Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday's here again

It's Monday again. Back to the grindstone. This week's pace promises to be just as challenging as last week's.

Thankfully, we had an enjoyable weekend. I had to take in a meeting at my clients' office on Saturday morning but it was interesting enough, which made up for the fact that it was a 9 am meeting at Tuas. After a good mental workout at the meeting, I was given the grand tour of my clients' shipyard. They are shipbuilders and yacht repairers, so there were a few ships and yachts both in and out of the water. I even got to board a private yacht that was being "renovated" - it was AMAZING. I have been on many yachts before but this one was huge and luxurious. The owner lives on board with his wife and two children and crew. The owner told me that, having lived on the water for a few years now, he never wants to go back to living on land, he just loves it.

Got home about 2.30pm and managed to put my feet up for a bit while Ryan was having his nap. When he woke up, we drove over to the Leows and on the way there, we stopped by at Valley Point. We were inside the Starbucks ordering our drinks when Ryan pulled my hand and insisted on going outside. So I let him lead me out and he made a beeline for the fountain at the lobby. This isn't unusual because Ryan absolutely loves anything to do with water. The amazing thing is that the fountain wasn't switched on and there was no water in it so there was no way he would have known it was a fountain. Then I remembered that, when he was an infant, maybe a year ago, I was at the lobby waiting for Richard to pick us up and I was carrying Ryan in my arms showing him the fountain. That was the only time that Ryan has seen that fountain and he was only a few months old yet he still remembers. How incredible!

Dinner was a pleasant Thai affair at Tawandang in Dempsey. Ryan and Matthias were top fans of the live band - they went up and parked themselves right in front, sitting almost on the stage. After dinner, we adjourned to the Leows' place and enjoyed their hospitality for a while before we called it a night.

It was drizzling the next morning so we skipped Ryan's swimming lesson. We went to United Square for lunch. Popped into the Toys 'R' Us to pick up a fresh batch of toys for Ryan, taking advantage of the Great Singapore Sale discounts. No Shichida this week, the term has ended and there is a week's break before the start of the next term.

In the evening, we attended a housewarming party at Carabelle condo at West Coast Way. This is a huge development (338 units over 237,000 sq ft of land) and there are five swimming pools plus other water features, like fountains and a huge fish pond with a pergola in the middle. For Ryan, it was heaven. At every pool which we passed, he wanted to go straight into the water - with his shoes and jeans on.

Back home, we managed to watch a DVD ("Public Enemies" starring Johnny Depp) before crawling into bed and saying goodbye to the weekend.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Workaholic?

The past two weeks have been a blur of emails, documents, work meetings and conference calls for me. There were a few occasions on which I was able, gratefully, to come up for air but generally, it has been non-stop action.

The trip to Sentosa (the end of Ryan's Julia Gabriel June holiday programme) was on a Friday morning. I went back to the office in the afternoon and plunged straight into a conference call, followed directly by another conference call that kept me at the office until 8 pm. After dinner, and when we got home, Richard and I went around the house to check everything was in order before Richard's family from KL arrived. Richard's parents were going to be staying with us for the weekend, while Richard's sister and her family would put up with us for one night and spend the next night at Resorts World Sentosa.

The week before that, Richard and I had been slowly, slowly doing the housechores bit by bit when we got home every night. The place was a mess but it's all clean and tidy now.

The next few days were spent with our guests. We went with them to check out Resorts World Sentosa - we'll definitely be back when all the rides at Universal Studios are up and running! Our guests left on Sunday after having a nice Thai dinner at Tawandang (Dempsey) while listening to the live band there.

Monday wouldn't stay away and so it was right back into the fray. Meetings and conference calls nearly every day that week and, in between, I was in a mad rush to draft papers for a deadline on Friday. I barely found time to express milk for Ryan and milk supply dropped. I had to resort to popping Fenugreek pills to keep it up.

