2020 has been a tough year for all of us. The pandemic has affected each one of us in different ways. Yet it has also taught us to slow down and truly enjoy the simple things while being grateful for what we have.
And with very limited things to be excited about this year, I am looking forward to celebrating Diwali with my family. The festivities around Diwali bring in so much peace and warmth in our homes.
Although this year Diwali will look a little different as we won’t be going to house parties or for that matter to the temple to enjoy the fireworks, I am busy finding the right ethnic outfits, cleaning our house, ordering decorations for our home, and planning the menu. We are in complete festive mood here as we plan to celebrate it with the same vigor and joy with another family of 3 in a few days.
I am especially excited to play Teen Patti also known as Flash or Flush which is one of our favorite card games and a huge hit during Diwali season. It’s more of a tradition to play with friends and family at home and is auspicious too. We usually also add board games into the mix like desi chaat, snakes and ladders, ludo so that kids can also join.
To complement a good teen patti night with spicy and aromatic food I highly recommend trying a glass of prosecco with a curry meal instead of beer as trust me it tastes even better. The finer bubbles in Riondo Prosecco (my favorite) stimulate the palate and the aromas of the prosecco complement the delightful spices in Indian food. It’s also perfect to enjoy while you’re preparing your home and meals in advance of Diwali.
Riondo Prosecco is an authentic sparkling wine that celebrates the easy-living spirit of Italy. This vino frizzante boasts fresh aromas of Golden Delicious apple, pear, and acacia blossom. Its persistent effervescence is followed by a crisp, clean finish. While delicate and fruity on the palate, this prosecco is the perfect choice to either sip by itself or mix to make a bubbly cocktail.
You can order it here and with the code ARUSHI you can get $10 off your first delivery order!
Diwali is a festival that is a feast for the eyes, and stomach, with many variations to enjoy! And in today’s post I am sharing some exciting recipes from award winning author and cooking instructor Shubhra aka @SpiceGirlKitchen’ s books- Entice With Spice and Healthy Indian Vegetarian Cooking. I love how Shubhra Ramineni has worked on easy and quick Indian recipes that any beginner can cook at home.
Snacks/ starters are essential for any festival and so Indian chaat, samosas, pani puri, allo tikkis, bhel make a great way to start the celebration at home. I created this Chaat board a while back and will be improvising it on Diwali by adding a few more items like dhokla, puri, chakri and more. All of these items are available in Indian stores in the frozen section, or from Indian restaurants. You can add a glass of Riondo Prosecco with the starters too or enjoy at the end with teen patti card party or Strawberry Lassi.
I Wish You A Year Rich With Love, Happiness, Prosperity And Wisdom. Happy Diwali to you and your family! Wishing that this Diwali brings prosperity to your business and more opportunities for us to work together! May the lights of Diwali Diyas fill your home with wealth, happiness, and everything that Brings You Joy!
Diwali is approaching, and we have started preparing for it at our home, be it from buying diyas, rangolis, decorative items, lights, to preparing for the festivities. Re-decorating our home is the big goal and if you are looking for new ideas to deck up your house with simple crafts hand made by your little ones, read along.
I am delegating simple and easy to do tasks to Vir. While there are multiple Diwali craft ideas for preschool kids as well as grown-up children, I shortlisted some of our favorite craft activities that we are working on this year. I started looking for some craft kits and shops too to get pre made kits. And that saved me so much time. I love to support small business and encourage you all too also do your bit in helping them out this time of the year.
Here are some of the interesting and easy to make crafts for Diwali.
Diwali Greeting Card (Free Printable)
There is no precious gift than something handmade, right? We are teaching our son to make some personalized ones for each relative that can be posted in mail for families across the world. I loved the art work by Pavni Kapoor from PKK DESIGNS and she was so kind to custom make a Diwali Rangoli design card for my readers. Vir loved coloring it and adding some jewels and stickers to bling it up. You can download it HERE.
We ordered some earthen diyas online (you can also find it in Indian stores) and used acrylic paint to color the diyas. After they completely dry, add some different colors, jewels, or use markers to make patterns. Vir loved making them and was so proud to see how they turned out.
I cant imagine Diwali decoration without some kandils in the house. This beautiful kit from etsy store was just the perfect craft for me too honestly. I really enjoyed making the kandils and decking them up. You need to supervise young kids with this craft.
5. Making Rangoli with flowers.
Last year we celebrated Diwali at Delhi, India and Vir helped me make a floral rangoli at my in-laws houses. This year we are planning to make some floral rangoli too and I cant wait to share that very soon on my Instagram.
6. Diwali Banners & decoration from small shopDesi Favors.
Desi Favors specializes in merchandise of traditional Indian handmade products, party decor for weddings, religious events, bhajans, baby showers, get-togethers, give away gifts, DIY backdrop kits, gift packs, DIY kits for kids and more. Check them out. I love these Big diya cut outs that I am using to decorate indoors.
7. Diwali photo frame.
I found this image on Pinterest and immediately pinned it for future craft reference with Vir. This is a perfect activity for older kids to cut, paint and craft.
8. DIY recipe for chocolate gifts for Diwali
If your kids enjoy joining you in the kitchen, they can help you in creating this Pistachio Rose Chocolate Bark as a DIY recipe gift for Diwali. Love this easy and delicious recipe by Nisha from Love Laugh Mirch. Check out the recipe post here on her blog. I love following Nisha, she has some great recipes and tips.
You can also give it a twist and make yogurt barks instead of chocolate, use mango yogurt, strawberry yogurt or any other flavor and add same toppings.
We love Diwali at home and its the time of the year when the whole family is in one place, celebrating and enjoying. Wishing you all a very Happy Diwali. May the festival of lights brighten up you and your loved ones lives!
