Mom, look! It’s Heaven!

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

From the mouths of babes….

Upon landing in Dharamshala and exiting the plane, we turned around to see the most breathtaking view. Immediately, Garrett exclaimed, “Mom, look! It’s heaven!” My feeling exactly. It felt amazing to be surrounded by such a sight.

Pictures just don’t do it justice. But we were so excited to spend our weekend in the foothills of the Himilayan mountains.

We stayed at a hotel called the Pink Hotel. It had a spectacular view of the mountains as well. And it should, because we had to go 60 steps down from the main road which was already on the side of a mountain, and then another 6 flights up to our hotel room.

Our weekend away included visiting friends, riding on a scootie, going on a date, drinking coffee, hiking up to a water fall, and enjoying the view.

As you can see, our adventures in the mountains included goats, fog, and an adventurous spirit.

You see, the hike to the waterfall included a large portion of hiking with no side railing, at the top. AT.THE.TOP. It would have been nice to know that before we started since our group included 3 little mischievous hikers. Thankful that we bought the kids each an umbrella before we started because it rained for the majority of the time. But it was fresh mountain rain! So it’s OK right? hahaha.

Our scootie date ride also included consistent rain, up winding tight turns on a mountain for over 30 minutes. But we made it! At this point in life, desperation for dates makes you take risks!

The rain also brought such thick fog that if you look at these two pics side by side, you’ll see just how dense it was.

Same location for both pics.

I even included this one so you could see that even the window reflection held nothing but fog. That, and I wanted proof that I was sitting outside by a mountain drinking coffee- my ULTIMATE happy place.

After our time at the Pink House Hotel, we ventured out to a small town about an hour away. There we tried out an AirBnB and probably shocked the neighbors with our volume level and random touch to the area. On our way out, we stopped at a zoo.

By stopped, I mean, we saw a sign for a zoo 30 minutes into the drive and asked our uber driver if we could stop because the hills were taking its toll on the kids, and who doesn’t love a zoo? A zoo complete with a playground, wild monkeys and the opportunity to get way to close to the animals.

We also dipped our toes into some natural icy cold river water and enjoyed some time at “the beach.”

Before we left for our trip we celebrated Garrett’s 6th birthday. I still remember when he was 3 months old and he started smiling and I knew he was gonna be a jokester and a sweet talker.

Below you’ll see his version of mom’s tattoo on his arm only his “tattoo” specifies ‘Grandpa’s’ name underneath. You’ll also see where we find Jackson sometimes in the morning, sleep walking to the kitchen no doubt. As well as some pool fun, and candids with our friends and house helpers on Garrett’s birthday.

Highlights from the trip were:

One, when I came back up the stairs to our terrace to find a monkey eating out of our garbage can.

Two, the conversation between Garrett and a guy from the U.K.

“Excuse me? Where are you from?”

The young hiker laced up his boots and answered, “London, where are you from?”

“Hey, that’s where Mary Poppins is from!”

And lastly, at the zoo. If only I could play this video clip.

At this very moment, a stray dog was walking or rather escorting us through the zoo. The kids named him Rufus. At first we thought he was a problem because when he saw the pack of wild monkeys he ran full speed at them barking which caused them to scatter and then retaliate! My video can be likend to the Blair Witch Project as the video quickly narrates a group of people screaming, “run!”

Shortly thereafter, some locals insured us that the monkeys were scared of Rufus and he was guiding us down the path and passed the monkeys. As we entered the zoo, there were at least 4 swinging from tree to tree. I couldn’t help but think, “Finally! I get to see the monkeys!”

Shortly after, I began to understand why NO ONE likes the monkeys here.

We had such a great time on our travels and I left encouraged that our energetic family of five CAN travel. First time travelling without a stroller in fact! This was good news, seeing as our family has about 90 days of travel upcoming since we are close to reaching our maximum 180 days stay in country. I needed encouragement, because all I can remember is our 5 weeks spent in a hotel when we first arrived to India. It was about week 3 in that hotel, that I was not so loving anymore. Praise Jesus, for His grace truly is sufficient in our weakness.

This has been true of life in general and very much so here in India. All the t’s are not crossed, nor the i’s dotted, but when I begin to falter, or my faith does, He IS there to give me grace and strength….

And so are the monkeys…… to make me laugh.

Purple

“No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39

Some memorables heard in our house this week were, “Mom, for my birthday I want Power Rangers on this side of the cake, Yoda on this side, and a Gingerbread man on this side.” – Garrett in reference to his upcoming birthday.

“Mom, I know I am not a spider, but you know that I really do have super powers, right?”- Gracelyn after having seen the Spiderman movie.

Oldie, but goodie.

“Mom, can we have a going to heaven party this week for nana. I mean, one where we all just snuggle, and cry and be together.”- Gracelyn after sharing with her that our beloved Nana was nearing the end of her battle with cancer.

What Gracelyn said was perfect. And that is exactly what I planned to do when I received word that The Lord healed Nana from her cancer and took her into his loving arms. And HE did, and she is at peace now, and I give thanks for this truth. But my heart does ache.

My heart aches for being absent during this time. It aches knowing she was suffering and it ached as I clung tightly to my phone for fear of missing any updates. I was absent for a lot this week. This week held 3 family birthdays and a funeral. I did as much as I could to stay busy, because that’s what we do when it hurts too much right? Either that, or we sit in the heartache and want to be alone. I did that too.

I also rested in God’s grace this week. Every time the reality came upon me that I would no longer get to talk to or see my nana, I remembered how she believed in Jesus and Loved Him. And I know that I will see her again, in heaven. I rejoiced hearing from family members about how despite their grief, they were truly celebrating a beautiful life of one who loved well and was loved well. Her favorite color was purple and so, many of her loved ones wore purple to the funeral.

I was out at a shop the day of her funeral and every purple item in the store popped out at me. I was even looking at a kitchen item in one section of the store and there, behind it was this random piece of cardboard with the word purple written on it! I left the store that day with my own little nana daily reminder. A small bag for inside my purse that will go with me everywhere, every day.

Emotions are funny.

