Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pool

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Archana trying her hand at any aiming game will wind up sucking at it.  So, a couple of weeks ago, when I discovered the existence of a pool (a.k.a billiards) table at work, I wasn't too excited. However, a few of my co-workers made pool into the go-to choice of work-break upon this discovery. One day last week, one of tried to persuade me to give pool-playing a shot too.

Given my history of "success" at playing aiming-games, I was not particularly looking forward to trying to play pool at work. Making a fool of myself while playing pool in front of friends and family (both of which I have done spectacularly at various thankfully rare points in time) was one thing. But in front of co-workers? No way!

But then, it was just *one* other co-worker who is also a good friend. How bad could it be?

Not that bad. Turned out the co-worker was quite the beginner as well and I actually wound up winning. How cool, maybe pool was the *one* aiming game that I could actually play decently!

So, the next time round, when two other co-workers were also thrown into the mix, I was very blase and agreed to play. As soon as we started playing, it was quite obvious that the other two co-workers were definitely not at beginner level. Within a couple of shots, it also became quite obvious that the latest entry in the long list of aiming-games I suck at is pool. Quite obviously, my victory in the first game was a classic case of beginner's luck. For, that day, I lost *every* game I played. By the time we were done, my ego was somewhere underground trying to shrivel up into a little ball and die.

Two days later, the four of us again got a chance to play together. As we partnered up into twos, V and K in one team and B and myself in the other, V said, "Hey, don't underestimate them. B is playing really well today". To which K replied, laughing, "That is okay. I have full faith in Archana's ability to balance things out." Though I joined in the good-natured laughter that followed, I was mortified. Because - I *knew* that K was right. B and I did win that game. My "contribution" though, consisted of sinking exactly one ball into the hole followed by rolling in the white cue ball as well. Great!

Still - pool is addictive. So I gamely continue to play. I have come to the conclusion that while I have no innate pool-playing ability whatsoever,  I can probably at least become a non-bad player if I practised enough. While it feels great to be good at something, one does not necessarily need to be good at something to enjoy it, no?

Bring on the aiming-games, I say!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Staircase to stamina

I work in the 7th floor of my office building. Soon after I rejoined work here, I noticed that a few of my co-workers always took the stairs especially while going up. This seemed like a good way of sneaking in a mini-workout. So, whenever I was not carrying anything very heavy, I started using the stairs instead of the elevator to go up. I continue to do so till date.

Thanks to my persuading (okay, fine, nagging), I usually get anyone who is accompanying me to use the stairs as well. Sure, these being long flights of stairs, we all sound huffy-puffy a few floors in, but with company, the climb does not seem quite so long.

Last evening, a couple of co-workers and I were heading back to work after some event. As usual, your truly steered them to the stairs and we started climbing. We had just crossed the fourth floor, when one of my panting coworkers said to the other, "Look at Archana, she is not even out of breath." and then to me, "Do you do this regularly?". That was when I realized that, I was indeed not sounding like a leaky tire. Before I could respond, the co-worker added in an impressed voice, "You are still looking fresh as well - not even broken into a sweat". True, I was not feeling *that* winded out either. I grinned and said that I take the stairs almost everyday and apparently the effort was finally paying off.

Somehow the co-worker's comments made me feel ridiculously pleased with myself. I try to sneak in extra activity wherever I can and tell myself that every little bit helps me be fitter and build up stamina as well. While I can see that for myself at times, it was still very nice to get unsolicited validation from someone else.

So continuing with stair-climbing it is. Too bad for anyone who is accompanying me to any place with stairs.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Cars, trains and planes

The last time we traveled 20+ hours on a plane with BA was when he was a teeny-tiny baby. He was the model baby on the flight - he mostly ate and then slept in his bassinet. When he wasn't doing either of those activities, he adorably waved his tiny fists and legs and smiled. He cried for about 15 minutes just before we landed in the US. That was it. Therefore, whenever any other baby on that plane fussed, S and I smugly looked at each other, looked at BA and then took full credit for our well-behaved baby (I know).