In this post I am sharing some of my tips on how we prepared Vir to read. Social distancing has been helpful in giving a lot of one on one time to our son as he has been home since March 2020. I used this time to work with him on reading, writing and building other skills as you must have seen on my Instagram Page The Snazzy Mom
Please note I am not an expert or a teacher and have used my personal approach to prepare Vir and build his interest in reading. Vir is currently 4 years old and in PreK 4, he is currently reading Kindergarten level books. Reading at bedtime has been a daily activity in our home and that has helped us encourage our son to start reading. I recommend including reading daily in your routine.
Once Vir mastered identifying the letters visually, and memorizing the sound associated with the letter we started with below steps. You can help memorizing letters by incorporating in play, by clay, drawing or through letter magnets and toys.
1.Phonics is Important
Phonemic awareness (understanding sounds in spoken words) and an understanding of phonics (knowing that letters in print correspond to sounds) are the most basic first steps to becoming a reader. We practiced it daily by reading books out loud and using Reading Eggs app. This app has been extremely helpful in making phonics a fun process and after a while I didn’t even need to supervise my son as he enjoyed doing it himself.
(Reading Eggs uses self‑paced lessons that match each individual child’s ability. Children are regularly rewarded for completing activities and reaching new levels, which keeps them motivated to stay on track. Parents can also view instant progress reports to see how a child’s skills are improving.Free trial.
Additionally, we used songs and nursery rhymes to build phonemic awareness. the rhyme and rhythm help kids to hear the sounds and syllables in words, which helps them learn to read.
2. Making word cards
Cut out simple cards and write a word containing three sounds on each one (e.g. dog, sat, pig, top, sun, pot, fin). Invite your child to choose a card, then read the word together and hold up three fingers. We focused on the sound each letter makes, more so than letter names. In my Instagram posts I have shared how I used Post Its to DIY these words cards and color code it. You can also use the post its for learning lowercase and uppercase letters. And play a word scavenger hunt at home.
3 Create Print Rich Environment at home
Seeing printed words (on posters, charts, books, labels, white boards etc.) enables children to see and apply connections between sounds and letter symbols. When you’re out and about, point out letters on posters, billboards and signs. Focus on the first letter in words. Ask your child “What sound is that letter?” “What other word starts with that sound?” “What word rhymes with that word?”
We love Highlights preschool workbooks because it’s designed and written just for their age group. Highlights is an exciting, colorful, fun-filled magazine developed by the early childhood experts at Highlights. Vir loves practicing his writing in the workbook and reading and solving puzzles in the magazine.
Additionally, we also put cartoons for Vir on Netlix with captions on so he can hear and read the words as well. I have seen him point at many new words he now recognizes.
4 Start Introducing Sight Words and Play games
Sight words are typically shorter words that come up very frequently in text and sometimes they don’t follow predictable spelling rules. Some examples are: look, yes, the, do. It’s better to know them by sight rather than trying to sound them out. Sight word practice can include flash cards as suggested with post its, hunting for the words in books, and using computer games or apps like Reading eggs.
We also started with Bob Books and now Vir is reading the Advanced Readers Set 2 book. Bob books helped a lot in learning sight words and build the confidence in reading. I really like how each set focuses on a few key reading concepts. Throughout the set, each book uses repetition to build mastery of that concept before moving on to another set of concepts in the next set.
5 Play CVC word games
Say a CVC word (consonant-vowel-consonant), for example ‘cat’, and ask your child to spell it using the magnets or write on a magnetic board. I help Vir, say each vowel sound aloud (/ayh/, /eh/, /ih/, /awe/, /uh/) while pointing at its letter, and then ask him which one makes a sound similar to the middle sound. We practice this daily too on the magnetic board and I often use this site for free printable and CVC word list. Pinterest has a lot of free downloads too. You can download 1 here.
CVC list for A
6 Read together daily and ask questions about the book
A lot of people don’t realize just how many skills can be picked up through the simple act of reading to a child. Not only are you showing them how to sound out words, you’re also building key comprehension skills, growing their vocabulary, and letting them hear what a fluent reader sounds like. Most of all, regular reading helps your child to develop a love reading, which is the best way to set them up for reading success.
Strengthen your child’s comprehension skills by asking questions while reading. For younger children, encourage them to engage with the pictures (e.g. “Do you see the boat? What color is the cat?”). For older children, ask questions about what you’ve just read, like “Why do you think the little bird was afraid?” “When did Sophie realize she had special powers?”
7 Reading online apps & books
Reading books aloud from your collection at home or online works best. You can use FREE digital libraries or tools available online like. We have all these below e magazines saved on Vir’s ipad and often switch to online reading to make it more fun and interactive.
For more information on other online digital tools for kids of all ages check this resource.
8. Get magazines in mail or make going to library a monthly affair.
Arranging for kids to receive free or monthly subscriptions of fun and educational items by mail is a great way to bring smiles to their faces and bring joy to reading. There are many sources of free items you can order, and your kids will have fun anticipating and receiving free stuff by mail! Here is FREE PETA helping animal guide I ordered recently for Vir.
Due to COVID we have not had access to the library for months but few weeks back the library opened in our city and so we might go to it sometime soon.
9 Be Patient and make it fun!
We all know every child learns at his or her own pace, so I remind myself the single most important thing I can do is to make it enjoyable. By reading regularly, mixing things up with the activities you choose, and letting your child pick out their own books occasionally, you’ll instill an early love of reading and give them the best chance at reading success in no time.
We also have a list of podcasts on Spotify that Vir listens too and asks questions about new words he is learning . Here is a link to the FREE podcasts you too can follow. I highly recommend this activity.
Traveling looks much different right now than it looked last summer. My husband and I talked for a week before we decided about the trip and it was not an easy decision to make. We decided to go with the idea that we’d be diligent, overly cautious, and not take any unnecessary risks.
My family just finished a 2300 miles road trip from Houston, Texas to Breckenridge, Colorado. One-way drive from Houston to Breckenridge was 18 hours and 1150 miles. This was the first time ever we decided to go on a long road trip with our son and dog. The longest road trip ( 7 hours) with our son was to New Orleans in December 2019.
