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The Sweet Life

Kindergarten...Sad Beginning, Happy Ending

cookiecakes.jpgCookie Cakes for a birthday celebrationIt’s been awhile since my posts about Rohan and his tough kindergarten adjustment. Now he’s on the cusp of first grade and I realize it’s a good time to fill you in on how the last school year ended…and give a shout out to all you parents whose babies are starting kindergarten next week. No matter how rough it starts, things can and often will improve!

Well, the good news is that kindergarten ended far better than it began.  Rohan was happier and more settled.  He made friends, not the same way as his more outgoing little sister who had a definite "best friend" at the end of the year but he was friendly with all the students in his class.  At his end of year party, which was pirate themed (as was his class all year long), he was beaming as he spent time with his friends and presented gifts to his teachers.  Clearly he was far more comfortable and in his element than he had been in the first part of the year. 

I adore the fact that he was happy to have me bring him French fries while the rest of the class ate chicken nuggets, not feeling any need to conform even though he has that choice (I am a vegetarian but his dad is not and at thislastdaykindergarten2.jpgFriends point he has the option to eat in either manner…although at home we are purely vegetarian so my bias is olastdaykindergarten.jpgEnd of Year Pirate Partybvious!).  He prides himself in telling the others about how many animals are herbivores and of course since he wants to be a wildlife biologist, a paleontologist, a serpentologist, a marine biologist or an entomologist depending on the day or place, his love for animals is too great for him to consider them for consumption.

His teacher proved to be instructionally exceptional.  She continued in that vein with the follotimecapsule.jpgKindergarten Class Momentoswing end of the year items:  a sealed time capsule to be opened after high school graduation, a treasure chest in which all of his books throughout the year were maintained and compiled and a gift-wrapped book to be opened only on September 1st, the day before first grade begins.  She also gave each volunteer a signed framed photograph of the class and a Starbucks gift card.  Comparing notes with other moms, I found that what his teacher did was specific only to his class. The challenge of a large class never went away and he ended with 26 students in his class, a fact that I find appalling.  Under those circumstances, both the students and teachers coped well.

I continued my Monday morning volunteering throughout the year and it seemed to make a huge difference for Rohan  (I’m really glad that my in-home baking business allows me this flexibility and I hope to cookiecakes2.jpgOne cookie: many designs!volunteer again this year).  It wasn't that I was there very long, but when his friends gave me hugs or hustled to sit next to me, he loved that it was his mom they were eager to be with... and I loved that I got to know the students' personalities in his class.  I saw students develop handwriting skills over the course of the year and the results were astounding.  The greatest change was watching students learn how to read and as the weeks turned into months, I was thrilled to see both Rohan and his friends reading signs and slogans and then books and then (unfortunately!) commercials.  My son will verbatim tell me what toy will "astound and amaze" him, yes...there is a downside even to reading!  

rishireading.jpgReading to his sister's preschool classNear the end of the school year, Rohan was invited to read a book to his sister's preschool class and she was so incredibly proud of her brother.  She was so excited to laugh out loud at the ending despite having heard the story several times.  That was one of the most lasting memories I have of the past year.  I noticed the divide between the girls and boys beginning to form as girls had parties with no boys and in my daughter's class there was a weekly playgroup for all boys.  We have not resorted to gender separation yet for birthday parties; my kids still want "all" of their friends around, but it's coming...  reading2.jpgReading to the preschool class

All in all, a year that started as a challenge ended well. Rohan had a specific teacher in mind for 1st grade since she was a teacher he worked with in some after-school special topic class.  He has since been assigned to that teacher so he's happy.  We know he loves his bus driver and try as we may, he refuses to have us pick him up or drop him off, he looks forward to the school bus because she is structured (assigned seats on the bus, no eating, young kids in the front) and that seems to work for Rohan.  So in just a few days, we'll walk him to the bus stop and wish him well as he embarks into what is now a known world and begins first grade!