On to India
This time round, for our trip to India we were under no delusion about getting a repeat performance from BA on the plane. For, BA is now an active toddler and even 10 minutes of passive waiting in a waiting room before a doctor visit gets him antsy. To our pleasant surprise the trip from USto India wasn't half bad. Sure, there was a short stretch when BA gave a very good impression of a wailing toddler but overall, the journey wasn't anywhere as bad as we imagined it would be. So S and I felt some of our earlier smugness returning.

The plan
Due to ignorance being bliss, we had planned our India "vacation" such that it was packed with travel. We were traveling to 4 different cities using three different modes of transportation. We were hoping that BA would cope and were planning to learn travelling-with-baby lessons on the go.

Car
The first trip was to a city a few hours away from Chennai. We had planned to drive. I packed two pieces of luggage for BA. One containing all his clothes and the other containing his food, toys, diapers etc. Hey, we were going in a car! For the 3-day trip, I think I pretty much packed up everything that we had brought for BA from the US for the 3-week India trip. The car journey started off fine - but BA threw up promptly after his regular breakfast. Okay, note added to travel handbook: feed baby lightly during travel.

Our destination was a resort and it was quite kid-friendly. BA *loved* it. He was like the penguin in Happy Feet. He just couldn't stand still and insisted on walking by himself, never mind that he has a tendency to treat the whole world like one big flat surface and walks accordingly. He examined everything: the grass, the stairs, the planter, the table, the beach. Everything. And he had this huge grin on his face like someone had shown him the doors to heaven. Seeing him so happy made everyone around him happy. That was a great trip.

Train
We traveled to the next destination by train. This time round, I realized that *we* would have to do the lugging around of the luggage and culled BA's packing to one bag instead of two. On the train, as the amma-ji, I got the "honor" of sharing my berth with BA. I had originally planned to sleep on the lower berth with BA and jokingly said that in case everyone else heard a thump in the middle of the night, it was just me falling off. S came up with the suggestion that BA and I should sleep on the upper berth instead because that berth had the vertical metal supports which would prevent me from falling off.

I am so glad that I took up on that suggestion. Turns out that my toddler who is only a little more than 1/3rds of my height thought he was entitled to 2/3rds of the berth. I kid you not. BA happily spread his tiny frame across most of the berth and fell asleep while I perched on tiny sliver of the berth still available and prayed that the metal support would be able to bear my weight. And then, when I got up to grab some water, BA further spread himself into the teeny-tiny space that I had. Dude!!

That was, least to say, an *interesting* experience. On the bright side, BA at least slept quite well (the same could definitely not be said of his amma).

Plane
The third destination, we traveled to by plane. This time round, I managed to squeeze BA's stuff in 2/3rd of one bag. Ha, turns out baggage too expands (or contracts) to fill the space available. BA did quite okay on the short flight - our boy after all, was a veteran of super long-haul flights and a short flight was barely a blip on the radar.

And, the domestic traveling was done
After all the travels, BA, predictably, fell sick. We were nevertheless quite proud of him for having been a trooper during all the travelling. He had thoroughly enjoyed the crowds, the change of scenery, the new environment, pretty much everything. As far as he was concerned, he had had a good time.

Back to the US
Remember our earlier smugness during the flight from US to India? Let me tell you one thing which will serve you very well in life: Never be smug. Because, if you are, the smugness will come back and bite you in the behind. Our journey from India to US was the stuff nightmares are made of. BA, maybe due to his still lingering cold or due to being cooped up after open spaces or due to just being a toddler, just couldn't settle down on the plane.

Remember all those plane journeys you made you were child-less when there used to be this one kid on the plane who just wouldn't stop fussing and whom you felt like tossing off the plane? Well, on our flight back to the US,that kid was BA. BA did not sleep. Neither did S and I. I doubt very much that any of the passengers in a 10ft radius around us slept either. For BA expressed his displeasure frequently and vocally. We were 3 hours from San Francisco when BA finally slept. That was One. Long. Journey.

