Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Going to Korea

In retrospect the journey back did not begin while setting on our terrace in Bangalore, it was conceived there, but it began in June of 2001 on our deck in Golden Valley.

My wife and I were discussing our good fortune of extending another year on her current ex-pat assignment for her Company, Target, and the topic of the discussion the home leave allowance
Many Companies that have employees on overseas assignments (ex-pats) offer these employees a financial thank you by way of home leave money. This money is given on the assumption that the employee will travel back to their home visit relatives, see friends and extol the virtues of their employer because of this “free” trip home, not us.

This year we chose to go to Korea and to help finance any of our family members who wanted to come along. We have the good fortune to have a total of 18 people going including us.

For the past few weeks we have been e-mailing and calling Children’s Home in St.Paul, who facilitated the adoption process of our three kids, to assist us with our plans. We now have meetings set up with all three Foster Mom’s and a special met and greet with the two Doctor’s Kim whom are in charge of Eastern Social Welfare Society, the agency in Korea who worked with Children’s Home to bless us with our kids.

The schedule is set with trips to the DMZ, Lotte World and to several Korean Markets and of course a trip up the Seoul Tower, which is similar to the Seattle Needle. There is also a small opportunity that may allow us to take a train into North Korea!

The chance for all our kids to see their respective Foster Parents is something that seems surreal. We will be posting blogs as we go and after each meeting hoping that we can add photos somehow so we can keep everyone up to the minute.

The journey begins......

Merry Christmas

The jolly old elf arrived in Bangalore in true fashion. Santa made his spirit known to us and the entire Palm Meadows community when at 7:35 local standard time Jimmy noticed that Santa had brought him a drum set. Not any old drum set a 5 piece affair complete with a bass drum, two snare drums and to tom tom drums and two separate cymbal's. James first words were " not bad, not bad at all" he has not stopped playing them yet!

Kay woke up this morning and announced " Today we go to Korea, Yeah!!" We asked her what else today was " oh Santa comes today, right?" You have to love her priorities!

She was equally impressed with her new Dora ensemble, Dora sleeping bag, pack pack, and bouncing ball. She is all set and ready to go to Korea.

Billy of course had a very Cars Christmas complete with a cars garage ( sleeping bag), books on cars as well as Cd's to learn about changing oil and other important stuff like that, when you are on the go.

Mom and Dad got some very practical gifts and Dad even surprised Mom with a little Bling.

We then went to some of our neighbors to pass out some Christmas candy and cards. Arun our neighbor down the street open his door and Jimmy announced " I got a drum set for Christmas" To which Arun responded " I know" with a sideways glance at us! I guess he had a point it was only 9:30 in the morning.

We then spent the afternoon gritting our teeth as Jimmy banged away, Kay danced and Billy played with his cars.

Then it was off to the Webb's for Christmas dinner with the rest of the Palm Meadoweans that are still here. We deep fried two turkeys and the new local butcher/seafood guy smoked us a ham. It was great fun and we all ate too much.

As we get ready for the journey to Korea,we are wishing you all the Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest and most Prosperous New Year.

Love and God Bless,

Tom Tracy,Jimmy, Kay and Bill

Monday, December 24, 2007

'Twas the night before Christmas

when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.Away to the window I flew like a flash,Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,With a little old driver, so lively and quick,I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;He had a broad face and a little round belly,That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,And laying his finger aside of his nose,And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It came upon a Midnight not so clear

It seems we woke up today and realized it is the last day of school, for three weeks? When did that happen and more importantly how did we miss it, again. The lack of seasonal makers does make things happen a little faster and apparently with out warning.

The last day of school is also red day and all the little tikes were clad in the many colors of red Kay even had to wear red bangles.The school had a children only party with the guest of honor, Saint Nick himself. Each child received a lovely little gift, Jimmy and Kay each received a pencil and an eraser while young William received a flower encased in a plastic cube with the words Happy Birthday, proudly displayed across the front?

We had our Christmas and farewell for awhile dinner with the Millers whom you will want to visit their blog http://www.wacmiller.blogspot.com/ to see their trip to Egypt and then their stay in Minnesota for the holidays. We wish them safe travels.

I have been frantically running around Bangalore Christmas shopping and have actually been quite successful. I have found a wreath, ornaments, smoked salmon among other items I can not mention now as young James can not only access the computer he can also read and therefore mentioning gifts that a certain person has yet to deliver is well a, faux paugh.

We are in the midst of getting ready for the trip to Korea and will update you on that soon.

Being that a great many of the world are in full festive celebratory mode for the upcoming feast of Christmas I thought I would pass on the follow info on the 12 Days of Christmas, which if you were purchase these itmes would cost you around $250,000 depending on the hourly wage of the 8 maids, as sort of a PSA:

Religious symbolism of The Twelve Days of Christmas (The 12 Days of Christmas)

1 True Love refers to God

2 Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments

3 French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues

4 Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists

5 Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.

6 Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation

7 Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments

8 Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes

9 Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

10 Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments

11 Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles

12 Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

Meanwhile you better watch out you better not pout....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Deck the Halls

The Palm Meadoweans got together to trim the tree, have some eggnog and get into the Christmas spirit(s).

Abhi and Amber had the Murphy's, Fishers, Webb's and Vanderpooles over on Sunday for an afternoon of Christmas merriment. The kids had a great time decorating the tree, making Christmas cookies complete with sprinkles and home made frosting!

Amber makes and incredible eggnog and the adults had eggnog and Crown Royal, yummy!

There were elves and tiny reindeer, we were only missing the jolly old Elf himself but we are counting the days until Santa!

Billy Turns 3

We awoke on December 11th with this slap on the head from Billy and the announcement that today is MY Birthday, it was 6 am and Billy was ready to go. We were not, so he had to wait an hour or so until it was the proper time to get up.

We sent the little tike off to school with treats for his teachers and classmates and promised him a big party after his nap. Well he was somewhat uncooperative, which should have been our first sign of things to come, however we got him down for a nap and proceeded to get organized for the party. Now you may think that having a Birthday party for a 3 year old is easy , think again. What to do?

Well as you know Billy is a beyond normal car freak, a regular caraholic and every car or motorized vehicle for that matter is his, period. Many fights have ensued between Billy and our Cook and Maid, with the neighborhood kids, the entire Palm Meadows community and currently the ongoing battle with Caden T Miller is at a draw.

So the grand idea of getting a cake made in the likeness of the great one, Lightning McQueen, seem like a great idea at the time. We then had Tracy's marketing team print our a 24x36 photo of Lightning so we could play change the tire on the car, I mean Billy was way down with it. We then made Xerox copies of tires got a blind fold and wham instant success. ( Anyone can do pin the tail on the donkey)

We then had each child outfitted with a matchbox car and had car races down the slide followed up by a coloring contest, WOW.

Meanwhile all the participants were getting hungry so we headed back to Billy's pit, 83 Phase II, for his favorite meal of, corn with butter, mac and cheese and green sour apples and then to be followed with cake and ice cream, we thought.

Dinner was devoured and then Billy set off of the gifts with a frenzy. He received wonderful gifts of cars, playdoh,car legos, a helicopter ( his second love) and from Caden a bike. Yep Caden gave Billy his bike that he used when he was three and Billy was in heaven. Now Caden is a little taller than Billy so the seat was to high, no matter to OL" Bill because he also just received from Zak a set of tools ,which he promptly stated "no worries I can fix it" and did just that.

Now we unveiled the masterpiece of Lightning and put the number 3 candle on top lite the candle and sang one of the worse versions of Happy Birthday ever but no matter there was Lightning in all his glory, candle burning, Billy smiling from ear to ear!

Billy blew out that candle and everyone cheered and then we all said "lets cut the cake" all of us that is ,except Bill. "No way can you cut my cake", we were at a lost. This has never happened before in the history of kiddom. Not cut the cake you must be joking, "stay away it is mine !""leave it alone" we were shocked. The other kids starting chanting cut the cake cut the cake and Ol' Bill just stood up in his highchair spread out his arms in a protective fashion and yelled them down " there will be no cake at this party". What to do? We tried to reason with Bill, I quickly took a picture and then printed out a copy and gave it to him , to no avail .

The other kids were still applying peer pressure to which one of the Parents pointed out at least when Billy gets older no one will be able to pressure him into doing something he does not want to do, great but we had a small riot on our hands and kids looking for cake. So we compromised and gave everyone Ice cream. They still wanted cake.

