Archive | August, 2018

Wrapping up our Japan trip – Summer 2018

23 Aug

For our last day in Kyoto, we decided to go to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Such a good choice for our limited time in Kyoto and even more limited itinerary with the kiddos . We started the day off by vacating the Airbnb and getting our bags into storage at Kyoto station. Then armed with the bare minimum, we first grabbed a random brunch at a bakery in the station. We finally made our way to Arashiyama . The walk from the station to the grove is fun as it really let’s you get a glimpse of how the locals live . We debated renting bikes but a child seat for Beetle seemed to not be completely safe. So walk we did .

The bamboo grove absolutely took our breathe away. Despite the tourists it seemed weirdly serene. We walked to the Tenryuji temple and loved the temple grounds. We spent a good one hour or so there before Beetle had a meltdown and feed and made the decision to really head back to Kyoto station to at least make a 4:30 bullet train back to Tokyo. The journey back to Tokyo was not really exciting but for a diaper blow out , and we all were very tired at Tokyo station at 8 pm or so. We stopped by T’s Tan Tan for another round of vegan ramen and Beetle at that point projectile vomited for the first time in her life ! So in all of this we realized it was really late and we guessed our Airbnb host would be waiting for is. Little did we know that he was mildly panicking at this point thinking we were lost in Tokyo. Anyway we made it with tons of luggage and tired kids to the Airbnb for our last night in Tokyo. This was the most average of all the places we stayed on on the trip and a lone cockroach spotting didn’t help matters either. Anyway it was one night so we weren’t all that worried. The host then dropped us at Narita in the morning for our 10 hour flight to Mumbai.

And that’s a wrap ! I really think we will be back in Japan at some point in the near future, maybe when the girls are older for more adventures . For now, these 6 short days gave a small glimpse of this beautiful country that has so much to offer .

Tokyo and Kyoto – Summer 2018

11 Aug

Our visit to Hello Kitty world will go down as the funnest evening Bandar and I spent together one on one in a long time. We did this on the afternoon of our second day in Tokyo. So unless you have a child who absolutely wants to go here , you can definitely skip Hello Kitty world in Tokyo. Bandar and I had seen videos and read about the place before we got there and it was the one thing she wanted to do in Tokyo. So we picked the cheapest way to do this – an afternoon trip so that we could just pay half price. However instead of getting there at 2:30 pm as planned we reached the theme park at 4 pm and surprised the staff by saying we wanted to go in even if it was just one hour until the park shut. The hubs , his sister and Beetle stayed out and entertained themselves and it was the perfect mother daughter date for Bandar and I.

The entire theme park is dark and is built in a sort of cave environment , and this makes the lights and music and dance more prominent somehow . We went to the one ride we could find- a boat ride to Hello Kitty’s birthday party . Bandar and I had an absolute blast.Everything we saw or heard was in Japanese . Except one sentence being shouted over and over again from the stage performance – ” Happy Easter “. We wondered why anyone was celebrating Easter in June but oh well the whole park had us in splits of laughter . We took a million pictures and selfies together , explored every inch of the park in the one hour we had there and saw three quick shows that we didn’t understand. Bandar was so delighted to get me to herself and I was so happy to spend this perfect silly evening with my first born.

After the theme park visit , we wondered around looking for a store that sold diapers and wipes and ended the evening with Boba tea before a long train ride back home. We ended the day around 9 pm.

Day 3

This was the day we were off to Kyoto by the bullet train ! We woke up early to vacate the Airbnb and cleaned up our mess as best as we could. Bag, baggage and children in hand we made it somehow to Tokyo station. Here we figured out baggage storage in the self serve lockers . The locals were so so helpful when they saw us trying to figure it out . We then went to the part I was most excited about Vegan Ramen ! So I had been dying to try T’s Tantan , a vegan ramen restaurant at the station. Imagine multiple vegan options in ramen ! My face was alit with excitement when we found it . We stuffed ourselves with the best meal of the trip ..omg ramen heaven. We then went looking for sweet treats in the stores around . We found the most adorable looking pastries and candy and bought a few things for our journey. We then walked to the Imperial Gardens and spent some time there before finally making it back to the station to board the bullet train.

