Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy Birthday James

A View from Our Window

Is It a Van? Is It a Car? Or is It a Can? All We Know is that It's Ours. Yeah!

My New Best Friend

Two blogs ago we wished Ani a happy birthday, now it’s James’ turn...even though it was almost 2 weeks ago.  Oops.  We did celebrate with him that week, no worries there.  So let’s talk about our newest four year old for a bit and show off some photos.  James goes to school Monday through Friday from 8:30-12:30.  It has been a bit of adjustment for both of us, but it is moving in a positive direction.  He has two buddies at school, Joel and Samuel.  Joel is from Ireland and Samuel is from England.  He has also met his match from the opposite sex.  Her name is Hannah.  She is from New Zealand and they both have gotten in a wee bit of trouble this week together.   Anyway, he and I started a routine last fall (in the States) prepping dinner in the afternoon while the girls were either napping or at school and I am so glad to say that he is still my sou chef.  Yesterday we made refried beans and tortillas.  As we went to roll out the tortillas, I realized I haven’t bought a rolling pin yet, and our glasses are not round but square, so we used our Play-Doh rolling pin.  He thought that was great fun.

I would like to spend a moment telling you about my new best friend, the pressure cooker.  Now, I think anybody who has a stove and eats any sort of beans, pasta or potato or has ever had tough meat, should own one.  So, basically that means all of you should own one.  Everyone here does.  Gas is quite the commodity and when it runs out it can be a bit of a pain to refill (we don’t have a gas line coming into the house, we have a big ol’ gas tank sitting right by the stove) and because we are at 6,500 ft., it takes longer for water to boil.  So, the pressure cooker enables lots of cooking to be done w/ little gas.  Back in the States, or even here, if I were to cook dried beans, I would have to boil those suckers for at least and hour - but two days ago I made a big pot of butter beans for a Minestrone soup and it took literally 8 minutes!  I about made a belated Valentine card for my new best friend.  

Today, I am having an “I miss home” day.  I’m not quite sure why.  We had a good day, filled with book club in the morning, a play date in the afternoon (that included swimming!), and pizza for dinner.  It should really be a home run sort of day - but alas I am wishing to be home.  I have asked a few fellow ex-pats, that have lived here for a while, if this place ever feels like home.  The answer seems to vary - which I find comfort in.  Please do not sound the U.S. embassy to come and rescue me, I really am fine.  I actually would be more worried if I did not have these days.  

Jayson heads out tomorrow (Thursday) for the Freedom Firm retreat.  The kids and I will head out Friday after school.  The retreat center is in the middle of tea fields in a nearby, larger town called Conoor.  I have never been in the middle of tea fields... have you?  There are actually tea fields a-ga-ga here - making for a truly beautiful landscape.  They’re almost maze-like.  I am hoping for a Sound of Music moment this weekend with my kids while running through the tea fields.  I will let you know how that works out for us.  

Thanks to everyone who gave me insight into baking/cooking in higher elevation.  If any of you have a best friend named “pressure cooker” please let me know. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Got Calcium?

Isn't Jovie Just So Great?!?!

Where in the World is Kashmir?

In Tropical Bali or Let’s Say the Sahara Desert

Do you know that there is no calcium in milk in this part of India?  Isn’t that the strangest thing you’ve ever heard?  I don’t have hard facts on this, but everybody here says so.  I guess the soil here is so depleted that the food the cows eat does not give (you already can guess that there are very few part in my brain that work in the scientific capacity) the milk they produce any calcium.  The fact of the matter is that on every block here you see a cow eating out of a dumpster, leads me to believe that the nutrient deficiency just may be true.  I also don’t know a lot about the calcium content in the milk back in the states...  is the milk fortified in the states?  i never in my life have thought about milk so much.   moving right along.

Another week has almost passed here.  Ani had her first swimming lesson at school.  Hebron has an outdoor pool that is not heated, except by the sun.  In tropical Bali or let’s say the Sahara Desert (the desert would be lacking a bit of water, so I guess there would be no pool), anyway, in those places outdoor pools are fantastic.  But the temperature still dips below 50 degrees here at night and really only makes it to the mid-70’s during the day.  So we can all guess it’s a bit chilly.  She had swimming around 3 in the afternoon and when she came home at 4:15, her lips were still blue...  Part of me thinks it’s child endangerment, part of me thinks it’s fantastic.

