Wednesday, January 31, 2007

We Survived with (Nearly) Nary a Scratch

The week with the neighbor kids went well. We took all the kids to "Happy Feet" (which in our opinion was pretty close to torture, but the kids seemed to like it), had lunch at Cappucino at the Park Sheraton, attended a birthday party, went to church and got them off to school without issues. Bedtimes were a breeze, few complaints about foods, plenty of playtime and the girls even completed their science project with days to spare.

All in all, a good week!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Disjointed Week: In Five Acts

Because little of it connects to anything else, but it's all connected to the family.

Act 1: Saturday: The Charity Fair held on Saturday morning at AISC was a success. Over a few hours, it raised Rs97,000, over $2000 (including some direct cash donations). The truly impressive thing is that each game token sold for Rs10, less than a Quarter. My kids had a blast, there was so much to do and they did many of the activities over and over. Lisa, who came up with the idea and organized the insanity, kept it simple. Kids paid out tokens to win a bottle of hot sauce, a tube of chapstick or a jar of pickles. They paid tokens to throw wet sponges at their friends, and have kids throw wet sponges at them. P.E. teachers might hear groans for having kids repeatedly shoot soccer balls into a net. Kids willingly handed over tokens to try again and again. The cake walk was a success, with cupcake winners at every turn. I've been told I'm getting roped into helping next year. Ah, little do they know we'll be on vacation right then.
The day turned into evening and our home turned into a wretched hive of scum and villainy. No? Ok, it was Poker Night at the Hoppers. Unfortunately I couldn't enjoy the start of the evening. At the Charity Fair Katherine had cajoled her way into visiting a friend nearby for a couple hours. Ian walked her over and chatted with the mom for a bit before letting me know that the 7 p.m. return time had been stretched to 8 p.m. Eight came and went. So did 8:30. Katherine called to see if she could stay later. No. I strode off down the road to meet her and her friend at the other end of the Madras Club. Nine came and still no kid, so I walked to their house following directions from Ian over the cell. No one answered their door, no one answered their cell phone. I turned back and waited. Finally 9:30, Ian calls to say she is home. I meet up with Friend Mom along the way back, who is shocked that everyone was so concerned and how her daughter had been hoping Katherine could sleep over.
Answer: No.
Oh, and Ian won the pot, all hail Ian.
Act 2: Sunday: A regular church Sunday, but this time we meandered upstairs after Mass to check out the organ. It's in quite a state of disrepair., a sad sad thing for so regal an instrument. Goodness knows the music program could use a lot of help at the Basilica.
It's common for the kids to swim Sunday afternoons. Unfortunately, the pool is an assortment of accidents waiting to happen. This time involved a row of tiles jutting from the side. Tiles have razor sharp edges and as Nicholas was pulling himself out, hid foot slid along, sliced part of the pad and split directly into his big toe. True pain is not accompanied by loud wails and gnashing of teeth but by sudden gasping and mask of fear. The blood wasn't plentiful, but the gash was deep. He'll be OK and I think he'll keep the toe.
Act 3: How common, or should I say normal, is it for a 6 year old to have headaches? And for those headaches, when he gets them, to last hours, even days. Yup, Nicholas again.
Act 4: Wednesday: The girls started after-school activities this quarter. It really does make for a long day when we don't get home until nearly 5 and there's still homework to finish and dinner to get on the table. Since the boys are not in anything and there's no bus to bring the girls home, it's easier for me to spend a couple hours at the school on Wednesday afternoon to catch up with teachers, drop off library books and let the boys play on the playground. Katherine said ballet was fun, and Rebecca had a blast making marbleized prints that will become a cover for a book they're making. The activity director was a little frustrated with extra kids that had signed up and over-filled the class. That's why there is a cap, people, so the leader doesn't run short on supplies and get annoyed the very first day.
