Tag Archives: birthday

The Second Party

So if you read my previous post, you know that the party I never intended to have, made itself happen on Wednesday, the day of the kids’ birthday. I suppose it’s only appropriate that the party that was supposed to happen on Saturday fizzled out.

Actually, I think we all ran out of steam ourselves by the time Saturday dawned. The kids were pleased in a puzzled way that they should be having another party, when their birthday was clearly already over. Amit and I were feeling kind of lazy about getting the party infrastructure going, so it was 12.45 before Amit left home, ostensibly to shop for party essentials, but in reality, to run various errands such as going to the bank, the post-office, and doing the weekly grocery shopping. Meanwhile I got the cakes done without much effort, and the kids helped me to beat up a delicious mayonnaise for sandwiches.

I gave the kids lunch and packed them off for their afternoon nap, waiting for Amit to return so that we could have lunch together. He returned around 3.30, by which time, hunger pangs had got the better of me. But, as he sat down for lunch, I had to dash out. He had refused point blank to pick up return gifts and he had also most unhelpfully forgotten to bring potatoes for the potato cutlets we were supposed to be serving.

By this time, one family had taken a rain check (though it hadn’t rained yet); another emailed to say he was out of town today, but his family would come, wasn’t the party tomorrow; and a third had already informed me a couple of days earlier that they would be unable to make it due to having visitors over that very day. So while we rushed around boiling potatoes and assembling sandwiches, our guest list disintegrated from five families with seven kids, down to two families with only two kids.

In the way that these things usually turn out, this was good. We had S&S and V&V over, and we fried up a ton of french fries. The potato cutlets were disastrous and the sandwiches were roundly ignored. Cake was cut and eaten only after one round of vodka and orange juice had been downed. We sang the birthday song, but nobody took photographs, far less a video. The kids ran amok, which was as it should be too. Around 9.30, we ordered in biryani and even Mrini managed to stay up till almost 11 as ten of us crowded around our small 4-seater dining table and dug in with gusto.

In other words, it wasn’t a birthday party, but it was a real fun party. Even the kids slept until 8.30 the next morning!

And now they are four.

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Their Fourth, Our Third

The twins’ fourth birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks. Four. Wow. I remember the time when I couldn’t look beyond the next day – forget four, I couldn’t even imagine how we’d make it to their second (our first) birthday, almost one whole year away.

Four promises to be a fun year. We’re past the tantrums of two. Toilet training and related accidents are a distant memory. We’re past the hurdle of getting them settled in school. We’re even past the hurdle of me getting back to work, with all the implications that has on the rest of our small family.

(We’re, in fact, at the exact right place to be thinking of getting a younger sibling for the twins. But we’re not thinking of that – heavens, no! Need I remind you that we haven’t actually got the adoption deeds for these two yet? We might get them by the time we approach three full years of being a family – at the end of September – but you can’t count on it. So no, I don’t think our girls are going to get a baby brother, now or at any other time. Adoption laws in India don’t allow us to adopt another girl, even if there are so many more girls than boys looking for a home. Strange, but true.)

So anyway, their fourth birthday, their third with us, is coming up. Four looks like being a good year, because they are so grown up already. They are more eager to help out at home, they are capable of spending long periods of time playing with each other and they are fighting less with each other. They can do most of their own stuff themselves, though they might have to be told (repeatedly and forcefully). They can build long and complex sentences and hold halfway intelligent conversations. They are learning so fast it is both surprising and delightful. By the end of this year, they might even be able to play a proper game of Snakes and Ladders.

We asked them what they wanted as birthday gifts and they both said they wanted five books. Each. We agreed, of course, but we’ll have to get them something else as well, won’t we? I mean, books as birthday gifts is the best one could ever hope for according to me, but for kids under 5 (who don’t yet know how to read), shouldn’t they also get something more like toys?

Meanwhile, I have started thinking about baking. Last year was phenomenal – now what am I going to do this time around? I’m certainly not going to buy cakes, while they’re young enough to appreciate homemade cakes (and I’m young enough to still make them). Cookies seems to be a good option for school. I made two batches today as a test run – butter cookies with almonds on top, and chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips. They both turned out nice enough, though I didn’t have a few essential ingredients, such as chocolate for the chips, cornflour, Pam cooking spray and so on.

The kids have about 30 kids in their class, and another 15 in daycare. Add in adults in both places, it’s about 60 people. Two birthday girls, so at least two cookies per head – 120 cookies! And you always have to plan for a few extra. I need a bigger oven!

Luckily, the weekend before their birthday is a long weekend. Powercuts in our beautiful city are almost as bad as ever, though, so this is going to take a lot of patience. Luckily cookies don’t suffer like cakes do in the advent of a powercut – you can just put the dough in the fridge and wait.

