Wednesday, November 22, 2006


A very Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, family, friends, and those folks we know only in internetland. Our hearts and thoughts are with you.

We celebrated Turkey Day in true American style. We went to the movies. In our defense, the kids were in school and both sets of neighbors were going to see 007, so we went too. I'm not a 007 fan but I've seen every movie (thanks, dear) and the Daniel Craig "Casino Royale" really is amazing to watch and more realistic than any other Bond flick out there. It was worth the Rs150 (about $3.50) tickets (ordered on-line, along with drinks and popcorn delivered straight to our seats), though the theater is well-worn and the crowd was packed with teen boys whistleing at the Bond girls and older folks checking their glowing cell phones. We plan to visit the new cinema in City Centre soon after it opens; it looks amazing.
Our Thanksgiving meal will be on Sunday, so the entire family can participate in its creation. But the meal is just that, a meal. The true Thanksgiving happens every day we remember those pieces of life that make us who we are. Yeah, you are what you eat *gobble*, but thankfully that's not all we're made of. We're made up of the things we do, the people we surround ourselves with and the connections we make in our hearts. We are blessed to have each other, a family that loves and grows each year into people we are proud to be, rough patches and all. And we are blessed for each person who crosses our path and teaches us, brightens our day and loves us. Thank You.

And the winner is...

Jonathon. Of the four Hoppers in the AISC Turkey Trot, Jonathon beat out his siblings to reach the finish line first. Cheers to all the kids who completed the 3km race without a day of training and were still smiling at the last lap.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Is this week over yet?

On Monday, I thought it was Wednesday, that's how the week is dragging. If I roll back 72 hours or so, it all started on Saturday...

Rebecca attended a birthday party and carpooled to get there, so the rest of us had some free time to hit the shops for birthday gifts. Ian and I already bought ours, but the kids want to give things as well. Our first stop, as always, was Spencers Plaza. Some people hate that mall, but we enjoy all the little hidden shops. In fact, even in the dark we meandered about and found a florist selling fake Christmas trees and junky imported ornaments. We couldn't stay though long for fear of passing out, the darkness was a result of power outage and the throngs of people were no less than a typical Saturday afternoon, but combine the numbers with no a/c and high humidity and it was a recipe for sweating bodies and aching heads. We retreated and visited City Centre mall instead. A brand new building with a gorgeous movie theater opening on December 1st and a food court with kid zone, what's not to like. Working electricity was icing on the cake. The kids managed to buy their gifts, get in some play time, have lunch and we found padded envelopes and packing materials to mail boxes, so it was all good. We made it home within 15 minutes of Rebecca returning from her party.
A short while later and only after ogling the neighbors' carpets and furniture they've unpacked, we changed clothes and headed north to the Perambur area of Chennai. Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine is up there, and has a 6:30 p.m. English service. We'd left the house at 5:45 and at 7 when our driver still couldn't find it (it's a huge Shrine on a main road) we turned around and came home, with a stop at the newly opened KFC for some dinner. It was a bust of an evening. Next weekend we'll try St. Louis, a much closer and smaller church also with a Saturday evening English service.
Sunday, we were bored. There's no other way to say it. Eventually, Ian and I took a walk with Rebecca to Cafe' Coffee Day with a couple stops in shops for her to find Christmas gifts. Back home again, Nicholas, Jonathon and I put together Nicholas's decorated turkey for his class. We didn't have the right glue, so Ian and Katherine went back out for glue. And we did a lot of sitting around, reading, and more sitting. Rebecca wanted to swim. Rebecca wanted to play tennis. Not good weather for either of those activities. The kids had already played enough on the computer. The Xbox is broken. Our Christmas cards haven't arrived yet. And on and on. We had an excuse for everything, I think we just wanted to be bored. By the evening when we Skyped with my parents, it's a wonder we put together anything to talk about.
So Monday finally arrived with Ian off to work, the kids and I off to school. AISC hosted some of the Harlem Globetrotters Monday morning and by the end I wished we'd gone to see them over the weekend. Katherine was there too, but she didn't stay for school. Once the show ended, we packed up and she saw Dr. John at the clinic who again pronounced her with a throat infection (it's -tonsillitis-) and said no ice cream or chocolate, take 8 days of antibiotic, come back in a week, and they don't take out tonsils until 12-15 years old. I have no clue as to the rationale behind that. None. But if she's still sick in a week, we'll get our second opinion and go from there.
Oh, and Ian and I received our third and final JapB vaccination.
We came home and I napped. I've been dragging for a while now, and sleeping poorly at night thanks to the boys who have begun climbing into our bed again. Where is my king bed? *yawn*
Amazing Race and Lost have gotten boring. Survivor has become really fun. I'm reading a book called Once Upon a Timezone, a funny story about an Indian guy who desperately wants to get to America but is denied a visa (!), gets a job at a call center and falls in love with a customer who calls to complain about her computer. The book was released either May 10th or October 5th of this year, and it was an impulse buy from Landmark this weekend.
Speaking of book releases, our friend back home, Jeff Sypeck, has his first book released today 21 November 2006. Titled Becoming Charlemagne, you can get it from Amazon or your local Borders or Barnes & Noble (check out the New Releases table this holiday season at B&N). The book makes a great stocking stuffer and addition to any home library!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My $400 brick

