Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter Sunday!

Easter Sunday was a family day for us. Ryan went for swimming class with Richard while I went shopping with Rachel at Spotlight. The boys met up with us at Plaza Singapura after swimming class and we spent a good part of the afternoon having lunch and shopping there.

Back home, we just hung out and relaxed, doing whatever the littles wanted to do. Ryan wanted to try out his new stencils which we picked up from Popular Bookstore on Friday.


In the evening, Ryan and I went to the playground as usual. Ryan is always deliriously happy when he is scooting to the playground and he will spontaneously declare, "I love you, Mama!" as he is scooting. He says it a few times, in fact.


My monkey.



He hasn't mastered this one yet but he has quite a few thoughts about it - "I'm like a spider, Mama!" and "There are triangles!"


He loves hopscotch.


Rock on!


For dinner, Ryan requested KFC so we dutifully went there. We went to the outlet at Big Splash and after dinner, we checked out the prawning/fishing place that is there. Ryan wanted to try it out but we knew he was tired and so we brought him home and put him to bed. I think he had a good day.

Yesterday was quite a nice day for Ryan too. After violin class, he attended a birthday party of one of his classmates, which was held at The City at Liang Court. After that, we went to IKEA for lunch and some shopping. Back home, Richard and I sorted our massive CD collection while the two littles played around us. Then out for dinner and back home for an early night.

A reader asked about the addition cards and counting cubes that Ryan was using in one of the photos in Friday's post. The addition cards are from this pack published by Trend Enterprises which I got for RM4.50 in Malaysia. I bought the subtraction and the multiplication packs too. I'm not sure where you can get it in Singapore although I know that you can get it online from a number of sites. In any case, the equations are really basic, so I suppose you could simply write your own! I used these because I wanted Ryan to get used to the format of vertical equations.


The counting cubes which Ryan was using are these 2 cm cubes from this Connect-a-Cube set which I bought from Growing Fun. There are ten colours and ten cubes of each colour. The cubes take a bit of effort for Ryan to connect and disconnect, which I feel is great for building up strength in his fingers. We actually have a variety of counters that Ryan uses for math; this set is just one in our collection.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday morning!

It's Good Friday! How did you spend it? We had a quiet, peaceful day. Some friends invited us for a morning picnic at the beach but Richard had a meeting in Johor Bahru in the morning and I didn't feel like venturing out so we declined and I stayed home with the littles. The main reason is that Ryan has been doing some serious toilet training, meaning we're not putting him in diapers, and I didn't want to have to go searching for a toilet at the beach while still hanging on to babydoll.

Richard left early in the morning and spent 2.5 hours stuck in traffic getting to his meeting. He was back in time for lunch, so we still had half the day with him.

Anyway, I tried to make good use of the morning at home by giving Ryan some stuff to work on.

Here he is, working on his addition.



Working on pen skills. You can see that he is still able to use either hand to write. 




Ryan did some mazes with Richard when Richard got home. That was about all the "academic" stuff that we did. Ryan spent most of the time playing with various sets of alphabets and numbers. There was also some reading and some imaginative play with a cardboard box. Lots of talking and singing. And then there was this -




 Hahaha, it was a really nice way to spend a morning. Hope yours was just as great.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The last two weeks

As a quick catch-up of the last two weeks when I wasn't blogging, here's a photographic rundown!

First, let me throw some love to Florinda. Florinda has a business called Style Essence which deals with skincare, make-up and styling, using Mary Kay products. Her company is supporting Mary Kay's "One Woman Can" beauty contest and she invited me to join in. I was delighted to lend her my support so I hopped on over to one of her workshops. I got a free makeover and I bought some products as well. It was a lot of fun, everyone was very friendly and warm, and the evening passed quickly.

This was me after the makeover!


Here's Flo and me (this shot taken by Flo)!


Flo has set herself a target of 100 makeovers so if you're interested in two hours of fun with makeup, or I should say, fun AND makeup, do contact her and she'll set up something for you!

Okay, marketing spiel over. Back to the littles.

Babydoll (ladies) first.

