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Teaching your own child – part 1

We finally got back to school after the swine flu scare, and Alea is in one of my math classes – poor kid. As is typical, one of the first day’s activities is handing out textbooks, and our school is lucky enough to have plenty – each student gets a ‘take-home’ book for homework. That text goes to the house, and stays there until the end of the year.

So I’m passing out books to a different class, and one of the students says, “Mr. Stutz, someone left their take-home book here.” And of course I jump right into the teacher lecture on responsibility, diligence, and respect of school materials. Picture (if you can picture a sound) the teacher voice from Peanuts – in case you need help, I added a link to the sound.

Several blah blah blahs later, I ask the 64,000 dollar question: “Whose book is it?” The girl opens it, reads the front cover, and starts laughing.

Yep, it was Alea’s.

She’s probably thinking that 7th grade is gonna be a looooong year…

Free verse Friday – Sixth grade band concert

Alea on the saxaphoneTrombones toot two tuneful tones
The flute’s fine fifer’s fair
A clarinet’s call cools all crowds
Drums ding dong debonair.

With ogling oboe ooh la la’s
And trembling tuba toots,
Pianos pick a plaintive piece
While silk-like smooth sax scoots.

Our Alea has made such strides
Her band was great Wednesday!
We’re proud of her, and hope she’ll let
Her old man with her play (someday?)

Free verse Friday – Alea and the stray dogs

Alea and the CSR catAlea’s class went to care for stray dogs
at a shelter in downtown Mumbai.
Kids fed them and cleaned them and petted them all
to help them they really did try.

But Alea is truly a Stutz kid at heart
the reason I know this is that:
in the middle of a barking stray dog home
she tracked down and played with a cat!

Mutts and Mangroves

ASB in the mangrovesToday is our Community and Social Responsibility (CSR) day in the middle school, and all the classes are off doing service projects around Mumbai. Alea’s sixth grade is working with a group called Welfare of Stray Dogs, while Dave’s seventh grade advisory is off to clean up mangroves. We had an earlier experience at both these places last fall, and so this is the follow-up to those visits.

We are looking forward to an engaging and interesting experience – hopefully filled with lots of dog hair and mud! I’ll see if there are any pictures to post this afternoon…

UPDATE: A super full day – not as muddy as we’d thought, but hotter and stinkier. We’re trying to put together a ning about what we’re learning (a ning is a social-network type site), so you can check out how we’re doing and see a few pictures!

NCAA Champ 2009!And oh yes – I almost forgot to show off my second-year-in-a-row NCAA bracket championship! I won with my other bracket, the one I didn’t post here. Go figure…

Free verse Friday – Good news/bad news

The kids are busy growing up
Its hard to realize that
Where once they played with dolls and balls
Now its games and skype-based chat.

Double digit ages loom
They once were far off goals:
“You can use an ow-ey knife then,
watch unedited Disney shows.”

But time moves on, and kids grow up
The thought that leaves me cold:
Because they are no longer young
It means we are getting old!


Alea’s water fest

Alea at the water festivalThis past weekend was a sun-scorching water-splashing team-cheering fun time for Alea. She was asked to be on the school’s team for a interscholastic water sports competition (the criteria were being a strong swimmer and a good all around kid. Awesome!) that pitted kids from around the city against each other on pool play equipment.

Susan took her one day, and Dave the other, and all 3 of us came back with ruddy skin – good prep for the Egyptian desert right?! Alea’s only request was that we not ask her to pose for pictures, and I think we did alright on that account.

Even without having her pose, we got some interesting action shots from the events that give a good idea of what she was doing (and some of the interesting swim wear to be found here).


Alea in concert

The security situation here has resulted in an awful lot of events (that an awful lot of people were looking forward to) being canceled: community tree lighting and concert and buffet, Family Fun Day, the middle and high school winter social, the evening theater performance – even the soccer teams were not allowed to travel because of concern about airport safety. It is kind of a bummer for all the kids who have worked so hard preparing teams and songs and activities, but they are – for the most part – very understanding of the issues at stake and the reasons behind the caution.

Luckily for us, however, the band and choir were still able to hold their concert on Wednesday afternoon, and it was sure a lot of fun to see all the kids dressed up and letting the beautiful music flow. Of course we were ‘most proudest’ of Alea, who played a selection of songs with the 6th grade band. Great stuff, and she even got to pick dinner afterwards (she chose to test out KFC’s new delivery service).

