Happy Birthday

My special boy turned 23 today. He celebrated his birthday with kutty Krishnan this year. I have always been complimented by so many as being brave and being a super Mom. But during this time of year it us not that easy to put on a brave face. My son has minimum verbal ability. He has severe sensory and behavior issues which are being helped by medication. He is still wait listed for a day program and I continue to be his all in all person. It is physically and mentally exhausting. So usually this time of year we pack our bags and go on a road trip. We book a woom (room)😊. Find an activity that my son can participate and come back after 3 days. We have done a 5k, gone hiking in a National Park and visited multiple amusement park and beaches. Covid 19 put me in a difficult situation. We were not traveling nor going anywhere. So we decided to go to an outlet mall yesterday and drove 50 miles. As we neared the mall I checked up on my phone only to find it closed early. Thanks to corona!! So we started driving back home. We stopped at Moes a Mexican fast food chain. We thought we would use their outdoor dining space. But to our bad luck all the tables were full. But we saw indoor dining was allowed and twenty five percent of the seating was allowed. Ani made himself comfortable in one the tables. It’s been a while since we sat inside a restaurant so I was feeling antsy. Ani didn’t care. He was elated that he was allowed inside a restaurant. He wore his mask until the food came. I don’t think the food made him happy since he had the same food ten days back as take out. It was the ambience of the restaurant and him being in that place that had a big smile which of course was covered with a mask. 😷At that point I decided I am not going to be worrying about covid 19 and decided to enjoy the moment. The trip back home I saw a quiet boy and I was happy I did something unique for him . Today I made him more happy making a ton of snacks and sweets for both my boy and my Kutty Krishna.Happy Birthday Kanna

Pandigais Festivals

Festivities

Nineteen years back my Mom made her first trip to Usa. My special one was 3 and half years old and was a handful and he had multiple sleepless nights. We really needed an extra hand and she made that trip.

During that trip my mother bought with her 3 volumes of Samaithu paar book by Meenakshi Ammal. Once my Mom came kitchen duties went to her and I could concentrate on so many other things. I was also able to learn driving at that time. My Mom in her free time was going over the books. One day she told me look at the end of the third volume, maami has given meal plan for so many of our festivals. That made me curious. Though I wasn’t a great cook I loved the concept of celebrating Indian festivals. Varalakshmi Vratham was one festival which we didn’t have when I was growing up. Papu, my paternal grandmother used to say Don’t worry I will marry you to a household that celebrates Varalakshmi vratham. Of course her word, I got married to a household with Varalakshmi Vratham.Every festival has it’s own beauty and maami had given in detail not only the menu but also what to do on those The month of Aadi sets in the Tamil festive season. The first day of Aadi by itself is a pandigai. Vadai payasam and morkuzhambhu are essential part of it. Of course it accompanies with early morning bath padi kolam and semmen kaavi in the front of the house .

My Mom and myself read the entire glossary section thoroughly and when she was leaving after a 4 month stay told me just follow all the festivals maami has mentioned in the book. I think that was one of the best advices she gave me.

I didn’t know at that point the intensity of raising a special child. Being young parents we took in one day at a time and did our best. Somedays were hard but looking back I think my hold onto the rituals mentioned in the book kept me going.

Hinduism is a way of life and rituals were adapted so that our physical and mental health are kept at our best.

As years passed along I had another kid which made me not do some pandigais but I did continue to hold onto a lot. It did irritate my husband sometimes with my obsession but by the end of the day he has been a real trooper doing his best.

Varalakshmi vratham and Navarathri are the two Devi festivals that I take into my heart and do in a grand way. Autism and Indian rituals do not interact but I think there is some kind of positive energy in those festivals that has kept me going.

The next six months are a busy season with so many pandigais. Just put aside unnecessary thoughts about corona and celebrate every one of it at home. Adorn yourself with good clothes offer some flowers to our Lord make a sweet and savory and have a nice lunch or dinner. I promise the depression associated with Corona would definitely go away.

Today we celebrated Guru Poornima in our house. The smell of flowers the ghee from the sweet and an early lunch skipping breakfast made me nostalgic as how I began my attachment towards festivities. With most temples having so many restrictions I do hope all of you make your home a temple and bring a positive energy at this time of uncertainty.

A 5km walk.

