Monday, 27 May 2013

Dinosaur Love : Play Round-up

Her Ninsie Tracy recently gave Ladybug Girl the most adorable dinosaur from a handmade-art fair in Singapore.  "Stompy" is her new favorite playmate and bedmate.
Isn't it cute?

Ladybug Girl has loved dinosaurs (and the color purple) since she was three years old.  So in honor of her new pal, Stompy : I've rounded up our play time that followed this interest.

First, we started with books:
This book started it all.  It's great because it's not a fake-cartoony book but it doesn't kill you with detail.  

Then we made it real:
I tucked these photos in the book, and she loves looking at them and identifying the dinosaur over and over again.   She gets a kick out of seeing mommy and daddy with real fossils.
(But she also keeps asking where she was.)

We've gone to the Mind Museum six times since it opened because of this guy here.  Never gets old.
We were lucky to catch this show during a Singapore visit.

And now we play!  Of course we had to make fossils of our own...
... and so we made some last Halloween.
These were plastic bugs in "amber" : clear gelatin with some yellow food color added.

She was very bothered though, because she didn't want the ladybug to be trapped.

We have a bag of expired coffee from two Christmases ago (yes, believe it), so I googled one day and found a super-easy recipe for making fossil impressions.  We've now done this a couple of times.

Coffee + Flour + Salt + Water

Press or roll out flat.
Punch out some circles

Make impressions.  You can poke a hole with a straw before they dry to turn them into ornaments.

Let them dry 1.5 days.    

I loved this one.  (This was a happy meal toy)

The day after we got Stompy, she brought out her dinosaur figures and drew a habitat for them.  

She didn't want Stompy to be lonely.

I love it when Awesome Guy joins in.

But his "habitat" was a spaceship:
And his dinosaurs were the Transformers Dino-bots: "Sludge.  Snarl.  Slag.  Swoop. Grimlock."
(I am very glad I have a daughter I can relate to.  Big applause for moms with sons!)

Here's our prehistoric habitat.  Ladybug Girl drew the asteroid that may have wiped out the dinosaurs.  Can you spot it?

We also loved singing along to "Harry and His Bucketful of Dinosaurs".

Then we sewed with a real needle and thread for the first time,
because of a particularly vigorous stomping session while racing cars and dinosaurs.
Stompy is well-loved.  Thanks Ninsie Tracy!

I must admit I've fallen in love with dinosaurs myself now.  How have you followed your child's interests?  My sister is learning the abacus for my math-genius nephew.  

Now that's love.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

After-Work: When All Energy Fails

When the office has gotten more than its fair share

And the husband has conked out asleep

Drag some props to the floor

And call bedtime a "sleepover"

And then call it a day.

Goodnight, world.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Defining a New Sleep Space

We have been co-sleeping with Ladybug Girl since her birth.  From reading all my favorite international blogs, this is almost a taboo.  From asking around the office though, this is completely normal and energy-efficient (i.e: tipid sa aircon).

She did have her own room, but it was used mostly as her playroom.  

We had a single bed beside the master bed (not that she slept on it most nights).
Her convertible crib/toddler bed was moved to her playroom for naps.

Early this year, I promised Awesome Guy that it was time to start the transition to independent sleeping.  Poor guy, he was the one who was always displaced (from asking around, this is again another norm).  

So we packed away the crib, and brought this in her playroom:

An extra twin mattress that had been waiting eagerly for this day

This is all the rage in Montessori-style rooms, but frankly it just looked wrong to me:

This is just Ladybug Girl napping.  At night she still slept with us.  Yes, I move slow.

So in the interim I brought in the sofa bed from the spare room.  That stayed around for a few weeks.

Her upgraded nap space.  Yes, still nap.
I did say it would be a transition, right?

By that time I had gotten a bad case of bronchitis and then pneumonia, so the little girl and husband had to sleep in the playroom for two weeks.  That actually jump started the real move!  I guess I was the one who was unwilling to let go of sleeping beside my soft, fragrant little bed partner.  


And so when I got well, I finally moved the single bed out of the master bedroom and into Ladybug Girl's big girl room-slash-playroom.

Finally her own real bed!
With the higher bed, her bedside lamp is now the perfect height for her to reach herself.

If you're noticing that there is a mattress on the floor, you are very observant and discerning that she is still not sleeping by herself at night.  Now this is all her, folks.  She panics when waking up alone, so we are now taking turns sleeping with her at night to ease her into independence.

Here is where I'll possibly digress a bit to explain how parenting style affects all this.  In the Philippines, a sleeping arrangement with kids (and yayas) is a very personal choice.  Mine was to be on-duty at night so that I would be sure yaya would be alert and rested while I was at work during the day.  There are pros and cons to this, and good reasons either way.

On-topic:  now that she uses the same space for serious sleep and play, I worried that she may not get a restful night sleep with all the stimulation so accessible around her.

