Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Easter Egg Hunt

After BA's addition to our family, we are making an extra effort to follow cultural and religious traditions. When we were in India, this meant eating plenty of good food (why, what did you think following religious traditions meant ;-)?) during various festivals. Now, in the US, we continue to mark the Indian festivals. In addition, we try to attend various American cultural events as well. Thus, it was going for the fireworks displayfor 4th of July (a bad idea in retrospect. Infant BA was startled by the loud noise and cried non-stop for the entire 15-minute display), selecting a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch for Halloween, shopping for Christmas, I mean photo with the mall Santa for Christmas and so on.

This month was the turn of the Easter Egg hunt. I got a notification that our local park had an Easter Egg hunt and we decided to go. We have never been to an egg hunt before and we had no idea what it entailed. Still, taking BA to a place filled with children seemed like something he would enjoy and so, on to the Easter Egg Hunt (EEH) it was.

The EEH was on a Saturday. It was supposed to start at 10am. S and I made mega plans to leave the house at 8.30a so that we could find parking and then be well on time for the EEH. Nice, solid plan, no?

Only hitch was, we got up only at 8am and by the time all of us were fed, watered and dressed, it was 9.30am when we left the house. We found parking fairly easily and walked at a fast pace towards the EEH area.

We could see that the area had been demarcated for kids of various age groups. We made a beeline for the under-2 area. It was 10.03am when we entered that area. We looked around and saw clusters of toddlers and parents sitting around collections of plastic eggs.

Hmm - where had they got all the eggs from? There were absolutely no eggs to be spotted on the ground other than what the other families were already holding on to. We walked around the area just to make sure. Yup - no eggs, zilch, nada.

S and I were feeling vaguely disappointed. BA on the other hand kept racing around and stopped by the various families, curiously observing them. One such family saw his empty hands, smiled and handed him a plastic egg. BA after examining it for 30 seconds handed to us and continued racing around. I opened the egg with great curiosity and saw a tiny eraser, the "gift" in it. Oooooh - this is what an egg retrieved during the egg hunt would look like.

Then another couple with a toddler girl spotted us laughing about the eggless state of the ground and said,"Yeah, the eggs were gone as soon as the whistle went off at 10am. We were just parking our bicycles and by the time we got in 'poof - no eggs'". Finally - we at least knew what had happened. We had been late!

At 10.15a, the volunteers started packing up the dividers. By 10.20 other than an occasional flapping sign, there was no sign that there had been an egg hunt. We picked our empty-but-for-one-egg bag which we had brought along in lieu of a basket for the hunt (ha ha ha) and made our way to the face painting area. From there it was back to the car. As we walked, I looked at my sport shoes, specially worn for the egg-hunting occasion. Really - what exactly did I think an egg hunt for a toddler would entail that I would need to wear sport shoes?

Still - it was a fun experience overall. If not anything else, it has taught us to never be late for an egg hunt. Good lesson to learn *before* finding no eggs on a hunt starts mattering to BA!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


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.

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.

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).

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.