Honestly there was a guilt of traveling in pandemic, the time away from our house was much needed for our mental health. We’d all been cooped up together for 5 months, and it’s been a real challenge working from home and keeping Vir active and engaged for so many months. The summer in Houston is always hot and humid with temperatures touching 102 degrees on some days.
This act of taking this road trip was a luxury for us even though it wasn’t a luxurious one. I realize we are extremely fortunate to both have jobs at a time when so many Americans are looking for work. And we are so grateful of the ability to take time off from work and stay out of our home for 10 days.
Please note – any decisions to travel are highly personal and I encourage you to take note of the risks. Please do your research, take your doctor’s advice, assess the health of your family and make an informed choice. The information I am sharing here cannot guarantee anyone’s health or safety and is not meant to be divisive or comprehensive. Please do not travel through Indigenous communities currently.
On my Instagram page I shared with you all details on my road trip and was flooded with questions on several topics. I will be sharing my tips and experiences on this post and will be happy to answer any questions either here on the post in my comments section or you can DM me on my IG page. Note- I approached our road trip planning with an overabundance of caution.
Covid Related Road Safety Precaution.
Tip- Plan you breaks ahead of time. Find the biggest rest stops that wouldn’t have a dingy bathroom.
While stopping for gas, we took extra precautions. We wore hand gloves and a mask while pumping gas. I wiped the card down after inserting it into the card reader everytime. Also trashed the gloves immediately before entering the car.
Our one-way trip was 18 hours so we broke up our trip in to 2 stops. 1 in Amarillo and 1 in New Mexico for the first phase of the drive.
However while returning from Colorado we drove 9 hours to Amarillo . (Pit stop at Sand Dune National Park) and straight to Houston next day.
On our entire road trip we ended up having total 3 restroom breaks. Stopping at hotels helped minimize public restrooms usage too.
Post using the restroom we used hand sanitizers immediately. We didn’t use any rest room that someone did before. I also carried sanitizing wipes and used on doorknobs and toilet seat before using. We wore masks all the time! Vir wasn’t allowed to touch anything.
Tip – With younger kids I recommend bringing a small, portable toilet to use. And be open to roadside bathroom break depending where it is allowed. Carry all toilet essentials.
On Road meals
I packed lot of snacks for the entire trip and a cooked meals that could easily stay fresh for few hours . We carried lots of water, juices to avoid any stops in an ice box. However we did stop at Starbucks and Mc donalds only to grab coffee, snacks and food. We wore masks all the time while getting our food from drive through.
Note none of these restaurants has restrooms open for public.
Staying in Hotels
We dint want to make this our first camping and RVing experience and so we decided the best option for us will be hotels. So far the hotels we stayed in took fantastic precautions. Everyone was wearing masks and it was enforced for all guests even kids. There were face shields between customers and front desk. The check in was smooth. The breakfast places were closed and food was only to go. Some places pools were closed too, while at our Colorado hotel, the pool had to be booked in advance . And only 2 families were allowed for an hour. We stayed in a condo in Colorado at Marriot Inn Breckenridge. Since we had our dog we had only pet friendly hotel options.
Tip – Take the first-floor hotel room next to the exit door to avoid getting in elevators and corridors with others. Call in before booking to check for covid measures taken at the property and booking room on 1st floor.
I carried a bag of cleaning supplies like lysol spray, paper towels , sanitizers and cleaned all the surfaces that would be touched before Vir entered the room.
We found that staying in a hotel and getting food to go felt perfectly safe with the excessive protective measures in place. Yet we booked a condo in Colorado with a kitchen and cooked some meals there too. I carried some ready to eat food like (pasta, pasta sauce, frozen paranthas( stuffed tortillas) noodles etc.
There was no room service until we stayed. For change of linen and towels we called the reception and left the stuff out of the room. Same with trash. It was replaced by the staff in few minutes.
National Park Visits on the way
Note: Some National parks are requiring reservations via advance ticket purchases.
We stopped on our way to Colorado at Paulo Duro Canyon in Amarilo. We checked ahead of time if the parks were open and what were the Covid restrictions. The tickets needed to be purchased in advance. We drove around the canyon and didn’t get out as it was 100 degrees that day.
On our way back from Colorado we stopped at Great Sand Dunes National park. Here the tickets were not needed in advance and was first come first serve basis. We wore masks throughout our trail and social distancing was relatively easy as it wasn’t crowded people were respectful of space.
Road trip Entertainment.
Spotify was the only source of entertainment for us. Apart from listening to my playlist we were hooked on to True Crime Podcast.
With the school year approaching, we’re ready to beat after-school boredom with some classic DIY- inspired activities and crafts you can do at home with your kids. When the school year turned virtual, Vir and I loved spending the days cooking and creating new crafts – we even set up a camp tent for our “summer vacation!”
Even though I loved the extra time with Vir, I know he missed his friends and teachers while we were at home. Homeschooling my son while working from home has made me realize how much work and effort goes into teaching our kids all day. Our teachers really made the year special, which is why I’m so happy that we’re a part of the new Juicy Juice 100% Thankful Teacher Contest. To honor and thank the teachers that go above and beyond for our kids, Juicy Juice is giving away over $30,000 in prizes to set them up for the best school year yet, and Michaels is even providing gift cards for the teachers.
Do you have a stellar teacher you want to nominate? If so, it’s super easy!!
1) Throughout August, parents can nominate the superhero teachers who have made school special for their kids, whether in-person or through virtual learning. 2) Entrants can go to juicyjuice.com/thankful to nominate teachers until August 31. 3) 20 finalists will be selected and then the grand prize voting begins! 4) All finalists will win an assortment of prizes, with 2 grand prize-winning teachers each receiving $10,000 and others winning a selection of Juicy Juice merchandise, product and a Michaels gift card!
To help get ready for the year, we found inspiration from Juicy Juice to help get in the back to school spirit and find at-home entertainment.
We usually play with the sprinkler in our driveway to cool off in the 95 degrees Houston weather and hydrate with Juicy Juice fruit juice boxes. Juicy Juice is an iconic kids’ beverage brand enjoyed by families for over 40 years. Available in 15 juicy flavors, Juicy Juice 100% juice has no added sugar, ever! I love that Juicy Juice is an excellent source of Vitamin C, making it a great choice as we head back to our school routine.
