Letters to My Children – September 2020

Dear Ariya,

Summer vacation is officially over.  School started after labor day and you are learning virtually.  It’s been….interesting.  There have been a lot of moments where we have had to just roll with it.  Technology can be a pain.  Having 16 kids in a virtual class can be tough.  I could see your frustration when you raised your hand and the kids would talk over you.  Or  when you would get through the material really fast but had to wait for everyone to catch up.  It’s been an interesting month of trying to figure out what would work to keep you engaged.  I bought a bunch of homeschooling material that looked pretty interesting and fun.  You’ve enjoyed a lot of the stories that we’ve gone through.  And we’ve also signed up for virtual art lessons, virtual ballet and even trying something new, like virtual Jazz.  This school year looks very weird.  There have been a lot of tears but we’re going to get through it.

We’ve had a few adventures, like going to the State Arboretum, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley to see the Bugs Exhibit or Harper’s Ferry.  Harper’s Ferry with daddy was quite the hike.  We didn’t go as far as we could have, but man, we were all wiped.  And with the dogs too, who don’t care for strangers.  Charlie had his muzzle on the whole time.  And Emmy tried to drag me down a few trails.  I had to hand the leash over to Daddy.  I think he has a calming effect on the dogs.  And you loved playing in the river, checking out the little fish.

Our home renovations are still in progress.  You’re still sharing a room with Asha, and it’s tough.  She wants to keep playing, you want to keep reading.  She wakes up early and is ready to play, and you take a little time to wake up.  You can’t wait until we can move into the new house.  Your new bedroom is waiting, your new bunk bed.  I know.  I can’t wait either.

Dear Asha,

It’s so weird not going to your pre-school for your last year of pre-K.  I’m so bummed that this year is so different and you can’t experience it all like Ariya did.  But, the person who would have been your teacher for pre-K offered to tutor you on her front porch outside, so that was really nice.  you still get your lessons, and we have material to work with. Ariya gets to take lessons with her too, but it’s more like science experiments and more hands on learning that she doesn’t get with virtual.

I also got some homeschooling stuff for you.  I think you liked some of the subjects we covered, but it’s very nature based, and I think you just want to do what Ariya does.  You are working on writing and doing a ton of worksheets.  You’re not a fan of coloring as much, unless I’m coloring with you.

And you like to play, a lot.  Your voice only knows one volume.  Oh man, you love to make Anika laugh so much.  You fight with Ariya a lot, but I think it’s because you love her so much.  You want to do anything that she does, you look up to her so much.  I understand that feeling, I used to look up to my brother so much too.  It’s so tough being in such a small place.  You want to be loud and wild and free.  But Anika naps upstairs once or twice a day, and Ariya is doing virtual learning all morning. It’s time for us to get out of this townhouse!

We got out and had fun in nature, that’s for sure.  Man, you both have been riding your bike like crazy in our little parking lot.  And the hike to Harper’s ferry, wow, you made it!  I am so proud of you! The bugs exhibit at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley was great.  I think your favorite part were the gardens, and all the bees, and the bamboo forest.  Yeah, the bamboo forest and the Japanese Garden was pretty cool for sure.

But, in the meantime, you are ALSO doing art with Ariya, and ballet, and tutoring with your pre-K teacher.  So that’s nice, having things to look forward to. you’re learning so much, that’s for sure.

Dear Anika,

Anika.  What can I say.  You are now 14 months old and you’re crawling up a storm.  You’ve learned to crawl up and down the stairs in our town house.  You follow your sisters around everywhere.  You’re into anything and everything.  When you get tired, you start crawling back and forth, doing laps around the town house.  Then you start crawling in circles and shaking your head back and forth.  That’s when we know you’re delirious.   And you love your “dada”.  You still have yet to say mama and it is killing me.  But that’s ok, I know you love me 🙂

 

Letters to My Children – August 2020

Dear Ariya,

We started the beginning of August at Nani and Nanu’s house in Richmond.  It’s been nice hanging out at my old house, with you and Asha playing with my old toys.  Especially my old barbies.  Nani saved up all these old fabrics and ribbons and just basically everything that I would have thrown away, for you to create dresses and outfits for your barbies.  Nani found a few old sewing machines that she and Nanu thought they could resurrect for you, but no go.  That’s ok, you still had a blast trying to create outfits for your dolls and stuffed animals.

