Thursday 22 May 2014

Y's summer of 2014

Where has the summer gone? Not that I'm complaining, mind! I have not been able to enjoy any part of the kids being home and it will be almost a relief to have them at school (take a lot of the guilt off me!). There have only been moments snatched here and there to play, read and talk with the kids and it has left me with a feeling of dissatisfaction. Sadly, we were not able to take any family time off this summer which just means I have to get my act together next year. 
And what have the kids been upto? Nothing much (which is as it should be). Y has had a free rein as both her dance and music teachers took a break for the summer. So other than talking nonstop (!) she has just been having a lot of fun with the unstructured days. Summer accomplishments have been a) Learning to skip. She worked really hard on it especially after she was gifted a bright purple skipping rope by me :) b) Learning to bike - super-fast and very confidently without training wheels. It had taken Ads just a half-hour to master this skill and Y was just the same. We did have our share of falls and tumbles including a couple of nasty scrapes but now she is a pro and I enjoy my occasional evening rides with her. c) Learning a ton of arithmetic skills. I am such a fan of the apps I can download on the ipad and credit them 100% in developing Y's reading and math skills. So interactive and so much fun! I've consciously scaled down on the reading now as I can see that she is going to be horribly bored in UKG this year. d) Learning to play quite a few card and board games including Connect4/Plot 4, Animal Rummy, Old Maid, Go Fish and UNO. So, all told, quite a fun summer for her, I think. I really really wish we could have spent much more time together!
Ads is an entirely different story and needs a dedicated post. No good stuff there, only lots and lots of challenges which I don't feel equipped to deal with :( 
Actually, I take back what I said about no good stuff - am sure I am being tested and this is a big character-building exercise for me :)

Saturday 3 May 2014

Spring in Chicago

It wasn't until I was in the plane bound for Phoenix that I realized that this was my very first trip abroad on work. This must surely be an oddity for a blue-chip b-school grad. Obviously my moving into the development sector had a lot to do with it, because normally I just get to go to places with no running water, patchy electricity (if any) and if, I am lucky, a serviceable toilet :)
The trip to Phoenix was to attend our organization's annual spring gathering. So mother-in-law was implored to come and lend some help. My parents have their hands full with 2 grannies and I didn't think it was fair to dump them with 2 kids who would be around 24/7 during the summer hols. Nervousness reigned since both S and I would be in the US at the same time. Y and Ads did their bit to tug at the heartstrings by repeatedly asking me not to travel. They did a terrific job of making me feeling totally wretched and it was a depressing few days prior to my departure.
I've never been on a long-haul flight minus kids for 8 years now, so it was quite boring! I didn't have anything to do except watch movies and sleep and eat, which, honestly, is fun for the first couple of hours but quickly gets monotonous. I didn't actually get desperate enough to shoot wistful looks at the harried first-time mom travelling with her cute baby, but I came close :) Tchah - we moms can never be happy!
The flight to the US, which seems barely longer than the Delhi-Chennai commute when A&Y are around, stretched on interminably and it was quite a relief to stagger out and head to my hotel in Scottsdale. The next 3 days were packed with conference activities, meetings, and long lunches and dinners. A bunch of us went out the last night and had a truly fantastic meal accompanied by scintillating conversation- what a pleasure it is to be in the company of smart, articulate, well-read and well-travelled people!
And isn't this a pretty sight - the outdoor restaurant where we dined.

Many folks were staying back in balmy Arizona over the weekend to do some sightseeing but I flew to Chicago early on a Saturday to join S who had been parked there for the past week. It was a lovely opportunity for us to get a small vacation in the midst of all the busy-ness and we made the most of it. S has been to Chicago several times so I had my personal tour guide and I can tell you it was pretty nice for a change to be the guided rather than the guide! We started with an architectural cruise on the Michigan river to see the famous Chicago skyline and have some of the landmark buildings pointed out to us.
Stunning, isn't it?

It was a beautiful day, sure, but deceptively sunny-looking and with oodles of nip in the air. 20 minutes into the cruise, the skin at the end of my nose had started peeling and I was miserably cold, even bundled as I was in my warmest clothes (clearly in adequate for Chicago spring!) I'm told the cruise is cold and windy even in summer so there you are. We were happy to disembark and practically run indoors into Navy Pier (the city's #1 tourist attraction) for a long hot lunch brimming with cheese and carbs!
We were staying on the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue, touted as one of the top retail/shopping districts in the world, so it was a pretty handy place to explore the bustling downtown area. We met my cousin in the afternoon and wandered around downtown, soaking in the skyscrapers and the vibrancy, occasionally defeated by the Windy City's chilling gusts of wind and forced indoors into Old Navy, H&M, Nordstorm and the like....well, atleast we got some essential shopping done!
Here's Mr. Bean at the Millenium Park. I love Anish Kapoor's work and this one was pretty impressive.

Day 2 was packed with social visits, at the homes of 2 friends who live in the suburbs and it's always so nice to catch up in a leisurely fashion with friends whom you haven't seen in years. I'm so glad we were able to do it.
One of the interesting things I was able to do in Chicago was to visit the American Girl Store. S had highly recommended a short visit- he said it was a fascinating place! I could see why. It's a store designed to appeal to every little girl's wildest fantasies. Cute dolls in every shade of the human skin vie for attention along with catchy outfits, snazzy accessories, a doll hair salon, doll hospital and doll ear-piercing station. All in shades of pink and purple of course! This brand can single-handedly demolish every gain feminism has won for women in the last 50 years!!! To be perfectly truthful, I didn't mind all the pink and the dressing-up so much - why deny girls something that is so pleasurable and satisfying? But the many books on Manners, How to be nice and Ms Popular (that's not what they were called exactly, but you get my drift) and How to take care of your body (with it's advice on how to groom yourself, smell and look good) were what got my goat. Basically being a girl is all about having solid values like being nice and kind, being courteous and of course looking pretty! It was all a little disturbing, and sometimes I wonder whether I'm over-thinking it but then one day I find Y in front of the mirror wondering aloud whether she is beautiful, and I think - Heck, no. She's only 5. How can she even ask herself that question?
Back in Bangalore after a wonderful 6 days and deep into the routine. I'm not complaining about the Bangalore heat any more, that's for sure! :)