math and numbers in general and the most academically inclined of the four women. She had a great deal of interest in my courses and career path.

And then finally the lady who hired me , M. M was such an interesting character. A little scatter brained , pouring out the random thoughts in her head,messy desk , messy office, great copy writer – catching the minutest of punctuation errors (wish I had learnt a little more from her there), great listener and super good at getting people around her to open up (this skill I did pick up a little for some interviews I did for the newsletter), online shopping addict, successful weight watchers program graduate, These are the only tit bits I remember now, from 8 years ago but you get the gist. She had two older kids in their twenties – a boy and a girl. They had moved out a few years ago and she was happily married to a man, who’s name totally escapes me now, but who she constantly referred to in all our conversations.So I gathered that they were happily married, empty nesters. M did these unexpected kind things that a mere boss need not have done for an International graduate student she saw just a few hours each week. She got me pecan pie back from Thanksgiving celebrrations at home and always saved me some carrot cake with cheesecake frosting  from department meetings that she attended. We grew closer over time .  She showed me every package of shoes and clothes that arrived for her from her online shopping sprees and asked me for my opinion.

I usually worked 3-4 hours a day and I started off with a chat with M – it was always supposed to be a quick chat, but it never was. We would usually start off with some article planning, theme picking , brainstorming for the newsletter and then go off on tangents to talk about random things. This was the phase that my parents disapproved totally of the then boyfriend(now the Husbadoo) and I finally had someone to talk to about my amazing boyfriend. I was somehow a little ashamed to bleat out my entire story of the parental disapproval, so did not venture into that conversation but instead spoke of the fun times we had shared during recent visits. She on her part like all typical American parents , offered nothing but her whole hearted admiration that we were in a  long distance relationship.

Regarding the job itself, I loved the actual interviewing and article writing for the newsletter – interviewing the campus employee of the month, attending the random celebratory ceremonies, interviewing nurses in the health clinic, talking to the police department about new safety measures. I was given a small recording device to use during these interviews and it helped me to finish churning out articles at top speed for several months in advance. I then spent the rest of the time helping W with some organizing work or other random tasks around the department. In those  stressful times with nasty roommates and other stress, my campus job was my escape and I enjoyed every minute spent in that office.

I had a summer internship planned in another city and wondered in M would hold my job for me to return to my final semester. I needn’t have worried at all – she agreed to do that without a second thought. So I wasn’t with her that Summer, but I returned for my final semester the next fall. I remember her excitement at having me back and she asked me a million questions about the summer and the city that I was in.  We then planned for my final semester. This one was when I had several interviews lined up for jobs upon graduation , and I shared all the details with M. She was especially interested in what I would be wearing for the interviews and pushed me to splurge on a new suit at Macys . She listened to all the details post – interview and when the offers were made, she asked me to talk to B about the right financial and investment decisions that I would be faced with once I had an actual job. Once I did accept an offer, R , the main queen bee of the office, insisted that they all take me out to lunch at the Cheesecake Factory! On one of my final days at the campus job, just prior to graduation , M gave me a beautiful silver charm bracelet and we parted with many hugs and tears.

Sadly, we both are bad at keeping in touch. I did send her a wedding invite a few years later. I don’t think I ever told her about Bandar and I think i am going to send her an email this weekend with some pictures. She still seems to  be working in the same job so I can thankfully still reach out; Its funny that this short 9 month stint in that office, was the first SPIL bit that I immediately thought to share. Undoubtedly these women and M in particular, left a huge impact on my then 21 year old heart.

Just the usual

19 Mar

Nothing like an “updates” post to beat the blogging lethargy.

The last year has seen me travel extensively for work and the only way I can do it all is because of my super supportive husband – he holds the fort when I am away, often for a week at a time and gets our little one fed, clothed and nurtured. Of course, daycare helps but it’s this guy who gets her there and himself to work and has things running smoothly. I left a sick little girl entirely in his care last week and worried my way through the first half of the week. But I needn’t have at all – he managed it all quite well and pushed himself beyond all possible limits last week, with childcare, work and everything else. I lucked out on this whole “choosing a partner” thing and he probably deserves much more than the airport chocolate I brought back home for him.

With regards to Bandar, she paid the doctor another visit last week and is appearing to still be fighting off some bad virus with a cough and cold. I am okay with this for the most part, as long as it isn’t the ears again or a fever. She passes this virus on to us as well and then we pass it back and forth merrily and can’t seem to shake it off. Oh well, things could be worse and it’s just a viral.