I need you all to know that we have a stove.  To make a long story short, when our stove arrived 2 weeks ago, it was dropped on one of the corners - lovely.  So we had to wait a few weeks to get the part, blah, blah, blah.  Well, yesterday a man arrived on a motorcycle with literally half of the new stove on the back.  He came at 1:30 p.m. and left right before 7:00.  He was working hard the whole time.  I am not quite convinced that the “fixed” oven part actually works yet, but we are getting there.  

So far I have written about milk, swimming and stoves.  Are you wondering if there will be any substance in this blog entry?  Let me dig a little deeper.  On Wednesday, I went to a mom’s book study group.  Out of the seven women, there were five countries represented - Germany, Finland, Ireland, USA & India.  Isn’t that fantastic?  I have really loved connecting w/ all these moms.  There are lots of ages of kids, different backgrounds, and spiritual upbringing represented - which makes for really rich conversation.  

Jovie, she is a bit under the radar these days, but she really is fantastic.  We are going to add some pictures of her in this entry.  She is just over 6 months now.  She has started eating solids and can pound it like her brother.  I need to buy a food processor so she can have things beside oatmeal and bananas (she’s a bit stopped up over the excessive bananas).  I am going to the market tomorrow and I will be piling up the apples.  Okay, funny story about the market and apples.  So, I was at the apple guy last week, and I asked him where the apples are from.  He said Kashmir.  And then I said, why can’t they grow apples in India?  He looked at me with a mix of puzzle and are-you-joking in his eyes and said, Kashmir is in India...   I was never one for geography...

Jayson is preparing this week for next week’s Freedom Firm retreat.  He’s in charge of seeing that it all happens smoothly.  It’s great to dive in here.  I am glad the retreat falls so shortly after we arrived so that we can meet all the staff (half of the staff is in the operational office near Mumbai) and really get a pulse on what is happening.  

I will leave you with this.  Since you all had so many insights related to my cooking woes two weeks ago, if you know anything about baking above 6,000 ft., tell me your secrets. 

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pictures of Ani at Her Birthday

Ani and James on their first day of school.

Ani in her Indian dress...very proud.

Ani climbing a (very large) tree at the Botanical Garden

Great Cheers are Heard From the Palms

First things first, Happy Birthday Ani!  Jayson and I decorated her room last night and served her breakfast in bed with the presents as dessert.  All before 7:45 a.m.  (They need to be out the door by 8:10 to get to school on time.)  She then had a good day at school but mentioned that they didn’t talk about her birthday enough.  She did say that she got a present and they sang happy birthday to her.  She is 6 now, I am 31, and secretly I want the world to revolve around me on my birthday, so I can’t say that I blame her.  We then went out to the house of some friends from Freedom Firm for dinner and she got to ride their horses.  It even reared up and she stayed on! What a perfect birthday gift.

In other news.  We have found our car.  Great cheers are heard from the Palms.  Its called an Omni.  It's the closest thing to a mini van and is quite common here.  Very practical and affordable - two great words when it comes to transportation.  The man who sold it to us is Mr. Bunshaw.  In Ooty, there are no car lots or Craig’s List for used cars, so Mr. Bunshaw is in the field of helping people find cars.  He brought a few vehicles to us in the past 3 weeks, Jayson kicked the tires, gave it a test drive, and here we are...proud owners of a box with wheels.  Mind you that we drive on the left, steering wheel is on the right, it starts w/ a choke, and it's a stick shift.  Yikes!  I have yet to learn how to drive it, and I am sure that I will be sharing that with you when the time comes.

My mom left yesterday.  I was a bit overwhelmed the day we said goodbye.  My mom was busy buzzing around town, like she owns it, buying last minute things for our house.  It was great to have her here for two weeks, for so many reasons, and I am grateful for her.  I am not sure that the reality that we won’t see anyone from home for months now has sunk in.  That’s probably good, it will hit me soon enough.

