Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Make a Mattress Play Area

During the closet makeover project we did last month, we spent two weeks camping out in Ladybug Girl's playroom.  We had two mattresses and three closets-worth of clothes crammed in her space.

With most of her usual art, fine motor, and pretend play materials being difficult to access, we had to find another way to play - so we made a playground out of mattresses!  Wish we had done this when she was a baby and toddler!

Instant excitement!  It became a bouncy slide to roll down...

I may have rolled down a couple of times too

And climb!

We rolled a ball on it to practice her aim and coordination.

Then I would roll the ball up and she would catch it.

She grabbed a bucket to play 'Jack and Jill' which soon became a completely different pretend-story of her own.  Something about a missing pink elephant.

It was a fun way to build her gross motor skills this time.  She's a little behind on it, having just mastered jumping at 3.5 years old and all.  Maybe because she's petite for her age.  
Her same-age classmates are a head taller than Ladybug Girl!

And with her semi-fixed room two months later: we did it again!

Lately she's been jumping, twirling and balancing on things all over the place.  Fun!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

When Your Child Is Not Like You

It's challenging to be a mom to a personality that's different from yours.  You could say the past four years has been a decoding project of mine on Ladybug Girl.  What can I say, I'm a brand manager by day so it's second-nature to apply consumer insighting skills on my daughter.
Long, Life-lesson post.
I need a permanent space to turn my discoveries about my daughter into insights to remember when she's the dreaded teenager.
Ladybug Girl and I are alike in most ways but in very basic ones, we couldn't be more different.  She is a Dove, and I'm an Owl: which means she is a people-pleaser and I'm an unapologetic hermit.  She's highly emotional and I'm highly private.  She is not assertive and I'm not submissive.
She was a nervous baby, shying away from noise and people exclaiming over her
If I were to be totally honest, I want to 'toughen her up'.  I have a sister (also a Dove) who was bullied in grade school and I remember the painful self-consciousness that insecurities bring.  I want my daughter be confident in and stand up for herself.

The preschool version of my wisdom is not very mature:  Hit them back if they hit you!  Grab the toy you want and never. let. go!
Kids will be kids, so when the inevitable grabbing of playthings happens she always lets go.  
A Dove is the symbol for peace, and Ladybug Girl literally fears conflict.  She runs away during those storytelling moments of tension on Disney Junior.  Doc McStuffins has a cold?  Pluto goes missing?  So does my daughter.  When she senses a sudden rise in temper of mine or her dad's, she jerks her hands in panic towards me and pulls my face down to give me a sweet, soothing kiss.
Hands over ears at a pet show : her coping mechanism because loud music/noise = conflict.  I was sad about missing the shows.  Awesome Guy was sad about the under-utilized zoo ticket.
Doves tend to think with emotions, and Ladybug Girl is a huge tender-heart.  She cries during goodbyes with playmates.  She refuses Bible stories because most of them have sorrow and suffering.

I now see the pattern why her little face would crumple in tears when reading together at 2 years old:  an alligator mom scolding her son to say 'please' if he wants a cookie.  A frog who yelled 'out!' to the spider who fell in his lake.  Back then I was so baffled!
Nervous about new experiences: like the science museum, flower girl duty, meeting the school security guard, and even our family Christmas gift giving
Another nervous Ladybug Girl code last Halloween

I like to give her new experiences and then repeat them to build her self-confidence.  I also use books, stories and you tube to let her feel prepared.  I'm so proud of my little Dove when she overcomes her fears and says she had a great time after!   
We've gone back to the science museum over and over and she finally conquered Aedi.
In a birthday party, she watched from afar at first and then actually volunteered for a magic trick!

