Friday, February 12, 2016 journal : delhi..

It was almost 15 years ago when Rich told me that if I could survive a trip to the Boundary Waters, I could survive a trip to India. I was a little wary of his comment, but also thought confidently to myself, "I got this. I'll show him my 'roughing it' skills."

The trip came and went, and back-country camping chewed me up and spit me out. It was a memorable trip, for many reasons, but my 'roughing it' skills were not what I anticipated. I suppose it could have been the fact that I took it upon myself to lighten our load by finishing the box of wine we had decided to bring, resulting in the nastiest hangover of my life. Seriously? Trying to warm your freezing body on a dark rock in the sun while your head is pounding is NOT fun. Maybe it was the incessant rain that made it impossible to dry anything out. Or perhaps, perhaps, it was the moment that I fell backwards onto the muddy trail with a huge dry pack on, and found myself stuck up-ended like a turtle who's been overturned onto its shell. Yes, a memorable trip, with no shortage of laughter at my expense.

Fast forward to today. We finally took that trip to India.

We covered immense territory on this trip, and we traveled with a large group of family and friends. The whole reason we decided to take the trip was because Rich's cousin was getting married in Kerala, which is in the southernmost state of India. With Rich's school schedule giving him a generous winter break, and children at ages that are still young enough to miss school without lagging too far behind, we decided to extend the trip so that we could see more of India than just Kerala. After all, most of Rich's mother's family is still living in India. After 12 years of marriage, I suppose it's time to meet her side of the family.

We mapped out our trip such that we started in Delhi (it's cheapest to fly into Delhi or Mumbai), made our way to the wedding, and then finished up where family live in Andhra Pradesh/Telangana. Two and a half weeks we traveled a good chunk of India, with our neighbors and Rich's brother's family, and Rich's cousin's family (15 of us, total -- 8 adults and 7 kids, aged 2-16).

How did it go, you ask? Let's start in the north...

We arrived in Delhi in the middle of the night. We were pretty wide-eyed, as the time difference had our bodies feeling like it was lunchtime.  It was difficult to see anything, but we definitely felt as though we were in a well populated city, and at the time I couldn't tell if it was just really foggy, or if the pollution was that bad.

We took the first day to simply acclimate to the time and enjoy catching up with family. The kids played together wonderfully, and it had been awhile since we had all seen each other, so taking it easy was exactly what we needed. The hotel was very westernized, so meals could be Indian if you chose, but there were also 'Asian' options and 'Western' options. It was all set out buffet style, so each palate was more than satisfied. If you had a hankering for beef, however, you had to settle for water buffalo.

The second day we were there we took a driving tour of Delhi. We had compiled a list of places we wanted to see, and hired a bus to take us around the city. I am so grateful for that bus.

There is not a rat's chance in hell that I could ever drive in India...or hail an auto rickshaw for that matter. The congestion was at a  level that I have never before experienced. New York and L.A. are tame compared to India. And realistically, the rules of the road are simply that larger vehicles have the right of way. And the honking--so much honking. The honk is meant simply as a 'hey, I'm coming up on ya.' Just a 'toot-toot' get out of my way type thing, but a constant sound nonetheless. I took comfort in the fact that we only drove between 25 and 40 mph, although travel times were painstakingly slow at that speed with the congestion.

Now let's say that you do acclimate to the haphazard driving. Once you are able to open your eyes, unclench your fists and catch your breath, then you will notice the sheer amount of 'stuff' that lines the streets of Delhi. There are few open spaces, and it can very well make you feel claustrophobic. What exists in these spaces? Anything you can imagine. There are homes, food carts, litter, people, vendors, parked cars, bikes, hanging laundry...and the list goes on. Even amid traffic, young girls would perform acrobatics on the street (between cars!) with the hope of being given a few rupees.

The conditions that some of the people live in are so foreign to what we know and understand. I will say that, as a society, they are incredibly resourceful. One can instantly feel bad for what some have to endure, yet more often than not I saw smiling faces and lively conversational exchanges, especially among the children. It doesn't appear to be a country that feels sorry for itself, but rather, a country that is enterprising and making the most of what they have available to them.

As for the pollution, it was that bad. There was a constant brown haze in the sky. You didn't realize how bad it was until you came home at night and found yourself in coughing fits. And while the air pollution took a toll on our lungs, there was also your standard run-of-the-mill litter, and the unexpected human/animal waste. It's not often you see a billboard encouraging the use of toilets. We definitely watched where we were walking.

As I said, we took great care before a plane even took off to have a rough itinerary of what we wanted to see in Delhi. On the docket were Qutub Minar, the Lotus temple, Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, and the Dilli Haat bazaar. It was a long day, but gave us a nice introduction to the country.

Qutub Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world, constructed of sandstone and marble. Built in 1200 AD, it is surrounded by other monuments, both finished and unfinished, significant in both the Islam and Hindu faiths. We did have a guide who gave us a proper tour, but I was more entranced with the details of the buildings, some of the wildlife, and making sure that there were no stragglers. It's hard to believe that some of these treasures are over 800 years old.

