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A Love Letter to My 5 Year Old

My dearest darling baby,

Happy happy fifth birthday to you (it’s actually tomorrow). I know every mother says this, but I just can’t believe that it’s already been five years, I still remember meeting you for the first time. At the same time, I can’t remember the details of my everyday life before you were born. Is it selective amnesia? I don’t know but I’m happy with this. You are the center of my universe along with your daddy, your maamu and your grandparents (you will always be our baby).

A few months back I promised myself that I’d write you a letter every year on your b’day. I want to do this for multiple reasons. One, it’s so easy to forget and I really want to remember your early years, not just the images in photos but the way you spoke, the surprising things you said and the milestones you crossed. I can’t capture all of this but I hope to create enough of a verbal image to kickstart my memory when I’m older. The second reason is, I know most mothers and daughters go through a tough period when the daughter is in her teens or early twenties and though I appreciate that this is a part of the learning process for both of us, it’ll be nice to look back on the times when you were a mummy’s baby to help me remain patient with you and myself.

Yes, we have ugly crocs. You love purple and I love pink and tangled is still your favourite movie (2 years running).

Yes, we have ugly crocs. You love purple and I love pink and Disney’s ‘Tangled’ is still your favourite movie (2 years running).

There’s a lot I want to tell you, so let me start with what’s important in life. Family and doing what you love. Yes, it sounds simple (but it’s not my darling), however, these two life factors are worth working, fighting and taking risks for. Maybe it’ll hurt more when you put all your love into a relationship and things get messed up, but if there’s real love those messed up things will get resolved over time.

Doing what you love will make you happy, I don’t know if you’ll have enough money or have a comfortable life initially, but you if you keep doing what you love you’ll eventually become the best at it and this will lead you to the life you want. How do you know what it is you love doing? Well, it’s different for different people. Some people just know right from the time they are really young and for others it takes some time to figure out, but everyone has that one thing they enjoy doing and figuring out how to make it your life’s work is the real challenge. A definite barometer on finding out if you love something is wanting to wake up and start doing it on the first day of the week, after a super fun weekend. While daddy just puts his heart and soul into whatever he’s doing, mummy took some time to find my calling. I always loved reading and writing (stories or poetry), art and travel. In my mind I was sure I would become a chartered accountant and a traditional artist who paints with oil. Things have turned out completely differently and might possibly change as I grow older (I’m not sure we really completely finish growing-up and that’s half the fun of life). Today mummy and daddy work together and mummy has written my first book and also lost interest in it and am writing my second book.

When it comes to relationships you are a child blessed with so many people who love you and that also comes with a certainty that at various points in life you’ll have to choose who you spend time with. This does not mean you love anyone less or more, it just means at a particular point in time someone needs you more. Never hesitate to make decisions after considering all the visible options, because if you are sure about why you made a decision and it’s in good faith (that means you think you did the right thing), people who love you will understand even if it doesn’t turn out great or the way you envisioned.

Now something I must tell you about your daddy. He loves us to bits and he is also highly protective and a little bit possessive of us. Even today he doesn’t mind the house being overrun with a bunch of five-year olds but he won’t send you to anyone else’s house to play unless he knows the parents really well. I understand this but foresee a few problems going forward, when you want to go for sleepovers or for a movie at night with your friends or even to college in another country. We’ll tackle those when they come but in case I’m not around (I don’t believe this will ever happen but hey! you never know), the best way to handle him will be to address his fears rather than rebelling. You may not always get your way (which is good for you character) but you will definitely get to do the important things, because at the end of the day he loves you to bits.

Now I know I’ve been rambling on a bit, however, there’s a last thing I need to discuss. It’s about being a mother. I know I’m not a conventional mommy. I work long hours (though daddy and me alternate working late to ensure that you never spend too much time away from us), I take you to movies (not with adult content obviously) and art galleries, I’ve carried you around for work for almost a year when you were too young to be left alone, we go running together and I’m not really into cooking. Despite all this I know that we have an amazing relationship and that I’d rather spend my day with you than anywhere else. Plus you’re well-adjusted and a happy child and I guess all those hours of sneaking off to the movies or painting crazy stuff in our pyjamas while eating strawberries has worked out right. I know you want a brother or sister and you’ll probably get one but only when we are sure that we won’t be taking away from the time you need with us. If this means going through the potty training stage again when I’m forty, so be it. Basically, when you become a mother (if you want to have children that is) remember that there is no perfect formula. What suits every mother and child is unique and precious. The only rule is every action should be driven by love, even if it’s anger.