Next, we need two cakes to cut at home that evening. I’ll probably have to whip those up on the day itself – which means I’ll need some flexibility at office. But if it’s going to be just us four, it’ll be something small and simple.

Since the birthday is a weekday, and since nobody enjoys driving across town for a birthday party mid-week when the next day is a school/office day, we’ve decided that the party will have to be on a weekend. It’s hopefully not going to be a huge affair, and we’re probably going to do it at home again, maybe even with homemade food this time; and it’s definitely going to involve another two cakes.

Birthdays are such fun.

Sleep Deprivation Disasters

January was a tough month. What with two jobs, no household help and a change in residence, we were sleeping past 11 each night (usually closer to 12) and getting up between 5.30 and 6 a.m. all days except Sundays, when the kids kindly let us sleep till 6.30 as a special favour. After one full month of this, we both have a serious sleep deficit. I’m not one who thrives on six hours of sleep a night – even had I been getting it; I need between 7 and 8 hours, the more so when life becomes more busy and stressful.

So this week, I’ve been practically falling asleep at my desk – all day long! The struggle to keep my head on my neck and my eyes open starts at 10 a.m. and lasts till… midnight, actually. It’s terrible – I really don’t know what kind of work I’ve been doing and whether it is at all up to the mark or not.

So it was probably not a good idea to add to our stress levels and sleep deficit by going out for dinner on a weekday evening, but Amit was adamant: Birthdays must be celebrated on birthdays, not on any old “convenient” day. Perhaps, too, I should have skipped tennis yesterday and settled for an extra 30 minutes of sleep – but what the heck: on my birthday, at least, I should get to play tennis, shouldn’t I? It was a bad idea, though, because what with the terrible cough I have (remnant from an exhaustion-induced cold I got some ten-odd days ago) and the general tiredness, I just couldn’t get my game going. That was frustrating and disappointing, and the only redeeming thought was, at least I tried.

I’d decided that I wanted the Best Ever Fudge Cake for my birthday. That’s not just a description of the cake, that’s its name. I’ve made it many times over the 15-odd years since I first discovered it, and I’d have to say that its name lives up to its promise – it is really delicious. But, it’s a lot of work. Since Amit hasn’t ever really gotten into baking, I knew I’d have to do it myself. So I started on Sunday. Night. Right around 10 p.m. after the kids had gone to bed and I’d got their lunch and stuff packed for Monday. It was past midnight before the cakes were done, which gave me all of Monday to do the icings. But first, I had to find icing sugar.

Icing sugar is one of those things that is practically impossible to find when you really need it – just like cocoa powder. When I’m baking, I usually need both and it’s a given that I will, at best, find one – and perhaps not even in sufficient quantity. And that was back in Koramangala, where you can find most things in walking distance. Here, out in the middle of nowhere, I didn’t really expect to find it easily and I was right. I drew a blank on Sunday, so on Monday evening, I drove around the shops near office and eventually got lucky. Then, of course, I picked up one year’s supply of it.

Monday evening was a busy evening even by our standards. Some aggressive efforts over the weekend had resulted in one domestic help being engaged and she reported for work on Monday evening. She speaks only Kannada, which I speak very little of, so somewhere in our communications I understood that she would both clean and cook. By 8.15, when she had finished cleaning and washing dishes (and practically emptying our water tank in the process; why do these women always use much, much more water than required to wash dishes? Haven’t they ever faced water shortage in their lives? Don’t they – they of all people, they, who might have to carry water in buckets to their homes, who might have to share a toilet with 20 others, which will obviously run out of water – don’t they realize how precious water is????)

Anyhow, when she had finished wasting our water and giving Amit a heart-attack, she tied up her sari and made to leave. Cooking? It’s too late – some other day, perhaps, she said. Great. If I’d known that, I’d have made her do the cooking first. Who wants a clean house when you can have a hot meal instead? But it was too late now. So after she left and the kids went to bed, I got to work on the cooking and then right around midnight, I finally finished up the cake and it was ready to eat.

Why wait? I plunged the knife in with minimum ceremony and…

It got stuck!

Oh, right – that’s why the recipe calls for baking powder, which, in my sleep-deprived state on Sunday night, I’d forgotten to put. So instead of the light, soft, melting cake I usually get, I got a tough, leathery load of lead. Great. This was clearly not the best ever Best Ever Fudge Cake.

At least the icing was ok, so I gritted my teeth and stolidly worked my way through a slice; Amit, of course, gave up after a few bites. That was probably a smart thing to do – I doubt that kilo of lead in my stomach late at night did anything to improve my tennis six hours later. But what the heck – I had to have birthday cake on my birthday, right? (Sometimes, determination is SO counterproductive.)

