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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

To DIY or Not

Well, that was never the question, really...

D comes from a sturdy Do-It-Yourself (DIY) stock. If it is doable - less expensive & more customizable than ready-made, and functions just as well or better for the intended purpose and use - then let's get it done ourselves.

Of course, not all things can be handled this way - several constraints - mainly Time, and possibly Assistance and Tools and Know-How - make it challenging... and certain household tasks are definitely left to professionals (am thinking household electrical wiring... but then again, having seen D do some re-wiring of the lights in the bar/pool room downstairs, nothing major, it seems like some basic physics and commonsense can come in handy...)

And, I thought Tiling required special skills (it still does, to me at least - something that I lack - stamina and patience), but, having seen D transform our blasé old bathroom into elegant tiled wonder, with minimalistic new low-flush toilet and pedestal sink and space-saving shelving, by just reading a book about it and doing it himself (assisted by me, of course - Tamil-speakers might recognize the word "Chitthaal" here), I am beginning to rethink this a bit.

I am rambling... or rather just typing away, albeit incoherently... No matter.

Earlier today I was sorting through Ana's things trying to pick out hand-me-downs for Og and thought it would be nice to post a few things I found useful that fall under the DIY category and are rather easy to do...

1. Fastening Skills Toy: Of course, there are many sturdy ready-made wooden-backed items available for this. But, when D suggested making one for Ana, it seemed like a nice present for her first birthday. It could be a snake or a train toy with little sections connected by zipper, velcro™, buttons, shoelace, and snaps so that each section can be separated and attached again using one of the fastening methods built-in. Now that it is catching Og's fancy, it seems like a half-a-day well spent making it about three years ago. Items used: scrap fabric, velcro, zipper, snaps, buttons, shoelaces, grommets/eyelets, stuffing.

2. Flash Cards (for early/beginner language and math): Well, since flash cards are basically dime-a-dozen here, I guess it makes no sense to waste precious time making fancy ones. But, I like the simplest customizable ones (as in color, size, shape) like the numerals set, which takes less than 10 minutes to make, that got Oggie to recognize these numerals so early. Items used: colored cardstock paper, printer, clear contact sheet, scissors.

3. Word Magnets: To keep up with Ana's exploding language skills, I wanted to get her the standard word magnets so she can form sentences and have fun, and even work with some sight words. However, at $20/- for a box of 50 "standard" words (maybe 100 if I hunt for deals), it seemed like a nice DIY project that could work out less expensive, and involve Ana in the making, and could help tailor the color and words to her current liking and level... and keep adding more as we make progress. Her current fascination with fairies and the Daisy Meadows' series was a strong motivation to add "Amber", "Heather", "Ruby", "Fern" etc to her word pile. Items used: A roll of adhesive magnetic strip, pink bond paper, printer, scissors

home made word magnets

Of course, I don't discount the attractiveness, quality, and variety of readily available flash cards. I particularly loved the Insects and Landmarks ones we worked on over Summer in India. It is a pleasure to hear Ana squeal excitedly when she recognizes pictures of Taj Mahal or Big Ben or Eiffel Tower or Stone Statues in Easter Island with the same enthusiasm she shows for identifying Daddy Long Legs and Tarantula and Stink Bug, thanks to these lovely flash cards :)

And the Word Families flash cards give something extra to expand her language skills and seems to be attracting Oggie's attention as well these days...

However, back to DIYs: I would list sewing numerous dolly clothes, dolly cloth diapers, crocheting dolly winter clothes, booties, makeshift dolly house from cardboard, plus little farm and jungle and ocean dioramas from household items and cardstock paper so I don't have to plonk money on ready-made plastic sets on a passing fancy...

I guess Time is a big challenge for many moms - at-home or working-outside - and I am sure each mom (dad) decides how best to utilize the available time and resources at her (his) disposal. I know I have several interests I am dying to pursue and just like everybody out there in today's world, am constantly prioritizing and re-prioritizing to keep life productive, balanced, and happy.

Sometimes I wonder about the jack-of-all-trades adage... not the sciolism that comes from adding the latter part of the adage, but, just the plain and simple satisfaction that comes from being good at what one attempts to do and enjoys doing...

I am awed by smart and 'successful' women - be it in business, finance, sciences, literature, or fine arts - and wonder if it is indeed true that something has to be sacrificed/let-go/compromised (like family time and other interests) to become a renowned and respected expert in the chosen field to be taken seriously... an expert by definition has delved deeper than others, focused single-mindedly excluding other distractions... does it imply that they forsook personal indulgences and interests along the way, or is that just a myth?