 

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King's Dominion...Seems Much Improved to Me!

kingsdom1.jpgVenturing into the Dinosaur AreaMy expectations were low, lower than I care to admit.  So low that despite all the advertising about the dinosaur exhibit, I could not compel myself to take my six-year old, dinosaur obsessed, aspiring paleontologist to spend the day at Kings Dominion.  Believe me, I've had my share of Kings Dominion.  Fourteen years of taking 25 college students to spend an entire day at the park was enough to give me plenty of experience.  I've never been a huge roller coaster fan but in my attempt to be a good sport I rode the roller coasters (I remember saying a prayer while rocking on the Berserker. I didn't think I would survive that ride.)  That was actually in high school or college and I enjoyed the park more at that time but never enough for a season pass.  It was a fun way to spend the day but that is all.  It wasn't until they launched the dinosaur exhibit that I realized it's been seven years since I've visited Kings Dominion.

cherryblossom.jpgCherry Blossom CupcakesEven with the dinosaur exhibit lingering over my head, making me feel guilty every time my son mentioned it, I could not get myself in the mode to take a day and drive to King's Dominion.  Eventually, a close friend convinced me that it was nicer, cleaner and more fun than she expected and worth a shot.  She in fact was going for the second time in two weeks, and knowing I would have a good group to keep me company gave me the optimism to give it a try with my dinosaur fan.  For the past year he has seen posters, dinosaurs at the local mall and heard advertising so he knew that if he went to King's Dominion he could see the dinosaurs.  My daughter attended a camp this week and I felt guilty about him being home because I hadn’t thought in advance to find any camp that he would enjoy...now I know, you HAVE to plan all summer camps well in advance...parenting is a learning experience every day right?   So when my friend convinced me to join them at the park and when I realized that my daughter would be gone, I thought this would be a good day to try it again....  I left the bills that needed to be paid, clothes that needed to be organized and cake that needed to be baked for the next day.  Instead, I took my son for a rare day with just the two of us and headed off to Kings Dominion.

We met our friends there and joined them briefly before breaking off for lunch.  I was impressed to see that the park offered many more varieties of food choices then I remember and it was cleaner.  A friend told me she thinks the cleanliness is a result of no more smoking at the park and that makes sense.  Anyway back to lunch, Rishi chose Chik-fil-A (they make a grilled cheese and fries for the vegetarians) and I opted for a pretzel at Auntie Anne's.  I carried a bottle of water but Rishi is not much of a snacker so lunch was enough to carry him through the day.   If my daughter had joined us, I would have had to have a different snack for every hour of our day so it was a relief to not have to worry about that.  

kingdom3.jpgWe finished lunch and embarked upon the Dinosaur adventure.  It was wonderful.  The exhibit would be boring to children who are not interested in dinosaurs and there is an extra charge for this part of the park, probably because they need to pay for the majestic creations that move, make sounds and look so incredibly realistic.  They have a fossil site where the kids can play in the sand pit and unearth the fossil below.

When a park employee asked Rishi if he could identify the fossil, he immediately responded "Allosaurus of course!"  It was pure pleasure and well worth the time and the few extra dollars.  The area was quiet, people there were interested in the beasts and Rishi was enthralled.  The only downside to the dinosaur area is making your way in and out. Both of course are through the gift shop so if you can tackle that without spending a few extra dollars, you're in good shape...and luckier than I am!

We exited the gift store and joined our friends for a carousel ride.  The overcast day resulted in a quiet park, which was wonderful, perfect weather and no lines.  Rishi rode some rides 5 or 6 times without having to wait.  Several rides later, we made our way out of the park, content and pleased with a wonderful day.  Next year...season passes?  We'll see!

 

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Everybody Loves Costco...With Some Exceptions!

christeningcake.jpgChristening Cake www.ameetabakes.comWho doesn't love Costco?  It's the perfect place with something for all of us.  I don't really know how my family ever managed to stock up on toilet paper and paper towels before Costco came to town.   When my kids were little I preferred the Costco brand nasal drops to all others.  From regular Kirkland brand wipes for diapers, we transitioned to their flushable wipes (and still do!) as we ventured into potty training.  When my son was a toddler, he loved shopping at lunch when he would make a meal of the samples.  I prefer going before the samples are served to get in and out but my husband agrees with my son, samples are the best part!  He gets his beer and wine from there, we love the produce, the cheeses and if you're going for a store bought cake, it's my favorite in terms of taste.

