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?

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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.

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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.

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!

Violinist

The Girl has been famously bad at following directions in a group setting.  This has significantly limited her participation in extracurricular activities.  We tried enrolling her in a dance class, and while all the other little girls obediently sashayed across the stage, she ran back and forth at top speed, cackling all the time.  The instructor sighed at her. We tried enrolling her in karate, and while all the other kids walked across the floor, practicing punches, she sat on the ground and cackled at Sensei. She took piano for a while and despite the teacher’s best attempts at various ways to get her to comply, it was all for naught.

So it was with some degree of surprise when, seemingly out of nowhere over last summer, she announced that she wanted to learn to play the violin. Eric rented a violin and found her an instructor, a 6′ 1′ tall Chinese woman named Hong who is a lovely person and a good instructor. At the first lesson, we told her that this would probably last a couple weeks and not to expect too much-we certainly didn’t. But the Girl has surprised us-she loves playing, usually is good about practicing and is dedicated to improving.  It’s been a few months now and I think it’s going to stick, at least for now.

Here she is at her first recital! A bit squeaky for sure, an extra few measures that don’t belong, but overall I think she did great!

Chatterboxes III

A few months ago the Boy had a sleepover at a friend’s house with 3 other boys.  His friend’s dad was telling spy stories, and one of them involved the army.

Other kid A: “What does the army do again?”

Other kid B: “They fight to defend our freedom!”

My Boy, upset: “NO! They do NOT fight to defend our freedom!! They fight for oil! and natural resources!! The ACLU fights to defend our freedom!!”

Seriously, readers, I am not making this up. Eric takes this as a liberal parenting victory.

Disclaimer: When I asked the boy about this the other day, he had no idea what the ACLU was, but stood by his prior remarks regarding the army. Still, the source was a reliable one and I’m sure it happened that one time.

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Girl, having a fit about practicing her violin.

In fairness, this was really my fault-she was too tired and it was bound to happen. I send her up to her room to calm down and say that I’ll be up to talk to her in a bit. I go up a few minutes later, and find her on her bed, leafing through “The MIlestones Project,” a book that has pictures of kids all around the world going through the same milestones–first lost tooth, sibling, etc.

She is sniffling as she turns the pages, and then says in a low growl, “All of these kids…they have a better life than me! I have a HORRIBLE life!!!”

A bit dramatic, are we?

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Boy, shaking his head: I’ve just had too much death lately.

Me: What?! What do you mean?! Who died?

Boy: Well, there was a big battle. First, thunderpaw died, and then ravencat, and then whiskerface.

Me: Are you … talking about Warriors?

Boy: Yeah.  Just too much death.

For the uninitiated, Warriors is a book series about a band of warrior cats.  Yes, warrior cats. It is interminably dense.

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Girl: Mommy, you can’t go to work anymore!

Me: Why not?

Girl: Because I will miss your big, fat, belly too much!

We then got into a belly comparison of who had the fatter belly. I still won.

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Girl, having a fit, having been told to go to her room, top of her lungs: OKAY! YOU ANNOYINGPANTS!

The next morning, Eric says: Girl, remember last night when you were having your fit and you called your mom “Annoyingpants”?

Girl: I called BOTH of you Annoyingpants!

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One night we went to the Mercury Cafe-the Boy’s guitar teacher’s band was playing. We got there early and the boy asked if he could go outside and run around a bit, to which I replied that no, it’s night time in a bad neighborhood so he needed to stay inside.

Ten minutes later, the girl asks: Are there hyenas here?

Me: No…there’s no hyenas around here. Why do you ask?

Girl: Well, you said it was a dangerous neighborhood, so I thought there must be hyenas!

I just love that in her mind, there is nothing that could make a neighborhood dangerous except hyenas. Of course.

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Me, to half naked girl: Girl, go upstairs and put a shirt on!

Girl: Okay!

She runs upstairs as fast as she can, then sprints downstairs. As soon as she hits the landing, she says: Fu-yoo! (her 2 syllable version of “phew!”) I made it!

