At Least It’s Not Beer!

September 29, 2010

We’re generally pretty careful about the kids’ diet. Before they started going to school, we gave them no chocolates at all and biscuits only very, very rarely. They’ve had no caffeine at all that I’m aware of – no tea, coffee, mocha-ice cream, or cola drinks. Not even a sip. In fact, no fizzy drinks at all, except for fresh lime soda once in a way.

So, obviously, they’ve had no alcohol.

Well, actually – when we went to Devbagh last year, they got a tiny sip of beer each. I’m sure they hated it, but they said they loved it because we were drinking it. But it was only one tiny sip each.

Last weekend at S&S’s place, there was white wine, beer, and vodka with orange juice, all being consumed with gusto. The kids were all busy playing, but at one point, while my back was turned, Amit apparently gave Mrini a tiny sip of vodka and orange juice. Minutes later, she was in my lap asking for beer.

“No,” I said, moving my glass out of reach. “This is for adults.”

Pat came the reply: “But I had vodka…”

!!!

If she says that in any other place, like for instance in school, I’m going to be in so much trouble!

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Home-coming Day: Third Anniversary

September 27, 2010

Saturday was the third anniversary of the kids’ home-coming day. We didn’t do anything really to mark the occasion. Luckily we went to S&S’s for dinner and they had ordered in a delicious white forest cake – not for us – that we all demolished with gusto.

It’s sad that we haven’t managed to create any ritual for the home-coming day anniversary. I’d like to do something small and significant but I just can’t think what. Going to a temple or something would be completely fake for a staunch atheist like Amit and a non-conformist believer like me. Donating to some charitable organization would be a better thing to do, but neither of us has the conviction to actually do anything about it. So we spend the day feeling profoundly thankful (like we do many days) without knowing how, exactly, to express our thanks.

The day before home-coming day, we got a courier from Pondicherry. It contained a photocopy of the adoption order. Finally, after three long years, we held the paper in our hands and read each line through twice. Apart from two very, very minor typos, it was ok. But it was only a photocopy. Now we have to wait for the original.

Meanwhile, four has already turned into an interesting year. One day a week or so ago, I went to daycare to pick up the girls as usual. Tara came to me, I picked her up, and she buried her face in my neck. Nice… but unusual. It became even more unusual as she stayed that way, refusing to look at me or talk. I began to wonder what was wrong. The assistant told me, sheepishly, that Tara was upset because she’d been given timeout. She was swinging too high on a swing and shouting too much, so the assistant, B, had made her sit on a small bench for a few minutes. That’s all. After that, Tara had gone and joined her friends in the sandpit, where she’d been playing when I came in.

Tara, meanwhile, still clung to me like a limpet, refusing to talk or look at anyone. After a good few minutes, tears slowly came. She deigned to look at me and nod or shake her head to my questions, but she refused to speak either to B or to anyone else at the daycare centre. It took a good 15 minutes of trying to get her out of my arms and standing on her own feet. She wasn’t crying by then, but she was still refusing to speak to anyone. B clearly felt terrible and tried to make it up to her, but Tara didn’t even look at her, despite B’s best efforts.

She continued to be quiet and sad in the car on the way home, and refused to talk to her beloved GP (my FIL) when we reached home, but after 15 minutes of play, she was almost back to normal. B, however, continued to feel terrible about it.

To be honest, I think we were all quite shocked by Tara’s reaction. I couldn’t be sure whether she was ashamed or whether she felt that the punishment was unfair, but she was clearly very, very upset about it. What was most surprising was how she’d kept it completely hidden until I showed up. My little girl is growing up!

While GP was here, Mrini became a bit unmanageable. She realized that there was one additional adult in the picture and that this changed (or so she thought) the balance of power. When I scolded her for anything, she immediately turned to him for support. Once, for instance, I scolded her for taking a slice of cucumber out of his plate without washing her hands and sitting down at the table for dinner. The rule is, eat at mealtimes, at the dining table, and eat only what’s on offer for you – not whenever you like, wherever you like, whatever you like (though at least in this instance it was something healthy, not a biscuit or chocolate).

