Nov 7, 2012

Sam turns 14!

 Sam's 14th birthday!!!

Millenium Park, Chicago--at The Bean

My little Chinadoll
The Willis/Sears Tower
It has been a fabulous year for Samantha.  I am guessing it was one of her favorite years of her life thus far.  Her 14th is shaping up to be pretty remarkable too.  We have been blessed with a remarkable, energetic, smart girl with loads of integrity and confidence. We love you Sam--Happy Birthday!!!
We took a trip to Chicago last time Andrew was home, and did fairly well for not being at all savvy with how to get around the Windy  City.  We did spend an inordinate amount of time in traffic though.  Next time, we will either stay downtown, or use the trains.    

Oct 3, 2012

I am loving being back home.  It was a great summer...I would have enjoyed having the windows open more, but thanks to the unbearable heat (worse than in India) the AC was on almost 100% of the time.   Now, we are full swing into school, and the days are growing cooler.  The windows have been opened for the past few weeks which has been delicious!  The breezes blow in with their sweet scents of fall, while the birds happily chatter out my windows.  I adore this time of year, and  am honored to be its namesake. 

This afternoon is an early out for the girls, so I am taking them to the pumpkin patch that we have been "haunting" since they were babies.  I have pictures from every year, except the two autumns that we spent in Brazil.   It is a perfect day with azure skies and the temperature is in the early seventies.

The support the girls have received with their violins is simply amazing.  Their private teacher is the instructor to all orchestra teachers in the area so he is very well connected and super knowledgeable.   Also, this past week, for the city orchestras that they are in, they had sectionals and professional players from the Quad City Symphony Orchestra personally instructed them!  I love this community.  I used to abhor its smallness, but I now see that it is large enough to have great talent, and small enough to allow you to become intertwined with all of its greatness.  I love all of the opportunities the girls have had.  Thank you Quad Cities! 

As the girls have been back in school, I have had time to focus on my health a bit more.  My days go too fast, as I spend about 3 hours in our fitness/sauna room which eats up a lot of time, but I am so grateful that I have the time.  I have also had time to think about what I am going to do for the rest of  my life.  I feel like I am in retirement.  Andrew says that my focus has just changed, but I am actively looking for something else to do (maybe when the girls are in college).   I have a lot of ideas!  The afternoons up through bed time are busy with homework and violin practice, so I am still teaching which is nice.

I am trying to carve out time to write too.  So, hopefully, I will be successful and be blogging more regularly.  Take care and God bless! 

May 13, 2012

My baby turns 11 and going home...

Makaela enjoying her birthday cappucino  ;-)

It was a fun week around here as we prepared for and celebrated Makaela's 11th birthday.   She loves cappucino, which Andrew usually orders on the weekends, but under our legislation, the girls cannot order one, so she was promised that she could have one on her birthday.  Makaela is my gentle, tender, sweet girl--the ultimate Mother's Day gift.  Happy Birthday sweet Makaela!!!

My good friend, Jennifer Rector, sent me a note asking me to update my blog on why we are moving home early without Andrew, so that is what I am going to do.  When we came to India, we thought we had a wonderful school for the girls, but it turned out to be a sham, so I took them out to homeschool them.  Any one who has taught knows how much time and energy it takes, so I have been very busy managing two, very intelligent and disciplined students.  ;-)   I have to say it has been wonderful to have Sam back with us again, and we have grown together in ways that would not have been possible if we had not come here and been forced to homeschool.   I believe that this was in God's plan.  I thought the plan was for the girls to be stretched academically in the "challenging"  Indian school system, and for me to work on my health, as this was to be the first year in 13, that I would not be a full time mom.   However, God's ways are not ours, and He always knows best.  This year with the girls has been wonderful, but it is time to go home.  I need to focus on my health, and the girls need to be in a school system.  I cannot prepare Makaela emotionally for junior high like the local elementary can, nor can I prepare Samantha for high school like her junior high can.  The girls will be in 6th and 8th this coming school year--unbelievable. 

Andrew will come home with us for the first 6 weeks, and then back and forth through the end of October.  It will be hard, but doable since he will be traveling home frequently.  I have been asked why he cannot come home too.  He could, but we both feel that he needs to finish the time he agreed to (one year), and get the team set to continue on successfully. 

