Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sealife @ Melbourne

After my kids got to know how uncooked fish looks like, I decided that it was the right time to pay a visit to the sea aquarium at Melbourne, the SeaLife. The aquarium had various zones where one could get to see the sharks, sting rays, sea turtles, jelly fishes, sea horses, sea stars, and a lot other marine fishes, penguins and a crocodile. The view was designed so well that we could get to see all of them from very close and we did not have to carry the kids around as they could enjoy the sight from their own height. The aquarium also had provision to take wheelchair/strollers and had some decent cafe` inside. There were also some options for diving into it to watch the sharks and fishes closer. Watching penguins was the most special moment for me as I was looking forward to it for a long time. One of the penguins came so close to us and was staring at us for quite sometime. The experience was one of a kind and amazing not just for the kids, but surprisingly for us adults as well. It is definitely a must visit for anyone who is here in Melbourne.


Sydney also has a similar aquarium and seem to host similar experiences. Visit the official page for more details.

SSN

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Project Cairns

The three hour flight to Cairns was on a Saturday morning and it was already Wednesday and I had not packed our bags. I had to make a quick checklist for things to pack and do a quick shopping for all required stuff during my lunch break at work. Usually I never stress on what to pack, but this time we had two toddlers coming with us. So here is my rough checklist-

Firstly, basic things for the kids to be packed -

  • Diapers, wet wipes
  • Milk - Powder/ Bottles to store water/ Feeding bottles
  • Sippy cups
  • First aid kit for kids - for fever, dehydration, wheezing, band-aids, thermometer, baby vicks etc
  • Bathing essentials - soap, toothbrush
  • Needless to say that kids will need extra clothes as they can get dirty easily
  • Stroller/pram if needed.
  • Small toys to keep them engaged during the flight or in the car
  • Hats - Remember that they can get lost and we may need extra ones
  • Lots of tissue papers 
  • Carry a handy bag to take things while going out to places
As we had plans to visit the beaches and pools, we had to pack some extra stuff-

  • Sunscreen
  • Swim diapers
  • Extra towels
  • Small pool floaties which can be filled with air while using if needed.
  • Swimwear
  • Footwear that is easy to slip to their feet and good to play with water
  • Toys to play with beach sand- Mostly they can be purchased after getting there
My daughter trying out the pool for the first time


Also, it is important to pack some food for the kids while travelling -
  • Finger food to munch on - nuts, crackers
  • Packaged fruit juices, jelly
  • Handy food pouches like Rafferty's Garden ones. 
  • Backup main food for kids in case we could not stop at restaurants on time - Cheerios, some rice, veggie fingers etc
  • bowls, plastic spoons and forks as not all restaurants provide them and it is safer to use the plastic ones in case the kids drop them and throw a tantrum

Some other tips-
  • Staying in a service apartment is preferred to staying at a resort/hotel as we have the freedom to cook whatever the kids want. Also, we can get to do free laundry. My friend tipped me about this and it really worked for me.
  • It is good to keep time to visit the nearby supermarket to buy things like yogurt, cheese, milk, eggs etc for the kids if there is fridge to store them. My daughter was a bit fussy about food the first day and so we got her favorite and usual food from nearby store so that she was comfortable.
  • Call up and make sleeping arrangements for the kids well in advance.
  • In case if you are renting cars, make arrangements for car seats for the kids.
  • Do research on places to visit especially with the kids. For example, I checked out this website before going to Cairns. Visiting Muddy's Playground was one of the best part of the vacation for the kids which we would have missed if we did not do our research. 

Muddy's Playground

Well, the kids learnt to adjust as we did not follow their routine. They managed to get some sleep in the car or in their stroller as we had to miss their naptime. Overall, it was a good experience for all of us.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Living a Melbourne life


We started off with the wrong foot. I used to live in a suburb closer to the Melbourne city and it was dead silent in the weekdays as almost all humans migrate to the city and get back only to sleep. And the unpredictable weather and frequent rain made everything even more difficult. And needless to say that it was dull and cold given that it was winter season. So if you are a housewife living in a suburb outside Melbourne with kids (especially infants or toddlers), then you are likely to experience loneliness unless you have friends living closeby.