At the end, baby remember that mommy and daddy love you the most in the whole world and it’ll stay that way even when you become a namnam (grandmother).

Love Mommy

Muah

P.S. – Last week you found a letter written by daddy to mommy and demanded to know where your love letter from daddy was. Well he’s written you one for your 5th birthday and it’s going under your pillow tonight.

P.P.S. – Too much nail paint always turns your fingernails yellow. Transparent is the best nail colour for hands. I love the way you laugh like you’re acting in a movie 🙂 (You know what I mean my drama queen). You are also currently crazy about rhyming words and we spend hours giggling over them.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Family, Growing-Up, Lessons in Parenting

 

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A Girl and Her Jewels

“Romance is divine, and I’m not one to knock it,
But diamonds are a girl’s best friend.
Romance is divine, yes, but where can you hock it?
When the flame is gone” – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,

A friend of mine shared this article on facebook and it was like the author had gone into my head and was saying ‘Yes, you are doing the right thing’. To be honest, I didn’t really know the detailed history of how Madison Avenue and De Beers created the ‘Diamonds are Forever’ craze, but the sentiments expressed in the article are what I’ve always voiced.

Before I start seeming holier than thou, I must tell you that both the techie and I have diamond engagement rings (in India we exchange rings, double the sales for our jewellers). We choose them with great care and made his and her rings because it meant a lot to us to show that we were committed. It was diamonds by default, so I think De Beers has done a good job there, but it could have been any other supposedly valuable stone and we would have been happy. We wear these every day and now that we have put on a few post wedding kilos, they won’t come off, so I guess we were meant to be together for life.

Whenever my mom went jewellery shopping (which was an event saved and planned for over months), from the late 90’s onwards, my brother and I would always lecture her on not buying stones and buying more of gold, but gold that did not have too much of making charges as part of it’s cost. My mom would first try to explain that, yes, she understood where we were coming from but she was buying this to wear, or to give me or her future daughter in-law as gifts, and that she had no intention of ever selling them. My brother and I considering ourselves more worldwise than my housewife mom, not considering that she had run a household for years in a foreign country, told her that jewellery is too expensive to be an indulgence and always has to be thought of in terms of investment, so why doesn’t she just buy gold bars. At this point my mom would glare at us, turn her back on us and ignore us till we got home.

My mother was a typical Indian mother. Indian parents have always set aside money and collected jewellery for their daughter’s weddings. Sometimes, starting form the day the child is born (obviously depending on the families economic status and income levels). In my limited experience, I have seen this happen in families barely above the poverty line (yes, I know it’s unbelievable  but it’s true), as well as, the very, very rich. I understand the sentiment and the practicality of this habit, given the patriarchal society that most of India is governed by. Traditionally, the house and money go to the son, the daughter is given her share of the wealth (or non-wealth) at the time of marriage. Again we won’t go into the reasons for this difference, as that’s whole new ball game.

Anything that is given to the girl, right from a wardrobe to cash, is considered ‘dowry’ and the property of her new family, though it’s technically hers (and the word dowry is never openly). Giving a daughter jewellery carries some gurantee that she will have access to what is hers, over any other gifts. In a crunch the girl can depend on some amount of liquidity from the resale of her jewels or can raise some money against them. It’s the family’s way of giving their daughter some form of security and reducing her dependence for survival on her new family. It will also be preserved to be passed on to her children as family heirlooms from her side of the family. How much of this happens as expected is a discussion in itself which embraces most of the negatives against women in Indian society.

Given today’s ‘modern’ young Indian women, who work and support themselves and their families, the jewellery gifted to them by their birth family is cherished and pulled out to be worn at every major family function. It shows the world the her parents are still a part of her life, irrespective of her married status. She may even use these to start her own business with her parents blessings, though always working towards clearing any debt attached to them. Again, these are hopefully passed on to her children and treasured through generations.

