Chennai Week In Review...

Wow am I a laggard!! We have had events almost every single day this week, though from reading my blog you'd never know about them. Here's what's been happening in our neck of the woods since our yard flooded last Wednesday ...

* Thursday night we attended parent / teacher conferences. Now let's be honest - does the kindergarten class REALLY need conferences? What is there to honestly talk about? Riley is my mini police officer. I hear about what she does from the moment she gets to school to the moment she gets home, and every discussion with her classmates in between. We braved monster mosquitoes, a late dinner, and a pee pee accident to hear all about our sweet girl. After our 15 minutes of allotted time sitting in a chair that was WAY too small for our tushies, we heard a brief synopsis of how Riley's an ideal student, her minor weaknesses of rushing through her work in order to be "first", and how she freaks out at the sight of blood. Clearly nothing has changed since our conferences in her pre-K class.

* Friday night we took the girls to the Consulate to see the movie Wall-E (again) on the big screen. A majority of the younger kids in the community all showed up and seemed to have a great time. The theater is a perfect place to watch movies as it's all Consulate families and shown on a giant movie projector. If the kids get restless or want to roam the aisles, it's no big deal, we all know each other and can help wrangle a toddler or two! Next time I just need to remember to bring drinks and extra snacks.

* Saturday our driver Paddy came by our house to say his fond farewells to us and the girls. He left us to take a permanent position at the new Consulate in Hyderabad, where he has doubled his salary and now also gets benefits. It's a fantastic opportunity for him, though we were incredibly sad to see him go. He took a few photos with the girls and promised to come see us whenever he was back in town. Before he left he helped find us a driver. We hired his best friend, who has worked for a few Consulate families in years past. So far, so good.

* Sunday we took the girls to lunch at the Marriott, where they have an entire area complete with bouncy castle, a balloon guy, face painting, and kids buffet, all geared towards children. It's fantastic, and one of the only places around to take the youngsters. We spent almost 4 hours there schmoozing with friends, and then it was off for a little swimming.

* Monday was FINALLY Diwali, the festival of lights, and everything was closed. The entire city sounds like it's being bombed as every single household / apartment dweller lights off fire crackers day and night. This has now been going on for 3 straight days, and I'm amazed at how loud these things are! We ended the day with a dinner at a friend's house, and Riley made a new friend in a 7th grade girl on her bus.

* Today we took the kids on a trip to the Planetarium. There's a small, somewhat dingy, Planetarium in town that has a few interesting things to look at, and a 45 minute movie about the stars, moons, and planets. I thought it would be a great place to take the girls, however, I was quite wrong. Both girls whined throughout the entire movie, continually asking when it was going to be over. Then they wanted to play on one of the very few playgrounds I've seen in town, which was so disgusting, it looked like one big tetanus shot waiting to happen. Not gonna happen. The highlight of their day was going to Subway and getting sandwiches and ice cream.

Riley has the entire week off of school, though Sheridan goes back tomorrow. It's going to thankfully be quiet around here for the next few days until our big Halloween party on Friday night. Enjoy the peace... we sure will!

Enjoying some pizza before the movie at the Consulate

Paddy and the girls

Our trip to the Planetarium...

I don't think that either of the girls want to be astronauts after today.


Waterfront Property

Here are some photos of Matt going to work today. Kinda gives the phrase, "I'm Going To Go To Work Come Hell or High Water" an entirely new meaning, huh?

The monsoon season is definitely here, and where our house is located is absolutely no fun when it rains. Our street floods, and then it pushes all the water onto our driveway, lawn, and ultimately wraps around the house. Yeah baby...

I had to wade through the calf-high water with Riley on my back to take her out to her bus for school. Her rain boots only go up as high as her ankles, and the water was so high it would have poured right into them. She thought it was hilarious that I had to walk through the muck. I didn't. The rain still hadn't stopped when we took Sheridan to school, so round two began at 8:30 am. Clearly I need to order a pair of rain boots ASAP.

This is the street in front of our house. And our driveway leading out. Our gardener showed up this morning to open up the gates so that we wouldn't have to get completely soaked.

Yup, Another Diwali Celebration

Last Friday a gaggle of us moms volunteered in the kindergarten class to help with yet another Diwali celebration. It was a very long day filled with endless activities and little down time to catch our breath. The day's celebrations included a slide show presentation on Diwali, decorating dandiya sticks (wooden sticks that are colorfully decorated and used in Indian dancing) and then learning the dandiya dances, painting tea lamps, doing a rangoli art project (a popular art form in India), eating a snack of traditional Indian foods, and ending with mehindi (the application of henna).

By the end of the day I was absolutely pooped... and singing praises to the amazing kindergarten teachers who spend 7 hours with these kids each day! Oh do I give them credit!

Here are a few photos from the day...

Riley's Class

Decorating the dandiya sticks.... learning the dandiya dances

Painting the tea lamps .... Hanging out with a friend


Tasty Tidbits

There are so many events and activities going on right now that it's taking me awhile to finally catch my breath!

After much ado, last Thursday was the first 'Cooking With Moms' after school activity for the kindergarten - second graders. We had a FULL house with 13 kids showing up. I'm co-teaching the class with another mom, and we're having a blast designing our menus and shopping for the kids.

For our first class we decided to make popcorn as our snack, followed by french toast. Betsy showed everyone how to make the popcorn from scratch, and after wards, the kids all took their places at the table and made their own french toast - from start to finish. Each one cracked their own egg, scrambled it with the milk and vanilla, and dipped their bread on both sides before we put it on the griddle. The toppings? Why fruit, syrup, and chocolate spread, of course!

On the left... making popcorn ~ On the right... scrambling the eggs

Sheridan had a great time cooking. Me and my partner, Betsy.


