Category Archives: angel

How did you decide who to help……….

Talking to my youngest child is like having a conversation with a racketball – in the middle of an olympic match with gold medal implications. She comes at you from all different angles at one hundred and ten miles an hour. It’s really too bad that Johnny Cochran is no longer with us because she could have given him a run for his money.

The other day we are riding in the car – just me and her – on the way to swim practice. Her mind is racing about anything and everything and we have this conversation…

Angel: Mom, remember the other day when we were riding in the car and we saw that lady in the middle of the road?
Me: Yes.
Angel: Why was she there?
Me: She was asking for help.
Angel: Why was she doing it there?
Me: Don’t you want to give me your Christmas list? Seriously, now is a good time to ask for just about anything because I will promise the moon if we can talk about regular old 9-year-old stuff.

We saw this woman in Silver Spring, Maryland. She was begging in between cars at an exit ramp right off of 495 – one of the busiest roads in this area. She had a severe limp and was bundled up not so warmly on a pretty cold and very windy day. I asked the kids if they had any snacks. They didn’t. So we drove by carefully and quickly, leaving her standing still empty handed right in the middle of the road.

Apparently she made an impression.

Angel: How did you decide who to help?
Me: You mean that lady? We didn’t have any food to give her.
Angel: No, in India.
Me: It just depends, honey.
Angel: But sometimes you gave them money. And sometimes you gave them food. And sometimes nothing.
Me: (humming All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.) Any progress on that Christmas list sweetie?
Angel: No, really. Remember, there was the one guy you gave money to. The one on the corner on the way to school. And then you stopped giving him money. How did you decide who to help.

That conversation made me realize that I still have a lot to reconcile and digest about living in India.

My husband suggested the other day that maybe we should stop talking so much about it with other people. It always seems to creep into the conversation and he thinks maybe people are tired of hearing about it.

Maybe.

But it is part of who we are now. It will come up.

And I hope to spend the next few weeks reconciling the effect that seeing so much poverty had on me. Some of the posts will surely be tough to read – believe me they will be tougher to write. And I will write them comfy and cozy from my office knowing that it is harder to exist in poverty than write about it from a distance.

But I do hope that we can stick through it together. I hope that I can articulate with clarity and compassion what we experienced in a way that captures your attention. Because simply clicking away from these posts will not diminish the existence and impact of poverty.

This should be fun, right?

And then today – (almost) all the right answers ………

If you read this first, you will understand today’s post better….

So this morning my daughter asks me this question –

“Mom, why does a mom’s food always taste better than anyone else’s?”

Yes, that thud you heard was me falling over.

After I picked myself off the floor, I said, “I don’t know honey, it’s probably just what you are used to.”

To which she replied, “but Mom, your food is sooooo good.”

Yes, she is going to go far in life.

Her brother called her a “suck up” and then asked me if I had lost weight.

Very smart those two. 😉

Their sister on the other hand complained that I had made her biscuits instead of cereal.

I guess two out of three ain’t bad.

Wrong Question…………

When I start talking about having staff in India, I know some of you are thinking – oh jeez, here she goes again. But please bear with me because today I figured out the number one reason that having staff was bad for my family – or any family who is not going to have staff working in its home forever. You get a little too used to it. Our reality does not include a driver, a cook, a guard, a housekeeper, a gardener, and a laundress. Well, it does – but funny enough, they are all the same person – me. And the pay ain’t quite the same.

So, for those children who actually read this blog – both of you – are you listening? Here are some of the wrong conversations/situations to find yourselves in….

Scenario 1
Mom has done the laundry (including your smelly gym clothes and soccer socks) and has washed the all the breakfast dishes (after making you breakfast) and now has brownies in the oven (because she knows you love them – she even went to two stores to find the exact ones that you like – because God forbid you have your second favorite kind of brownie warm from the oven right when you walk in the door from school). She has just finished wiping off the counter and sweeping the floor. She turned off the news when you walked in the door (even though it was the story she had been waiting all day to hear) so she could listen (with focus) to how your day went. After you chat and have a yummy chocolately treat, Mom goes to sweep the floor again because there are now mysteriously brownie crumbs all over it.

It is here that the real potential for danger exists. If she then asks you to take out the trash or vacuum the basement or even lick the litter box clean – the exact wrong question is……do I have to? I will help you here because I know most of you are treading on new ground. The right answer is …..O!M!G! Mom, I would so love to do all of those things for you. And, by the by, you actually then have to do them (because sometimes it is more than the thought that counts) and then say ….. and Mom, did you get your hair cut because it looks marvelous. Do you see the difference?

Scenario 2:
You have decided that it is in your best interest to join a practice group that practices very early on Saturday mornings. This causes your mother – who sleeps through tornadoes – to have to get out of bed at 5:15A.M. on a Saturday morning. The roosters have not even learned to crow at this point and your mother is up and driving you to practice. And, yes, she is very proud of you for getting up and getting out the door – that is not the problem. Read on.

