Friday, July 29, 2016

Pokemon Go - Cliff Notes from the Other Side

Pokemon Go has taken over  the mobile gaming world - 75 million downloads in  a little over 2 weeks is beyond amazing statistics. Let me also add that if you came to my article looking for hacks to dupe the system into believing you are walking, hatching eggs, location spoofing, teleporting to pokestops - you came to the wrong place - yes there is code for that somewhere on the internet - just not here. Every single XP point earned by me and my son tag-teaming has been without gaming the system - with good old walking, collecting at poke stops, fighting gyms and catching pokemon.
Pokemon Go was a game my 9 yr old introduced me to some 10 days back, and life hasn't really been the same since. At Level 20,  here is some advice I would offer you if you are just starting off  (something I wish someone had told me a week back) -
#1 Have Fun - this game is to let off some steam,bond with your kids and get some steps in  ( here's a tip - visit parks with multiple poke stops - chances are there will be lure models set there most of the time)
#2 Don't get impatient - don't randomly power up Pokemon, or evolve them just because you can. Wait till you get really high CP (Combat Power) Pokemon (that usually happens around Level 15)
#3 - Catch these 3 - Pidgey, Caterpie, Weedle every chance you get - see # 4 for why?
#4  Maximize your XP points - use a lure model (attracts pokemon to poke stops, works for everyone) incense (attracts pokemon to you) and lucky egg (double XP) together in a pokemon hotspot ( for eg. a popular park where people put multiple lure models). Use that 1/2 hr to evolve as many Pidgey, Caterpie and Weedle that you can and catch as many pokemon in the same 1/2 hour -- I jumped 2 levels each time with this strategy and know of people who jumped 3 levels with this strategy
#5 Battle Gyms - you can either train your Pokemon for XP by battling others or store them there for bonus Poke Coins and Stardust, which can be claimed once every 21 hours. However, when you encounter an opposing team's gym, you can only do battle with its Pokemon. If you defeat its entire roster, you'll take a large amount of Prestige Points away from that gym.
#6 Turn off AR for easier captures - I have found it useful to turn off augmented reality  to catch pokemon with greater accuracy (play around to see what actually works for you)
#7 Use Pokevision  -  which is a nifty tool to find where the Pokemon are (
At the end of the day - Pokemon Go has been an enabler for some good habits  in our family - we end up walking as a family at a park every single day, my step count has increased 5K per day in the past 10 days and last but not the least - my son and I have truely bonded over a mobile game.
Trainer Tip : Please Please don't play Pokemon while driving - I have seen two accidents in a 30 mph zone because folks were playing Pokemon while driving !

What's your Pokemon Go Story?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Tentative Parenting : Monkey See, Monkey Do

K2 : Ma, how come we have no hair products at home
Working Mom : Huh! We have shampoo and coconut oil - what are you talking about?
K2  (rolls his eyes) : Ma - I mean hair products like hair gel
Working Mom (Stretching the truth) : K2, you know all that is bad for your hair right?
K2 : Ma - But R, C and T use it - so I think it's alright - can you please get me some?
Working Mom : No can do baby! Not quite yet. Let's give it a couple more years and then if you still feel like putting artificial goop in your hair, its your choice. How about we talk about this again when you are 13?

In the urban dictionary "Monkey See, Monkey Do" is  - an expression describing someone who imitates another person's actions, good or bad,simply by having watched them before.
Given the sociologist in me I researched this some more and here are some loose guidelines I have set for myself in my parenting quest :
  1. Be intentional about your child's surroundings but be open to the fact that he will be exposed to both positive and negative role-models. For eg. K2 has this friend who only eats whites (white rice, white yogurt, white pasta with alfredo saunce, pretty much no veggies and fruits) and K2 takes a lot of pleasure in throwing up the friend's example when he is given 2 servings of fruits and veggies for both lunch and dinner - I just smile and ask him what the Doctor told him in his last check-up - Eat 6-7 servings of veggies and fruits  ( the argument ends there!)
  2. Notice the positive - K2 was reluctant about brushing twice (don't ask-I won't tell) till his friend had a rather painful cavity extraction and was very explicit about detailing the painful experience - I have noticed regular brushing and flossing as an offshoot #FTW
  3. Talk about it - Like we did about the hair products - it's not about giving in or it's not about being controlling - it's about letting them know Why Not and when they can use it if they still want to --- We have had a similar discussion around soda, getting him a phone etc. etc...the list doesn't end (can't say the same about the patience level!)
  4. Do as you say - I limited  the conversation around my son's use of hair gel but it was an easier talk for me to have with him because he sees that at home Mom and Dad don't really use a lot of these products - the soda conversation was an easy one because we have no soda lying around in the house.

