Mosaic Hearts with Tissue Paper

On Valentine’s Day eve, I realized that the Dumpling didn’t have a card for daddy… which really meant that I didn’t have a card for jigg. While it would be easy for me to cut and paste something together, I wanted the Dumpling’s involvement since the card would be from the both of us.

I still had a bag full of tissue paper tiles left over from my suncatcher project, so I re-purposed them into beads to make mosaic hearts.

Materials

  • Tissue paper cut into approximately 2-3 cm tiles
  • Glue
  • Heart cutouts approximately 3-5 cm wide
  • Plastic tray (optional)

Instructions

Step 1: Roll tissue paper into tiny beads

I made approximately 40-50 beads per heart, but the number would vary based on the size of the tissue paper tiles and heart cut out.

Step 2: Apply glue generously on one side of the heart

I spread a thin layer of glue onto a plastic tray and instructed the Dumpling to put the hearts in. Naturally she smeared them around so they picked up a generous amount of adhesive. I  then quickly took the hearts out with the sticky side facing up and hid the glue.

Step 3: Cover the sticky side of the heart with tissue paper beads

I asked the Dumpling to pour the beads on the hearts.

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Alternatively I placed the heart inside a plastic container with the beads, closed the lid, and asked the Dumpling to shake.

As always, I was on the sidelines filling in large gaps where the glue didn’t pick up the beads and making sure the Dumpling didn’t rip the tissue paper off once they were glued on. She actually was too busy pouring the beads from one container into another to pay much attention to the hearts at this point.

Once the hearts dried, I glued them onto a card. We love you, daddy! Happy Valentine’s Day.

Make Lantern Favor Boxes From Red Envelopes

The Dumpling’s playgroup recently asked all of the parents to bring in treats for a Chinese New Year party. Me being…well, me, I spent more time thinking about the presentation and packaging than what to actually bring. It just so happened that jigg brought home packs of red envelopes from work, so I decided use them as the base material for the project. I remembered making paper lanterns when I was a kid—with a bit of tweaking on my end, they turned out to be great goody bags!

Materials

  • Large red envelopes made out of quality paper (avoid the flimsy, small envelopes—they won’t be sturdy enough)
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

Step 1: Cut off the envelope as indicated in the picture below. Discard the envelope flap on top and the very thin strip on the bottom. There are now three pieces to work with: the large piece will form the body of the lantern; the medium piece will form the base; and the small one at the bottom will form the handle.

Step 2: Fold the large piece of the envelope in half horizontally. Optional: Make a vertical fold down the middle to mark where the center is.

Step 3: Cut strips starting from the bottom (folded side) to form a fringe but stop approximately 2 cm from the top edge. Do not cut all the way through! (Tip: To get more evenly spaced strips, first cut down the middle along the vertical fold to create two halves, then down the middle again to create quarters, then down the middle again to create eighths.)

Step 4: Unfold the envelope and fluff the strips outward.

Step 5: Using the small piece of the envelope (from Step 1), open it up like an “O” and glue both sides to the top edge of the lantern.  Optional: Cut open the “O” to adjust for a longer strap before gluing.

Step 6:  Using the medium piece of the envelope (from Step 1), cut open the folds on both sides to create two strips.

Step 7: Glue the strips into a cross shape and loosely fold the flaps to the size of the lantern’s bottom base. 

Step 8: Glue the flaps to the inside bottom of the lantern. The base would most likely not be a perfect fit, so adjust the flaps before the glue dries as a workaround.

Step 9: Fill the inside with several pieces of bite size candy or chocolate coins. Be careful not to overload the lantern—the weight capacity would be dependent on the strength of the paper stock and glue.

Tip: I churned out over a dozen goody bags during the Dumpling’s nap time. The trick to mass producing these quickly is to make one lantern from beginning to end to get familiarize with the process. Then I did everything in assembly line fashion—meaning, I did all of Step 1, then all of Step 2, and so forth.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Colorful Ice Hearts

The Dumpling recently painted on ice as an activity in one of her playgroups and absolutely loved it. To replicate the activity at home with a Valentine’s Day twist: I set out to make heart shaped ice. I didn’t have ice molds, so I experimented using my trusty cookie cutters instead—seems like I have done everything except bake with them!