We had so much Indian food, khakra and mango for breakfast, pav bhaji, rice and chole for dinner.  lunch would always be a sandwich or takeout.  But we had desert every day.  I know I gained 5 lbs.  But it was worth it.

Daddy came a few days later.  It was great having him here, even for a few days.  We hung out, enjoyed spending time with each other, taking walks in the neighborhood.  We went down to Monument Ave, a street that your daddy and I used to spend a lot of time together when we were at VCU and MCV.  It’s this street that has all of these monuments of confederate soldiers and generals.  It’s a piece of history that people love to glorify.  Well, we had quite a time trying to explain what’s happening to people that look like us, what police brutality is for, why there is graffiti all over the confederate statues.  It’s pretty deep and hard to realize that the world sees us differently.  How do we prepare you for the rude awakening that we are sure you will have when you face your first moment of racism?    When will that moment be?  We want you to be prepared.  We want you to believe so hard in yourself that no one will be able to tear you down.

Halfway through the month, we came back to Winchester and moved into a temporary rental, a 2 bedroom townhouse.  It’s been interesting.  You still have to share a room with Asha.  The dogs are with us and they are aware of every single thing.  They are very excited (and not in a good way) that there are neighbors and other dogs and cats around. You had a meet and greet at your school using a drive through.  We received your chromebook, your books and some supplies.  We met your teacher through google meet up and that was pretty cool.  Can’t believe summer is ending.

Dear Asha,

Aren’t you a lucky girl, you have been sharing a room with Ariya for the whole month.  You always wanted a sleepover, you’ve asked for it all the time, and now you get it.  But man.  You just won’t let each other sleep.  All you want to do is play play play.  And fight fight fight.  Fight over my old barbie dolls, fight over all of my old stuffed animals.  It’s a struggle.  You have these big feelings, big emotions, and it’s so hard to translate them into words.  You want what you want, and you have a hard time sharing.  But you still have so much fun with together.  You ran through sprinklers, and played with the garden hose.  You made mud pies and helped Nanu wash the cars.

Then we came back to Winchester.  We tried to get as much pool time in as possible.  It’s kind of tough when the contractors are working on the house every day.  But we made it work, and we had fun.

The realization that summer is coming to an end is hitting pretty hard.  I think the realization that your school is closed for the fall/winter is hitting pretty hard too.  Especially when Ariya got her chromebook, you said “what about me?”  I told you that you have to learn to read first.  So now you’re motivated.  You saw Ariya meet her teacher on google meet up.  And then you said “what about me?”  I was able to get your pre-school teacher to tutor you.  At least you get a break from me trying to teach you, and you have a real teacher teaching you some pretty cool things.  I think we’re going to be ok.  You are a smart, motivated girl that always needs to be challenged.  I bought a lot of homeschooling stuff for this year, I think we are going to have a great time.

Dear Anika,

Anika, you are a trooper.  You have been sleeping in a pack n play for the past month and you are amazing.  I remember traveling with Ariya and Asha when they were babies, and they HATED sleeping in the pack n play.  I don’t know what happened, was it the sleep consultant, was it just your personality?  I don’t know, but man, as long as you have your crib or pack n play, and we try to stick to your nap schedule, you are good.  Daddy and I have to share a room with you, and as long as we are quiet, you pretty much stay asleep.  It’s pretty amazing.  Or maybe we just know better this time around.

This was your first time at Nani and nanu’s house.  You had so much fun crawling all over the place.  And Nani and Nanu loved holding you and playing with you.  You started to crawl up the stairs, it’s only a matter of time before you start crawling up the stairs.

You have a 5th tooth growing in.  And honestly, I don’t think there was ever an issue.  I haven’t noticed you being more fussy or sleeping less or anything.  You’ve just been having a ball, playing in the grass, following your sisters, playing with all of your sisters old baby toys at Nani and nanu’s house, and basically just living your best life ever. 13 months old.  Wow, you are 13 months old and you just keep growing and growing.

