I married the beautiful redhead at 1241 Dodd Road

— Note from Julie: this is a guest post by my mensch of a dad —

For several years my wife’s family has been dealing with the living capabilities of my father- and mother-in-law, Howie and Liz, as they aged gracefully. To watch one’s parents reach their limits of doing for themselves and to try respect and maintain their independence and show them dignity they deserve is a road that pulls at the heart strings to the core of your very being.

You can see the limits of their life gradually being eroded and you want to preserve the home they spent years building and shaping, with the love and trials they faced to overcome to make it a home. That home  was a place of security for Howie and Liz’s family; it gave us what we needed in order to endure our day-to-day trials: love, hope, strength, and happiness.

Howie and Liz are from the group we now affectionately refer to as the Greatest Generation. A label well earned, in my opinion, when you consider all that they faced: The Great Depression, World War II, CCC camps, the changing world of everyday life.  With all this, they still had the courage to start a family, smile, and look toward tomorrow as another gift from above, and to give us a lot that we take for granted today.

When I met my wife, Ginger (hence the title), and was introduced to the Adams Family, I felt a sense of family and inclusion that one could only hope for from their In-Laws. Howie and Liz made it easy for me to fit in, as if I was family. The house holds many memories of family gatherings, Howie’s workshop, the big garden, Christmas, Thanksgiving (with picture-taking of the turkey), birthdays, the tree swing, the games (ship-captain-crew, hi-low-jack and the game, Ed’s game), and let’s not forget the sledding hill that provided fun for several generations.  It’s all wrapped up in the fondness we grew to love and know from 1241. I hope the memories of the home are as wonderful for others in the family, and the good times are the focus of those memories.

Howie and Liz started this home from the edge of a farm, built the basement and lived in that with their young family to start with, and finished the upper house as they looked forward to life. I see it all as a legacy that I for one will always and proudly refer to as the Adams Home.

I guess my ramblings have reached the reason I felt a need to write this. The family is in the process of moving their loving mother to a senior apartment and getting the house ready for sale. Liz is still a caring, capable, mindful, wonderful soul, but the home was getting to be too much for her to take care of and to navigate. Our beloved Howie had gone to the great fishing waters of heaven a few years back, and Liz has been living in the Adams Home alone for several years now.  She is ready for a new stage in her frail, beautiful life.

We all knew this moment would come, but still, the moving and selling the house brings the closing of another chapter in our lives and is a bittersweet event.

Thanks for the memories 1241.

With all my love and respect to the Adams Family



Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Winging it

My oldest baby turns 10 tomorrow.  Double digits.*  A tween.**  (She is having a sleepover tonight with some friends to celebrate.  Send espresso.) (For me, not for them.)  Robin keeps insisting that Riya, who will be a 5th-grader next school year, will therefore will be going to middle school the year after that, but I am pretty sure his logic is flawed somehow.  photo 1

Last night I watched Karina dance in her spring recital, and when she got up on stage, I thought, “Wait.  Who is that long-legged lithe little thing?  What happened to the chubby cheeks and the toddler belly?  No, for real – WAIT.”photo

Ben can almost beat me at chess.  (He would definitely beat me if it came down to knowledge alone.  My only saving grace is that he often forgets to watch out for threats to his queen and I get lucky.)  He doesn’t call me Mom-Mom anymore.photo 2

My point, other than the whole ongoing why-does-time-keep-going-so-bleeping-fast thing, is that I guess I thought by now I would kinda know something about … something.

No matter how many times I learn the lesson that in parenting, or maybe just in life, your skills become obsolete as soon as you master them, it still surprises me.  Why, yes, child, I understand that you can now scramble your own eggs, and have strong opinions about your hairstyle, but it took me years to perfect a system of feeding and grooming you and your siblings, and WOULD IT KILL YOU TO WORK WITHIN THE SYSTEM?

My children are justifiably as baffled by this as I am, because inevitably each time I melt into please-still-be-my-baby mode, it’s followed soon after by my alter ego.  This mom might, for example, be rejoicing one minute to tuck a sleepy child into bed, then fuming in the hallway a moment later because said sweet, sleepy child almost got away with hiding a week’s dirty clothes under the bed.  Or, this mom might wax nostalgic for the days when her kids brought home finger paintings every day from preschool, but then throw an epic fit upon discovering a positively toddleresque marker incident on somebody’s carpet.

Stop growing up so fast!  But also, stop acting like a kid!  Why do you look so confused?

