ASIA: Colorful Roses From South India Spread Fragrance Around the Globe

ASIA: Colorful Roses From South India Spread Fragrance Around the Globe

Next time you present a bouquet to your loved one or while welcoming a guest, thank the people of few villages in Krishnagiri district in south Tamil Nadu in India. Millions of these petite and fresh flowers spread fragrance in UK, Germany, Australia, Singapore  and Middle East. They bloom in plenty in Krishnagiri district in towns like Thally, Kelamangalam, Denkanikottai, Shoolagiri and Hosur. Though these places are just an obscure speck on the map of India they are some of the important floriculture address of the country. How do these colorful flowers bloom here? Does the hot and humid climatic condition of the country suit them? The response is a little dicey.  The way the flowers are grown in the gardens, situated at an altitude of 1000 feet above mean sea level is the answer to the questions.

Untouched by pollution and tourists these rose gardens are tucked away in small villages spread all over the Western Ghats on the border of the two states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.     

All along the well-laid roads that meander on these not too tall hills dot rose gardens where men, women and children, with a covering on their head, tend to rose saplings. A few feet away, in what seems like a plastic house and net structures, stand long rows of flowering plants. Inquiries reveal that these ubiquitous plastic shields are polyhouses.

Flowers in full bloom inside a polyhouse

Though they look like simple gardens, they are large farms where the flowers were grown using modern technology. The polyhouse is a structure made of translucent material like glass or polyethylene which help the plants grow and develop under controlled climatic conditions.    

Narrow paths from these polyhouses lead you to hi-tech floriculture companies. It is here these flowers are plucked at the right time, cut to size with the right machines and preserved in huge cold storage rooms before being packed off to the local market and local airport, to be flown abroad.

Those who manage them are not local farmers but engineers, IT and management professionals.

Bright roses, rich marigolds and huge carnations is the capital that drives them to invest more and more in this industry. One such businessmen who turns over crores annually is Jitendra Kumar Bajoria, who hails from Bagalpur in Bihar State.

Author’s daughter in a polyhouse growing marigolds

Attracted by the nip in the air and the lush green landscape, this entrepreneur developed a rose garden on an acre two decades ago. Enthused by the results he decided to go commercial and took a big business plunge. He set up huge flower farms on 65 acres, – Maa Floritech _  at Agalkottai in Denkanikottai taluk in Krishnagiri district in 2006. 

As time flew by, the farms became hi-tech but shrunk to 45 acres.  “We boosted production by modernizing the farm and using Israeli farming technology, said Kush Chokhani, manager of Maa Floritech, Agalkottai village.”   Using  Israeli technology, cultivation of roses and carnations grew in leaps and bounds on these farms.  They did not just increase in numbers but in varieties too. “Today we have 82 varieties of chrysanthemums and 25 varieties of roses on our farms,” said Mr. Kush. 

Growing the saplings

How are saplings actually grown and tended?  “The specialty of Agalkottai are the following. Altitude (1000 m above mean sea level, red soil (ideal for roses), temperatures always hover around 23 – 30 degrees centigrade (good for chrysanthemums, marigold and roses),” said Mr. Kush.  

The cuttings are planted in straight rows inside the polyhouses. Apart from air, water and soil the flowers need nutrients too. “We give them at the right moment when they get depleted in the soil. Thanks to Israeli technology nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, sulfur and potassium are sent through pipes embedded in the soil. Similarly whenever there is an increase or decrease in temperatures inside the polyhouses, the technology helps to control it. For instance, there are tiny fogging machines (fully automated drip and fogger system) which sprinkle water over the plants when it becomes hot,” said Mr Kush as he turned on the fogging switch.

It is a sight to watch these tiny robots swirl around and sprinkle water on the plants. For a minute, you are transported to a rainy setting.  “Also when it is cold outside, the temperature is survival- friendly for the plants as the polyhouses stop the greenhouse gases from leaving,” explained Mr. Kush.

Though there are less pests and insects inside a polyhouse, Mr. Kush opines that there is a need for regular consultation regarding the right kind of fertilizers and fungicides for the plants. “We are always on the look out for a a breakout of pests such as thrips, mites and aphids. The plants are susceptible to Powdery mildew ( a disease) when there is less humidity.”   