I took the cucumber out of her hand and told her to go wash her hands. You know what she did? She promptly ran to GP and asked for another slice of cucumber!!!

Since I couldn’t exactly scold GP, I scolded her for that. He got the message.

But then, on Saturday Mrini was just amazing. Amit and I were at the dining table having breakfast when Amit idly said to her, “Go get me a glass of juice.” We didn’t expect her to do it, because they aren’t allowed to open the fridge. In fact we didn’t even think they could open the fridge because the handle is quite high and the door is quite difficult to open. Plus the whole getting-juice operation is quite complex, so it was really just an idle comment. But, you have to be careful what you wish for. This is what Mrini did:

1. Ran to the fridge, stood on tip-toe and yanked the door open.
2. Took out the juice and went to the kitchen.
3. Put the juice carton on the counter and took a washed glass (a glass glass) from the draining board and set it on the counter next to the juice carton.
4. Opened the juice carton and stood on tiptoe.
5. Poured the juice into the glass.
6. Covered the juice carton, took it to the fridge, yanked the door open and put the juice carton back in its own slot in the fridge.
7. Went back to the kitchen, got the glass and carried it carefully in both hands to where Amit was sitting.
8. Gave us a proud and pleased-as-punch look, while we looked at her in utter disbelief.
9. Asked Amit for juice!


Two Weeks From Now…

September 24, 2010

I’ll be leaving on a jet plane!

I’m off, folks. I’m packing a backpack and a Lonely Planet guide and my camera and taking off! I wish I were heading into the mountains, but the place that I’m heading for is almost as good. Of course, eight nights is much too short a time to spend in Rome and Florence… but it’s better than nothing!

We’ve been to Rome and Florence once before, back in 1999. It was a wonderful, wonderful holiday that I should have turned into a book, but I haven’t managed to yet. Before that, Amit and I hadn’t traveled much together. We were 25 then, and I saw everything with the innocence and naivete of 25. When I look back on that holiday, it seems to have much in common with the movie Roman Holiday, which I hadn’t seen at that time. We’d been married just over a year – so we were still in the honeymoon period and that makes all of life look a lot sweeter. There was a real romantic charm to our shoestring budget, first-ever European vacation.

Now? I’m old and tired at 36. I’m as loaded with responsibility as it is possible to be with work, home, spouse, young kids and aged parents crowding the picture. Now I don’t see this holiday as a romantic thrill so much as a very brief and desperately needed escape from the cumbersome responsibilities of everyday life.

Oh, didn’t I mention? I’m going alone, of course. Well, it wouldn’t be much of a holiday if we took the kids along. I mean, Rome and Florence are not the easiest of places to keep two small, fiddly kids occupied and entertained. They’re not going to be so totally overawed by the crumbling ruins of ancient kingdoms, and museums would only be a new kind of playground for them – and a heartattack for Amit and me!

So this time I’m going alone. It is the ultimate in selfishness and self-indulgence. I won’t have to think about anybody else’s needs for eight whole days. I can do what I want, when I want, and entirely at my own pace. I can sit down at some particularly appealing spot and stare at something (or nothing) for two hours without a break if I want to. Without speaking or being spoken to. Without having to organize food, sleep, or a toilet for the kids. What could be better than that?

Yes, I know, I’m a totally incomprehensible mom, I agree. How can I go off and leave my kids for so long and… so happily? Don’t I have a duty to my family? Shouldn’t I want to spend every moment of the holiday with them? Shouldn’t I at least feel horribly guilty about choosing to go away for so long?

Maybe. And maybe, once I’m there I won’t enjoy it as much as I think I will. And of course I’m sure I’ll miss them all. But right now, I feel neither any guilt nor any misgivings about being away for just eight days. They’ll manage. The kids will be fine and even Amit will survive it. And I think I’ll have fun.

Of course, many people have this subconscious belief that you have no business having fun, least of all not once you’re a mom. Your role in life, people seem to think, is to cater to your family’s needs to the exclusion of all else. And that should be fun. Why do you need any kind of fun that excludes your beloved family?

