Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rakhi Day

Just wanted to give you a heads-up . . . August 2 is Raksha Bandhan, or Rakhi Day.  This is my favorite Indian holiday, which celebrates the love between brothers and sisters.  It falls on a different day each year, because it's set according to the lunar calendar, so you just have to remember to Go*gle it to find out when it is.

Siblings celebrate by exchanging bracelets to symbolize the bond of love that ties them together.  Brothers pledge to protect and love their sisters, and sisters pledge their lifelong love for their brothers.  They also exchange sweets to represent the sweet lifelong bond they share.

We celebrate with an Indian meal, and time spent around the table exchanging bracelets, candy, and sweet words about things they love about each other.  For a more detailed description, you can visit www.raksha-bandhan.com.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cucumber Raita

For summer, an easy Indian dish I love to make is a Cucumber Raita.  Raitas are meant to be served as a complement to spicy dishes, but it's also a great way to add Indian flair to summer meals . . . and a great way to use some of the cucumbers from your garden.  You can eat raita as a side dish if it's thicker and chunkier, mix it into a spicy curry on your plate, or use it as a dip with naan or pita bread.

I prefer this recipe because it uses cilantro instead of mint;  but that's purely a matter of preference.  Many raitas include only mint, while some have mint and cilantro.  Feel free to be creative with the recipe and adjust it to your own taste!

Cucumber Raita

1 large (or 2 small) cucumber, peeled and seeded
8 oz. of plain yogurt (or Greek yogurt for more protein)
1/2 to 2/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Chop or shred cucumber.  (If you shred the cucumber, shred it into a colander and let the liquid drain off for 20-30 min. so your raita isn't too runny.)  In a medium bowl, mix together yogurt and spices.  Stir in cilantro and cucumber. Garnish with cilantro and chill for 1/2 hour before serving.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

A few rites of passage

The past two weekends brought very different rites of passage for our kids.  First, Anya Rashi is pleased to say that she now has pierced ears!  I didn't originally think we would have them done at age five (I had to wait until I was 12!), but we went ahead for two reasons.

First, we needed a serious reward for stopping thumbsucking.  Like many of her cribmates in Kolkata, Anya Rashi has been a thumbsucker from infancy on.  Some of our earliest photos of her show a sweet little face with a thumb popped in it -- in fact, she sometimes developed a callous from so much use!

With kindergarten approaching, we decided to work on quitting, which was relatively easy to do if her "fuzzy" (her pink blankie) stayed on her bed all day instead of traveling around the house.  We agreed that she could have her ears pierced if she could make it 30 days with no daytime thumbsucking at all.  Carefully, she wrote down every successful day on a chart on the refrigerator . . . and before we knew it, she had made it 30 days!

Our second reason for piercing before kindergarten was about blending with some of the Indian families at our school.  Another adoptive mother brought the cultural aspect of ear piercing to my attention.  My friend has a Hispanic daughter, and it's a norm within her daughter's culture to pierce girls' ears as infants.  In India, many families do the same thing.  Because we have quite a few Indian families at our school, we thought it might be a good idea to have her ears pierced before school starts in September.

At her kindergarten orientation, I discovered that there will be at least three Indian girls in her grade, so we decided to go ahead.  There certainly are girls in India who don't have their ears pierced as babies -- but we chose to "blend" in this regard as a way to have there be one less difference between Anya Rashi and other girls who share her heritage.  There are many ways our family will be different than her classmates' families, so we decided to take this one small difference out of the equation.

She was SO excited on the big day, and was giddy as she chose her earrings. The excitement continued as the ladies washed her ears and marked them with a dot.  Then when they approached her to get the job done, she started to whimper and panic.  After a few conversations, browsing for future earring purchases, and watching a younger girl have her ears pierced without any outward sign of pain (wow!), Anya Rashi was ready.

This time, she sat on my lap to bolster her courage.  We had told her that it would feel like her earlobes were being pinched, but didn't think to tell her that it would sound loud -- that seemed to surprise her.  Almost before she knew it, it was over, with just a few tears that were quickly replaced by a huge grin.  She is very proud of herself, and is happy to show anyone we meet her new blue earrings.