Rachel has been spending quite a few mornings with me in my office. Her nanny was ill for a day last week (food poisoning) and then, this week, her nanny was on holiday from Monday to Wednesday. My colleagues are always happy to see her - in this photo you can see her holding a biscuit from the tea lady and a little Abby Cadabby doll from a colleague, who bought it for her from Universal Studios. 


I can't get much work done when she's with me. I take a few phone calls, answer a few emails and sort out some administrative stuff.


Here she is at home. It's all about the shoes for babydoll. This is her favourite spot in the whole house. And yes, the shoes do end up in her mouth. She especially loves eating Ryan's Nikes.


When Ryan was a baby, we took him to classes at Gymboree. We haven't felt the need to send Rachel for the same thing because she is already so active and mobile. She is allowed to roam the entire house and she does exactly that. She is absolutely fearless and will try anything. In contrast, Ryan was more of an observer. He would watch others go through the process, learn everything about it, and, when he was confident he knew what to do, only then would he join in. Babydoll doesn't take that long. She jumps in first and asks questions later.


Babydoll's second favourite activity after eating shoes is rummaging through my handbag. Here she is, waiting for Ryan to finish his swimming class. She is mouthing my Mary Kay lip balm, which I bought from Flo earlier that week.


As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we all went over to Shann's place yesterday for a playdate and babydoll had a grand time.

 

Shann gave her two dresses. Here she is, wearing one of them. A little halter-neck number!


We attended a birthday party of the son of an old friend last weekend. He, Richard and I all came to Singapore on the same scholarship more than twenty years ago. He has three children now, although he looks exactly the same as he did when he was a student. It's so amazing to look at each other now as parents and remember that we used to be these awkward young students.


Ryan went for three auditions. Hope that we will get at least one job! He is getting very good in front of the camera and can take instructions really well.


On weekends, we still go to the playground although nowadays Richard will stay home with Rachel while I accompany Ryan out. Ryan will ride his kick scooter and I will walk with him, and we'll talk about everything and about nothing in particular. Sometimes we recite linking memory, hahaha.


We paid a visit to Ryan's favourite giraffe. It is always in a different location within the store so we always have fun "giraffe-hunting".


We don't do much painting at home with Ryan nowadays because he gets a lot of that in school. Of course, we still welcome any opportunity that pops up - here he is doing that painting thing (what is it called?) at Parkway Parade. He did two of these.



As for me, I had a tough two weeks dealing with some unpleasant people. Happy to say that there were also many happy moments that propped me up and lifted my spirits. I had a couple of lunchdates with forum mummies and I also had a few days off work (because our nanny was ill/on holiday) which meant lots of quality time with the littles. I had a good relaxing afternoon yesterday at Shann's place. Plus babydoll called out "Mama" as her very first word. The good stuff always outweighs the bad. Always.

Richard has been very busy at work. We normally get together after work for a quick dinner and a quick catch-up before meeting up with the littles, and recently, it's been quite late. We usually only get to the nanny's around 8.30 pm. I think we really need to change something somewhere because we really don't get much time with the littles on weekdays with such a late pick-up.

Anyway, that's the quick catch-up! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mama!

Yesterday, babydoll gave me a precious gift - her very first word! It was "Mama"! We were in my office at the time. She was cruising into my arms when she said it, so I know she was referring to me. It was an incredible feeling, to hear those words for the first time (again). It was an amazing, amazing feeling. Thank you, darling!


As mentioned, babydoll and I spent yesterday morning in my office. We left at lunchtime to fetch Ryan from school and, after running an errand, I drove over to Shann's place for an afternoon playdate. Shann was actually not feeling well but she very kindly hosted the three of us and we had a marvellous time. 

Shann has two lovely daughters, Rou Ern and Zi Ern, who are the same age as Ryan and Rachel respectively. Ryan had a ball of a time with Rou Ern and they played very well together. There was the occasional squabble but they managed to get past those moments fairly well, so I am really proud of both of them. I am always interested to see how children quarrel and squabble. It doesn't bother me that they squabble and, in fact, I am usually quite happy at the chance for them to learn how to resolve their differences. 

