Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Not for us, check-ups for the cats.

We had a new vet come out to the house yesterday. The cats are well behind in their vaccinations, they are 4 months next week. Our neighbor used our previous vet for spaying her dog, and the dog didn't die, but we didn't want to take the chance on our cats again, so Dr. Aravind came by for an initial visit. They haven't been dewormed so that's the first step. Since we'll be gone a few days we'll start on Monday, go weekly if necessary until they are clean, monthly until their first birthday (January 2nd), then every 3 months after that. He wouldn't start vaccinations until they are wormed/dewormed (one of those funky word things where both mean the same thing), otherwise we'd have nicely vaccinated tapeworms and roundworms and not as protected furrballs.
The cats have each developed their own distinct personalities. Tikka the tigerish cat is the smallest and the only girl. She's slight but all muscle and holds her own against the two boys. She's skittish but has made great strides the past week, finally hopping onto laps and not fighting as strenuously when picked up. She loves to get pet and does the leg weaving bit especially on the stairs. Hmm, maybe she's just trying to achieve our early end with that one.
The other two, Masala and Tandoori are lap cats. Tandoori hasn't learned yet how to hop on things without claws, my legs are proof of that. Masala is gentler, but neither are graceful. They're likely to fall off ledges or slide off furniture.
They all meow. A lot. Tikka does a pathetic crying meow that really grates, the other two want to be picked up or more likely, fed.
It's going to be hard choosing which cats to bring with us. We're not going to be the crazy cat people.

Something to Talk About

The Under $3000 Car

Good idea? Bad?


The Hindu

We get the daily paper. Most of it covers local politics I don't much care about and cricket I care even less about, but sometimes there's a snippet of something interesting.

Yesterday's paper had an article on an artist and his exhibition of ecology focused paintings. I was intrigued. I decided I wanted to check out the exhibit and once against ran into the plague of The Hindu - the lack of information. It's bad enough that most of the material reported has already occurred, so all the shows and exhibitions and performances were wonderful... yesterday. But when there is something current, gathering the information to see said artistic effort takes plenty of personal sleuthing.
The exhibition started on the 22nd, this past Sunday. It was in the paper on the 24th, yesterday. And it closes on the 27th, this Friday. It's not uncommon for events to be covered in the paper the day they are to occur, or to see billboards of events that are currently happening, so I guess this time was lucky that there was actual a couple extra days left for the exhibition. And the article included the times as well, right at the end.
I knew the days and times, then to find the place. That took a little extra work. I read and re-read the article. Nothing. I looked at the photo, then read through the caption. Ah, there at the end of the caption, the name of the gallery. But where?
I'd never been to the gallery and while I was curious about the paintings, I didn't want to spend an hour in the car to see them. So, I glanced again to see if it said its location. Nothing. I went to the old stand-by, Google. The Lalit Kala Akademi came up. In Delhi. No no no, I told myself, it must be in Chennai. The article was reported from Chennai. Ah, but the Lalit Kala Akademi site said it had regional centers, one in Chennai! I clicked and got an e-mail address. For as connected as India is, I do not rely on e-mail responses, and certainly not within the hour it would have been useful. So the search continued, with added parameter of a city name. There's no official site but has an outdated Arts section with exhibition listings and there it was... an entry for an exhibit at the Akademi, in Chennai, and a road name. I checked the map on my wall and discovered the street was right down from the Consulate, where I was going to be this afternoon anyway, and the Akademi was marked. Why not just have looked on the map first? Well, plenty of places are marked, but not all are in the listings. I could have spent all day checking square by square on the grid.
I was still hemming and hawing about actually seeing the paintings, but after the effort to find its location, I figured I'd go, by myself, something that I simply don't do because I'm self-conscious enough and safety conscious enough to know that I'm, well, obvious. I don't like being obvious. But I went, and boy was I obvious. There was one other couple, but the lady who met me at the door pointed to a particularly old man as the artist himself. He shuffled over and walked with me through the entire dusty, flickering-light gallery. I heard the story behind every one, some ecological visions of particular points around Chennai, some historical snapshots, some world views, even one portraying the destruction of the Earth by non-vegs. Yes, the meat-eaters as the root of disease and destruction.
At the end of my hour long tour, I was able to shake his hand with an honest thank you for his time and for sharing his visions. Some of his work really was impressive, my favorite was a nighttime chase, cheetah and deer. The rich blues and purples caught my eye among all the green canvases. He shared his hope that a foreigner would someday see his work, and that today his hope had been realized. It made me feel good to make an old man happy, even for an hour. All that address hunting was worth it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

It was the glasses

I was so so tired for a while there. It was the glasses.