Below, I’ve shared a few of our favorite crafts and activities that you and your family can enjoy while getting ready for the year. Paired with 100% juice from Juicy Juice, it’s a great way to get ready for a new year!
1) Making tie dye shirts was on our bucket list, and it’s not as messy or daunting as it sounds. Vir was very excited about the project.
You need- White T shirt, Tulip one step Tie Dye kit and plastic bag. I searched on you tube to learn some tie dye techniques and used the spiral one for Vir’s T shirt. The idea is to keep it simple and mess free.
After tying the T shirt with rubber bands, we squeezed the dye bottles to get the color on the T shirt and then let the T shirt soak in the color up to 8 hours in the plastic bag. Later wash the T shirt in cold water and run a cycle too in the washing machine to get rid of the remaining dye and air dry.
2) Juicy Juice Monster Juice Box craft – Vir is fascinated with googly eyes and Halloween and we decided to decorate Vir’s favorite strawberry + watermelon flavor and berry flavor Juicy Juice boxes with felt paper, goggle eyes and colorful Chenille stems. It was one of Vir’s favorite craft activities to date. We are reusing the monster Juicy Juice boxes after they were empty as pen and crayon stands.
3) DIY hand painted bug rocks-These DIY hand painted ladybug rocks are perfect for your garden or indoor pot decor this summer. They’re so adorable, and so easy to make for kids. If you have stones is your front yard this is a great way to re purpose them. Vir learnt some facts about the bugs and insects too as it was the main theme for one of the camp days. You need smooth rocks, acrylic paint, black color pen, glue, google eyes. (You can also use spray paint for better coverage)
4) Nature Scavenger Hunt – Taking a walk with the kids in the summer is exciting especially when they have the Summer camp Nature Scavenger Hunt sheet. This activity makes them more aware of all the things going on around them that they might otherwise miss. You can download the free Scavenger hunt sheet here.
I hope these are helpful and you enjoy them with your kids.
There are no doubts that trying to juggle working from home with children is challenging. Whether you’re in a video call, focusing on writing, or making a presentation, there are going to be several times you are going to be interrupted and called out Mama, Mommy, Mom breaking your concentration or rhythm.
In these 3 months of working from home with a four-year-old I have realized that there are some activities where you will need to be involved with the kids and some that need minimal involvement. In this post I am covering ONLY those activities that have worked for us.
For many parents around the country school year is closed, and for those with younger kids who go to daycare, there is still time when things can go back to normal schedules. And so I hope this post can help you to keep your kids busy and occupied while learning from home.
Honestly the first few weeks of homeschooling were hard, but after trying and testing several things I have found a schedule that works for all of us. The key is Flexibility. We made sure each day for our son flows like how it would have been at school. (screen time is a new entrant although in this timetable).
Not every day is the same, we switch activities, play and learning time as the day goes by. We have no hard timetable that we follow for Vir, it is not possible given the fluidity of the workday. (Except for breakfast, lunch, snack, nap, chores and outdoor play.)
Below list is broken down into different categories.
We step out of the house at least twice in a day, once after breakfast to get some activity for 20-30 minutes and once in the evening at 5pm for longer time anywhere between an hour or more. We take necessary social distancing measures and now have started wearing masks too. (walks, scooter rides, biking, dog walk, nature treasure hunt, park hikes etc)
Vir is in Pre k 3 and at at almost 4 years of age I try to ensure 3 core activities are part of his educational time. Reading, Writing and Numbers. Below are some resources
Reading online apps & books
Reading books aloud from your collection at home or online works best. You can use FREE digital libraries or tools available online like
We also love the Reading Eggs App and Vir has picked up so many spellings. He is learning to read and can form 4 word sentences. I love the amount of puzzles, activities the app offers. Also there are worksheets that come with it, so we download that and practice too. I highly recommend this app.
For more information on other online digital tools for kids of all ages check this resource.
Writing, Tracing, Patterns
We follow this daily with some workbooks I bought from Amazon to make sure Vir practices his writing. He has learnt writing all alphabets big and small.Here are some resources
We also use the Notability App on Ipad with Ipencil. That has help change things around when Vir is bored of the books. I use the app for work but have realized we are able to lot more things with Vir for his writings and dot to do activities that are reusable.
Pinterest has several free printables online that you can use.
I also recommend having a magnetic slate, it makes it more fun and has multiple uses.
Numbers and Counting
Using flash cards has helped most in teaching Vir numbers. Also, we use a white board at home and the magnetic slate daily. All the above online resources have math and number printables available too
Visit a Zoo and Aquarium online.
Although some states have opened up and museums and zoos are accessible, you can watch animals online here
1.Household scavenger hunts have been a huge success whether be it with hiding eggs indoor on Easter or to reintroducing the Easter hunt every week. We improvised with a monster truck hunt and recently took it outdoors with nature hunt too. Below are some ideas. You can download these free printables
2. Lego Time or Building Activities: Lego is sharing videos and daily challenges online for kids to build something new. We have been following the lego masters build amazing cities and characters. You can see more here on Lego’s initiative to help families
3. Toy-Washing Bin or Water activity – Let your kids wash their plastic toys, cars trucks etc. Add tear-free bubbles, sponges, towels and other supplies. You can also open your backyard or driveways to water play with water table, balloons, toy water guns. Summer is here.
4. Bathtub Play When the day is long, and I feel I did nothing that day, all I have to do is fill up the bathtub with a little bit of water, put some fizzy bath tablets in the water and give Vir markers and toys and also a Popsicle somedays and we are good to go for a 45 minutes at least!
5.Ice Smash Game – By far one of the most IG shared and successful games to keep Vir busy while I am on office calls. Just freeze tiny toys in water overnight and give it to the kids next day to break and smash with toy hammers, spoon. Sticks etc.
