Wednesday 31 December 2008

Yukta's 2 month doctor visit

We took Yukta for her 2 month checkup today (a few days early since she won't turn 2 months until the 5th of January). Her weight gain has been good; she now weighs 5.1 kg and is in the 72nd percentile for weight. I checked back with Advaith's medical record and found that he actually weighed more at the same stage (he was 5 kg at 6 weeks). We had a long wait at the Pediatric Injections clinic where Yukta was to receive 3 shots (Pneumococcal, HiB, plus a combination of HepB, DTP and Polio) and one oral vaccine (Rotavirus). When we were finally called, I put her on my lap and she got the Rotavirus oral vaccine first. She gagged a little bit but managed to keep it down. With the first shot, she made the saddest, cutest little face and whimpered a bit but stayed calm. The second shot made her go bright red in the face and she started bawling, not even noticing that the nurse was pricking her for the third time! She quietened down pretty quickly though. It is so pathetic to see unsuspecting babies being jabbed with sharp needles! The next ordeal (vaccinations) is after two months, at her 4-month checkup.

Winter break

Advaith has a 2-week winter break and anticipating cold wet weather, the impossibility of incarcerating him indoors, and the advantages of him having some exclusive “Daddy-time”, I drew up a vacation plan a few weeks ago. So far Ads has been to the San Jose holiday parade (which is apparently one of the best holiday parades in the US), Xmas tree-lighting at Mountain View, the Tech Museum at San Jose, the Children’s Discovery Museum at San Jose, the Oakland Zoo and the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo. Not surprisingly he was not too gung-ho on seeing the animals at the zoo (my son has a one-track mind; anything that doesn’t have a large noisy motor just ain’t interesting!). Other planned activities came to nought because we have had a wet cold spell all of last week and for the past couple of days, he has had a bad cold. Today he asked me when he gets to see the USS Hornet, an aircraft carrier that S had planned on visiting. I think that trip will have to wait a while.

Sunday 28 December 2008

To give or not to give

Advaith loves having visitors nowadays. Guess why? Because everybody who comes to see the baby invariably gets him a gift, mostly toys and books, very nice ones at that! Yesterday we were expecting a friend and his family to drop in and Advaith said “Avaa enakku gift kondu varalena, naa kochupein” I didn’t like him saying (or even thinking) this. Since when did kids develop this sense of entitlement? Since when has it been discourteous or insensitive to visit a house to see the new baby and not take along a separate gift for the elder sibling? I don’t blame Advaith for saying what he did. He’s only 3 after all. The broader trend of exchanging gifts at every possible occasion (not just birthdays, new babies and the like) only means that he looks at every visitor as a potential present-bearer.
Back when I was a kid, one only got presents at one’s birthday or whenever one’s NRIs relatives visited India. Because presents were so rare and much-awaited, the pleasure one derived from them was immense. I am sure that Advaith doesn’t get half the happiness and satisfaction from his presents that I used to get from mine. It doesn’t help that even friends and relatives who live far away, mail packages containing gifts for the kids. Why complain, even I do the same thing. The prospect of meeting a friend or a cousin (and their kids) is just the excuse I need to go on a very pleasurable shopping spree.
I wonder whether we are bringing up a generation of spoilt kids, all of whom have way too much?

Oops there’s the doorbell. Hmmm…..a package from Looks like someone ordered something for us. Yipppeeeee!!!!! Must stop blogging now…..see you later :))

Friday 26 December 2008

To capture a smile

Yukta's features have been changing quite rapidly, it seems. Or so said our cleaning lady, Hannah. She sees the baby only once in 2 weeks so she's in a position to observe the changes in her, something we tend not to notice as much since we are around her all the time. Of course I know that Y is a lot larger/heavier now, simply by comparing her photographs. The nicest thing is that she smiles so much nowadays. I run to fetch the camera every time she smiles but always manage to catch the fag end of the smiling session.

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Books and things

I started on the book “Perfect madness: motherhood in the age of anxiety” by Judith Warner recently and have been reading it in spurts and bursts. It’s an interesting read, talking as it does about anxiety-marked parenting expectations in the United States, and what could be the influencers behind American parenting culture. I could identify with a lot of the stuff spoken about in the book. Most American moms I know do have very high expectations, both from themselves and from their kids. Coming as I did from India and practicing what looked to the average American mom as an extremely laid-back (even careless) style of parenting, I found some eyebrows politely raised when it was discovered that my 2-year old son couldn’t feed himself, still shared a bed with us (and moreover, seemed to have no intention of moving out), and was not as well-behaved and disciplined as his other (white) friends. Thankfully our circle of friends doesn’t at the moment include any of the hyper-competitive, perfection-obsessed moms that Judith Warner talks about. But I do find from my limited understanding of the American culture that parenting is treated as an art and a science here; something that needs to be studied and absorbed. Parenting by instinct (isn’t that the only kind of parenting there is??) is not something that is understood or practised.
As an aside, services like family coaches/consultants are part of a $2.1 trillion industry that teaches you how to parent. They sometimes call it the "mommy market". How insecure do we have to be that we need a someone to teach and help us to do something as natural as raising a child? I simply can't buy the argument that the increased stresses caused by crazy work/family schedules and society's unrealistic expectations of what it is to be a good parent, are making such services necessary.
Another interesting book (though one that I thought could have been condensed into a few pages) was “The Mommy brain – how motherhood makes us smarter” by Katherine Ellison. She talks about how it has been scientifically proved that motherhood, contrary to popular opinion, actually enhances a woman’s perception, emotional intelligence, efficiency and resilience. Now I have a ready-made answer to all those people who ask me why I am ‘wasting” a B-school education to sit at home and look after my kids – I can tell them I had babies to just to enhance my “mommy brain”!!!

