A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

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Year 8 & 9 – Happy Anniversary, Mint

Posted by Pepper on July 2, 2019

Dear Mint,

I missed writing to you last year. Not that this year’s letter comes in good time. We are already late by 3 months. But I figured writing now is better than skipping it completely. After all, I have a letter for you for every year of our married life, right from year 1 to year 7. Let me keep up the tradition, atleast until we reach the big 10? That, by the way, is only a year away. Can you even believe that?

Since this letter is going to cover the past 2 years of our married life, let me start with a recap. Year 8. The crappiest year of our relationship so far. I went through an excruciating pregnancy, got cut open, gave birth to TWO very tiny, premature beings, we lost ourselves in caring for these terrifyingly delicate humans, started coping with the effects of zero sleep, were forced to abuse our bodies in every step of the way. My mother was diagnosed with cancer, pushing me deeper into a deep, dark hole.

In the midst of all this, I hated you. I don’t know if it was my PPD that didn’t allow me to see clearly. But all I remember is hating you. Nothing you did was good enough. I wanted you to comfort me. When your attempts to comfort me failed, I hated you more for being so inadequate. You were supposed to rescue me from what I was feeling. You were not allowed to fail. I hated you for failing.

You started cold shouldering me in those days because you couldn’t handle my tantrums. You were too physically exhausted to deal with a screaming monster. I thought of you as utterly insensitive for not being there for me. I genuinely think you could have been more forgiving to me in those days. I needed copious amounts of kindness from you.

But I remember you breaking down one day. I remember you sobbing and telling me you don’t know what is happening to you and you don’t know how to handle it. We were in the brink of exhaustion. I know you were deeply affected and overwhelmed because it is very rare to see you cry. The burden of two very fragile newborns, my postpartum depression, lack of sleep, physical exhaustion, the load of our day time jobs, the complete lack of support in this country had burnt us out and we lost each other in those few months.

I’m not sure when, but slowly, we began to see light again. I think it was when Cotton and Candy began to sleep through the night. Getting a few good hours of sleep ourselves made us see things more clearly. We began turning to each other for comfort again. Most importantly, we regained our lost friendship. We were able to go more than 2 hours without feeding the babies. This gave us some freedom to step out of the house. Normalcy was seeping back into our lives and our relationship.

Year 9 has been infinitely better. Cotton and Candy are more grown up, and though that comes with its own sets of crazy challenges, nothing compares to the first few months of managing twins. Nevertheless, we have begun to see each other as parents, not just partners. Most of our attempts to spend child free time with each other after kids go to bed seem to fail, because I fall asleep almost as soon as they do. We do take the time out to go on lunch dates while the kids are in daycare and those moments are precious to me. This past year, I have really come to value the love, warmth and most importantly our rock like friendship.

Since this is year 9, I am compiling a list of 9 things I love that you do in our present life

1) We have a set of chores that each of us is responsible for. We have this clearly divided and charted. But, you often take over things from my assigned list. Loading the dishwasher at night is my job. Yet, I don’t remember the last time I did it. After tackling your list of things to do, you ask me to go and sit back while you go and tackle a full kitchen sink.

2) I always imagined having a partner who would make my morning coffee. I’ve seen my dad make my mom’s tea and hand it to her before their day begins. This was part of my expectations. Sadly, this never happened. I am always forced to wake up before you and practically drag you out of bed.

However, you do show me your love in little ways before I go to bed. I have come to love our night time routine where you tuck me in bed, adjust the temperature of the house and make sure it is to my liking, get me a water bottle for my bedside, refill the humidifier and set it beside me, massage my head with Vicks or my back with Bengay and kiss me for the night. You do all this without me saying a word.

3) Candy’s hair is something I am still not sure I know how to deal with. I find you chasing her around the house with a comb in your hand, patiently detangling and parting her hair while coming up with ways to pull her down for 3 seconds. You are amazing.

4) Night time brushing! You’ve taken on the task of brushing Cotton and Candy before bed and I am so relieved that isn’t part of my to do list. Thank you.

5) You push me to go out with my friends. I have a fabulous group of friends and we do a girls night out every month. But every time I have plans, lethargy strikes me a few hours before I am set to leave and I start saying words like ‘tired’, ‘not up to it tonight’ and you step in to remind me that this will be fun and I need to go. You know I need a cheerleeder.

6) You love exploring different cuisines and restaurants as much as I do. Eating out is one of our favourite things to do together and I am so glad we live in a place that has so much to offer in terms of food!

7) I know I always turn to you when I am in doubt and can’t decide whether I should buy it or not. Because I know you always convince me to buy it. And then I feel better about buying it because I had no choice, I was forced, right?

8) You are my in house therapist. When I worry about my parents health and feel the onset of an anxiety attack, I know it is time to talk to you and clear my head. You ask me hard hitting questions, throw different statistics and numbers my way, give me a clearer perspective. In the end, I always feel stronger. And lighter.

9) You are the most amazing father ever. I have a new found respect for you when I see you with the kids.

Thank you for being so awesome! I can’t wait to see how year 10 turns out.

Lots of love,

— Pepper

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PS – This picture was taken on the day the twins turned 6 months old and we had a small half birthday celebration for them

PPS – Since this is year Nine, I am also going to use this post for the letter N. N for Nine? Yes, I am still trying to complete the A – Z writing challenge.