I had changed to a different pair and when I clued in and changed back... voila. No more eye strain, no more feelings of exhaustion. I should probably get my eyes checked while I'm here anyway and get those lenses replaced.
So now that I'm feeling fine, I can catch up on all that's been going on.
Nicholas's birthday was Friday and he had a good day, but we're dealing with some strange 7 year old attitude. Not wanting to help out, backtalking, easily distracted (yes, the norm, but amplified) and extreme persistence in asking for what he wants. Another way of saying he won't quit and won't take No for an answer. None of these are good progressions and the past five days of being 7 have not been impressive.
Last night I treated his head again. It seems to be a yearly thing, of something akin to cradle cap. I do the regular baby oil soak followed by washing with head&shoulders and he's back to normal, but these patches will thicken again and I don't know how to prevent that without using a harsh chemical ridden wash like head&shoulders every bathtime. That's not good for little kid, right?
Saturday after the girls' piano lessons, we searched the pet store at Spencers for a product to remove cat urine. Nice, I know. The cats, or a cat, has taken a liking to Nicholas and Rebecca's beds. They are forbidden from the rooms now, but the damage has been done and something like Nature's Miracle is called for. We didn't find any but our neighbor thinks she has some.
From Spencers we went to USA Day at the Feldmann's and I did my bits on Christopher Newport. All the explorers of the time were searching for treasure and none of the North American wanderers found any. Not of the gold variety at least. So after a little bit of talking and map work, we cracked out geodes. Sometimes you find treasure, and sometimes you don't. One of them was still wet inside, I thought it was pretty cool. The other explorers were Cartier, Columbus and Ponce de Leon. The kids ended with Ponce de Leon and a search for the Fountain of Youth in the yard, a bucket filled with squirters.
We had soaked kids but that didn't stop us from going to Cottage Industries, three floors of handicrafts all at reasonable (higher than norm but not Expat High) and -fixed- prices. We bought nothing but I took a page of notes of items of interest and cost. Thursday I go back with a friend to purchase gifts. Fixed prices are a blessing for those of us who do not enjoy haggling, especially over a large number and assortment of items. I don't want to spend the time bickering, and it's very unIndian of me.
Sunday was church, lunch at Cappucino (the paneer and pesto sandwich is tasteless, though I did ask for no peppers and maybe that's where all the flavor lay), heavy duty cleaning and organizing under the stairwell and some pool time. Our Caterpillar buds came over to swim, and the Feldmann kids too, so it was a little party.
Monday, well, Monday I made difficult all on my own. The house is a disaster and I can't function well in a mess, but I had other things to do so I spent a good amount of time going in circles getting nothing accomplished. In the end, I did get the auction items to the school for the PTA fundraiser after stopping at Anokhi for gift bags and Amma Naana for chocolate. The sets included a movie pack (family movies, popcorn and a blanket I made a while ago), a wine rack with a bottle of chocolate vodka, a S'mores pack (everything to make S'mores, with instructions), an Xbox pack (our xBox dance pads along with games) and an Africa pack (a jumper from Ghana, a t-shirt from Togo's entry to the World Cup last year, 2 books and a framed print of the Lome' fetish market taken by Katherine). Since we won't be at the fundariser I figured it's what I could do. And it gets rid of a bunch of crap from our house too.
I had an unpleasant chat with the interim Kindergarten teacher and another Kindergarten parent, about Jonathon. Unbeknownst to me, he's targeted one particular kid and that kid is now down a Power Rangers roller backpack due to Jonathon stomping on it. Totally unacceptible and he has repaid it with every cent he has and an additional week of chores without pay. But the bigger issue is his focus on this kid and how he just doesn't like him. I'm never quite sure how to judge other kids and their parents because some things that I would teach my kids to ignore or incidents that just don't warrant a whole lot of angst, really rile up other people. Jonathon calls this kid names. Her example involved a description of his chicken pox scars and how Jonathon called him "chicken pox boy." Yes, I could see how that would bug someone. But where I would tell my kids to ignore it or turn it into a game by acting like a chicken, this really offended his mother. I can't negate her reaction, but I didn't react as shocked as I think was expected. When we asked Jonathon later that evening if he played with this boy, he said he did sometimes. I get the feeling that the two kids have it out for each other. Jonathon sees him as an easy target when he's frustrated and the other kid is using complaints against Jonathon to garner sympathy from mom. That's just my guess, and yes, I'm biased because Jonathon is not a malicious kid. I'd be ticked about the bag, and I'd make a kid repay it somehow, but what I didn't hear from her was what her kid did to instigate anything and as we all know, there's always another side. I just didn't hear it.
To finish the day I took the middle two to the dentist. Rebecca had fillings,sealants and fluoride, Nicholas just had sealants and fluoride. I spoke with an orthodontist. Last time I had full mouth xrays and a mould done. The ortho took digital photos and told me his initial assessment is that braces wouldn't do much. My jaws are misaligned. Flashback to high school when my mom brought me to the ortho and he said the same thing and I passed on the surgery to correct it. Now I'm faced with the same option, do it or don't. Does the state of my mouth warrant a surgery that will have me in pain for a good long while? It's bugged me since high school, should I pass up the opportunity to get it changed? Or does being "bugged" by something give enough of a reason at all? I go back on the 5th to learn more. It's a good time, Ian will be with me for that. Decisions, decisions.
In the meantime, we're missing the PTA Caribbean Night in order to traipse along with Ian for a work trip to Cochin, Kerala. I don't know how many folks know this as I didn't before moving here, but India has it's own States and each State has its own capital and its own language. Here in the south of India, we are in the state of Tamil Nadu, the capital is Chennai (formerly Madras) and the language is Tamil. In the state of Kerala, the capital is Thiruvananthapuram (formerly Trivandrum, all the names are changing back to more Indian forms) and the language is Malayalam. Thankfully, English and Hindi are two other official languages in India and the ones most widely spoken across the nation. Speaking of (heh) I should get back into learning some Hindi.
So that's what I've been up to.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