Dearest Riya, Ben, and Karina, all I can say in my defense is this: Your dad and I are making this up as we go along.  Surprise!  [jazz hands!]  Fortunately, you are all doing an absolutely stellar job growing up, so – hey! – good job with that!  Keep up the good work.

And also?  Thanks for letting us come along for the ride.

*Did anybody else have the Nintendo game “Double Dribble” when you were a kid?  It had one of those secret codes you (meaning my brother) could put in to get more lives or time or whatever, but you (meaning my brother) had to enter it quickly, in the time between the Nintendo screen and the game’s main menu.  When you (meaning my brother) got to the main menu, the super-realistic computer voice would go, “Dou-ble Drib-ble!” but if you (meaning my brother) hadn’t gotten the code quite right, you (meaning my brother) would have to restart and do it again.  You (meaning my brother) might do this several times in a row until getting the result you (meaning my brother) wanted, forcing the other members of your household to listen to “Dou-ble Drib-ble… Dou-ble Drib-ble… Dou-ble Drib-ble…” over and over and over and over again.***

**Word did not exist outside of the Shire when I was a “tween” myself.***

***I am old.

Posted in Apple, Orange, Parenting, Raisin | Leave a comment

So, we went to India: Part 4

So, let’s finish up this whole India thing, eh?

You: Let’s!  Your posts about India are kind of like Indian people.

Me: They are sweet and funny, and you are going to miss them?

You: Naturally, but also: THERE ARE A BILLION OF THEM.

Me: [blinks] Well, let’s just dive on in then, shall we?

In the United States, most newly married couples are setting up housekeeping on their own, and wedding gifts are traditionally to help them get started.  In India, where extended families often live together, and where housing is at such a premium that it wouldn’t make sense for a young couple to try to afford their own apartment anyway, that’s not the case.  Instead, the two families exchange gifts as a whole: the day of the wedding ceremony, the bride’s family are the hosts, and the groom’s family sends gifts before they arrive at the wedding house.  Two days later, the groom’s family hosts a reception, and the bride’s family sends their gifts

(The day in between the ceremony and the reception, the bride and groom stay at the bride’s family’s home.  They visit with friends and family, and in the evening, there is a blessing as the bride’s family sends her off to officially become part of her new family.  This was one of my favorite parts of the entire wedding, even though I cried through the whole process, because this time everyone else was crying with me.  Dhity – that’s Robin’s cousin, the bride – clung to her mother, father, and sister, even though she was only moving blocks away.  Their family is so tightly knit that a separation that seems small on the surface was a tremendous one to them.  In the US, or at least in the stoic Protestant teutonic North where I live, it’s often considered a virtue to control one’s emotions at times like these.  It was hugely cathartic and beautiful to me to take part in a ritual where quite the opposite was true.  I also got to redeem myself a little, Boudi-wise, by being a shoulder Dhity’s younger sister Shruti could cry on.)

The gifts might have been purchased for a specific person, like if the bride’s family knows that the groom has a young niece, they might choose a toy for her.  Or, if the groom’s family knows that the bride’s sister/cousin-in-law is from America and probably won’t get much use out of a sari, they might send a stunning shawl instead.  Generic gifts for the whole family are also included, though, like a basket of fruit or vegetables, or pretty soaps and lotions.  All the gifts, though, are carefully arranged on trays, wrapped in clear plastic, and beautifully decorated.

Robin’s aunt and uncle had hired a vendor to prepare their gifts, but on the day after the wedding, he still hadn’t finished.  Shruti organized a small army of cousins and friends to help finish the job.  Acting the gracious hostess at a fancy event might not be within my skill set, but I can curl ribbon like nobody’s business.  I can also: hold things still so someone can wrap them, cut pieces of tape*, and position said pieces of tape in order to hold the wrapping in place.  Since I got to exercise all these skills with a fun group of young people (Shruti and her friends all being in their late teens/early twenties), the next day and a half flew by.

This small army also proved invaluable parenting-wise.  We all were starting to miss home a little bit by this point in the trip, but when you’re 7 and surrounded by people who will gladly watch you play Angry Birds, or you’re 9 and you find out the cool college kids also like that one song from Twilight, homesickness pretty quickly takes a backseat.

So, before we knew it, we were dressing up one last time for the reception.  This was held outdoors in a – well, I guess “tent” is the best word, but more of a decorative tent with pretty fairy lights.  Um, you have no idea what I’m talking about.  Let’s just stop with the words and get to some pictures, huh?