 

 

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Posted in Splashes of Mint | 19 Comments »

Blah

Posted by Pepper on June 18, 2019

Just when I was getting the hang of writing regularly, my laptop died on me. I’m extremely uncomfortable typing lengthy paragraphs on my phone. So I did what I could in the moment. I let go of my blog.

I still don’t have my laptop, but I hope to get back to blogging. I’m not sure how. I should probably buy myself a new laptop. But then I need a new phone before that. And I’m not sure I can afford to buy myself a laptop and a phone in close quarters.

I have so many errands to run. I wish for the nth time that groceries would magically appear in my pantry. Or that laundry would self fold. I’m going to leave all of those chores for another day. As usual.

I’m craving a coffee from Philz. Like the description in their menu says, their Rose iced coffee is sweet, floral and creamy, with the right notes of caffeine. I will probably get to it tomorrow.

And hopefully, my Tuesday will be less blah than my Monday.

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

M for Mess

Posted by Pepper on May 9, 2019

That is the one word that describes my Gmail inbox. It is such a dreadful mess that I find myself clueless – how am I supposed to clean this up, ever?

I got my Gmail ID when Google had just launched their email service. Back then, not everybody was privy to it. The Blogspot users got 3 invites and I bagged an invite from Mint because at that time in 2004, I used to blog on this platform called ‘blogdrive’. Mint was a Blogspot user and I insisted he save a Gmail invite for me. I was ecstatic and I can safely say I was one of the very early users of Gmail. This email Id has stayed with me for the longest time.

I’m not sure what went wrong and at what point, but slowly, I started noticing a ton of spam. Over time, my email has turned into a junk factory. The sheer volume of unsolicited, undesirable and sometimes illegal emails I get is unmanageable. Clicking on ‘unsubscribe’ doesn’t help. Blocking those email IDs also doesn’t help. And I am not going to even get into how I never subscribed to that crap in the first place. Okay fine, I know this happens to most of us.

But here is what doesn’t happen to most, but seems to be happening with me. My email ID has a dot in it. Now I know there is another ID, which is essentially the same ID that doesn’t have the dot. I am actually confused about how this can even happen, because by Google’s own admission, dots don’t matter in Gmail addresses. BUT there are 2 IDs owned by 2 different people, only differentiating factor is the dot. How?

Let’s call this other person Pepper2. I have no clue who she is. But I know Pepper2 has one son, 8 years old. She lives in Delhi. Her son has been getting a mix of A and B grades, but mostly As. She recently took a vacation to Greece. I’m fully aware of her itinerary and flight ticket costs. She is moving to Bangalore and trying to sell most of her furniture in Delhi. I know all this because all of her email comes to me. And all the emails show my email address, without the dot.

This makes me hugely concerned. Is someone else also having access to all of my email? My inbox is a junkyard, but it is also a treasure trove. It contains mails and chat histories that are very dear to me. And it is linked to my bank accounts and a lot of other services I have signed up for.

Sometimes, I entertain the thought of starting over with a new email ID. Just to kind of purge my past and start clean. But the thought is kicked out almost instantly.  I am not the kind to break ties with my past that easily. After all, like I said, the inbox contains some gold. So I go back to where I began. What do I do?

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge, Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

L for Learn

Posted by Pepper on May 1, 2019

I have fallen off the radar completely when it comes to this A-Z writing. So much so that I am wondering if and how I am going to work my way up. Cotton has been so awfully sick in the last few days and that has really consumed me fully. It has been extremely exhausting around here.

Cotton and Candy had Spring break a while ago and Mint and I found ourselves wondering how on earth we were going to keep them occupied enough. How will we find time for anything else?

On one such clueless day, we took the kids to the beach. The weather in Bay Area has turned around and it is actually fairly hot. Thank God for that. We thought the beach would be a good idea. But I should know that the weather Gods are rarely on my side.

On that particular day, it was cold and windy. We were with a friend and her son. The moment we stepped on the sand, I felt a cold wave hit me and I was instantly unsure of this decision of ours. Maybe the beach is too cold. It certainly is too windy. Will the kids be okay?

When I voiced my concern to the rest of the group, everybody seemed to think otherwise and asked me to shut up. Unfortunately, my reputation precedes me. I am always cold, when nobody else is. So when I say it is too cold for the kids, nobody takes me seriously. They probably think I am imposing my pathetic standards on them.

Mint often says he doesn’t want the kids to turn out like me. I actually start to wonder if letting them move around in a single layer on a relatively cold evening will let them build more resistance to cold? Of course, I don’t want them to develop a low tolerance and threshold to cold too. So I suck up and go against my instincts most of the time. I don’t bundle them up as much as I would like to.

But sometimes, I wish I listened to the voices in my head. Everybody that day decided to take a dip in the cold sea. I was aghast, but since nobody else seemed to think this was a problem, I allowed it to happen. The kids splashed around in the waves. At one point they decided to sit down and allow the waves to wash over. Needless to say, they were drenched.

By this point, this voices in my head were screaming. Hello, this is ridiculously chilly. They are drenched, it is windy. Let’s run out of here NOW! Again, when I voiced myself, I was asked to ‘calm down’. The kids were having fun, why would I want to spoil the party?