Post-vacation glow
In all though, the trip to India was totally worth it. I think I have now become a 100% ISO-certified mother. While I had a great time meeting up with family and friends, my greatest source of pleasure during the trip was seeing just how much BA enjoyed himself. I delighted in his every smile and laugh. Seeing him happy made me even happier.

Back when a baby was just a nebulous idea in my future, one of my friends with kids said that the greatest thing about having kids was experiencing the world all over again through their eyes. I kind of understood her back then. Only now do I realize just how much joy that can bring.

Friday, March 28, 2014

You officially feel a million years old ...

... when you realize that people born in the early 1990s are now more than 20 years old.

It is just a matter of time before I become an "antique-piece". Sigh.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The face that sunk a thousand ships

Sometime back, S and I wanted to make minor changes to our passports. I was thinking that it would simply involve dropping off the passports and picking them up a few hours later with the changes incorporated.

Turned out it was not so simple. Due to new rules, we would be issue *new* passports with the information. This would involve going through a bunch of steps at the local passport office in Chennai. 

My heart sank: Indian passport offices are hardly hives of efficiency and I could see visions of myself slowly going mad running around in circles around the passport office, unable to meet all the arcane requirements needed to complete the process.

Which was when S happily said that there was a new passport office in Tambaram which apparently was the epitome of efficiency and that getting things done there was a breeze. That was where we would go. Really? Skeptic me was unconvinced but hey, what choice did I have?

Anyway, on the day of the appointment (which, wonders of wonders, had been made online), we decided to have an early start so that we could be first in line and get things done faster. I woke up around 4am or so, looking more like a zombie than anything human. BA who, back then, was a teeny-tiny baby, had had an "active" night which translated to minimal sleep for both S and me (note though, in such scenarios, S mostly continues to look like a fresh daisy while I usually look like a tired racoon that the cat dragged in from a dump).

I got ready in a daze and pulled on the first set of clothes my hands touched in the closet. Then I swept back my hair into a band, not even bothering to comb through properly. I was ready to go.

We reached the passport office and there was barely any crowd. I was stunned to note the clean building and the spacious waiting rooms. Upstairs, more wonders awaited us. There were a whole bunch of counters manned by enthusiastic persons. Were we really in a government office?

One of the enthusiastic persons called my token number (each of us got a number). He typed out all my info, verified it with me and then said, "Look straight ahead". And before I knew what was happening - *click*. Yup, he had taken a picture of me, in all my dishevelled glory. At this point, I detected some movement out of the corner of my eye.

I turned around to see S laughing hard. So hard that he was clutching his stomach and beginning to gasp for breath. I was wondering what that was all about when the efficient counter person handed over a folder with all my documents. The topmost one was a doc with the picture of me that had just been clicked.

I think it was. I am no Miss. Universe, but I usually at least look human. The face in the picture could have cracked mirrors. Scared screaming babies into silence. Killed someone due to causing too much laughter. Which was when I realized what exactly had had S gasping for breath. 

As I took my documents and sat near him, he said, "Oh my God, the preview of your face looked so funny - I have no idea how they managed to get such a terrible picture of you. And the top is a bit too shabby, you should probably retire it.". Aaaaargh you joker, wouldn't it have been more useful had you warned me to at least tuck in the stray strands of hair hanging around my head? 

As it always happens, the person at the counter S went to told him that he was going to take a pic of S and did S want to straighten himself up before that (this - to S who, as I mentioned earlier, was already looking daisy fresh). For good measure, the person then checked with S to make sure that he was indeed happy with the picture taken.  All. My.Time.

So yeah, it turned out that that wonderful picture was what was going to go on my new passport as well. I thought, oh well, at least there are only 5 more years to go. But no, the passport office had renewed it for 10 years. Yaay me!

So, for the next 10 years, I can have the pleasure of showing that beautiful mug of mine to complete strangers whenever I travel out of the country. All. My. Time.

