Wednesday, February 1, 2017


In summer 2015, we moved homes.  It was a herculean task, but the iron was hot and the hammer struck at the right time, as all pieces came together.  The first year of home ownership was rough on all of us:
  • Amit handled most of the heavy lifting, literally, and LOTS of things broke in the house in the first year.
  • My rotator cuff repair recovery from the surgery in spring was super slow, and a constant source of pain.
  • Rian missed the old house, and was content over summer to spend part of it in India.  When school started and we moved him over to a public school.  He got a nanny to take care of his after-school time.
Rian did very well with the transition.  There were hiccups, but he continued to be a happy boy on most days.  The level of academics was a 2 year setback for Rian, but he adapted to more independence, free thoughts, a new way of learning in public school classrooms with much less structure and discipline.  This is supposed to be "good" for kids long-term, so we stuck with it.  With the nanny, we added back tennis classes, soccer classes, and Rian started doing "catch up Math" every day at home, along with "catch up vocabulary".  There was no science fair, but kids did some hands-on "STEM projects" initially and Rian was all excited.

Cut to third grade, and I realized having "no standard" in public schools means the teacher chooses how much she can manage to do, in addition to the core curriculum.  Rian's teacher was new to the school district, and it was her first year.  There were no STEM projects (at least Rian never shared), no emails from the teacher about what happened every week, and Rian started "getting in trouble" consistently.  He would complain he's "bored" in class all the time.  Teacher caught him reading a book under his desk.  He continued to have comics and story books under his desk all the time :-)  Perhaps the teacher was trying to teach him self-restraint, but Rian is not mature enough to learn that, and his greatest gravitation is towards books!  He continued to read under his desk, leading to more and more "boredom" in what the teacher says - that happens when you pay half the attention you are supposed to.  At the parent-teacher conference, we shared with the teacher that he does Math at higher levels at home, and it would be good to challenge him.  She had tools that she showed us, but Rian would have to do his "regular" Math, and only after that would he be given the "challenging" Math.  Rian does not like writing, and he never managed to finish his "regular" Math on time in the class, as he found it -- you guessed it -- "too boring"!

Then in September, our nanny left.  Dad passed away.  We hired a new nanny who promised to stay through Rian's third grade.  Huge change for Rian, as the new nanny was stricter, but also played sports with Rian.  We discontinued Rian's classes for tennis and soccer, so the nanny could have more time teaching Rian 1-on-1.  It turns out, there was very little of the sports stuff going on :-( and we found out after the nanny left -- yes -- broke up with us over a text message -- while we were on vacation in December!

We recovered from this, and enrolled Rian for the short term in a day care.  The idea was to find a third nanny.  Three weeks in, and we had one candidate who could only stay till the end of June.  Which meant finding another nanny for fourth grade, setting expectations again, communicating daily schedules and lesson plans every day.  I also noticed with both nannies that they totally depended on me to "tell" them every day what to do with Rian.  My expectation was after 2-3 weeks of knowing (from me) what to do, they would set their own schedules with Rian - but no such magic happened.  Retraining new nannies is definitely a lot of work. 

Within a month of third grade starting, the teacher announced she was expecting a baby due end of January.  The new teacher that was assigned to their class (and had already started substituting), had never been a teacher in formal capacity before - first time!

We also started noticing Rian's lack of interest in reading anything academic or learning anything.  The kid used to have a thirst for knowledge which seemed to have disappeared.  Perhaps being driven by nannies rather than his parents also had played a hand - we all know delegating is easier, but quality is always different.  We made the decision to go back to the old formula that worked: private school.

This is another change Rian handled really really well.  I started this post with that end goal in mind.  To acknowledge how well this kid has responded to changes.  He's had a school change every 2 years:
  • Pre-school and pre-K (1.5 yrs) at Champion School
  • Kindergarten and 1st grade (2 yrs) at Stratford - Sunnyvale at Washington Park
  • 2nd grade and half of 3rd grade (1.5 yrs) at public school - Cupertino School District - Stevens Creek Elementary School
  • 3rd grade onwards at Stratford - Sunnyvale at De Anza Park
We are very thankful to Rian for being such a wonderful kid, and adapting to changes in his friend circle every so often.  We are also lucky our "friends circle" has been enriched with every school change Rian has had.  We are 2 days into the new school, and keeping fingers crossed and thoughts positive.  We love you Rian!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Happy 7th birthday

On this birthday, you turn seven,
As perfect as an angel sent from heaven.