The effect of her self-confidence is amazing.  Others have exclaimed how she's so much more chatty, expressive and participative.  But I began to get complacent, and I easily forgot Ladybug Girl's nature last December.  See, we took her to Disney on Ice two years ago:
We had to step out a few times, but in the end she said she wanted to watch again next time.
But a full year later, no amount of pre-conditioning via You Tube could make her sit through the octopus and dragon villains from Disney Princesses and so at the show last December, we spent most of our time standing near the exit doors.
Until the finale, that is.  No villains, see!
I was so exasperated because I had paid for floor seats, that I lost my temper when she wouldn't follow me to the entrance.  The end-goal of having a new experience had overshadowed the self-confidence building process.  That was really not my best moment.

It was a sobering reminder for me that a child's real nature and motivations don't change even if her behavior does.  To keep following your child, even when you think you have her codes all figured out.

Do I want to change Ladybug Girl's personality?  Heck no.  If my little dove is like this to her playmates...  
Sharing with best-friend cousin comes naturally to my sweet little Dove.
... can you imagine how sweet she is to her mother?

Oh yes that is her sleeping on top of me.  "Oh mommy, I love you.  You are my heaven.  You are my best friend.  You're my heart."  Having a dependent Dove melts my independent Owl heart.
I truly believe Ladybug Girl and I are a perfect mom-daughter match.

But ask me again in ten years.


If you're curious about the whole Dove and Owl reference, there's also Eagle and Peacock...  inquire at  This isn't a paid post.

My Mommyology linked up to this post and wrote about decoding her own Dove daughter here.  Thanks for the lovely shout out, Jen!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Leave-Behind Trays: Making It Easy

Over the Christmas break, my sister said that my post on leave-behind trays made her feel like an inadequate mom.  I felt really bad about this, because the point was actually to share how working moms can fulfill their need to be more hands-on through play.

If it didn't look easy then, I thought maybe it would be helpful to share some really simple things that work for me.

Get ready to be underwhelmed, sissie.

First: an irresistable invitation to draw with googly eyes.  Prep time: 3 minutes.
I used black paper and colored gel pencils only because I had those on hand.

Chalk version.
Next: setup puzzles to build up confidence and skill.  Prep time: 2 minutes depending on the puzzle.
We'll gradually build up to more and more pieces out of the puzzle frame
Next: a nice tip to use up all those workbooks we get as gifts: tear a page or two a day.  Makes it a lot more manageable to do.  Prep time: less than a minute.
Ladybug Girl loves these so much they only stay on our shelf for a day.
Last:  the easiest setup that works is leaving toys out as invitations.  Great way to use up the kind of birthday giveaways and craft gifts from classmates.  Prep time: almost none.
This only works with the accessible shelves set-up mentioned in my first post about leave-behind trays.  Otherwise these invitations get lost in the toy jumble.  For messier trays, yaya helps the clean up.

We usually do some trays together on the weekends for our regular floor time so I can see her 'at work'.  Having this image of Ladybug Girl's enjoyment to take with me during the long workdays at the office helps keep me motivated to keep the trays up:
She drew "Santa Claus" on a spare mirror.
After that I left behind a similar activity in a tray.
Easy-peasy and infinitely DIY-able and customizable.  Hope this sets the record straight, sissie.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

DIY Labels for House Help

I went ahead and dived into organizing the bed linens drawer without too much thought.  And I must remember that this method often works best over my usual analysis paralysis.
I purged down to 2 stored linen sets while the other is being used.
I also realized that every new yaya inevitably brings chaos to the old system (which is why it was a mess), so I decided to label them.

Again my laughable DIY solution:
DIY labels on a notecard was the simplest method
I deliberately did not brief my housekeeper on the new system.  A week later I checked the drawer, and there were fresh linens, properly put away, with the notecards back on top.

An upside to DIY labels is more reader-friendly solutions:
I doubt "bolster" would have been as universal.
And finally since I wanted all the linens for the room to be grouped together, I had to concede that a certain small person would probably be co-sleeping with us for the meantime.

At least I can tell myself that we'll be more organized while living in this "temporary" shared bedroom status.
By "temporary" I mean four years.  And counting.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Play With Leftover Holiday Cookies

Do you have cookies at home after Christmas gifting season?  I have tons of those familiar butter cookies.  I found a way to use them for zero-prep playful learning that's great for a weekend play idea.