 

Letters to My Children – July 2020

Dear Ariya,

The countdown is on.  We have been packing packing packing.  The offer on the house is in, we need to get the house inspected, and we need to go go go.  In the middle of the chaos, you had a few summer camps on zoom.  You did Storybook Ballet with SCAA.  That was a pretty fun week.  Your teacher had an activity planned every day.  You had story time and you did arts and crafts, along with a dance learned.  What a fun thing to do, even if it was through zoom.  You also had ballet once a week for the rest of the month. On top of that, we wrapped up your swim lessons.  You are getting better and better each time.  Once things go back to normal, we can look into joining a swim team, because I really think you’d enjoy it!

Grandma came to visit and help us pack the house up.  It was so great to have her here and you got to spend all of your time with her.  Asha and Anika loved their time with Grandma too.  And even Charlie and Emmy loved her attention and missed her when she left.

By the end of the month, we had the house cleared out, the movers came, and we tried to say goodbye.  It felt so rushed.  We drove down to Richmond to stay with Nani and Nanu for the next 2 weeks before our townhouse was available for rent.  No, our house is not done with renovations.  They are still working on it, and it should be another month or two before we can move in.  So Ariya, you’re going to have to get used to sharing a bed room with Asha.  It’s going to be tough, living out of a suitcase.  Hopefully we can get through this.

Dear Asha,

You had your own summer camp too, the Art Start Carnival, with SCAA.  You had the same activities as Ariya had.  But your story books were different and your dances were different.  We just love SCAA and our teacher, she is the best!  You got to see your friends on zoom, you got to dance and be silly.

You also had ballet once a week, which I’m so glad that you’re doing.  It’s nice to have activities just like your big sister.

You have made SO MUCH PROGRESS with swimming!  I was amazed to see you jump off the diving board into the deep end and SWIM.  I’m so proud of you.  And now I don’t have to worry about you as much.  You are still very fearless.  And you still make me worry.  Just not as much.

It’s funny, when we said goodbye to our house, I didn’t realize that you all wouldn’t be as sad as I was.  I know it’s just a house, but you and your sisters were just excited to be on the road, to spend time with Nani and Nanu.  I guess this was great planning on our parts, to have something exciting to look forward to.  Lots of Indian food, lots of hanging out with Nani and Nanu, lots of playing with Anika and showing her the ropes with all the toys that you have saved up at their house.

Dear Anika,

Oh my gosh, in the middle of all of this chaos, YOU TURNED ONE!!!  I am bawling my eyes out on the inside, because my baby, my last baby, is one.  You stopped nursing, you transitioned to a bottle, we went through all of the frozen breastmilk that I had saved up, now you’re drinking whole milk, and eating lots of different foods.  And you had cake!  Like your older sisters, I scheduled a cake smash for you.  And you were not a fan.  All the tears.  It didn’t help that the photographer, a good friend of mine, had to wear a mask.  And you couldn’t see our faces.  Everything was just weird.  The texture of the cake, the icing was different.  The whole experience.  It was interesting.  But really, I think you were just hungry for something you were comfortable with, and you were tired.

We had a pool party for you.  Grandma was here, and we had a few close friends over that we trust.  The kids had a blast.  You got to eat some pizza and then had some of that famous cake.  And you LOVED it.  It was a baby shark theme.  I couldn’t go all out like I wanted, but it was important that we were together with friends and family, and we were all happy and healthy and safe.

You became more and more comfortable in the water, which was awesome.  I think for our next session, we may have to learn survival just for water safety.  You haven’t started walking yet, but you’re still a crawling machine, and I’m worried that you’ll fall in and not know how to float.  So that’s next on our list of things to do.

We said goodbye to your room.  And it made me so sad.  You won’t remember anything except for the pictures we show you.  The backyard that we loved to hang out in, watch the dogs run around, watch the girls do their arts and crafts outside.  The kitchen where you pulled out all of the spices and would use them as shakers.  The tupperware that you would bang together in in the kitchen while I cooked dinner.  The basement where the big girls played and created jumbo castles made out of legos and then put you in.  The family room where the girls would watch tv and you would just play with all of your baby toys.  The bedroom where you would pull all the books off the bookshelves while I put away your laundry.  The driveway and front yard where we would just hang while the girls rode their bikes.  Man, we are going to miss this house.