Sometimes you are so flooded with one emotion that you can not feel any other. Like when your 3 year old is a dinosaur who won’t break character and is having the performance of a lifetime, but you are in the middle of a quiet restaurant and someone tells you, “Cherish these moments, they go by so fast.” It’s really hard to grasp that perspective when you are sweating bullets trying to muffle the dinosaur.

Oldie, but goodie.

But then there are other times when you are so flooded with one emotion but it creates a landslide allowing all the other emotions to join in the fun. Like when you are feeling really down and heavy-hearted, and every which way you look, the lens is a muddy color. I felt this way too. Suddenly, all the things I used to like, became irritants. Similar to when you start dating someone, you love all their quirks, but after some time it drives you nuts that they won’t throw out an empty tube of toothpaste or empty jar of ketchup because “it still has some left.”

It was clear that I needed a change in scenery. So, I got brave (or desperate,) got us a babysitter, and went on a date with Adam, and then a date with myself. This was a huge victory! Adam and I have only had one date since we moved here and we have been here for almost 4 months. It’s hard to find someone you trust in your home country, let alone in a foreign country. So it was a big deal to find one here. And the kids were pumped. In fact they shut the door on us when we arrived back home as if to say, “No! Not yet!”

I documented our date because it was roughly 1 hour at a coffee shop with uninterrupted conversation and it was amazing!

Then I headed off to an event a friend was hosting at her business workplace. It was a vendor show for different businesses in the area. It was wonderful. I stopped by each booth and got to hear what each vendor offered as well as some background to their business. I was fascinated by how many businesses were passionate about using eco-friendly materials to make their products. One in particular known as Ashanari was a non-profit organization that focuses on teaching the local women who live in the slums how to sew and earn a living as well as conserving water by using scrap materials to make clothing instead of cotton. I was able to support the organization by purchasing an adorable and comfortable yellow dress with pockets!

I also meandered over to the free samples that Cafe Kothi had on display and very quickly realized I would not be leaving without a jar of dark chocolate peanut butter. Comfort food, right? I had already had my second coffee of the day on my date with Adam, so I couldn’t order another but was needing a “cold drink,” as they say here. On the menu was a mint pomegranate drink that to this day I can’t stop thinking about. Hit.The.Spot.

Later that night, Adam and I watched Avengers End Game and I realized that since coming to India, I have become a legit Marvel fan and now want to go back and watch all of the movies. Maybe it’s because I got to see all the superheroes in person (see an earlier post for proof!) The next marvel conquest was the new Spiderman movie because Garrett is a die hard Spiderman fan and we decided to have a family night at the movies. I didn’t think it could get any better than riding the scooter that was on display at the entrance of the movie theater. That was until, during the movie we looked over at our kids and saw the most intense smile on Garrett’s face.

After the movie Gracelyn delivered her comment (see the beginning) about having super powers. It took everything we had to hold the three kids back from trying to spray spiderwebs from their hands and swing down to the bottom floor instead of using the escalators.

No joke. Our kids genuinely believe they are super hero’s. And ya know what, they just might be.

Well, in India-Fashion, just when I started to get all irritable and down-trodden, India brought me some sweetness in the form of good old-fashioned American sugar and laughter.

It may have taken over 3 hours, but a sweet friend of mine made us donuts! Oh how we miss Dunkin Donuts. These homemade donuts brought sweet nostalgia to our family.

Unfortunately Jackson came down with a fever this week. I knew he was fighting something when he willingly took two naps two days in a row. It was time to get a check-up, but this time I wanted to see a pediatrician. We had been pleased with the ENT we had visited and more than pleased with the Audiologist, but this day, I was needing that special touch from a pediatric doctor. We had a referral from a friend whose kids had seen this doctor before so we called her up and made an appointment. On the way there in Indian’s Uber style, Jackson got to ride in the backseat with no car seat, but this time without his siblings he had so much space! He was so happy it was like we took him on a special carnival ride.

We got to the hospital where the doctor’s office was and I was once again impressed by the infrastructure, and cleanliness. Even without speaking much Hindi, a staff member knew exactly where to direct us when we mentioned the Doctor we were there to visit.

Although, there were a couple sights on this visit that did catch me off guard. The first sign is one that I have never read in a hospital before. This sign may come as a shock to some of you, as confusion to others, or maybe even familiar. I can not speak for certain as to why this sign was there, but I can speculate the reason and it brings me sorrow.

On the other hand, the second picture just made me laugh. I felt two things as I received the doctor’s text message back. One, only in India would my doctor be texting me during a casarean. Two, maybe I should see this as a privilege to be texting with my doctor?

Either way, we saw the doctor and she told us many children were battling viral fever and no antibiotics were needed. This was a relief, because getting Jackson to take medicine is like getting me to eat frog legs. I was so encouraged once again with the level of care and that special quality a pediatric specialist has with children.

Back at home I knew that family members were reconnecting over Nana’s passing. I knew that memories were being shared, photos were being rummaged through and stories being told bringing tears and laughter. I hated missing all of it but I could just picture how history was being reignited. Later that week I was at a shop famous for block printing. As I read the description on the wall about the process of block printing, the history behind it and how the art is passed down from generations, I was struck by how well India celebrates its heritage in grand and small ways. Families truly cherish and honor the generations before them. And so does mine. I thought about the actual block print, a wooden stamp of a design used and printed on cloth. I then thought about how Nana has left a stamp, an imprint on all of our hearts, for a lifetime.

No matter how far away, I can feel my family’s love. Just like I can feel the Lord’s.

“No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39

Yoga pants and mountain views

“The LORD is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Sometimes it is the little things that help you get through a week. This pair of Proyog Yoga pants did it for me.

This week was hard. Emotionally really, really hard. For various reasons I felt heartbroken that I was not back home in America.

Sometimes, you just gotta grieve. Sometimes, you just have to take the day off, sleep in, and wear yoga pants all day. I mean yoga pants people. Not the tight, suck-in everything black pants that we were all made to believe are called “yoga” pants. But the wide crotch, flowy, not too tight elastic band, soft material, yet still flattering, can actually do yoga poses in, yoga pants. Such as these.

