Tag Archives: middle school

But how are you………..

This is how a lot of emails from my friends end – your blog is great – but how are you, really?

That is a tricky question. Most of you know, I would not have picked to move to India. The decision came about quickly and it was a big surprise. I knew from the first moment of hearing the possibility that it would be a great adventure for our family and that we would never regret coming to Delhi. I realized that was true. And then I threw up.

This has been a wonderful career move for number one hubby. He loves his job and he loves having our family close together. I love that too. I am very proud of him and it is amazing to watch him thrive.

There are certainly challenges that I did not expect. India is considered a hardship post by the U.S. government and most private companies. I can agree with that. A big challenge for me – being a terrible creature of habit – is that nothing is really predictable. Just because you found kick arse goldfish crackers and nacho cheese Doritos at the market this week, does not mean anything for next week. Living in India is like investing in the stock market. Past performance is not a measure of future success.

I miss my family and dear friends terribly. I hate being away from them. H.a.t.e. it. Period. This is the biggest challenge for me. And I so miss my little cat Queso.

We have celebrated 4 birthdays here and it was difficult at best not to have my family here with us. Easter and Thanksgiving will not be easy either.

I miss my shower with never-ending hot water and double shower heads. I miss my kick-arse washer and dryer. I miss my double oven. I miss my office filled with paper and embellishments with a window that looks out at trees. I miss Taco Bell and Cheesecake Factory and Chick-Fil-A. I miss soft towels that smell like a spring rain.

But I realize that you can survive without the things that make life more comfortable. It’s the whole niceties v. necessities argument. And you can find new adventures without a dryer and a double oven that make those things seem not as important.

Although the basement where the kids can go when they you need a break is hard to live without.

And I do miss shopping at Target and Costco. I can live without shopping at those stores – I actually like the markets here – they are interesting and fun. But I miss the one stop shopping. And I really miss stores that open at 8am. Nothing here seems to open before 11am.

I miss driving myself. Although, I do not want to drive here – traffic is crazy! But there is freedom in a set of car keys and a drivers license.

I miss living on a cul-de-sac with a yard and trees and flowers. I miss kick ball in the court and a glass of wine on the front porch. I miss the crazy sleepovers we used to host with tacos for dinner and waffles for breakfast.

Connections are harder to make when everyone knows they will be moving at some point. So I guess I miss the sense of permanence.  There is comfort in believing that you will be friends with someone for a long time. I am not pointing fingers at others here at all – this is my issue – I find myself pulling back and being more hesitant to get involved because I know that people will be leaving – including me.

Old habits die hard and I just miss my routines.

However, there are a lot a things that balance out the things I miss.

The school is amazing. I have talked about it before so I won’t bore you with repeating myself. But my children are growing as learners in ways they might not have in the U.S. They are thinking in ways they have never thought before. There is a big emphasis here on creative thinking. I love that! The school also addresses my children as people and as students. In Flower’s conference, the teacher had as one of her goals to participate in the swimming program at the school. He has already gotten to know her very well and is fostering her growth inside the classroom and out. The teachers in the U.S. knew my kids very, very well – but the curriculum is just very different here. And by the way, I miss those U.S. teachers for a lot of reasons – they are fabulous in their own right.

Bear’s Humanities class is a mix of English and Social Studies. They have couches in his classroom and the kids “hang out” to learn. Bear actually asked me to go to the library with him the other day to help him pick out a book to read. After I got up off the floor from falling over – off to the library we went. He checked out two books.  I don’t think he has actually started reading either one of them yet – but, hey, baby steps.

Angel has been given differentiated instruction in math. It appears she has quite the creative problem solving little brain. It is not a surprise really because she plays a little game with herself where she creates an invention and then she talks about it for 45 minutes straight. The ideas truly pour out of her. It is nice to see that embraced at school.

Seeing that the world is not the bubble we knew has been good for all of us. There is so much here that is different and interesting. We are fortunate to be exposed to it.

Although Bear did ask when we could go back to not having anyone cook and clean and just “be” in our house. I had to explain to him that someone was cooking and cleaning and “being” in our house before. She just wasn’t get paid to do it. To which he replied “oh yeah”. I reminded him that “that would be me”.

I miss a quiet house with no one milling about. But I do not miss cooking, cleaning, or the laundry. See how complicated this all becomes?

Poverty has been hard on the eyes and much harder on the heart. I am working on a blog post to further explain and explore that. It should be coming soon. But it has made us all more appreciative of shoes and food and family. I am looking for a place to volunteer so that I can share my time with these children who have so little. But I want to be clear that many of these children have the biggest, most beautiful smiles. They are not miserable just not advantaged.

