Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dumbstruck and speechless

Work this week has been quite kind - I was pleasantly occupied during office hours and undisturbed after that. I even took an afternoon off on Tuesday. On Friday, Ryan and I had dinner with the Leows at Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck Restaurant at Paragon, one of my favourite restaurants. The food was great, as always. We didn't order the Peking Duck though. Next time!

After dinner, we took the children to the indoor playground at Paragon, where they climbed up and down the equipment, slid down the slides and crawled through the tunnels.  Ryan is becoming more and more confident physically, although he is still too light to be able to slide down the slides properly (usually I help to guide him down safely). Nevertheless, he always has lots of fun and he's always happy at the playground.

Today, we went to Ivin's at Bukit Timah for lunch.  Interestingly, there was a family at a table next to us which I recognised from a blog that I had visited before.  We don't know each other, I just recognised their son from the photos on their blog.  I didn't say anything to them - I felt a little weird actually! 

I wonder if there are people out there whom I don't know but who would recognise my family from this blog? I mentioned in a previous post that I had considered making this blog private and password protected but decided against it. I discussed it again with Richard today (when I told him about this blogging family that was at the next table) and he wasn't too concerned.  So I guess we'll continue to keep this blog public, at least for now.  Hmm, come to think of it, if any of you ever bump into us on the street, do stop and say hello, ok? Don't be like me today - dumbstruck and speechless!

This post is a little late, I know. I've been working on the blog's new look and here it is! Hope you like it! There is a new section on Ryan's learning activities at home and there is also a link to our photo gallery (click on the tabs under the header) - hope you'll enjoy going through them.

Well, last weekend was quite interesting because, having turned 18 months on Thursday (22 July), Ryan became eligible to join the Bilingual Playclub at the Julia Gabriel Learning Centre. We had put him on the waiting list some months back and the school told us that they would give us a call once Ryan turned 18 months and we could bring him in then. We were not too optimistic that Ryan would get a place in the present term because he would only turn 18 months in the fourth week of the term and we thought that places would be filled up by then. As it turned out, the day after he turned 18 months which was Friday, we got the call, and so Ryan had his first class on Saturday (2 to 4 pm).

The class was led by four teachers, two who spoke in Mandarin and the other two, in English. The structure of the class is similar to the Playnest class that Ryan attended during the June holiday programme. Of course, the lessons/activities are a little more advanced. The class is also a little longer than Playnest but I think that's because there are many more children in Playclub so things take longer (especially the arts and crafts session).

I'm not sure if Ryan understood any of the Mandarin that was being spoken, certainly he had no clue when the teachers called him by his Chinese name. Embarrassingly, I also had no clue! I know what Ryan's Cantonese name is but the teachers were asking me how to write his Chinese name and I had to confess that I didn't know. I had to ask Richard to bring Ryan's birth certificate to show the teachers after class! Hmm, maybe I'll learn some Mandarin from this class too?

As he just qualified for the class two days prior, Ryan is the youngest student there. He is still quite tiny compared to some of the others. During the arts and crafts session,  Ryan has to do his work standing on the chair, even though the chairs and tables are already child-sized!

After class, Ryan had a long nap and when he woke up, we went out for dinner. We met up with Richard's ex-colleague, David Tan, and his girlfriend at Clarke Quay. Ryan was all rested and energised from his nap and he wanted to stretch his legs - and so he preferred to walk about instead of eat. And boy did he want to walk about! He walked and walked for more than two hours! And for more than two hours, I had to follow him! Up and down the pavement, across the road and back again, up and down the stairs, in and out of the restaurant. When we got home, both of us collapsed into bed.

After a good night's rest, we went for our usual Sunday swimming session.  Ryan is doing really well in class. Here's a (grainy) video of him in class - you can see that he can put his head underwater and he can kick his feet to propel himself forward. Confident and fearless, he delivers a high-five at the end. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

A new look for the blog

Back in March, I had announced that I was working on some changes to the blog which I would reveal "soon". I took (much) longer than I thought I would, because I've been so busy with everything else. Nevertheless, the revamp is finally ready now and perhaps it is good timing after all. The new look will coincide with Ryan turning 18 months, when life is not so much about how much he eats/drinks/sleeps or whether he can crawl/walk/climb. Life is going to be about funny conversations, kicking a ball around, holding hands while we walk along the beach, life's lessons and so much more. It's a new phase and it's appropriate that the blog gets an facelift to commemorate the occasion. So don't worry if you don't see the familiar green template on your next visit!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

18 months

Ok, so I confess that this video wasn't taken today. It was taken last month, when Ryan was in the Julia Gabriel June holiday programme. I brought him to my office after class one day and he entertained himself while waiting for me. I took the video on my phone and every so often I play it and it always makes me smile.

Ryan is 18 months today, a point where many parents stop and take stock of their baby's development, eg. how many words they can speak, how many hairs are on their head, how many teeth they have, how high they can jump, etc. I thought of doing the same but I found it hard to fill out the "report card". Not because Ryan hasn't been doing well, in fact he's been doing very well. No longer a baby, he enjoys asserting his independence in many ways and he's also been showing more of his personality. I guess it's hard for me to list out his developmental achievements because I don't usually dwell on what he can or can't do. Perhaps Richard and I are lazy parents, perhaps we are ignorant, I don't know. What I do know is that, at the end of the day, what matters is this face right here.

