Our Favorite Bedtime Story Books

The most trying part of the entire day for a parent to young kids has to be bedtime. When my kids were toddlers, well-wishers kept telling me how important it was to establish a proper, set bedtime routine for them. I tried everything I could think of, but there were times when nothing seemed to work. My husband used to joke that our kids were ‘allergic’ to bedtime; they would do anything just to delay getting tucked into bed. And one fine day, I just gave up trying to do multiple things and switched to the tried-and-tested way (which, I admit, seemed the easiest way out) – plopping down on the bed with a story book in hand. And miraculously, it worked. The kids would follow suit and that was that. If only I had known it could be this simple from the beginning!

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Bed” by OpenClipart-Vectors is licensed under CC by 2.0

The kids aren’t toddlers any more, but our bedtime story reading routine continues. We snuggle together every night with whichever book they decide to pick out; sometimes they read out loud, sometimes I do. Needless to say, this has to be the best and most peaceful part of the entire day – the laundry (clean & dirty) all segregated and in its place for the following morning, mobile phones and other devices with their ever-running virtual games and cartoon videos put away in the desk drawer, the breakfast menu decided and vegetables chopped up and ready – in short, the chores of the day all taken care of.

Here are our favorites from the long, never-ending list of bedtime stories we’ve read time and again.

Looking for Sleepy (by Maribeth Boelts)

A cute little story about a Papa Bear, a Little Bear and their bedtime. Little Bear, of course, doesn’t want to go to bed. Papa Bear must go through their bedtime routine and find the elusive ‘Sleepy’ in order to help Little Bear fall asleep. My younger one was initially in the habit of falling asleep while holding either mommy or daddy’s hand. (Sigh. I do miss those times.) Well, Little Bear likes that too!  Heartwarming illustrations make it an ideal bedtime read for toddlers.

The Elves and the Shoemaker (Grimm’s Fairy Tales)

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Image courtesy: The Illustrators Agency

‘Once upon a time there was a kind shoemaker who was very poor…’ So the story begins. He has enough leather only to make a single pair of shoes; but, as if by magic, every morning he finds shiny and brand new pairs of shoes ready on his worktable. Eventually they find out it’s the handiwork of two dancing and skipping elves. The shoemaker’s wife stitches them tiny new outfits in return, which they love. A wonderful tale of helping hands and the little joys gifts can bring. A fairy tale that reminds me of my own childhood (watch this video for that tinge of nostalgia).

Bedtime for Mommy (by Amy Krouse Rosenthal)

My personal, all-time favorite since the moment I set my eyes on it. So it’s all about bedtime but with a twist – the daughter is putting her mommy to bed, instead of the usual other way around! The weary little girl helps her mom get ready for bed – a warm bath, freshly laundered clothes neatly laid out for the next day, even a bedtime story read out. The hilarious role reversal of sorts has the mom doing everything she can to stall bedtime – this part especially elicits guffaws from my kids (guilty conscience!). An out and out fun tale.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears (by James Marshall)

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Image courtesy: ThingLink

A naughty little girl who gets into trouble is what Goldilocks and the Three Bears is all about. The fascinating house of the three bears, Goldilocks slurping as well as spilling her porridge all over the floor and the three bears coming back to find their house in a mess – the story comes out to the kids in vivid detail through the well-drawn illustrations which add humor to the tale. Some fairy tales are meant to be handed down from generation to generation and are never forgotten; Goldilocks is one such gem of a story.

As the saying goes:

It’s very important to always read a bedtime story… Else, how would your dreams know where to begin?

Cartoon of the Month – The Flintstones

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Image courtesy: Zazzle

The very first animated series to be shown on prime time American television in the 1960s was, surprisingly, set in the Stone Age, somewhere dating back to around 10,000 BC. That was that – and then before we knew it, the two cheerful cavemen families went on to become the second greatest TV cartoon of all time, and one of my favorite shows ever.

