Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jimmy and the Purple Crayon (aka Coloring Contest)

Exams were last week (including on Saturday) and so Tuesday was colored dress day (they didnt have to wear uniforms) and there was to be a BIG festivity. A coloring contest.

Jimmy was not impressed.

Monday evening -
Jimmy - I am not going to school tomorrow. I hate coloring. I'm not going to do it (imagine this repeated every 10 min's throughout the entire evening in the whinnest voice accompanied by tears...)

Finally at the end of Monday night -
Jimmy - Mommy write in my book to Ma'am that I am not coloring tomorrow. If she makes me color, I am coming home.

Mommy - Ok Jimmy, fine. I am writing the note to Ma'am. Dear Ma'am - Jimmy would prefer not to color tomorrow. Please respect this. Tracy

Jimmy - NO! You did NOT say that I am NOT coloring. Write it down!!

We finally come to agreement that what I wrote would suffice.

Tuesday - Coloring Contest Evening.

Daddy - How was the day?

Jimmy - Fine

Daddy - Did you color?

Jimmy - Yep

Daddy - How was it?

Jimmy - Fine - can I go play with Preston? (You can see that we get a lot of info out of him on school:) )

Wednesday - post school, as we are digging through his bag looking for homework and half eaten sandwiches... Tom finds a note. " Good news parents Jimmy has taken 1st place in the coloring contest".

Daddy - Wow! Jimmy you won 1st place in the coloring contest, way to go!! What did you color? (the said picture was not in his bag)

Jimmy - Can I go to Prestons?

Daddy - Come on Jimmy, this is great, what did you color?

Jimmy - A picture, I left it at school

Daddy - Wow, we'll have to look at it when we go to school on Friday to meet your Ma'am. Did you get anything for 1st place?

Jimmy - Most kids got a new t-shirt i just got crayons or something there in my bag - Can I go to Prestons now?

Huh... what's it going to be like when he's 13?!!

Tom's Birthday Celebrations

Well, despite Murphy's Law (ie - anything that can do wrong... will) Tom had a great birthday surrounded by great friends, fantastic food, stimulating conversation and well placed surprises.

The day started off with presents and strawberry ice cream for breakfast (for the kids - we also got the parents of the year award yesterday). While Tom's gifts were all hand picked and tried on by him during our shopping experience on Sunday, I thought it would be nice to wrap them and that the kids would get a kick out of watching him open them at breakfast. Little did I know they would steal my thunder and take all the credit!! They all "claimed" gifts that were from them that they had "bought" for him. Interesting that they didnt know what was in any of the gifts and were not along on our shopping excursion. Kay even went so far as to exclaim "Raj, come see what I bought Daddy for his birthday, a new pair of pants!". I guess I am chopped liver.

Our friends Petra and Gerald extended the morning celebrations by bringing over 1 warm Corona, a chicken bologna roll and the (used) Police CD (Ever stop you take). What can I say, they are German? !

He got many calls, emails, text messages through out the day wishing him "Many Happy Returns of the Day" and "Hearty Congratulations".

The pinnacle of the day was meant to be a surprise party for him with our closest friends. However, as you know, Tom is hard to surprise. For weeks, I have been asking him what he wants to do, where does he want to go, etc for this birthday. He response? Let's have a party! My response, How about a nice quiet date night, the 2 of us havent doen this is months.... (then my plan was that all our friends WOULD be at the chosen restarant). His response? No, I'd really like to get our friends together (nice). So, he starts calling his friends and asking them what they are doing on his birthday... luckily I had headed them all off at the past and they all said they were busy. Disaster averted.

We finally got the plans set - A surprise dinner at Petra's with Haleem (Muslim delicacy during Ramadan), veg briyani, beg kabobs, cake, wine, beer, hot chips, dip, etc... What could possibily go wrong here? Well, it is India, right? The Haleem was delivered a day early. The cake place closed. The phone for the veg briyani, veg kabobs "place" was disconnected. My driver showed up 1 hour late to pick me up (and I had to do all the pick ups for the party on the way home). All in all, 40 min's before I was set to meet Tom - NOTHING was ready. Our friends are fantastic and rallied around the cause. I found an alternative cake/tart place, Petra got the house decorated and made salad, Alex ran out for ice (running into Tom and giving a lame excuse that Stacy really wanted COLD drink when she got home, hence the 4kgs of ice), Angelica keep everyone on track. We quickly divised and excuse to have Tom and I stop at Petras and "SURPRISE!" the party started. Alls well that ends well. The food was fantastic, the cake to die for, there was plenty of champange, beer and wine toasts, but best of all Tom was surrounded by all the people here that love him.