Her band teacher requires students to record and submit assignments to his ‘blog,’ where he can listen to and grade them. Alea’s address is http://asbband0664.tumblr.com, so you can go there and listen to her brief song. Enjoy some music for the weekend!

The new school pictures are here!

Check ’em out – Alea and Breck ready to take on the world:


(you can also see the pictures from last year, as well as those from even earlier grades…)

Mangrove mania

As part of our school mission, ASB is in the process of developing relationships with various non-governmental agencies (NGOs) in Mumbai. There are certainly many areas where we have the opportunity to “enhance the lives of others” in this sprawling city, and in the middle school we’ve targeted three sectors for the different grade levels: 6th grade focuses on animal welfare, 7th grade on the environment, and 8th grade on education.

This past Friday was our first full day of working with the various groups, and both Dave and Alea had the chance to go ‘into the field’ to get some hands on experience. Alea’s group went to an animal shelter affiliated with the one we visited in Udaipur at the end of October (sigh – those pages are still not created or posted. Patience, patience) where they got a crash course in some of the issues and treatment options for city animals at risk. (Rumor has it that she also fell in love with a beautiful black kitten, which Susan will not let her bring home.)

Dave’s 7th grade class went to visit a patch of mangroves on the eastern side of the city. Mangroves are trees that grow in brackish water, where outflowing rivers and streams meet the sea and get ‘backflooded’ when the tides rise. Providing shelter for many types of sea and land life, protecting coastlines from erosion, and scrubbing a disproportionate amount of carbon dioxide out of the air, these important coastal features are threatened by development. Most of the original groves around Mumbai have been destroyed, and construction by both the fabulously wealthy (who want seaside views and golf courses) and the desperately poor (who want shantytown shelter in any place they can find it) continues to this day.

There are a number of organizations dedicated to working to halt the encroachment of population centers on the mangroves, and our school has partnered with the Mangrove Society of India, which works in Mumbai to explore the issue. With Rishi Aggarwaal as our guide and mentor, we headed to the mangrove sanctuary sponsored by Godrej, a manufacturing company that has set aside a huge swath of land outside their factories.

Lionfish with kids in the backgroundThe kids spent some time learning about the mangroves and their importance, seeing some of the different fish that make their home or spawn there (including the cool-looking but deadly lionfish), and going to a local school that runs a mangrove awareness program. It was quite an experience (despite getting devoured by mosquitoes!) that we look forward to building on when we return later in the year. We’ll probably get more engaged in “doing” things in the mangroves – this trip was more of a getting acquainted with the issues visit.

Of course, ask any of the kids for the highlight of the day, and getting into the mud would be your hands (or feet) down winner! The kids schlopped and schlepped through the thick goo, and anyone who did not have shoes that went over the ankle became a prime candidate for being a shoe-loser. Few things in life are more fun than a school day that includes playing in the mud!!

I must be on the front page

ASB's front page with Alea on it!

ASB front page with Alea on it!

Cruising through our school’s web site, we’d noticed that the webmasters have replaced some of the “Welcome to ASB” pictures that grace the front page. As the images cycled in and out, we suddenly got a glimpse of a familiar face – there was Alea!!!

If you want to check out the real school page and see all the rotating images, come to the main site.

Of course, the other funny thing is that you can still find our pictures on the Belgrade school’s site, which the kids last attended 3 years ago: Alea as a witch, Breck as a Christmas cowboy, Breck’s tummy with a batman logo , or other pictures of them (and Dave) in the student gallery.

Nature in Matheran

Alea is getting ready for her first Week Without Walls trip, as the 6th graders gear up to visit Matheran. I went with them last year, but am accompanying the 7th grade to Durshet this time around, so she’ll be on her own (to mom’s chagrin).

When we were planning our school trip last year, a group of teachers went for a ‘recce’ (I guess that is short for ‘reconnoiter’) and we went as a family. We stayed at the hotel that the school uses, and got to spend the weekend exploring.

As I was cleaning out some papers today, I came across a ‘notebook entry’ that Breck had made on the way home from the trip (he wants everyone to know that he was in the car when he was writing it!). I figured that, in honor of Alea’s upcoming trip and in light of the fun times he described, I’d post his description of Nature in Matheran. You can certainly compare that with pictures from our trip and see how wonderfully accurate his writing is!

(what follows is the ‘translation’ of his note)

Nature in Matheran

Waterfalls, crabs, snakes, and iguana. In cliff clouds. Hike forest, monkeys on building. Lots of trees. Horses. Monkeys saw in woods.

