Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gone surfing

We're going to Bali today! Off to enjoy the sun, the sand and the sea - none of which I particularly love actually, but in the context of a holiday, it's all good.

We are going with relatives so there will be a good size group of us. Ryan and Rachel will be well taken care of by all the extra help, and Richard and I might even get the chance to slip out for a massage! Ryan wants to build sandcastles and swim all day. That sounds like a plan.

Hope your weekend is shaping up in a similar way!






Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Updates on Ryan


These days, Ryan has been impressing me with his social skills and self-confidence. He is not shy or withdrawn with people; he is polite and courteous; and he is interested to ask them questions about themselves.

Today he was with me in my office and he told me that he wanted to wash his hands. I was busy vetting a document so I asked him to go to the pantry and ask aunty (the tea lady) to help him. He said okay and told me, "I'm going to pretend to be an adult". He was gone quite a while and I started to wonder what happened. A while later, he popped back into my room and told me, "Mummy, I went to the potty". 

I was completely in shock because, to get to the toilet, he would have had to get out of the office door using a key card, open the toilet door using a number code and lock the door using the fancy lock mechanism. To get back in, he would have to unlock that fancy lock and then open the office door using a key card. Plus my office door is heavy for a little kid to pull open.

He told me that someone helped him. And I was even more in shock because he would have had to approach someone and explain his predicament and articulate the help he needed. Wow, just wow. My four year old is growing wings.


In other news, Ryan's IQ test results came back from Shichida last week. Shichida says that its IQ test is different from the other IQ tests out there, but generally the higher score the better and it also told us what the range of what most students scored. Ryan's score far surpassed this range. Ryan's score, if translated to an IQ test like the one Mensa administers, places him in the "genius" or "highly gifted" category. I don't know how he compares to the other students, and I didn't ask how the other students fared. Just something interesting to note.

Do you like the T-shirt he's wearing in the photos above? I sewed it up and Richard applied the image to the front using a transfer. The image was shot with Richard's iPhone and edited using both an app and Photoshop. In the image, Ryan is wearing another T-shirt that I sewed for him, which is actually a different colour. You can see it on him in this post. The pattern for both of the T-shirts is the Recess Raglan by See Kate Sew.

The shorts are also mama-made, using the Kid Shorts pattern by Made. I made a pair for Rachel too, in the same fabric with a variation on the same pattern. Here they are, front and back.



That's all for now!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Updates on Rachel


Rachel is, like any other child her age, simply amazing. All we have to do is stand back and watch the magic unfold.

Here she was, at Daiso. She is an expert shopper - she walks into a shop and picks out an item and brings it with her while she continues shopping for other goodies. Sometimes she even tests the item first. Here she was, having picked out a ball of yarn. She went into this corner with the plastic chairs and pails and tested the chairs - she sat on a few of them and chose other chairs from the stack of yellow chairs to test out. She actually un-stacked them one by one and, after she'd found one that met her standards, re-stacked them neatly.


She dragged her chair around the shop with one hand, holding her ball of yarn in the other. I didn't want to buy the chair so I tried to replace it by luring her to the bag aisle. She picked out a bag but didn't give up her chair or her yarn. She put the bag on the chair and continued to drag it around with the ball of yarn in the other hand! After a while of doing this, with the yarn slipping about, she realised that there must be a better way, so she stopped and... she opened the bag and put the yarn inside! I was very impressed with her problem-solving skills and determination.



Apart from food, Rachel absolutely loves books. She loves to hold them, flip through them, examine their contents, talk about them. Bring her to a bookstore and she doesn't want to leave. Here she was, at Books Actually. At home, she will regularly bring us books from the bookshelf for reading.


I am also impressed by babydoll's interest in people. I had mentioned, a few updates ago, that Rachel was exhibiting some stranger anxiety. That seems to have lessened a lot. Here she was at the bookstore, sitting close to an older girl who was deep in her book. Rachel does this all the time. She goes up to people and interacts with them on her own. She will sit close to them and participate in what they are doing.


