Thotho Tales

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”¬† Charles Dickens must have had a puppy. ūüôā

It’s been four weeks since W joined our family.¬†It has been incredible. He has¬†not slept through the night once since he arrived.¬†That makes for a very sleep-deprived N and myself. We seem to be getting past it slowly – N, W, and myself. We have a certain rhythm going on these days. Not the idyllic “me and my perfect pet” type situation (yet), but a stable¬†sort of rhythm. Which is huge in of itself (I mean, you should have seen us that first week –¬†cleaning out doodoo all the time and clinically depressed).

Little N and I take him for a long walk at night just before bedtime. Little N spends a good chunk of time carrying him around when he won’t cooperate (although I think it’s because she loves to cradle him and cuddle with him). Little N’s¬†step tracker show¬†that we are routinely walking over 5K steps every day. Previously, I was mostly languishing in the “less¬†than 3K steps – Sedentary” world, so this is pretty cool. The weighing scale is showing a decent weight loss for me (which is always nice on the tail of a calorie-filled vacation). Pants that haven’t fit in over a year are looking pretty good these days.¬†Little N and I¬†also talk so much¬†about everything under the sun during our walks, which is such a pleasure for me. Hard to get quality time with a busy teen (who’s turning 16 next week!). Is it¬†such a huge pleasure for little N too? Well. You’ll have to ask her, won’t you? ūüôā

W seems to absolutely¬†ADORE N. N is so super patient and kind with W, and shows him so much love.¬†W’s little non-tail wags at express speed when N is in the room. He searches so desperately when¬†N leaves the room, and cuddles up with N with such a confiding and peaceful air that even I find endearing.

Little A had been doing doctoral level research on puppies for at least¬†seven months before we got W. So, she’s the one with all the information. She also has strong opinions on how he¬†must be handled, which prompted little N to give little A several nicknames for bossing us around: Doggie Dictator, Animal Autocrat, and Furry Fascist. But seriously, thank God for little A’s research. Our first week with W would have been insane had little A not already made sure to stock up on basic supplies (and then some). W is so playful with little A, which is such a delight (and sometimes mildly alarming) to watch. The girls have been trying to train W to do tricks. Helps that he is very motivated by food. Super fun!

W seems moderately interested¬†in¬†Amma and myself. Amma doesn’t engage much with him, other than speaking to him in Tamil sometimes when she is in the kitchen (W is going to be bilingual!). And sometimes sharing outdoor time with him while walking.

I¬†spend a¬†LOT of time with W. But it’s more functional time than fun time.¬†When he wakes me up at night,¬†I clean up without making eye contact. Willing him to quietly go back to sleep and not think that I woke up to play with him. I don’t let him lick me (what’s a puppy to do, W despairs, I am sure) or nip at me (serious no, no). I am v. no-nonsense with him. I mean, I am¬†already¬†quite indulgent with my two munchkins, I¬†just do not have the bandwidth to pamper one more. So, I interact¬†with W in a sort of semi-professional way.¬†Meanwhile, he seems to think that I am his Ayah. That I am there to clean up after him and walk around with him when¬†it suits him. I don’t see the uncontrolled tail wagging that he reserves for N and the girls.¬†We have a strange dynamic going on – W and me. Which suits me fine.

I am not proud of this and I am telling you (and you only). I have been catching myself snapping at people around me between 4 and 6 pm (hunger, tiredness, and sleep-deprivation all catching up to me by late afternoon). In the past few days, I have been making sure to have a cup of chai and a snack, and sit quietly by myself for a few minutes during that time. Works like a charm.

Most importantly, I find that W forces me to be in the moment. With all the additional work around a new puppy, I don’t find myself dilly-dallying around mundane tasks, churning¬†over minor decisions, or worrying about things that I can’t control. I have always been pretty efficient and organized, but I¬†am now operating with military-level precision.¬†For the first time in a month, I am finding myself ahead of piled up work (hope this trend continues!).¬†Our family dynamic seems to have changed somewhat, and we are somehow all closer, chatting and laughing (and bickering) more, bound more tightly together by W.

So. A month in. I am learning that there are lots of pros and cons¬†to puppy ownership. I am not going to tell you that the pros outweigh the cons. Or vice versa. It’s all part of the package. And, in my own way, I am happy that we have this little package in our family at this time.

For now, that’s quite enough.

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My 18 for 2018 Update

I wrote¬†up my “18 for 2018” list back when 2018 was brand new and shiny.¬† Here’s how I have fared, seven months later. Lots of progress on some (unexpected ones), no progress at all on others (no surprises there), and really hit the mark on a handful.