But we’re going to see Nani and Nanu!!!  You haven’t seen them since February, and I don’t think you’ve ever been to their house.  So this will be nice.  So much Indian food to stuff your face with.  So many different toys to play with.  So much quality time with Nani and Nanu.  It’s going to be great!

Letters to My Children – April 2020

Dear Ariya,

We are going through week 4, 5, 6, and 7 of quarantine.  And you are missing school so hard.  You turned 7 on a Saturday, the day before Easter.  It was tough.  It was so tough.  I tried to make it special for you.  I asked all of our friends and family to send me a video clip for you, wishing you a happy birthday.  And man, that video was 14 minutes long.  So many people love and care for you.  And even though Daddy was working so much, I tried so hard to make it special for you.  I ordered a peacock cake from Crumbs and Crumbles. I decorated the eat in table with peacock colors, balloons and streamers.  I tried not to go overboard with the presents, but I think you favorite present was a new bike.  A NEW BIKE.  To celebrate your new skills.  You are 7!!  Where did the time go?

Dear Asha,

It’s crazy not having a regular schedule.  Ariya has her school work to do, and we try to do school work, “fun sheets” for you.  There are times when you say “what can i do?!?!”  We color.  we do crafts.  We paint.  You ride your bike and scooter with Ariya.  You have your zoom ballet lessons just like Ariya.  And it’s been tough while we’re trying to get this house ready to sell.  We had to move a lot of the toys.  Your stuff is packed up, in storage, in the other house.  You just want things to go back to normal.  You just want to see and play with your friends.  You just want to go to the park and swing on the swing set, or slide down the slides.  Sorry, sweetie, there are still too many unknowns.  But we’ll figure it out, I promise.  In the meantime, you are so great with baby Anika.  You love to make her laugh and you play with her, with her toys.

Dear Anika,

You’re 9 months old!!  And you started crawling!  Stop growing so fast.  It happened all of a sudden.  One minute you were on your hands and knees.  The next, you were rocking back and forth. And then you were off!  I still can’t believe it.

What can I say?  You love saying da da da da, ba ba ba ba.  You love playing with your toys.  But really, you love following your sisters around everywhere.  Whatever they are doing, you want to do too.  If they are cuddled on a blanket, you want to play with that blanket.  If they are sitting down, you’ll crawl into their lap.  They love you so much.

As we’re getting the house ready to put on the market, I have so many mixed feelings.  This was the house that we brought all of you home to.  Ariya and Asha had so many firsts in this house.  So many memories.  And I’m sad that we won’t have those memories for you.  But I’m trying to focus on the present.  And I’m trying to take as many pictures as I can, to try and remember everything.

 

Letters to My Children – March 2020

Dear Ariya,

Grandma joined us on our trip to California!  We had a layover in Chicago, but then finished our flight to San Diego.  We rented a car and checked in pretty late at the Bahia Resort.  You girls were knocked out, I think you didn’t even bother eating dinner.  But what an exciting time. I attended a photography conference called the Hybrid Collective.  You got to go off with Daddy, Asha, Anika and Grandma and go explore.  I think it was tough for you, you kept asking where I was, why I can’t hang with you all.  I did manage to escape for a few outings.  Our hotel was on Mission Bay, so you did get to play in the sand and water.  We also went to Cabrillo state park to look at the tide pools and go on a mini hike.  You had so much fun in the water and the sand, and learning about all of the things you’ve seen.  Uncle Eric joined us, which was nice, and he brought his girlfriend too. It was a nice mini reunion, with Grandma and Daddy and Uncle Eric.