Materials

  • Shallow plastic tray that is bendable (I upcycled a plastic food tray)
  • Plastic heart cookie cutter
  • Water

Instructions

Step 1: Pour several millimeters of water into the plastic tray with the cookie cutter inside. Please note that using too much water will make it hard to break off the excess ice later.

Step 2: Freeze on a flat surface.

Step 3: Gently break off the ice along the outside edge of the cookie cutter. The entire sheet of ice should come off the tray easily but be careful not to remove the cookie cutter.

Step 4: Put the cookie cutter back in the tray and add more water to the inside of the mold. It’s okay if some water leaks out. Optional: Add the ice that was broken off from the previous step to create a jagged effect.

Step 5: Freeze on a flat surface.

Step 6: Clean off the ice around the heart and gently wiggle/bend the mold free. If it’s stuck, wait a minute and try again.

Activity Ideas:

Color the Ice

Instead of painting directly on the ice, I also sprinkled salt over it at the start of the activity. Salt lowers the ice’s freezing temperature, so crevices will form where the ice starts melting. When the Dumpling painted food coloring on, the colors ran into the cracks for a beautiful effect.

Once the ice started turning brown, I rinsed it with water for a clean slate again.

Color with Ice

Once the ice soaked up enough food coloring, I asked the Dumpling use it as an “ice crayon” to color with it on paper.

Or just add food coloring before freezing.

Making Tissue Paper Suncatchers With a Toddler

I love asking for the Dumpling’s help in my arts and crafts because it’s a great way for us to work together…even if she’s more troublesome than helpful most of the time. Now that she’s older, I began involving her in more steps throughout the process whereas in the past, she was only responsible for only one task (or the entire activity consisted of only one task).

One of the first “big girl” projects we did was making suncatchers out of tissue paper for Valentine’s Day. There are many tutorials online—I just tweaked and combined steps from various ones to suit the needs of working with a two year old.

Materials

  • Tissue paper cut into squares
  • Scissors
  • Plastic tray or plate (make sure it’s bendable)
  • Elmer’s glue diluted with equal amounts of water

Notes Before Starting

Whenever the Dumpling is involved, I always do the prep work behind the scenes beforehand. For example, I had the tissue paper cut and the glue diluted at the start of the activity to avoid dealing with my daughter growing impatient.

I brought out only the supplies needed at each step. For example, I had the tray and tissue paper out during step one and kept the glue hidden until step two. Otherwise the Dumpling would fidget with the glue prematurely.

I also learned that activities often don’t go as planned with a toddler. If I ask the Dumpling to do X and she ends up doing Y, then Y it is! Even though it’s frustrating at times, I have come to accept that exploration is more important than results at this stage.

Step 1: Layer the pieces of tissue paper onto the plastic tray

This was actually a good exercise for the Dumpling to practice her fine motor skills since the tissue paper required gentle handling—she crumpled and ripped a few, but casualties were expected. I was on the sidelines spreading clumps apart, filling in thin areas, and putting the pieces back into the tray because she kept taking them out after she was done.

Step 2: Drench the tissue paper with the glue mixture

I put the diluted glue in an old plastic sauce container for the Dumpling to pour in. To prevent her from taking the now wet tissue paper out (yep, she was still at it), I took the tray away immediately and thanked her for a job well done. Yay!

Yes—that’s it. She helped with two steps.

Step 3: Let the tissue paper dry completely and peel off

The entire sheet should come off easily without tearing.

Step 4: Cut into hearts or other desired shapes

The Dumpling was quite pleased with the results, but it took her a while to realize that these are fragile (the epiphany came after destroying the fourth one) and needed to be handled with care.

Craft Idea #1: Instead of taping the hearts on a window like traditional suncatchers, I strung them into a mobile and hung it inside the Dumpling’s tent.

Craft Idea #2: Use them in Valentine’s Day cards.

The Dumpling’s First School Interview

“Thank you for your enrollment application for our Kindergarten. We would like to invite you and Remy to school to meet with one of our teachers. It will be a good opportunity for parents to have a further understanding of the school and a chance for us to get to know your child.”