Me: From what?

Girl: Oh, whenever I go upstairs to get something I pretend there are wolves there so I have to go fast and escape them.I escaped them this time!

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And lastly, one morning the light was streaming through the blinds brightly, so I lowered them.

Girl: I HATE the sun!

Me: Oh, really? Well, then you must be a vampire.

Girl, dead serious, knitting her brow: You think I am a vampire? For real life? (side note: this is one of her favorite expressions these days, and I’ll be sad when she loses it. Instead of saying “for real,” she says this.)

Me: Yeah.  I mean, if you don’t like the sun then you must be a vampire.

Girl: Mom, I would NEVER suck your blood.

She then leans over, clamps her little mouth onto my forearm for a moment, and then releases me.

Girl: See? I can’t suck your blood. I am not a vampire.

I guess that proves it.  My daughter is NOT a vampire who has a horrible life and escapes wolves upstairs. My son has faced too much death lately and believes in the ACLU.

More Chatter

Another installment in “Tales…from Parenting….” (cue spooky music)

We were driving and the girl started to have a nosebleed.  This is not an uncommon occurence here as it is so unbelievably dry. The kids are both pretty used to it and she exclaimed “Mommy! I have a bloody nose!” I looked in the rearview mirror and indeed, there was blood dripping out of her nose.  I looked in the center console of the car for a tissue or napkin or fabric anything and couldn’t find anything.  Anything, that is…except a tampon.  Aaaaaand, yeah, I did.  It was one of those ones without an applicator.  I unwrapped the plastic covering and handed to her, telling her to stick that in her nose but not push too far. Given that it’s meant to soak up blood, the device worked quite well and the bleeding soon stopped. (Medical aside–this is really not all that different from the actual medical device used to stop serious nosebleeds, but those are generally a bit smaller. And come with more appropriate names like, “Rhino Rocket.”) Of course, the boy asked me what that thing was, and so I told him as simply as possible. “Oh, okay,” he said.  And the day proceeded.

Later, the same day…we’ve been listening to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy audiobooks while we drive.  We’ve listened to “The Hobbit” (11 hours) and “The Fellowship of the Ring” (19 hours) and are now on “The Two Towers.”  (about 8 hours in)  The boy loves the stories (as do I, a longtime fan) and I’d always thought that the girl did too, though I’ve always thought her comprehension of the books was around fifty percent or so of what was actually happening. The other day we were heading home from the Art Museum and I started to put on the audiobook. I was really looking forward to it as we had just finished the Battle of Helm’s Deep and I wanted to hear what was going to happen next.  As the narrator started to speak, the girl exclaimed, “Not Lord of the Rings AGAIN!!!” I said, “Girl, I thought you liked listening to these books!” She replied, “Not anymore! They are boring, boring, boring!! All they do is walk and walk and then fight a battle and then walk some more!!” I burst out laughing-even I have to admit that that is the most succinct and accurate book review of the entire series that I’ve heard yet. (We still kept listening to the book anyway, despite the howling protests.)

We were in the pool and I was playing with the girl.  We started to sing “Ring Around the Rosy” and spin around.  “Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posy, ” I sang, “Ashes, Ash—” “NOOO! YOU CAN’T SING THAT PART!” The girl interrupted. “Um, why not?” I asked.  “Because,” she replied, matter-of-factly, “the Wanderers will come.  And they will kill us.” Now I was slightly terrified, in a children-of-the-corn sort of way, so I modified the song.  Now we sing “ring around the pool,” and instead of ashes it’s “elephants, elephants, we all fall down,” thus confunding the Wanderers away from our souls.

and lastly, just to throw a picture in there…

Beware the toothless vampire!!

Beware the toothless vampire!!

Snow Mountain Ranch

What a fabulous Memorial Day weekend we had.  My high school friend Geoff and his lovely wife Karen and their twins came out to visit and we went up to Snow Mountain Ranch for the weekend.

I love that place-if you live in Colorado and haven’t been, you are missing out.  Here’s the view from our cabin:

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ah, mountains!

