Baby Monitor No More

When I take Ravi to visit my parents on the weekends, I always dissemble his baby monitor system and take them with me.  As I was cleaning up my weekend bag couple of days ago, I realized that they are still sitting in there.  That means we haven’t use them at home for nearly two weeks now!

Every since Mario fixed Ravi’s door (taped up the locking mechanism and put a big ribbon on the door knob), Ravi is free to come in and out all by himself.  He no longer cries when he wakes up alone, but walks out and look for where the action is.  He still has occasional nightmares, but since I now have a somewhat semi-permanent spot on his queen size bed, that’s easily fixed by either putting the pacifier back into his mouth or picking him up for a minute.  So we haven’t really needed the baby monitor any more.

Good new?  I hope it is.  But as we close one chapter, another one opens.  New challenges are just around the corner.

How does one understand history as it unfolds today?

I’ve always been fascinated with history. In high school, it was my favorite subject. I loved learning about complex historical situations and the men and women involved in them. They always had to make a decision of utmost importance sometimes with limited information. The pivotal moment or decision had the potential to determine human history and shape our world for years to come. The Declaration of Independence, the Rise of Hitler, the battle between Alexander the Great and Darius at Issus, the conquests of Napolean, etc. all have pivotal moments that changed the shape and flow of human history. These moments have always attracted my attention.

When I was younger and more direct I found historic battles and military issues the easiest to digest. Historic battles are relatively simple; there are two opponents with different armies, strategies, and tactics that usually ends in a clear winner and loser. The decisions made in the battle have as great or greater impact than the forces used. This helps to quantify the brilliance of the generals and has clear concepts to learn. It also spurred my interests in games and game theory, which has eaten a lot of my hobby time. After starting the MBA program, I was introduced to the case study analysis approach. A case study is just a historic collection of a business situation that the student has to analyze to determine the best possible course of action. The situations are much more subtle and nuanced. Oftentimes the company makes an incorrect analysis or situation and the business suffers for it. Sometimes, though, the business does make the correct decision and things still end up badly for them. The potential for chance to determine the outcome of a business situation is reflected in the case studies I see. This isn’t the case for history books. History books have a clear and definitive purpose; they are there as a catalog of events, peoples, and situations. There is a clear difference between the two settings. Case studies have a bit of chance, variability, and unknown in them, while history is determined and structured.

This brings me to my latest question? When does present day events ossify into history? How can we be sufficiently removed from present events to understand the situation clearly that we can then document the situation? I’ll give an example of a current situation and a historical one that might, or might not, be similar. Currently we are in one of the greatest contractions in employment for this country. The last time we’ve seen such a contraction in business similar to our current situation was the great depression of 1929. There have been many articles comparing and contrasting today and 1929. Both sides seem to shill that their view is correct, while the other side is completely wrong. There will be large amounts of money to be made and lost on the revelation that today is similar to the Great Depression or isn’t. With so much money at stake, how does one determine how to judge the situation correctly? Do we need to be unbiased as possible? Are we to follow an inspirational leader and great motivator that will be able to determine history (like great men of history)? Is there a method or model to help us determine the most likely outcome? How do we understand history as it unfolds today?

I’ll be the first to admit that I have no clear answer to that question. I’ll also admit that I’m immensely intrigued in determining how to understand the situation. I’m very interested in the determining clear metrics or quantities that will help determine the present situation and developing a model that will help determine the most likely outcome. While the situation I picked is global and financial in nature, the analytic process, if it can be developed, has applications in many different areas. Hopefully there is an answer to this question. If there is, it’d be great to help determine a model or process that will do this.

Mario.

The Tree

My parents lived in West Lake Village and Thousand Oaks area for nearly 8 years.  For those that never visited there,  it is 40 miles outside of downtown LA, located right behind the Santa Monica Mountains about 15 minutes drive from the coastal area of Malibu.

Life is slower there.  Gigantic trees lined the wide and spotless streets.  People often walk on the side of the street and say hi to you as you pass.  Neighborhoods are tightly knitted, where everyone calls you by your first name and send you fresh cut produce from their garden.  This may sound normal to many of you, but for someone who lives in city for years, it is like a scene straight out of a movie.

So why move away from such an idyllic neighborhood?  Well, my family loves good Chinese food and shopping at Chinese stores.  We used to drive 100 mile round trips on the weekends to our regular Chinese hangouts to satisfy our cravings.  The older my parents become, the more they realized that they just can’t keep doing this anymore.  So they bought a home in Walnut, which has more Chinese stores and restaurants than they ever imagined, and they absolutely love the new neighborhood!

After what seemed like years in escrow and remodeling, they finally moved out of their Thousand Oaks home.  I took a day off to help them move.  Early in the morning before the mover arrived, my mom and I took one last walk in the neighborhood.  We both knew we will likely never return to this place again.  I brought along a camera because I wanted to take a picture of one object that I so loved in the neighborhood.

