thewilltoholdon

As I breathe and think and dream


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Sleep Wars: Breaking All Rules and Loving It

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The stories of my friends and colleagues who were fellow moms to infants or toddlers used to fill me with envy. Kim had a set bedtime routine for her one-year old who went off to bed without a fuss at 7:30pm. Kim, who had a high pressure job in the mergers department of our consulting company, swore that her son’s bedtime routine was what kept her sane . Once he was asleep, she could catch up on pending housework chores, unread office emails and of course get ample amount of sleep to ready her for the next big day. Nora’s three month old was very clingy. Every night the baby would keep her parents up. Finally, exhausted, they decided to put the baby in her own room and leave her to self soothe. The first night was difficult but Nora says that after that the baby understood that the dark nursery meant that it was time to sleep and she started sleeping through the night.

Whenever I heard such things, I could not help but compare those kids to mine. R has always been hard to settle and I have never been able determine the right routine for her. I have read lots of baby sleep books and articles on the Internet but nothing really worked.   Put her down to sleep early and then she would be up all bright eyed and bushy tailed by the middle of the night, expecting us to begin playing with her. Put her down late – she would over tire herself and it would be hell to quieten her enough for sleep. Most nights she would go to sleep in her cot but around midnight she would start screaming. She would refuse to go back to sleep until we brought her into bed with us. Then she would happily hog most of the space and kick us all night at every opportunity.

 I like my space when I sleep and moreover, I love sleep. In my pre-R life, I would always ensure that I had a minimum of 8 hours shut-eye as that made me function properly through the day. After the baby, the lack of regular sleep was what hit me the hardest – especially once I joined back at work when R was around six months old. So I decided to do what my friends had been doing – try and enforce some routine by the tough love methods as advocated by all the books. Crying-it-out was a big failure – the problem was not just that R screamed her lungs out but also that K could not bear hearing his daughter cry so much. We had one of our very rare fights over this. I suggested putting R in her cot in a separate room and K would have none of that as well. He did not care for what is written in the baby rearing books or what the childcare experts might say.  I tried explaining to him that the baby was just stringing us along as she knew that we were nearby and that we would rush to comfort her every time she let out a small whimper. I forwarded him articles and narrated the success stories I had heard. However he was adamant that R would remain in the same room, preferably in the same bed as us. That really caused a quite bit of friction between K and me. Though we had similar outlooks in most things in life, we were definitely not seeing eye-to-eye on parenting styles.

The months went by and R now mostly sleeps in our bed. Her bedtime routine is still choppy. She still kicks and keeps tossing – and generally wakes us up many times during the night. No matter how much I try putting her into a comfortable position (for all three of us), she just will not stay that way. She flails her tiny arms indignantly and gets back to sleep-exploring every inch of the king sized bed. At times she wakes herself up. Then she looks up at me sleepily and offers a half grin barely visible in the faint light of the night lamp. It is at those times, feeling her tiny warm body against mine, that I realised that I love this. And more importantly she loves this – she loves being sandwiched between her mommy and daddy. It makes her feel safe in her little world. And I found  that this waking up at odd hours in the night for sleepy family snuggles and our quiet laughter at discovering the new weird posture R has contorted her body into, is a lot of fun for us as parents

So I guess K was right all through. Before I had just been thinking of myself, how I need my sleep and how I need to be super-efficient at office. But those actually mean nothing when you think about R or like R. I try and imagine what life must be for her. Eight month old, helpless, totally dependent of other people, unable to communicate in any way other than cry. Now if the very people she is the closest to and depends on, tell her ‘You know what – You are going to sleep in this scary room all alone. Cry as much as you want – it will not be of any use.” Can anything be more upsetting or heartless?

 It seems probable that I will not get much sleep in the coming days and months. I will continue to be groggy at work and perhaps will not be able to contribute my 100% on some days. Probably I will end up with a horrifically spoiled kid after some years.  However right now, my heart tells me that my main task and responsibility should be to make my tiny baby feel safe and utterly confident that she is cherished. My rest, my work, rules or schedules do not get priority over her happiness.