But the good things was that my kids got adjusted to Melbourne time in just a single day. Sometimes they really surprise me! We bought some winter clothes from India knowing that it was winter in Australia and so all was good for them. We gave the same kind of food we used to feed them back in India and so kids were very comfortable in the new environment. Flavored yogurts and cheese for kids are very cheap compared to India and kids really enjoyed them. I started applying for jobs in parallel but nobody bothered to call me for an interview. Job search for a computer science engineer in Australia is a blog post by itself, but shortly, I can say that it is not as easy as I had imagined. Apart from not having Permanent Resident Visa, the recruitment agencies seemed to look for "local experience" in Australia which is not possible unless some one gives you your first job to gain that experience. There are people who I know that took apprenticeship/internships to gain local experience and land a full time job. In this scenario, I got a call from Google Sydney though I had not applied. Relocating to Sydney was out of question and it was for SRE role and I was not sure about my fit. As I did not have any job at that point I decided to go with the flow. But the process was very slow than I had imagined and so I kept applying for other jobs in Melbourne. Finally I got a job in Melbourne that was exciting to me and so one more thing got crossed off from my checklist!

The next thing I could think of was to find a daycare for the kids and get them settled before I head off to work in a month's time. Childcares here are way too expensive - about $100 per day for 8 hours a day, and well, I had two kids. But for the lucky fellas who had Permanent Resident Visa, there are some child care rebates from the government. But I was in 457 Work Visa and without any rebate it seemed too expensive for 1.5 year olds. Moreover in my opinion, they were not independent enough to handle themselves in the daycare. Also, waiting periods for these daycares are too long - 6 months to a year. So the other option was to find a registered family daycare with available vacancies. We found a few and chose one that was good. The caretaker kept her house very safe for kids and had all the facilities for them - like table for nappy changing, high chairs, etc. Her own daughter was 2 years old and she seemed to be a good girl. She was also independent in many ways like she knew to feed herself. She agreed to train my kids as well. So the first week, I stayed with the kids in the daycare to make sure they were comfortable. The kids enjoyed playing and were taking naps as in home and my son started to feed himself though need little help. The kids were very happy in the daycare and they did not mind me not being there with them the next week. That was a very good improvement! They were happy in the daycare and so I was in peace of mind!

Learning @ the daycare

Playing @ the daycare


I started working and only then I started spending more time with the city and now I have become a part of it. The lanes are beautiful - I take a walk around the lanes during lunch hour to experience it. The "lane culture" in Melbourne is quite popular and good to take a nice long walk. The Bourke Street is the really happening place in the city - I call it as "The real Melbourne". After being a zombie in the dead suburbs, I should say that the Bourke street brought me to life! Lot of artists performing in the street, fashion stores on the side and seats to watch them all. And Myer Christmas window is just like cherry on top. Sometimes I grab something to eat and go there to have my lunch. It feels like I am on a holiday for an hour before getting back to work fully refreshed.

The Bourke Street, Melbourne

After getting to know my way around the city, it feels good to be in this part of the world. When time permits, I plan to go on for a date with the city- just me and Melbourne... This part of my life, this part right here, is called "living a Melbourne life"!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The F word


The word Feminism has become an annoying word to many in the recent years. But after listening to Emma Watson's beautiful speech about it, I hope it is no longer the case! In case you haven't listened to the speech yet, here it is -




The speech came at this hour when it was just needed! "If not now, then when?". And the part where she mentions "how it affects men too" helped me think in a different angle about this whole situation. I realized how men were feeling compelled to portray themselves as strong and the "protector" of the group. This idea takes away his right to express his fears. And words like "man up" have just made such situations more depressing! The other side of the coin is that women are denied of being strong- she is branded as "dominating" or "controlling" if she shows some courage. Knowingly or unknowingly she ends up losing what is called "power". No, this is not a battle for power. Then why does it feel like one? When he calls her "dominating", he means to say that, "I am supposed to be the one in power and why are you trying to control me". And how she interprets is, "You are not entitled to do any courageous acts. Go and clean the house or do the dishes". And if there was one other woman in the room, she would make the situation even worse by saying something like, "We are women. We are not supposed to act this way and piss him off". Then she interprets it as "Piss him off? I am pissed off already and no one seems to care. Aren't a woman's feeling of any worth?". So this goes on and on. In this case, the man might not have even realized that he was acting like a male chauvinist. He does not see his fault since that's how the society expects him to be. Well, if he does not protest when there was another woman in the room, he would feel threatened to his "manhood". He would think that the other lady in the room might think him of being less of a man. So basically he may be just compelled to "snatch" the power when there was no battle for power in the first place.

