Monday, September 07, 2009

Day 1 -- Delhi

On my first foray out of our room, I learned that not everyone speaks English and even if they do, the cultural divide means it can still be hard to communicate. We ended up with a delicious omelet for breakfast and the proprietor stopped by to help us plan our day. He hired a driver (who barely spoke English) and told him where to take us for the day. We had made no plans for the day so this was an added bonus to our B&B experience.

Soon we were off! Everywhere you looked a picture could be taken. Saris, rickshaws, food vendors, crammed buses and historical buildings whizzed by outside. When you weren't taking a photo, you could be videoing the insane driving habits of India. Motorcycles are very popular and the drivers are constantly seeking to sneak between two already impossibly close vehicles. Generally this is done with a woman in a sari perched side saddle style or a child tucked in between their legs. Four is the maximum I remember seeing, but wouldn't be too shocked if I ever saw more.

Keep Distance

We first visited Humayan's Tomb and discovered that the people willing to take you around for some rupees can be useful. Of course they don't spell that out when they start showing your around, but I wouldn't have had a clue what I was looking at or where to go otherwise and we knew what we were getting into. It was interesting and photo worthy, but forgettable.

Now, meeting this women was NOT forgettable. I was actually impressed I had the guts to ask her for a photo. She shyly looked at her husband to see if it was okay. Generally, this much henna is done for a bride so perhaps I ran into her just a few days after her life changing event.

Our next stop was a bicycle rickshaw ride through Chondi Chowk. Jonathan and I rode one and Jason and our driver were in the other. We got caught in a monsoon downpour, but I think that made the visit even more memorable. As the streets became narrower and more maze like, I gave up the camera and we just took video. You could take 12 photos for every step you took through the bazaar.

During the hardest downpour, we took a break and visited a Sikh temple. Those are the men you see with turbans on their heads that often get mistaken for Muslim. It was a tripped out building, lots of gold and strange moving electronic lights. Understandably, we couldn't take photos there or in the Hindu temples. I'm not sure they could illustrate the experience anyway. I believe they recite prayers or chants to meditate and become closer to God, but it was such a visible and audible assault that it was not a religion that spoke to me on any level. I agree with Sikhism more than many religions (not the strange cultural aspects, but just the theology.) Still an amazing experience!

We shopped at a spice shop and the drivers continued to take us to a couple of other shops, but I'm not really interested in too much shopping. I've bought plenty of souvenirs that are now stuffed in boxes in my attic. We bought spices mainly for the experience, but who knows, I might break out with a fabulous curry one day.

That ride ended up being Jonathan's favorite part of the entire trip. We tried to do it again on Thursday, but sadly they had closed the area down to prepare for the Independence Day celebrations, which take place at the Red Fort. I think we made one last stop that day at the India Gate. We bought some handmade toys from vendors and it was nice to see they tagged around after the locals just as much as us.

After that last stop, it was back through the crazy traffic, wandering cows and saris galore to Defense Colony where we had our driver drop us off at a restaurant. "Don't worry!", we said when he was concerned about us making back to the house. Well, he should have. We did wander there eventually. I'm sure we needed the walk to keep us awake for the remainder of the evening, but there were a lot of mixed emotions as we trudged by a surprising amount of trash.


I may actually make time to write up some of our Indian experiences. I'll post them on their proper dates back in August!

You'll have to excuse their imperfections -- if I try to get all my words and punctuation correct then the task will be lost in a quagmire.

