Monthly Archives: October 2007

Scabies Babies

When we adopted Mrini and Tara, we found that Mrini had Scabies. Scabies is a mite that bites and Mrini had been bitten all over, especially on her feet, legs, hands, face, tummy… well, basically all over.

The doctor said that we had only to apply a cream to her one night and wash it off the next morning and all would be well. Except that we had to use the cream on every person who had contact with Mrini for as little as 30 minutes. Oh and, we had to wash every item of clothing and bedding that she had access to once we had washed off the cream.

So we did this full treatment on all four of us a day or two after the kids came home. It was chaotic, of course, washing the entire house’s linen in one day, but it had to be done, so we did it.

Now the thing is, we should have repeated this exercise a week later, but by that time the bites had really disappeared and we were lazy, so we took a shortcut: we applied the cream to Mrini, but not the rest of us and we washed only a couple of items of clothing/bedding.

Two weeks passed, the bites had disappeared and all looked fine, when at last I noticed a few tiny bites appear on Mrini and, worse, on Tara as well.

So, on Friday night, we applied the cream again – on all four of us. It is really quite yucky, because it is a thick cream that doesn’t spread or get absorbed very easily, it just lies there all over your skin making you feel slimy.

Saturday was, therefore, laundry day. Not only did I have to wash every sheet, pillow cover, blanket and plastic mattress shield in one day, I even had to wash Mrini’s shoes, and the seats of their stroller! All of which took three loads of the washing machine.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it poured on Saturday afternoon enough to prevent even the almost-dry stuff from drying.

It’s not as if I run to a lot of spare linen at the best of times, and since the twins’ bed has been using up one extra set of bedsheets, which I haven’t had time to go out and shop for, we were reduced to using a rather damp top sheet that night.

To add to that lot of chaos, is my father in law’s impending visit on Monday. I had to clear out one bedroom for him and that really was a huge undertaking. One room is full of the twins’ stuff and the other room is full of our stuff. Likewise for the bathrooms. Displacing the twins’ stuff, their bedding and toys included, seemed like cruelty so I decided the simpler option was to move our stuff into their room. It’s surprising how two tiny creatures like them can fill up one big cupboard in less than a month.

By Sunday afternoon, I still didn’t have enough entirely dry linen to cover all the surfaces in the house, and then of course it rained on Sunday afternoon thoroughly drenching any laundry that was injudiciously left in slightly exposed parts of the two verandahs. I took advantage of the fact that the rest of the family was sleeping, and went out on my bike to shop for essentials for the father in law, and received a drenching for my pains.

All in all, it’s been one of those weekends. I’ll be quite glad when it ends and things get back to “normal”. And, I hope those ruddy scabies mites have been totally exterminated this time, because I really can’t face the prospect of repeating this treatment another two weeks from now.

Murphy’s Law in Action

Everything that can go wrong will… and then some.

We didn’t think about Murphy’s Law when we discussed plans for Amit’s birthday. His birthday was on Sunday, but he was also flying out to Tokyo on Sunday night, so celebrations, if any, would have to be on Saturday evening. Amit was keen on calling a few friends home and providing home-cooked food for dinner, but eventually this plan (thankfully) fell through.

By Saturday afternoon, I was suffering agonies thanks to a severe headache brought on by Sinusitis. In the thick of a torrential downpour, I drove myself to the doctor, who prescribed, amongst other things, Valium tablets (!?!).

The day was looking rather bleak, and Amit was in the mood to give up entirely on the birthday plans, when I persuaded him that just because we now have two little girls doesn’t mean we should give up on life altogether and stay at home and order in even on special occasions. So, we bravely (foolishly!) decided to go to the usual venue for Amit’s birthday dinner – Taj West End. This five star hotel used to have a wonderful Thai food restaurant called Paradise Island. A couple of years ago, they changed the name to Blue Ginger and the cuisine to Vietnamese – things have never been quite the same since. Still, it was our tradition so we decided to go ahead with it.

Duly, at 9 p.m., the torrential downpour notwithstanding, the four of us were seated at a comfortable table at Blue Ginger. On our left was a couple so thoroughly entwined in each other as to be oblivious to all else. On our right was a foreign (German?) woman eating alone. Behind was the downpour, in front a certain quantity of empty space.

The dinner, in short, was a fiasco. The twins were happily restless for 20 minutes, cranky for another 20. In an hour or so, Tara finally slept, but Mrini remained awake till we were almost home around 11.30! She swung between cheerful, restless, and thirsting for adventure in the form of outings with the restaurant staff; and sleepy, howling, and unable to sleep. We tried all manner of things, but nothing helped. The drinks, appetizer, soup, and main course were served and consumed amidst complete chaos and Amit and I had no opportunity to exchange more than a dozen words between ourselves, what with trying to pacify the kids and fill our own stomachs.