A couple of fun facts about Hanna Barbera’s The Flintstones – Fred and Wilma Flintstone, Barney and Betty Rubble, not to forget Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm-Bamm Rubble too:

  • In the age of The Flintstones, there was no electricity, but there were dishwashers; no shoes, but cars ran swiftly on bare feet. Contemporary situations set in prehistoric times were what we call the USP of the show.
  • The Flintstones was known by several different names before it became The Flintstones. Initially it was ‘The Flagstones’, then it turned into ‘The Gladstones’ and finally came the flint as we know it.
  • Did you notice that almost every episode had new, changed furniture in The Flintstones’ residence? And that their pet dinosaur, which barked like a puppy, also changed colors from its basic purple throughout the show?

I vividly remember how melodious The Flintstones opening and closing credits were and Fred Flintstone’s heartful, full-throated ‘Yabba Dabba Doo!’

3 Simple Cleaning Hacks for Parents

Cleaning house while children are growing is like shoveling the sidewalk while it’s still snowing.

I couldn’t have put it better. Agreed – in the present so-called modern era kids are supposedly more into online games on the computer and cartoon shows on the television rather than actually creating a physical mess like we did in the yesteryears. But even then, our home is a complete mess at the end of the day. This only means that kids today are more adept at multi-tasking and manage to do anything and everything that they can get their hands on! Well, for a majority of us parents out there who have kids that create a mess, here are three simple cleaning hacks which can make life easier.

Sweep It Clean

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Lego” by blickpixel is licensed under CC by 2.0

So your kids never give you a hand with cleaning up around the house? Well, you’re definitely not alone; neither do mine. My son absolutely adores creating a mess – be it on the kitchen table with bread crumbs and marmalade, with crayons and paints on the wall (yes, wall) in his room, or on the carpet in the living room. Some of these messes, I’ve realized, are beyond my control to control. However, I do try and distribute the basic cleaning chores around the house by making it up like a game. For instance, both my kids have miniature, colorful brooms of their own. They have a doormat marked right outside the door of their rooms on the floor with colored chalk. They have got the hang of what to do by now – broom their room and get all the grime from the corners of their room into the square outside their doors. It takes each one of them barely five minutes to do their rooms and only then do we sit down for a leisurely breakfast. No questions asked.

Paint Your Dreams

Every child is an artist, albeit a messy one. We have all kinds of artistic work pinned up at various prominent positions on the walls of our home – most of them are unfathomable riots of color and hence, my husband likes to call them ‘modern works of art’. I remember a couple of years ago, when my daughter started dabbling in colors – both literally and figuratively, as in she loved immersing her hands and feet in paints and then walked around – first I tried using newspapers to lessen the mess involved. She didn’t enjoy crayons too much, so (messy) paints it was. Usually, the water colors she used soaked right into the paper she painted on and the entire ‘artwork’ was ruined, accompanied by sobs. Then I tried something new – discarded egg cartons and cleaned up empty pizza boxes. Newspapers spread out on the grass in the backyard, opened up pizza boxes acting like a huge canvas and water paints did the trick. The paints did not soak into the thick cardboard, there was no dearth of space with regard to the size of paper available for painting and the mess was as minimal as could be in the situation.

Squishy Soft Toys

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Stuffed Animals” by ErikaWittlieb is licensed under CC by 2.0

Well, now that I come to think of it, one never outgrows soft toys. There’s proof – have a look at this article which explains the science behind the love of stuffed animals. After all, I still have the cute brown bear with flappy arms sitting on my favorite armchair in a corner of my bedroom, after all these years. And especially where there are kids, there will be soft toys. Loads of them. Our home is no exception. You’re very likely to step on at least half a dozen monkeys and rabbits and puppy dogs as you step into our main door and walk to, say, the dining table. Soft toys are cuddly, huggable and best of all, squishy. So when I chanced across this idea online which talked about making a neat, squishy bean bag out of them to keep them out of the way, I was eternally thankful. Strewn all over the place, they lend color and cheer to the room. Zipped up in a thick cloth bean bag, they are not messy and make for an extremely comfortable, squishy seat. A storage bag-cum-bean-bag of sorts.

Wish to add any other parenting hacks you use to this list?

Cartoon of the Month – Tom and Jerry

The year before last we did a series in which we talked about a different mathematician great every month of the year. This 2017 let’s do something a little less dreary than dry old math… Hence, it’s cartoons raining this year, with a favorite of mine lined up for every month of the year. Let’s begin!