Happy Birthday Tom! We love you!!!

(Pictures to be posted once I get them from friends:) )

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Its Tom's Birthday!!

Be sure to email or gmail him your best wishes:)

I will be prompt in posting a blog once this momentous occassion has been sufficiently celebrated:)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Musing on independence and help

There is a new person in my life, Kavita. She is my new administrative assistant. As part of getting promoted to Director, it seems that one of the additions that comes with your title is help. Specifically, administrative help. I am not sure what to do with this or how to handle it. Its really got me thinking....

Let's think about it, for the last 18 years, I have been self sufficient, independent and the one who takes care of others. I have paid my own bills, bought my own car, made breakfasts/ lunchs/dinners, cleaned my house, shopped myself, remembered birthdays, bought gifts, made the phone call, etc etc. (Not to down play all of Toms efforts, he is a tremendous help, but with 5 loud americans, there is plenty of work to go around).

This doesnt just include home "work", at work, for the last 18 years, I have answered my own phone, set up my own meetings, made my own copies, set up agenda, created power points, remembered birthdays, organized celebrations, submitted expense reports, booked travel plans, etc etc. I sort of like it.

Now, there is this fabulous person who wants to help me. Do things for me. Look out for me. Protect my time. Tell others "no, she isnt available" or "that time doesnt work for her". I havent gotten this kind of care taking/giving since I was a kid. I am not sure what to do with it. On one hand, I love it! Who wouldnt want to have someone there to only protect your time and your interests (she is great at this, she's a pit bull about my calendar)? She doesnt care if others need something from me, she only cares that I get the time to do what I need to do during the day and that others arent taking advantage of me. She is my external self preservationist!

On the other hand, there is something immensely satisfying about setting up a meeting, replying to an email, cleaning your own bathroom, cooking your own food. Its immediate gratification and you can easily point to it and say "I did that!". Its the same feeling that sometimes makes me pine to be the french fry girl at KFC. Its material and immediate and when you are done, you are done and go home. The days over, the works finished.

And the bottom line is, I am a do-er. I like to "do" things. I am not a thinker or waiter or watcher or talker. I am a do-er. I DO think and wait and watch and talk, but its usually why I am "doing" something else (exercising, cooking, riding in the car - you know - multitasking).

So, she and I are in negotiation, relationship building mode. I am sure she thinks I dont trust her, am looking over her shoulder as she manages my schedule and just a stubborn American. But, that's not it. Its just a damn hard habit to break, this being self sufficient. Especially as an American, oldest child, wife, mother, friend, etc. I really dont have much practice at letting others do things for me or asking for help. Intellectually, I completely get it. Emotionally, hitting 'send' in email feels good.

Here's hoping I can appreciate and embrace (quickly) the feel good factor in letting someone else help me out... She really does rock.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

State Fair Party :) and Good Bye Todd :(

For "real" State Fair footage, catch Kate - Tom's sister - at the fair:) Thanks Jim!!

Well, Saturday was a Happy/Sad day for all of us. Todd was leaving us, his expat assignment coming to an end, but as a going away party requested to have a State Fair themed party (he loves the State Fair and missed it this year).

We were happy to oblige!
(See photo of Todd to the left holding the most amazing scrap book his team made for him).

The night consistented of ONLY food on a stick, face painting, MN themed tshirts, tacky tatoos, wife beater tshirts, hand painted MN state flag signs and lots and lots of beer and milk.