A little boy, but grown up inside,
Never letting any emotions hide.

He really loves school, and he finished first grade,
It’s amazing to see all the progress he’s made.

He learned how to ski black diamonds with flair,
Dad running behind him and gasping for air.

And when it was time to show his talents at school,
He drummed Seven Nation Army and it was pretty cool!

And when we are tired from working all day,
He’ll jump in our arms, hug our troubles away.

And though he gets cranky, and stubborn at times,
Books usually get him all smiles.

At night when he’s tired he won’t go to sleep,
‘Less read to in bed and tucked in covered deep.

Our Rian Butala stands apart from the crowd,
We wish him the best and he’s made us so proud.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Rian: Daddy, I am strong, I broke metal!
Daddy: No way, Rian.  What did you do?
Rian: Yes, I tore aluminum foil :D

Daddy: Let's sit on the kitchen countertop and drink milk.
Rian: No, granite is an igneous rock, I don't want to sit on a volcano!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Skiing and Holi

This past weekend was a total blast with skiing and Holi celebrations.

More than 20" of snow came down pouring as a spring storm in the Sierras so we decided to make one last trip skiing to the Lake Tahoe area. We were season pass holders for 2 seasons at Sierra-At-Tahoe (SAT) and it is the resort Rian first started learning skiing at. This was Rian's third season and we wanted to go at least one day to SAT. The start was a bit rocky. Instead of waking up at 4:30am, we were asleep till 5:30am. Both Amit and me made the same mistake in setting the alarm - we modified our "weekday" alarm. Sigh. Thanks to that tho, Rian and I were well rested as we go an extra hr of zzzs. The drive started at 6:15am and we reached the parking lot at 9:45am. We were fairly quick and were at the lift at 10:30am. From the very first blue slope, the confidence in Rian kept soaring. Terrain was a bit icy in the morning, but softened up just the right bit. We did Marmot and then headed straight to Dogwood. This is a run I found really tough to ski down last year. Rian's first run was a bit rough and he kept his wedge really solid. Then Amit worked with him 1-on-1 while I went for 2 runs on this slope. What Rian did in that run was amazing. By the time I was done with 2, Rian and Amit were down and waiting for me. He was super happy with his own speed. He went up with me next while Amit went to get some of his black runs in. Rian skied as fast as I did on this downhill!

Definitely a proud parent day, and it lasted all throughout. Rian was very keen on all 3 of us skiing together as a family and we got a fair bit of that in Saturday. Amit and I tagged off at lunch so both got a couple of extra solo runs. These really help. What helped more is Rian challenging me: Mumma take my video, take my video! Only problem was he was way too fast for me! Amit came to rescue and took this amazing long video. At 3:30pm Rian and I were down at the bottom and we were "well done". Amit had a blast on his blacks and was all spent too. Rian got a gift magnet.

On Sunday morning I finished off groceries in the morning as the boys took care of each other. We were out ~noon to play Holi at Stanford. There was no water this year because of the drought. It is definitely the socially responsible thing to do, but Holi was just not the same. A welcome change was Rian's attitude to Holi. Daddy definitely helped by talking to Rian about Holi and how we should have fun by chasing people and coloring them. Rian's buddy Sreekar was very enthusiastic and they were happy to see us. We also had our Gujju Gang friends. Namrata, Zoya, Zubin too joined. We all had a blast. Rian kept running to the color station to get more color and chased uncles and aunties. Most awesome was Amit picking me up on his shoulder and dancing :-) Way to go my Superman! 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring weekend

Spring is here, and I'm trying to keep the momentum from our busy winter skiing alive, and go right into hikes. It's not as much the distance, but just the fact that we're outdoors enjoying and exploring nature that appeals to me. Last weekend we went to Uvas Canyon for a hike and Rian really loved the waterfalls. His sports shoes were not that great, so Rian got a "reward" upgrade to hiking shoes for doing a 3+ mi hike with dad and mom, minimal complaints. In fact Rian kept saying "This is the best hike ever, I want to keep coming here every weekend, I want to build a house here" :-) We were enjoying every moment of his revelations.