Not too shabby, eh?

Later that afternoon some of us went for a hike.  There’s been a lot of snow and a lot of snowmelt so it was a bit muddy, and someone slipped and got a muddy butt, which didn’t bother our intrepid explorer one bit.

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just keep hiking, just keep hiking

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what’s in the water?

The next day we rented mountain bikes and tagalongs and went for a ride!

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badass mountain biker

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actually having fun

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mountain biking with a trailer, not for the faint of heart

It just couldn’t have been better. Nights were filled with good food, good drink, and a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity. I wish I could post some of the funnier game responses, but then this wouldn’t be a family blog, now, would it? The other thing that was great was that all the kids were old enough to explore on their own.  There were many hours where they would simply head off into the woods next to the cabin and create their own secret games and just play while the adults would relax in the cabin. If it sounds too idyllic to be true, well, I can’t help that.

The next morning we went for one last hike

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The whole crew

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Walking stick in hand

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Hiking children

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Running to catch up

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Careful apple slicing

And then the trail got super super muddy (as the girl would say) and some of the hikers took off their shoes to squelch through the mud.  One of the hikers simply squelched through with her shoes on.  I’ll let you guess which one that is.

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muddy paws

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barefoot snow survival

When the trail got snowy, the barefoot hiking came to a quick end and we headed back.  By this time I had started to recite the poem, “Mud, Mud, glorius mud! Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood! So follow me, follow me, down to the hollow, where we will wallow in glorious mud!” which is from a children’s book of poems we have at home.

The girl, of course, began to sing this over and over again and then began to take it quite literally.

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mud bath

Sadly, vacation was over after this.  Our friends had to head south and I had to head back to work a night shift at the hospital, which was even less fun than usual given what I’d just been doing.

I know I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again–there is something that is so wonderful about seeing your kids become friends with your old friends’ kids. It makes me feel hopeful and gives me a sense of generations and seeing the future being created now, and it’s good.

Chatterboxes, next up

Another installment in the “kids say the darndest things” episodes of this blog.

So, the boy has a best friend at school, who I’ll call Jake.  I tried writing this with just the kid’s first initial but it ended up sounding vulgar, you figure out which letter it is. One day Jake’s mother tells me that Jake told her that when he grew up, he was going to marry my son and they were going to “live in a house, shaped like a cake, surrounded by a lot of mist.” That in itself was adorable, and then a few days later when I was talking with the boy, I said, “So, I hear that you and Jake are going to live together in a house shaped like a cake, surrounded by mist.” And he replied, with a sigh, “We just love mist so much.”

Recently I posted on Facebook that I’m teaching the girl that leggings are not pants, which was tested not long after. One morning, after getting dressed, she came to brush her teeth.  I noticed that she was wearing a tshirt with leggings only. “Girl, you’ll have to put a skirt on.  You’re only wearing leggings.”  She got very, very serious, and said, “Mom, I need to tell you something.” She sat down on the bathroom stool and had me sit down on the edge of the bathtub to make her point. “I’m a kid,” she continued, looking me straight in the eye, “And kids wear leggings as pants.” I raised my eyebrows and replied, “Not in this house they don’t!” and went off to find her a pair of actual pants. The boy, later hearing me tell this story to Eric, said offhandedly “That’s spooky.” “Huh?” I said, not really understanding, “what’s spooky about that?” “Well, it just means that she’s growing up,” he said sagely.

We were out of coffee one morning (quel horreur!) and I took the boy with me to walk to the corner coffeeshop to get some. As we walked, he looked up at me and asked, “Mom, can I ask you something?” “Sure,” I said.  “Well, who are robbers, usually? Are they people like us, are they homeless people, or are they really really rich people?”  (?!)

And finally, one day after a rather tough afternoon for the girl, and then a tough dinner where we were kind of yelling at her for misbehaving, she just lost it.  She burst into tears and sobbed out, “I’m just a little, little girl, and my life is SO HARD!!’