35, Alive, and Truly Happy

Tomorrow is my 35th birthday.

Time has flown so fast. I feel like my childhood was only a few years ago and now I’m mid-30’s. How did that happen? Where did all those years go?

There was a time when I couldn’t imagine reaching 16. It seemed so old. Then once I was past 16, 25 seemed ancient. I remember thinking my mom was so old when she was in her late 40’s. (Sorry, mom. It’s true.) But now that I’m here, 35 feels so young.

For a long time I felt like I had wasted my best years, my 20’s, by doing so little of nothing in particular. I spent time as a nanny and preschool teacher, but I didn’t feel that was my life’s calling. I traveled, trying to find a place where I felt like … I don’t really know. I wanted to belong, to live, not just endure.

When I came to India 10 years ago, I wasn’t sure how long I’d be here. I spent a lot of time working with kids. It wasn’t bad. I know I was helping them, teaching them, caring for them, etc. Deep down the thing I wanted most at that time was my own family. I spent almost 4 years here before I met Glad. At that time I was ready to leave the country, but now I’m happy I stuck it out.

Everything changed when I started having kids. The past 6 years have been a blur – pregnancies, newborns, toddlers, diapers, feeds, messes; in short, insanity. But you know what? Exhausting as it was, I loved it! I finally felt like I had found what I was looking for.

Now that my kids are getting older, I’m realising that my best years have not been wasted; they are just beginning! The 20’s are about finding yourself, figuring out who you are and what you want out of life.  I spent most of those years worrying that I would never find a husband or someone to love me.

I never gave a thought to trying out a different line of work. I stuck with child care because I was good at it, but it wasn’t what I truly wanted to do. I’m taking time now to figure out what I really want to do. I know I want to write. And I love to create with my hands – crafts and such. With our pending move to Canada, a whole new world is opening up for me.

I feel more relaxed about the way my life is going now that I am in my 30’s. I force myself to stay positive, to stay away from worry or negative thoughts.  I exercise, make time for myself, and feel like I am truly enjoying life. I can honestly say that right now, I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m happy with my life the way it is.

While there are always improvements to make, I don’t stress over them. I’ve always been the shy type, and I spent years trying to be outgoing, just because others told me I had to. I tried to will myself to change into an outgoing person, but the stress exhausted me. Now that I’ve accepted myself as I am, and no longer listen to those who tell me I have to be someone else, I’m happy.

This year I’m looking forward to our move and getting settled in what we hope is our permanent home. I look forward to getting settled in a job I enjoy, teaching my kids about a new country (they’ve never been out of India), and seeing my family again.

What do I want for my birthday? Nothing really. There isn’t anything I need. My only desire is a happy, healthy family, and perhaps a solid nights sleep. 🙂

So 35, I’m not afraid of you. I’ll see you soon.

Memories Captured Linkup – December Edition

Scarlett is my youngest, and such a doll. She is almost always happy and cheerful; only when she is tired or not well does she fuss and cry. She loves helping daddy polish off his meals. She follows the other two around, trying to get into their games. She is happy when included and complains to me when they push her away.

Nov 013    Nov 059

She talks all the time now and has an amazing vocabulary for a 2 year old. The words I most love to hear her say right now are “tookie” (cookie), “nabit” (rabbit), “nap” (lap) and “tode” (cold). She tells Logan and Lila off if they bother her, wagging her little finger in their faces and shouting her reprimand. Twice recently she had a firm retort for some strangers who asked her for what she had in her hands. In one case it was a book she wanted and she said, “No, it mine!” In the other, she was holding a jute shopping bag for me, and when one of the shopkeepers tried to take it from her she shouted, “No, dat mommys!” Ha.

Nov 022     Nov 090

She loves having her picture taken. And drawing with my pen. And going for walks. And watching “Minnie Dactous” (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse). She is the one who will snuggle and say “I love you” with such gentleness, and then lick my cheek because she thinks it’s funny that Logan does it. She climbs into my bed at least once a night, then tries to sprawl, kicking Glad and I in the stomach (or worse) until I wake up enough to move her back to her bed so we can be comfortable.

 Nov 010            Nov 042

Scarlett is a cuddlebug, always wanting to be carried or sit on my lap. “I sit you nap,” she says each evening at storytime. Then if Logan or Lila try to get in she says “No, I sit mommys nap.” She loves the color pink. She points it out everywhere and wants to wear it all the time. She loves to announce whenever she burps or farts (courtesy of Logan’s training), and is the only one who has stepped on daddy’s sensitive parts more times than he can count.