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The Predisposition to Pre-Order

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This weekend I felt a jolt of happiness after reading one of mails sent by Amazon. Now that, let me tell you, is something of a rarity! As a rule, I hate marketing mails and Amazon sends way too many such mails. Hot offers (Their words, not mine). Deal of the day. New products. Products that they think would be of interest to me. Just because one day when I had nothing to do, I had browsed through their babies’ toys section, the e-commerce behemoth thinks that I am dying to hear about the latest purple dinosaur thingies (or are those horses?) and new offerings from the House of Lego. So most mails from Amazon go straight to the trash bin with an artistic flick of my wrist. However the odd one does prove to be of interest to me (and that is the reason why I do not unsubscribe to the mailing service and continue to suffer through the next 25000 mails until the next interesting one comes along!). The one that I am talking about was a mail informing me about the upcoming release of Stephen Leather’s book Nightshade. It hasn’t been released yet – it will be published on the 26th of April. However Amazon is asking me to pre-order with the glittery promise that on the morning of 26th the book will magically be delivered into my Kindle.

I know that this is an eBook, so not many chances of it being sold out if I get around to buying it on the day of release or any day thereafter. Plus there is always a chance that if I can be patient and wait for a month after release, there be some kind of a discount deal available on the book. If I have yet more patience, the book will probably make its way to my council library and then after a short 4 or 5 months, I will get to read it for free. And who knows, the book might suck. After all no one has read it yet and so there are no reviews other than the very biased sales pitch being done by the publisher (‘Best Nightingale book ever!’). Still, you know what? I am going to fall for this one despite better judgement. The lure of a pre-order is so strong that I do not stop to listen to any logic. I pre-order on the spot at full price!

My affair with pre-orders started in the time of the boy wizard Harry Potter. Remember the craze surrounding each book release? Children and adults alike would line up in front of the stores hours before the midnight release time of the books. At that time, I lived in India where the market for English books is not huge. There were no stores opening their shutters at midnight unlike other places on earth and Potter-mania was also a little late to catch on there. So when the last instalment was due to come out, I had placed my order about a couple of weeks in advance. It felt sort of weird handing over 500 INR and getting nothing in return save a printed receipt. On the morning of the release, I rushed to the bookstore at the ungodly weekend hour of 8:30am and showing aforementioned receipt to the bored looking shopkeeper who then handed me the freshly minted hardcover book. Ah, the bliss! I remember striding out of the shop feeling all aglow from the inside, casting smug glances at all other shoppers, most of whom knew nothing about pre-ordering yet.

Since then I have pre-ordered many a book. Especially in the post kindle world. There is no queuing up in front of stores or even physically rushing to one. You just push the ‘Pre-order Now’ button. After that you just wait like an expectant mother and then on delivery day – Voila! The new baby is all yours. Conveniently and painlessly.

Of course, it is all a sales gimmick. A canny move by the marketing guys to ensure high initial sale volumes. This marketing strategy extends well beyond the world of books of course. Think Apple. Think Halo 4. Think of any anticipated product. Actually even some unanticipated ones are made to go down this route as marketing teams can be relied upon to drum up enough hype by placing posters and advertisements at the right places. According to Wikipedia, The highest grossing pre-order was apparently Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system, followed by Avatar (2009 film) Blu-ray DVD release April 2010 & November 2010 Collector’s edition. Really, an OS takes the top spot? What does that mean – that the earlier versions were so bug-ridden and terrible that people could not wait to upgrade?

Well it might be a gimmick – however there is no denying that it has caught on. It may just be that it ticks all the right boxes for today’s consumerist society. It is all about gratification. And spending quick bucks. And it gives you the chance of going one up on the Joneses. And it is convenient. And it is cool. What is not to love?

Do you pre-order much?


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15B, Happiness Way

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I thought I would write a blog about the weird behaviour of the healthcare nurse at my daughter’s 8th month check-up yesterday. Once she heard R was just having a few spoons of solid food each day, the lady in question became so bent up on underscoring the importance of the stuff and how R should really be having a cupful of fruits and vegetables three times a day that she turned somewhat manic. She definitely succeeded in stressing both me and my husband out. Whole day I had nothing but the word S-O-L-I-D-S flashing in my head and I also felt very indignant when I thought about the nurse’s lack of social skills. By evening I was fuming and armed with loads of stories from fellow moms at work who have had similar unpleasant experiences, I was determined to write a scathing blog lambasting bossy nurses with terrible bedside manners. However when I woke up this morning, I felt surprisingly mellow and yesterday’s big thing seemed diminished.

I remember one quote posted by a friend on Facebook. Incidentally I find it very strange that people are always posting these inspirational posters on their wall. Scrolling down the newsfeed is basically trawling through reams of quotes about the importance of time, broken hearts, dads who are heroes, superwomen moms, and more. Most times I just race past those. But undoubtedly there are a few good ones out there at times. The one I am referring to now, talked about how life is not about the actions of others but rather our reactions to those actions. Our happiness is ultimately tied to how we react.

