Practical uses for a Turban

Practical Use of Turban, #1

Cover your Head

Recently, my brother-in-law and father-in-law came home from a distribution, the new owners of two brightly colored turbans.  For a while they just sat on the ironing table.  Then, my father-in-law came up with something way more fun.

Practical Use of Turban, #2


Normal Things

View from our Apartment Door

Yesterday afternoon, Leila woke up from her nap in a cranky mood.  The kids are sharing a room, and so when Leila woke up, Reuben also woke up, and far too early at that.  We needed to pass the time somehow, and decided on one of our (meaning JP and Katy’s) favorite late afternoon pastimes: taking a short walk down the street and back.  While Reuben tends to kick back and enjoy the ride in his stroller, Leila has not caught on to the simple pleasures and surprises involved in this little 10-15 minute jaunt.  Leila drags her feet and whines most of the way, wanting JP to carry her on his shoulders.  However, being the gluttons for punishment that we are, we  took our cranky three year old out for her least favorite activity in India.

Things went mostly like usual, except that we decided to stop at a little shop on the way back to purchase some pretty paper stars.  (These stars pop up everywhere this time of year, making Indian shops and streets appear even more festive than usual.)  Being that we really haven’t decorated for Christmas in any way whatsoever, I figured the stars were a perfect and natural solution.  The shop had a small selection of about six stars which made it easy for my typically indecisive self to decide on a red one, a green one, and for Leila to vote for a gold one.

This small Shop sells mainly school supplies

In the short time that it took for me to choose my three pretty stars, my two pretty children- without even trying- made a HUGE impression on the young woman and school age boy running the shop.  This is a common experience for us.  People love our children.  If I may take the risk of making a blanket statement about Indian people as a whole, I would say that they are a baby-loving culture.  Add to this “fact” the exotic looking nature of little Leila’s skin tone, and the adorable charm of young Reuben, and suddenly we find ourselves surrounded by clucks and chirps, winks and pinches, (plus generously given cookies and free pieces of candy) all designed to capture the attention of one child or another.  Though I’m never quite used to the effusive adoration, I have learned to smile graciously, and take it in stride.


 Now, regarding the stars… as often happens in India, when it came time to pay, we did not have the exact amount for our purchase, and there was no money to make change.  The young boy was promptly sent hither and yon, to all the rest of the shops on the street, to find smaller bills and some change for us.  Two things happened while we waited- both very normal things.  First, a wandering cow paid us a visit.  As far as I can tell, the “wandering” cows do actually stay in about the same general vicinity all day, and make their way “home” to be milked in the late afternoon.  I’ve seen this particular cow on our street many times, and I rather like her.  She has a very lovely bell around her neck, fastened by what JP tells me is a “regular cow bell chain,” but I seriously thought it was some sort of motorbike chain.  She is also adorned by a simple, but nice, seashell headband.  (I tried to find her today for a glamour shot, but she wasn’t around, sorry!)  She came close enough that I really wondered if she’d kiss Reuben in his stroller.  Leila watched the whole thing with a good deal of interest.

Right after this, the young woman working in the shop came forward and asked if she could take Reuben.  I knew what she meant.  Everyone always wants to hold your baby here, so I nodded that it was ok, and assisted with the clips and straps of the stroller (a very foreign contraption in India.)  No sooner did the girl take him from the stroller, and she was up the stairs to share Reuben with what I can only assume were her family and friends.

Up 3 Floors to visit his 'Aunties'

And JP, Leila, and I stayed down below, waiting, and wondering what sights he was seeing and what snacks he might be given.  We heard happy chatter from the women above, and then, a minute or two later, the cries of poor Reuben who suddenly realized his family was down on the street.  I guess the good news is that when your baby cries in India, they quickly find mom and return the baby.  Soothing is momma’s job.

Around this time the boy returned with our change, and we happily returned home with three new stars, and a handful of new friends.  It pays to shop locally, I think.  This time it made me remember (and hopefully helped Leila learn) about how different (but fine) the normal things are here.

The stars in the sky look down where he lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

“Hi, Family!”

Two Alagars, old & new!