She recently celebrated her second birthday. I don’t want her to grow up because I don’t want this cuteness to go away.                                                                                                                                                                                                      Nov 063

  

Today I am linking up with These Little Waves for the monthly Memories Captured meme.

My Perfect Fruitcake Recipe

I’ve spent years trying to find the perfect fruitcake recipe. I’m particular about fruitcake. I like it moist, with lots of fruit but no nuts, and no odd ingredients that are hard to find. So after reading and researching hundreds of recipes, the solution was to put my own together.

Here you will find my personal fruitcake recipe – tried, tested and delicious. I followed the fruitcake tips found at this link and they came out better than any recipe I have tried before. I only have a small oven so I worked with 7″ x 2 1/4″ square and 7″ x 2″ round pans. This recipe is enough for two pans that size or you could use a larger one. Check this site for approximate pan size conversions.

Perfect Fruitcake

Ingredients:

4 cups dried fruits – I used 3 kinds of rasins, apricots, candied cherries, candied fruit peel, tuttie fruttie, and dried amla (gooseberry). You can use any dried fruits that you like or have available. If you enjoy nuts in your cake, substitute part of the fruit for chopped nuts. Walnuts and almonds are good options. (Tip: make sure your rasins are seedless before you put them in. I didn’t and only discovered the seeds after all my cakes were baked.)
Rum – enough to cover the fruits (you could use brandy instead, either one is ok)

2 1/2 cups flour (I used whole wheat but you could use cake flour if you want)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. each of cloves, nutmeg and ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup cooking butter, softened
4 eggs
orange juice or rum

Steps:

1) Begin by presoaking your chosen fruits. Place in a bowl or pot that has some expanding space, since the fruit will swell as it soaks up the rum. Add enough rum to cover the fruit, then cover with a lid and allow to sit. The site I mentioned above suggests soaking them a minimum of 3 days. I did them for a week.

2) When you are ready to bake your cake, drain the liquid off the fruit and set aside to use in the recipe. It will be syrupy.

3) Place a cake pan in the bottom of your oven, then fill with water. This will help to keep the cake moist while baking. (If you are doing more than one cake, check after each one to see if more water should be added.)

4) Line your pan with wax paper or foil. To help it stick, lightly grease the pan with a little cooking oil. Then put the paper in, pressing into the corners and sides so it can fill properly. With the foil, you will have to press it down slowly so that it doesn’t rip. Set aside.

5) Preheat your oven to 300 deg.F. (If you read the link above, you will see they said to cook them at 325 or less. Mine took 1hr. and 15 min. to cook at 300 in the pan size I mentioned. Larger pans will take longer, as will cooking at a lower temperature. Lower it if you have the time.)

3) Toss the fruits with 3/4 cup of the flour in order to cover them well. This will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the cake. Set aside.

4) Mix the remaining flour and all the rest of the dry ingredients together in one bowl.

5) In another large bowl, mix together the butter and sugar, then the eggs. Measure the liquid that you drained off the fruit and add to it as much juice or rum as you need to make a cup.

6) Mix the dry ingredients into the wet, a small amount at a time ’till it is all mixed.

7) Add the fruit to the batter until just mixed. Spoon into the prepared pan, making sure to not fill it more than 3/4 of the way. If it is overfilled, it will rise too much, take longer to cook, and not look as nice.

8) Cover the pan with some foil to keep it from overbrowning. What I did, since I have such a tiny oven, was I covered the cake for the first hour, then I took it off for the last 15 minutes and the color on top was perfect.

The top pan is the cake, the bottom one the water.
9) Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick or knife into the center. It should be moist but not raw. Place on wire rack to cool. Once cool, remove the foil.

10 ) Fruitcakes taste best when they are aged. To age, tear a large piece of foil, then place a cloth on it. You are going to wrap the cake with it so make sure it is clean and one that you don’t mind getting this kind of use. Cheesecloth is best but you can also use tea towels or cotton diapers (clean ones, of course).
Set the cake in the middle and pour rum all over it. The cloth should soak some up, then wrap it well, first with the cloth, then the foil. Store in a cool, dry place.
A minimum of 4 weeks is recommended for proper aging, so you will need to resoak the cloth in rum each week. After that time, your cakes can be frozen until you want to use them. This way, you can make them early in the year and then store them until Christmas (if you are someone who plans way in advance and doesn’t wait until so late like me. : ) )

You can eat these cakes straight out of the oven, but they taste better with some aging. If you haven’t done so yet, go and read this list of tips so that your fruitcakes can come out perfect too.