Well, all we can say is, we tried. It is easy to see why baby sitters are a popular option, but one that neither of us is much in favour of.

We returned home tired, frustrated, hungry, and poorer to a substantial extent.

That, however, was not all. My Sinusitis had taken a back seat in the midst of all the action, but Amit had meanwhile developed a seriously red eye which had begun to give a thick, gooey discharge, coupled with a gritty feeling and blurred vision. Conjunctivitis, I diagnosed, and an early morning visit to the local doctor on Sunday proved me right. The doctor apparently thought it was so contagious that he took only a quick look from a safe distance, prescribed some eye drops, and got rid of Amit in extremely short order.

Tokyo???

Amit had already had one rather dramatic experience of being severely ill in a foreign country; neither he nor I was keen for a repeat experience of that sort. Besides, with a condition so contagious, was it really ok to go spending more than ten hours aboard two flights, putting all one’s co-passengers at risk? Would Singapore Airlines, Singapore (the country), and Japan even allow him into the plane/country looking the way he did?

Putting the eye drops every couple of hours didn’t make any significant difference to the redness of the infected eye, so by 5 p.m. on Sunday, with great reluctance, he decided he would have to at least postpone his official trip. A couple of hours spent on the phone and he had pushed out his departure by 24 hours.

This was good news, because it meant we could at least have his birthday dinner together. By now, we knew better than planning an outing – a quick phone call and a vast quantity of rich Indian food was delivered home by 9 p.m.

More About the Twins

It’s great to see the twins growing up. To me, it seems that they have already become taller in the three weeks that they’ve been with us. Mrini is now walking with great flair – and falling, frequently, with almost as much flair. She doesn’t seem to mind the falling. She loves to walk off the mattress – which is on the floor, luckily – without realizing that there’s a step involved, so she just walks straight off it and inevitably lands on all fours. The problem is that she tries to do this with the steps in the park as well, and those are quite high, not to mention the stone ground below.

Tara is still not walking – she totters around if somebody’s holding her by both hands. She’s not developed as much of a will of her own as Mrini has either – Mrini, by the second or third day of walking, was not content to allow me to lead her this way or that, she had a clear and certain idea of where she wanted to go and she would lead me.

That said, though, Mrini remains the one who is more keen for parental attention and approval – she consciously avoids actions that will get her into serious trouble, and often stops what she’s doing and goes looking for mama. Tara, on the other hand, doesn’t seem disturbed by the prospect of upsetting the parents, and doesn’t bother if nobody is around to pay her attention – she will sit for hours (well, large fractions of an hour, at any rate) with some particularly fascinating object and babble happily to it without needing any further stimulation, approbation or attention of any sort.

It’s great to watch them when either one has discovered some new item to play with – it could be a pen, a dish from the kitchen cabinet, or an insect on the floor. One, say Tara, will get hold of it and explore it thoroughly, while the other watches with envy. Then comes the first attempt to grab the object. If Mrini is grabbing, she sometimes scores on her first attempt, but Tara, being the politer of the two, rarely does. Tara does often manage to defy Mrini’s first attempt to gain possession of the treasure – she screams and turns away, moving it out of reach. Tara being smaller and unable to stand unaided, has to concede certain advantages to Mrini and usually the object will not stay long in her hands. Once Mrini has the object, Tara might just watch for a few minutes before trying to get it back. Her attempt to get it back might meet with success if Mrini has had enough time to explore it thoroughly; sometimes Mrini goes so far as it hand it back to her, surprising all of us. Sometimes, Tara just loses interest – or pretends to – and goes off to find other items of interes.

The other day, I was in the kitchen in the morning, and all was silent in the dining room. I was beginning to get suspicious when the doorbell rang. Answering, I found our downstairs neighbour, holding two of the twins’ toys in her hand. They’d found out that they could have great fun by tossing their toys through the railings of the balcony!

A few things I have managed to teach them already. They know that all their toys are in the toy box and sometimes, if I ask them nicely, they will go and fetch one particular item from the box and hand it to me. They know the car, the ball, and the picture book by name. I have had some success in teaching them, once they have pulled all the toys out of the box, to put them back in. Mrini has even managed a transfer of technology to putting her shoes back in the plastic bag they belong in, and sometimes putting newspapers strewn all over the living room, back on the surface they ought to be on. The one thing they won’t put back yet, though, is all the kitchen dishes that they pull very noisily out of the kitchen cabinets about half a dozen times a day. I don’t really complain – it keeps them safely occupied for half an hour at a stretch, and it only takes me a couple of minutes to put it right.

