San Diego Life – Tide Pools

November 2018

It’s Black Friday. The husband and B-I-L are out shopping. Time and tide wait for none, so the rest of us head out to the tide pools. Tidepools are shallow pockets where water is trapped during low tides, forming small pools that provide habitat for numerous plants, invertebrates, and fish. They are a great place for children (and adults) to explore, experience, and learn. During the summer months the pools covered by high tides during the day. Late fall through winter are considered the best times to visit. We have time our visit to coincide with the low tide, as have a million others. The is a mile-long line of cars on the road leading up to the parking lot of the Cabrillo National Monument’s tidepools. This is one of the best-protected and most easily accessible rocky inter-tidal zones in southern California. Since access to the pools is time bound, the older ones and I get out and walk. The LO has no choice but to come with her aunt later. I have no clue how we are going to find them or get back home, because there is cell phone signal here.

The kids have been here before. They are excited to scramble over the rocks, wade into the water and point out sea life to me. Akash  shows me a sea anemone “eating” his finger. Lara is thrilled. I, on the other hand, have grown old. A more concerned about keeping my shoes dry than getting my feet wet. I’m afraid someone’s going to cut their feet or fall or hurt themselves badly over the rocks. The National Parks website warns – a child’s enthusiasm and excitement over being in this natural wonderland can quickly translate into a slip or tumble. As a child, I’ve done worse, but as a mother I can’t take my eyes off them, and they are both going in opposite directions.

The kids spot their mother. When we reach her, a Ranger comes to warn everyone that it is almost closing time. Our car is parked at the top, near the lighthouse. The sister volunteers to go get it while the rest of our motley crew waits in the parking lot by the pools. We reach home wet, tired and happy.

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Paris with a Baby

September-October 2018

 

 

Even before she was born, I knew I wanted to take our daughter to Paris for her first birthday. Family and friends thought us fools and warned us of the perils.

The lines outside the museums are dreadfully long and then the Louvre museum itself is so vast; she won’t last.

I’ll tell you what – there were no lines when we went and they bumped us ahead of the two other people there because we had a baby. While it is not apparent or even intuitive, the museums are almost completely accessible for the people with limited mobility. My girl preferred to be worn, so I wore her in the museum. It had the added advantage of my being able to easily point out things to her and discreetly feed her on the go.

 What will she eat?

She ate everything. By the time we went she had started animal milk and solids. We had some  home cooked food that her grandmothers had packed for her to eat on the flight. In all their grandmotherly concern, they unknowingly packed enough for us to carry around as a quick, clean snack for the first two days.

You can’t take her to cafés. The cafés are not stroller friendly. They don’t have high chairs.

We heard so much about this that we invested in a second stroller. A lighter, more compact one. Only one café turned us away. The stroller usually served as her chair, so we never had to ask for a high chair either.

 You have to pay to use the bathrooms and they don’t have diaper changing stations.

I didn’t pay a single time to use the bathrooms. It’s true that they don’t have diaper changing stations; maybe one place did but my girl hates those plastic contraptions. She just won’t lie still on them. We used pant style diapers and never had a problem. In addition to restaurant bathrooms, we also changed her on park benches and discreet corners of  tourist attractions.

The very idea of going to Paris with a baby is sheer madness! You won’t be able to enjoy the city, saddled with baby.

We did everything we wanted to do. Having a baby in tow showed us a new way to travel. Instead of waking up early and whizzing around, we slowed down. We would start our day when she was ready, which was around noon. For every two hours she spent in the stroller or baby carrier, we spent an hour or two in a park or some place she could be free. The time differences, Mumbai-Paris-New York worked beautifully to our advantage.  We enjoyed every bit and so did she.

San Diego Love

November 2018

I have everything to give thanks for, but above all I am thankful for the love that I have been blessed with. From family and friends, from people I don’t meet anymore and those whom I’ve barely met. The universe has been kind and I am grateful.

We are in San Diego for Thanksgiving. It’s still November and we’ve already had our first snow storm, and California is coming out of one of their biggest forest fires in recent times so in addition to everything else, I am thankful for the sun on my face, on my back, legs and all over, and for the clear blue skies above. The flights to India and back had lulled us into a false zone of comfort. The flight to San Diego was a nightmare in comparison. The LO was sick and restless. The flight was full. We were bumped up to Economy Plus and it was so bad that I didn’t even know it. Additional security meant we barely made it inside our flight and then the flight was delayed due to technical issues. We had not packed any food for us because we thought we would eat at the airport. That didn’t happen. We took food only for the LO and she wouldn’t eat. We had to wait at the gate till everyone got out because the LO had only one sock on. She had thrown one somewhere in the plane. In short – DISASTER.

