Schooling in America

With summer holidays starting, I have been thinking of how this past school year has been… so here’s one post on how we coped…

When it was decided that we are going to move, most everyone told me that there would be no issues with Sam learning there. The lessons would be taught slowly and there will be no homework and he will enjoy going to school.

With that thought process, when we came here and got him into school – he should have ideally been in kindergarten, he was not even 5 and half years. Unfortunately (but hubby thinks otherwise) since he had already completed 2 years of Pre-KG and LKG in India, the school said he need not attend kindergarten at all and it is fine for him to go to Grade-1. We asked in 2 different school districts and nearly 3-4 schools but they all said the same thing. At that point in time, I was also convinced that we should give this a try, if we go back in the next couple of years, he can repeat the same class and he should be good.

Then the school started. All was hunky-dory for the first 2 weeks and then home-work started coming in. Homework, that as per the teachers should not take more than 20 mins, the little fellow used to take nearly an hour. Then we got our first letter home – He is not up to the mark in reading. We immediately scheduled a meeting with the teacher.

Back in Bengalooru, he had begun to write a,b,c,d and read small 3 letter words but here the expectation was to read small books. He didn’t even know that the book had to always be read from page 1! He apparently started reading from page 5/6 when asked he said he knew the book had to be read from page 1 but the last page of that book had baby of a Kangaroo called Joey and his friend’s name is Joey, so he liked to read that page first! So the teacher suggested we put him in a special reading class – where he would be taken out of class for 30 mins along with other kids who weren’t good at reading and would be given individual attention. So, from there started the uphill climb on reading. He got Math – math that I had to understand how to do and then teach him. different methods and techniques – number line, vertical grid, dominoes, graphs, count by 5s etc etc; He also had issues with statement problems – the trouble with reading and understanding the English in the problem made him loose track of the problem itself. So, we had to help him understand that as well.

Along with these issues with understanding, he had issues with bullying too. Being new and a child with high energy levels which made him getup and answer out of turn etc; he was being bullied by a few kids. This continues even now, but we have told the teacher and it doesn’t seem to be bothering him as much as it used to. He would throw tantrums at home for no reason at all, hit us and scream and after talking to him or at bedtime the real reason for his upset would come out. That was the hardest part. Not only are the kids here physically more stronger, this kid being the youngest in class was much smaller than the rest of the them.

I really thought we should change the school (this is not the best school district) and maybe get him to repeat grade 1 with kids his age. I was (still am) completely fine with him repeating a class if he can get back his confident, happy self and not feel “not capable” of doing things – these were the exact words he uses. Despite all these, he loves going to school and never once has he said that he doesn’t want to go to school. Such resilience!

But over the last couple of months, since April, with soccer and swimming where he meets other kids from his school and class, he seems to be slowly feeling better about going to school and we are feeling better too. After the last PTM I am now trying to relax that knot in my stomach when I send him to school everyday.

With the summer reading program that his teacher thinks will help him, I just hope that the steep climb will steady out by the time Grade 2 starts and we can have a happy little trek 🙂 through the year.


The Photograph Saga

Let’s start from the very beginning… Neither the hubby or me are very fond of taking pictures or being in pictures. Taking pictures for us has mostly been as an after thought. The hubby hates to ask someone else to take a picture of us, so most of our honeymoon pictures either has him or me 😛 We perhaps have less than 10 pictures together, that too because by day 3 the driver realized that we wouldn’t ask him ourselves and he offered to take it.Many a times we let the rest of the group take the pictures and share them with us later. There was a time when I wanted us to go to a studio and get a picture taken and get it framed like how every one else does it. But again, hubby was never in favor of it – he cringes at the thought of having to ‘get dressed’ just for a studio picture. I thought things might change after the kid, but no, nada.

Off late, how ever, my thoughts are changing. We do not have a single picture of us as a family that I can frame. Nothing that I can hang on a wall or place on a table and make that space personal. And I’m beginning to feel, I want one. Fine, if we don’t go to a studio, I’m ok with that. Thank God for selfies, that I at least have a few pictures these days of the 3 of us together. But those are never frame worthy. I have begun to realize that these happy, fun moments are so fleeting that I better capture it somewhere that I can come back and smile about it later. When I come here and read the 6 yr old posts, see pictures of Sam as a baby, read his antics that I have almost forgotten, it makes my day 🙂 Just like that, I want to capture more moments in pictures.

