Posted by: laurdsed | June 15, 2012

Strawberry picking 2012

The boys and I went strawberry picking twice this week. We picked a total of 34 pounds of berries! Ian did a large portion of the work. He did so well, I might hire him out. ūüėČ

Today, I taught them how to make jam. I mostly just gave instructions and they did the work. Nice job boys! 12 pints of strawberry freezer jam ready before lunch.

Ian working hard!

Big strawberry! Fantastic flavor.

The fruits of their labor on Friday.

Making freezer jam. Ian measuring sugar. Alex crushing berries. Erik adding the pectin to the sugar. So easy, even a kid can do it (if they can follow directions).

Ladling the hot jam into jars. The jars will sit for 24 hours, then go into the freezer – nostalgia for summer in the middle of winter.

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Posted by: laurdsed | December 18, 2011

2011 Family Christmas Gathering

20111218-131534.jpg

Of course, it’s my kids who wouldn’t co-operate for the picture.

Posted by: laurdsed | August 6, 2011

Robin’s nest

One morning this month I found a pile of grass on the back steps, I remember thinking, “Sheesh, I wish the boys would clean up after themselves.” ¬†I was then confused when the pile of grass ended up on the light by the back door. ¬†“Hmmm, I didn’t think they could reach up that far. ¬†I wonder what they’re up to?” ¬†Next day revealed a new nest. ¬†“Silly bird. ¬†Don’t they know we exclusively use this door to go in and out of the house?” ¬†Well, apparently, this pair of robins thought the back door light a very good place to lay two eggs. ¬†So, my slight irritation has been replaced with wonder and excitement as the boys and I have fun observing two baby robins hatch and grow.

Posted by: laurdsed | May 7, 2011

Kitchen and living room demolition

During one of the longest weekends I can remember, March 25-28, we demo-ed everything out of the kitchen and living room. ¬†When I say everything, I mean everything but the stud walls and ceiling joists were left. ¬†We had a large crew of extremely hard working friends. ¬†Dean, Bob, James, Kathleen, Jen, Ben, Nate, Joe, Karen, Duane, Don, Andre & Jim – we couldn’t have done this without you! ¬†Another thanks, of course, goes to my mom and dad who cared for the boys all weekend. ¬†I can’t imagine parenting on top of managing all this. ¬†The boys loved going to Legoland in Chicago. ¬†Brave souls, my parents are, going to that place on a Saturday.

We had a very tight deadline since the drywallers were arriving on the following Tuesday that week. ¬†Prep work and moving the kitchen to the laundry room began on the Wednesday before. ¬†Of course, Chris’s meticulous planning had been going on for months ahead of time. ¬†His attention to detail and constant direction in keeping all folks busy had a huge role in the success of keeping on schedule for the weekend. ¬†What an outstanding project manager he is!

Stay tuned for more.  The kitchen is now almost completed!

Posted by: laurdsed | April 26, 2011

Kitchen remodel Spring 2011

Old kitchen - Just before demolition. All the doors are off the cupboards.

Laundry room kitchen - This is our temporary kitchen set up in the basement laundry room.

Chris and I have been wanting to remodel our kitchen ever since we bought this house in 2000. ¬†I’m sure many of you know how it goes, though. ¬†Having the time and money (and having 3 kids besides) made for a long delay. ¬†Eleven years later we’re finally pulling the trigger after having an “it’s now or never” discussion last fall. ¬†Actually, we decided to do this 2 years ago after half-heartedly looking at other houses in the neighborhood and realizing that investing in our current house was a better option. ¬†Then, India got in the way. ¬†So, now here we are. ¬†Stay tuned for more pictures and updates!

Posted by: laurdsed | January 23, 2011

Contemplating India

A¬†year ago, we left our home and arrived in India. ¬†We were so excited to be on this adventure (Well, maybe Chris wasn’t that excited; he had a better idea of what we were in for than I did). ¬†Something new and different, leaving the hum-drum routine and shaking things up. ¬†Once arriving there, I quickly discovered that we were in for quite a different ride from the one I expected. ¬†The above picture was taken on the day before we left to return to the U.S. ¬†It was our Christmas photo this year. I remember feeling profoundly conflicted about leaving four and a half months later in May. ¬† It’s taken 6 months of contemplation and reflection to understand what was gained and grieve for what was lost. ¬†I’ve been totally unable to write about anything else in our family until I was done processing our time there. ¬†There was so much raw emotion that needed to be deadened with time.

