Tag Archives: angel

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.

Call backs…………..

My youngest daughter crawled into bed with me last night. I snuggled next to her and brushed a few hairs away from her face. She looked so peaceful and I wondered if this was the day that our lives would change entirely. Forever.

I got  a call back on my mammogram. They wanted to see me again. Earlier this week, I went in for my yearly exam. I have been going since I was 35. A great grandmother, a great Aunt, and an Aunt with breast cancer will send you to the big squeeze a littler sooner than later. I have never been called back. I have always checked that box and moved quickly on. That was, until this week. Until the summer that I am moving across the globe away from my entire support network (only minus my husband and kids).

It seems there was some extra tissue showing up on my left breast. Not enough to increase my cup size – just enough for a follow-up squish. If they had said it was on my arse, I would have believed them immediately – but seriously, extra tissue there? Not exactly the phone call you want to get. Ever.

Of course, it was the scheduling receptionist who called me to let me know. She had no (helpful) answers. Just available time slots and locations. Next week. As in 6 days and a weekend later. As in no answers later.

Yeah, that is not going to work for me. Something about moving back out of the country soon (8,000 miles away) and hoping for answers sooner than later. Her final offer – call back tomorrow – maybe something will open up. Okay then. I will call back tomorrow.

Honestly, I almost forgot to call back. I was distracted with a day at the water park with my kids and our neighborhood swim team and my dad’s birthday and my aunt and my cousin visiting. Dinner out with my family. Fun. Full of life things. Luckily on Friday it all worked out and I got to go in (again) before the weekend.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep great last night – except for snuggling with an Angel – it was not that peaceful of a night. I try to be good and not worry about something until I know what to worry about – but it is hard impossible not to imagine the possibilities. I saw my daughter sleeping next to me and wondered what she was dreaming about – I wondered if I would see her high school graduation, her wedding. A little dramatic, sure. But a possibility. Ick. I also thought about not being sick. And prayed for strength whatever happened.

Anymammo, I was given an “overbook” appointment which meant there was a. very. very. good. chance. I would have to wait for a. very. long. time. It turned out that I didn’t have to wait that long. The technician was great. She informed me that I would absolutely talk to a doctor before I left. I would leave with answers. I still don’t know if that made me feel better or worse. I have done this too many times to know that needing to see the doctor is not a great sign. While she was doing my exam, I saw my original film up on the light board. With a big circle around it at the top of my boob. That made me feel worse. It wasn’t that they did not get a good image and just needed to redo it – there was really something there. Circled nonetheless. With my name on it.

And the picture confirmed that my boobs are sagging. Well at least my left boob is. Just as an aside – really – if you are little bitty – you should not also have to sag. I am just saying – really, it’s not that fair. Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know, life ain’t fair.

When the technician was done, she told me again that I would see the doctor. Before I left. Today. I might also need a sonogram. I was torn between asking her a litany of questions and not wanting to know one more detail. Luckily for me, I have a couple of friends who have made it to the sonogram phase of a mammogram screening and still managed to walk out of the door minus a diagnosis of cancer. So, I did not completely panic. I was sent back to the waiting room. And waited.

And waited some more. With a lot of other women in gowns that opened in the front. I think we were all pretending and trying to be totally engrossed in our reading waiting material while our stomachs churned and our minds wandered and wondered.

I mean seriously, there is a room full of women – statistics are sure to say that at least some of us were in danger – who’s to say who it would be? We looked and did not look at each other and flipped empty pages.

Meanwhile, my husband called me with questions about what was happening at my appointment. When I did not have any answers yet, he moved on to questions about coming here to be with me and questions about school and questions about moving within India and questions about renting our house in America and holy crap – too many questions – I know he was nervous. Unfortunately, he was talking to the newly appointed President of the Nervous Club – the mammogram chapter. He was also probably trying to distract me. But distraction would not come easily today. They called my name and I hung up on him. Gotta go honey. Sometimes life needs to just happen one question at a time. Today I needed one question at a time.

The nurse walking me back simply said – you are getting a sonogram. You will see the radiologist. This way please. She did not look at me. That did not help.

I waited in the dark room by myself for about 10 minutes. And came up with a whole new set of possibilities. Some good. Some not so great. The radiologist walked in and introduced herself. She was lovely. Very soft spoken. Very gentle. Very aware that I had by passed nervous about 2 days ago and moved straight on to wondering what the possibilities really were.

She said something about not being worried. About me? Yes, about you. I started breathing again. Out loud. Deeply. In sync with myself. Finally. Whew.

Apparently, I had a spot on the original mammogram. (Oh yes, I might have seen something about that in the other room – you mean the one with the. big. circle. around. it – and MY. name. on. it? I was a little distracted by this machine squishing me and by me not sure I wanted to know all the scoop – can you fill me in on the details, please?) That’s what was in the circle. A suspicious spot. But that spot did not show up today. Something about compression. She did the sonogram just to be sure. I am now clear for another year.

I am not unaffected though. I am reminded that life can change in an instant. It can come and go so quickly. Without notice.

Last night I was careful not to pray for selfish things like health. I did not want to be unrealistic. A prayer would not change what might already be. So, I just asked for strength. Whatever happened. Strength. I found it, and was blessed with a side dish of health, and I am grateful for it. Every ounce of it.

