I never liked Autumn back in India. I really don’t know why!
The weather would play pranks, hot during the day and pretty much chilly at night. The monsoon showers would be a thing of the past. The leaves on the trees would simply fall off without any indication of ageing or changing of color. Laden with dust and pollutants, the leaves look a dull green/brown throughout the year (except during monsoons, when the dust washes off and we are blinded by the beauty of the green underneath :) ).
Autumn, or Fall as it is called here, is a delight to see :) . The trees around have such bright shades. From burgundy red to fiery oranges to vivid yellows. Some trees hang on to the green and add that dash of charm to the palette. The trees outside my window are all yellow now. A shade so bright, I have never seen anything like it before. Within this week, they will turn brown and most probably, by next week, the trees would shed off their leaves. Then, the sight is pretty desolate :(
Anyhow, on the outskirts of Chicago is an area called Lisle (pronounced ‘La-ill’) which is famous for its arboretum. Whats an arboretum, you may ask! And I’ll gladly reply – it is a tree museum.
The Morton Arboretum is a famous tree museum where the motto is, “Plant Trees”. Seriously! Its that simple. Conceptualized by Joy Morton, the arboretum was first open to public in 1922. Since then, they have a massive collection of trees from all over the world! Apart from planting trees, the museum also does research on tree-growth factors, impact of pollution on trees and environmental benefits from different types of trees. Needless to say, the arboretum covers a whopping 1700 acres of land which is beautifully landscaped to showcase the trees. Please do check out the link.
Sunday was bright and sunny (which does NOT mean it was warm!), unlike the last two weeks before it and I decided to make the best use of it. It was also the last day of fall season, meaning, by now, 80 percent of the trees would have shed their leaves. Luckily, we were on time and got to see some really wonderful fall colours.
It was a breathtaking experience. The beauty of nature is so powerful, I don’t have words to describe the sights :)
For once, I rued not getting a decent camera along for the trip :(
The twins enjoyed the trip, not because they felt very close to nature and all that jazz but because they had their friends along with them and all they appreciated was the vast expanse of ground where they could run to their heart’s content :D (and also climb trees!)
Clicking pictures of the trees was a piece of cake compared to clicking snaps of the kids! They were so pumped up with adrenaline that we barely got a couple of decent shots in which none of them was moving (whew!). We had a great time, albeit a tiring one. By the time we got back home, it was 9pm and we could barely eat dinner before crashing out!
And ohh! The BF could not accompany us for the trip, but he had the most amazing Maggi, hot and ready for us when we got back. And he also had hot tea ready for me :) .
( Tired out by the long journey, legs throbbing with all the walking we did and throat sore from yelling after the kids throughout the day, I realized in that one moment, once again, why I love this man so much!! )
Winter is around the corner and it is just a matter of days when everything will be covered in white! I’ll miss these wonderful colors then :|
You know, I really want to add more to this blog in terms of content. Right now, I’m stuck in a rut where all I can write about, are my kids (which I don’t mind, really. They are the reason the blog exists in the first place :) ) . Its just that for the last two days, I’ve been wondering what to write about and frankly, I drew a blank when it came to matters concerning solely me! It is a little unnerving, to know/realize that nothing is churning my mind enough for me to voice an opinion or start a discussion. How dull have I become :( !!
On the plus side, on an impulse, I threw a potluck lunch at home today. Invited the few friends that I have here. They were very sweet and even at the short notice, turned up with their dishes. Honestly speaking, I’d been planning the potluck for ages, simply because there is no other way to socialize here. I have one friend, she in turn knows the wives of her husband’s colleagues and just like that we all became acquainted.
It was a fun afternoon. Though we just had a couple of couple of hours together, it was time well spent. We ate Paani-pooris, Puliyogare, vermicelli-Upma, Chhole-puri, Daal-vadi, Pizza (by me) and Rasgulla!! Believe me, by the end of the lunch, we could barely move :D ! With heavy hearts and even heavier tummies, we broke up to collect our respective kids from school :) .
Notice the lights? T’was because the day got terribly dark and dreary towards noon.
Another weekend’s here and the BF is yet to get back. Right now he is in Pune, with the rest of the family (his and mine). My little cousin brother is getting married and the family has come to attend the wedding and the festivities! All I can do from here is send my brother my love and best wishes. My parents, husband, brothers and sisters are all in one place and I’m far far away from them.
Could I be any more sorrier for myself??