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Image courtesy: Wallpapers Pictures Photos

An intensely lovable pair that has been fighting like cats and dogs (read: cats and mice) from as far back as we can remember; 1940, to be precise. Brought to life by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, this series of comic fights including the mayhem and destruction that follows have found themselves a special place in every heart, kids and adults alike.

Some fun facts about this indomitable cartoon pair which apparently once won an Oscar:

  • In the initial stages, Tom was called Jasper and Jerry was called Jinx (Jasper and Jinx? Doesn’t sound as good as Tom and Jerry!)
  • In spite of their immense popularity, this duo hardly ever speaks in their cartoons; it is music which lends the major emotions to their scenes. (However, soot-blackened Tom’s haunting ‘Don’t you believe it!’ line after being involved in a nuclear explosion struck a chord with many.)
  • Ever heard of the ‘Spike & Tyke’ cartoon? This bulldog father and son series was a spin-off of Tom & Jerry, but didn’t work out eventually. Ditto for the cartoon that went by the name of ‘Herman & Katnip’.

I absolutely loved Tom and Jerry as a kid, my kids adore them now and I’m pretty certain my grandkids will go gaga over the duo too!

Like they say, ‘Some relationships are like Tom and Jerry… They tease each other, knock down each other, irritate each other, but can’t live without each other!’

New Year Resolutions for Families

A New Year means a fresh start. Come January and everything seems new somehow, at least that’s how I look at it. Talking about resolutions, they are something I try to make (and keep) every year without fail, notwithstanding the fact that it’s barely February and I realize that yet again, I have failed miserably at it. The longest I’ve ever managed to stick to a resolution is just over four months; two years ago, I decided to turn vegan and vehemently stuck to the resolution till after April. I consider that an achievement of sorts. :P

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New Year’s Day” by Snufkin is licensed under CC by 2.0

So this year around, we tried something different. Instead of keeping individual resolutions, we decided to zero in on three resolutions that we would keep together as a family. This way, if one or more of us begins to lose our way, the others will be there to hopefully help them back on to the right path. After much brainstorming on New Year Eve, here are the three resolutions on all our cards this 2017.

Unplugging – The new luxury

Post-dinner, it’s gadget-free time for the entire family (including the better half and me). It has always been an unsaid rule at our place that mealtimes are to be tech-free times – no mobile phones, no tablets, no television too. We’ve decided to take this a step further and do all our gadget/electronic work/play pre dinner time. Be it my writing on the computer, the daughter’s favorite virtual games, the son’s doodling on paint or their daddy’s never-ending e-mails and work meetings, all need to be over and done with once dinner is on the table. We might end up playing a board game, or reading an actual, physical book or even just narrating stories to one another. It will definitely be time well spent.

Kitchen – The heart of the home

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Food” by painteddreamsdesigns is licensed under CC by 2.0

Long ago, I once came across a quote that has somehow stayed with me till date; it said – ‘A kitchen is a place where memories are homemade and seasoned with love.’ Back in my childhood, I remember helping my mum bake cookies during holidays, but that’s about it. We never really whipped up an entire meal together as a family. However, better late than never; we’ve decided to change that. Every weekend, all four of us will decide on the menu for the day together, and prepare an entire meal from scratch. With everyone pitching in (read: the kids), it’s bound to be a messy affair. But, that’s (hopefully) the fun of it!

Gardening – Happily digging in the dirt

We have a small pocket square kitchen garden at the back of our house. This New Year we’ve driven in small signposts in each corner, with one corner designated to one member of the family. I love nasturtiums so obviously they are the first on my check-list of things to grow, while the little ones have their heart set on sunflowers since those flowers are ‘the brightest and the best’  (in my son’s words). Daddy dearest doesn’t remotely have any idea what plant or vegetable or flower will occupy pride of place in his corner, so he’s decided to set up a bird feeder as a beginning. Well, as long as we’re all happily occupied in making our corner the most beautiful, it’s going to be a resolution well kept! Also, here are a couple of interesting kids’ gardening project ideas for a start.