My mom of course had a good life lesson for me to take away from this experience (how do moms manage to do that?): That's why you should always look presentable whenever you go out. Gee, thanks mom!



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Reading

Like most parents of today, S and I are all for reading books out loud to BA. That I love reading makes it even more of a reason to try to foist the same habit upon my son. I can hardly wait for the day BA can start reading and enjoying books on his own.

The public library in our city has a nice collection of children's books and we usually pick up a few books for BA during every visit. They are all kiddie board books. Even then, the books are usually very colorful and have an interesting enough "storyline" that I genuinely enjoy reading them out to BA.

Then yesterday, with BA sitting attentively on my lap, I started reading out a book called "Hello Doctor". It was book about a bunch of animals waiting in a doctor's clinic to get checked out by the human doctor. The book started off well with the animals complaining about various ailments and the doctor making silly diagnoses for them.

Then, I noticed that the animals in the waiting room seemed to be disappearing one by one in the pictures without being diagnosed and assumed that maybe they had fled the clinic after overhearing his silly diagnoses. I continued reading.

A wolf went into the doctor's office. As the doc checked out the wolf's mouth, the wolf sucked the doctor right in and swallowed him whole. Whaaatt....

Then the wolf came out of the doc's office and with an evil grin, asked the next patient, a lamb, to come in. At this point, I was looking like this:


Then realization dawned that the other missing animals had not left the clinic but had apparently found new residences in the wolf's tummy :-O!

As I hastily shut the book, I was heartily happy that BA still cannot read or understand most of what is being read to him! Seriously, this was a book for toddlers? Which young kid will ever agree to go to a doctor again after reading this book? *I* had to make an effort to stop myself from getting creeped out!

Valuable lesson for the day: read every book before letting BA get his hands on it!

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Cat pic from http://www.kulfoto.com/cat-pictures/14743/shocked-cat . When did I become a cat-pic posting person!?!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