I took Bill into the other room and tried to reason with him, Bill it is only a cake surely you must understand that? If we do not eat the cake we will have to throw it out and what fun would that be?You have a photo of the cake I can hang it on your wall over your bed and you can see it every night? His only response " No cut it"

Drastic times call for drastic measure. I am not proud of the next few moments but cake is cake. I gathered up some of Billy's new birthday presents, particularly the leggo car set and piled them on the counter on the other side of the room. I then brought my 3 year old over and showed him his new toys. I then told him that the people who came to the party did so to give these gifts to you and to have cake and ice cream. So if we can not give them cake we may have to give these presents back. " CUT IT CUT IT NOW", guilt works.

The cake was awesome Billy took one bite and was off to watch a movie, he does not really like cake in the first place. The riot calmed down and peace was returned to Villa 83.

I mean have you ever heard of a kid not wanting to have cake?

What is in store for us when he turns 4?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Attacked by a Mirror

We were on our way last Friday night to pick up Tracy from work driving down Airport road along with several thousand other people when out of no where the driver side mirror on our van exploded sending shards of glass everywhere.

Jarring Kay out of a small nap she yelled " What the hell was that"? Saravan pulled over and went to talk with the driver of the other vehicle. He then came to tell me I had to talk with this driver because he is "mad". Meaning not so much angry, as insane, like that.

He is a recap of what was discussed;
Tom: What seems to be the problem?
Driver: You pulled into my lane.
Tom: Impossible there are no lanes here.
Driver: True
Tom: We were in front of you so how is it that we hit you?
Driver: You did not hit me
Tom: OK, so that means you hit us
Driver: I did not hit you ,the mirror on my car collided with the mirror on you car.
Tom: Who owns this vehicle
Driver: I do
Tom: Then you are responsible for your mirror and therefore you hit me
Driver: This is not about money I will gladly pay for a new mirror. It is about the principle of the matter.
Tom: What?
Driver: You must agree that my mirror hit your mirror and I am not responsible for hitting your car.
Tom: Do you have brakes on this vehicle?
Driver: Yes
Tom: Whom is responsible for using the brakes?
Driver; Why do you ask?
Tom: Because whomever is responsible for using the brakes is the one responsible for hitting my mirror.
Driver: You do not understand. The mirror collided with your mirror and is ultimately responsible for causing your mirror to break.

At this point I felt it prudent to exchange cards and get his number. I then called his number to make sure it was the right one, I mean after a conversation like that, it is any ones guess.

Who do you think is going to pay for the new mirror?

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Christmas Bazaar

This is the second Christmas Bazaar that we have had the privilege to participate in. Every year the Overseas Women's Club (OWC) has a Christmas event that brings all the Charities that they support along with several of the businesses that one spouse or another is involved as well as the ever Popular Bangalore Rugby booth to St. Mark's church to sell their wares and for the kids to see Santa.

The actual seeing of Santa does occur however there are a limited few children that have the nerve to actually sit on his lap. Which drives Santa into depression and ultimately the bottle and Oh well watch the Billy Bob Thornton movie and you will get my drift.

Meanwhile fresh off a 27 plus hour journey from Minneapolis back to Bangalore yours truly was sitting in the seat wearing the heavy red fuzzy suit, lack of sleep, heat and slow traffic almost caused Santa to take a nap! One particular child was busted by Santa for not listening to his mother and was stunned that Santa knew of the infraction. Remember Santa knows if you are naughty or nice, along with a little help from the parents.

Not sure if its a good sign or not, but our kids are "on" to the fact that the Santa at the Cmas event isnt really Santa. Kay's comment was ... "oh, Wade's Santa this year". Then after Tom's shift as the jolly old elf, "now Bob's Santa". So much for the magic of the Cmas season.

There were booths with all types of shawls, clothes, ornaments and other notion and sundry items. The food booths were great and the Ox drawn carriage rides were also very popular.

After Billy and Kay found every mud puddle and dirt pile (including a snake hole that managed to burn about 30 min's of our time) we climbed back into the Innova and bid a Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Raj "Speak" and managing our household staff

OK, now while I miss Tom and I love him, I also appreciate the work he does with the kids... AND, I DO understand his role as household staff manager. However, 2 conversations with Raj (our cook) this week UNDERSCORES how vital Tom's job is to the health of our family...

Example # 1 (also a good example of Indian "help", culture and parenting):
Kay has spent the day getting into trouble, not limited to, but most distressing, climbing into the medicine cabinet get at the strawberry and cherry flavored medicines. It seems she has run out of her hidden stash of chocolate and is resorting to this, similar to an alcoholic and cough syrup. As Raj wants to prevent an accidental overdoes, he asks Jimmy to open the "American food cabinet" so that he can give Kay chocolate instead of strawberry flavored medicine.

(Quick aside, this food cabinet has a child lock so that Kay (and others) dont get into it, eat all the chocolate or god forbid, make beef jerky into a hot cabbage casserole. So, yes, the child lock is for the kids AND for Raj although it seems that Jimmy is a locksmith and now knows how to open it).

Now, I realize that this story is wrong on MANY different levels, but here is the conversation between Raj and I when he tells me the above....

Raj: Ma'am I cant open the cupboard, so I asked Jimmy to do it for me.
Tracy: Why did you need to get in there?
Raj: So that the kids will like me
Tracy: Excuse me?
Raj: With Sir gone, I need the kids to like me and listen to me and the only way to do it is to give them candy.
Tracy: Raj, you are in charge, they dont have to like you, but they do need to listen to you. You can put them on a time out or tell them "no"
Raj: (Laughing at the silly white girl) - Oh no ma'am, I cant tell the kids "no", the best is to give them chocolate
Tracy: (Trying one more time) Really Raj, you can discipline them when I am gone
Raj: (Smiling blank faced look, like I just told him that we have sent a man to the moon) Yes Ma'am (toggle of the head)
Needless to say, I find chocolate wrappers around the house for days after this incident.

Example # 2: Raj has met me at Jimmy's guitar lesson and is telling me about the kids day and what he made for dinner (he's very very proud of his day by the way, as he should be!!)

Raj: Ma'am, dinner is there
Tracy: Great, what did you make?
Raj: Jimmy had brown mutton and noodles, he loved it, its his favorite
Tracy: Thanks Raj, II know.... what else is there?
Raj: Your and Sir's favorite, I made the brain
Tracy: WHAT?!

Saravanan is now laughing and Raj is looking at me in shock

Raj: Yes, Ma'am, you like it, you eat it for breakfast many times
Saravanan: Yes Tracy, you like it, I had it for lunch its good. I thought it was egg, but today I learned its brain. Its good (he's laughing...)
Tracy: You are kidding right?! (I know EXACTLY the dish he is referring too, its like a very delicate scrambled egg dish with veggies)
Raj: No Ma'am, its very healthy for you
Tracy: Oh Man, Raj, now I cant eat it, I'm totally grossed out. I know, it tasted good and I ate it before I knew what it was, but now I just cant.
Raj: (again, the dull look like I am speaking Cantonese or like I just landed FROM the moon but this time accompanied by giggling) Its good for you Ma'am, you like the taste

Saravanan is now laughing hysterically.....

Tracy: Really Raj, I cant eat it. You shouldnt have told me. Does Tom know? Is he hiding this from me?
Raj: Yes Ma'am, Sir knows.....

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Kay's Gotcha Day, Jimmy's grown up and Billys my prend

The highlight of this weekend was Saturday. Kay woke up bright and early at 6:30, came running into my room and announced, "Today's my special day!". Yep, Kay, Saturday was your Gotcha Day. 4 years ago on this day, we brought the tiny Baby Kay home from Korea.

You were so sweet and cubby and tiny and terrorizing all at the same time. You cried non-stop all the way home (20+ hr flight from Seoul to MPLS). You were the littlest baby we had ever had to take care of and we were scared to death. Jimmy and Grandma/pa Hickey met us at the airport and Jimmy said "Hi Baby Kay, I'm Jimmy, nice to meet you". We headed home in the MN cold and when we got there, Jimmy just had to show you his room. Such a good little host. You refused to sleep for the 1st 72 hours unless either Daddy or I was holding you in a sitting position, but you finally adjusted and became a happy part of our family.

