Thursday, 29 November 2012

Leave-Behind Activity Trays: Hands-On Parenting Tool

After I discovered and fell in love research about Montessori methods, I started to leave behind "do it herself" activity trays available for my new preschooler while I was at work.  I didn't even know the full Montessori curriculum - you don't need to - it was really just for fun.  Or to lessen the guilt.  (Ok, both).

I would be thrilled to come home and find that she did some things I left for her.  It was almost as if I was there myself!
Her activity trays before and after their debut on her playroom shelves.  
Much as I wanted to do all the creative stuff on the homeschool blogs I follow, it simply isn't possible to be that hands-on for a working mom.  Literally, career talaga these homeschool moms.

What working moms need to start are easy:
  • Trays for self-contained activities.  This can be anything from cardboard shoebox lids to baskets.  I was OC, so I got mine for 40 each at Japan Home.
  • Easy-access tables/shelves where the trays stay as a ready invitation to play.
  • An actual floor time lesson or two to show her how to get and return trays on her shelf.  We spent some weekend time doing some trays together as well, so she knows how the general thing works

"What's this?" - Ladybug Girl's excitement when she first discovered the trays in her room (July 2011)
I found I needed to tweak things a bit so that Ladybug Girl can do things on her own, since she tends to get discouraged when she doesn't immediately succeed.  

A lot of ideas in the homeschool blogs are generally ones that need a lot of setup and direct supervision, so here I will capture the tools I discovered that make setup easy and lessen the potential of frustration when I'm not around to guide her.  

Here's a quick one:
Clear contact paper!  (find this in True Value, Handyman or Ace)
Since she does her trays pretty much alone, sticky contact paper keeps things in place like an invisible guide. To illustrate:
Cut out and attach to a clipboard, sticky side up, to hold paper games in place.  Games can be anything you can think of.
Contact paper on a larger-scale for an inviting and neat way to work on puzzles
Attach it to glass for an anything goes canvas for art.  It stays sticky for a long time so we leave it up and keep reusing it.
It's DIY, it's hands-on while allowing me to be at work, and it's playful learning for Ladybug Girl.  

I love stumbling upon these simple solutions.  

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Starting Play Early: DIY A Crawl Playground

When Ladybug (Baby) Girl was beginning to turn over, I thought it would make it more encouraging if her surroundings were like a crawl playground to explore.

I'm not sure crawl playgrounds do exist - they seem to be missing from baby books.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Following Your Child: Why It's Better

It’s ironic that I have my corporate career to thank for letting me tune into and enjoy my child. 

Early on, John Maxwell’s words stuck to me: if you can’t sing, don’t sing.  Maybe it’s because I can’t sing, but it made a lot of sense to me.   As a more senior manager now, I see that recognizing diversity and people’s different strengths are becoming the norm with tools like the Enneagram and Innate Intelligence Analysis.

Thanks to these principles, I am a better mom by seeking first to understand my daughter rather than working to improve her.  I try very hard to make the choices that are right for her, rather than my wishes for her.  This is never more important than the formative years of age 1-6, and that is also when it is hardest for kids to communicate what they really feel or need.    

When I began to consciously do this, the changes I’ve made are both big and small:

1.   She doesn’t go to a traditional school.  She used to.  I actually loved the school (my alma mater).  But I wanted to build Ladybug Girl’s self-confidence in herself since I noticed she would not even attempt to join in activities with kids who were better than her at it.  That’s how I discovered and fell in love with the Montessori principle of building a child’s self-esteem through independence, mastery, and the freedom to choose their interests. 
An excerpt from Ladybug Girl's scrapbook from her new Montessori school
2.  I am more patient with her and am more easygoing if things go differently from how I planned things in my head.  Ladybug Girl is a Dove or Peacemaker personality which makes her highly sensitive to relationships and people’s feelings.  One time I burst into tears and she put her hands on my wet face and laid her head silently on my chest : she was just one year old.  At four years old, she gets upset when I don't answer a ringing phone or text because it's "rude" and I will "make them sad".