So. Here goes. My July 2018 update in parantheses.

  1. Try 300 new recipes (He!! no. How about a more manageable 12 per year? Let’s try that first, ok?).
  2. Walk a 1000 miles (Well. Bought the treadmill desk but felt nauseous on it in the beginning, and have made no progress getting back on it. But I may still hit this goal, thanks to a certain furry friend from #6 below).
  3. Use tote bags for groceries (Absolutely rocking this one! Although, since we are now buying more plastic bags and paper towels to accommodate aforementioned furry friend, maybe this one just breaks even?)
  4. Read the Harry Potter series (Have not started yet, but fully intend to. Have been watching the movies off and on, does that count?)
  5. Clear out and de-clutter at least one closet or one room every month (No effing way this is getting done. Especially given¬†family’s current hyper busy schedule¬†due to #6 below.
  6. Puppy for the family – figure it out and make it happen in the first quarter (This one blows my mind. I cannot believe that I put it on the list in the first place, and we also made it happen (although not in the first quarter). Found myself telling little A the other day that¬†I couldn’t believe that¬†her friend S has a puppy, and realized – holy sh*t, wait a¬†minute, we now have a puppy.).
  7. No more than two cups of caffeine per day (Yeah, right! Make that five).
  8. No more than one pack of sugar per coffee (Yeah, right! Make that five. Ok, not five. Make that two).
  9. No vending machine snacks at work (Yes!! But mainly because of a lot of work from home time due to #6).
  10. Make albums of family and vacation pictures (Hmmm… will roll into¬†my 19 for 2019 list).
  11. Learn to french braid the munchkins’ hair (Ammadi! I really have no talent for some things. Would really love to learn to do fun things with the girls’ hair. But how, oh how?).
  12. Listen to at least one podcast every day (This is happening fabulously – idhukku onnum korachal illai, kaasa panama?).
  13. Write at least four blog posts every month (You know the deal with this one).
  14. Try six new restaurants near home (Have not given this much thought. Tried maybe one new restaurant so far. This should be easy and fun. Sure, will do five more in five months).
  15. Use my Nutribullet at least twice a week to make smoothies (Well. Effing Nutribullet didn’t work. So bought a new different brand smoothie blender. Making smoothies erratically off and on. Should remember twice a week, easy no?).
  16. Have friends over at least once every quarter (Thanks to #6, you can kiss this one goodbye for the near future).
  17. Lunch date with N every month (Haven’t gone out to lunch since N’s birthday back in early May. Not too late to get back on the wagon. Should plan for August!)
  18. Go watch “Hamilton” on Broadway (Sure,¬†as soon as¬†I get the small bank loan that I have requested to pay for our tickets).

Looks like not much got done yet, huh? Well. 2018 is still young. We’ll get there! ūüôā

Puppy Parent

You know that you have become a puppy parent when:

  • in addition to sometimes mixing up your two kids’ names, you¬†have now started calling the puppy by their names as well
  • you go into work and you look around while riding up the elevator thinking that¬†you hear him¬†whining
  • he walks up to your room at 3 am, and instead of getting frustrated, you marvel at how cleverly he got past the gates and climbed up all those stairs (“poor baby, knows to climb up the stairs but not back down, like Abhimanyu”,¬†N and I¬†said to each other)
  • you then lie there in the darkness at 3:30 am – him on the kitchen floor back inside his enclosure, and you not too far away (don’t ask) – and you find yourself singing lullabies that you have not¬†belted out¬†in several years
  • he totally calms down¬†within seconds of your¬†singing (score: 1 for Winston, 0 for baby stage little N and little A)
  • you constantly have a camera around so as to not miss one fabulous thing he does
  • you sit there working furiously on your laptop (I mean, you still need to work during work from home, no?)¬†but keep¬†one eye on him taking a long nap
  • instead of enjoying the (temporary) lull, you wonder if he is ok¬†and worry¬†that¬†he doesn’t seem like himself (and then you tell yourself “Get a grip, girl! He’s¬†been with you for four days!¬†You have NO IDEA what himself is like. Maybe he is actually a cat wannabe and likes long¬†naps.”)

And last, but not the least

  • you come out of the bathroom after doing your business, and you look around expectantly¬†for a treat ūüėČ

Momto3cuddlebugs

Winnie

We brought home our little guy today. Winston Peanut Narayan.

The girls have been asking for a puppy (and assorted other pets) for years. N has always been supportive and quite ready to become a puppy parent. I have been the one with all the doubts and fears. I finally agreed in December of last year.  It took us another seven months, and finally, here we are on this glorious summer Saturday.