Happy Baking!

Note: If you try this recipe and you like it, feel free to share it but be sure to link back to this post. Tks.

This post has been shared with the linky party over at Spatulas on Parade and Merry, Merry Munchies at Dining with Debbie. Check them out.

Dining With Debbie

Memories Captured – October Linkup

“I did it, Mommy.” I’m starting to hear these words a lot more from my kids, especially Logan. For so long he didn’t want to do things himself; he never went through that “me do it” toddler phase. It was always “mommy do it” instead. Logan has recently learned to button buttons after much hard work and many tears. I actually didn’t realise that he could’t do it, because he never wore shirts with buttons and when I got him some button pj’s, I did them for him until daddy began asking why Logan didn’t do it himself.
Scarlett is at that stage now. Every day I hear “I do it self.”  Anything and everything she wants to do on her own. Here they are doing some paint with water books last Saturday after our big outing.

Another place I hear it a lot is during homework. Lila doesn’t want any help at all, unless she just can’t manage. 

Logan will still ask for help but has learned to do it himself.

Of course, the playground is a great place to do things yourself. Scarlett learned to swing on the jungle gym.

And Lila climbs to the very top.

Scarlett’s latest trick.
This kind of independence is a beautiful thing.

This linkup is brought to you courtesy of These Little Waves.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Me – Linkup

Today I am linking up with Honest Mom for a get to know me post. If you are new here, welcome. Feel free to hang around awile. If you are a regular, tell me if you truly didn’t know these things about me.
Let’s begin.
1. My childhood obsession was Star Trek. I remember as far back as when I was 5 or 6, I would get so excited waiting for it to come on. And then I would imagine myself in the show. Ha. Seriously. And I would imagine myself in heels and make the clack, clack sound in my head. Somehow at that age I was convinced that guys were more into women who wore heels.
2. My teen obsession was Star Trek: TNG. I was 12 when I started watching it; it must have been in season 3 or 4. And yep, you guessed it, I spent an inordinant amount of time imagining myself in it. Except, being older, I would actually try to fingure out a better way for the show to end or would continue the story with myself solving the problems. No high heels then.
3. When I was 13 I kept a notebook with science info, newspaper clippings of stuff about planets and the Biosphere experiments, anything I found interesting. I loved visiting shops that had science experiments – and this love of science came from love for Star Trek. Ha. It was temporary as I’m not into it now, but I do enjoy science musuems. So much fun.
4. When I was a kid I wanted to be a ballerina, figure skater, and gymnast, just because they looked like so much fun. I didn’t think there was anything to them and had no idea of the years of dedication each one takes to perfect.
5. Before I had kids, the only reason I wanted to have a girl was so that I could fix her hair and dress her in cute dresses. Boys didn’t factor in for that reason.
6. I once skipped my workout to watch Joan Rivers when she had the whole Star Trek: TNG cast on the show.
7. I hate cooking and meal planning! I detest it. Yet I do it 3 times a day, and am always blissfully happy when I don’t have to cook.

Dedicated for Life

I’ve seen them numerous times on my weekend jogs at our neighborhood park. I’ve seen fathers and sons out together before, bonding in all the different ways a father and son can, but these two are different

The father must be close to 70 years old. He is balding, with a ring of white hair around his head. He always wears a short-sleeved button shirt, a lungi and sandals. He has bowed legs yet manages to keep a decent pace. He is in good shape for someone his age.

The son is tall and walks very straight. I put his age around 40. Except for a pot belly, he is not overweight. He always wears the same thing: a checkered, short-sleeved button shirt and navy blue pants that are frayed at the bottom. He walks at a slow pace, sort of lumbering along in his bare feet.

But there is something else about the son. He has a disability of some sort. I can’t tell what it is, though it seems to be mental. He spends his whole walk calling to his father: “Papa, papa”. Should his father get out of sight, he calls louder “Papa, papa”. Since the father walks faster than the son, he can get far ahead and out of sight often, but as soon as he is close again, he always acknowledges his son.

Today I noticed them as I was leaving. They were passing where I was sitting in the playground and the son called loudly “Papa” while gesturing to the benches. His father gave a reply that I took to mean he wanted him to walk one more round. It wasn’t in English so I won’t swear to that meaning but it made sense to me.