The Dumpling got invited for a school interview, but my initial excitement upon receiving this email was quickly replaced by bewilderment—mostly wondering what on earth would they ask a two year old?!

Friends and family have warned me before my relocation to Hong Kong that its education system is extremely competitive, but I shrugged it off. While enrolling her into a decent school is a priority, enrolling her into the best school isn’t. It was never my intention to leave the education, discipline, and upbringing of my child solely in the hands of teachers; being a supportive and involved parent is just as important. This may also be an unpopular opinion in Hong Kong, but I don’t believe that academics is the golden ticket to success…good grades can only get you so far in life.

The primary reason why I want to get her in ASAP is so she can develop social skills with other kids, a lesson that I will never be able to provide.

(And so I can catch a break everyday.)

I received the invitation last Thursday. The meeting was scheduled for this past Monday. Prepping the Dumpling did cross my mind, but I decided against it. I didn’t even bother Googling what these interviews are like… it’s not like we can cram or pull all-nighters together. If there was something she couldn’t learn in the last 26 months of her life, I doubt four days would be a game changer.

On the morning of the big day, I dressed her in a cute pink floral outfit, gave her a cookie (as a bribe to be a good girl), and off we went.

Upon arrival, the school receptionist asked what the Dumpling’s primary language is. When I replied that she understands both Cantonese and English, a Cantonese teacher greeted us and started conversing with my daughter.

We had a lackluster start because the Dumpling wasn’t very responsive. When she did speak, it was in English. The teacher then suggested meeting with the English teacher instead. At that moment, I realized how important answering the language preference question was on the application. Maybe it was because I was there instead of jigg since the Dumpling prefers to speak English with me and Cantonese with her dad.

The English teacher then brought us to an office, a type of room where I imagined a kid would go to when he/she gets in trouble. She had a box of materials such as color pencils, books, toys, stickers, paper, etc. The set up looked serious.

Object Recognition

The teacher first took out an ABCs book and asked the Dumpling to name the fruits, objects, and animals on each page. The Dumpling flew through each one since the pictures were typical ones found in most children’s books.

Color Recognition

Next the teacher gave the Dumpling a piece of paper, took out a set of color pencils, and handed them to the Dumpling one by one. As the Dumpling scribbled, the teacher asked her to name the colors: red, orange, yellow, blue, green, purple, pink, brown, purple, and black.

We had one hiccup; there wasn’t a white pencil so the teacher pointed to the paper and asked what the color of the paper is. The Dumpling misinterpreted and started doodling on the spot that the teacher pointed to. After two more attempts, the teacher moved on. I understood why the Dumpling was confused, but held my tongue since I didn’t want to come off as a helicopter mom.

Number Recognition

For the following exercise, the teacher shuffled a set of flashcards with 1 through 10 and asked the Dumpling to read the numbers. She breezed through them since we just finished number recognition recently.

Shape Recognition

Flashcards of various shapes were presented for identification. The Dumpling got every one: triangle, rectangle, circle, square, diamond, star, heart, and hexagon. Yes, there was a hexagon in the deck. I was patting myself in the back for that one because jigg thought it was a useless shape to teach a toddler. HA, proved him wrong!

Counting

The teacher then took out a basket of chips and asked the Dumpling to count with her. I immediately knew my daughter wouldn’t be able to do this yet; but I nonetheless let the teacher lead. After a few attempts, I stepped in and explained that we were still working on this concept.

Miscellaneous Questions

Various one-off questions were also scattered throughout the interview, such as:

  • Is the elephant big or small?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • How old are you?

In the end, I asked the teacher how the interview will be evaluated. She replied that it’s not really what the child knows but how he/she communicates and interacts. Her answer sounded suspiciously incomplete but I didn’t press. If the assessment were purely subjective, what was the point of all those tests?!! Regardless of the results, I was so proud of my daughter and gave her three cookies on our way home.

I already knew ahead of time that the kindergarten was completely full. The interview was just something to cross off the application process in the event that a spot opened up. In the meantime, I intend to join a parent-accompanied play group that meets three days a week. I really do miss the U.S. where I can just drop the Dumpling off at daycare for 10 hours everyday. If one can be found here, please take my money!

