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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Must Do Before a Travel

A few travel tips that I find extremely useful.

1. I have a ready reckoner diary in which I record day wise what I need in terms of clothes and shoes and other stuff. Before every travel I use the past travel records to make a fresh chart of items I need to pack for me and the kids. So I can be absolutely sure I do not miss anything because I refer the old list each time I make a new list.

2. I make a detailed itinerary even if I am on a personal trip so that I know exactly what I have planned for each day.  This way I maximise my visit.

3. Budget especially when you are doing a foreign travel so you now how much foreign  exchange you will need.

4. Discuss and gather opinions of others who have done a trip to the same place so you know what is the best you can do. I prefer asking people with kids of my age so it is more relevant and you know what to see when you get there.

5. Scout for discounts. I got some discounts on my jet airways boarding card and some more when I searched the net for the deals.

6. Plan for what food you will want to take considering the various tastes of the family. Ensure that you carry some snacks and water in your bag just in case you are stuck somewhere and need a quick bite to satisfy the crankiness and do not have the time to waste in doing a pit stop.

7. If in the road make sure you have your maps so that you know where you will get a pit stop. There was one Hyderabad trip that we did taking a less popular route and realised we had absolutely no
restaurants on the route. I ended up with cranky self and cranky kids who refused to eat on the only roadside shack that we could find. On the way back I armed myself with bread, cheese slices and Nutella just in case.

8. On a road trip, we ensure that we take some small bowls, spoons and glasses and boxes in which we keep the remaining biscuit packs or mixture packets. The bowls ensure that the children do not spill food in the car.

Speaking of food I came across this cool site in which one can order food from
the participating hotels near the location of choice. It was quite exciting to see familiar locations of Chennai popping up in the menu but I advice use the direct page instead of the pop up search page which is very slow. The hotel menu is updated on the site and you can directly select and order. I have not really tried it but it seemed like an idea that is doing extremely well globally. They have apps that you can directly download on your iPad or mobile. But I do believe they could better their speed. They have a cool page also which has some interesting contests running. I wonder if they will supply on the go because if they do, it is going to be really cool. Let's say we are on a highway and the delivery could be done to our car so that we do not need to take a detour.  Wishful thinking I suppose!

9. Back to the topic, we also carry some water for washing or clean up. Every hotel we check out, we ensure we carry some non drinking water back with us to wash whenever needed.

10. I have a ready medicine kit also on hand in which I have tablets for fever, headache, nausea, acidity, stomach upset, probiotic capsules, cough medicine for children, pain balm and sprain spray, thermometer, band aid, soframycin powder and cotton. I have a bag in which I stuff everything so that I really do not need to hunt for a kit before every travel.  Sometimes I carry the BP kit also just in case a migraine gives way to a BP fluctuation.

11. The husband carries a lot of movie Cds to watch in the car . Club Mahindra gives a DVD player on every room so it is truly a good pastime watching movies back to back together.

12. Of course our shoes  because walking can become really very tiring in sandals.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Feeling Very Proud - Momathon

When was the last time you felt really really angry with your children? Exasperated? Upset?
When was the last time you felt really worried about your parenting skill or style? 
Sometimes your children's behaviour may really make you think you are somewhere going very wrong with your parenting. 
I have often felt that, have spoken to other moms about where I could be going wrong. 

I have friends recommend books or methods to make the children know who the boss is.

Or to just take a chill pill considering that the said behaviour may be just a one off case.

I know that sometimes I have sobbed and howled in despair just wondering why they take so much liberty with me?

The husband mentions because they love you you are the only person with whom they can be naughty.

The mom says that it is because they do not see you the entire day so they want to let out their pent up emotions. 

Great words that make me feel better but still makes me look in awe at other parents with well behaved children and wonder where did I go wrong?

The other day a conversation was happening with my online friends and that let me thinking that we have so many instances where our children have made us proud.

It could be a simple act of making breakfast like the brat of karmic kids does.

And Cee has reasons to feel very proud of her young woman who has so many balls in the air.

An impressive score like that of Rahul makes a mom proud.