I signed up for a virtual race beginning of the year. 2020 miles by the end of 2020. I also had a blog of how I had started walking with my son. As with any resolution by beginning of March I couldn’t keep up with nearly 5.5 miles of walk or 15,000 steps a day. Yes by March 13th everone’s world was getting turned over. But mine took a bit more hit. . . I had developed a corn under my foot. It was so painful even every day activities were painful.With covid 19 situation I was really scared to go to ER but the pain became so much I had to call a podiatrist office. They were working on emergency cases and gave me an appointment after 2 weeks. By end of March I learnt from the podiatrist that I had a wart under my foot!! By April 3rd week the wart/corn was surgically removed. Let me tell you the post surgery was more painful than the corn itself for me. I was so worried about my steps as the days went. I try to find silver lining in things. If not for the lockdown I would not have had the help that I needed for the post surgery days. My special one needs his routine and I think my husband being at home was huge for me. I also didn’t need to take him out for his activities and I worked on painting a lot with him at home. This was an activity that didn’t need much movement. After nearly 5 weeks I am all better and I had my first big walk yesterday morning. If things had gone right I should have been on an airplane to India but I was enjoying my first 5km walk at a Trail near my house. Man proposes God disposes. I know I cannot make 2020 miles this year but atleast want to do 5 miles a day from June 1st. Keeping fingers crossed.

Pot painted by my son

Medical Appointment

Today Anirudh had his first telemedicine appointment with his psychiatrist. This was a routine appointment for us to get a refill of his prescription. Our appointment was at 11.30 am and we got our call at 11.40am. I was cooking and Anirudh was doing his puzzle on the computer. My husband attended the call and he talked with the doctor and passed on to me for my input. It was a smooth consult.

Normally it would involve me getting ready all morning about the process. The waiting rooms are always crowded since it has a couple of doctors in the same practice. I have him running all around the cramped waiting room and he would spend time in the bathroom to escape the appointment. Once inside myself and the doctor would chase him around the office where he would be searching for candy. A staff there would have got a snack and kept it which he would have noticed a couple of months back. After a tough time and getting him settled we would rush to finish the appointment. For cooperating for the appointment I would take him to mall nearby and get him a slice of pizza and icecream. My husband would not have participated because of work and I would have to communicate the entire thing over phone and this can lead to controversial discussion.

Corona is an insult added to an injury for us special needs parents. Autism as such is an auto immune disorder and I truly do not know how a new virus is going to affect autism. Social distancing and wearing a mask is not a concept autistic kids can understand with ease. So when I finished the appointment with ease and got his refills I found out the silver lining . Maybe appointment can be done online from now on.

Gardening

It’s Mother’s Day Tomorrow. Instead of a gift and a bouquet I requested my husband I wanted a rose plant.

I never was interested in gardening growing up. My maternal grandfather was an avid gardener and my paternal grandmother and my Mom used to spend a lot of time in our small front yard. My Dad on his part had a terrace garden. I used to study up in the terrace and just hoped his bindi/okra would grow. But yes we had some flowers which we called pathu mani poo. Other than that exposure I had zero knowledge in gardening. Life changes as you grow old. My first attempt at gardening was buying some potting soil and sowing some coriander seeds. To my utter shock nothing grew. My husband even teased me saying how poor a gardner I was. I think that challenged me into trying again. Once we moved into our own townhouse I started planting zennia and marigolds. Slowly and steadily I started seeing wonderful returns. We lived there for 6 years and I think I learnt a lot about potted plants. Nine years ago we moved to Pittsburgh. I wanted a big yard not for plants but for my active boys to play around. We got a house built in the seventies and unlike newer homes had lot of garden space. In order to attract buyers our yard had so many different kind of bushes and shrubs . Our previous owner even had a vegetable patch in the back. I think myself and my husband were definitely overwhelmed by the garden. It was like having a newborn baby with no instructions. The next year my parents came for a visit. I think that was a game changer for us. My parents guided us and we started our vegetable garden. My Mom and my husband worked together and that year harvest was bountiful. We had tomatoes cucumbers and even my Mom’s bitter gourd. As the years rolled I understood which shrub blossoms when and we used outside help to maintain them. My cousin uncle and aunt visited us from Canada. My Aunt pointed we had a butterfly garden. Yes those plants attracted monarch butterflies. I started observing them and we started maintaining them too. We slowly started buying our own shrubs like hibiscus and roses. It was a trial and error finding where to plant. We even got a banana plant. Btw it didn’t last long. My younger one cried all that year saying we killed it. We found the exact spot in our house that could house our tulasi during winter. Touch wood first year the Tulasi survived. So today we went to a nursery across town to pick up a plant. But we returned home with a rose hibiscus and a tiny banana plant. My younger one was too surprised and happy to see the banana plant and rushed it inside. He is fifteen and a smile from his face for a plant means how much happiness a plant can give us. The weather is too cold. We had snow flurries this morning! But next week looks beautiful. All my indoor babies will be going out. I may or may not have a green thumb but gardening really makes a person so happy!