What Would YOU Do?

Sheridan's class went on a field trip last Tuesday. I didn't find out about it until Friday afternoon ... when Sheridan casually mentioned something about going in her teacher's blue car.

"WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?", I asked Sheridan in my calmest of angry voices, not wanting to scream at her for reasons she doesn't understand.

"We went in my teacher's blue car for a Golu visit", she says in her high pitched squeaky voice.

"And where was this Golu visit?", I asked.

"At somebody's house. I don't know who it was", she said.

No notice home to let me know that she was going on a field trip. No permission slip to ask me if it's okay for her to leave the school grounds. No information about the transportation to "said" location. No idea that my daughter would be riding in the back of some teacher's car with no car seat, no seat belt, no parental supervision.

Um yeah, I'm beyond angry. I'm livid, irate, and completely incapable of words to describe my unbelievable exasperation. What if something happened? What if...

I spoke with the head teacher at Sheridan's school yesterday and told her how upset I was to learn about their field trip from my three year old daughter. I let her know that we don't let Sheridan ride without a car seat. I also told her that as her mother I demand to know when she will not be on the preschool's grounds. It's not exactly as if driving here is safe.

Her response, "Well we didn't let them ride in the front seat. They were in the back with another teacher."

My retort, "Well that's still not acceptable. The next time you have a field trip I will either accompany you or send my driver to take her in her car seat. Otherwise, she's not allowed to go. And that's how we do things in our household."

I walked away shaking. I really like the school, but this is one area where they made a very bad decision. I've heard from other parents that this has happened several times in years past, and usually an expat parent or two has had some choice words for the director. Surprisingly, this year, I'm one of the few parents who actually care that this happened. Must be the American in me.

Oh I hope this is the last time... I shudder to think what I will say or do if there is ever a next time.



Last Saturday we attended our first Diwali celebration at Riley's school. Diwali or Deepavali is perhaps the most well-known of the Indian festivals and is celebrated throughout India. It is colloquially known as the "festival of lights", for the common practice is to light small oil lamps (called diyas) and place them around the home, in courtyards, verandas, and gardens, as well as on roof tops and outer walls. The celebration of the festival is invariably accompanied by the exchange of sweets and the explosion of fireworks.

As with other Indian festivals, Diwali signifies many different things to people across the country. In north India, Diwali celebrates Rama's homecoming, that is his return to Ayodhya after the defeat of Ravana and his coronation as king in an epic war. In south India, Diwali signifies the defeat of the demon king Narakasura, a trouble maker to the gods and pious sages. He was destroyed by a woman by the name Sathyabhama, and his death is celebrated as Diwali.

Though beliefs differ, the cause for celebrating the victory of good over evil is the same. Everywhere it signifies the renewal of life, and accordingly it is common to wear new clothes on the day of the festival.

Diwali actually starts on October 27th, but there are many parties celebrating it before then. The school threw a fantastic one on Saturday, complete with dinner, Indian dancing, and a 10+ minute fireworks show less than few hundred meters away. The girls had a great time running around the school field all night with their friends. They only stopped to sit down when the fireworks started or when they were eating their many ice cream bars (also known as dinner).

The next Diwali function is Friday - where I'm one of just 4 moms volunteering to help out the entire day in Riley's class. Until then...

On the left - Riley and Sheridan with several girls in Riley's class ....
On the right - the girls with their partner's in crime.


Worship of Tools

Today my gardener and driver performed an amazing ceremony in our driveway... the Ayudha Puja, or Worship of Tools. The Ayudha Puja is a worship of whatever implements one may use in one's livelihood. They bless the tools by which they make a living, by cleaning them, and showing respect. Today they blessed our gardening tools, our cars, their motorcycles, their bicycles and ours, and most importantly, our generator.

The preparations and ceremony took about 2 hours. First they decorated all of the tools with turmeric paste and Kumkuma, putting on a small dot with both. They sprinkled flowers on the tools, vehicles, bikes and decorated them with the garlands. Next our gardener put a big banana leaf on the floor and filled it with fruits, sugar cane, nuts, bananas, puffed rice and powdered jaggery. He put our gardening tools near the car and after lighting a coconut and incense, he walked around and performed three blessings on all the instruments.

Sheridan helped decorate her own bike and even helped put the rupees into the watermelon that would subsequently be smashed, along with a coconut, on the street in front of our house. We ended the ceremony by driving over the limes, that were left under all our tires, which signifies removing the evil eye.

Here are some photos that chronicle the ceremony...

Garland hung on the front of my car

Decorating Sheridan's bicycle. Sheridan putting rupees into the watermelon.
Showing us her dirty turmeric'y hands.

Banana leaf filled with offerings. The gardener blessing Matt's car

Blessing my car. Our front gate is adorned too.

Smashing the watermelon.

Driving over the limes and removing the evil eyes.


Saraswathi Puja

Today Sheridan's school dressed up in honor of Saraswathi Puja, the worship of the Hindu goddess of learning. The holiday is observed during Navratri (a nine-day long festival celebrating the power of femininity), in which the last three days are dedicated to the goddess. Goddess Saraswathi is the goddess of knowledge, art, and music, and wisdom. She represents the creative and inspirational aspect of Shakti. During the three days of Puja, the idol is dressed in white or yellow color, and fresh fruit and flowers are offered to her.

Here are a few photos of her and some friends from school...

The photo on the right is of the Golu... the doll exhibition.
The dolls are displayed in the temples and in each Hindu's home during the Navratri.

On the left are girls in her class.
On the right is Sheridan in front of the entire doll exhibition.

Sheridan and our neighbor ... and with our driver.

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