Reason convinces me that one cannot have the cake and eat it too - sort of like the Schrödinger's Cat situation in my mind - a superposition of two possible conflicting states of existence.

Did Dr. Padma Subramaniam have a happy personal life, away from her awe-inspiring dedication to Bharathanatyam life? More importantly, did it matter to her? Did Lisa Caputo set out to be where she is today and single-mindedly strive to get there? Or did circumstances arrange themselves to help her leverage her potential? It is never black-and-white, is it? It's usually a combination of several factors...

I don't like to take myself seriously... it could be due to an in-built sense of modesty, or a well-deserved dose of reality, or simply that it is terribly boring to be pretentiously highbrow (even if that were a natural state of being, which I doubt), or just the realization that in this world I am but a speck, an insignificant speck, and that suits me fine... reminds me of the Whos of Whoville found by dear old Horton while wandering in the Jungle of Nool...

It is comforting to not have any sense of self-importance... but alas! human nature centers around the identity of the self... plus inherent skepticism of all things external to the self...

Somehow, while elitism seems egotistical, humans are apparently wired to constantly assess their position with respect to their peers and environment.

Does being a devotee of arts qualify one to assume the role of a zealous critic as well? While I duly appreciate a particular literary review of my favorite children's book in a well-established publication as brilliantly academic, is it natural to accept my personal review of the same book to be of any less value?

Well, yes, in a way. Subject-matter experts are called experts for a reason... but then what is value in that context? Isn't it dependent on other factors besides the quality of the review itself? I mean, if I am looking for literary deconstruction and analysis, then, yes, it is fantastic to rely on the review of such high calibre from proclaimed experts, but, if I am looking for the plain and simple virtues of a book and how it affected the the parties involved at a personal level, does it become unworthy? The two approaches are not mutually exclusive in my mind, although they seem to be in the real world...

Where am I going with all this? Nowhere, really... sometimes it is nice to type away and not worry about making sense of the disjointed flow of thoughts - especially in the quiet of the night, when kids are asleep, enjoying the solitude, regretting that extra late cup of caffeinated cardamom chai...

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At 1:26 AM, Blogger ChoxBox said...

I have many things to say..but you have said it all anyway.

One thing though - you certainly are modest.

Doff my hat to you - I have but one, you wear several and wear them well.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Reva said...

Dear Sheela,
Lovely flow of thoughts that I can very well relate to. Like you, I too have varied interests and love to go on the DIY mode( me thinks that it adds a charm to the product that a store-brought one doesn't bring). And, I always wonder, if things would be better if I REALLY excelled at ONE thing!
But then life would be too boring to do just one thing always! :D
I have said this before.. and I do again, you are such an inspiration!!!
So, how did Karthigai go?

At 12:28 PM, Anonymous utbtkids said...

Sheela, OMG, lots of this churns in my mind from time to time. Do I go broader or deeper? Why only 24 hrs a day when there are so many many things to do. But again, even if I had 24 hrs, would I be better off focusing on one thing rather than have zillion projects at the same time.

I think, that is my personality. I will not be happy doing one thing

That aside, totally unrelated to the crux of this post, the number cards, instead of laminating the number have you tried cutting the number on sanding paper and pasting it on card stock? More tactile input for Og.

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

::Choxie::Thanks, m'lady, you are too kind.

::Reva::I feel the same way about doing just one thing... glad you understand this feeling and share it. Karthigai was very homely, Sashti Kavacham and paal payasam plus lots of vilakkugal :)

::utbtkids:: Right, each to her own, I suppose... whatever one is happiest doing... it is only when there seems to be attempted crossover- to be heard, to have a voice that matters - that I realize breadth isn't as valued as depth...

And, yeah, since Ana got sandpaper letters to work with in her school, I didn't want to overdo it for her at home (I work with her teachers to make sure it is not an overkill at home for her)... anyway, these laminated numerals worked out alright for initial recognition which is all I am hoping to achieve for Oggie at this time... well, am lucky I get to do even this really :)

But, it has been on my mind to make up sandpaper set like that for my little 3 yr-old nephew who is not in a Montessori school... maybe for his birthday next year...

At 12:47 AM, Blogger ChoxBox said...

@utbt: i taught my daughter hindi via hindi sandpaper letters and hindi moveable alphabet. if you want to teach tamil, you might want to pick up the corresponding tamil stuff on your next des trip.

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

..Absolutely NO COMMENTS, Sheela. U r brilliant and I stumbled upon ur blog at work ..when I was googling on similarity between Tamales and Elai Adai:):) and realized wht I was missing all these years.. am addicted for the last few hours..
Thanks for bringing ur thoughts to pen or shd I say the keys so so well..
A Tam Brahm from CA:)


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