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Life in DFW

My life as a wife and mom in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and all things fun about it!

Filtering by Category: Toddlers

Small World, Big Imagination.

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

Our visit to a pretend play heaven in Southlake, TX! They have everything from a mini supermarket, teepees, to a mini farm!

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Why Mommy-dates Are Vital for Our Survival

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

No matter how 'fun' and 'okay' my motherhood life might seem on social media (hashtag it #momlife hayyy ;) ), I am gonna be real honest with you and tell you this : I face real challenges that other moms face and there are days when I just snap and lose my patience. I remember crying in the restroom because I had J's poop all over my shirt last year. Sometimes we feel helpless and just overwhelmed, no matter how many kids we have and however young or old they are.

At those moments, we tend to think that we are the only one going through this, while the other moms have it all together. But let me tell you this : we ALL have those days in our walks as mothers and wives. So why go through it alone when you can have your fellow mommy-friends supporting you and cheering for you?


That's why I think having a community of moms who uphold the kind of values you uphold is very important. We bring our kids to playdates so they can socialize and learn to interact with other kids, why don't we go on mommy-dates ourselves?

I'm so grateful for my friend and neighbor, Roselle, who has been able to pick me up and go on little playdate slash mommy-dates with me on almost every Tuesday. We've been to local libraries, Dallas Arboretum, and recently, a Midwestern-based restaurant that specializes in ButterBurgers and Fresh Frozen Custard, Culver's.


Started back in 1984, Culver's has now grown to over 550 restaurants, including in the DFW metroplex. We went to the one in The Colony, which was just opened back in September of 2015. And of course, we brought our kiddos with us.

Roselle decided to try the Beef Pot Roast sandwich (left) with some BBQ sauce on top, and I tried the ButterBurger Cheese. Yum!!


I like the fact that their ButterBurger is cooked-to-order and the patties are NOT frozen, seared to perfection, so you get that crust when you bite into it. Check them out on instagram to see more of their delicious burgers, sammiches, and more. 

Over the delicious lunch, Roselle and I talked about everything from parenting, Disney movies, to Beyonce! I love that when you carpool and go out for lunch with your fellow moms and their kid(s), you get to see how they deal with their kids, how they overcome challenges you might be facing or have yet to face. And be real, you know.


For dessert, I tried the Frozen Custard made with cold-pressed vanilla and fine dairy. This one's the Chocolate Chip Cookie Concrete Mixer. I added some brownie bits too!


Roselle tried the flavor of the day which was Cherry Cheesecake and she said it was super yummy!!

We ended the afternoon by taking photos (and being photobombed by our sons) and taking a long ride home together.


Wherever you are in your journey of motherhood, don't ever feel like you are alone. Find a good friend and hold on to them. Support them and cheer for them, because we are better together.

Because Museums are for Babies Too :: An Interview

Debora Manusama-Sinaga


One of the first places that we visited when we first got to Dallas last year was the Dallas Museum of Art. In fact we visited the DMA on our 3rd day here, carrying J around without a stroller, riding a bus and a train from Irving to downtown Dallas, sweating under the blazing Texan sun. What drew us to the museum? Its free admission of course :) Not gonna lie, for a young family who had just moved to another country on a tight budget, we needed something fun and free to do ( and I think we still do, haha, no matter how much money we make). We signed up for the 'DMA Friend' program rightaway and since then, we've been coming back for more, why? See, it's really not that easy to find 'something to do' for kids that are in J's age group. Programs offered at museums, libraries, and parks are usually for kids who are 3 years old and up. So when I found out that DMA offers a program called 'Art Baby', I was thrilled!

I didn't know that early learners like J could be inspired, stimulated, and taught in a museum through art works created by legendary artists whose names I can't even pronounce! That idea itself seems so fancy, but it actually works!

I have posted a little story on the experience a few months ago, but I felt like I needed to know more. And last week, I finally got the chance to meet the brilliant and kind-hearted lady behind the museum's early learning programs, Leah Hanson.


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"When I started working here back in 2008, we've only had programs that were designed for pre-schoolers. But I had noticed that these kids would always come with their younger brothers or sisters that were also curious and eager to learn. We then created a toddler class in 2009. But then again, they would also come with their younger siblings who were eager to learn but had no programs designed for them. So in summer 2013, we decided to do a trial class for babies. We announced it on facebook and got positive response, with about 100 people signing up. The program was then officially launched in January 2014."


As I recalled, the classes were focused more on exploring the artworks in one particular exhibition of the museum. I remember observing the sculptures in the Asian exhibition and doing yoga with J, 1 hour in total. But the class' format changed in fall 2014. We started to spend only 30 minutes in the gallery and the remaining 30 minutes playing it the art studio. Sounds more fun right? J loves it!


He gets to play with lightbox (in the pic above), exotic musical instruments, and even edible paints made of yoghurt!


Yeah, he got the yoghurt all over his pants (and my sweater). Anything for the sake of learning right? Laundry can wait.

Anyway, what changed the format of the class? What inspired Leah to do things differently in the baby class?