Many times, the older children ignore her (and some have really bad manners!). On this occasion however, she came across this wonderful girl who happily played with her. After a while, Rachel actually ran off to another aisle but this little girl ran after her and brought her back to play some more. Such a lovely, warm and open-hearted girl. 


Babydoll continues to amaze us everyday, showing us her smarts, her pluck and her fun personality.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Zoukidisco!


The highlight of the weekend was the kids' dance party on Sunday at Velvet Underground - Zoukidisco! Both the littles enjoyed the event tremendously.

Ryan was in his element. He was a little apprehensive at first because of the crowd and the loud music - it was the first time he'd been to a disco after all! He soon warmed up though, especially when "Gangnam Style" came on! We were waiting in line for the photo booth - but when he heard the song come on, he insisted that we get out on the dance floor pronto!


Little babydoll had her fair share of the action. She had a marvellous time. She was completely fearless and stood in the middle of the crowd, curious and interested. I had to stay close to her because she was so tiny. She was at risk of being assaulted by the bigger kids as well as the feet of the toddlers who were being carried in their parents' arms, and the handbags of the mummies who were bouncing around with their kids. All went well, and she was happy. She explored the whole disco - she spent some time at the craft table socialising with the other kids, she went walking around to the bar and over to the sides where she charmed the ushers to cut down one of the balloons on the wall for her.


The turnout was great - the dance floor looked like this!


You can see me squatting down with the two littles in this next shot...


The star of the evening was definitely Ryan. Not only because of his slick dance moves, but also because he was voted Best Dressed!



(Yes, that's me and little Rachel on the right. Rachel is watching the action on stage. I am watching Ryan in action.)

I sewed up Ryan's outfit - both the top and the pants. Richard gave me lots of design input. The top is a modified Oliver+S pattern (the Nature Walk pullover) and the pants are Jacob by Zonen 09, to which I added silver shiny triangles at the sides to give them more bell-bottom flare. Babydoll's silver skirt was also sewn by me, as well as her matching silver hair ties (the same silver fabric as Ryan's bellbottom flares). All sewn up on Saturday - I was sewing until 4.30 in the morning. So tired, but so worth it.


Watch Ryan do his thing in this video! This is a 30 second Youtube video (If you're on a phone, watch it in HQ on Youtube, rather than here on the blog as the resolution is too high for most mobile devices). If you've seen a video of him dancing on Facebook - this is not the same one.



Cool moves, eh? Actually, Richard dances more with his feet so you don't have the full picture as the video only captures the top bit of him. Richard shot the video on our latest toy - a GoPro Hero 3+. Amazing camera. Love it.

We bumped into a couple of friends at the event - people whom I've not seen for ages. The last time we met up was when we were all young and single, and now, all of a sudden, we've all got kids. Thankfully I still remembered their names!

And what would a trip to the disco be without a paparazzi shot of us looking drunk and stoned out? Ah... it was the complete experience.


We had a fabulous time and I hope that they have the event again next year. We will definitely be there! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Where's the mermaid?


A couple of weeks ago, Ryan and I visited the Merlion Park. He had a day off from school and he tagged along with me to the office for the day where he played with his alphabet blocks and a Lollibox (which I mentioned in yesterday's post). It was a Friday and things were a little slow so I took the opportunity to leave a little earlier with him at the end of the day (while the sun was still in the sky!). My office faces Marina Bay and, as we walked out, Ryan wanted to check out the area. He was attracted to the sailing yachts going past.

I suggested that we take a walk along the promenade and see the merlion at the Merlion Park. As we made our way there, I explained to him what a merlion is (or is supposed to be). I told him that it's like a mermaid, only instead of being half fish and half human, a merlion is half fish and half lion.



Ryan was in a very good mood, as you can see.

I have lots more photos of him dancing maniacally and striking strange poses, but I think I'll save them for private viewing, heh heh.

After hanging around a bit, and checking out the baby merlion, I asked Ryan if we could go off and he said, "Yes, let's go see the mermaid now!"

Oops.

Fortunately, we were at Big Splash the following week and the seafood restaurant there has a huge billboard of a mermaid (with the tagline, "If it swims, we have it") so we were able to show that to Ryan. His response was, "Oh great! We found the mermaid!"