So what can be done to this problem? Society is being blamed, but who is that? How do we control this issue?

To me, putting the right seeds about this issue to our children will definitely help. Don't limit your daughter since she is a girl. Don't give better privileges to your son for ANYTHING. Make sure your son never thinks that he is in any way better than your daughter. At the same time, don't ridicule him for not scoring better than your daughter being a boy. All this will definitely bring a change in the young minds and we can hope to see less of gender inequality in the next generation. But for this to happen, I urge all the fathers and brothers of this generation to participate in "HeforShe" - http://www.heforshe.org/#take-action

 
Hoping for a better future!

SSN

(Phew, that came out as a serious and long post. Never thought about blogging about this topic but after listening to the speech, how couldn't I?)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The formula for happiness


Last week, I was through an emotional roller-coaster ride. Though it is tempting, I do not want to rant about it here. I had few reasons to be happy for, but at the same time, I also had way too many reasons to worry about. And finally, things reached its peak and I lost myself. Have you ever been in a state in which you simply don’t function yourself and wait for someone to instruct you what to do next? Well, I was; for the first time in my life. 

Then later in the day, I realized what was going on. I was living in an imaginary world all these days – a world that was almost perfect with minor issues but only within a given threshold and the threshold was set by none other than me. Nothing could go wrong beyond the line I drew. But reality, on the other hand, was harsh. I had to accept the events going on in my real life instead of worrying about the pain it had caused. I had to wake up from my dreamy world. I had to deal with my emotions and put them aside and start thinking logically. 

The moment I decided to take over my emotions with logic, half of my problems seemed to have been solved. Well nothing changed, except that I felt better. It just made no sense. Then I wondered, if the formula for happiness is getting into a ‘robotic’ mode, am I doing something wrong here…

Meanwhile I came across this and found it funny.
Link : http://xkcd.com/233/
 


SSN

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

First year birthday party - Yay or Nay!



Indians are popular for making everything grand – be it weddings or funerals. Sometimes I wonder why weddings are the way they are! In all the grand weddings, if you see, the bride and the groom are tired wearing heavy jewellery and attire and posing for photographs while others have tasty food (which the couple don’t even get to enjoy) and gossip around.  But inspite of it, we do not regret having a grand wedding of ourselves. We simply hope to enjoy looking at the photographs and videos someday and showing them to our children and narrating our love tale.

Similarly, the idea of first year birthday is quite controversial. If you see, children barely enjoy the day. They are confused why they are being dressed and put in the crowd. The parents get to enjoy meeting people and having food. The guests get goodies for their children and have fun. But we still hope that the children will enjoy looking at the photographs when they are grown up. Infact I remember that my sister used to ask for photos of her first birthday party which, sadly, got lost when we moved from Bombay (now Mumbai) to Nagercoil. So the idea is to just have a party, grand or not, and bring the baby celebrating birthday to spotlight, so that we can capture some good memories which we can share with the children when they grow up. And almost all children ask about how we celebrated their first birthday.

With that note, we have decided to host a first birthday party for our twins, who will be turning a year old in a month.  But there are lots of questions that need to be answered before the party. For example, will we sing the "happy birthday" song twice? In that case, will we have to let the twins cut the cakes back to back and not together? Regardless, I am hoping to create good memories for the kids to enjoy later...

Update:
We celebrated first birthday of our children at Hotel Residency, Trivandrum. Posting pics of rainbow-themed cake and decorations we had. The idea of this cake was taken from pinterest. 




SSN

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy new year!



2013 was a great year for me with my twins. And life has become more interesting now as they have started to communicate and play with each other. Hoping for an interesting and adventurous year ahead! 



SSN