It is this tree.  This giant, old, and gnarly tree.  Its branches bent and broken, like its been carrying the weight of time from all the years passed.  Still, it stands tall and proud.  I looked forward to seeing this tree every time I come home to see my parents and every time I leave.  It is to me the symbol of my parents’ home.  Earlier this year when all the other trees grew new leaves, it was still bare.  I honestly worried about it and hope it survived the winter despite its age; I was glad to see new leaves on it a few weeks later.

Years from now when I think about Thousand Oaks again, there will probably be nothing left in my memory except this old tree.  It will be permanently carved into my mind and I will think of it often, hoping it will survive yet another winter.

-Flo.

Weekend Advantures, Sept 26’2010

We haven’t gone back to UCLA for a walk in months, and since parking is still free (Mario has a parking permit), we went back again last weekend.

It is the first week of the fall quarter and I expected to see lots of people hanging around.  To my surprise, other than some old ladies walking their dogs, the Sculpture Garden was pretty much empty.  It was such a nice day; the sun was out but not hot.

We spent at lot of time playing around at the entrance to the garden, and going up and down the stairs.  Since the stairs are low, Ravi was able to come down 3 steps all by himself without holding on to something.

This was also the first time Ravi displayed any interest in the sculptures themselves.  He actually walked over to them and wanted to touch them.

Mario and I particularly like Rodin’s Walking Man.  I was glad Ravi spent a tiny minute in front of it so I could take a picture,  though the lighting wasn’t right and the picture didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked.  I have to get a better shot next time.

There are lots of other nice sculptures in the garden, but Ravi wasn’t interested in playing with them.  Maybe he’s intimidated by this woman.

We walked around for a little over an hour which must have made Ravi really tired.  This is what his response was at one point!

This is his way of saying, “I am not going a step further!”  So I picked him up and carried him all the way back to the car.  Good thing he is in the 5 percentile in weight…

-Flo.

McDonald Hashbrown, Never Again!

I am a bit of a spending hypocrite.  One minute I would encourage my husband to buy an item costing thousands of dollars because I think it is a great deal on great quality, the next minute I would criticize a purchase of a few dollars.   I guess the word “cheap” doesn’t really describe me accurately.  Though I do have tons of excuses for my behavior, so let me know if you want to hear them.  I got a lot to say on this topic!

Last night we had a very small dinner, which left me feeling unusually hungry this morning.  So when Mario said he would do a coffee run to McDonald’s this morning, I was excited with all the breakfast possibilities.  As I mentioned before, I sweat the small spending.  As a result, I rarely go out to eat and the last time I had McDonald breakfast was probably back in college!  On our drive to McDonald’s, we had this conversation.

Mario:  We should get breakfast muffins.  Those are pretty tasty.

Flo:       (I already ordered breakfast omelet at work twice this week!  The most I ever spent on breakfast!)

No, I think I should think healthy…

Mario:  How about hash-browns?  Those are small little treats and pretty cheap.

Flo:       (Oooh, I like that “C” word.)

That sounds good!  How much do you think those cost?

Mario:  50 cents each, I think.

Flo:        (Wow, that’s pretty expensive for a little piece of potato patty)

Maybe it is a bad idea.  Just get your coffee.

Mario:  Okay, one coffee and two hash-browns then.

Flo:        …..

(At least there will something to appease my stomach god!)

Few minutes later we made our order.

Mario:  Hey, they charged me a dollar for each hash-brown!

Flo:       Maybe there are two in one order… No way those little things cost a dollar each!  We are at McDonald’s!

Mario:  Hey, there are only two hash-browns in this bag.  I guess it is a dollar each…

Flo:       Uurrrr!   WE WILL NEVER ORDER A HASH-BROWN AT McDONALD’s AGAIN!!!!  But these are very tasty!  Fried potatoes….

So I guess we will not be ordering anything other than coffee at McDonald’s anytime soon.

-Flo.

Ladybugs

Do you know there is a market for buying and selling ladybugs?  Even through mail orders?  I can’t believe I lived more than thirty some odd years and never know about this.

One day during my trip to Albany, my sister told me she was excited to get home because her ladybug order should be arriving that day.  I paused for a few seconds and felt slightly light headed, probably due to the intense sunlight shooting straight into my eyes.  I thought maybe I never really woke up that day, and this is part of my reoccurring wacky dream.  But we got home and there’s a small four inch cube box waiting for her.  Oh good, I was awake!  Wacky dream, I’ll experience you later.

We immediately took the box outside to the backyard.  I couldn’t wait to find out what the heck this thing really was.  Once we opened the box, we found a small cloth bag with the writing “2000” on it.  I guess it was an order of 2000 ladybugs.  Lei slowly opened it up.  Inside the bag there’s a ball of dry grass which helped maintain the volume of the bag, and around it were countless little dots moving around.  Lei gently moved the bag over to the planter and opened up bag even more to help invite the ladybugs to their new home.

