Thursday, April 30, 2009

Takin' It Like a Champ

Our Bruiser of a Boy

Tomorrow is May.  May.  I can’t believe it.  May.  I rarely look at a calender these days.  And I looked at the calender to see when Mothers’ Day is and realized that today is the last day of April.  We do not have Hallmark and Target adds to remind us here of upcoming special days and holidays, so I now need to rely on the trusty calender.  A novel idea, I know.  

So, a bit of an update about our bruiser of a boy.  I took James in again on Saturday to have the Orthopedic look at the x-ray.  And he told me that it was not a contusion but a fracture.  Good to know.  Its called a green limb/tree/branch (can’t really remember the exact terminology) fracture.  Meaning the bone just bent a bit, and a fracture took place.  But it was not an official break.  So he has his arm immobilized in an ace-like bandage for two weeks.  After reading our last blog’s comments, I realized that there is a whole support network out there, that has let their kid go for multiple days with a fracture or break...  its always good to know that I am not alone.  

And then Monday night, Jayson and James were playing soccer and he cracked his head open on our concrete step.  I was going to get Ani from school and got a 911 call from Jayson, something about James... Head... Bleeding... Hospital.  I took that cue to head home.  

I stayed home with the girls, while Jayson did the hospital run.  While they were waiting, Bec and Glen stopped by the hospital to make sure all was going well in the midst of our first potential stitches.  When they were about to stitch up James, the doctors told Jayson that he couldn’t go in with James.  Jayson was a bit shocked at that proposal and literally said to the nurse, “Oh yes I am”.  Bec stepped in and asked if she could instead... (Thanks Bec and Glen for bringing Ani to the hospital on Glen’s motorcycle, a first for Ani; bringing the boys treats; going in with James and then picking up his medicine.)  James agreed and away they went.  He got a “punch” (shot) in his arm and got two “sutures” (stitches) right above his left eyebrow.  When he came home, he looked like a wounded soldier.  Arm in a sling, bandage over his eye, still in his blood-stained shirt.  In spite of all the craziness, it will be a great memory with a scar to prove it.  And plus, girls dig boys with scars.

I am thankful that our first two medical crises are over.  I am honestly glad that they were not “India” related, meaning a huge water-born ick or a crazy cow biting off one of my kids’ arms.  But the reality is that it happened here.  So, it just plain and simple was a bit more stressful than it probably would have felt if we were back in the States.  Things run differently here.  Pros and Cons.  I feel like I have learned a lot in the process.  I am grateful for our friends who gave us insight into what to do, grateful for all the doctors that we have seen and grateful that James has the pain tolerance of my Grandpa Saufferer.  

That’s it for this time around - our week did consist of other Freedom Firm happenings, personal thoughts and family activities, but this one took the cake.  (Speaking of, I did make a really yummy coffee cake today.)  

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Beginning of an Eventful Weekend

Two Pools, Both Fun in Their Own Way

The Little Engine that Could

The End of a Great Weekend

The Green that Screams Too Much Algae

I am going to attempt to write this blog lying down on my back. This requires me to not look at the keyboard at all. I have this memory of typing class in the 10th grade, having a typing quiz with my eyes closed. It requires a high amount of concentration right now. I do think this is good for my brain though - almost like a brain exercise. Like how people say that as you get on in years you should do crossword puzzles. My grandma can pull out some serious vocabulary with crossword puzzles, she's a brainiac. I am on a bit of rabbit trail... let's get back to point. The reason I am lying down is because I whacked out my back yesterday morning. If I were in the States, I would cruise on over to my chiropractor to help out the healing. They do have chiropractors here, but do you know what they call them? Bone Setters. Can you imagine? Now, I am a big fan of trying/experiencing something first before having an opinion. But come on, the name alone makes me want to steer clear of such activities which include my spinal cord. So, all that to say, I am healing the old fashioned way... lying down.

I would like to visit the topic of last week - Thursday, Friday and Saturday to be exact. Let's start with Thursday. We headed down the mountain to visit our friends, the Malsteads. They are one of the couples that started Freedom Firm. They were spending their mid-term break at a friend's house. Anyway, we were to spend the day there and then the next day drive to Jungle Retreat. We got there - it was hot, hot, hot. We were looking forward to a nice refreshing swim in the pool, and then we looked at the pool – it was seriously green. Not the green that screams to much chlorine, but the green that screams too much algae. This pool did not have any sort of filtration system, so Greg and Mala just freshened it up a bit by running the hose into it every day and cleaning it out with a badminton racket. The kids didn’t care and I just pretended I was swimming in a lake during mayfly and pollen season.