Cooking

Cooking 🥘

As we stay home and try to be safe and flatten the curve the grocery stockpile seems to deplete. Hey I have used as many vocabulary as possible that I heard from various news channels. Kids are having online education and those who work from home continue to do it. I have established a routine with my special one and some days are hard during this period since it is an insult to an already existing injury. One thing is I am spending way too much time with him in the kitchen and I have been reminiscing about how I learnt cooking. I never cooked before marriage and I thought I would have a great cook for mother in law. Luck would have it I got married with no mother in law but a father in law who was a great cook. My husband had been the test subject of my cooking in the beginning years and I didn’t even know the difference between channa dal and toor dal. Somehow making lemon rice for lunch and dosa for dinner was my personal achievement. In the year 2000, wow ,20 years ago my father in law came to spend time with us in Boston for 4 months. I had to make 3 meals a day no excuses and traditional meals with 2 tiffin varieties. It was so hard for me to do that but I think I needed that much practice to be fluent in the kitchen. He used to comment on each and every single preparation. I think that pushed me to make a better meal. He helped with vegetables chopping and slowly opened up with hotel tips about Masala dosa poori kizhangu and how cooks season their curries. I learnt from him perungayam and onion not to be mixed and you don’t need too many ingredients to make a good masala kizhangu. As I prepared arisi upuma today I remember him too much since he only made that the entire trip and didn’t allow me (since I wasn’t too good). Yes I have mastered it and I post that for your viewing .

A note for my amma. I have learnt a lot from you and your guru chala chithi. It goes without mentioning.

I have always been lazy around amma and crave for thenga araicha spicy kuzhambu. No one can beat my Mom’s cooking.

My Dad’s first trip to Boston was after my father in law’s trip. You would think my experience with appa would have been an easy one but nope.I remember him singing varaveena during lunch one day .When I asked him why? He said We make sundal only during navarathri. Hey the men in my family kept challenging me😊.

But the more I was challenged I have become a better cook. I feel proud I can make healthy meals for my family. Eating at home is so much better than an every day take out meal.

I do hope things return back to normal for us to go dine in and enjoy the ambience of the restaurants and have a day off from cooking and the routine job of cleaning.

Stay at Home Order

Stay at Home Order:

According to CNN one third of the world population is in one or other kind of isolation. I live in a state where my county has been asked to stay at home . But we are allowed to go out for essentials or for a walk while maintaining social disance.

Today after a week we had to leave the house for milk and groceries. It was around 4 pm Saturday afternoon. There were cars on the road but nothing compared to two weeks ago when it all began. The store was stocked up ,with few people shopping.There was milk fresh produce bread and even paper products. But hand sanitizers were still missing. Wet wipes were freshly being stocked and I was surprised icecream shelves were empty. Since we were out we decided to take a quick trip to the Indian store. As we passed the traffic was light snd so many complexes had empty parking lots. Having a kid with autism I used to think our social life is not much. But as we drove around I thought how many things have I taken for granted! We enjoyed early morning breakfast at Panera Bread or a dessert at self serve icecream shop or an evening coffee at Dunkin Donuts. Window shopping at malls and casual shopping at Walmart are the few things we enjoyed and took for granted. Any long weekend would be me searching for a weekend getaway drive with my boys staying at Marriot or Holiday Inn and enjoying their free breakfast. Lunch would be at a local temple of that particular city. Our last trip was to New Jersey Guruvayoorappan Temple and I had vowed to return back there again this summer. All these thoughts were halted when my husband came back to the car saying Indian store is closed and they are doing curbside delivery only. At that point I realized hey I miss picking up vegetables without the fear of getting sick.

At this point I have to thank internet that has still connected me to the outside world. I thank God that my husband is working at home. There are a lot of people who are working in the community helping us through this time. I pray for those people and positively hope the situation becomes better soon.

Going to the movies 🎥

My special one is not a TV person. He is an auditory kid and visual processing is very poor. Lot of money was spent on vision therapy and sensory integration to help him. Why am I talking about him when the blog is about me. He is anyway an integral part so had to give this detail.

Part of my work with my son is community integration and that involves going to the movies. All last summer I spent every Wednesday or Thursday going to the free movie offered by our local theater. It really gave an opportunity to make him sit for movies. These were attended by kids and other special needs people and wasn’t more than 90 minutes in length. This paved the way for my son to watch movies like Toy story and Frozen 2. By the time we saw Frozen 2 I started noticing he was starring at the scene more and I was feeling a bit of self accomplishment.

As Christmas time rolled I had to take a break from movies since I was engaged in so many other things. 2020 came and we hadn’t gone to the movies for a while. I was getting nervous and worried if we had lost touch of the process.