We said goodbye (HATE), spent another ridiculous number of hours on planes, lost and retrieved two (2!) Kindles**, slept off the jet lag, did mountains of laundry, and now here we are.  OK?  Great!  The end!

Mehendi (henna)

Mehendi (henna)

My father-in-law (in white) and his brother at the reception.  See?  Fairy lights!

My father-in-law (in white) and his brother at the reception. See? Fairy lights!

The whole gang at the reception.

The whole gang at the reception.

Ben's turban, courtesy of Riya's scarf and a cousin's ingenuity.

Ben’s turban, courtesy of Riya’s scarf and a cousin’s ingenuity.

*Robin and I lost count of how many times during this process we said to each other, “What would you give for some Scotch tape right now?” or “Man, I am going to give the Saran Wrap a giant hug when we get home!”

**God bless Delta and KLM because honest to Pete we really did leave two different Kindles behind on two different planes and they tracked us down both times – once IN THE AMSTERDAM AIRPORT, WHICH IS GINORMOUS – and returned them.

Posted in Apple, Grape, Jellyman, Orange, Parenting, Pictures, Raisin, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

So, we went to India: Part 3

So, we went to India.  And when last we left our intrepid little band, we were preparing to board a train from Delhi to Kolkata.  We took the Rajdhani Express, which takes at least 17 hours to reach Howrah from Delhi if it’s on time (Howrah is Kolkata’s “twin” city on the other side of the Ganges).  That meant another new experience for the kids – a sleeper train!  They all slept, nobody fell out of their bunks (not that I was worried about that), and we were only about an hour and a half late getting into Howrah, so we called that a huge success!

Robin’s Chotokaka (his dad’s youngest brother – Bengali family titles denote not just “uncle” or “aunt,” but whether they are mother’s side or father’s, and their place in the family birth order) and his cousin Shruti (the sister of the bride; they are the daughters of Robin’s Notunkaka) picked us up at the train station.  Any worries I had about seeing them again after 12 years, or about the kids meeting them for the first time were erased immediately.  We were with family.

Since we were there for a wedding, though, everyone was busy.  That is my one regret about this trip.  I wish we could have taken more time to spend with the family when they weren’t consumed with wedding duties.  I don’t know how we could have made that happen without giving up any of our other amazing experiences, but I wish it could have been so.

I also wish I could explain to you the intricacies of all the different ceremonies for a wedding, but I only understood parts myself, so I will have to let Wikipedia do that.  For me, the most meaningful ceremony on the wedding day was when my father-in-law, as the eldest male in the bride’s family, prayed for the bride’s ancestors and asked their blessings on the couple.  All the children present were blessed alongside the bride, and it was beautiful and moving to watch.

To be fair, however, I missed large parts of the actual bride-and-groom-joined-together ceremony that evening because I was busy having my first and hopefully only panic attack.  Three things trigger discomfort and fear for me more than anything else: not knowing what is expected of me, crowds, and not knowing where my kids are, and that day managed to hit all three.

There was confusion about where we were supposed to be and when, and then about what we were supposed to wear, and then when the kids ought to have been resting they were all wound up instead and could not be calmed down.  (We never did really adjust to the typical Bengali schedule of an afternoon rest and a very late night, let alone the late-late nights that went with all the wedding activities.)

Then there was confusion about what I was supposed to do.  See, Robin’s uncles’ kids are younger than Robin and me, and first cousins in India are considered cousin-brothers (or cousin-sisters).  That makes Robin the oldest brother, and me the “Boudi,” or elder sister-in-law.  And therefore it should have been my job to welcome the groom’s family to the wedding when they arrived, but I didn’t know that, so I wasn’t prepared.  And then, when it was explained to me that I should give a flower to each arriving member of the groom’s family, I didn’t know who, exactly, was on the groom’s side and who on the bride’s, and basically I just had no idea what I was doing.

Now, I could’ve gotten over that, maybe, especially since everybody’s attention was focused on the bride and groom as they began the (somewhat tedious) process of signing all the paperwork the Indian/West Bengal government requires before a couple can legally be married.  Riya, Karina, and I staked out a good place to sit so we could see the actual ceremony, which was due to start after the paperwork was finished.  Which, of course, is exactly when both girls realized that they were too exhausted to possibly continue for another minute, and needed a place to rest RIGHT NOW.