So, Saturday, we had to celebrate you joining the Murphy family. We had a family walk, went swimming and then had chocolate cake with white frosting and cherrys by the pool. All your friends were there and we sang 2 different versions of Happy Gotcha Day. It was very fun. We love you Baby Kay, Kay Kay and the Pook-a-rook!!

Jimmy is all grown up. Last week, he told Tom "I think I'm going to go for a run to get some exercise" and he did! He has also started taking showers by himself. He washes his own hair and body, dries off, puts gel in his hair and gets dressed. Between this new habit and his eating habits, I think we have hit puberty already. All is not lost however, he still wants to sit on my lap and cuddle and can throw a mean fit when he doesnt get his way. He's still 6 aside from being as big as an 8 yr old and the workout/showering habits of a 15 yr old:)

Billy is my "prend" (i.e. friend). With Tom being gone, I am getting ALL of Billy's pent up love and attention. This means middle of the night visits, having to sit on top of me whenever I take a seat, climbing all over me when we watch a movie and not letting ANYONE else sit by me EVER (especially Kay). While all the hugs and kisses are sweet, I could use a little elbow room. Plus, these shows of affection are necessary to combat the tantrums that come with being 2 just about to turn 3.

All and all, we are surviving with Tom in MPLS, but we really miss him and want him home safe and sound.

We love you Daddy!!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving in St.Cloud

Finally after 23 hours on the road I finally made back home. I was great to have Pat pick me up at the airport shuttle me around.
I had a fabulous meal and conversation with Jim and a few glasses of good wine culminating in 7 hours of blissful sleep!
Thanksgiving Morning Jim drove me over to Kate and Tom's. The trimpelets have grown a ton and are very cute!!
I then got behind the wheel on the left hand side for the first time in 18 months and began the drive to Brigid and Dennis's new home outside of St.Cloud.
Driving was not as unfamiliar as I thought.This new device called a Tomtom was helpful.This device gives you a visual as well as and audio picture of where you are going and if you make a wrong turn it promptly tells you that as well. I do not know why they named it a Tomtom when they should have called it" your spouse"!
It was with great joy to pull into the driveway and see all my brothers and sisters for the first time in too long!
The day was full of activities and food and hugs and everything that a Thanksgiving gathering should be. The boys all headed outside to "practice" shooting the shotguns, we threw 125 clay targets and used 250 shells ,I think more "practice" is needed.
It must of been and unwritten rule communicated through the kid network because as Jimmy,Kay and Billy were playing full contact ring around the Rosie back in Bangalore, Finn,Riley,Jack,Maureen and Emily were doing the same thing here! We however are grateful that no rocks were thrown, we did experience a couple of stray books traveling the length of the living room.
We had a huge spread of food including cranberries, turkey,stuffing,potato's,salad,bread,wine and PIE!!!
Names were drawn for Christmas gift exchange hugs were given and we all retired for the night.

We missed Kevin,Angela,Lexi,Michaela,Isaiah and Henry as they were at the inlaws.We also missed Tracy,Jimmy ,Kay and Billy ( I did the most).

Happy Thanksgiving to all and to all a goodnight!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving in India - The Only Place

Really, we had Thanksgiving Dinner at The Only Place. Its an expat favorite:)

Actually, The Only Place, is a great kid friendly resturant that serves the best burgers in town. Except on Thanksgiving when they have a real live Thanksgiving buffet, chock full of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, potato salad, green salad, green beans, carrots, broccoli, sweet creamed corn, garlic bread, gravy, pumpkin pie and the always favorite Thanksgiving tradition of garbanzo beans ! (?)

I had a reservation for 25 and due to last minute additions (literally, people inviting other friends 24 hours prior) we were a cozy group of over 40 people (15 kids, but with their energy, it seemed like about 50 kids). See my final update to the group to set the "stage" for the night:

"Just spoke to The Only Place to confirm for tomorrow. While they will have PLENTY of food to accommodate for all of us (and the extra guests you have all asked to bring), we may need to eat in "shifts" (ie. Just like at home…. Kids 1st, then hungry adults then less hungry adults). Its buffet style and we should tell them to issue each of us separate bills to make it easier to pay. Also, he suggested bringing in an ice box/cooler of liquor/beer/wine if you are interested !!??!!. When I asked how much his corking fee was, he said "let's not worry about that now" and laughed. Last year it was about R100/bottle of wine. Sounds just like Thanksgiving in the Murphy Household in MN. BYOB, too many people, WAY too many kids, not enough seats, WAY too much food...."

All in all, it turned out even more chaotic than expected. Many of the other non-parent expats remarked that it was incredibly effective birth control. I have to agree, it'll be awhile before I take on any more kids after last night. Why you ask?? Some examples....

~ 15 kids with a median age of 3 1/2 (8 being the oldest and 2 1/2 being the youngest)

~ The 8 member tribe of 4 year olds playing craps on an upside down table with rocks the size of their fists

~ Billy approaching me with a handful of half chewed/half digested turkey and saying "I threw up Mom"

~ Kay and Owen picking ALL the flowers and leaves off the potted plants (some how and intregal part of the craps game)

~ Jimmy and Cody trying to pick up (literally, pick up) Ella and Grayce

~ Ella and Grayce trying to pick up (and kiss) Jimmy and Cody

~ Billy, Owen and Noah rolling through the dirt floor of the resturant as they "rolled down the sand dunes" (Wiggles song for all you non parents)

~ Jimmy and Cody showing off all the latest Power Ranger Operation Overdrive moves

~ High contact Ring around the Rosie, including Jump around the Rosie, Run around the Rosie, Hop around the Rosie and Scream around the Rosie"

~ A parental barricade to prevent the kids from running into Bangalore city traffic

~ One child (who should remain unnamed) throwing a rock at the plate glass window (no it didnt break , but the overwhelming Mom comment was "that god that wasnt my kid")

~ A jeapordy style game during the dinner with silly Thanksgiving questions and answers hosted by Amber (The belly laughs were hysterical)

Other than combat duty, what did the adults do for fun you ask? Lots of wine, beer, food and martini's.

The waitstaff, on the other hand, wasnt having as much fun and were quite distrubed by the whole event. They wanted to charge me on 1 bill, instead of separate bills, since they were having a hard time keeping track of the kids/people. As you know, never be the last person at an event like this.... After the 30th time of explaining "just have each person tell you how many plates of turkey they had", we finally called on the owner. He was SO gracious, "no worries ma'am, its like this every year, we'll figure it out". At the end of the night, it was 450R/plate, 100R/corking fee and 12R/bottle of water. That's about $15.60/person if you drank a whole bottle of wine yourself (I was tempted). Not bad for all you can eat dinner, all you can drink wine, all you can handle energy, non-stop entertainment (ie the kids) and some on the job parenting training for the non-parents.

Actually, $15.60 seems pretty reasonable for a good dose of birth control.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and YOURS!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Donald Thomas Murphy

It is with a heavy and sad heart that as I am planning my trip back to Minnesota I have heard that my Uncle Don has passed away.

Don will always be remembered for creating great Christmas memories for us, providing a strong handshake and teaching all about God and what He has given us.

Don dealt with his illness with pride and always wanted to know how we , the kids and everyone else were doing. He put his family and friends a close second to his God.

He gave to those he loved with his whole self.

Please spend a moment honoring him and keep his family and the family of Joanne in your hearts and prayers as we move through this grieving experience.

Remember that Don is in a better place and is now spending time with is Dad, Don, and his Mother, Catherine, along with several other family and friends.

May God bless Don and may he know we love him and miss him.

Rest in peace, you have climbed the mountain.

All our Love
Tom, Tracy, Jimmy, Kay and Bill

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Misc. Rantings, Goodbye Wendy and Diwali

So we were doing Pooja the other day to bless and get long life out of our electronics, car, etc. The pooja was in full swing when Billy demanded to take pictures with our digital camera. He was trying to grab it out of my hands while I was filming said pooja for prosperity sake when the little bugger lunged for the camera and knock it out of my hands causing it to break. So much for the pooja.

I then travelled all the way to the other side of town to the only Canon repair shop in Asia. The guy took the camera, accused me of purposely breking it and scolded me for opening the camera and loosing two screws. This was not going well. I calmly explained to him while my hands were slowly trying to wrap there way around his neck, that I did not purposely break my own camera and that I have never opened the thing except to change batteries and retrieve the memory card in the event that we actually print a photo.