But sometimes it's frustrating too.  For example when my husband got completely addicted to the pomegranate chocolate ice-cream bars and then they stopped carrying them.  We called the manufacturer and tried in vain to find another place to buy them locally.  Now they are nothing but a distant dream for him, those delicious pomegranate ice-cream bars. 

I had the same experience with Luna bars.  As a rule, I dislike health food bars.  My sister keeps telling me how wonderful they are but until I sampled a Luna bar at Costco, I never thought to buy a protein bar.  After buyingI bought  them twice, Costco stopped carrying the Luna bars and it would have been a complete disappointment for me as well, except that I can still get them at Wegman's. 

Then of course there are the kids’ toys.  We purchased our entire playground at Costco online and three years later, it's as good as new.  For Christmas the toy selection is wonderful...I mean if I list everything I buy there it's would be ridiculous.

Recently, a cousin from New Jersey visited my parents.  We do not wear shoes in the house (think about your kids picking up something from the floor after you walked into a public restroom with those shoes...enough said!) and my husband, my brother and my cousin's husband noticed they were all wearing the same socks.  My husband was thrilled to be wearing the same socks as my fashion forward brother, my cousin's husband was similarly amused about wearing the same socks as the "young guys" and my brother began thinking that maybe Costco is not the place for a cool younger guy like himself to buy socks anymore....

Wearing the same thing as other people is not such a big deal for me because Costco is not where I usually shop for clothes...until, I IMG_9953.jpgBaptism Cakewalked in a couple of months ago and spotted Miracle swim suits.  Apparently, they are like the Spanx of bathing suits.  I remember seeing similar Miracle swim suits for $140 a few years ago and another reason why I noticed the display in Costco is because my friend Julene wore one and she swears it's  really is a miracle and worth every penny.  

That made it stick in my mind but I don't go to the pool enough to shell out that kind of money for a swim-suit; I’m (Asian) Indian guys, it's not like I need to work on my tan!  Well Costco had the Miracle suits for $39.99 but the only problem is that they had just five or six designs.  It would be embarrassing to go to my pool and find that everyone purchased the same swimsuit because they too had discovered the Spanx of bathing suits.  So...I passed the swimsuits since I really don't swim that much and I have more than enough already.  

On my next trip to Costco they were marked down to $29.99 for a few days...this is where Costco just kills me.  I mean it's like the bathing suit was begging me to take it home.  So...I picked one up on the giant plastic mannequin on which it was displayed and folded it in half so it would be less obvious in my cart.  I'm already self-conscious about things like prancing around the pool half-naked; I think it's a cultural thing.  Anyway, holding a big-breasted mannequin while walking through Costco is equally embarrassing but like I said, I managed to fold it in half and that made is bearable.  

ladybugcakepops.jpgLadybug Cake PopsI paid for my cartful of goods (you don’t think I only bought the bathing suit do you?) and walked out into the parking lot.  In the distance I spotted a vendor who sells my baked goods in his café.  As I was about to wave hello, my folded mannequin popped back up in her bathing suit as if to salute this individual too.  I ducked my head instead of waving, hurried to my car and threw it in the trunk.  

Costco may be awesome but sometimes it can be downright embarrassing!

 

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Facebook Birthday Greetings, SO Overrated...NOT! (yes, I'm using 90's, lingo what can I say?!)

Facebook birthday reminders are just annoying sometimes.

First of all, cool people are not even on Facebook, my husband is proof of that although he is constantly looking over my shoulder to see the pictures and he loves chukupursecake_1.jpgMy most popular cake to date, made for my sister on her birthday last yearwhen I read him status updates. Hmmmm…maybe I’m the cool one because I have that access?Secondly, facebook birthday greetings are many things including annoying as I mentioned and disingenuous.Let me explain why:

Annoying…that name pops up and you have just a few minutes to check your news feed but guilt sets it so you scroll back and just write happy birthday.