17 years and counting (aka – the war of the roses)………..

This weekend, number one hubby and I “celebrated” our 17th wedding anniversary. Blink. When did that happen? Not really sure – but it’s been a good ride. I still like him a lot and he continues to put up with me. And ever since I started blogging he has officially recognized that I can be funny. We really make each other laugh and smile. We probably have at least another 17 years in us.

This is the song that makes me think of him – it’s I don’t want to miss a thing – by Aerosmith.

I say “celebrated” because number one hubby went to work, Bear had a track meet, we hosted two visiting athletes from Katmandu, Flower and Angel went with me to a craft fair – it was a little “un”anniversary like.

And if you know me at all, you’ll understand that I am not exactly all over hiring a babysitter in a foreign country to watch my kids so that hubby and I can pay way too much for a dinner out. Yeah, Laxmi made butter chicken for us and I am good with that.

There isn’t really much that either of us wanted, so gift giving pretty much went to the back burner, too. I am also good with that. I know the men are rolling their eyes here – but really – I don’t like gifts just for the sake of gifts. Hubby is generous anytime I want something – I don’t have to wait for anniversaries and birthdays. See how that works? It’s better that way.

Number One Hubby loves fresh flowers and he is especially fond of lillies. I did not want our day to go unnoticed so I got him these. They are from the flower stand in our neighborhood and they are really beautiful.

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And so began the parade of flowers and gifts. The war of the roses.

Number One Hubby’s office sent this cake. It came one day early, so I had to promise that we would cut it at midnight. We cut it and I am sure it was midnight (somewhere). It was delish.

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Then came this elephant pot from Number One Hubby’s assistant. It is tres cool. Number One Hubby had actually been looking at these – we love it! (Before you fall out of your chair, remember that the swastika here is an auspicious symbol – it has nothing to do with all that Nazi hate baloney. It is a lovely symbol here and it is often drawn out in fresh flowers. So, just to be clear, we are not joining the Third Reich – we are just being wished much love and happiness.)

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Then came these from our driver….

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and these from Ravi – the rock star who cleans our house….

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And then these from the travel group that coordinates number one hubby’s travel…..

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Deepak sent these……….

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Number One Hubby’s admin staff sent these – yep, we ran out of vases, glasses, and anything that could hold liquids, so these are in the blender.

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But before all of these arrived, hubby decided to surprise me. He ordered 17 vases and 17 dozen roses. Yep, you read that right. 17 of each. While, I was dropping off our visiting athletes and Bear for warmups at the track meet, Number One Hubby, the real Flower, and Angel worked their little florist fingers to the bone. They arranged 17 dozen roses all throughout the house.

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Some of the vases are lined with rice paper that creates this very artsy mosaic look. Hubby says the paper will eventually dissolve – but until then – fabulouso!

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These are just closeups of some of the other flowers – but I thought they were fun. So, you get to see them too.

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And yes, you are absolutely right, I am very lucky!

Grandpa Chuck………

I was blessed with a grandfather who loved me more than even fairytales could imagine. No matter what. Always. Period. He was also proud of me – well, maybe not every single second – but he never let me know any different. I hope everyone is loved like my grandfather loved me. (I am very fortunate to be loved very much by some fabulous people – in time, I am sure you will hear about all of them – but today is just for Grandpa “Chuck”.)

When he died, I was somewhat caught up in my own life – number one hubby and I had a one-year old little bear. I was working part-time and I lived 747 miles away from him. He called me the night he died. I had sent him flowers that day and he wanted to thank me.

I was tired and in bed, so I let the machine get the phone. He left me a beautiful message about how special the flowers were and how all the women at the nursing home wanted to know who their competition was. He laughed and said good night. Then he died during the night.

It’s hard to say if I regret not picking up the phone. Of course, if I had known….. But I did not. So I was left with his voice on tape. And I played it over and over many, many times. So, who is to say. He knows I loved him. He got the flowers. And I got his voice on tape. But yes, I would have taken the opportunity to tell him how special he was – had I known.

I drove down to Georgia to help with the funeral and clean out his room. As I sat down to write his eulogy, I knew I would not be able to be the one who would read it out loud. So we asked a family friend to share my stories.

My grandfather had moved down south so my mother could be nearby to help him. He lost touch with many of his friends from New York – sadly many of them had died. As such, his funeral was mostly attended by my mother’s friends – in support of her. So it was very important to me to let them know why he was worth the time they took out of their own busy lives. I knew he needed to be remembered and in some ways introduced to the people attending his service – his memories needed to be captured.

Desperately, I wanted them to know why my grandfather was worth mourning. That he made at least one life a lot richer just by being a part of it – mine.

I started my tribute to him by writing that my very first thought when I heard he had died was to gather up all my memories of him and put them in a basket. My heart did not feel big enough to hold every laugh and every tear and every smile. But that was foolish. Me trying to be clever with my words. There is absolutely no way I could forget him or the special things he did for me. Even 10 plus years later, I can still hear his laugh and taste his fried potatoes. I can feel the warmth of his hug.