I did have a pleasant reprieve on Tuesday evening (15 June). Although the work madness continued, I forced myself to break out and join some ladies for a social dinner at Spruce. I met these mummies through the Singapore Motherhood Forum when I was pregnant with Ryan. I don't visit the forum much anymore - the connections and the friendships have migrated and survived from there, which is pretty amazing.

Well, the weekend rolled around and there was no rest for the weary. I had to cancel my long-awaited facial on Saturday to take in a full-day meeting at the office from 9 to nearly 6 pm.

Sunday was Father's Day and I swore off work. We celebrated the occasion with brunch at Spruce and a quiet dinner at Raffles Hotel's Long Bar Steakhouse.

This week has been largely a repeat of last week. More deadlines, more excessively long meetings and more conference calls. The work hours just whizz by.

I am actually quite happy that I'm busy at work. I wouldn't claim to be a workaholic, I just enjoy being productive and I enjoy my work - the mental workout is a pleasure and it is very satisfying when my labour brings about a good result for the case. If you asked me to let someone else take over the cases that I have been working on, I would say no thanks, I'm very happy! I'm just feeling tired, as I haven't been able to sufficiently rest and recover from the activities over the past few weeks, but this is just a phase - work will slow down soon and then I'll be bored. I'm tired now, but happy.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Kindness is surprising

For dinner this evening, Richard and I went to Al Dente Pronto at Great World City. When we got our table, Ryan was not ready to sit down so Richard took him for a walk while I placed the orders. When the food was served, Richard returned with Ryan and settled Ryan into his chair and we started eating.

Out of the blue, a lady came up to me from the table behind us and offered her help to babysit Ryan while we ate our dinner. She was in full admiration of Ryan and kept saying how cute he was (although she thought he was a girl at first). She told us that she understood how difficult it is to look after our children when they are still so young. She said that for her, the first two years were really crazy and she wouldn't want to go through that again (her 11 year old son was sitting at the table behind us). She said that she would love to help us while we ate our dinner and that she had done it before for others.

She said that she is originally from Hong Kong and she married a Canadian. She was so pleased to discover that we understood Cantonese and she went on and on in Cantonese with us. She wouldn't stop talking so we really had no chance to refuse her advances and we certainly didn't want to make an unnecessary scene. She just went on and on about how difficult it was to look after a baby and that we need all the help we could get. She said that, if we were to say we're doing all right, it would not be true but we would not know it, because it really is such a tough job. When Ryan's meal was served, she drew up a chair and picked up the spoon and started feeding him. All the while, she was talking and talking.

When she picked Ryan up from his chair and told us not to worry and just carry on with our dinner as she would look after him, we made sure that we kept a good eye on her and her son (who was still sitting at the table playing his handheld electronic game). She carried Ryan around the restaurant and chatted with the waiters and other staff. We managed to finish our dinner and we were wondering if she expected us to pay for her dinner. She flatly refused our offer.

It was hard to part ways - she wouldn't stop talking and dispensing advice - but eventually we manage to bid her and her son goodbye.

It was a strange experience.

I got the impression (I may be mistaken) that she was really lonely and in need of human companionship and friendship. She must be feeling quite cut off from the world, at home all day, with her husband working and her son, 11 years old, not needing her like he used to when he was a baby. Her husband called her a few times on her handphone to ask her where she was and she brushed him off saying she would be home soon.

No doubt this lady was very kind. Her motives may have been driven by loneliness and to that extent, they may not have been entirely selfless, but she was certainly not driven by sinister reasons. Richard and I were suspicious of her at first, what with her coming on so strong. I think that is a reasonable response, but it is sad that it is reasonable to be suspicious of kindness and good faith. I have had many people ask me, "What do you want?" when I call them up just to say hello, how have you been. In our current time and culture, kindness and trust are not assumed and one is presumed guilty unless proven innocent.

I hope that, in the same way that this lady extended her kindness to us, Richard and I were also kind and responded with politeness and friendliness. We could have rejected the lady and told her to sod off, but we didn't and everyone walked away from the episode with good feelings. Ryan will grow up in this cynical world, but I do hope that Ryan will always be kind and I hope that Richard and I will always be a good example to him of how to be kind. Things like that, just like love, make the world a better place.

