Monday, 30 September 2013

New Happy Corners

I'm always changing things up around the house -- that's why it's always cluttered around here!  But I can't help it.  I like creating corners that are happy.    

Those two white lanterns are now...

... nine!  I am too obsessed with the things.

Here's the newest happy corner.  Two months ago it was a wall dividing the kitchen from the dining room.  Now it ties together all I feel about being home.  

  And the plant is actually growing.  Imagine that.

Now to get to the other 98% of the house... after the business review.

Make Together : Melted Beads Decor

Quality time together with Ladybug Girl after work is always a challenge, in time and energy.  So I like to share easy ways  a working mom can squeeze play in before bedtime.  This one took fifteen minutes, tops:  

After the series of heavy rains this wet season, the air-dry dough hearts we made together disintegrated in the humid air. 

They lasted eight months, not bad!  Remember the how-to here?

We were given those plastic melting beads craft kits for her birthday so I brought them out and tried to spark some interest.  Not very successful.  I had never had luck on these in the past, so Ladybug Girl probably had no idea what these were for.

Yup these were a fail last year.  I can't even cook plastic, apparently!

This time rather than leave options open-ended for her to create, I made a simple square and asked her to copy it.  Surprisingly, that was all it took.  This was one time parent-led worked better.  

This is also how I keep the beads inviting and accessible.
Sorry I threw out the original box and can't remember the brand - but it's pretty common at the toy store.

I was even luckier that night because I figured out to use baking paper rather than regular paper to apply the heat from the iron.  I'm not sure these things came with instructions - beads stuck to the plain paper from yet another failed attempt in the past.

Then I hung it up using the same string that the hearts crumbled from:

Maybe we'll keep it, maybe we won't.  
But hopefully we'll get more play out of these beads.

Obviously I'm such a fan of play.  There's the learning part, sure.  But it's more meaningful than that after-office time -- play has been the best way to re-connect with my little girl.  

And I swear that reconnection gives this corporate mom energy to keep it going.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

DIY Boats Are More Fun

I confess I was tempted by this expensive Lalaloopsy boat at the toy store.  I'd been on the lookout for a real boat that could actually ride things in it.  But toy makers are dumb.  Try fitting more than the character included and things just slide off.   So guess what happened next.

I was inspired by this to make one instead.  Please click on the link for the full how-to instructions.  We did ours so instantly, I had no time to grab the camera.


I did the sail differently from the tutorial, but it's not exactly rocket science:

Best of all, the boat is actually a boat:

Imaginative story play during bath time (in her makeshift tub area)

These were ridiculously easy to make in five minutes, and I whipped up two more to keep Ladybug Girl and her cousins busy during a poolside adult party:

Make the strings really really really long.  Longer than you think you need.

The kids loved it!

Best of all, it's easy to throw out when the time comes.  I like not having to keep one more toy around. 

Of course, we could resort to this again:

I think shoe makers are smarter than toy makers.

What are your super simple toys that beat the toy store?

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Play Ideas to Hijack the iPad

Most days, I'm grateful for the iPad.  I appreciate that Ladybug Girl learns a heckuva lot of things from all the educational apps and videos available today.  But somedays it's too much.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Master Bedroom is Ours

The day after Ladybug Girl's 5th birthday party at home, she finally slept in her room by herself.

There was no whining, no fear, no "whose turn is it [to sleep with me] tonight?".  There was only two books before bedtime, our prayer after lights out, and that was it.  No yaya with her.  No drama.

I wanted someone to give me a medal.

(Dear international readers, indulge me.  You are probably rolling your eyes at this non-event)

And just like that the master bedroom is back to me and -- whatwashisnameagain - Awesome Guy.  It could not have come a moment too soon.

For five years, our co-sleeping master bedroom has looked how I felt.
I loved co-sleeping but hated how it threw off the room's layout. 

Friday, 13 September 2013

Ladybug Girl is 5

To our darling Ladybug Girl,

In the months leading up to your birthday, you would always say that you did not want to turn 5.  You did not want to be a big girl.  In your small voice, you softly explained why at bedtime - because you did not want to have your own daughter and leave our home behind.

But we love you so much more than when you were a baby.  It's true.  And though we call you our big girl, you will always be our baby girl.

We are so proud of you, sweetheart.  We already know you are so smart, because we are too.  But we are amazed at how kind and soft-hearted you are.  Sometimes that worries me because I know how easily you could get hurt and feel bad about yourself.  But someday you will know this as your strength.  You will see how rare you are and how much this world needs more poopoo parties and people like you.