Or a happy traveller like Ashu

Or a good score in an exam  like that of Anush

A cool entrepreneurial debut like that of Ayaan

Or the mad sibling love which so warms the heart.

Dotmom's son's skill with Maths and piano is legendary.

Sometimes it good be a grown up son who makes a mom proud like Dipali says.

Or a grown up daughter and her public speaking achievement.

Or as IBH says in very simple words that her daughter is a dear older sister and a perfect daughter for her.

So now could be the right time to say it, since I am feeling all soft and mushy about them. I am truly
proud of my children. In our recent trip to Singapore we were trying to save some foreign exchange
on taxis especially since we had spent a huge some of money on tickets, hotel and entertainment so we decided to use the MRT as much as possible. We also took the the decision to walk in the zoo or river safari to make the most of the attractions without being hampered by trams and such which
causes endless amount of wait. We were clocking anything between 12km to 16 km on a given day, on top of that the MRT was a little five minute walk which could seem to be a lot more than that when one is tired and weary after a day of fun activities.

I admit I would feel the most daunted with the walk back from MRT especially because of the weight of the bottles and my hand bag.

I noticed that in spite of the fact that the children had walked as much as us, they were happy troopers standing in the train and not rushing to occupy seats, walking back from the MRT, hopping, frisking and matching our pace without at any point of time saying that they wanted to take a cab to the hotel.

They never threw a tantrum but waited patiently for the lunch or dinners we provided sometimes delayed.

They were extremely cooperative every morning in spite of the late nights.

I felt a lot more proud to note that my children loved the animal and science based places and were not too impressed with Universal Studio since everything there was unreal.  I was very proud to see them extremely interested in the science exhibits and spent time discovering what each display did.

I had to draw their attention to the interesting facts explained on the first few animals in the river safari. They picked up very fast that the stuff gave them a quicker understanding of what they were supposed to see and they began to read as they rushed to each exhibit in the zoo or aquariums.

And today, as I came home balancing several bags, Ojas tells me, Mamma, shall I help you and carried my bag in.

He also said that he has promised a few things to Mother Earth!

Reaching out to all moms....tell us what makes you proud of your children. Let's be proud of our kids together and remind ourselves the many ways in which they make us proud.

Leave a comment or post on your blog and link me back or leave a comment with the link.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Singapore First Time as a Tourist

So finally I managed to go to Singapore as a tourist with family. And just like most of our trips, this one also happened on an impulse. Since we had nothing planned for the summers, a sudden official trip of mine became a good excuse to cover the country as a tourist.

So after speaking to many friends, especially the ones with children,  I drew up the following plan.

Day 1 was arrival in the morning because that way we saved up on a night of hotel stay as the other option was to arrive late night. We had booked in VIP hotel through Agoda and despite reservations, I realised that it turned out to be a good place. My criteria for hotel selection was getting a place which would allow the children to stay in our room. Most hotels offered connecting rooms which would never be feasible with our clingy kids. So this hotel near Newton MRT was the best that we could get and this was a boutique style place with a cursory complementary breakfast of bread, eggs, sausages and baked beans and no room service. It is located in a very European kind of locality and tucked inside the colony yet not very far away from a market, bus stop and MRT.
What we did not like- check out time is 12 noon and check in is 2 pm. I asked for an early check in which was indicated subject to availability which is fair but what I did not like was that by 10.30 am the room was vacated, cleaned and available yet the staff refused to let us in, giving the excuse that the room is not ready and we could see for ourselves that the room was readied by the housekeeping. They went on saying,
we will give you in half an hour, we can give you by 2 pm, then again wait for 15 minutes. Why dont you go shopping and come back by 2. Cant they see that we have traveled overnight with  kids and inspite of that they ask me to go shopping. If the room was not ready, I would have camped in a friend's place but I could see that the room is ready and it was pointless of them to refuse and for us

to go to a friend's place carrying our change of clothes. The staff seemed programmed and not at all willing to help until the time we stood in front of them not willing to budge.

Another problem was providing water bottles. I in fact found the night duty men very generous but the morning ladies were a pain. in spite of three asks, they never gave me the bottles. Said , we will charge you, Let me get them for you, wait a minute.....the bottles never came.