2014

Happy New Year to the one person who is still following my blog (Hi, Mum!). 2013 flew by in a flash. I would have had a tough time believing that an entire year has gone by if I did not have BA's baby pics to look back to. I keep wondering how the tiny baby has grown into a toddler so soon. Who would have thought that nostalgia and reminiscing would start this early!

~~~~~~~~~

A few random thoughts:

1. I only recently noticed that while song lyrics in Tamil usually refer to rain in a positive way and to the sun in a negative way, English song lyrics are the exact opposite. I guess this is understandable considering the climate of the places these songs are usually written it. I am just surprised that it has taken me this long to notice this!

2. From childhood it is drummed into our heads that it is what it is inside that counts, not exterior beauty. The other day I was thinking about how a person's personality is also decided by his/her genes to some extent just as his/her exterior appearance. So why is having a good personality touted as a super great virtue when inherited genes probably played a part in that as well?

3. In a situation which requires an apology, the apology works best if it is offered without an added supposed-to-be-mitigating excuse. Usually, a no-strings-attached apology quickly defuses the situation and then the hurt party becomes more willing to listen and to forgive. Yes, it is tough for the apologizer to admit culpability but it usually works out great for everyone eventually.

4. Life is too short to read crappy books. I have finally given up on my "Have to finish reading any book I start reading" rule.

5. I really like ice-cream cakes or rather, cake with ice cream. 

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I hope to write more in 2014 - let's see how that goes!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Quick silver

My mom has very few grey hairs on her head. I was very sure (make that 100% hopeful) that I would follow right in her footsteps.

For years, in an otherwise lush sea of black on my head, only one stubborn silver (yeah, no hair of mine will ever be grey) colored hair stood out. Hiding it was a non issue and I had absolutely nothing to challenge my idea that the curly mass of black hair would continue encompassing my head well into old age.

A couple of months ago I was combing my hair and was surprised to find a silver hair peeking out from near my ear. Wow - stubborn silver hair had migrated from the middle of my head to the side of my head. Who knew hairs could migrate like that! Amazing, huh?

I continued brushing my hair complacently when I spotted a silver hair in the middle of my head. Wait a minute - now the stubborn silver hair was migrating in real time? Which was when I noticed that I had a stubborn silver hair by the side of my ear AND a stubborn silver hair in the middle of my head. What the ..?

It did not take me too long to discover 2 more rogue silver hairs. Oh no, no, no I had aged overnight. Oh no, no, no, no! I obsessively hunted through the rest of my hair but found no more silver hairs.

But - I know they are there, just waiting to come out. Before I know it, I will be the silver haired old lady with knitting needles in a rocking chair. Sob.

I tell you - I inherit the wavy, frizzy and dry hair from my mom. But not the delayed silvering. Genetics - hmph!!

But never fear - when I do become all silver, I going attribute it all to stress and not to my getting older. Aging gracefully and all, you know.

Still, just in case, any recommendation for good hair-coloring products?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wait till you have kids..

You know how parents always tell you when you are child-free "Wait till you have kids, then you will understand". I used to find such people extremely annoying and used to mentally promise myself that I would never turn into one of them.

Well, now I have become a parent myself. While I will never ever unleash the "wait till you have kids" line on hapless souls, I can now understand where those parents were coming from at least in some scenarios.

Punctuality
I used to be anal about being punctual. I used to the be the first arrival at any gathering. I used to wonder just how the tardy people could be so disrepectful of other people's time. Short of being hit with a truck or something on the way to an appointment, there was no excuse for being unpunctual in my world. Then arrived Baby A. In short order I realized that A (i.e. me ) proposes, BA disposes. In a baby's world there is no concept of time. BA eats when he wants to, sleeps when he wants to, poops when he wants to. If it interferes with your plan of getting somewhere at some particular time, too bad. In the intial days we thought we were doing pretty good if we managed to get to at least doctor appointments within an hour past the scheduled time. Nowadays, we have become more efficient and start the getting out the door process about an hour before the actual time. However, getting anywhere on time is no longer a given.

Talking about baby
I never thought I could have so much to say about a tiny little being who communicates mainly by crying, who cannot get anywhere without help and who spends the majority of his time eating and sleeping. But I do. I marvel at the way he curls his little fingers, at the way his ears are perfectly formed, at the tiny toes at the end of adorably chubby feet and can talk about them for ages. However, I realized I still generally find other parents gushing about their respective offspring quite boring. So I limit my gushing to the BA's grandparents and immediate family who are more then happy to listen and infact encourage me to gush. I am also pleased to report that I refrain talking about baby to the other folk till they bring up the topic themselves. So, formerly being at the receiving end of baby-gushing still has some effect!

Taking pictures of baby

