Collective Wisdom

I am part of a parent group on FB that I really enjoy.  After all, parenting doesn’t come with a manual and it’s hugely comforting to hear how others are doing (which is sometimes validating, and at other times reveals how out of line you are). Anyway. This morning, I saw a post where one of the moms had asked for “random advice, nothing in particular”. Several interesting ones popped up.

You ready?

  • Be in the pictures
  • When someone shows you their character, believe them (the first time)
  • Say yes as often as possible
  • Don’t give away your day
  • Pick your battles
  • Learn to laugh at yourself
  • When in doubt, say nothing
  • Measure twice, cut once
  • Buy the beach house (gotta love this one!)
  • Spend time with your mother (hope little N and little A read this)
  • Step away from your phone
  • Make your own magic
  • The axe forgets, but the tree remembers
  • You make your days
  • Show up for the good, the bad, the hard – all of it
  • Turn off the news
  • If there is an opportunity to nap, take it

And lastly, after my very own heart,

  • A clean house is a misspent life 😉

Happiness Over the Years

Enjoy the little things in life, because one day you will look back and realize they were the big things” ~ Robert Brault

As I look back on my past five decades on planet Earth (and let me remind you that five decades means forties not fifties, in case you are too quick with your math), some little happy moments pop into vivid focus:

  • Buying cotton candy from the guy on the street
  • Feeling the wind on my face while biking
  • Sailing paper boats on rainy afternoons
  • Spending the day with Thatha and Patti at the Mandavelli house
  • Attending Bhajans at Sundaram with Appa
  • Stay-over visits from a favorite cousin, B
  • Cut mango pickle at weddings
  • Visiting Perimma’s place in Nagapattinam with Amma and V during summer vacations
  • Making time for chole bhatura at Shanti Vihar, even while running late for Hindi class (priorities!)
  • Fireworks all day long during Deepavali
  • Ranking 1st in the state in science in 10th grade (I actually shed tears of joy for this one)
  • Riding with V on her Silver Plus
  • Outing to Adyar Bakery with N after a hard day at college
  • N feeding me lunch while I quickly copied his homework (and our classmate R tut-tutted his disapproval) 
  • Walking on an empty stomach over hills and valleys during grad school in St. John’s, Newfoundland, to arrive at (wait for it) desi buffet
  • (Finally) getting my US student visa
  • Wandering around London as newly-weds (and enjoying some high tea on a tight budget)
  • Cooking dinner with N during grad school while watching Mad About You
  • Seeing two blue lines (twice) on the p-test
  • (Really little) little A waiting for me to catch up while biking in Vermont
  • Visiting local bookstores on every vacation
  • Loud game nights and movie nights with family and friends
  • Buying lovely cotton kurtis during India trips
  • The little blackboard in my kitchen (where I spew questionable wisdom and art in equal measure)
  • Listening to little N sing
  • Writing on my blog
  • Listening to little A speak all hoity-toity and profound at the same time
  • Little N giving little A a forgiving hug (after little A accidentally injured her eye)
  • Little N stealing my ancient, 26 year old sweater (and wearing it when she facetimes us from college)
  • Cooking pretty darn well (if I say so myself!) 🙂

My 15 for 2021

I like coming up with goals for the new year. I came up with a super ambitious 18 for 2018, and a more realistic 19 for 2019. Interestingly, I did not come up with a 20 for 2020, displaying remarkable prescience that most things on the list would have no chance during a year gone crazy. 

Anyway. 2021 is here now, a fresh clean slate full of promise. I came up with 15 rather than 21 for 2021. A little over two-thirds seems to be the right number, given my past erratic follow-through on such goals.

So, here we go, my 15 for 2021:

  • Make (and keep) all required health appointments for everyone
  • Eat at least one fruit every day (Little N read my draft of this post, and left a pithy comment on this item – “LOL”. Little A just asked me dramatically, “Really Mommy, don’t you do this already?”. Ugh, really do not understand why I struggle so much with bloody fruit.)
  • Light an oil lamp every day (easy one since I have already gotten into the habit of doing this over the past year)
  • Spend at least 10 minutes in prayer every day
  • Write at least three entries in my gratitude journal every night (five entries would be even better)
  • Go on at least one vacation in 2021 (hmmm… should add this topic to my 10 minute prayer every day to increase probability)
  • Walk with W for at least 20 minutes daily
  • Celebrate as many holidays as possible (Pongal, dho vandhuten!)
  • Buy produce from local farms and farmers markets during the summer
  • Experiment with cooking a new dish every month
  • Try out at least six new restaurants (that are not Indian)
  • Call or text at least one friend every week
  • Clean the house for at least 15 minutes daily
  • Donate to a food-related charity for Appa’s and MIL’s ceremonies
  • Write at least one blog post a month (I do love it so much!)

Seeing my list written up, I can see some patterns emerging (you knew I was a geek, didn’t you?). My goals fall into five broad categories :

  • Health – 2 goals
  • Food – 5 goals
  • Spirituality – 3 goals
  • Fun – 4 goals
  • Hygiene – 1 goal

Hmmmm…. food, fun and spirituality beat health and hygiene?

