Cartoon of the Month – Dexter’s Laboratory

A bespectacled boy genius-cum-inventor-cum-bully to his sibling Dee Dee (“Stay out of my laboratory!”), who has a secret elaborate laboratory down in the basement of his very own house, Dexter’s Laboratory is a cartoon which has always been way ahead of its time – concealed buttons and switches such as the one which can be activated by pulling out a specific book from a bookshelf, passwords which need to be spoken out loud in order to gain entry into a particular room in the lab and so on.  Right from the time the cartoon caught my fancy, I’ve been thrilled at the way his secret laboratory was unknown to his parents too; I mean, here I was trying (unfortunately) to have a secret drawer to myself, and this young superhero had a whole, extensive laboratory. Not fair.

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Image courtesy: YouTube

  • The popular cartoon series holds the distinction of being the first original animated series in the history of Cartoon Network.
  • It may sound absurd, but the idea for Dexter started off with a drawing of a ballerina; definitely the stark opposite of what our cartoon hero is. However, it is precisely this play of opposites which came to the mind of creator Tartakovsky – ‘a short little brother with a love of science’.
  • Apparently, it was three different women (and not men) who voiced our little genius – Christine Cavanaugh, Candi Milo and later Tara Strong (credited with voicing cute little Bubbles from Powerpuff Girls).

Such is the popularity of Dexter’s Laboratory that speculation about the cartoon series refuses to die down. For instance, some people claim Dee Dee is not actually his elder sister but his ‘time-traveling daughter’, sent back in time to prevent poor old Dexter from working on an invention that had ultimately blown the world to smithereens in the past. Sounds possible, now that one comes to think of it. Wotsay?

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The Big Easter Spring Clean

Like every year, Easter has come and gone in the blink of an eye. There were many firsts this year with regard to the festive occasion – the whole family was together for once (grandparents included) and we had a gala karaoke night yelling ourselves hoarse; I didn’t think I would manage but I did (thankfully) cook up a storm and it was appreciated; and last but not the least, we had a massive clearing-out (read: spring cleaning) of the house before extended family members arrived at our place. The best part? The entire family pitched in. Happily. Believe it or not, cleaning up every nook and corner was less of a chore, more of a fun time.

Sigh. I’m so relieved and so happy and so de-cluttered that I’m lying back on my bean bag, taking in all the squeaky clean sights and smells of our home and playing my son’s favorite pet games on my tablet (yes, that jobless I feel at the moment). What’s more, I’ve made a promise to myself to have an annual spring cleaning ritual every year. For those of you who are apprehensive of the long drawn-out hours it requires, I promise you it’s all worth it in the end. Here are a couple of ways we tried to make the entire process more enjoyable (the aim was to make it bearable initially but it eventually turned out to be fun). Here goes.

Shopping spree

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Bucket” by Clker-Free-Vector-Images is licensed under CC by 2.0

Not exactly Easter shopping; we went cleaning supplies shopping a week before D-day. Each one of us was to pick the object of our choice in our favorite colors. Brooms I had aplenty, so what we needed were cleaning liquids, dusting cloths, tissue paper, a dustpan (our original one is lost at home somehow; gasping for breath under all the trash which we need to clear out, I’m sure) which turned out to be two dustpans bought in neon yellow and pink (kids’ wanted one each so I let them) and floor mats. We came back laden with stuff, obviously enough to last us for half a dozen Easters in the future.

Teamwork

Together Everyone Achieves More – that is what a TEAM is all about. So we split up into two teams. Daughter and I one, son and dad the other. The former team was entrusted with the more intricate task of going room by room, shelf by shelf. We had three huge boxes with us – keep, throw and give away. Once done with a particular room, the latter team came in to dust, sweep, mop and reach the upper shelves and hard to reach corners of the windows and even door knobs with their dusting cloths. In the meantime, team one moved on to other rooms and team two followed.

Goodie breaks

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Bake” by Pexels is licensed under CC by 2.0

It is but obvious that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to cook wholehearted meals the entire duration of the designated cleaning day. Hence, we decided we would have a goodie break (from ‘food supplies’ which we had bought along with the ‘cleaning supplies’) once we were done with every room, even though that made it a whole lot of breaks. This way we had something to look forward to in spite of the hard work. Well, who is complaining when there are marshmallow mini cakes, lemon and sugar cookies, macarons and carrot cake rolls to be wolfed down every hour or two? Needless to say, it was a no-holds barred cheat day for all of us. Ironically enough, the kitchen took us the longest to sort and clean!

The perfect end

Speaking from this recent personal experience, giving the house a thorough clean-through is totally cathartic. It is tiring obviously, and many a time it will be extremely tempting to just do away with your broom and dustpan and have a nap on the living room sofa. But then if you go on and actually finish up, it’s like wow! We did, and of course we were totally pooped out at the end of it all. Hence, there simply had to be the perfect end to this very hard worked day. And as they say, there’s no better feeling in the world than a warm pizza box on your lap! So a family pizza party it was, to mark the occasion.

Hope you had a great Easter too, spring cleaning or not. Till next time, then!

Cartoon of the Month – Scooby Doo

While our cartoon of the previous month was all about the sonorous ‘Yabba Dabba Doo!’, this month I’m taking up another favorite of mine, which has the ‘Doo’ part common – the perpetually 7-year-old (49 years old in dog years),  lovable, talking, brown Great Dane – Scooby Doo.

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Image courtesy: CinemaBlend

I loved mysteries and anything to do with solving them as a kid, and hence two things regarding the same which were an inevitable part of my childhood years were, one, Enid Blyton mysteries and two, the Scooby Doo cartoon series which was also about mysteries, albeit of a relatively comical, supernatural kind solved by the four teenagers – Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley and Shaggy Rogers.

  • This children’s all-time favorite holds the distinction of a Guinness World Record for the maximum number of episodes of a cartoon comedy series.
  • The show was initially supposed to be called ‘Mystery Five’, then ‘Mysteries Five’, followed by ‘Who’s Scared’ (which was then believed to be a tad too scary for the targeted kids’ audience) and finally the ‘Scooby Doo’ that we know of.
  • Scooby Doo is not just about cartoons – it has major motion pictures, board games, computer games, video games, comic books and even novels.

Be it the creepy background sounds at the beginning of each episode or the wonderfully relatable characters – the stylish Daphne, the popular and sought-after Fred, the intelligent bookworm Velma and the true-to-his-name Shaggy – Scooby Doo will always make for a fascinating watch, at least for me.

“Zoinks!” as Shaggy would put it!

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!’