Anyway, back to our date that day. As we left Merlion Park, we passed the ferry centre and Ryan started waving to the passengers on the incoming ferries. He was so excited and kept asking if he could go on the ferry. I was a little concerned that it would be dark soon, plus I was carrying a load of stuff - my large and heavy handbag, his Lollibox, his set of large alphabet blocks and his bucket of 100 colour pens. Also, to be honest, having spent the entire day with him, my energy level was a little low and I was looking forward to a bit of a rest.

So I told him that we could come back another time with his daddy and he said ok. But, after walking on for a bit, I did feel a little bad so, after checking with Richard over the phone to see if he was ready to leave the office (he was not), I told Ryan - let's go on the ferry! And really, I actually felt much better.

We walked back to the ferry centre and got tickets for a cruise to Clarke Quay (through Boat Quay) and back. Here's Ryan, waiting for his ferry. He kept asking, is it this one? everytime a ferry came in.


And off we went.


Once we got on the ferry ... wow. Ryan was chattering away before, dancing and hopping around. But once on the ferry, he just sat and looked out quietly, occasionally looking back at me with a smile. In fact, everything slowed down. There was hardly anyone else on the boat and the boat moved along at a snail's pace. As we sailed out and away, the hustle and bustle of the tourists and the city faded away; the chatter and the noise muted by the sound of the water and the soft throttle of the boat engine.

I was thinking that this boat trip was going to be too much hassle, that it was going to take too much time. But, everything went smoothly and the timing was just right.

I had wanted to rest my mind and steal a quiet moment. And that's exactly what I got to do, while still bonding with my son.

This was exactly right.


At that moment the thought that was going through my mind was how blessed and how lucky I am to be this boy's mummy and to be able to spend this boat ride with him. Just the two of us on a slow boat when I would normally have been stuck in the office even though it was already after 6 pm. The evening weather was perfect and we didn't have to be anywhere else.

Oh, this little guy keeps showing me so much wisdom. Slow down. Wait. Take in the present. It's ok to experience less; it's more important to experience fully. And sometimes, God gives you gifts which you may not recognise. Sometimes, the things you need are right there under your nose; just open your eyes and open your mind.



When we got to Clarke Quay, we went to sit at the stern (rear) of the boat where it was open to the sky. Ryan had a lot of fun reading the names of the bridges as we sailed under them (the names are on the sides of the bridges). There were lots of people sitting at the riverside and Ryan waved to everyone, yelling, "Hello! What's your name? I'm Ryan!" Some waved back but most were busy with their own thoughts. It was the perfect day just to sit outside and dream of nothing.

Here are some badly shot phone photos of the two of us, which I absolutely had to take. Because, you know, I wanted to remember this day forever.



The trip takes 45 minutes and they show a recorded programme on the small TV on board, narrating tourist-y facts. I watched some of it. Ryan didn't bother to watch it at all, being more interested in looking out around him.

Here we are, coming back in to Merlion Park. A little unintended trick-shot, hahaha.


And that was the end of our mother-and-son day. And yes, it was a very good day. A very good day, indeed.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I'm at HappyPlayWonder today


After all my posts on parenting siblings, I think it's time to get back to the usual family posts about things that we've been up to. There's been a lot happening around here lately and hence, a lot of blogging to catch up on. The thing about writing about parenting is that, each post takes a long time to put together and after each post, I usually get a number of emails asking further questions. I am perfectly happy to share and discuss parenting issues and I love hearing from readers, so I'm certainly not complaining. It does, nevertheless, affect the "normal" blogging, so the next few posts are going to be a *little* outdated.

The first post I want to share with you all is actually not on this blog, heh heh. I'm posting over at HappyPlayWonder today, so do pop over there for a look. I wrote about Ryan doing a Lollibox with the theme "My Veggie Farm". It was a gift from his friend, Victoria (a total of 3 boxes in all) earlier this year.

