Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Arsenal for Kids studytime

My arsenal for kids homework. It make kids homework time , a lot more fun - for Parents ! And this is focused on Pre-K, K and 1st grade kids.

Half the time, kids give ideas on how to use the same-old tool in different way. Nothing can beat our jaded brains than the freshly minted creativity of a kids.
And the other half-time, I rely on homeschool blogs. They have done so much hard work and shared their knowledge. Hats off to those home-schooling parents.

What better tools to learn new words than flash cards, magnetic letters or Scrabble letters and Marker pens. 

Here I enclosed Read-Build-Write printouts in plastic.

Eventually practice with spelling tests.
Name-Place-animal-Things game - nostalgic and awesome tool for all round development of language. Older kids have to brain-storm through their data mine and achieve speed. But younger kids can hunt the right word on maps or books and write the entries. that will build their database.

Number grid - the most powerful tool of all. Can teach a variety of things - like count by 2,3,4,5,10; additions, subtractions. Because seriously, how many times can you write these things, over and over again ? And how will it reveal the stuff between the lines ? 
By using it like a board games - that's how !
So we used:
  1. 2 players
  2. pair of dice (pink ones at that)
  3. printed number grid
  4. Barbie shoes for keys
And practice additions, subtractions & mystery numbers with pebbles, toy-cars and other small objects.


  1. Materials & methods to keep toddlers busy.
  2. Math paper generator: Math-aids
  3. Math worksheets: math-salamanders 
  4. Word games & word-shape Worksheet generator: softschools 
  5. Printable worksheets: tlsbooks
  6. Flashcards: havefunteaching
  7. Graphing: kidslearningstation
  8. Blog: Confessions of a Homeschooler

Monday, April 27, 2015

Get in Gear 2015 - Half Marathan - Race Recap

I signed up for Get in Gear - Half Marathon well in advance and was looking forward to this one. Backstory is that I ran their 10K last year in 2014. At that point, I had run only 5Ks and this was the looming Half-Marathon which I could aim for. But at the time of registration I chickened out and choose 10K. It was a great running experience. The starting point from Minnehaha Falls was superbly organised. At packet pickup, they gave a lovely see-thorough backpack, which I use even now when I go far for any long runs. And the route was beautiful on the road by the Mississippi. At the turnaround, I longingly looked at the Half Marathoners go past. And at that point, the pacer bike cleared us to pave way for the Half-Marathon leader. That was a wow experience. But it was in April 2014 and since then I did 5 Halfs. I was looking forward to this Spring Half Mara. And especially after my disappointing performance in Polar Dash and Securian Winter. Again, my training had not been perfect. Yet I looked forward to this .

25-April was a great Saturday morning. Temperatures remained at around 62F. It was energizing to see crowds walk-in from different directions to the Start point. The park is spread out and many were already on their warm-up run. Standing in my corral, I could hear interesting stories from those around. One guy in 50s, behind me was telling the other about another friend, who ran a full Marathon recently and then collapsed at the end. Turned out his heart was blocked and he had to undergo bypass. And then after the surgery, he was able to run more and better because now his heart was pumping blood better after being unblocked ! The things you hear in a crowd. I regret forgetting my device to take the most interesting pictures. 

Soon the band played the USA national anthem under a large USA flag mounted on a crane. And the race began. I dressed well enough for the day. Eventually though, my jacket turned out to be too hot. But I am too attached to it to throw it away.
  1. ASICS Women's GT-2000 3 Running Shoes - they were new and powered my legs more than I thought I was capable of
  2. C9 Compression tights which were just right for the temp
  3. Half-sleeved & Full sleeved technical shirts
  4. Jacket to carry my heavy duty stuff like phone, energy bar, handkerchief, lip-balm
  5. Cap - which was very useful again the sun & wind. Flying hair is very painful in a run.
Route winded from the Minnehaha Park onto the road along the Mississippi. That is a beautiful non-distracting sight while running. We crossed the bridge and went ahead till Shepard Road and turn around at a mid point. Till the point of Shepard Road, the route is well shade by thick tree. And Shepard Road is wide open and sunny. I ran here in Jan and was scarily reminded of the heat from that run. I had lagged from this point and soon as it happens in every race, Senior Citizens passed me. There was a pair of senior ladies who were very jovial and consistently went on ahead. Later a 70+ gentleman passed me saying, "I was wondering when I will pass you" :) Soon I was back to the last water stop and I asked one for the time. They said it was 10 minutes to noon and 1.5 miles to go. No way I could go in sub-10 pace which I would need as they will close the route at 12. The last bridge was crushing and I was cursing. This bridge is far off from the park, yet I met so many other finishers who were returning home with their medal and family. They cheered me to finish.