1.Pasta Necklace with food coloring – We recently made our quarantine accessory at home.To make the “jewelry”, you need 2-3 spoons of water in a ziplock bag + 4 to 5 drops of food coloring + pasta. Shake the bag and dye all the pasta. Repeat step for different colors. (Optional: sprinkle in some glitter) Let the pasta dry and use a yarn to string the pasta! You can also use acrylic paint if you like. With food coloring the pasta is dyed evenly. Vir enjoyed the entire process and was proud of his creation. I love how I can do this fun activity with my son and match with him too!
2. Tootpick and Playdough STEM activity– We have started discovering the concept of Geometry and it is so much more fun while playing! We use playdough and toothpicks in this classic, hands-on activity to learn about shapes on a 3-dimensional level.
3. DIY a Boardgame Forget about a ready-made game. Your child’s creativity will kick into high gear when they make their own board game. Vir and I made a simple board game with markers, colors and paper and he loves playing with it. You can keep changing it up every few weeks by adding stickers, more colors, levels on a new chart paper or sheets
4. Nature Craft. One of Vir’s favorite activities is picking flowers from our plants and on our morning walks. We made some mixed material crafts at home on paper and with flowers, beads, crayons, colors, paints, clay and more. Try it out !
Online Dance & Karate Classes
Learn specific stances and basic positions for karate, Taekwondo or another martial art or even free dance lessons by following YouTube videos. (Definitely requires supervision.)
1.You can include little kids in your new WFH schedule by giving them their own briefcase full of office supplies and asking them to “work” quietly nearby. Use markers, pads of paper, child-friendly scissors, stickers, and any other grown-up things like pencil cases, a measuring tape, or an old-school calculator
2.We recently converted Vir’s kitchen into a café, and he loves it. The Ikea kitchen is one of the best investments we made. I have ordered some chalkboard paper to switch things around and make a taco truck and ice cream parlor too. He is learning to count money and understanding simple math like addition and subtraction.
3.Super Hero pretend play. Check out my recent blog post here for all superhero activities you can try.
Below are some of my other posts with additional ideas & resources
I am sharing some of my favorite products and brands here that I have been using and looking to buy. Since everyone is social distancing in May 2020, I have prepared a list that can be useful in current times. There is something for everyone here!
What I love about this list is that it can be referred anytime and for any occasion like birthdays, Christmas gifts, baby showers, weddings, graduation and more. I hope you like these gifting ideas whether you are gifting your mom, your wife, your friend or family member or even yourself.
Lightweight lenses with anti-reflective coating to reduce glare. Tijin Eyewear
Mason Jar Garden, Grow Your Own Herbs Gift Set, Contains Rosemary, Basil and Sage Seeds with 6 Soil Pods by Thoughtfully Gifts.
I love my sterling silver Changeable Heart Charm Bracelet by James Avery . It is crafted with alternating links of circles and elongated loops, and a twisted wire heart changeable charm holder in the middle. Press gently on the hinge in the heart to add or remove charms. One of the cutest bracelets I own,
Kid’s love superheroes. What’s not to love? They can fly, apply super strength, use their superpowers, work as a team and can do good in the world.
Another thing that kids love is “Pretend Play”. Pretend play sessions promote enthusiastic dialog complete with descriptive new vocabulary words and increased social interaction. Best of all, when kids pretend, they also take on the perspective of another person or creature. This, inherently, helps them to develop empathy—perhaps our greatest superpower as humans.
At our home we engage with our little superhero through Role play in some of his favorite characters. And I have seen through superhero pretend play how Vir feels brave, in control and just plain good.
April 28TH is National Superhero day, this day is for honoring both fictional superheroes and real-life superheroes—those who risk their lives to keep others safe. Both heroes are role models for children, and even for adults.
Vir is a big fan of the dynamic hero trio of fan-favorites – Catboy, Owlette and Gekko – from the hit show PJ Masks. Good News!! Season 4 is debuting on May 15 at 7 PM EST/PST on Disney Junior. And new episodes, including the FIRST-EVER 44-minute special Heroes of the Sky, that will take us through heroic adventures where we meet new allies, villains and locations while centered around the power of friendship and teamwork! The show is also available to watch on Netflix.
In today’s post I want to encourage all parents to use the power of roleplay and imagination on National Superhero Day with PJ Masks with their little superheroes.
In this kit there are Activity Sheets/Printables that will help the kids have an entire day of superhero roleplay fun. Ring in the heroic day with the dynamic trio from PJ Masks, Catboy, Owlette and Gekko.
The certificate can be a great way to let the kids know they did a great job with all the activity sheets and effort they put in.
Some other learn and play activities you can include
Physical activity with a superhero obstacle course and tire them out.
Organize an obstacle course in your backyard or even your living room. Use a small blanket as cape or use the cut outs masks in above link and ask the kids to complete the course, pretending they are superheroes.
Balance a book on the head to walk.
Crawl under the chair
Knock down all the cans.
Jump from block to block.
Ride the tricycle across the living room while making a silly face.
Drag a heavy thing past the line.
DIY laser maze
Source: It’slawaysautmn blog
You can tape crepe paper streamers, ribbons or yarn in your hallway and create a maze for kids to get through without breaking or touching.
Science Exploration with Magnetic powers
You need a variety of things available at home (nails, paperclips, coins, rubber bands, crayons, blocks, etc) Hold a magnet next to each item, one at a time. Sort the objects into two piles, those that are attracted by the magnet and those that aren’t.
Practice writing with superhero name
Use a dry eraser board and ask your child to trace or practice writing his /her superhero name.
Make Superpower Jell-O potion.
Take Red, green, blue or different flavors of Jell-O powder. Ask the kids to add one tablespoon of powder to a bowl. Add hot water and encourage children to take turns stirring until the powder is completely dissolved. Once the mixture is lukewarm, invite them to drink a spoonful of the superpower potion to make them strong like a superhero.
Bring in Real Life Superheroes.