Monday, August 31, 2009

First Day of High School

Can you imagine? Ziyi was nervous AND Jason and I were nervous! In China, she gets to school at 7:30 am, goes home for lunch and then comes back to school until 10 pm. The 50 kids in her class stay in the same room and same seat all day long. Switching classes in a school with 2,000 kids is like finding your way out of an Amazon rainforest. She also has to contend with a locker and lock for the first time in her life and those things never work when your nervous. They break classes into A and B days so she has four classes a day. Today will be German, Algebra, Astronomy and Anatomy.
The excitement continued after school. She didn't know how to get home from the school bus so I told her I would meet her there. The website said it arrived at 4:45, but at 4:30 I saw it cruising down the street! The stop is WAY down from our house so I ran pell-mell to catch it. It had already dropped off about 8 kids when I got there. None of them were Ziyi. Chaos ensued, but I eventually got a call that Ziyi didn't even make it on the bus -- whoops! I jumped in the car and found her with her new friend who immigrated from China three years ago. She was out there introducing Ziyi to the other Chinese people she knew who walked by. She already got this girl's info and was invited to the Chinese club that meets tomorrow! I guess it would be good to find friends outside this safe group, but I'm just happy she made a connection with somebody on her first day of school.
As for the classes, they stunk. Algebra was too easy, astronomy was just awful and the worst of all was Anatomy. She said she felt like an alien and just sat there not understanding anything the teacher said for an hour and a half. She is not on the science and maths track in high school so it is ridiculous for her to take those classes this year. I wish I would have stood up for her more, but as far as I could tell the counselor who was setting up her classes assumed all Chinese exchange students were interested in those two subjects. Tomorrow is the last day to change classes so we will be there bright and early to make some changes!

Ziyi (zoo-yee) is here!

From Monday to Thursday I ran around like a mad woman trying to get ready for Ziyi! I had to unpack and clean up from India, finish unpacking Jonathan from camp and get Lindsay moved out of her room and into what is now called The Girl's Room. It was chaotic!

We grabbed Jason from work and we got to the Austin airport with plenty of time to spare before her flight arrived.

Here she comes!

She got right down with Lyvia to check out the sign she holding. People who instinctively get down on a child's level just warm my heart. I took it as a good sign!
I was hoping she would be a calming influence on the family -- ha! The kids went BONKERS trying to show off. Lindsay could not control her talking and was just carrying on and on about pretty much anything that entered her mind and didn't really even take a breath and just keep going and going even though I pleaded that she please please stop. Really. Stop.

We got home and showed her around the house. She gasped and said how beautiful her room was when we opened the door. I'm so glad she liked it! For dinner, I had taco soup. The pressure of feeding a child whose home food is drastically different than anything in America that I am capable of preparing is a bit numbing. I know she just has to go with the flow, but who likes to feed people something they will hate? Right away she jumped in and helped get the bowls of food ready. It was obvious someones parents had given them an earful about helping out around the house.
After dinner Dylan desperately wanted Ziyi to watch him jump on the trampoline. As she headed out the back door, she said for me to call her if I needed help cleaning up. I'm in love. Dylan continued to accost her with requests to watch him blow bubbles about 1,000 times and she kindly obliged. When it was time for her to unpack, the kids lined up chairs in her doorway and watched. What a hoot. She is taking it all in stride so maybe we won't scare her off too quickly.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First Day of School

Jon was ready about 2 hours before school started, but I could barely get him to slow down for a picture on his way out to catch the bus. This is his last year of elementary school! Boo Hoo! Already they are out in portables so I'll never see him when I am up there working. What a reminder to enjoy each day since this picture of him on his first day of Kindergarten seems like yesterday.

Lindsay and Dylan get ready much slower and later so we get to enjoy them in the morning and the sun is actually up by they time they head to school!

This is Mr. Dylan's FIRST day of Kindergarten. While I am ready for Dylan to face the challenges of Kindergarten, he seems entirely too young to send off into the elementary world! Did I really send two other kids off at this age?
At least Kindergarten is that fabulous year when you can volunteer just about every week and spend time with some incredibly cute kids. I feel fortunate that I get to do it two more times!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day 1 early am -- Delhi

We arrived in Delhi at 3:30 am. I was a bit worried about the airport "experience" since Indira Gandhi International Airport was once considered one of the worst on the planet. It turns out that they now hire companies to run the airports and they do it quite well. We easily found our driver and he got us to our bed & breakfast quickly. On the way, we saw autorickshaws and people sleeping in strange places (like the median.)

Our bed and breakfast was located in Defense Colony, a "coveted" living area in Delhi. I'd been told the area was quite exclusive. Let's just say a paradigm shift took place during our first drive through. I forget Americans see the world through sterilized suburban glasses. We arrived at our "home", walked past the man sleeping on a cot outside and collapsed in our room until about 7 am. The string of men I saw sleeping outside in chairs and on cots lingered in my mind.