On the food front, we have been sticking to ordering in comfort food – creamy, rich malai kofta and paneer subjis and going out to have huge bowls of hot, delicious, soupy Ramen that hits the right spot on cold winter evenings. A bakery has opened a few doors down and we have indulged with some molten lava cake and it’s like.

I have been cooking in bulk a few days of the week to see us through extremely busy work days. Nothing majorly fancy – moong quinoa dosas and spicy chutneys for us (Nutella on the dosas for Bandar),hearty dals with some veggies thrown in   and some Thai curries now. On the days we exhaust the food and are in no mood for take-out, I make sandwiches with mozzarella, avocado, spinach and tomato in some combination with hummus. So good eats overall.

Work still stresses me out but I have realized I am one of those people who will always be worried and preoccupied with work and career stress. Things that seem minor to others, seem huge to me and I take my work far too seriously to be any different. I am learning to just do my best and let minor things roll of my back , but this is harder than it seems.

I had a good week in ATX from a “meeting friends” perspective and got to relax and unwind a bit after work. A lot of this unwinding involved good food in excess and I will need to work extra hard the next few weeks to keep those pounds at bay.

On the friends front, I have realized that there are just some marital problems I don’t get, thankfully. Husbands not standing up for wives when in laws and their relatives criticize the wife’s weight,mean in laws who insist on controlling every aspect of a couple’s life from India, 30 year old husbands who don’t stand up to said in law issues and so on. Of course, it’s not like I don’t have my own set of problems but these talks always make me thankful that some how things are manageable on my front , maybe thanks to the husbadoo being who he is. Or maybe I am just over sensitive and expect far too much support from the guy I married to deal with these kind of things. I come home and discuss these stories with him and ask him how he would have handled these situations, each time with bated breath, hoping he will give me the answer I expect. And so far he hasn’t disappointed!

I am learning to incorporate exercise into my evenings with Bandar. She lets me use the elliptical and plays in the vicinity. My workout is interrupted a few times and I have to breathlessly answer the million questions she poses, but I am funnily more amused than irritated by it all. That said, I have good work out days and bad ones and the bad ones largely outweigh the good in a week.

The old house

4 Mar

The old house stood in the intersection of two fairly busy by-lanes of the quiet colony. No one had lived in her for quiet a while – maybe 5-10 years. She was called a “bungalow” but hardly qualified – she was of modest size but fairly well designed. She had two average sized bedrooms, interconnected with just a door between them, an attached bathroom with a funnily positioned door leading to the garden from it, a good size hall and dining room, an old fashioned but decent looking kitchen and store room, and two verandahs. The back verandah housed another bathroom. The verandah itself faced the back garden and had no glass or even wooden shutters, but just a metal grid on the window frame. The front verandah into which one entered however thankfully did have windows, that could be open and shut and was a very pleasant room. The flooring all over was a maroonish red tile.  And now for the garden she stood in – insanely overgrown and uncared for at that point but oh-with-so-much-potential. There were three mango trees, a jamun Tree, a guava tree and a custard apple tree. The guava tree and the mango tree were pretty attractively climbable with low enough branches, if you know what I mean. The garden was rumored to house a few snakes, and had maybe one snake pit to prove it. Probably a snake might have been spotted and killed on the premises a few years ago too, or maybe it was just the rumor mill Monkeys however did abound and made their frequent appearance on the fruit trees. There was also a service quarter detached from the house and a garage. All this was at the back and the sides of the house. The front lawn had tons of flower beds and bougainvillea bushes. A stone bench stood at one corner under a shady tree.

Why no one chose this house to live in was a mystery. Previous prospective residents didn’t think much of the sleepy little colony that the house stood in, far away from the city center. Maybe it was the no air conditioning in the Bangalore summer and the modern amenities of the city apartments. Then along came my dad, my mom and I. I was seven, and the only India I knew at that point was my Grandparents’ houses in Chennai. Bangalore was the city my dad was posted in after a few years abroad and I was in a whole new world. My dad was shown the house first and it somehow appealed to him, maybe it reminded him of the houses he had lived in as a child during my grandfather’s career. Anyway he sold mom on the idea and on Republic Day we arrived there, bag and baggage. The snakes and monkeys were not in one bit appealing to my mom or me. The gardener that we were assigned , assured us though that he would get some guys to get rid of the snake pit and that it was just an ant hill now , with no snakes in sight. The open back verandah made my mom feel more than a little insecure too and for the two and half years we lived there, she attempted to have several people come in with a plan to enclose it, only to be told it would spoil the ventilation and the “beauty” of the old house. We just never used the back bathroom much. What mom did love though were the kitchen and store room with ample storage. What I loved was the interconnected door between the bedrooms – I finally agreed to move into my own room for a few months, maybe just enough time to give my folks some time to work on the much postponed second kid!