When you get back home, your very tired mother makes (okay, warms up) waffles because that is what you asked for (and no it does not matter if they are frozen v. homemade). She also makes eggs and biscuits because that is what your brother asked for. And she also makes bacon because apparently your sister would like that. You are distracted by the goings on of SpongeBob so I can understand why you don’t realize that was a lot to accomplish before 8:30am. But you push it a tad too far when you ask …… Mom, can you pour syrup in to a small bowl and bring it over here? Really?

Here’s the problem – at some point you are going to want to drive a car. If you cannot handle pouring syrup into a bowl (even a small bowl) all by your lonesome, I am pretty sure that operating heavy machinery is off the can-do list. The right answer is…….Mom, these are the most delicious waffles I have ever had. They don’t even need syrup. And by the way, did you get your hair cut because it looks amazing. Or maybe you lost weight. See how that is different?

Scenario 3
You love to ride your scooter. You have ridden it and fallen off of it a million and one times. So, your mom knows that you are one tough cookie even if you scream like a banchee. Sooooo, if you fall off said scooter the exact moment that your mom calls a friend to vent over another mom who is making her c.r.a.z.y. and she sees you fall, she might not panic and hang up immediately because she knows you are okay. And she knows that you had a 14-minute delay in crying. So, she really might not hang up the phone right away. No matter how big those crocodile tears are – because if you can stop and have a snack on the way to tell her how hurt you are, the reality of it is – you are probably going to be just fine. Operating heavy machinery may also not be in your future but you most likely don’t need to be rushed to Children’s Hospital. You might need therapy later – but right now, it’s all good.

Please forgive the parenting rant – but seriously. I don’t know how single parents do it – God love you!

Am I smarter than a third grader……………..

You would think so, but my third grader is thinking “not even close.” Last night I tucked her into bed and she was complaining that I spent longer in her brother and sister’s room than I spent in her room. And, that was as I was walking in the door. Yeah, put your seatbelt on.

(Have a mentioned before that we have a college-savings plan and a therapist-savings plan?)

Me: Honey I am just not sure that is true
Her: It is (Enter big arse tears)
Me: I just got here
Her: But you n.e.v.e.r. stay here as long as you stay in THEIR rooms

By way of background, Angel’s grandmother bought her a new bed that arrived yesterday and will (prayerfully) be assembled today.

Me: Well, the good news is that you are getting a brand new bed tomorrow. Isn’t that exciting?
Her: You a.l.w.a.y.s. do that
Me: What?
Her: When I am mad at you, you always try to distract me with something happy.

Dear heavens. Please start praying for me now. She has broken the mother code.

Back on Track – Hong Kong Disney……

It’s been too long since I have shared more of our India adventures with you – and there is so much left to tell – so I am trying to get back on track.

On our way back from our recent trip to China, we made a pit stop in Hong Kong. To be very, very honest, we mostly stopped in Hong Kong because there is a Disney park there. I know, I know – I can hear the collective gasps throughout the web – so much history – so much culture – and you stopped to see the mouse? But we figured – why not!

And it turns out there is not a ton to see in Hong Kong anyway. It is mostly known for its shopping and we knew were returning to America so we did not need to do a lot of shopping. So Disney it was.

Hong Kong Disney is not as large as its sister park in Florida, especially because it is just the Disney park – there is no Epcot or Safari or water park. I would say it was really good for my youngest but there are not many bigger kid rides – we did all thoroughly enjoy it though. But one day is plenty.

If you go and plan to watch any of the shows, be careful to check which language they will be presented in. English is the main language but the shows are done in a few others also – better to understand what they are actually saying than not.

You also have to be careful in Disney because some of those women are sneaky. This chick thought she could steal my man. She was such a bimbo. Honestly. And he is smiling because he is afraid I am going to take down the mouse – not because he is the least little bit flattered.

She is apparently also part cougar.

While the men in my family were being flirted with by the tart star of the show, I was getting kisses from the grumpy donkey who can’t keep a home to save his life.

And, I completely understand that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – but really? There were several women dressed like Minnie Mouse. And when I say several – I mean, s.e.v.e.r.a.l.

And, witchy wonders,  I got to ride my broom. tee hee.

This park had a lot of the old favorites – It’s a Small World

The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

And Angel is a h.u.g.e. Winnie the Pooh fan. So, when he squished her with those big ole honey bear arms she literally melted. That was the moment that we knew going to Disney was the right thing to do – history shmistory.

Those dreaded fantastic teacups – which my children LOVE and I don’t LOVE so much at all. So I volunteered to take pictures. Very generous of me, I know. It’s just one of those sacrifices I am willing to make as a parent.