Saravana convinced me to remove my hands and he would settle the matter. We left the camera shop on the 29th of October and they have not answered my calls since. Finally on the 13th of November they told me they had sent the camera to Delhi and would call me the day after tomorrow night and update me.....

Having guests come in visit is truly a highlight and when they have to leave it is not. Wendy braved the "Indian" Continent, the loudamericans and their equally loud friends and blessed us with her presence. We had a great time travelling around India and Bangalore itself. Two weeks goes bye very fast however she has hundreds of pictures that she generously let me download, and many memories of her trip.

We have a small guest room that is always open and while people stay here the kids can not go into the room without permission of the guest, in this case Wendy. We couldnt keep them out of her room when she was here. I dont blame them, we wanted to be with her all the time too:)

Of course, once she left, the kids are now refusing to go into the spare bedroom as its "Wendy's room". ay even said "It smells like Wendy in here". I asked her what that smelled like and she said "Wendy", and I said, but what does Wendy smell like and she said "Good, just like Wendy".

Jimmy was very sad he didn't get to give her a hug. He kept talking about Wendy all weekend and how he "missed saying goodbye in person and I didn't even get to give her a hug". I must have heard him say that at least 10 times.

Wendy - You are missed and loved!

Diwali is an event that is celebrated all through out India. There are many places you can go and get the Historical version of this event, http://www.diwali.com/, http://www.wherearethefishers.com,%20www.wacmiller.blogspot.com/ to name a few.
I say this because I am going to provide an accurate and up to the minute 2007 version of Diwali. I will reference only one book which is the lonely Planet, India. On page 518 the is a description of Diwali which reads"fireworks are let off by the population".
It fails to mention that Diwali is actually spread out over the life of your fireworks inventory. For some people it is only a 5 minute affair and for others it never "f"ing stops!!!
These people and the fireworks or crackers are relentless. This Festival is rumoured to begin on or around November 8th which is 30 days after the birthday of Ganesha, I digress.

It really begins when the hordes of " Star Fireworks" stands begin to set up on every street corner and the match vendor arrives then it is world war 3.

There are so many crackers and they make the most ungodly noises you can literally go mad.

They have these knock off 's a stun grenade that I call bunker bombs. The fuse is about one second long and the noise level is deafening.

The colorful candle bombs burn long enough to cook a meal for a family of 4 and the relative of the"bottle rocket" can go any way but up!

I mean all of these things are banned in most countries but not here. Hell a 6 year old can walk into a booth and buy these things. (Not to worry, we didnt let Jimmy anywhere near the fireworks stands...)

Now the other piece of Diawli info I will pass on is the part of India celebrates during the day and another part at night. Yep 24 hours of fireworks. I feel sorry for the daytime celebrants as they go deaf without seeing the colors. However it could be said that the night time celebrants are going deaf and blind. Either way Diwali is the most celebrated Festival and the people of all ages are living their youths.

People do other things when they are not trying to blow up their own neighborhoods, like exchange gifts,hand out sweets and Diwali cards, families have nice dinners and meet friends and then it is back to the outdoors and the matches.

Diwali is a combination of the 4th of July, Thanksgiving,Christmas and Saint Erhose Day all rolled into one.

I am sorry for not providing photos but is is not the day after tomorrow night yet...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Pondy otherwise known as Pondicherry

In an effort to show Wendy as much of India as possible, the LoudAmericans decided to head off to Pondicherry for a 4 day road trip/beachside vacation. Pondy (as its called) boasts of seafood, the Bay of Bengal, quiet resorts and "an approximation of French food".

We left post trick or treating with the thought that we'd get about 2/3 of the way and stay the night in a town called Tiruvannamalai. This meant traveling about 200km (120 miles) and so we thought that if we left by 6pm we'd reach in plenty of time for a relaxing night and good sleep. Not so, this is India remember.

Our rented driver and car left MUCH to be desired. After spending 2 hours stuck in Bangalore rush hour traffic we finally made it outside the city limits (10km down 190 to go!!). Our driver spoke NO English and didnt seem to know which way to head to Pondicherry, not a good sign. After another 3 hours and 100 km or so, including wrong turns, stops for coffee and ever increaseing frustration in the car, we started experiencing some of the biggest potholes I had yet to see in India. And that's saying something! Needless to say, our driver was determined to drive through each and every one. To what results? You guessed, a flat tire in the middle of nowhere and a blazing thunderstorm at the midnight hour. Remember, its still Halloween and our night has turned SPOOKY!!! We were still 30km from our hotel and he didnt seem to have a clue as to what to do. He had obviously never changed a flat before and visions of "A Christmas Story" were running through our heads. (Or should I say the infamous "F" word was running through our heads.) After a 20 min attempt to but together a 3 piece warning "triangle" he was ready to tackle the tire. He proceeded to bang on the spare tire in the hopes that it would just fall off the bottom of the car. Tom tried intervening MANY times but to no avail. Finally in desparation, we called Saravanan and he talked the driver through what to do over the phone in Tamil. The grand finale? Our spare had 3 obvious patches on it. Oh well, we were off to the hotel and deal with it all the next morning. We arrived safe and sound to our hotel at 1:30am, having traveled 200km in a mere 7 1/2 hours.

The main attraction in Tiruvannamalai and the reason we had this destination on our travel itnerary is the town boasts to have one of the largest temples in India (Arunachaleswar Temple) and the place where you can "achieve enlightment just by the thought of the temple". We figured we could use a little dose of this after our Halloween/driver adventure and so set off. The temple was bustling with activity as they were getting ready for a large celebration. Everything was being washed, fixed and all the holiday lights were being pulled out. We saw monks in orange colored robes, women in all their best saree's/finery AND the temple elephant. We fed him cookies and Wendy was even blessed the elephant, very cool. It was a good morning stop. Feeling a bit more peaceful and relaxed we decided to tackle the last 100km's of our trip.

While our final segment to Pondy was relatively uneventful (other than our spare tire gave out and we had to stop in a village to get both tires fixed). We even got to see peanuts being roasted on the asphalt (see photo above) We made it to Pondy in record time. 100km in just under 3 hours! Elation!! Needless to say, we adjusted our plans to include 2 days of pure beach time before we had to even think of getting in that car again!

A little about Pondicherry. Pondy is a former French colony and this is VERY apparent when you realize as you walking down the street that signs are in French, not English, and that some of the people arent speaking English, Hindi or Tamil, but French! The guidebooks warn that the beach is dirty, littered and the sea too rough. BUT... not the case! Our resort (Kailash Beach Resort) had a fabulously clean beach and we were the ONLY people on it! The kids had a great time body surfing, fighting the waves and rolling in the sand. We are still finding sand in all their "hidden" places.

Our resort was a sleepy little place and other than 1 other family, I think we were the only ones there. The food was OUT OF THIS WORLD and there was plenty of room for the kids (and grown ups) to run and catch our breath. The rooms were really quaint and reminded me of old European hostels. The beds were 4ft off the ground and you had to use a step stool to get in. Needless to say this was the main form of entertainment for the kids. Wendy even braved the famous Auyervedic massage! (as noted in previous blogs, this consists of 2-3 gallons of oil and being mildly violated by the massuese, relaxing if you can find a way to have an outerbody experience while its going on).

After 2 uneventful and non-car related days, we decided to venture out again and face our car/driver. Our destination? Auroville. Auroville is "an international community and a project in human unity". "...an experiment in international living where people could live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, politics and nationalities". It was formed in 1968 through a partnership with "the Mother" and a local guru. The Mother was a French woman who had the vision of creating an international sociey without constrain to government. Its an interesting place and they have some really state of the art techniques around ecosystems, organic farming, cashless society and spiritualism without religion. Think about it, most wars/trouble in the world are caused by disagreements around money or God. Auroville is making a pretty good attempt to erase these as causes of angst. If you are to become part of the community, you need to renounce your religion, pledge to meditate 6-8 hours a day and work 4-6 hours of the day towards the betterment/upkeep of the village. There is a HUGE meditation center that was unfortunately closed. Billy's 1st comment upon seeing the center "wow, look at that big cricket ball" In fact, it looks more like a mini gold epcot center or a large gold golf ball. See Wendy's blog for cool photos and more accurate facts (http://www.reedtrueplaces.blogspot.com/)

Finally, it was time to return to Bangalore. It was an auspicious start. We woke up to pouring rain and decided to head home early. Despite a few nervous stomachs about the reliability of the car/driver, we were off. The trip home was relatively uneventful. He did manage to find every pot hole on the way home, but looking at the bright side, we arrived with all 4 tires intact, we only got lost once and only 2 of the 3 kids threw up from carsickness (brought on by his erratic driving). The best part, we got home in a record 8 hours!!!

