First Raksha Bandan!

Let me start by saying that growing up we never really celebrated the Hindu holidays much. I remember once we went to temple for Holi which was a lot of fun, and one trip to India for Diwali, which was fabulous, lighting firecrackers every night. Some of them I’ve only learned about when my Indian family and friends start wishing each other a happy something-or-other on Facebook, and I’m sent to Google it and figure out what it is I’m supposed to be celebrating. (Case in point: Dussehra, which I only learned of a year or two ago.)

So when, a few days earlier, my new and very cool cousin Shefali posted something about asking what traditions people do for Raksha Bandan, I thought it would be a good place for our family to start celebrating some of these traditions. Raksha Bandan, for those of you who don’t know (or haven’t already gone to Google) is a day to celebrate the bond between sister and brother. In my Googling, I learned that it is to celebrate the chaste bond between brother and sister, so sometimes girls will tie a rakhi (bracelet) onto a boy that they think is getting too interested. It’s like a ritualized friendzoning.

Of course, I didn’t really know how to celebrate other than to tie a bracelet, so back to the internets. I did call my mom the day of, but no one answered the phone. Most of them agreed that you have the sister perform a puja (prayer) to the brother and then tie a bracelet on to him. He is then supposed to say that he will protect her and give her a gift.

Rakhi in India range from simple to very, very elaborate, even with some using gold and diamonds.  We opted for the simpler route and I thought it would be more meaningful if the kids made bracelets for each other. One of the advantages of being a mercurial crafter is that you have a lot of random supplies around the house from well-intentioned crafting excursions. From the time that I thought I was going to start making friendship bracelets again and also thought I’d take up embroidery (um, yeah), I had quite a bit of embroidery floss around.

I had the girl make a simple braided bracelet with beads, and the boy made a simple knotted bracelet also with some beads (from that time I thought I’d start making my own jewelery).  I figured, it’s 2014 and it seemed to make sense that the brother and sister do puja for each other and give each other bracelets instead of just sisters to brothers. (sorry for the lack of good pictures in this post-I was too involved with actually participating to focus on taking good images.)

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On the day of Raksha Bandan, Eric pulled out the puja set that my parents had given me some time ago. I started by lighting the oil lamp, which I learned is supposed to use clarified butter. I didn’t have any on hand so just used vegetable oil. I quickly learned that this burns through fast and had to use tweezers to remove the wicks before they set off the smoke alarms. Then, I needed some incense (“to provide a pleasing aroma for the deity,” says the internet)  but we didn’t have any. I leaned over our backyard fence and asked our cigarette-smoking neighbors if they had any, and they did! It takes a village, no?

The puja tray looked a little bare, so I put Ganapati on it for good measure. I figure, what can go wrong if he is watching on? The Girl insisted that he wear his “necklace,” which is the strand of pearls that Eric and I wore around our heads when we got married and that usually live draped around Ganapati on our mantelpiece. Why not?


Then we went outside for the ceremony. First the girl and boy did puja for each other and tied bracelets on each other, saying that they would love and protect each other.

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Two of their friends were over and so they participated as well, with the the girl tying a simple cord onto their wrists. It was all very sweet and I’d like to think that it was why they played so nicely for the rest of the evening.


It was really, really lovely to do and to see them with each other, even if the kids didn’t take it quite as seriously as I would have liked. It’s made me think that we should be more intentional about celebrating other Hindu holidays as well. Maybe Diwali this year? Or I’ll get really into things and figure out what Dussehra is and how I’m supposed to celebrate it.

Musical Chairs

My parents really tried to get me to be a musician. Five years of piano lessons, but the truth is I’m just not that musical and I hated playing.

I can’t believe how different the kids are in that regard-they’ve gotten Eric’s musical talent (thank goodness) and actually enjoy playing. Today the boy disappeared for a while and when I went to check on him, this is what I found him doing:

Not sure how I got so lucky to have such a great and talented kid, but I’m grateful every day.