Embarrassed and pretty tired myself, I was relieved when my father-in-law told us we could use a guest room in the wedding house to let the girls crash.  He was even kind enough to offer to stay with them so that I could go enjoy the ceremony.  So, again, I might have recovered, but for the final blow…

I walked out of the guest room, ran smack into one of the cousins who had been hanging out with Ben all evening, and he said, “Boudi, where is Ben?”*  I glanced down the stairs into the sea of people gathering to watch the wedding, and I glanced up the stairs toward the sea of people being seated for the first wave of dinner service.

And I lost it.  Completely, totally lost it. 

For no reason, as it turns out, because Ben was right upstairs, looking for us so that he could get some dinner, but it was too late.   Tears streaked down my cheeks, I couldn’t draw a full breath, and no matter how I tried I couldn’t control either.

I escaped back into the room where the girls were sleeping, sobbed out a couple incomprensible words to my father-in-law, and promptly sank my head between my knees.  If you’ve never had the opportunity to try that trick for yourself, I am happy to report that it does work!  Unfortunately, at some point you have to sit back up and face the fact that you have humiliated yourself in front of your husband’s entire family and then some.

Well, that is what I was afraid would happen.  In actuality, Robin’s lovely father graciously told me not to feel embarrassed, that he knew a trip like this was a lot to take on.  He said he was proud of both Robin and me for managing so well, especially with the kids being as young as they are.  Then he helped us all get home, since it was pretty clear that Ben was also exhausted and I was in no shape to stay.

I have rarely been as grateful to another human being as I was to him that night.  I am crying again as I write this; it meant so much to me.

I meant to continue this post through the next and final days of our trip, which were much more enjoyable, but it has taken me so long to write this, I guess that will have to be Part 4.  (Look at me, I’m as long-winded as the Lethal Weapon series!  I am also too old for this sh*t!)  To make it up to you, and entice you back, I promise that post will include pictures.

*Fun fact: I stopped writing for a little bit and checked my phone for something, and my most recent text from Robin, from last night at church, says, “Found Ben!”  We may have issues.

[Edited to add: absolutely, under no circumstances, no way, no how, do I blame Robin’s family for any of my breakdown.  Everybody was kind and gracious through our whole trip.  People ran to get us spoons because we weren’t good at eating with our fingers.  People gave up their rooms for us.  People arranged for aloo bhaja (fried potatoes) to come to our table first because they knew how much the kids liked them.  I’d be a complete heel if I were anything but totally grateful.  The Incident was just a perfect storm of my own Crazy.]

Posted in Apple, Grape, Jellyman, Orange, Parenting, Raisin, Vacation | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

So, we went to India: Part 2

So, we went to India.

I don’t remember when, exactly, we moved from “someday, we will have to take the kids to India” to “we are going to India, like, now,” but I know it was sometime after Robin’s cousin announced her wedding and sometime before this continual buzzing started in my head.  We really did always mean to take them, but I, at least, had assumed that “someday” was far, far in the future, until we started speculating that it was possible that we could go to the wedding, and then it actually turned out to be possible.  (Due, in no small part, to the generosity of Robin’s parents, who wanted their grandchildren to have the opportunity to meet Robin’s dad’s family – Robin’s dad being the only member of that branch of the family tree who lives in the US.)

We knew it was also possible that this might be the only time we ever got the chance to go all together, so we set out to make the most of it.  We scheduled our arrival in India about a week before the wedding so that we would have time to show the kids more of the country.  An unexpected bonus side trip developed when Delta changed our flight to include a 5+-hour layover in Amsterdam.  Week 1, AKA The Tourism Week, went something like this:

Leg 1: Minneapolis to Amsterdam

Highlights: The pleasant surprise that my kids managed the long airport waits and the longer flight with (mostly) good grace.  Seeing the famous canals and the Anne Frank museum.  Meeting a good friend of Robin’s family, who spent hours on a train just to be able to walk around with us and drink hot chocolate for an hour before we had to go back to the airport.  Realizing that I still know how to read a European train schedule when we *just* missed a train back to the airport and had to scramble to a different platform to catch the next one.

Low points: Losing Robin’s jacket somewhere at the airport, which made him dread the return to Minneapolis for the rest of the trip.  Trying to absorb the reality of the Anne Frank museum.  Rushing through the train station with three kids whose first international flight chose that moment to really catch up with them.