Even in the past, friends and family alike have looked askance on the occasions when Amit and I have holidayed separately. Amit has suffered a long lecture on morality from his brother and plenty of disapproving questions from the rest of his family. I’ve faced a smaller share of disapproval from my family and, strangely enough, from some friends. Even those who are not openly disapproving are clearly puzzled. Why would anyone want to holiday alone, or separately from their spouse?

I sometimes avoid this question by not exactly enunciating that I’m traveling alone. To the casual acquaintance, it isn’t worth explaining. And perhaps I don’t really have a very good answer. The most honest answer would be: Well, I didn’t really want to travel alone, but at certain times we couldn’t always travel together and now with the kids it’s really impossible to do the kind of rough-and-ready travel that we love and to go to the places that we want to go to… so we opted to travel separately rather than either always doing “family” holidays, or not traveling at all. And, now that I have traveled alone a few times, I’ve found that I quite enjoy it. There are certain experiences, certain perspectives, certain moments that you find when you travel alone that would not happen if you travel with a spouse or anyone else.

Besides, a holiday alone is the ultimate in selfishness precisely because you don’t have to be restricted by what anyone, even your better half, wants.

Of course, you also don’t get to share the experience the way you do when you travel together… and there are the practical issues of safety, convenience etc… but it’s not all bad and it’s certainly better than not going at all. And it’s much better than dragging the kids along and then being frustrated because you want to linger when they want to sleep, or you want to enjoy something in silence when they want to run around, scream, throw things, and generally just be kids.

So if all goes according to plan, two weeks from now I’m off for a completely undeserved break. Maybe, for a few short days, I will walk in the shoes of the person I used to be. For a few short days, that can only be a good thing.


The Person I Used To Be

September 22, 2010

It’s good to have friends.

For one thing, I got a lot of online and offline sympathy for my last couple of posts, which does the soul a world of good. For another, I got some valuable reminders.

Arun, for instance, reminded me that some of the problems that have been getting me down are not new and are not as overwhelming as they seem to be right now. These are things I have handled in the past and I should be able to handle even now.

Amit reminds me of happier days when I could actually play tennis for much longer without feeling as though a collapse were imminent.

And I was cribbing in person to Chris about my tiredness etc etc and she said two things which kind of shocked me. One thing she said was, “When was your last holiday?” I was shocked because I couldn’t remember. Not for more than a year at least.

To fully comprehend the enormity of that statement, you have to know – or remember – that a few years ago, we were the people everyone was jealous of. We were always either planning our next trip, or just back from somewhere. For a couple of years, a while ago, it was a tossup whether we’d be in town on any given weekend, or off spending two nights on a bus for the sake of a Saturday night somewhere.

This is not about regrets. I knew that would change when we had kids and I’m happy that we made the most of those carefree days. But, as Chris pointed out, everyone needs a holiday, especially if you were that kind of a person before. And I really was that kind of person before.

Then she spoke about sleep, diet, and exercise – nothing new, but it’s good to get a reminder once in a way.

Then she suggested seeing a doc.

“I have no time,” I said.

She was aghast. “That’s your problem, then,” she said. “The old Anamika would never have said she didn’t have time to go to the doctor.”

I’d forgotten that. She was quite right, though. The old Anamika didn’t think going to a doctor was a luxury or self-indulgence. The old Anamika believed in taking care of her health. The old Anamika would certainly not have waited this long before checking for a medical cause to her extreme tiredness. I’ve seen some bad things happen by putting off visiting a doctor. The old Anamika would never do that.

Five years ago in the Himalayas when I was struggling on a trek at high altitude, I hated myself for being out of shape, or, as I thought bitterly at the time, “old and fat and lazy”. It turned out to be pulmonary oedema – a potentially fatal high altitude acclimatization problem. If I learnt anything from that experience, it was to trust myself when my body was telling me that all is not well.

So, reluctantly, I forced myself to visit a doctor on Saturday. I knew it was pointless going to the doctor and saying, “I’m tired. I’ve been tired for months.” The doc is probably thinking, “Woman, I’m tired too!” Or maybe he’s thinking, “Do you even know what tired looks like?” Tiredness is not a serious medical problem as far as a doctor is concerned.