Number One Hubby has made some changes at his company that will help out some of the poorer people in Delhi. I feel really good about that.

It is dirty here and the pollution is unreal. We spent 5 hours at the pool the other day and got no suntan whatsoever. That might be good in the prevention of skin cancer – but I am worried about the lung cancer. But we got to spend 5 hours at the pool in the middle of March. That rocks.

I am not a super adventurous eater – so this has not been so much a culinary experience for me. But there are opportunities. And they serve beets here. I might be the only one in Virginia who actually eats beets – but I am in good company here! Yummy. And yesterday I tried red potatoes that had been skinned and rolled in sesame seeds. Holy potato, batman, they were fabulous!

We have seen Jaipur and we have seen the Taj Mahal. Both were amazing. And it makes me resolve to show my children more of the United States. They have not seen the Grand Canyon or Yosemite or Mount Rushmore and a lot of other things. I hope to correct that.

We are also hoping to visit Thailand and Egypt and China. I never imagined in my wildest dreams we would even talk about doing any of that.

We are spending more time as a family. We eat dinner together every night. The practices at the school are all over by 6pm and they are all at the school. So there is no hustling from field to field. There are no drive-thru dinners. Yeah, that is a blessing and a curse.  We are certainly eating healthier meals. But remember, I miss me some Taco Bell.

I am loving this blog adventure and am thrilled to be writing again. It has been so long since I put my thoughts down and it is a treat to write almost every day. I continue to be absolutely amazed that so many people are following along. And I am confident that we will not lose the details that are making this journey so enjoyable.

As you might recall, we also started yoga. We used to tease my dear sweet neighbor who loves yoga – but now we are eating our yoga mats. We enjoy it – especially now that we know our instructor has a sense of humor. He doesn’t mind us teasing each other during our sessions. Sometimes he even chuckles along.

So anyway, the long story short is that I am enjoying much of our adventure. There are pockets of time when I am a little down. But most of the time, I have my seat belt on and I am ready to go. And yes, seat belts are a very good idea in India.

john doe

You might recall that my not-so-little Bear was in elementary school in the United States and that our trip across the ocean landed him right into middle school. I was not sure how this new world would be for Bear. So far, so good.

Some things are certainly different – Bear has now been to a dance (and actually danced) and to a middle school party (and danced again). He is enjoying his journey. There are a lot of activities he misses and he misses his dear friends terribly – but he has made some good friends here and he is having a good time.

One of the things I did not expect was the stepped up homework. Not the volume necessarily, but the complexity. And I don’t mean harder – just more thoughtful.

The very first assignment Bear got was to write paper on John Doe. A paper that involved medical ethics. Excuse me – did you know that he’s 11. I took a biomedical ethics class in college. I loved it, but I was 21 at the time. That’s not exactly 11.

So, we read the scenario – it’s basically this. John Doe is a young man (20, I think) who has been in a terrible car accident. He is on a ventilator and is showing no improvement. His hair grows and his fingernails grow, but he is not responsive to voices or other stimulation. He is on a feeding tube. The insurance company will no longer pay for his medical treatment. He has been in a coma for 3 months. Your job is to advise his parents what to do in five paragraphs.

Okay, in five decades, I could not come up with the right words to advise his parents what to do – what do you mean 5 paragraphs? And do you understand that Bear is our oldest and we have not talked to him about any of this stuff yet, and we still have jet lag. And, remember, he is 11. Welcome to India.

I want to start by saying that I love the kids new school. We were thrilled with our school in the U.S. and I was wondering if our new school could possibly measure up. It has. It is really, really great – there is a lot of focus on creative thinking – not so much on memorizing facts. It’s taking in information and analyzing it. More of a swallowing it whole and letting it become a part of you than a “repeat what I just said” focus on learning. But did I mention, he is 11? Did I mention we still had jet lag? Can I find out where to buy goldfish crackers before I have to tackle medical ethics? Please?

So, before he can even start writing a paper, we have to talk about this. Just in case you have forgotten, let me remind you that Bear is a pretty logical thinker. That is, unless it comes to pulling the plug on a young man in a coma whose fingernails are still growing. Then apparently he becomes a big old softy. And, yes I love that about him. But it was hard to see his eyes melt away when I said he should at least consider taking John Doe off of life support. He looked at me and seemed to think, “but what would you do it if was me”? Dagger. I hear America calling – the land of the goldfish crackers that are easy to find.

How do you explain to your child that it makes you want to throw up to even consider that you could ever have to make this kind of decision about him – but that sometimes there are actually practical matters involved in these decisions. How do you define ethics – when your child thinks in black and white and there are nothing but grey answers available? Can we say role reversal? Me – the full fledged Pisces and sentimental sap explaining to the boy who wants to solve pi why it might make sense to not let John Doe “live”. And that same boy explaining to me that John Doe is still alive. Well, let’s talk about quality of life and cost of care and when are we going home again?

I told him ethics is when your brain meets your heart and they don’t always agree. If fact, they are bound to disagree because matters of the heart are rarely logical. And there are never any right answers. Math won’t usually help here – it is certainly not an exact science, if it is even a science at all. But how do you explain to those big brown eyes that what you can so clearly see that someone else should do might not be what you would do at all? Holy parenting, Batman. He decided John Doe’s parents should have a fundraiser to pay to keep him on the ventilator. I think this bodes well for number one hubby and me in our later years.

The final part of this assignment was a debate in the class. I would have loved to have seen that. The teacher was very careful to explain to the students that there were sure to be a lot of different view points and that everyone’s opinion had to be respected. That’s cool.

It just depends………

A lot of people curious about just how much less expensive it is to live here. Well, it really just depends…..

Housing
Our rent here is a good bit more expensive than our mortgage in the states. We lived in a fairly expensive area in the States. Not in a fancy pants, outrageously expensive area – but a fairly expensive area.

Utilities
Cable, internet, and mobile phones are much cheaper than in the U.S. My mobile phone bill last month was $8. Cable and internet are about $14 per month – that’s combined, not each.

Domestic Help
We do not pay our driver and cook directly so I am not exactly sure what their salaries are. But I know it is a lot cheaper to have help in Indian than in the U.S. Our cook works from 11am – 8:30p – that’s Monday thru Saturday. He also does the laundry and some of the grocery shopping. Our house cleaner works 4 hours a day – that’s also Monday thru Saturday. They both also get money for transportation. Sometimes domestic help will live in quarters near the family they are working for. Ours do not do that.

Produce
As long as you are buying fruits and vegetables that are in season and are not imported, produce is very inexpensive. Very inexpensive.

Recognizable snacks
Not such a great deal. A bag of goldfish crackers is about $4. But worth every penny. You cannot get Pizza Goldfish here and that is a bummer. You can find many brand names for prepackaged foods that you would recognize. They are about double what you would pay in the U.S. You cannot find everything you want, but there is certainly enough to get by on – especially when friends and family will send you a box of surprises every now and then. (Thank you friends and family!)

Soda is about  the same price as in the U.S.

Chocolate chips and canned frosting are two things that we have not been able to find. It’s interesting because you can get cake mixes – but no icing. We also cannot find tortilla chips. Enter very sad face here. We love tortilla chips.

Activities for the kids
There are simply not as many options for the kids here to do sports – so yes, we are saving money there.

The middle school offers free activities like ultimate frisbee and rock climbing and ping pong after school. Something is available every day for Bear.

The elementary school offers activities like knitting, fun with aquatics, jump rope, recycled art, and many others. Each class is once a week and they are $30 for an 8-week session.

Flower and Bear are running track thru the school. So far, that has been free. We did have to agree to host visiting athletes for the track meet in April. We are looking forward to that.

Clothing
There are lots of markets where you can buy inexpensive clothing but clothes for preteens seem to be hard to find. We have had an impossible time finding shorts for our daughters.

There are very nice malls – they are equivalent to the prices in the U.S. We had to buy our daughter a pair of shoes for track – they were $70. No that is not a great deal. But I have gotten some lovely light weight kurtas (Indian style shirts) for $4. Yes, that is a great deal.

I will say the quality of the less expensive items is – well, you get what you pay for. Those items are not going to last a lifetime. But they will be very fun to wear while they last.

Doctors
When we went to the dermatologist for our son, our visit was $16. That is about what you would pay for an insurance co-pay in the U.S. However, that was the entire cost without any insurance.

His follow-up visit was $10.

Medicines
We got Bear antibiotics for 5 days, antibiotic ointment, an antihistamine, and soaps for $24. Again, that was the total cost. No insurance co-pays. All of it was only $24.

Cat food/litter
Outrageous. But what are you going to do?

Eating Out
That is just like anywhere. It can be expensive or not so bad.

Two large pan pizzas at Pizza Hut are $16. Our whole family can eat at McDonalds for $12 – and, have I mentioned that McDonalds delivers? But the nicer the restaurant, the more expensive it is. We went to lunch at a restaurant at the mall and the bill was $80 for lunch. Yes, we are going to Pizza Hut next time.

Gas
I fortunately do not have to drive – so I do not fill up the car with gas. But I will not be complaining about the prices of gas in the U.S. anymore.

Fresh Flowers
Lillies are expensive here too –  probably not as much as in the U.S., but relatively speaking they are more expensive than the other flowers – carnations and a lot of other flowers are very inexpensive. There are a lot of flower stands rich with beautiful blooms.

Yoga Lessons
The instructor comes to our house and it costs 3000 rupees a month for 2 lessons a week. That’s about $60 for the month.

Hindi Lessons
The instructor comes to our house and it is 500 rupees per lesson – about $10 per hour. I have a friend who joins me sometimes – when she comes, it is 800 rupees.

I am sure they are things I have forgotten – if you are curious about something – just let me know!

Old Habits Die Hard………..

Okay – is it ADHD or Alzheimers or just very simply jet lag – I really am not sure – but somewhere in the middle of that riddle you will find my ailing brain.

I went to the school today and had a meeting. Well, I thought it was just a parent coffee. It turns out that it was a technology seminar on dealing with middle schoolers and technology – well, mostly Facebook. Hmmmm. How close am I sitting to the door? The topic of blogs came up, too. I think my blog is calling. Maybe I should go now. I am a repeat offender. And, no, I did not introduce myself as the Facebooking, Blog-Everyday New Mom in Town. So shhhhh, don’t tell. Let’s just leave it between me, you, and oh yeah, the internet.

Seriously, though, it was interesting. Very interesting. About half of the 6th graders at the school have a facebook page. The school staff was very careful to not encourage or discourage – it is a parenting decision. But they did explain that this is quite simply the way of the world. And letting them try something new while they are still listening to what you have to say – well, that is something to consider. And, when they are a part of the working world, they will need to be able to network on a number of levels – personally  and technologically. Mostly though, Facebook is at least interactive, it is better than watching the idiot box we call t.v.

However, there are pitfalls. Many pitfalls. The main one being that whatever you post has a carbon footprint that will last for at least forever.

One of the moms did offer one tip – let them do it only on the weekends. This means it will not interfere with homework or other school activities. Note to self – weekends only. Good idea.

Bear has not asked to be on Facebook yet – he is still happy with his newly acquired email account – and I am of the parenting persuasion that if he isn’t asking, well I am just not telling. So, we’ll cross that teenage bridge when he brings us to it.

Then I did a couple of other quick things – met the Athletic Director – my kids are really, really missing their sports. Got some info. Then I went to the cafeteria – it turns out the cafeteria has a bakery. Oh, I did not know that. But, I do now.

Then off to the library. I am allowed to check out books at the library. So I got Five People You Meet in Heaven. I mentioned it here and would really like to re-read it.

Then it was time to go. So I go out the to picnic table by the library and earnestly start searching for my keys. Yes, I do mean my car keys. And, yes, I pulled out my wallet and my notebook and was very puzzled as to where I could have possibly left them. Say it with me – possibly the United States. Over there – across that big body of water called an ocean. Perhaps that is where my keys are. If you are new here it might be helpful to know that I don’t have a car – I have a driver. A lovely man named Kahn. He has the keys – yes, in the car. So what I really need is my cell phone – which has been in my hand the whole time. But honestly, it took me about – oh, I dunno – a full minute and a half to realize I might be completely losing my mind.

I am standing the middle of the campus of the very new school my kids are attending with books from the library and bread from the bakery – yes, many, many reminders that I am no longer on U.S. soil – and I cannot find my car keys because they just happen to be at my dad’s house in the United States. I wonder if this is what Ronald Reagan felt like.

Expiration Dates and Calendars……..

We are now at the point in our adventure that some dairy products will be around longer in the United States than my family will be.

The other day, I went to the store to buy heavy whipping cream and saw that it expired on February 12th, 2009. That gave me pause. I am not sure why. But I paused. Hmmm. This has a longer USA shelf life than I do. Interesting.

Recently, I received an email from the new school with dates for my calendar. Not expiration dates – but welcome to our school dates – come join in the fun dates. Begin your new adventure dates. February has been oddly blank on my calendar for some time. My calendar is usually jammed packed and over-stuffed with lots of dates and times and things to remember. The going ons of life. February has been unfairly caught in the transition. It had a few birthdays penciled in, but that was it. No more. I now have 6 dates on my February calendar. A meeting at the school for Bear to set his schedule. A play at the school. A PTA meeting and a Middle School parents meeting. A date for a choral concert called Voices for Hospice. I have to say that is exciting – the kids’ new school is holding a concert to raise money for children with cancer. I have to say I am excited that we get to be a part of that. The life lessons are already beginning with this adventure.

And, finally, the Middle School dance. Hmmmm.

This also gave me pause. Bear is in elementary school now. But that plane ride across the ocean will transport him right into Middle School. I wonder if he will want to go to this dance. He has never been to one before. This is going to be interesting.