For good or bad, the neighborhood pictures don't truly capture the area. I think it is more important that the first shock I feel quickly wears off and my skin is comfortable in a less then sterile suburban surrounding.

Monday, August 10, 2009

India Bound

We picked Jonathan up at camp Saturday morning, listened to his wonderful tales on the drive home and then started washing and repacking for India! I'd really put off packing. Eventually I just run out of time and am forced to toss some items together and hope for the best.

Lucy got the little kids on Saturday and they happily left as they blew kisses all the way down our street. I think she was correct when she said it was easier to leave somebody than to be left. We headed to the airport on Sunday a little late and noticed when we came out of our frantic Barnes and Noble stop that we had a deflating tire! We scrambled back home again, switched cars and then dashed to the airport -- pretty typical Wallis travel.

We had a really good flight out and Jonathan slept in my lap for 7 hours (I'll save you from MY plane pains.) I had us fly through Dubai to Delhi since it seemed like an interesting place I may never visit on my own accord. Sadly it was dark outside, but the airport was interesting enough to make the route perfect. I loved seeing the men walking around in their flowing white Saudi Arabian outfits with their red and white checked scarves fluttering around them. Also interesting, but not as appealing, were the women dressed in all black. Many with their faces completely covered. It is spooky to see a woman be obliterated by a black cloth. I couldn't help but count my blessings.

We also saw a mosque area (of course separated for men and women) that was advertised as much as the restrooms on the airport signage. During our time there, we enjoyed the bookstore where sadly I forgot to write down the name of some Arab cartoon that came with a line of stuffed dolls including a creepy mean woman with a wart. Most everything else was something we could easily buy in America, but they did have these fabulous mugs in the gift store.

We also heard a call to prayer while we were there, drank a Pepsi that had tab and Arabic writing on the side and found a Dairy Queen for Jonathan to get some chicken and ice cream to eat. The Indian restaurant next to it was much more popular.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Letter from camp

Jonathan and I had the best time making notecards for him to use when writing notes to family while he was a camp. He was SOOO excited about those cards. Lindsay managed to get two notes mailed from her one week camp so I thought Jon would certainly be able to send four letters to various people while at camp for two weeks. So I waited...and waited. By day 12 I gave up, but just before we hop in the car to start the journey to get Jonathan, I check the mail and find the letter...torn into a puzzle.
It starts, "I am writing to you because I want a slurpee." Obviously, I must have promised him a slurpee if he wrote me. I'm brilliant.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Jonathan at Camp

Part of our tour of Texas included dropping Jonathan off at a two week camp on the Rio Frio. It was a blast! At his camp you drive through the river, which is all kinds of cool. The crazy staff run around greeting campers with chest bumps and a rear kicking (I promise, it is fun.)

Siblings can gorge themselves on cotton candy and snowcones, get their faces painted and decorate cookies. They also had burgers and grilled shrimp to eat.

First we set him up in his cabin (while Lindsay and Hailey hit the food stands.) Somehow the kids spend two weeks in their bunks with their trunks. They really can live with very little space (I tell myself.) Jon immediately pulled out every towel I sent for him to use over the next two weeks and made a fort.

Did I mention VERY little space?

I've watched the videos and if he doesn't think this is the best two weeks of his life, then I wouldn't know what to say. Of course he can't be bothered to send a letter to anyone so we have not heard from the horse's mouth how things are going, but there are some pictures online of him having fun.

I mainly spend my days hitting refresh on the picture gallery (they add pictures every day) and then cross my fingers that he is in some of them. Hopefully I'm missing him a ton more than he is missing us since I am SO ready to go get him on Saturday!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Back in the Fold

What a whirl wind weekend we had! On Friday I dropped the Littles off in Lampasas with Gi and drove three hours to pick up Lindsay in Conroe. Saturday, we took her BFF Hailey with us to San Antonio and then on to Laity Lodge to drop Jonathan off at camp on Sunday. We then got the Littles in Burnet and finally made it home.

As for camp, Lindsay did love it! Thankfully, she and Hailey were still connected at the hip when we picked them up and I couldn't bear to part them (she lives 3 hours away from us) so we will have another week with Hailey before the start of school.