Horticulture officials in the district are of the view that these enclosures also ensure disease control, fertigation and other agronomical practices.  Thus the farmers of the region are assured of harvesting flowers such as carnation, gerbera, marigold, orchid and roses throughout the year without  worrying about crop loss or damage.

Controlled cultivation

Micro irrigation system ensures right amount of water for the roots (cuts water use by 80 per cent). Mainly the poly houses boost starch production as the carbon-dioxide emitted by the plants at night is retained inside the enclosure.

These polyhouses offer other sophistication too like the photo-synthetically active radiation (PAR) lighting. Plants grow tall under these lighting. But when they reach a specified height, lights are switched off and flowering commences.  Thus the Israeli technology helps control photosynthesis, humidity, good aeration, temperature and other conditions.

Rose buds capped with synthetic mesh

Once flowering commences, care is taken to cap each and every rose bud with a synthetic mesh to control its size. Rose stems ready for harvest during sunny days have to be pre-cooled. Soil and water need to be tested regularly. According to Mr. Kush, one cannot succeed in hi-tech farming without personal attention.

Once the flowers are in full bloom, they are harvested, precooled for 12-16 hours at 8-10 degrees in a cold room. The stems are then de-leafed using machines 25 % from the bottom. The stems are then graded for length. They are then bunched based on the length. “A bunch consists of 20 roses. They are wrapped after cutting and packed in a preservative for storing in cold rooms. They are taken out based on the orders,” explained Mr. Kush.      

Profitable farming

“We keep updating ourselves with new techniques and news about market conditions,” said Mr. Kush. There is regular knowledge-transfer to workers about upkeep of plants, weeding, transplanting, cultivation methods, irrigation, nursery development de-leafing and cutting. The workforce are not only from Tamil Nadu state but also from Northern states like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkand and West Bengal.

While men prepare the flower beds, carry buckets of water and remove weeds, women are involved in harvesting, de-shooting and other light jobs.

Roses being packaged for export

Based on their skill they earn approximately $ 4 to $ 5 every day. With a growing demand for these flowers, it will definitely attract more entrepreneurs . Indian chrysanthemums, roses and marigolds are sure to find a place in many a bouquets in every part of the globe soon.

Lalithasai

Lalithasai , a journalist par excellence, with an experience of over 25 years, has penned innumerable articles for the betterment of the society. For over two decades at The Hindu (India’s National Newspaper), she had written with sensitivity and understanding about marginalized women and children. She has also covered public education, communities, urban affairs and development in Tamil Nadu (India). She was actively involved in reporting extensively about the affected families in the fishing hamlets in India, when the tsunami struck in 2004. She has interviewed senior editors and liased with major media organisations to understand the situations and plight of women. Lalithasai who has many feathers in hat, has had her humble beginnings in a middle class South Indian family, but has risen to be an inspiration and tall leader for her own sisters and mothers in the world. she is a mother of two grown up children. Her son is an environmentalist and holds a position of repute in Henkel in Germany. Her daughter is a doctor,who is planning to pursue the subject in mental health. To know more about LalithaSai, please visit - http://www.lalithasai.com/

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USA: Hiking with Kids

USA: Hiking with Kids

We are approaching summer in my part of the world, which means prime hiking season! I hike with my two boys all year round, but I love this time of year when things are a bit less wet. We live along the Cascade Mountain Range, so there is no shortage of amazing vistas and gorgeous forests to explore. I have been hiking with my kids since they were babies, most often on my own. My sons are now elementary school age, and while some things have gotten easier over the years, some have not. Endurance and motivation are continual challenges.

All of those lovely photos on social media usually have some rough backstory moments. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, so we keep at it.

Today I share some tips on planning a hike and keeping little feet moving along the path.

Choosing a Trail – It’s important to start any journey with a clear plan. Map out where you will go. Depending on where you live, there are often trail websites as well as guide books available that will tell you which are good hikes for kids and when is the best time of year to go. Take into consideration the drive as well as hike length and elevation gain. Are you considering a hike to a destination such as a waterfall or lake, or do you want a no-pressure meander in the forest? Find out if there is a bathroom at the trailhead. And if you do pick a hike with water features, have a plan for when your kids get wet, because they always do.