And the line got cut off for the picture with Alice in Wonderland before we were able to get in it – so no, we did not adopt a child in Disney – I just could not get a picture of her with my own child. If I learn to Photoshop, you will never know the difference. I really wanted to stomp my foot and scream “not fair” because clearly this little Chesire Cat has no idea how lucky he is to have his picture taken with the “real” Alice but that mean old Queen of Hearts was watching and she scares me a little bit.

And yes, I appreciate how much my husband must love me to take this picture with me – but please do not discount the fact that he might just have done it because it was w.a.y. easier to smile and be done with it than it would have been to not do it and hear about it all day long. 😉 Okay, he didn’t officially smile but he didn’t not smile either. Win. Win.

There was also the Buzz Lightyear ride, the Tarzan treehouse, the Lion King Show, and a few other recognizable Disney favorites.

And of course, there was a parade. So fun!

And I would not buy my children actual balloons but I was willing to take a picture of some that another parent found purchase worthy so that my own kids have hard evidence that I really am the meanest mom on the planet and denied them the thrill of a helium high later that night.


We also did a character meal where even the pancakes matched the whole mouse theme. They were almost too cute to eat – almost.

We did hit a few snafus – one being that the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night in the hotel. Great to know that my children can sleep through an alarm screeching warnings at full volume. Yikes. Luckily it was a false alarm and we did not have to leave our rooms.

The other snafu was at the character meal where the fine folks at Disney thought it might be okay to make us wait for over 30 minutes to sit down at the meal (that we had reservations for and spent a good chunk of college savings on) just to tell us when we finally sat down that the characters needed a break and would be back in an hour.

I will let you figure out for yourself how that worked out for the fine folks at Disney. tee hee.

And don’t think for one second that I didn’t whisper in that mouse’s big arse ear that his little girlfriend better check herself! 😉

Whose child is that…………..

I remember very well when September 11th happened. I remember being so grateful that my oldest child was just 5 years old and there wasn’t a lot of explaining I had to do. He wasn’t on the bus to hear the stories or in the cafeteria. Thankfully, we did not lose any friends or relatives that day. I prayed hard and paced in front of the news but he was blissfully unaware that it seemed like the world had just been turned upside down and inside out – well maybe not the whole world but certainly many little corners of it.

That was….

until….

his very precocious friend who was the youngest in a family of four walked in the door for a play date. He no sooner had his tennis shoes off before he was telling Bear all about the “bad guys” who had blown up a building. I remember very distinctly thinking – holy 9/11 batman – now I have to explain this to my innocent little Bear who doesn’t really know bad guys exist – right after I delete this monkey’s phone number from our address book. Seriously, his mom couldn’t tell him to keep a lid on it?

Fast forward a few years……. yep, you pretty much know where this is going – down hill fast.

Angel (who is merely 8 years old) was in a swim lesson today and they were talking about the bottom of the water and how you should pretend like there are alligators in it so that you don’t touch the bottom. The instructor asked if alligators live in rivers. Angel raised her hand and said,
“yes, they do. And, in some rivers they burn dead bodies.”

Now, this is a result of her living in India and visiting Nepal and actually seeing this happen. But I am sure most of that will be lost in translation at many dinner tables tonight. And when the parents are all trying to figure out “whose child that is” tomorrow at practice, I will simply shake my head and say “I am trying to figure that same thing out – did you hear what that child said? You’d think they lived in India or something.” 😎 Hmpf.

Some days are tougher than others……….

I often start these posts by saying how hard it is to really explain life here – but it really, really is. No really – it really is. It sounds exotic and privileged and fascinating and it is absolutely all of those things. But life here can be difficult to manage. I miss the conveniences and the independence. Never mind family and friends because that is another blog post entirely.

This week Flower has been pretty sick. She just got over chicken pox and jumped right into some unknown something or other that nobody can really seem to pinpoint. When your kids are sick in a third world country and you cannot exactly define what is going on, the adventure becomes a tad less appealing. I want to be clear that I have never felt she was in any danger (that is for the grandparents who read this blog) but it has been frustrating. Flower just really doesn’t get sick – so to see her really unable to get out of bed just stinks. And to have everyone just sort of shrug their shoulders with a “oh, this is normal, come back in a few days” attitude is just not what I am looking for in medical care.

Flower had her appendix out when she was 7. She was very close to it rupturing. In the emergency room, the doctor practically stood on her stomach. She had no reaction at all. He was walking out of the room, convinced that she was going to be just fine because there was absolutely no way that a child with appendicitis would not react to that kind of pressure, when the CT scan came back. We were in the operating room 10 minutes later – it appeared she did in fact have a very infected appendix.

She just doesn’t get knocked out. So to hear the doctor(s) say – she looks listless, but she just isn’t that sick – augh. I want to jump through my mommy skin and send them back to medical school. Isn’t the first thing they learn to trust the mother’s instinct? If it isn’t, it should be. Something is going on with her.

And of course, if we were home, I wouldn’t be so worried because the chances of getting Dengue Fever, Malaria, Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Encephalitis, and all those other scary things are just a wee bit less.