Summertime Catch Up

Summertime has been a blast so far. The boy did his week of mountain bike camp and started doing some small jumps (and making my heart stop), my sister had a beautiful and fun wedding [for which there will be a separate dedicated detailed post, as my sister already called to complain about this], and then we went to Disneyland & the beach!

Obligatory castle pic

Obligatory castle pic

Driving already?! fyi, she was awful.

Driving already?! fyi, she was awful.

Arr matey! Treasure on Tom Sawyer's Island.

Arr matey! Treasure on Tom Sawyer’s Island.

beachy day of relaxation

beachy day of relaxation

Wedding Selfie with the lovely bride!

Wedding Selfie with the lovely bride!

Disney was so fun. It’s been interesting to me that when I told people we were going to Disneyland, the reaction was one of a polar pair. Either people looked at me with pity, and said something about how brave I was and how they could never do it, or their eyes gleamed with excitement and they started telling me about inside tips and how much they love it.  To the former, I was like, really? I’m going to DISNEYLAND, not having chemotherapy. I actually feel sorry for people who can’t have fun there or hate it. Quite a few, though, I suspect, say that because they think it would just be too commercial and anti-intellectual to say that they could possibly have fun there. My husband falls into this category.  To the latter, I say, you are my people. Let’s go ride.

There’s a gazillion blogs about ways to do Disneyland, and I read most of them, which meant that while I was somewhat maniacal about getting FastPasses and checking wait times on my phone, also meant that we waited in no line longer than 25 minutes and had so much fun.The best was the pin trading, which the kids got super into! The kids and I are looking forward to a trip to Orlando at some point in the future. Eric says that he’ll stay home and revel in being a curmudgeon instead.

After getting back, I was honestly depressed for a while. It was 8 total days of fun, and getting back to work and routine was hard. Especially when the rest of my family came back from vacation to…more summer vacation.

It was nice to get back to the garden this year. We’ve moved some things around, so that where we had had herbs in the central circle area we’ve now moved them back to be next to the bean screen. There’s less sun there so it’s a better fit for those plants and we have more room for vegetables. New this year: cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, different types of squash, and different types of tomatoes. I got new tomato cages on the recommendation of my neighbor, and while not cheap have been fantastic. For the first time the plants are happily supported and I’m not spending a bunch of time trying to make the flimsy little triangle cages stay upright by bolstering them with garden stakes.


June 5th. Little baby plants.

June 5th. Little baby plants.

July 1 garden

July 1 garden


July 10th garden

July 10th garden


My vision for the teepee in the middle was to have vines growing up it, and I left an opening to create a little hiding space for the kids.  Sadly, the beans just haven’t grown well there. Maybe it’s the variety I chose, maybe it’s because we’ve grown corn there for the past few years and the soil is depleted. I do fertilize with a natural fertilizer but, well, not everything grows well every year.

July 28 jungle

July 28 jungle


The other thing different this year is that I’ve been spraying with neem oil, a natural pesticide. According to the bottle, it doesn’t harm ladybugs but prevents bad bugs from eating or laying eggs on your plants. I will say that the aphid population has been near zero. The potato beetles don’t seem to care too much and nibble away, but don’t seem to be doing too much damage.


cabbage! No babies growing here.

cabbage! No babies growing here.


Another fun thing with all this rain has been all of the volunteer plants we’ve gotten! Two volunteer tomato plants, a bunch of dill, parsley, lettuce, cilantro. Some of these I just let go to seed so we keep getting more. The overall effect of this is somewhat jungle like given that there are plants popping up all over. I feel like if these plants are tough and determined enough to grow without actual irrigation, they deserve to live.

I have forgotten what kinds of squash I planted, unfortunately. I can’t remember if these are winter or summer squash. I have one that is giant, and am waiting to see if the shell hardens or not. This year again we have practically no squirrels chomping on the squash-two years of a late frost killing the blooms on my neighbors fruit trees has meant a large die off in the population. Thank you, Thomas Malthus.

unidentified squash object

unidentified squash object

We’ve already harvested our first tomato, kale, chard, basil, and of course plenty of other herbs. Should be a great rest of the growing year!