After two weeks of the Julia Gabriel June holiday programme, Richard and I sat down and had a short review. Mainly we wanted to see whether Ryan benefited from the programme or not.

Well, we think that Ryan did very well. He understood what was going on and what was expected of him. He paid attention and was interested in the activities, some activities more than others. He didn't give the teachers or the other babies a hard time. He understood when he had to sit down and be still and quiet and when he could let loose and be silly.

The programme also provided him many learning opportunities and we could see that Ryan was very keen to learn. As an illustration, here are two videos of Ryan at water play, where we can see him investigating everything, doing little experiments and really learning so much.



In the first video, you can see how Ryan experiments with different conditions in the water trough. First, he has a large container which he dips into and lifts out of the water. He can see the water dripping off the container but it is only a small amount. This is unsatisfying and he tries to find out how he can get more water to flow out. So he experiments. First he tries to stuff the container deeper into the water to pick up more water. When that doesn't really work, he puts his hand into the water and splashes it about, hoping to increase the water level. That doesn't seem to work either, so he walks over to the other side of the trough where there is more space and his container can go in deeper and pick up more water. It seems to work a little better. He notices Cayden's daddy using a watering can which seems to do a much better job and so he realises that using a different container might do the trick. So he changes containers and gets a better result. Later (not shown in the video), he realises that the way he holds the container and dips it into the water also makes a difference.



In the second video, Ryan has gotten hold of a similar watering can which he saw Cayden's daddy using earlier. He now wants to investigate the other water troughs. He gets up from the first water trough and walks over to the green water trough where he puts his hand in to verify that there is water inside. He then squats down by the side of the water trough and learns that he can actually see through the semi-transparent side of the trough. He then goes to investigate the blue tub which is empty. After considering his options carefully, he decides that the first water trough is the best option and so he goes back there. By this time, he has learned which container does the best job of gathering and distributing water, and so he picks the perfect container for the job. He even holds the container correctly as he dips it into and lifts it out of the water.

Ryan did all this on his own, without any help from Richard, me or the teachers. In fact, I wasn't even present at this session. Richard showed me the videos afterwards and we were pretty amazed to witness this learning process. I'm not saying that Ryan is unique in this sense. I'm sure this is pretty normal and most babies do the same thing. I'm only saying that it's pretty amazing to witness a baby, any baby, going through this learning process.

There have been other times during the programme that we witnessed Ryan actively learning. Unfortunately, we only have a few videos and pictures of Ryan in the programme, because when we're in the classroom, Ryan is sitting in front of us on the floor, so we only see the back of his head.

Well, our conclusion is that Ryan seems to have benefited from the programme and so we're very happy that we stuck it out. It was also a timely reminder to Richard and me that our little one is eager to learn and we, as parents, need to keep providing him with opportunities to learn. Richard and I are well aware of this but lately we've been a little slack as we've been occupied with shifting houses in Malaysia, settling the purchase of our penthouse in Singapore and of course, office work. It's time for us to get back on the horse!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Trip to Siloso Beach, Sentosa

The trip to Sentosa was quite relaxing and it was a nice end to the programme. We are not signed up for Week 3 so this was the last we'd see of the teachers until Ryan starts PlayClub at Julia Gabriel, hopefully in the coming term.

We got up bright and early so that we could get on the school bus with the teachers and most of the parents. A lot more parents and babies were on the bus compared to the trip to the zoo so it was a good experience. Many people asked us why we didn't drive to Sentosa ourselves since the bus actually passes by our house on the way to Sentosa. Well, we felt that it was important for Ryan to go on the bus so that he could better understand that it was a school excursion instead of a family outing. That way he would understand why the teachers and all the other parents/babies were there, why we sang songs from school in a group, etc. We also felt that the bus ride with the rest of the class would give Ryan a taste of camaraderie and build a sense of social pursuit. The bus trip itself was nothing fantastic but that was never the point.

