Monthly Archives: October 2006

Immunisation Time!

We brought Aramis for his shots today. The appointment was originally scheduled for the morning, but when Porthos heard that Di Di was getting an injection, he whined that he wanted to come along. The sadist….

So we turned it into a family outing. The boys were goofing around at first, but when the needle made its appearance, they watched in awed silence as the nurse prepared the vaccine.

I don’t enjoy needles, but somehow it feels much worse when your child is at the other end of it. As the needle went in, Aramis let out a loud cry of dismay. I felt terrible for him. Surprisingly it lasted all of 5 seconds, and then he was fine. I think having his brothers around as a distraction helped. Both Athos and Porthos asked to “see the hole” and the cotton wool with the spot of blood on it….

Someone told me that it helps to put the baby on the breast while he is getting his shots so that he feels protected.

Fine Dining with Preschoolers – Mission Possible

Over the weekend, we celebrated the boys’ Great Grandma’s birthday at a top-notch Chinese restaurant. Now I’m ordinarily as game as the next person for good food. But the prospect of putting two preschoolers in the company of breakable tableware, exotic ingredients, and waitresses carrying bowls of hot soup had me a little nervous.

So here are my survival tips for fine dining with the kids. They won’t make the occasion stress-free, but they might help you leave with sanity intact!

  • If you expect the menu to comprise mostly things the kids won’t eat, feed them ahead of time. Most restaurants will also look the other way if you bring in outside food for very young children.
  • Ask for plastic tableware for the kids, and move all breakables as far out of arm/elbow reach as possible.
  • Arm yourself with wipes or tissue paper. Accidents will happen, and if you can start the mop-up operation before the waitresses respond to the SOS, so much the better.
  • They will get bored! If you don’t want them playing hide-and-seek or catching at the restaurant, have some ideas up your sleeve. Here are a few:
    • Many parents use their cellphones or other electronic devices as a distractions.
    • Bring a notepad and crayons (or markers for older kids whom you can trust not to stain the linen)
    • Play a game with toothpicks. Get them to design a house, a car, a train. Or see how many braised peanuts they can skewer from one dish to another in 30 seconds (only if the other guests at table don’t mind!)
    • Set up a tic-tac-toe grid with chopsticks and play with coins.

A note to anyone organising a fine dining event: if you’re expecting some kids, speak to the restaurant about setting up a play corner with some mess-free toys and party favours. I went to a wedding where the couple had even set up a TV with kids videos playing all night – no matter where you stand on the great TV debate, you’ll have to admit that’s a pretty smart solution!

3 All-Time Favourite Books

Tonight I had the responsibility of keeping a pair of 4-year-old twins occupied. We sang songs, played with lightsticks, and talked about whatever they felt like talking about.

One of my favourite things to do with my own kids is to read. So I brought along three of my all-time favourites to share with the twins, in the hopes that they would enjoy them as much as Athos and Porthos do.

It worked! We read them, talked about them, read them again, and would have read a third time except that supper was ready. There are few things more delightful than seeing young children connect with a good story. Here are the books:

  • Hug by Jez Alborough – Bobo the monkey goes through the jungle and with the help of other animals, finally finds what he’s looking for. This is a truly remarkable book that uses just 3 words, yet communicates powerfully through a heartwarming storyline and expressive pictures. Works well for pre-bedtime reading and cuddles!
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – A caterpillar is born, eats his way from Monday to Sunday, builds his cocoon and emerges a butterfly. The artwork is vibrant and colourful, and the story works on a surprising number of levels – the plot itself is engaging, and there are opportunities to teach about numbers, colours, days of the week, types of food, the life cycle of a butterfly, and even the importance of fibre and greens!

  • The Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch – Originally in German, the book was subsequently translated into English, and what a superb addition to the world of children’s literature! In general I don’t mind spoilers for children’s books since the idea is to help parents make a decision whether or not to introduce it to their kids. But in this case, it is such a deliciously funny book that I shan’t rob anyone of the pleasure. Let’s just say that it’s a story about a mole who wakes up one morning to a dreadful event, sets about finding the perpetrator, and brings justice to bear. Now there IS a sub-plot of revenge, but in this case, the retaliation is so harmless (and funny) that I don’t think the kids will take it too much to heart.