The bullet train was a fun experience too overall. We kept trying to look out for Mt. Fuji for the first 1 hour or so and then gave up knowing we had past it. We somehow kept Beetle still for the 2:45 hours and made it to Kyoto. We then shifted to domestic subway lines and go to our next Airbnb !

Our Airbnb in Kyoto was perfectly lovely. It was in a traditional Japanese house with Tatami mats and mattresses for bedding. We had the best time stretching out our legs and watching beetle crawling around and cooing .

After a short rest , we went out in search for vegan food. We found our primary vegan restaurant choice closed and got bit crabby with each other to then finally land at Kyoto Tower food court. We had boba ( again !) , Vegan udon, and hold your breathe – veggie tacos ! Oh and we found vegan doughnuts for breakfast. After stuffing ourselves we made our way home. Our Airbnb had a tea palor with low seating but sadly I never got to enjoy it with the kiddos being as they were. I went to bed with them.

Day 4 – More Kyoto adventures

Our first order of business the next day was getting to an Airbnb experience I had booked , mainly for Bandar to enjoy . A kimono dress up for the whole family ! So we found our host who had the hubs,me and Bandar dressed up in Kimonos in no time and we then walked to a nearby shrine for pictures . What fun this was ! Walking with those wooden clogs for a mile was really hard . We got some excellent pictures. Then after changing out , we went in search of lunch – Mediterranean this time. Our search led us to a place that served falafal sandwiches and though we had an incident here with the hubs and I sparring because if something silly the kids had done , we made up quickly and tried to enjoy the rest of our meal. Amazing falafal though!

We then set off to see our first shrine in Kyoto – Fushimi Inari. The red Tori gate pictures that Kyoto is so famous for are clicked here. Bandar got a kick out of the legend of the fox who had the key to the granaries associated with this shrine and occupied herself counting statues of foxes. Beetle surprised us all by saying “Tori” when we prompted.

After our fill of stairs and Tori we went to another beautiful shrine Keyomizu Dera. The only thing I didn’t like about this shrine is the fact that it isn’t near a subway station and led us to take an expensive taxi ride to get here . We started our tour by first indulging in Matcha ice cream and then we took in the splendid 360 degree views of Kyoto. Beetle choose this serene moment to have a diaper blow out and made diaper changing in the wilderness around the shrine quite memorable .

We then called it a night by returning to Kyoto Tower to our now familiar food court and then home to our Airbnb.

Next up , our last day in Kyoto and return to Tokyo.

These steps are real fun with a baby strapped to you and a folded stroller to carry and a cranky five year old who wanted to be lifted

Tokyo – Summer 2018

9 Aug

So from my last post you must have gathered we survived the 12 hour journey to get from San Diego to Tokyo. Direct flight at that – small mercies that I am thankful for. We landed in Narita Airport around 4:30 pm . Our first bit of business was putting our huge bag for our onward journey to India in storage. Super easy to do at a specific booth in the airport . Once that done we did the money exchange and were armed with some yen. We then found a shuttle bus counter to give us a ride into the downtown area – Ginza. Here is where I think this wasn’t a super smart move ,but seemed the only affordable option for us. We spent $75 approx on 2.5 tickets and took a good 1.5 hours to get to our destination. If we had less luggage and no kids I have no doubt we could have done the subway. We took the subway every day after that with kids but on that first night with our luggage it was just too much to figure out . If we were willing to spend about $300, a cab would have taken us downtown. Anyway with everything sorted out we finally got on the bus close to 6 and reached Ginza at 8ish.Ginza is the business district and accommodations here are pricey but it’s central location and the umpteen transportation and food options it offers alone make it worth it . The husband’s sister joined us on this vacation and had already flown in earlier that evening and settled into the Airbnb. She walked up to the bus stop to pick us up armed with a Margherita pizza for Bandar who was starving . We walked to our Airbnb, the most expensive one we stayed in on the trip and it was cute modern apartment that served our purpose. We were exhausted to go looking for food ourselves so made do with Maggi that first night . As the hubs and I hadn’t had Maggi in about 4 years, this was a huge treat for us. We went to bed at around 11 pm local time.