With my time between the end of school and the start of activities, I spoke with the teacher who taught 5th grade reading last quarter. Katherine is a book worm, so it was a surprise when she received a C on her report card. I asked her homeroom teacher about it and she thought it must have been an error. Katherine couldn't figure out anything that would cause such a drop in grade, so I was leaning towards an error as well. Come to find out that Katherine's reading is just fine. It's her follow-through that is subpar. The teacher had a very basic program called Reading Bingo where various subject matter (animals, history, biography, mystery) laid on a Bingo grid and the kids needed to read at least 3 books, write a paragraph on each, and turn in the pages all within a set time period, say two weeks. Reading three books and completing the assignments earned a B, more books were encouraged to complete Bingo and earn the A. Out of the 5 or 6 Bingo pages, Katherine turned in one incomplete with only 2 books, and another section she didn't turn in at all. The times she did complete the assignment, she earned As and Bs, so those two poor grades pulled her down some. What nailed her was her tardiness to class. The teacher noted that she was late 5-10 minutes after break to practically every Reading class. So when she was determining grades, a B could have squeezed itself through if she had shown an -interest- and true -effort-. But because she was lazy and didn't think it would matter, she received the C.
And I'm glad she did. I know she didn't think those few late minutes would count against her. I know it didn't cross her mind that being in her seat when the bell rang had any significance. I know she was having fun and figured she could get by. I told her as much, and I told her that she deserved the grade and that teachers pay attention to these things and they -do- matter.
She assured me that she'll earn an A this quarter. I believe her.
So, I took the boys to the playground: the big kids playground with the monkeybars and the seesaw and all that stuff they don't get to use. One kid there screamed everytime he went down the slide which nearly drove me mad, but we hung around finishing the milkshakes from the snack bar and digging in the sand. Then Nicholas fell off the seesaw. And he covered his mouth. And there was a stunned panicked choking sound. And blood. Nicholas was getting off but the other kid wasn't, and the seesaw flipped up and met the front of Nicholas's face and a tooth that was previously there was gone into the sand at his feet or possibly even swallowed. The tooth was a baby tooth, relief #1. And it was a front, ever so slightly wiggly one that was destined to come out in the next 6 months anyway, relief #2.
Some tears, more panic at the blood seeping from his mouth, a good rinse, pressure from biting on tissue, and he was OK. Gappy McGaps-a-lot.
It's been a rough week for Nicholas, and didn't get any better when he lost at poker that evening and just broke down in misery.
Act 5: Thursday: So the good things from the week.
Today's Assembly at AISC was a lot of fun. In preparation for next week's India Week, the school brought in dancers from a local troupe showcasing dances from different Indian states, and High Schoolers gave a fashion show of, well, fashions throughout India.
I managed to get some scrapbooking done. Hopefully I'll finish off 2003 sometime soon. The scrap calendar I received from my parents for Christmas is way cool. Each day is another piece of scrapping paper. Fitting that last week's design was cards and poker chips.
Thanks to an on-line friend I have a source of inexpensive cotton play dresses. Who knew that Oriental Trading Company carried clothes, and cute clothes at that? Check out these adorable outfits and see if you don't buy some for your own little girls. I've been told the sizes run a tad small, so get the next size up just in case.
And to top off the bits of goodness, another on-line friend has a Girl Scout daughter. A boost from us put her at 100 boxes sold (she was close, really, we didn't buy -that- many). I'm looking around for other friend vendors who are willing to toss some cookies in the mail. They freeze well and we like them a whole lot! Anyone need a boost to reach a goal?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Learn Something New...