Skiing and Fear on the Mountain

Well, we’ve just gotten back from 2 days at Copper Mountain which were largely just great.  This has been the first winter break where I haven’t been absolutely counting down the seconds where the kids went back to school. Overall, we had 4 days of skiing, my sister came out for a whole week, the kids basically made the pierogies this year for our Christmas Eve dinner and Santa made it by the house. My schedule has somehow allowed me to be off for almost all of 2 weeks, and since Eric is home on winter break also, it’s just been a lot of good family time. Not that there haven’t been a few moments where I think we were all a little sick of each other, have separated the kids, have created spurious reasons for early bedtimes, or have had tantrums (both kids and myself). But for the most part it’s just been really, really fun.

Skiing over the break was huge. The boy and the girl made huge leaps in their skiing this year-the girl went on her first lift and the boy is even skiing some blue runs!  One of the things we’ve been looking forward to is having them be able to ski with us and not have to be in lessons. Since I snowboard I can’t really help out with teaching them to ski, and Eric didn’t necessarily feel comfortable teaching them either. This last time, I agreed to pick up the boy early at 2pm to ski a run or two with him after lessons since he’d made so much progress.  So on Saturday, we picked him up at 2 and I went up a lift with him for a run.  Eric was going to wait at West Village for the girl to finish her lesson at 3pm, and the boy and I were going to ski over to Center village where our lodge was.

[A note: this is long. If you want the brief version, I couldn’t find the Boy and was panicky. Scroll down to the asterix break to find out what actually happened. Otherwise read on to share my two hours of terror.]

Now the boy likes to ski through the trees, which I find nerve wracking when I ride with him-one moment he’s there, then he’s not, then he pops out of some trees. So I’d asked him not to go through trees on our ride down. A note about the weather-it was cold. 15 degrees cold and dropping. We were both tired and getting chilled so agreed to just do the one run. We got off the lift and headed down the run to take us to Center Village, and then suddenly, he simply wasn’t there.  I thought he had maybe taken a little tree path, so followed it down, but didn’t see him at the end. I waited there, looked up and down the mountain and just…no child. At this point, I got worried that he had hit a tree or gotten stuck, so I unstrapped myself from my board and walked up the hill, but didn’t see anyone in the trees. I flagged down a ski instructor and told them what I was worried of-he skied the path and looked from below and assured me that there was no one in the trees.

This wasn’t really all that reassuring to me, as my big snowboarding fear is getting stuck in a tree well, low enough that rescuers can’t see you and getting hypothermic and suffocating to death. I hightailed it down the mountain to Center Village, looking for the boy the whole time and not seeing him. At this point, I was in almost full panic mode. I found someone who eventually directed me to Ski Patrol and I hoped that he was just sitting in the office, but he wasn’t there. I told the Patrol officers about what had happened, and expected them to say something like, “Oh we already have him,” but they didn’t. I was now in full panic mode.

As they called their units into action and reassured me that they had never lost anyone, I was frantically trying to call Eric, but cell service wasn’t working. I was able to text him and our friend, who was with him, about what was going on, and told him to wait there and have our friend take the girl back to the lodge. The Ski Patrol people asked me to walk around the base of Center Village, which is a large place if you’ve ever been to Copper Mountain. I walked around, into the restaurants that he’s been familiar with, and still no boy. I went back to the office and the Ski Patrol guy said we should re-ski the run we had been on, though part of me suspects that he did this to get me out of the office and feel like I was doing something. The temperature was dropping rapidly-someone in the ski patrol office commented that it was now 5 degrees outside. It was snowing and getting darker too, all of which made me more and more terrified.