And no, this picture is not of me, as much as I wish it was. But nonetheless, there is nothing like lounging in your real “yoga” pants that your waist can actually breathe in, drinking a cup of coffee and staring at a picture of the mountains.

This week I just needed to take extra days off. I needed moments to stare at my mountain pictures, sit and read my Bible, journal and pray. There is just something about mountains that do it for me, they really do! I shared a little about that in an earlier post. Maybe it’s because of the nostalgia of sweet childhood memories they bring, or the fact that they are majestic and in fact point me towards their maker. Whatever it is, mountains help me breathe, breathe when life is suffocating. Just like my “real” yoga pants let me breathe!

So, this week in review:

We did a lot of puzzles. Over the weekend we were gifted two boxes of puzzles and I had already ordered some as well. We had SO many puzzles in the states and for some reason I DID NOT pack them! So, it was encouraging to see how excited our kids were to puzzle!!

The humidity arrived this week. That was a huge bummer. We are not strangers to humidity coming from Florida. But here, it has been a dry heat. Lately, a “Baking” dry heat with temps above 110, but little sweat! Now, the minute you leave an air-conditioned space you soak your clothes.

To add salt to the wound we had a bit of a water shortage in our apartment complex. I discovered this after soaping up and then needing to rinse off with only a dribble coming out of the faucet instead of the shower head. Thank goodness it was not a hair washing day!

As I said in the beginning, it is the little things that can bring joy, make a change, brighten up a day. We received a care package from a dear friend in the states this week! The kids would have used ALL of the stickers they received had we not stopped them.

A friend from our apartment who is so kind and helpful even gave the kids a free ride on his scooter which they thought was the tops.

Learning something new always brings flavor to the day. Sometimes it’s a new skill, other times it’s a new treat or a special surprise.

This week also came with a holiday. One not celebrated here as it was the 4th of July. To be completely honest, we missed the actual 4th due to a tough day but when we woke up on the 5th we were ready. Complete with 4th of July themed clothing, balloons and decorations at the place where we study Hindi (because they had a 4th of July party for some tourists the night before.) That evening we even played all of our childhood patriotic faves like “This land is my land,” “My country tis of thee,” “America, America” and so many more. We ate hot dogs, mac ‘n cheese, and peas and finished with some vanilla cupcakes with red, white and blue sprinkles. I would say for a July 5th, in India, it was pretty epic.

On Saturday we decided it was time for our family to get touristy. We ventured to Nahagarh Fort. As we left our flat, it started to rain and it looked like the day was going to be a complete bust. But we knew we needed an outing as a family so we risked it.

Thank God we did. The entire day was overcast and in the 80’s. Unheard of here!

We even explored the exterior of the fort and somehow, our Braucher bunch got to explore alone! Free from anyone asking to take our picture! It felt like it was just us, and the views. For a short time, at least.

Inside the Fort, there was a sculpture garden spread out amidst the different empty rooms. The sculpture was, interesting. I am sure that it had significant meaning. However, we were unable to read the descriptions due to chasing young children.

Despite the inability to spend time reading the historical significance of each sculpture, it took but a few seconds for me to realize that this sculpture was indeed a pelvis. Hence, the look on my face.

I wish I had more to share about the pelvis, but sadly I do not. We ended a great day with a movie night where we watched the movie, “A Dog’s Way home” and by the end decided that as soon as it is plausible we will be getting a puppy.

The next day we ventured out to a renowed sports store about 30 minutes outside the city called Decathlon. It was awesome. It was like entering the Indian verson of Dick’s Sporting Goods! The kids had a ball. They basically had a complete workout in the fitness equipment zone, played basketball, rode bikes and learned how to skateboard! We discovered that Jackson is a natural boxer, Garrett a born skateboarder and that Gracelyn is definitely not shy as she enticed customers to the the yoga mat display with her yoga poses. Of all the things to purchase, our kids each walked away with a fishing net pole and a bouncy ball in hopes of playing makeshift lacrosse.

It was an extremely fulfilling weekend. One that our family needed. However, it ended with another goodbye to more friends here headed back to the states and continued grieving over a loved ones suffering. I prayed and prayed for the Lord to bring me comfort. And before I knew it, I received a video call from my best friend introducing me to her new baby boy!!! Tears of sadness were real, for my heart longed to be there at that very moment. But the tears of joy were incredible. Seeing my best friend’s fresh to the world baby boy and her smiling face, in the midst of my heartache was the Lord hearing and answering my prayer for comfort.

As we journeyed into the next week. I have held these things close to my heart, and frequently looked at the pictures we captured over the weekend. I give thanks for breath-taking views and A God who is close to the broken-hearted.

Fish, lizards and bunnies.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work in us.” Ephesians 3:20

It has been a week of animals.

And I am not talking about the kids.

It started with tadpoles.

Two baby tadpoles scooped from their little pond into a child’s water bottle only to be emptied into a bowl. I can only imagine what the little tadpole thought.

Well, Gracelyn’s did not have much time to think. It lasted a couple days and then floated to the top. Garrett so kindly gave his to her and we spent the next week watching it sprout arms and legs. Fascinating. Gracelyn asked me to put a lid on the bowl in case he would jump out. I assured her there was no need, his little legs simply too new.

Silly mama.

I found him still on the ground a day later when she was out with her dad.

I decided I would rather have her mad at me then find out he died, so I flushed him and planned to tell her he indeed had hopped out. Preparing myself for her backlash, I took a deep breath and told her the news when she returned home. Thankfully, my sweet husband had already planned to take her out to get a pet fish to help with the blow of the news. I was so relieved since I had been coping for days with a pinched nerve in my neck and was feeling rather weary.

And of course, when Garrett heard the news, he desired a pet fish as well.

Later that day Gracelyn had a beta fish just like the one she had left behind in Florida. And Garrett, well he figured out he could have 4 fish for the price of one beta. So we went from two tadpoles, to one, to 5 fish.

I would also like to add that they caught the tadpoles against my will. But much like those tadpoles being scooped up and dropped in a foreign environment, our kiddos have experienced a lot of change since moving to India. Since planning to move here we have always kept their ability to thrive at the forefront. So if a pet fish helps, so be it. It is a tricky job however. One person’s ability to thrive may depend on a different environment than another.