How is it possible....

...that we have an 11yo, 9yo, 7YO, and a 5yo? Nicholas is seven now, turned a year older on Friday with cupcakes, snake cake, a class crown and presents galore. He really wanted a party, I really didn't, so we compromised with invitations to the 1st graders at school to join in his celebration with cupcakes at the end of the school day. He received no fewer than 10 presents, something I had considered might happen. It was like Christmas all over, all for him.
...that we went to a shop today packed with loads of awesome things, and bought nothing? Seriously, nothing. The Cottage Industries has a little of everything and lots of a few things. Ian and I eyed potential gifts and additions to our own home. But I appeased us by taking notes with the promise of a return in a few weeks. I still want to take Ian to the furniture shop on the ECR that has a curio I really like.
...that I'm wearing a man's shirt covered in Ohm and Swastik and a repeated mantra in Hindi? Honestly, I like it. I know I'll never be able to wear this shirt outside of India unless it's as a sleeping shirt, but it will forever be my controversial India shirt. For Hindus the swastik is an extremely holy and auspicious symbol.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Kudos to has decent prices, decent shipping and good customer service. With the latest recall of the kids' Listerine Agent Cool Blue (or whatever it's called), they informed me of as I'd purchased a bottle through them, then instantly refunded the cost. No empty bottle, no UPC, no begging or even asking.

Sometimes it really is the small things.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Only Wednesday or Already Wednesday?

My grandmother was released from the hospital on Sunday. I believe she'll be staying with my parents indefinitely. My dad continues to recouperate at home. He plays the piano at home to strengthen his hands and arms, and he played the organ at church on Sunday. He walked through the grocery store last week as well, so all told, he's improving.

Our thoughts are with Virginia Tech's families. While neither Ian nor I attended Hokie U., we had friends who did.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

April 15th

It's Tax Day. Ok, so this year it's a Sunday and you all get a grace period of an additional day. Don't be late! Or if you're like us, you've already spent the refund back in February and April 15th is just another day.