Safety – Once you have some ideas, make sure to check weather and trail conditions online or with the closest ranger station. Provided the trail looks good and you have any required permits, you can start gearing up. Make sure to pack the 10 essentials plus extra clothes, food, drinks, books, games, and toys for the car. If you are heading to a trail that will be near any ridge, look out,  or peak, have a plan to keep little ones safe. I always liked to bring a special blanket that we called the safety mat. When we were in situations where the kids needed to stay put, I brought out the safety mat and they knew there was no leaving the blanket. You may even offer stickers or other rewards for following safety protocol. Lastly, whether you go solo with kids or with friends, have another adult who is not on the hike as your check in buddy. Let them know where you are going, when you plan to return, when you will call to check in, and where they should call if you don’t.

The Drive – Hopefully your kiddos enjoy all those goodies you packed and let you focus on the road. I always keep an eye out on the drive for fun places to stop for a meal or a treat on the way home. I keep it under wraps, but there comes a point on a longer hike when saying “let’s just get to the car, and we can go get ice cream” helps a ton.

Hiking Goals – If your kids have a concept of distance or elevation, talk to them about what you are doing. Give everyone a map if available. Or better yet, give them pencil and a little notebook and have them draw the trail with noticeable landmarks. Consider having them take photographs along the way. My kids LOVE having a camera to carry and will take tons of photos. If the kids are younger, consider picking a favorite tv or book character to pretend to be and act out an adventure on the hike. My boys loved Thomas the Tank Engine, so we’d pretend to be the engines on the narrow-gauge line up on the mountains. If your kids are older, try geocaching, because everyone loves treasure hunting.

Bribery – There is no other way to put it. I bribe my kids. If the drive is super long, they get to play extra video games in the car for being good sports and coming along. I pack treats along with all the healthy stuff. In the photo above, my boys are shown on a mountain peak. Leading up to that moment, my youngest was beginning to bonk at the site of the final climb. I let him know if he made it to the top, he could eat all the cookies before his lunch. He was thrilled, and as the photo shows, we made it. Maybe video games and cookies aren’t going to work for you, but there is something special you can do to reward all that effort.

The last piece of advice I will offer is to always know that at any time you may need to bail.

Maybe it happens on the drive or on the trail, but set a clear expectation with yourself that it will be whatever it will be, which may mean only a few feet down the path. But the more you get your kids out on the trail, the more accustomed to the work they become. And before you know it, you are on top of a mountain having the cookie party of a lifetime!

Do you explore the outdoors with your children? What tips do you have on keeping them safe and moving?

This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Photo credit to the author.

Tara B. (USA)

Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Blog!

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USA: Haiti in the Wake of Hurricane Matthew

USA: Haiti in the Wake of Hurricane Matthew

haiti62,000 people. That is the estimated number of Haitians who are still displaced from the 7.0 earthquake that shook Haiti in January 2010; a heartbreaking disaster that claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced as many as 3 million people.

Kendy,

Naomie,

Emilien,

Mrs. Jean-Donald

Elouse’s aunt

Elouse’s four cousins

….this is only 1% of the 900 people who lost their lives in Haiti to Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

900 lives…fathers, mothers, teachers, grandmas, little brothers, babies…lost in the waters of a sea that came on land and washed it out. A land crushed under debris created by a 145mph wind that knocked down concrete walls and tore down palm trees as if they were saplings just transplanted from a kindergarten classroom the day before.

To say that we feel for our sisters and brothers in Haiti is an understatement. My heart is heavy and it wants to scream because although it believes that we, together, will make things better, it is hard to see the road ahead when there is such a harsh wind blowing in one’s face.

To look at the state of Haiti now, with the lack of food and access, and the abundance of poverty, one may not remember how powerful a nation Haiti actually is.

In the 18th century, Toussaint-Louverture, Henri Christophe and Dessalines revolted in an effective guerilla war against the French colony. All three had been enslaved: they successfully ended slavery and regained freedom for the nation. They did this in 1791 against the French, in 1801 against the Spanish conquest, and in 1802 against an invasion ordered by Napoleon Bonaparte. They renamed Saint-Dominique after its original Arawak name, Haiti, which became the second independent nation in the Americas.