More updates to come over the next few posts! Before I go for now, I wanted to share this event with you all - disco for kids at Zouk! The event is called ZOUKIDISCO! It's a day-time dance party for parents and their children from 1-9 years old. It's going to be held this Sunday, 24 November 2013 at Velvet Underground. We've got tickets for the second session from 4.30-6.30 pm. The first session is from 2-4 pm. Tickets are at $8 per pax and each ticket includes one standard non-alcoholic beverage. Are you going? We'll be there with our dancing shoes on!

I still have some emails to reply to, so if you've written to me, I'll be responding soon!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Updates on Rachel


Not a day goes by that Richard and I don't tell each other how adorable babydoll is. We are completely smitten by her. She is funny and fearless, girly and tough, sweet and strong - basically the whole rainbow.

Maybe it's easier for people to go "aww..." when they see a little girl, but it's more than that for us. It's THIS little girl that makes us go "aww...". It's her girly giggle and her loud guffaw, her fierce hugs and her cheeky winks. The way she always pulls her socks off, no matter if she's half asleep. The way she offers her fingers and toes to you for kisses. The way she always wants to carry a handbag - even a plastic bag will do. The way she toys with her brother, infuriating him at times and making him laugh at other times. The way she stamps her feet in frustration. The way she plays peekaboo.



If raising a child is humbling, then raising a second child is even more so. If we thought we were experienced parents, then we were wrong. The only thing we learned from our 3.5 years as parents was that we didn't know anything. Babydoll arrived to tell us that we still don't. 

While her brother was patient with us and our ignorance, babydoll takes matters into her own hands and shows us exactly what's what. She's here to teach us things that we thought we didn't need teaching.



I try to get her to sort plastic bears and match them according to colours and sizes, and she walks off. Later, when we go out, she pulls out the shoes from the shoe rack - every time a perfect match, no matter which shoe she chooses - and I feel ridiculous (what made it worse was that it took me weeks to realise this connection).

I try to help her, to fetch things for her, to carry for her. She will have none of it. She wants to carry her own bag. She wants to walk instead of being carried. She wants to feed herself using the utensils. She is so driven to do what she needs to do. We are in perpetual amazement at her efforts and her determination.

 

Babydoll is growing up fast, showing us her fun personality and making us fall in love with her everyday.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Siblings - sharing


Ok, let's do the big one - sharing. I've written about sharing before, a long time ago it seems. In that post, I said that we don't force Ryan to share. That is still our approach.

There are definitely moments when we tell him to let his baby sister have a piece of the action - but these occasions usually involve him making space for his baby sister (say, on a seat or in a play tent). They don't involve him giving up things.


I'll start off by sharing what it is that we do - we take turns. And if Ryan is having a turn, he can have it for as long as he likes; same for babydoll. No snatching is allowed. 

A simple example is nursing. When I've got babydoll on the latch, Ryan may want a go too. On days when I don't feel like tandem latching, I tell him that babydoll is having her turn and he can have a turn when she's done. It's not that babydoll is being selfish. She's just busy.

Of course the issue most often arises when the two are playing with their toys. Ryan usually lays out all his beloved letters of the alphabet, in whatever pattern and order he has imagined, and babydoll will grab a handful of them. It sends Ryan into battle mode. Would you tell Ryan, "Share with your sister!" ? We don't. Ryan was busy playing and executing a grand masterplan. He has a right to uninterrupted play and we should all respect that. Keeping a toy for himself is not necessarily a sign of selfishness - it is simply a sign that he's not done with it yet.

Another common situation is when Ryan is playing with a few of the same toys - he may have five small cars. It's tempting to tell him, give Rachel one, but it would not be respecting his vision and his right to play. To him, he needs five cars. Who am I to tell him otherwise?


Does it work? Absolutely. I do have to remind Ryan but he gets it. The first few times I engaged him in a bit of a dialogue - I would say something like, "I know you want to play with it. Rachel has it now and she's still playing with it. You can play with it when she's done. You can have your turn when she's done."

If he's upset, I will tell him, "I know you're upset. It's hard to wait." And perhaps I'll say, "I'll hug you while you wait."

The point is to acknowledge how he feels and to reassure him that he will get to play with it.

Now that we've been through this a few times, I can use shorthand and simply remind him, "Wait for your turn." He gets it.