What really gets me is how much this father loves his son. Obviously the son has stayed with his parents his whole life; he is still a child mentally and needs care. Imagine the dedication of the parents! Most of us can’t wait for our kids to grow up and move out, but they have, knowingly and willingly, given their whole lives to the care of their son. That is unselfishness at its best!

I’ve tried to imagine how I would act if one of my children were disabled in this way. Would I really be unselfish enough to dedicate my whole life until my dying day to my child? Would I be able to endure year after year, knowing my child would never leave home, never be self-sufficient, never be able to reach a point where they would care for me in my old age? I hope I would.

Memories Captured – July Edition

It is again time to link up some favorite photos via These Little Waves monthly photo meme, Memories Captured.
Sitting in a tree is such fun … especially the first time you do it.

I love hairstyles. Maybe one day she will have the patience to let me do french braids.

Blue day at school for Lila.

Daddy and his girls. They love him to bits!

On a recent rainy afternoon we made a tent in between the dining table and the couch.

Even daddy crawled in when he got in from work.

What special memories do you have this month?

Memories Captured Linkup – June

This month…

Lila wore her first-ever dangle earrings and matching necklace….

I want those pants!

Scarlett claimed daddy’s whole bowl of ice cream…

Well, she tried to. Daddy managed to get a few bites.

I let my kids try something unusual…

Good place for a nap, no?

We saw white tigers at the zoo

And giraffes…

My very independent toddler.

Lila started preschool

We had lots of fun on the elephant slide (that just happens to be in the tiny park next to our house) …

These ones were taken just this afternoon.

So what did you do this month that you want to remember?

Today’s post is linked with These Little Waves photo meme, Memories Captured.

Lipstick Thief

source

I was 7 years old and I stole my mom’s red lipstick.

Well, I don’t think I saw it as stealing. She always let me wear her nail polish so I didn’t think she’d mind if I used some lipstick. I took the tube to my room, sat on my bed and opened it. I twisted it all the way up and put some on, rubbing my lips just as I had seen mom do.

Then came the oops moment: I forgot to twist it down before I put the lid back on. When I opened it again, the whole thing was smashed and I was scared. I remember the nervous feeling that rose inside as wondered what to do with it. I was so sure mom would spank me that I threw it under my bed and hoped she would never find it.

I never heard anything about it from her, so my guess is that she probably thought she lost it – at least until we moved from that apartment. I remember my room being packed up and seeing the tube there when the bed was moved, the scared-I-was-in-trouble feeling rising in my chest again. But mom never said anything about it. That was unexpected since at that point it was obviously my fault it was ruined. Maybe she had forgotten she had it. Maybe she was so busy with the move and packing and keeping 4 little rascals (I was the eldest) out of trouble that a ruined tube of lipstick was the last thing on her mind.

For my part, I was just happy to not get caught.

The above story was written for Mama Kat’s writers workshop. The prompt was to write about a time you stole something.

Falling in Love

Nothing really prepares you for seeing your child for the first time. I had been asked to sit in the waiting room while my wife labored alone in the women-only labor room. At some point she had begged for me and her doctor let me in.

I held her hand and tried to imagine what a contraction felt like. Her face contorted into a grimace of pain as she squeezed my hand harder than I thought was possible. Then I was asked to leave.

“Sir, wake up, see your baby.”

I was tired and groggy, having been in the hospital for hours, waiting to see what was going to happen. When it was decided that my wife would need a caesarean after all, I sat in the waiting room and fell asleep.

“Hey, wake up, your baby is here.” The guy next to me grinned as he pointed to the nurse standing in front of me.

The nurse was holding a tiny, screaming bundle. “Sir, this is your daughter.”

I took the baby in my arms and her screams quieted to sobs as I spoke to her. Her red face turned pink and her ears perked up as she listened to my voice. That was all it took to quiet her. I held her close and took her to our room so she could be dressed. Then I took some pictures.

I was now daddy to a little girl. I tried hard to digest that information. Just hours earlier I only had a son; now I had a daughter too. She was perfect. She could have anything she wanted, just because she was mine. I would give her the world if she asked. Her large brown eyes stared into mine as if to say “I’m so happy you’re my daddy.”

This memoir piece is pretty much how my husband remembers the birth of our first daughter, Lila., and was written for Write on Edge‘s meme Red Writing Hood.

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