Singapore Science Centre – They DO Learn!

In my earlier post about our visit to the Science Centre, I wrote that the science would largely be lost on kids under 5.

Looks like I underestimated the kids. Again.

This morning at breakfast, I overheard Porthos (just shy of 4) say to our helper, “The food goes in my mouth, then it goes down and comes out as poo poo…. The water goes in my mouth, and then it goes down and comes out as wee wee…. Mommy told us that day.”

He remembered what I said at the digestive system exhibit! As Miss Bingley might say, I am all astonishment….

An Adventure to Jurong Bird Park

Today’s PSI hovered around 20+, and I saw clouds in the sky – what joy!

Today I also had a lunch appointment with a colleague. He called ahead to ask if I would mind having lunch at Jurong Bird Park and that he would explain on the way. My office is in the city, but I’m always up for an adventure (and was also mightily curious!) so off we went.

It turns out that on his way to a meeting this morning, he found an injured kingfisher on the ground. Small enough to fit in my palm and covered in beautiful red, blue and brown feathers, the little creature’s right wing appeared out of joint. Not wanting to leave the bird in its vulnerable state, he called the Jurong Bird Park who said that they would be able to take the bird.

So there we were, two adults and a little bird in a fruit punnet (courtesy of the office cleaner), way out in Jurong on a working day. At the information counter, my friend was asked to fill a form. Among the information requested: where the bird was found and how long he had had the bird.

The final section was a declaration stating, among other things, that he was relinquishing ownership of the bird, that he would not ask to visit the bird, and that if he reconsidered his decision he would be charged at $50 a day. The service staff explained that they get 2-3 birds dropped off every week, and some of these were pets whose owners would eventually miss their birds so much that they change their minds.

A Bird Park vet named Gan came to the counter to pick up the bird. He told us that this was the fifth (!) kingfisher they had received recently. It seems kingfishers are migratory birds and while passing through our island, some of them injure themselves. I wondered if the haze had anything to do with it. Anyway Gan said that they would do their utmost for the bird.

Somehow this little adventure made Singapore a nicer place to be in for me.

First Syllable!

Yesterday, while I was carrying Aramis, his usual razzing sound suddenly changed into “la, la, la, la”.

First consonant-vowel syllable! I was so surprised and tickled and lala-ed along with him. So there we were, mother and child, dancing around the living room, saying “la, la, la” to each other like we were having the most important conversation of our lives. (And so we were!)

Then I tried to get him to move to “ma, ma” but it was not to be. One can but try….

Teething Breastfeeder

Aramis is teething! The poor fellow is drooling non-stop, and when I carry him, he leans forward , fastens his whole mouth on my chin, and hangs there for a long time like a limpet on an abandoned ship…. It’s really quite a sight.

The problem now is that when he’s done breastfeeding, he likes to give a hard chomp or two. I can’t anticipate it so all I can do is suffer the abuse before I pull away and tell him “no!” as firmly as I can manage. But Limpet Boy looks back so pitifully that my protests have been quite half-hearted.

The travails of motherhood…..

Singapore Science Centre – We’ll Be Back!

Thank God for another day of hazeless skies and heavenly rain! I felt adventurous enough to bring Athos and Porthos out to the Singapore Science Centre.

