Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hidden treasure!

Most people who’ve moved back to India after living in the US will vouch for the fact that the American public library system is unparalleled in the East. I wish the public libraries in India were as efficient and resourceful as their US counterparts. I have been a regular at the local library for the past two years -  whether as a patron checking out and borrowing books for the whole family, or as a volunteer working couple of hours a week, or as an enthusiastic mom attending family story time with Abhay and finally as an avid children’s book blogger spending hours at the youth section of the library – the Hillsboro public library has been an indispensable part of my weekly routine. As today was the last day of my volunteer work at the “Friends of the Hillsboro library” division of the library, saying goodbye to the people I worked with was harder than I thought! Thanks Barbara, Linda and Fay, it truly was an enriching experience working with all of you! 

Anyway, Abhay and I spend Tuesday evenings at the library attending family story time and today was no different. I'm not sure if Abhay will come to miss the library story times, but Abhay’s mommy most definitely will!! Today’s theme at the library was Pirates and as a co-incidence, the book I’d planned on reading at night made a perfect finale! “Pirates don’t take bath” by John Segal is a great book to get your little pirate to the bath tub. As you may have guessed, the little pig does not plan to take a bath, as a matter of fact, never ever plans to bathe because he declares that he is a pirate and of all the adventures pirates embark on; taking a bath is just not one of them! But his mother doesn’t buy this and points out that pirates don’t get sea sick whereas the little pig does; As his pirate excuse doesn’t seem to work, the little pig pretends to be a cow boy, then an Eskimo and then an astronaut, all of who’s top priorities are definitely not taking a bath. But his mom, no less persistent than her son, is quick to find a loophole in each of his flight plans – a cowboy sleeps on cold hard ground or that an Eskimo’s staple diet is a whale blubber and walrus liver and the difficulty for an astronaut to pee in space – all of which being impossible for the little pig to get used to!  Finally, as the little pig pretends to be a treasure hunter looking for treasure, his mom directs him to a place that has a buried treasure – the bath tub and the treasure hunter is more than happy to jump in!  So, if your little cowboy, Eskimo, astronaut or pirate has doubts about taking a bath, this book is a hidden treasure!!! :-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Abhay's future new bike!

When we first came to the US three years ago, amidst all the uncertainties, if there was one thing we were certain about, it was that we would definitely move back to India as soon as Abhay was old enough for primary school. So it wasn’t a big shocker, when six months ago, we finally took the call  to move back to Bangalore which was and still is in so many ways ‘our home sweet home’!! But it was only yesterday that I  felt like we were indeed moving and with a heavy heart I saw some of our furniture being moved out of the house – our ‘homeaway from ‘home’! Even Abhay who is super excited at the prospect of living with his grandparents and being closer to his favorite grandpa, doesn't exactly realize the full nature of a move like this. As yesterday he saw his dining table, chairs, mattress and a host of other small stuff being taken away, he couldn’t help but wonder why! When he also learnt that some of his own things like his Lightening McQueen bike and other toys are soon to follow, I cant begin to tell you how sad he looked! After all, our home of three years is the only home his has ever known! 

Anyway, to cheer him up, I had him read “Little Lizard’s New Bike” by Melinda Melton Crow, a level 1 Stone Arch Reader, accompanied of course with a promise to buy him a new bike as soon as we land in Bangalore. In the book, Mom and Dad are all set to buy a new bike for Gary, the little lizard. As they drive to the toy store, Gary is all excited but seems overwhelmed with too many choices for a bike. The yellow bike  is too big whereas the blue tricycle is too small for Gary. Finally, he has his eyes set on a shiny red bike and is overjoyed to find that the red bike is just right for him! As soon as he turned the last page, Abhay declared that he wants a red Cars2 bicycle in India….are his grandparents listening??:-)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Strawberry fields!

 Around summertime, most farms in the US open their gates to the public allowing them to pick fruits and berries off their fields. U-pick farms are a great way for the kids to enjoy a ‘fruitful’ time together with their families, have a ‘field’ day berry picking and filling up their buckets while simultaneously snacking on them!! Over the weekend, we went to a nearby farm and had Abhay pick strawberries with his best friend Suhas. As usual, the two boisterous boys began competing with each other over who picked the most and the end result being we end up with over 5 pints of strawberries!   So thanks to Abhay’s berry picking contest, we are having strawberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next two weeks!! All are welcome :-)

