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In outer space with Colgate

In outer space with Colgate

The twins love stories. They always have. I’ve spoken about it in many of my earlier posts. And they’re master story-tellers too, specially when they are the protagonists of their tales. In our weekly book club, story-spinning used to be one of the most loved games.
When Colgate came up with this idea of packs with readymade characters that could be cut out to form a story the children were absolutely delighted.

We received three packs from Blogadda with the theme – Magical Space Adventure (Space Launch, Space Walk and Alien Planet). This was such a wonderful coincidence because our current read-aloud book was Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, which is also set in space, at least some part of it is.

The children went to work. Once they opened the pack and cut out the pictures they lined them all up and then came the best bit – the telling of the story. You should have seen how every little detail was meticulously discussed and debated. You would have thought they were planning a Sanjay Bhansali style magnum opus.

They began with arguing about the name of the characters (how they settled onto those has a back story too but I’ll spare you the details). Mercifully one character was a girl and another was a boy so that tied in pretty neatly with the two of them. They then proceeded to completely get into the skin of their characters. They argued about who should play what role, who should be manning the controls and who should have the gun, who should alight on the ‘alien’ planet first and who should fight the alien. H wanted to hog all the action but N pointed out that the cutout showed the girl holding the gun so she had to have her bit too. Finally after two whole days they arrived at the story. 
And if you think it is a bit too long, spare a thought for me because when they first narrated it, it was a full length novel.
Here goes: 

Ra and Ri and the Crazy Comet

The cosmos was in grave danger. An angry comet was approaching earth. Scientists called it the Crazy Comet. They had had their eye on it for a year now. Each minute, each day it seemed to be coming closer to earth on a sure collision path.

Something had to be done.
Seasoned astronauts had been sent to explore. Not one had returned – all swallowed by the strong gravitational pull of the comet. Scientists needed someone smaller and lighter. A child. 
They needed a brave child, or maybe two. The moment the news flashed on the media channels aspirants flocked to ISRO headquarters. Parents with their wards, moms pushing reluctant children and eager youngsters dragging apprehensive parents  – there were all kinds.
Among them were the twins Ra and Ri. They stood waiting their turn, for each child had to go through many tests before they could qualify.
First they tried on space suits. 
‘Gosh’, said Ra, ‘these are heavy!’ 
‘That’s 127 kgs, my delicate darling’, teased Ri. Ra swiped her on her arm and they burst into giggles. Along with other children, they learnt satellite control and space walking and familiarised themselves with the Rover.
After days of training and testing and trials the results were announced. 
Ri and Ra were the only chosen ones. 
They couldn’t believed it even as they high-fived each other. They would get their dream of going into space and finding out information about the Crazy Comet which threatened the very existence of their dear planet.
The day dawned. Dressed in their space suits they boarded the satellite and off they went as hundreds of scientists watched their ascent. They waved by Venus and the jewel planet Saturn. Finally they spotted it – the Crazy Comet.

‘I’ll stay here’, offered Ri, ‘close to the satellite. You go and explore’. She knew they would need a cool head guiding the satellite should they need to make a quick getaway.

Ra, swam off weightlessly in space. He checked for the rope that tied him to Ri and felt reassured. No longer afraid, he circled the Comet looking for a weak spot – a place to attack. And then he saw it – that flame of fire. If only they could blow it backwards, it would burn it’s own Comet up. Yes thought he – that’s it!
Suddenly he felt it – the pull of the Crazy Comet. He was being dragged into its strong gravitational field. Ri felt it too. The pull was taking away her twin. Ra tried to scramble back. ‘Save me Ri,’ said he desperately. Quick as lightening she dashed into the satellite manoeuvring it as far from the Comet as fast as possible. She reeled her twin in. He fell into the satellite hugging his sister.
‘Thank God you’re safe’, said she. 
‘That was close,’ breathed Ra trying to make light of the situation. He told Ri of his plan. ‘You’re the expert. tell me, can our rockets blow the flame onto the Comet?
‘Yes we can, you’re brilliant Ra’, said a delighted Ri, her eyes shining.
‘Well some people just are!’
‘Shut up and help me you conceited bighead’, said Ri, still smiling.
‘Take the levers to your right and pull hard when I tell you’. She positioned the rockets carefully and began the count down 3… 2… 1 and PUUULLLLLL. 
With a mighty roar the rockets shot out making straight for the Comet. The fire from its tail turned round and in a few seconds the Comet was one huge red ball more magnificent than the Sun. For a moment it blazed and then with an explosion that shook the entire universe it was gone – Just like that – gone. Finished.
The Satellite was thrown up in space due to the explosions and then all was dark.
‘Are you okay, Ra’, said Ri.
‘Yeah I’m fine, but I can’t see anything’.
‘Is your oxygen mask in place?’
‘Obviously it is. Or I would’ve been dead, Ms Smarts.’
‘Alright alright, that was a silly question’, conceded Ri, grateful that Ra could still try to laugh.
They felt for each other’s hands, then prised the door open. They climbed down Ra propping himself with their satellite’s flag. They found themselves on a strange planet. A strange creature with a head as big a a watermelon was watching them.