Now it has to be said that I have not been there since, perhaps, primary school. So it was quite a joy to find the place far more interesting than my hazy memories would have it. We didn’t have time to see everything, and for me it was really about going along with what the kids found interesting. So in the 1.5 hours we were there, here’s what they especially liked:

  • The optical illusions at the main atrium – Interesting stuff, and a reminder that seeing is not always believing. One particular effect made the visitor’s head looked like it had been decapitated and served on a platter. The kids had a good chuckle, and even I did a double-take!
  • The human body – we played a few rounds of the memory game, the touch-and-guess game, and the exhibit on pregnancy and labour gave me the chance to tell them how they grew from the size of a pea to a baby, and how they came out. They didn’t ask about how they got there in the first place, and I, ahem, didn’t think it necessary to explain. 🙂
  • Energy – there were exhibits on electricity, gravity and sound which they liked very much. The Gravitram, which drops balls from a height down a series of tracks and slopes, captivated them for a while. But nothing holds a candle to Audio-Kinetica, an installation at the entrance to the Science Centre that shows how latent energy converts to kinetic and sound energy.
  • Waterworks – absolute favourite. This is an outdoor area with fountains and other features, where many kids strip down to their bare essentials and get soaking wet. The boys loved the vortex pool, which sucks plastic balls down and out onto tracks, eventually leading them back to the vortex again.

Most of the science will be lost on kids under 5, but there’s a high level of interactivity so it’s still a barrel of fun, and hopefully they’ll have positive associations with science.

Admission fees are reasonable: $6 for adults, $3 for kids. The family membership card is $35 for up to 2 adults and 3 kids, meaning that you more than break even on the second visit, or on the third visit if you go as one parent and two kids. Once again, the Singaporean in me shouts hurrah!

And what more, parking is free!

Here are pictures of Audio-Kinetica

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And here are pictures of Waterworks

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Solids and the Passing Phase of Mammaries

Aramis has just turned 6 months! We started him on solids about a month ago – in part out of desperation because my milk supply wasn’t keeping up with his insatiable appetite. His first morsel of food was mashed banana. Just a wee teaspoon which seemed to amuse him though he couldn’t quite swallow it.

Since then, he’s had apple, papaya and brown rice, and he seems to be taking it all in his stride. He now takes solids twice a day. I know it’s a matter of time before he, like his brothers, will no longer need me to supply his meals.

Part of me looks forward to stopping breastfeeding. But another part of me whispers that this is a role I’m unlikely to reprise. I think of those times when he’s suckling and gazing at me intently as I talk or sing to him, and I know that those are moments I wouldn’t give up for the world.

Toothpick Play!

The PSI has been hovering around 40 today – the lowest in many days and delightful timing since it’s a public holiday!

We blew bubbles, cycled, read, baked cookies, watched a Winnie the Pooh video, and played endless rounds of Snap and Donkey. We also tried a new game that I found in a book sometime back. Turned out to be a big hit with Athos and Porthos.

All it involves is a box of tootpicks, a deck of cards and this gameboard and you’re ready to go!

Each player should have his own gameboard house and the aim of the game is to be the first to complete the house using toothpicks. Players take turns to draw cards and act based on what cards they draw.

  • King, Queen or Jack – take 1 toothpick to build your house
  • Ace – take 2 toothpicks to build your house
  • Joker – put back 1 toothpick
  • 8 – take 1 toothpick from your house and build the house of the player on your right
  • 2 of Spades – put back all toothpicks and start over
  • All other cards – no action

The above rule set means that there is some action required for one out of every two cards. If you want more activitiy and excitement, you can of course change the rules. The favourite for us was the 8 and the 2 of Spades!

Bubble Solution For A Hazy Day

This haze is driving us berserk. We’ve been forced to stay indoors and the boys are bouncing off the walls. Suddenly the control freak in me is reminded how powerless I really am.

Thank God for the rain this afternoon that brought welcome relief. Humid and rainy weather is, in fact, the best condition for blowing bubbles. So it was with great glee that the boys and I wandered outdoors armed with bubble solution and wands of all sorts. Athos eventually managed to create some enormous bubbles, which Porthos of course had to burst, leading to an angry exchange, shoving, tears blah blah blah.

Anyway, store-bought bubble solution makes the best bubbles, but this has worked well for me too:

300 ml Water
2 tablesp Dishwashing detergent (I use Mama Lemon)
1 tablesp Glycerine (this helps to make bubbles last longer. I bought a bottle from Phoon Huat, the baking goods chain)

Mix gently and – very important – let it rest overnight. For some reason this improves the performance of the solution.