So now I want to carve out a more defined sleep space within her play room and make the bed look like a room within a room.

And also because when I wake up in my floor mattress, this very unfinished view bothers me:

You can even see the 3M stick-ons from the previous artwork expecting some action.

While cleaning out more junk some weekends ago, my meantime solution found me:

Leftover reposition-able wall stickers from Wee Gallery, now four years old.

One hour during a weeknight later:

And this is now my view when I wake up:

I'd love to put some sheer white curtains on either side of the bed.
I actually have the materials ready and will post that update when they're up.

Seriously, is there anything cuter than a sleeping baby-child?

That's not an easy view to give up at all.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Animal Match Sticker Game

I bought these Melissa and Doug reusable stickers some time last year to use as a sort-the-animals-to-their-habitat activity.  It was cute and had at least 12 kinds of animals to each habitat.

Worth the 350-peso price tag, I thought.

I set up four of the habitats as a leave-behind activity on the whiteboards and mixed up the stickers for more of a challenge.

She wasn't so into it.  If you can see, none of the farm animals made it to their habitat.

Except this lost little guy, that is.  We had a good laugh that night.  

So I switched tactics.  Thankfully the stickers are peel-and-stick-again!  Since they also stick on whiteboard surfaces, I made a fill-in-the-blank game instead like this:

I had reset the whole thing on a Sunday, and already Ladybug Girl couldn't wait to get started.
I left out the appropriate Cat-in-the-Hat habitat book for her to look for clues if she needed to.

We did three habitats throughout the course of a few weeks:

Savanna animals

Rainforest animals
Ocean animals.  This time I walked in after I got home and caught her doing it.

Ladybug Girl even invented names for the unidentified fish, using the only few letters and numbers she knows how to write:

Hello fish A17TA17, why not.

This is a nice activity for sight-word practice too.  I originally designed it as an intuitive leave-behind activity to do while mommy is at the office, but it works as a stay-at-home game too. 

Now that's the excitement I was going for!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The End of Separation Anxiety

It's been an exhausting two weeks at work, and I can't wait to spend more time with family this long weekend.  I had been waking up at 3 a.m. to work, leaving in a distracted rush and coming home too drained to play.

Amid all this I noticed Ladybug Girl was okay.  Praise God.  No more separation anxiety after four and a half years.

No matter what everyone says, you just never get used to mornings like this:

Watch the 30-second video.

Or business trips like this:

Facetime in fact makes things worse.

A lot of people underestimate the guilty anxiety that working moms have to wrestle with every single morning.  I always felt split into two, until I made a conscious priority to put my daughter's emotions first before my office's expectations.  That meant arriving late, and staying in the office late to compensate.

It also meant she slept later than most kids (10-11 pm).  And she still doesn't sleep through the night - she asks to go to the bathroom and then I have trouble falling back asleep.  Thus the blog.

I had to grit my teeth amid the inevitable fallout : people who judge.  In truth, I felt most judged by women, despite the late days I would spend at work.  I still wonder how I could have handled the whole thing better.

I read a touching article long ago that stuck to me about a mother wishing she had been conscious of the "lasts" as much as the "firsts".  I never forgot that.  And so as I acknowledge the end of separation anxiety, it is bittersweet - as most things about growing up are.

It is one step closer to the inevitable time when we will literally stop jumping for joy when we see each other at the end of the day.

But these few short years shape a lot about one's parenting style forever:

You learn to be creative.  Everyday is a new tactic to leave your child with love and your mind with peace.

I wore her drawing on my hand to show her how much mommy misses her during the day too.

You learn to be less selfish.  I was never a morning person, but I got up earlier to spend a few more precious moments together before the rush.  How motherhood changes things indeed.

Ladybug Girl loved to beg "can we read one book before you go?".  I'm glad I always did.

You learn when it's okay to cheat.  Have an occasion?  Pasalubong?  Give the gift in the morning, and you create an effective diversion.

I forgot the occasion, but Milo Armadillo was a hit.

You learn to look at the world through her eyes.  I realized that leaving Ladybug Girl to wake up alone was the scariest thing in the world for her.  So I started to leave notes when I had to leave while she was asleep.  A few days ago, I didn't get to do this and her daddy called me because she was sobbing when she didn't find me.

This helped her learn to read in cursive too.

You learn to stop apologizing for your priorities.  This I learned the hard way.  If only I had known this earlier when I went back to work after maternity leave:  decide your priorities early, let others know, and stick to them.  In fact one of the best advice I got was from a male co-worker: if you keep compromising your priorities, people will naturally take advantage - and it won't be their fault.

So here I am today, blessed with a daughter who feels loved enough to start letting go, and a good career that's catching up.  It is Mother's Day tomorrow, and for the first time since I gave birth I truly feel like I've passed a milestone.

Happy Mother's Day to all you awesome moms.