Then if you add having staff working for you it gets so flippin complicated.

My cook knows just what is wrong with her. He has not even been to culinary school, much less medical school but he knows just what is wrong.

Francis: She has a fever?
Me: Yes
Francis: This will take a week – maybe 5 days
Me: Okay
Francis: But don’t worry ma’am – last night I prayed for her
Me: thank you, that was very thoughtful of you
Francis: Jesus will take care of it.
Me: I believe that
Francis: Jesus will make her better

Now, I want to be clear that I am very glad Jesus is on it. And I didn’t realize that Francis had such tight connections. But I am not leaving it to prayer – I have been doing that myself too – but we can also take some a.c.t.i.o.n.

One of the really nice things in India is that I do have the cell phone number of our doctor. So, I called her directly and made an appointment (yes that is crazy). She was able to make an appointment for us in half an hour (also insane). That means we need to leave right away.

However, our driver had gone out to get mosquito nets for our beds because Bear is getting eaten alive when he sleeps (and, yep, we have taken many precautions so that mosquitoes don’t enter our house – but they are persistent little buggers). He went to the market near us and felt that the nets were too expensive – so he decided to drive to a market that was quite a distance from our house to save us about 200 rupees (that would be $4). Nope, he did not ask first – just decided that would be the thing to do. So now he cannot get back quickly to get our daughter to her doctor appointment and the doctor is leaving shortly. Yes, I am frustrated. While I really appreciate the fact that he was trying to save us money – getting our daughter to the doctor is a m.u.c.h. bigger priority. M_U_C_H  B_I_G_G_E_R.

We ultimately figured it out. Hubby took Flower in another car with another driver and I met them at the doctor’s office. On my way, I got to hear all about the cost savings and the available colors of mosquito nets and all about traffic and how this vendor did this and that vendor did this and holy four dollars, batman. I was polite – but really – not caring so much about the whole story. Just. want. to. get. to. the. doctor. yesterday.

The doctor looked her over and really felt we needed to wait a couple of days to do any testing. See how Flower does. Keep her in a cool room. No school. Lots of liquids. You know the drill.

So Hubby took Flower home and I went to buy Gatorade. This involved 3 phone calls. You just cannot assume anything – in the U.S., I could tell you 18 places that sell Gatorade within walking distance of my house. Here – you better check first. So, I found out where I believed the Gatorade would  be. Went there. And they had it – yeah! And they also had the Starbucks coffee drinks that Hubby loves.

I thought I would get him a few. So I asked if they had the “coffee-flavored” coffee drinks.

Me: Do you have the “coffee-flavored” coffee drinks?
Him: Yes, how many do you want?
Me: I see Mocha, Vanilla, and Caramel – but not Coffee – do you have that?
Him: Yes, how many do you want?
Me: I want the “coffee” flavor – you have Vanilla, Mocha, and Caramel – see right here on the label (picture me pointing to the label) – I want the one that says “coffee” – I can see why it is confusing because they all say “coffee” but there are different flavors.
Him: How many
Me: I looked at all of the boxes here – I don’t see “Coffee”. Do you have “coffee”.
Him: Yes, how many do you want?

Just a note here – Indians don’t seem to make 15 varieties of the same product – so I want to be fair that it is not their fault that Starbucks has complicated the simpleness of a coffee drink. But even in this land of “oh sure, they all speak English” sometimes it is very, very difficult to get your point across. Finally, after he took all the boxes off the shelf (and yep, he watched me do the exact same thing just moments before) and realized there wasn’t actually a coffee drink called “coffee”.

He disappeared around the corner and – wahlah – and after (quite) a few minutes – came back with 8 “coffee-flavored” coffee drinks. I am not sure when the understanding of what I was trying to say kicked in but hubby is glad it did. At least the guy did not promise me the drinks “tomorrow” or compliment me on being the “first customer of the day”.

Hubby also asked me to pick up a pizza. I was weary of this because the pizza joint he wanted pizza from is a more of a “by the slice” kind of place. But I thought I would give it a shot.

I went up to the window and there was a whole cheese pizza sitting in the display case. I think I actually let out a sigh – this is not going to be as complicated as I thought. Yahoo for me.