A few hours later, James fell really bad on his arm. So bad, that I was wondering if we should drive back up to Ooty to get an x-ray. But by the time we would have gotten back up there, the diagnostics clinic would have been closed. So, we made a sling out of Jovie’s blanket and put him to bed. The next morning, he was doing somewhat better - nursing it quite a bit, but carrying on like normal. We also found out the next morning that an elephant had been on the porch of the house. (More their trunks, not so much their whole body.) Can you believe it – an elephant!? We saw the tracks and everything. Ani also lost her first tooth that morning. (It was an eventful 24 hours...) Mala gave it good twist and a yank and out it fell - congratulations Ani.

We packed up Friday morning and drove on to Jungle Retreat. We got checked in, were warned about the 4 types of poisonous snakes on the premises and were asked to stay on the trails for safety. We did a bit of swimming in their gorgeous pool, ate some yummy food, had a shower with really great water pressure and got a very nice sleep. The people that were staying next to us were from England, but live in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia. They had two young boys, Spike and Jed. When I was tucking James into bed that night, he asked if he could go visit the boys in Bahrain. It's still hard to believe that right now we are raising our kids in a place where that question would even been raised and that James would even have “Bahrain” in his vocabulary.

We had a good morning of swimming on Saturday and checked out by noon. On our way home our “little engine that could” got a bit tired, overheated, and stalled three times on the way up the mountain - requiring twice for us to sit it out for 20-30 minutes. That made me feel really special toward our car/van/can. Jayson went to cool down the engine and he proceeded to tell me to get out of my seat. I then watched him pull out our seats to reveal the motor. I was awestruck. I did not know that I had been sitting on our engine all this time. He then said, “The front of our car is flat... Where did you think the engine was?” Smart Alec. I guess I never really thought about it. Anyway, we finally chugged home.

James’ arm was still really bugging him, so I decided to take him to get an x-ray. Nice little place. We got into the office and the technician had James jump on a wobbly stool and snap goes the x-ray. That was it. After a bit, the technician brought it out to us to say “by god, he has a broken arm”. Good grief. I am not getting mother of the year award. Two days with a broken arm... I called my friend Angie, trying to figure out what to do next and asking her if I am still able to be James’ mother. So, after talking me down from the ledge, she told me to go to the orthopedic. So, James and I were on our way, got to the office and the doorman said that he was on holiday. I called the doctor who gave us our rabies shots to figure out where to go next and when I told him that the orthopedic was not here, he said “oh no”. Not super comforting. So, he told me to go to the street that we were on, look left for the red cross hospital sign and go to that hospital. We got to the the little hospital and after reasonable deduction, went to the general surgeon. (The other choices were a psychiatrist and a OBGYN.) We waited a bit, saw the surgeon, and after many looks at the x-ray, he told us it was not broken but a contusion. A contusion? A contusion? I guess I haven’t heard that word since my days of watching Little House on the Prairie. He said it with such gusto, that my only option was to be fully on board with the diagnosis. James got rigged up with a sling, got some medications and went home. That was that. A bit anti-climatic, but I am okay with that.

In the midst of hurt arms and our little engine that could... it was really nice to get a way, spend time with friends, relax as a family and create memories. Thanks for hanging with that story of our weekend.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Easter from the Palm and a Special Greeting from Jovie

Celebrating Passover

Easter Guests

Sydney. Enough Said.

Decreasing the Local Rat Population

We were writing some cards this morning, and James asked if it was anybody’s birthday in the United States.  I said not that I know of, but it is Tax Day in the United States.  James replied, “Can we send them a birthday card?”  Happy Tax Day to everyone in the United States, from James Palm.

We had a great weekend.  Started off on Friday with a small Passover Seder.  Just with our family.  Some of you may be scratching your head about the whole Passover bit.  No, we are not Jewish.  A little bit of Italian/Swedish/German/French Canadian/Native American - but not Jewish.  We have been trying our hardest the last few years to incorporate some Jewish traditions into our year, being that Christianity came from Jewish roots.  So, as you can imagine, the ability to find something Kosher in S. India is a bit of a stretch, but we did our best.  It was actually very un-kosher, but it was meaningful and the kids had a great time.  Instead of Matzo, we had wheat crackers; instead of parsley, we had mint; and instead of wine, we had mango juice - of course.  