I wish, I WISH I had insisted on leaving. Sadly, I was more concerned about repairing my reputation. I wanted to come across as laid back and non obsessive. That is so much cooler than coming across as a paranoid mom who doesn’t have fun. So I let the kids stay wet for another few minutes, while they built sand castles on the windy beach.

That was what it really took. The next day, Cotton fell sick and this is the sickest my baby has been. His lungs have been affected, his fever keeps spiking, he is heavily congested and he has the worst cough ever. It makes him gag and splutter and gasp all day long. It has been a week of pure hell.

I am furious with myself. Why did I allow it to happen when I just knew what it could result in? We have all been suffering along with him. We are sleep deprived, holding on to a crying, clingy kid who is so uncomfortable. A tiny being who doesn’t know simple things like spitting out the phelgm or blowing his nose.

To add to my woes, Candy seems to be on her way to getting it now. Sigh. I have sworn to myself. When it comes to my kids, I have to trust myself and learn to speak up. I don’t care if I come across as a wimp. I need to learn to be firm. I need to learn to say no. This is one thing I have struggled with all my life, but I shouldn’t let my inabilities impact my kids. For them, I will learn.

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge | 26 Comments »

K for Kickback

Posted by Pepper on April 19, 2019

The one time I look forward to all day is the end of the day when I can actually kick back and just be, without having to jump to my feet to tend to the next task at hand. This time for me usually starts by 10 pm at night.

Typically, I watch TV, or read, or waste my time on Instagram. These days I have been trying to also fit in a blog post. But in the past few days, I find myself dreaming of my time to kick back and put my feet up all day. That is all I want to do. It has reached a point where the inertia is beginning to interfere with everything in my life.

I am exhausted. Physically, because I seem to be carrying Cotton and Candy a gazillion times in a day. I have to lift them to put them in and out of their cribs. I have to lift them to put them in and out of their high chairs. I have to lift them to put them in an out of their car seats. I have to lift them to put them in and out of grocery carts. And when all this lifting is multiplied by two, it starts getting to you. And did I mention the number of times I throw them up in the air just to hear their laughter? And then feel the ache and soreness in my arms? I know, I am a masochist.

We have also entered the phase where they show resistance for everything. So every time we are changing a diaper, they will roll away and I will have to bring kid one back. Only to find him wiggling and running again and I have to go back, chase the said kid and use extra strength to hold him or her down. Then I have to repeat the process for kid 2. Same for putting on their pajamas at night. Or for forcefully lifting a child out of the truck they want to ride because it is bedtime. You see, when the opposing force physically resists you, you need to put in double the strength to execute your task. New definition of resistance training?

And if managing toddler twins is not physically draining enough, you have other tasks to cater to. Cooking, sweeping, dishes. And if you even dare to tell me that we have the dish washer, I will smack you hard. Because dish washer still demands that each dish be rinsed individually first. Making sure there is no residue. You then have to bend to to unload the previous load. And then bend again multiples times to reload.

I have to add that I am not doing this alone. Everything I described is done by Mint as well and we are still as exhausted.

Emotionally, I am probably even more exhausted. Because, toddler twins. Try talking in exaggerated tones, make funny faces, read to the kids with expression, sing, express surprise, talk with exclamation, clap, clap again, repeat ‘God Job!’ 87824098212 times, sound amused, fist bumps, show excitement as you give high fives, and do this in all your interactions. I’m willing to bet this emotional labour will make you feel drained. You will want to shut yourself in a dark room, stay silent, expressionless and just breathe.

Surprise! Other than being physically and emotionally exhausted, I am also very mentally exhausted. I have been staggering under the weight of my mental load. This is mainly because I am trying to reach not one, but two decisions. Each of enormous magnitude that require me to think. Hard. And I have to think and deal with the aftermath of my thoughts as I go about living my every day life.

Well, this post has taken a completely different turn and it isn’t what I intended to write. But we will let that be. What I wanted to write about was the glorious time of the day when I kick back. The time I wait for all day. Tonight is going to be extra special because I succumbed to what Mint keeps asking me to do. We decided to buy food from outside for the next 3 to 4 days. This not only means no cooking, but it also means an easier clean up since we will barely have any dishes. So tonight when I lie back and watch some TV, I will live with that amazing feeling of having much lesser to do for the next few days. At least physically. The rest is here to stay.

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge | 13 Comments »

J for Joyous

Posted by Pepper on April 18, 2019

So it was my birthday a few days ago. Over the past few years I have come to terms with the numbers my age reflects. It no longer shocks me to think of myself as an adult of that particular age. I mean, it does to an extent. I still don’t relate to these numbers, but I have stopped thinking about them. 40 is probably the next big number that is going to shock me. And since I have more than three fourth of a decade to get there, I don’t believe it is coming too soon.

Since my birthday fell on a weekend, we absolutely had to go out of town. That probably explains the silence on the blog. I was holidaying. We went to Tahoe and what a surprise it was. I went there expecting to spend time on warm beaches. What I saw instead was snow. So much snow! And it was absolutely gorgeous. Even a cold hating, zero endurance to winter kind of girl like me thought it was such a treat.

Our hotel room faced the beach and Cotton and Candy spent every minute of our room stay jumping in the balcony there. We had snow capped mountains, clear blue water and the beach all in one frame.