Me: I would like a pizza
Her: That will be 75 rupees (that is $1.50)
Me: Really, for a whole pizza?
Her: Oh, you want the whole pizza?
Me: Yes
Her: That is eight slices (with a completely confused look on her face)
Me: Yes it is – that’s what I would like
Her: But that is eight slices
Me: Got it – I would like a whole pizza puhleassssseeee – in fact this one in the window will do nicely
Her: No, we’ll make you a fresh one – it will take 3 minutes.
(Just another note – if you are thinking, “that is amazing – they can make a pizza in 3 minutes” – my dear friend, I have a lovely bridge I would like you to consider buying – you are my first customer of the day and I will give you my very best price – tomorrow.)
Me: Honestly, this one is good
Her: You don’t want a fresh one?
Me: Nope – pretty sure this one that is already done is just great
Her: We’ll add cheese to it
Me: It has cheese on it – can I really please just take this one – as it is – now?
Her: Do you want it in one big box or each slice in its own box

Here is where I faltered. I was thinking about all the trash that eight slice boxes would be. So, I opted for the big box. But that changes what they normally do – it threw them for a little bit of a loop. The guy working there climbed up a ladder and went into a very small ceiling compartment. He did bring down a box. A very, very dirty box. It was dusty and greasy – I’ll spare you the details – but let’s just say you probably wouldn’t spit your gum out in it much less use it for a pizza that you actually planned to eat – and feed to your already sick child.

Me: Yeah, that box is kind of dirty
Her: You don’t want this box
Me: I am thinking hell no not exactly – is there another one up there?
Her: Okay – we’ll get another one

And they did get another box. It was better. But I am not kidding when I say they spent 5 minutes trying to put it together. It was apparently a broken box – still better than a dirty box – but broken nonetheless. So they performed box surgery and taped it 18 different ways. All of which came loose before I got all the way to the car.

The bottom line in this is that it took me 15 minutes to get the pizza that was already cooked and ready to go. Of course, it was worse because I really just wanted to get the Gatorade to Flower. But sometimes it is difficult to accomplish simple things here. And it is hard to understand why it is so complicated.

I finally got home and now Bear’s mosquito net is up over his bed. My first thought was – great, now we live in a Tarzan movie.

We ended the day by taking Flower to another doctor just to make sure we should not be concerned about anything scary. He had a completely different impression of what was wrong than doctor number 1. And no, I did not pick up a pizza on the way home.

It was a long day of  complications. So, most of the time I am jumping right in and enjoying our experiences here, some days are tougher than others.

Mark Blondie…………….

India has rocked my reality for sure. Things I just assumed were true about the world simply are not. Things that were once complicated have suddenly uncomplicated themselves and things that were easy schmeasy – well now, not so much.

We are rolling with the punches and really, truly have nothing to complain about. But some adjustments are trickier than others.

Take soccer (here it is called football) for instance. My kids love soccer – they each began playing when they were four and have not been off the pitch since – that is until we got here. We missed the sign ups when we arrived last year, so my kids have essentially been without soccer for a year. Yes, I know that is not the end of the world – but they love it, we love it, we all missed it.

And soccer sign ups here are not easy – if you are not coaching or sponsoring a team, good luck to you getting a spot. Hubby agreed to coach – he’s done it for years – and that guaranteed our kids could play. Obstacle number one – overcome.

For Bear and Angel it’s been a pretty smooth transition. But for Flower – enter obstacle number two. She is the only girl on her team.

Luckily she has a lot of soccer experience, she’s pretty fast, and she works hard. However, she still is on a team with all boys.

We did not make a big deal of it. You want to play, this is your option. She was and is fine with it. Not what she would prefer – but this has been a year sprinkled with “not what we would prefer” so we are getting the hang of adapting.

At her first practice the coach ran some speed drills. She beat a few of the boys and got a lot of eeeewws and aaaahhs. A little unnecessary because really, at this age, girls are often faster than boys. No one has really hit puberty yet and, like I said, she tries hard. Nonetheless, they were surprised and very verbal about it. They chided the boys she beat. Really, enough already. Anyway, she rolled with it. And after practice we laughed that she sure surprised them. They coach was very supportive – he complimented her on her speed and was happy to have her on the team.

Next was the game. Not so little number 14 on the  other team decided to push hard on Flower. Push he did. He was certainly more aggressive than necessary but not really over the line – pushing right up to the line – but not really going over it. Once again, she rolled with it. She didn’t slow down and maneuvered around him fine. She was often the only girl on the field. Undaunted, she played hard.

Then there was a throw in. She was standing on the field in front of the opposing coach and he yelled to his players, “mark your player, someone mark Blondie.”

Mark Blondie? augh. Who let Archie Bunker coach soccer in India?

The surprising thing about this comment is that the expat community here seems to be full of such global thinkers. They have been exposed to the world and embrace the differences that exist in it. They work hard to create advantages for the disadvantaged. It is filled with women who are literally changing the world and husbands who stay home with the kids. Of course, this one comment does not justify a condemnation of all things expat. But it surprised me because it sounded so back asswards.

Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately – I did not hear him say it. Flower told me about it after the game. This is my girl that hardly releases any details – seriously, I think she is in spy training. But this had an  impact on her. She told me that he looked and her and realized that she heard it. She told me she smiled and he smiled. Busted. Obstacle number 2 overcome.

Number 14 came at her pretty hard again and ended up on his butt. He kept his distance after that. She didn’t push him down. She was not retaliating. She was simply defending her position.  Obstacle number 3 overcome.