Home sweet home....


Halloween came in with a bang and the Loudamericans were ready! Jimmy the black Power Ranger, Kay the Princess/Ballerina and Billy the car.

Tracy was bound and determined to take the kids trick or treating this year come heavy traffic, extended meetings and high waters, and she did!!

The Palm Meadows group preplanned, planned, post ponned and pre ponned the trick or treating process so many times we just took matters in our own hands and went ourselves. Which was a good thing because we were the only family not to get washed out in the Halloween Monsoon!

We hope everyone had a great Halloween and that the trips to the dentist that will follow are not to painful!!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A blog of sorts (aka cheating....)

I am sure MANY of you are forsaking our names and maybe even protesting our blog since our dismal "show" in October (our lowest blog month yet). Not to make excuses, but between our internet being "down" for a week, Tracy being in MPLS for 10 days and our week vacation to Sri Lanka, we were very negligent and apologize!!

So... and an effort to efficiently catch you up we have blatantly plagiarized from our friends blogs the key highlights of the month of October. These are not in chronological nor priority order:)

Post Script - We WILL make up for it in November. We PROMISE!!

Oktoberfest (from http://www.wacmiller.blogspot.com/)
"....And then we arrived at Oktoberfest Bangalore, and it was incredible. Before even getting to out table with our identified friends, we all had large mugs of Kingfisher beer and a robust German toast was playing from the full band. All around were traditional Bavarian costumes mixed in with the normal expat array. There was an eerie familiarity as if we had somehow stepped into the beer garden at the State Fair. It was an awesome time with great food (even sausage), free-flowing Kingfisher beer in Oktoberfest Bangalore mugs, and great friends. I haven't had this much fun since...well a long time, pre-kids for sure. Imagine 1000 people dancing on tables, drinking properly to German beer songs and singing at the top of their lungs. Did I also mention its LEGAL to smoke inside, in fact, its almost a requirement for an Indian party.
When it was finally time to go, I decided the mug had to come along with me - really, "Oktoberfest Bangalore" is something that needed a souvenir! At first the guard protested, then tossed out a sale proposal of 500 Rupees, then a negotiation ensued and we settled on something much, much less - priceless."

Indian Night (from http://www.wherearethefischers.blogspot.com/)
"...I had the chance to go sari shopping a couple of weeks ago and Bob bought himself a "Kurta Pyjama" and a pair of red pointy shoes to match. Vimala, our maid, painted "Mehendi" on my hands, brought me some bangles and a Bindi for my forehead, helped me find a tailor to stitch my sari "blouse," bought me a sari slip, agreed to babysit our children and arrived early to wrap me in my 6 yards of silk. Other beneficial commentary that led me to believe I had no idea what I was doing: "You're not going to wear your hair like THAT, Madame?" and "Where is your eyeliner?" and "You don't have any matching sets?" (dubiously eyeing the jewelry I'd set out). Undaunted by my obvious lack of experience with both social custom and Indian formal wear, Vimala had me wrapped, tucked, pinned and emerging as a proper Indian lady in no time. How she did so, is still a major mystery... However it all occurred, I was greeted by both kids with serious approval: (Owen) "mommy you wook bwootifuw" (Grayce) "you should always dress like that, every day." Did I mention the safety pins? Are you aware that safety pins are only for slackers? That those 6 yards of fabric are simply wrapped around and tucked into a slip? Or that Indian women do more than just stand there carefully, trying not to move too much? Vimala wears a Sari every day cleaning and mopping my house. It's amazing...just getting in the car had me in a panic!Fast-Forward to Raffle Ticket Time: Several prizes given away, including Bollywood dancing lessons, in which another woman went up to claim her prize and had the dance studio owner/instructor surprise her with an impromptu and very public lesson. A second set of lessons is announced. Bob looks right at me and says, "you know you're going to win this." I suddenly just KNOW that he's right (damn "The Secret," it's always getting me into trouble!) I suddenly just KNOW I'm going to have to get up and dance...Bollywood style...which is not exactly "conservative".I win. 8 lessons. Free. I am on stage and I am dancing. Thank God for Vimala, Sari Pins, and a realllllyyyy charming choreographer by the name of V. Arun Kumar....proprietor of Zealers dance studio. (Probably, the wine helped, too.) It wasn't until it was all over that I realized I'd missed my chance to send Bob up to claim his prize."

Expat Fashion Show (from http://www.ehler.blogspot.com/)
"Due to a suggestion by one of our favorite team members, the expats put together a fashion show. This was the opening act of a talent show that was one of the fun events for the building. ALL, and I do mean all, of the expats participated. Kudos to Todd and Paul, newly arrived only a few days in Bangalore, who jumped in with both feet!
To music, we all entered in small groups, dancing and vogueing our way across the stage. It was so much FUN and the crowd loved it! This was a surprise for everyone involved and was an awesome way to kick off the event. Thank you to all who participated in the planning and for including us all."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Wendy's here Wendy's here Wendy's here!!!

As many of you know, Wendy is a dear dear friend of ours for the last good many years:). She and Tracy do the MS150 together EVERY year (ok, 14 of the last 17 years but who's counting). Wendy and Tracy have also been roomies off and on during our turbulent youth (aka break ups and significant others). There is ALWAYS a room in our house for Wendy as there is for us in hers. She is Jimmy's godmother and a key important (and LOVED) person in our lives.

AND, she's HERE!!

Wendy arrived in Delhi last Friday (10/26) and was whisked off to a whirlwind tour of Agra and the Taj Mahal. The action didn't stop there... She landed in Bangalore on Sunday and the LoudAmericans whisked her off to a Halloween party followed by a BBQ at Petra and Gerald's house. If that's not enough, Tom took her to 2 of his charity meetings and shopping on Commercial street. This was all pre-Halloween!

On Halloween she witnessed the LoudAmericans in all their glory, costumes and hyperness, running from house to house for candy. All on the premise that "yes, Tracy can fit 5 lbs of shit in a 2 lb bag". The time table was this.... Tracy leaves work 3pm, gets home at the ever so frustrating time of 5pm (yes it did take 2 hrs to go 13 kms due to a disturbance of traffic protestors. Life is ironic even in India), Trick or Treating from 5-6pm (Tracy missed Halloween last year due to conference calls and damn it, she wasn't going to miss it again) and in the car by 6pm for a 4 hour journey to Tirvimanamali (2/3 of the way to Pondicherry). Life was looking sweet as we rolled out of the gates of Palm Meadows at 5:58pm. Happy kids with candy and happy adults to finally be sitting still.

See the attached photos of which we have Wendy to be grateful for (again) as our camera broke just in time for the festivities. Jimmy was a Black PowerRanger (Operation Overdrive and thank you Des and Greg, you saved our hide!!). Kay was a fairy princess and "flew" from house to house. Billy was Lightning McQueen and in absolute heaven.

For a good recount of our "spooky" adventures on the way to Pondicherry, check out Wendy's blog at http://www.reedtrueplaces.blogspot.com/.

Or, you can see other recounts of Halloween along with photos on http://www.wacmiller.blogspot.com/ (our favorite expats) or http://www.wherearethefischers.blogspot.com/ (newest expats and maybe the funniest in a LONG time:) - Please note, Jimmy is in LOVE with Gracie

Wendy is here through Friday (Dwali) and I am SURE we'll have lots more blogs on her (and our) adventures this week!

We love you Wendy and are already planning our your next trip over!!!