 Since we went berry picking, I had to read the book “Blueberries for Sal” again! Written by the celebrated children’s book author Robert Mckloskey, this one never fails to bring a smile to my face every time I read it! An endearing story of a little girl named Sal who sets out to pick blueberries with her mother so that they have enough blueberries to can them for the next winter. While picking the berries, little Sal cannot resist putting them into her mouth instead of filling up her bucket. As her mother chides her, she moves away from her mother to yield to her craving. On the other side, a little bear climbs up the hill accompanying his mother who in turn asks him to eat as much as possible and stuff himself enough to be ready for hibernation for the winter. Not able to catch up with their own quick paced moms, both Sal and the little bear end up following each other’s  and the rest is history. I have probably read this book to Abhay a million times, but each time, the story seems even more charming for Abhay to want more of Sal and her blueberry tale. Besides, we could relate to the story all the more as we went berry picking too. But in our story, we instead had two little bears  picking strawberries :-)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cars and Cars!

You can take a boy out of cars but you can’t take cars out of a boy.  Well, for the moms of little race car fans; today is a big day – the release of the Disney movie “Cars 2”.  For any loyal fan of Lightening McQueen, it’s time to cruise into the theater; for his loyal parents, this is not the time to apply breaks! So we caught the first day, third show of the movie in its 3D version today and I must admit that I wasn’t bored. Though the plot seemed a little too complex for kids like Abhay, he seemed to enjoy watching the 3D racing adventure. Of course, not to forget racing against his parents to empty the humungous bucket of popcorn that he managed to polish off even before the movie began!!! 

In honor of the most famous race car in the world of our budding NASCAR fans, today I read “Roadwork” a story revolving around Lightening McQueen and his best friend Mater, the tow truck. Based on the movie Cars, this is a level 2 book in the Step into reading early reader series. ‘Radiator Springs’ is getting ready for visitors who come knocking on its doors, thanks to Lightening McQueen and his huge fan following. New roads have been paved, all resident cars have been given a fresh coat of paint, Luigi’s tire shop has new tires to sell, Sally fixes up her motel for a perfect place for guests to rest, new road signs have been put up by the sheriff and the whole town is all spruced up and Lightening McQueen is all set to welcome everyone to Radiator Springs! A must read for any Lightening McQueen fan!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Graduate!

Summer not only signifies the beginning of a fun filled vacation, it also represents change, growth, a wistful reminder of how kids grow up so fast, or that time's ticking and it’s only a matter of time before they move out. What I mean is summertime means graduation time. I’m not sure how it was when we were kids, but today, graduation ceremonies are not just for high schools or colleges. Abhay’s pre-school had its graduation day today and our little boy received his 'diploma' (Seriously, that was what they called it!) along with the rest of the class of 2011 from Angels Academy, Beaverton! 

So today, I read “Happy Graduation” by Margret Mcnamara and illustrated by Mike Gordon, a Level 1 in the Ready-to-read series. Its graduation day in school and  Michael is up early with his dog Cookie. As Michael puts on his graduation gown and cap, Cookie is not left behind. He is also seen sporting a cap and gown. As they get to school, Michael puts Cookie on leash and heads into his classroom where all the kids are busy getting ready for the big day. With all the parents present, the kids cannot wait to take their positions on stage. As the little graduates line up to receive their diplomas, they hear a dog bark only to realize that Cookie has gotten loose and that too with a gown! As the gown clad dog threatens to ruin their most awaited day, the first graders team up and work together to avert the disaster in a manner that makes both their teachers and parents proud and proves just why they deserve to celebrate their “graduation day”!! Congratulations to my little graduate!!!

Is it summer yet?

After over half a year of cold weather, we have finally arrived at the most celebrated season of the year – Summer. Only after moving to the US did I realize the value of summer and what it means to the Americans. June, July and August are the most eagerly awaited months of the year when days are the longest; the sun is at its brightest and the landscape, its greenest!  Summers means a lot of things to a lot people – everything seems more vibrant, liberating and hopeful. Though having spent over quarter of a century’s summers in India, it only here in the US that I have truly experienced summer bliss! It may be hard to believe, but after reeling under freezing temperatures for over four months, there’s nothing like a bright golden summer afternoon! :-)

Though most of the US has been basking under the summer heat for over a month now, I must say the weather in Portland has had a mind of its own – probably taking a cue from our kids! It’s only in the last couple of days, we have truly seen the sun unabashedly shine without ducking behind the omnipresent Northwest clouds! So instead of a full blown ‘summer’ book, I thought “Mama, is it summer yet?” by Nikki Mclure was an ideal read for people living in the Northwest US. A little boy and his mother eagerly wait for summer as they see buds on the bushes, seeds planted in the earth, blossoms on the apple tree. The mother encourages her son to look around and see the nesting squirrels, singing swallows and swimming ducklings as signs of the cold weather transitioning into summer. The little boy then asks a question that seems to be on all our minds – “Isn’t it summer yet?"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I love daddy!