I finally made it to the finish line. Clock showed 3:08. Volunteers were so awesome and stayed back and were everywhere. They asked me nicely if anyone was behind me and I said no. Young boy handed me the medal and I was so happy. Last year till I crossed the line I felt there was medal for 10K and I actually demanded one; they clarified its only for Half. I had never got one before so I was looking forward to this one in 10K. That is one cause for my medal fixation. And now I finally got it for the Half !

Here I met the pair of 50+ ladies who had passed me and one of who completed the Half much before me. I gave a thumbs-up saying "You are an inspiration" and she smiled ! Other one added "and this after cancer recovery", I was wide eyed and repeated, "you are indeed an inspiration !" We hugged.
And everything was fine.

I slowly limped to the food stall though I was not hungry. Usually I am not hungry immediately after a race, but I grabbed all I could as I would want it later. They had a lot and unlike many where they run out, GIG had more than enough food for all. I do long for water. My cap was soaked in my sweat. I sat on the park bench, looked longingly at the massage tent and drank water, waiting for my family & friends to finish their morning chores and meet me for the scheduled picnic lunch.
Race was very well organised. I was left wanting in no department.

Water stops were perfect at 3 miles with both water and Powerades. After the race, unofficial results were published. but mine was missing. The last entry was at 2:59. So I followed up with GIG, saying I started in the later corral and the time limit was 3:30, so they should publish my results. Not publishing was usually demoralizing for me. And I was actually interested in knowing the splits to analyse my performance. And 10 days later, when they published the official results, they did publish it and even replied to my mail to checkup. That was really sweet of GIG people. I finished at 3:02:14 chip time. I can only say that this is a sequel year, I am going to races without perfect training and that's showing in the results. Well that's life and we can only try and improve :)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Kiddie Birthday Party Planner 101

Kids party planning is nothing less than a project planning. After immense research I came up with this checklist. I stuck through it for 2 parties for age group 5 to 8. I really wonder if I will ever go through it again. The execution of that 2 hour party is exhaustive and it takes 2 days for me to recover :) Nevertheless I want to have this checklist ready.

In this Birthday party Planner template, replace 'Theme' with the theme you are going with and walah! you have a instruction set and a shopping list.

Shopping Checklist

Choose a Theme
Choose a Location
Make the Guest list
Theme Pizza
Theme Cookies & rest
Chips & Dips
Fruits – Watermelon & Strawberry
Snacks, Chips, Mixture
Juice-box covered with print of Theme drawings
Mango juice
Theme background (wallpaper/gift paper)
Theme Props
Theme Piñata
Theme candles
Theme bunting
Theme plates
Theme cups (Red & yellow cups)
Table covers in color scheme
Straws with Theme picture stuck in top half
Ribbons / Decorations
Theme crown for Birthday kid
Theme labels on condiment bottles
Theme cake
Theme cup-cakes
Pin head on Theme picture
Bubble maker
Other stuff
Handwash / Sanitiser with Theme objects inside 
or Theme label outside.
DollarShop containers (for storage)
Return Gift
Goodie bags in theme décor & objects inside
Colorful M&M in plastic
Email & FB share – Image invitation

DIY Ideas pool:

  1. 32 Unbelievably Cheap And Beautiful DIY Photo Backdrops
  2. How To Throw The Ultimate LEGO Birthday Party and another Lego party
  3. Buzzfeed | How To Throw The Most Awesome Superhero Party Ever
  4. Buzzfeed | 22 Adorable Ideas For An Epic Robot-Themed Birthday Party
  5. For Party Favour: Online Lego Shop 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Pregnancy & Delivery

When I went through pregnancy and new motherhood , every single moment was a learning experience. I wanted to share and document those profound instances. I was sure I would write a book on it. And with passing time, I hoped to atleast blog some of them in a series of posts. Eventually they were limited to discussions, with others who were in the same boat and those were going to ride one soon. Before all my knowledge evaporates in the heat of daily fire, I need to log them in any manner, in any size post.