He would fill my fridge with fresh fruit and diet Pepsi (he could never remember I drank diet Coke – during his visits, I drank diet Pepsi). To this day, I cannot eat a green grape without thinking of him. He would always buy me a poppie from the VFW volunteers and I would hang it on the rear view mirror in my car. He loved to sit in the bar for an hour before eating dinner at a restaurant. He would always order an apricot sour for me. I was not 21 and I did not like the taste one bit. But I would sit and sip and watch him flirt with the waitresses 50 years younger than him. He was charming. Sometimes he would steal the steak knife from the restaurant if it was a really good one. He’d wrap it in the cloth napkin. He stole the napkin too. Sometimes he would embarrass me.

He would scour the weekly ads for the best deal on mayonnaise and other groceries. Then he would go to three different stores and stock up on the sale items. With his big old heart in tact, he would give away half of what he bought to neighbors and friends. I tried to no avail to explain the concept of saving money to him – that if you buy things on sale and then give most of it away – there aren’t many pennies left in your pocket – clearly pennies were not the point. He was not foolish with money – but sometimes his heart won out over his bottom line.

He always found the perfect gift for me – usually because he always asked me what I wanted. When I was in elementary school, he used to let me sit on his lap when I got out of the swimming pool, even though I was soaking wet and he was in his street clothes. He bought me a car when I turned 18. He called just to see how I was doing. We used to drive down to Georgia together and he would always pack his lunch. A sandwich and a beer. He was never really in a hurry. He could just sit and enjoy. He always waited until 4pm to have a cocktail and he always took the phone of the hook during his dinner. He was a very good cook – even when he was a little heavy on the pepper. He bought me my first iron skillet and I was mortified when he told me to never use soap on it. But it turns out he was right.

After Bear was born, my mother bought him a Dr. Suess book as a gift from my grandfather. She had my grandpa sign it. He signed it “With Love, Grandpa Chuck.” It was a sad day for me because we never called him Grandpa Chuck. It was his handwriting for sure, but it was not his signature. I guess that day I realized that Bear would never get to know my grandfather. My very special grandfather was slipping away little by little. That was a heartbreaking realization. My children have their own spectacular grandparents – and for that I am so grateful.

So, I treasure the fact that my children have grown up with so much family nearby. It has given them many soft places to fall. And now, we are oceans away from dinners at IHOP and sleepovers and homemade cookies and art projects and reading books and all the other gifts their grandparents are giving them. And I do not even have an answering machine. It is so hard to be away.

Odd (wo)man out……

I have debated with myself whether or not to honestly share my experiences today. Partly because today was the first day that India has totally overwhelmed me and partly because I do not want to insult my Indian readers. But, it was my day and my experience and my blog, after all. I want to capture the feelings I had – so here goes – no insults intended.

Hubby had to work today. Please remember our flat is little (compared to the living space we are used to). I have 3 children who love to watch t.v. but eventually they actually do get bored by electronics. It is spring break – no school. There is a lot to see in Delhi that we have not yet seen. I needed some blog material.

I also need to remember to be careful what I ask for.

I gave the kids 3 options – the craft museum, the Red Fort, or the zoo. It was unanimous. The zoo.

Our regular driver was not working today – so we had Zaffar. He is a nice man with limited English skills. I asked to go to the zoo. He said, yes ma’am. I showed him the map that had our neighborhood and the zoo on it. Both of them were circled. We want to go from here to there. Yes. Ma’am.

Then he pulls into a gas station. That is fine. Really. I would rather him ask than just drive us around all day. But I can tell he still really is not sure. He asked me for the address. Well, the book does not list the address. There is a map, remember. But not the physical address. So, I called hubby’s assistant. She is so helpful to us. Really, I am very lucky. She explained where we wanted to go.

Ohhhhhh, the zoo? Zarraf just happens to know exactly where that is. Hmmmm. She got back on the phone with me and explained that in India they call it “the zoo”. So he did not know what I meant. Funny thing – in America we call it the “zoo” also. It must be my accent.

Anyzoo, we got there without too much trouble and I took a look around. This is what I saw.

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This picture is not worth a thousand words – because it really does not give the sense of how many people were milling about. There were hundreds of people. There were 3 lines – cubbies to store your bags, tickets, and security.

I saw women in the security line with purses, so we went straight for tickets. I was not sure if you were allowed bags or if the cubbies were just for convenience. I guessed convenience. That line was (ridiculously) long. So we moved on to tickets. There were only men in the ticket line. In the ticket line we get.

Men cut in front of us in line. They cut in line behind us too. I am not a big fan of people cutting in front of me in line. But I quickly decided to let. it. go. The line was crowded. I was (ever so slightly) outnumbered by men. I was manless (for the day). I don’t do the damsel in distress well, but I also do not invite trouble.

The man behind me explained that my children could wait out of the line for me. You know, over there. My kids looked at me and then they looked at him with their best “good luck with that dude” look. Our mom isn’t going to have us wait away from her. Even if it is over there. You’ll just have to deal for a few more minutes.

He was actually very helpful and explained where to get in. But he does not know me. The kids stayed in line with me. They were happy to do that.

So here is the sign that explains ticket prices. Once again we are paying a skin tax. Fine – it’s a whole dollar. We’ll (happily) pay it.

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My dad might laugh that I should have gotten in free – but alas, I am too smart for free admission. (Yes, I miss my dad terribly.) I think it is very nice that India gives its citizens a break on admission prices. America could never do this – it would be a paperwork nightmare. Americans are far too diverse to be able to tell who is from where just by looking. Too bad – I love a discount.

On to security.