Day 1

The sub dawned bright and early – truly the land of the rising sun. Despite our best laid plans , feeding the kids and ourselves all took some time and after a Starbucks stop we found ourselves finally at the Station . We picked up our Japan rail passes which we had pre-ordered and used the subway to get to our first spot – the Sensoji shrine. It started drizzling but stopped shortly afterwards. We walked through the path that is flanked by small stores , stopping every now and then to pick up knick knacks and grab a bite of matcha flavored this and that . At the shrine , Beetle got a tad cranky and we took it in turns to go in and have a look. Beetle had a full blown meltdown at this point and I had to find a corner to sit down and breastfeed her. Once that was done she seemed fairly okay for the rest of the day. We then made our way back towards the central part of town. We got great views of the Shibuya crossing and clicked pics with the Hachiko dog statue. We then started a short but seemed longish because of the kids and our hunger, walk to the Meiji shrine . Of course , we saw a Star bucks and had to make a pitstop for a diaper change , solids feed for Beetle and cool drinks for adults. Walking in summer in Japan is just like it is in India – hot and humid . We finally got to Meiji. But before we explored the shrine , we went in search of a vegan ramen place without a name that my friend had only described. I don’t know if we found the same one she was thinking of , but we found one atop a Hedgehog cafe ( yes, real thing to pet live hedgehogs) and treated ourselves to yummy vegan ramen for a late late 2 pm lunch. Bandar who loves ramen in the US wasn’t a fan of it in Tokyo 😦 Guess she likes the Americanized version .) The hubs and I enjoyed ours though . Beetle was rather a nuisance at this meal – she managed to spill vinegar over herself when my back was turned. Restaurants in Tokyo are usually cramped and small and this particular one didn’t have a high chair . Anyway we somehow got through our meal. Fed , we next wanted to get some boba ! So into the harajuko district we went .Think of this part of town as hippie ville if you will . People watching while we got our drinks was so much fun ! Armed with our drinks we made our way to Meiji and Beetle obliged by taking a nap. After we got done exploring we made our way back to Ginza and called it a night as we were still jetlagged .

Day 2

My favorite part of this vacation was planning each day in the morning with the hubs and writing down our directions , train stops etc .

We left the apartment around 9 am and armed ourselves with some convenience store snacks to prevent extreme hunger and maintain good tempers in kids and adults. Then we headed in the subway to Akihabara – the electronics hub in the city. Our main stop this department store of about 7 floors flooded with electronics and also floors dedicated to toys , exercise quipment etc. We spent most of our time browsing and finally bought something small for Bandar on the toys floor.She picked a tiny stuffed animal and a logic puzzle solving game (the latter at our insistence ). Next stop was lunch. We went in search of this vegetarian Indian place called Vege Herb Saga. The shortish walk in the heat was well worth it for some good food.

We then headed to Hello Kitty World , which I will save for another post.

Planes with kids – Summer 2018 update

9 Aug

I think I learn so much every time I travel with my kids . I now feel I have covered the whole span of ages from 6 months to 6 years. (I have not travelled with kids below 6 months of age and do not recommend doing so. The germophobe in me cringes !) But 6 months plus I have done and survived to tell the tale.

Our most recent international flights (to India via Tokyo and back ) were taken when Beetle was 12 months and Bandar was 5.5 years . Here is a glimpse of how it went

Let’s talk about the older child first. Bandar is easy to travel with now.

  1. We got her her own carry on for this trip which she got to choose and I was surprised to see how teenageresque or tweenesque is looked.

No animated characters for Bandar . More like bright bold designs .

2.We also got her this foot rest travel pillow this time that we used finally on our last leg back home and was nice for her stretch her legs.

3. Bandar also had a Fire tablet which she recently won at a contest and we took it on our travels. We had downloaded one or two games for her and she played them for about an hour or so on the flight . We also put all the watching rules out the window on travel. She can watch as much TV on her flight entertainment system as she chooses to and surprisingly it usually doesn’t exceed two movies on a 12 hour long flight which is okay in my book.

4. We also let her have as much juice as her little heart desired and this usually is only about two glasses . I think just her knowing there are no rules for TV and sugar consumption on the flight makes her feel in a position of some power and makes her overall very amenable.

5. We carry books, pens, crayons as she loves to draw . I usually go to the Target dollar bin area and get her a new gift or two related to stationary before the travel and give it to her on the flight . The anticipation of the surprise is fun for her and she usually delights in whatever it is.