If Kay had 100 Rupees

We were on a recent trip to Pondicherry, more info on that to follow, and we were using our new CD converter and listening to some great music. Of course we had to play Bare Naked Ladies, If I had a Million Dollars and Kay thought it was the best song ever. We had to play it over and over and over again, a girl after our ouwn hearts!
The next day( as we were still driving to Pondicherry) Kay blurts out," Hey Mom play that song I like" and Tracy said 'What song Kay?" to which Kay replied " If I had a 100 rupees" which of course caused Wendy, Tracy and I to burst out laughing ,I mean 100 rupees is currently about two and a half dollars!
What could one get if they had 100 rupees... ( Sung to the tune of " If I had a Million Dollars")

If I had a 100 rupees, If I had a 100 rupees
I'd buy you a blue tarp, I would buy you a blue tarp
If I had a 100 rupees, If I had a 100 rupees
I 'd buy you furniture for your blue tarp, Like maybe a nice geyser or a stabilizer
If I had a 100 rupees, If I had a 100 rupees
I'd buy you an Innova, a nice reliant automobile

If I had a 100 rupees I'd buy your Bindi

If I had a 100 rupees, If I had a 100 rupees,
I'd build a Temple in our yard,If I had a 100 rupees
You could help it wouldn't be that hard
If I had a 100 rupees
Maybe we could do a Punja in there
We could go in there and there would be pre-wrapped Mutton, they have pre wrapped Mutton but they don't have pre -wrapped Vada, I mean can you blame them...

If I had a 100 rupees, If I had a 100 rupees,
I take you for a swim in the Ganges,
but not the real Ganges that's cruel
If I had a 100 rupees, If I had a 100 rupees
I'd buy you an exotic pet, like a cockroach or a cobra
If I had a 100 rupees, If I had a 100 rupees,
I'd buy you a hornless Innova,
think of all those crazy quiet moments

If I had a 100 rupees I'd buy your Bindi

If I had a 100 rupees
we wouldn't be here any more
If I had a 100 rupees
We'd be in first class cause it costs more
If I had a 100 rupees
We wouldn't have to eat Maggi's Noddles
But we would.We'd eat more
we get fancy curries to eat with them
Yeah like Dijon curry

If I had a 100 rupees If I had a 100 rupees
I'd buy you a green Saree
but not a real green Saree that's cruel
If I had a 100 rupees, If I had a 100 rupees
I'd buy you some canned beans,
A Frijoles or a Garbanzo
If I had a 100 rupees, If I had a 100 rupees
I would buy you a Vermox,
haven't you always wanted a worm pill

If I had a 100 rupees, I'd buy your Bindi

If I had a 100 rupees, If I had a 100 rupees
If I had a 100 rupees, If I had a 100 rupees
I'd be rich.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

William Francis Kim Murphy aka Billy

Billy is now becoming a really big boy. He is talking non-stop and playing games and even wearing big boy underwear!!

He, as you all know is a big car/truck fan. So in the interest of speeding up the diaper-less goal Billy was given cars underwear with his hero Lighting McQueen on the back. Billy is bound and determined not to get Lighting wet lest he would have to use rustezze on him and we all know what type of product rustezze is!

He was all smiles as he was wearing his new underwear ands even came to get Daddy when it was time to use the potty! Now this all sounds great and fine and all that, however the situation is ,that when Billy is out of diapers we can get a puppy. (A negotiation with the other 2 kids to delay the inevidable) So ,what is Billy’s second favorite thing besides Lightening McQueen, yup DOGS!

Some of Billy’s new quotes are:

Are you my priend? (Friend)
Are you crabby at me?
I don’t like that!
Can I have more chocolate milk?
Can I bus my dishes?
Is this mine?
Read this to me, now!
I woub you (I love you)
I woub you too (see above)

While we are working on his manners, he is looking forward to his Birthday so much so that every party we have gone to lately he thinks is his Birthday. !

He is becoming very adventurous and even thought it would be a good idea to jump on the bed. Well, we all know there is no more jumping on the bed, because you can fall off and bump your head, or in Billy’s case get a fat lip! He is fine and ready for more action.

He is also very fond of getting up in the middle of the night coming into mom and dads room. With his pillow and slamming the door to ensure the other two kids get the picture that he has staked his claim. Mom and Dad however are not real happy about this new territorial move on Bill’s part.

Billy is in Nursery at Gopalan and he is the teachers favorite mainly because he loves to give kisses to the teachers each day before he goes home, quite cute.
He is a typical 2 almost 3 year old. Happy one minute, pissed off the next. BUT... he is the most affectionate of the kids and if you lie real still in bed in the morning, you are likely to get 20-30 gentle wake up kisses on your cheek.
It doesnt get much better than that!!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

SrI Lanka

We have been dragging the kids all around Asia for the past year and decided that the next trip we go on will be their choice, well with some overwhelming influence from Mom and Dad. Left to their own our the kids would just stay at home and eat spicy Kurkure's. So we suggested a beach holiday in Bentota, Sri Lanka, and they agreed!!!

Sri Lanka is a relatively small Island that was recently of course hit by the Tsunami and faced unbelievable devastation. The people of Sri Lanka are very friendly and courteous and like all people over here they are fascinated by the two white foreigners with the three Korean kids.

We landed late in the evening and our driver and van took us directly to our hotel. The Taj Cinnamon is and old style English influenced Hotel. The rooms actually have carpeted floors which is rare here and the woodwork is all dark oak and very "stoic". There was a wedding reception going on when we arrived and Kay was enamored with the bride. We were given a mango welcome drink which was odd being that mangos are not now in season? The kids had been in a car, on a plane, in a car for a total of about 5 hours so it was a welcome surprise that the wedding reception was there because it provide a decoy to the usually arrive of the Loudamericans and what is becoming a tradition of running up and down the hallways while trying to wake up everyone in the hotel! Quite embarrassing for the elder two of the five some.

The next morning at breakfast Jimmy announced that he was hungry. Now for a parent this is usually welcome to hear as most parents, at least these two, trying to convince the kids that they need to eat is much like negotiating the Tready of Versi!

So Jimmy began a five day eating frenzy starting each day with 2 donuts, one cinnamon roll, 3-4 pigs in a blanket( those yummy sausage pancake things) two minutes steaks some fruit and to finish, a cup of hot chocolate this was everyday!!

After that we got into the van for a 3-4 hour ride to the beach. We cancelled the city tour of Columbo and headed directly to beach,waves,pool and God help us naps:)! The drive south out of Columbo to Bentota was somewhat uneventful. The roads are similar the traffic no more educated than their Indian brothers or sisters however one important note of distinction was the absence of domestic farm animals wondering aimlessly the roads!

There are many Buddhist temples as will as Hindu shrines however we did not stop as this trip was about the beach. We arrived at the Taj Exoctica and were greeted by a small band of porters and such and caused quite a moment as we arrived several hours earlier than expected as we cancelled the city tour. The front desk manager was all shook up as to what to do so he gave a welcome coconut drink which was so terrible that we could not even choke down a sip!! we solved his dilemma by having lunch while they got our room ready.

The room was worth the wait as it was a deluxe suite with two separate rooms !! We put the kids in one and us in the other and it was great. We changed clothes and headed down to the pool and to "look" around. The place was somewhat deserted with only about 50 or so guests. The pool was great and it even had a swim up bar that only Jimmy actually used. We were watching Billy and Kay in the little pool and looked over and was Jimmy at the bar drinking an orange soda, only here would they serve a 6 year old at the bar and when asked for money he said I have none, so the next question was "what is your room number", of course.

We spent Sunday afternoon exploring the beach and local area found a turtle hatchery not far away and then settled in for the late afternoon and evening at the hotel. The kids were nap free on Sunday and after swimming all afternoon and dinner at the hotel they crashed. which was our plan. Mom and Dad then had some fine in room dining complete with a linen table cloth!!

We got up and had another big breakfast and then headed down the beach for the turtle hatchery and swimming. The turtle hatchery is well generous to call it that. It is basically several concrete tanks that hold one each of a sea turtle. These turtles have been injured in some sort and are being taken care of by whom, I am not sure with the hopes of returning them to the ocean. There is also a fenced in area that is rumored to have turtle eggs. We were told to come back to the restaurant that night for dinner and we would be able to see the turtles hatching as now is the perfect time.?

We then spent the late morning and early afternoon chasing Jimmy in and out of the ocean. Kay and Billy were content to play in the sand and make sand angels and like that. Finally tired out we headed back for lunch and hopefully naps. Tracy headed out to get some provisions whilst Tom tried to get the kids to nap. Jimmy said" actually I am quite tired form all that swimming I think I am going to lay down for a bit" 2 hours later he was up and ready to while Billy and Kay were losing energy. We took the fine gentleman up on his offer to see the turtles hatch and try the restaurant. There as you would assume no activity in the hatchery and upon inquiry I was told perhaps tomorrow you never know!. The food was quite good, Jimmy eat and Adult size portion of Mac and Cheeses while Kay devoured a plate of pasta and Billy as usual said" I don't like it, I want chocolate milk" but managed to eat a plate of pasta. Fish and prawns for Mom and Dad and we all retired for a good night sleep.


