Christmas Eve 2012

It’s come round again, and so quickly too. Wasn’t it just summer? Didn’t my kids just have their birthdays? Where has the time gone, and why does it seem to fly by faster each year?

Christmas Eve – Since the 1st my kids have been asking when Christmas morning would come. When could they open stockings and gifts? When could we go to the mall to see the decorations? When would school be out and holidays begin? Now it is the 24th and I am still wondering what happened with all that time I thought I had.

Today we took them to the same large mall we went to last year. There was only a central display, nothing they could actually do, like the train we rode last year. It was a two-story teddy bear house, complete with dancing bears, a teddy ferris wheel, bears drinking at tables, standing on balconies, and one army bear standing guard at the entrance to make sure no one went in. These bears were about 3 feet tall and dressed in party clothes (except for the army bear, of course – he wore the Indian army uniform).

Then we went over to Hamleys just for fun. They love this toy shop, since there is lots to see and even play with. Their usual strictness about not playing with all the toys seemed to be relaxed and the kids had fun touching all the displays. Logan found a mat drum kit and had a ball with that, while Lila drove a scooter around and Scarlett tried out each rocking toy. If it could be played with, they did it.

After ice cream and a short walk around the mall, we were leaving when I noticed Santa was in the toy shop, so they went over for a treat and Hamleys badge before we headed home.

We spent the afternoon at home, playing, eating, napping, and lots of t.v. In fact, because of their naps, the girls weren’t ready to sleep until late. It was 11 p.m. before I got them into bed. Then I decided to do some prep for tomorrow morning. So the strawberries are washed and ready, the biscuit dough is made, fruitcake is cut and cookies are ready to be put out. The children are all now sleeping soundly, as is daddy, who fell asleep on the couch with the t.v. on and Scarlett in his arms.

Which brings me to why I felt the need to write a post after midnight.

As I filled stockings and laid the gifts around the tree, I felt just a twinge of sadness. My own stocking will remain empty and there won’t be any gift for me under the tree. As a child I always looked forward to opening gifts and seeing what unusual surprise there would be in my stocking (like the year when I was around 13, it was full of stickers that needed to be colored). Now that I am the one doing the buying, wrapping, and filling, it seems weird to put out gifts I bought myself.

Actually, I have yet to get myself a gift this year. I did buy two tops but I needed them right away for the cooler weather so I’ve been using them already. Sometimes it’s hard being married to a man who hates shopping so much that he refuses to go get me a gift, even if I give him ideas about what he could choose. I can’t remember the last time I had a surprise gift for either Christmas or my birthday.

So this is one thing I am looking forward to in moving closer to my family – gifts! Ha! No, I don’t mean it that way, it’s just that it’s nice to get a surprise instead of something I pick for myself, and coming from a Christmas-loving family, I know they will do it. At least I hope you will. 🙂 (I love you guys.)

I guess most mothers face this, at least until their kids are grown enough to go shopping on their own. I plan on training mine to each get me something so that, come Christmas morning, I will have at least 3 gifts instead of none. It will always be a dream to get a gift from my husband, but maybe one day it will come true.

So tell me, ladies. Does your husband/boyfriend buy you gifts or expect you to get your own? Men, do you buy something for your wife/girlfriend even if you hate shopping?

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Just Some Random, Recent Stuff

Logan:

Logan’s last day of school was a celebration in preparation for the Dussehra holidays. (See link below in Lila’s section. I’m writing the post in reverse and wrote about Lila first.) They were also celebrating Grandparent’s Day, but since Logan doesn’t have any grandparents here with us, I was invited to come.

We made our handprints on a large sheet of paper.

There was a huge display of animals and Hindu idols. Each of the kids contributed 2 animals and Logan is still concerned about his. They are labled though, and he will get them back later.

Having a snack.

We left shortly after that because I had to pick Lila up, and besides, I wasn’t interested in joining the Hindu prayers part. 

Lila:

You know how we’ve had so much rain this past week? Well, yesterday morning we finally got some sun and I decided to take the kids out in the morning. Good thing too because it poured later. It was also one of the many days in the festival of Dussehra, a Hindu celebration. One of the things Hindus use a lot in their worship and celebrations is a ringing bell. It has a tinkling, sort of jingly sound, and we hear it a lot because most of our neighbors are Hindus.

As I was getting Lila ready to go out, she hears one of these bells ring and stops in her tracks.

“Do you hear it, Mommy?”

“What?”

“It’s Santa’s bells!”

She was dead serious. She ran to her bedroom window to look outside, so sure that was what she was hearing. I thought it was odd because I have not told my kids that Santa is real. I’ve told them he is a symbol of Christmas and represents the joy and fun of the season, but I don’t want them to believe in something, only to have their hopes dashed in the future.