Am missing everyone terribly :'(
American women have a thing for nails. I am yet to come across an American woman who does not have well manicured nails. Both the hands will have nails of equal length (unlike most Indian women who prefer to decorate the left hand but leave the right hand free for practical purposes!). The colors would be bright, with plenty of nail-art (glitter, stones, intricate patterns, you name it !!)
The nail spas here must be doing a roaring business!
Compared to them, all the Indian women I know, have neatly trimmed nails, very few remember to use nail-polish and I’m sure none of us have ever entered a nail-spa here!
Anyhow, one fine day, I decided to take a break and grow my nails. It took weeks but I finally managed to get them to a decent length. After shaping and buffing, I applied the hardener, colour polish and then the top-coat (I can’t believe I actually know so much about nail-polishes :D ). The fingers looked good! Really, really good. I flaunted my hands, with a new-found confidence in their appearance.
And then came dinner time.
And with it, the realization that the women who were the inspiration for my nail-effort, surely weren’t the types who went home to cook dinner for their families.
Take the simple example of chopping onions (an ingredient without which I just cannot cook. Period!) . Firstly, I couldn’t hold the knife at the regular position because that would make my nails touch the chopping board. So I held the knife more towards the end of the handle. The left hand fared no better. I had to hold the onion, yet cut it such that I don’t chop my nails in the process.
I used to be known for my onion chopping speed, but with the long nails, I think I took thrice the time to cut one onion. The nail of the left index finger suffered some chipping, which was corrected with some nail polish. I somehow persevered and finished my cooking. But it wasn’t just the problem with cooking. The nails came in the way of scrubbing the tub or washing the toilet-bowl. I was afraid of them tearing while scrubbing some heavily greased pan or while doing the laundry. Heck, I couldn’t even type properly with them.
On the third day, I took the nail clipper and chopped off the nails. Also removed the nail-polish for good measure. The nails look just like they used to before. My hands don’t look fancy anymore.
But you know what? I’m actually relieved. I realized that having clean and workable hands are more important to me than having glitzy ones which come in the way of everything I do.
For people who do manage all their regular tasks with fancy nails, I say, good for you :)
The kids got their first set of assessment result yesterday. All straight A’s except for a ‘B’ in Writing! As soon as I saw the report , I made them sit and write two pages of text from any story book of their choice. The BF, when I told him of the result, was a little miffed that the kids didn’t get a ‘C’ or a ‘D’ in anything! In fact, he feels that I push the kids too hard and he doesn’t want them to be the academic types who only score in exams. Though the kids got an A in Gym, Music and Arts, the BF wasn’t satisfied.
Anyhow, I was pretty surprised when the kids didn’t protest the writing imposition I laid on them. I thought they will yell at the prospect of extra writing after they finish their regular homework! But it was not so. When I asked Shobby if he knew why I was making them write, he said, ” Yes I know. Because we got a ‘B’. ‘B’ is for BAD. We need to get an ‘A’. ‘A’ is for ALL GOOD “.
Well, he said it, not me :D
Its getting chillier by the day here. So much so that I make sure I reach the twin’s school just as their teacher leads the children out to the gate. Standing at the gate, waiting for the kids can be a torture, with icy winds piercing the skin and getting into any openings between the jacket and muffler. Making the kids wait for me would be even more cruel! I’ve got the timing down pat though. My kids are the first to leave school :D
And just like that, the last two entries veered towards the kids!
I just can’t stop writing about them, can I?!
I’ve been asked many times what I was up to in the last 5 months . And each time, I’d say, “Nothing…just regular routine…nothing new”.
But thats not all true, of course :D
A LOT happened in the last few months . I’ve been meaning to do individual posts for all of them but since I’ve put them off for so long, I regret that I don’t remember the entire sequence of events. I’m quickly jotting down the remnants of those events in my collapsing memory. So here goes (In no particular order. That would be too cruel on my poor brain) –
The twins finished Kindergarten with flying colors. Well, they ought to ! After all, they spent an entire 12 months doing just KG! ( Their session started in India in the first week of July ’13 and ended here in Chicago in the last week of June ’14).
Their teachers were pleased with the English, Math and overall obedience of the two . I howled and wailed that they must have got my kids mixed up with someone else’s but they wouldn’t listen. To prove their point, they gave the kids medals for perfect attendance and slapped a certificate at me which declared me the parent of the month!
I kid you not!
I got The Egg. Though hand-painted and exquisite, it kind of epitomizes what I really deserve!!
We finally had Summer!! Not the dusty, hot summer of India, but a quaint, dainty summer which lasted exactly 90 days. The temperature never dipped enough to make you sweat, unless you ran or did some major physical activity ( It was hot enough for the Americans to shed their clothes and their inhibitions, though!) Overall, it was the Spring of India passed off as Summer of Chicago.
