Category Archives: Parenting

Painting

On a certain weekend morning, FBB wanted to paint.

That is usually not a problem in and of itself.  He paints frequent enough in school and at home, and he knows what to and not to do with paints.

Except this time, BBM is also around.  And she has never painted before.

I put the 3-sizes-too-big Hello Kitty art smock (gift–don’t ask) on her, made sure FBB put on his own smock, set out the paints, brushes, and paper, and went on to do the dishes.

paint on the face

paint on the face

This is what I saw when I was done:

Paint on the face!  Thank goodness for non-toxic, water-soluble tempera paint!

Oh, and just when I thought FBB is old and responsible enough with paint, he showed me his hand:

FBB's painted hand

FBB’s painted hand

He can wash his own hand, thankyouverymuch.

Duct Tape Crafting

I bought some fancy duct tape, wanting to make crafts with FBB.   I was not happy with the way he stores paper bills in his (coin) bank, and the hand-me-down wallets he has received thus far are too… classic (read: old) for a 5-year-old. So, one Saturday afternoon, I decided to make a duct tape wallet with him.

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Truth to be told, it was mostly my work.  He got bored by the precision required rather quickly.  Instead, he used the scraps and made his own craft.

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Modelling Dough, Part Deux

After I published the previous post on playdough making, I found a recipe for homemade version of Crayola’s almost-mythical Model Magic via The Artful Parent:

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 1.5 cup cold water
  • Food colouring

Combine, heat over medium-low heat, stir until consistency of mashed potatoes.  Transfer to mixing bowl, covered with dampened kitchen towel to cool.  Sprinkle cornstarch on surface and knead in food colouring.

The recipe doesn’t seem to keep as well as the regular playdough though, so I won’t send this in to school the next time it’s our turn.  I’m pretty sure it’ll come in handy in the next–oh, 10 years or so–time we need a cheap air-dry clay.

Playdough Time!

Playing with homemade playdough

A few weeks ago, FBB came home with a teacher’s request to make playdough for their class.  (Understandably, with so many kids, they want fresh playdough every week.)  I signed up, and today was our turn to provide the weekly playdough supply.

His teacher provided us with this recipe:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 2 tbsps of vegetable oil
  • food colouring

This is a no-cooking recipe.  Just combine everything except the food colouring in a mixing bowl, then knead in the food colouring.

I vaguely remember many other recipes I saw online use cream of tartar as well, so I decided to use one of those recipes instead.  Here’s the one I ended up using:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of water (I used cold, filtered water)
  • 1/4 cup of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp of cream of tartar
  • food colouring

(So basically half of the recipe above, double the water, plus cream of tartar.)

I tripled this recipe, mixed the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, transferred into saucepan, added the liquid, cooked over low heat–and constantly stirring with a silicone spatula–until the texture was right.  Then I divided the dough into three parts for different colours.  (His choice, of course.)

If I were to make this again, I would switch from cold water to warm/hot water.  I would also switch from using food colouring drops to Wilton cake dyes for more intense colours–I used at least 15 drops of red and it was still a long way from the intensity I wanted.

Since FBB’s play dough have long since dried out, he wanted to save some of the fresh dough at home.  To keep the kids (or at least BBM) away from the stove, I set up a playdough playing station with our silicone mat and let them play with the still-warm-to-touch playdough.

Although no one in his class is Celiac/gluten-intolerant, I found the following gluten-free version as well:

  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 1.5 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup hot water
  • Food colouring

Happy playdough modelling!

[Update] Here’s a better version and instructions I found via The Artful Parent, which I’ll use to make the next batch:

  • 5 cups water
  • 5 cups flour
  • 2.5 cups salt
  • 3 tbsps cream of tartar
  • 10 tbsps vegetable oil
  • food colouring

Mix water, salt, cream of tartar, and food colouring. [Note: I still prefer to add food colouring at the end, just because I want to make smaller batches of different colours instead of one big batch of a single colour.]  Cook mixture over medium-low heat, stirring regularly until hot.  Add oil.  Stir in flour one cup at a time, stirring in between each addition.  [Note: I’m sure this technique gives better consistency.]  Mix until playdough pulls away from pan and is no longer sticky (pinch it between fingers to test).  Let cool on counter, then knead.