Leg 2: Amsterdam to New Delhi

Highlights: The HUGE relief of finding that our tour arrangements were solid and safe.  Watching the kids swim in the hotel’s outdoor pool (in February!).  Touring Delhi, including Jama Masjid (India’s largest mosque, commissioned by the same Mughal emperor – Shah Jahan – who commissioned the Taj Mahal), Humayan’s tomb, and Rajghat (A memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, this is a restful and beautiful tribute in the middle of this overwhelming city.  Our tour guide pointed out that there are memorials in the same park for Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, among others, but that very few visitors ever bother to walk past Gandhiji’s.  Neither did we.), and Qtub Minar (a Turkish/Persian heritage site amidst the sea of Mughal sites in and around Delhi).

Low points: It is very common in India (and elsewhere, I’m told) for tour guides to have side deals set up with restaurants and shops, and to bring you there whether or not they are worth seeing.  All of our guides did this to a certain extent, but the Delhi guy was the worst, and his “guidance” at the attractions we saw that day did little to make up for it.  I hope his kickbacks were worth it, because he got a much smaller tip than our guides in Agra and Jaipur.  Possibly we were all still jet-lagged, too, or affected by Delhi’s infamous smog and crowding (It’s important to note that I am describing Delhi as crowded in comparison with the rest of India, not in comparison to what Americans generally consider overpopulated.  Delhi=Disneyland during spring break if all the other attractions in California, including the ocean itself, are closed.), but I just didn’t enjoy Delhi nearly as much as the rest of the tour.

Mahatma Gandhi Memorial

Mahatma Gandhi Memorial

Leg 3: New Delhi to Agra

Highlights: Oh, there are so many!  Our Delhi tour guide was so meh that when we met the Agra guide (“Winnie, like Winnie the Pooh”), we almost laughed with relief.  He was personable and funny (He claimed to have been Oprah’s personal tour guide when she visited Agra.  I don’t think he meant that as a joke, but privately we found it very amusing.), and the very first place he took us was a rooftop restaurant with an incredible sunset view of the Taj Mahal.  It might just have been the view helping things along, but that might be the best cup of chai I have ever had.  Then we asked Winnie to drop us off at Pizza Hut for dinner, and he did.  (We ate local for every meal but 3: Pizza Hut in Agra, McDonald’s in Jaipur, and KFC in Kolkata.  A lot of travellers will tell you it’s lame to eat something you could get at home, but it’s fun to see how the menu changes to adapt to local tastes and customs.  Don’t knock the Chicken Maharajah Mac until you’ve tried it, is all I’m saying.)

In and around Agra, there are several more incredible examples of Mughal architecture, like Agra Fort and Akbar the Great’s* tomb, all leading up, of course, to the Taj Mahal itself.  As you visit each one, you marvel at the symmetry and the beautiful gardens and the opulence that these emperors saw fit to lavish on their wives and later their tombs.  And then you arrive at the Taj Mahal and think, “Never mind, all those other guys were just pretending to be great.  Winner: Shah Jahan.”  He probably didn’t think so, what with losing his wife and then being thrown into a cell by his son (Aurangzeb), but hopefully he knows that history has vindicated him.  Two Taj facts, among the many thrown at us: 1) Shah Jahan was such a huge fan of symmetry that the Taj as it exists today is actually not his complete vision.  There should have been a matching compound of black marble across the river.  His son felt that this was not the best use of the government’s money and … well, like I said, that didn’t end happily.  2) Despite the incredible focus on symmetry, the one thing that isn’t perfect in that respect at the Taj Mahal is Shah Jahan’s tomb.  Supposedly, this is because he intended to be buried in the black structure across the river, and instead Aurangzeb just had another tomb added to his mother’s burial place.  This never really made sense to me, though, because neither of the viewable tombs are the real burial places anyway – those are below the cenotaphs the public can see – so why not adjust the architecture above ground?  Unless, of course, it was Aurangzeb’s final flipping off of his father…

I could go on about Agra for several more paragraphs, but I will stop with one last story.  Winnie took us to a buffet restaurant for lunch (his turn for a kickback), where we met a Parisian family of Moroccan dissent who were on their own tour through the Golden Triangle (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur).  I got to try out my French, they got to try out their English, and we had a good laugh about the convoluted nature of our heredity (American/Bengali family attempts to converse with French/Moroccan family – news at 11).  This is what I love about travelling – you can be in a completely new place with total strangers, and suddenly feel like you’ve met a long-lost friend.