Ri tightened her hold on Ra’s hand while her other hand was around her safety gun. She looked at Ra. “Don’t try anything silly,’ she seemed to say with her eyes.

The creature approached them. 
‘Who are you?’ Ra and Ri heard the question even though they didn’t actually hear any sound. 
‘We’re from earth,’ Ri tried to say. No sound came out yet the creature seemed to understand. Reading her puzzlement it said, ‘We communicate through our minds. I can see what you think’.
‘Holy Cow,’ thought Ra.
‘Holy Cow?’ asked the creature. ‘What’s that?’
This is awkward, thought Ra not liking his thoughts being read.
‘We’re from earth,’ repeated Ri, ‘We mean no harm. We came to destroy the Crazy Planet’.
‘We were watching you’, said the creature. ‘You are incredibly brave. The entire universe owes you a great debt. You saved us all.
But now you must leave.’
‘But how? Our satellite is destroyed’.
‘You earthlings and your toys!’ laughed the creature, ‘We don’t need satellites. We’ll teleport you. But you must promise not to tell those meddling scientists anything about us. We don’t want hordes of earthlings coming and making ugly buildings here.’ 
‘We won’t,’ promised Ra and Ri.
‘If you don’t mind may I keep your flag as a reminder of your bravery?’ asked the creature.
Sure said Ra as he stuck it in the ground.
‘Now stand on the small mounds there,’ said the creature. 
In the blink of an eye they were back right in the ISRO control room, scientists crowding around them.
‘That was brilliant. We saw it’, said they, ‘we saw the explosion but then you disappeared. We thought you were dead. How did you get here? What happened?’
The twins looked at each other. Amazingly, they could still hear each other think. ‘It is a miracle. A melon-headed God saved us,’ they chorused together.

“I’m blogging my #ColgateMagicalstories at BlogAdda in association with Colgate.
No space for vanity

No space for vanity

I needed a bunch of photographs for some official work recently and happened to get two sets done from two different studios. One set was a faithful enough picture, with me staring rather self-consciously into the camera. The other studio airbrushed the final product presenting a new, very much improved, me. In fact when I went to pick up the photographs the man at the counter took a long time rummaging in his desk after asking me twice over, ‘Aapki hi hain na?’ (You’re sure they’re yours?). When he finally handed them to me, I thought I looked nice, way nicer than I’d ever look in real life.
The dark circles had been done away with, the blemishes all smoothed over and the skin was glowing. I sat comparing the two sets of pictures. The vain me was quite happy while the sane me remained amused. 
The son sauntered past, picked up the other one – the non air brushed one – then proclaimed, 
“You look prettier in this one.” 
“Not possible,” said I, “Look at this other one – you’ll see the difference.”
“Yeah but then in this one you look like some auntie, you don’t look ‘you’ at all.”
Which was such a valid point that the vain me threw up her hands and walked off in a huff while the sane me nodded in agreement. There really is nothing better than a tween son to keep you rooted in reality. Sigh! So I shall continue to wear my blemishes and my dark circles and the extra layers of fat too and I shall try to do so gladly because they make me ‘me’.
And I’ll try my hardest to not get envious of the yummy mummy’s because if God one day in his infinite kindness did decide to make me all beautiful, the kids would disown me.
Oh and you, you layers of fat, if you’re listening, nope I’m not giving up the fight. I’m going to keep on trying to get rid of you – just not by airbrushing – when it happens it shall be the real deal.
Picture credit: Pixabay
Linking up with Nabanita’s Mommy Talks 

And also with Mel at  Microblog Mondays.
Edited to add: This post got me the featured blogger badge at Mackenzie’s at Reflections from Me.