"A trip to the UK," Leah said, where she gathered inspiration from local museums. One of the most inspiring ones was a museum in Manchester where they carry out the Reggio Emilia approach.

Say what??? What is that? Okay in a nutshell, Reggio Emilia approach is an approach (well duh, well it's important to call it an approach because is not a curriculum) that was founded by Loris Malaguzzi in the Italian city of Reggio Emilia after the World War II. It  focuses more on getting children to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, and observing. Those who practice this approach also believe in the "100 languages of children" -- which refer to the many ways of children expressing themselves.

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"In this approach, children are taught with natural light, colorful objects and art is a big part of it," she continued. "Keep in mind that kids understand way more than they can express. And even when they can't verbalize their thoughts, they can still express it through other things like art (their doodles, for example)." DMA10

One of the ways to practice Reggio Emilia approach is also by letting the kids play with the real stuff that we actually use on our daily life, and not the plastic version of it. "That's why we place real bakeware sets on the studio floor so the kids can play with them at the Art Baby class," she explained.

DMA6 Through exploring art, kids can develop fine motor control. And you can see their progress not just on what they make but how they make it. Leah, who graduated from George Washington University's Museum Education program, also encourages us parents to "pay attention to what your kids are drawn to". Look for the color and object (in paintings or other artworks) that catch their attention the next time you take them to the museum or any other cultural places.


Children are so curious, everything they do is learning. It is us who think museums are not for them. The truth is, they are! We just have to know what to look for and what to do, and most of all, to have fun whenever we visit these cultural places."

Wow, I am so glad that I talked to her. How amazing was that quote above? It is us adults that often limit our kids and the places they can visit. They are not too young to observe and learn. Remember that :)

Besides, Leah also mentioned that taking babies to cultural places will teach them to build the connection between the real thing and the idea in a picture. So describe the objects you find in artworks especially the ones that are familiar to your kids (like trees, flowers, animals, or people). Even if they don't say anything back, keep talking, using grown up words like "turquoise" and "fuschia" when you describe the colors, instead of just saying "green" or "pink".

How about the busy toddlers? How do we handle them? The former highschool teacher told me that the key is to slow them down. "Make a game out of your museum visit! Tell them to look for their favorite color or their favorite piece in the exhibition." she suggested.

As for the Art Baby Class itself, there are more exciting stuff coming up so if you are a Dallasite or planning to visit the city, please check the DMA web or their blog and join the class! We are going to explore different materials, artworks and installations this year (she even told me that there will be an installation with balloons, coins, and other interesting materials exhibited soon)!


Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThis painting right here is one Leah's favorite pieces in the DMA. She likes it especially when she has to reveal the identity of the lady in the painting to the kids.

Growing up mostly with Disney's interpretation of the story, kids would normally be surprised when I told them that this is a painting of Cinderella. I heard one kid actually said 'but her hair is not yellow!' But it's actually pretty obvious, because you can see her step sisters getting dressed right there on the left side while she is just sitting there in front of the fireplace (from which she got her name, Cinderella). I usually ask the kids, 'When did this take place? before or after the ball?' It's interesting to hear their answers.

How about you? What do you think?








Our Mom and Son Date at Hospitality Sweet

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

2 weekends ago, J turned 15 months, so I had to take him to his pediatrician for the 15-month check up. We took a little quiz, got his height and weight measured, and got some vaccination shots. The highlight of the check up was of course, the talk with the pediatrician herself. They usually ask you "is there any concern you have regarding your child's health and development?". My answer was "no" but apparently, she it didn't match hers. My peds told me that according to the quiz (which contains a list of questions about our child's behavior and responds to certain stimulants) we took earlier, J is not doing so well with his communication skills and that if he does not make any progress in 3 months, he might have to seek help. Say whaat??

"Have I not done enough?", I asked myself. I have narrated our activities throughout the day ('Good morning, let us take a bath' or 'we are driving to dad's office now', etc), I have read to him, I sing to him all the time - I feel like a lunatic talking to myself all the time sometimes. And that's not enough?

But then she said, "We do not use this as a standard for every kid, because they are all very different. We just want to find out where they are now in their development, but they do not have to 'meet the requirements' or anything like that. So no worries, just keep on doing what you're doing."

Fyuh! Thanks for that emotional rollercoaster you got me on for a sec right there, ma'am. You know I do not believe in any negative maybe's people throw at my kid based on their speedy observation, right?



Anyways, I took him out for a hot cocoa date yesterday morning. And believe me, he talked a lot. Not a single word he said was a real word, he said "dla da da da ba ba ba" all the time, but I treated them as though they were real. I said "oh really?" and "wow, that's awesome" as though he was telling me a story. I felt like a crazy person, but at least I was crazy for him.


Oh it sure is. Especially when you have time to spend it with the people you love while sipping some hot cocoa and savoring on some Texas Scone (scone + cream cheese + cinnamon) they got here at The Hospitality Sweet.




Ahh, I truly believe that God made J just fine. And he's going to say more and more 'real' words soon. Don't worry, J, we'll get there.