So now that she has started slamming doors on me, saying “I don’t want to be friends!”, I know she just gets hypersensitive when she perceives my discipline methods to mean that I am rejecting her.  I never let her “calm down” on her own anymore because she needs assurance from me that I love her.  This works magic, I tell you.
Upset Ladybug Girl about to slam the door on me.  Watch the 15-second edit here

3.  I stop comparing her to other kids.  Ok, I try now at leastLadybug Girl has two cousins the same age as she is (4).  One is whipsmart with numbers and can add up to two digits.  The other is an olympic champion in anything sporty.  My Ladybug Girl has little interest in numbers and only learned to jump recently.  

Sure, we still practice... but only without forcing.  I stress less knowing that it isn’t a test of her abilities, but simply an indication of her interests.  And she builds the confidence she needs to trust in her abilities when things are tougher later on.  
Ladybug Girl and her super-athlete cousin -see the difference in jumping skills?  Ladybug Girl just learned how!

In our desire to want what’s best for our children, It’s so much easier for parents to fall into the norm of forcing their own expectations and behaviors on kids, to lead rather than to follow.  But I’m so grateful that parenting is advancing too, just as corporate culture is.  

And hey, no politics.  Can’t beat that.

I recently wrote a related post about the Dove personality and how I manage when it is so different from my own.  

For a running jumpstart in following your child, why not invest in the Innate Intelligence Analysis?  You can do this as early as 2 years old.  Check out their website here.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Realistic DIY Decor for the Corporate Mom

While the rest of the house looks like this:
And this is just the hall to the bedrooms!

Due to this DIY project (scapegoat for my mess):
Rough closet design sketch for Handyman Rex (I love living in labor-loving Philippines)
I create corners around the house that make me feel happy.  Plus Christmas decor make it more fun:
Bungalow 300vintage mirror + indoor plant + Ikea battery-operated string lights

The best part is at night!

I know this is just delusional but it makes me feel more productive and in-control.  After all in the corporate world 'perception is reality', right?

Monday, 19 November 2012

After-the-Accident: Use Play to Learn and Heal

It's been a few days after the accident, and Ladybug Girl still asks questions like "what are stitches?", "what's a wound?", "can you tell me the story what happened to me, mommy?".  She knows all the answers, it's just her way of dealing with what happened.

Today when she asked what stitches were again, I decided we should play hospital and pretend to be doctors who stitch up wounds.  Bonus was that she needed a lot of fine motor skill practice as well.  I brought this out:
Cheap coaster from grocery + Lacing string from old beading set + Plastic needle from an ELC craft set at the Fort

I improvised and drew a "wound" using a red marker.  She said "this is the color of blood!" and helped me color in the wound.  When we started to play, I put the coaster on Dopey doll and acted out what happened to her.  She ran away.

I pretended to be the nurse and paged for her as the surgeon, so she came back, took the needle and began to do her "stitches" to cover up the wound.  This was our first time so I had to guide her how, encouraging her that the wound will be much better during the times she wanted to stop.  It was a double-challenge for Ladybug Girl's personality to tackle both a difficult task and a new experience at that.  She always likes to know what to expect and do immediately.

Having the "wound" there actually helped a lot!  I don't think she would have done as well without the story and the visual guide:

Afterwards she put Dopey to rest and asked for another patient.  Atta girl.

This will be part of her new "stitches" activity in her room.

Left: placemat with smaller holes + thin shoelace     |     Right: coaster + plastic needle + yarn or lacing string

I made the sewing frame on the left in 10 minutes, by stapling another placemat around a spare picture frame.  

Can you tell where Ladybug Girl got her accident-prone genes? 