Life has currently given us opportunities to explore new places, experience new things, enjoy the awe of the little one for example when he sees One World Observatory and realizes that ‘this’ is what is a skyscraper that his teacher taught him about, a George Washington statue he recognizes… I want to capture them all. A moment in time that we enjoyed. Felt great about. Another 6-7 years later, when the kid is a teenager and he cribs that we didn’t take him anywhere – show this to him 🙂 A day when I wear something new and feel confident about-I want that moment captured, just to think later – I did this too…

I still do not want a DSLR or the latest camera that makes me look like a million bucks or makes the scenery look like its out of a picture book or a movie. No, that’s not what I crave for. My mobile phone camera is good enough for me. I just want us, captured in that moment of time, in a happy frame of mind. It is not the joy of taking a superb, well thought out, enhanced picture, it is the joy of knowing that here it is…this fleeting moment- Ah! I gotcha! Captured!

Is that a problem? Is my thinking wrong? I am becoming a photography convert – anyone else cares to join me in this ‘capture the moment’ madness?

A fun day in NYC

As per tradition, we could not go out of town for the anniversary this year, so we decided we will spend a Saturday in New York City, doing  things that required quite a bit of walking around.

The first thing that got decided was where to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner 🙂 Then for all the things we wanted to see. And the plan was obviously left to me.

We left home really early (for a Saturday morning) at 7:40 am and drove to New York. I had already booked a parking space very close to our dinner place near Times Square and the idea was to take the Metro around the city. Its always a challenge to drive around that city! I always feel hubby is so confident doing it, while I’m just lost looking everywhere and thinking “Now where do I look?!”

Thanks to Google Maps, even though I had downloaded the NYC Transit App on the phone, I never needed to use it. With the help of google maps we first got a train to Chelsea Market. Its an indoor food market filled with goodies. We walked around looking at things, taking a few pictures and there was hardly any crowd as it was still only 9:15 am. I opted for a Parisian Breakfast -toasted Baguettes with Apricot jelly and butter with coffee while the hubby and Sam (OK, the boy sounded so distant, so I’m renaming him Sam here! Go roll your eyes elsewhere!)  had a spinach and cheese sandwich/burger at Alex Guarnaschelli’s Amy’s Bread. Thus ensuring we break the fast, we started on the journey to see the Charging Bull. OMG! The crowd. Everyone wanted to touch the bull – Ahem! you know where! Someone even pushed Sam so hard that he just fell there right under the bull! I then took a photo op by holding the horns of the bull for financial luck *hopefully* 😛 and we quickly left from there. Since we were in Wall Street we walked to see the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Hall before walking across the Trinity Church to catch the train to our next stop – Vikas Khanna’s Michellin Star Indian restaurant – Junoon. Good ambiance, great drinks, prompt service, food – did not match the hype or the expectation. We were hungry and the food was our hot Indian food – so hog, we did.

Post lunch, we walked along Madison Square Park and took the Metro to Rockefeller Center. A few pictures, Sam chasing the pigeons, of course buying Lego, hubby realized he was wearing the wrong shirt – so we popped into Banana Republic (which had a Dad’s sale going on) to change the shirt. We walked to see the Atlas holding the heavens sculpture and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and we were on 5th Avenue! I could not, not shop now. Could I? A been there, done that? So we dropped into Saks 5th Avenue where I got lured into getting “made up” and I also bought a lipstick that I probably would never use!! A friend had suggested that we try something at Magnolia Bakery and we did just that – Coconut Cake and Tea. Could not try more as we had plans for dinner and we were still full from lunch. We sat at a fountain right there, ate the cake while hubby had the tea (which by the way was sugarless and no other flavor except the tea).

Refreshed, we caught our last Metro for the day back to Times Square to get to Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Some confusion regarding the tickets and a bit of running around, we did manage to go in. It was so much fun! 😀 Sam loved the black hole and went in it 3 times! He also loved ‘climbing the Empire State Building’ and taking pictures with Bumble Bee 🙂

We still had some time left before dinner, so we walked around Times Square and looked for a place to sit. Found a Star Bucks coffee, went in so Sam could rest his little legs a bit had a lemon Iced Tea, did some crowd watching and lights watching and the street performers’ antics all comfortably from inside Star Bucks. We then walked slowly towards our final point of interest – dinner!

We had booked dinner at The View. We went up a super fast elevator to the 48th floor just in time to see an awesome pink,orange and red sunset. It was just beautiful! Unfortunately though, we didn’t have any options for vegetarian food. We went one level up to the lounge and bar for the buffet which thankfully had a couple of veggie options, though everything was highly priced. I wish there were more veggie options, however I guess we payed more for the view! The floor of the restaurant revolves 360deg. once every hour. So we get to see the entire skyline of Manhattan and Brooklyn from the 48th floor, while sitting cozily inside and having lunch/dinner. By the time we finished dinner at 10 pm, Sam was asleep on his feet. 🙂 We then quickly paid the check and walked to the car park which was just 2 mins away. Even at that time we saw queue of people waiting to get into a pub/restaurant or Theater. New York City was alive on Saturday night!