So when Flower told us about this Mark Blondie nonsense we laughed with her. Once again we complimented her on earning her spot on the field. We told her the other coach clearly saw her as a threat and wanted to make sure she was covered.

But privately, we wondered “what the heck”? It is hard enough for a girl here to get on the field without any nonsense. There are many girls who have chosen not to play. They are simply intimidated by the thought of being on the field with boys. Throw in the comments and the eeewing and aaahhing and it’s really tough.

And it is a shame. Some of these girls are remarkable players. They outwit and outlast most of the boys on the field. They score, they defend, they contribute in big ways to the success of the team. And they put up with some BS along the way.

So in true me fashion, I shared the story with a few moms. Most of them were outraged. I should lodge a complaint. I should have the coach reprimanded. Maybe I should burn my bra soccer cleats.

But we have chosen to treat this as not really a big deal. The bottom line really is that we will all face obstacles and if we let mere words stop us or slow us down, we lose before we even begin. We want the lesson to be not to let other people get in your way. Don’t get worked about about stupid comments. Continue to do your best. Besides, I have been seriously underestimated before and it can work to your advantage!

BTW, Flower was chosen as team captain for the last game and she continues to hold her own. She’s doing pretty well – even for a girl. 😉

Freezing but still warm…………………

One of the hardest thing about living in India is that we really don’t have a neighborhood. Let me correct that – we live in a neighborhood – but we don’t have a neighborhood feeling. There are no sidewalks, really nowhere to ride bikes, kids don’t play outside, and worst of all, really we don’t have any friends in the hood – especially not life-long friends. That means not many play dates and no spontaneous happy hours in the driveway.  No ordering pizza at the last minute and staying out way past sundown. No running through the sprinkler and chalking the driveway. No basketball in the court where dads can school their kids in just exactly how to play the game. We don’t even run into each other when taking out the trash (the trash wala comes in the gate and collects our garbage) or when checking the mail (it’s all delivered to hubby’s office). We don’t bump into friends at the gas station (our driver fills up the car) or at the grocery store (they really don’t exist).

So, yesterday was pure heaven. Each of the kids had a friend spend the night. The house was loud and a mess – think play dough meets paint meets cheese puffs meets hot chocolate with marshmallows. We ordered pizza and made waffles and eggs and bacon. My kids are still young enough that they will sometimes still play in groups of various ages of kids. Yesterday was full of that awesome synchronicity. Eight year olds and twelve year olds (with every age in between) played and danced and laughed together for the entire day with thankfully very little fighting.

Then they got an idea. As they called it – a great idea.

Yeah – uh oh.

They decided that it would be a lot of fun to have a bake sale. Excuse me?

Me: You do realize it is below freezing outside right?
Bear: Yeah – so
Me: Please say yes and not yeah. And enlighten me, who do you think is going to buy things? Bake sales are usually in the warm weather.
Bear: If we go to the pool, people will be running by there.
Me: With their wallets? If they are running, they may not want sweets.
Bear: Oh – but cars go by too. Lots of cars. It’s a busy street.
Me: What are you going to sell?
Bear: Can we make cookies?
Me: Honey, we don’t have flour – remember we haven’t lived here in 6 months. Your options are what we might call limited.
Bear: I’ll be right back.
Me: (to myself) good heavens.
Bear: We have brownie mix.
Me: Okay – you know they will get cold – possibly frozen right?
Bear: That’s fine, we’ll wrap them in foil.
Flower: We want to make something.
Me: What do you want to?
Flower: What is there?
Me: Yeah – I am not getting that involved in this – you go look and find out. Report back to me when you figure something out.
Angel: Do we have lemonade? We want to sell something too.
Me: (no longer to myself) oh good heavens. Sweetie – we don’t have lemonade. That is really a summertime drink. There is ice on the ground here. It’s cold.
Bear: We are going to make hot chocolate too. (Nice that he fed off his sister’s idea and stole the thunder right out from under her.)
Angel: Hey.
Me: What are you going to put that in?
Bear: The lemonade pitcher.
Angel: No fair. We need the pitcher for lemonade.
Me: Bear, that isn’t going to keep it warm – you cannot call it hot chocolate.
Angel, we don’t have lemonade -why don’t you and your friend make art work.
Bear: fine
Angel: fine
Flower: chocolate covered pretzels
Me: I really want to see a marketing plan before I decide if this is a go.
Bear: You always tell us to try new things. That there is no sense in not trying. Why is this any different?
Me: You are confusing me with a mother who encourages her children. Are you sure that was me?
Bear: Yes.
Flower: Pretty sure.
Me: Dang.

So they made brownies, chocolate covered pretzels, hot chocolate, and artwork. They carried the table and chairs and blankets and goodies up to the pool. They made signs. And they had customers (not all of them relatives). One of my friends bought a play dough eyeball from Angel – and she paid $10 for it and insisted they all split the profits. Yes, she has forever cemented her place in my heart.