Bear was (more than) a little concerned that he might have to go in a separate line. The lines were very long and frankly, I was a little concerned too. Many of our sightseeing adventures have had our family in separate lines – men on one side, women on the other. It is just a matter of logistics – women checking women, men checking men. But I was not going to put Bear in a very long line by himself. Whew. I did not have to.

One of the guards asked if we had any food. I said no.

Well it turns out I did have granola bars. The second security guard spotted them and asked me to take them out. Absolutely no food allowed in the zoo. Even if you promise not to eat it. Water bottles seem to be okay. I think. We did not bring water bottles – so don’t quote me on that. But I highly recommend water bottles. There are several watering holes with free water – but if you are not used to the local water – well, let’s just say there are better souvenirs than montazuma’s revenge.

Oh yes, back to the snacks. Enter language barriers and cultural differences.

We are now holding up the line. This does not make the 100 plus people behind us fans of Americans.

The guard tried to get me to open the granola bars so my children can eat them really fast. Or, I can take them back over to the line of 200 plus people and put them in a cubbie for one rupee. Yes, that is two cents. Well here is my two cents worth. This is where Americans should be embarrassed because we can be (very) wasteful. But seriously, it is just not worth the hassle. My kids don’t happen to be hungry right now. I don’t want to get in the super long line, just to get back in this super long line – just so I don’t have to lose 4 granola bars.

Please just take the granola bars to your family and enjoy them. I will buy more. Can we please just be done here?

Apparently not. Please ma’am, open them and eat them now. Sigh. No thank you. You keep them. Do with them what you will. But ma’am, I might have to throw them away. Yeah, I am good with that. Can we go in now?

Now Angel decided to bring a purse with her also. They did not look inside her purse. But she heard the rule. No food. So, bless her heart, she pulls out a granola bar and gives it to the guard.  Yes, I am proud of her for being honest. But seriously, where are the animals – can we just go now? Do we have to be the main attraction? Then she remembered she actually had two granola bars. You’re killing me sweetie – enough already. Are you sure there isn’t a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe that you want to turn in?

We finally get in the gate. The zoo is lovely – lots of space – plenty of room for all the people who are there. It does not feel as smooshed inside.

Bear gets out the map. Now, this is interesting. Normally the hubby is in charge of navigation. But here is a chance for Bear to direct traffic. I have failed him in all things Boy Scout, so bring it Bear. Get us where we want to go.

He did a great job.

We saw the giraffes and the sloth bear.

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He did a great job, that is, until he took us behind the exhibit for the sloth bear. It was a path. But it was an empty path. No one else was on it. I did say that I was concerned that no one else was there. Well, except for the two men walking out of the woods. (Yeah. That’s what I thought too. Maybe we should not be here.)

So, I am balancing encouraging Bear to navigate our way through the zoo with the fact that my scare-dar is flashing “danger, will roger, danger”. I decided to let him guide us.

Until…

Until the two men approached another man and started to harass him. I told the kids we needed to turn around and go. NOW.

I realized that we were in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time. The two men started to slap the other man. There was a woman standing by with her hands cupped over her mouth.

We exited stage left. Immediately.

Angel said, I don’t think I want to go back there.

Don’t worry, Angel. You won’t be. going. back. there.

So I let Bear keep the map. And I fought every instinct I had to just go home. But I don’t want my kids to be afraid of being in India. There is safety in numbers. We’ll just stay with the crowds.

We continued on to see more animals. Lots and lots of people were watching us. I felt it more today than I ever have.

We saw this rhino trying to get out of the enclosure. I could honestly feel his pain.

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We also saw three white tigers. (Yes, you can still count – there are only two in the picture.)

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And if you know how to use your camera, you can get a great picture of the leopards.

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If you don’t know how to use your camera so well, you might get a great picture of the fence, with some cool (very blurry) leopards in the background. Isn’t this the coolest fence you have ever seen?

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Along the way, many people asked to take pictures of my girls. This is not a new thing. It happens at every tourist spot we go to. Usually they walk away disappointed when I say no. But they seem to understand.

Well today was different. A lot of people clicked pictures with cell phones. There was even one woman who seemed to follow us. It was bizarre. She would bump in to me and laugh. I did not join her in laughing. It got old quick.

Bear was still navigating and we were looking for the hippos. Bear looked at the map and looked at the path. It seemed somewhat empty. He said maybe we can see the hippos next time. Lesson learned.

We head on to see the elephants. They are amazing.

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I did not know this….

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As Flower and Angel are looking at the elephants, Bear notices that a man on the bench is taking a picture with his cell phone of my girls. Bear takes his map and blocks the phone. Honestly, I cannot believe he did it. Two things – one, great job Bear – this is exactly why I wanted any girls I had to have a big brother. Two – holy sh*t,  Bear. Be careful here.

Bear and I had a chat about how extremely proud I was that he was observant and protective of his sisters. And how he is to never. do. that. again. Unless they are in danger,we’ll let some things go.

We all agreed it was time to go home. This is what everyone said as we were leaving.

Bear: I guess we won’t come back here.
(I told him we would – at 9am when the zoo opens and it is less crowded and when Dad can come with us.)

Flower: I like the zoo in the U.S. better because you can drink the water there and nobody stares at us.
(Next time we will bring water bottles and when we are home in the U.S. we will visit the zoo. Maybe we’ll wear crazy clothes so we get stared at there too. Maybe not. We’ll just have to see.)