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Our hotel reception had a fire pit, hot chocolate and marshmallows, big board books featuring Teddy Bears and more. We had gone with the BFF and the three kids had such a blast, it made me glad we chose to stay where we did.

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Other than spending time on this gorgeous beach and watching Miss scaredy cat Candy make a game of going close to the edge of the water and then run as the waves came close, we also spent time playing in the snow. I mean, having real snow fights and hitting each other with a thwack in the belly. And of course, sliding down snowy slopes.

The old me would have probably put up a lot more pictures on the blog. But the new me is too lazy to blur faces and upload more images. So my words will have to do.

My favourite part of the trip was the time we spent in the ice skating rink. Now I have never learnt ice skating but I am pretty damn good at it. I zoom by at jet speed and have never fallen in the times that I have entered a rink. 3, in case you are curious.

Since I am training myself to write shorter posts, I am going to end it here instead of letting my verbal diarrhea take over. The dreamy celebrations are now over and we are back to reality.

PS – The last time I went to Lake Tahoe was in 2011. That trip was so different from this one.

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge, Travel | 4 Comments »

I for Idolize

Posted by Pepper on April 12, 2019

Kids are known to idolize their parents. At least that is the general perception. You, as a parent are a role model for your children. They learn what they observe around them. Your behaviour, your habits set precedents. It is this, this very reality that I hate.

I am a flawed individual. This worked out okay before we had kids, but now that we do, Mint and I are always fretting about the kind of examples we set. What behaviour of ours could be internalized by our children? Oh God, the pressure. I tell you, it sucks

For example, I really want Cotton and Candy to be morning people. I have seen first hand the kind of advantage individuals who start their day early have. Other than being able to fit in a lot more things, I find these people generally more organized and structured. So of course, if I want CottonCandy to learn to wake up early, straighten their beds and start their day with some structure, I have to imbibe the same routine. But I can’t. Mint and I love sleeping in.

Cotton seems to be a morning person so far and wakes up by 7.30 am even on weekends, but I wonder how long that will continue? What they see around them is two adults sleeping in, being lazy and living a lethargic life. I wish they saw energetic parents who woke up and had a routine that included some good exercise.

Or what we eat for example. We have so far been quite particular about what Cotton and Candy eat and in general give them only healthy food. But now every time I dig into my bowl of Kraft Mac n Cheese, I see Cotton tugging at me and pleading for his share of ‘Paatta’, which by the way, I find adorable. Who has the heart to refuse a baby asking for PASTA in such a cute way?

The only way to not feed him that crap is to not eat it myself. What an unfair expectation. Just because I am full of follies, doesn’t mean I want my children to turn out like that. How I wish I could tell him ‘Look, this is unhealthy crap that I am eating. I am allowed to eat it. But you aren’t’.

Or let’s talk about good habits. We want our kids to brush their teeth twice a day. But Mint and I are those gross people who don’t do it ourselves. Yet, we do make the kids brush before bed. And often, I brush alongside them because I know they learn all that they see and all that jazz.

Or the language we use. Both Mint and I use the F word generously in our conversations. No, we don’t use it an as expletive. Well, that too. But it’s more about it being a casual part of our language. Now let’s not get into right and wrong here, but you see, the amount of pressure we have to put on ourselves to NOT use that word in front of Cotton and Candy?

We have slipped a few times and instantly been paranoid about what they could possibly pick up. In fact, the first time I heard Cotton excitedly say ‘Kuck’, I was pretty sure we are doomed and the damage had already been done. Until I saw him pointing at the picture of a duck. Phew.

Parenting is tough business.

 

 

 

 

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

H for Hair

Posted by Pepper on April 11, 2019

We just got done with shampooing Cotton and Candy’s hair and I am so very glad we don’t have to go through this terrorizing experience again for another week. Yes, we wash their hair only once a week on average and if I had a choice, I would probably wash it once a month. Or never.

What is it about a hair bath that makes them shriek and cry like that? While Cotton is not so bad, Candy is a nightmare to deal with in the bath tub. Washing her hair is like going on a war. The entire bathroom turns into a war zone. Again, this war cannot be fought by either Mint or me alone. It needs both of us to team up as we try to tackle our opposition who will continually try to flee the battle field by climbing out of the tub.

The dreaded shampoo is our main weapon of destruction and leaves almost all of us injured, either mentally or physically. Candy cries so much, it results in her throwing up. Which causes in us a wave of panic because we have worked so hard to get her to eat. And we see our efforts going down the drain, literally. It leaves Mint and me soaked since the on going violence makes us lose focus of the hand shower. We resign as the spray continues to change angles and hits us in the face, on our arms, knees and whatever else that is left of us. We are a wet, sloppy mess. She continues to cry, threatening to throw up some more. How many casualties do we have to deal with?

To add to it, we have to go through this operation not once, but twice. The first time as we try to lather and wash her hair after a shampoo, and the second time as we go through it with a conditioner. Every time we feel thankful that our bathroom is not within ear shot by any means. No passer by or neighbour can hear her cries, or I’m afraid we would have Child Protection Services knocking on our door.

Why does it have to turn into a war every time? Why can’t she just look up when asked to? Why do we all feel so wounded by the end of it? For now, I just feel glad we survived. We bundle up a sobbing, hiccupping little girl and take her out to her very concerned brother who has been waiting for her to get freed.