In my recent Instagram post I had shared how I explained Vir that not all heroes wear capes. Real-life heroes put themselves in harm’s way, and in circumstances where they may risk their lives for others, just as their fictional counterparts do. Some of these heroes have careers that put them into these scenarios, such as members of law enforcement, military personnel, and firefighters and as we can see how the front-line workers are daily fighting the current pandemic. Reading a book and talking about their courage to our kids can be a great way to show the importance of helping others in time of need.
I recently shared the below tips with my entire office on working from home. At my current role with my full time job in Account Management, I have had the opportunity to work remotely for last few years. It has been one of the greatest things to happen not just for my family life but also has brought immense productivity and efficiencies in my target driven sales profile.
I usually prefer to work from my shared office space or cafes , but with the given COVID-19 outbreak and keeping the social distancing rules in mind, I am now fully working from home and staying indoors. My son has been in daycare since he was 1 year old. Now having him home all the time and working is a new challenge. Before making a colorful home school schedule for him I worked on a productivity driven schedule for myself.
Here are my Top 10 Tips I have been successfully implementing:
1.Maintain the routine
Every morning keep the same routine as before. Dress up in whatever you would but leave out those PJs. This will help you stay in work mode.
2.Have a dedicated work space?
A separate work space doesn’t have to be a dedicated office with a door that closes (which is often not an option in smaller living spaces). It should be an area that mentally prepares you for work mode, whether it’s a separate room, a small desk set up in a corner of the living room, or a laptop at the end of the kitchen table. It may take a bit of trial and error to figure out what area of your home is most conducive to getting work done.
3.Structure your day
When working from home, you’re your own personal manager. To stay on schedule, segment what you’ll do and when over the course of the day. If you have an online calendar, create personal events and reminders that tell you when to shift gears and start on new tasks. Google, MS office calendar are a must. Using a journal makes it easy to list out tasks you want to accomplish each day. Check them off and keep making notes.
4.Continue to Interact with colleagues on apps and video meetings
Working remotely can feel isolating at times, so as part of your routine, try to interact with your co-workers regularly. Holding meetings over Zoom or another video app are two quick and easy ways to stay in the loop. However, you connect, don’t let email be the only way you interact with colleagues. Work What’s App groups should only focus on immediate information exchange and less memes and jokes for productivity.
5.Walk it out : Do this only if absolutely necessary. Always maintain 6 feet from people
Make time to get up and walk away from your desk at regular intervals to stretch your legs. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look away from your screen and focus your eyes on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. I personally walk on all my office calls in the house. You can also keep a step goal for the day. On some good days I end up moving around the house and clocking in 6000 steps between 9-5. Standing for few minutes every hour is also a good practice.
6.Schedule 30 minutes in the morning to prep some snacks
I’d recommend cooking enough dinner to have leftovers at least a couple times a week. Maybe you’re more creative than I am, but homemade sandwiches for lunch get boring fast. Smoothies, fruits, eggs, avocado smash toast, salad, pasta, poha, dosa , besan chilas, rice and dal or frozen parathas or meals are some meal ideas that I incorporate.
7.Use Siri/ Google/ Alexa as your personal assistants
I use Alexa every day to help me remind for some immediate calls that I must make. The most relevant Alexa feature for the office is maintaining your calendar. Whether it’s a big deadline or a meeting you must attend, add it to your calendar using Alexa.
Listening to ambient noise or focus music helps create some background noise.
One of the best ways to stay on task, especially if you often lose focus easily, is by using a Pomodoro timer — or a periodic timer that reminds you to take a break every so often. You can set a timer to work for an hour and break for 10 minutes or any combination of intense work with periodic breaks.
8.Do Your Most Focused Work When the Kids Sleep
With kids being out of school now and home bound, making sure working before they get up in the morning, working during naptime, and working after they go to bed at night. Yes, it’s disruptive, but yes, it helps you pack in needed work hours while spending less time distracted in the presence of your children. Schedule important calls and meetings online during their nap times or during screen time.
9.Communicate with your partner and switch out times for taking turns in the day.
If your spouse or partner is also at home caring for the kids, it’s essential that you communicate what your day is like so you’re both on the same page with your expectations and needs.
10.Stress less about extra screen time while on video calls.
Instead being concerned about how much our kids are exposed to screens , let’s focus on how they are engaging with it. I use educational apps like Reading Eggs and interactive games to keep my son busy.
Also setting up virtual baby sitters like grandparents, classmates, friends and family has been extremely successful for us.
I hope you find you working from home rhythm soon. Take care and be safe my friends
Vir is so excited to sport his DIY Holi T shirt that we made together
I believe incorporating cultural traditions in lessons and activities at school can help teachers build inclusive classrooms. My son has been the only South Asian in his classroom ever since he started going to daycare and now even at preschool. And every year I have worked on introducing a cultural day in his classroom around our big festivals like Diwali and Holi. This has helped me personally build the excitement around our culture and festivities, as our son gets to experience the fanfare around it not only at home but also at his school with his friends and teachers.
Although the kids in his class are very young to really understand the significance of “culture,” it is important for us that our toddler can celebrate these festivals with same rigor and excitement as other classroom events. Honestly, this is also a reminder for us parents to continue taking these steps to raise confident kids who are proud of their roots.
Holi is the festival of colors and when it comes to kids, we all know how much they love to play with colors! Below is a list of things I have done in the past and plan to do at my almost 4-year old’s classroom. Also, I am sharing some ideas for older kids that I have saved for coming years.
Talk to your kid’s teacher
Share with them more information about the festival or event you plan to celebrate. ( I usually bring print outs on simple and key information about the festival, also share pictures and ideas I like to incorporate)
My son gave a small presentation last year on Diwali. We will be doing it this year for Holi too. I usually read him books and show him videos and pictures to help him prepare. We try adding some festival related props that bring excitement to the talk. For Holi I plan for him to show powder color and water blaster ( pichkari ).
4. Dress for the occasion.
As Vir will be presenting to his class, I decided to work on a simple DIY project with him. This Holi T shirt was a fun way to engage and learn about the festival. Older kids can make one on their own and share it with their friends too. There are some T shirts you can also buy online at Etsy and Amazon.