Angel: I like the zoo in the U.S. better. When can we go home.
(Sweetie, we are home – at least for now.)

So all in all, it turned out to be a good day. Bear got a chance to be in charge. I remembered that instincts kick arse. We got to see some cool animals.

But it was also overwhelming. Frankly, it was very overwhelming. I have not really felt that since I have been here. I was disappointed but it was a reality check that we are not in the U.S. and we have to remember that.

Girlfriend’s Guide to Jaipur……………

I wrote a Girlfriend’s Guide to the Taj Mahal and you seemed to like it – so I will do the same for Jaipur. If you would just like to read about our trip, you will find day one here and day two here.

The Essentials:

You will want toilet paper, diaper wipes, Purell, comfortable walking shoes, and capri pants for your journeys. And Dramamine – plus an empty bowl for the car (that is just in case the Dramamine does not work and you are stuck in traffic). I stick by that. And I am going to add bottled water and many,  many recognizable snacks. You can buy soda pretty much anywhere – not always the diet variety – but a regular Coke won’t kill you every now and then. And caffeine is caffeine. To be fair, you can buy water just about anywhere too – but just be sure you hear that familiar click when YOU unscrew the bottle. And just say no to ice.

Peppermints or other hard candies are great to have in the car, too. Peppermints are especially good because they can sooth an upset tummy. That’s called a two-fer. When your children claim that, yes, in fact, they just might actually die from thirst unless they get a drink at this very moment – and you are not sure where the next European bathroom might be – you can give them a candy. Peace ensues and all will be right with the world of thirst. You’ll want to pace yourself – the European bathrooms are few and far between. Unless you have boys, then they can just go anywhere – yep, pretty much anywhere.

Eating out:

Think “you say tomato, I say tomahto” on the experience of eating out – pizza in the hotel restaurant may not be the pizza you (and your kids expect). There will a lot of things that are not recognizable. Which is really great if you have adventurous eaters – enter Bear, Flower, and Angel – quite possibly the most unadventurous eaters on the planet. They are still very confused as to why the McDonalds in India do not serve chicken nuggets – just sandwiches. Rome wasn’t built in a day – be thankful for the fries and move on.

We ordered Pizza Hut (yes real Pizza Hut) for dinner – I know you can shake your head in shame – go ahead, I’ll wait – but hungry children are not happy children. Happy children make traveling much more enjoyable. Sign me up for more enjoyable travels. Two large pizzas and four 7-ups cost about $12. They were delivered to the room and I got to stay in my pjs- priceless.

Buffets seem to be a good way for my family to experience eating out in unchartered waters. There are many options and some are recognizable. Sometimes you might pay $10 for your daughter to eat a plate of rice – but it is a plateful of rice she will recognize – and therefore, probably, eat. YEAH! With a buffet, you can at least see what will be on your plate before you order it. Brillant. We had the breakfast buffet at the hotel and they had pancakes, fruit, made to order omelets (be careful here – green chilis can look like green peppers if they are sliced thin enough), toast, and some cereals. Of course, they had some things that were very different than what we are used to – steamed broccoli, green beans, baked beans, cooked tomatoes – but a lot of good choices. I had broccoli for breakfast for the first time in my life.

Change/Small Bills:

Whenever you travel in India, make sure you have small bills with you. Some of the people you will pay for things are not thrilled with coins – not that they won’t take them – they will – but better to see smiles than frowns. They seem to  prefer paper. For example, if you want to take a picture of someone, you might give them 10 rupees for their smile. It’s a nice gesture and doesn’t cost you much. I suggested to my dear sweet husband that perhaps we should ask the hotel for some smaller bills (the ATM machines we have visited give you 500 rupees at a time). He did not agree – but I won’t go there – suffice it to say that you will want some bills with 100, 50, 20, and 10 rupees on the face of them. Then everyone can smile.

Snake Charmer:

When he was done, we paid the snake charmer 20 rupees (see you do need smaller bills – sorry, I wasn’t going to go there). He asked for 200 rupees. Our guide laughed, number one hubby laughed, the man sitting on the bench watching it all transpire laughed. I reminded them all that the snake charmer had cobras – real live cobras. Walk away slowly and backwards. I personally think that if you choose snake charming as your profession, being alive at the end of the day is its own reward. But, who am I to say. We left him with 20 rupees and his life. We paid after the performance. That seems to be the way to go here – for the most part, pay when they are done. He did not send the snakes after us.

They do milk the snakes each day so that their poison is used up for the day. I still do not have a picture of myself charming the snake. I will save my charms for adventures that are not life threatening. But, yes, I did let my children do it – okay, logic does not always prevail here.

Elephant Ride:

570 rupees per elephant (about $11) to ride to the Amber Fort – for this you pay for the ride when you get on the elephant – but save the tip until the end of the ride. We were told that in the city of Jaipur we could ride an elephant for 50 rupees – away from the main tourist attractions – yes that is a big difference – but we chose to ride one to the Amber Fort. I would actually recommend riding the elephants to the fort. The route that cars take is a road that is narrow and small and harrowing. You will get to experience the narrow, harrowing road on the way down from the fort because you can only ride the elephants up to the fort. This will make perfect sense when you see how steep the ride down is – it would be hard to remain balanced on the elephants when they are walking down it.