It's so easy for the young ones and the not-so young ones to get caught up in this behavior - whether it's hair styles, dresses, make-up, shoes, designer bags, accents, behavioral aspects...we tend to look up to and ape role models. I constantly  remind K2 and myself of something my father told me while I was growing up " it takes nothing to join the crowd, it takes grit and courage to stand alone - you don't have to fit in unless you want to ...always remember that

 Happy Friday! So are you living in a world of "Monkey See, Monkey Do or are you being an Original Monkey" :-)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

On being Mortal

"Severe Illness wasn't life-altering, it was life-shattering.It felt less like an epiphany - a piercing burst of light, illuminating what really matters- and more like someone had just firebombed the path forward"
-- When Breath Becomes air

I didn't want to read this book - after K1 told me the book was incredibly sad and he skipped pages because he couldn't bear the melancholy. I waited till the last minute, the book was due at the library on June 5th - I couldn't stand the thought of returning the book without reading it first. This book made me cry & get a headache ( I don't cry easy!) , it made me feel way too much, but most of all it had me revisit old memories- so thank you for that!

It took me right back to the times with my father - where I had lived second-hand through all his angst, realizations, acceptance and hopes...the decision tree of treatment, the Kaplan-Meier survival curves,  the numbness, the fall-back of - why the heck even live if we have to die anyway? I revisited some of my blog posts which reflected (less elegantly some of my second-hand brush with severe illness and death...the truth is I didn't deal with it with as much grace and realism as I saw reflected in this book). Sharing some of my older posts...if you have travelled this journey, know that you are not alone - there is an answer at the end of the question - it might not be the one you are seeking, but it's probably the only one you will get - it's what you make of that answer that defines the rest of your life.

Hitting Ground Zero - 11/07/09  -- I found out 3 weeks before this that my father had cancer
Hope Floats - 12/25/09 -- this was 10 days after my father's surgery in Irvine
Existential Crisis- 04/02/11 - the cancer is back
The ticking timebomb - 09/25/11 - dealing with the aftermath and the decision tree of next steps
The Dirty "C" Word -  08/07/12 - the chemotherapy aftermath
Inside Out...Outside looking in - 11/03/12 - my last vacation with Bapa, we talked a lot, ate whatever we wanted and took our morning walks every single day
Simple Gratitude  -  02/05/13 - My last trip to India, Bapa was in the ICU and I spent 10 days in the hospital with him, he went back home on Jan 31st.
Lost my voice found my mind - 02/14/13 - Bapa was back in the ICU with low platelets
You are loved - 03/12/13 - lost Bapa on March 11th and the trip back home almost broke me down completely...but you survive, thrive and go on...there is an empty part in you that always misses your lost ones...but you learn to go on.

I didn't really want to end my day on a sad note today...yet maybe it's not really sad. It is about "making peace in my own mind" with issues as yet unresolved...Maybe it's the survivor's's something for sure. I want  to end this post in the words of Paul Kalanithi - 

“Everyone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past. The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described hold so little interest: a chasing after the wind, indeed.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dearly Departed

For my friend "N" who has had more than her fair share of heartache - today she lost her mother  2 years 9 months and 29 days after she lost her brother to cancer.

                                                                              PC:Dearly Departed

You knock on the window of my subconscious,
I see you standing there looking,
Trying to tell me something?
Or are you just missing me?
As much as I am you.

I try and tell myself,
Where you are is a better place,
But then how would I know,
That there is eternal sunshine and warmth...
Or maybe it's just me hoping.

Every time I tell myself,
The longing is faint,
Then there is a memory that comes,
And lodges itself in my being,
The pain that accompanies so real.

 For all the sad notes,
I wrote, spoke or thought,
The saddest thought was - saying Good Bye!
The reality is...
Maybe I am just waiting to say - Hello Again!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Happy Mother's Day & Living in the Now!

