Tuesday, 23 December 2014

How I Get In The Picture Now

Every year I make a video compilation for my daughter's birthday.  It's a great, cheap way to look back and tell a story of the year that was.  The problem is I'm hardly ever in the story.  Nowadays I'm behind the camera.  Being a mom.  

My husband, however, could win Father of the Year thanks to my thoughtful art direction.  But no longer!  Last Sunday we went to the Christmas Light Show at the Ayala Triangle and took this:

This is why I love the Go Pro camera!  I was holding the discreet monopod just six inches away from my face, pointed towards Ladybug Girl.  The view is so wide, it's perfect for getting mom in the picture.  
I also don't look ridiculously self-conscious taking a selfie of myself. 
My new favourite mom gadget
Yes, I'm far from the target market of athletes.  (Far. Very far.)  But look, how useful it's turning out to be!  I won't go into specs here anymore, but it's just been an all-around delight for me in terms of sound and video quality.  The wide effect took time to get familiar with but it gets me some great tight shots I wouldn't normally get with an ordinary camera.
I even promised myself I wouldn't stress about how I'll look on video.  After seeing myself as we opened day 19 of our advent calendar first thing in the morning, it's given me some motivation to make an effort.  Under-eye concealer will be my friend.
Here's a test video of the first time I used the Go Pro on us :

Our next year's story will finally be complete!

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Do you get in the picture?  I'd love to know how.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Eyes of Wonder

You know that look of first-time wonder on your child's face you want to freeze in your mind forever?

I have.

"This wonder is what I put into the world.
It is what I was born with.

Eyes that see the wonder in everything.
 Eyes that see lights in the trees.
And magic in the air."

| Rise of the Guardians

May you have a very very long, wonder-filled childhood, sweet cheeks.
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Sunday, 7 December 2014

Race To A Hundred Game

Number rods are fantastic for building real number sense for the "math-shy".  Also called I-memorized-my-way-through-math-class.  Also called I-flunked-accounting-in-college.  Also called now-I'm-scared-to-teach-math-to-my-daughter.  Also called me.  

Whether you call them number sticks or Cuisenaire rods, they're alive and well in our playroom.  This is our absolute favourite game to play over and over.

To catch up on basics on how we've started using number sticks, head over to the handy gallery here.

I'm really not an expert at this, but I know this game reinforces all sorts of goodies: the decimal system of 1s, 10s, 100s, skip counting by tens, addition and just basic number sense. Things like how many 100 is, and how many tens make a hundred.  

Eventually she could lay out the start of the game herself: ten orange (10s) sticks in a row with the number labels.  This is the beginning layout.

You'll also need a pair of dice!  Try to spot ours above.

You each throw the die and lay down the stick you got.  
To get in some addition practice, add each number as you go.

We each rolled twice already (blue is nine and seven is black)

To practice making tens, the minute you overlap to the next ten trade up!  That way it's easy to see in a glance how many tens you have, and add the units left.

In this case the top reads "18" (one orange and one brown stick).
The top one says 31 (3 orange ten sticks and a white unit stick).  The bottom says 27.  She's winning!

It's been slowly working on her fine motor control too, as she delicately fixes the game pieces. 

Inevitably you'll reach an instance where you either teach/practice dynamic addition (crossing a tens place) or not.  I get a huge kick out of seeing how it builds on the first skill of knowing the number bonds of ten.  1+9, 2+8, and so on.

To illustrate, here's how we build on that basic skill to teach dynamic addition:

Now if your preschooler isn't into dynamic addition yet, don't force it.  You can use the beginning layout as a visual guide to see where the number crosses into another tens place, then just put the remainder stick.

Watch her use the sticks to try to figure out the answer:

When daddy's around he teaches another life skill : heckling.

It ends when someone passes the 100 mark:

Guess who won?
Guess who won?

Guess who won?

Guess who's liking math more and more?
Me Her!

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browse the archive

Monday, 1 December 2014

Rainbow Rice: A Third World Version

Since I parent in the third-world, I have a gut aversion to using food in play.   All those beans, corn and flour thrown away after a giant sensory tub activity could feed an entire family for a week!

But I couldn't resist rainbow rice: dyeing rice grains with food colouring and alcohol.  This time though, a mess is not allowed.  Each grain is gold.  And we've made our original batch last for 3 and a half years, and counting.  
The first batch we made when Ladybug Girl turned three.  Just eyeball the ingredients in a baggie and let them shake and mash until the colour spreads.  It was was very cool for us to make together.
Practicing some scooping into empty water-colour bottles, too
And the eventual fascination and exploring afterwards
After we got the hang of it, we made bigger batches to mix together:
Irresistible to touch!
We cooked:
We sold:
We served:
We partied!