At this point, Eric was over at West Village and waiting to hear something, but his phone had died. He called me from someone else’s phone, but I didn’t really have much to tell him. As we were taking the lift up to get back to the run, the ski patrol had the boy’s tag scanned-he had just gotten on the West Village lift at 3:17, which was now! Relief flooded over me, as at least he was alive. He must have taken a wrong turn, I reasoned, ended up at the wrong village, and gotten back on the lift to try again. As it turned out, the timing on the chip was off by an hour so my relief was unfounded, but I didn’t know it at the time. We hightailed it down to the top of the Union Creek lift and waited for him to get off, which he never did. Maybe we missed him again, the Ski Patrol guy reasoned, and we headed back down the original run. Somehow on the way down I lost the ski patrol person again.  By this point, my phone had died too. Usually I keep it in an interior pocket of my jacket but had just stuck it into a side pocket and it had frozen too cold to work. So now I had no way to reach Eric either.

I ran back into the office at Center Village near 4 pm, almost 2 hours since I saw the boy last. I started babbling how I’d lost my kid and now I’d lost the ski patrol person and honestly I don’t remember what else. The kind man there told me to hold on and said that the boy had been found-he was at our ski lodge and our friend had called it in. Sheer relief and happiness flooded over me. The man asked me what my name was, and it took me a full 10 seconds to remember my name. I’m not kidding here. He drove me back over to the lodge, where I found the boy calmly playing Plants vs. Zombies on a cell phone. He looked up at me and said, “Hi Mom!” and went back to playing.


As he told us the story, what had happened was this, in his own words as much as possible: “So, I was skiing and then went into a little curve, but not in the trees, and then when I looked around Mom wasn’t there. So I skied down a little ways and waited, but didn’t see Mom. So I started to freak out a little, but then said to myself that I had to make a plan. I didn’t want to just stay on the mountain because of, well, strangers, and also because it was getting cold. So I made a plan to find anyone I knew. I skied down to Center Village, and followed the signs so I didn’t go to Union Creek. When I got to the bottom I still didn’t see Mom, so I looked at Center Village and saw Jack’s and the big snowpile that was next to our lodge and went there. I climbed the snowpile to get higher up and see if I could see anyone from higher up. I got into the lodge but didn’t have a card to get up to the room so waited for someone else to get in the elevator and then took it up to our floor and went to the room, but no one was there. So then I remembered that you had talked about going to use the hot tub at the fitness center, so I went outside and asked someone to show me where it was. I walked to the fitness center [note: this is about 1/4 mile away, across 2 streets, and he was still wearing ski boots] and asked them if they had seen you or our friends. They looked but didn’t find them. I told them my story and they said that if I couldn’t find my way home to come back. I walked back to the lodge and then remembered that there was a hot tub on the second floor, so took the elevator again and saw that it was still closed. As I was walking back to the elevator to just go back to our room and wait, I heard Sister’s voice downstairs. [Note: that floor is open to the ground floor below, so sound carries up] I said, ‘Sister?!’ and then Aunty said, “Boy, is that you?!” and they met me at the elevator and let me in!”

At this point, our friends called Ski Patrol to let them know he had been found, and our stories match up.

I cannot believe how composed the Boy was and how he was able to devise a plan for himself, find his way back to the lodge, walk 1/2 a mile around Copper looking for us, and really take care of himself. I was so impressed by his independence and resourcefulness, and am astonished that he didn’t simply start weeping at the side of the mountain. After it was all over I identified with the mom in “Home Alone,” where she was frantically trying to get to her son, who had it all under control. This experience made me feel like we are doing something right as parents. 🙂

I also cannot believe that he told the adults at the fitness center that he was a lost child and they simply sent him back out into the cold weather instead of calling Ski Patrol immediately. I am so grateful that my daughter never stops talking in the loudest voice possible so that the Boy heard her from a flight up and called back. Mostly I’m just so happy that the Boy is safe, alive, and back with us so we can all go on more skiing adventures.

But this time with a plan for what to do if we get separated.