More breakfast and then the beach. Today we acquired a boogie board for jimmy at around 10:00 in the morning and Tracy and him were never seen again. They had a blast for a couple of hours while Tom, Billy and Kay played with the bowls and cups and pictures Tracy had found on her shopping trip. Naming them sand toys made perfect sense to the kids. Pool in the afternoon followed by an auto rickshaw ride to this awesome restaurant. We made the mistake of going out when the kids were again nap free. Food takes along time in Sri Lanka as they usually have a menu but no inventory. So the food is fresh it just takes awhile and poor Billy fell asleep in his chair followed by Jimmy.


More of the same followed by a learning curve for Mom and Dad. Acting on a tip from our friends the Webb's we went to this restaurant called Sun and Surf. They also have massage. This is where the learning curve comes into play.Tracy went to the place in the early afternoon as the kids actually succumbed to a nap. Then she placed our dinner order and got a head,neck and shoulder rub as well as one for Tom.!!

we showed up at 7:00 cold beer was there for Tom and a whole fried chicken and fries for the kids which they devoured. Then the main course of puffin fish,prawns and a cold bottle of Chardonnay!!! It was a great treat. The restuarant is right by the railroad tracks and when the train came the kids all thought that was the coolest thing ever!


We were sad to leave the beach but all good things have to temporarily rest. We were told it would take 4 hours to get to the airport and being that we had an international flight we had to be there two hours early. So to catch our 6:55 flight we left at noon. We had promised the kids a trip to MacDonald's and the driver miss-lead us by telling us there was one at the airport which there is not. He also pulled into the airport at 3:30, it was a long wait!

Sri Lanka is a lovely place, friendly people and a spot that the Loudamericans highly recommend.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


The prep kids at Gopalan have been rehearing and practicing for the past couple of months to take the stage and bring alive the many festivals of India.

There are many however with the prep class going only from A-E the choices were limited. There was a slight miss-understanding with Jimmy's teacher as we were originally going to be on vacation during the performance Jimmy was not given a part. Several times we instructed her that we indeed were here only and not leaving until after still no part. Finally we had an in person meeting and Jimmy was at the last minute given a part.

There is a special day in September that is called Sister day. All the women give bracelets and sweets as a memento of friendship and love to their male and female friends. Jimmy was the main lead in the skit and received a sweet and a bracelet along with a standing ovation from Mom and Dad.

It was fun to see all the kids in costumes and acting parts, extremely well.

As they say : break a leg " Jimmy!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Random Thoughts and Religious goings on

During the months of September through November here in India one needs a flow chart and a list of players to keep track of all the,Political and Religious leaders birthday's, Gods real or Deity.

Starting on the 4th of September Janmashtami is the joyful celebration of Lord Krishna's birth. Major celebrations of Krishna Janmashtami takes place at midnight as Krishna is said to have made his divine appearance in that hour. Fasting, bhajans, pujas and many other rituals mark Janmashtami celebrations in India.

Janmashtami Pooja Process
The festival of Janmashtami is considered a very pious day by Hindus. Lot of bhajan singing, hymn chanting and poojas are performed this day. Devotees queue all the major Krishna temples to seek his blessings. People perform elaborate poojas during the festival. They keep day long fast. Functions and prayer meetings are organised to share the glory of their favourite God.The general pooja process begins early in the morning with devotees giving a bath or abhishek to Bal Gopal's idol with gangajal, ghee, water, honey and curd. The idol is then adorned with new clothes (preferably in yellow colour), stone or other precious jewellery.Next, the idol of lord is offered bhog, the contents of bhog may vary. Fruits, kheer, pedha, milk, and milk products are made. There are devotees who offer chappan bhog(56 dishes) to Bal Gopal. Thereafter, special Krishna pooja is performed. The cradle containing the divine infant's idol is rocked, conch is blown. Devotees sing Krishna arti, some people read out 108 names of lord. They get totally immersed in the name and praise of Gopal. After the entire pooja is over, devotees break their fast by having panchamrit. The time of breaking the fast may vary, this is so, because the time of performing pooja also differs from place to place. While some devotees choose to perform pooja at midnight and break fast, others perform pooja in the evening and have food.
There are several items needed for pooja which are but not limited to the following:
There are certain special items required for Krishnashtami pooja. Important pooja items are listed below:
Lord Krishna's idol with cradle and conch
New clothes, flute and ornaments for Lord Krishna
Pooja thali containing a bell, diya, rice, elaichi(cardamom), supari, paan leaves, roli, small container filled with water, sindoor, incense sticks, flowers and ghee.
For Panchamrit -milk, curd, gangajal, honey and ghee.
A book containing shri Krishna's arti.
Devotees welcome and celebrate the birth of their favourite god with lot of fervor.

If that is not enough this is followed with the celebration of the birth of Ganesha:
Ganesha — the elephant-deity riding a mouse — has become one of the commonest mnemonics for anything associated with Hinduism. This not only suggests the importance of Ganesha, but also shows how popular and pervasive this deity is in the minds of the masses. The proper way to worship this diety is:
A life-like clay model of Lord Ganesha is made 2-3 months prior to the day of Ganesh Chaturthi. The size of this idol may vary from 3/4th of an inch to over 25 feet.
On the day of the festival, it is placed on raised platforms in homes or in elaborately decorated outdoor tents for people to view and pay their homage. The priest, usually clad in red silk dhoti and shawl, then invokes life into the idol amidst the chanting of mantras. This ritual is the pranapratishhtha. After this the shhodashopachara (16 ways of paying tribute) follows. Coconut, jaggery, 21 modakas (rice flour preparation), 21 durva (trefoil) blades and red flowers are offered. The idol is anointed with red unguent (rakta chandan). Throughout the ceremony, Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda and Ganapati Atharva Shirsha Upanishad, and Ganesha stotra from the Narada Purana are chanted.
For 10 days, from Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi to the Ananta Chaturdashi, Ganesha is worshipped.
On the 11th day, the image is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing, to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual see-off of the Lord in his journey towards his abode in Kailash while taking away with him the misfortunes of all man. All join in this final procession shouting "Ganapathi Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukariya" (O father Ganesha, come again early next year). After the final offering of coconuts, flowers and camphor is made, people carry the idol to the river to immerse it.
The whole community comes to worship Ganesha in beautifully done tents. These also serve as the venue for free medical checkup, blood donation camps, charity for the poor, dramatic performances, films, devotional songs, etc. during the days of the festival.

Then, Whew, after that Pooja Hoilday starts which takes the children out of the classroom and into the living room for 14 daysURGH!! This is presumably to prepare for the upcomng Festival of Lights better know as Divali, which is and inspiring time and brings families, friends and communities together. What is Davali:
The festival of Divali has existed from time immemorial, ever since man became aware of truth and untruth, darkness and light, death and immortality. Divali (or alternatively Deepawali, Deepavali or Diwali) is the Festival Of Light. Hindus celebrate it all over the world. In Trinidad and Tobago, particularly for our Hindu nationals, it has not lost any of its significance nor is it celebrated with any less fervor.
The true meaning of Divali can be expressed as being to bring light where darkness prevails, truth where untruth prevails, to bring life where death prevails, to brighten our surroundings, to illumine our minds.
Deepavali in Sanskrit means "row of lighted lamps", is one of the most important Hindu festivals. It falls on the Amavasya of the month of Kartik every year in the Hindu calendar. By the English or Western Calendar this festival generally occurs over a period that covers the last week of October to the first half of the month of November.
The Festival signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, justice over injustice and intelligence over ignorance. The goddess worshipped at Divali is Mother Lakshmi or Lakshmi Mata. Lakshmi Mata is the goddess of light, wealth and beauty and is also associated with prosperity, luck, riches, abundance, financial well being, and generosity.
In statues and artwork, Lakshmi Mata is portrayed wearing gold and lotus flowers either sitting on a lotus, standing on one, wearing lotus blossoms in her hair and on her gown, or holding a lotus blossom which to many Hindus symbolises fertility, spiritual power, and purity.
At Divali it is not surprising to see elaborate preparations being made to welcome the goddess into the homes of devotees. Though it is titled as being a festival, it is one with a difference since at the heart of the festival is a very significant religious observance as Lakshmi Mata is honoured and worshipped in the form of pujas, singing bhajans and with the chanting of mantras.
It is a very busy time however being here and seeing these things for the second time one learns to apprecciate their deep rooted meanings and one is also quite impressed with the commitment of the Indian people.
Being a non-Hindu I appoligize for any of these facts that may be not quite right.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Many Happy Returns of the Day

This is a statement of Birthday Wishes used here in India. It also appears that you start calling to wish the recipient "Many Happy Returns of the Day" at the beginning of the day in question.