Live in India started in earnest. I was enrolled in a lousy little school nearby – maybe the only one who took me in the middle of class three , when I had no idea how to do long division or multiplication. The only thing I could do was read, and read I did in my strong British accent, enough to blow the socks off the little lady who “interviewed” me. Writing too I could do , slowly and laboriously in neat , small , printed hand and no running or joint letters , as that is how I had been taught. Anyway, this school gave me an exemption for Hindi – I was allowed to do the alphabet and KG level books, while the rest of the class followed the prescribed class 3 syllabus.  So they took me in a few days before the end of Jan and strongly expected me to fail the class 3 final exams in March. I surprised the whole lot of them by passing – the lowest I scored was 50 in Maths , which was huge after doing the just 2 times table a few months ago. And of course subjects like social studies, moral science and science I scored in the high 90s. I had to be promoted to class four , but was still 7 years old and the school struggled with this idea. Anyway, as luck would have it a brand new school, a branch of a reputed other Bangalore school opened and were ready to take me into class 4 . Yippee! So I was finally set and took the school bus to the new school within a few months. I lost the accent completely within less than 3 months, started singing Hindi filmy songs with gusto and settled in pretty well. So that was with regards to school and me.

Dad meanwhile enjoyed his 10 minute walk to work on pleasant days and on other days took the assigned car and driver. He enjoyed the nature of the work and life in the outskirts. Mom busied herself trying to find some house help to live in the service quarter and help out – she found one thieving maid after the other but that’s another story. After dabbling with being at home for a while, and writing stories for children to occupy herself ,she also found herself a job, teaching at a reputed college in the city. I loved Saturdays best when I was home with the maid from school, dad arrived home for lunch and picked me up to drive all the way to get mom. I loved sitting in the back seat hearing my parents talk, seeing the Bangalore traffic, playing imaginary games in my head.

The three of us enjoyed that little colony immensely. The lovely breezy evening walks, visits to a little bakery for masala buns, dad teaching me to bike without my side wheels in one of the numerous playgrounds, mom sitting by watching and clapping, visits to the local club for juice for me and beer for dad and piping hot masala vadas for us all, Sunday morning ordered breakfasts of poori and saagu, visits to the local library where I raced through the entire two shelves that was the Children’s section in a month!

Dad travelled for work a good bit when we lived here and mom and I had the major fearful task of locking the gate each night that he was away. As we were both scared of the dark and had crazy imaginations, we always did this together and ran back into the house at break neck speed when this was done! Oh and once a teeny, tiny snake made its way into the main bathroom and we freaked out and didn’t use it for a few days. This involved using the bathroom in the open back verandah which was also a little scary but we chose it over the snake! Fun times:)

We had a lot of family visit us in this house and miraculously had plenty of space to have people stay over. My cousin spent the summer with us and we climbed every single climbable tree in that garden. Frisbee, badminton and cricket were all played in the front lawn.  The garden bloomed that spring as the gardener true to his work did a great job, we were surprised to find out garden nominated for a local prize and I went on stage to pick it up.

Ah, next the baby! The house truly proved lucky for us, as more than one person told us.  My parents told me a few months after I turned eight that I would soon have a baby sister or brother. Of course, I wanted a sister and bounced off the walls with the news.  She arrived the day before I started my class 4 exams, and though she was born in Chennai as my mom was at her parents’ place for the delivery, this Bangalore house was her first home. We brought her home at about 2 months old, after a 6 hour screaming session in the Chennai –Bangalore Shatabdi. I wheeled her around the garden when she was old enough to sit in the pram, we spent many a happy moment on the shady, stone bench and she had her first little injury with some blood  (thanks to me) in the front garden porch.  She took her first steps in this house, cautiously holding the wall and the furniture and crawling where she had nothing to hold.

We were more than a little sad as our time in that house drew to an end. Dad was transferred to another location, in the city but away from this area. It made complete sense for us to move and we did.