Such history should not go unnoticed because it is a significant example of the perseverance, love, and determination that courses through the veins of Haitians.

If I could say anything to my sisters and brothers in Haiti right now, if I could speak at all, I would say this:

“In the midst of the chaos; the heartbreak; the loss of life; the search for lives; the feeling that rebuilding will simply take too much energy…again; the pain; the tears that will run dry; the anguish, and all the feelings that weigh down your soul and may make you doubt your abilities, please remember who you are, what you have accomplished, and what you are capable of doing. You do not stand alone, because we stand with you. You do not sit alone, you do not swim alone, you do not cry alone, you do not hug your loved ones alone, you do not cry alone.

You do not cry alone, and you will not rebuild alone.

We are with you.

We are with you and we will laugh together again and you will see that we can get out of this. Please believe with me. I know it’s hard right now, and I do not pretend to understand what you’re going through, but please believe with me”.

To anyone who would like to assist, you may consider contacting any and all of these organizations:

Care

Food For The Poor

Americares

Oxfam International

Save the Children

Please remember that there is also a cholera outbreak because of lack of clean water, and it is also claiming lives. Help is needed most urgently! Please lets do what we can.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by this hurricane, not only in Haiti but in neighboring countries including the southern US states. Sending you all love and happiness in the hopes that you keep believing and looking forward to another sunrise.

Have you ever been directly affected by a devastating storm? What would you say to those who are trying to rebuild their lives?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophia at ThinkSayBe. Photo credit: Ricardo’s Photography. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

ThinkSayBe

I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

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GLOW: #Heartfulness – Inspiration Through Meditation by #WorldMom Sophia

I ask my one year old son: “Who is Wesley?” His eyes brighten up as he remembers this question, and he happily and proudly answers “I”. He seems happy and proud because he knows our reaction to his showings of intelligence; not because he really understands that he is … himself.

That seems to be the question that many of us have, isn’t it? Who am I? What am I doing here? What am I doing in life?

Through the years, my life has made for a very interesting journey. I have learned, unlearned, thought that I unlearned, and have forgotten some things I thought were really important aspects of the type of life I wanted for myself, and my family. I have survived and I have lived, and I continue to be amazed at how much there is to understand about our experience in this physical realm. During my formative years I was raised within a religious structure, and I won’t name it only because I don’t want to provide a filter with which to read this article. Also, my ideas are just that: mine, and not a representation of any religion or belief system.

After conversations with people young and old, from here and there, and after experiencing energies that I couldn’t really explain within the context of religion, I have slowly come to believe in God a little differently. Maybe I should say it’s very differently because now I consider the possibility of God being she, and not he; or God being ____ and not anything we even understand. And that is way different than the solidified He that we often use in our speech.

On this part of my journey, which I should say started in 2009, I have become more aware of myself as a part of the universe. This has manifested most dramatically in my painting, and the connected-ness I feel whenever I let myself tune in to all that surrounds me.

If you have the opportunity to watch the movie, The Last Mimzy, I suggest that you do if for nothing else, just to see one scene: A little girl puts her hand in this space that is controlled by a force that is from out of this world *(literally). When she does this, her hand separates into millions of particles. It is absolutely beautiful and astonishing. When I saw this it made me think of a thought I once had. That scene was exactly what I was thinking – that creation exists as star matter gathered in different ways, to have different functions, but we (as in everything that exists) are all the same thing. Seeing that movie put into visual what I had in my mind.

So, where am I going with this? It is this – since 2009 I have allowed myself to be curious about life and creation, and to find the connection among God-based answers, soul-based answers, mind (consciousness)-based answers, and scientific answers. By doing so I have been able to experience the world differently. Some things have made me wonder if I am making things up. Could I have felt the presence of ancestors watching my husband and I when we were only friends? Could I have felt that good an energy when I put finger to canvas and painted an abstract, but soulful picture? Could I have dreamed of a place I had never visited, but upon describing it to a friend I hadn’t seen in 15 years and whom I just reconnected with a few months prior to the dream, she would finish describing the place of which I dreamed, and knew exactly where it was? Could I have climbed a mountain successfully by talking to all the elements, acknowledging their power along that of the mountain, and asking them to let me experience a safe climb? Was it coincidence that the climb was as peaceful and safe as it was?