Thankfully, the weather Gods were in our favor with no rain and not too much sun. Sam did not throw any tantrums and walked all the way as much as we did – 28000 steps hubby’s phone app said. We drove out of the city and reached home happy, tired and completely satisfied with the day at 11:30 pm. A summer Saturday – well spent 🙂





The Memorial Day Weekend

Before I forget, I want to post about the Memorial Day weekend outing we did with the family.  Just for DreamyMommy to let her know that I’m right here 🙂

Hubby’s cousins – one from New Hampshire and the other from North Carolina and us from New Jersey (phew) decided to meet  for the Memorial Day weekend. As you can see the logistics of meeting for 3 days considering the distances/cost/driving was a challenge.

Since they both decided they would take the trouble of driving 6-8hrs we decided Pocono Mountains as the destination. Then began the  search for a house big enough to host 12 people! We decided on Arrowhead Lake and fortunately found a 5 bedroom house right on the beach and next to the play area.As we were driving the shortest distance (just about 2hrs) we decided to pick up the groceries and I also cooked a couple of side dishes to ease things a bit.

As expected the traffic was horrible on Friday and it took us more than 2 hrs to reach the house. To our disappointment the house was dusty 😦 Like the hubby says for someone with a cleanliness ‘OCD’ like me, it immediately put me off. We wiped clean the kitchen counters,stove,microwave and the dining tables before we setup the kitchen. How ever the house was well stocked with 4-5 bicycles, 2 row boats and 2 kayaks. The little boy couldn’t resist the play area and off we went until sunset to spend the time at the beach and then took a small round on the bicycle. We lost track of time and the next thing we know its nearly 9pm! Thank God we had chappatis and what ever I had cooked so we had a quick dinner. By then the family with nearly 4yr old twins for whom it took all day Friday to drive – got home – hungry and exhausted! The twins and the parents had their dinner and we slept by 11:30pm.

On Saturday, we all had a quick breakfast and took the kids to the beach – they loved playing in the water while we all took turns in the row boat. Little boy and one of the twins gave us some funny moments while they kept falling off their wooden seats both times the boat started and the boat stopped. SIL and I laughed our heads off looking at their clumsiness – yes, bad mommies that we are. Im smiling even as Im writing this. It WAS funny watching them. At around noon we all had baths and lunch and waited for the 3rd family to join us. They reached by around 3pm – with loads of home made goodies *yummmm* my mouth waters even as I think of the masala puri and the koDbaLes they got. We had tea and coffee and every one went on another round of row boats while the kids went back into the lake water.

It was decided that we would have a grilled dinner. Panner/Bell Peppers/ Corn on Cob/Onions/harabhara kababs with sparkling Grape juice/beer and juice for the kids. Different yummy dinner. The boy, who until then hadn’t bothered with me, was exhausted and settled down on my lap to finish his dinner and told me  “amma, I want to do this again”. Eating grilled corn for dinner topped off the happiness of the day for him 🙂 While the twins were made to sleep, we all sat talking until nearly mid night and called it a day.

Sunday morning I woke up early, oh! I forgot to mention – we took a bedroom with a crib on the 2nd floor which had a huge sky light right on top of the bed. So at 5:30 am the sun streamed right into our eyes! So I was up and awake by 5:30/6 both days we stayed there! Thinking of making coffee, I went down to see that L&S were ready to head out  for a walk. I just slipped into my sandals and almost pushed them out of the house before my little monster could wake up and come down! *evil grin* What started as a walk ended up being a trek around the lake as we lost our way and the roads weren’t mapped on google maps. It was a solid 2hr walk and because I was evil and ran out in a pair of sandals, my feet hurt real bad by the time we reached home again. Got my punishment right there! We took the kids to the pool after that, had good lunch, more beach, play area, bath and grilling again for dinner. The ended with the adults and the little boy playing “Clue” a couple of times, lots of laughter and a lot of thanks to G&S sisters who took initiative and set up the game, explained the rules and put up with the adult non sense 😛 Each time I meet these girls, I come away happily surprised with their amount of patience and the really indulged way they handle the kids. They got into the lake water beach for them, taught them to do cartwheels and somersaults, timed running races and still had the energy to stand at the grill for dinner!

Couldn’t believe that the 3 days just went by in a wink while the planning went on for weeks. Like the little boy said, I wish we could holiday forever!  Like all the kids, I didn’t want to go back home and wanted to stay in the ‘Holiday house’ but I couldn’t cry like they did and had to be adult about it 😦

Since everyone else had long drives, they all left sooner while we ensured the house was clean and things back in place and decided to have lunch at the Sringeri Mutt close by to prolong the holiday a little bit more 🙂 We reached home by 3pm – back to the cleaning and preparing for the next week.

I’m still looking at the photos and thinking it was so much fun…