So, we will blow this pop shop in just over 3 weeks.  We are all so excited to be back home, and yet sad to leave the people and places that have become precious and familiar to our hearts.  My mom comes to join us for our last two weeks on the 22nd.  On our way out we are going to swing by Delhi with her, and head over to the Taj Mahal, and hit some other famous sites in Delhi.  We will go out with a bang! 


Apr 26, 2012

Wife beating approved by teens in India

Short article on wife beating in India

I don't read the paper very often due to a lack of time, and the fact that I find a lot of it turns my stomach due to the high incidence of violence against women and girls.  The headline above explains so much as even the new generation has no value for women--not even the girls themselves have enough self respect to feel wronged by violence from men.    I showed the headline to Sam and Mak, and Makaela said right off, "men are supposed to use their "extra" strength to protect women!!!"  It looks as if the majority of Indian men are bullies.  It is so disturbing...unfortunately "disturbing" is a word I use a lot to describe India. 

Tomorrow (Friday) we have the honor of attending a friend of ours boy's "Threading Ceremony."  It is a ceremony for Hindu boys of the Brahmin Caste before they hit puberty.  The 3 strands have different meanings based on their particular region.  It starts with breakfast at 9 a.m., and goes until after lunch.   We are so grateful to have a peak inside of our Indian friends' lives.  What we have experienced cannot be captured or imagined by reading from a text book. 

Within walking distance of our hotel is a lovely oasis where the girls and I go when we want something less Indian and away from our hotel.  It is a well maintained pool surrounded by palm trees that feels like you are in a western country.  The place is very quiet during the day and is frequented mostly by ex-pats --lots of toe heads running around and mommies in bikinis.  It's so refreshing and relaxing. 

Before God we are all equally wise--and equally foolish.  Albert Einstein

Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.  Mother Theresa

Mar 13, 2012

Last week we planned to take a day off of school, and head out to shop--just the girls and me.  Then I got sick.  I was in bed for 3 days with a fever and I ached everywhere.  I was just plain miserable.  I have some lingering congestion in my chest, but otherwise I am back to normal.  So, we took today for our little rendezvous.   Normally, in the States, I can dedicate an entire day to least pre-surgery I could.  Now, I can do at least four hours (with a meal out) before I get all buzzy and need the solace of my home.  Here in India, I find my max is two hours, and at the end of the two I feel like I have been through some version of  hell.  I am totally frazzled, exhausted, overstimulated, and in need of my bed.

The poverty can really get to me.  There are different degrees of poorness, and today I found myself surprisingly annoyed at a well dressed and seemingly well fed girl who kept grabbing my arm and asking for money after I had given her a fruit bar, and literally the next minute in a state of extreme grief  and dizzying helplessness after coming upon a sickly, scrawny woman curled up on the street corner with a baby sitting in front of her.  I looked around for some food to buy her, but there was nothing, so I embarrassedly gave her a fruit bar.   After seeing the woman, I wanted to take the girls home, and call it quits.  This was not what I had in mind for a girl's day out.  India's reality stinks.  

We found ourselves in a neat shop that appeared small, but opened up to a larger store in the back, and an upstairs too.  We all found treasures--things to gift, and things to keep.  It was a success, until my purse knocked a wooden box off of the counter causing the lid to shatter.   I offered to buy it, but they were gracious, as we were buying half of their merchandise anyway.  ;-)

After we left with our parcels, I reached for my phone to call our driver, and my phone was dead.  We walked the length of the street 2 1/2 times looking for our van to no avail.  I do not have any phone numbers memorized, and I did not think to ask Makaela (who has every number in the entire world memorized), so we caught a rickshaw.  Thank goodness for rickshaws and honest rickshaw drivers-- who are a miracle in and of themselves.

We arrived home, and I had Andrew call our driver to tell him that we were back at the hotel.  :-) The driver had parked one street over, as he could not find a space on MG Road.  This seemingly small decision on his part, created a day that the girls and I shall not soon forget.   

