Almost a year

It’s almost a year since the pandemic began! What a year. Life changed for many. Many lost their lives and many lost their livelihood. Many months people completely locked themselves up in fear of the virus. But time moves on things are picking up in different ways. Scientists have come up with a vaccine and trying to make things return to normal. Some people have decided they would act with caution and return back to their normal lives and some are still playing it safe with limiting their activities.

So what does this mean for Mom with a young adult with autism. My son loves routines. Until 21 he went to school but as soon as he turned 21 there was no more school. The process of transition was nearly 3 years but yet we ended up on a waitlist for a day program. But I was lucky I found a non traditional program which helped me take him and be part of a community. We were settling in. He also got an aide with whom he was learning a new routine. So when pandemic rolled over things became topsy turvey in his world.

So what happened to his life during the pandemic?🤔

A ton of good things happened and here are a few. He was addicted to vending machines and he always had a tantrum near one. I had to get help from a behavior therapist to get a plan as to how stop his big problem. So when pandemic hit all vending machines closed😀. No vending machines tantrum 🖐He has learnt to live with that. Any trip inside a grocery store would be him picking up a packet of chips and candy. That too stopped. Why? We had groceries delivered!😂 Even if we went only one person did the shopping. He couldn’t wear a 😷 mask. So we didn’t take him.

As time passed on, . My son is now a pro wearing masks. Everything is open for us now. He has couple of masks in the car which he automatically wears when getting out. He has learnt that wearing one gives him right of passage everywhere. Has’nt he adapted himself. This is a kid we spent hours rubbing his feet to wear socks and shoes!

Now that he got himself trained in grocery stores we started going to gym. Btw the vending machines are still closed at the gym. But we have developed an endurance. As I checked my fitbit on the way home we had stayed there for an hour and ten minutes today wearing a mask the entire time. I think this is the most we have spent in the gym , maybe inside a closed environment since the pandemic began.

So what does this all tell me as I ponder writing my thoughts my son whom I thought struggles with routine changes can be changed. He survived a year without his favorite routines. He is flexible. As he threw a tantrum today that his kindle was not charged I would have got anxiety attacks but I told my husband he needs to live with that! Just like how he is living through a pandemic!

Hey for a month now he is even attending online classes. Who knew he could say hi and bye on a go to meeting and listen to stories songs and games(I cannot say quietly but I can mute him😀😀)But yes he is doing it.

We seem to be creating new routine and new activities as we start a day. We are humans and we are all flexible. I think a bit of endurance we all can adapt to any situation. A huge lesson learnt.

Navarathri Part 2

This blog I will be sharing my Navarathri golu. The video doesn’t have a written explanation of the work done by my special boy , so thought I would do a part 2 of Navarathri blog.

Its not too late to teach old dog new tricks. My son has good gross motor skills but his fine motor skills are not so great. So we decided to venture into painting the last few months. We painted small bowls and rocks. It became so cute I was able to make a tiny zen garden. This lead me to think why not some dolls for golu. One section of my golu is a pet tea party all painted by my boy.

The golu also has some craft work done by him at his program. He requires hand over hand for some activities but some he does on his own.

I hope you all enjoy my golu.

Happy Navarathri.

Link for my golu👆🙏🙏🙏🙏

https://ganga1996.wordpress.com/2020/09/26/navarathri/

Navarathri

Navarathri

It’s that time of the year. The time I socialize invite people or go to their houses. Twenty two years back I started this tradition with some toys. It was just after my son’s first birthday and I was too excited. Couple of cardboard boxes and stuffed animals and a picture of Saraswathi and Murugan adorned my golu. By the end of following year my son was diagnosed with autism and his terrible twos were terrrrrible. But by his fourth birthday I think my mojo was back and I started collecting dolls . Lakshmi and Krishna were purchased at a local Indian grocery store and the rest at dollar shops. Christmas and Halloween season I used to roam around walmart looking for cheap deals. These dolls make good park dolls. My 2003 trip to India marked my first purchase of golu dolls. My Dad took me to Khadi kraft and I purchased a good set of dasavatharam , chettiar and even a marriage set. I got everything the smallest available in the shop. It was packed good and 2003 Navarathri in my small apartment in Boston was one of the best I had. Living in apartments the best thing was you had so many friends in the same place not much to travel. People flocked my golu. My younger one was born the next year and the next couple of years my navarathri took a back seat. But let me tell it was just a scaled down version near pooja room or on top of a shelf but never did I miss one by not taking my dolls out. Then by 2007 online orders came into being. We had moved out of our apartment to our own townhouse with not many Indians. But I continued to shop for dolls online as well as in store. I didn’t have many guests but my golu became bigger and bigger each year. Autism is a big part of me. My son can throw huge tantrums and my entire house can shake, so imagine the nervousness I used to have while he moved around my golu. We moved to Pittsburgh in 2011 June and my father in law passed the same year. My son turned 13 and his behaviors took a nose dive. That was the year we didn’t have any golu in our house. It was definitely depressing. But I should say online ordering saved me. I buy dolls before and after the navarathri season. That year too I ordered online. I found out this was my biggest stress reliever. A passion I had developed over the years. 2012 I set up a decent size golu. My formal living room brightened up with lights. An independent home I got with a big living room so I can specifically allot for golu. It was definitely a dream come true for me. My younger son and myself joined shloka classes at the temple. With apprehension I handed everyone navarathri invitations there. To my surprise almost everyone dropped by. They admired my dolls and the uriyadi Krishnan I got that year was a hit. My parents were there that year and that was the first Navarathri I think my Dad saw me in work.

The next year a day before Varalakshmi Vratham itself I received a package from India. Appa had surprised with a plastic golu padi from Giri trading. I think that is one of his best gifts to me😊❤️. From that point there has been no turning point, my golu by Goddess grace has grown up. Last year doll was Athi Varadhar and I had friends from my special needs program too drop by. I requested anyone dropping by to bring soaps shampoos or personal care items for Datta Retreat Center’s charity program. People usually drop with bags of apple , but this turned to be a huge success. My charity drive items filled up our trunk!! Plastic bowls made by special people was given out as return gifts. Thinking back it was fun. So what about this year. Yesterday my younger one asked me if there will be Navarathri. Of course there is going to be one was my answer. My special boy suffers from an autoimmune condition which definitely flares up during this season. With change of weather and flu and with novel corona virus I may not invite anyone. But I will definitely have my golu on. We have all got used to online classes and shopping. So there will be online viewing too. Return gifts and sundal and food served will be made as a charity to the local food bank. I know Goddess Rajarajeshwari will be with me as I start prepping for this season.

My special boy has to be thanked at this point. He still is a handful but he is a big helper too. If not for him I cannot bring up all the boxes of my dolls upstairs from my garage 😀.

Hopefully my next blog post will be about my golu this year. Btw definitely not a corona virus theme.😄

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Shakti-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah ||

Athi Varadar 2019

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.