He is 12 weeks old, born on April 22, 2018. The day that my MIL passed away. Which makes him even more super special to me.

I love his sweet face, his innocent trusting eyes. I shed tears when we picked him up and said goodbye to his mother. It pains me that he won’t ever¬†see his mother again. I¬†rubbed¬†her back and whispered to her my promise that¬†we will take good care of her baby.

The girls are beyond thrilled. They have been cuddling him and playing with him the whole day. From what I have been reading, potty training is going to take a few months (at least).¬† But what’s a little pee and poo in unexpected places in the grand scheme of things, huh?

Wish us luck as we “embark” on¬†this new journey with our little Winnie! ūüôā

Outdoor Ed

Little A is at outdoor ed. It’s a sleep away camp for¬†three days that’s a rite of passage for 6th graders in our school district. Little N went on this trip four years ago. Boy, what a different trip that was!

June 2014:¬†I was a clueless rookie middle-school mom then,¬†little N was pretty chill with the whole deal, and N¬†somehow did not feature in the planning process at all. Packing took all of 15 minutes, if that. Off went the girl to camp –¬†lightly packed, with¬†hiking shoes that were a little too tight (and¬†stayed sort of wet for the whole time), and¬†a blanket that was a little too light (and no¬†heating¬†in the cabins at camp). I dropped off little N at the front of the school and took a couple of¬†quick pictures¬†of her¬†and her friends (man, where are those pictures now?).¬†I missed little N a ton for the next two days, was wistful and hoped that she was having a great time, but there was not much more to do. The girl¬†returned¬†two days later, reassured us that camp was fun and she had a¬†pretty good time (tight wet shoes and cold nights notwithstanding), and that was that.

June 2018: Little A has been talking¬†(mildly apprehensively) about outdoor ed for years now. Almost since when Akky went there four years ago.¬†So,¬†when it came time to pack, she was not going to tolerate any slackers. Mom, dad, and little A marched off to¬†the local sports store multiple times to pick¬†out the perfect sleeping bag, flash light,¬†water shoes, sneakers, sandals,¬†bug repellent, sunscreen, you.name.it. We¬†picked out the¬†most optimal rolling duffel bag after weighing the relative merits and demerits of various luggage options, packed everything in, and quizzed little A on exactly where everything was stored (her idea). I¬†dropped off¬†little A at the bus and hung around¬†hugging and taking selfies with her. Little N would never have tolerated any of this – not the hanging around, the hugging, or the selfies (were selfies a thing four years ago?) – so I really indulged¬†myself today. ūüôā

But the huge difference this time around is WhatsApp. There was no such thing when little N went on her trip (if it was around, well, I had no idea). But by this point, even I have caught on. I am in¬†a WhatsApp¬†group for little A’s class that¬†I have not been active in, like, ever. In fact, I have contemplated a thunderous exit several times over the past year. But somehow I hung in patiently.¬†And today, I got my money back for my patience. There is a huge flurry of activity going on there with hundreds of pictures being constantly posted from the camp by chaperone parents (what wonderfully good-hearted people to volunteer so much time at the camp, and also post pictures so that the¬†rats that didn’t volunteer can enjoy too).

It is super delightful¬†to see¬†pictures of the kids (ok, pictures of my kid) away from home, all smiling¬†and having a great time. I am especially thrilled to see the pile of food set in front of little A and her group at dinner (I mean, I am putting out burgers and a smoothie for dinner here since the cleaning lady came late in the afternoon and I couldn’t bear to start making an actual dinner after she left). I have wondered¬†about what this camp looks like for over four years, and now I know (without leaving the cushy comfort of my home). Technology is truly a wonderful thing!

So here I am. Checking WhatsApp every two minutes, blogging, (not) making food, pretending to work, and waiting for my little A’s return, oh, in about 44 hours. ūüôā

45

N turned 45 today (happy birthday, baby!).

I remember going to N’s 20th birthday party. And eating mixture, murukkus, and mysore pak (after all, the Grand Sweets¬†HQ was only a stone’s throw from his place). I remember having to leave¬†the party early, and him coming to drop me off at the bus stop. I¬†was so pleasantly¬†surprised that he would choose to¬†walk with me to¬†my bus¬†rather than continue to¬†play host to the others that stayed late.¬† Hmmm… did he already have ideas back then? ūüėČ

10 years back, for N’s 35th birthday, five year old little N and two year old little A (awww, my teeny tiny babies!!) did handprints on a plate at our local pottery place.¬† Inspiration struck last month when the chickis were idling away during spring break, and we went for an encore session¬†at the same pottery place.