For example, the two children were both tugging on a cardboard cutout of a shark and, as would be expected, the shark tore in two. Immediately, the two of them stopped squabbling over it and went into "let's fix it" mode instead. That was pretty awesome to witness. I have to say thank you to Shann too, because she was super cool about it and she also left the two of them alone to sort it out. That's my approach, but in such a situation, it is only effective if both parents are on the same wavelength.

I don't have any photos of Ryan - he was too busy! Nevertheless, I did notice that he still responded to me when I called him and when I asked him to do/not to do something. He can get over-excited sometimes when he is playing with friends and, in those over-excited moments, he tunes me out. So I was pleased to see that he could indeed play happily and calmly, and still process what I'm telling him. Perhaps it was because the two of them were playing games that were not too boisterous? I'm not sure.


I had a nice, relaxing time chatting and catching up with Shann. Shann and her family are going overseas for a year starting June this year and we will definitely miss them. Hop on over to her blog if you are curious about her little cuties!

Babydoll had a grand time exploring and investigating, although she insisted that I stay close by at all times. The highlight of her day must have been her encounter with a peach. Shann was making some purees and babydoll (who was in my arms) grabbed a peach from the kitchen counter and chomped into it. I put her on the floor and let her carry on as long as she wanted to and she got through half of it before she was happy to let it rest in peace.



The peach was too slippery for Rachel to get a good grip but that didn't stop her. She just bent herself over to take a chomp! No problem!


We stayed till 6 plus. Ryan fell asleep in the car on the way home and continued sleeping when we got home, only waking up once for some milk. Babydoll stayed awake a little longer but was soon asleep as well.

It was a wonderful day. Both the littles had a fabulous time at their playdate. As for me, I received one of the best gifts a mother could have - babydoll saying her very first word, "Mama"!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Heguru - in general

Ok, let's talk about Heguru. I have received a number of queries on the programme so I hope this helps to shed some light.

To start off, let me describe a typical Heguru class.

Rachel is in the Infant and Toddler programme, which, at the moment, is the only programme offered by Heguru schools in Singapore. The class is one hour long and is conducted by a head teacher together with an assistant. The head teacher does all the talking while the assistant's main task is to help the head teacher prepare the next activity, distribute materials to the parents for each hands-on activity and collect the materials after the parents/children are done. The two teachers working together help to move the class along at a brisk pace. This is typical of right-brain training, where the right brain is provided as much stimulation as possible by showing the children different visuals at high speed.

From attending the Founders' seminar, I understand that, in the Infant and Toddler programme, Heguru aims to devote 80% of the activities to right brain stimulation and 20% to left brain activities. Most of the right brain activities are simply presented to the children very quickly and all the children have to do is watch and listen. Apart from that, no active action on the children's part is required. This means that the children spend most of the class watching the teachers "perform a show", and hopefully this translates to the right brain receiving lots and lots of stimulation.



These are some of the class activities: greeting teachers and classmates; going through the day, date, the weather and temperature; the time and the clockwise direction of the clock; introduction to chemical symbols; reciting a moral phrase (eg. "Charity begins at home"); reciting Di Zi Gui; reciting English poem; reciting Chinese poem; eye training (focusing on a picture attached to a string on the end of a rod, which the teacher swings about); image/visualisation training (storytelling with deep breathing; image manipulation); mandala; iroita; tangram; flashcards; exposure to mathematical concepts (such as shapes, angles, addition, multiplication, relative quantities; equations); use of abacus, dot bar, nummer katsen; link memory; peg memory; physical exercise; dancing; foreign song (Mandarin/Spanish/Malay); phonics song; alphabet song; story telling; moral song (eg. "Don't tell lies"); language activities; tracing and writing activities; ESP games; some general knowledge (science, history, geography); etc. There is also a segment when the children come up to the front of the class and introduce themselves. At the end of each class, the head teacher will spend a few minutes sharing with the parents about what the parents can do with their children at home to reinforce the learning and what to watch out for.