Mrini, who is very proud of being able to walk, diligently practices walking indoors every morning. Around 9.30, with breakfast safely tucked away and bath time yet to come, she walks several times from the living room window, all the way to the washing machine, or to her room, and back, usually without falling down. Lately, she has realized that grown up people walk with shoes on, so once she’s done a few rounds bare foot, she pulls her favourite pink shoes out of the plastic bag and waves it around and yells at me to put it on. Then, she practices walking with one shoe. After a while, it’ll strike her that perhaps her other foot deserves a shoe as well, and she’ll promptly come and demand it – she’s apparently particular that only the matching shoe be put on the other foot. Unlike Tara, who is forever worming her foot out of her shoes, Mrini rarely takes off her shoes once I put them on her.

Mrini has also discovered the game of fetch. It’s almost the same as it is with dogs: the adult throws a ball (or a dinky car) and Mrini goes and fetches it, so that the adult can throw it again. Tara, who is the epitome of laziness, watches it and laughs and thinks, if Mrini is going to do all that work, why on earth should I make any effort at all?

Mrini has developed a few fears in the past three weeks. First, she displayed a mild but typical case of separation anxiety, being quite uncomfortable if I left the house even though Amit was around. Then, she developed a fear of the sound of planes flying over our flat – which occurs with such boring regularity that a genuine phobia of it would make life altogether unbearable for her and everyone else around. That fear extended to motorcycles being started in the parking lot below, then it suddenly faded and disappeared.

Amit had bought the twins a colouring book and some crayons, but all the twins wanted to do was to eat the crayons, so I put them away in a safe place and just entertained them with the black-n-white pictures in the colouring book instead. Mostly it was pictures of cartoon people, but there was one picture of a cartoon cat as well. I called it Pat’s Cat (it was a Postman Pat colouring book) and showed it to the twins a couple of times along with other pictures in the book. All of a sudden last night, Mrini saw the cat and started making very alarmed half-shrieking sounds. If we took the book away, she stopped, but then she would fetch the book out, find the cat picture and start making the alarmed sounds again. We watched her with amusement for a while, then distracted her with other toys. After a solid five minutes of distraction, she went to the toy box, pulled out that book, opened it to the cat page and started getting all agitated again.

Anyway, we put them to bed eventually, though I half expected her to wake up at night yelling due to disturbing dreams of Pat’s Cat. She didn’t, thankfully, but what she did was to wake up in the morning, go straight to the toy box, pull out the book, find Pat’s Cat and start shrieking all over again. Is that some memory or what? Strangely enough, by the time she had got breakfast down the hatch, she hadn’t forgotten the cat, but was finding it less scary already.

And so it goes – never a dull moment.

Advice Unasked

It’s strange how many people think they should participate in the upbringing of your kids. And I don’t think this is particular to us because we are an adopted family – I think this is generic to India as a whole.

See, I take the twins to the neighborhood park every evening, where they sit in the grass and watch the activity around them, usually without deigning to participate much. Lots of people congregate around this area of the park. Apart from small grassy patches, there’s a large sand-pit, and some other play areas. Kids of all ages get together and create chaos, under the watchful eyes of parents and care takers. This is also where a lot of people sit around just to watch the kids at play. A few are parents of much grown-up children, perhaps re-living earlier days; many more are the grandparent variety.

The twins’ appearance in this park generated intolerable curiosity amongst the kibbitzing (?) parents and grandparents. Unfortunately, the difference in our complexions and theirs does not pass unnoticed and lots of people wanted to know all about it.

First came the questions – where, how, when, why, by what means, for how much, and more; then came the suggestions.

  • Feed them ragi
  • Feed them almonds ground into milk
  • Feed them amla paste with honey and ginger
  • Massage them with cod liver oil
  • Or at least with warm mustard oil
  • Three times a day
  • Rub a mix of besan (chickpea flour) and milk on them before bathing
  • Give them only boiled water
  • Cover their heads and feet (or they’ll catch cold)
  • Don’t give them boiled water
  • Nor cover them up with sweaters, socks, and scarves
  • You’ll only weaken their immune systems
  • Let them play in the sand pit
  • Don’t let them play in the sand pit (they’ll only eat the sand)
  • Aren’t they walking yet?
  • Aren’t they talking yet?
  • Aren’t they weaned from the bottle yet?
  • Aren’t they toilet trained yet?
  • Get them a walker
  • Don’t get them a walker, they’ll never learn to walk
  • My children/grandchildren learnt to walk/talk/use the toilet when he/she/they were only 3/4/5 months old

On and on and on… it’s amazing the amount of advice people will give if you don’t ask for it. I think they feel that because we’ve only had the kids a couple of weeks, it is their bounden duty to advise us with regard to their upbringing.