I have had so many experiences that if you don’t believe in universal inter-connectivity, then it will just sound like craziness.

In 2009 I was not meditating. I thought about starting doing so for years, but never have. Now that I have started I understand it is not something I should force, and am content with the fact that I never did force it; it must have not been a part of my journey at that time. I started meditating only a few months ago and it has improved my life considerably.

Early this year I considered taking anti-depressants. It had been a battle to even acknowledge that I might actually need help chemically, and that went along with battling whatever the things were that I felt so badly about. I won’t go into details, but I will say that my children are awesome. They are being children perfectly. My husband is my friend, my love, my silent rock and I love him to the ends of the multiverse (forget the moon & back. I’m just loving him beyond infinity). So it wasn’t about any of that. It was that I would start feeling down and would start spiraling. I would watch the spiral and knew I didn’t want to go down in it, but it was so hard to stay out of it. I would watch canvas and paint. I’d just pass it sometimes like it wasn’t there. I’d look at my camera and not want to take photos. I’d not want to write any poetry, and would make myself focus on the many blessings, so I could write a blog post or two. However, making myself see these blessings, and actually acknowledging them are two different things, to me.

I noticed that when I meditated more and more, that more and more I would feel better.

I would believe that I could be a part of the art community. Why not? Why not I? Who was I anyways? Wasn’t I someone whose work could be displayed somewhere?

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Meditation helped me (here comes a cliché) get centered. Cliché or not, it is absolutely true.

I decided to meditate instead of the anti-depressants and I have done so since February.

I don’t always feel great, and don’t expect that that is how it works. I think we learn from feeling down and from being jubilant. I do, however, see the difference in myself, and hear it in what my children say about how they feel about mommy (completely out of the blue “I love my mommy” “My mommy is nice” statements to random people).

Meditation inspires me to be happily alive. Not only does it inspire my creativity by unlocking … artist’s block (like writer’s block), but it also helps me so that I am not taken by life’s little trials.

I see it this way: small trials can be ignored, but sometimes this is done in a way that is like unto filling an hourglass with grains of sand. Each grain is a small trial. Then, before you know it, the hourglass has passed the last grain and you can’t take it anymore… you react, upset about too many things to remember, but you didn’t truly processed them so they piled up and filled you up in a negative way. Through meditation, I feel like I am learning to really regard small trials as just that. There is still an hourglass, as habits are hard to break, but it isn’t getting as many grains of sand in it.

I will share that since beginning meditation I have exhibited my photography at a local event once; I have painted new pieces and exhibited them in two cities in a neighboring State; I am working on a two-country anthropology project to bring children closer to one another, and it will exhibit in the next few months at a local museum or gallery; and I will participate in a really funky (good) art exhibit that fills a tunnel up with colorful chalk designs.

To say that I am feeling better and better about myself is an understatement. I sincerely believe that meditation is helping me tap into my subconscious and bring out my potential so that it can transform from potential, to actualized and tangible reality.

The last thing I would like to say to you, is that if you do decide to give meditation a try, to keep a journal about your experiences. Do this faithfully. When you look back at your journal in six months, or one year or more, I think you will be surprised by your journey. A journal will solidify the fact that you have made your life better by forming the habit of meditation and making it an integral part of your lifestyle.

This Friday, October 7th, at 9:30 AM EST, join me by registering here for a chat and a Heartfulness Relaxation and Meditation session, as part of the GLOW webinar series.

download

If you have questions for me, send them to glow@heartfulness.org. Judith and Purnima, our very own in-house #Heartfulness Trainers are hosting me for this webinar, and I shall be chatting with them, and with you.

inspiration_through_meditation_resized

Keynote Speaker, #WorldMom Sophia

Sophia Neghesti-Johnson is a photographer, painter, and a pencil artist. She is a children’s book writer with her main focus being educating the reader on the tribes of Tanzania. Sophia uses her photography to fund girls’ education, and is currently pursuing her higher education goals as well. Sophia is mother to three children. She has an amazing & astute teenage girl, a clever &sassy three year old girl, and a sweet & musical boy who is almost two years of age. She tries to be a good mom, a good wife, and a good person to others and herself. Sophia has been practicing Heartfulness Meditation for about 8 months now. In her spare time she loves to go for a hike or a jog: it’s like meditation on the go in the midst of creation in motion. Sophia writes on her blog at ThinkSayBe.wordpress.com, and also contributes to WorldMomsNetwork.com

GLOW Webinar Series – Inspiration through Meditation – this week with …!