(See to the left, Jimmy telling Preston how to spell sh_t so that Preston could write it in Todd's going away book. Needless to say this was after sugar overload and time outs were distributed amongst all participants)

The food was an amazing array of grease, sugar and carbs: corn dogs (Mrs Pinto came through again with her most excellent recipe), popcorn, cotton candy, pickles, veggies, fruit, 3 kinds of cookies, cake, ice cream, french fries, samosa's, freshly made home made chips (my favorite), corn on the cob, beer, soda, koolaid, milk and finally s'mores. I think everyone had the post State Fair food hang over going the next day:)

(See Kay and Elise hamming it up for the crowd

You can see that the kids had a great time and everyone was decked out in their favorite MN sports team. If you look close you can even see Billy's temporary tatoos (a snake and power ranger).

I must admit, I have never liked the State Fair, but recreating it in Bangalore is a gas (literally... the next day:))

Overall a very fun send off to someone we will all miss everyday. Thanks for all you do Todd!!!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

People People Everywhere!

So, I was riding home from work the other night and it occured to me. Holy sh_t! There are a LOT of people living here! I mean, I know I have lived here 2 years and I know that India is the 2nd most populated country on earth (isnt China 1st?!) and you'd like this wouldnt be a surprise... But, holy cats ... to actually see it is amazing and it continues to amaze me on a daily basis. Basically, there are now 10 million people in Bangalore. There are 10 million people in ALL of MN (if I have my numbers right). Now, Bangalore is basically the size of the 494/694 loop so...think about it, what if ALL the people in MN lived and worked within the 494/694 loop? Now, cut the power supply randomly but up to 25 times/day, add about the same # of cows, buffalo, bugs, snakes, rats and dogs. Finally, make it legal for ANY type of vehicle to travel on ANY road, including highways (bikes, motor bikes, scooters, bull carts, horse drawn carts, ricksaws, etc....). How would it feel?

Now.... Welcome to Bangalore India!

(BTW - Tom got a B+ on his 1st online college class - way to go Tom, we love you and are really really proud of you!!!)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Delhi/Goodbye Sue/Gawd is it HOT!

We planned our vacation with Sue to include 1 day in Delhi. We figured we'd take her around all the cool things to do in Delhi before we all boarded planes home. Little did we know that it would 40c that day!! urrhhh!! That's 104 F. Not the most pleasant way to site see in Delhi. Even the kids were hot, they all looked like wet paper sacks by the end of the day...But, that didnt stop us, we went to all our favorite spots.

The 1st stop was Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. Its gorgeous! It has a huge open square that can hold 25,000 people and the most unbelievable domes and towers. We climbed up one of the towers and were able to see all of Old and New Delhi. The kids loved the tower climb and talked of princesses and Shrek the whole way up. Good thing we didnt run into a dragon! Sue and I had to wear full length moo moo's to cover ourselves and we had to have Tom with us as unaccompanied women are not allowed in the tower. The kids followed protocol by washing their feet, hands and face in the communal pool before entering any of the sacred areas.

At the bottom of the mosque is Chandni Chowk. This is a famous shopping area that has to be hundreds and hundreds of years old. The streets are so narrow that you could probably reach your arms out and touch each side. They are lined with silk and gold and diamonds and flowers and food and books and maps and handpainted paper. You wind through the market on a bicycle ricksaw and its just too cool for words.

We then escaped to the A/C of the car and headed out to see Raj Ghat (a memorial to Ghandhi). This is where he was cremated and it draws hoards of tourists/visitors. There is a guy with a cobra sitting out front and you can have your picture taken for a few ruppees. Billy reached right out and touched the cobra, ewww... Kay and I missed the memorial itself as she was having a full blown meltdown. That was fun.

Lunch we traditional Punjabi food and by the looks of it a very popular place for tourists. It was the 1st time in a week that we were surrounded by other white people in a restaraunt. The food was amazing even if it was the most expensive meal we had while on vacation.

We ended the day at Humayun's Tomb. This is our favorite place in Delhi. It is a gorgeous walled garden with a tomb/mosque within it. It is said the the Shah Jahan was so impressed by the architecture and gardens that he modeled the Taj Mahal after it. You can see it, its an amazing mix of muslim, hindu and persian influence. 350 years ago it was finished. Haji Begum was an absent minded ruler. When he died (he fell down the stairs of the library when he realized he was missing the call to prayers) his wife built this monument. If I remember correctly, 150 years later, Iran invaded the area and lived in the walled area for 3 months, pillaging all the riches that were within it.