I have decided this morning that I will not react negatively to things or spend time pondering on those. Instead I will celebrate the good things that have happened – both big and small. So, Healthcare Nurse, I have nothing against you now. You were probably doing your best. And I have met enough lovely midwives and nurses to know that most of them are really awesome. As for my daughter, she will learn how to accept solids at her own pace. I don’t see her as the only 20 year old in history living on infant formula!

 So at least for today, I will focus on the good things in my life that make me happy every day and give thanks to God that there are so many. This is what I am celebrating this week –

1)      R is crawling everywhere now. In the evenings this week whenever I made dinner, she crawled into the kitchen and made a beeline for me. On drawing level with me, she would delicately pat my leg asking to hoisted up. Awww! I love this phase so much.  

2)      I finished 2 interesting books this week – crisp taut thrillers both. Started on thriller number 3. I am really enjoying my train commute into city these days.

3)      Made a couple of dinners this week that were very well received. The first was chicken biryani on Monday night and while that dish is fairly normal in my household, I am proud of the stuff I cooked on Tuesday – Kung Pao chicken with steamed rice and Mee Goreng with seafood. Even if I do say it myself, they tasted as good as the ones served in restaurants.

4)      Had a few funny experiences at work. A colleague lost his pants at the gym on Monday and walked around in office all day in his cripsly formal shirt and electric blue gym shorts. The visual was so ridiculous that none of us could help bursting out with laughter, even while feeling very sorry for the guy. Heard a hilarious anecdote from the girl who shares my cubicle about how a couple of years ago she accidentally toasted a mouse along with bread and unknowingly ate the toast. Eeeek! Well, office can be a lot of fun at times.

5)      On the serious side, today was the deadline for a piece of work at office and everything got finished well within time. That is nothing short of a miracle!

6)      K had a good appraisal at his workplace. I am happy that all his hard work has paid off as he really has been slogging out for long hours for the past year and more.

7)      I got two posts in this week and this is the third. I haven’t been this productive since the first week after I signed up. Awesome!

Happy Friday, everyone! Enjoy your weekend.

So what made you happy this week?


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Motherhood Clichés

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I know this sort of post has probably been done a thousand times before, if not more. So I am definitely not trying to write anything unique here. Maybe that is just as good – as when I do try to write unique stuff, in the end it turns out that it has all been done before. It seems I don’t have a single new thought in my head. Imagine how crushing that feeling is. You think you are this special one with special thoughts specially buzzing in your oh-so-special head. But finally it seems everyone is as special or more.

Anyways I digress. Returning to this post. This is about and for my baby daughter who is growing up so fast that I cannot believe my eyes. (Aha, I’d told you this stuff has been done before. You should have stopped reading this in the first paragraph itself! Since you did not heed my advice then, you now have to listen to me rambling on and on in that typical mommy fashion about how cute and talented my baby is.)

Time heals. Time is money. No, wait, those aren’t the right clichés. Time flies!  Yes, that’s the one.  Time has definitely been flying and these past eight months have gone by in the blink of an eye. (Well, I really did blink just the one time as certainly not many blinks or shut-eyes have been happening for me in this last two-third of the year!) Anyways, last time I checked my baby was this wrinkled and splotchy redfaced screamer. And now she resembles a human being and behaves like one too. A slightly demented and off-the-rocker human being. But then there are so many adults who are worse so I am definitely not holding that against a baby. The screaming bit hasn’t changed much – though R has trained me to hazard a few guesses about the reasons for the screams and the possible fifty things that might get her to stop or not.

When R was around 2-3 months old, she was fascinated by doorways. She would be door watching all the time. I think she was totally blown away by the concept that doors were gateways to a magical world where people vanished and then sometime reappeared as either themselves or as a whole new person. Now she can crawl. She crawls from room to room always pausing at the doorway and then sticking out her head to check  whether any dangerous creatures are lurking around. Doorways have lost their allure. I hope she is not losing all her faith in magic!

R perhaps thinks that she is the royal baby born a year ahead of time and whatever her heart desires will just appear in front of her exactly the way she wants it to. She certainly throws royal tantrums if that does not happen! And she is impossible to contain these days. She does not want to sit still. She even dislikes her old favourite of being held and rocked. Independence strikes so early. And there I had been bemoaning a scant few days ago that my arms were aching from carrying her around.