But I went anyway. And, as expected, I was shrugged off with a vitamin prescription and a set of routine tests. I came away irritated and upset that the doctor didn’t seem to consider my case at all worth listening to, far less figuring out. He couldn’t have been less interested.

But at least I went.

Then I checked the prescription on the Net. It appears that he’s treating me for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. That actually sounds like exactly what’s wrong with me. I’d never heard of it before and when I did hear of it, I thought exactly what I bet you’re thinking – it sounds like a polite term for malingering. Apparently, it isn’t. At least, I sincerely hope not, because I don’t want to see myself as a malingerer. Apparently, it is some sort of medical condition related to the autoimmune system and often caused or precipitated by a severe viral or flu-like episode. I think I can pinpoint the exact episode that triggered my endless cycle of tiredness – obviously, I blogged about it. I still remember that it took me weeks to recover from that viral; it had me stumbling around on the tennis court for about three weeks. I had been tired before that viral as well, but that was understandable because of shifting house, having a brand new job, and no domestic help. After that viral, when things should have settled down, the tiredness just never went away.

Now, as Whitney Houston once said, “there’s a name for it…” (in the song What’s Love Got To Do With It – in this case, absolutely nothing). Hopefully there’s a cure for it as well.

And in any case, there is that holiday to look forward to – I’m definitely taking Chris’ advice on that!

Thank goodness for good old friends who can remind you – momentarily, if nothing else – of the person you used to be.


500

September 21, 2010

I thought it would be nice if this post coincided with my fifth year blogging anniversary on 12th October. At one stage I thought I wouldn’t make it in time… but as it turns out, I’m early. My 500th post, folks. In just under five years.


Is this what is called hitting rock bottom?

September 20, 2010

The weekend was not as bad as I expected it to be. It was worse – much worse.

Mainly, it was worse because the cook didn’t turn up. She had various personal crises. I, on the other hand, had just one personal crisis: Food!

I started cooking around 9 a.m. on Saturday and finished only at 10 p.m. on Sunday. It was miserable. Sunday lunch was bad because the cook was supposed to come and cook at 12 noon and she called me at 12.30 to inform me that she couldn’t make it. She said she’d come at 4 and do dinner. So I hurriedly dished up leftovers to the kids, while simultaneously trying to whip up lunch for Amit, me, and FIL.

After lunch, we decided to go out “shopping”. With Durga Puja around the corner, it’s time to buy new clothes for everyone. We left home at 4 p.m. and got back at 7.30. The cook, meanwhile, had called to say she couldn’t make it and would come tomorrow.

Great. We’ll order in, I thought. But by the time I’d put the kids in bed at 8.30, FIL had issued instructions for more boiled veg and rotis for dinner. Plus I would have to do dal and veg for the kids’ lunch on Monday. Plus we needed more curd. And rice.

Fantastic.

At last, it was 10 p.m. and I hit the sack. Tomorrow, I thought optimistically, is Monday. I will go for tennis and then I will go to office and the cook will come so I won’t have to cook. It almost felt like a holiday or something.

The first part of the plan went on schedule. I went for tennis and then to office. It was soon after I reached office that the next crisis hit. Gas ran out.

”Ok, put the regulator on the new cylinder and I’ll order a replacement,” I told the cook (who had shown up with a long face and a longer story).

She tried and called me back to say it was leaking!

“Turn it off,” I said.

Thereafter there followed a stream of phonecalls that kept me busy for the next three hours. FIL tried to fix the regulator on the new cylinder – with the same result. I called the gas delivery guys, who said they would come in the evening. FIL was hollering for lunch. Cook was asking how she was expected to cook with a leaky cylinder. Could she go and check with the downstairs neighbour? She did, and called back to say they weren’t home. FIL wanted to go to the gas office in person. Then he wanted to buy a kerosene stove for the cook to use. Then he wanted me to order in lunch because he was hungry already! The gas guy said he would call back, but didn’t. FIL wanted to know when the gas guy would come and kept calling me to ask for updates when I didn’t have any. Finally I did some upward delegation and gave him the gas guy’s number and told him to follow up. Smart move! Surprisingly quickly I got a call from FIL that they gas guys were there, and had delivered a cylinder to replace the empty cylinder, but not the leaky cylinder. They said the problem was not the cylinder but the regulator. And of course they couldn’t replace the regulator right away, they’d come back in the evening. By which time the cook would be gone and there would be a load of veggies waiting to be boiled and no food for the kids’ lunch.