Remember when I said I thought Dosa was deaf? Over the past week we've done an assortment of "tests" to check our theory and I'd say my unscientific assessment is she failed 9 out of 10. Dropped items didn't turn an ear, banging on glasses or something metal received no response, calling for her or shouting did nothing. There's always the chance she's being 110% typical cat, but she doesn't do the ear swivel thing either. There's no cat radar going on, no flicking around searching for sound. So today we read this:

"Hereditary deafness is a major concern in white cats, and even more so if one or both irises are blue in color.

Researchers found that only 17 to 22 percent of white cats with non-blue eyes are born deaf. The percentage rises to 40 percent if the cat has one blue eye, while upwards of 65 to 85 percent of all-white cats with both eyes blue are deaf. Some of these cats are deaf in only one ear. Interestingly, if a white cat with one blue eye is deaf in only one ear, that ear will invariably be on the same side of the head as the blue eye.

Cats with just one deaf ear may appear perfectly normal, and their problem may never become known to their human companions. Even cats that are totally deaf from birth can make perfectly satisfactory companions as long as a few precautions are heeded. Catwatch logoTry to keep them out of situations where their safety depends upon their ability to pick up auditory cues. Don't let them go outside where they can be killed or injured by threats they cannot hear, like from roaming dogs and speeding cars.** There is no treatment for hereditary deafness. "

**In our case... snakes.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


I feel like I should update on what's been going on, but honestly, I can't put words together to create a coherent sentence, so you're getting bullets, and you'll like it.

- Jonathon was up most of last night with a fever, stuffy nose and general unhappiness and inability to sleep. The fever is typical for anytime he gets sick, so no worries there. But I slept on the couch. Might as well be uncomfortable and sleep lightly than be dragged out of a deep sleep repeatedly.
UPDATE: The nurse called to have him picked up from school. He can't breathe through his nose and his temperature is up near 103. The nurse gave him Tylenol, but an hour later and it doesn't seem to be touching the fever much.
- Yesterday was a day off for Ian, but not the kids. We played tennis, hung out with the neighbors, went to the nearby Benjarong (I think I spelled that right) Thai restaurant, and generally made an easy day of it. Lunch was so late the kids had sandwiches for dinner and the adults snacked on crackers. Next time we get leftover bags from the restaurant.
- Sunday, the three boys and I had haircuts. We're all looking spiffy. Now the girls want their hair styled.
- The Charity Fair at AISC is on Saturday, 10-3. Come one, come all if you're in Chennai.
- Jonathon has started tennis lessons with the other two, with the raquet he received for Christmas from Rebecca. He's doing really well, and enjoying it. Some days are more difficult to get everyone on the court, but they're having fun. This semester the girls will start afterschool activities on Wednesdays too, and I'm wondering if I should find something for the boys that day. There was nothing offered they found interesting.
- Katherine made her birthday invites. She's inviting two girls over for a sleepover cooking party so they're going to make dinner and breakfast, and giggle in between.
- Report cards come home today.
- The cats are something like 5 - 5 1/2 months old, and are driving us nuts. Samosa follows me around. "Race you up the stairs!" "Race you down the stairs!" "Can I squeeze into this bookshelf you're arranging?" "What're you doing in the bathroom?" "I'm *meow* under the *meow* chair!" "Pet me, don't pet me, pet me, don't pick me up, put me down, pet me, don't come near me..." Dosa is worse. I think that cat is deaf. Is it normal to be able to sneak up on a cat? And the midnight meowing has got to stop.
That's all for now. I'm sure there are other tidbits just as enthralling, but I can't recall them at the moment. Oh well.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Anyone Out There?

I'm thinking our e-mail is doing some wonky stuff. I've sent out messages to a bunch of folks (my parents, Dina, the Todd Reeses, Amy K-P, Lisa T, Christine...) and haven't heard word one from any of them. OK, I know not everyone sits on their e-mail like I do, but nothing from any of those people in the past week in response to the e-mails I've sent? Trying to figure out the problem from this end!

UPDATE: There is something strange going on. Mail is going out, mail (aside from Spam) isn't coming in regularly. If you've mailed me anything in the past week, please try again.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The After School Cha Cha

Where is the balance? School, fun, rest, family, homework, friends, exercise.

The stress for "life balance" starts earlier than I thought.