We have a few plastic wands from party packs etc. But we’ve also made our own:

Old hangers – twist into a big circle for bigger bubbles
Drinking straws – Tape 6-8 together and cut to about 10 cm. Dip one end in bubble solution and blow from the other end to create tiny bubbles.

You can find updates on the PSI level here. Right now it’s 57 – hurrah!

Sneak Preview: Cultures of Creativity

I saw this advertised in the papers – the centennial exhibition of the Nobel Prize, at the Lee Kong Chian Atrium in NUS. Pilgrim Dad and I dropped by thinking it was already open but alas we were mistaken. Still, we saw the crew at work and spoke to Jim, the exhibition manager.

The exhibition looks fascinating – you’ll learn how Nobel Prizes are decided and awarded, who past laureates have been, and the processes and environments that shaped them. The displays are mostly static, though there is a strong audio-visual element. Jim told us that there will also be discovery areas on the second floor, with hands-on exhibits appropriate for kids 7 and up. Interesting fact: it takes a 9-man crew about 3 weeks to set up the exhibition.

I’ll post a review when we eventually visit. As a mother, I’d love to find out what circumstances shaped these outstanding individuals to go beyond the mundane and the mediocre, to ask bold questions and attempt new things. Admission: $2 for adults. Once again, the Singaporean in me shouts hurrah!

Click here for exhibition website.

Blog Discovery

I happened upon this blog by “Magnificent Mom”. It’s a young blog (estd. Sep 06) by a not-so-young blogger (in her 50s perhaps), about motherhood and related issues. She started it on a challenge by her son, and I thought it was a fantastic example of someone aiming to make a difference while staying relevant to the times. As a mother of young kids, I’m always grateful when other mothers, especially those who have gone further done the road, share their parenting experiences.

Lego Artisan

Of late, Athos (aged 5 1/2) has shifted his interest to Lego. I’m quite chuffed – Lego strikes me as a more creative activity than his former passion which is playing with his trains.

The change of heart may have something to do with the Star Trek series which Pilgrim Dad recently watched on DVD. Athos was quite taken by starships and shuttlecraft and warp speed and whatnot. Even Porthos (aged 4) went around saying, “I will assimilate you.”

Anyway, these are some of his creations. It’s a lot of fun listening to him describe the functions of each part!

 

Mothership

     

Shuttlecraft

Nursing at Work

Let’s face it – bringing my pump back and forth every day, plus cooler bag, bottles and icepack, not to mention having to tear myself from work every so often, washing, sterilising, refrigerating – frankly, nursing at work is a chore. No wonder the average duration of breastfeeding in Singapore is just 13 weeks.

A few weeks ago, my work schedule intensified and I didn’t have the time to express properly. As a result, my milk supply dipped precipitously. I was close to buying Aramis his first tin of formula.

Then I recalled what my lactation nurse had told me all those years back – to pump regularly every 3 hours to stimulate supply. So I did. It was slow-going at first, and the more frustrated I got the worse it went. But I persevered. I even got up in the middle of the night to express what Aramis didn’t consume.

I’m thankful to be breastfeeding Aramis 5 months down the road. But I totally sympathise with women who want to give up once they get back to work. I’ve been close to giving up a number of times (most recently last week….)

Here are some things that have helped:

  • A supportive work environment – Physically, we have spare rooms that can be used for nursing, and a pantry with a freezer and sink. There is at least one other nursing mother, and my colleagues have been nothing but understanding.
  • Nursing-friendly clothes – An absolute necessity. I have some nursing wear, but front-buttoned blouses and stretchy wrinkle-proof shirts work just as well.
  • Portable equipment – I use the Medela Mini-Electric, which is small and light enough to be carried back and forth, though the suction is not as strong as I’d like. I’ve used the Medela Pump-In-Style which is expensive, bulky, but very effective. If you can afford it, get a pump just for the office.
  • Breastfeed baby as much as possible – nothing like the real thing! On weekends, I try to breastfeed exclusively, which helps with the supply.