So late nights, bad cake, and erratic tennis notwithstanding, we were headed for dinner out on birthday night. We drove to work together, dropping the kids at school, their lunch at daycare, and enduring innumerable traffic jams along the way; and a little after 5.30, we left office together, picking up the kids, enduring further traffic jams and heading for our old home. There, with many disclaimers as to the quality, we dropped off birthday cake and kids with S&P (many thanks, guys) and went for dinner. We went to Via Milano, an Italian restaurant that we’ve been to once before. It was a good evening – good food, good beer, good ambience, good service. (It was, of course, ridiculously expensive… but we only go out thrice a year without the kids, so we didn’t mind too much.) It would have been a fantastic evening if we hadn’t both been falling asleep immediately after dinner. From around 10 p.m. onwards, we both had a battle on our hands – and, in my case, a losing battle at that – to keep our eyes open till we could pick up the kids and drive back home. Luckily, Amit was driving – he does a better job of keeping his eyes open at critical junctures. Also, we did get stopped for a breathalyzer test, which I would probably not have passed.

Leaving home for a late night out with the kids is like going out of town for a week. We had the kids’ school bags, with snack boxes and water bottles; their lunch bag, with a zillion boxes of food and a change of clothes; their night bag with yet another change of clothes and a blanket; their shoes, which they had worn all day, but weren’t wearing now because they were asleep; our laptop cases; my handbag; and a bag of stuff we’d picked up from S&S along the way. At least some of this would have to be sorted out before we could crash out.

Just as I was dumping a bunch of dirty clothes in the laundry bag and the quadzillion lunch and snack boxes in the kitchen sink, I noticed that the rice box from the kids’ lunch bag was missing. Where could it be? The daycare was too organized to have forgotten to send it back. With a sinking heart, I opened the fridge, and… sure enough, there it was, sitting neatly where I’d left it on Monday night.

We had forgotten to send them any rice for lunch! Poor kids!

I was so exhausted that I didn’t have more than 5 microseconds to feel horribly guilty about it before I fell asleep. That’s what sleep deprivation does to you.

So today, the new woman in my life is going to be hit with a load of cooking; she is going to have to wash dishes with a tiny fraction of the water she’d normally use; she is going to manage the laundry; and I am going to bed at 10 p.m. Or sooner.

Let’s hope I can make it that far without slipping up on something critical.

Another Year Older

I read somewhere in the context of parenting, that the days drag on and the years fly by. I don’t have all that many years under my belt yet, but this one does seem to have gone by pretty fast. Wasn’t it just the other day that I was in the throes of planning two birthday parties back-to-back?

And now their next birthday is just around the corner.

Naturally, this time we’re not doing so much. For one thing, last year was their first party, so naturally it had to be big. And secondly, this year Amit is not going to be in town on the day of their birthday. This means that I get to plan the party as I wish – and I wish to keep it small. Amit, of course, still wants to invite a horde of people, and we might do that after he returns the following weekend.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking about the wonderful opportunity to practice some baking – and thrust the fruits of my labour onto a captive audience, both at school and on those who come home for the party. Of course, normally the fruits of my labour in this particular sphere are not totally inedible – or so some kind people assure me – so hopefully the audience won’t suffer too much.

On Monday, I’m going to be busy making fudge and cupcakes to send with the twins to school on Tuesday morning. I can see myself staying up into the wee hours of Tuesday morning, cutting bits of Aluminium foil and coloured paper into attractive packaging for these goodies. I’ll also have to bake the cakes for the home party on Monday night, so that I can put the icing on on Tuesday morning. One chocolate cake with chocolate icing is unavoidable, of course; the other might be a lemon and raisin cake with lemon butter icing.

This is the part I like about birthdays – baking. After a couple of years or so, I expect that the kids are going to be making cake for me on my birthday. That’s what kids are for, right?

And as I said, the years fly by.

Wining and Dining Without the Twins

Well, we made it. Everything went according to plan, for once.

It started with Amit coming home early from office. I had baked him a cake so we cut that first, with the kids participating enthusiastically. Then I grabbed an hour to go out and actually get him a gift, something I hadn’t been able to accomplish thus far. It can’t be called a ‘surprise’ gift, given that he knew where I was going and why, but it was the closest thing to it that I could manage, and in one hectic hour, at that.

I got back, and we both got all dressed up and got to S&S’s place by 6.45. We gave the girls dinner, which they mostly rejected (as expected) and milk, which they largely spilt (not expected and extremely annoying) and let them play for an hour or so after that. Then we put them to bed. Amit told them that we’d be going out, as the books recommend, which made Mrini look worried but seemed to have no further adverse effects. After waiting ten minutes to ensure they were asleep, we left and were at our table at the hotel a little after 9.