Starting about two weeks ago, our XBox 360 became pretty unstable. It would freeze up sometimes during games or movies, no errors or anything, just wouldn't respond. Then I get three flashing red lights -- you don't need to know anything about computers to know that isn't good.

They call it the "Ring of Death," and it means "general hardware failure" -- typical Microsoft helpfulness, like the Blue Screen of Death. I looked it up, and I went through the possibilities. They were heat problems with the launch systems, and I have one. But I never had this problem in Togo, and I made sure the system and power supply got enough air. The second option was bad power (fluctuating voltage) -- and I figure if the power was fine in Togo, with our backup generator, it's fine anywhere. The last option was the worst: Microsoft did it.
On Nov. 1, Microsoft released a fall update, and pushed it through the Internet to all systems. In a "very small number of systems" -- tech speak for nobody-knows-how-many -- this can brick a system. This means that it gives this hyperpowered PC and DVD player all the functionality of a brick. Check for more stories like this here, and here.
I called Microsoft tech support, and finally got to a human. After getting through the moron fixes (rebooting, unplugging, replugging -- it's not like I can boot to DOS), they said it's still days within warranty, so they'll take it back and fix it for free. But I still need to send it back from India, and wait for it to come back.

'Tis The Season

'Tis the season for all sorts of fun stuff to fill our days. Next week (oh my goodness, next week already??) is Thanksgiving. Granted we won't be able to throw a full-blown Turkey Day celebration at our place, I don't even have a pie pan, but we do have 3 butterball turkeys in the freezer to cover the holiday season. That's got to count for something.

The school is holding a Turkey Trot, which three of my children wanted to participate in. I won't mention the chicken.. uh, turkey.... but he's short and about 6 1/2 years old. I don't think any of my children have ever run a mile (I know their parents haven't, certainly not willingly), but the idea of a Turkey Trot t-shirt and a shot at a dressed turkey have them all excited. They do know that dressed does not mean in a coat and tie.
On that same Wednesday, the Kindergarten class holds it's farewell party for Ms. Jeanette who returns to the UK in December. Jonathon is OK with her departure. Though he likes her, the new teacher has already joined the class, there are two aides, and his primary teacher is Ms. Melanie anyway. His world won't be rocked too much. No, that will actually happen in January when the kids return from winter break and the single K class is split in two. If Ian and Sean aren't in his class, then we might have a short term issue.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, on Monday of next week, the Harlem Globetrotters will be at AISC. They are doing several "shows" in Chennai over the course of the week, but Monday morning they'll be with the kids, and parents are invited. You can bet I'll be there and I'm still trying to convince Ian to come along. I've seen the Globetrotters before, I believe it was some time in the early 80s in Africa?
Ian has Thanksgiving Day off work while the kids have "Black Friday" off school. We've already completed our Christmas shopping, and as long as we're here over the holiday weekend we might go see a musical production at the Egmore Museum stage, primarily because Rebecca's teacher is in the show. I should purchase tickets sooner rather than later for that.
The following weekend has Katherine down in Pondicherry on an overnight field trip with her French class. They have been corresponding with the lycee down there (Pondicherry was a created French colonial town), so will meet with their on-line friends, eat at a French restaurant, stay in a hostel and shop. I do have a couple reservations, one being her motion sickness. She'll have a trial by fire with her sea bands with strict orders not to remove them for any reason. They're pretty and comfortable, so there should be no reason for her to take them off (and therefore lose them). The other concern we have is the high occurrence of illness in folks who vacation down there. One recent case landed in the hospital, and I'd like to avoid that all costs. We ran down the list of potential troublemakers and gave Katherine guidelines on what to avoid and how to do so. Ice seems so innocent, doesn't it?
She'll be back on Friday, in time for Rebecca's birthday on Saturday. Nine years old already, that one. There are discussions in the air of a sleepover, perhaps some crafts, and general nuttiness. I need to search out some families to farm out my other kids to. It will have to be from the 1st to the 2nd, for on the evening of the 2nd is the AISC Winter Ball right down the street at the Park Sheraton hotel. I may not have a formal gown, and I'm not getting a sari made, but we're going anyway.
So that's our next couple weeks in a nutshell. Toss in Hindi lessons a couple times a week, Katherine's class play and all other matter of daily living and we're chugging along quite happily.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A light shines