Mint goes about picking up their bath toys and cleaning up the tub as I dry the kids and bury my nose in their freshly washed and conditioned hair. My sweet smelling babies have calmed down by now and are willing to give me a hug. A week is a long time, I tell myself. We don’t have to go through this again. Not very soon.

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge | 25 Comments »

G for Games

Posted by Pepper on April 10, 2019

Board games! Mint and I love playing board games. While I can never match up to his interest and passion, this is one activity that we both love engaging in. We have been building our collection of games for a long time now.

This used to be a weekend ritual for us before we had kids. We’ve spent many Friday and Saturday evenings completely absorbed in our game, plotting and planning our moves and trying to think of strategies that will help us move a few points on our score cards.

Mint is a brilliant player and is very hard to defeat. Most people who have played with him have learnt this and by now he has a quite a reputation. He is smart. He really thinks and makes well calculated moves. So when I am his opponent, I push myself really hard to think as well.

After CottonCandy were born, I felt like I hardly made use of my brain. Most of the tasks I did were mindless and made me feel brain dead. So every now and then we would bring out a game and play, even in those early months that involved sleepless nights. We’d place a swaddled baby on our lap and carry on with our game. The swaddling ensured we didn’t have to worry about little hands picking up any choking hazard or disrupting our play.

This is how we spent the twin’s first Chirstmas. Since they were barely 3 months old and we couldn’t really step out or party, we put on our Santa hats, lit up our tree, played Chirstmas carols and played board games. That is Mint holding a bundled Candy as we played.

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When we moved to this house, we converted one of the rooms to a game room. This is where our prized collection lies. We actually have more games that are lying in boxes elsewhere. The door to this room remains shut all the time and Cotton and Candy have no access to it. If you are of those people who think board games are only about Ludo and Monopoly, you have no idea about the existence of an entirely awesome world.

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Our prized collection

While we do play every now and then, it isn’t as frequent as we would like it to be. Gone are the days where we could swaddle Cotton and Candy. Playing with them around is certainly not an option. The only time we can play is at night after they sleep. Unfortunately, I start feeling sleepy by the time they doze off.

Having said that, I do have a lot of hope of us playing together as a family once they grow a little. I know Mint absolutely can’t wait to introduce them to the world of board games. This is probably one of the best ways to stimulate and challenge little kids. Mint is already researching and looking into child friendly board games. Let alone kids, I know I definitely got a little smarter and learnt to think once I started playing board games.

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge | 34 Comments »

F for Favourite

Posted by Pepper on April 8, 2019

This is a picture of my most favourite women in the universe. My sister, my mother and my daughter, holding on to each other.

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This picture is dear to me because it is such an honest depiction of our life. It was bed time. You can see my mom is in her night gown. She was still under treatment for her cancer at this point, which explains the scarf she is wearing. The lack of hair on her head would give her a sinus, so she event slept with the scarf. Candy is wearing a night suit in which her pajamas have clearly gotten too short for her. There are so many aspects here that would be considered imperfect. But to me, this is what perfect looks like.

Cotton would cling to his nani in all the months that we spent in India last year. I had no clue of how to put him to sleep. He slept with his nanu and nani in their room. If he got cranky, he wanted his nani. If he got sleepy, he searched for his nani. I had gotten used to handing him to my mom if I thought he was acting up in any way.

This one night when my mom came to my room to take Cotton with her, Candy jumped into her arms before Cotton could reach her. My sister who was standing near by, instinctively joined in for something like a group hug.

I was on the bed and fortunately I had my phone right there, so I grabbed it and turned on the camera, hoping I would be able to click before any of them pulled away. If I want to capture candid moments, I need to sharpen my reflexes. Anyway, I was able to take a picture before they noticed my phone. In this image, they aren’t even remotely conscious of the camera.

Of course, I went on to take a few more pictures after they realised it and they even reluctantly posed for me, but in this moment that I captured, they were truly intent on only holding each other, with no pretensions or agendas.

Only God knows how much I miss my beautiful family in India.

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge, Meet the family | 10 Comments »

E for Elevate

Posted by Pepper on April 5, 2019

My parents have lived in the same apartment in Mumbai for the last 15 years or more. Safe to say that my family is reasonably close to all our immediate neighbours. However, our last trip to India made us experience a different level of warmth and bonding with the folks next door. The presence of Cotton and Candy made all the difference.

Right from the day we landed, neighbours started pouring in to meet the little ones. The love and warmth they extended to them took me by surprise. Over time, CottonCandy became extremely fond of them too and would insist on spending time in their homes.

We became particularly close to our immediate neighbours. Their daughter, R didi would come to our house every.single.day at around 7.30 pm and spend about an hour playing with Cotton and Candy. Often, her parents would join in after work and we would have a merry time in the evenings, chatting up about our day and playing with the kids. What is it about kids that makes adults bond? We had never experienced this camaraderie with our neighbours until Cotton and Candy came along.

The said neighbours invited us for lunch in the week we were to leave. We gladly accepted. Now what do I say about the food they served? The adais were exceptional. The avial was finger licking. The other accompaniments were delicious. We ate. We were unstoppable.