Two people can fit on each elephant (three if two of the people are little people) and the driver will expect a tip. We gave him 100 rupees. He asked for his money before he let us off the elephant. I had it ready – but it might not be good to let it be visible to the driver before you are ready to get off the elephant. Our driver talked about money the whole way up. His English was hard for me to understand. I have know idea what I did or did not agree to. But he let us off the elephant without too much argument. You can take bananas with you and feed the elephant when your ride is over. Yes, I wish I had known that. When will my kids get another chance to feed an elephant? Prepare your children (and yourself) for the fact that the drivers will  hit the elephants hard – very hard – with sticks – big sticks. Many of the elephants have raw spots on their ears.

Restrooms:

First, use the restroom in your hotel before you leave the hotel. Don’t have high expectations for soft toilet paper.

But, there is a lovely restroom at the Amber fort – it costs 5 rupees per person. (Yes, you did the math correctly – that is about 10 cents). It is clean – very clean – and there is a European style toilet (that means you can sit on it or over it whichever you choose) and toilet paper and running water and even soap. Whoa Nellie. I might just move in here. It is the heaven of all things bathroom. It is the nicest bathroom I have seen in India. Pay the 10 cents – even if you don’t need to go – you’ll just want to visit. There is a girl who will give you a paper towel when you are done drying your hands. I gave her 10 rupees. I know – big spender – that was about 20 cents. Very generous I am.

This bathroom is so great you could wear a skirt or long pants here. Although I still would not recommend them for the rest of your journey. Capris really are the way for women to go.

Shopping After Sight-seeing:

Okay, I have figured something out – I might be a little slow on the uptake – but I have got it now. The guide that we paid to show us the city was well worth the 500 rupees per day that we paid him. But he must get commission to take us to certain shops. Souvenir shops. I do not want to bring home souvenirs to my friends and family – I want authentic Indian items that I can buy in the markets – not in an air conditioned store with wide aisles and 5,000 salesmen. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating – it might have only been 3,000 salesmen – but it was way too many.  These shops are honestly fine if you do not have a lot of time. There are a lot of different things, they are clean, you can and should bargain, and blah, blah, blah. But we had time. I wanted to really shop – in markets. I have not seen a lot of clothing items in these types of markets either – so if you are looking for clothing be very specific with your guide that you want clothing – if he says “textiles”, repeat yourself. Clothing. Textiles seems to mean carpets and linens.

I am rethinking my earlier statement that you should not buy from the vendors at the various sites. The motivation of the guide was not, I think, to keep us unbothered but to protect his commission. I saw lovely things for sale at the Amber fort – specifically puppets. There was a puppet store that I asked our guide to take us back to – he did not take us there – but to a tourist market. We were so angry that we let him go for the day.

Peddlers at the Amber Fort

The peddlers we saw at the Amber Fort were the most “in your face” we have seen. As I think back on the day, I do not remember going through a security check point – so maybe this is why. Anyone can enter the courtyard area without a ticket. But we just continued to say nay. Twelve or so times. And then they pretty much left us alone.

Pictures:

My children were asked many times if they would take a picture with someone. I always said no. It made my children uncomfortable – and me too. So, no it is. Our guide handled most of this for us. However, this does present quite a double standard. I think the Indian people are beautiful and want to take pictures of them. So call me a hypocrite. I am fine with that. If it is a poor person, I give them a little bit to thank them for their troubles.

Guides:

I have said this before and I will say it again – the guides speak English very well but is often heavily accented. So, it really does pay to do a little research before you go somewhere – then you will recognize names and places they are saying – this is very helpful! Our experience with guides was very different in Jaipur than it was in Agra. We were very happy with our guide in Agra – not so much with either guide in Jaipur. Although the first day was much better than the second. We are partly to blame for this. We did not do enough research about exactly what it was we wanted to see and we did not insist on seeing the one thing we really wanted to see – the Monkey Temple – we let ourselves get too easily talked out of it. Shame on us – lesson learned.

The guide each day was 500 rupees ($10). We tipped the guide the first day well – the second day, we did not tip so well. As I said earlier, it seems that the guides make their real money on the commission they get from the shops they take you to. So make it clear whether or not you want to shop in those stores and if not, consider giving the guide a little bit more of a tip – if you are happy with the service you received.

Temples:

We have not been to a temple yet – but we hope to do that soon. One thing I have learned about visiting temples is that women should always be prepared to cover their heads. It is also a good idea to carry a bag with you large enough to carry your shoes in. This is probably obvious to most – but just in case – photography might not be allowed either. If you are fortunate enough to be able to participate in any kind of ceremony at a temple, remember to receive items in your right hand with your left hand underneath your right.

Overall Jaipur is definitely worth a visit. It is a exquisite city with rich with history and culture. We will absolutely go back.

okay – just kidding…….

You knew I could not stay away that long. Something (that I thought was) funny happened and I just wanted to share. hen

So, we’re eating dinner and some how, some way we start talking about food. Flower asks about eggs.