Touching…reading all those birthday feeds makes the birthday girl feel pretty special, despite the fact that she probably hasn’t even seen the well wishers in years.

Nostalgic…I see those names pop up and immediately recall a funny moment about that person and a memory of which they may not even be aware…it’s a nice feeling to just remember sometimes.

Disingenuous.  Your real friends do not need a reminder to know it's your birthday right? 

Hence, even cool Facebook users like myself (this is called positive self-esteem okay?!) don’t need those Facebook birthday messages to feel special on birthdays, right?WRONG! I tested this theory and it was a massive fail!

It's my friend Mary's fault the fault of Mary’s husband.  Over lunch last spring she was explaining the pitfalls of Facebook and the compromised security factor.  She is an avid Facebook user so I listened.

Her husband is an IT expert and she passed along his advice: remove her birthday from Facebook for most of the year for security reasons. But because everyone wants to be feted on their big day, he said to go ahead and add her birthday back a week before the big date. Easy peasy, so I did just that. Sort of. I removed my birthday but then forgot to add it back. No big deal right? My real friends would know when my birthday was anyway, right? My birthday fell on a Sunday morning last year.  My husband was wonderful as always. He had planned to take me away for the evening since my gracious in-laws were eager to have some one-on one time with our kids.  It would have been a lovely day except that my beloved aunt was in critically ill and my entire family was rightfully preoccupied with her condition. Given her condition, I was in no mood to celebrate when I woke up that morning but my husband encouraged me to check Facebook, read my birthday messages and maybe get a little boost. Let me tell you…NO messages. That’s right, 800 friends (okay well they don't ALL get my updates but still...), NO messages.

My family was excused, they were understandably preoccupied. To be fair, my friend Dan did call from Puerto Rico. I got a few texts…Charmaine texted from Bermuda, Kim texted and so did the boy who liked me throughout high school…go figure. Maria called at 9 pm at which point I was already in bed so I did not get the message until the next day. It turns out that I did get a single lonesome FB (that’s Facebook for the regulars) message from my friend Yvette around 8 pm in the evening. That verified that my account was working and people could post if they felt so inclined. I do remember thinking that maybe Facebook was just not working and delaying posts, Yvette’s post negated that thought! This year…I am SO not too cool to have my birthday on Facebook. And forget about security, it’s not like I’d post my birth year on Facebook…hello, even regular FB users need some privacy!

pursecake.jpgDesigning a Purse Cake

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You or your mom, who to celebrate on Mother's Day?

I was barely a mom for a month on my first Mother's Day; in fact I had not even left my mom's house after having my baby firstmothersday.jpgFirst Mother's Day, 2008 (changed out of sweats just to take this picture!) when I got my first Mother's Day wish.  It was a text from a former student, and it took me by surprise.  It was a strange feeling to get cards (from my dear twin girlfriends) and good wishes based on nothing more than losing sleep and nursing for three weeks.  I mean it pales in comparison to what my mother did over a lifetime for three children.  But there I was, being celebrated in all my non-earned glory.  My husband made dinner and we watched a movie while the baby slept.  My mom left the house to have dinner with my siblings after having lunch at home with me and it was a pretty perfect day.  A baby boy, a doting husband (you know the new “my wife just had a baby and I'm on top of the world” type of husband)...I mean it was just a lovely first Mother's Day! 