It was here that I tasted it for the first time. It so happened that I was pouring a spoonful of ghee on my plate of steaming dal and rice. That’s when P aunty told me to try some of her freshly prepared lemon pickle. Saying that, she placed the jar and a clean spoon in front of me. Never the one to decline home made pickles, I added some to my plate and tasted it. Oh my God. I will never forget that first taste. That pickle was a bomb. Never had I tried a pickle so full of flavour. I felt like my entire life had been wasted. Where had this pickle been all along?

I couldn’t stop raving about it to her. I couldn’t stop eating it. Oh God, I want this. I want this so bad, I kept thinking. She seemed happy to note my very genuine appreciation. In my head, I was hatching plans of making her offer me a tiny jar so I could carry it back. Would it be possible that I actually get to carry some of this magic back with me?

Of course, I couldn’t get myself to tell her I want to take some of it and pack it in my bag. So I continued praising it, hoping that was enough. Instead, she offered me the recipe. Oh damn, while I was happy to have the recipe and try it on my own, I was pretty damn sure I would never be able to replicate the flavour. I thanked her for the recipe anyway.

And just when I had given up, the offer came. ‘I have two jars. Why don’t you take one with you? I keep making it anyway’. ‘Oh, no aunty, that is so sweet of you, but don’t bother’ I said. Jeez, why did those words escape my mouth? I said it before I could stop myself. Now what if she took them seriously and recalled her offer? Really, I wanted it so bad, so why did I have to pretend that I didn’t? Perhaps because it would have been rude to jump to it and tell her ‘Oh thank you, I have been waiting for you to utter these words!’ Adults play such annoying mind games.

She insisted we take some. Thank God. In the end, the pickle was given to us in a glass jar of Ching’s schezwan sauce. We taped the lid and packed it in our bags after thanking P aunty a million times. Now what do I say about this pickle, really? Believe me, it elevates the taste of everything it comes in contact with. It takes it to the highest level. We eat it with parathas, curd rice, upma, varan bhaat, and everything else possible. It is pretty damn spicy and we love the zing it adds.

Mint and I have had several arguments when we think our speed of consumption has gone off limits. Both of us accuse the other of going at it too fast. We eye each other’s plate and take note of the quantity each of us has and sometimes get mad because the other seems to have a speck more. After all, we have only one jar and have to use it sparingly.

As I mixed the pickle into my bowl of palak dal and rice and thought of how the taste was elevated, I thought I had to write about this for my post today.

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge, Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

D for Drives

Posted by Pepper on April 4, 2019

CottonCandy’s daycare is a 16 minute drive from home. The thought of this used to really annoy me in the beginning. I know we chose this daycare for them based on the criteria we had, but why do I have to spend about an hour on the road everyday?

As soon as I started driving on this route though, the annoyance turned into joy. The drive to their daycare is so scenic, I actually look forward to it in the mornings. The scenes around me are fresh and misty. We drive on winding roads, we see bright stretches of green, pretty homes standing on hills, flowered pathways bursting with colour, we see deer crossing the road and at some points we have a breath taking view of the foggy valley.

The sight of a passing bird usually brings out two excited little voices. ‘Kaka!’ both Cotton and Candy exclaim in joy. Kaka refers to bird in Tamil. But as of now, every bird is called kaka. I try to tell them about the different species of birds but they can’t get past their beloved kakas.

Those quint winding streets are a delight to drive on. I choose to not turn on the radio on most days and instead tune in to the sounds of the morning. It is during these drives that I try to focus on my breathing. I allow my mind to drift. Invariably, I think of the mornings of my childhood where my papa would drive the sister and me to school. We would watch the morning unfurl and listen to my dad’s goofy chatter. He would always find a way to cheer us up and make us laugh before we stepped out of the car and ran into the school premises.

Those happy memories have clearly left a mark on me. At 18 months, Cotton and Candy are too little to remember these morning drives. But as they grow, I hope to add a sparkle of joy to these rides, the way my dad did for us. I hope these drives become a part of their growing collection of happy memories.

On that note, writing this post made me miss my dad so much. I am going to go and call him, hopefully I will catch him before he sleeps. Did I already mention I hate the different time zones we live in?

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge | 5 Comments »

C for Choice

Posted by Pepper on April 3, 2019

A few days after CottonCandy were born, people started presenting us with an imminent question. When are we going to get Candy’s ears pierced? After all, our culture deems it necessary for baby girls to get their ears pierced. Almost all women have pierced ears. It is the norm and it was universally assumed by all that we would get the ear piercing done soon.

I hadn’t given this much thought. Like the rest of the world, I assumed we would do this once Candy was a few months old. When I discussed the idea with Mint, I realised he was vehemently against the idea of piercing her ears. He said we should not do any piercing on her body just because it was a cultural norm. This had to be entirely her choice.

I am surprised I hadn’t predicted this line of reasoning from him. I should have. I mean, I know my husband is a feminist. And he never does anything without giving it thought. Doing something because the world does it never works for him.

But I wanted to get her ears pierced, simply because baby girls look so cute with earrings and studs in their ears. When I said this to him, he seemed more offended. Are you saying she doesn’t look cute enough without earrings? Are you saying she needs a piece of jewelry in order to look her best?