Once out we were met with food and love. The LO was still cranky. Big Sis L offered her a bunch of things to calm down, including her own inseparable ‘blanky’. The LO settled in for a nap. She woke up recovered and in time for the party. The sister had put together a mini mostly vegan feast. How much more can you love someone! Have you ever had a cocktail from a can? I met the cocktail answer to beer. It was so good. I am going to find it and stock up.

It’s been four days for love and laughter, tantrums and tears. The LO has been spoilt for attention. We need to teach her how to handle it. It’s odd, since she did so well in India. The newest addition to our family – Flash, slept through it all. I was really looking forward to meeting him, but he’s a tortoise and has gone into hibernation.

Thirteen Tips for Flying with a Toddler

We flew with our little one (LO) right around her first birthday and then again, a few months later. The difference was vast. The first time, the flights were long international flights, with very little movement in the cabin and lights switched off. She slept like an angel through most of each flight and was content to sit on our laps for the rest of the time. The next time, the flights were domestic. The cabin lights were switched off, but there was enough daylight sneaking in through a few open windows to tell a toddler that it wasn’t sleepy time. The cabin crew were constantly moving up and down the cabin and oh… the LO was learning to walk. It was a nightmare.

 

Tip 1:

Prepare yourself mentally – for the worst.  Flights get delayed. Toddlers get cranky. Your co-passengers may not be baby-friendly. You forgot the baby’s medicines or checked them in. You “forgot” the baby. Crazy airline regulations. Your baby hates the cabin crew. The cabin crew hates you. It is near impossible to drink with a baby in your arms and almost as hard to eat or watch in-flight entertainment. The list is long, but you get it, don’t you. Prepare for the worst. Be flexible and have backups to backups.

Tip 2:

Book a bassinet. Confirm it a day prior to travel. The leg room and extra bag space you get with it is well worth the trouble.Do not for even an instant believe that your baby will sleep blissfully through the flight in that contraption. Just about when the child is sound asleep enough for you to put them down in the bassinet and stretch your arms out, the plane will hit some turbulence and a steward will ask you to please take the baby out of the bassinet. The bassinet is meant for storage.

Tip 3:

Arrange for transport to the airport and back in advance. There are taxi services that provide car seats or let you bring your car seat and store it for either free or a small fee. Confirm pick up times with them the day before you are scheduled to fly.

Tip 4:

Dress in layers. Remember you are taking a flight, not moving to the Antarctic. One layer more than you should be sufficient. Opt for clothes that are easy to change and convenient for diaper change. Opt for a t-shirt and pants or a two piece pajama set over a full onsie. Avoid snap ties. Socks will keep those little toes warm. Remember to carry extras in the diaper bag.

Tip 5:

Reach the airport early. You may not be the only ones with an infant on board. If there is more demand than supply, bassinets are allocated on a first come first serve basis. Letting the baby crawl around the gate area is way better than being cramped in the middle of a back row. Bonus – it might tire them enough to not want to crawl around the airplane. Also assume that TSA will view your precious angel as a decoy and test every bottle of water, milk and baby food. They will also inspect each one of those ten boxes of chocolates in each of the three bags that the two passengers ahead of you are carrying. They do that. Make time for it.

Tip 6:

Ever questioned the sanity of letting children board first and get off last? Take advantage of this if you are flying with another adult. One of you can go in, stow away your hand luggage and get things set up, while the other waits in the passenger boarding bridge with the child and boards last. Ideally you want them cooped up on the plane for as little time as possible. Dealing with a toddler exploring the boarding bridge is easier than dealing with one squirming in their seat.  Reverse the technique while getting out. Every minute counts.

Tip 7:

Invest in a light weight stroller. Buy something you won’t mind getting manhandled by the airlines. Gate check it. Airports are large busy places that you sometimes need to navigate really fast. Running with a baby in your arms may not be the best idea.  Additionally, baby wearing saved my life. I used a baby carrier to secure the little one to myself while sitting and to walk her around the cabin when she was awake. Baby wearing is also the most reliable way to keep babies off the baggage carousel.