I bought the supplier from Marshalls . You just need fabric pends and a white T shirt to make something similar.
5. Request for a collaborative class project
We did the finger painting and hand painting activity last year on a large chart paper as a collaborative classroom project. It was displayed in the class all month, so all parents could see it and the kids could admire their prints.
Here are some art and craft project ideas that you can get inspiration from
Spray Painting Holi cards , Hand print heart canvas art, Watercolor garland, Holi spring tree with colorful tissue paper
6.Decorate the class
Just like any other celebration I like to include some pieces of decor in the class after teacher’s permission. This makes the celebration extra special. Usually I offer to get the decor and it can be something simple like, colorful ribbons, streamers, paper banners etc.
No celebration is complete without some celebratory food and gifts.. You can request for a colorful snack or buy one for the entire class – from sprinkle cupcakes, to holi special cookies, yogurt or fruit pouches. It’s a fun way to make the day extra memorable. Avoid homemade desserts or food.
I will be offering snacks and paints for favors , will be using this cute printable from 5Minutesformom
8.Class / Teacher gifts
You want to thank the teachers for their efforts, and it is a sweet gesture too. For teachers I like to give usually give succulents and for Holi a pretty spring bouquet will be apt. Gift cards from Amazon go a long way. (For Diwali I gave diyas and candy to the entire class in organza bags. All the parents and kids love it soo much.)
Before having my toddler, I had seen one too many living rooms taken over by toys. I was determined that my own living room would never look like a play area. But, like all the other things I said I would never do, I found it difficult to avoid once I became a parent.
I have tried to curtail my toddler’s toy collection by buying only a few thoughtfully curated open-ended activity-based toys, some action-based figures and pretend play toys and few outdoor play and sport related products.
I am making this list based on seeing which toys have received the most use and love in our house over the years, and by the stream of friends who have played with them, the clear winners are the below 10 products. We love open ended toys as they foster creativity, imagination and problem-solving skills and makes little ones learn to be independent. These toys can vary from the child’s desire and age. (blocks, animal figures, dress up accessories and more).
Ikea Play Kitchen – This kitchen by far is my son’s favorite pretend play toy, and I have seen him play with it since he was 1 year old. I love with time he has learnt to be independent by playing with it. The best part is watching all his male friends also enjoy playing in the kitchen as much they do while playing with trucks. I have added several small items in his kitchen like a coffee maker, cup and kettle set to play food and utensils. (found in ikea and amazon)
2. Augmented Reality games helps in memorizing better and is an immersive learning experience. Vir was recently gifted the Play Shifu Space card game by his aunt and he is learning a lot more about the planets and solar system
I also liked theOsmo games and had seen them at our friend’s and stores, planning to try them out too
4. Board Games like Three Little Piggies helps with logic and spatial insight. I love Vir is playing the expert level and this is by far one of his favorite story and game
5. Puzzles from eeboo has helped in letter and picture recognition for at early stages of development and we have recently bought the Word puzzle gameto develop reading skills
6. In Culture Toys and Learning Kits – Teaching our son about our culture and language is very important to our family and plush toys and books from Modi Toys and a Travel kit with memory cards and so many other products from Sanskar teaching has helped us make the learning process fun.
Modi toys recently launched the baby Hanuman plush toy and story book I can wait to get my hands on. Also Sanskar Teaching offers virtual and online courses in Gujrati. I highly recommend checking out these two mom owned business.
7. Car Track Play –PlayTape is perfect for building the kid’s own world of roads, highways, and racetracks. It is compatible with all match box size trucks and cars and the best part is roads can be made anywhere. Its is easy to remove and I like how my son makes these roads around his bed room
8. Balance Bike – Getting my son to balance bike since he was 18 months was one of my best decisions. We started with the Woom 1 bike and after a year of balance bike we moved toWoom 2 and now he is pedaling without any training wheels! I highly recommend their bikes we have been using the brand for over 3 years now and love it. The woom 2 bike represents the ideal link between the balance bike and a pedal bike and enables fast learning of the movement process – even without training wheels.
9. Scooter – We got the scooter when Vir turned 2 and it has been very helpful in promoting muscle strength and development. We love the Microkickboard scooter, it is one of the highest rated scooter in the market. Vir’s favorite activity after school is to hit the park on his scooter. I love the quality and that he never trips on it while turning.
10. Outdoor toys like water and sand table is a must especially with summers approaching. Vir was gifted Step2 Fiesta Cruise Sand & Water Table with Umbrella by his grandparents for his 2nd birthday. I like that it has a place for sand and water both. Most of the time my son makes it a car wash for all his cars.
Hope you find this resource useful!
I will love to hear your most recommended toys too.
Wow! A half marathon in the books at the beginning of the year is just the moral boost I needed to start my year strong. I never imagined I would ever run a long-distance race. It was NEVER one of my bucket list items. Yet on Aug 2019 training for my FIRST HALF MARATHON happened to land on my To-Do-List. I remember I was feeling extremely low around that time and needed a distraction.
I had been suffering from sciatica pain for almost 6 months since the start of 2019. (This pain had been bothering me for time to time since pregnancy.) I wasn’t active for all those months and gained 8-10 pounds! This period was by far my lowest state in terms of physical well being. However, that rest was important as I wanted to make sure the sciatica pain didn’t come back.
The last time I ran a long race was a 10k, almost 3 years back right after my pregnancy. My goal then was to shed all that baby weight. But this time it was different. I didn’t run to lose weight, I ran for my mental and physical well being. I ran for a stronger me. I ran to challenge myself. I ran because I believed I could do a half marathon if I set my mind to it.
If you follow my Instagram, you must have seen me training on my stories. It is saved under my highlights section. I started preparing for the race around September 2019. This training also helped me get ready for a 2-hour trek on an active volcano- Mt. Batur in Bali, Indonesia. This training was turning out to be my therapy and a getaway from the daily mundane. I really made sure that I don’t over think or stress about the race. So, I made a plan and I tried to stick to it.