Flower: You mean they take the eggs from their mother?
Me: Yes.
Flower: Isn’t that mean?
Me: Not really, a hen lays a ton of eggs.
Flower: But that is just mean. Really. Really. Mean. Don’t you think that is mean?
Bear: They’re different – they aren’t fertilized. (Apparently he is a mathematician and a scientist.)
Me: What he said. (and hoping, praying that no one asks what fertilized means.)
Me to Bear: Really?
Angel: Eggs are good. Can we have some for breakfast? (Very sympathetic, that one.)
Flower: But mom even if you had 20 kids, you would be sad if some one took even just one away?
Me: You do realize we are eating chicken for dinner, right?

Hugs and kisses!

Bless her little heart………….

Angel and Flower got gift certificates to get their ears pierced for Christmas. I thought this was brilliant. Even if I do say so myself – yes, it was my idea. I have sworn on a stack of earrings that they should not even bothering asking me to get their ears pierced until they were (at least) twelve – I believe you should have to wait for some things just for the sake of waiting. And, not for nothing, I had to wait until I was twelve. So, there you go, parenting logic at its finest.

But then number one hubby announced that we were moving to India and, well, Christmas presents became a little more challenging.

Think. Think. Think. Ear piercing. They have both said they wanted to do it. They are both very active in sports and this is a (very rare) time when they aren’t that active. In our little corner of the world, you cannot have any jewelry on when you are playing a contact sport. None. Not even if you just got your ears pierced and the holes will close up if you take them out. So timing is critical.

Earrings also don’t have to be packed, or shipped, or microchipped. You just put them in and off you go. Wah lah. And it was fabulous because they would feel like they were getting this gift much earlier than expected. Oh joy of joys. Except Flower had changed her mind and never told me that. So my 9 year old. No earrings. My 7 year old. Earrings – 5 years early. Oh well -life doesn’t always go according to my great plan.

So Angel, my mother-in-law, and I went to get Angel her earrings. The sales person was nice enough. Very bright pink eyeshadow. Bleached Blond Hair. Black lipstick. Black fingernails bitten to the quick. Kind of sort of grunge clothing. Way too many facial piercings. Let’s just say she is easy to remember. In Angel’s eyes, I am sure she looked like a rock star. She is not exactly what I expected for Angel’s first older girl crush. But, who am I to stand in the way of a 7-year-old and the rock star who gave her earrings?

Then later we go back to the store with Flower for her to use her gift certificate on everything but getting her ears pierced. It is amazing how much plastic c-r-a-p you can get for $40. The whole way there Angel is wondering if this rock star impostor is going to remember her. I told her how busy the girl was, how many people she must see every day, blah blah blah. But, I thought to myself, surely she has manners and will pretend to remember my little Angel. Then again – sometimes life lessons come at you fast and hard.

As Flower is shopping, Angel is pulling on my shirt – ask her, ask her, ask hhheeerrr. I don’t want to do this because I know the answer and I am not confident of the manners. There is something about an earring through the lip, another one through the tongue, and one more through the eyebrow combined with very bright pink eyeshadow and black lipstick that does not exactly say mint julep on the veranda. Move over Scarlet. I’m just sayin’ – if the shoe fits, you might just be wearing it.

So, I reluctantly say “my daughter was was wondering if you remember piercing her ears a few days ago.” I am standing behind Angel nodding my head – giving my best bobble head impersonation. Just say yes. Please just say yes. You’ll be amazed at just how quickly you can be done with us if you will just say it – YES.

Her:  Uh…Hmmmm
Me: more head nodding – this is a hint to say yes or you will end up on my blog
Her: I am not sure – you know, I see so many…
Me: Maybe the pink earrings are a giveaway. She was just sure you would remember the pink earrings. I am sure you remember, right? (more nodding)
Her: Uh, yeah, I guess so.
Me: giving her my best “come on, I know you can do it,  just say yes” look
Her: Okay yes.
Me: Thank you. You were right Angel, she absolutely remembers you.
Angel: Big Smile.

Saturday night found us all at the mall again. Bear was invited to a birthday party-slash-scavenger hunt – yep, at the mall. He had a great time and I realized that there is free entertainment out there in this troubled economy. I had forgotten all about this little adventure called The Mall. Maybe I haven’t been to the mall on a rainy Saturday night in a really, really long time – maybe it’s been since I got my drivers license and could broaden my horizons. But I have been missing out on some really interesting people watching. Holy teenager, Batman.

Yes, you do know what happened next – guess who comes walking down the mall walkway – Rock star impostor. Angel pulls on my coat.

Angel: Mom, it’s heeeeerrrrrrrrrrrr.

Me: (under my breath – dear God.) to Angel – Yes dear, it is in fact heeeeeerrrrrrrrr. How lucky is that?
Angel: I wonder if….
Me: Oh, honey, I am sure she would not recognize you out of the store
Angel: Oh yeah, you’re right, she’d have to see me in the chair, you know, the chair in the store. Remember in the chair where I got my ears pierced.
Me: I am sure she would recognize you there, but let’s not bother her when she’s not actually at work
Angel: I wonder if she is on her way to work, or on a break from work, or just shopping. Maybe she is here to get here ears pierced – again. Mom, what do you think she is doing?
Me: Breaking up with you sweetpea – want something to eat?