For example, the first tadpole was placed in filtered water and died. The tadpole that lived was placed in tap water. This outcome was opposite of what I would have guessed.

At this point you must be thinking, is she really still talking about tadpoles? I feel like the comedian Jim Gaffigan in his skit when he got stuck on the topic of bacon.

But to the point, we each have different needs in order to thrive. We are discovering what those are weekly here in India. The kids need friends or a pet. Adam needs purpose and fitness. I need time alone, in silence. You know, the little things. Ha.ha.ha.

Well. The Beta fish is doing great! Except for the fact that after Gracelyn caught a lizard, the beta got kicked out of his tank so the lizard could have it and is now in a plastic tub. And Garrett’s fish, well, one by one they each caught a ride down the porcelain express.

Like the beta, I sometimes feel like I was taken out of my choice tank and placed in a plastic tub. My life and my environment has drastically changed.

But there are many aspects of my new home that take my breath away.

Finding 8 monkeys outside my porch in the morning.

Watching an elephant walk down the road in the middle of traffic.

Seeing our children genuinely getting along.

Open air tuk tuk rides.

Hearing Jackson’s speech increase and our ability to speak in Hindi improve!

India’s incredible artistry surrounding us in handcrafted bedspreads, table runners and kurtas that have been designed with the most beautiful colors and fabrics!

Finding the familiar in an unfamiliar place. Like an instant pot, wine, swiss cake rolls and dominos pizza!

And also having new experiences like enjoying a home-cooked meal at a new friend’s home.

An experience which not only included chai, cold drink, fry-ems, curd, dahl, roti, and paneer, but also pet bunnies!!

The bunnies topped off our week of animals and I was convinced by the end of the weekend Gracelyn would have begged us to get her one what with her pet obsession. That is, until the bunny pooped and then she realized she would have to clean that up herself!

Alas, after 100 days, we are still The Braucher five, living in India with the addition of a fish, a lizard, some neighborly monkeys, potentially a bunny, a new sense of adventure, a new sense of taste and a continued desire to adapt and thrive in our new environment.

Grateful for HE who enables us to do abundantly more than we ever could have imagined.

Life actually.

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Isaiah 40:30-31

“Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

After the grind of language learning, homeschooling and home “minister-ing,” I look forward to the weekends, to rest. But as every parent knows, weekends are cool, but they are no day-off. So in typical fashion we filled the weekend with activities that were outside of the every day and had some fun. For this post I will share about two weekends and the week in between.

We took the kids to beat the heat in an indoor play center called Kid Fun City.

The next day we took them to the pool we had gone to a couple weekends ago. I made sure I took pictures of the estate that this pool is located on because it is a former general’s mansion turned resort and for a fee the pool is open to the public. The grounds of the resort are incredible, and I am sure Adam and I would have spent more time exploring if the kids were not running full speed ahead to the pool.

After the pool, we returned home and spent some time preparing for the week. We began monday in normal fashion with language classes and homeschool. However, it also began with some unexpected news of friends leaving. Here, the landscape can change in an instant. There are many other expats here in the city and many travel to their home country for holiday and many leave either because it is time for their return back or the government has asked them to leave. As a foreigner, we are restricted to a certain amount of time in country depending on our type of visa and business. I was gripped with the reality of our limited time here. Much like all of our days, in the big picture or small, tomorrow is never promised. We filtered much of our week through the temporal nature of life abroad while wrestling with being present at the same time.

I gave this post the title of “Life Actually” because it reminded me of the movie, love actually. You know, the scene in the airport at the start and end of the film, with all of the hello’s and goodbye’s that life brings. I changed it to life instead of love because of the sobering nature of the week. Hello’s and goodbye’s are a part of life, but that does not make them easy. It was not easy to leave friends and family back in the states, and it is not easy to be absent during trials and celebrations. It hurts to say goodbye to new friends, it hurts to be left behind. It breaks my heart to watch others deal with grief of saying goodbye, be it temporary or eternal. Goodbye’s are heart breaking.

Small things can break the mundane and soberness of reality. For example, laughter and ordering coffee from your favorite coffee place in the middle of language class, or watching as as many Marvel movies in a week as you can. And hands down, Bollywood music and movies can change the mood of a room in an instant. “Bum Bum Bole” is one Bollywood song that is a hit right now and the kids are loving it. During our language class the kids have class with an excellent teacher and she taught them the choreography to this song and they had a blast. Music and dance always bring light to my day so it was pure joy to see Gracelyn’s excitement when she showed me what she had learned.

At the end of the week, I was so excited that my new Kurta dress was ready to be picked up. I was amazed at how great it fit, how beautiful it felt and how comfortable it was. And finished in perfect timing as Adam and I got to go on our first date since we moved here that Saturday! So I put on my new dress and we went to a coffee shop for pancakes, cappuccino and uninterrupted conversation. Oh, and we swung by the market because who doesn’t when you have the chance to get some groceries sans kids. As if having a babysitter wasn’t enough, we also took the kids to see the movie Secret Life of Pets. It was actually their gift to Adam for Father’s Day. At the movie theater there was a promotion for watching the Cricket World Cup Match so we enjoyed getting a “snapshot” with some local celebs.

After the movie, the kids and I worked together to bake some gluten free cupcakes and bread for Father’s day. It was my first time using a small convection oven and first time making bread ever. So….. it was…… interesting. I mean, it tasted like bread! That’s success, right?

In the afternoon, on Father’s Day, we were ecstatic to see the rain and the wind! It is either pre-monsoon season, or actual monsoon season, but either way- it rained! And that meant the temperature dropped. I stood outside letting the wind blow all around me as Gracelyn frolicked around in her rain boots singing “Jumping up and down in muddy puddles,” a tune from Peppa Pig, which surprisingly here is a local network favorite.

That night we went to our friends to watch the World Cup Cricket match of India versus Pakistan. All five of us loved the fresh air, the view of the mountains, and witnessing the joy and operation of a large family living communally. Our kids played with all the other little kids and the men watched the game while the women talked. As different as life may be from one place to another, the reality of shared interests that can transcend culture is awesome.