Alea on the saxophone

Alea with her new saxophone!

Alea with her new saxophone!

At ASB, kids get to start band in 6th grade. Since Alea is starting 6th grade (and middle school(!)), she got to pick an instrument to play. Any bets on what she chose?

I’d like to think it was because I played sax in school, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it was more due to the fact that her cousin Nathan started playing it this year.

Of course, she’ll also have lots of help around the apartment. The first day that she brought it home, dad helped her get the reed all set in place (she’d already practiced putting the rest of the instrument together in school) and then regaled her with a squeaky, out of tune, belabored full-of-a-father’s love version of “When the Saints Come Marching In.” Then mom gave it a whirl; I think she’ll need more practice too.

And even funnier, when I stopped in at our new neighbors’ apartment downstairs to apologize for the noise, they replied that A) they hadn’t heard anything, and B) they both played sax as well! Sounds like we’ll have to get the Kiara band going!

First day of school

Alea and Breck get ready for classes at ASB this morning

Alea and Breck get ready for classes at ASB this morning

Today is the big day!

After all the pre-in-service and the getting-over-jet-lag and the reacquainting-ourselves-with-friends sessions have drawn to a close, school starts again today.

We all slept rather badly two nights ago, and so got to bed early and slept soundly, all prepared for our classes. We rushed a bit for the bus (there was even family member who did not get his or her pair of shoes put on as we hurried out!), but made it in and were off to a great day.

Wish us all luck as we get things going with a first grade teacher, a fourth grade student, a sixth grade student, and a seventh/eighth grade teacher. What a mix!


The theme of the summer with all the in-laws and cousins has been fun in the sun; Alea and Breck have certainly done their part to keep up with all the activities.

Susan’s brothers and father have taken them out numerous times on various Minnesota lakes in their boats, and the highlights of the rides have been hopping on the tubes. These inflated giants get dragged behind at great speeds, and the uncles take great pride in trying to knock the kids off.

The kids, for their part, hang on for dear life as they fly over the boat’s wake, around tight corners, and across choppy waters. Good times!

Walkin’ the Mall

Alea and Breck in front of the CapitolWell, we made it to DC, and are having a great visit with Uncle Rob, Aunt Blanche, Boyd, and Sam. They have been so gracious in letting us use their apartment, which is conveniently located right near a Metro stop, so we’ve been able to zip downtown on a couple of occasions to see a few of the sights. They are in the process of moving to the new-to-them house they just bought, so everything worked out perfectly.

Yesterday we spent the whole day with YiaYia at the Air and Space Museum (and the only one asking “Are we done yet?” was Susan!! We eventually let her go to the National Gallery of Art across the way to get her daily dose of culture!). This morning, we are heading to start at the Lincoln Memorial and walk the Mall to the Museum of Natural History.

Even though we are in the midst of a DC heatwave, we are feeling right at home. The jetlag has been negligible, and we are so excited to be getting our summer off to such a great start. More info as we travel around, but suffice to say at this point – we’re back in the USA, we’re healthy, and we’re happy!!

Last day of school!

Alea and Breck on the last day of school

Here are the kids – all ready for their final classes before summer break! They have a half day today, and tomorrow Alea gets a birthday present: no school!

She got the first part of her ‘presents’ yesterday, as we welcomed the first big rainstorm of the season. The kids had just gone to bed when the lightning flashed and the thunder roared; we all ran to the windows to watch the sheets of rain pour down. How exciting!!

In any case, you can also visit the School Pictures page to see all the first and last day pictures we’ve taken over the years. Have a great summer!!

Alea’s 5th grade exhibition

Singing the welcome songThis week was the fifth graders’ PYP exhibition, a culminating project incorporating all sorts of learning that took place over their elementary school years. The class focuses on a student selected topic for the last 8 weeks of the school year and then presents what they learned to parents, teachers, and peers. This year’s theme was “With Every Child’s Rights Come Responsibilities.” Because child rights are such a pertinent topic to everyone living in India, the students found that they had a unique opportunity to explore many different facets of the subject.

Alea's group


To keep things at a manageable level, the kids split up into 8 different groups: Abuse, Basic Needs, Education, Fun, Gender, Healthcare, Labor, and Protection. Alea chose Labor (or Labour as it was spelled here), and so her group’s presentation looked at the lives of children through the prism of them having to work. After the entire grade sang an introductory song, accompanying themselves with drums and guitars, they split up into separate rooms to spend time ‘teaching’ the parents and other visitors about their topics.