Sounds about right! 😉

A Gift

N has had a couple of weeks off for the holidays. Early during the winter break, as he was clearing out our basement, he came across a long-forgotten camera. With a 24 exposure Fuji film roll neatly in place, ready to be developed. We were intrigued. Wouldn’t this film be all blacked out and moldy inside by now? Is it even possible to still get these developed? Remembering our 1-hour photo processing shops from a decade ago, we called around. And decided to drop the film off at the local Walgreens, who promised to have it developed within two weeks (whatever happened to 1-hour photos!). So. N and I dropped off the film, crossed our fingers, and went on with our holidays.

Realized today that it’s been a couple of weeks since we dropped off the film. And that Walgreens has had more than enough time to do whatever they could do with it. N went by to pick it up. Surprise of surprises, there were several pictures in there! Pictures from October and November of 2010. Of a 3rd grader and a pre-schooler.

I thought back to that time. It was in late November 2010 that Appa was diagnosed with his illness. We returned from India at the end of December and had some intense months of grappling with Appa’s illness before he passed away in March 2011. Pictures didn’t feature very much in our life during those dark months. The camera somehow got forgotten. Maybe we moved on to digital cameras when we finally got back to taking pictures, and that was that.

Until two weeks ago when N found the camera.

The pictures are an absolute delight. Eight year old little N playing soccer. Practicing the violin. The munchkins dressed in their costumes and ready for Halloween celebrations at little N’s elementary school. Four year old little A poised with a tiara and getting her face painted. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed little N smiling and ready with her backpack on what seems to be a school day morning. It blows my mind that this film roll was just sitting there intact for over a decade, patiently waiting to be found.

Little N will move in to her college dorm room in exactly one week. As someone who believes in signs, I feel blessed to receive these pictures today. And reassured that my little ones will forever be my little ones, even as my first one stands on the cusp of exciting new adventures and adulthood.

My Word for 2021

My word for 2020 (at least, initially) was “Tranquility”. With a new driver in the household, I desperately felt the need for tranquility in my anxious mind. 2020 came along, and with it, very quickly, Covid-19 and quarantine. Tranquility increasingly felt like a strange word for this particular year – especially as I sat up at midnight in March and April repeatedly refreshing my computer screen in the hopes of snagging a precious (and elusive) Instacart delivery window.

Over the past couple of years, I have gotten into the habit of writing my word for the year on beach sand and photographing it. Seeing my word written on the sand somehow makes it more real for me. “Tranquility” didn’t make it to the beach since we didn’t go on vacation last Christmas (Ugh, really should have gone when we could!). As we sat on the (local) beach in July enjoying a picnic on a wonderfully warm evening (with very few people around), I decided to change my word for 2020 to “Faith”. In the face of so much uncertainty, “Faith” said it for me way better than “Tranquility” did. Plus, we were right there on the beach, so I was able to write “Faith” on the sand and make it official.

I have had a lot of time to think about my word for 2021. I mean, when the highlight of your week is an outing to the Patel Brothers store to get karuveppalai, you get pretttty productive in other arenas. My word for 2021 is nothing fancy. In fact, it is the only word that makes any sense in the wake of the strange year that 2020 has been.

You ready?


  • For my little N to sparkle and blossom and enjoy and lean into all the opportunities that college has to offer
  • For sunshine and success to continue to follow my little A on her high school journey
  • For good health, happiness, and peace of mind for all of us
  • For a vaccine that’s soon available abundantly, distributed fairly, and at least as effective as anticipated
  • For our new government
  • For a lovely vacation in 2021, as early as possible

Little N and a few of her friends have gone to the beach this morning to watch the sunrise (socially distanced and in separate cars). I have asked her to write “Hope” in the sand and take a picture for me.

Here’s hoping that my munchkin remembers my Hope! 😊

The End of an Era

March 16, 2006.

Appa, N, 3.5 year old little N and I headed out to an Acura dealership to pick out an SUV for our growing family. One month old little A (with not many opinions just yet) stayed home with Amma. There was a Sagebrush MDX on display that Appa and little N both liked right away. N was agreeable but I remember standing there staring at this huge van with mixed feelings – is it a really dark green, a greenish gray, or a strange black? I felt super strongly that I didn’t want to drive a black van (“like a limo driver” is what I said then). We finally agreed that it was a greenish gray, and came back home with our brand new baby that night.

I was, at that time, accustomed to driving my slick little Honda Civic, so the van seemed enormous and more than a little intimidating. It didn’t help that we sold my Civic a couple of months later (why we did that is its own story), so the greenish gray giant became mine very quickly. It has been my car ever since. More than any other car that we have owned over the years, this one has always felt like it was mine. Little A loves it too. Indeed, she and I look down our noses on both N’s and little N’s (cooler and newer) cars and prefer to ride in the old van more than in anything else.