Then, we went drove to Anaheim to spend the day at Disneyland!!  Oh my gosh, what a magical place.  We met up with my friend Erin from TheLeoLoves to take our pictures and it was so nice to have professional photos taken at the happiest place in the world.  You were so excited to meet all of the princesses, and get their autographs.  It was pretty cool.  There was a moment where I thought I lost you.  We had some minnie mouse ice cream, and you saw Donald Duck.  I told you it was ok to get in line, but did not realize that Donald Duck was walking AWAY from us. When I turned around, you were gone.  I swear, I lost it.  Daddy and Grandma had no idea what was wrong.  I just turned my back for a second, and just freaked out.  We ended up finding you, first in line to see Donald.  And I was so happy and upset, I didn’t even realize that I made you get out of line, to give you the biggest hug ever.  I don’t think this has ever happened to me, and of course, it happened in Disneyland. But you were ok, we were all ok.  whew!

You were pretty fascinated with the Star Wars part of the park, but there wasn’t really much for you to do there.  And at the end of the night, when the parade and fireworks started.  Wow, you were all amazed.  It was the perfect end to the night!

We came home on a direct flight from Los Angeles to Dulles.  You got to spend a week at school, and you were so happy to see your friends. You’ve been talking about your birthday party, and celebrating with your friends.

And then the coronavirus hit the rest of the United States.  You weren’t able to go to school.  We weren’t able to have play dates.  The gym shut down.  No more ballet, or theater class, no more bollywood dance.  At first, you were excited.  It’s like one big staycation.  I was worried.  I never signed up for homeschooling.  But I knew I wasn’t going to let you have a ton of screen time day in and day out.  So there was a lot of scrambling to keep you girls busy.

In the middle of all of this, we closed on a new house.  We started our search for a new house in January, and never thought we would be buying a new house in the middle of a pandemic.  But here we are.  The house is great, it has a pool, it’s on 5 acres.  There are horses behind our tree line.  The inside will need a lot of work, but we’re excited to make new choices.  You and Asha won’t have to share a bathroom, so there’s that.

Most of all, we’re just thankful that we’re healthy and safe.  Daddy has to work a lot, but that’s the same as always.  It’s just business as usual for him.  If he’s not stressing, we’re not stressing.

Dear Asha,

You were so excited for California.  The idea of having a sleepover EVERY DAY was your idea of a dream.  You got to cuddle with Ariya and hang out with Grandma.  It took some time warming up to Grandma, but by the end of the week, you were sad to see her go.  In the meantime, we did some fun things.  You had no care in the world when you rushed into the bay.  It was breezy, it was not summer time.  But you just love the water.  Your pants were soaked.  Even when we went to Cabrillo State Park.  Shoes off and pants slightly rolled up, you were so excited to be near the water.  And overtime the water crashed on the rocks, you squealed with glee.  But every time you got near the edge of a cliff, I think you gave me a heart attack each time.

Disneyland was so exciting!  You were super excited to see all of the princesses, and to have your very own autograph book, just like Ariya had.  You could have cared less for the lines, you were just so excited to ride the rides, and eat all the junk food and see the next best thing.  But I think the best part was the parade and the fireworks at night.  You were on Daddy’s shoulders and you were in heaven!

You had school for just 3 days (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) before we realized that you weren’t going back to pre-school.  You pre-school was just following the county’s guidelines, and the county realized that there was no way that we could go back to school before the end of the year.  So, no more school until hopefully the fall.  In the mean time, you’ve been playing a lot with Ariya and Anika.  You are so excited to have Ariya home.  We’ve been trying to do some school work, some coloring, practicing writing, reading lots of books.  But you are obsessed with tablet time.  But sometimes, it’s the only way I can get some quiet time, to do stuff around the house.  No one’s complaining though.  As long as there’s a good balance, we’re all ok.

 

Dear Anika,

Oh my goodness, your first plane ride is to California!  And you were a rockstar!!  You were so content, not a lot of fussing or crying.  You nursed, you slept, you played with your sisters.  And Grandma and Daddy held you when you got tired of being with me.

The time change was interesting.  Your napping and bedtime schedule was way out of whack.  It was tough getting you to sleep in the crib and by the end of the trip, you were in bed with us.  Do what we have to do to survive right?  I think you were happy to be in bed with us too.