All my kids want to do afterschool activities, and the kid currently with the least stuff after school is Katherine. They don't get home until 4 and we never know how much homework she's going to get each evening. With dinner around 6 or 6:30 (usually done by 7), she's in bed by 8 and reads until 9, then she's up at 6:30 to start all over. She needs sleep, a lot of sleep. She's growing again, starting the long stretch from 11 year old into 12 years old, expecting puberty to kick in in the coming year, growing taller. This week back at school has taken its toll on her, the bags under her eyes came back fast and she's getting tummy aches.
But I -want- her to do activities. She wants to do activities. And we both acknowledge the fact that it realistically can't be done without really squishing our schedule and taking a greater physical toll. I'm one who thinks kids should have time every day to do nothing structured. For us, it's the time between homework and dinner. She invites a friend over or plays computer games or watches TV. There's an hour each day to pick whatever, then it's time to set the table and get the evening stuff done.
Next year, for Middle School the school day extends a 1/2 hour longer and the homework load will increase. How do kids find time to do fun stuff after school without killing themselves in the process? She'd like to take tennis (2x/week), continue piano lessons (1x/week), begin horseriding (2-3x/week), and join the swim team (3x/week). If it's this hard now to do one afterschool activity (ballet, once a week) and piano on Saturday morning, how will we ever manage next year??
I don't have the answers, I'm rather hoping I'll receive divine inspiration on the whole balancing thing, sometime before the kids move out at least.
Speaking of growing up, what is with the Indian freedom of sharing or inquiring into personal issues? Tamil Nadu is a conservative state yet it's interesting to see what that pertains to. Clothing, emotional expression, women on the right/men on the left. But just yesterday I mentioned to Mercy, the cook, that Katherine wasn't feeling well at school and she asked if Katherine had started her period. After a short yet stunned silence, I replied to the negative. This was after the driver came to work late because he took his wife to the hospital. What I understood over the phone as a stomach ache was explained to Ian as "missing her menses for 2 1/2 months." Maybe the propriety is solely between the sexes but within discussion is open and free?
Anyhow. I know it's coming. But I don't need to discuss it with, uh, the "staff."

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Chennai Open

Here are some pictures I took of the Chennai Open tennis tournament, which we went to tonight. I'm trying out this gallery format with Picasa, a Google product. If you like it, tell me!

Monday, January 1, 2007

A Step in the Right Direction

I do the family laundry. This is no surprise and it's also no small feat for six people. But laundry is one of those chores I really don't mind. I like line hanging, I like sorting. It's all very orderly. What I don't like is emptying piles of mixed up clothing from the dryer and then straightening it out. Sensory overload or something, I don't know.

But now that Katherine has her own room, she also has her own laundry basket.

I still do the laundering, it's easy to throw a load in the wash while making school lunches, put the kids on the bus, switch to the dryer, etc etc. There's a rhythm to doing clothes. With Katherine's laundry segregated from the rest of the family's (and I guess this means Rebecca's too, huh?) I can do an entire load just for her. The beauty of this is that once the dryer is done, I can have Katherine get her own clothes from the machine, fold them up and put them away. What liberation! Even better was the following discussion:
M: Katherine, the dryer is full of your clothes. Please get them, bring them to your room, fold them and put...
K: OK ok ok, the sooner I get to this, the sooner it'll be done.
M: *silent cheer*
K: Mom, why are all of these clothes inside out?
M: Because everyone just takes off their clothes and plops them in the basket.
K: But it takes a long time to turn every one of them out!
M: Yup, it sure does. I do it for five people every time (because you know, -I- know what a pain it is, so I turn my clothes out as I remove them before they're washed)
K: Well, I'm going to start turning them out before they go in the basket too. It'll just be easier.
M: *second silent cheer* Oh, and could you empty your pockets and take your belts off too?
Baby steps. But she's nearly 11 and plenty old to pay attention to these things.
Reminds me of a friend of mine who decided over these holidays she was no longer the housecleaning fairy and got her 3 kids in on the act. One of the chores she passed on was the switching of the laundry from the washer to the dryer. Her 5 year old daughter was all geared up when she stuck her hands in the machine and then quickly removed them with a shocked look on her face.
"Mom, they're WET!"
Too often I get annoyed with my kids over things I feel are quite obvious, or would be obvious with an iota of thought, so I roll my eyes and use sarcasm when a simple Yes or No would suffice. What I've tried to tell myself is that these are things that I do naturally think about, but it's not always on a kid's mind to consider what happens with spilled juice on the floor or why poking fork tines into a tablecloth is still a bad idea. They know the sugar is sticky or that ants like sweet stuff, but thinking the step ahead to cleaning it up well... not quite there yet. Or that tines don't do any damage to a tablecloth, but the table underneath takes quite a beating... not quite there yet.
It's funny, my boys really like connect-the-dot puzzles. I do wish all my kids would take it a step further to real life. Katherine is getting there. I'm hoping the others will be well on their way before their 10th birthday.