Today as I woke up in the morning - I didn't really want to think about making breakfast, lunch or dinner - I just wanted to lie down in bed and watch my DVRed shows : catch up on Castle, Grimm, Scandal and The Flash and someone bring me a cup of hot cardamom chai and some piping hot dosas and chutney. Yet, I dragged myself out of bed - made waffles for the boys and went for a killer zumba class. Lunch plans are Sausage Hash (Aidell's) followed by a grocery run and then sitting with Krish to prep for his standard tests - it's math next week. I think this is the story of most mothers (working or otherwise) on weekends. The truth is I wouldn't have it any other way...this in reality is Living with Intent for me ( here's my recent blog on LinkedIn on the topic)

Here's a picture of something I cooked for the boys a couple weeks back : it wasn't a special day but we sure made it special with the meal we ate together : Quinoa Salad, Broiled Cod, Sweet Potato Hash, Lobster Cake (for K2, K1 is allergic to all things shell fish) and Roasted Brussel Sprouts washed down with Prosecco (for the adults).

Sometimes life is about living every moment you have with intent and a child-like enjoyment and openness. As I said in my blog post - "I'll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow"

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Simple Living : Keep Portland Weird!

A week before it was time for spring break we were trying to zero in on places to visit.

K2's criteria - # plane ride
K1's criteria - # all inclusive resort in Hawaii
My criteria - # can we stay at home and pop popcorn, catch up on DVRed shows and hit hiking trails (go right ahead and judge me ;-) )

We zeroed in on a car trip to Portland amidst some protests from the young one, who still wanted a plane ride and preferably to Legoland.

About 4 years back after I watched Grimm, I fell madly in love with a city and have had a dream of moving there at some point  in my life (umm...and mind you I had never visited Portland). So a vacation to Portland in my husband's mind was a great idea to prove to me that maybe Sunny California is where we are supposed to be settled (he was so wrong :)). So a week before our trip I send out an email to our work email address and the ideas and suggestions I got from these bunch of remarkable people was beyond amazing...we played it by the ear and had a very rough draft plan of our trip in our heads ( Thanks to Air B&B for helping us keep our plans flexible).

So here's how our vacation played out ( I had 4 pings for the itinerary and to say that my head has grown double it's size is an understatement :) )

Day 1 – Our plan was to leave  the house at 11.00 AM we had tire troubles and by the time we replaced our tires and hit the road it was 1.30 PM. We made it to Redding by 5.30 PM . We went directly to the Sun Dial Bridge and it was so worth the detour. We also walked for an hour in the Botanical Gardens and it was a refreshing break. We then drove to Weed, CA - we were at our Air B&B by 8.30 PM and then grabbed dinner at  Hi-Lo CafĂ© (highly recommended)

Day 2 – Woke up to chickens in the Air B&B clucking while we made our plans for the day. We took a hike to Mc Cloud Falls ( we hiked from the lower falls to the upper falls and the hiking trails are steep, so wear good trekking/hiking shoes) and then checked out Mount Shasta and then ventured into the town. The weather was gorgeous so we decided to pick a boxed  Lunch from Maruti (5 star yelp rated vegetarian indian place) and had lunch by the frozen Castle Lake. We started our drive to Portland  at about 2.00 PM (with a stop in Ashland). We reached Portland about 9.00 AM and had dinner at Circa 33 ( a prohibition era themed cocktail bar with fabulous food!). My son felt very grown up having a Moscow Mule sans alcohol while K1 got to audition his first round of hopper brews that Portland is so famous for. The night view of the city and bridges were just breath-taking and I fell just a bit more in love with the city.

Day 3 – We went on an off-track urban/nature hike to get to know beautiful Portland a bit better - it is called the 4T Trail ( oddly enough I was the first to review this trail on Yelp). We started around 10.00 AM at the Pioneer Courthouse (parked in one of the underground garages there), we took the train to the Oregon Zoo and walked to the Columbia Crest where we had a picnic lunch. The views at Columbia Crest are fabulous after which we took the Aerial tram at Oregon Health Sciences Univ.  and then the street trolley - we eventually ended up on a bus to go to the bookstore. Later on we went to Powell Bookstore ( the smell of books...I will hit up a library or a book store just for that smell...)  and had dinner at Pacific Pie . My husband was raving about the local brews, I will have to take his word for it  as I stuck to the herbal tea but I solemnly promise that the pies (savory - roast lamb and chicken burrito pie) and sweet (chocolate hazelnut bourbon) were the best I have had.EVER. We stopped by at Voodoo Doughnuts (totally taken in by the hype) and waited 45 minutes (we are told people wait in line 3 hours) for our pink box - what can I say - the young one was on a sugar buzz and loved his donuts. My husband discovered a new coffee favorite in Dutch Bros ( just sayin - if you love coffee give this local chain a shot, they are great!)