Ask the ladies for a have to pay us service charge,
The men did not ask us to pay!!
Were they being racists? I hazard a thought and I will not be surprised if it turns out to be true because there was an Indian lady who gave us the real facts that helped us negotiate to get the room earlier.

This comes as a surprise because early check in option was given to us at the time of booking by agoda subject to availability.

Anyway, we had a long sleep as soon as we got the room. The bathroom was spacious and comfortable and toilet kit generously provided. Four bottles of water were provided per day and the extras as I mentioned depended on the people in the reception for there was no room service facility.

We headed out for the Gardens by the Bay in the evening, taking the MRT that dropped  us within walking distance. Now this is relative because we were walking anything between 10 and 15 km per day so shoes are an absolute necessity else  one gets tired and so are bottle of water, how many ever you can carry, Gardens by the bay has water stations from were one can fill the bottles once they empty.

We got a discount on jet airways boarding card. The Tulipmania was on and it made a lovely sight. I was very impressed with the cloud conservatory also. A great place for nature and plant lovers. There was an interesting movie on global warming running which was very informative. But I guess it gets dull and dimly lit by nightfall.

We walked up to the Marina Bay and managed to catch the sound and light show which was fascinating but overhyped.

The next day we did the river safari and the zoo. I had office passes so they were free for us and I must say, the  best things in life are  really free or cheap. You will see why I say that.

The river safari is an indoor river themed aquarium sort of place which covers marine species of five major rivers of the world including Nile, Missisippi, Ganges etc.
Initially the kids were just rushing to the display to see the animals and I had to pull them back to read what  was written about the animals. However after a while, they got the drift of it and were rushing to read first instead!

The kids loved it and we especially liked the Pandas that put quite a show of not showing his face until the very end. We also had a river cruise which showed us Flamingos as the most attractive part of the safari among other things.

We had lunch in KFC and then headed to the zoo in the same area and we were honestly tired with a
5 km walk done in the river safari and could have taken the tram but we are stubborn that way and tram means a lot of waiting because it is a hop on and off thing. We loved the penguins that we almost missed, Ojas is still wondering how come he missed the komodo dragon but we were too tired to persist. We liked the fragile forest which is a small enclosed rainforest recreation which has free ranging animals, birds, flying fox and butterflies. We loved that small place and wish it was bigger.  The kids loved chasing the birds and animals.
We also saw a reptile moving about freely in place where it was not supposed to be. Lucky us!

The squirrel monkeys were kind of cute and friendly. We missed most of the shows except the best one that is the feeding session. Loved the white tiger feeding session, most impressive.

The children were most happy here and we could see the excitement on their faces.
We also managed to take the double decker and a Chrysler taxi on the way back - the first on my wish list and the second on the kids'.

Day 3 was the most regrettable one. It was easter and that was the only day we had for doing Universal studio. In perspective we spent Rs 12000 to do the following
-- wait for 2 hours in a claustrophobia inducing space to do a 10 minute ride on a transformer which had 4 D scenes which the kids loved but declared as fake so not very high on the niceness of the whole thing. Given a chance they will do it again but after all it is fake.
- tempers flared because everywhere the queue was at least 45 minutes long and we did not have the courage to get into another queue in our lifetime.
- we went back to do the SEA Aquarium which had a discount after 4 pm that day on Universal Studio tickets. And thankfully I had the foresight to get myself stamped for re entry.
- the kids loved the aquarium which is based on ocean habitats across the world. We saw the hammer head shark from under the transparent chute which is supposed to be the longest in the world at 9 feet
There were lovely jelly fish which the kids were most amazed with and other crustaceans.
 - went back to Universal only because I could not see the 12K getting wasted over doing nothing. Managed to take the Madagascar and accelerate ride. The rest of them had at least half an hour waiting time so we did not have the courage to do it.
We also did the 4 D movie which was enjoyable.

We walked both ways on the board from the mainland to Sentosa and back through Vivo City mall and there fore clocked atleast 16km that day including the walk back from MRT.