May your heart stay pure, your laughter contagious, and may you never stop asking the question 'why'.

As my mommy always told me: I love you very much but never as much as Jesus loves you.


Leave-Behind a DIY Aquarium

If you've been seeing our pattern, every couple of posts are about ideas to leave behind a thoughtful play environment for kids while mom works all day at the office.  I like to change up the shelf displays in her preschool playroom now and then with super-easy ideas that keep Ladybug Girl away from the iPad learning with fun.

Now I'm sorry but you're going to get another bad photo of me taken by my daughter after a stressful work day.  We Filipinos call this the basahan look:

It's Aquasand.  I finally bought this stuff because it went on 50% off in toy stores.
For an easy alternative you can use colored sand found in National Bookstore.
Buying two colors and seeing them mix would be fun.  Heck, plain sand would work.

Here is the invitation on her shelf:

Aquasand + Plastic box + Plastic ocean animals.  Add an imaginative suggestion and that's it.
She knows how to get water from the faucet herself, otherwise I would add a plastic pitcher of water. 

Here it is all done just one day later:

She loved it so much we did it together after work one day.

This was nice so that we could name the animals one-by-one as she put them in.

As Ladybug Girl says: easy-peasy lemon-squeezy!

See our gallery of leave-behind play on the upper right side of page.

Is Your Husband Behind You? Get Him Out Of There.

When we took our vows, we promised that we would always be kampi.  To me this meant more than just 'being on the same side'.  It meant we fought the world back-to-back, like in the movies.  

The best part of the action: cameras pan around the duo and you absolutely know they are going to win.

When I looked out from my end of the team, I liked being attached-yet-separate.  I thought dividing the work made us a great duo.  It turns out I was wrong.

For some time now, my husband has felt we were not kampi.  He missed doing things together apart from our limited date nights.  Errands.  Grocery.  Set weekend plans.  It sounds small, but in a marriage with both of us working, I realise I have been neglecting his language of love: time and service.

At some point, our marriage had become an assumption.  I assumed we had the same style, that "you do this, and I do that" was the way things worked well.  It didn't.

Can errands and romance go together?

Nevermind that I'm not a nagger wife, nevermind that we had new parenthood to navigate, nevermind that he was better at his share of the work.  I just had too many excuses and I was resistant to changing my style.

Last month, Jenny from My Mommyology invited me to join her in a #BetterMe life coaching session with Coach Pia Nazareno.  I fully expected it to be about parenting, but it was about strengthening your relationship with your spouse.  One of the first questions asked was willingness to change.  I whispered my thanks for Jenny's timing, and texted my husband half-jokingly "I am so sorry for neglecting you!!"

I am sharing this because a couple of sweet, generous hearts have written reassuring messages and questions on what I try to do for my daughter at home.  I am filled with gratitude.  But while I am all for involved parenting no matter what your circumstances are, I borrow the words of the wise, funny woman behind Scrollwork:

There is no formula.  There are only people who want to sell you theirs.

As for me, some formula changes are in order.  The first and most important one is in my head: my husband is my love, not my teammate.  I don't want him behind me, I want him beside me.

Preferably holding my hand with flowers, and 'Before Midnight' be damned.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Make Rainbow Jars

This is how bad I am at cooking: I can collect six expired spice jars twice a year.  I am much better at using them for playful learning than I am at using them in the kitchen.

I always mean to throw them away to declutter but every time I come close to it, an idea strikes.  Here's one to do on a weekend with an older toddler to learn colors, or with a preschooler for crafty art and hand-control.

There are a few ways to do this.
We watered down the paint, used the dropper to put the color in, capped it and shook the bottle.  This makes a fun process! But don't expect the paint to dry because of all the water.  We left ours out for a week and nothing happened.

The next time we used bigger bottles and didn't add water.  This was a better end-result and spreading thicker paint is a nice exercise in concentration for a preschooler.

Pour paint directly from the bottle, cover the opening (I threw out the lids), and tilt the bottle here and there to spread the paint.  It goes sloooowly so it's a different kind of hand control.

She didn't always pass the patience test.

Here's how much paint it took to go fast enough to cover the bottle:


The paint was dry when we checked it after a week.

Poster paint washes off in water, so when we get tired of this we can start a new idea again, but if you want it permanent and non-streaky use acrylic paints.

Right now though it makes me smile.

For more weekend play ideas, see the gallery on the top right of the blog!