Tip 8:

Keep all diapering items, meals + snacks, water, medication, extra clothes and a toy or two in the diaper bag. As soon as the seat belt sign is switched off after takeoff, take the bag from the overhead compartment and stow it under your seat. You are going to need it often. You cannot access the overhead compartments during takeoff and landing.  Prior to take off, keep the bottle or whatever you intend to give the baby to suck on to help with the ear popping handy. If you intend to breastfeed and are modest about it,keep your cover-up handy. Do not show the bottle to the child on the taxiway. They will demand it be given, will finish up before the plane even reaches the runway and you won’t know what to do. Give it just when you feel the plane start to lift off. Same goes for landing.

Tip 9:

Be mindful of what food/snacks you pack and how much. You don’t want to deal with a sticky mess on an airplane. Plus, it takes bag space. Most airlines have some toddler friendly food. Flights always have milk for tea and coffee.My toddler happily munched on free airline snacks all the way back from San Diego to New York, preferring it over the healthy food her aunt had so lovingly packed.

Tip 10:

Pull up diapers. Much easier to use in tight spaces.

Tip 11:

Do not be afraid to ask the cabin crew for help.They have dealt with more infants on more flights than you ever want to. While they won’t walk your baby up and down the aisle or change them in that tiny toilet, they can provide you with warm milk, baby food and medications. They can assist you with getting what you need from the overhead compartments, even when the seat belt signs are on. I secretly suspect, they might even be able to provide some crayons and paper to keep the child entertained.

Tip 12:

If your toddler walks or is learning to walk, put shoes on. Given a choice, everyone prefers them running quietly up and down the aisle to them shouting in their seats.

Tip 13:

Carry a towel (broad wink at Douglas Adams). A towel is about the most massively useful thing a person travelling with a toddler can carry. Partly because it has great practical value. You can wrap it around your toddler as a backup blanket; you can use it as a sheet to put them down on airport floors and airplane bassinets; you can use  it to wipe little hands and faces; you can use it to cover up while breastfeeding; you can use it to block light and help your little one up  sleep better; you can use it to play peek-a-boo; you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough. More importantly though, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, any person who can travel with a toddler, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where their towel is, is clearly a person to be reckoned with.

 

Goa – Resort Life

Sep-Oct 2018

I loved the traditional architecture and styling of the resort – the roof, the wood look, the central courtyards with banyan trees and the numerous little decorative pools that dot the place. I liked how the bathrooms opened up into the room, creating an open living space separated only by movable wooden screens. The rooms smelled very relaxing too. The infinity pool was smaller than expected but go early when no one is around and it’s an absolute delight to swim, laze and pose in. The paddy fields that the infinity pool overlooked were very underwhelming but step out of the property and you are instantly transported into rural idyllic.

One must not make grand plans with four kids around, three of them just turning/turned ones. Breakfast ran into lunch. A short swim is squeezed between naps and before you know it the sun had set. The day did have its highlight – the spa at the property is simply wonderful. Mystical! Magical! Just like a spa should be.  From the ambiance to the treatment, everything was spot on. I loved everything from my scrub to the beautiful private outdoor shower. Perfect.  The night came with its own devious plans.  My brother indulged me as always. Post dinner some recklessness was arranged for. Some opted in, the wise opted out. It’s been a while since the husband and I had some young adults only time and I enjoyed it. Company and conversation, chilling in the balcony on a balmy night with a fan to move air instead of climate control, and the mild irresponsibility involved. Did you even go to Goa if you didn’t do something reckless? But if all it leads to is insomnia, why bother! It was a disaster. Parents of little kids shouldn’t have to pay to just stay awake all night! ..and conveyance!!

A friendly lady at the resort saw me wearing the LO and pointed out that baby carriers didn’t seem very popular in India. Looking around I realized how wrong she was. The resort seems very popular with young families and almost every family was traveling with a nanny – a real human baby carrier. Early morning, the nannies would be out walking the babies, while the parents got some quality sleep. For a resort this popular with young families, the property and service were not very geared towards this audience. There were babies, toddlers and strollers everywhere but no ramps. There were paths to push strollers, but always with a few steps to navigate. The elevator was out of order all three days we were there. Can you imagine walking up two flights each time carrying a baby, stroller and diaper bag? Room service was exceedingly slow. Hungry kids don’t like to wait.