There’s also another common and contradictory reaction to twins which I find inexplicable. A lot of people look at them and then ask me, “How do you tell the difference?” To which, my reply generally is, they look different. I mean, they do – they’re not identical twins, you can see the differences quite easily, even though it might take a day or two to be able to sort them out.

Yet, other people ask me: “Twins? Twins, eh?” I’m like, of course they are twins! Don’t they look alike? Besides, here they are, clearly of almost the same age, most likely closely related, sitting together in a twin stroller, being carted around by the same person – do you really think they’re either siblings, or completely unrelated?

Well, I suppose all this attention will gradually reduce. After all, there can’t be more than about 10,000 people within walking distance of this park, and as approximately 9,000 of them have already made their inquiries, we probably have only another 1000 or so to go.

Baby Steps

Warning: This blog entry contains lots of mushy stuff about the twins. If you’re bored with hearing about the twins, come back a few years later.

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It’s been the sort of day when most things work out well. To start with, I woke at 7 a.m. after a long and unbroken sleep, to find the twins still sleeping peacefully. First thing in the morning, they both cooperated by doing their morning business in their potties rather than in their diapers.

Tara threw a minor tantrum while I was bathing Mrini, but it was nothing like the one she threw yesterday, and I was better prepared for it, so it was altogether not so bad. They were both generally in a playful mood, so I took a chance at bathing while they were awake – normally, I wait till they both are asleep. It was an interesting experiment, they were very curious about what I was up to and wanted to join me, which I really didn’t want them to do as I had just bathed them and they were all clean and dry.

Both of them spent the morning demanding to be walked. Tara needs a two-handed grip, while Mrini, who started with a two-handed grip several days ago, has graduated to a one-handed grip. Still, as I have only two hands to give, I can’t walk both of them together, which means I get to do double the amount of work each of them does. I have to be very careful to take them in turns, or they get upset! To keep them amused, meanwhile, I turned on Handel’s Messiah in the living room, which they seemed to enjoy.

Mrini was practicing standing up without support. She kept getting to her feet and swaying drunkenly before landing, rather delightedly, with a plop, on her backside. Then, when she tried it for the nth time in the middle of the living room floor, she decided not to land with a plop right away, but to attempt walking instead. I was in the dining room, by the fridge and as I called her, she walked all the way to me – a good 15 baby-steps! Needless to say, I was thrilled! Tara was watching disapprovingly from a distance.

Amit’s reaction, when I told him, was, typically, “take a video!” Yeah, right. Who has time to take a video??? I tried, next time Mrini attempted to walk, but her subsequent attempts, unfortunately, were not so spectacular.

If Tara progresses at the same pace, she ought to be there by the middle or end of next week. This is exciting! Even though I have known them only a few days now, I’m still so proud and happy to see them beginning to walk. Although, my mother warns me that once they both are walking on their own, I’m going to be even more busy than I am now.

Well, today is the third day that Amit has gone to office and I’ve managed on my own. They do drive me around the bend sometimes, but I think I’m doing ok with them. Tara, who had vomited twice last week and then got fever, seems to have improved on both counts. Mrini, who was initially very reserved and clingy, has improved in leaps and bounds and is now totally outgoing, adventurous and cheerful. Her habit of whacking her sister on her head as hard as possible is slowly being turned around into a soft stroking sort of movement, though I still don’t trust her with any hard object in her hand.

It’s great to see them learn as they play. They’ve learnt to give and take from me, but only reluctantly from each other. They’ve learnt to take all their toys out of the carton and fling them around, and yesterday Mrini learnt that you can also pick them up and put them back in. Then, she transferred those skills to the newspapers in the living room. Unfortunately, the taking down and flinging around skill transferred rather better than the putting ‘em back skill, so I get to do a lot of that. Tara learnt that the telephone table cannot be relied upon to support her weight and if she leans on it, it might collapse on her. She also learnt which cupboard in our bedroom has clothes that are easily accessible for taking out and strewing on the floor. Oh, and they both learnt that taking the telephone receiver off the hook and flinging it on the floor makes a most satisfactory crashing sound.

If only they’d hurry up and learn that the bathroom is where one does sussu and potty…