I must point out that you should not go through the list above with a fine-toothed comb and try to compare and contrast the activities with those in other programmes. Some of the activities change from time to time and, like any right-brain training programme, there really isn't any sort of substantive syllabus, so there isn't much point in comparing the right brain stuff. The point that should be noted instead is that all the fundamentals of right brain training are covered.


We started Rachel off in January this year when she was a few weeks shy of 6 months. I think she is still the youngest in her class at the moment. Despite her age, she is the most mobile and she is the one who is constantly on the go, investigating new things and exploring new territory in the classroom. Last class, she crawled up to the tub of flashcards and pulled it off the trolley. (That's my girl!)

She certainly does not keep still and pay attention throughout the one hour. She has a healthy curiosity about her surroundings and it will take time before she is satisfied that she has checked out everything around her, whether it is the tub containing the flashcards, the cushion that she is supposed to sit on (last class she was wrestling with it) or the crayons that she is supposed to draw with (they always end up in her mouth). I actually regard her active and curious nature as a sign of intelligence (yeah, yeah, I know some of you are rolling your eyes at me!) and it actually makes me quite happy to see her looking around for new things to investigate. Nevertheless, I do expect that, when she eventually completes her explorations in the classroom, she will then settle down and watch the "show" for longer.


Now, she does pay attention to certain segments of the class, but this varies from week to week. Some weeks, she likes the flashcards segments and squeals in excitement as she watches them. Other weeks, she can't be bothered. Some weeks, she enjoys the storytelling; other weeks she'd rather rummage through my handbag. Most of the time though, she does enjoy the musical segments and of course the dancing.

It is also not easy to get her to give up the materials and return them after we do a hands-on activity. This is perfectly normal for a child her age (I remember Ryan went through this stage too) and she will learn the routine after a while. Anyway, for now, she is not actually able to do the activities - usually I will demonstrate it and hopefully she will absorb something from watching me.


Okay, that's quite a lot for now. These are pretty general comments which will give you a general but good enough picture. I do have further and more specific thoughts on Heguru but one post can only be so long before it gets too much so I will write more in future posts. Do let me know also if you have any specific queries and I'll try to address them as well.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Let's get this show back on the road!

Although I haven't been blogging for the past two weeks, it wasn't because there was nothing to write about! Life with the littles has been very full and Richard and I have our hands full all the time.

Just a few updates for now, and I promise I will catch up in the next few posts.



Ryan has been doing very well. We had a Parent-Teacher Conference with his teachers and they were full of praise for him. That deserves a separate post, so I'll leave that for later.

He has been skipping his daytime naps and choosing instead to go to bed early at night. This robs Richard and I of a lot of time with him during the weekdays. I'm still thinking of how to plan our schedule now so that we can make the most of the time we have together. 


For the past two swimming classes, Ryan has gone into the pool on his own, without Richard (or me). This is definitely a step forward as it means that he is quite independent in the water now and he can follow instructions well.

He has finished another term at Shichida. He still likes it very much and we'll be continuing for another term.


Ryan had two auditions for modelling assignments last week plus he has another one later today. Crossing our fingers that he'll get selected for at least one!

The photos in this post are of Ryan with his LolliBoxes. He received two LolliBoxes from his gal pal, Victoria, after their trip to KL and I understand that a third is on its way. Each box contains craft projects and educational activities, and it's delivered right to your doorstep. If you're curious about LolliBox, hop on over to their website!



Babydoll has also been doing very well. As always, she is very active and extremely mobile, whether crawling or cruising. She is always on the go, always investigating and exploring.

We made some (temporary) changes to our sleeping arrangements. Richard and I have split up! We're now sleeping in separate rooms, and each of us sleeps with one of the littles. I'll write more on that later.


Our nanny is on leave this Monday to Wednesday, so I've been called up for 24-hour duty! The plan is for babydoll to come with me to the office in the mornings while Ryan is in school, then I fetch Ryan from school, have lunch and go back home. There is Ryan's audition later today and for tomorrow, we may have lunch with some friends. Wednesday afternoon - it's Richard's turn because I have a meeting in the office. Simple? I hope so!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Be the better person

Hello friends.