He insisted this had to be her choice. Piercing was a permanent modification. He said our little girl had to get complete autonomy of her body right from the time she was born. Nobody would touch her unless she wanted it. If and when she was slightly older and did indeed want to get her ears pierced, then we would go ahead and get it done for her.

So I made another argument. That it is apparently more painful when you do it at a later age. And the odds of her wanting her ears pierced are far greater than the odds of her not wanting her ears pierced. So if she is going to make that choice anyway, why not make things simpler for her by doing it now when she is not conscious of the pain. Also, in the scenario that we did get her ears pierced now and she didn’t want it, she could always leave it alone and the piercing would close in no time. Fair enough?

Nope, he said. The piercing would leave a permanent scar. And why would we subject her to any kind of pain, keeping in mind the possibility that she may not have chosen it? Even if it was slightly more painful at a later age, we would make her aware of what it would entail and she could really choose whether or not the pain was worth it.

I wasn’t convinced by him. He wasn’t convinced by me. I told him I was a parent and I had some say. He told me was a parent too and had equal say. Since we couldn’t see eye to eye, we decided to take a month off and think about each other’s points of view.

In this time, I decided to read up and find as much information about this subject as I could. I tried to understand how society shapes our ideas of ‘beauty’. To my surprise, the more I read up, the more I began to see and even agree with Mint’s perspective.

Other than it being a matter of choice, it looked like it was also considered a matter of safety, of lack of it rather. I read stuff like ‘ many parents and caregivers easily forget that any cosmetic piercing carries inherent dangers and health risks‘ Some were even petitioning to make the practice illegal and calling it physical abuse and child cruelty. What? I think using those words was a bit too strong. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also did not support this cosmetic procedure done on infants and called it ‘unnecessary’. I’m not going to link up to all the articles I read, but if you are interested in reading more about this, look for ‘infant ear piercing’.

By the end of it, I decided it was safer and more logical to go with what Mint wanted. Unlike most Indian baby girls, Candy does not have her ears pierced. Maybe one day when she asks us for earrings, we will tell her that the procedure could be painful and if she still wants it, we will get it done for her. It’s really going to be about giving her a choice. But as of now, our little girl still looks just as cute without earrings.

PS: Usual disclaimer – Ear piercing like most other things is a personal choice and I do not judge any parent who made or wishes to make this choice for their children. I was that parent a little while ago. This post is only about our experiences and thoughts.

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge | 22 Comments »

B for big

Posted by Pepper on April 2, 2019

One of the things I am extremely thankful for right now is the space we have in this house. I’ve grown up in Mumbai, and you need to have lived there to know what that entails. Apartments, popularly called ‘flats’ there are tiny. We are used to fitting our lives into minuscule spaces.

Even in all the years we have spent in the US, I have always lived in an apartment. Living in a big independent house was never considered an option because A) Those are hard to afford (also because we refuse to sell our Mumbai apartment and pay a ridiculous mortgage and effectively pay for keeping 2 homes) and B) I have no idea how long I want to live in this country. I always live with one foot in and one foot out, so an apartment seemed easier to vacate and run out of. A house would make me feel more rooted, which isn’t what I was looking for. However, a strange turn of events led us to where we are today.

A friend (who I met through this blog!) told us they are moving to another place. Would we be interested in renting their current home? Now we had visited this friend’s home several times and always admired the space they had. It was an independent 4 bedroom house with a living room, separate family room, dining area, backyard, the works. Now that we had kids, our ideas began to change and the prospect of living in such a big house was appealing. We had lived in an apartment with 2 energetic kids and seen first hand how hard it was to keep them contained.

Real estate in Bay Area is kind of bonkers, so we were unsure if this house was within our means. Call it destiny and a stroke of luck, things fell in place and we eventually moved in to this big, spacious house.

It’s been 3 months of living here and there are many things I love about it. The backyard for one. We have oranges and lemons and roses and jasmine and many other flowers and trees that I don’t recognise. On good days when the weather permits, we have our meals outside. I love our relaxed brunches in the backyard on the weekends we choose to stay home. The kids love running and playing on the grass.

They also love running inside the house. The large space gives them enough opportunity to expend their energy and that is a win win for all of us. We have been able to give them a separate play room and they enjoy spending hours there. Because we have space available, we are able to maintain a few child free zones. We use gates to bar access to those areas and don’t have to spend all our energy asking them to not touch this and don’t climb on there and no don’t throw the remote and hey no picking up that glass frame, you get it.

However, if you were to ask me what my favourite part of living in such a big house is, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to respond. What I love the most is the amount of storage space big houses offer. Our numerous boxes are lying in the garage without us having to worry about them.

With so many bedrooms and such large closets, we are able to put things away without always having to constantly fold and think of ways of fitting in stuff. Our kitchen cabinets keep all our pantry essentials and paraphernalia contained and give us unrestricted counter space! Our laundry room has a separate cabinet just for fresh, folded towels, waiting to be used. We have separate closets for our cleaning supplies, Costco bulk buys, etc.

This big house and all the storage space I am describing is probably the norm in the US, but remember, I said I come from Mumbai and have grown up learning how to squeeze all my belongings into a few small shelves? And then feeling frustrated with my failed attempts?