Every woman has a very different experience and new things can be learnt from each woman. There are so many things common, it makes sense to do what others did, rather than spend energy inventing the wheel. The best woman to start with is, your own mother. Talk to her about how pregnancy and delivery went for her. Genetics plays an unimaginable role. Your own experience could be a variation of it, because you are your own person and technology has totally changed in the last few decades. But it’s a great starting point to learn. If I were to share my learning's with you here it is.

Pregnancy and Delivery

Maternity clothes do need attention. Loose or non-constricting clothes do matter. In the country of saree & salwar suit, I wished they would categorize nightie as office professional wear. This was before I discovered Maxi. Not to forget comfy underwear, nursing bras and front opening nighties. Buy them in bigger size, because the privates are going to be bigger than usual for the 2 trimesters plus the baby-feeding months.

If you are considering new house, ensure hospital, grocery, laundry and elevator are nearby. If not, then know the easiest routes to those important places,

The wait in the last month is just endless. Do maintain your body flexibility. Go for walks when you can. Do checkout the permitted exercises. Ex: being on your fours (palms and knees) is good, as it takes the pressure off back. There are a lot more safe Yoga exercises.

I drank lukewarm water during the winter months, as I was down with cold and during the last month. I do not have any scientific evidence, but it relaxed my insides.

Swollen feet is a painful problem. Maybe it’s unavoidable in the last 2 months. It gets fine immediately after delivery. But it’s best to push it’s onset as late as possible. I went on overnight bus journey in my 5th month and my feet ballooned up. It made walking painful. Bones in my own feet felt like pins on my cushiony feet muscles. I used to rest my feet on 3-4 pillows while in bed; so the bloating could flow down. Or soak in in a bucket of hot water with salt.

Back pain is something we should strive to avoid. Eventually in pregnancy, back distress is going to come up. After delivery, take bed rest for the whole 2 months. Stay home with kid for 2 months. Sleep when she sleeps. Don’t do any extra work for the 2 months. After that anyway there is endless work. These 2 months of rest will let your back and body repair, and become stronger. It will also help avoid back-pain in older age. Such 2 months of bed-rest sounds like a luxury of ladies who can afford maternity leave or those who have help at home. Ladies who need to get back to work soon, those with older kids or someone who needs daycare will find it impossible to take this kind of downtime. It’s only a guideline to give your body some well-deserved rest for a stretch of time immediately after delivery. Body has been through a major change for 9 months and a major upheaval during delivery. Since everything looks the same from outside and everyday someone delivers a kid or because memory of our own experience has faded, it’s easy to under-estimate the whole thing. But it is not something to kid about. Blessed are the countries who have implemented ‘Right to Payment while on Maternity Leave’ policies. A mother gives birth not just for her own motivations. New life brings new hope for the entire society.

Topic of Epidural is way more complicated than to be tackled in a blog post. It’s best to discuss it with Doctor. My personal experience - I did not receive any epidural as my kids arrived before their due date. One thing I would recommend is HOT shower when contractions start mildly. I took HOT shower, changed to nightie and left for hospital. That hot shower helps in body relaxation.

My kids were born way before date. It was amazing time. I followed the “What to Expect when Expecting” book and was sure the delivery would be on the exact date. I refused to believe that what I felt were contractions, because the book did talk about false alarm. I refused to go hospital to avoid any embarrassment of being sent back. I stayed home till I actually started screaming loudly without any care. And then it was a rush to hospital. Hubby drove and he stopped the car every single time I strong contraction came along; because the road bumps were added discomfort for me.

With this surprise, I did not have a Hospital bag ready. Hubby had to go back and forth a lot to get my stuff - toothbrush, camera, few clothes for the time of stay. Hospitals do give a lot of stuff like diaper, thermometer, etc. So check with yours. Afterwards for home you will need diapers, sanitary napkins, breast-pads, nursing bras, etc.

Another preparation you need, is to stockup on the post-partum nutrition. Traditionally in India, a lot of energy balls (laddoos) are made to provide energy and aid digestion (which is pretty messed up in a new mother). My Mom made them and kept it going for 2 months. I did not note their recipes. My MIL made Jirvani and Meva ka laddoo. USA equivalent of it are the good quality energy bars, snacks, dry and fresh fruits. Its good to stockup on those. Immediately after delivery, you might get hungry at midnight too. This is apart from your regular meals. Every morning, my MIL gave me a glass of warm milk mixed with sugar, turmeric, cashew, raisins, almonds & coconut flakes. Key thing being items high on nutrition and energy.