The guilt I felt for being celebrated for those first three weeks has quickly diminished.  Now that I am six plus years into this mommy gig, and have meandnani.jpgPeonies class, May 2014two kids, there have been times I could barely go to the bathroom and take a shower so if the world wants to have a day a year to celebrate, that's fine by me!  However, on the bright side, it's amazing how much more time I have with a four-year old and a six-year old than I did just last year or the year before.  The interactions are getting deeper, the personalities are so much stronger and the time we have is so much more adaptable...not perfect but so much easier than ever before.  They still don't cooperate in every situation but being a mom is a trying, thankless task yet one that most of us wished for anyway.  At this age, my children express themselves so well; and, to know how much they love me is a fulfillment hard to express in words, I won’t even try since I know I’m preaching to the choir here.

kimsshower.jpgBecky, Kim, Julene, Ameeta, MariaRecently, two of my close girlfriends lost their moms and I cannot stop thinking about them.  We went to college together, met in the same sorority and navigated the years of single sisterhood together.  They took me to Miami before I got married to celebrate.  When Julene lost her mom in November, it was a complete shock.  Her mom suffered from pneumonia after hip surgery and she never managed to recover.  Three months later, Kim's mom was admitted to the hospital for colitis and she passed away there just a couple of weeks later.  I obsessed about this.... talking to my mom, my siblings, my husband because I could not get over it.  How can this happen so completely unexpectedly to someone my age?  I mean I'm young, this should not be happening to anyone in my age group yet...and two friends from the same small circle of five, it's unthinkable.  I've had another close friend lose her mother but it was from Parkinson's so it was not as unexpected although equally devastating.  To be completely honest these losses just completely freak me out! 

While most of you moms out there are fiercely independent and doing amazing things on your own, I am not naniwithnewbornandme.jpgHours after giving birth, April 2008ashamed...okay maybe a little embarrassed...but not ashamed to admit that I live just a couple of streets over from my mother, about half a mile away.  Like my friend Kim used to do with her mom, I talk to my mother multiple times a day.  She drives me crazy with her constant advice, concern and wisdom but I don't go a day without speaking to her or seeing her.  My husband is in sales and he often travels and on those days...and MANY other days, we have dinner at my mom's.  I mean what's the point of cooking an entire meal when she's doing it anyway, and doing it exceptionally well I might add?!  My son's favorite place to get off the bus is at her house because he knows that he'll walk into a house full of love and she'll make something hot to eat and he savors that time.  

My mom worries when I have too many baking orders, when I lose sleep, when my husband is on the road.  When I'm sick she makes homemade remedies and brings them over.  When I gave birth, everyone was understandably thrilled about the baby. My husband was excited to be whisked away to give our newborn a bath but my mom kept her focus on me, staying in the room and making sure she was there if I needed anything. When I was nursing she made water using fennel seeds and food using fenugreek to help my milk flow...the hospital lactation consultant wanted her recipes! When we're on nanivedareeya.jpgNani with her two grand-daughtersvacation, she makes sure that she leaves milk, bread and dinner for us so we have it when we return.  Hmmmm..I'm beginning to see where my obsession with food originated.   

After having each of my children, I stayed at my parents’ home. Three months with my first born and one month after my second...that's right, you read it correctly: three months.  You would too if someone took as good care of you.  When my son was born, my house was still in disarray because we had just moved in so I wasn't anxious to return to that chaos and I have a room at my parents’ home anyway.  The same room I had when I lived there.  Yes I'm a grown woman, a mom in my own right admitting to a huge truth...I am still dependent on my mother, I still rely on her advice far more than she realizes and I am so grateful to have her down the street.  To me Mother's Day is not so much a celebration of me as it is about being grateful to her for modeling the behavior I hope my children see in me some day.

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About Ameeta

Moms of the world...we're in the kitchen all the time so why not make it fun...RIGHT?! After working in the field of higher education for over a decade, I decided to stay home. Being here is wonderful (sometimes!). BUT, I love the invaluable (read crazy but good) moments with my children. One thing I miss about work is having a creative outlet. Decorating cakes and cookies gives me that focus for my creativity. It's therapeutic to work on cakes, cookies and the like. As you will understand, with two young children, lots of therapy is necessary! Hence I've been baking more and more....and in my blog I'll be sharing my culinary adventures with you with a side serving of raising my two kids! For pictures and information about my confections, please visit my site at www.ameetabakes.com

 

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