Now because of all the available space, our house doesn’t look like a junkyard. I can go a step further to say parts of our house are actually immaculate and the other parts are fairly straightened out. All this, despite minimal effort from us. It is so easy to maintain a tidy and seemingly clutter free home when you have space. I really respect people who are able to maintain order and tidiness in a small house. If you have a lot of space, a tidy home doesn’t tell me much about your skills.

Anyway, I have no idea how long we will have this space to our disposal. I don’t know how long we will live in this house, or what our next house will be like. But for now, we are loving it.

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge, Uncategorized | 24 Comments »

A for AM

Posted by Pepper on April 1, 2019

Let me kick start my month long writing spree by giving you a glimpse of our mornings. Our mornings spell C.R.A.Z.Y and I know we are to blame for this, at least partially.

My alarm rings at 6.45 am. I snooze for a bit and finally get out of bed by 7 am. Getting out of bed is a torturous exercise for me. Every morning I wonder who these people are who wake up at 5 am, or even 6 am. That too for things like a work out? What are they made of?

Anyway, after having gone through the torture of pulling myself out of bed and brushing my teeth, I walk to my quiet kitchen to fix myself some tea. A while ago, I switched to using instant chai mix sachets. They are expensive, but they are a blessing in the mornings when all I have to do is microwave a mug of water and stir in the mix. I feel so utterly grateful for my cup of ginger tea that I have ready in literally 1 minute. No more fumbling for saucepans, heating milk, adding separate ingredients and all that jazz. This ready chai has been a game changer and worth the extra $$ we spend every month.

I give myself time to sip my chai until 7.10 am. At this point, I go and wake Mint up. Every single day, he asks me for ‘2 mins’ This is the most frustrating part of my morning. I HATE being the only adult having to chase 3 kids. By now, I am well aware that his ‘2 minutes’ don’t really mean 2 minutes. Sigh.

I go back to the kitchen and make a bottle of milk. Let me share something here. We use only one milk bottle to feed both Cotton and Candy before we actually wash it. I can’t tell you how exhausting it was for Mint and me to be washing a million feeding bottles all day. Until I convinced myself saying, hey, they are siblings. Twins at that! Same DNA, same germs! It’s okay. Of course, we don’t do this when they are sick, but otherwise, we rarely use 2 bottles at the same time.

So I take the bottle of milk to the kids room and wake Cotton up first. ‘Dudu!’ he says excitedly on seeing the bottle in my hand. Thank God, at least one of my kids love milk. I wait till he gulps his milk down and put him back in his crib once he is done. I go back to the kitchen and refill the same bottle with milk and come back to the room to wake Candy. She is my daughter in this regard and dislikes milk, so getting her to finish her bottle is a bit of a struggle. On most days though, we manage to get done with it. Once done, I put her back in the crib too.

I then go back to our bedroom and yell at Mint to get out of bed RIGHT NOW. I can’t be doing everything on my own. By this point, I am fairly wild. He knows to not battle me at this time and pulls himself out. He then goes to give the kids a little wash while I go back to the kitchen.

The kids have half a banana each for breakfast. That is a staple. And while they are very capable of biting into it and eating it without a fuss, I know they won’t. So I slice it up and put it in bowls and get spoons out to feed them. We don’t do forks with them yet.

Mint brings them to the dining area where we put them on high chairs. It takes us another 2 minutes to strap them. I envy parents of kids who don’t need to be strapped. Cotton and Candy stand up on the highchairs very abruptly when they get restless.

And then our struggle begins. Feeding Cotton and Candy is always a challenge to say the least. First they refuse to open their mouths. Then they want to self feed, which we encourage most of the time. But they make a mess and we don’t really have time in the mornings. We bring out their puzzles and books and place them on their high chair trays. And recite rhymes and sing and read and entertain them while we coerce them into accepting a spoonful. This whole process of clapping, singing, reading, playing, eating takes us a while and by the time we finish, I am already in high stress mode.

After that we put Cotton and Candy on their training toilet seat and wait for them to poop and pee. All along, I keep glancing at the time and telling myself to calm down. By now, Cotton is fairly well trained and finishes his business in the pot. Candy doesn’t always oblige and it is always a hit or a miss with her.

Once done, Mint and I try to change their clothes, each of us managing one kid. In the midst of this there will be several demands thrown in where they will want to go to the backyard and play with the ball. Or a time where we can’t find a pair of socks. Or when we remember we have forgotten to wash their sippy cups and need to pack them in their bag.

After this drama, we set out to fix Candy’s hair. Her hair is another story altogether and I will write about it some day. But as of now, it takes two of us to hold her down and run a comb through it to get the knots out. And then pull it back into two ponytails. She will scream, wiggle and resist and every day I will think of getting her hair cut really short to avoid this hassle.

We then move on to the business of putting their shoes on which takes us another few minutes because Candy will sometimes insist on wearing Cotton’s shoes and vice versa. Lastly, we get them to wear their jackets or hoodies. Just when we think we are finally ready to leave, we invariably realise we need to send extra sets of clothes with them because the previous ones have come back soiled. So we go back in and rummage through their clothes before finding something appropriate to pack.

I finally breathe a sigh of relief when we are actually out of the door. I strap them into their car seats and look at the time. Oh oh. 8.30 already! Tomorrow we will do better. Tomorrow is another day.

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge | 40 Comments »

 
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