This weekend was jam packed with activity and meeting friends too. On Saturday morning, Rian had a chess tournament, his very first. He's been doing some after school chess class on campus, and we do not get much feedback of his skill level. So we just put him in a tournament. Lots of points for participating. He won one game, drew one, and lost two. He seemed pretty miserable that he didn't get a trophy, but we cheered him up about the medal of participation. After a brief lunch at home, we went to Picchetti Winery for a hike with 4 other Stratford families, and our neighbors. It was a wonderful hike and kids enjoyed the picnic area afterwards. Next time we will definitely get some wine. Picchetti Winery Hike, March 22, 2014. Zankhna and Bhavik, our friends from LA were visiting. So we hopped over to Rachana's place after that. The boys (big and small) played basketball. I boiled spaghetti and poured sauce in. But Rian was so proud of it, he was telling all the other kids, it's just the second time my mom has made spaghetti, it's really yummy. I think I'm getting popular with kids thanks to the pasta. The "made in Italy" whole wheat pasta is so good, lots of fiber and protein, my big kid had it today with no other sides :-) 

On Sunday morning Rian got some much needed "alone time" with his toys. It was Daddy's turn to work today. Mumma cut some "pear apple" and Rian chose to eat Daddy's raisin bran cereal today. After that he says to me "Mumma this is the best fruit ever, can you please give me this pear apple every day in snack for school" :-) We rushed to get ready for a potluck in the park thrown by our neighbors Pallavi and Parikshit. Rian enjoyed his razor bike, stomp rocket, and some dodgeball. We were headed to the library when Rian insists, twice, "Mumma let's go to the library on my razor, let's leave the car here". So off we went from Washington Park to the Sunnyvale library, half a mile one way. It felt so good to be outside and walking. Rian enjoyed the 1mi razor. We secured a copy of "Home Alone" DVD, planning to watch it with Rian this week. Rian is practicing his drums with Daddy now, and then we are off to dinner with Rian's best friend Shayona. 

What a wonderfully packed and satisfying first weekend of spring… Loving it!

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's been 7 hours and 15 days

Yes, nothing compares to you…

Yes, it's almost a year since I've written in this space. The last one year has passed by very quickly. It's a cliche to say time flies when you're having fun, but it's so true. In the last one year, there have been so many magical moments, and stories and experiences and travels we've shared with you, Rian. Each day I keep thinking of writing here, and each day it remains a thought. The barrier to writing is I want to capture the "whole experience", your face, your enthusiasm, your voice, and the whole story from my angle. But there's never enough time to write all that. I've been capturing a lot of moments in the camera, though, and almost processed and uploaded everything till Nov 2013, so I'm good there.

Here's a recent one that I must save:

I'm having a rough couple of weeks and come home yet another day without much "work done" according to my own definition. As I'm mentioning to Amit that "I've had a horrible day today", Rian chimes in to ask "Why Mumma, what happened?" I was certainly surprised by how coolly and calmly he posed that question. I decided to be all grown up talking to him and shared how I had a number of things to do on my plate, but ended up spending the whole day talking to others and explaining ideas and concepts to others, and didn't get any of my own work done. He says "Oh mumma, you should be happy, you helped so many other people, that means you did a lot of good work today!" Amit and I were just standing there, jaw open… speechless!

We say this often nowadays … I'm going to freeze you now, I want to freeze this time.

While I'm here, let me also mention Rian's improved his skiing a lot. This year Rian's skiing mostly blue slopes. He's also tried a beginner black at Dodge Ridge. Zoya has been an amazing company on the slopes this year. I even managed to ski with the 2 kids together for an hour :-) Woohoo… We've had 7 days of skiing already, Rian and me. Daddy's accompanied us 6 times. On most of those trips, Zoya's been with us. Shayona's joined us on quite a few of the ski trips too. Rian's really excited to ski with his friends, and also practices with us. Mommy and Daddy are really proud of Rian's progress. Mommy's really keen on getting Rian onto a ski team next year. We've missed a couple of birthday parties with close friends, mainly because we're hibernating on the snow capped mountains… hehehe…