I have loved traveling in the past. ¬†There’s something quite addictive about exploring different cultures and meeting new people. ¬†For the 1st 5 years after moving from my parents’ home, I didn’t stay in one spot for more than a few months at a time. ¬†This has shaped me in more ways than I can put a finger on: tolerance of other lifestyles, noticing little cultural nuances in our own country, seeing what I thought were universal values, viewing amazing vistas of mountains, jungles, and deserts. ¬†I think I loved nearly every minute of it…exploring. ¬†I thought that this could be transmitted over to my boys. ¬†I genuinely wanted them to see that diversity in people, places and cultures is something to be acknowledged and appreciated.

Never again will I say that 4 months is a short amount of time. ¬†Every single day it was such a struggle parenting these children. ¬†It’s all relative, isn’t it? ¬†For three young boys, it seemed like F.O.R.E.V.E.R. ¬†They were losing themselves in India. ¬† I didn’t realize just how essential the stable home base these little fellows have here is to them or anticipate that they might not have the means to cope with being thrown into a chaotically different environment. ¬†For example, after less than 3 months there, Alex, our most homesick child, bemoaned how he couldn’t remember what home looked and felt like anymore – which was something Chris and I completely took for granted. ¬†“Home is home and we’re going back there.” ¬†Not for the boys. ¬†It was heartbreaking to watch. ¬†Children are so in the moment and their experience on this earth so brief that submerging them into what seemed like a different planet…well, nothing seemed cozy and familiar for them. ¬†The rug had been swept out from under them, never on solid ground.

Well, this post isn’t written with the intent to convince people to not travel with their kids. ¬†On the contrary, our best and most favorite experiences were when we traveled as tourists around India. ¬†We loved that part. ¬†India is a wonderful place to explore.¬†¬†Being a tourist in India, however,¬†is¬†a completely different ball of wax than living in India, though.¬†¬†It never occurred to me that living in a foreign county with children would be one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.

When one reads that arriving in India is an assault to the senses¬†(I’ve read this many times on blogs and in books), it is….to every single one of them. ¬†It’s not just the smells, tastes, noise, constant motion sickness in cars, prickly heat, and physical closeness; it’s the emotional, mental, and spiritual toll, too. ¬†It’s protecting one’s sense of self. ¬†We Americans are such individuals, and that sense of individuality is completely challenged in India. ¬†For children, whose self-identity is still so malleable, processing this completely different information is like watching a newborn baby. ¬†They just don’t know what to make of what they were experiencing. ¬†So, it was our job to help them, all the while ourselves struggling to cope with these things as well. ¬†Most days I felt overwhelmed; it was beyond difficult to assist my children to make the leap of faith that everything was going to be OK. ¬†They are quite the astute little observers and no matter how hard I tried to cover up my feelings and pretend¬†that everything was all hunky-dory, they knew. ¬†They knew that the crushing poverty and pretending that the beggars weren’t there (like everyone else does there) wasn’t OK. ¬†They knew that the stray animals in the street needing food and attention wasn’t OK. ¬†But when you are living in India, everything you know to be true is¬†completely turned upside-down. ¬†Up is down, black is white. ¬†Heck, people consider it healthful to consume cow urine.

So, after struggling for a couple of months for us all to “assimilate and absorb the culture” like I had planned on doing, I realized I was just swimming upstream. ¬†I was the only one who wanted that outcome. ¬†I decided that what my children needed was to somehow protect their identities in the face of all that was different, even if it meant leaning into the difficult sharp points of not being liked for that differentness. ¬†Not just cooking the homemade meals with impossible-to-find ingredients, but allowing them to segregate themselves from society, from the overwhelming heat, the invasion of personal space, the stares, the judgments of others. ¬† This is where I really feel for those who are foreigners here in the U.S., where people who have different values are so criticized and berated. ¬†Things that they know to be true in their upbringing is considered “backward” or just plain wrong, even for something as simple as the small comfort of using one’s own language.

