Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Glitter Makes Everything Creative

One of the upsides of not having any serious DIY crafting talent is letting Ladybug Girl in on the creativity.  I really wish I had more patience and fine motor skills, but if I did I would probably be too much of a perfectionist to do projects with my daughter.

This way I can relax and still model the importance of expressing yourself and being creative.  My mama mentor for this is Jean of The Artful Parent and her insightful article about how parents influence the way their children approach art.

This is our story.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

3 Ways to Make Play Snow

We have tropical weather all year round so snow is full of wonder and mystery.  Blame it on the overload of Christmas books and movies!  From my friends who actually live with snow on the other side of the world however, snow is played in for just a short while and the season stays way too long. 

I can't imagine why you would want to do these if you had actual snow outside your door during Christmas, but for all us tropical-loving folk, here are three ways we've made snow for play:

Saturday, 12 December 2015

A Change for Peaceful Playroom Walls

There's a Montessori principle about preparing a child's concentration with sparse decor on the walls.  There's also this article about lower test scores in heavily decorated classrooms.  I've largely ignored those bits of wisdom until my recent proof that it must be true:
A strange thing happened when Ladybug Girl turned six - she reverted back to sleeping with us in the master bedroom, after two years of sleeping on her own.  I had to wonder why.  

After a hard look at her bedroom I began to see what was once a happy space is now very likely visual clutter.  So I've given her walls a make-under.  Want to see?
This was her wall view before going to sleep:

A changeable art gallery.  It was awesome - maybe a little too awesome.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

3 Christmas Play Ideas to Leave-Behind

Welcome to another installation of leave-behind play the corporate mama way.

Leave-behind play invitations were my working-mom hacks to doing the things that the lovely homeschooling and Montessori blogs were doing, just in a much easier way for both mama to prepare and child to follow.

Here are few things we did in the few years of Christmas past:

Leave a Christmas drawing prompt.
In this case, a piece of broken furniture glued to paper on a clipboard.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Beginning to Konmari : Bedroom

My big sister clued me in on Mari Kondo's Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and after one night of reading it on my Kindle app, I was convinced it would change my life.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

DIY Sunday School

"Can I come?" she asks; her sweet hopeful voice tries to sound grown-up every Sunday morning for mass.  We never used to bring her to Church with us because she was a sensitive toddler.  But once she hit preschool, she wanted to go with us everywhere. 

 A child actually wanting to go to a child-unfriendly place was strange to me.  If even an adult can just go through the motions, what more a child with very little understanding of our Faith?

This is how we started doing DIY Sunday School.  

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Try Some (Or Lots of) Purple Twinkly Lights

There's only one reason to share this post with you, and it's because if you want some twinkly purple lights for magical play time, you have to grab them now since they're only around during Christmas.  

Friday, 13 November 2015

Vogue Is My Alternate Universe

Confession: the only movie in my iPad is The September Issue.  

This is a pretty strange choice given my lack of high heels, makeup and designer bags.  I saw it on a plane during a business trip and I was absolutely fascinated.  I still watch it now and then.

I think it's because I see my future.  

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Our Mini-Gift Wrap Station

I don't really have the planning skills to do holiday-themed play around here.  But this one was easy!

I took my cue from Ladybug Girl.  Last year she started showing an interest in helping with Christmas preparations a lot more, especially wrapping presents.  

I was too much into last-minute panic at that time to really pay attention.  Leisurely weekends of beautiful gift-wrapping are far from my reality for now.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Why The Blog Silence

Some very good reasons for three months of blog silence:

Solve the riddle.

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Thursday, 30 July 2015

Dice Addition Game with Number Sticks

If you've got a preschooler learning number bonds, this game is super easy to like.  And if you're a busy mama, this game is super easy to DIY even if you don't have number sticks!

This idea is a DIY-version of another DIY-version.  See this video by Education Unboxed where she also explains how to adapt this for higher elementary problem solving.  I set this up in less than five minutes before we started playing, so I only got a chance to take a photo in the middle of game play. 

We used stuff we had around.  A piece of cloth, our number magnets, a pair of dice and 2 sets of stickers.  I always say it's easy to think of play when you've got stuff around!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

It's More Fun: Bleached Floors

When I do something, I find the dreaming of possibilities as part of the fun.  My husband, however, thinks this is ridiculous.  He is Mr. Action Man.  Three months ago, he made my seven-year-dream of white wooden flooring come true.