Saturday 20 December 2008

Letter to Yukta

Dear Yukta,
You are 6 weeks old today. Once again, welcome to your family! I can’t but help compare the first 6 weeks of life with you with the first 6 weeks of life with your big brother. Of course, you weren’t there when he was a baby just like you, but what the heck, you didn’t miss much. Did you really want to see your mommy all washed-out, exhausted and (occasionally) mildly hysterical? Your brother having colic-induced screaming fits for several hours every night? The unnerving heat of that August and September in Chennai? (It’s always hot in Chennai though. Point noted). I hate to say this, but you know what? Relatively and absolutely speaking, you’re easy. Or is it just us? Is it just that you are baby #2? Are you naturally chilled-out, or are you that way because we are chilled-out around you?

In the past few weeks, we’ve entertained at home, gone out to dinner and shopping (both twice) with you in tow, and lugged you to sundry other places where you weren’t really required. We hold you in the crook of one arm while holding the phone with the other hand, I cook one-handed while you look on with mild curiosity and we don’t bother to turn down the TV volume just because you’re asleep.

Being parents the second-time around means that we know that babies aren’t as fragile as they seem. Being parents the second-time around means that we are less paranoid, less anxious and more confident. It means we fuss less and enjoy you more. You have been giving us that 1000-watt smile for more than a week now. Did Advaith begin smiling this early as well? Did I, living as I was in a fog of post-partum pain, just not notice? Or is it just you?

Whatever the reason may be, you ROCK!

Stay this way, little princess. And keep smiling.

Your adoring parents

Art with Xmas holiday themes

Some of Advaith's latest "holiday" themed artwork.

Thursday 18 December 2008

Exciting news

A few days ago I got an email from my successor at Mphasis, giving me some really exciting news. MphasiS has won the 2008 MCPEDP Helen Keller Award for best employer. This is not my achievement at all, but I like to think I laid the foundation for making the company a more open and accepting workplace.

Monday 15 December 2008

Counting my blessings

A few days ago, as part of our club's hospitality towards new mothers, I was scheduled to deliver a meal to my friend F, who just had a baby girl (2 weeks after Yukta was born). When I stopped by her place as arranged, I heard something that upset me deeply. F's elder daughter is the same age as Ads. F and I went through the ups and downs of our pregnancies together. Apart from gestational diabetes and the need to adhere to a strict diet, she had a healthy pregnancy. Tragically, her daughter was born with Downs’s syndrome and sundry other health issues, including a suspected heart problem. Since the standard genetic screening tests had shown that she had a low risk of delivering a Down’s baby, F and her husband were totally unprepared for the shocking news that awaited them. What should have been one of the most joyous moments of their lives turned out to be the worst kind of nightmare. When I met F at her house and she was describing her experience, the thought running at the back of my mind was “This could have been my story”. We could have been the parents who received the devastating news that the child they had just had, the baby they had thought would be born healthy and whole, the baby whom they imagined would complete their perfect family picture, was in fact disabled. In one instant, my friend was thrust into a world she knows nothing about. The world of caring for and loving a baby who is not “normal”. Managing their own and other’s expectations, learning about the condition, fobbing off unwelcome pity and sympathy while welcoming genuine help from friends and family, all in the interest of raising a child who is independent and strong and resilient.
Knowing about people in such situations makes me feel, more than ever, incredibly fortunate. F related to me a very beautiful and uplifting analogy that her nurse-midwife had shared with her. Raising a child with a disability is not the trip you booked at the beginning but it’s a nice trip too, just very different. Read the original article here.

My motto for the day, the New Year and for the rest of my life – COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS, however small or big and remember that life is beautiful. You just have to keep your eyes open and find the beauty.

Retail therapy or retail stress?

Not being a big fan of shopping with a kid or two in tow, I blew up a whole bunch of money online a couple of weeks ago, mostly on clothes for myself (my valid excuse being that at present, I can’t yet squeeze into my pre-pregnancy clothes and neither can I be expected to live in my maternity sweats for months on end). But there’s only so much you can buy online. How, for example, do you buy trousers/jeans online since you don’t have any way of checking the fit? So, quite reluctantly, hubby and myself loaded the kids into the car and set off for our first shopping excursion. Bringing Ads along turned out to be a strategic mistake. He would have been quite content to stay at home with the grandparents but having told him that we were going to Target (his favourite store), we couldn’t very well backtrack and refuse to take him along. In any case, by the time both kids were dressed and fed, the weather forecast re-checked and sundry layers added and deleted from their clothing, we were already a half-hour over schedule. Yukta screamed as soon as she was strapped into her car seat and continued yelling all the way to the store. Her elder brother, himself strapped into his car seat, shouted across words of encouragement to stop her from crying; I wryly reminisced how, when we first moved to the US and I was a fledgling driver on American roads, he would freak me out with his screaming bouts when I was negotiating the car on a freeway at 100 km/h.