Why We Won’t Enrol Our Son in YRDSB’s French Immersion Program

Our beloved son FBB is in SK. I have been contemplating enrolling him in French Immersion.

Since he is currently in a Catholic school, in addition to whether to enrol in French Immersion or English stream, we also have the choice of enrolling him at either the Catholic or public system.

(Both Catholic and public school systems are 100% government-funded.  They operate as separate entities, and, as such, sometimes have different philosophies and different policies.)

Obviously, the English public school has been ruled out on the day we enrolled him in the Catholic system.  The sole reason we originally put him in Catholic school is because the school is closer to home.

We attended the information session at the Catholic French Immersion school last month, and the public French Immersion school last night.

Right after we walked out of the school door last night, we agreed to rule it out.  Here are the reasons why:

  1. Catholic board policy states, when one student is in the French Immersion school, all siblings are automatically accepted at the school and, more importantly, even the siblings not in French Immersion program still have school bus rights (we are far enough to get bus).  Public board has no such policy to keep siblings together.
  2. In our particular area, the public French Immersion program happens at one school for grades 1-3, and a different school for grades 4-8.  Both schools are far enough for us to get school bus.  Since our kids are four years apart, they will almost never be at the same school–even if both are in French Immersion.  For all we know, the kids may have crazily different school bus schedule.
  3. The Catholic FI school has 2 FI classes with about 17 students each, and 1 English class with about 12 students.  The grade 1-3 public FI school has 5 FI classes alone, plus 2 English classes.
  4. Perhaps partially related to the difference in school sizes, the staff at public FI school feels more rigid and less friendly than the Catholic FI school.  The parents at the public FI school’s information session also seem more of the aggressive, helicopter type.  I think I sniff the scent of a few tiger moms as well.
  5. The Catholic FI school has a LEGO robotics after school club. 🙂

We still aren’t sure if we will enrol him in French Immersion.  All I know is, he won’t be in the public system next school year.

Co(erced)-Sleeping, Our Version

This is in response to Co(erced)-sleeping: how we share a sleeping space with our two year old.

Co-sleeping is alive and well in our household.  The situation has evolved over the past two years, and the current version looks like this:

The Ideal Co-Sleeping Position

Only one parent is present, because our queen size bed is getting too crowded.  (More on that later.)

The crib was an artifact of our earlier attempt to remove FBB from our bed.  Now its primary functions are guard rail and storage for extra clothing and diapering supplies.

However, that is far from the truth.  Dad is usually the one who sleeps with FBB, and the most recent version of the reality is more like this:

Co-Sleeping, Dad's Reality

First, we have a toddler who has never liked being covered.  And he cries if he’s not comfortably warm in sleep.  We have to dress him warm, but he complains when we starts to put the third layer on him.

Then, there’s also the problem of FBB liking to sleep on top of someone, particularly people he loves.  The more he loves you, the more likely he is to sleep on top of you.  Apparently, he loves Dad very much, because he is sleeping on Dad’s neck lately.  Dad woke up in the middle of the night and complained to me about suffocation.  (Dad also said he wanted to punch FBB then.  I was not surprised.)

On the off night when I’m the one sleeping with FBB, I am greeted with a different problem:

Co-Sleeping, Mom's Reality

(I don’t usually sleep with him because my presence seems to excite him too much–it takes longer for him to fall asleep, and he wakes up more easily.)

Obviously, he loves me even more dearly than he loves Dad, because he literally sleeps on his tummy on top of mine.  And even if I managed to get him off my core and just sleep on my (soon-to-be-numb) arm, he stills wants physical contact with me so much that he demands the cover off me.

Nowadays, Dad consistently falls asleep with FBB, leaving me with a few hours of alone time to read, watch TV, surf the web, and tackle one of the many craft projects I’d like to try.

Night Time Diapering

Even before switching to cloth diapers, night time diapering was a challenge for me–DS used to be up a few times a night to nurse, and his diaper, even a disposable, would be soaked the next morning, often to the point of leaking.