I thought that was the coolest experience I had, ever!  Apparently, the vegetation in the planters have been bothered by some aphids this season.  Since ladybugs are natural enemies of the aphids, inviting some to live in the planter is the best way to maintain a healthy planter without using any chemicals.  How cool it is to use natural solutions!

-Flo.

Someone didn’t get the “memo”…

Yesterday I was absolutely thrilled that the doctor had given me the OK to stop Ravi from being bottle-fed. It was time for him to grow up, suck it in, be like a man, keep a stiff upper lip, and stop drinking milk from a bottle. Unfortunately, someone (Ravi) didn’t get the “memo.” In fact, he’s absolutely refused to even acknowledge the mere existence of said memo.

Yesterday was a tough day. Right after we tried giving him milk in his sippy cup and straw cup he started to make his displeasure known. Not only would he not drink his milk from either container, but the fact that he had a change in his routine made him especially cranky. He didn’t eat dinner well last night, which made him hungry and cranky. This made it hard for him to fall and stay asleep so that we had a tough time giving him a bath and also he woke up twice last night. This morning, after another crying spell, my wife gave in and gave him a bottle. He quickly and efficiently drank 5oz. of milk. We then got a chance to give him breakfast (and his first full sized meal in ten hours). Then, and only then, after he had sufficiently quieted down, were we allowed to leave for work and daycare. Which happened to be an hour and a half later than normal. When we arrived, we got a dressing-down from our daycare lady telling us that we had to leave a bottle here as he absolutely doesn’t like drinking milk from anything else and he becomes incredibly cranky if he doesn’t drink enough milk during the day.

Suffice it to say, Flo and I are going to re-access the viability and applicability of weaning Ravi of the bottle. We’ll keep trying, but we’ll take it more slower and gradual pace. (Translation: Not anytime soon, and daddy had better be prepared for a heck of a lot more bottle washing.)

Suffice it to say, I’ve gotten and read Ravi’s “memo.” =)

Mario.

Welcome to Our New Site!

Hello friends,

We couldn’t wait to let all of you know that we got a new site!  Thanks to our wonderful and talented sister-in-law Anu F., this site went from idea to fruition in just two days!  However, this site is still under construction.  In the coming weeks, we plan to clean up each old post, play around with the appearance and layout.

I hope you will be patient with us for a while, we promise this site will be much better than our old site in no time.  In the meantime, please page mark our new site and let us know if you have any suggestions or comments.  We would be very happy to hear from you.

We also got new email addresses (isn’t this just so cool?!):

flo@lifeisbetterthanchocolate.com

mario@lifeisbetterthanchocolate.com

-Better Than Chocolate

Freedom for Dad!!

Ravi had his 18 month well baby check-up at Kaiser today. While he ended up getting two shots, dad got some surprisingly great news. Our doctor made it plainly clear that being bottle fed should be stopped as it will affect the growth of Ravi’s teeth. Now, with one fell swoop of expertise, giving Ravi a bottle of milk has become the incorrect thing to do. This is awesome! I’ve been washing bottles for what seems like forever. It has been at least 12 months (of the 18 months we’ve been doing it). Suddenly, I feel free. While bottle washing was never a long or difficult task, it was a constant never ending task. There were days where we would give him two (or three) different bottles a day and we’d have to clean bottles every other night. You had to wash the bottles at least every third day, or you would run the risk of not having a clean bottle for Ravi. No matter how tired or crappy you felt you had to do it. I don’t think I hated the task, but I definitely didn’t enjoy it. I’m not sad I did it, but I am glad that it is over. Feeding a kid through bottles exclusively is a rite of passage in parenting. When you get past that, it means your kid is growing up. He’s not a baby anymore, but a toddler. With him being a toddler, I feel I’ve succeeded and made it past the most difficult stage of child rearing. If not the most difficult, the baby stage seems to be the most manually intensive. And while we’ve survived, I’m more interested in the later stages and less enamored with the last 18 months.

Next the doctor will hopefully be telling me that he needs to start spending hours upon hours each night doing homework and reading quietly in his room to help him grow his big brain. And I won’t be able to bother him, or it’ll stunt his development (one can dream..).

-Mario

Ravi’s 18 Months Check Up

This morning we took Ravi to his 18 months check up with his pediatrician, Dr. Saltzman.  Most things went as expected.  Ravi is still skinny at 5.85% (22 pounds) in weight (compared to 5% at 1 year), and 85% (33.5 inches) in height.  So he’s a bean pole!  We have been extremely concerned with his weight and very careful with his food.  We even tried to force feed him at times when he didn’t want to eat at all.  But he is still skinny.  I was hoping that he would be at least 10% in weight by now, but still the same.

The best news came out of today’s visit was the pediatrician’s request to us to stop using bottles.  Mario was just ecstatic!  He has been taking over (part-time) as a bottle washer for the last five months and there’s no end to his complains.  Too many parts, takes too long, wahhhhh….  He can’t wait till we get home tonight to bust out a sippy or straw cup to give Ravi his milk.  He will then perform a ceremonial bottle washing for the last few dirty bottles and then box all of them and their accessories up forever!