Meanwhile the cook wanted to know what she was expected to do for the rest of the day, FIL wanted lunch…

And so on and on and on.

I called Amit, who said, “Can’t talk now, I’m in a meeting.”

“I don’t care,” I said. “I can’t manage this. You handle it.”

Everyone needs a Sunday and I haven’t had one for two weeks. I’ve had enough.


Oh no! Another weekend!

September 17, 2010

I’ve mentioned before how tired I get by the end of the week. It’s still that way. By the time Friday rolls around, I’m tired when I wake up in the morning. Last weekend we went out to a restaurant for dinner, and I was asleep in the car on the way back. It was only just after 11. Even worse, yesterday I went for tennis (despite being tired at the thought of it) and after 40 minutes my muscles were aching and my body was almost quivering with tiredness. It was really upsetting – only last year, I used to play for two hours at a stretch and still not feel tired.

So anyway, today’s Friday. That should be good news – the weekend should be the time to recuperate and recharge the battery, right? I wish…

Last weekend was bad. Amit’s dad, my FIL, is in town. He’s not a difficult houseguest and I mustn’t complain, but his eating habits are… strange, to put it politely. He needs about a kilo of fruit and a kilo of veg everyday. And a kilo of chicken. And a full cup of dal. And about 10 rotis. Peeling and chopping fruit, washing and chopping veg, buying, thawing and cooking chicken, and rolling out the rotis only after he has sat down at the table so that he gets to eat them piping hot… well, it’s tiring. Plus, he eats five substantial meals each day, starting at about 9.30 a.m. and going on till – if he had his way – 11 p.m. At least I put my foot down to that (or rather, Amit did) and said kitchen closes at 9, so dinner usually happens at 9.15 or so. Still, that means I’m busy tidying up till about 10.30, when I’m way past tired and very close to exhausted, and without having had a moment to rest.

What’s worse is that none of us can eat the veg that FIL eats, because he wants them boiled into mush. Only the fact that we don’t actually own a mixer stops him from asking for it to be pureed. So apart from the five different types of boiled mush that must be made for him every day, we also need some “ordinary” veg made for the rest of us. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with the quantity of food that has to be churned out for FIL that I almost forget to think about normal food for the rest of us.

At least we have a cook. Thank god for that! And she’s doing the best she can, putting in long hours and tolerating most of FIL’s reasonable and unreasonable demands with relatively good humour. But last weekend she took some time off for personal errands and this week she took a day-and-a-half off to take care of a sick son. I can’t blame her – her working hours are essentially 6.30-8.30 p.m. and if she agrees to come during the day as she has been doing for FIL’s benefit, it is only at her convenience.

So last weekend, the three-day weekend which should have been a blessing, was a bane instead. We usually eat at least one, sometimes two meals out on weekends, but with FIL around, refusing to eat anything but homemade food, this dwindled to half a meal. Even when Amit and I went out for dinner after the kids were asleep on Saturday, I had to keep FIL’s meal ready at home. So I slogged for hours on end, getting meals and snacks organized and then tidying up afterwards, only to start on the next meal or snack almost immediately. I hardly get any exclusive time with the kids – I’m always shouting at them while I try to keep pace with the household chores. I don’t get any chance to rest, far less do any of my own stuff. I don’t see that this weekend is going to be any better.

Over the last three years, I’ve finished four modules of my online Archaeology course. Another two, and I’ll be done with the Certificate part of the course. I knew that it was going to be difficult when I signed up for the fifth module last month, but it is something I really want to complete, so I signed up anyway. I didn’t know that FIL would be on an extended visit. My course material is going to be delivered today. It’s Later Prehistory, a thrilling subject. Even thinking about it makes me tired. There’s sleep flooding my eyes and it’s not even lunch time yet. What am I going to do???

Oh, well. At least there’s Italy to look forward to…


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