It's a regular "pantry ingredient" in her pretend cooking area:
Every grain goes back inside the flask

Only the use of rubbing alcohol prevented my husband from cooking the whole lot.  I managed to convince him that it wasn't a good idea.

There's another place where we store rainbow rice - in our DIY sensory tub under our dining bench.
Lift the lid and play anytime!  See how we made this from an old drawer here.

Making it is half the fun.  Our after-work play for the day:

Total control over the green food colouring
And the remnants of our rubbing alcohol
It's coming along
And every grain goes back in!
The story unfolds in her mind and the play keeps evolving:

The antler is trapped and must be saved!

Sometimes I leave a surprise for her to find:
Learning about different kinds of houses in the world.
A game: there were ten pompoms to find with tongs
Simple natural materials to explore when Halloween was in season
A nativity playset last Christmas so she could do some storytelling
Sometimes she leaves surprises of her own:
Her idea: a tombstone back when Plants vs. Zombies 2 was standard conversation at home
But always, always there is this: 

My unusual concern over being careful has rubbed off on her.  Recently we were talking about toys and she finished my sentence with "let me guess... many kids in the Philippines don't have toys?".

So that's how guilt became the necessity of invention.
Cheers for third world - excuse me - emerging market parenting!

We must be appropriately corporate correct at all times.

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Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Seven Year Itch

I'm stuck in bed with a dislocated knee cap and my work laptop at the office.  After silly time-wasting moments on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, I can't avoid them anymore.

My thoughts.

For the past few weeks I had been facing things I didn't want to face.  To my very great embarrassment, I've become a cliché.  

I'm seven years in my marketing company and probably the last corporate citizen not on LinkedIn.  I hear people murmuring into their office phones "how did you get my number?" and I know that's not a booty call conversation.  I had stopped exploring almost entirely, and now have career-fomo.

I've been married seven years and facing the truth that love becomes a decision.  I was in denial that it would ever happen to me.  But by seven years you face challenges to change some rather bad marriage habits you've picked up along the way. 
And just when I've gotten into a balanced-groove with my daughter, she turns six and starts to change.  She is different as a six year old: she doesn't look for the play we used to do and she is less attached to me.   It's like she crossed a threshold and I miss her.
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
My smart head knows the right answers and the right changes to make.  My stubborn body, however, has to break inertia.  

Finding a balance is always a struggle with things shifting all the time.  I figure out how to be good at one thing, and another thing changes.  I've been living with my head down,  so focused on being good at my responsibilities that I haven't been aware of change happening around me.  

Suddenly I look up and my daughter is six, I'm the same pregnant weight, an old-timer at work, and my marriage has tipped the balance from loving effort to mutual toleration.  How in the world did that happen so fast?

At the ER yesterday, I just lost it.  The nurse had trouble with inserting my IV and I just let the pain overwhelm me and cried and cried.  It must've been an ugly cry -- the poor doctor on-duty gave me a Valium shot.  
Pain is God's way of moving us into the right path.  Things won't ever stay the same, no matter how much I try to cling to the way I figured things out before.   I've become so focused on where I am that I haven't looked at where I was going.   

So the formula keeps changing, after all.  And if you stop changing, it means you're dead.  
That's the cure to the cliché.


That's pretty wonderful, I think.  

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Monday, 3 November 2014

DIY Mini Whiteboards

There are little things that go a long way towards leaving behind a space that encourages a lot of hands-on play.  I love taking inspiration from Montessori in leaving behind thoughtful touches that help independent learning while I'm at the office.  

One of those little indispensable things in the playroom are hand-held DIY whiteboards repurposed from old picture frames:

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Leftover Playdough Recycling

I quickly learned not to get obsessive over mixed up or dried play dough at our house.  It's one of those inevitable things you give up control over if you want to stay a sane working mom.

Play dough is one of the toys I like to keep out in the open because there's so much open-ended play you can do with it now that her imagination has kicked in at preschool age.  See how we kept our play dough in a lock&lock case for play, like our popular sweet shop idea here
Nowadays her fingers are strong enough to pry open these wretched lids, and the possibilities are endless.  Which usually means a big blob of play dough is used regularly.  That's fine, I'd rather keep buying play dough than cheap plastic toys.
To recycle one more use out of dying play dough, we turn them into volcanoes:
The play dough is hiding a bottle with baking powder.  It bubbles over when vinegar is added (ours has red food colouring)
Or we mix them together to make a perfect surface to make stamped designs:
This one is a leave-behind phonics-learning tray, but for younger kids you can use this idea for artwork too. 

This is inspired by No Time For Flashcards
And those yellow containers make great sorters.  We've accumulated a small amount since we started:
I'm being sarcastic.  That's 52 cups!

So embrace the moment of creativity, squeeze one more use out of the lot, and then let go.
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