Reuben Alagar Sundararajan.

That is my baby boy’s name.  It suits him perfectly, somehow.  I love when a name just seems to match a person, and I feel that both my kids have names that suit them well.  Alagar is a family name.  Somehow it skipped JP, but the rest of the first-born males on his dad’s side (dad, grandfather, great-grandfather, and so on,) have Alagar as part of  their name.  One of the joys of being in India is seeing all of the living Alagars together, especially since JP’s grandfather moved in with JP’s parents after our last visit.  It is good to see “Big Tata” happily surrounded by family, relishing his role as great-grandpa.

Four Generations

Reuben is a bit more gregarious than his big sister was at this stage, and has thoroughly enjoyed the attention lavished on him by his family members.  Big Tata is what we call JP’s grandfather, and Reuben is enamored with Big Tata.  Big Tata spends a good amount of time sitting in a chair at the top of the ramp that connects the office building to the stairs that go up to our apartment area.  I pass him multiple times a day carrying Reuben in my arms, and as often as Big Tata has some sort of commentary or question to pose to Reuben, Reuben has a smile or a squeak to offer in response.  They have an adorable relationship.  I have no idea what they talk about really, but it sure seems pure and joy-filled.

the buddies

One of the cutest things that Leila says is, “Hi, Family!”  It is her own phrase, likely adapted from some conversation that we’ve had previously, but I get such a kick out of seeing her walk into a room and greet us with such affection and familiarity.  Despite Leila’s on-going shyness with the world around her, one of the things that always makes her feel comfortable is family.  Whether we are in the U.S. or in India, Leila loves her family.

Leila enjoying Girl Time

It has been a real treat to watch her easily re-connect with her Tata and Ava here.  She had just been getting comfortable enough with Tata and Ava on our last trip to go on the scooter with them for shopping.  I was afraid that the distance would be hard on their relationship.  However, we are now seeing the hours upon hours of Skype time that has taken place between visits pay off.  There wasn’t a single bump in the road.  From the first moment, Leila knew her India Tata and Ava, and has embraced life with them.  Often, you can find her whiling away the evening by “cooking” all nature of food and snacks for her grandparents to nibble on (you gotta love Leila’s imagination,) not to mention the games of ball, swing rides, and hide and seek.  It has also been a beautiful thing to watch Leila grow in relationship with her uncle and aunt … and certainly her cousin, Judith.  You should have seen Leila race down the stairs as soon as her dad told her that Judith had arrived this morning.

Leila comfortable on James Chittappa's lap

Sometimes, for adults, fitting into a new country and culture can be tedious, or painful, or confusing.  Trust me, I’ve had my moments.  😉  I had some concern that Leila, especially, would struggle to find her identity in India.  I need not have worried.  She is doing fine.  This is her home.  This is her family.  That is enough for her, and I am beyond grateful.  We might be a fourth generation of this family, but the history is longer, and the family tree casts a much wider shade that we can believe.  It feels good to sit in the cool comfort of that shade, recognizing that we are a part of something.  As my children sink down their own roots, they quietly and steadily draw me more intimately into the fold.  I, too, am a part of this family.  Each day I feel more certain that I can quietly claim that this is my India too, that I can walk into the room and say with a grin, “Hi, Family!”

Reuben Lives into India

I had kind of wondered what it would be like to watch Reuben learn and grow in India. We, of course, watched Leila learn and grow in India (twice already,) but Leila and Reuben are entirely different in their approach to living.

Since we’ve arrived, Reuben has been his usual self, taking life by the horns, and he ain’t lookin’ back. Last week he cut his first tooth. He seemed rather crabby about that tooth, but I suppose it could have been jet-lag. We’ll see how the rest goes. He has also managed to start swallowing (instead of just pushing it back out with his tongue) and heartily, messily enjoying rice cereal.

I was most curious about Reuben learning to crawl in India because we never saw Leila do that here. We thought you might enjoy a little peek at his efforts. This video was taken earlier this afternoon.