Don’t worry about weight. After delivery, you keep losing weight for next 5-6 months. Actual weight gain will happen around 8-12 months. Persistent late nights, odd hours snacking and out-of-control emotions upset any decent control we have on our food and exercise. You have nothing to worry till 6-8 months after delivery. Just relax and enjoy your time with baby!

New Mother

In this chaos and elation of delivery, all undesirable thoughts get pushed away. We might refuse to believe anything bad exists in the universe or refuse to see it at all. This is the situation when we may write away cheques to relatives or friends looking for loan and regret later. This is the time we might choose not to take baby studio pictures and regret having missed the moment. In this moment of elation, we may give away our choice of name, middle name or last name, and later wish we did not. Sometimes this life event may get timed along with other life events like a job change, new house,  country movement, higher education or financial status change either-way. Life will have its other ups and downs.

In hindsight, all this may seem funny. But this range of event , combined together in this happy stage of life, could bump up the pressure, shoot up the stress level and really overwhelm both parents. And that means, not to be shy or frugal about taking help. Those who said "it takes a village.." were not kidding.

Here are some of my learning's, which I usually talk about in person. So here it goes:

IGNORE the pressure & guilt that comes with motherhood. Just focus on the baby & related responsibilities. Everything else can come back on track gradually, after baby is 2-3 years.

Pressure: like societal pressure of how mother should be, how to look, how the baby should look or be taken care of, etc etc. In movies & popular culture, they show all lovey-dovey mother & infants. It is not always like that. It is okay if you are not all gushing with love after delivery. And that is because your physical & chemical changes are way too much. Its okay for others in the family, to fawn over baby for that month or so, while you cant.

Guilt: that anything happens, its mothers fault. You do this,  mother is wrong. You do that, mother is wrong. Every tiny thing is scrutinized and judgement passed by every moving ant.

A sample of how I felt - here.

Basically relax and handle the job at hand. All this pressure & guilt are useless. Because there is never a right answer; just immense choices.

Next step, network with other young mothers. The more you all talk, the more tips you get on how to handle certain things. It lets you let off some steam. Its always helpful. Usual group dynamics will be there. You may not like some of the ladies. But it's always better than being by yourself. No matter who the lady (your circle, your distant relative, colleges, their wife, anyone), just talk, talk & talk :) We learn from others experiences, other learn from ours. Its not possible to invent solution every single time. When baby throws up, or doesn't drink milk from bottle or so many other situations. Talking with other young mothers gives you tips, which you can't think up, in the heat of situation. Esp when the infant is crying, my brain just shuts down. Only thing which helps me is what my mom or other mothers that I know, did in a similar situation.

Be one step ahead. Babies cry only if they hungry or sleepy or tired or need diaper change. If those things are taken care of in advance, then they cry less. Even now that my kids are 4-7, anytime they look cranky, I drop everything else and make them eat or sleep. :D

Then there will be times, when they cry for no reason. Esp when we are in hurry or in some embarrassing situation (like a shop or plane or restaurant). Our brain will freeze. But can’t help it. Just be patient. Its okay if they cry. Everybody around us know kids cry, even they would have gone through it.

About messy house, oh kids house & single/bachelor house are totally different. Its fine to have a messy house - that's how a kids house is supposed to be. Things are not going to be in their place. Take help when needed - cleaners, babysitter, anybody.

Setup playdates. Even young infants like to be among people, to see the blue sky. Isolation is very unhealthy. Be among people.

There is lot of online help. So many mommy-blogs where they share their experience. Babycenter site send weekly mail, which is a blessing. I registered for both of mine. And I still get these mails. It always has accurate info for the kid, at that age in that week. More specialized online training must also help. There are so much overwhelming feelings, there are so many physical, chemical and schedule changes after baby, that unpredictable things can happen.

After few months, even if you don't have free time, indulge in a hobby. Online activity does not count. Write a diary, or train for some competition (photography, art, music, flash-mob dance, race, anything). Join any association which has some activities. Bring your old forgotten hobbies back.

Be ready to take a million photos of the toothless mouth smiling & laughing. It is the cutest, most beautiful thing in the whole world ! :)

Pregnancy, delivery and new motherhood are a building block of every society and also the most taken for granted ones. Those going through it will have their minds blown (and other parts too). Eventually the pain and experience dims. And it enriches us along the the way.

Mandatory Buzzfeed lists:


Fowl Language Comics are the best. The Best. I can't recommend enough. I could not pick one to share here. All of them are gems.