They actually lasted about an hour and a half before they realized that 22 degrees is really pretty cold.

They walked away with red noses, about $20 (to be split 7 ways), and memories that will warm their hearts on even the coldest of days.

Tonight we are hosting a New Years Eve party for the families of many of our friends. Pray for me.

Happy 2010.

Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua …………

Say what? That means “Tiger Temple”. It is about a 3-hour drive from Bangkok. Yes, we went! You had to know we would. It is a Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand run by Buddhist monks. The head of the temple is called the abbott (not sure why you need to know that – but if you ever pull that one out in a game of trivial pursuit you can thank me.) They care for the tigers and give visitors an opportunity of a lifetime.

There are two different types of tours – one is where you go to the park in the afternoon and see the tigers during their quieter time of day – afternoon. I am sure this is fabulous – when else are you going to see that many tigers so close together and get your picture taken with a big arse cat? However, it’s afternoon – the cats are not that active. They have just eaten lunch and it’s hot. (Did I mention that Thailand is super hot? I did not think it was possible to be hotter than India. Wrong.) So I am guessing you do a lot of looking at cats resting after lunch. Of course, if you are going to sit near a big arse cat and have your picture taken, after their lunch is probably a very good time to do it. Otherwise you might become what we call the appetizer – formerly known as my loyal blog reader.

We chose to go to the temple first thing in the morning and spend about 3 hours with the monks and tigers. Holy cat batman, that is the way to go. You might suspect that this is the (much) more expensive option – it is – but it really is a once in a lifetime experience. And our children are earning their bachelors degrees from the school of life, who really needs college anyway? I am quite sure that when their prospective employers read on their resume that they have pet and played with and fed and bathed very large tigers, they will be a shoe in for any job.

Anycat, the day started with us being picked up at our hotel in Bangkok at 5am in the morning. We get in the van and drive, drive, drive and then drive some more. Luckily, it’s early and we are still exhausted, so we slept a good bit of the way. (By the way, the roads in Thailand are very well developed – but they are bumpy – so dramamine is a good idea of you are easily nauseous in the car.) Then we stopped at a mini mart – now if you have been living in India and do not exactly have mini marts, this is a pure slice of junk food and soda heaven. We filled up with c.r.a.p. for us and bought some breakfast items to offer to the monks. It is my understanding that the majority of the food they eat is donated. Our guide told us to buy them Pepsi because they apparently don’t get too much of that. Too funny. Pepsi it is.

So we get to the park and line up behind a table with our offerings. We had to remove our shoes. The monks lined up and walked past us with buckets. We bowed to them. They took the food and Pepsi. It was kind of strange really – but cool enough. If you ever do this, there are about 14 monks at the temple. Each one of them walks by you with a bucket. Make sure you buy at least 14 things. And the volunteers at the temple, get their leftovers – so really stock up.

Okay, I was the only one in my family who actually offered food and bowed. This is all the hard evidence number one hubby needed to prove, once and for all, that I am a dork of the highest magnitude this side of Kanchanaburi. But, I believe that when in Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, you should do as the Wat Pha Luang Ta Buans do.

Then we were asked to sign a waiver. It went something like this. You are an idiot for wanting to play with and feed real tigers – you do know they are wild animals, right – they might attack you – if they attack you, you are not going to be on the winning side of the fight – we are questioning your sanity – oh good, you brought your smallish children – sign here.

Off to the park. We first met the smaller tigers and one adorable tiger cub named Full/New Moon – sorry, I cannot remember the thai translation for that – but she was born on a full moon. She was just about a month old. We fed the tigers bottles and honestly marveled at their beauty and strength. The younger tigers were very soft – but as they age, their fur becomes more wirey.

And I got bitten- for the first time – by a real flippin tiger. In our little intro to the day, they explained that they really weren’t kidding – these are real tigers with real teeth and they really might (try to) bite us. They live in this nice little sanctuary but they are w.i.l.d. animals. If they did bite at us, we were supposed to push their heads away and NOT pull away from them.  It was our responsibility to keep their mouths away from any body parts we wanted to leave with still attached to our own body. The not pulling away part was emphasized – so I made a mental note of it. Do not pull away. Then, I completely forgot that and immediately pulled my leg away (intact) and I did not remember to push the tiger’s head away. Luckily there are trainers with you and they remembered just what to do. The tiger did not even break the skin – but it was a wee bit scary. They immediately rushed to me and asked if I was okay. Leg still there – check. No blood gushing out of my body – check. Children ok – check. More blog material – check. Yeah, I am good. I was left with a small scratch and a bruise – battle scars.

I can now add “I have been bitten by a tiger” to my list of quotes for that silly getting to know you game where you write something down that no one would ever guess about you and then they try to guess who wrote it. It’s good to have something interesting to write down.