Anyway, nearing the end of our stay in India, I started to feel atrociously guilty. ¬†Guilty for seemingly squandering the wonderful opportunity presented to us. ¬†Guilty for seemingly scarring my children for life. ¬†Guilty for thinking that India was a horrible place that I never wanted to return to. ¬†Why would I think that? ¬†I had never felt that way before! ¬†I had always wanted to return to the places that I had visited and talk with the wonderful people I had met. ¬†Therefore, after arriving back home safe and sound, I fell into a deep, deep funk. ¬†I told myself I should be grateful for returning safe and sound, ¬†for having the opportunity we had, ¬†for having my job back, that my children wanted to go back to school. ¬†Lots and lots of “shoulds”; few true feelings of happiness and contentment, though. ¬†I had never realized that I, indeed, had had expectations of what our time in India would be like, even though I had told myself not to.¬†¬†I assumed that¬†it was going to be a box of chocolates, and we¬†wouldn’t know what to expect.¬†¬†What I had truly wanted, though,¬†was for my children to like being in India…and they didn’t. ¬†So most of the time I was asking myself, where did I screw up? ¬†It’s not a comfortable feeling thinking that months of planning, inconveniencing friends, family and co-workers, investing an extreme amount of financial resources was all for naught, nothing, zilch. ¬†Oh, that was a pit I didn’t know how to get myself out of.

It’s impressive how time heals wounds, and how the resilience of the human spirit shines through, though.¬† The everyday routine of caring for children and a household numbed those prideful wounds.¬†¬†For me, being in a world surrounded by new mothers, it’s hard to not compare this journey to that of child birth; the pain of labor deadened with time and memories of little moments bring joy.

So, those boys…the ones who were miserable in India, the ones who seemed to constantly complain and whine while there, the ones who absolutely refused to go along with our attempts to go out and about and explore. Well, they started talking about India.¬† They talked about a top 10 list.¬† In the car, they spontaneously would talk about Goa, or monkeys, or something else that they had learned. ¬†They even talk about returning some day! What? ¬†Where did that come from? ¬†The hardest parts of daily survival were fading and the wonderful parts of being all together and trying to have fun were sticking out. ¬†Yes! ¬†Final success, even if it was delayed gratification.

I think what has brought final closure to my wounds was a recent conversation with a friend who, a few years ago, with their five daughters, followed her husband to Turkey and lived there for 10 months. ¬†She had a much rougher time than I did and echoed how one child refused to adapt, to the point where she had even considered sending her back to the States for schooling! ¬†She summed up her feelings so well. ¬†She said that she wasn’t accustomed to feeling completely incompetent in caring for her family. ¬†There was very little that she could do on her own. ¬†That really nailed it for me…my feelings of how I felt in India. ¬†Incompetent. ¬†No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make things better for the boys and couldn’t even do the most basic things like back at home. ¬†I’ve never felt that way here. ¬†Ever. ¬†Oh, how that conversation soothed my soul! ¬†We Americans are doers and have a very hard time just being. ¬†I’m glad I had a chance to catch a glimpse of living that way and have even started working toward just being instead of constantly doing.

Posted by: laurdsed | May 31, 2010

Taj Mahal

We honestly hesitated a little bit about going to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal.¬† It’s a tomb, after all.¬† I was worried that the long, one-day trip down there would be too taxing on the boys just to see “a building”.

Well, the trip was even worse than we thought it would be.  We rented a car and driver.  The bumpy roads were under construction for the upcoming Common Wealth games.  It was stop-and-go traffic and the driver was on the brake and gas pedals constantly.  All 5 of us were car sick.  Erik threw up twice (thank goodness outside the car).  Ten and a half brutal hours total in the car.  After all of that, was it worth it?  Absolutely!

Even though it was a hot 1 mile walk to the monument, the temperature was cooler than what we had been experiencing in A’bad.¬† It was about 105 degrees and with a decent breeze.¬† Tolerable.¬† We walked around the grounds for about two hours and then got back in the Toyota Innova rental for the return trip.¬† A quick dip in the hotel pool was very welcome after this exhausting excursion.

Posted by: laurdsed | May 20, 2010

Monkey farewell

We are now safely back in the U.S.A.¬† Home!¬† Still a little jet-lagged and adjusting to life at home.¬† There are a couple of posts that I’d like to write about our last week in India, though.

Here are the pictures we took of a group of about 20 grey langurs that passed through the apartment courtyard the evening before we left Ahmedabad last Monday.¬† What an awesome farewell gift!¬† There were at least 4 mother-baby pairs.¬† Very precious.¬† It’s impressive how quick and agile those mamas move over walls and across traffic, jumping and swinging with ease, even while a baby holds on for dear life.