Jonathan played the cool dude about not having his sister around, but they were like two happy puppies when they saw each other. I couldn't even get him to leave her alone long enough for a post camp picture, but that was just fine because I love this picture more.

Lindsay Camp Memories

Sleeping in the treehouse with no counselor and a thunderstorm coming through one night.

No hands dinner

Canoe swamping

The Bazooka Bubblegum song (look it up on YouTube once and it will be stuck in your head forever) and other camp songs.

Stop and Go dinner

New friend Gabriela

Sleeping in the top bunk

Getting lots of mail from family and friends

I think the self confidence, independence and problem solving skills learned at camp are priceless and the good ol' fashioned fun probably even wins over the most electronically attached kids.
Of course, I've already got next year's camp picked out for her!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lindsay at Camp

Bunk Sweet Bunk
Lindsay's first year of overnight camp...I'm only slightly freaking out. I would just LOVE to know what has gone on in her mind during her first resident camp. I enjoyed the drop-off and build-up to one last hug before we just walked away from the campers.

I'm not sure if the girls or moms were more excited about them getting to sleep in the treehouses!

I worked my tail off getting Lindsay ready for camp and don't you know, I didn't think to try on her tennis shoes before packing. Flip flops have been the shoe of choice since school let out. Fortunately we discovered they didn't fit before we even made it out of the car (three hours from home) and I happened to have an extra set of watershoes she could wear during the week.

We got to go to their cabin and help them set up their bunk and gear. I think we lasted a full 10 minutes before we were sweated out. It was so muggy and not a bit of wind was moving. How shocking to think that some kids go to camp in states without unbearable heat -- what lightweights.
Now I've got my fingers crossed that I'll actually get a letter from her. I certainly won't hold my breath since I'm pretty sure I would just pass out.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lyvia's First Bike

Lyvia is finally wheeling around town like everyone else in the family! Nothing pleases her more than being big like her siblings.

Dylan and Lyvia set up a little backyard reading camp one afternoon -- they had a tent, sleeping bags and books. Knowing the two of them, I'm sure food was involved at some point.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dylan likes "all the colors of the rainbow...even orange." This is a continuation of a conversation we had in Colorado over Christmas. Dylan said he didn't like orange. Lindsay said she did. It seems Dylan has been grappling with this ever since because he really wants to like the same things big sister Lindsay does.

It had been three months since that December conversation. I was tired of the typical Star Wars, Transformers, "I'm shooting that car" talk I get when we are driving around. I started asking Dylan random questions to get him off those interminable subjects.

When I asked him what his favorite color was he said, "all the colors of the rainbow...even orange." However, he may be growing into his own person a little more because after a pause he said, "No. I really don't like orange."


We are rocking on in preschool land! I've got kids going every day but Monday. I went ahead and started Lyvia at a second preschool so she can start learning Mandarin. I thought that if I started her in January, she would be talking by next August. She had been mighty slow to warm up to her current preschool teachers.

Turns out, she LOVES this preschool and listening to her sing in Chinese makes all the running around worth the trouble. She is only attending the Chinese portion this year, but when school starts back up in August, she will be here "full-time", which is only four hours a day four days a week.

Dylan is doing pretty well in preschool, but I've been attending that preschool for what feels like forever and it is losing a bit of its luster. Please tell me why they have the kids watch television for recess when it is raining outside??? Couldn't they at least play with the toys in the classroom? So strange. They don't even watch educational television. Drives me batty. Batty!

Back to Lyvia's school -- once a month they make and eat dumplings and practice using chopsticks. They also take turns standing at the front of the room. When it is her turn, she has to say 我Lyvia 。我3岁。 Wo jiao Lyvia. Wen san sui. My name is Lyvia. I am three years old.

She belts this out like little commanding officer. Crazy cute.

Then the child sings a song in Chinese. She has quite the repertoire already. The teacher even teaches them to recognize the characters that go with each word.

I'm not sure this teacher has acclimated to the US very much. Just last week she drove to Houston (three hours away) for rice. We have a HUGE Asian market and it seems their rice is completely unacceptable. She is from Northern China so she buys rice from North Korea so it is sticky enough. Those southerners make rice that separates. Stomach turning, isn't it? Of course I get a HUGE kick out of this and actually love it when she shares this with me.