Will 25 year old little N and 22 year old little A come back together to¬†do this yet again in 2028? Well. Time will tell. I will be v. disturbed, though, if their hands are much bigger than they are now. ūüėČ

My MIL has always been one of the first to call to wish us for special occasions. With the time difference between India and NJ, I could almost picture her in the late afternoon (there)¬†waiting impatiently by the phone for it to turn a decent hour here. And deciding by 6:30 am that¬†enough was¬†enough, people should be up by that late hour and then promptly¬†calling us.¬†As N and I were having our coffee this morning, I almost said, “why don’t you call mom first today before she calls?”. And then bit my lip. N told me later that he kept half-expecting mom’s call this morning too. I feel so sad for him. I know that¬†even more¬†than the initial¬†crushing grief, it is in the small day to day moments and on special occasions that the intensity of loss really hits home hard.

N and I canceled our¬†separate work lunch meetings, and¬†stole an hour in the middle of¬†the day to go get lunch¬†together.¬†Mithaas did not disappoint. Even though we are not in a celebrating¬†mood right now, I am glad that we made the time to do a little special something to¬†mark N’s birthday.¬†But the evening is still young.¬†I think I am going to churn out¬†a semiya payasam¬†to surprise N¬†when he gets back from work, and eke out the birthday celebrations a little bit more.¬†ūüôā

My MIL

‚ÄúIvar pola yaar endru oor solla vendum…‚ÄĚ

My MIL passed away most unexpectedly last Sunday. We heard afterwards that it was a massive cardiac arrest. And that it took less than a half hour from arriving at the hospital to the time of death. When N’s cousin called with the news, it was a horrible punch in the gut. N left for India right away, and he will be there for the next two weeks, grieving with his sister and the extended family, and performing religious rites.

I wish I could have gone along to support him during this very difficult time. I wish I could have gone for myself, to say goodbye to someone who was much more than a MIL to me. But here we are, the kids and myself, since school is in progress full swing. My mind is a few thousand miles away. And counting the days till N’s return. I wish N’s cousin had called to say that my MIL had suddenly taken ill and we needed to come there immediately. I wish N had the chance to see her one last time. Man, sometimes, life is just relentless with what it throws one’s way.

My MIL was very active in a spiritual and service organization for more than 30 years. I am hearing that hundreds of people from the organization came to the funeral to pay their respects to her. We knew of her deep involvement with the organization, but it is truly mind-blowing to realize how numerous were the lives she touched. On par with –¬†and perhaps on some level more so –¬†than her immediate family, her community was the center of her existence. It is comforting and overwhelming to see that she meant so much to so many as well.

My first encounter with my MIL¬†was over 25 years ago (no, N and I were not dating yet). I remember landing¬†at N‚Äôs place with a few friends to persuade him to join us at the beach (while also calling my parents from their phone to ask for permission to go to the beach in the first place). I remember that my MIL was not impressed ‚Äď ‚Äúwhy is this girl not listening to her parents when they are asking her to go back home instead of to the beach?‚ÄĚ, she asked N (I learned later). I am happy to report that, with the passage of time,¬†my MIL came to¬†realize that I was¬†a far cry¬†from the wild party animal that she first thought I was. During the early days of our marriage, she used to amuse herself by asking if N and I had gone singing and dancing around trees like the heroes and heroines in the old Indian movies.

N and I celebrated 20 years of marriage this month. In all these years, I have never once heard a harsh word directed at me (or indeed at anyone else) by my MIL. She was truly a gentle soul, and one who constantly kept herself super active. Whenever we went back home on a visit, it would amaze N and myself that we could wake up at 5 am all jet-lagged, and find that my MIL had already cooked a full Indian breakfast for us, and was half-way through making lunch as well.

I have so many more stories of my MIL. Perhaps I will share them with you at another time. It is surreal that she’s not with us anymore. So suddenly gone at the ripe old age of 68. For someone who gave so much to everyone around her so generously, I wish her life had been easier. Wish. It’s a fine thing, isn’t it?

I went to work today and found a little potted plant with bright little green leaves sitting on my window sill. I had not told anyone in my office about my loss. I mean, what can anyone possibly say to make anything easier? I don’t know who put the plant there and why. But it made me happy to see it. I felt like it was a life-affirming sign from my MIL.

I have thought so much about my MIL these past four days. I realize, on some level, that she will always be with us. In the goodness of N’s heart. In the intelligence of my children. In my regret for closer interactions that could have been and are now gone forever.