Low points: I had hoped by this point in the trip Ben would’ve been over his aversion to the malaria prevention meds.  No such luck.  We continued to battle with him every day, finally giving up 3 days after we returned to Minnesota (You are supposed to take them through your trip and for a week after your return.  I took my chances.)

Cold drinks with the Best Backdrop EVER

Cold drinks with the Best Backdrop EVER

Leg 4: Agra to Jaipur

Highlights: On the way to Jaipur, we stopped at Fatehpur Sikri, a compound built by Akbar the Great for his aforementioned 3 wives*.  We didn’t have much time there, but our guide was wonderful.  Apparently, Akbar liked the Hindu wife best, as her palace was the largest, but according to our (Muslim) guide, it was only because she gave him a son.

We made one other unscheduled stop on the way to Jaipur.  Our driver, Davinder, tried his own hand at playing tour guide and took us to the village of Abhaneri to see the well and the remains of the temple.  We weren’t thrilled at the detour (not because it’s not worth seeing, but because yet another guide was there expecting yet another tip – this time for something we never intended to see), but Davinder had taken such good care of us at every turn that it was hard to begrudge him the attempt.  He bought little treats for the kids, cheerfully picked us up and dropped us off at not just our whims but the whims of all the different guides we had along the way, and stuck right by our sides anytime we had to go somewhere without a guide, just to make sure we were OK.  When we had to say goodbye to him, Riya cried and Karina gave him Rainbow Loom bracelets to give his kids.

In Jaipur, we met our last official guide, Hare.  I wasn’t sure about Hare, until, while explaining some architectural features at Amber Fort intended to preserve ladies’ modesty while still allowing them to gaze adoringly at the Maharajah as he arrived, he slyly asked if I ever tossed rose petals at Robin when he arrived home from work.  When we laughed at that, he seemed to relax, and spent the rest of the tour keeping us on our toes with little jokes about the lives of those kings and queens gone by.

Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan, an Indian state that was new to me on this trip (I had been to Delhi and Agra with Robin before).  It’s very different, having been ruled by the Rajputs rather than directly by the Mughals.  It was clear from Hare’s stories and demeanor as he showed us the palace at Amber Fort and pointed out the royal family’s residences still being used that even though they don’t have any official political power any more, they are still very influential in the area.

The city is beautiful, surrounded by hills and built largely out of pink sandstone.  We got a tremendous view of it as we rode up to Amber Fort on elephants (!!!), which I think was the kids’ very very very best favorite moment of the whole trip.  It’s also in the middle of a desert, so February was a good time to go.

Near the City Palace is Jantar Mantar, a collection of astronomical instruments that are astounding in their accuracy.  The kids were ready to be done with the historical touristy stuff by the time we got there, but if I ever get a chance in my lifetime to go back, Jantar Mantar is a place where I think I could spend fascinated hours watching the way the sundials work.

Low points: Honestly, none, really.  I would go back to Rajasthan in a heartbeat.

View of the Amber Palace gardens and valley as seen FROM AN ELEPHANT

View of the Amber Palace gardens and valley as seen FROM AN ELEPHANT

Riya, Julie, and Karina ON AN ELEPHANT

Riya, Julie, and Karina ON AN ELEPHANT

Grandpa, Daddy, and Ben ON AN ELEPHANT

Grandpa, Daddy, and Ben ON AN ELEPHANT

After Jaipur, Davinder drove us back to Delhi so that we could catch a train to Kolkata, which will be Part 3, so stay tuned…

*Awkward – I had written something about Akbar and his wives, took it out, but missed where I got all fancy with my “aforementioned.”  Rather than rewrite AGAIN, here’s the deal with Akbar – he had a Muslim wife, a Hindu wife, and a Christian wife.  He built them all their own palaces, but he also seems to have desired harmony – he tried to create his own fusion religion.  When he commissioned his palaces and tombs, he had them covered with important symbols from all three traditions.

Posted in Apple, Grape, Jellyman, Orange, Parenting, Raisin, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

So, we went to India: Part 1

So, we went to India.  We took our kids to India, and so far I haven’t been able to decide if my official position on this is more, “Oh, world travel, pssssh!  No big deal; I’ll hop on another plane tomorrow, y’all!” or, “I should consider a psych evaluation, because I just dreamed that I flew halfway around the world with three kids under the age of 10, and when I woke up two weeks had passed.” Wait, I do know: it’s THE SECOND ONE, OMG.