You got to attend your first photography conference 🙂  I like to start you girls off young 🙂 Daddy wasn’t able to get you to nap when you went off on adventures with Grandma and your sisters, so I ended up wearing you so I could hear my favorite photographer Jonathan Canlas talk.  And then I nursed you in the bathroom (good thing they had a cute waiting area with the most awesome light, of course I had to take a picture).  You met some of my friends from the photography world and were the best baby ever.

Disneyworld was nice for you, because you were either being worn by me or daddy, or in the stroller with Grandma driving you.  You could have cared less for the rides or the princesses, but at least we have pictures of you there.

By the time we got back, the world was in the middle of a pandemic.  And you were just happy to have your sisters home with you.  I don’t think you even remember what it was like to be on your own, because the girls were with you every second that you were awake.  And you love them so much.

Letters to My Children – February 2020

Dear Ariya,

February was a normal month.  The usual events happened.  You had theater class on Mondays, ballet on Thursdays, Balvihar and bollywood dance on Sundays.  We’ve had some pretty busy weekends, hanging out with friends.  You’re loving school as always.  But you’re really looking forward to our trip to California with Grandma the first week of March.  There’s this thing going on, this virus called COVID-19 (or coronavirus) that’s been spreading across the world, and there were some cases in California.  I was worried about going to California, but we had been planning this trip for a while, and everyone else thought it wasn’t a big deal.  So we decided to go.

Dear Asha,

You are thriving so well at school.  You’re learning so much and you’re so happy with all of the crafts that you’re doing there.  You come home with a cool craft every week.  You started doing a sports class at the Little Gym on Tuesdays, and one of your friends from school is there.  So that’s been great, having Ariya and Anika come to see you do your thing.  And you have so much energy.  Oh my gosh, you have so much energy.  Apparently ballet, the little gym and bollywood dance is not enough for you.  You are excited to go on an airplane to go to California.  And you can’t wait to sleep in a hotel, it’s like one big slumber party.

 

Dear Anika,

You, my sweetheart, are driving me crazy.  You are not sleeping at all.  You fall asleep for a few hours at a time.  Nursing you to sleep did not help.  I was at my wit’s end.  I ended up calling a sleep consultant to help.  We thought we’d get some healthy sleep habits established before we go on our trip.  And wow, you were a rockstar.  We figured out a nap schedule, you ended up only waking up once a night.  It was amazing.  So worth it.  We are all well rested because of it.  And next month, you’re going on your first plane trip to California!!

 

Letters to My Children – January 2020

Dear Ariya,

It’s a new year, and I think we’re all over this holiday vacation. My birthday was January 1st, and you all really wanted to make it special. Daddy was working so we decided to go have lunch for him at work. It was a nice day, I think you all were just ready to go back to school. We tried to go for a walk but Anika started fussing, and then Asha started fussing and you were so frustrated.

Not much happened this month at school. There was visitor’s day at ballet, where we could see all the hard work you’ve been putting in there. It was cute watching you dance and seeing all that you’ve learned.

I gave you and your sister a disposable camera, for Christmas and finally got those developed, so I thought I’d share a few of those. Also, I wanted to try a weekly portrait project, so you and Asha have become my main subjects for trying portrait photography, with backgrounds and lighting. Thanks Ariya!

 

Dear Asha,

The Christmas season was so exciting, but I think you were ready for (or needed) a routine. School couldn’t start soon enough. Other than getting back into a routine, not much was happening. You had a visitor day at ballet, and it was so sweet seeing you show off your moves. I enjoyed it thoroughly. At the Little Gym, you’re now 4, and one of the oldest in the class! You’re still enjoying it though. You also enjoyed taking photos on your OWN disposable camera.

Dear Anika,

You’re six months old! It kind of breaks my heart that you’re growing so fast. You’re so curious and always aware of everything going on around you. I have the hardest time nursing you with a cover, you’re constantly grabbing at it, wanting to see what’s going on around you.

You’re trying new foods! You’ve started with apple puree, and then pears and sweet potatoes, bananas, avocados and carrots and green beans. Of course you like the apples, pears and sweet potatoes best.

Here are some photos from your disposable cameras, along with our January.