When we first switched to cloth diapers, I used two g-Flappers in a pair of gPants.  After a while, I found his bum to be red the next morning from a soaked diaper sitting on his bum for too long.

Then I switched to two flushies, one folded in half in front.  It held all the liquid (although some days the flushies would be holding so much pee that they would burst), and we had no leaks or red bums.  However, it got expensive.

The next thing I tried was double- or triple-stuffed pocket diapers.  I often used whatever pocket diapers I had on hand, but often resort to BumGenius OS 3.0 or Rumparooz.  I particularly liked Rumparooz’s gusset and doubler–no leaks ever!

After a while, my hands got itchy, and DS’s thighs grew even chubbier, so I decided to switch to a feel-wet solution.  For one night, I tried a Bummis prefold with wool cover.  It was definitely not enough!  So I switched to a Sustainablebabyish fitted.  It was still no good.

Three months ago, I finally decided to splurge on a Goodmama fitted.  When I first received it in the mail, I was amazed how thick it was!  The Goodmama fitteds really held up all the liquid (although barely).  But I had leaks–because the Goodmamas are so thick, most of the diaper covers couldn’t cover the diaper well.  That included Bummis Super Whisper Wrap, Flip, and some WAHM-made wool covers and longies.  In addition, the Goodmama would be SOOOO soaked and stinky in the morning, and we’re also seeing red bum again.  Thinking it was my washer (which has never been cloth-diaper friendly), I tried stripping the diapers in different ways.  None of them worked well enough; there were still redness, especially where the elastics land on his thighs.

Another problem is, he has basically outgrown the Goodmama fitteds, despite them advertised to fit up to 30 lbs.  It’s his chubby thighs.  So I switched to using prefolds, with an extra prefold folded up as a extra thick doubler in front.  The prefolds are snappied (so no elastics), then I put on the wool cover and wool longies.  The prefolds are still soaked, but they are less stinky, and we had less itchiness around the thighs.

Then it dawned on me: I should just change his diaper in the middle of the night.

Sounds easy, right?  Except that I have to unzip DS’s sleep sack, take off his wool longies (for extra protection), the wool cover, and his diaper.  Then I try to take him to potty (my half-hearted attempt to night-time EC).  After that, I had to put on a clean diaper, wool cover, wool longies, and sleep sack.  More often than not, that whole sequence would wake him up, and I had to nurse him down again.  Not a fun thing to do when I was trying to go to bed.

I’m trying to find the best time to change his diaper at night so I won’t disrupt his sleep.  After that, I need to find a good time to take him to potty and ramp up the night-time ECing.  Hopefully with the warmer months night-time ECing would become easier.

Elimination Communication

Elimination Communication, also called Infant Potty Training or Natural Infant Hygiene, is a form of “potty learning” for babies.  Even if only practicing EC part-time, kids are often out of diapers and reliably dry during the day by about 12-18 months.

EC is not space-age new.  In fact, it was the norm in pre-industrial days.  Until disposables became the new norm since its introduction in the 60’s, most mothers practice some form of EC, with cloth diapers as back-ups.  Even with disposable diapers available, my mom and MIL still talk about how their kids (yes, us!) were all out of diapers during the day by the first birthday.

DS’s EC started very early on.  Whenever my parents changed DS’s diaper even back when he was a few days old, they would make this “shhh” sound, and often times DS would pee.  Not knowing any better, I was really skeptical and thought it was pure coincidence.

Starting at maybe 4 months old, my mom was laid off and she came over to our place every day to help me taking care of DS.  Most of the time, she took care of bathing DS.  Before the bath, she would hold DS in-arms over the bathtub, and DS would pee for him almost every time.  By then, I have already heard about EC, but thought it was too much work.

After I switched to cloth diapers at 8 months, I read more about EC.  DS has already started solids by then, and some food was giving him constipation.  There was a particularly memorable EC instance: We were out on a weekend road trip, and DS has not pooped at all for days.  On our way back home, we saw him straining really badly trying to poop but failed.  So I decided to do something I vividly remember my mom doing to my little brother: I sat on a stool, held DS in arms, and helped him poop on the newpaper-protected floor.