(I finally did Google what the nursery school application process is like in Hong Kong…this shit is insane!)

How I Taught My Toddler to Read Numbers in Five Days

By the time the Dumpling turned two, she could count to 16 by rote (although she sometimes skips a number or two after 10), but could not read nor truly grasp what a count meant. While the latter is still an advanced concept for her to understand, teaching numbers recognition had been on peripheral vision since she was 18 months old. As a starting point, I did what most childhood experts recommended—we read numbers and counting books together. Progress, however, was painfully slow. After weeks, then eventually months, of not moving forward beyond “1”, “2” and “3”, I decided to toss her books aside and seek an alternative method.

After scouring the internet, I came across a mommy blogger who shared a simple approach that worked for her child. I can no longer find the original post, but I followed her methodology most of the way through with a few minor tweaks. By playing a game with the Dumpling for a few minutes at the start of each morning, I taught her how to visually identify the first 10 digits in just five days.

I first printed out a set of flashcards with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 in big, legible font. Just to be clear, I’m talking about numerals, not the numbers spelled out. Mine were in color with cute animal pictures because they were repurposed from another activity, but even handwritten flashcards would work for this lesson.

I taped the cards up all over our apartment in visible and highly frequented places, such as the refrigerator or front door. (Tip: I hung them high enough so that they were just out of reach from her curiously mischievous hands.) The original mommy blogger emphasized the importance of sequence—”1″ had to be the first thing her child saw, followed by “2”, then “3”, etc. as they move through their morning routine because order was how they made sense of her surroundings. I, however, didn’t worry too much about the arrangement as long as the numbers were not entirely out of place. For example, I taped “1”and “2” in the same room but made sure “1” and “10” were not within sight of each other.

On the first morning, I showed the Dumpling where all the flashcards were in sequential order. As we passed by each one, I said the number aloud, then immediately asked her to find it. When she pointed at the same flashcard, I clapped and cheered.

After we did a round of all 10, I told her that we were playing a game—a scavenger hunt! It was essentially the same exercise without me giving her the answer beforehand.

“Can you help mommy find “1”? I asked.

The Dumpling responded by pointing to any random flashcard.

“That’s a “5”. We are looking for “1”.

I would keep correcting her until she found “1” through the process of elimination. Even though it was pure guess work and luck at the beginning, I made a big deal, jumped up and down, clapped, and danced whenever she got something right.

We repeated these steps until we got to “10”.

Throughout the day, I would also casually point to a flashcard whenever we passed by one so the Dumpling began associating a number with a certain place in the apartment. For example, “4” was taped on the refrigerator so she knew that was where her milk was.

For the next couple of days, we would spend a few minutes every morning doing the scavenger hunt. She had the “route” memorized by the fourth day, so I decided to “trick” her by playing the game entirely out of numerical order on the fifth day…and she correctly found every one! We made a big deal with a celebratory dance.

To make sure this wasn’t a fluke, we played the game again. To be triple sure, I wrote the numbers 1 through 10 on her magnetic doodle and asked her to point to the number that I was asking for. Again, she got every single one. Yay! Another dance!

At this point, I was confident the Dumpling had it down but we further reinforced her newfound knowledge in the real world by reading anything that had numbers, such as front doors, bus signs, ads, posters, etc.

Even though we still need to work on everything that comes after 10, the scavenger hunt was a huge breakthrough in developing the Dumpling’s interest in numbers. My mommy sense tells me that this method can be applied elsewhere… seems like learning the alphabet is on the horizon!

Teach the Way They Learn

“If a child cannot learn from the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” – Ignacio Estrada

Ever since the Dumpling was a newborn, I have dutifully incorporated reading as part of her nightly routine. On regular rotation were classics such as Goodnight Moon, Are You My Mother, The Runway Bunny, and nursery rhymes. Although her “meh” reaction was initially discouraging, online articles by child experts assured me that my efforts were not wasted. They seem to unanimously agree that reading to kids from an early age constitutes quality bonding time, promotes early literacy, develops their imagination, and brings an abundance of other benefits down the road.