Having explained a little bit of the Indian jewellery sentiment, I will now tell you that I received a good amount of jewellery from my parents when I got married. Some pieces where vintage, having been passed on from my mother’s trousseau, some where over 20 years old (the pieces my mom bought for me every year since the day I was born and some where new, having been bought by my mom to go with my wedding trousseau. Till today, I treasure these pieces and wear them as often as possible (I live in India and attend multiple traditional functions a year, so there is quite a bit of opportunity). Whenever, I wear these pieces, I lovingly explain the significance of each piece to my little daughter, who adores jewellery. And that’s where my relationship with jewellery ends.

To my mother’s distress, I have bought only one set of bangles (and these were gifted by my husband and in-laws when I was pregnant) since my wedding. I have got myself no other jewellery. For my daughter, we got the traditional must-haves at her birth (the two gradmoms put together can be formidable) and another set when she expressed delight at a similar set of mine for her birthday. By Indian, standards this is makes us highly irresponsible parents.

My friends invest in a piece of jewellery every Dante Ras or Diwali, at a minimum. My cousin, who has a son the same age as my daughter invests in two to three jewellery pieces every year after a lot of careful saving and planning. She’s a successful business woman, but loves her jewellery and wants to grow her collection over time. This is partly a personal choice and partly the effect of having grow-up in a family of women who have followed this tradition for generations and still do.

The techie and I have both been on the same page when it comes to our daughter’s upbringing and future. Though we want her to know all the traditions that are part of our lives and appreciate the history of our land, we also want to give her a chance to grow to be the person she wants to be. An independent young woman, who can knows who she is, what she wants to achieve and where she wants to go. For this we have directed all our resources – times, energy and money – towards giving her three gifts. The gift of education (we hope to be able to support her in whatever she chooses to specialize in), the gift or travel (because nothing broadens your understanding of the world as much) and a legacy (no I’m not pretending we royalty, I just mean something special for her to treasure and maybe carry on). This legacy may be the business we are currently struggling to build or something else that will add value to her life (we are fortunately not soothsayers).

To be truthful, again, I have never been a jewellery kind off girl, in the traditional Indian sense, and am a chartered accountant by profession, so it’s easy for me to hold this opinion. That being said, I love my shoes and bags and do plan to buy a few special pieces when I make my money, the only difference being I’ll never consider them as an investment. These purchases are like my mother’s jewellery purchases. She scrimps and saves to buy a special piece because she knows she will enjoy wearing the piece herself or gifting it to someone she loves. She is not thinking of resale value, liquidity or justifying her purchase as an alternative to saving money in the bank.    

The buying of jewellery by Indians, is a really complex topic of discussion  with a lot of history behind it. I don’t think I can actually do justice to it in one post, and I definitely can’t even begin to address the traditions and gender based reasoning that are such a large part of it. What I did what to touch on here was the economic aspect and how it doesn’t really work or apply in today’s world.

I understand if people want to buy jewellery because they derive some enjoyment from it, but buying jewellery today as an investment is not the best move. Yes, when our grandparents did it, gold was a fairly steady commodity, banking was not for everyone and stones where not such a common factor in jewellery unless they were special pieces. The making charges for the metal and the highly erratic and quickly depreciating value of gemstones today (though some are better than others) make jewellery an unreliable investment proposition. If you want to gift you child something, invest in blue chips shares and watch them grow in value as she becomes a young lady or take out a fixed deposit in his name and give him a little egg nest when he needs it. Yes, there are risks involved in any investment, but the ones that give come with a balance sheet or a statement of account, give you a chance to re-asses and change strategy, if required, and they don’t lose value the moment you hand over your hard earned money . If you do get a piece of jewellery buy it because you, or someone you love, will really enjoy it.

Photo Credit: Image 1

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Family, Stereotypes, The Economics of Life

 

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Everyday’s a Party

My mind has been overloaded and cluttered these past few months. There have been energizing brain storming sessions,  tedious but necessary mid-year number crunching analysis, constant conference calling with girlfriends for a project we are working hard on (this is our new venture on the side), failed attempts to re-write a storyline and continuous planning in order to make every week memorable for V (the techie and I have wowed not to sail through her childhood like zombies).