In this post I am sharing all my tips and tricks on how I prepared to run my FIRST Aramco Houston Half Marathon on January 19th, 2020 in Houston, Texas at age 34.
The act of committing to a race and plunking down the registration fee can help to motivate you. Plus, you need to know exactly when the race is so that you can map out your training runs over the next few months. Click HERE to find a race in your state.
My Training Plan
Note that I was always able to run a minimum of 3 miles. So, I followed the program below, 4 months prior to the race. However, if you are just starting off, I recommend training at least 6 months prior to race and get yourself to commit to this plan.
I followed the Novice 1 Half Marathon Training Program by Hal Higdon. This is a great running plan if you can stick to it. Note- I was also flexible with my run schedules. Every week wasn’t the same. Some days I was running 3 days a week and sometimes 5 days a week. What I focused was on avg miles weekly and most importantly, a long run on the weekend. I never missed that.
Most important question I have been asked by my followers. How can you do it all? Be a mom, work full time and manage your home? Let me tell you there is no magic formula. It’s team work, better planning and commitment that helped me finish the half marathon.
Communicate with your partner/ nanny/ family members before you plan to race. Me and my husband worked as a team. I couldn’t have really done this without his support. We discussed the days he will be doing school picks ups and drop offs, so I could use those days for my short runs. This meant I got to wake up early and go for runs at the gym before work or finish work 30 minutes earlier once a week and head to the trail in the evening. We also planned 1 day in a week where my husband would come back early from work, so I could start training for my longer runs in the evening (6miles +). Evenings worked best for me as Houston weather is brutal and honestly, I am not a morning person. Weekends were the easiest to coordinate and I kept aside 2 hours for my training every weekend.
Shoes- I had two fresh pairs of shoes on hand when I started my training. It helps extend the life of each pair by giving them ample recovery time between workouts. I ran the race in Reebok shoes and trained with Hoka one. I highly recommend both brands.
Active wear– I ran in leggings and tank tops. Most important part gear for me after my shoes was having a good sports bra. I love the Reebok Pure Move bra, it is made with motion sense technology that reacts to your movement. Also, I highly recommend wearing active wear with in built belts or zipped pockets to store phone and keys. I love my Flip belt leggings.
Before race day I treated myself to a new running T shirt and running sleeves from the Chevron Marathon Expo when I went for my bib pick up. Highly recommend buying gear form the race expo. It will forever be special.
Fuel for workouts
Pre work snack- I always had limited time to plan my snack, so I would just eat a banana or a peanut butter sandwich and head out for short runs. On days I did my long runs I would make a smoothie, I usually added banana to every smoothie with some spinach, chia seeds, hemp seeds, berries and oat/ almond milk.
Post workout– I would have a protein drink, some Greek yogurt with berries and granola etc. I often had my premier protein shake or some slices of apples with almond butter or I would just have dinner as almost 80% of my runs were in evening.
Note- I was eating almost everything and didn’t diet or control my calories for weight loss. If your aim is too loose weight while training, I recommend planning your meals and doing calorie counting to get the best results.
Race day nutrition– Carb load a day or two in advance before the half marathon. I ate good carbohydrates like whole grain pasta, quinoa, brown rice or sweet potatoes. These foods can help your body store extra glycogen which one can draw on for quick fuel during the run. On race day I carried my Cliff bar to snack after 10 miles, although I didn’t eat it at the race as I got bananas at every 5 miles and preferred eating that instead.
Hydration- While training I only hydrated myself with water and since I ran on trails, there was a water fountain every few miles, so I didn’t carry any water with me while training. I didn’t use any gels, but I have heard great things about it and will be using them in the coming months. Read more HERE
Note on race day there is water + Gatorade so it is suggested you pick one and only hydrate with that to avoid mixing it up. I stuck with water.
Apps and Tech, I used for training
Apart from carrying my iPhone and Beats headphones while running, I used an apple watch to track my heart rate and pace.
The day after a tough workout, the most I wanted to do is jog lightly or do some form of cross-training, like cycling. You need a recovery day after a hard day. No exceptions. I usually took Epsom salt hot water baths after long runs and it helped my aching muscles a lot.
Injuries are common.
Getting injured while running is very common. Read about it here .The more miles I ran, the more stressful it was on my joints, muscles, and cartilage. And even though I felt so good pounding the pavement with the wind in my hair, the reality is that our body is made of tissue. I suffered with Achilles Tendonitis just 4 weeks before my race. I rested my leg for a week and later started to use ice packs for at least 20 minutes after each run. Anti-inflammatory painkillers helped too, but what helped me the most was the ankle compression sleeves I bought 2 weeks prior to my race. I wore it and ran the race. I was comfortable running in to up to 11 miles. Post that I was in pain but was able to finish my race.
Tapering ( cutting back on running a week before the race) is crucial
It allows the body to recover from the training that you’ve put in, which sets you up for peak energy on race day. It helped me a lot especially after my injury. I did short runs of 3-5 miles in my tapering weeks. And did lot of stretching exercises and yoga.
Take the pressure off and say goodbye to any negative thoughts.
Before race day I was wondering what if I was not able to complete my race. What if my ankle pain gets worse. I would let myself down. But then I reminded myself – Hey I will still be me, and my family and friends will love me no matter whether I finish first, last, or even if I don’t finish. I can cover this topic in an entire post itself. I kept saying to myself that I am strong, I am brave and I have to do me! And above all, I wanted to set an example for my son.
Honestly at the end of the day, racing does hurt. It is going to test your mental strength, and no amount of tips or tricks will make it hurt any less. However, that pain is what leads us to the moments of pride; because we know the struggle we have been through to get to that moment.
I would like to finish this post by quoting the legendary Kobe Bryant, who the world lost tragically on 26th Jan in a tragic accident .
“Pain doesn’t tell you when you ought to stop. Pain is the little voice in your head that tries to hold you back because it knows if you continue you will change.” – Kobe Bryant.