The sunny weather was the perfect opportunity to make use of the swimming pool on our terrace top. The twins splashed and jumped and had the greatest time of their lives. Whenever we entered the pool area, people already in the pool would look at the twins, grin and decently come out one by one. So the kids had the pool to themselves most of the time (The people here can be really, really kind towards kids). I did my best to teach them to swim, but they were too enamored by the water to pay me any heed :(
The other water source was the beach of Lake Michigan. Enough sand was dragged back home for me to make my own private sand castle.
The twins undertook the Summer Reading Challenge to read and record the amount of time they read each day. It was a wonderful way to spend the summer vacation and the twins loved the visits to the library which was conducting the challenge. Apart from selecting books, they had book-reading sessions, crafts, lucky draws, etc each week. The twins won books and binoculars in the lucky dip :)
The library also conducted workshops on puppet-making and introduction to the insect/reptile world (which was seriously good). They got to touch real live pythons and alligators and black widows !
The BF’s parents came down for a visit and it was YAY! time all around :)
After a long time, I could take a siesta without worrying about the kids. The moment the kids spotted their grandparents at the airport, they forgot they had a Momma or an Abu. For the next two months, they only spoke to Dada and Dadi. Just as well :) . Sometimes, it is good to have the kids off your hands, even if its for a little while !
Once the in-laws came, it truly felt like home once again :) . Me and the MIL would cook together, all of us would have our meals together, there would be talks and discussions, jokes and spats, just like old times. I think I spent more time with them here than all those years back in Pune when we would all meet for hardly a couple of hours each day!
The in-laws would go for long walks around the neighborhood. FIL made more friends around the area than people I know!
We finally visited the Niagara Falls.
It was Amazing! In fact, “Amazing” doesn’t even begin to cover the experience! It was mind-blowingly magnificent!
The power of nature at its best!
The twins drove me nuts on our drive till the falls. It was a long way and they were rather fidgety, being unused to getting strapped to their car-seats. The lack of movement, couple with the long distance made them eat the brains of the only person on their row. Me!
Lui : Mumma, have we reached?
Me : No, not yet.
Shobby : When will we reach??
Me : Maybe in another hour.
2 seconds pass by.
Shobby : Mumma, have we reached?
And so the loop went on. Somewhere towards the end, I lost my head and asked the BF to pull over. “Anything wrong?” he asked. “Yeah, I just want to leap off this window and jump into that river below”, I said. The in-laws found it funny! But of course! They weren’t the ones enduring those pesky , ranting, whining kids!
The torture was well worth it! One look at the falls and I realized the insignificance of our existence. Tonnes of water cascading down the gorge, the terrific sounds, the multiple rainbows over it, it was too beautiful! Almost exhilarating, yet bringing us down a bit. Nature’s creations are supreme. Nothing man-made can come any closer (SubhanAllah).
Since the In-laws were with us, we made a trip to the Water-park capital of the world – Wisconsin. I thought the title was exaggerated, but you have to visit the place to believe it! I think I have never seen so many water parks (and I’m talking about really large ones here) on one road! The resort we were staying at was called Kalahari, with a jungle theme and loads of indoor/outdoor water rides and an indoor theme park. The indoor water park even had temperature controlled water, so it wasn’t cold, a little on the warm side. In the toddler’s section, there was actual warm water flowing/splashing around!
We had great fun there. Even the MIL got down into the pool to play water basket-ball :D
The Kalahari trip was by far the most entertaining. Apart from the time we spent in the water, we all also got to do a lot of indoor fun activities like the sky-walk, go-carts, bowling, ferris-wheel, climbing walls, carousal and a dozen other arcade games. It was nearly midnight before the twins agreed to be dragged back to our rooms!
The in-laws visit also gave us an excuse to go sight-seeing around Chicago, something we’d been putting off for reasons unknown. We covered all the tourist sites, except the museums. The kids aren’t too fond of museums yet and they get irritable if we spend too much time on one! So we did the rounds of Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountains, Architectural Boat tour (Where they take you on the Chicago river and give a brief description/history on the landmark towers/buildings in downtown), Magnificent Mile and the likes.
Overall, it was an amazing two months, not only because the parents were with us, also because we got to spend a lot of quality time together as a family. Thats precious :)
And then, the school started! The kids are in Grade 1 now, older and much wiser than before. They give me enough reason to take refuge in my blog once again :D
Thats it folks. A quick summary if there ever was one :)
I’m a house-wife, still. I did get my work permit, but didn’t have the time or inclination to hunt for a job. InshaAllah, with the in-laws back home and the kids back in school, this might just be the right time to think about a profession again.