So yesterday I browsed for movies and decided to go to Jumanji. I was hoping for a theater with less audience so even if I have a tantrum I could manage. We reached the movie theater and the person handing out tickets said the entire theater is now luxury. Wow , this could be good or bad. Luxury seats are great but could also mean people sitting next to us wouldn’t want a special need person disturbing them. I took that risk. Bought our popcorn bucket (refills are cheap) and a cup of soda (free refills). As we entered the theater my son was a bit surprised and his eyes lit a bit. Sitting on the seat he became a completely different person. (luxury seating needs to be experienced 😊)I was nervous for the first 10 minutes and as the movie began I eased into the movie. I was so concentrated and relaxed I forgot about my son. Hour and half into the movie I saw my son enjoying his popcorn and there wasn’t a peep. It was just 15 minutes before the end that he started asking me to go home and I said you have to wait. As the movie ended I was surprised to see him pick up the trash and went to dispose them off at the nearest receptacle.

We both came out smiling hoping to return back again for another luxury movie theater experience.

Throwing Yourself a Pity Party.

Throwing Yourself a Pity Party.

Everyone likes to do this at one time or another. We term this as being depressed and we continue to gloat in it. I think this is one of the worst things human beings can do to themselves.

Being a special needs Mom I try to do this sometimes. But I have a very hyperactive son. Due to him I would come out of it fast. He is like a genie in Arabian Nights. A person who needs to be engaged all the time.

Today was one such kind of a day I decided to throw myself a pity party. I was a bit depressed all morning and decided not to cook. We had take out food and I had not taken a shower till noon. Then my second son came to me for homework help. At that point I couldn’t say no to him, so I started looking at his work and started discussing things with him. It was a great opportunity for me to talk to him about what was going in class, we were halfway through work I decided I should take a shower before our lunch arrived. Taking a shower made my body fresh. Fifteen minutes of prayer energized my brain. I then had lunch with my family. I tried to take a nap trying to go back into the original mood when I remembered I can see the homework again. I made myself a cup of coffee and a 20 minute time with my younger one. By that time I was all fresh. I just had 2900 steps for the day. I dragged my older one and my husband to the park. An hour later I crossed 10,000 steps.

We came home picked up our comforters to be washed at a laundromat. I write this waiting for my laundry to be done.

I am just pondering over the thought how much time I could have wasted just throwing a pity party. That is a party no one needs to attend.

Got to go now. See you again in another blog😊

Counting my steps.

3 years ago my friend introduced me into counting my steps. I found an app on my phone and got hooked up on it just like that. I found walking 10,000 steps or 5 miles a day is the norm for people in my age group. As I started counting my steps, my steps weren’t huge strides but tiny ones. I could just make 3.9 miles with 10,000 steps. Initially I accepted the challenge for just 10,000 steps. It was really huge for me since I was just making 6000 steps as a stay at home mom. Making 10,000 steps was going to the gym. Hey I went to the gym but to make my special one exercise I gave myself the excuse I was too tired from handling him and ignored to do any activity at the gym. I live in a cold place and the gym has an indoor walkway and I didn’t even care to use it myself . So the first day at the gym I remember making 3000 extra steps and the 10,000 steps mark, it was really an achievement for me. I really felt happy that I achieved something for myself. All these apps give out so many statistics and that got me understand my pattern of my movement . This was January of 2017, by summer of 2017 I could make 2 mile walk everyday and was almost averaging 12,000 steps everyday. That birthday I got myself a fitbit watch. I think that is the best birthday present I gave myself. I entered myself into virtual races and got myself medals for completing a said number of miles. In return I got myself some medals. This did cost me a bit but it gave me a commitment to workout more. The watch pushes me to move around the house if I am stationary or have not done 250 steps in that hour. The weekly emails showed me if I was doing okay. I also started averaging 13,000 steps a day. Some of my fun badges I received were I had done 5,000 miles that is an entire distance of the continent Africa and 14,000 life time floors. Some days were hard when you had to skip the gym but my mind had trained to catch up on it. It became a regular habit. End of 2019 I got myself into some back pain and starting coming down on my steps, I just averaged around 11,000 steps. I decided I needed something stronger to get myself moving.

January 12th I registered myself in a virtual race to complete 2020 miles by the end of December 2020. My fitbit is synced with the race app and I see statistics of how many miles I have finished. I have to average 5.7 miles a day to finish all my 2020 miles. So, it is almost two weeks , so how am I doing? . I think I am on the right track. I have done 69.4 miles of my 2020 miles. I have completed 3.4% of my race. So this piece would be completed by end of December 2020.