EDA: December 6th for our HHE -and- our consumables. We might actually have our stuff for Christmas! Though the kids have already decided they'll use daddy's socks for their St. Nicholas Day stockings.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Iraq videos

Last night we watched CNN Presents: Combat Hospital, a wrenching documentary about a military emergency room in Iraq. I highly recommend it.

For a little lighter fare, try this video from YouTube called "Lazy Ramadi." It's their version of the popular "Lazy Sunday" video from SNL.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Trucking Along with Reading

It's been going on for a while, the steps towards fluid, clear reading. Nicholas has been asking for a year to stay up at night to "read" like his sisters do and since moving to India we have obliged a couple nights per week as his ability has skyrocketed. Some days I tiptoe in to find him asleep with a book tossed on his nightstand and the light shining bright, but last night he took a huge step forward. He read through 2/3 of a "Nate the Great," came out to tell us about it, borrow a book mark from his sister and then go to sleep. This morning there are Saturday morning cartoons and Nicholas fetched his book. I am SO excited!

Christmas Shopping - Nearly Complete

Today is Veteran's Day. We express our sincere appreciation to all the veteran's out there, including both our fathers. We love you, and thank you.

The kids did not have a day off (strange American School, yet again), but Ian did. We took advantage of a kid-free day to shop for them at Spencers Plaza. It makes me happy to shop for my kids, whether it's on the internet or in the shop around the corner. They are getting several useful items that will give them a kick, like Harry Potter raincoats. The poem "Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read" came in undeniably helpful this year. Each gift time, I plan and list and scratch out and list again. This year, I have my kids pegged (Ian is another story as I have no idea what to get for him he won't just get himself, but my kids I feel will be pleased with their gifts). Ornaments that reflect India have not been too plentiful, but I have high hopes that as the season progresses something will come to light. Perhaps hanging dancing ganeshas?

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Election Results are in....

I watched the results as they came in all day on the 8th, and now we have a Democrat win in both the House and Senate. I'm not saying my watching brought about the victory, but hey, I figure it's not unlike giving support while watching football on TV.

I look forward to seeing what, if anything, occurs over the next two years. Rumsfeld has already been dismissed but what really will happen with our presence in Iraq? The Dems have a lot on their plate, and a very short time to make some sweeping changes if they want to keep their momentum and current status.

Our housekeeper asked if I was a Bush supporter. After giving a non-answer, she said her previous Madame (*shudder*Madame*shudder*) did not like Bush at all. I do wonder how he's going to fare now he doesn't have a rubber stamp Congress to work with.

We shall see.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

We're home, we're happy and...

Boy do we have a story to share. Hopefully I'll have it up this evening (our time). I've been watching the election coverage as I put the page together, so if there's a typo, blame CNN.

UPDATE: Under the photo of the Taj is a link to our journal with photos of our trip. Enjoy!