A thought that keeps coming into my mind pretty often that I must be an awful Mummy (another very unoriginal thought I am told!).  Certainly I am not one of those zen-like calm capable Mothers who can take all that motherhood throws their way and continue sewing or knitting or whatever it is they do.  Their houses are vacuumed each day. They do not keep losing one baby sock each day and they never run out of nappies.

Well I might be one scatty mom but I love you, my Pumpkin. Even when you won’t sleep in your cot and  after I relent and bring you into bed with me, you kick me awake every half an hour. Even when you used your tiny fingers to pry out the right arrow key on my laptop keyboard. Even when you gnawed on both sets of the car keys with your toothless gums so and now it is a ten minute task to unlock the car doors. Even when you scream blue murder whenever we go on a long drive or even short one to the nearest supermarket. I love you soooo much! You see, while I have come to terms with the fact that I am extremely average; I have discovered that you are indeed the most special human being on this earth.

 


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It’s The Thought That Counts! Yeah, Sure!!

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The major gift giving season in the world is, no prizes for guessing, Christmas time. However for us, Christmas or any other festival does not come close to matching the amount of gift buying we need to do before our annual or, at times, biennial trips to our native places in India. It is an exercise that requires time, imagination, perception, tact, forethought and last but not the least, deep pockets. It has to be handled carefully or else the fragile balance between the different components can go off and things can blow up faster than a minefield.

Before we go in to the details of this military operation, let us take a moment to understand why this is necessary. Now if you are an expat living away from family and friends, you already know all about this and you can skip over to the next paragraph. If you are still reading this bit, then let me tell you that there is this unwritten rule that a person living abroad should bring back presents for all those left back home – this is as a gesture filled with love, remembrance and a desire to enable the recipients get a small taste of the donor’s life on foreign shores. I remember when I was a teenager in India fifteen years ago and my sister immigrated to the US, I used to wait eagerly for her visits not just out of sibling love but also for the gifts she would bring as they unlocked for me a world I had never experienced before. I fell in love with Reese’s peanut butter cups, fluffy bunny ear slippers, and cute fridge magnets of places I had only read about in books. Now of course the times have changed. The shoe is on the other foot. I am an expat living abroad and as such my role is now that of the gift donor and not the recipient. That is not the only change. India has changed enormously in the last 2 decades and people are no longer impressed by snow globes or Lindt chocolates. That makes things a little challenging of course.

Whoever thinks gift buying and giving is not a big deal, should buy themselves some magazines around Christams time and just count the number of articles telling people how to deal with prezzie time stress ! Gifting is not just a little magnanimous act of love – it is time consuming and head bangingly stressful.  Ideally the planning for this whole exercise should begin well in advance. The best time to start planning for the next round of gift giving might even be when you are actually doing the first round. Taking note of preferences, interests, ages and headcounts always helps. At times people even tell you what they want when you come around the next time. Mind you, you might get some weird or super expensive requests in such a case. I have definitely filed the request from one of my sisters-in-law under ‘Weird’. During our last India trip, she asked me get her a set of kitchen knives. I do not know if that is because she has been planning a homicide or has just read a glowing review of Australian knives.  (Pssst  … does she know most of the stuff available here is made in China anyways?)

My sister has made an art of this whole gift giving business. Of course, she has had 16 odd years in perfecting this art. However what she does is still very admirable. She has a huge list for people she buys gifts for – I guess the numbers are range anywhere from 50 to 80.  With this mental list, she is on the lookout for appropriate gifts 24X7 throughout the year. In the last one month before her travel, she starts on the task of wrapping the stuff gathered. When she and her husband finally land in India, they have designated suitcases filled with colourfully wrapped gifts, each neatly labelled with the recipient’s name. And as we are Indian and not Greek, she is welcomed with open arms everywhere!

I wish I was half as organized as my sister. With around one and a half months left for my upcoming India visit, I have not started on my shopping for family and friends. All I have are all half formed thoughts and questions circling in my head. How old is the second child of Cousin X again? Is Cousin Y’s newborn a boy or a girl? Female relative Y would probably like some kind of make-up stuff (she was giving some broad hints the last time!) – but the question is what kind (eye makeup, lipsticks/glosses, liquid foundations or maybe even generic lotions)? What can you buy for a pre-teen boy? It is tough enough choosing for one’s own self – but buying for countless others  whose tastes you don’t know too well is taxing in the extreme.