Stressed out by technology

Stressed out by technology

The other day I went out for a spot of shopping. Since I’ve become a SAHM/WFHM going out is a bit of a treat. I look forward to it. So the plan was I’d finish the chores then sit at a cafe and watch the world over a cup pf coffee. The kids don’t get back home till 3 pm so I have plenty of time.
I left the house at about 11am. Half an hour later I realised I’d left my phone at home. And that was it. Just like that my trip was ruined. I rushed through the chores, getting impatient at slacking salesmen, worry clouding my mind.
What if something happens at the children’s school and they need to contact me?
What if the Husband calls?
What if my parents need me?
What if? What if? What if?
One part of my brain kept telling me I was being ridiculous, that nothing could go wrong in the space of two hours. And yet I couldn’t shake off the worry. The coffee, of course, was abandoned. I came home with a throbbing head only to find the phone lying innocently on my dresser with just the usual, inane, WhatsApp messages crowding it.
It might have something to do with the fact that the Husband is out of town. Being the sole person responsible for the kids makes me continuously anxious, perhaps. 
Or is it just that I am over-dependent on the phone? That I have fallen in the habit of checking it ever so often? That I need the content reassurance that all is well? I do know the kids are safe at school. How else would I let them spend the better part of their day there? That’s what the rational part of me tells me. And yet the worry doesn’t leave.
Our parents were happier ..
My sister and I went to a school some 10kms away, which by our small-town standards, was really really far. The bus stop was over a km away and we walked, on our own. We didn’t have a phone at home, not even a landline. My dad could be contacted in office of course, but that was it. And we survived.
The thought then was, ‘The girls are at school, what can happen?’ 
All I think now is. ‘So what if they are at school, anything can happen.’
That, when schools today are better equipped to handle emergencies, with full-fledged sick-bays and well trained staff.
Technology, I am sure was made to reassure us, instead it has made us so much more anxious. Maybe we simply need to put our phones away and learn to get used to it, to give up the urge to check them constantly, almost like we were expecting bad news.
Do you do this too? Do you check your phone often? Do you also feel insecure if you’re separated from it?
Linking up with Mel at  Microblog Mondays.
Why reading aloud to older children is a good idea

Why reading aloud to older children is a good idea

I lie on my stomach, chin propped up on my hands, a book open in front of me, reading aloud. I am flanked by H and N following the story. The book is ‘Wonder’ by R. J. Palacio.
The twins are ten years old and yes I still read aloud to them. They’ve been reading on their own for sometime now yet for some reason they love to hear me. Each night we snuggle up and we go through a chapter or two. We take a month, to finish a book sometimes more if it’s a big one. They don’t seem to mind.
Since when they were babies, H and N have loved stories. When they were younger they insisted I narrate it in my own words. Slowly they got used to me reading.
As they grew they started reading on their own but I didn’t stop our nightly sessions. I took up different books – bigger books, books with better vocabulary, books handling trickier issues. And we kept on reading. It has become a night-time ritual of sorts.
I’ve found I enjoy it as much as the children. Here are seven reasons why reading aloud to older kids is good for them too.
It nourishes their passion for stories
The twins aren’t very avid readers. I didn’t want their lack of proficiency in reading to rob them of their love for stories, which they love passionately. Listening to me read keeps their imaginations alive and their minds ticking.
Its whets their appetite for reading
There has hardly been a day when I have been able to stop without  the twins begging for more. Yet, there are days when I just have to stop. And one day I found H carrying the book to school ‘to read on the bus’ because he just couldn’t wait to find out what happened. Of course that complicated things a bit because he had read it and N hadn’t but interestingly he never minds it when I re-read those bits. That’s another mystery about kids – they don’t mind listening to their favourite stories over and over again.
It encourages them to try different kinds of books
The kids pretty much pick their own books. Their favourite reads include Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, Captain Underpants and Tom Gates. I try to let them be. However, when I read to them I have a say in the book we choose. This becomes a great way to introduce them to new and different ones.
It encourages them to try bulkier books
The text heavy books still put them off. And those are the ones I pick. I’m hoping they will realise that great stories emerge from those fat books. And that one needs patience to truly savour a riveting read.
It adds to their vocabulary
When they read on their own they often skip words they don’t understand or deduce their meaning, which isn’t bad at all. However when we read they often stop me to ask what exactly a word means. They ask about varied usages of words and exclaim if they stumble upon a biggie second time round (specially homophones and homonyms).
It helps talk about sensitive issues
The discussions we have are priceless. ‘Wonder’ gave us the chance to talk about middle school, about bullying and about judging people based on their physical appearances and about being judgemental.
It adds to the cuddle-time
Yeah that one’s my favourite. I get to hold on to their childhood for a bit longer. I know I know and I’m trying not to be that clingy mum but I cannot help but enjoy this bit of their extended childhood.
Today on World Read Aloud Day pick up a book and share it with your child. You can read more about the events related to the day here.
Setting up a tradition