#WorldMoms Sophia, Purnima, Judith

#WorldMoms Sophia, Purnima, Judith

ThinkSayBe

I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

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GREECE: Summer Time Blues

GREECE: Summer Time Blues

Watching a storm brew from my balcony...my house was hit by lightning 30 min later!

Watching a storm brew from my balcony…my house was hit by lightning 30 min later!

Greek summer has always been a challenge for me, even though most of my friends and relatives think I’m insane. People from all over the world spend small fortunes on heading to the land which created the first Olympic Games and has countless beaches, monuments and fascinating historical sites to visit. So when I confess that Greek summer is usually a nightmare for me they are shocked.

My main issue is the overwhelming heat. The temperature is usually between 35°C and 42°C (around 95 and 108°F). That’s just too much for me to handle during the day and it means that at night the house is uncomfortably hot. It’s so difficult to sleep and at least one of us can usually be found prowling around in the early hours of the morning trying to find a cool spot. Unfortunately, the best of these spots is directly in front of the fridge…that means that my family nearly always gains weight during the summer period! September always heralds the arrival of requests for gym membership and low fat meals.

Another issue that most parents have in Greece is the incredibly long school break. High school finishes the regular curriculum in the middle of May and resumes again around the 10th of September. When the teaching programme finishes in May the students go to school for a couple of hours in the morning several days a week to do their end of year exams. The exam period lasts five weeks. That means that parents of children in Greece have the pleasure of seeing their offspring for four whole months. There are no regular lessons, unless the parents can afford to send their child to summer school or pay for private tuition. My children went to a private school this year so I thank the Lord that they were busy until the middle of July! Having time to drink a leisurely coffee in the morning and catch up on e-mails without being hounded by your permanently hungry teen, should NEVER be taken for granted!

Private schools and tuition brings me on to my next summer difficulty: being able to save enough money during the eight months I work a year to cover the extra expenses we have during the long vacation. My teens have virtually all day free apart from a couple of hours they spend studying, revising and training for judo. Not a day passes without them asking, pleading or sometimes blackmailing me to give them money to go to the town and meet their friends! That means that I rarely go out, as I simply can’t afford it.

Most of my summer is spent at home trying to escape the gruelling temperatures. Thank heavens I have many online friends to ‘hang out’ with, otherwise the four months would never end! My teens also want to go to summer camp with their friends, so that’s another expense which makes it difficult to make ends meet. I really celebrate when September arrives and my kids only have time to go out on Saturdays! I also start working again at this time of year so things tend to get better in the fall.

So that’s the heat, the long school break, and the expense of a summer in Greece covered, but then there is also the weather…

Summer storms in the mainland area of Greece where I live are frequent and unpredictable. Last summer as I was gathering clothes from the washing line, a sheep was struck dead by lightening very close to where I was standing! It was a terrifying experience, for us both I imagine, and as a result I am very stressed this year every time I hear a thunderclap.

Our house was hit AGAIN this year and on another occasion shortly after that the electricity column next to my house was also ‘attacked’ during one of our frequent summer storms. The whole area was left without power for several days which meant cooking and cooling systems had to be abandoned. I gave away a lot of frozen food to friends in the town as the lack of fridge/freezer was the biggest nightmare. No cool spot at all during the blackout! My modem was also blown to smithereens and I don’t even want to recall the pain of being offline for several days!

Ok, so now that I told you how I really feel about summer in Greece, I will end it on some positives. Here’s goes…I can say that I enjoy having lots of time to catch up with my online friends and reading as many books as I like. This year I have also spent real quality time with my two sons who actually want to hang out with me. My 15-year old decided to stay at home while his brother went camping with friends. This was a total surprise as he just wanted to spend time reading books and chilling out with me. He hasn’t wanted to do that for several years! My 16 year old formally invited me to watch judo during the Olympic Games and actually insisted on me being with him so that we could bet on who we thought would win each match…I’m not sure whether I should be flattered by the invitation or worried that I have produced a gambler!