We took about an hour before we finally arrived at the beach. This is the first time that we've brought Ryan to Sentosa, we are usually at the beach at East Coast Park. Still, Ryan has been to the beach a few times already so he wasn't very excited about playing in the sea and in the sand. He spent a little while in the sea, a longer while playing at the water taps at the wash area and then he was content to just relax and laze around in my lap, enjoying the seabreeze.

Just like last week at the zoo, the outing ended with the whole group singing some songs. The outing was much shorter than the trip to the zoo, but I think it was just nice for Ryan as he fell asleep on the way home and didn't wake up till dinnertime. The trip was quite fun but I do think that the trip to the zoo was more enjoyable.

Anyway, some photos.

Here is Ryan walking from the bus to the beach with Richard. He is carrying his backpack filled with beach toys.
Here's Ryan, just coming round the bend and catching sight of the sea.

Here he is with baby Zethan at the water taps (this photo taken by Zethan's mummy, Serene).

We're well into Week 2 of the programme. This week, we have teacher Safina leading the class and the theme is "Beach Babies".  There are quite a number of people whom we know in this week's programme (some of us signed up together in fact) so it was great to see everyone and their babies.

Last week Ryan was spending a lot of time sticking close to me, observing everything.  This week, right off the bat, I can see that he fully understands the activities and he knows what he is supposed to do.  He knows where the toys are kept, he knows he has to sit down and be quiet for storytime (he loves storytime), he knows that he needs to take the lid off his bowl before he is served his snack and that he should sit down in his chair at the table while eating it, he knows that he should tap tap tap the magic box and that he must wait his turn to do so, he knows that he can play with the keyboard but only after class is over, he knows that the cushions can be jumped on after class, he knows that after snack time is playground time and that there's lots of good stuff in the playground (cars! swimming pool! sandbox!).  I was actually a little surprised because I didn't teach him or tell him any of this. I usually sit back, give him a hug and a kiss if he needs it (or I need it!), let him sit in my lap if he wants to and of course sing along and do the actions in the songs.  So it is pretty amazing to see how a little toddler can learn so much and so fast just by observing and absorbing his environment.

Today was "swimming" again and it was wonderful that the babies this week were more interested in the water so Ryan had some company in the pool.  He was still the last one out though. He didn't want to leave so we were out there by ourselves for quite some time.  I lifted him out after a while but he kicked up a fuss. All the "Let's go, Ryan" and "It's music time, Ryan" and "Everyone else has gone in, Ryan" wasn't working. Then I remembered all the stuff I've been reading and applying what I read, I asked him (as he was trying to climb back into the pool), "Let's go and sing some songs, do you want to sing Old MacDonald Had A Farm or do you want to sing Skinnamarinky Dinky Dink?" and to my surprise, he agreed to follow me back to the classroom.  I didn't even have to hold his hand and drag him. Amazing. I have to remember that approach!

Here are some shots of him stuffing himself with cookies just before sand play yesterday.



Sunday, June 6, 2010

Weary weekend

Our weekend was a quiet one, which was good because Richard and I are so so so tired.  Having just got back from a week in Malaysia where we shifted houses, we went straight back to work and there is a lot happening at work these few weeks, lots of meetings and deadlines.  We also went straight into Ryan's Julia Gabriel June holiday programme, which meant rushing around quite a lot in the afternoon.

Richard and I are doing our level best to juggle everything but boy, is it tiring!  You know how people always say that family should take priority over your career? Well, this past week was a perfect example of that. Richard and I both took a lot of liberties at work this week so that Ryan could participate in the holiday programme. Having to miss hours at work is stressful because the work gets piled up and the deadlines keep running and we have to somehow find the time to catch up. We rush our work in the mornings, drive out from the office in the afternoon, go for the programme and then go back to the office again afterwards.  Not funny. But no regrets, I think Ryan enjoyed his first week in the programme, and we'd gladly do it all over again.