 Enjoyment quotient- should not have done it at all because a) my kids are not amusement park people
b) what they do not know does not hurt

c) just because transformer is of interest to them, I should not have wasted money but bought them transformer toys instead because that would be extremely cheap.
But they really loved the various characters that appeared in 3 D
In that way it was worth it and on a weekday perhaps I would have managed a few more rides.

It did not make sense to pay double to get the express queue tickets on such a busy day.

Day 4 was the most fruitful because we did only the Science centre in Jurong. Had to forgo bird park much to Ojas' disappointment but I could not be asked to see another fish or monkey or bird anymore.
Science centre turned out to be a total value for money experience. Kids and us were thrilled . Me with the concept exposure and kids because they could touch everything in sight, touch every button, experience everything., It was amazing. I loved the tiny magnet balls that could be combined and
formed into shapes. I loved the illusions
The fire show is cool  and so is the tesla coil. We loved the earthquake demo and also the egg hatching demo set up. We waited for a long time but the eggs did not hatch.

This place again had water stations uinlike Universal studio and zoo/ safari where you have to buy the bottles.

The shop was totally blah. I expected more cool stuff. 4 pieces of chinese puzzles cost a fortune when I know that they do not cost more than the cost of a key chain. Puzzle books were another tiny fortune  especially when compared to Indian cost for books.

On Sunday once the husband and children left, I wallowed in self pity for a while then took a bus to China town. Oh it was great fun doing local stuff but careful, come out before 8pm as the shops  start
closing and you will want to come out of the place by then.
A complete street market at a bargain but you see one, you have seen all.
Reminded me of the 1000 steps Church area in Paris which had  a similar souvenir street

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Sisterhood and A Book Give Away of Once Upon A Crush

It is 4 am and you notice your friend is online. You don't think twice and message her, "why up so early?" conveniently forgetting that you are also up and about so early.
She replies and you two get talking first through messages and then you or she can't resist  calling up the other and gossiping merrily until morning arrives. You start off from where you had left perhaps a day ago or a few years ago, it does not matter. But the very fact that she is there online at the same time as you are is enough to get the two if you started. May be you talk everyday, may be you don't but you are in sync with what is happening in each other's life, through mails, through social media or the occasional phone call or message.

You suddenly come across something funny which you can share with only one person. And that is your best female friend. The two of you message each other or talk and giggle about it to glory. The conversation veers to common topics and in no time the short call morphs into a good old heart to heart chat.

You are bored and the only way to pep you up is a coffee or lunch meeting with your friend.

Not even a day passes without the two of you meeting and getting a rundown of each other's day.

She is your bitch buddy, coffee buddy, lunch buddy, shopping buddy, salon buddy, book buddy, exercise buddy. She could be one, she could be one for each activity.

She could be your classmate, college friend or office colleague or neighbour. She is the one with whom you vent your problems. She knows you well, she is your sounding board and she is your agony aunt and vice versa. You talk about your pet peeves, your crushes and your problems  together. You talk, you argue and most importantly, you connect.

In short, life without a best friend would be incomplete. Sisterhood so to speak. What would one do without them?

Do you have a best female friend with whom you do some or all of the above ? Give us your funniest or most touching or most dramatic experience with sorority.  Kiran Manral, whose next book Once Upon a Crush is out on the stands this April will be choosing that one person who impresses her most with her sisterhood story and send her an author signed copy of the book. India address only.

And here we have a hello from Kiran Manral 

My protagonist Rayna De, is a confused soul, who gets by, as I do, with a little help from her friends. College friends, work friends, school friends. 
This book is a tribute to the sisterhoods, the friendships, both online and offline, that sustain us, keep us going, prop us up, take us through dark days, share our good days. Sisterhoods that begin as giggling backbenchers in class, that survive crushes on the same hunk through college, that see each other through the diaper change phase, the seven year itch, the empty nest syndrome. In the blogworld, I would like to doff a hat to my sorority of blogging mom friends, friends who have gone beyond the virtual and become closer than friends in the real world.

You could pre order the much awaited book here

So get started, tell us your goofy/ fun/ touching moments of sisterhood!