I'm not such a fan of her telling me that my child is too dark and that if she saw her in the city in China, she would know she was a villager. Egads! Again, love to hear the cultural differences, but this hit a little close to home. Sadly, I did defend myself by saying, "She came to us like that!" She replied that she thought we were leaving her in the sun too long. I know Asians admire light skin, but I really think she was just born with darker skin. The bottom line is that I want my girls to know they are beautiful just the way they are and that most beauty shines from the inside out.

I'll continue to shuttle kids from home to preschool and back again -- I love my alone time although it is never enough. Even though they say they never want to leave me, both seem to be flourishing while I am gone!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lyvia is three!




First View of Lyvi


This was Dylan's first time to participate in the church nativity play.
He was adamant that he be an angel.
His best bud was a sheep, but he still wanted to be an angel.
I have NO clue why.
This was all the funnier for me because last year I had to deal with a Jonathan freak out about being an angel. The pastor finally got through to him when he pointed out that all the angels in the bible were men.
Did I say NO idea why Dylan wanted to be an angel?
Well, maybe there was one seven year old reason.

Photos with Four

I think Christmas at Granny's is always a good time to try and take a picture with all four kids. Unfortunately, they didn't agree.
First, no one would sit up properly on the chair, but at least three attempted to smile.
Lindsay was a stinker so...

she got booted out and I tried again.
By this time Jon attempted to comply, but wouldn't actually smile so...

I tried one last time, but Lyvi was getting goofy
and Dylan was eyeing a toy he'd rather play with.

You would think these were pictures I should delete, but I think I'll keep them.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Colorado Ski and Snow

How lucky are we to have a place to visit in Breck whenever the mood strikes? VERY! We meandered up to Colorado as soon as we could get the car packed after Christmas. Actually Jason and I don't meander on road trips -- we get from point A to point B as quickly as possible since his foot is made of lead and I don't allow lollygagging at pit stops. This trip we did make two sit down and eat pit stops...this is completely out of character. The first was a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant in Amarillo. The kids loved their food and I think ours was okay, but the coolest thing was the mutant fish they had in their fish tanks.

The second stop was the next day at a bar/restaurant in Woodland Park. There is something just fabulous about devouring a hearty breakfast for lunch when you are hungry. Jason and I are determined to figure out how to replicate the huge plate sized pancakes. I also loved this run down restaurant since they had a fire in the middle of the room and none of the tables matched. Don't you know life is more fun when you get excited about the little things?

In Colorado, Lyvia LOVED sledding...with a passion. When she got tired of going down the hill, she would push her imaginery baby instead. Stuffed in ski clothes and snow boots she still had to walk down, pick up the sled and then drag it back to the starting point so I'm not sure how THAT was fun, but what do I know. At some point she told me her baby was from China. Guess she has officially picked up on us telling her that major fact of her life.

Dylan liked finding huge snowchunks and dropping them on his dad. Sledding was also big fun for him (how I love that he and Lyvi have each other to play with!) He kept insisting that he wanted to show me how he could ski and snowboard. I'm sure it was tough as Dylan was certainly left out when we rented of all the cool ski gear. He seemed pleased with his time at the Breck child care center so I don't think he really missed out on too much. He talks big, but learning to ski is tough and I'm hoping that next year he will really want it now that he got left behind this year. "I will try" is a mantra I am trying to convince him to adopt, but it is an uphill battle.

Jon choose to have a second day of snowboarding lessons instead of hanging with his parents and sister. He had some move he was trying to conquer. At least that is what he told us... He also found his fort after trekking off into some seriously deep snow around the cabin. Big plans were made for installing a zip line this summer.

Lindsay conquered the mountain and skied two days. By the second day we had her going down the blue slopes. She has one intense wedge, but she stills zooms down the mountain. I had a hard time keeping up with Ms. Zippy. I'm always trying to find reasons to let them grow up and skiing as a family will certainly be a fun one!

if you are wasting time on the computer you can scroll down and see Halloween -- I found a post I forgot to published...