I have valued, if not enjoyed, every moment because each situation has come from my own choosing, however, the brain does tend to get over-simulated and then what?! Headaches due to lack of sleep and over thinking, constant pre-occupation and an host of other stuff that just creeps up on you. So what’s a girl to do when things get too much but you don’t want to actually slow-down because you can’t miss a moment (I mean the festive season’s here and things are just going to get more fun and hectic)? Well, I don’t know about most girls but here’s what I do, have a closet spring clean. Yes, the techie dreads this method of relaxation but he participates in good spirit because of the benefits of a happy me post the exercise.

V woke us up at 6 am this Sunday. We had freshened-up, had our morning poison (regular milk for V, coffee for the techie and fresh juice for me) and got onto the task by 6.30 am. The techie setup a superb song list of olden goldies, V donned her winter gloves to help with the wiping and I started tossing stuff out of the cupboard.

The next three hours flew by, with old clothes fights (almost like a pillow fight but much messier), colour coordination, slow dancing (our two songs were on the list and we could not not dance) and V wearing all my jewellery and asking us to call her ‘Your Royal Highness’ while jumping on her trampoline. By 9.30 am we were done. We quickly showered and headed down for a huge breakfast, with a bag of stuff for the local old people home, and a day packed with events.

The outcome? All I need to do is open the doors to my organized, colourful and blingy (I love shiny stuff) wardrobe and I get a high. The techie has got a lot of extra points for being the good husband and is making the most of it, while V thinks closet cleaning is a great way to spend a Sunday morning. Plus we had breakfast with royalty and a mini prom dance.

What do you do to reset an overcrowded mind?

Photo Credit: Image 1Image 2, Image 3

 
 

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Sugar and Spice – Has the Recipe Changed?

One of my friends K (from the girlfriend search) is leaving town for good, as I write this, and we decided to have a last meal (sounds dramatic right), together with the gang, before she got on the train. We are a bunch of women who love our food, controversial topics and books, so it wasn’t long before we were discussing recent posts of interest in the blog world. One of the topics discussed was stereotyping people by gender and then eventually bringing-up kids based on common stereotypes.

It was the age old discussion of should girls be encouraged or even allowed to do girlie stuff. Are we doing the right thing by letting our children think that it’s necessary for girls to wax, while boys can wear sleeveless vests with sweaty underarm hair peeping out. Though, this topic always feels fresh for us and we can argue for hours, somehow today only one part really affected me and I steered the conversation that way. Apparently, a pretty good blogger (who I’m now dying to read), quoted by K , stated that she doesn’t let her daughter do all the girlie stuff even if she begs. K then mentioned that another friend of hers has a gorgeous little four year old whom she dresses up for hours, including using (child-safe) make-up for certain events.

The group’s natural reaction was for all of us to get on the case of the second mother. “What is she thinking off? Does she want her little one to think that girls should look like Barbie dolls?” Now as most of you know my very first post on this blog was about stereotyping women, however, today I saw myself react differently.

Having a four year old girl myself, who loves dressing up, I could immediately empathize with that mother. I as an individual never really gave my clothes or looks a thought (till I became, well a mother and started feeling a bit drab around all the yummy mummies I saw). I remember my own mom complaining because I refused to join her on any of the numerous shopping trips she had to go on on for my wedding outfits and jewellery or even my trousseau. I used to cite exhaustion or boredom and curl up with a book and a cup of herbal tea, the moment she stepped out the door. My poor mother.

Anyway I digress. For a person like me, I have been blessed with a child who takes after my mother! She appreciates well-put together people, likes to be well-dressed in feminine outfits, loves bling (okay that could be a bit of me), her fruit glosses and just isn’t able to comprehend why she has to wear the same uniform to school everyday. (Day one: “Wow mommy, such a beautiful green frock and new shoes! Thank you.” Day two: “Silly mommy, I just wore this dress yesterday………. What? I have to wear that everyday? But why?” I of course gave her the spiel about everyone being the same and how it helps make things easier for the teacher.) She loves her frilly frocks (only pure cotton as she finds synthetics itchy), her multi-coloured plastic beads and being called daddy’s princess.