Yesterday, as I was pulling out of our local Trader Joe’s into Route 1, I felt a strange bump and the van went real quiet all of a sudden. Luckily, I was close to the shoulder so I was able to float for a bit and pull over to inspect what I was sure was a flat tire. The tires, surprisingly, all looked fat and happy, though. I got back in and tried to restart the van, with no luck. Called AAA and N (who was, luckily, working from home yesterday). Both arrived within 15 minutes (gotta love the efficiency!). We dropped off the van at the auto repair shop and waited for their verdict.

My MDX has been with us for well over 14 years and has covered more than 225K miles. N and I were wondering if this might be it. Little N is heading off to college in-person in January. The plan was always for me to give the MDX some rest and start driving little N’s car once she heads out to college. Still it was surreal when the auto shop called with two very clear options: donate or junk the van. It is apparently beyond repair. The van will be picked up directly from the auto shop whether we donate or junk it, so it won’t be coming back home again. Little N has work shifts on most evenings this week, so we are planning to find time tomorrow to go as a family and say goodbye to our baby.

We have so many happy memories with our MDX. Our girls grew up with this van, being ferried to so many activities snug in their little car seats in the back. We brought home our W in this van one summer morning two years ago, perched tentatively on little A’s lap and peeking out the rear window. Little N learnt to drive with this van (oh, those scary early days!). It saddens me that little A won’t learn to drive with the same van, especially given how much she shares my love for it.

Rest in peace, my MDX. Thank you for the wonderful times, and for being so super reliable and keeping me safe through that last moment.


So here I was this morning all re-framed and brimming with positivity about whole fridge situation. The repair guy swung by right on time, around noon. He inspected the delinquent and announced that it was just a jujubi issue that he could quite readily fix for a small cost. And fix it, he did, within 10 minutes.

This is indeed the best possible outcome, given the situation.

Why am I mildly disappointed then? 😉

P.S. Good that we ordered breakfast from IHOP before the dude showed up, so at least got a tiny peek into long-forgotten vacation decadence.

The 47th Lesson

I have sprouted lessons here before when the numbers were a tad smaller (check out “39” and “The 41st Lesson” from the Archives). 47 sounds like a big number, especially considering that my MIL was only a year older when N and I got married. Serious yikes, but we have to plod on.

So. You ready for the lesson?

“Re-frame it”.

What does that mean, you ask?

Well. Our fridge suddenly stopped working last night. There was a brief power surge but is that enough for an entire giant appliance to just die on you? Was mildly alarming to come face-to-face with melted ice cream in the tubs, suspicious smelling milk, and frozen veggies hanging limp and wet in their bags (ugh!).

We are not sure yet if it is salvageable. We have been in this house for almost 16 years now. This is our second fridge. Are refrigerators this fragile? Or are we some kind of demon people who prematurely kill their appliances? Either way. The guy is coming tomorrow afternoon to take a look and to pronounce our fate.

We cleaned out most of the fridge (good bye soggy frozen kale, nobody wanted you in the first place!), huddled the rest close to keep cool together as best as they can (who are we kidding, they are likely getting tossed tomorrow morning), and ate a light dinner with what remained (hello thayir sadam and pickle for some, and maggi noodles for others).

While going through this sorry mess, it occurred to me that we can maybe have coffee or tea and some fruit and toast for breakfast, but beyond that, we would really be reaching to find anything still edible.

Wait a minute.

We’ve been in this situation before. No fridge, only basic coffee or tea was available, and you had to go out to get food. Hmmmm… when have we done this before? On numerous fabulous vacations, buddy! That’s when!

So. Let that guy come tomorrow. And fix my fridge. Or not. N has started looking into new refrigerator options. Maybe we’ll have to go buy one tomorrow. If we do, maybe it will take a week or two to get installed. Well, if that happens, we will have to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner out. From all our favorite restaurants. Just like we would have done on vacation, but never in a million years would have dreamt of doing for weeks sitting in our own home in scenic NJ.

That’s the 47th lesson, baby! There is always a silver lining. You just have to keep your eyes open for it. 😊


I have been super quiet here (I hope you noticed). I have missed you. I have been thinking about writing again about something totally different. But didn’t want to start writing other random stuff on this blog.

Momto2cuddlebugs is something very special to me. Almost sacred. Starting to write in January 2012 helped me clear the fog in my head – the fog that I was wallowing in for months after Appa passed away.

Appa would have celebrated his 82nd birthday today. It seems like an auspicious day to start on my new writing journey. My friend, L, who has been one of the inspirations in my blogging journey wrote to me today after months to let me know about her new blog. That seems like an omen as well.

So. If it’s truly a Momto2cuddlebugs post, I will certainly come back to write it here. Maybe next week, or next year (or sometime in the next decade, at the rate that I have been going). For now, I think I am ready for a change. This is a big step for me. I don’t really like to change things, especially when I like them the way they are. But change we all must. So I started a new blog. And wrote my first post. At

As I wade through the process of starting up a new blog, I realize that the new formats are challenging and a tad confusing, to say the least. I feel impatient and ready to get on with the exciting parts, but no pains no gains, right? Sigh!

Tikkis and Kibble. What’s that about, you ask? Come there and find out, ok? And be gentle. As I told you, the site in under construction. 🙂