After an action packed day, it was off to the airport. Our flight left about 6 hours before Sue's so she was able to see us off. The kids couldnt stop hugging her and kept running to give her "just one more hug". Then Jimmy turned to me and said "Sue, is trying not to cry, isnt she mom? I'm really going to miss her".

The flight home was uneventful (aka no vomit) and the kids cant stop talking about Sue and how much fun they had. Jimmy even asks to sleep in "sue's room" because he misses her.

So, back to every day life in India:)

(We love you Sue!!)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Planes Trains and Automobiles-Literally

Shimla a small town in Northern India was the destination. After several phone calls , e-mails and coffee with our friend Ajay we got the trip planned. First we will fly to Delhi overnight there and then take the train to Kalka get into a rental van and drive to Shimla and return the same way. Sounds reasonable right?

We headed out to the new airport and checked in - no problem. We all boarded the flight to Delhi and Tom was lucky enough to sit with Kay. Sue was double lucky because she got to sit by herself. The flight to Delhi was the bumpiest flight ever. They brought the kids food first and just when they brought the adults food the turbulence began and so did the throwing up, by Kay. Fortunately Tom had a couple of coffee cups because there were no air sickness bags and for Tom no dinner!!

We arrived in Delhi and made our way in two separate equally decrepit cabs to the hotel. The Ginger was nice and it's best feature was the cafe attached. Tom and Kay had a bite to eat then all got a good night sleep.

The train ride was awesome. Being able to see all the different towns and villages along the way and having high tea at the same time. But alas we were in another moving vehicle and right after Kay ate you guessed it. We have now decided that no food for Kay while we are in a moving vehicle.

We reached the train station and then loaded ourselves into a van and begun the ascent to Shimla. Then after one and a half days of travel we reached..

The place we stayed was called The Chalets Naldehra check out their website. ( www. was beautiful. We had the family suite which had two separate rooms a larger living room and a full size refrigerator!

The pack deal came with a buffet breakfast and lunch however there were only three or four families staying there so we got to order what ever we wanted off the menu!!! The food was awesome but the local wine was well, apple or plum, not the best!! After touring the grounds having a great dinner and playing with the other kids the Loudamericans plus one were done.

The following morning we had a leisurely breakfast and then horse back riding!! What a blast. Jimmy fell in love with his horse and horse guy and had a ball. Billy and Kay were no less keen and they all managed to have fun as well. The lower Himalayans are quite impressive. I mean just seeing them was cool. The afternoon was spent with us in the pool and then a nature walk to a lovely meadow where there were ladybugs galore.

Tracy decided that we all needed the local hat of Himachal Pradesh, the state where Shimla is and was bound and determined that we get them and here is the proof!!

The only downfall was that this area which is plush with strawberries, the strawberries were out of season. Kay was so excited because she was going to eat strawberries just like Violet in that Willy Wonka movie. It was a good thing they were out of season with the way she was hurling every other day.

We then rented a van and went to the bottom of the valley to a place called Tattapanni and experienced the "hot springs". They were no springs as such but a trickle of water coming from somewhere however they were HOT. So hot in fact you could not even touch them! The kids played in the river and we had a nice time. Lunch was a long drawn out affair at a " Chinese"place but for the most part it was cool.

That night we watched Sound of Music and had the most amazing cauliflower with honey, awesome. The mutton and roti were and are to die for.

We ended our stay at the Chalet with yet another horse ride. We have a family tradition so to speak where on Sunday mornings we take a family walk around Palm Meadows. Jimmy is very vocal about his dislike of this activity. He however has decided that if he had a horse he would be OK with the family walk because he could take, his horse!

From the hills of Naldehra we headed to the actual town of Shimla. It is located basically on the side of a mountain, literally. I was concern about falling into the center of town it is that steep. We had to take a lift to the steps which ascended to the main or "mall" road. I am sure this road drives my Indian friends crazy. It is a beautiful paved road with nice food, book,clothing vendors all along however no moving vehicles are allowed!! A road such as this was meant to be driven on, ask any Indian they will agree.

From Shimla we headed back to Kalka to catch the train to Delhi. What would a trip through the foot hills of the Himalayans be without " Hey Dad look a McDonald's".