Initially, I resisted and tried to steer her along a different course and that’s when I realised; I was making it difficult for her to express herself. When I let her dress they way she wanted (within limits, no makeup or heeled shoes please), she would don her tutu and five minutes later be out playing football with her cousins in the mud (it did mean a lot more laundry for me though) or trying to pluck raw mangoes from a nearby tree. Her favourite movies are Monsters Inc, Tangled and KungFu Panda, and more recently Brave which tells me that she’s fairly balanced in her choices. Of course there are moments when she mimics the friends of her older cousins and moans “Mommy why do I have curly hair, I wish I had beautiful straight hair like you.” It is at these moments that I intervene with “God designs all of us from head to toe and he puts together the best combination”, since that’s definitely not how I want her to grow-up.

When I asked K if the said blogger stopped her son from dressing up as super heros, when she stopped her daughter from doing the princess scene, she said yes. So that seemed fair to me. With respect to the second mother if she’s forcing the dressing-up on her child or letting her get away with make-up on a regular basis, I definitely don’t think the same, however, dressing is also a form of self-expression, and as the mother of a child who loves to create, whether with colours, numbers or words, I’m okay with her choosing to dress a certain way or like certain things. Parenthood is a controlled democracy and as long as we imbibe the right values in our children, the rest is just window dressing.

In addition, our children do not need to learn that the stronger person (here the parent) always gets to impose their will on the weaker person. I’m not above using the “I am your mommy so you better listen” line, but I definitely don’t want to be unreasonable. If I to tell V that I don’t like you doing the princess thing because I don’t want you to grow into a girlie girl, am I not stereotyping in a way too? Pick you battles, so that they communicate the right message and don’t inadvertently create a bully.

Lastly, and a fairly important point in my view, no child really goes through life thinking that he or she is royalty, except maybe Paris Hilton (and even she seems to have matured), so we might as well let them have their fun and if they want to wear a tiara (I still wear on to bed on my birthday) or a blue and red wristband with the picture of a spider. Let them be I say.

P.S. – I am not an expert on children in any way and I speak only from personal experience and the wisdom handed down to me by my mother and other women in my family. This is my personal opinion and may be completely wrong from someone else’s perspective.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Family, Lessons in Parenting, Stereotypes

 

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Instant Pick-Me-Ups

I have been away so long, that I almost forgot my password! The longer I stayed away, the tougher it was to get back. So much has been going on at work (the deal we were working on for a year closed this month!) and at home ( my cousin’s getting married and the whole family is flying in from all over the world), plus the little one’s having her summer hols, so though I had fully formed posts running through my head, there just wasn’t enough energy at the end of the day to actual type it out. In fact, I’ve been a lurker on my favourite blogs, reading them as I doze off in the night and not leaving my usually chatty comments (sorry).

Anyway, all that’s hopefully in the past and I’m going to get back to regular programming this week. To start with here are five things that have cheered me up this month:

  • Finding a Wilbur Smith book I have never read! I’m crazy about this author and thought I had read every single book by him. What a pleasant surprise to discover that I had missed one over the years
  • Taking a 36 hour trip with my dad. V and the techie joined in at the last moment, but I still managed some quality father daughter time on the road
  • Dancing the night away at V’s 4th birthday. The party was planned and executed in 48 hours, after multiple plans fell through,  however, it turned out to be a super success
  • Finding V’s iPad after I thought I had lost it. Major high that one hour
  • Celebrating a girlfriend’s birthday with the new set of girlfriends I made over the last year (remember my Girlfriend Search? I need to update you all on that). A sure fire stress buster

What are your pick-me ups?

P.S. – Elisa I apologise for the delay in doing the tagged post. Next up for sure.

 
 

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Estate Life – Galle – Part 3

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It’s been an extremely long weekend of almost five days here (though we only got a day and a half off, which is a lot by our standards). It got me thinking about weekend breaks and that’s when I realised, I never really gave you all the low-down on the rest of our Sri Lankan holiday. I know it’s been quite sometime since I wrote the first two posts, sorry for the delay. If you are new, or want to catch-up on part one and two of the Sri Lankan tales, please head over to Within the Battlements and Walking the Ramparts.