Sometimes deciding fast and living with the consequences is the only way to get things done.  

Not only did I learn that life lesson, I also learned a thing or two about bleaching floors.  
It's totally worth it.

(I should take more pics when the rooms aren't in a KonMari transition - my next project!)

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Why Do Montessori Students Wash Tables?

It really is one of the strangest sights in the Montessori classroom to see a student wash a table.  Why are they wasting precious studying time doing chores?  Why is the school forcing my child to do menial work?  Who washes a table anyway?

I must admit even I pooh-poohed this activity all the way until Ladybug graduated preschool.  I get the logic fine: practical life is the first important curriculum because it lets children become independent and empowered when they see they can do things by themselves. 

But washing tables?  I was skeptical.  We have helpers as part of our homes - would children ever really contribute consistently in that way?  Would it ever really matter in the grand scheme of priorities?  Eventually everyone learns practical life at some stage in their life anyway (um, in my case when I got married).  

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Outdoor Sand Kitchen | Playdate Idea

Some months ago, I finished the book Tinker Lab and was inspired to revamp our little outdoor play space to a dirty kitchen area where kids can just go crazy with mixtures and concoctions.  

It made for a super fun playdate afternoon:

This was the space set-up back then.  Since I'm always moving stuff around my house, the outdoor space was more cluttered than I like, but in the meantime it stayed like this:

The play invitation!

With some closer looks, you'll see that everything in here is repurposed old stuff from our kitchen.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Meet Our Book Cart

I packed away the lovely wooden grocery stand and play food awhile ago, but one thing remained: her shopping cart!  It has a better life as a book cart today:

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Koinoburi in the Playroom

The Japanese have a national holiday "Children's Day" in blessing and hope for a good future that is healthy and well.  I think this tradition honouring children is lovely.
A koinoburi, a carp flag, is hung in households during this day.  I bought this sweet version:
And hella expensive.  So I only bought one.

Friday, 3 July 2015

When I Pick Her Up From School

Of all the bittersweet moments of being a working mom, 
those rare days of picking up my daughter from school are classic.  


Her shriek of happiness and the look of joy that lights up her face make me feel like a winner.  
I'm the best mom in that moment.  

It also makes me feel like a loser.  
I'm the absent mom for the school days before that one.

On a rare day, straight from work and on leave for the afternoon

When I pick her up from school, I always observe my co-fetchers and wonder what is it they do for a living.  I like to assume they're rich entrepreneurs or housewives-who-lunch.  Humor me.  To have freedom with your time is truly rich by my standards.  

When I pick her up from school, I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb.  Everyone knows everyone else, yayas included.  I swear, making friends with fellow-parents is like grade school all over again.

Last week I got up the courage to talk to a fellow-mom beside me.  I confided that I always marvelled how some parents were there everyday.  She told me that she had just left her job last week and it was her first time to pick up her daughter!  And her daughter?  She had that same lit up face when she saw her mommy.

The truth is when I pick up my daughter from school, I like to pretend that I'm that mom I spoke to last week.  When being there is the most important priority of her day.  And her daughter feels it.

And maybe more importantly, so does she.  

When I pick her up from school, it's a day when my priorities walk the talk. 
When I'm living the dream of having it all.   

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Monday, 29 June 2015

Goodbye, DIY Moveable Alphabet

It's time to say goodbye to our DIY Moveable Alphabet, which was a staple on our shelves for a good three years.  This was our very last activity last year - Ladybug Girl was five.  

Her answers to the question "what do you pack for a sleepover?"
She had her first sleepover guest then, and I cut out this picture from a workbook page as a prompt.
In case you're a new reader (*hey*) and wondering what the heck a moveable alphabet is, it's a classic Montessori material that helps kids write before the reading skills kick in.  Montessori believed that expressing oneself comes naturally before reading someone else's words.  Spelling is not even corrected until elementary years (I had to get used to that).

Friday, 26 June 2015

Sensory Lessons from A Smurf Village

My six-year old has discovered Smurfs through a game app on her iPad (hello, new generation!).  She plans her little village and checks it everyday like a master planner.  Before she sleeps at night she has to have "one last check to collect resources, pleeeease mommy"  

 You know how the experts say to follow your child's interests, right?  In a sneaky #playforreal plan, I "suggested" she take a break from her iPad and make her own Smurf village.  

