Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Diwali 2011

Our Family - Diwali 2011

For Treya, this past Saturday, brought a bit of familiarity to her ever changing world, as we celebrated Diwali - the festival of lights, one of the only holidays she knows. With a nod of confidence while saying Diwali, you knew she understood completely what we were discussing as the girls eagerly helped me prepare for our Indian feast. During the week preceding we busied ourselves discovering how to make home made paneer and pickled cucumbers and decorated our house for the big event.

We teach that the holiday is a day to symbolically open our hearts, removing all obstacles, so that good things and prosperity might come our way. We celebrate our friends and family and all the joys life has offered us, through the lighting of candles and lanterns throughout the house. Much in the same way that we leave cookies for Santa, we adorned our front door with rangoli, bells and lanterns and just on the table inside, we decorated a puja thali to help lure the luck of Lakshmi in. Our puja thali, or offering plate, is a brass plate with two painted peacocks in the middle that we purchased on our first trip to India to meet Devi. Placed on it was a bell, a bowl of rice to symbolize prosperity, a bowl of Indian coins to represent life’s riches, bright gold foil wrapped candy, incense, a small diya and the two mirrored katoris (tiny bowls) presented to us at Treya’s adoption ceremony, that were filled with flower petals. All were arranged by the girls (over and over again) until a design they thought looked pretty was agreed upon.

Devi was adamant that they wear their Rajastani dresses from Treya’s ceremony, which fit them both much better than 10 months ago when they received them and she requested one thick braid straight down the back, “like the Indian girls like me wear, mom.” Complete with bangles, bindi’s and the necklaces they received from Trey’s ayahs, they were ready to receive our guests. As each person arrived, they chose a light in our house to light and as the night grew darker, we found ourselves aglow in the flicker of candle light.

Once again trying my hand at Indian cooking, I chose a non-traditional Diwali feast, selecting dishes that I thought I could pull off, preparing a meal for our group, 14 people strong. We had spiced nuts, papadams and samosas with mint and mango chutneys to start, while sipping champagne topped with a splash of pomegranate juice; the kids with mango lassis. Manning the grill, oven, stove top and electric skillet, I frantically stirred simmered, roasted and unfortunately overcooked one dish, but for the most part I was pleased with the result. Our menu included tandoori prawns, chicken & paneer tikka masala, aloo gobi, a curried pea and almond salad, saffron rice, pickled cucumbers, raita, and naan bread. Pumpkin cakes and Kahlua Cardamon Kulfi with chai tea lattes made up the dessert. For anyone interested, most of the recipes were from Aarti Sequeira, the winner of season 6 of the Food Network Star and host of Aarti Party. They were easy to follow and fun to prepare.

I can’t put into words, the joy and gratitude that I have for my family and friends, who have so willingly accepted this culture that captivated Pat and I long algo, but which is all new to them. The unfamiliar foods, and the customs that we are making tradition for our girls, have been embraced from the start, making the hosting part extraordinarily fun for me. Devi proudly explained what everything was, what about the food she loves and why we do things a certain way, as if she has always lived in India and all this comes natural to her. Treya is a silly girl, but becomes more than serious when food is involved. I love the look of determination she gets as she trembles with the strain of her mouth, opened to it’s widest point, making way for a heaping spoon full of food to enter, then continuing to struggle to close her lips enough to begin chewing.

Last year at Diwali, we focused on moving our own major obstacle as we anxiously awaited our NOC and guardianship of dear Treya. This year we know of so many with that same or similar struggle that we decided to try to help move others’ obstacles in our festival of lights celebration. The girls and I wrote the names of all the Indian children who have been matched with a family but who are still in various stages of the court process and the names of all the families that have not yet been matched with a child, on a sky lantern. In all, 14 names were added: Indra, Bindu, Karuna, Baby C, Varsha, Urmilla, Neha, the Welsers, the Leschke’s, the Jacob’s, the Crook’s, the Cooper’s, the Baxter’s, the Brice Family and a heart for anyone I may have forgotten. We had all the guests assemble on our deck and we explained the significance of each name and our wish for them. The lantern was ignited, and when fully inflated was set adrift into the dark sky. Everyone cheered and clapped as the lantern was caught by a gust of wind and sailed over the Puget Sound. We silently watched it float away until it was completely out of sight. We ended the evening with a rousing explosion of snaps from pull-string poppers followed with hugs and Happy Diwali wishes.

Pull String Poppers!

When I put Devi to bed, she asked me, “Mommy, how will I know if Lakshmi comes to our house to bring us prosperity?” I explained that she really does not come into our house, but rather the idea of her exists in our hearts and minds to help remind us to have good behavior because good behavior always leads to good things.” Satisfied, she snuggled down to sleep. Ironically, the next day when we returned to our car after an outing, a pile of loose change was on the ground outside my car door. Devi said, “Mommy, mommy, Lakshmi brought you prosperity!” On that note, Happy Diwali everyone.


Brie said...

Oh Julie- This post is magnificent- emotional and heartwarming. What a magical evening. From the food - to the lantern and decorations I am so glad the evening was special. I wish I could have been there to enjoy such a celebration and of course your fabulous cooking! You and your family aresuch a blessing!

Peter and Nancy said...

Totally crying over here . . . It means so much to us to know that other people are also hoping and praying that our daughter is coming. Seeing our name written alongside Varsha's and the Welsers' and others is such a comfort and confirmation. And it's so moving to remember how you were longing for Treya at this time last year -- and here she is, thriving, funny, charming, growing and loving her family! Here's to more light, more hope, and more good in the coming year.
With love,

The Pfeiffer Family said...

What a beautiful and wonderful evening you had. You are so creative and your attention to detail amazes me. The names on the lantern was very touching. Your girls will have wonderful memories for years to come.

April :-)

Nichole said...

AMAZING...what an amazing evening and I thank you for having C prayed for. Today we received the most amazing news...we were granted guardianship! We will be traveling soon! Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for your prayers!

SarahinOK said...

Sooo beautiful! I'm so blessed and honored that you lifted us up (literally) by putting our names on! Can't wait to show my boys and have them gain more understanding about Diwali. Thank you!

erica said...

You are amazing. Thank you for including our Neha on your lantern. your hopes and prayers for us moved us to guardianship. I am dying to some day meet you and your family. also to know your receipes. Thank you for caring, as we do for you. Side note, dont think i have your email address. email me at

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie,

I found your blog on one of the adoption forums/websites (don't remember) last year and have been reading it since then.We have decided to adopt a sibling for our biological daughter from India and are hoping to get started with the adoption process next year.Your blog gives me so much strength and hope!Your girls are beautiful!You are a great mom..I am learning so much from reading your posts...Please keep writing.I am glad that your family had a great Diwali.The lantern idea was awesome.I would like to do it with my daughter soon.Happy Diwali to all of you.I hope and pray that your family has a great year ahead.

Justin and Tara Evoy said...

Happy Diwali! What a special celebration you had! I love the lantern with the names...what a beautiful expression of love.

Suporna Roy said...

Nice blog! Great work.
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Erin Hawk said...

Hi Julie, I have been so behind in any of my correspondence and blog reading! I was finally catching up on your amazing girls, and I stumbled across your Diwali photos... Needless to say, I'm weepy and filled with deep gratitude for remembering our sweet Urmila. I have saved your pictures of your incredible gesture for an album I'm making for her. It chronicles her journey to us, and all of the incredible souls that have been rooting for her to come home. Your gesture means so much to our family. Please tell them thank you :) Our next court date is Jan. 5th!! Happy, healthy, joyful New Year to all of you! With gratitude, ErIn

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