Ah, but being the middle of the month, have you replaced another incandescent bulb in your house with an energy saving CFL? One or two a month... go ahead and do it!

Mom, if you've been getting coupons in the mail for CFL bulbs, those are my fault. Hope you can use them though! If not, pass them on, they expire quick.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I Have No Idea What the Family Did Today

I was home today, but not really here.

The fact is, I slept until 9 (after going to bed at 11, waking to a freak rainstorm, and then barely waking to the morning request for Pop-Tarts). I quickly realized I wasn't really functioning and told Ian I was going back to bed at 11. I slept until nearly 3. Then, and only then, did I feel actually awake.
The past couple weeks I haven't really been awake. I don't know what's going on, but I figure I need to dig out my vitamins and actually take them. I need to get to bed by 10. I need to drink more water.
Yesterday I went with Danie (my new friend in town) to a plant nursery on the ECR. Summer is full-on and her yard needs landscaping, so off to the nursery we went to haggle over flowers and bushes for 2 1/2 hours. Usually not a taxing job, but the heat just about knocked me over and I think it had longer lasting effects than even I had anticipated. But even that doesn't explain the days before, where waking up is a trial and staying awake practically impossible.
After my long nap, we took the kids swimming, Danie and her son joined us as they're in a big empty house at the moment. I swam. Red letter day, that. Actually, I swam earlier this week too, for a short while after the kids boarded the bus. What a treat that was. The summer sun has warmed the pool wonderfully, and that early in the a.m. there are no workers on the wall yet. Just me and the water. Bliss.
Here's hoping I can figure out the magic solution to my seemingly endless exhaustion. I know the lack of activity can be a huge cause, so the more I get out and about the better I should feel. Let's just see if I can get going in the first place.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Like My Dad Says: "When it Rains..."

It Pours.

My dad came home last Tuesday, he's been recovering in his own recliner for over a week now. His medication has been adjusted to curb the pain and treat the infection in his arm from where the vein for his bypass was taken. I have high hopes he'll recover all use of that arm and hand. He's on the road to good health. My grandmother came down from Wisconsin to help around the house and keep an eye on him when my mom is out.
This past Tuesday my grandmother was admitted to the hospital for skyrocketing blood pressure. She is still there and the cause is still unknown. Unfortunately, she's in an unfamiliar state and unfamiliar hospital with unfamiliar doctors.
My mom is now torn in too many ways - visiting and keeping up with my grandmother at Fairfax Hospital... taking care of my dad at home... running errands for medications and doctor visits... keeping up with her job... and countless other tasks of managing day to day life. I can guarantee she isn't eating right or getting any sleep. I imagine going to the grocery store or filling the car with gas seem like insurmoutable tasks some days.
I find it hard to believe that of the 3 closest family members I have outside my own little family, two of them are ill. Not just ill, but seriously ill. And oh yeah, I think I've mentioned this before... I'm in freaking India.
If I were home, I would take some of the tasks off my mother's shoulders. Sitting at the hospital, calling in prescriptions, making meals. But I'm not and the best I can do, the little I can do, is sit here, get e-mail updates and pray for all of them. It's rather pathetic.
In other news, and at this point it's some of the "who cares?" variety, I lost the sapphire off my necklace. For Christmas Ian had given me a necklace and anklet set. In February I had my sapphire from another chain reset to fit my new necklace. Yesterday, my chain felt odd so I tried to adjust it only to find that the clasp had opened and the pendant was gone. Not on a day I'd spent at home of course, but on the day I shared lunch with Ian at the Consulate, watched the girls do their afterschool swim, dropped off film for developing. I have little hope of finding it, but I'm not crushed. More resigned and disappointed, in a sad way of acceptance.
The kids got their report cards yesterday. Academically fine. Katherine didn't get her reading score up to an A like she wanted, but did pull the C up to a B+. Rebecca and Nicholas need more computer work, and everyone but Rebecca need an attitude adjustment. Katherine is pushy and bossy, Nicholas is too rough and Jonathon is the class clown.
Life goes on. Even in India.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

A couple sites to check out

Thanks to Jeff for pointing out, an individual lending program.

And I've mentioned before, a gift program to encourage community self-reliance.