Richard's sister and her family of five plus Richard's parents are driving down from Malaysia on Friday night and they will be staying the night at our house.  They are off to Universal Studios at Sentosa on Saturday.  This weekend was supposed to be a 'house cleaning' weekend because the house is in a mess since we have not been doing any chores for more than two weeks now.  Aside from the obvious living/dining area and kitchen/bathrooms, we also have to get ready two guest rooms to make space for everyone.

Well that was the plan but as it turned out, we just didn't have the energy. Quite apart from the fatigue that is already upon us, we can only do chores when Ryan is asleep because otherwise we do want to spend time with him plus he does require quite a bit of close supervision in our house which is devoid of any childproofing. Ryan loves spending time with us too and so he tries to stay up pretty late with us, by which time, all of us are wiped out and ready for bed and all thoughts of cleaning and tidying up fly out the window. Plus I was running a fever on and off (on at night, off in the day), so that pretty much did me in.

So on Saturday, we spent the first part of the day shopping and lunching at Ngee Ann City.  The Leows came over to the house in the afternoon for a short while.  Dinner was a simple affair at Paradise Inn at Funan the Digitalife Mall.


The next day was swimming.  Since I was not at my best, Richard had to get into the pool with Ryan. Good job Daddy!



After that, we met up with the Leows for lunch at PappaRich (this photo taken by Kenny). 



After that, we went home and we were all so tired that we all fell asleep and so we skipped Shichida. In the evening, we took a stroll around the neighbourhood shops.  Went to buy dog food and dinner for ourselves. This was the first time that we took Ryan's little car out of the house and Ryan sat in it the whole time, he simply loved it.



So what's in store this coming week? More work at the office, tighter deadlines, Week 2 of Julia Gabriel June holiday programme, household chores in between, family visit on Friday/Saturday, plus some personal stuff that needs attention. No rest for the weary.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Trip to the Singapore Zoo

This morning was the much anticipated trip to the Singapore Zoo.  It has been years since Richard and I were there and it has changed quite a bit since the last time we were there. It was Ryan's first time at the zoo so we were very excited that he could finally see all the animals that we were reading to him about.

We arrived at the Julia Gabriel Centre for Learning at Evans Road just before 9 am and got onto the big bus. The journey to the Zoo passed quickly as the time was spent singing all the familiar songs, like Wheels on the Bus, We're Going to the Zoo, If You're Happy, Incy Wincy Spider, Down in the Jungle and lots more.

The school excursion was only half a day and the programme was quick and simple. Walk through the zoo to the first tram station, get on the tram and alight at the next station and visit Rainforest Kidzworld, have some snacks/lunch and then take the tram once round the zoo and back to the bus to Evans Road by about 1 pm. We were at liberty to stay on at the zoo on our own but we decided to follow the bus back as Ryan would be needing his nap by then and we would go back to work at the office.

In our short time there, we managed to get a look at some animals - the flamingo, the orangutan, the chimpanzee, the ostrich and the zebra. At Rainforest Kidzworld, Ryan got up close to the horses, the ponies and the little goats.  Ryan missed the giraffe (we were on the tram and he was looking the other way) and we didn't see the elephant/tiger/lion. But we did see the polar bears, Inuka and Sheba! They were magnificent!

Ryan insisted on being carried most of the time except when we reached the water play area at Rainforest Kidzworld. When he saw the water wonderland, his eyes just lit up and he was so excited! He absolutely could not wait for us to change him into his swim diaper - he would have walked straight into the pool fully clothed if we let him. When we finally managed to put his swim diaper on, he ran over to the pool and went "Wah!" with both his hands up in the air. He was so happy!

The other babies didn't participate but I don't think Ryan noticed.  He was playing and splashing about, exploring all the sprays and the play equipment.  After about 30 minutes, we got him out and ate lunch (KFC!) next to the water play area and then everyone sang some action songs. Then it was back on the tram.  We popped into the souvenir shop and Ryan picked out a soft toy as a memento of his wonderful time at the zoo.  He picked a proboscis monkey (he was attracted to the big nose).