Feb 24, 2012

I am actually going to try to use YouTube to post videos, so I took the videos off of my blog, as it just slowed down the loading time here in India, and I thought maybe it might do the same elsewhere in the world, but maybe I have just been here too long, and see things in a more chaotic and unpredictable way, and am assuming that the whole world works this way?   I do have a few good days where I am cool with the hectic craziness, and the other days I just do not want to get out of bed and face it.  Today was a good day.  I left the hotel thanks to my driver, Santosh, who called around 12:30 to see if I needed the car this afternoon.  I had been thinking about calling him, but kept putting it off.  He knows my schedule pretty well, and most Thursdays I do run errands, but I was considering skipping it and taking a tennis lesson.  But, when he called, I decided to go out and brave it by myself and pick up the things I need for this coming weekend.  It was fine.  I do tend to get overly stimulated which has been an issue since the brain surgery, but India will overstimulate anyone--even those who have all of their brains.  ;-)  

I am going to post pictures of some places that we have eaten recently.  We have become more and more adventurous (or maybe a better word would be irresponsible) with our eating.  I'm really not sure if we are being overly confident or not.  This week, I have backed down with trying new things at new places, as I really, really do not want any of us to become violently sick.  So far, so good, but it feels a bit like Russian Roulette. 

Roasted Peanut Vendor in Mahabelshwar

Fresh cabbage

Vada Pav made by our driver's wife and sister

Where our driver's family eats
Our driver had us over to his home last Sunday to watch his wife and sister make Vada Pav.  Vada Pav is a famous dish in our state, Maharashtra.  It is made up of a potatoes and  freshly ground chilies formed into a patty and dipped in a chick pea batter, deep fried, and served in a bun with more fried chilies.  The girls and Andrew thought it was crazy hot, but I seem to have lost my heat sensor and thoroughly enjoyed 3 vada pavs, but I paid for it dearly with headaches.  Was it worth it?  Yes!!! 

Restaurant in the country

Sugar cane juicer

Sugar cane juice

Produce vendor

Mahabelshwar strawberries

Grilled corn with lemon and a chili mixture

This corn is everywhere and is wonderful

Roasting chick peas

Seasoned chickpeas
Fresh honey--we did not buy this ;-)
Utapam and fresh pomegranate juice

Paper dosa
Famous vada pav stop outside of Pune

Wonderful restaurant in the country about an hour from Pune

Jan 5, 2012

Happy New Year! We had a wonderful holiday, and thoroughly enjoyed spending our days with no obligations and nowhere in particular to go. We did not venture out too much around town, we mostly just stayed here at the hotel. We had no desire to be busy. Andrew and I would sit in the lounge daily after our breakfast until 12:30 or 1:00 talking. I with my jasmine green tea and Andrew with his cappuccino. The girls would take their scooters out to the walking path for awhile, play at the park with the kids, or fly their helicopters with their sweet friend Neeha while Andrew and I chatted. It was LOVELY. It's too bad that it had to come to an end.

It's the girls' tradition to sleep by the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve

Since Tuesday, we have been back on our work/school schedule. For English class, one part of it is blogging. I do not take the time to read their posts before they publish them, as this is their journal, and I do not believe in grading or correcting journals. I just let them write whatever they want, and as fast and furiously at they can get their thoughts down. It is very cathartic for them to share what they are experiencing with their friends and family. You can find them here :

I talked Andrew into taking me to the Pune Train Station today.  It was over stimulation on every level--a mix of excitement and deep sadness.  The smells are horrid, it's loud, dusty, crowded, and there are destitute people all around.  The girl below was one of many begging for money.  We do not give them money (even though I ache to), as the poverty is organized, and we do not want to aid their "pimp." We do give them food, but we did not have any treats for children with us today, so I took this little ones picture and showed it to her which produced a gigantic smile.  I wish I could have captured her joy at that simple thing.  I wonder where she is sleeping tonight.  My heart breaks at the mistreatment of children, women, and the street dogs.  It is devestating to see life treated as something disposable--meaningless.     

When we returned from the train station, there was a wedding procession about to start.  The men and boys in their handsome black suits were having  rich colored turbans wrapped around their heads. 

I hope your 2012 is filled with peace and joy.