Breck wheeling the bricks arounThe main part of the presentation was a ‘newscast’ with Alea and another group member reading the latest news on child labor from several regions in India, followed by an “interview” with 2 ex-child laborers (also group members playing a role), and finishing with a puppet show detailing life as a child slave. After the movie, we were invited to explore the information that the kids had collected and detailed in poster form hanging around the room. There was also a labor simulation of work at a brick making factory, where Breck, and others,  saw how hard it was to load and haul a wheelbarrow across the room.

Of course, her group’s was the best out of all of them (!!), but the other rooms were all interesting and very well done. Breck was a great learner through the different presentations, and even got to participate in some of the games and activities. The highlight of the evening – outside of Alea’s group – was when he took part in the Healthcare game. He was competing against a teacher, and he had some tough questions to answer. We were very proud of his response to, “How do you help someone who is dehydrated?”. He said, “Drink lots of water and electrons” which was close enough to water and electrolytes for us.

But the real moment of parental pride came when he had to “Describe the symptoms of malnourishment.” He stood still for a moment, and then his face brightened and he gave his answer: “When someone is lying on the ground, with their eyes closed, and they’re not breathing!”

Does my son know the symptoms of acute malnourishment, or what?!!

ASB Swim Gala

Breck at the ASB Swim GalaAlea at the ASB Swim GalaAs the year winds down, nothing around the school seems to slow down. The weeks and weekends are full of sports, student awards, socials, speeches, and all sorts of other “S” worded events.

Let’s see, today is Wednesday. Today there is volleyball practice and Susan’s after school activity, Tuesday were schoolwide meetings and a speech by an ‘expert on expats,’ Monday was the middle school student achievement awards, Sunday was the farewell party for the elementary school principal, Saturday was volleyball practice, broken computer fixing day, a middle school dance, and the cinco de mayo party…

And Friday was the ASB Swim Gala. One of the benefits of attending a school in a hot climated area is the accessibility of a pool. We’ll use the little one at our building sometimes, and come to the bigger one at school as well. The kids get year round access to it, and swimming is part of the PE curriculum, so they are turning into true water babies. So in celebration of all the water centric activities at the school, Friday was dedicated (in the elementary school) to a swim gala, where the kids rotated among events such as relay races, slaloms, obstacle courses, and ring diving.

Alea and Breck were super participants (and were wiped out when they got home!). It was a lot of fun for the parents to attend, stand in the shade, and watch the kids show off all the great moves they’d learned.

Pi Day!

Of course we celebrated Pi Day this year at school and at home. Breck and Alea have been singing all the Pi Songs they can remember. For those of you who might have forgotten, March 14th – 3.14 – is Pi Day (get it?). And of course, as a middle school math teacher, I do all sorts of Pi stuff at school and it has kind of rubbed off on the kids. I let my students earn some extra credit by recording Pi songs or videos: here is a link to where I parked a few of the audio files as well as some I’d previously found on the net. We had our annual digit memorizing contest – this year our high scores were 95 and 83 – both were by 6th graders!

Breck’s Soccer TeamSaturday was a full day at school. Dave got up early to go in for middle school girls’ volleyball practice (no, he’s not playing on the team – he’s coachingthe team!). Breck’s indoor soccer season then wrapped up this weekend with a tournament that afternoon at the school. The kids played hard and stuffed themselves between games on all the food parents had brought for the pot luck dinner. Alea got to go swimming during some of the matches, as one of her friends was at school (also to watch her brother – who was on Breck’s team – play in the tournament). In the end, his team ended up with a 4th place trophy, lots of smiles all around, and some standing invitations for play dates.

We spent the rest of the weekend relaxing around the home with friends from Kiara as the temperatures start to soar. We plan on getting the pool opened up and going for a dip this afternoon. The ACs are running full time now, and we can only sweat and anticipate what April and May are going to be like!

New links added today:

ASB Unplugged

ASB UnpluggedThe whole school is aflutter this week because of a big technology conference we are hosting. There are administrators and tech personnel coming in from at least 26 international schools, and the 3-day conference is a huge showcase for the day-to-day uses of tech in the educational arena. Many teachers are personally delivering workshops: Susan is leading a group on the use of a digital document camera in the first grade classroom while Dave has ‘farmed out’ his presentations to students – they’ll be showcasing subject specific programs to the conference attendees.