I know I haven't been posting. There are some matters that are weighing heavily on my mind at the moment, and I have not yet reached the stage where I can write about them.

I do have a reminder for myself, which is this:

I hate it when I hear people complain about other people, and attribute their sins to the fact that they are "from China/India/Western countries/wherever that is not Singapore". I absolutely hate it when I hear people use the term "foreign trash".

I'm not saying that "foreigners" are angels. What I am saying is that nationality is irrelevant. There are people who behave well and people who don't behave well. There are Singaporeans who behave well and Singaporeans who don't behave well. There are people from China who behave well and people from China who don't behave well. There are people from India who behave well and people from India who don't behave well. There are Westerners who behave well and Westerners who don't behave well.

There are some stereotypical judgments which are acceptable. Generalisations about food, attitudes about education and politics, cultural differences - these are acceptable. However, when it comes to a person's character, I do not think it is acceptable to condemn an entire nation.

We don't need to set up negative stereotypes of other nationalities. We don't need to condemn anyone just because he/she is not from Singapore. More importantly, we don't need to behave as if we're better than everyone else. Because we're not. Nobody is better than someone else on the basis of nationality alone. (Actually, I have come across more unpleasantness dealing with Singaporeans than with any other nationality, which ironically, challenges my belief that nationality is irrelevant.)

Have you heard of this - "Seek first to understand, then to be understood"? I feel that people need to do more of this. Try to get to know someone first, try to understand what is happening first. Before you start condemning, before you start assigning blame, before you jump to conclusions and certainly, before you render judgment.

Now that I am a parent, it is even more important to me that I do not adopt this locals vs. foreigners mentality because, and I think most parents know this, your child picks up everything from you.

If my child were ever to say something like, "That person was so rude. People from [China/USA/etc] are all like that", I will not hesitate to give my child a hard lesson which he/she will never forget. I will not raise children who are bigots. I will not raise them to be rude, insensitive and callous. I will not raise them to be prejudiced and hateful.

After I deal with my child, I will slap Richard and I will ask Richard to slap me. As hard as possible. Because in all likelihood, Richard and I must have said or done something to give our children the impression that it is acceptable, or right (?!), to think this way. Our children observe how Richard and I treat people, they listen to our conversations with our friends and, when they are older, they will even read what we send out on our social networks. They will see what we write on our Facebooks, they will see the anti-foreigner posts that we "liked" or shared or tweeted about. If our children are bigots, it will be our fault.

Actually, the reason I am writing about this is because, this past week, I have had the misfortune of coming into contact with a few people who, despite every kindness I show them, seem to be trying their best to piss me off. And it is taking me a lot to stop myself from saying, "Ugly Singaporean!".

So I guess this post is to give me strength. To help me pray for tolerance, for patience and for grace. To remind myself to hold on to what I believe, so that I can be the person I want to be, so that I can be the parent I want to be.

It does not matter where the "bad guys" are from. It does not even matter what the "bad guys" do or have done. What matters is how I react. What matters is what I do or say. What matters is who I am. I will choose to be the better person, even if I have to die trying.

So, as always, here's my reminder. You guys have read this before on this blog many times:

"Sometimes the things that may or may not be true
are the things a man needs to believe in the most.
That people are basically good.
That honour, virtue, and courage mean everything.
That good always triumphs over evil.
That true love never dies.
Doesn't matter if they're true or not.
A man should believe in those things anyway.
Because they are the things worth believing in."

I won't be posting much this week. At least not until I resolve the saga. Rest assured that everything at home is good and Richard, Ryan and Rachel are doing well.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Weekend update

How was your weekend? We spent our weekend in a very mellow manner. The most "exciting" thing we did was to have breakfast at Cafe Melba at Goodman Arts Centre on Saturday.

I don't have a lot of interesting photos to share - most of them look like this.


Yes, we spent the weekend very much enjoying our new ride.


The littles enjoyed the car too - the ride is very smooth at the back, as Ryan is demonstrating here.