When commas move………………

Angel asked me why it is always “comma and Angel”.  She asked this when she saw me signing Christmas-slash-holiday-slash-Hanukkah-slash-Happy Tuesday cards with our names – Number One Hubby, Me, Bear, Flower, and Angel. Comma and Angel. She is right – that is how it always goes. I am not really sure why. I don’t have an answer for her – my parenting gods did not send a creative thought to my brain – so I just looked at her and said, “Honey, that’s just the way I write it – in order.” But, I am no dummy, I am going to put money in her Freud-slash-college savings account just in case she needs further explanation later in life.

Growing up, my family has had a lot of changes in commas and sometimes I was behind the “comma and” too. She is right, it’s not always the most glamorous spot. So, today when we went to get hair cuts and I signed the kids in, I called Angel over. Watch this. I wrote – Angel, Flower comma and Bear. She laughed. Oh, yes, she remembered and she smiled for at least an hour. She got to go first – and they had to wait their turn – behind her. Sweet comma justice.

Then I got home and read an email from our neighborhood swim team that one of our swim team family members has very unexpectedly passed away. She was 17 and she had a wonderful shy smile that was really lovely and warm and kind. Her gentle presence will be so missed. She is already missed. She would look at you under her eyelashes – not in coy clever way – but in an unassuming soft-hearted way – a more comfortable in the background way. We do not know the family well. But I cannot imagine – I am sure as you read this your heart is racing and prayers are forming. You might even be crying – I am. A loss like this runs so deep and true and is felt by everyone who hears its story. You cannot walk away from it unaffected. It’s impossible. Don’t even try.

Their comma has moved. Their family of four is now a family of three. Their new, unanticipated emptiness must feel so heavy – and so unnecessary. So hard to believe. So unfair. Unspeakable really. Just so very unreasonable. So many questions that will never find answers. I realize I am just a bystander – barely a shadow in their tremendous new void. Their own pain must be suffocating, unbearable – it is certainly unthinkable. Horrible. Very hard to get your heart around. I am writing about it because I am waiting to figure out what else to do. As I said, I do not know them well but I have a huge want to do something, to help, to change it. Yeah, I know, tragically there is no way for that to happen. It will not – it simply cannot change. Damn. Because we do not know them well, it is not appropriate for me to insert myself into their lives now, even with the best of intentions. So I am simply left with prayers for her family. Prayers that might not ever find answers. It does not seem like much to offer. They are left with so much less.

I am going to explain to Angel that she is, in fact, very lucky that her comma is right where we left it. Unmoved.

Just in case you are wondering………..

Queso has a place to go for the next four months. Thank you Chris and family! This makes me very happy – even more sad – and very, very thankful. If I ever re-open the doors to A Reason To Write – you will have free cards for life. Queso Peso – I am going to really, really miss you. Maybe you can start a blog so I can keep up with what you are doing. I know, I know, it’s hard to type with paws. Sigh.

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This arrived yesterday. I heart Orvis. Yes, that was (extremely) fast. They are serious about this whole keeping the customer happy thing. They mean it.

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United Airlines has not responded to my email. I do not heart United Airlines. One suitcase has arrived in Delhi. That’s great – except – wait for it – number one hubby left the U.S. with two suitcases. I was no math major but I am still pretty sure that one plus zero does NOT equal two or 🙂 me.

United Airlines in Delhi would like to meet with Number One Hubby. They are very concerned about our experience. (Remember they tried to help us – it was their sister station in the U.S. that was more than unhelpful.) I am sincerely impressed with their concern.

Our passports arrived today with our Visas. It looks like Delhi (India) will allow live humans into the country.

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My children discovered that my laptop has a camera. This was because I waited to take a picture of my new sweater until after they got home from school. That was (not) a brilliant move.

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Left to their own devices, my children are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves – without killing each other and without the assistance of electronics. Ripley’s might actually believe it – or not – so I took a picture. Please notice nothing is plugged in and everyone is alive.

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This is what my cats think of their future trip to India. I am exploring the possibility of them riding under the seat with us on the plane. I wonder, do they make kitty diapers? They must. If not, maybe I can invent them.

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I have been spoiled by my blogging friends who are both funny and write well. Not all blog writers are creative equally. Some are really bad. And they have books published. This bothers me on a number of levels. Someone is making them think they are good, so now they are going to continue writing. I have not figured out what to write a book about (details) or how to get this unwritten masterpiece published. More details. But I really, really want to. Isn’t that enough? Maybe I should be encouraged. If she can do it…….   And, nope, I won’t tell you who they/she are/is because she has gotten enough attention already. I will give you a hint – she is not on my blogroll and she is not nice. So even if someone kindly sprinkles magic writing dust on her and she suddenly gets all Shakesperian on me she still will not appear on my blogroll. That’s how I choose to impose my own little poetic justice.

Apparently my -ER friend does have time to read my blog after all. Well, let me be fair, her two-year-old most likely read it to her while she was baking 500 dozen homemade (decorated by hand) sugar cookies for the school bake sale. And, yes, she will buy them all back – she is generous like that. Anybake, she called me yesterday. Holy moly you say – oh, have no fear. None whatsoever. She thought it was hysterical – who is she, she asked? Oh yes she did. She asked who it was. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she is (nearly) famous. She knew it wasn’t her because she HATES people like that. That really makes me laugh. A lot of people have asked me how I think of things to write about. Oh the heavens rain ideas upon me all the time. It really isn’t hard – with friends like this, who needs life experience. I can write vicariously through the insanity of others. Thank you writing gods! And, please keep it coming.