We also had to get a tetanus booster shot yesterday at her pedia.  Poor Ladybug Girl, she was so insistent that she have no more after that.  We played this adorable game on the ipad afterwards:

Play truly works wonders!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

5 Things I Learned To Soothe Your Child in the ER

Tonight every working mom's nightmare happened : my little girl had to be brought to the hospital while I was working at the office.

A telco with another time zone finished by 7 pm and inertia hit me : which means I stayed an hour longer finishing some things.  Then Awesome Guy called and delivered the news of Ladybug Girl's nasty fall which split her chin open and slammed guilt and dread into my heart.

In a blessed calm, I drove to St. Luke's Global City to meet them.  I got there before the surgeon arrived so I could make her feel more comfortable and safe.

Still, we weren't prepared for the pain that numbing spray would cause and we started the horrible ordeal with sobbing screams and twists of pain - which went on because the spray did not work so well during the irrigation of her wound.  Later on I realized that the knife in my heart was what Mama Mary had to be feeling watching Jesus : if you could bear your child's pain yourself you gladly would.  But at that moment, I was hyperfocused on getting Ladybug Girl through the nightmare with as much strength as I could inspire in her.

After reflecting on it, these were some of things I was sure gave her strength and courage.  
1.  Past stories of how mommy and other people she knows went through something similar.  Ideally launch into this during the early part of tense waiting.

2.  Having read books that conditioned her about hospitals, emergency rooms, that bacteria causes sickness, doctors and their tools, what is blood, clots, how wounds heal thanks to blood.  I once thought those topics were too advanced for Ladybug Girl at 3 years old but now I am thankful we had read them.  Example: "I see the bacteria being washed away now, now the white blood cells can start to heal it."

3.  Articulating to her what she is feeling whether scared or in pain.  This shows that you understand rather than blustering your way through blanket encouragements to be brave, or to trivialize what she is going through by saying 'it's ok'.  Example: "It burns so much, doctor, ouch!  that's enough ok, time for the next step"

4.  Explaining what to expect in words that are familiar to them : part of this is counting the steps, and countdown to when each step would be done.  Don't forget to finish your sentences with "so that..." to explain why and not just what will happen.  Example: "So brave, Ladybug Girl!  Last step to go and we will count to fifteen so that the skin glue will make your wound smaller."

5.  Telling her that Jesus, Mama Mary and her Guardian Angel is watching over her to make sure she will be okay.  I had thought of praying aloud with her, but decided it may make her panic.  But at the height of her pain, I told her that they were there.  She opened her eyes to look wildly around for reassurance.  In hindsight, I should have rephrased this as "close your eyes and remember that Jesus is here".

(Click here for how we used play to recover from her trauma in the days after.)

The most reassuring thing to remember is that if you know your child, then you will naturally know what will work for her and more importantly, what doesn't.  Case in point: someone tried to play with her but she needed familiarity not distraction.  This might not be true for other kids.

I am so proud of my little trooper tonight.  We were both teary eyed after I told this to her at bedtime.  She knows her accomplishment.  She was back to her old self soon after, but now as she lays asleep beside me she still sob-hiccups once in a while.  (Update: two nights later, she still gets bad dreams and yells 'ow-ow!' in her sleep)

I've always loved her somewhat-clefty little chin.  Sad to think there will be a scar there after tonight.

There will also be a scar in my heart after tonight that I failed my Ladybug Girl.  That tonight my priorities were wrong.

I hope this post inspires me and countless others like me to "do your best" but still -- yes, still -- "get it right".  

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Not A Bad DIY Project

I have this weird habit of removing labels from things in the bathroom.  I think it's from working in the marketing business : I know packaging is made to stand out in store shelves rather than look pretty in the homes.  My bathroom is the one place I cannot stand visual clutter.

That's why when Beabi and Muji became available in Manila, I now decant most of the liquids that need to be on display into bottles like these:
Unlabeled Muji bottles do so much to clear visual clutter

Then last week, Awesome Guy put this in the bathroom.  
This was not awesome.