In Shichida, Ryan did very well on his linking memory test (he recited 50 items in 56 seconds) as well as on the test on building blocks (to be done within 3 minutes).

As for Rachel, this will be her third month in Heguru, so it's time to put together a post on her progress. Do watch out for that, if you're interested in Heguru.

We are not doing much at home in terms of planned/structured activities for Rachel but one thing which I specifically encourage is that she roams around the house freely and explores whatever she likes. I will post more about her little explorations soon. For now, here's a shot of her with her latest conquest - the pets' drinking bowl in the kitchen.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Vroom! Vroom!

Weekend is here again! I'm looking forward to some rest-time and lots of play-time.

Here are my sleeping beauties. I sleep in that little space between them, with one of them usually lying right on top of me. Most of the time, I love it. Sometimes, I wish I had our king-sized bed all to myself and yes, I would kick Richard out too. That man snores.


Anyway, I must share our big news. We bought a new car! I just collected her yesterday. She is just beautiful...


But wait, I have to rewind in order to tell the story properly.

We have been meaning to trade in our two-seater convertible for quite a long time but with car prices going through the roof, we kept putting it off. Lately, we've become more focused and two Sundays ago, we decided to visit some of the car showrooms to see what we could do about it.

We aimed to visit Audi, Mazda and Volkswagen. We were considering buying an SUV and I was thinking of the Audi Q5 but that was letting the heart rule the mind because I knew that there were cheaper and more sensible alternatives. We would be getting some cash from trading in the convertible but it was a long way away from paying for a Q5. That was actually the reason why I asked Richard to stop by the Audi showroom first - so I could cross it off the list.

As things turned out, Audi was having a promotion that weekend - exceptional overtrade on your car if you picked up an A6. So when the sales executive found out that we had an A4, he introduced us to the A6. I had not considered the A6 but when we climbed into the showroom model, we fell in love with it instantly. But the thing that sealed the deal was the exceptional overtrade. And by exceptional, I do mean exceptional. Audi offered to buy the A4 from us for just S$15,000 less than what we paid for her four years and four months ago. It was an incredible offer and, really, a no-brainer. If you need a sales executive at Audi, let me know and I'll put you in touch with ours!

We went over to Mazda and Volkswagen to see what they would give us for our convertible but, as the Audi offer was only valid for that weekend, we decided to do the trade-in for the A4 that day and leave the convertible for another day.

Coincidentally, our A4 had gotten into a scrape on the Friday evening before that weekend. A blue Suzuki Swift coming the wrong way down a one-way street went ski-ing off a corner of our car. It was nothing serious but, at Audi prices, it would still cost quite a lot to repair. At this point, I have to mention that there was barely any turbulence inside the A4 when it happened and I wasn't even sure that the two cars had made contact - the A4 is a really strong car!

Anyway, Audi was willing to buy our A4 without us having to repair it! So that was also a factor that helped make our decision really easy. I guess I have to thank the driver of the Suzuki Swift. The scrape turned out to be a real blessing in disguise. I've seen her car parked at the same location, repaired and shiny again, but she never contacted me after the incident, despite me sending her some messages.

The grand finale? We bought the A6 on Sunday and, on Monday evening, the Singapore government announced severe restrictions on motor vehicle loans, which would be effective for all private vehicles bought on or after the next day. Audi revised their prices up slightly for their new cars. Used car prices came down.

So we were incredibly lucky with the A4/A6.

The restrictions are apparently temporary but, even if they apply to our next purchase, it is unlikely that we will be adversely affected because, with the A6 in our stable now, we need only to pick up a small (and cheap) car in exchange for the convertible.

The only possible blemish on this episode was that we didn't retain the A4 registration number. We wanted to start on a clean slate but it would have been nice to have kept the number because the three letters on the A4 registration are Ryan's initials (a coincidence). Having said that, we're happy with the new number and we can find a way to make it up to Ryan in the future!

I collected the car yesterday and when Ryan got into the car for the first time, he said very carefully, "I think there's something wrong." Hahaha! Yup! It's not an A4!

Anyway, we are going to spend the weekend driving up and down the expressway - honk if you think you see us!

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