I stayed home from work to watch Ladybug Girl's on/off fever like a hawk.  I hadn't prepared anything special to do together, so she was just on the iPad -- too much.  So I had to scramble an idea together.  Luckily the preps were easy and Ladybug Girl even helped.

Cookies (preferably the light ones)
Baking tray (or any work surface)
Food coloring
Little cups for mixing
Spare and sterilized paintbrushes (we have unused ones)
Cup of water for rinsing colors
First pour milk in each little cup available.
Good practice for pouring too, one of Montessori's practical life activities
Then mix in chosen food coloring to make the 'paint'.
Fine motor skills practice right there.  This could even be a color mixing lesson for secondary colors.
We spent a lot of time on this part alone.  I was impressed at how her hand control improved.
Lastly, dip a paintbrush and paint away!
She asked for a cup of water for rinsing after -- smart girl.
Hey, she's finally using a big girl grip!  For toddlers, this should still be fine though bigger cookies may be better.
She launched into a how-to spiel, like the hosts of the  cooking or  art shows she loves.
She was so into the activity, I expected her to keep painting other designs, but my little attention-span-challenged daughter wanted to stop after just one because she thought of another 'how to recipe' she wanted to narrate.  Decorating was "just too long!".


I tried, really did, until it began to be a sore point and we were both tense.  So I remembered reading that you mustn't force learning at that point and dropped it.  
I may have grumbled a little bit more.
Mental note.  Now that I think about it, to her the magic must have been more about playing TV show host rather than playing bakeshop.  I should have encouraged her to record a new how-to for other kinds of cookie designs, rather than just ask her to 'finish painting'.  

So to bring back the fun, we had a little color mixing with all the milk paint left over.
First on our tongues
And then the inevitable mess.
And so in the words of Mister Maker:  Our making time is over, but yours is just beginning!
Or as Ladybug Girl puts it "mix, mix, mix till everything's a blur!".

That's definitely like play time around here.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Squeezing in Play During the Holiday

Having zero vacation leaves left for the Christmas season is a grave mistake I hope never to make.  How on earth do working moms manage to care for sick kids, attend school activities, do home errands, and travel while keeping Christmas leaves intact?

I've had to let go of my visions of of baking, crafts and a lazy holiday of play-filled floor time with Ladybug Girl and get help from these:

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Where To Donate The Baby Stuff and Recycled Gifts

At our company Christmas party, St. Rita Orphanage was one of our chosen charities, and seeing babies with few toys filled me with shame at how shallow my Christmas spirit had deteriorated.  And so I filled an entire balikbayan box with baby clothes and toys and sent them to be delivered during the post-holiday work days.

St. Rita Orphanage just after Loyola Memorial Cemetery in Sucat.  Website here.
The hardest thing was thinking "will I need this for the (fingers crossed) next baby?".  But I decided that our second child should be getting new onesies and lampins all her own.  These are, after all, the cheaper baby things to get.  In hindsight, I only just needed a dozen onesies, too.  So off they went.

Next was easy.  Stuffed toys of which we were never a huge fan of, yet managed to amass quite a collection.  A lot went into the donate pile, but how come we still have too many??
I'd still like to get rid that annoying Baby Alive doll.
Lastly books and more "durable" things like rubber mats, baby plates and toys.  If it's cheap or plastic, which most are, it will never survive a couple years of storage and still look new.  At least if donated now, kids can appreciate them more.  So off they went too.

(Why yes, I am a second child myself with hand-me-down issues.  How'd you guess?)

For toys for preschool kids and up, another option is the Philippine Toy Library, an org with a brilliant idea of collecting toys and books to build play spaces in poor areas.  That sounds like a good home for the birthday and Christmas gifts that kids aren't interested in.

Ladybug Girl just isn't into gifts yet.  Here we are on Christmas morning where her dad was opening presents for her.

Finally an upside to a home purge during Christmas!