Since the whole Sri Lankan stay was planned by my globe trotting little brother, R, he rejected all the usual stay options and put a lot of effort into picking places that would give us a completely different experience. The second place that he chose was for little V. She is crazy about any kind of animal, insect and plant life and so home two was an estate. The Apavilla Illuketia, which is a two hundred year old plantation house and is surrounded by ten acres of tropical gardens and paddy fields. We chose to stay at the Pond House, where V and her grandfather had great fun swinging over the lotus lake and threatening to jump in if we troubled them.

As part of the activities available, we had the option of visiting tea estates, a traditional Sinhalese village, cycling along country lanes or riding a motorcycle through the paddy fields. Our little munchkin made the decision for us, she wanted to spend the day with her animal friends on the plantation. At breakfast time she fed the fish that swam in the moat around the main house, as I quickly shoveled eggs and porridge with fresh palm sugar treacle into her little mouth. (Sri Lanka was a food nightmare for me, since every time V saw the variety of fruit and fresh produce available she refused to eat grains in any form.) She picked up little frogs and plopped them back in the water so that they could ‘spend time’ with their tadpole brothers and sisters.

Early that morning, we were lucky to catch a glimpse of a monitor lizard swimming lazily across the lotus lake and then slinking away among the lotus leaves. This got V so excited that she insisted on R taking her swimming in the pool (no not the lake), in the hope that a monitor lizard would join them. To my relief only three other children from the main house got into the pool. The best part of this property is that they have only six rooms and you have a lot of space and privacy, ideal for families with kids or honeymooners.

The afternoon was spent walking around the plantation and picking and tasting everything from pepper corns to passion fruit right off the tree, talk about the freshest of produce, literally. We caught and release colourful butterflies, watched  monkeys chattering and swinging under a bright blue sky and made flower chains and crowns for oursleves. Lunch was followed by a game of football on the spacious lawns, while my mother caught up on her Gita reading and cautioned us to play carefully. R had asked for a delicious chocolate truffle cake that we cut to celebrate the reason for the trip, my mother’s 50th birthday, and then shared with everyone, staff and guests, on the property. It was a real celebration.

During tea in the lobby/ library, we leafed through old editions of Time, Vanity Fair and Harpers Bazaar, while making plans for the evening. For dinner we decided to try the other popular dining destination in the city, The Fortress. When we got there I was slightly disappointed to see, that contrary to the images the name conjures up, The Fortress is a completely new five star property on the beach.  The food was of course delicious, we went for the curry along with a mix of exotic cocktails, and the service was impeccable. What really stole the show was the hidden tank, behind the pizza chef’s workplace, where a fully grown turtle was leisurely swimming around while recuperating from an injury. Most places in Sri Lanka participate in the turtle protection and conservation project, which is great to hear. When it got a bit too hot and humid for my mom outdoor’s the staff gave us seating within the cool wine cellar, which was a unique experience.

As on the previous days we headed back home by ten pm and while the older and younger members dozed off, R and I spent time catching-up over an exceptionally bad bollywood movie and a bottle of bubbly. Siblings rock.

I don’t think time can get more relaxed than this. Just looking at these pictures and going over that day in my head is taking me to my zen place.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Family, Travel and Adventure

 

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Old-Fashioned Fun

Getting lost with 5 kids, aged 3 to 13. Kids who sing along, at the top of their sweet tuneless voices, to – “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, ” We Will, We Will Rock You” and “True Colours”. The techie and I couldn’t stop grinning at each other last Sunday evening as we drove our chorus around town searching for an elusive hotel.

The techie is maternal uncle to 6 kids (actually cousin to one) and he has played zillions of songs in three different languages to each of them, from birth. He would keep trying till he found the one song that could stop any bout of crying and give their exhausted moms a break. I guess that’s why all of them would rather squeeze into our tiny car than be parted from him.

We need more Sunday evenings like last weekend.

 

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Family

 

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