So wish me luck.
Today was Columbus Day in US. I believe it is the day to honor Sir Columbus who discovered America. The schools had an off today, but I guess the offices didn’t have a holiday (Saw the usual rush of professionals at the bus-stops).
The kids had brought back poems on Columbus from school last week. Lui was reading the poem, when the BF asked the kids, “Who is Columbus”?
Lui immediately started off with the tale she must have heard at school, about ships and voyagers and high sees and she seemed to go on and on but we were not close to understanding who was Columbus :| (brevity is so NOT her style !)
So the BF turned to Shobby and asked him the question. Shobby gave his typical reply –
“Arre Abbu, Woh Columbus Pune jaane waala tha, Chicago pahunch gaya“. (Oh Dad, Columbus was heading towards Pune but reached Chicago).
Succinct, I say!
We were rolling over the floor laughing for a good five minutes after this :D
Needless to say, Shobby has a better understanding of the heart of the matter :D
Anyhow, since Columbus Day doesn’t really ring my bell (Am more used to Gandhi Jayantis), I woke the kids up early this morning. Pestered them for brushing, toilet, bath, etc. Got them ready and off we went. Only after reaching the school did I realize that something was missing – the rest of the students ! And the faculty! And the school buses!
(The above line was from the kids. Ever heard a collective groan from two disgruntled kids? It sounds terrible!)
The twins admonished me all the way back home.
“Momma!! You ruined our holiday” (this one’s from Lui. Believe me, she used those exact same words!
“Momma, you should have seen the calendar”, said practical Shobbs.
“Yeah, yeah! Why couldn’t you two have reminded me?”, I shot back at them.
So we reached home and I tried to divert the twin’s irritation with some cartoons (bad parenting example. Guilty *gulp* ).
Now, Lui has this bad habit of fingering her ear-lobe, to the extent that the piercing developed some bruising, After nearly a month of keeping her away from ear-rings, I had put in a stud just that morning, to check if the piercing still existed. Luckily, it did, so I asked Lui to wear the earrings till evening.
Now Lui being Lui and fidgety to boot, started fingering her ear again.
“Mumma, can I remove my earrings now”, she asked.
“No. Not now. Later”.
“But Mumma, I want to remove it”.
“Leave it sweetie. We don’t want that piercing to close, do we?”
“But Mumma, it is MY body. I should decide if I want to wear the earring or not. You cannot decide for me. Right Mom?”
*POW! WHOOOSH!! THUD!! *
(That was the invisible sucker punch to my gut and the subsequent fall of my pride).
I couldn’t speak for a while. There were myriad images running in my mind, of Lui as an adult, with multiple piercings and tattoos all over her body, telling me that it is her right to do what she wants with her body.
Shook my head a bit to clear that image. There were bigger issues at hand here.
“Sweetheart, its your body, I agree, but right now, your ear piercing is close to getting closed forever. If it does, it’ll hurt when you pierce it again and if you don’t, you won’t get to wear all my earrings that you adore so much”!
There, that did the trick. Lui agreed to keep the earrings on till evening.
A girl’s vanity always comes to the rescue , doesn’t it ?! :D
With the BF away for a few days, life at home has become a tad boring. This weekend is worse! I mean, not that we did something groundbreaking when he was here, but its just that it was easier to while away the day . He would laze around the day, the kids would sprawl all over him and I would have time on my hands to ….well, do some darning or cleaning or shopping( yeah , yeah! that is how I entertain myself these days!).
The kids were missing their father terribly, so I gave in and allowed them to watch cartoons for longer than their ration. And, in order to give them a break from all that television, I gave them some plastic beads and satin cords to make into necklaces. It is an easy activity and it helped keep them occupied without my interference.
Lui grumbled all along because apparently, I didn’t have the exact bead colours and shapes that fit the pattern in her mind :roll: . She couldn’t believe, quote- “are you kidding me? You didn’t buy green beads?!”-unquote , that her mother was careless enough to not buy green and pink beads.
I really need to prioritize bead colors while purchasing them :|
Anyhow, the beads were strung and the Lui proudly wore it around her neck.
I asked Shobby to do the same.
“No Mom, when I get married, I will give it to my wi-“, he broke off.
“Errr……Whom are you going to give it to?”, I pestered, because obviously, I wanted to know whether I heard it right.
“I’ll wear it Mumma. On my shaadi“.
“But you said you wanted to give it to someone”.