After these two past weekends, I was reminded that rest over the weekend is an illusion. I often awake saturday morning remembering the days of youth, sleeping in and watching TBS all day. It is much different now, as an adult, a wife, and a mother. It is also very different living in another country. I still can not believe how much sleep I used to get in my 20’s! But I digress. I am learning not look to the weekends to rest. I was reminded of this as I was looking at the mountain view at my friends house. As long as I can remember, mountain and lake views have always had a calming and soothing effect. I think it is because I grew up visiting the Adirondacks and some of my best childhood memories are there. And the view is always breathtaking. But I think it is also because when I see a mountain I hear the verse in my head, “I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-3

Truths like this and the ones at the start of this post help me find rest when weary. They help me find peace in a world where so much is not as it should be. They help me get back to the grind. The grind of “home-ministering” as they say here. The grind of home-school. The grind of daily tasks. The grind of transition. The grind of culture shock and homesickness. For the joy of the Lord is my strength.

These cuties help too 😉

Its getting hot in here.

“Two are better than one, because they have good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

115.

108.

113.

111.

These were some of the temps this past week! Out of gatorade and glucon-d just ain’t cutting it. Not to mention our kitchen is the hottest room in the house and the only room without an AC unit. It is a sauna. And this whole gluten free eating is getting old! It requires constant food prep (in the heat) and several trips to the local grocery store (in the heat) and when we are finished, all we want is water anyway! This NY gal must still have NY blood because I feel like an oven that is always preheated, so with these high temperatures I need an ice bath to stabilize! So grateful for my husband. Our teamwork this week was clutch. This week did involve more than just heat though.

We paid our first electric bill which looks like a receipt that you receive and then are required to go pay at the electric supply office. This is tricky, without assistance I am sure Adam would have been lost somewhere in the middle of town in 110 degree temperatures looking for a building that no doubt is unmarked, has a long line of people and no A/C. Thankfully our superhero Landlord stepped in and saved the day (which he has done several times) and drove Adam to pay the electric bill and also dropped Adam and the boys off to get a haircut! How do you like that!

Those boys just about broke my heart with their big boy Indian hair cuts! They looked so grown up! And my heart broke for Adam as his sickness continued to hold him down no matter how hard he tried. For a guy who rarely went to a doctor in the states when sick, the fact that Adam went to a doctor here says a lot….. Indian virus-1, Adam-0.

In spite of the heat and sickness that dominated much of our week, I made it to the import store that sells frozen berries, frozen chicken, and frozen french fries! This is significant. I had heard about this store and tried to find it on my own. An hour later in a tuk-tuk with two boys, lost somewhere in the marketplace and overheated, we gave up. So thankful for a friend who picked me up and brought me there in her car! That meant I did not have to ride home with loads of groceries in a tuk-tuk! I took a snapshot of the outside of the store so that I would remember so I can go it alone in the future. I know I will need to with all this gluten-free cooking.

And, with my frozen chicken I was able to cook with the pressure cooker for the first time and make shredded chicken! I was so nervous I would over cook it that I ended up turning the heat off and checking on it 4 times. Which meant that it took double the time to cook, which kind of defeats the point of a pressure cooker. This also meant I spent twice as long in the sauna, er, I mean kitchen. Yeesh.

We were so excited that we had been invited to a friends house to watch India play in the world cup this week! Unfortunately going would have required both of us to be able to stand vertical. The heat had gotten us so bad that we took turns lying on the cold floor while the other tried to manage, anything at all. In our fatigue and surrender we let the kids take the shower buckets on the porch for some water play and they ended up turning the floor of the porch into a slip and slide. It was pretty great to watch. From inside,… on the floor,… in the A/C. Needless to say, India won the match against South Africa, and also won in the battle of Indian heat versus our hydration battle strategy. Now you know why I mentioned glucon-d not cutting it! Fortunately Amazon India brought us our tub of gatorate mix over the weekend!!!

India may have had some victories this week, but so did the Braucher’s. Jackson had his very first speech therapy session via skype! He crushed it! For a 3 1/2 year old to focus for 30 minutes on skype and not only remain engaged but excited was an answer to prayer. We are so excited to continue this therapy and are so grateful it even exists. We are also extremely excited to see Jackson’s progress in speech therapy, as he had spent two years with little to no progress in speech therapy before we knew about his hearing loss, and now that we have his “ears” in and they are all tuned up, we are ready!

Drumroll…….Gracelyn and I are finally ready to reveal some of our yoga progress! It has been awesome watching Gracelyn’s natural athletic ability unfold in these classes, very similar to how it did when she took gymnastics in the states. I have loved taking yoga from an athletic standpoint and have experienced increased mobility and pain reduction. Here they are!

Our week ended with receiving our long awaited package from the states full of goodies from Mima for the kids, and precious items such as popcorn seasoning, young living essential oil products and ziplock bags.

Stay tuned for next week, I have a feeling the popcorn seasoning and probiotic gummies we got will be a game changer.

Oh, and I went to the tailor with the material I bought last week! My dress will be ready on the 15th!

A Teeter Totter week.

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” James 1:6

Up.

And down.

Up.

And down.

That was this week. At least it was not like a merry-go-round. Although, my stomach would disagree.

Started with a great yoga class monday afternoon. My foreword bend is getting so much better and I felt like I nailed the Surya Namaskar. Feeling confident and limber, I was excited for a good week. We also made the decision to remove gluten from our diets. With Sensory Processing Disorder, Anxiety and potentially ADHD in the mix amongst our family members, it was time to test the correlation between gluten and hyperactivity. And then Garrett came down with the stomach bug.

But it’s OK! He only threw up twice in the night and we only had to wash 3 sheets!

And I had a girl date with my friend! We went to Old City which is this incredible piece of history. We strolled through the market, through a sea of colors and textiles and block prints and vendors shouting phrases that I am certain are in the Aladdin movie. I was on the hunt for “choodiyaan”, aka bangles. Married women here wear bangles as a representation that they are married, and I have not been wearing any! No wonder the tuk-tuk driver asked.