I had some great feedback from my last entry about cooking.  I appreciate all the suggestions.  Thank you Aunt Julie for you Chicken and Dumpling recipe.  I can’t wait to try it.  I do have good news.  I made a beef stew two nights ago and it was great.  So,  2 nights out of, umm, 3 1/2 weeks isn’t bad :)  Okay, yes it is... but it can’t go anywhere but up.

We went out to Smyrna, the house where Freedom Firm’s aftercare girls spend their days during the week.  They have Hindi classes in the mornings (they usually do not know how to read/write) and often work on the their crafts (which they sell for profit) in the afternoons.  We went out and had lunch with them.  The moment we stepped in, they swept Jovie away and I didn’t see her until we left.  They would have done the same w/ Syd and James, but they’re a bit more vocal about being swept away.   Mala, the Aftercare Director, said it’s very special for the girls to have little ones around.  The girls do not have families anymore, so it makes them feel more “human” when kids are in the room.  

I am grateful for the comments that you all have been leaving in the blog.  I love and read every one of them.  I will be better about responding to them once we have email at home.  Maybe tomorrow the modem will’s to hoping.

Grace and Peace,


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sydney, Ani, and James at the Botanical Garden

Can I Have Some?

Little Miss Gardener

It's the Bulls I Don't Like

Well, the time has come folks, for a very momentous occasion for me and a few other family members... the first intestinal issues. I know it may not be proper of me to share this with you all, but a number of you asked if belly ick (or “Dehli Belly,” as my father calls it) was going to be an issue. But two nights ago and than on and off for the the last two days, its been an issue. Let me say this, that we are being quite cautionary in our eating habits to avoid the ick – brushing teeth w/ bottled water (for at least 6 months), only drinking bottled water, eating at restaurants that have been ok'd by other ex patriots, making sure our meat is very well done- but that greenish looking curry that I ate the other day, I think that did it...moving right along.

The kids started school today. They were very excited; I was curious to see what their day was going to be like. Well, the verdict is in. They both had a fabulous time. James was dirty from head to toe (which is one of his love languages) and cried when we had to leave. Ani announced that everybody at school loves her and couldn't wait to talk to her (don't we all wish for her level of confidence). I do thank everybody that prayed for them. I was sure James would love it, but Ani is a bit of a nervous girt and unsure of herself at times, but she obviously did famously. (If you are interested in checking out the school it is called Hebron School in Ootacamund, India.)

So far, my mom has taught the aftercare girls manicures (Wednesday) and pedicures (Thursday). My mom heard today that after her three hour training session, the girls stayed up until 10:30 last night practicing on each fun. Again, the hope is that they will be able to use these skills for building confidence and for future income. Mom teaches once more tomorrow and then on Saturday is the guest speaker to a community-wide event focused on how to keep hair, nail and skin healthy. Way to go, mom!

I want to talk to you about a very perplexing subject right now that I can't quite figure out why it is not cooking. I will say this upfront - I love cooking, but I have a lot to learn. I love cooking from scratch, love trying new recipes, don't mind going to the market daily if need be. So I thought the transition to cooking in India would be quite smooth. But again, last night, total flop. Everything I cook turns to, umm, total yuck. Last night I cooked chicken and dumplings. I was so looking forward to it. Our friend at church, Laurie Creek, made us chicken and dumplings when we had Jovie and it was sooo good. I had that thought/taste in my head all day and when I bit into the first dumpling, instead of tears of joy, I had tears of sadness. So, if you have any thoughts, please let me know. I am a bit discouraged about the whole thing.

Today we had six horses in our yard – that's a new reality for us. If we are diligent to shutting our gate (which is much easier said than done, believe me), the animals stay out. Actually, I can handle the's the bulls I don't like. As far as bulls go, I guess these are friendly. But I can't help but think about the childhood stories that my mom and dad told me about them (both) being chased by a bull. And I think, maybe its a family thing...but I don't want to find out.

I am feeling a bit more emotionally healthy these days, although I know I still have a lot to process. I know I need to walk through more grieving of the loss of family, friends and the places that I loved. I still need to try to figure out how to carry the burden of how this move affects our family. There has been a bit of confidence and independence that has been momentarily lost, which I hope to find again.

There is more, but that is enough for now. Thanks for spending some time with us today.

Again, if you have seen our internet, stove or vehicle, let us know...

Peace to you.
Tarrah for the Palm family