Our next stop was the Lotus temple. The Lotus temple is a house of worship for members of the Bahai religion, but welcome any denomination to worship there as well. It was built in the 1980's, and is relatively new compared to the Qutub complex. In order to enter the temple, you must take off your shoes and leave them outside. We opted to skip the indoor tour and stayed outside where we could rest assured that our shoes would remain our own. That, and kids were starting to show signs of needing to eat.

Have I ever mentioned that our last name is the result of an immigration misunderstanding? 'Tis true. My father-in-law was quite the field hockey player when he was a young man living in India, and was given the nickname Dhyan Chand. When he was filling out his immigration paperwork to enter the US, he mistook "Last Name" to mean "Nickname," and our family name of Dhyanchand was born. Naturally, the Dhyanchands in our group wanted to do a quick drive by of Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium. Nothing more was needed or required.

The last stop on our Delhi tour (after lunch, of course) was the Dilli Haat bazaar. It is a state run bazaar that requires a modest entrance fee so you can peruse the booths without being bothered by any number of distractions that exist on the regular city street. Most kids opted to stay on the bus for this, which allowed those who needed to take a nap the space to do so.

The bazaar was a tremendous treat for the crafter in me. There were textiles, wood, and paper crafts galore, with such beautiful colors and techniques displayed. While I was taken with how many different handicrafts were available, I hesitated to buy anything because that would have required me to haggle. I don't mind an occasional flea market haggle (of which I am sure I do not drive a hard bargain), but to be thrown into negotiating on the second day of being in a country that pushed my senses in every way conceivable was not something that I was remotely interested in.

A purchase was made, however, and it still puts a smile on my face. For a mere 200 rupees (about $3), Craig bought 'Isaac Newton's Delhi Christmas Extravaganza' CD. It was the most appropriate souvenir, I think, because it was Isaac Newton's. In an odd way, it represents the perfect duality that exists in India -- that of a culture rich in artistic endeavors, and more recently, a culture placing increased importance on the fields of science and mathematics. A Delhi Christmas Extravaganza, indeed. I have yet to hear that CD, but I'm certain when I finally do, I will be transported back to this day -- the day I first ventured out onto the streets of India.

Saturday, February 14, 2015 mine..

Too much illness here the last couple of weeks...ugh. Whatever virus has plagued our family has been a bit of a bear to get rid of. Thankfully, I have not succumbed yet to this bug (knock-on-wood), although I am feeling a tad snuffly. We shall see.

There's been a bit of making, nonetheless, and that includes the yearly valentines.

This year I had the kids choose and make their own valentines. I may have gotten the supplies ready, I may have printed said valentines, and I may have used the hot glue gun and the exacto knife to prevent any nasty injuries. But the rest was all them.

Isaac chose a 'Yoda Best' valentine, that was simple and not overly mushy. These are very important qualities to a boy teetering on the edge of middle-school-dom. Stay cool...and do no more than you have to.

Evy chose another simple valentine, utilizing only a chocolate heart and the alphabet. This was not her first choice, however. She would have preferred to make tic-tac-toe games for everyone and attach a package of tic-tacs to each. Perhaps if she was in a class of 4 students it would have been more cost-effective.

Margot chose the most elaborate of valentines. These little gnomes were too cute to say no to. And I had everything on hand but the kisses. She created little heart "feet" so that she could put students' names on them, and it worked out marvelously. She is my little artist, and fully enjoyed every step in making these beauties.

Rich and I had a nice valentine's dinner with friends (on Valentine's eve), which also involved some gambling. There were high hopes of winning 300 billion dollars, but alas, it was not meant to be. Maybe next time, eh?

We will be spending our valentine's day as a family, enjoying tennis, and laying low. Maybe we shall be rid of the viral beast by weekend's end? One can dream, yes?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 6, 2015 fun..

I do love the quiet rural life that we have embraced, but it is fun to venture out and travel to more populated cities, too.

A week or so ago, Rich and I took a weekend trip to Chicago with our neighbors. We were without kids for the first time in a long time, and it was a wonderful break from our otherwise busy life.

We left Friday afternoon, with a minivan full of 4 adults, 3 kids, and a yellow lab. We were packed in. Our pit stop in Rockford relieved us of the children and dog, we said our goodbyes and good lucks, and promptly got back on the road to head to the big city. My sister is a saint for taking responsibility of our kids and the beast, although much fun was had by all during our 44 hour mini-break.

I cannot speak for my children and the dog, but I can say that from Friday to Sunday, I enjoyed:

~ Chicago-style deep dish pizza

~ French greyhounds, mochas, lattes, and red wine

~ a couple of simple, yet relaxing, spa treatments (hello, scalp massage..)

~ Millennium park

~ Chinatown

~ Ubering, for the first time

~ the Chicago Art Institute

~ seeing an old friend, and making some new ones

~ safely returning to the ground floor from the 96th floor  (geez, I seriously hate heights)

~ an unseasonably warm January day, which made walking almost 6 miles around the city delightful, albeit tiring.