We then continued on to Easter on Sunday.  We had 30ish people over.  The lamb turned out great.  I also made 4 chickens...lamb is a bit pricey.  Anyway, everybody brought a dish to share.  I did run out of potatoes, which was kind of sad to me.  Running out of cheesy potatoes on Easter just doesn’t seem right.  I think I was the most upset about it,  running out of potatoes doesn’t seem to get people too riled up around here.  We had a big Easter egg hunt...70 eggs in all - which the dads kept on re-hiding so we could get dinner finished.  The climax of the day came right before we served dinner when Ani came screaming into the kitchen, “There’s a rat in our compost”!  Perfect.  Rats here are just a part of life, so it’s pretty normal.  But for the new girl on the scene, it was disturbing.  Oh, and the rat was as big as your arm up to your elbow... not including the tail.  Also perfect.  Everyone here says that cats are the way to decrease the local rat population, but I have been hesitant, since I am allergic to cats.  But after Sunday, I have decided that using Benadryl for the next season of my life is just going to have to be okay - so our next animal purchase will be at least one, if not two, cats.  Near the end of the afternoon the 15+ kids put on a pretty sweet show - including dance, song, jokes, advertisements (commercials), tricks and wrestling.  Most people that came were from different parts of the world, away from their native home, but we all pitched in and made it a special Easter.

A bit of insight into our marriage here.  About once a year, I get a speeding ticket. Jayson hasn’t gotten into any traffic issues since he was 16.  Every time I go to the dentist, I have a cavity.  Jayson has never gotten a cavity.  So, this week, when Jayson backed into 3 (parked) vehicles, 3 days in a row - I was secretly kind of excited.  I think the issue is that every time we go into reverse, the car/van/can has this music go off - and it drives us absolutely crazy.  Its a combination of the traditional beeping that a semi-truck would do when backing up and techno-Indian music.  Just another way our vehicle is top notch.  Two of the three times he made obvious damage and the people, graciously, waved it off and said no big deal.  Every time I get a speeding ticket, well you can guess, 100+ dollars later.  So, even though he had the driving mishaps, he still got off with a smile...  It’s progress though.

This weekend, we are going on a bit of an R&R to Jungle Retreat.  Do a Google search of it.  Jungle Retreat - India.  We are just going for one night - as a first time trip for us.  Seems do-able.  I am sure something ridiculous will happen, but hey, makes good material for the blog.  

Oh, I forgot to mention.  I bird flew into our house two days ago.  So funny.  Not really India related, because I have a faint memory of a bird flying into our house when I was growing up... but still funny none-the-less.  Jayson was home for lunch when it happened, so he was able to shoo it out.  

In about a half hour Jayson is hosting a “Guys Night” - they are playing the game Risk and eating boy food.  I’d better go get things ready for it...   

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Some Wake Up to Squirrels Outside Their Home...

Care Package Fun

A Good Trip to the Market

Mad Coconut Skills

I am trying to locate my exact mood right now so I know how to proceed with our weekly blog. Maybe if I talk it out, that will help.  First, I am feeling a bit dirty because I spent time in the market today, and whenever I do that I get waves of (ready for this?) dried blood smell all day long - gross.  Next, I am feeling light because the mid-term school break started today, so we have more flexibility in our schedule and I am looking forward to just hanging out as a family.  Also, I’m feeling curious to know whether I will be sad this weekend, as it’s the first holiday away from family and friends.  Last, I am feeling surprised by the fact that I have to marinate my Easter leg of lamb for three days...  yes, three...  it’s already in the refrigerator - until Sunday.  So, I guess I will write a little bit of this and little bit of that, because obviously I have several feelings roaming around.  Okay, I will not say the word feeling anymore, some of you may just be a bit nauseous over it (I know I am).

So, this week was the big parent’s week at Hebron.  Most parents of the boarding students come in from all over south Asia and visit their kids, as well as have teacher conferences, swimming competitions, variety shows, etc...  I must admit that I got a bit misty-eyed watching some of the reunions between child and parent.  Ani was in her first drama.  She is my oldest, so to me, she is not young - I mean she can change a diaper and make scrambled eggs - what more do you want?  But compared to all the other students, she was quite small.  She spoke clearly, loudly and with great enthusiasm (and got rousing approval and laughter from the audience).  We would love to put it up on YouTube but the right cord for the camera is still in the States... maybe after dad brings that in June.

Do you know that the first time I/we do anything here, it ends in either chaos or disaster?  It has gotten to the point that if I do not have enough gumption or adventurous spirit in me that day - I just refuse to do the one new thing.  At first it was funny, then it was discouraging, now its just reality.  But you know what, we are starting to do things two, three or four times.  I am getting better at some of our weekly chores.  Like I feel I can do just about anything in the market - I bought 60 eggs, a leg of lamb, 4 chickens, a load of produce and 30 coconut leaf plates today.  If you were to come with me, I think I would feel prideful about it, that’s how far I have come.  And going to the next town over, Coonoor, the first time, Ani nearly passed out because she was so motion sick, and we ate at the most expensive place in town, and then we just went home because we couldn’t handle it anymore. When we went back to Coonoor last Sunday, Ani sat in the front with a bottle of Sprite, we enjoyed  “Quality” restaurant for about three US dollars, we went antiquing (yes, with the kids) and finished the day with a birthday party.  So, I write this knowing that there are still many “firsts” ahead of us, but I know I can come rely on some confidence that I am gaining.