Also, here are some website that are really helpful:

Singapore Biennale @ Tanglin Camp (spoilers)

Some days back we brought Athos (5 1/2) and Porthos (4) to the Singapore Biennale at Tanglin Camp. It was a bit of a risk since we had no idea what to expect and whether the kids would find it interesting. I ‘ll also admit to being a little leery of installation art….

Surprise #1 – Tanglin Camp itself. Such charm! Nestled among big shady trees, these airy colonial buildings used to house the British and later Singapore military. I love that I could hear the cicadas!

Surprise #2 – It cost just $5 per person, the kids went in free, and our tickets give us access to a bunch of other venues too. The Singaporean in me shouts, Good Deal!

Surprise #3 – Some of the exhibits were not appropriate for children. What surprised (and heartened) me was the presence of a staff to inform us of the fact. “This one not so good for children.” “Why?” “Got zombie like that one.” He went on to point us to…

Surprise #4 – We enter a standalone colonial building and find a fish-tank. Little fish swimming around rocks and corals. Big deal. But Pilgrim Mom sneaks down to the basement, where she climbs up a ladder and finds her head – peekaboo! – right in the middle of the fish-tank. Big hit with Athos and Porthos – they couldn’t get enough of it, and took turns to be upstairs and downstairs, making us go up and down. The highlight for Athos was popping his head up and freaking another visitor out!

The other installation that was fun for the kids was the room with the microphone. Speaking into it turns the lights on, revealing an adulating audience, plus the sound of raucous applause and cheering. The lounder you speak, the louder they cheer. Pilgrim Dad got his 15 seconds of fame 🙂

More info on the Biennale here.

Continue reading

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (minor spoilers)

I finally finished Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close last night, while tucked in bed nursing a dreadful cold, fever and headache. I know, I know, I should probably have just closed my eyes and tried to sleep. But Pilgrim Dad was such a sweetheart to brew me herbal tea and put the kids to bed, and it seemed such a shame to waste the peace!

Anyhow, the book is about a precocious 9-year-old named Oskar, who discovers a key in his father’s closet, and sets out on a journey to find the matching lock. It’s told in the first person, mainly by Oskar, giving the prose a lightness (and readability) that belies the tragedy beneath. Two acts of war frame the narrative – 9/11, where Oskar’s father perished, and the WW2 bombing of Dresden, which traumatised Oskar’s grandfather in his youth. Ultimately, the story is less about the mystery of the lock than what he discovers along the way, about loss, grief and love.

The book was by turns funny, heartwarming and heartwrenching. Great how the author Jonathan Safran Foer gave his prose a visual kick from time to time e.g. by playing with spacing or other more graphic devices. And I especially loved how the character of Oskar’s mother was subtly written, and revealed.

Wonderful!

The book reminded me of another child-narrated novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. Using a flawed first-person narrator is such a great way to tease and engage a reader!

Robert the Rose Horse

We found this book at our last visit to the library, and it was a big hit with Porthos (aged nearly 4). It’s part of the Dr Seuss Beginner Books series, and features Robert, a horse who is allergic to roses. His ailment trips him up time and again with hilarious consequences (and illustrations to boot), but he finally saves the day, and himself.

I lost count of how many times Porthos made me read it aloud, especially the “Ker-Choo!” bits. There is a fair bit of word repetition which is helpful for learning new words.

Raffles City – Nurse in Style!

I’ve walked past the Baby Room at Raffles City Shopping Centre many times, and finally went in today.

Prominently located on the 3rd floor near Robinson’s, I was delighted to find that the room had seats, change tables, an inner chamber with its own door, and a sink. Three cheers for Raffles City!

Borned To Be Wild No More?

What serendipity. After my last picture post, today’s newspaper says that MOE will introduce a new syllabus in 2009 focusing on spoken English.

The sooner the better, say I!

But I can’t help wondering: maybe we should be focusing our resources even earlier in a child’s life, so that we don’t have kids learning to say things like “I was borned in 2002″….