All I said was "yuck".  And shortly after, I found he did this.  No prompting from me.

Not the outcome I wanted, but it's compromise.  This will make me smile before I hide it away eventually.

Not a bad DIY project from the hubby!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Insight: Benchmarking Makes Me Feel Like Crap

Multinational corpy-folk such as me would be familiar with a lot of self discovery tests that help teams do norming.  I've taken the following : Myers-Briggs Personality, Team Management Profile, Strengthsfinder, and my two all-time favorites: Innate Intelligence Analysis, and the Riso-Hudson Enneagram.  I am an INTJ, Creator-Innovator, Investigator (Type 5), Owl, Equally left/right brained, with Strategic+Ideation+Relator+Intellection+Maximizer strengths.

In my first-ever post, I confessed to the need for mastery in the roles of my life.  It make me so overwhelmed that my instinct is to hyper-focus on building knowledge and benchmarks to learn from - reading, researching blogs and Pinterest.  Now that I've taken to putting my thoughts for self-focus on a blog, I've run into self-doubt and hesitation whether I'm "good enough" when I benchmark with all the slick, content-planned-for-the-most-views work out there.    

Then today I got this in my email - daily wisdom for my enneagram type:

Thank you, Lord, for this reminder that it's not about getting it right but doing your best.

That Homeschool blogs are not the right benchmark for a working mom.

That Design/DIY blogs are not the right benchmark for someone who's from the Philippines, where Ikea is expensive and capable handymen and carpenters are so accessible.

That Pinterest is just turning into a time-sucking massive collection of future plans.

That I've been looking over my shoulder too much.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Roundup: Playful Learning Baths

I have wonderful memories of taking baths in the heavy monsoon rains when I was a little girl.  Or bringing my doll to pretend our balde was a mermaid's pool.  I suppose it was natural for me to create magical worlds and playful learning for Ladybug Girl too.

As soon as Ladybug Girl turned two, she graduated from her baby bath time in her room.
Purely sensorial water play as a baby -- learning to love the feel of the water through bonding time with me.
I was resistant to moving to a place where I wouldn't be as comfortable giving baths anymore.  But I realized we could be having a lot of new fun together too.   We had a "swim" area like this made when we renovated her bathroom.
  This makeshift tub is very low-end DIY but we love it!
I started to join her baths rather than just give her baths.  This gives us moments to bond, and lets me introduce some playful learning.  In the times I can't join her when I'm fixing the house, I realized these fun baths buy me the most alone time (30 minutes minimum with yaya watching over her):
Sorting and matching under the proper words, for logical reasoning.  Bath toys are from Rustan's.

Identifying ocean animals.  Ocean In My Pocket toys were half off in toy stores.  Sadly I can't find them anymore.
Sensorial bubble baths which we pretend are beards, snow, islands, etc.  We use bars from Lush
Gross motor skills play : practicing swimming and using handles to pull back and forth.  These were hotel tubs.
Shaving cream painting: sensorial fun learning about mixing colors and making art!

Scooping and mixing fine motor practice and imagination play.

Washing of dishes used for painting.  Notice that we sometimes bring the shampoo and baby wash outside?  Just to change it up and have more fun!
These are some of our best playful learning bathtime tools that have taken us through toddler to preschool years and are still going strong.  They are always ready in the shower area:
Munchkin bath crayons, Ocean in My Pocket animals, Cheap 'gems' from palengke, Ikea unbreakable mirror
Just by googling bath time activities, you'll get a lot of great ideas, like this fishing game and water balloon color mixing.

The downside of all this fun is that Ladybug Girl isn't all that independent in washing herself yet.  

She's usually much too busy having a happy childhood.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Hands-On Tip: 30 Minutes of Play A Day

Being time-starved, and thus very selfish with time, I tend to remember time management tips with specific time limits in them.  (Wait, that was not my best sentence)  

One rule I remember from somewhere is to spend at least 30 minutes of "floor time" with your kids.  Floor time is just that - you stop being so tall and distant, and hunker down and play their way. 