As beautiful as the pool was, there was no ladder at the loungers, so you have to get out and walk all the way around if you need to answer your phone or check your belongings. The mini fridges didn’t do a good job chilling beer or keeping milk fresh. We ate at the breakfast and lunch buffets every day. The food was not something you would write home about. No sol kadi in any meal. Broke my heart! I can forgive you for not having pork vindaloo on the buffet; I’m an uncommitted vegan. But sol kadi?  Sol kadi is something I love and was looking forward to. It’s vegan to boot. Sorry, not impressed.

Overall, I was impressed by the styling but not by the service. It was not the luxury experience we were expecting, or had paid for. We had a wonderful time, but the resort had very little to do with it. By the way of recommendations, I highly recommend the spa on the property, if you are in the vicinity. I loved everything about it.

P.S: Others came back and said they needed a vacation from the vacation and sat with hot packs and compresses. I don’t know what they are talking about.

P.P.S: We bought a night of insomnia for good money + conveyance. It really wasn’t that bad. When was the last time you stayed up all night not feeling wretched and crochety? The next day we were awake and alert all day. We thought we would pass out when evening comes and sleep like the dead, but no. Looking back, I think we were meant to hit the party circuit. All our fault, we didn’t.

Goa – The Susegad Life

September-October 2018

It’s too hot to go to the beach or the pool in the afternoon. It was spa day for the ladies yesterday, so the men go today. By the time they get back the LO has bitten her cousin in a fit of jealousy and he has scratched her face in rage. No one was hurt except their egos. Between all the napping and pooping and eating, time simply flies. It’s evening and it’s raining. No one wants to join me so I go for a walk in the rain by myself. Ekla chalo re.. It’s not a long walk, but it is a picturesque one. Coconut grooves and paddy fields dot the way.  The gray skies enhance the lushness of the rain soaked greens. The village around is steeped in content, tropical lassitude. The susegad life.

When I get back, the fam is getting out of the pool. The LO has a stuffed nose and is having trouble breathing, eating, sleeping so we keep her out of the pool. The husband and the LO are waking up after their early evening nap. It’s our last night in Goa. The ladies are not going to a silent disco on the beach. The men are not going to a casino. We are all going out to Martin’s Corner for dinner.  The place is something of a local legend. We make a night of it. Crazy as it sounds, it is possible. Drinking and eating with kids sleeping in strollers, carriers and our arms, we stretch the night out.

So, what have we learnt from this trip?

  1. It can be done
  2. Next time bring the nanny along

Goa – Fam-Jam

Amma   : “She has a fever. See how warm she is.”

Me         : “She just sleeps hot. She’ll be fine in sometime.”

Amma   : “There should be a thermometer somewhere in this house but I cannot find it.  Call the chemist and ask him to send one.”

I call both chemists but they don’t have the kind of thermometer I am looking for – digital, forehead reading.

Amma   : “Can you order it online?”

This was the perfect opportunity to teach Amma how to shop online. We order a thermometer… and find the one we were looking for at home. The LO’s body is back to normal temperature. She is still refusing to eat more than a few bites. She’s been doing that for a few days. My mother packs lunch for her and we are on our way to the airport. At the airport we meet the husband and one set of cousins. As we walk towards security, the husband says a security personal said we are going in only to have to come out. There’s going to be some drill. We still go in. I am wearing the LO. The lady at security asks me to take the baby out and put it in the scanner. I am flabbergasted. She means put the carrier through the luggage scanner. Once past security we buy some food and sit down to eat. Then we hear the siren. Everyone starts moving towards the gates. Sam insists the drill is only of employees. Travelers are not expected to participate. No amount of reasoning will get her to budge. Finally, a security personal comes to the food court and ushers us out.

We get on a bus and wait for two hours, after which we are taken back to landside. This means go through security again. Can you imagine the pandemonium!

Now we are joined by another piece of our crew. The whole lot of us reach Goa at the same time. The resort has a bus waiting for us. The last bit of our squad has already reached and beached. The day is lost, but the night is ours. After a loooong check-in, we head to our rooms, order food, eat, drink and crash. The bathrooms are clean and spacious enough to hold two cribs. The babies are temporarily moved in so that we can keep an eye on them without having to keep the lights and voices low.

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Goa – watch out!!