As the Dumpling grew older, so did her interest in books…but not in the way I expected. While she was teething, they became her chewing toys. Then she went through a phase where she ripped off all the flaps from her flap books. Now she just loves flipping maniacally through the pages. On some evenings, she wouldn’t even sit through an entire story before wiggling away. I initially thought it was my choice of literature, but her behavior was the same whether we read her “favorite” story or a Toys“R”Us circular.

While the futility of our reading time didn’t escape me, it didn’t bother me either…until I actually tried teaching her something. It started when the Dumpling developed an interest in colors at around 19 months, so I picked out a few books to help her along. While nothing in our routine changed, my perception of it did. Instead of a leisurely past time, reading now had a purpose.

Information Overload

The reality was that the Dumpling’s primary interest laid in flipping, crumpling, or ripping pages; the content was secondary. Delving into my graphic design background, my guess was that there was just too much visually going on to hold her interest. As a result, she looked at everything—and therefore, nothing at once. For a toddler learning a new concept, a spread with seven to eight colors along with pictures, words, and numbers can be overwhelming. Even if an entire page was dedicated to one color, her attention was often fixated on familiar objects but not their attributes. For example, she would focus on the frog rather than the frog being green. This was understandable since her vocabulary up to this point consisted mostly of nouns and verbs; adjectives were new territory.

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Excerpts from the Dumpling’s books: there’s too much going on!

After a few attempts, I shifted away from books to experiment with a few activities designed to channel the Dumpling’s attention. I have always been a hands-on learner, so I built a color lesson around finger painting. I started by hiding all of the paint colors except for one and kept repeating that color over and over again. When the Dumpling started losing interest, I took the first color away and introduced a second. Again, I repeated the new color until I brought out the third and hid the second.

In our first painting session, she was exposed to a total of four colors: yellow, blue, red, and green. Once they were all introduced, I laid them out of reach and asked her to point to what she wanted as I named the chosen one aloud. Towards the end of the 30 minute activity (which as about 25 minutes longer than what I would have gotten out of reading), she was pretty much able to point correctly to a color when asked and verbally name blue and yellow.

In the next few weeks, we replicated this approach by playing with sets of identical objects that came in different colors, such as crayons, balls, pipe cleanerspom poms, and spoons. I was strict with having only one color of each available at the beginning. For example, if we were playing with pit balls, I had one red, one blue, one yellow, and one green out even though the set came with 100 balls. I didn’t want her to be distracted by the other 96 balls bouncing everywhere because our attention was on the colors, not the balls. Once I felt she developed a solid understanding of the initial four colors did I introduce additional ones.

Learn Through Play Activity Ideas

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  • Rolling balls: There’s something very calming about rolling balls down the stairs and watching them bounce. The Dumpling could spend 40 minutes doing this (she would have gone on longer, but I was tired picking them up), so it was an opportune time to talk about colors!

  • Fishing with pipe cleaners: I molded pipe cleaners into fishes, handed the Dumpling a magnet, and asked her to “fish” for different colors. (Tip: Find a magnet strong enough to pick up the pipe cleaner, but not so strong that it picks up multiple ones. Otherwise the game would be over very soon.)
  • Color sorting pom poms: After cleaning out plastic takeout sauce containers, I layered the bottom with colored construction paper and showed the Dumpling how to color sort. We started on easy mode with four colors and slowly added more.

YouTube also became an effective medium after the Dumpling started watching videos of an animated baby sliding into a ball pit. The character would do this repeatedly, except the balls were a different color each time.

Through simple and repetitive activities, the Dumpling learned to identify and say 10 colors before she turned two. As I was dressing her recently, she demanded to wear a blue outfit. When I was about to put a baby blue shirt over her, she stopped me and said “NO! Dark blue.” Apparently she can now differentiate between light and dark hues too.

I still read to my daughter on a regular basis in hopes that she would develop an interest in books one day. However, I also recognize that reading doesn’t always necessary equate to learning. While books are great resources, they’re only as useful as the amount of information a child can extract from of them. Just in case the Dumpling learns more effectively through other methods, I’m always ready to explore new activities as we learn together.