Setting up a tradition

Do you like to write letters? Have you written to someone recently? I mean the real, physical ones, on those dainty letter heads? I used to write plenty of them, once upon a time. Now with whatsapp and FB messenger and of course our mobile phones I hardly get around to it.
The more close we are to people the less likely we are to write to them. It seems just too formal, right? Perhaps that’s exactly why we need to write to them – a formal declaration, so to say, of our love or appreciation, a recognition of the many ways they make our life special just by being in it. Seeing it in writing makes it that much more real because it can be read and re-read and preserved, the happiness relived many times over.
Am I getting too sentimental? Perhaps! It’s the mausam to get sentimental, isn’t it? Tomorrow is Valentines’ day after all.
Back to writing letters – I’ve never written one to the children. I have often left notes for H and N, small ones – in their tiffins, sometimes on their tables but I’ve never written a full fledged letter. I write to them on the blog and hope they’ll read it someday but I prefer to have heart to heart conversations rather than taking up pen and paper – tweens are an impatient tribe you see. 
However in their tenth year I think it’s time I began a tradition – a tradition of physical cards/letters. I think there may soon come a time when conversations will not always be easy. A tradition of writing to each other may then come to our rescue. It is somewhat of a backup plan that I hope to put in place to make sure our communication never breaks down completely.
This Valentine’s Day I shall write out my very first ones. They’ll be easy to write for they’re letters of love, a great way to begin a tradition.
How about you joining me in writing one to your son or daughter? Or to any loved one – a friend, your spouse, your mum, dad, your roommate.
If you’re not sure how to go about let me share what I will be putting into mine. Well, not the actual letters of course, for those will be very personal, but a template of sorts. Take a look. I guess much of it is applicable to anyone you love.
1. I love you because…
you give the warmest hugs, the sweetest smiles
2. I love how you’ve grown to…
become more sensitive, more caring
3. I am proud of you when
I watch you sharing without complaining, when you talk of books you’ve read or facts you’ve picked up
4. I like how you take responsibility
to lay the table, to make your own breakfast
5. I know I can trust you to
be on your own at home, run errands for me
6. I notice the little things you do like…
switching off the lights, picking up trash off the society lobby
7. I love it when we…
read a book together, watch a film together, bake together
8. You amaze me..
with your insatiable curiosity
9. You make me laugh when you…
make your ‘cute face’, do your ‘happy dance’
10. The best thing about you is that…
you make friends so easily, you are quick to realise your fault.
There, that’s it. All you have to do now is get some paper and a pen and write your heart out.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

On my other blog: Beat About The Book

Red, White & Royal Blue #BookReview

Red, White & Royal Blue #BookReview

Book: Red, White & Royal BlueAuthor: Casey McQuiston I fell head over heels in love with the endearing premise of this book even before I read it. The love story of the First Son of the United States and the British Prince — the stuff of dreams. So we have two delightful protagonists, Alex and […]