6.We carry a sweatshirt with hoody in case it gets a little cold on the plane. I always have a change of clothes for all of us in our carry on as well. I have been peed and puked on too many times.

7. We usually carry a few snacks for Bandar as airline food can be a hit or a miss.

So with all the above, she does pretty okay . The only irritating thing she requested during our most recent trip was an immediate ask to be taken to the restroom when we had our food trays in front of us and a cranky beetle in hand . She threatened to pee in her pants and of course I had to hurry and take her , leaving a crying Bandar with the hubs and three food trays to balance .

As for Beetle it’s whole other story . She’s at the stage where she needs a lot of stuff.So the basics food and clothes were covered.

1) Entertaining her is so hard but we took 3-4 books and kept rotating them.She loves this doodle board which helped a little.

2) We did succumb to showing her a few videos on the flight but they barely held her interest for 15 minutes.

3) Beetle barely naps and on flights it was no different. We tried to stick with the time zone of our departing country enroute but that idea went to crap with the lighting on the plane.

4) Feeding at take off and landing was a miserable fail as she really chooses when to drink.

5) Breastfeeding like a newborn again several times in an hour seemed to help her . At some point I thought she was doing it because she was bored and on my lap and had easy access to the milk.

6) She hates to sit still so holding her down was so hard . She wasn’t walking much so we didn’t really put her on the filthy plane floors . Thankfully we will be past this stage on our next trip.

7) Diaper changes at this age are the worst in the plane bathroom. It required a lot of singing and soothing on my part to get her to lie still for a few minutes to be changed.

What I think was key for me to survive was reminding myself that this journey would end at some point . I fantasized about a clean shower and a warm bed and that thought alone got me through . I realized that door to door 33 hour journeys with kids is utter foolishness and should be never be attempted again . The hubs was a pillar or strength as my patience waned with every hour, reaffirming my belief that there was no one else in the world I wanted to be with as I comforted tired crabby children .

I will be posting next about what we did in Japan during our 6 day visit.

Family of four – Some hometruths

3 Aug

We really thought we had the parenting game down .We had a four year old who was fairly well adjusted , despite the many moves and changes we put her through over the years. We had a weekday routine and a weekend routine and didn’t mind slight shakeups to these – read impromptu dinners out on weekdays, short weekend trips for fun, work trips for one of us and so on. We both hit the right work life balance spot most days of year and the other parent covered the domestic slack when needed. We had a list of back up nannies to leave Bandar with when illness hit and we had to work. Bandar communicated really well putting our minds to rest about leaving her with someone new.We had overall found our parenting grove. Bandar on her part was an easy sort of child . She genuinely enjoyed learning , she was inquisitive, sensitive and wasnt rebellious for the most part. She was sleeping in her own bed ( it took her four years to go there but she finally did ). Morning chaos for preschool reared its head ever so often but that was really it.

In all of this , when Beetle turned four years old , the idea of Beetle emerged and then nine months later we had our beautiful Beetle baby. And Beetle of course came with her own personality and needs.

Some things that are different this time around :

-We have no family staying with us for long periods of time to help with Beetle. The grandparents all have their own lives in India to lead and really believe we have our shit together this time around. And frankly this is how we want it too. There is a certain comfort in raising your child your way and it may not always be pretty and smooth but I can do without the commentary and opinion and prefer to learn my lessons my way. Simple case in point – Overfeeding Beetle leads to projectile vomiting but I know this now and learnt it from trial and error.

– Beetle is way more active than Bandar ever was . This child doesn’t sit still for a second . Bandar would sit and play and was happy as long as I was near. Beetle doesn’t care to sit or be held. A wriggly baby on a 30 hour journey is really really awful. Again lesson learned – limit travel until Beetle gets to be a comfortable walker.

– Beetle falls sick way more than Bandar and brings on the big guns – ear infections. This alone has led me to read , research allopathic and alternate treatment options and caused a ton of worry. Our nanny at home for year 1 did not help Beetle at all , who seems to have the poorest immunity in the family.

– Bandar would go to Dad as much as Mom and maybe a tad more at some stage of growing up. But Beetle is my little girl and doesn’t leave my side on weekends and weekday evenings . She is usually only comforted by me and though this is a temporary phase probably, it does get tiring to be her sole caregiver some weekends and also eats into my time with Bandar .