I know a lot of you are thinking why doesn’t this silly female simply pick up the phone and ask the relevant people what they want instead of dithering around? Well, my friend, it doesn’t quite work that way. The presents are supposed to be surprises for the recipients! Yes, they are expected and almost mandatory (unless I wish to become a social outcast back home) but still outwardly there will be the usual ‘Oh, dear girl! You shouldn’t have gone to all this effort!’ from the people getting the gifts.  If I call up and ask people, most will say ‘You need not bring a thing.’ Well, take that statement at face value and you are doomed.

So it is crunch time. I need to get cracking on the shopping lists and the actual shopping both at the same time.  For I know if I delay any longer, I will have a complete brain freeze in the end and then in a moment of madness, I might even end up buying Australian knives for everyone! I wonder what the airport authorities might make of it if I am discovered with suitcases full of boning knives and meat cleavers!


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In The Land Of Corporate Free-ze

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Who does not like free stuff? Almost everyone on this planet is a sucker for free offers and that is why all those irritating ads abounding on the internet announce ‘You are the 100000th visitor to this site. You have won a free iPad. Click here!’ There are a large number of websites who are devoted to helping people locate ongoing free offers. There is even something known as ‘freebie marketing’. People love their free samples, free ecards, free quotes, free  trial versions and they also love their tax free and gluten free. I am no different from the general populace and I confess that I love freebies – especially ones at the workplace.  Well, some of you might say a freebie is a freebie is a freebie – what does the workplace have to do with it? Ah, you see I am amongst those who do not love their work too much – we just keep at it for the sake of the pay check at the end of the month. So when you get free goodies at work, it definitely helps sweeten the deal for us. It does gives me some additional motivation to haul my ass out of bed on a rainy cold Monday. Now if you ask me, I would rather have frequent pay hikes and bonuses as my motivation – but let’s face it, that ain’t happening! So I will settle for whatever I get.

Now the funny thing is my own firm does not give away anything for free. Oh, no! No! They are one of the Big Four consulting companies who cheerfully rip off clients in the name of providing quality advice (incidentally their recommendations most times are totally useless or things that a ten year-old with common sense could come up with). The unspoken mantra in the consulting world is charge as much time to the client as possible. Be they lunches, coffee breaks or loo breaks, charge one – charge ’em all !  So they definitely are not the type to distribute largesse. However as part of my job, I have to regularly work at client sites, dishing out aforementioned advice.  Some of those companies are an absolute delight when it comes to the free benefits they offer their employees. Of course, as externals we cannot really avail all those ourselves but clients are generally kind enough to let us take our share of all the free stuff being distributed on office premises.

For instance, right now I am doing a piece of work for a major diary and drinks company in Australia. In their offices, they have well stocked refrigerators on all floors that hold attractively sized portions of gourmet cheeses, 12 different varieties of flavoured yoghurt, 5 to 6 types of fruit juices, plain milk, flavoured milk, soy milk, puddings and other desserts. All of these are of course the company’s own products and they let employees enjoy these on the premises. Yummm – I so look forward to raiding the fridge each day!

My husband is also a consultant working for another firm and his life is far sweeter than mine. He has been working for a particular client for quite a while now and they are one of the largest chocolate manufacturers worldwide in terms of gross revenue. So his workplace is always littered with all kinds of chocolates. The company in question also regularly gives away all things chocolate-y when they have special promotions or major holidays. For instance, the week before this Easter, each employee there received a big goodie bag filled with a dozens of Easter bunnies and eggs. Well, I can tell you, we sure had a sweet Easter.

However my personal favourite remains the company that I had once done some consulting for in the UK. This organisation was a large multinational which owned some of the best known household brands in the world. There was a shop inside the office premises where employees could pick up most items on their supermarket shopping list at about one-sixth of the market value. But the best part was that the office was equipped with large freezers located at strategic corners and these were full of ice creams of all varieties and flavours. Can you imagine a better way to beat the stress of a looming deadline and an irate manager than escaping to a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Cookies and Cream? Sadly my assignment for that particular client was pretty short one and so I was gone before I  could have had enough ice cream to feel satiated, which perhaps was a good thing otherwise I would have reached record obesity levels.  

Outside the world of perishable foodstuffs, I have not really had much experience with corporate giveaways in offices. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the Louis Vuitton offices had handbags to give away and Jimmy Choo stocked the latest designs in all sizes for their employees to pick up? Maybe those happen already. I just haven’t experienced it yet. Perhaps I should try and angle for a consulting job at the House of Versace as my next assignment and see what happens there. Until then I will comfort myself homemade cheesecake flavoured yoghurt.

Whoever said the best things in life are free sure knew what they were going on about!

Does your office give away free stuff? What corporate freebies do you get or do you want to get? Let me know!