It is a pretty big deal for the school, as ASB is very much on the cutting edge of computer use in the classroom. In the middle and high school, all students have a tablet computer (think “laptop with swiveling screen”) that they bring with them to all classes. The elementary school kids have a good deal of computer exposure as well – witness Alea’s webpage and Breck’s class blog. Of course, there are also a million other things going on, from grades being due to a PTA formal party, so there’s no chance to sit back and bask in glory!

Just to keep things in perspective, however, I did have to laugh at what I got when I googled the asb unplugged conference:
ASB Unplugged on Google

I was relieved to note that – no, people didn’t (necessarily) consider the conference to be ‘dangerously irrelevant’ – this is the name of a blog run by Scott McLeod, one of the keynote speakers at the conference. Whew!

Alea on the web

Since Breck’s had his turn, let’s take a look at some of Alea’s contributions to the www. Her class has done a number of electronic activities this year that have been posted on the school’s website.

The first was an investigation into potential “Wonders of the World.” They typed up their research in Word, and then converted it into a webpage. I copied it and put it in our own server. It is pretty slow to load, given the size of the graphics used, but it is her first foray into web publishing.

The second is a blog they are writing about alternative energy sources. She wrote about hydroelectric power, and would love to read your comments.

Revenge of the Red Fern

Red fern actually from Matheran, but that's ok)Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (to continue the vegetation simulation). Alea has been reading “Where the Red Fern Grows,” which I told her was one of my all-time favorite books. I also had told her that it is one that makes me cry at the end, and so she should keep that in mind.

Well, she reads a little bit before bed every evening, and in the dark of her bedroom with just her reading light on last night, she finished it.

And cried in bed for a good hour afterwards.

And woke Breck up with her hitching sobs.

And brought us in to try to comfort her.

We hugged her and cuddled with her – and she was OK to talk about it this morning – but she was pretty upset about the fates of Old Dane (as she calls him) and Little Ann.

Just like her dad was when he was her age.

(And in another perfect example of how the kids sometimes inherit traits from one parent and not the other, we got an email from Grandpa Joe and Grandma Lorna that they’d received a postcard from India, but it was signed so they weren’t sure who the big tiger safari hunters were.

Susan asked the kids, “Why didn’t you sign it?” They looked at each other, shrugged, and replied, “Because you didn’t tell us to.”

I had to laugh, and Susan had to scowl, because that would have been my exact response as well.)

Merry Christmas!

Alea and Breck on Christmas eve!Imagine being able to play in your outdoor pool on Christmas Eve!! That’s what we did tonight, as the parents grilled chicken, the kids ‘painted’ each other and chased the crows away, and we all sat on the patio furniture watching the sun go down and the bats come up while we got ready for Santa to swing by.

We are celebrating Christmas on the 23rd this year because of our upcoming trip to Delhi, Agra, and Rajasthan. Santa even sent us a text message one morning on our way into school confirming that he would be making a special trip to our apartment:

All ok 4 xmas on 23 dec. will make special kiara delivery to b and a. regards, kk

You should’ve seen Breck’s eyes light up when Dave’s phone beeped with that message! He was pretty excited, and texted Santa right back:

Thaks 4 coming 2 kiara on the 23. 2 thank u by leving out cookies and milk (mayb my dad will leave out som beer). Yours truly Breck

As always, we anticipate that the arctic wanderer will treat us pretty well, with early reports confirming lots of legos for Breck, woven baskets for mom, a rock tumbler for Alea, and (yet another) Cubbies hat for dad.

We’ve started a Christmas 2007 page with a few pictures from before and after the great present opening fest. We take off for our trip on Monday, and don’t anticipate being able to update the blog at all when on the road. If we are lucky, we might pop online and zap out an email or two, but the blog and webpage will probably be dormant until around the 8th of January or so.

Since that is the case, we’ll take this opportunity to wish everyone the holidayest of holiday seasons. Enjoy the snow if you are in the cold, lounge in the sun if you are in the heat, and make the most of each day that you’ve got. Adios until the new year!!

What cute kids

Here they are – the bestest looking bunch of Stutz kids this side of the International Date Line and south of the Himalayas! We got Alea and Breck’s school pictures back, and so just have to share them with everyone:

Alea's 5th grade pictureBreck's 3rd grade picture

A typical day

A couple of new pages going up today – some shots of the kids during this past month and pictures taken during our typical days’ bus rides. Just another look at Life in India…