So I reminded her, “You do know Santa isn’t real, right?”

“But, Mommy, I hear the bells.”

As she looked out the window, I heard them too and of course knew what they were. So I explained that the neighbors use the bell because that is what they do in their religion when they are praying. She just went “Oh” and that was that.

I wonder what was going through her mind at that time, though. Was she wondering if Santa really was real? Did she expect to see cartoons come to life?  Both she and Logan have expressed the desire to be in a cartoon. Yes, actually in a cartoon, interacting with the characters.

I just asked Logan what cartoon he would like to be in and why. He want’s to be in “Winnie the Pooh: Springtime With Roo” so he can play with Roo. Lila wants to be in “Finding Nemo” so she can play with Nemo and the sharks will get her. Ha. My crazy kids.

Scarlett:

She is now a 2 year old in every sense of the word. I’ll write a longer post about her for her birthday, but right now I’m gonna write some of the things she says.

It mys – It’s mine! Anytime she wants anything.

1,2,3,4,7,8,9,10 is how she counts.

She has figured out how to lecture Logan when he doesn’t listen to me: “No, Loden (she used to call him Doden), top be naty!” said in a stern voice with finger wagging. 🙂 (Say it out loud if you don’t know what she is saying.)

I hongy – how she lets me know she’s ready to eat.

There is never a dull moment with them around.

Backlog and Updates #3: Logan,Lila, School and More

Continuing with the updates from last month, here are yet more photos.
Logan and Lila are both doing so well in school. Logan is happy and often says, “Kindergarden is actually fun!” The place we found for him is just what he needed. While they do have bookwork, in order to prepare the children for what they are required to know before they enter 1st grade here, they also have a lot of fun. The school combines American early learning techniques with Montessori, which gives them a lot more freedom to explore and enjoy themselves. 
Ready to go.

 While Lila’s school requires a uniform, Logan’s doesn’t. They believe the children should come to school wearing what they are most comfortable in. They do have some special occassions that the children dress up for, like certain Indian holidays. Here is Logan in his traditional outfit. He has already worn it 3 times this month. Ha. I only got him one since he won’t wear it anywhere but school,  but I bet they are getting bored of seeing the same one all the time.

Ready for special holiday activities.

 Of course the big holiday this month was Independence Day. Here is Logan in class the day before.

 And here is Lila ready for her Independence Day activities. This is her first time wearing a traditional top.

And I did her hair in the colors of the flag.

On the actual Independence Day, we rested at home and then went for a family outing to the park in the afternoon.

September 5th was Teacher’s Day, so I helped the kids make cards for their teachers. My mom sent them this teddy bear activity and it was perfect to use for cards. While I had to do most of the work (of course), they did the coloring and drew designs on the cards, plus signed their names on them, with a little help.

Logan’s cards made it to the school bulletin board.

Logan has only been in this school for 7 weeks, but already we see him making so much progress. I had my first PTV with his teacher last week and he is ahead in everything, except writing. Well, that doesn’t bother us. We don’t mind if he goes slower with writing and learns to do it right. See, here in India, children are required to be reading and able to write two sentences on their own when they enter 1st grade, so they begin learning to write in preschool. LKG reinforces it and by UKG, where Logan is, they are introduced to cursive. Wow!

His difficulties lie in a) desire to learn to write, and b) a lack in fine motor skills. Homework was tough for him at first, but he is getting used to it. I don’t always make him do everything that is sent home. They were giving him a lot because he had two months worth of work to make up in order to be up with his classmates. Now the amount has been reduced. Even the teacher said she doesn’t like to give them so much but she is requred to in order for them to be ready for 1st grade.

Last week she gave them all a break from writing and planned a fun day of cooking. Logan was so happy, as you can see from the pics. He was especially delighted to not have any homework last weekend.

Taking a turn with the mixing.

And enjoying the sandwiches afterwards.

One funny thing: Here children address their teachers by their name first and then they say Miss afterwards. In Logan’s school, the children say aunty instead of miss. Well, Logan calls his teacher Sherly Aunty Miss. Ha. He was used to calling his teacher Miss so he just tacked it on. He also used to call the nanny in his class last year Aunty Miss and everyone thought it was so funny. I guess he thought aunty was her name.

As you can see, he has a lot of books. From the top they are an English workbook, Math workbook, cursive and print writing workbooks, an art book, general knowledge, writing numbers, a blank drawing book, Hindi alphabet book, English reader and workbook, plus 4 blank notebooks. The school also provided a backpack. Most of this work is done at school. So far his homework has been the writing and numbers workbooks, reading, drawing, and Hindi, though with the last one I sent a note saying I wasn’t able to teach him the Hindi alphabet and Glad could only help with it on weekends. He was supposed to practice the letters at home but I think they decided to not send it any more. He also often gets extra letter practice in the blank notebooks.