I was excited to find my first pair of bangles and first pair of Rajasthani flats. I also came with an extra dose of humility because I was well aware that most of the bangles probably would not fit over my wrist, nor flats on my feet. So when looking I joyfully shouted “Badi”, aka big when asked for my size. I was successful with the bangles! Not so much for the flats. And I found an incredible bag to boot. At least I can live vicariously through Gracelyn’s flats.

Gracelyn was making great progress with her 6 medicines that the ENT ordered. Probably because I gave her chocolate baking morsels from the states after every medicine. And that’s Antibiotic, Steroid, Probiotic, Allergy, and two nasal sprays. After a long previous week of sickness, I had taken her to the ENT over the weekend. We discovered that she is allergic to the dust here. So allergic that her adenoids were incredibly swollen and her ear drum was at risk of rupturing. They even sent us to x-ray to check on her adenoids! overwhelmed once again by sickness and medicine, it was imperative that I remember to be grateful for the medical care and and ask friends to pray for her healing. That and to diffuse Young Living Thieves and Purification of course.Also, A few of you have asked about healthcare here. I am pumped to share that after each visit, I pay cash!!! No insurance company, no explanation of benefits, not calling to appeal a service not covered!!! So amazing, in fact, I will show a picture of the receipts and little folders we get to take home from each visit.

The ups and downs are so frequent, they blur together. Wednesday morning I awoke so sick to my stomach that it knocked me out for three days. And when I recovered, Adam went down. What a great week to be gluten free huh? Friends, I don’t know how we managed to maintain it, but somehow the kids made it through the week with two sick parents and nothing but eggs, hard-boiled eggs, rice, nuts, fruit and vegetables to eat. It wasn’t until Saturday that we found a meat guy and figured out how to get chicken delivered to our door! New favorite foods for the kids equal raisins, oatmeal with swirls of nutella, cashews and potato chips. We have lots to learn in this gluten-free journey. At the end of an exhausting week we were not even sure if it was worth it. And then we let them have pancakes. And that was it. After witnessing an obvious impact from the gluten, I decided to head to the store and get creative. I learned how to make Rice flour Roti, and Quinoa cheese and veggie bites. Who knew it would take me to move to India to learn how to up my culinary repertoire. I even learned how to make homemade sweet lime soda. But, ended up using the instant version instead. But hands down my favorite item is good 0ld-fashioned gatorade. With temps of 109 and 110 this week, we have depended on gatorade for survival.

I ended the week on an up. To give Adam some rest, I decided to take the kids to the local mall because it has an indoor play area where they could shed some energy since they were cooped up all week due to the heat and two incapacitated parents. Unbeknownst to me, there was a marvel meet and greet event! It was awesome. Ironman, Spiderman, BumbleBee, all dancing on stage and the kids got to join them. Epic.

Went out to a new shop with a friend, found a new Kurta dress and……. drumroll……. Meters of material! I shared in an earlier post that I am intimidated by the common purchase of meters of material to turn into a three piece suit or a saree. Still intimated by the saree, so that is yet to come. But I did find some incredible material to take to a tailor to make into a dress! I will share the final product after it is made!

The teeter totter ended up. Grateful to end the week on the up and up. Nothing like falling sick, and people you love falling sick to make you homesick. I have missed my family and my friends greatly this week. I have missed their voices, the smell of the fresh air in NY, the green grass and the blue sky. I have missed deli sandwiches with turkey! I have missed friends from all phases of my life, apartments we used to live in, and the ability to be able to be with the ones I love in an instant for sickness, for births, for celebrations. But I am grateful that I have so many ways to connect, and so many wonderful pictures to look at and reminisce.

Week 9. Perspective is everything.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

I was ready for monday. I am NEVER ready for monday. Maybe it was the pool party we went to on sunday that left me feeling refreshed and ready for the week. It was awesome. Held at what felt like an oasis in the middle of the city with several other expats. A pool to beat the heat, other kids for our kids to play with, food and a welcome influx of advice on things like grocery shopping, business, medical care, travel, education etc…

And we had a victory! It is always good to start your week with a victory. This was a win over ear infections. I read that mineral oil in the ear prior to swimming can help prevent ear infections. After the doozy of infections we had the last time we swam in a pool here, I was all for it. I can only imagine how I appeared. Me, carrying a small tupperware of liquid in a ziplock bag. However, if I put it in my bag, the coconut oil would have made a mess! I am convinced there is NO container in the world that coconut oil doesn’t sneak out of. I just kept imaging the locals thinking, “strange american.”

The week began with Garrett losing his second tooth and since the Indian tooth fairy was already “planning” on coming, Gracelyn decided to finally trade in her 3 teeth she had saved from her teeth extraction in Florida. Yes. She saved three teeth. And Yes, they came all the way to India. But kudos to her. She scored 30 rupees. My kids are learning to save!! Although, The “tooth fairy” must be careful not to overgift, else we will end up with a pet dog since that is what they are saving for!

One of several notes that Gracelyn left for the tooth fairy.

This week we also had two more yoga classes. I was a bit apprehensive for the next session considering how sore I was over the weekend. We so enjoy our yoga time though because we have an incredible instructor who is also a friend. Gracelyn is convinced that she is ready for the next level, where I am gladly accepting the modified positions.

If I am evaluating the week in terms of wins and losses, UBER was a total loss this week. We have not bought a vehicle yet, and taking uber is currently more cost effective. But every time I requested a car this week, the car would just sit there on my app, not moving.

10 minutes later, still waiting and overheated and frustrated, I would cancel my uber. They would still charge me! And then I would have to hail down a tuk tuk. Sounds easy except for the fact that most of my rides are brief and worth 50 rupees. A non-uber driver would charge me 150 rupees because I am a foreigner. I argued with one driver that I would absolutely not pay more than 50 and I ended up having to get out and look for another!!! In fact, I was so irritated by it that I asked my language instructor how to let the drivers know not to mess with me! I learned how to say, “Main Bevakooph nahin hoon”, aka- “I am not stupid.”