This is one of the things I miss about driving in India. A child strapped in a car seat cannot be soothed or nursed while on the move. And a child throwing a fit in the back while you are driving does nothing for your concentration or equilibrium.
So we reached the store, located a large shopping cart and stowed both kids on it (Yukta still in her car seat and mercifully now asleep). S set off for the toy section with both kids and I set about doing some of the speediest shopping of my life. Within half an hour, I received an SOS on the cellphone – Ads had pooped (what is it about Target that makes him go potty there EVERY TIME?!!!!). I rushed upstairs to clean him up. After clean-up, we thrust a banana in his hand while I headed back downstairs to resume shopping. My third time in the fitting room brought another phone call. Yukta was hungry. I went back upstairs, picked her up and went back downstairs, into the fitting room to nurse (irritatingly enough, this store didn’t have a designated area for nursing moms – how one gets used to such facilities whereas in India I have managed on far far less). After she was fed, I delivered her back to S and made one last visit to the fitting room. All this for picking up just 2 pairs of jeans! I quickly ran through the rest of my shopping list, picked up whatever I could and met S and the babies at the checkout counter. By this time, I was a little stressed and had wolfed down 4 cookies (I didn’t believe there was such a thing as emotional eating until I had kids!).

So that was our first shopping experience. It could have been far worse but for now I think I’ll stick to shopping online. All this running about ain't worth it.

Thursday 11 December 2008

My one and only Xmas gift – but so precious

Holiday party at Community preschool today. All the kids were asked to bring a goody to share and Amma contributed a batch of her famous burfis. Ads brought back a “gift” for me – a holiday tree crafted from aluminum foil and a Christmas card. I made a big fuss over his beautiful gift and ceremoniously stuck it in a vase in the living room. He was thrilled.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Circle of friends

These days, we have four (sometimes five) toddlers living in the apartment. Advaith’s friends are called Jake, Steve, Bobby and Vishnu.
Oh, did I mention that they are a figment of his imagination?
They are imaginary to me, but to my son they are sometimes more real than the solid physical presences of mom, dad and grandparents. They sometimes go to preschool with him. Sometimes he orders them to stay back at home with the stern injunction not to touch any of his toys in his absence. When he doesn’t want to eat his morning ration of raisins, Steve (or Jake or Bobby...) says (in a cute falsetto) “Advaith's mommy, can I have some raisins?"
I’ve read that most 3-year olds have one imaginary friend (or several). Jake, Steve, Bobby and Vishnu are yet another manifestation of Ads’ super-heated imagination.

Out(fit) of this world

Today Ads went to the park wearing a pair of undies on his head. Nothing I said would sway him from this sartorial decision. The only saving grace was that the underwear was partially hidden under a huge sun-hat. I let it go; after all he regularly designs and wears outfits that are twenty times as bizarre.

Saturday 6 December 2008

Three night owls

Y has taken Ads’ place in the middle of our bed. Our night-time routine is highly predictable. S is in charge of diaper changes – well, most of the time anyway – sometimes he is so obviously exhausted that I volunteer to change Y’s diaper. Too bad that he can’t return the favour and feed her! We wake every couple of hours, more often if Y is fussy; and in between we fall into the deepest sleep imaginable. And sometimes, upon waking from such a deep sleep, we tend to be a little disoriented. Like yesterday, for example. I woke up and heard S muttering something. In my befuddled state, I did what came automatically – picked up Y who was fussing, and started nursing. A few minutes later, S opened one eye and asked what on earth I was doing. Apparently I had fed her just half an hour ago!!! What he had actually asked me to do was to pull Y’s blanket tighter around her and give her some body warmth. I hadn’t actually heard what he was saying (I guess he was muttering drowsily anyway) and so Y was quite amazed at her good luck in being fed twice in the space of 30 minutes!

Y is 1 month old

Y is now 1 month old. When she was born, she didn’t look all that similar to Ads. Of course all infants look somewhat alike, so whether the slight resemblance between Y and A was due to the fact that they are siblings or simply because all babies look somewhat ET-ish and monkey-like (what sacrilege to call my own kids such names!) was not clear. As the days go by, however, the resemblance is uncanny. She is several shades darker than Ads. She is heavier and chunkier. She doesn’t have his gorgeous eyelashes and eyebrows and her eyes and nose are very different from his. However these dissimilarities seem to matter not at all, as these 2 photos prove. I am amazed to see how alike Ads was, at the same age.
Quiz for the day -- which one of the above snaps is that of Advaith and which one of Yukta? Okay, I know this is a no-brainer; but please, no peeking at the date stamp!!!