Paradoxical Expectations of the Working Mom

Working moms today are often harshly criticized because we are held to almost impossible standards—we are expected to work like we don’t have kids; and we are expected to raise children like we don’t work. Even when fathers are assuming more child rearing and household responsibilities, they are praised as doing extra while mothers are seen as only doing par. The home is still seen as our primary domain, and it’s up to us to figure out how to level the playing field if we want to be with the big boys in the corporate world.

Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Like many female colleagues of my generation, I was encouraged to “have it all” and look up to women who seemingly found a way to balance work and motherhood. I found myself struggling to sustain my career momentum, however, once the Dumpling come into the picture. In a fast-paced city like New York, where nine hour days are the minimum and anything above is normal, the grind can be especially gruesome. Compared to my colleagues who come in earlier, leave later, and participate in after-hour social events, I often feel like I’m not a team player because I dart out of the office at 5:30 pm.

While other moms are more understanding, there are a few who think every woman should make the same sacrifices they did. There’s the successful female executive with the “I-did-it-and-so-can-you” attitude who thinks the rest of us are just a bunch of complainers. Then there’s the stay-at-home mom who questioned my judgement in putting the Dumpling at daycare when she was only six months old.

Although progress is headed in the right direction, corporate America still isn’t too family friendly. Maternity leave is not mandatory and left to the discretion of the employer. Americans also clock in more hours per week (special shout out to New York!), have fewer holidays, and vacation days compared to most of our European counterparts. While taking holidays and long lunches are culturally acceptable in Europe, it carries a negative stigma in the U.S. The higher up the corporate ladder the we climb, the more we are expected to be accessible 24/7 and available to travel regularly.

Meeting the Demands of Modern Day Motherhood

Even if moms are willing to grind it out, childcare is a common challenge. The core U.S. household is typically made up of only the parents and their children. Therefore, extended family members, like grandparents, do not play major roles as caregivers on a daily basis, and most working parents are forced to seek outside help. Day cares often have long wait lists, are expensive, and penalizes heavily on late pick-ups. jigg and I pay $270 a week, and we are fortunate to have our in-laws do the evening pick ups and babysit for about an hour until I get home. Otherwise, the current local rate for a nanny runs anywhere between $15-$25 an hour. While live-in helpers are common in Asia for many middle-class families, they are entirely out of reach for most in the U.S. For example, a cost of a live-in helper in Hong Kong, who helps with not only childcare, but also cooking, cleaning, errands, and general household chores six days a week costs approximately $4,010 HKD per month, or $514 USD. That’s about a week’s pay for a nanny in the U.S.

Modern parents also need to be very involved. Child experts recommend a barrage of activities that parents should do with their toddlers to develop their sensory, gross motor, fine motor, social, and communication skills. Once school starts, parents are expected to review homework assignments, attend parent-teacher conferences, volunteer for funds raises, etc. Most of these responsibilities inevitably fall onto the mother.

Society in general has expectations (often hidden in a form of unsolicited advice) of how our children ought to behave by cherry picking from the best practices across different cultures. My elders brag about how they managed to put dinner on the table every night, do chores by hand, and raised kids without the fancy gadgets. I’m told to admire the French, who cook sophisticated meals for their children and are firm in their discipline. Compared to Americans, we have raised a kiddy population of obese, picky eating dictators. My Chinese relatives bring up how so and so enrolled their children in swimming, piano, and Mandarin classes and advised I should look into them as well before my daughter falls behind.

Time Scarcity

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It’s no wonder that I always feel like there’s not enough time; I’m working two full time jobs on a daily basis. In the span of 24 hours, “work” and “commute” take up approximately 12 hours of my day; there’s not much I can do to easily change these unless I quit my job or move closer to the city. “Sleep” takes up eight hours (Do I really need eight hours? Yes, I do), which leaves me with the remaining four to do everything else under “other”.