What do you think of our new initiative? Here’s hoping we stick to our unique New Year resolutions for a long, long time!

Merry Everything and a Happy Always!

Come December and you start to think about resolutions. Exercise regularly and lose weight or drink more water during the day, early to bed and early to rise or quit smoking, less television or more reading (or both simultaneously), learning a new language and so many more – we’ve all been there, done that. Made resolutions, kept them, broken them, all the works.

This year, I’m having none of that. None of that in the sense that yes, I definitely would aim to start the New Year afresh and try to lead a healthier lifestyle as compared to the year gone by. But then, my resolution would be different – to be happier. I am very happy now, no doubt – a wonderful family, great work and nothing more that I could ask for. But just to make myself happier and more thankful for all that God has bestowed upon me, here is what I’m going to do this coming year.

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Box” by Tabeajaichhalt is licensed under CC by 2.0

‘This January, why not start the year with an empty jar and fill it with notes about good things that happen? Then, on New Year’s Eve, empty it and see what awesome stuff happened that year.’

I came across this idea yesterday and was so taken in by it that I decided to try it out. Starting January 1, every weekend I am going to put a little handwritten note into the jar, mentioning something good that happened through the week gone by. And exactly one year from now, I’ll open that jar… and share the best of the lot with you all. Till then, Merry Everything and a Happy Always!

3 Inexpensive Stocking Filler Ideas for Kids this Christmas

‘Christmas is a stocking stuffed with sugary goodness.’

Or used to be once upon a time, to be more precise. When we woke up on Christmas mornings as kids, I remember the loudest squeals of delight being reserved for the cylindrical sticks of striped sweet rock candy curved like walking sticks, which were poking out from the tops of our heavily laden stockings. But today’s kids? Pop in a candy cane into their Christmas stocking and they’ll be ripping it out in a jiffy, more eager to see the heavy stuff underneath. Sigh! Talk about the smallest pleasures in life being the sweetest!

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Christmas” by PublicDomainPictures is licensed under CC by 2.0

Well, let’s come back to the present. Xmas is right upon us and you would have probably already thought up of gifts that your little ones are looking forward to (thanks to being privy to the ‘sealed’ letters to Santa Claus). Apart from these expected gifts which will occupy pride of place beneath the Christmas tree, here are a couple of fun yet inexpensive ideas for the stockings hung up by the chimney. After all, the Christmas stocking legend continues to live on!

Keychain – with a key

Something as simple as a keychain can be a great Christmas stocking present for your child – provided it has a key dangling at the key ring end of it! The key could be that of your child’s desk shelf, or that of a drawer in the cupboard, or even of his or her own room (of course, you will need to keep a duplicate key with yourself in this case). While the keychain could be your little one’s favorite cartoon – be it Mickey Mouse, Pokemon, Minions or even Batman, the fact that the child is responsible enough to own a key would be a big deal for him or her. In no time, you’ll see them flaunting their gift in front of their friends, boasting about the prized possessions locked away from prying eyes!

Movie tickets for the family

This is something my kids have come to expect every year in their stockings. They know that somewhere in its deep recesses there will be tickets for the whole family for a show everyone has been looking forward to since a while. The son is a fan of Charlie Brown, so last year it was The Peanuts Movie; before that it was my daughter’s love for her favorite dragon games which led us to watch the second part of How to Train Your Dragon. This year it’s probably going to be Disney’s Moana which we’ll all be heading to. Makes for a fun family outing on the occasion.

Fairy lights for their room

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Magical” by AllSimpleThings is licensed under CC by 2.0

Agreed, the Christmas tree is done up with fairy lights, and a real fairy with wings plus a wand adorning the top. But then, won’t your kids be super excited at the prospect of hanging a string of twinkling, colorful fairy lights against the curtains in their room, or on top of the frame of their bed? It’ll make Christmas all the more special for them! What’s more, a variety of LED fairy lights are available today which are perfectly safe with even the bulbs not heating up when lighted. Needless to say, when night falls, you will probably have no trouble at all tucking them into bed, with the star-like glow to keep them company!

May this Yuletide spirit bring an abundance of cheer in your lives… Merry Christmas!