Importantly also, when it's time for his turn, I will remind him, "It's your turn now." He may be playing with something else or doing something else but I want him to know that I care enough about him to protect his turn. This works both ways - if he is done with a turn and babydoll is up for hers, I will ask Ryan, "It's Rachel's turn now, can you pass it to her?" And he always does it willingly and happily.


Babydoll is coming to 17 months now, and she is not ready to share or even take turns. If she wants something, she wants it now. We go through the motions with her, not because we expect her to learn to take turns, but to show Ryan that it cuts both ways. So if Ryan is having a go at something and babydoll comes along to steal some of the action, we will remove her from the scene and say, "Ryan is still having his turn, you have to wait".

This way, we give Ryan that sense of control and empowerment, and help him to exercise positive assertiveness. I want him to experience ownership over what he's doing, because I believe that sharing will come naturally from there (as I've written before). If a child has never experienced the security of owning something, I believe that he will always be selfish.


Following that, we want Ryan to be able to stand up for himself and not be bullied. We want him to be able to defend himself against another child who snatches his stuff from him. We want him to know that it's ok not to share things that are precious to you and it's ok not to share things with people you don't trust. And it's ok to want to continue building your masterpiece instead of giving up your blocks on demand. It's ok to say no. Nicely, of course.

After all, I'm not going to share everything I have with anyone who makes a demand on me. Why should I expect my four year old to do that?

So we demonstrate to him that he can say to his sister, "I'm not done with this yet." or something like that. On many occasions, when the two of them are in a tug-of-war over something, he will ask me, "What do I say, Mama?" And I'll suggest something for him. It may or may not work on its own - sometimes it does stop the girl because she gets a little distracted - but after he says it, I make sure that the issue is resolved, usually by removing the sister. So he knows that there is power in using his words.

There are times when another child may come up to him and ask him nicely, can I play with that? The child usually expects to be able to get Ryan to give up his toy just because he/she asked nicely. To me, the same principle applies, whether the demand is made nicely or not. If Ryan is not done yet, then he should be able to continue until he's all done. Asking nicely is about having manners and having manners has nothing to do with other people or whether they accede to your request.

And yes, it works both ways. If Ryan wants something, he may have to wait for his turn, even if he asked nicely.


So what happens when toys get snatched? And yes, this happens all the time. Like I said, Rachel is not developmentally ready to take turns or share so she snatches all the time. Ryan snatches too, when his emotions are high.

What I do when Ryan snatches something from babydoll is to point out to him, "Rachel was playing with that, she's not done with it. You have to wait your turn, no snatching. Please give it back to her." If he doesn't make a move, I will ask him, "Do you need me to help you?" or I'll reassure him, "You can play with it when Rachel is done."

What I do when babydoll snatches something out of Ryan's hands is take the item back from her and give it back to Ryan. I say something like, "No snatching. Ryan is not done with it yet. Ryan will let you know when he's done with it and then you can have your turn." All this is said for Ryan's benefit, of course.


And yes, I mentioned above that a turn can last forever. We never impose limits on turn taking, because that is inconsistent with fostering a sense of empowerment. It is also inconsistent with our approach of respecting the right to play and the right of ownership.

So turns can last forever. Of course, they never last that long. There are times when play has to be interrupted of course, usually when we are leaving to go out. That is usually fine with Ryan - the prospect of going out is more exciting. There were a few occasions when he insisted on finishing what he was doing and yes, we waited for him. It usually does not take long and a little understanding on our part makes everything all the more smooth and happy.


The key is to apply the approach consistently. I know there are times when it's difficult, like when on playdates. It's okay, one encounter with a playmate will not undo the good work done in the home. I've had many occasions when Ryan would return from a playdate and be a little "off" for a few days, but he always settles down into our family routines again. We just have to keep things consistent at home.


Last note - as mentioned above, although we don't tell Ryan to share by giving up his things, we do tell him to share when it comes to things like making space for his sister on a seat or sharing food. He is always fine with this. So this is the only exception.

Ok, that's all. I hope that this provides some food for thought and some new perspectives.

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