“Other” is a category that includes getting the Dumpling ready for daycare in the morning, then feeding, cleaning, playing and putting her to bed at night. Somewhere in between, I also have to eat, tidy up the house, and make time for jigg and me. I’m scratching my head trying to find time to do everything else I’m supposed to be doing as a “good mother.” If I attend that happy hour, I would miss tucking my daughter in bed. If I cooked in the evenings, being in front of the stove would take away from time spent reading to her. If I enrolled her in weekend classes, she would be spending even more time with outside caregivers than her parents.

Learning from my elders and parents in other cultures should serve as an inspiration. But when their best practices are used as baseline comparisons of how I ought to parent, it’s easy to become disheartened. I remind myself that while they face challenges that I cannot relate to, I have career aspirations and societal expectations that my mom didn’t have, or work hours and childcare costs that my mommy friends from other countries don’t face. As a result, I pick and choose my parenting battles and accept that I do some things better and fall short on others.

DIY Party Doesn’t Mean Doing EVERYTHING Yourself

A nice thing about throwing a party for my two year old is that the Dumpling is still too young to realize that the festivities are for her. That meant I had 100% say in the theme and got to live vicariously through my daughter. The result was a mint green, pink, and gold celebration that I would have liked if I were two going on 32.

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The Dumpling’s mint green, pink, and gold party!

I love making my own party decorations because I can customize every detail on a budget. But I sometimes take the DIY aspect a bit too far—to a point where I thought “doing it yourself” meant doing everything yourself. For example, I was so stressed planning the Dumpling’s first birthday party last year that I had anxiety attacks (and poor jigg was on the receiving end of most of them) because I was pressed for time.

To ensure that I enjoyed every moment of my party crafting this year, I made a list of everything that needed to be done, took on only the projects that I wanted, and sought help for everything else—tasks that I didn’t want to do, am not good at, or were time-consuming and didn’t provide value. While I gained convenience and time at the expense of higher costs, the trade off made sense given my hectic schedule.

Have Someone Else Do the Set Up and Clean Up

On the top of my list was renting a venue because after hours of prepping followed by several more of hosting, the last thing I wanted to do was cleaning. We rented out Good Day Play Cafe, an indoor playroom that was perfect entertainment for our little guests and parents. Their tiered party packages and a la carte options offer a variety of services across different price ranges. The staff was phenomenal and helped with the set up, provided food for the kiddos, and of course, the clean up.

Playroom at Good Day Play Cafe.
The staff helped set up and provided fun table cloths and utensils to match my theme.

Budget friendly thought: Host the party at home and hire cleaners to come afterwards.

Delegate Your Weakness

My strength is in design, not baking. When it came you dessert, I was more than happy to seek professional help rather than spend time learning to bake and sculpt gum paste (and worry whether my creations would be edible).

By chance, I was browsing through Instagram three days before the party when I saw my  my friend’s gorgeous dessert creations and immediately fell in love. I gave her free reign on the design and was ecstatic with the results! One of the beauty of hiring a professional is that she knows what she’s doing and didn’t need much guidance from me.

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Custom handcrafted green, pink and gold cupcakes to match my party decorations
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Add personalized banners and flags to cupcakes for a custom look.

Budget friendly thought: Decorate plain cakes or cupcakes with personalized banners and flags.

Use Pre-Made Decorations

How housewives felt about instant cake mixes back when the product first came to market was how I initially felt about pre-made party decorations: it’s cheating. Then I realized that I didn’t want to spend hours cutting up tissue paper, so I bought a pre-made (but unassembled) party kit from Amazon that came with tassels, decorative straws, and pom pom.

Budget friendly thought: Amazon offers a variation of what is included in their party kits, so explore their sets rather than buying pieces individually.

Focus on the Fun Part!

Delegating out certain tasks freed up more time for me to focus on designing.

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Invitation to the Dumpling’s Birthday and Halloween play date. 
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I realized after the party that I forgot to make a banner with her name. Oops.
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Flags and pom pom wands.
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Favor bags for the little guests.

Remember that Time is Valuable!

People often asked me where I found the time to throw a DIY party as a full time working mom. If there’s one thing motherhood has taught me, it’s time management. When “free time” is scarce, I made sure the it was used efficiently by focusing on my strengths and what made me happy; everything else was a distraction. Crafting is supposed to be fun and therapeutic and I intend to keep it that way!