That worked, and I have “missed” only a handful of poops since then.

In terms of pees, my mom started dressing DS without diapers during the day since his first birthday.  We went from a lot of wetted pants and mopping to very reliable dry pants for the past two weeks.

The next challenges I’m planning tackle?  Having DS *tell* us he needs to go to the bathroom, instead of us taking him to the bathroom every hour or so.  Oh, and switch to potty.

Back to Work

Ha! The last post only took me a month to write!  I blame work.

Yes, work.  I’m back to work full time shortly after DS has turned one.  That’s after 2 weeks of vacation + 2 weeks of unpaid waiting period + 50 weeks of compensated maternity leave + 3 weeks of vacation I accumulated in the year I was on mat leave.  Although I certainly would welcome even longer mat leave, I’m already very grateful to be with DS all the time for one full year.  Canadian government I thank ya!

My mom is taking care of DS at our home during the day.  She comes over before we leave for work and stays until we get home!  To me, it’s the next best thing for DS.  My mom is super good with kids–she almost opened a home care about a decade ago)–and she happened to be laid off during the recession, so it was perfect.

Traveling with Baby

I finally found the time to blog!

Long story short, in early October, we went to Greece for my brother’s wedding in Santorini for 10 days.  A week later, an unplanned trip sprung up and I found my little family of three having a 4-week stay across the other big pond in Hong Kong.

Transatlantic and transpacific flights with a 10-11 months old baby on lap was a lot harder than going without the baby. For one thing, an 11-month-old would require constant holding, whether he was sleeping or awake.  Putting him to sleep in the flight was a major obstacle.  We tried wearing him and walking up and down the aisle, humming, nursing–you name it.  Try as we might, we just couldn’t get him to sleep longer than 3 hours.  It then took at least another 2 hours for him to fall asleep again.  Even with him asleep, we were still constantly worrying about him falling from our laps and couldn’t sleep well ourselves.  As a result, by the time we arrived at our destination, everyone was exhausted.

Once we arrived at our destination, the first thing everyone wanted was a good night of rejuvenating sleep.  This part was easier for us than some; since we had been co-sleeping at home, all three of us could sleep on the same bed, even if it’s not our own.  We did drag our Pack ‘n Play all the way to Hong Kong, hoping he might at least be content to play inside it while I get some housework done.  Alas, that thing was used about a handful of times, all ended in tears.

As to transporting the baby for sightseeing and around town, we opted not to bring our stroller–a big, fat, full-size Graco Quattro Tour Deluxe.  To us, bringing a stroller to Europe and Asia seemed illogical, or at least impractical.  There were too many people, too many narrow sidewalks and roads, too many stairs.  To me, strollers are just really for shopping malls.  My mom, who traveled to Greece as well (it was my brother’s destination wedding) didn’t agree with my decision.  She almost bought me an umbrella stroller when we first arrived in Athens, until I swore I would not use it even if she did buy one.

Instead, I was using a Kozy Carrier almost exclusively in Greece.  Well, more like DH was using the Kozy mei tai.  It’s great he loves babywearing as well!  In Hong Kong, I chose a Beco Butterfly 2 instead, because I was mostly traveling alone with DS and don’t have extra hands to keep straps/wraps from the ground.  I ride on the MTR (subway) all the time with DS in Butterfly2 in front, backpack diaper bag on my back, and sometimes his booster seat on the side if I knew we were going to a restaurant.  Half of the time, nobody would offer me a seat, but I never expected much.

Without any idea what the laundry situation would be like in Greece or Hong Kong, I chose to bring gDiapers and GroBaby, with their respective flushable soakers, for our diapering needs.  To me, that’s the next best thing to using cloth diapers.  Unfortunately, they were more prone to leaks than cloth diapers–partly because we weren’t very vigilant–so we had to bring extra sets of clothes in our diaper bag.

Looking back, I would call both trips a success.  DS was not very weary of the new environments or friendly strangers he met along the way.  Being with Mommy 100% of the time helped a lot.  The best part?  When he grows up, he can brag about being in three different continents before he turned one!