Then it was back on the bus and back to the school. In the car on the way home, Ryan fell asleep, no doubt all pooped out.  I'm sure that he had happy dreams of his morning.


Exploring the sprays at the water play area in Rainforest Kidzworld.

Happy as can be!

I asked him to investigate this small fountain, which was beside the water play area.

He stuck his hand in but was not impressed. This is for amateurs!

Off he went back to the pool with the professionals.

The other kids stayed out of the water so Daddy was Ryan's playmate. 
He led Daddy all over the area and showed Daddy all the wonderful stuff.

After a good workout, it was KFC time!

Back at home, all tired out and napping with his colour-coordinated monkey.


This week and next week, Ryan is participating in the Julia Gabriel June Holiday Programme at Evans Road. In the afternoons from Monday to Thursday, Ryan attends a one and a half hour session of music, storytelling and outdoor activity. On Friday morning, the whole class gets to go on an excursion.  The excursion for Week 1 is to the Singapore Zoo (as the theme for the week is "Off to the Zoo").  We will be going to the beach at Sentosa in Week 2.

Richard and I take turns to take time off from work to attend the sessions. We send Ryan to the nanny in the morning while we go to work and then after lunch, I/Richard will fetch him to go to the centre in Evans Road. After that, Ryan usually hangs out with me at my office till we go home. It was my turn to go with Ryan to class on Monday and I was pleasantly surprised when Richard popped by at the class.  He said he wanted to be there on Ryan's first day of school.

Ryan seems to be enjoying himself in the class. Although he insists on sticking quite close to us (maintaining body contact) most of the time, I can see that he is fully focused on what is going on in the class. He really pays attention and he doesn't look around or wander off to do his own thing or fuss about. He enjoys bubble time the most, when the teachers blow soap bubbles into the air. Reminds me of when he was still doing classes at Gymboree -they also had bubble time and in fact, the same song is sung ("bye bye bubbles").

Yesterday was "swimming" day so there were two plastic pools filled with water and toys for the babies to sit in and play.  I led Ryan out to the pools and the moment he saw them, he let go of my hand and walked straight over. There were two babies in one pool and Ryan walked over and got into the other pool where there were no babies.  The teacher invited him to join the two babies in the first pool so I picked him up and put him in there. The funny thing is that he got up and climbed out and walked back to his private pool, haha!  In the end, the teacher and some other babies decided to join him in his pool.

Ryan was so happy splashing about and playing with the toys.  I was looking forward to seeing Ryan play with the other babies in the pool so it was slightly disappointing that none of the other babies/mommies seemed to share our enthusiasm for the water.  Two of the babies didn't even participate (didn't even change into their swimwear) and one baby got changed but refused to get into the water. As for the rest, their mommies put them into the water but held onto them the entire time, panicking and shrieking at every drop of water that landed on their babies' faces.  This puzzled me a little because it seemed to defeat the purpose of the activity and it actually "disturbs" other babies who are trying to enjoy the activity - Ryan was watching these mommies/babies the entire time with a very concerned look. Anyway, after about five minutes, these nervous mommies took their babies out and Ryan had the pool all to himself for the rest of the time allocated for the activity. Hopefully, next week's batch of mommies/babies will be more excited about the water.

With the babies gone, it was just Ryan, me and the teachers there. But of course we couldn't stay there forever, although I'm sure Ryan would have no objections to such a proposal. When Siti told Ryan, "two more minutes, Ryan", you could see his expression change immediately from very happy to very serious, which made Siti laugh. Anyway, at the end of the period, the teachers left and it was just Ryan and me so we had a little private time.

Friday's excursion is to the Singapore Zoo and both Richard and I will be accompanying Ryan on the trip.  We've decided to take the school bus with the teachers (instead of driving there ourselves) so that Ryan can have the full experience of a school excursion. I'm looking forward to it. All the soft toys and wooden/plastic animals that Ryan has are quite meaningless without a reference to the real thing so I think this will be really wonderful. Hopefully it doesn't rain!

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