Another win this week was getting my Kurtas back! Remember how I said I sent them out to be pressed and then did not hear back for over 10 days? Well, no foul play! She was at a wedding! Weddings are a HUGE deal here. As soon as she got back, I got my Kurtas back.

In the arena of evaluating wins and losses, the next couple updates depend on the perspective. If you are viewing from the lens of health trouble equals loss, then we had some losses this week. But I am viewing from the lens of whether or not the healthcare we need exists here. So, from that perspective, we had some major wins! That does not mean I did not experience bouts of anxiety, frustration, sadness and fatigue- because I did, without a doubt.

But long story short, We found out that Jackson has Bilateral sensorineural hearing loss in December 2018. In January 2019 Jackson got hearing aids fitted. In March 2019, after months of tests we found out that Jackson has Ushers Syndrome Type 2. This is a genetic condition that causes hearing loss and eventual vision loss. This is the short version of our journey with Jackson’s hearing loss.

Here in India, we knew we would have to establish care and check his hearing every 3 months. After a couple ear infections and an increasingly louder 3 year old, we suspected his hearing was changing. We were so grateful to find an ENT and an audiologist within 5 minutes from our home! Remember, perspective.

I had a folder full of reports on all of Jackson’s medical history and I confidently strode into the audiology office ready to get a hearing check up. Soon I was to find out that there was too much room for error between the audiology test he had in the U.S, and the one here. This meant, that in order to get an accurate reading on his current hearing level he would need to be put to sleep and have another ABR test done. As much as I was freaking out inside, I knew we had to get this done to see if his hearing had declined and then have his hearing aids reset.

“Mam? Give this medicine to your son and when he is asleep we will begin the test.”

HAHAHHAHAHAHAHHA. You want me to give Jackson medicine, without any nutella or anything? Oh boy. After a few attempts to get the medicine down his throat in the office we were asked to take him outside and try again. I am guessing because his gag reflex was too much for the floor and the other patients.

Fast forward a few hours later, we had given up. Mom and Dad-0, Jackson-1. We got into the tuk tuk, hot, exhausted and defeated. Five minutes later when we arrived home, Jackson was asleep in my arms! You bet we turned right around and went back to the doctors office. I felt like a war hero carrying my 43lb son up 4 flights of stairs in the middle of 105 degree heat to get him back to the Doctor with enough time for her to conduct the test before he awakened.

An hour later we had the results. 24 hours later we were discussing them in her office. 2 hours later his hearing aids were reset and another hour later we were on our way home. Notice I kept saying, hour later?….. So if you can imagine all the time in between, with a 3 year old who has no volume control, refuses to do what anyone tells him and his favorite activity is to pretend to be a dinosaur. I was toast. Cooked. Fried.

BUT! Perspective. My Son could hear! Amen and Amen and Amen.

Week 8. Just a spoonful of nutella.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30

I read once that it takes 21 days to make a habit and 60+ days to change your life. So at this point in our journey I believe it is safe to say we have experienced incredible life change and new habits. For example, I used to have ice cream almost every night before bed. You know, that sweet tooth night cap? But now, I am regularly so thirsty from the heat and dust that all I want is water and salt! I have always considered myself a sweets person over salty, but potato chips have NEVER tasted so good.

Another great change, is that in America, I always took a doctors word for gold! But here, I am finding that I follow a Doctor visit with a google search on “what are the 7 medicines he just prescribed for me to give my 3 year old?” I can barely get Jackson to eat his meals let alone take any medicine. Thus, I had to give my boys a heaping scoop of nutella every day this week to get them to take their antibiotics. Fortunately the medicine had a peppermint taste so I assume it tasted like a spoonful of peppermint patty. Coughs and sniffles have consumed each one of us lately. So I was grateful to have my oils when after I had used all the medicine I could think of, coughs were still keeping the kids and myself up. I used the Young Living Breathe Again Roll-on for me and Snifflease oil for the kids, and shortly thereafter…… sleep came.

Another change is that I used to take my second cup of coffee in the afternoon. 2 cups a day isn’t bad? Now, I can barely make it past 9:30 without a second cup. Maybe it’s because by 10 am my head is swimming with Hindi words during our language class. When there is only 2 students and one teacher, it is pretty obvious if you can’t keep your eyes open. I also blame the fact that India is for night owls. The evening brings bareable temps allowing for evening walks, parks, work and just simple socializing. Needless to say our kids are up for 15 hours a day!! NOT.A.FAN.

some of the objects we are learning.

We did get invited to our first Indian birthday party this week for our friend’s 5-year old son. It was excellent! Complete with a paw patrol theme, a bouncy house, countless balloons, cake and party favors. It was so wonderful to see them so happy. However, I learned a little too late that you can not simply run to a pharmacy or party city to get wrapping paper. In fact, I still have no idea where to go to get gift wrap! I felt so embarassed to offer the gift in a bag with not even any tissue paper. I will have to research this before the next one!

The heat is increasing. I am still finding it hard to stay hydrated. I noticed that many people here wear white to beat the heat. So I decided to find an all white Kurta for the super hot days. Maybe it was the beautiful handiwork that drew me to this one, or maybe it was the song “Hopelessly Devoted to you” from Grease playing in the background (random right?). But the one I chose makes me want to run through a field of daisies and sing “the Hills are alive!” This Kurta is also very light. Which reminded me of today’s verse. Weeks here are a roller coaster full of ups and downs. And long days make for swollen and tired eyes and weary hearts. But I look to Him. That is where my help comes from.

I was grateful that we got to experience some new adventures this week. Gracelyn and I started yoga! Our language teacher connected us to his friend who is a professional yoga athlete and teacher and she came to our home to teach us. I was so excited to get active and even better, in the comfort of our home. I have not tried to exercise outside in public yet or go to a gym. I had been feeling pretty out of shape and was eager to get back into it. As always, upon exercising I was reminded that my mind thinks I am still a college athlete while my body cries out in defiance, “Oh no, you don’t. I will defeat you with arthritis and scar tissue! Leave my atrophying muscles alone.” You can only imagine how my hamstrings felt the next day after doing several rounds of surya namaskar. NO PICTURES for this one, somethings are better unseen.