Riding high on father’s day spirit, my husband offered to read another book at bedtime tonight….and hey…who was I to complain? I realized that blogging has its own advantages on the home front …especially when you want to get things done! :-) As long as Abhay gets to listen to one story a day, both Abhay and his mommy are happy! 

Allowing my husband to bask in the glory of paternal love and appreciation, I chose the book titled “I love my daddy” by Sebastien Braun. This book celebrates a father-son relationship between a bear and his cub and this bond is beautifully brought out in their everyday lives. Narrated in first person by the little bear, this is a son’s acknowledgment of how many different ways his dad’s loving actions touch his day. Right from waking him up in the morning, to feeding him, to washing and splashing with him, to playing with him, to yawning with him, gazing at the sky with him, to cuddling and tickling him, his daddy looks after him for which little bear declares that he loves his daddy!! Of course, on reading this book, Abhay too had the same thing to say to his daddy and I can’t help feeling like there's a ‘halo’ over my head now for making this poignant moment happen!:-)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's day!

Today being father’s day, this post is dedicated to all the dads in the world and specially to the two dads in my life – my own dad and my son’s dad! :-)  Fathers may be less demonstrative than mothers,  more lenient than moms (at least my dad was and my son's dad is!) or less hands-on than mothers or out on work more often than mothers, but they are always there for you when you need them. Despite his traveling job in a bank, my dad was always there for me – right from singing me to sleep as a baby or to teaching me to ride a bike as a toddler or driving me to school or music and dance classes or helping me prepare for my school debates or teaching me to drive the car as a teenager or guiding me with my career choices or helping me put my infant son to sleep as a new mom - my dad has done it all. Thanks appa – I owe you big time especially for the last one and hoping  to avail more of your grand-dad services when I return to India next month!:-) Anyway, as I became a mom I was glad to see that parenting is no longer centered around moms but is a shared responsibility with dads being actively involved from changing diapers to cooking the kid’s favorite meal or driving them to school or waking up in the middle of the night to take them to the bathroom  – they do it all and thank God for that!!! What would we do without our little one’s dad – thanks Raja! 

Today I had Abhay’s dad read to him “The Daddy Book” by Todd Parr, a book about different kinds of dads who all work hard to make life easier for their families! Some daddies take picture of their little ones whereas some daddies like to draw pictures of their little ones; Some daddies sing in the shower and some sing their little ones to sleep; Some work at home whereas some daddies work far away; Some daddies have lots of hair and some daddies have a little hair; Some daddies like to make cookies and some daddies just like to buy them; Some daddies like to camp out with their little ones and some daddies like to sleep in but all daddies love to watch them sleep. Some daddies play with their sons in their tree houses and some daddies have tea parties with their daughters but all daddies like to try out new things with their little ones! From a grateful daughter and a lucky wife – Happy father’s day!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day out with Thomas

Today was a very special day for Abhay, his friend Suhas and other little boys living in the Portland area– they got to ride with Thomas, the tank engine! Of course, the day out with Thomas was planned in advance with tickets booked almost a month before lest they get sold out. Ever since Abhay got to know that his favorite engine’s coming to town, not a single day went by without him asking if it was time to meet  Thomas! So as we woke up this morning, we felt relieved that our answer was not going to be disappoint him again! So we got on the road and drove for almost two hours to a place called Hood River to board the Mount Hood Railway pulled by the world’s most famous blue engine! Though the weather was not at its best, the turnout was quite significant with mostly young boys between the ages of 1-5 frenzy with excitement to  ride No.1 engine of Island of Sodor, shake hands with Sir Topham Hat, get their favorite Thomas tattoo and of course make a station stop at a place that is every parent’s nightmare - the Thomas toy store ! 

A day out with Thomas mandates reading a Thomas book. So today, I had Abhay read a couple of mini-early reader books from “On Track with Phonics”. These books are similar to the Bob books meant for emergent Readers and are in fact much better as they are based on stories from Thomas and friends. This early reader set comes with twelve mini books and a parent guide to help your pre-schooler step into reading. These books initially begin with simple stories and short vowel sounds and gradually progress into long vowel sounds and slightly complex plots. Well, simply put, if you have a who son eats, breathes, sleeps and dreams Thomas and you want him to start reading – get him on track with Phonics!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Driving Daddy!