Her eyes lit up and we got planning!

I rolled out our trusty sensory drawer bin, and brought it to her room (my house has been a huge decluttering project mess in the other areas lately).  Looking around for materials and thinking aloud, I grabbed some tree stumps from her nature corner and asked her what we can use for the roofs.  

Nowadays I see that she's changing into a new stage of interests and just as I suspected when she turned two, I'm observing this changing person and am trying to follow her lead again. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Grab the Number Stick! Game

Continuing to share how we play with number sticks.  I try not to get too "teacher-y" with them since she already has Montessori beads at school and I haven't had success trying to be a serious teacher at home!  This one is perfect for after-work brain-tired play time.  It's so easy it's almost lazy.

The secret is to get someone else who doesn't know number sticks.  In our case, it's our Daddy.   
Ladybug loves beating her daddy and he loves heckling along. 

We dumped all our number sticks in a bin and got ready to play.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Japanese Toys I Wish I Had

This summer we joined the mass excursion to Japan for the cherry blossoms.  I ended up bringing home a camera-full of my weakness : children's toys and books of the really cute, well-designed kind.  

Beautiful wooden legos which would probably get dirty in my house

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Instructions for Giving Kids Instructions?

I notice a pattern when I'm giving Ladybug Girl instructions - that I kind of suck at it.  For someone who considers myself a pretty clear communicator, it's embarrassing to keep unlearning the same lesson in hindsight over and over again.

It's so laughingly simple, I need to pass this on so I can remember it.

You know how good corporate communication rules say instructions are like a K.I.S.S. = Keep it Simple, Stupid. Short and Sweet?  I thought I did that every time.

For example, this activity I asked her to help me with  - tearing parsley for cooking.  I hand her a bowl and ask her to break off some parsley leaves.  In my head, I was a fun empowering mama.  

Until I watched her tear stalks (photo above) and I stepped in to correct her.  "No, not like that...".  

I could literally see her wilt in disappointment.  On bad days, moan "awwwww" in frustration with herself.   In an instant I had taken away the independence and confidence I was hoping to create.  By correcting her.

Because I didn't give the right instructions in the first place!

She grudgingly went back to work.  But she didn't enjoy it anymore.

So for kids, the simple rule is to K.I.S.S. - Keep It Short & Show [me].  

If I had started with less talk, more actions and literally showed her how to break off the leaves without the stalks then I imagine the process and the result would be much more pleasant.  

After all, in Montessori teacher-presentations-to-students, sometimes no words are used!  It's all action so that the child can concentrate on understanding one thing at the start.

Whenever I remember to show her an example, it always works out best.  Without fail.

Such a simple thing to remember, right?

Damn epidural.

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Saturday, 30 May 2015

DIY Simplifying: One Makeup Case

Guess what I'm going to do.  I'm going to share a working mama makeup trick today.  
(The world is not ending, I promise.)

For those of you who know me and see my bare face daily, I give you permission to laugh. 

You see, I literally rush out the house everyday so it's much easier to whip out one makeup compact wherever I am and put on my face. I try to, at least.  15% successful attempts.

But I like to pretend I'm more professional and grown-up with this in my bag:

 image from

I've lived with it for a year and it's great, but it's not a perfect solution yet.  What this kit doesn't have is what I need most: liner, concealer and lip balm.  Come to think of it, that's more of my ideal everyday face than the stuff in this compact!

Friday, 29 May 2015

Squeezing a Play Area Behind the Couch

If there's one thing I make room for in the house, it's play areas squeezed here and there.  You won't find beautifully elegant rooms in my home, no ma'am.  Signs of a child are in every random place possible.

I can't say enough on how having play within reach makes it easy for this working mama to create magical moments with my daughter at home; and how it helps her explore and learn even while I'm at the office.  This is the story of the play space behind our couch.  

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Perfect Corporate Meeting

John Maxwell was my fresh-grad corporate hero.  But many years later, I have wisdom of my own.

Well, one can always dream.
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Sunday, 24 May 2015

Leave-Behind An Easy Geography Lesson

Geography is one of the things in my daughter's Montessori curriculum that surprised traditional old me.  How is geography basic preschool fare?  