As for the reading I was doing with him, we have slowed down with it in order to make his homework a priority, but he is reading so well that even though we don’t get to do it daily any more, he is still progressing. Today he surprised me by spelling all the numbers from one to ten! I had no idea he was learning spelling already.

Today I met with Lila’s teacher for the first term PTV. Lila has made excellent progress in every area, except talking in school. While she is a great (and loud) talker at home, at school she is very quiet and never speaks above a whisper. Only recently did her teachers discover that she has a loud voice. Glad had been out on business and picked Logan up and brought him back to Lila’s school, instead of the other way around. Logan took off to explore his old school and raced up the stairs. Lila knows that she isn’t supposed to go up as her classroom is downstairs (the same one Logan had, with the same main teacher), so she stayed at the bottom of the stairs and politely shouted for Logan to come down. Apparently all the teachers came running because it was the first time they had ever heard her normal voice. Ha.

They are preparing for their annual day event at the end of this month, so the kids will be having dance practice all next week and Lila is excited about it. She is doing well with the dancing and enjoys it above all the rest of the activities at school.

And I will leave you with photos of them leaving for school, taken just this morning. We live in a large house that is divided into apartments and ours is on the first floor. Here they are heading out.

Down the stairs…

… onto the scooter …

… and away they go.

I’m nervous about bikes. I’ve never been on one myself because of this, but the kids are used to it. And Glad goes slow with them. Their schools are super close to home, too, so it is not like they have to spend a long time on it. And it is cheaper than taking them by auto every day. Don’t get me started on the exhorbant fees auto drivers charge here in Chennai. Thankfully the city is waking up to the need to change it and hopefully they will get the local government to reinstitute the use of the meter. I hate haggling prices with auto drivers, especially because they expect me to pay more since I am white. (This sounds like a new post. I just might write it.)

Pongal Contest Judging – and More

On friday, Logan’s school held their Pongal festivities. Pongal is the harvest festival and involves a lot of traditions that I am not familiar with, but I got to learn about one of them – the sweet pongal.
Sweet pongal is a dish made from lentils, rice, cardamom, jaggery, cashew nuts and lots of ghee. It can be decorated on top with cashews, rasins, and/or bananas and is a dish involved in Hindu religious rituals that pertain to Pongal.
The school likes to hold contests as a way to involve the parents in school activities. There was a Christmas cake one in December which I entered (but didn’t win, boo hoo), but this one was out of my league as far as cooking it was concerned, so I was asked to be one of the judges.
The girls and I arrived shortly after class started, and I kept them outside until the judging began. They were only expecting a few entries and were suprised to get 41 total. We had to judge them on appearance, taste, and whether or not they had provided a recipe, for a possible total of 10 points from each judge. I wonder if anyone got a full 30 points. The results won’t be out until wednesday because monday and tuesday are holidays. Yes, this is one of those festivals that lasts several days.
While I was busy with this, Glad kept the girls and they had some of the sweet pongal for snack. It was an interesting experience for me as I had never tasted this dish before, and the fact that I wasn’t familiar with it was one of the reasons they asked me to judge in the first place. They wanted an outsiders opinion and they got it. Ha.
Logan’s class in the yard, checking out the setup. Logan is in the back, far left. All the children came in traditional outfits.

 By the end, I started feeling sick from eating all that sugar and ghee. (If you don’t know what ghee is, read this.) Ghee is extreemly rich, and while it tastes good, too much makes the food heavy, but it is a large part of traditional Indian cooking.
Well, it was fun, but I don’t want to eat any sweet pongal again anytime soon. It was interesting to see all the flavors and variations on the dish just from being made by different cooks. Some were ok, some delicious, and a few were yuky, well, to me anyway. A few people went all out on decorating their dish and serving it in a traditional clay pot, while most just put it in a serving dish, though there was variety in that too. I should have gotten a photo of the tables. (Excuse me while I kick myself.)
But I did get one of the cute yard setup. This was supposed to look like a typical farmer’s house and yard, with the cooking being done in the traditional way, over an open fire.

Lila and Scarlett checking out the hut.

Well, I enjoyed it and so did the kids. Read the links I’ve provided if you want to know more about this festival. And now a close-up of the girls cute dresses.

This was one of her birthday gifts from some of Glad’s co-workers.

… and the back. So cute.

She’s had this one for a while now and it still fits.
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