Day 4 – Was a gorgeous day and we decided to drive down the scenic Columbia River Gorge Area and Multnomah Falls. We wanted to devote an entire day to that experience and Boy! are we glad we did - we were treated to gentle breeze, breath-taking views of the river and the water falls kept us spellbound. We proceeded to the Multnomah Visitor Center and initially decided to do the 1.8 M trek up to the Upper Falls - half way to the trek we decided to go all in and see all the five waterfalls hiking - it was a treat, it was hard for the young one, no regrets but if you have children not used to steep climbs avoid the 7.8M loop. We made it down for a late lunch at the Multnomah Lodge (Wild Caught Salmon Burger washed down with a Blackberry case you were wondering) and followed it up with some Retail therapy at the Columbia Gorge Premium Outlet Mall (skip if you don’t want to do consumerish things, but no sales tax wow :) ). Dinner was Thai Food from one of the food trucks - Thai Champa (beyond amazing!)

Day 5 – Drove to Crater Lake - this is a must-see place. The drive there is a little scary with oodles of snow and zero cell phone coverage for 100 miles but if you get over it and focus on the beautiful vistas and scenery - you will love it (this was a mini-note for myself - I really get nervous around snow but enjoyed this trip).  We stayed at the Crater Lake Bed & Breakfast, which was 20+ miles away ( the weather was gorgeous) — we made this plan on the day before with constant weather checking. The weather gods were clearly smiling down at us :-)

Day 6 – Another peek at the Crater Lake (we couldn’t get enough) — then  we were off to Winston Animal Safari. We decided to go home after the safari but you could stay a night at Prospect or Medford and do the trek back home in the morning. On our way back K2 captured a beautiful shot of Mount Shasta with the lenticular clouds on top...a fitting goodbye to an eventful spring break.

I have posted reviews of all the businesses and places we visited on this trip on Yelp

I want to end this long blog post with the wise words of Maya Angelou - “Every person needs to take a day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist a day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” 

So have you planned your next trip?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Tentative Parenting : What's for dinner Mommy?

"Housework is something you do that nobody notices till you don't do it"

I walk into the house all pumped up on adrenalin - networking at work after work and  being a part of a cool panel definitely added to the excitement

I walk into the house at 7.45 PM and get a hug and a question - the question is one that fills a lot of moms with dread especially on those days when they are bone-tired and all they are looking for is some liquid sustenance (preferably white and fizzy for me - thank you very much!), a horizontal resting place and a TV remote - What's for dinner Mommy? 

And guess what this planner Mom hadn't planned dinner for tonight. So I take 5 for cleaning up and then get to work in the kitchen. Dinner is on the table by 8.15 PM. What's for dinner you ask? Quinoa Pasta - we usually try and keep Monday Dinners (and most other days actually!) meatless. Here's the recipe I used for my Quinoa Pasta  ( I swapped out the Canellini Beans for Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans, I didn't use Zucchini, Carrots and Celery (didn't have it) -  used Spinach, Bell Peppers and Green Peas instead!). The drink of choice for the family was Sambazon's Acai Juice.

A sobering piece of statistic that I read over the weekend ( and I am playing my part in enabling it) was this -

  • In 2003, the Bureau of  Labor Statistics reported that :  63 percent of men reported doing some household activity, while 84 percent of women did most. In 2014, the numbers were almost the same, according to the BLS: 65 percent for men and 83 percent for women. 
  • The numbers are more stark in India where I think the percentage is more like 20% men participating in housework to 98% women (these numbers have no basis in any studies but I will wager a bet that my percentages are not far off)
The reality is that the needle hasn't moved much in eleven years - I take my comfort in the knowledge that I am training my son to be an equal partner when it comes to house work. And to the women in the same boat as me I will give you the same advise that I give myself - Prioritize, Plan and (when all else fails) Pray & Improvise ;-)

So what did you cook for dinner Mom?