A Seasonal Life

kiddos chillin' on the porch

This time last year, while I was pregnant with Reuben, I had a dream.  My dream involved sitting on my porch with my kids.  I imagined that once the baby was born, Leila would happily play on the porch, and I would spend endless hours nursing on the flowered swing.  I also pictured my growing baby giggling in a Bumbo seat, or swinging contentedly in his baby swing.  It has taken nearly 5 months (today’s is actually Reuben’s 5 month birthday!) for this dream to become a reality, but it is with great gobs of gladness that we have spent many a spare moment lingering on the porch lately.  Early last week “Indian Summer” rolled in, becoming the largest variable that made these idyllic moments possible.  We re-opened the windows to catch the warm breezes, and we smiled.  It was nice to have gotten beyond September’s busy-ness and found the porch to be such a hospitable place to rest our weary bodies.

A well-lived in Porch

The other thing that our slightly relaxed schedule recently allowed us to do is go apple picking.  While JP and I are very much lacking in the traditions realm of our life, one tradition that we have carefully cultivated in our seven years of marriage has been apple picking.  Each year we make our way to our local west-Michigan apple orchard, usually with a few friends in tow, and fill our bags to the brim.  It is a very favorite activity of ours- and a very yummy one too!  This year we brought our friend Kristen, and she brought her camera.  Not only did we manage to pick nearly 30 pounds of apples with a nearly three year old and an infant, but we squeezed in a family photo session too.  I’m pleased to report that none of us had a coronary in the process, and we largely enjoyed the glorious Fall day.  (And, if I know my JP, he’ll show you those pictures just as soon as we get our hands on them!!)  I’ll just show you the pie that I made!

In my family I grew up with the saying, "Apple pie without some cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze."

Not having planted a garden this year, I have lived into our Farmer’s Market with a grateful heart.  Nothing seems to taste better to me than fresh, local food.  We ate our way through the strawberries, the peas and the lettuces.  There was great rejoicing when the corn came, and we gobbled up the cherries.  We ate about a bushel of blueberries, and whole armfuls of cucumbers and peppers… not to mention those little German butter ball potatoes.  We lugged home a watermelon.  I breathed deeply of the intoxicating smell of dill on my green onions.  And, we even tasted some tomatoes recently, something I developed an aversion to during Reuben’s pregnancy.  Now, we’re moving on to the cauliflower, the winter squash, and some pumpkins.  I’ve cherished my moments with Leila at the Market this year.  She may have only gone so she could sample her little cup of Kettle Corn, and to buy her single stem flower-of-the-week, but I am grateful for my little companion, ogling the fruits and vegetables and then toting them home with me.  I made Leila wait from May until late August for the pears that she kept asking for.  It wasn’t easy for her, but I keep trying to explain that ‘good things come to those who wait.’  In this case, good things meant good flavors.

mid-summer trip to the market

Just as our Farmer’s Market season comes to a close here in Michigan, we’ll head to India.  There we’ll have a new, gorgeous abundance of local and varied produce.  You can hopefully look forward to some posts of colorful, ripe produce in the midst of your bleak mid-winter.  Not to make you jealous, of course, but to remind you of the good things that come to those who wait.

Thankful for a season here that tastes SO Good

“TWBAGB” (And just like that… we’re back)

Sometimes it is nice to walk away for a bit and live life.   Katy and I honestly felt that our season of writing blogs was behind us.  We loved sharing our life in small web-snippets when we got the chance, but we soon realized that with the hectic pace that we live our lives, that writing a new blog post was slowly sliding down our list of priorities.   While I would be lying if I said that we missed our blog I will admit, on occasion, we would have those… “this would be a great blogpost (twbagb)” moment but they were fleeting and replaced with another “twbagb” moment.

So why now?  Good question.   I think a part of me has always believed that regardless of how fast life goes, unless you slow down and take note, moments in life remain un-savored.  So we begin again.   We will try to be faithful in our recording of life’s lessons.  We will try and process our seasons of life on here with you.   Will we be regular?  Probably not, but we will try to get here whenever we have a great “twbagb” moment!  I hope you enjoy walking this road again with us.

Here is a photo slideshow encapsulation some of our life since our last entry…:)

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