Most parents would agree that it is not right to compare your child with another’s. Well, most parents would also agree, that this is easier said than done.It’s hard not to notice the difference between your child and another. I’m not sure of the others, but I’m definitely guilty of occasionally comparing my son to his best friend as far as his eating habits go. As if to pay for our sins, off late we’ve found that the tables have turned and Abhay compares us to his friend’s parents. He always complains that his father does not drive as fast as his friend’s dad. As the boys are picked up from school by their respective dads, they race against each other as to whose dad is first to leave the parking lot and hit the road. In fact, he was even voicing his disappointment to his teacher about the tardiness of his parents vis-a vis his friend’s dad!! Of course, the fact that Abhay’s friend takes half as long as he does to gather his belongings, put on his jacket and buckle up his seat belt, has absolutely nothing to do with why we can’t get out the parking lot first!:-)  

Today I had Abhay read a book from his favorite early reader series – ‘Drive Along’ by Melinda Melton Crow. As usual, this a story of two trucks – a green truck and a two truck. Both the green truck and tow truck try to put on a show as to who is the best. Green truck declares that it can go fast and slow, in and out, up and down and so does the Tow Truck. But the green truck, being a dump truck can lift cans whereas the tow truck being a truck that tows vehicles goes on to show that it can lift the green truck itself!! Finally, both the trucks realize that they both are different and meant for varied tasks and no matter what,  still are pals! So trying to draw a parallel, I explained that his father does not always go fast as he is a safe driver, to which my logically thinking son asked “So my friend’s dad is not a safe driver?”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The value of giving!

As the date of our return to India draws near, we are now on a wind-up mode. This means that we are breaking our heads over how to squeeze our two bedroom establishment into 10 shipping boxes and 6 suitcases! I wish we had Hermione’s undetectable extension charm for that!! (From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) Anyway, trust me, this is a job that nobody wants. We are now trying to sort our belongings into  various heads -  “things to be given away” , “to be sold” , “to be shipped or packed  as check-in luggage” and “things to be donated”. Well, Abhay does not exactly agree with this distinction. For him, all his toys are in the “things to be shipped or packed” category! So much so, he is not even ready to part with his toddler toys like the bead maze or barnyard toy piano or his 'Baby Einstein' board books! Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop us from giving away his stuff anyway, but it would be nice if we could instill the value of giving in our four year old. Besides, the less attached he is to his belongings; the less baggage he’ll have in life! Like his mom, Abhay too finds it hard to let go. After all, an apple cannot fall far from the tree!Isn't it?

So in order to make him understand the joy in giving, today I read “Ivy loves to give” by Freya Blackwood. Ivy loves to give and sometimes her gifts or presents are not quite right for the recipient – a pair of glasses for the dog, or a cup of tea for her hen, or a pacifier for the cat! But she finds a way to make her presents perfectly fit the bill – glasses for her grandma, a nice cup of tea for mom, pacifier for the baby and boy does it feel good to give! But when she finds something that would rather keep, like her sister’s princess skirt, Ivy is allowed to keep it! So in return, Ivy gives the best gift of all– a big hug to her sister!  So when I asked Abhay if he was ready to give away some of his toys that he didn't need, my cunning four year old pointed to two of his toy engines whose batteries needed to be replaced! So much for my charity lessons!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Square's fair!

What I love about children’s books in the US is that they tackle so many different issues that parents and  kids face today and will probably face tomorrow! Why I love writing this blog is because I can chronicle my experience of sharing those books that I read to my son today and nostalgise about them tomorrow when he’s older and past his age of innocence. Not only that, some of these books have deeper meanings or important life lessons hidden in their stories that may prove to be useful not only during his awkward teens or confusing youth but indeed throughout his life! 

Today I read one such book that went over Abhay’s head for now, but is sure to ring bell in a few years from now. “Square Cat” by Elizabeth Schoonmaker is a story of Eula, a square cat who wishes to be round like other cats.  She finds that life is tough for a square cat – her favorite circle skirt not fitting right; mouse holes seem impossible for her chase into and most importantly she finds it hard to get back up when she tips over. Her friends Patsy and Maude, both round cats try to cheer her up but it doesn't seem to work. Finally, they both slip into square boxes and become just like Eula. They  demonstrate how a round cat couldn’t quite carry off a checkerboard sweater as well as a square cat or how a painting of a square cat is priceless or how they make excellent square dancers and finally reassure Eula that mouse holes are impossible even for round cats! Eula jumps with joy and so do her friends with their boxes. When they tip over and fall on their backs and they gaze into the blue sky and they realize something -  only a square cat can have this view of the sky! As mentioned earlier, Abhay didn’t quite get the underlying meaning of the story but he seemed to be fascinated by the square cat and its capabilities. All I want to say is the days to come, just remember, do not despair that you are unlike the rest rather celebrate the same! :-)