Bombay will always remain my favorite city in the world, maybe because I spent my formative high school and college years there. But Bangalore, this house in particular where we were so content and happy for those two odd years, is one of my favorite peeks into my childhood.

Happy Weekend recap

2 Mar

This has been a weekend of intense mother-daughter bonding! Hope Bandar enjoyed it as much as I did.

The husbadoo had to be in Boston for a good part of the weekend. so it left me with a weekend of decentish weather for the most part and a dad crazy toddler to entertain. Saturday , we started off at the library. (What is it about libraries and kids wanting to sit there and read at the tables? I remember distinctly being 5 at Hong Kong’s British Council Library and wanting my mom to read books to me, instead of just the normal just-quickly-issue-books-and-leave thing we did each time. But being a good little girl who never asked for anything, I never ever communicated this to her, at least that’s what mom tells me,)

Anyway, we spent a lovely one hour there . Oh noteworthy – we picked up BJ Novak’s – The Book with no pictures and OMG ,what a fun read. I am a huge fan of his, well more like BJ-Mindy relationship fangirl , and I had heard about the book but really didn’t think Bandar would enjoy it yet as she’s not even 2.5 years old. I was so wrong though – she loved it and we have read it a few times this weekend already. Oh the husbadoo actually does a better job than me in reading it out to her. I can see us buying this. We then went to Whole Foods and after the regular grocery shopping,we did Bandar’s favorite thing – sit down and eat pizza there. She was seriously so patient despite her hunger at 1:30 pm and was a delight overall that morning. For me it was like one of those confidence boosting mornings as a mom ,out in New York city with my toddler. I was having a fairly good hair day, was amply clad in four layers and snow boots and enjoyed the short walk to and fro these places and home. We came home and she took a nap while I did some office work.

Saturday I did not cook at all. I ate three consecutive meals of the same ultra – tam-brahm-as-it-comes food – piddi kozhukattai rice dumplings steamed) made with brown rice( tad less guilty making it this way)  and onion-eggplant puliuttha kootu. Both these I haven’t made in almost five years, but they were fairly decent if I should say so myself. The husbadoo liked them too in the one meal he made of them on Friday night.  I was anyway thankful for this in my fridge and not having to cook in addition to child care on Saturday, even though I myself got a little tired of it by the third meal- Saturday Dinner. The husbadoo arrived from Boston dog-tired close to midnight and after a quick cozy catch up chat, we slept around midnight.

Sunday morning, the husbadoo went off for cricket practice at the crack of dawn and Bandar and I decided to go to the Children’s museum. NYC’s Children’s Museum is ahhh-mazingggg! Seriously, we don’t tire of this place and Bandar seems to enjoy different activities at our periodic visits every few months , as she grows. I usually hate parting with the entrance fee and ensure we get our money’s worth by making it a longish visit, but we only got about two hours today and my thrifty heart ached a little to leave around lunch time! The husbadoo , freshly showered and clean, met us outside and we made our way to lunch as a snowstorm began in all its glory.

We went to our favorite American-dosa cafe kind of place – Hampton Chutney and had a relaxing lunch together. We then made our way home , stopping mid way for chores in the raging storm , while Bandar slept cozily under the numerous stroller blankets and snow covers. The husbadoo and I caught up on random tidbits from the last few weeks and I was a happy girl.

I went on a mini cooking spree once home as I anticipate a crazy work week. So now I have some delish soupy-pasta (spicy hummus and home made marinara) base with tons of veggies, and rahjma.Should see us through till mid week. I have realized I eat a ton when I am anxious/ depressed/ worried or all of the above , as I was last week. A  semi healthy filling meal like a Rahjma Sandiwch and some salad should hopefully keep me full if eaten at mid day while I work. I worked out a grand total of two times last week. I am super pissed off with my mommy tummy but obviously not pissed off enough to do enough to tone it, which is pissing me off even more.Somehow the city life style and killer stairs have helped me shed those pesky last 5 lbs that I had on me when we moved here and I am now at 122 lbs , which is about 8 lbs lower than my pre pregnancy weight. But the freaking tummy needs work.  Hoping this week bodes well for exercise.

Overall fairly productive weekend. Made up for some lousy mom days I had in recent times where I gave in to far too much video time and sweet treats to tame my monkey. No treats or TV time this weekend is a mini victory as far as I am concerned right now.