My phone has hundreds (literally) pictures of BA and several videos as well. I love looking at them. I sometimes take 10 or 15 shots in a row, each of which differ from the other only in the slightly different angle of the baby's hand or the way his foot is placed. Yet I save all those 10 or 15 shots AND love looking at all of them too. Babies look adorable in every snap! Only saving grace is I do not upload them all onto Picasa and send the link out to all my contacts.

Being paranoid
Till BA arrived on the scene, I barely noticed when anyone coughed or sneezed. Now, I am keenly attuned to any sign of illness around me. I  obsessively use sanitizer and wash my hands and give a wide berth to coughers and sneezers. The other day, someone at work was coughing quite a lot and I found myself getting really angry - why could they not stay home instead of spreading germs around? I was quite surprised at just how badly I wanted to march up to that person and ask them to please go home since I could not afford to pick up their germs and then pass it onto my baby - thus acting like one of those totally crazy, obsessive and paranoid parents. I blame it on BA being an ex-preemie and how it is very important for him to not catch infections during the early years. But I suspect I would have been the same regardless of BA's preemie status.

Sleep
I always knew that the parenting gig was not a walk in the park. But it has taken actually living through it for me to realize that you are on-call ALL THE TIME. And that means, you cannot simply take a day off because you are too tired or too sleepy or just because you needed a break. This was especially hard the first few months since both S and I were constantly short on sleep and I very badly wanted to be able to sleep in at least one day. Now we are more used to it and of course, BA sleeps for longer as well (touch wood) and it is easier.

Love
Forget about you unconditionally loving your baby - your baby unconditionally loves you and you are the center of his world. This is an indescribably warm and great feeling. But it also comes with a huge sense of responsibility. Yesterday I managed to do a small screw up which left the baby uncomfortable for a few minutes. I was miserable and picked up the baby to comfort him. I turned his face towards me to say sorry. He took one look at my face and smiled broadly at me through his discomfort. He was simply so happy to see my face! I thought my heart would burst with happiness and guilt at the same time. I love that little boy and would do anything to protect him.

There are a lot more little things - will save them for another day.

ROP - Retinopathy of Prematurity

Till I had a preemie myself, I had never even heard of the term ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity), let alone know what it was. In the preemie world though, being affected with ROP is pretty much par for the course, especially in case of extremely early as well as extremely low weight preemies - two categories into which Baby A (BA) very squarely fell.

We got an amazing ophthalmologist to treat BA. When we gratefully thanked her at the end of it all, she simply said "You can best show your gratitude by spreading the word about ROP. Too many innocent preemie babies go blind due to lack of awareness about ROP." I am doing my part here.

If you or someone you know has a preemie, please make sure that the preemie baby is looked at by a ROP speciality ophthamologist as soon as possible. Typically, the monitoring starts at about 4 weeks after birth for the very early preemies. Later preemies get looked at pretty much as soon as soon they get into the NICU. Thereafter, make sure to diligently follow the advise of the ophthamologist and keep up all the follow-up appointments without fail.

Here is a primer about ROP as culled from Wikipedia and personal experience:

What is ROP?
ROP statnds for Retinopathy of Prematurity.  It usually affects the eyes of premature infants and is thought to be caused by the disorganized growth of retinal blood vessels.

Who is at risk of ROP?
All premature infants are at risk of being affected with ROP. Very low birth-weight infants (infants weighing less than 1.25kg at birth) and/or at very low gestational age (less than 31 weeks) at birth are especially at very high risk.

How is ROP detected?
The ophthamologist uses tools to look at the eyes and the retina. This procedure is not painful but very uncomfortable for the baby. So, typically, babies cry a lot during the test which usually lasts for less than 1-2 minutes. It is a good idea to not feed the baby upto an hour before the test since the excessive crying might lead to the baby aspirating (getting food into the lungs) the feed.

What is the treatment?
Once ROP is detected, depending on the stage ROP is in, the severity is determined. Lower severity ROP might resolve on its own without treatment. In that case, the ophthamologist simply monitors the baby periodically to make sure everything is still alright. In case of ROP of higher severity, the treatment could be laser ablation (to remove the abnormal blood vessels) or injection into the affected eye with Avastin.This treatment needs to be started as soon as possible after detection since severe ROP progresses rapidly.

What is the prognosis?
Provided ROP has been detected early enough and the treatment started promptly, success rate is pretty good in most of the cases.

What is the risk of not treating ROP?
If the preemie has a severe version of ROP that is left untreated, it eventually leads to retinal detachment and blindess.

So, please, if you know of someone who had a preemie recently, make sure that they are aware of ROP and they get their baby looked at by a ROP specialist. This is especially true in countries like India where not all  hospitals make it standard protocol to get preemies checked out for ROP. You could be saving an innocent baby from a lifetime of blindness.

Resource
Sankara Nethralaya Eye Hospital, Chennai, India has excellent ophthalmologists who evaluate, diagnose and treat ROP in dozens of preemies from all over India and from other countries every day. BA was treated at Sankara Nethralaya. 

In general, the neonatologist attending to your preemie should be able to direct you to the appropriate specialist for evaluating ROP.