Posted by: laurdsed | May 13, 2010

Things I’m going to miss about India

It’s been a rollercoaster ride of a trip to India.¬† While we can’t wait to come back, I can’t help but think that there are things about India that we’ll certainly miss.

  • Vibrant colors everywhere.¬† People certainly are not inhibited to display a large array of color.¬† This is a constant feast for the eyes in comparison to the more subdued colors in the area we live in.
  • Afternoon siestas…it’s too hot to do anything else.
  • Sigh…year ’round fresh fruits and vegetables only a block away.¬† Thankfully, we’ll be returning just before our CSA begins!
  • Manners…I’m certainly going to miss good old-fashioned manners.¬† People here are extremely polite and courteous.
  • A kitchen with 12 feet of counter space.¬† I won’t miss the height of the counter, though.
  • All the quality time our family has been spending together.
  • Exploring with the boys and watching their wonder.
  • The slow pace of life.¬† Watching the world go by and noticing the minute details.¬† We’ve been living a very simple, uncomplicated life.¬† No multiple schedules to juggle.¬† No commitments.¬† Living with¬†very little¬†“stuff” to clean, repair and maintain.
  • Chris and I taking better care of ourselves.¬† We’re eating better, cutting out more sugar and meat, and exercising almost daily.¬† Trends that I hope will gain momentum.¬† On the¬†flip side, I think the boys had a healthier lifestyle at home than here, part of the consequence of figuring out a new normal in a foreign culture and attempting to eat¬†home-style in an area with not great resources to do so.
  • Reading a daily newspaper containing news without a corporate slant!¬† What a concept – a¬†newspaper that actually has news in it.¬† The investigative, worldly articles that US newspapers say readers¬†aren’t interested in¬†anymore, I’m just eating¬†those up here.¬† I love it when I read about some kind of uncovered truth, which -shocker- is a daily thing in the India Times or Ahmedabad Mirror.
  • Open-air showers.¬† At first, it was a little freaky.¬† Now, I enjoy watching the birds in the flowering trees.¬† Quite esthetically pleasing while washing away worries.
  • 220 volt AC electricity.¬† Those small appliances sure do pack an extra punch with that kind of charge!¬† Hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it yourself.
  • A friend commented about how she’s drowning in paperwork at home.¬† This reminded me that we’ve been blissfully paper-free for 4 months now.¬† We rarely get any mail.¬† When we do, it’s a joyful occasion.¬†¬†We’re so happy to hear from family and friends.¬† However, I’m not looking forward to the drudgery of wading through junk mail again, especially 4 months worth.
  • As hard as it was to connect with folks here due to miscommunication and cultural disparity, we did make friends here who we will miss.¬† It’s hard to leave when you aren’t sure you’ll ever see someone again.¬† So, for those people who made my life better while staying here, Thank You to¬†Gemar, Shailesh, Raj, Reasa, Ben, Lisa, and many more whom I wish I had time to know better.

I’m sure that we’ll discover more things that we miss about our stay in India as time passes by.¬† If you will be waiting for a post about what things we won’t miss about India, don’t bother.¬† That list is too long.¬† ūüėČ

Posted by: laurdsed | May 8, 2010

Alex’s Ahmedabad birthday party

Today we celebrated Alex’s birthday – a little early.¬† I figured it was a good way to have some fun play time with our Indian friends and say goodbye before we leave.¬† We had a hard time figuring out what to do.¬† Games kids play here are very different than what we traditionally play during birthday parties.¬† I didn’t want anyone to feel left out or confused.¬† Water play seemed like the perfect thing to do – it’s universally fun and perfect for the 110 degree heat.¬† A big Thank You goes to Reasa and Ben, our American expat friends, who lent us their pool.¬† That was definitely a hit!¬† No doubt about it.¬† Amazing how many kids can fit in that thing.

The cake was from Oven Magic.¬† Folks here only eat baked items that don’t contain eggs.¬† No bakeries that we know of have items with eggs in them.¬†¬† Eggs are considered “non-vegetarian” or non-veg for short.¬† We had to make sure that we announced to all the parents that the cake was “veg” before the kids could have some cake.

Alex chose a penguin for a pi√Īata because he’s been enjoying playing on Club Penguin, a social networking kids website.¬† We made the pi√Īata from a couple of balloons, flour and water to make paste, and newspaper strips.¬† The most challenging part was finding the paint.

Over all, a successful event!

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