* * * * * * * *

Our other rite of passage wasn't quite so much fun.  Yesterday we discovered that our car had a flat tire, so Peter decided it was a good time to show the kids how to change a tire.  Thankfully, it happened while the car was parked in our driveway!  We'll see how much Nathan and Aaron remember in 5-6 years when they're ready to drive.  I'm sure those years will pass all too quickly!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A snippet of good news

Sick of having her hair combed out, Anya Rashi decided to have four inches of hair cut off!

Just thought I'd do a quick post with a little snippet of good adoption news: Dillon International e-mailed to let us know that their license has been renewed by CARA!  Before it expired in May, Dillon had diligently submitted all of the required paperwork to continue being an international placement agency in India.

In the past CARA has usually renewed it within 2-3 months of expiration, and it was reassuring to see them follow the same timeline as in the past. In theory, if any of the orphanages have children's paperwork ready to be matched with families, Dillon is cleared to receive those referrals.  And some happy family will get that amazing phone call . . .

Here's hoping someone does!


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

India Heritage Camp

After 2,000 miles of travel in our 10-year-old minivan, our first big family roadtrip was voted a success by all five members of the family!  The centerpiece of our travels was Tulsa, Oklahoma, where we experienced our first India Heritage Camp, hosted by our adoption agency, Dillon International.

For our boys, this meant participating in their age groups' activities, which included Indian cooking, dance, yoga, henna painting, and preparing songs and skits for the closing ceremonies.  For our daughter, camp included all those things plus one more:  the chance to be reunited with some of the children who also began their lives in the care of ISRC Kolkata.  Anya Rashi was able to spend time with the now grown-up little girls who once shared a crib with her.

Upon our arrival in Tulsa, we spied Jenya and Devi and their mothers Karen and Julie walking across the parking lot of our hotel.  It was so surreal to see these girls and their mothers in person, after following their lives from afar on my computer.  I felt like I sat beside them as they saw photos of their new daughters, waited for court dates, traveled to India, and grafted their new little dears into their hearts and families.  And then all three of us began the journey again, waiting for second daughter from across the world.  We shared meals and many conversations, and left with our online imaginings of each other fleshed out into real-life friendships.

Later that night, I met Susie, mom to Anna Dola and Mihika, who recognized Aaron from reading our blog.  And the next day, when camp officially began, it was a thrill to meet Heather and Nathan, who took us along via their blog as they welcomed Piyashi Wren and Shiva Traveller home . . . and their were so many other children and parents who were recognizable from shared photos over the past five years.  The experience had the feeling of being united with long-lost family members, though we all come from different parts of the country, and different walks of life.

Anya Rashi is often hesitant about new experiences or being left in the care of new people -- but she went right into India camp without a backward glance.  She dove right in with the other children as if they had known each other for years . . . and the fanciful part of me likes to think that there was some kind of shared memory of each other from their baby days.

Another really wonderful thing was the camp "graduates" who helped with the young campers.  Anya Rashi has since talked about Miss Tess and Miss Theresa, both from ISRC, who helped in her room.  Anya is particularly fascinated by the fact that they are teenagers, that they were once campers themselves, and that they looked like her.  Those comments alone were like gold.

Some of the kids took my breath away because I saw them while we were in India.  Mihika and Anna Dola are two children we photographed for their waiting parents, and it was incredible to see them in person 4 1/2 years later.  We were also thrilled to meet Jynger, the India program director for Dillon, in person at last!  She's been our link to sanity, our information source, and the explainer of incomprehensible rules and processes for years now. 

And the other huge blessing was the India Association of the Tulsa area.  They provided cultural expertise for most of the camp classes, and staffed a "store" during camp where families without access to Indian items could update their children's Indian clothing, purchase bindis, and more.

Because we live so far away, we may not be able to go every year -- but it was so worth it to invest the time and money to go.  My only regret is that there were other families we've "met" online who weren't able to be there.  I would love to see Max Rup and his family, and Luke Swarnadip, Prasun, Jansen, Elizabeth Tanuja, and other children we photographed when we met Anya Rashi for the first time.  Maybe another year . . .

Edited to add:  This camp is not just for Dillon International families!  Families who adopted through other agencies were there too, and are most definitely welcome.  If you live anywhere near Tulsa, it is definitely worth the trip!