At least this year my two teens think I’m cool enough to hang out with in public (on the front balcony) and to participate in underage gambling (watching judo) in the privacy of our home….

How do you deal with a long summer vacation? What activities are your children involved in?

This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Ann Maria in Greece.

Ann Marie Wraight

Having lived in 4 different countries, Ann Marie finds it difficult to give a short answer about where she's from. She regards herself: Brit by birth, Aussie by nature, with a sprinkling of Greek and German based on her insatiable appetite for tasty food and chilled beer!

This World Mom has been married to her Greek soulmate for 16 years and they are the proud but constantly challenged parents of two overactive teenage boys. (She secretly wonders sometimes if she was given the wrong babies when she left the maternity clinic.) She can't explain the fascination and ability that her 13 and 14 year-olds show in math and physics or that both boys are ranked 1st and 2nd nationally in judo. Ann Marie can only conclude that those years of breastfeeding, eating home cooked meals and home tutoring really DO make a difference in academic and physical performance! The family is keeping its fingers crossed that---with the awful economic crash in Greece---continued excellence in math and/or judo will lead to university scholarships...

In addition to writing, enjoying a good glass of wine and movies, Ann Marie also works as a teacher and tends their small, free-range farm in the Greek countryside.

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USA: The Camping Trip

USA: The Camping Trip

tara4This summer my family went an overnight backpacking trip to a gorgeous meadow tucked in the mountains. Our party included me, my husband, my 10-year-old son, my 6-year-old son, and our dog. Our journey included walking 12 miles and climbing 2000 feet of elevation while carrying everything we needed. We have done this type of camping in the past with our kids, but this was the farthest distance to date for their little legs. My older son carried a proper pack with his own gear the entire way. My younger son carried a small pack filled with stuffed animals for about 1 hour of the trip before handing it off, but he managed to go the distance on his own two feet.

Trips like this are a ton of work, and truth be told, there were as many thorny moments as there were rosy. We were all so exhausted and crabby at one point that I was tempted to question whether the effort was worth it. But like all big undertakings with children, I believe you put in the time and roll with the ups and downs in order to build a better next time.  Or as my husband and I discussed, we needed to let them be maniacs and mess up so they could learn from experience, even at the expense of peaceful communion with nature.

Our biggest challenges:

tara3BUGS – The flies were awful, and the kids spent most of the time in a tent playing cards to avoid being bitten. I was not so lucky: I got a nasty bite on my back. The natural bug repellent I brought in an attempt to avoid harsh chemicals around the kids did absolutely nothing. So while we did not do a ton of exploring at our destination, a champion of Crazy Eights was decided amid a glorious setting.

DEER – I have encountered many deer throughout my life, but never have I seen deer so interested in humans. They visited our campsite regularly, at least 30 times. Our dog was not pleased and felt the need to alert us continually throughout the night. We had very little sleep because of those deer, but it was a clear reminder that we were guests in their home.tara1

HEAT – We were on the eastern side of a mountain range where it was blazing hot. We were so dry and covered with dirt that several hand washings once we got back to town still didn’t feel like enough. We live on the western side of the mountains, which is known for the dark, damp climate, so a little heat goes a long way with me. I was ready to retreat back to our cool, shady corner.

tara2The time to and from the car was a little over 24 hours, but it felt like days. That said, we did create some wonderful memories. We got to enjoy marmots whistling in the evening while the sun set over the mountain peaks. We imparted important back country skills to our boys around bathroom etiquette and water treatment. We slept under the stars and woke up in a meadow of wild flowers. We celebrated the accomplishment of seeing a place that you can only access on foot. We had an adventure that will hopefully serve as a building block for the adventures to come. And for that next adventure, I am definitely packing an arsenal of bug spray.

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Tell us about a building block type of undertaking with your kids. What did you/they learn from it, and how did it go the next time?

This has been an original post for World Moms Blog by Tara B. Photo credits to the author.

Tara B. (USA)

Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Blog!

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