Happy Easter to All

This past week has been a busy one. We've made some new friends, a family that is here with Caterpillar, so we spent quite a bit of time with them. Today being Easter, we had them over for a late lunch which turned into an early dinner. I think our oven is running low and I should really put the oven thermometer in there to actually check. Yesterday the kids were busy, the boys had a birthday party, the girls bought birthday gifs and then everyone went to the Consulate Easter egg hunt. Today we had our own egg hunt in the back yard and egg dyeing. Even better, all the kids were able to talk with their grandpa, grandma and great-grandma too on Skype. It was good for everyone to see him and know that he's going to be OK. They were even off to Easter Mass today and I hope he managed fine and won't suffer for it later. My dad made it home on Tuesday and will have a long recovery at home. My grandmother has flown down from Wisconsin to help out as well, so I know that meals will be eaten and sleep will be had. It's a good thing, and an Easter blessing.

And tomorrow the kids go back to school. Another blessing not to be ignored.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Spring Break will Break us All

Nah, spring break isn't that bad. Without an Easter trip this year, we're finding things to do around here. It helps that a new family arrived a week ago and we've been busy having them over to the house and going out yesterday to Spencers. Mostly though, the days pass with school work. I'm a mean mom. Rebecca started the break with a Handwriting workbook and instructions for She also had a book, Amber Brown, to read for class. To that we added her normal piano practice and another book, Because of Winn Dixie.

The other kids created their own lists. Spellingtime became a quick favorite, and for math we added funbrain/math. Nicholas was given Magic TreeHouse books by his teacher, and I've got 3 kids doing Rosetta Stone French. Piano for Katherine, daily reading for Jonathon. And the rest of the time is left up for play.

We did have tennis until all other 9 kids decided April was the time to stop. The coach doesn't want to do a class for 2 kids, but I do want them to continue so I will call him up and see about having something on Saturday mornings instead. Rebecca is progressing nicely and she doesn't want to lose it.

Right now though, the kids just got home from swimming and we're watching Fairly OddParents. And I'm tired. And it's dinner time. Suppose I should get something on the table.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Path of Palms

Church this morning was a blessing. That's not something I've felt for a while, but today I was glad to be there even with the squirrely kids.

Noon Mass is for the strong. India is heading full-force into summer and the Cathedral is not air-conditioned. High noon, full church, ugh. But it's Palm Sunday. And while we didn't get to participate in the Passion (the priest did a straight reading), the service was moving, with the same musical group from Christmas Mass. The 9:30 a.m. first Sunday Mass features the St. Bede's boys pounding out pop Christian hits in bad unison. For us it's not a pleasant ritual, so waiting to noon and listening to the strains of a string quartet and voices in harmony brought out a sense of belonging for me. Yes, it was a blessing.
My dad is in the hospital right now. Friday morning he had triple bypass surgery. It's one of the times when I wonder what the heck I'm doing in India. But in India I am, and from here the best I can do for my dad and my mom is to let them know they are in my thoughts and prayers, and then actually pray. Praying isn't an easy thing for me to do beyond the general "Thanks for everything, oh and please keep an eye on us." Praying for something truly meaningful takes real effort, and today's Mass was such to give me a push in the right direction.
Listening to an acapella "God So Loved the World" while folding palm frond crosses for my kids, I thought of my dad who adds such beauty to Masses year after year leading choirs in this soul-touching piece. I thought of him in a hospital this year, missing Palm Sunday service, knowing that the Mass would miss his musicianship and unspoken yet projected spirituality. I thought of my mom attending an early service, apart from the usual hustle and bustle of choir rehearsals and pomp of High Mass, in order to arrive at the hospital for the opening of visiting hours.
God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that who so believeth, believeth in Him, should not perish, should not perish but have everlasting life.
Today I prayed from my heart. I prayed for my dad to continue recovering. I prayed for my mom to stay strong and remember to eat something along the way. I prayed for my kids that they appreciate how special their grandparents are. I prayed for Ian and myself too. I still don't know quite how to fix our relationship with God, but I know He can help and that He knows what we lack and more importantly how to fix it. I'll do what I can for me and my family, but I leave the rest to Him.
And I'll keep praying for my dad to get healthier and stronger with each passing day. We love him. And we need him.