Speaking of firsts, I opened my first coconut this weekend.  I have gotten used to this certain look in some of the locals’ eyes when I either pretend to know what I am doing or ask a ridiculous question.  I have almost become endeared to it.  One of those endearing looks came last Saturday when I was curious about how to open a coconut.  There was a handyman over fixing a leak and I took out my big ole’ carving knife and tried to go at it, trying to crack the coconut open.  It didn’t budge.  So, I took it out to the handyman and asked him how to open the coconut...  he took it over to a stone step of ours, gave it a good whack and coconut milk came pouring out...  love it.  So today, I tried it, with the kids, attempting to wow them with my mad coconut skills, bringing it out to the same step, and giving it a whack... nothing.  So, I hung my head low, brought it in to Josephine, our house help - she took it outside, gave it a whack and out came the coconut milk --- maybe next time Tarrah.

Quick note, I need to give a shout out to the Bemidji State University Hockey Team.  For those of you who do not know, I grew up in Bemidji, MN.  My parents still live there, as well as friends and family.  Well, Bemidji is a smallerish town and its made it all the way to the “Frozen Four” in the NCAA Division 1 hockey tournament.  They even had to beat Notre Dame to get there... all in a days work.  

Hoping for a meaningful Passover and Easter with your family and friends,


Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Dosa, as Big as a Tire

Teaching the Kids How to Mow with the "Flymo"

Reha (Middle) at Her Graduation

Obi Can't Believe It's Not Mango Season Either!

100 Dosas to Go

I cannot believe another week has come and gone, kind of like those moving sidewalks in the week carries me along and holy cow (esp. in India) it’s almost Friday again.  This is what I have been thinking about this week...  ham.  Or maybe the lack of it.  Not in my every day, but as I think about hosting Easter next week - boy would I love to serve up a bit of Honey Baked Hallelujah.  Pork products are pretty hard to find around here.  If you are curious about that, do a Google search on Hinduism and Pork and you’ll find all you need to know.  Anyway, I did splurge and bought some imported bacon from Malaysia last week (I bet you didn’t know that Malaysia was a hot spot when it comes to pork products), and it did the trick, but it didn’t hold a candle to the bacon my Uncle Spin produces in southern MN... So, I am thinking lamb for Easter instead.  

Jayson here. In our last blog we mentioned to you the story about Reha, one of the rescued girls who graduated from Freedom Firm’s aftercare home in Ooty. Reha has one of the tragic stories of a 12-year-old girl sold into the sex trade after running away from home. For years her parents searched, but being a very poor family from a remote village, they didn’t have the resources to find her. Last week one of our social workers brought her home to visit her family - she had not communicated with them in any form for 10 years. They literally thought she was no longer alive! Amazingly, the day before Reha arrived back in her village, her mother had a dream that she had returned. So when Reha walked into her village, her mother knew she would be coming - which didn’t by any means hold back the waterfall of tears that the two exchanged the moment they saw one another. There was a remarkable party that began immediately when she arrived. 

Reha was not able to tell her family about what happened to her. For them to know would bring disgrace to the entire village. It’s a twisted and broken reality in the Indian culture. But the truly beautiful part of this story is how she was lost and now is found, not only in her family’s eyes but also in the eyes of God. 

I’m back.  Isn’t that a great story?  When my days are long and I am feeling a bit lonely for home, it’s great to come back to stories like this one - they revive me.  Other exciting news, Jayson and I are going on a date tomorrow!  I really thought when we moved here that we would have to wait until we’re back on visits to the States to go out on a date.  But we met a family from South Africa that have two older girls that can babysit for us.  So, Jayson and I are going to check out the 100 different kinds of Dosa’s (the outside looks like a really, really big Italian Cannoli, like as big as a tire) at Nahar’s Garden Restaurant.  I wonder how many of the 100 I will be able to try...  I’ll let you know.

A few last notes...  I was mistaken last week when I said it is Mango Season.  I asked for a mango smoothie last week when I was out and the waiter said that Mango’s were not in season. :0  (That’s what I looked liked when I found out.).  I thought of all of you and how I lied to you.  I am so sorry.  There is so much to learn.  The mangos are still good though...  Second, we had a great Freedom Firm get-together on Sunday.  Even in the midst of awkward conversation lulls, I was just so glad that everybody was together.  I made both Western and Indian food, or maybe I should say cuisine, it sounds better.  No, it was just food.  Anyway, I was kind of unexpectedly nervous about the whole deal... but people smiled while they were here, nobody got sick and when I saw everybody throughout the week, they didn’t ignore me :)  Lastly, thank you for giving into my whining about the zero comments on the Obi’s food...  I appreciated all the feedback, even if I did have to ask for it.  

100 Dosas to go...