It's a little genius though.  Montessori philosophy believes that children must first learn about the physical world around them - to use their senses to explore and to know that everything has a name so that children tend to want to learn everything.  
Of course my usual dilemma is finding the time to recreate all those wonderful homeschooling lessons, like this one from the truly amazing Pinay Homeschooler.  So yet again, here's one of my working mama solutions.  

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Philippine Montessori Center Preschool : A Review

The most-asked question I get is where my daughter goes to school and why I chose it.  I answer those questions privately on email but now that she has graduated let me now answer that safely on the Internet.  Objectively, that is.

I can relate to the thirst for information when hunting for a preschool - so I hope this helps put some out there for fellow corporate moms who narrow the choices through an Internet search rather than actual school visits.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Coping With Corporate Meetings

By the time you hit motherhood in your corporate life, you've been around long enough to go through a lot of big corporate meetings.  Why is it that you put 15 brilliant people in the same room, and everyone always thinks they could have done so much more with their time? How many times have we snuck in some work in the middle of these things?

I'm afraid motherhood jacks up the stakes a lot more : time isn't just money, time is family.

So this is what I do:

I've become very good at spotting a point that sounds like it could have high impact but inevitably falls short of anything truly actionable.  The motherhood statement.  Usually preceding a very long justification without ever really saying anything.  When you get really good, you can quickly spot the generic speakers early and tune them out five seconds into their speech.

 I switch to blessed autopilot for a few minutes of working.

Usually it works.  Sometimes it doesn't.

Take last week.

I was at a multi-country meeting representing the local business.  By the afternoon of day one, I knew when it was safe enough to switch to auto-pilot.  Until: "so what does the Philippines think?" snapped me out of it.  Crap.  I had to ask to repeat the question.

My auto-pilot mode needs work.  Truth is, I'm horrible at multi-tasking.

Give me some advice, folks!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Make A Map Real

Sometimes a weekend play idea just comes naturally if you have some ready-play materials hanging around.  Here's how some of the play ideas I wrote about before came together like fate: our sensory tub of rice, tree trimmings, a map from a zoo trip and some random toys.

I would like to say that this is great spatial intelligence practice, but heck it's just something I wanted to play with myself.  When I was a kid, the setup was sometimes more fun than the actual play.

I was so distracted, I didn't get a chance to snap a shot of the play invitation.  The idea was to make a small-world zoo using the map we have as a guide.

I had put out those clear acrylic boxes to use as an aquarium, but it was entirely her idea to cut up some blue origami paper to use as water.  She and I went back and forth inside her room to grab supplies she thought of in the middle of the setup. 

The feel of the rice in the bin is so addicting:

Here's part of the River Safari Zoo in Singapore.  With her favourites red panda and panda amid the forest enclosure - old tree trimmings from the Christmas tree scraps I saved:

Left: panda enclosure.  Right: aquariums with river life

She used her wooden blocks to make the African animals area:

Finally, she wanted to make the polar bear enclosure with water beads:

Yes we have this box of water beads (Orbeez in toy stores) ready in her toy closet.

And ice:

Until she said it was ready for the polar bears to move in:

The zoo is ready for play!

I put the zoo bin back in the roll-out drawer for ready access for a few weeks, but this is one time the process of play trumps the result.

Unless the result is this, that is!

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Friday, 3 April 2015

A Cure for Black Thumbs

I finally found it, nearly two years after I embarked on project greenify inside the house.  The cure for my black thumb is just finding a plant that never dies.  And when you find it, you just run with it.

All over the house.  

Utility areas
Outside the windows of each bedroom
The pattern is clear

Unashamedly repetitive of me
Outdoors, indoors - they're all the same
Christmas and beyond
Big or small

High or low or in-between.

Don't the pops of green look so fresh?  The air literally feels healthier.

That plant is called a Pothos - and it's super easy to propagate all 35 of these pots around my home from just a couple of healthy ones.  Yup, I have 35 of these same white pots with the same plant.  I kind of think this makes the greenery look neat.  

Maybe it's because my house is always messy.  

I was going to share a few other successes from other plant species I braved my way to, but just a few weeks ago, our helper went back to her hometown and ... they've died.  So I guess they weren't as black-thumb friendly as I thought:

They say you can't screw up succulents but pfffft 
That tall one is gone now
And this one is getting thinner and thinner
 I knew it was too good to be true!

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