The day before we left, Robin and I were eating our lunch together at work (Right.  Dammit.  It’s been so long since I posted anything to this blog.  Um, we work together now.), and he started listing all the things he was worried about.  “What if our flight to Amsterdam is delayed and we miss the connection to Delhi?  What if we get to Delhi and the tour guide isn’t there to meet us?  What if the whole tour arrangement is a scam and we have nowhere to stay in Delhi at all?”

“No, no, no,” I said.  “Don’t start telling me all the things YOU are worried about!  I have my own list!”

“Go ahead,” he replied, “maybe we’ll both feel better.”

“What if Riya and Ben get so excited that they forget they have to stay close to us and get lost in an airport or train station?  What if Karina is so overwhelmed that she will never ever let go of my hand and I can’t hold her and my suitcase and keep up with you and you don’t see us lagging behind and I can’t find you again?  What if they don’t like any of the food and they are really rude about it and we offend your family?”

When we got to “What if the US government shuts down because of the debt ceiling deadline and we can’t re-enter the country?” and “What if nobody likes the gifts we bring back?” we realized we had probably covered the basics, and we called it quits.

Through a combination of prayer*, obsessive planning, more prayer, more planning, and a lot of amazing people who helped us out, none of our fears materialized.  I therefore feel qualified to offer the following advice** to anyone else travelling internationally with kids, because I am obviously now an expert.

  1. Know yourself, your partner, and your kids.  Travel is a weird combination of planning ahead (getting the passports/visas/plane tickets) and going with the flow (your driver decides he’s a better tour guide than the tour guide and makes an unexpected stop along the way), and it’s good to think in advance about how you will all deal with that.  I don’t necessarily recommend our worry game because a) it’s crazy, b) even we couldn’t cover everything that happened, and c) even if we could, what fun would a trip be if nothing unexpected happened?  I do recommend some kind of exercise where you visualize possible scenarios, however. 
  2. When in doubt, pack it.  Probably, wherever you are going, you will be able to find at least a facsimile of whatever you are missing, but it is not easy to run to the store if you don’t know where the store is, you don’t speak the language, and your kids are exhausted.  Research where you are going and what you’re likely to need, of course, so that you don’t end up with a suitcase full of sunscreen during the rainy season, but just – don’t be that person who thinks they can bypass a line or two by squeezing everything into their carry-on.  Unless you are on The Amazing Race, you shouldn’t be in that much of a hurry.
  3. Watch The Amazing Race.  Seriously.  Not only is it an awesome show, but the teams’ experiences can be a wonderful crash course in what to do and what not to do while traveling abroad.  (Do: learn what you can of the language before you go.  Even saying “thank you” in a cab driver’s native tongue can go a long way toward getting better service.  Don’t: Shout in English when things don’t go your way.  Loud English≠German, or Hindi, or Swahili.)  Also, it’s usually pretty kid-friendly, and it might give you a chance to talk to your kids about what to expect.
  4. Talk to your kids about what to expect.  You know your kids better than anybody else, so if too much talk is just going to give them more to worry about, then so be it.  But in my family, at least, the more we talked about the trip, the better they felt.  In India, for example, one thing I wanted them to be prepared for was the beggars.  In Minneapolis, we run across the occasional pan-handler, but not generally a group of children who will follow an obviously (relatively) wealthy family across the whole train station.  So, we talked to our kids about what our response should be.  We talked about the sad reality that we couldn’t help all of those children, and that many of them likely wouldn’t be allowed to keep any money we gave them, since frequently they have to turn it over to a kind of “boss.”  We talked about our family’s contributions to organizations like Feed My Starving Children and Kiva, and how we hope giving money there will help keep those kids more than 10 Rupees from a random stranger.  If you haven’t been to your destination before, either, research with your kids so that you all have some idea what you are getting into.
  5. Take some smaller trips first.  Go to Canada, or just to Kansas, or even just downtown to try a new restaurant.  Let your kids see what it’s like to handle different money, or to fly on a plane, or ride a train, or eat different food – anything that they can try on a smaller scale first can only help later.
  6. Try to relax, slow down, and see things through their eyes.  This was the hardest thing for me, and for Robin.  But we kept reminding ourselves that no matter how worried we were about making it to the next stop on time, or keeping everyone together, the real point was that WE WERE IN INDIA.  It could very well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Don’t miss a moment.

*I’m not sure quite how to explain this, but this trip changed my view of prayer in a major way.  It might be a blog post all on its own, if I can figure out how to put it into words, because it was so profound to me the way that God took care of us throughout the entire experience.