– Beetle hates her stroller but loves her carrier. So we do a lot of baby wearing in my Lillie baby carrier which is the best hundred bucks I spent in recent times. At this age we had almost relocated to NYC with Bandar and she was a complete stroller baby.

– Beetle seemed to grow up faster than Bandar . She rebeled against eating baby mush earlier , she crawled relatively lesser than Bandar and started walking a little after her first birthday .

– Dare I say , breastfeeding was a tad tad easier this time ? I still think this is absolutely the worst part of having a baby but it was a teeny bit better and we somehow kept Beetle exclusively breastfed for a full 9.5 months before we added some formula. Now on whole milk, Beetle still breastfeeds to sleep at night and in the early mornings and I am not ready to end this yet. So we will take it month by month for now .

– Beetle has slightly less stranger anxiety than Bandar. Her India trip and exposure to a whole slew of extended family wasn’t terrible , like Bandar’s ordeal at the same age .Both my kids don’t like new people grabbing them as such and maybe it’s something I am doing ..who knows ?

– Daycare transition with Beetle is hugely different than Bandar. Bandar cried a full 6 weeks before she enjoyed daycare, but her crying was for a few minutes. Beetle on the other hand can go hours crying and whimpering which is nothing like we have ever seen and makes us often second guess our decisions .

Anyway, you get the gist. My girls are very different from each other. So apart from being different and really giving us no opportunity to use tried and tested parenting tricks , what really keeps us on our toes is that we now have to cater to two completely different set of needs and age groups. Bandar needs a different kind of attention. She needs me to listen, she needs me to sit down and help her with her reading or math, she needs to watch a show with me occasionally or go on a weekend outting to the beach . But I often can’t do these things when I have the girls alone as Beetle’s need to be fed of held comes above Bandar’s small asks. When there are two parents around we try to divide and conquer but it’s hard all the same. Today morning for instance we both were getting ready for work and changing Beetle too and Bandar was upset she was left downstairs alone to have her breakfast. What does one do? You simply try to give each child time and let then learn that waiting for your turn is life sometimes .

What else is hard ? Ahh yes, our evolution as parents hasn’t been all smooth and easy. Five years later and doing things all over again, we find ourselves a little more short tempered, a little more impatient and critical of each other . Nothing is directed at the kids but makes it’s way out directed at each other .Our spats are short lived and we always make up in a few hours max , but we are sparring more than we did before on the little everyday things though we remain very much in synch on the bigger things .

We would love an evening out. Leaving Beetle in her current state with a nanny for date night scares me ..oh let’s be honest date night is very far away right now. Beetle sleeping in her own crib will be a starting point. That will allow me to get out of bed after she sleeps to do a few things . Right now , I sleep when she sleeps at 9 pm or I work on my laptop on the dark spoiling my eyesight even further. But I am essentially on the bed preventing her falling . She will get up and be awake for hours if we try to move her to the crib. I am absolutely not ready to sleep train with all the health stuff and daycare adjustment stuff going on. She needs the security if being with me at night and I am going to give her that.

If you walk into our house at any point , the chances are you will be greeted with unfolded laundry on the couch , a pile of unopened mail in the foyer , a few unopened Amazon boxes and shoes and socks without pairs everywhere. The kitchen has crumbs , a sink full of dishes, a counter top full of supplements and unwashed bottles and sippy cups galore. There are kids books and toys everywhere – seriously I could donate half and our kids wouldn’t miss them. Oh and you will probably hear one of our girls crying or whining or complaining. Our weekday mornings are busy, our weekday evenings are busy and it is only summer yet. Bandar is in summer camp which we never get to on time and we have the luxury of the husband having a slightly more flexible schedule for the next one or two weeks. Even then we barely get by the day. We still find no time for exercise or TV watching or family walks.

All of this makes me feel we are definitely not on top of our parenting game at all. And the fact that we are that we are disorganized and inefficient with our time use is going to be hit on the head by the force of the Fall schedule. But at the end of the day the kids are kind of happy , more or less fed and clothed and very clean ( we do baths well around here ) and we still are madly in love with each other and the family we have created. So I guess we will all survive and get through and have some fun along the way too.