There was a baby cub there and several adolescent tigers. The larger tigers were chained to posts and we were able to sit with them and pet them and feed them bottles. Interestingly enough, tigers don’t purr like domestic cats do. They do roll and stretch and like to be scratched like pets though.

Next we had breakfast with the monks. Well, the monks had breakfast over there and we ate over here. But they sat and we watched. I stood up to take pictures and was told that a woman cannot be higher than the monks so I had to sit back down. Normally, I would have been all “what’s up with that” but they were letting me pet their tigers, so I took a pass on going Norma Rae on them. Then we got to watch a small chanting/prayer ceremony. That was interesting enough and really quite peaceful.

Then off to walk the tigers. Excuse me? Walk the tigers – as in take them off the posts that they are currently restrained by? Okay. Please remind me exactly what that waiver said. This isn’t safe or a good idea? Am I remembering that correctly?

Sure, I’ll walk the tiger. And I will let my children do it. Why not? Katie Couric isn’t here filming a “what not to do as a parent” episode is she? Because if she is, I need to put on my lipstick.

And if you are wondering if they are as powerful as they seem on the Discovery Channel when they are bringing down a large antelope – the answer would be “absolutely!”

Angel was thinking that maybe she got delivered to the wrong family by the stork. She was hoping for parents that looked out a little better for her safety and well being.

The next stop was an enclosure and where we got to play with them for a good 45 minutes. They were majestic and magnificent and amazing and, dammit, another one bit me.

Don’t even ask, if I remembered the “rules”. You know good and damn well I did not. I pulled my leg back immediately. I did not push his head away. Angel watched it happen and decided that she really liked the tigers – from a distance. Again, no blood. Again, leg still attached. Again, children fine. It’s all good. But I have to say reality set in and I got a little nervous. So I decided Angel should not have to watch from far away all by herself. Like any good mother would, I went and sat with my cub in the shade, far away from the action. And like any good mother would, I left my 12 and 10 year old in the middle of the activity.

After that, we were invited to bathe and feed the tigers. Tremendous. You mean they will eat something besides me? Yeah! So we washed them with soap and rinsed them with a hose and fed them cooked chicken. Yes, right out of our hands.

Tigers in the wild eat raw meat – so they also get supplements to offer them the nutrients that the cooked meat does not have. But they do not want them eating raw meat because they do not want them to taste the blood. No, I did not read that on the waiver. They conveniently left that little tid bit off. But there is also the concern for avian flu – so it is important that the meat is cooked. The tigers had no problem eating the chicken and leaving our hands in tact. So it was  a win-win.

And if you are wondering, my thought bubble is very full of wonders at this point – is this the one that bit me earlier? Do humans really taste like chicken? Remind me again who thought this was a good idea.

Then we were told it was time to go to the canyon with the big cats. They said Angel was too small to be in the canyon because the really big tigers might want to play with her – I think that translated into – we weren’t kidding with the waiver crazy lady – your children should not be here. But they offered to let her go back with the baby cub and play with her for a while. They were so nice and told me that one of the staff members could take her back to the cub and walk her around the park to see the bears and lions they had rescued while we went to the big cat canyon.

Now, I might let her come to the tiger temple and walk and feed tigers – but thank so much – I am not letting a total stranger walk her around solo in the wooded Tiger Temple that is in Thailand. Yep, I went with Angel – Number One Hubby took Bear and Flower to the canyon.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. The temple has rescued a couple of lions and a couple of bears in addition to the tigers they care for. Angel and I got to see these animals because she could not go to the canyon. They are not on the regular tour yet. Their enclosures are being built and I think once they are done, these animals will be available for the public to see.

This bear is folding his paws and giving the traditional Asian bowing greeting. The guide asked if Angel wanted to feed him. I said sure – after all I had already signed the waiver, right? And at least this guy is behind bars.

Meanwhile, the rest of my crew went the the canyon where they watched the big cats frolic and play and were in absolute awe of their strength and agility. For that part of the tour, you are in a small fenced in area while the very large tigers walk and play around you. As you can see, the term fence is used loosely – it was not even waist high.

The staff and volunteers were amazing. They shared their love of these big beasts with us and kept us safe. Most of our pictures are from them – they were so generous with their time and energy and often took our cameras and captured our experience so we could just be fully engaged in our adventure. One thing that is important to know is that flash photography is strictly forbidden. But as you can see, you really don’t need it.

There are reports that abuse and illegal trafficking and breeding are happening at the temple. There is even speculation that the tigers are drugged to make them calmer. I can tell you that the people we talked with love these animals and treat them with respect and tenderness. The tigers seemed very comfortable and relaxed. We never saw any abuse or signs of abuse. I cannot speak to how the tigers get there or what breeding practices are in place. But I can tell you that the tigers we saw were vibrant and active and simply magnificent and are very much loved.

I will leave you with this – my new friend is about 400 pounds.