**Also, this trip was so huge that I don’t even really know where to start writing about it, so this gives me a chance to ease into it a little.

Posted in Apple, Grape, Jellyman, Orange, Parenting, Raisin | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Repeated Dialogue

Me: Hey, God?

God: Yes?

Me: You know how change kind of freaks me out?

God: No, really?

Me: Yes, I’ve told you- !  Oh, you’re teasing.  Anywho, I’m worried about these changes coming up.

God: I have always taken care of you before.  Why do you think this will be different?

Me: Well, um, see…  Sometimes the way you take care of it…  It’s like when the kids empty the dishwasher and they stack bowls on top of coffee cups and the dessert forks are all mixed in with the dinner forks.  You know, it all gets done, but it’s so… messy and precarious.

[pregnant pause]

Me: So, if you could clue me in, just a little, on what’s going to happen, that’d be really great.

God: Yeah, that’s totally the way that works.

Me: The sarcasm is hardly necessary.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Being My Mom

I think I am turning into my mom, which is pretty awesome.

A few Decembers ago, my family and my brother’s family were all gathering at my mom and dad’s for a Christmas celebration, and my mom got some kind of horrible flu-ish plague.  Did she cancel?  Ohhhh, no.  She kept her distance from us and the food to protect us all from infection, but the show went on.

Today I am home from work with a much-less-severe sore throat and cough situation, and before he left today Robin said, “Just rest today. No work.”

I am sure he meant, “except for changing the water in the fishtank; wiping down the counters in the bathroom; and washing, drying, and folding a couple quick loads of laundry.”

In my defense, I did all that in between drinking juice, watching Scrubs (“Ketchup is for winners, Ted!”), and eating an undisclosable amount of brownies.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

For a few weeks now, I have been struggling with a way to get back into writing, and I even made it so far to start this heartfelt post about how having kids this age is like living with three of your best friends – kind of like college, only now you live with your boyfriend, too, which would be pretty weird if you lived in a dorm with your friends, and even though you sometimes squabble about who left which mess where, you also laugh, like a lot, because you have enough in common to really get each other, but you are different enough that sometimes they can totally surprise you.

It was going to be lovely, but I couldn’t quite finish it because it had this vibe like I wasn’t really parenting anymore, just hanging out and having a constantly good time, and I hadn’t figured out how to correct that tone without just saying, “It’s not like that.”

I worked on it this morning for a while before the kids woke up and started getting ready for school, at which point we discovered that despite the fact that I do a load of laundry several times a week, and despite my near-constant harping about making sure all your dirty clothes are down the laundry chute, one of my children had zero (0) pairs of clean underwear this morning.

Nearest store open before 8am: 15 minutes away, and I had yet to dry my hair or get dressed. Nearest laundry room where this child got to get much more involved in the clothes-cleaning process: downstairs.

At least my writer’s block problem is temporarily solved.

Posted on by Grape | 1 Comment

My entire parenting reputation pretty much rests on this one moment

A couple of months ago, Ben was very excited to find a book he’d heard and enjoyed at school during a family trip to the local library.  Somehow, none of us noticed he’d checked out the Spanish-language version until we got it home, and Great Disappointment ensued (trust me, nobody wants to hear me attempt to read it in Spanish).

On our next trip to the library, we looked again, but couldn’t find it, so we put in a request for it (in English!).  The library robot voice called us to say it was in, but we got busy, and by the time we went to pick it up, our hold had been released.  Great Disappointment #2.

My mom took the kids to the library last week.  Lo and behold, the book was there – as a read-to-me CD packet, no less (Ben can read, but still likes being read to.  The same book, many many many times.  Genius, whoever came up with these CDs.  Complete genius.).  Great Excitement … until they tried to check it out and the computer said it was “The Three Bears.”  My mom took it to the librarian, who said that it couldn’t be checked out because it’d been returned in the wrong case.  Great – nay, Almost Insurmountable Disappointment.  [ARE YOU KIDDING ME, PEOPLE WHO CHECKED THIS OUT BEFORE US?  YOU ARE RUINING THE LIBRARY FOR EVERYBODY WITH YOUR CARELESS WAYS!]

The robovoice just called to say that my mom’s attempt to reserve it for Ben was successful, and that I can go pick it up.  If we fail this time, you can bet this is going on Ben’s blog – just as soon as he has one – as a prime example of everything that was wrong with his childhood.

Posted in Apple, Parenting, Parenting Fail | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment