Around this time last year, a cardboard play kitchen made by a Pinay mom went viral all over the internet, catching the attention of several international sites, including Huffington Post and PopSugar. The mom behind it is Rodessa Villanueva-Reyes.
We caught up with her to ask what she was up to lately. Turns out, a lot! The then-mother of one to Audrey (who she made the kitchen set for) just gave birth last January to new member of the family, baby Damien! Would you believe that during her preggy months she was still able to accomplish three DIY projects: an extension to the play kitchen, her daughter’s second birthday party and her husband’s surprise 'dadchelor' party? All while managing her online business too. Amazing! So of course we asked her to spill her secrets. Here’s what she told us:
1. Be a mom first.
Though she has a lot on her plate, Rodessa says she’s a mom first and foremost. Most of her day is spent with 2-year-old Audrey and newborn Damien, both of whom she breastfeeds -- though she’s weaning Ate already, she tells us. “My DIY projects have even brought me and Audrey closer together and gives us more bonding time. She can already ‘help’ now that she’s a little older.”
“It's also setting an example to my kids, especially to Audrey. Our projects teach her how to be creative, resourceful and to value the things that I make for her or that we make together,” Rodessa says.
The DIY play kitchen will be a year old in a few weeks and Rodessa says it’s still well-loved and in great condition -- quite a feat, considering it’s mainly made of cardboard! “She plays nice with it and that could be because she saw me build it from scratch. What’s different about it now is that it has crayon marks and stickers, creative touches from Audrey.” Aside from that, she has also added extensions.
The kitchen now has a laundry area comprising of a washer, a dryer and a clothes line. The knobs of the machines are made of 2-litre water container caps. Right after taking her socks off, Audrey likes to “wash” them in her laundry and then hang them to “dry,” Rodessa shares. “I also like how the clothes pins practice her fine motor skills.”
Extra shelves were also made to accommodate more toys. “When the play kitchen went viral, a lot of family members and friends gave her toys she can use for the play kitchen.”
Also for Audrey, she DIYed a children’s birthday party at home with a Minnie Mouse theme. It was very time consuming, she tells us, as she prepared everything from the invitation, decorations, kids activity table (which had play tools and homemade play dough) and all the food, including the 2-tier cake complete with frosting.
“For her party, I started planning and conceptualizing 3 months prior to her birthday. This was to give me more time to make the DIY stuff and to save money for the ‘To Buy’ stuff. I needed more time because I was on my second trimester of pregnancy and running a home-based business,” says Rodessa. She owns Ava’s Kitchen which sells homemade lactation goodies.
2. Make time for yourself.
Rodessa admits that it was very difficult to get me-time in the last few months. “I was pregnant. I was raising a very active toddler whom I was also breastfeeding. I have no helper and my husband goes to work on regular office hours. I have Ava's Kitchen to run and I have a 3-storey house to maintain. Emphasis on the 3-storey because it was really hard for a pregnant woman to go up and down those stairs!” she says.
So where do her DIY projects fit it? “I DIY in my free time. As if I have any! But seriously, I make time for them,” she answers. “I spend about 1 to 2 hours per day while Audrey is asleep to cut, fold and glue until I'm able to finish everything.”
To her, this isn’t much of a chore. Rodessa shares that she finds crafting very therapeutic and relaxing, not to mention fulfilling, as each of her DIY projects are made with a lot of love and patience.
Rodessa has a degree in interior design from the University of the Philippines Diliman. Her love of anything arts and crafts goes way back to her childhood with memories of making slam books in elementary and cooking for her friends in high school. “I also loved making scale models of houses and creating concept and presentation boards back then.”
Her first inspiration? Mom. “My mom made a lot of things for me. But her projects were a lot better than mine since she was a master at the sewing machine! I used to go to school with all my towels and handkerchiefs embroidered with my name. My bedroom was all matching from the curtain to the bed sheets and pillowcases.”
Right now she’s working on making decorations for the playroom that’s fit for both her daughter and son. She’s decided on a “hot air balloons” theme. She already has a few wall decals (that she made herself, of course) that Audrey helped her put up.
3. Be organized.
The secret to successful DIY projects is to not get intimated. Make a plan. Then, take your plan one step at a time and be patient with it. As Rodessa mentioned, it takes time. For Audrey’s birthday, she had to first decide what she would be making and what she would be buying. Invitations were 'to make,' for example, and balloons were 'to buy'.
Next, she looked all around Pinterest for ideas then sourced for materials. Actually creating and putting the pieces together took the longest. As mentioned, she worked on the project 3 months in advance. “Honestly, DIY-ing is very time consuming,” she says, which is why she understands that it’s not for every mom. “If DIY is not your thing or you don’t have the time, there’s no pressure. But I'm sure every mom will do anything for her kids.
“You can always express your love in different ways. It may be by buying a play kitchen at the toy store or making it out of cardboard boxes. Whatever it is, just don't forget to spend time with your kids, as much time as you can,” she adds.
And her ultimate secret? “I take everything a day at a time. I manage my time well, get enough rest and keep one goal in mind: keep everyone alive and happy.”
Lovely family photo, Rodessa! See Smartparenting.com.ph's previous stories on the DIY kitchen mom here.