The other adventure was a day of sightseeing over the weekend. We had not done a major tourist outing since we were hounded by hawkers at Amer Fort. We were hopeful that being 2 months in we were not so wet behind the ears. We also decided to pick a few places and keep the visit duration to a minimum. The first was Jaipur zoo! Which is actually, no longer a zoo. That’s always fun to find out….while you are buying tickets and about to go in with 3 very excited children. Turns out the majority of animals were sent to a nature reserve while the remaining wildlife consisted of birds.

yay…..

To my surprise, it turned out to be great. And hilarious. For one, I have never in my life seen an ostrich the size of an elephant nor a pelican the size of a 12 year old boy before. So there was that. I have also never seen a museum of taxidermy animals in a zoo. But most of all, I have never been to a zoo where there is one monkey on the inside of the cage and the other monkey on the outside. At first we were excited to see the monkeys. But then we realized the one on the outside was clinging to the one on the inside and Jackson turned around and in sign language said monkey followed by signing the word “sad.” Later that night Gracelyn prayed that the monkeys would be reunited.

We also ventured to a museum. That was a fail. We lasted 10 minutes before meltdown 0′ clock started and people were sight seeing us more than the museum. So we bolted and headed to City Palace. This was a risk. We almost went home because the kids did not seem to be interested in history. Until there was a Bollywood movie filming in the center of city palace!!! 30-40 Indian women dressed in matching sarees, smoke machines, music and lots of “1-2-3 action AND cut!” I hope we get to find out what movie was being filmed someday. Attention spans run low with our crew, so after about 5 takes when the kids realized we were only going to see the same 30 seconds over and over again we needed to move on. And to our luck, we ended at a phenomenal puppet show where the puppeteers had their puppets perform a traditional Indian dance, a cobra and charmer dance and of course, an Indian Michael Jackson dance….. only India.

Our outing was a victory. We saw the sights, had a great time as a family, and I believe many people went home with a snapshot of us in their photo gallery on their phones.

Yes, random strangers took pictures of us and our children ALL. DAY. Encouraged for next week’s language class so I can learn how to say, “take pictures of the animals please, not my children.”

Routine. Week 7.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,..” Colossians 3:12

I did not realize how thirsty we were for a routine. Language school and Homeschooling has been so healthy. When you are with the same people all day long with no schedule or order and 3 of them are under 7 years old, it can get ugly. Boredom can set in for young children, no matter what country you live in. Taking turns has been necessity. We have been diligent to give one another breaks from the kids and solo time while also trading off which child gets to run an errand with us. My favorite moment was probably when Garret walked with me at night to the local grocer and he wore his head lamp to light the path. He is an excellent grocery shopping partner. Probably because he usually gets his own Limca at the end of the trip.

Monday was Election Day, so there was no language class and most people took off of work. A fascinating detail I learned about Election Day was that after one voted they would get a henna tattoo on their finger nail to prove that they had voted and also to ensure that they do not try to vote again. Fascinating. And despite any concerns, our city was safe from any political turmoil.

Wednesday our cook came for the first time! This is also custom here and I was very excited to have her help us out because meals have been hard! Cooking an Indian dish, which is what most markets primarily provide ingredients for, is difficult and very time consuming. When you have 3 kids you are homeschooling, one with attention and sensory issues and one with hearing aids and speech delay, spending a lot of time in the kitchen is actually dangerous. For real. We do not have a dishwasher or a dryer for laundry so some days it felt like I was stuck on wash, rinse repeat between cooking, washing dishes and doing laundry. It is also almost 100 degrees in our kitchen and when I am finished I feel like I ran a marathon and come out only to find our home and the kids in disarray. So having an experienced cook provide a healthy meal of rice and Dahl is a dream come true!

The day before she came, our landlord took me out to the market to get all of the supplies to set up our kitchen for Indian cooking. This was such a positive experience that I wish I had done this for those who were just coming to America and trying to navigate Walmart!

Also this week, a friend of mine invited me to get a manicure and pedicure! I felt so blessed to have been invited and to get my India-ravaged feet, pampered. We live in the dessert, even though it is a city. And it has taken its toll on our feet.

A few other wins for the week were that I saw my first monkey, well 3 to be exact. Two were crossing the street and one was carrying its baby! Now I am sure that soon I will detest to see a monkey for they are rumored to be angry and frustrating animals here, but for now they remain as cute as the ones I have seen in the zoo.

I also finally started winning the battle with Jackson to take his medication for his infections and for eating protein. This had been a huge prayer. He has always struggled with eating and has a very limited diet. Once we arrived in India, it was like all he would eat is crackers and that IS IT. So to see him swallow his medicine and eggs made me want to cry!

Adam also started making sports connections around town which was super exciting as we look forward to opportunities to arise for his job with an International Sports Agency.

I had another YL essential oil win when the kids rolled around in something called Carrot Grass and couldn’t stop itching. After a bath I was able to use the recipe “Scratchless spray” which included purification, lavender and peppermint mixed with witch hazel. I felt relief to see my kiddos get relief.

To end my week I took a solo trip to curious life, a coffee shop that a friend told me about where I had a Vietnamese Cold coffee and it was amazing. I followed it up with a trip to the store fabindia where I got Adam a coffee mug so he can stop drinking his coffee out of a regular cup and to cottfab where I found my latest Kurta.

This one made me feel like Me. Like Heather. Ya know when you find something, and if someone was with you they would say, “Oh that is so you!” I found it. And it was the most inexpensive Kurta I have found! I was so excited. But this trip also left me intrigued. There is a whole other part to each clothing store that I have not explored. It is the side of the store where you buy your material by the meter and they will hand tailor your request.

Most people do this to get a Saree or Poshak made. Upon being asked if I wanted this service, I replied, “Not yet.” I do not know when it will be required of me to wear this kind of Indian dress, and when it is I will have to have it made. Truthfully, I am intimated by the idea of wearing a Saree. And here in our city, and where we live the traditional wear seems to be changing. Many women are wearing western clothes and others are wearing Indian clothes but are foregoing the dupatta or scarf.

But I feel the time will be coming soon, that I get to experience more of the richness of this culture.