“Oh-ho Mumma. You keep this”, he finished the topic by firmly wrapping my fingers around his necklace and scampering away to the bedroom.
I sat there for a long while, digesting the fact that my 5+ year old just made a necklace to gift his future wife.
And oh, here are the necklaces –
I considered it my immense luck when the twins got admission in a school which was barely a 2-minute walk from my place. It was easy-peasy to drop them there in the morning and then again, to pick them up after school. The kids get to learn English and Spanish and not surprisingly, their Maths is much above the par specified for their level (Indian schools do much better at teaching Maths, I guess!). Personally, I am rather satisfied with the way the twin’s education is progressing.
The BF is not so happy though. He had his heart set on some other schools which wouldn’t accept the twins because of their age (they wanted the twins to repeat Kindergarten when in fact, the twins are eligible for grade 1 (along with their Indian counterparts). I wasn’t happy with the thought of making the kids lose out a year, more so because we intend to get back to India once the BF is done with his work here. The school they are in currently, has a modest rating whereas the ones the BF prefers are rated much higher. For the record, these are public schools we are talking about. The schools are funded entirely by the government. We had to pay a nominal fee of $20 dollars for admission though.
But this post isn’t about the twin’s school admissions. It is about how the schools here approach the matter of teaching, how parents are involved in making decisions about the school and how the school isn’t limited to the child alone. There is so much the Indian schools can learn from here. For instance, there are no textbooks. No bulky books that the children have to lug around. Stuff such as scrap books, art-work, drawing books , etc are kept in the school itself. The children get assignment sheets as printouts which they complete and submit back. Initially, I was skeptical, not sure how they could teach without books! I mean, kids had to refer something, right?!
But as it turns out, rote learning is a complete No-No! The education here is completely activity based (at least where the lower grades are concerned). Maths, English and Science are taught very differently. For Maths, they use games, like Dominoes or blocks. For Science, the kids do practical activities in class (they get to study live turtles, frogs, birds, insects, etc). The school conducts multiple field trips in a year for real-life experience. The twins did 4 months of Kindergarten here and in those 4 months, they had one outing each month (Thats a whole lot if you consider that Indian schools barely manage to conduct 1 picnic in an academic year. And I’m talking private school here. Am not sure if Government schools can afford a school picnic). The students here are taught in such a wide variety of way that text-books appear redundant! They get to watch cartoons, read story books, play on iPads (yes, the kids here get iPads! Heck, even I don’t have one :| )
(I was always against the twins watching cartoons, but the ones shown here are specifically suggested and approved by the Chicago Public Schools department – http://www.pbskids.org. The cartoons broadcast here are all knowledge-based, either related to Maths, English, Science, Dinosaurs or General awareness and Civic sense. These same cartoons are shown in the school)
The classrooms make a difference in the attitudes of children too. I remember the dreary classrooms of my childhood, with a few fading charts adorning the walls. Here, the classrooms are a riot of colours!
Apart from being really large, the rooms are airy, bright and ergonomically designed for the kids. One section of the wall is stuffed with blocks, play-dough, toys, jigsaw- puzzles, lego, dinosaurs, race cars. The other wall has the stationary stock. When I went to there for the first time, I was shocked to see the quantities of stationary made available for that class. There were large tubs (twice the size of grocery baskets) each filled with crayons, pencils, glue, paint, color-pencils, scissors, reams of chart papers, printout papers and every other kind of paper used for art projects.
It is amazing to see the kind of expense made by the government for the children – and I’m talking about an average-rated public school here!. I wonder what all facilities are made for children in higher-rated schools! When I mentioned this to the BF, he said that huge sums of money was allotted for education in India too, its just that it never reaches down till the school. Pity :(!
No wonder then, that the twins LOVE going to school. Even though the hours are longer (7 hours), it doesn’t seem that long. The kids get free breakfast in class(The motto being that “A Hungry Child Cannot Learn”). The lunch too is free, but I prefer giving home-made dabba just so that I can track their food intake !
It would be a matter of time before we return back to India. I guess of all the things here, the kids are likely to miss their school the most. I’m not saying that Indian schools are drab….its just that they’ll have to carry all those books, workbooks, classwork notebooks, homework notebooks, lunch and water! They’ll have to read from text books and mug up answers. They will have quarterly unit tests (unlike the regular assessments happening here) and worry about grades. To sum up, they will join the rat-race to score and stay ahead instead of just enjoying school for what it should be! A wonderful quote in the school’s reception says –
“Teach Me, I will forget. Show me, I may remember. Involve me, I will learn”
The schools here, involve.
In India, they teach :| !