It was a fun trip. It's nice to get away, expose yourself to people and places that are different and unfamiliar. Chicago holds many memories for me, and I was glad to add to them.

Thank you for your hospitality, Chicago...see you again soon!

Friday, January 30, 2015

..knitting, for him..

I am a procrastinator. It's no secret, really, that I have an abundance of ideas, and then will abandon them mid-stream, as more ideas come to pass. More times than I can count I have tried to "work" on completing things left unfinished. I have come to the conclusion, however, that not everything (for me) is meant to be finished.

 Like I said before, I am idea person. I enjoy thinking up ideas. Committing to finishing them is a whole different story -- but one that I am trying to change, one project at a time.

I have been knitting now for a number of years. I started off small, with scarves and simple blankets. As a rhythm developed with my knitting, so did a need to challenge myself, little by little. I have been terrible at documenting my progress, but to date, I have knit a small cardigan for both of my girls, a couple of cowls for myself, a couple of blankets, hand warmers, bibs, and some scarves for my sisters. Knitting for girls is easy, really, and I feel bad about that. Mainly because I have a son and husband who I am leaving out, but not intentionally.

Right before Christmas, I finally finished a sweater for Isaac. It's the pattern Tea for Jam and Bread, and it appeared to be an easy sweater. I knew Isaac would like it because of the pockets. Mothers doing laundry? Not so much.  I did not follow the colors exactly, as I tried to use up some leftover yarns in my stash. But I am quite pleased with how it turned out.

Shall I tell you how long it took me to finish this guy up? Oh, only 10 months.

Now, we had a lot going on in the beginning of the year, and certainly that could be my excuse, but, really, it was just the p-word. I put things down, walk away, and get distracted by other things. I didn't forget about this little guy, though, and it did cause me some anxiety. Picking up stitches? The mere mention of that is enough for me to put down the project and leave it to collect dust for a few days, or weeks. Funny thing is, it is never as difficult as I make it out to be in my mind. And I am getting better at it, one sweater at a time.

All in all, it was a fun project to work on. I am quite happy it is now done, and I am on to the next male in the household, so that everyone in the family has their own mama-knit creation.

Hopefully it won't take another 10 months...

Friday, January 2, 2015


Yikes. 2015.

I've abandoned this little blog for awhile, and really I haven't gone's just that life has zoomed by so fast and I haven't taken the time to write about it. That's all.

The second half of 2014 brought  2 birthdays, some small trips around Wisconsin, visits with numerous family and friends, the start of 5th, 3rd, and kindergarten, the death of my father-in-law, tennis, dance, a new graduating class, numerous holiday celebrations, and now here we are starting a brand new year.

Like opening a crisp, new notebook, 2015 is a relative blank slate. It will fill up quickly. Our first adventure will be to drive home attempting, at all costs, to avoid winter storm Frona (as we drive back home from Florida, where we have been visiting family for the last week).

The frigid days of winter lay before us. It is my hope that I will take the time to document my little adventures -- big, small, happy, sad -- through each of the seasons that 2015 brings.

May your 2015 bring an abundance of happiness and health!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

..a birthday and an anniversary..

Ten years.

 That is how old this boy is. An entire decade spent keeping us on our toes. This child, being our firstborn, came with no instructions, and has thrived despite many parental missteps.  All new parents think this, I am certain. 

 He is, without a doubt, an embodiment of what his name means -- laughter I loved his name from the get-go, before I ever laid eyes on him. Isaac.

On his birthday, we were making a trip north to LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Neither Rich nor myself had thought much about what we would do -- this day he hit the double digits. We wanted to make it special, but not the kind of special that breaks the bank. All Isaac wanted for his birthday was an Xbox....something neither of us were willing to give.

We came upon a perfect compromise, however, in the form of Shenanigan's. Thank goodness for friend recommendations and happy hour. For one full hour, all three of our babes enjoyed a semi-deserted warehouse of fun: high ropes course, bouncy house, bumper cars, hamster ball, mini bowling, climbing wall and arcade games galore.

At the end of the hour, they had tickets to redeem for prizes. 2,200 of them. Most of those points allowed Isaac to choose a mini pool table, which was a wonderful present that made him and us happy. Birthday crisis averted.

3 days later came the anniversary. 11 years.

I can happily say that it doesn't feel that long. It only seems long when I start to think about all that has happened in those 11 years. Amazing.

For our anniversary, we did make a point to go out -- Wisconsin style.

We went to a campground bar to listen to a dixieland band, The Basin Street Boys. Rich knew the percussionist -- he was a former student. As crazy as the date sounds, experiencing it in real life was even better. The band was fantastic. I was smitten with the loud, casual nature of a bar riddled with deer antlers, deer heads, and even a black bear. It was Mardi Gras night too, so people were bedecked in purple, yellow, and green, and beads galore. $4 Hurricanes. $8 Shrimp Etoufee. I was completely in awe, and loved every moment of this eleventh year celebration.

Our summer continues, and while our anniversary marks the end of "celebrations" for now,  we still have a lot of summer fun to soak in. It's all good.  Yes, this first Wisconsin summer is very good, indeed.