What does that mean?? Be the first to call at 12:00:01 in the morning!!! nice.

Tracy surprised me this year with an overnight stay at a very nice local hotel called The Ista.

Our housekeeper and cook actually stayed overnight with the kids and low and behold no one was injured and everyone got along!! I think we may have to try this again and again they say three times is a trend!!

Tracy and wandered around the northern edge of Bangalore did a little shopping but mostly we finally got to have some alone time with just us (which is rare here), and it was the best birthday present ever!!

We went to a great Thai restaurant called Rim Namm and had a great dinner and returned to our room for a great night sleep and it was not interrupted by a small child in the middle of the night!! On Sunday we met some friends for the traditional Indian Sunday brunch, food, drink, drink,food, drink, dessert...it was great.

Then on the actual Birthday we had a joint party with our neighbors the Millers. It turns out Wade shares the same B-Day as me and we had a BBQ, Indian Buffet and a great time. Angela's Mom and Dad and her sister are here visiting for a couple of weeks and they came and we had fun catching up on the goings on back home. Of course what would a B-Day celebration be with some German influence of Petra and her Hookah!!

I received some fabulous presents, new sun glasses from Saravana, new running shoes which I am actually using to run from Tracy and her Mom and Dad, Kay bought me coffee and M&M's, Billy a new book and Jimmy a case of Bud, what great kids!!!

The cake was cut, the champagne toast made and another successful B-Day.

Thank you Tracy for the great B-Day weekend.

I love you!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tom's birthday! 9/24:)

Hi there
Tomorrow is Tom's birthday. Send him all our love, well wishes and good thoughts as he heads into another year as a fabulous partner, father, son, brother and friend.
Be sure to tell him how much you miss him and how much you love him!!
T. J.K.B.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Kodagu or more commonly known, Coorg is a place quite different from the rest of southern India. It was a small kingdom which then became a state after independence and now is a district in the southern part of Karnataka. It is rich in vegetation and produces wonderful coffee, cardamon, pepper, ginger and paddy. If that is not enough to entice you to visit , Coorg has won international acclaim for its flora and more importantly fauna causing it to be one of the most important hot spots of biodiversity in Asia, I am not making that up.

(On a side note this is perhaps the first time in my life that I am able to use both Flora and Fauna in the same sentence and have a proper context as well.)

We set off on a very busy Friday afternoon with the newest member of the Loudamericans travelling fun show our friend Ajay. Ajay is related to us through my sister Brigid's friend whom Ajay was a college roommate. Having a great deal in common with him we have been planning a get away for month's and finally the journey began. We were sorry to not have Ajay's Mom and Dad join us however rain and airport delays caused Ajay's Dad to have to cancel.

Ajay behind the wheel, the vehicle loaded down with all conceivable types of junk plus banana's a dvd player and cold beer for our arrival off we went. Traffic out of Bangalore was intense, as was the rain, however we persevered. 6.5 hours later at the bottom of a extremely muddy road in the middle of the jungle Ajay announced "we have reached". Reached what I thought as we slowly climbed the muddy road opened a gate and proceeded to the car park which upon reaching was actually someones driveway. Several minutes later the rumbling of an old jeep could be heard over the joyful screams of the three youngest loudamericans whom were in search of a way out of the car.

Ganesh the driver loaded our gear and again we were off. The 3 kilometers from bottom to top were to quote Billy Murphy " weally weally bumpy". The trip was worth the drive for when we reached the top there was Honey Valley. The guest house/Hotel is situated in the bottom of a bowl surrounded by trees, mountains, forest.

Honey Valley is home to a wonderful family, the Chengappas. Suresh and Susheela are wonderful hosts and provide a comfortable and very clean place to stay. The food is wonderful and the Coorg pork is not to be missed! Their main form on income up until the early 90's was bee farming. Suresh had as many as one million bee's producing honey until 1994 when the Thai sac brood attack killed all of his bee's overnight.( The Thai sac brood attack is far too brutal in nature for me to go into any details).

We had a wonderful dinner a couple of well deserved cold beers and retired for the night.

The following day was beautiful and we headed out to see a waterfall and to play in the river and get as wet as we possibly could even though three of us tried our best to keep the other three dry, it was a losing battle. Trekking is a favorite past time of may Indian's and Honey Valley provides access to may treks through the Kodagu Hills.

So after lunch and naps for no one we took a trek up into the hills. We needed to be mindful of the kids being there was a panther in the area and it had already took three of Sureshes dogs. ( I neglected to tell Tracy this little tidbit of information).

We meet three clothes designer who were also from B"lore and had a nice dinner with them. Kay spent most of the time discussing fashion and face painting while Jimmy and Billy showed off their power ranger moves. The day was long and the kids crashed except Billy who some times has a hard time going to sleep. We have found that he likes to read before he goes to sleep ( see photo) and after a few chapters of Power Rangers, he to crashed. Tracy, Ajay and myself had an after dinner glass of wine and retired as well. There was quite a bit of commotion around 3:00 in the morning, jackals howling, dogs barking, a panther perhaps?

Early the next day we were off to see Elephants, a Tibetan Monastery and maybe a bird sanctuary.The trip back down was according to Billy " weally weally bumpy". We set out to reach the Elephant camp by 9:30 to see them wash and feed the Elephants and arrived as the last one was heading back into the jungle, drat. We had breakfast and got back on the road to the Monastery.

The Gold Monastery is beautiful. There are several students living there and the place is immaculate. The colors and artistry is amazing and the three Statues inside are breath taking. We spent some time wondering around amidst the peace and quite until that was disrupted by you know who.

Back in the car everyone finally fell asleep so we continued straight back to Bangalore.

The trip with Ajay ranks in the top two we have taken while here and fortunately he feels the same so we are busy contemplating the next excursion....

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Great Minnesota Get Together

Earlier this week, Tracy informed me that since there are several family's living in Bangalore from Minnesota (6 people total to be exact) and since we were missing so many important events at home ... I needed to organize a party using the State fair as the excuse...like we need one.

So upon consulting with my co-hort in crime Wade we set off to plan a "party on a stick".

With the State fair ranking 101 (or much lower) on the list of the 100 things we like to do, the task seemed a bit large. After all, Tracy's usual response to "do you want to go to the State Fair?" is usually met with "over my dead body...".

However after a couple of Kingfishers I got to thinking what would go good with beer,State Fair, beer, CORN DOGS. I called Wade and told him what I had in mind and his first response was, " That's what I was thinking" I said are you drinking beer too? Which he replied "of course"... great minds...after that it was somewhat easy.

I mean, come on, the State Fair needs a Beer Garden, All the Milk you can drink, CORN DOGS,

cookies on a stick, french fries in a cup , apple pie, and of course a Beer Garden. And the Band Stand ( IPOD Stand). How hard could these be to find in India?!

We had about 25 kids and 10 or so family's with Minnesota roots along with our German friends Gerald and Petra who for the day were from New Ulm...they even brought German sausage on a stick!!

There was also a Cotton Candy maker (machine and person), a professional face painter (with Kay doing her apprenticeship for face painting), Minnesota State Flags as well as wrist bands, lots of Gopher and Vikings tshirts and the usual sort of junk associated with the Midway.

The State Fair this year has risen substantially into the list of things I would do!

The newest exhibit this year and the winner of the most inappropriate State Fair Booth was the Arabian/Turkesh tobacco pipe called a Hookah!

No State fair could be complete without the Open Mic/Talent show which was won this year by a group on kids doing an awesome rendition of High school Musical!!! They even found the website to learn the dance moves.

Applications for booth space at the 2008 State Fair can be sent to:http://www.loudamericans.blogspot.com/

Beer Garden and Corn Dog booth on a best bribe basis ...

For more info and another perspective, catch up with our favorite neighbors at http://www.wacmiller.blogspot.com/

Cheers to the great MN get together!!