Amit wanted to call S&S right away, but I stopped him. Thereafter, I didn’t worry about the kids too much, and I think he soon forgot to worry too. Of course, the bottle of wine that we went through rather fast contributed to that, no doubt. We had a raw fish salad to start with (this is Vietnamese cuisine) which was absolutely fabulous and I can hardly wait to go back there and have it again. Unfortunately, the place is so ruinously expensive, that it might not happen till next year. The main course was a chicken curry with steamed rice, and by the time we got through it we were both so drunk that we had to take serious steps to sober up before driving home. Amit spent some quality time in the rest room, washing his face and admiring the scenery, while I decided that the wisest thing to do would be to order a dessert. A chocolate and coffee mousse was duly served and consumed, and by then we were verging on sobriety. At some point I gave Amit his gift, which he seemed to be happy with. I think there was some conversation during all of this, but I have to say I don’t remember too much of it. Perhaps ordering the whole bottle of wine was a mistake – a glass each might have been more judicious.

But what the heck – our first outing in over a year as a twosome without the kids, I’d say it was a complete success.

Murphy’s Law in Action

Everything that can go wrong will… and then some.

We didn’t think about Murphy’s Law when we discussed plans for Amit’s birthday. His birthday was on Sunday, but he was also flying out to Tokyo on Sunday night, so celebrations, if any, would have to be on Saturday evening. Amit was keen on calling a few friends home and providing home-cooked food for dinner, but eventually this plan (thankfully) fell through.

By Saturday afternoon, I was suffering agonies thanks to a severe headache brought on by Sinusitis. In the thick of a torrential downpour, I drove myself to the doctor, who prescribed, amongst other things, Valium tablets (!?!).

The day was looking rather bleak, and Amit was in the mood to give up entirely on the birthday plans, when I persuaded him that just because we now have two little girls doesn’t mean we should give up on life altogether and stay at home and order in even on special occasions. So, we bravely (foolishly!) decided to go to the usual venue for Amit’s birthday dinner – Taj West End. This five star hotel used to have a wonderful Thai food restaurant called Paradise Island. A couple of years ago, they changed the name to Blue Ginger and the cuisine to Vietnamese – things have never been quite the same since. Still, it was our tradition so we decided to go ahead with it.

Duly, at 9 p.m., the torrential downpour notwithstanding, the four of us were seated at a comfortable table at Blue Ginger. On our left was a couple so thoroughly entwined in each other as to be oblivious to all else. On our right was a foreign (German?) woman eating alone. Behind was the downpour, in front a certain quantity of empty space.

The dinner, in short, was a fiasco. The twins were happily restless for 20 minutes, cranky for another 20. In an hour or so, Tara finally slept, but Mrini remained awake till we were almost home around 11.30! She swung between cheerful, restless, and thirsting for adventure in the form of outings with the restaurant staff; and sleepy, howling, and unable to sleep. We tried all manner of things, but nothing helped. The drinks, appetizer, soup, and main course were served and consumed amidst complete chaos and Amit and I had no opportunity to exchange more than a dozen words between ourselves, what with trying to pacify the kids and fill our own stomachs.

Well, all we can say is, we tried. It is easy to see why baby sitters are a popular option, but one that neither of us is much in favour of.

We returned home tired, frustrated, hungry, and poorer to a substantial extent.

That, however, was not all. My Sinusitis had taken a back seat in the midst of all the action, but Amit had meanwhile developed a seriously red eye which had begun to give a thick, gooey discharge, coupled with a gritty feeling and blurred vision. Conjunctivitis, I diagnosed, and an early morning visit to the local doctor on Sunday proved me right. The doctor apparently thought it was so contagious that he took only a quick look from a safe distance, prescribed some eye drops, and got rid of Amit in extremely short order.

Tokyo???

Amit had already had one rather dramatic experience of being severely ill in a foreign country; neither he nor I was keen for a repeat experience of that sort. Besides, with a condition so contagious, was it really ok to go spending more than ten hours aboard two flights, putting all one’s co-passengers at risk? Would Singapore Airlines, Singapore (the country), and Japan even allow him into the plane/country looking the way he did?

Putting the eye drops every couple of hours didn’t make any significant difference to the redness of the infected eye, so by 5 p.m. on Sunday, with great reluctance, he decided he would have to at least postpone his official trip. A couple of hours spent on the phone and he had pushed out his departure by 24 hours.

This was good news, because it meant we could at least have his birthday dinner together. By now, we knew better than planning an outing – a quick phone call and a vast quantity of rich Indian food was delivered home by 9 p.m.