Why do I love this rule?  Because 30 minutes feels so doable.  And I've found that, once started, it easily turns into an hour.  And then it feels like a working-mom accomplishment to have surpassed the goal.  In corporate language, it's called sandbagging creating a target you can win.  

The simple ways I manage to squeeze this in during workdays:
Nearly all the time she's ready for bed by the time I get home.  So reading became precious floor time.
Ultimate time saver: we take fun baths together.  Plus I get to check her all over for general health

At the height of her separation anxiety, I tried to get 30 minutes of morning floor time too.

I can swear that thanks to this "30 minute" daily rule, Ladybug Girl began to read on her own at just 3 years old.  And now a year later, our "floor time" includes quiet time by my side doing this:

The other memorable tip using a time limit is that it only takes 15 seconds to put something away, so just do it.  Let's just say I'm still working on that one:

Win some, lose some.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

DIY Fantasy vs. Reality for Corporate Moms

I'm not particularly good at decorating, but I do it anyway.  Before getting married, I lived with my mom for 29 years with nothing much to do but buy pretty sheets for my small, shared bedroom.  

Suddenly, boom!  A whole house to decorate and organize.  I am blessed.  It's my new kind of play.  Sites Apartment Therapy and Young House Love replaced daily TV for me.

But the realities of a Corporate Mom mean things are always unfinished around here.  Take this work-in-progress for example: the foyer makeover.  The goal: something clutter-free and welcoming to come home to.  Time to complete: one year.  Yes, one year.  It became a running joke for my husband, who had never even heard of a foyer before.

Our entryway taken Christmas season, 2 years ago 
Cluttered half-done decor, 6 months later in July (from another angle)
Finally done: Christmas the year after
In case you're wondering, I'm still not done.  This is what it looks like another year later today.  (I've given up on the idea of a foyer and it's now where we eat).

View from the entryway, yet another year later

The whole DIY part of my life is hardly ideal, but I've made peace with it half the time.  The other half is filled with frustration of always having clutter and projects hanging over my head.  But the dream of a dream home lives on.  Such is the life of a DIY Corporate Mom.  

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Playful Learning : The Secret to Hands-On Parenting

With our yayas helping us care for our kids, I promised myself not to let Ladybug Girl be more attached to her nanny than to me.  Playful parenting became my solution.  

Yayas are mostly just trusted caretakers for our kids, and teachers are often just 'teachers'.  Playful parenting is both.  It meant fun for me too, an incentive bonus for a time-starved corporate mom.  

At four years old and three yayas later, it's obvious that Ladybug Girl and I are best friends.  Since she started school a year ago, a lot of our precious time together nowadays is filled with doing fun things that allow her to learn and us to bond.  (It's also become an outlet for my DIY fantasies).

The secret of being Playful is to remember the feelings you had when you were small, and then create experiences you wish you had then.  I still remember the wonder and exploration, the frustration and powerlessness as a kid -- I think that's why I have a knack for teaching.  I try to imagine how I would have liked to learn and experience when I was her age.  

There are tons of playful parenting and playful learning books and blogs out there.  I love the book Playful Parenting about the principles of being a playful parent.  I also wish I found blogs like this and this and this when Ladybug Girl was a toddler!  

That's my Ladybug Girl during typical after-office playtime.  Warning: being a Playful Parent means being okay with messes.  Thankfully, I have yaya to help clean up!  

Thursday, 1 November 2012

A Sikret Birthday Post

It's Awesome Guy's birthday today. 
 Words and gifts aren't his language of love, but I hope he knows how much I love him and honor all the things he does to make our home and family work.

P.S.  His moniker is also inspired by a character on Doc Mcstuffins on Disney Junior.

That's him!