Happy 18 months my darling.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The spine operation

Work continues to do its best to wear me down but I'm not giving in without a fight. I had some heavy-duty work stuff to take care of this week, which I'm glad to say went well.

Apart from that, it's been a week of guests popping in and out of our house.

Richard's dad and Richard's second sister, Mary, flew down to Singapore on Tuesday to see an orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital about a problem that Richard's dad has been having with his spine. It was serious enough for the surgeon to have him book the operation for Thursday, so he stayed with us till then. He'll be staying with us until the follow-up appointment, which will be on next Thursday. Mary flew back on Tuesday night and Richard had dinner with his dad (and Ryan) while I went for the monthly SMH mummies dinner at Coca Steamboat Restaurant at Ngee Ann City. It was a raucous affair, 15 ladies talking all at once, and I think we all enjoyed the break and the adult interaction (although we still talk a lot about children).

The operation was on Thursday evening and, praise God, all went well.

Richard's dad stayed one night in the hospital and was discharged the following morning. Mary flew down again to stay the night with him in his room and keep him company. She flew back to KL the next day. On Saturday, Richard's mum flew down with Richard's first sister Margaret and her three children and stayed one night at our house.

On Saturday, we had breakfast at the Botanic Gardens and after lunch at Suntec City, we popped in at the Singapore Garden Festival at Suntec City. We actually got stuck in a jam on the way to Suntec City on account of all the road closures for the National Day celebration rehearsals, but I am glad that we made it there because the displays were fantastic. I got lots of inspiration for my dream garden... haha.

We took Ryan for his swimming class on Sunday morning. Two weeks back, I was writing about how I felt that the exercises were the "same old, same old" ones, and someone must have heard my voice because this week, the coach introduced some new exercises! Ryan enjoyed himself a lot!

The family left on Sunday evening, after a nice dinner at Long Beach Seafood Restaurant. Richard's dad is still with us, perhaps we'll take him out for a movie before he goes home.

Looking back, I actually think that it was a great week, although Richard's dad had to undergo a spine operation to make it happen. The way that the family came together to deliver support, encouragement and care, without any complaints or bitterness, was truly amazing and I know that Richard's dad was so very touched.

I'm happy that Ryan has a family like that, who will come to his aid without question and who will always make themselves available for him and I hope that being a part of such a family will show Ryan how to himself be a good son and a good brother. Brings to mind the latest tagline of the Singapore National Family Council: "How one generation loves, the next generation learns", which I never seriously thought about until this week. If the tagline is true, then Ryan definitely has a wonderful generation of loving family members to learn from.

Hope your week was just as wonderful.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Weekend report

The weekend was a mix of rest, work and play.

Actually the weekend started on Friday, when Ryan and I met up with Matthias and his parents for a yummy dinner at The Cathay Restaurant. After finishing his dinner, Ryan wandered around outside the restaurant with Matthias. Matthias was watching the "magic show" at the elevators (elevators go up and down and people appear and disappear) but Ryan was more interested in looking down at the fountain at the basement.

Slept in on Saturday and went out for brunch at Clarke Quay. We took Ryan out on his little car and wheeled him up and down Clarke Quay. We ended up eating at Fremantle Seafood Market, next to the water. Ryan couldn't take his eyes off the river!

After that, I had a work meeting in the office so Richard had Ryan all to himself for the afternoon.

We got together with some friends for a laidback dinner at the Firestation Hillside Gastrobar. We could only get a table out on the grass so after making peace with the mosquitoes and ants, we tucked in to pizza, burgers and other western fare. The weather was perfect and the children, including Ryan, enjoyed themselves sitting on the swing and walking/running around the place.

Sunday was the usual - swimming in the morning and Shichida class in the afternoon. In between we had a yummy lunch at Jade Palace Seafood Restaurant at Forum the Shopping Mall. Dinner was at Thai Express at Tiong Bahru Plaza - their waitresses fawn over Ryan every time we patronise their outlet and their Bangkok Chicken Rice is yummy!

We topped off the weekend with, what else, watching the World Cup finals between Spain and the Netherlands. Kenny came over to catch the match, which was memorable not for the action at the goal mouth but for the record number of yellow cards and a kung fu kick on Xabi Alonso. Spain eventually won 1-0.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Breastfeeding at 18 months

I have been meaning to write a post about breastfeeding for some time now. Mainly because of the various reactions I see when people find out that I'm still nursing.

In the first rocky months of nursing, I got a lot of support and encouragement: keep going, don't stop, try for six months. After six months of nursing, people kept telling me, that's good but you can stop at one year. Which I thought was pretty strange - why would I reward my son with such a terrible gift for his first birthday? Then Ryan turned one, I was still nursing and suddenly I didn't get encouragement anymore, the questions became more like: isn't it difficult to keep going? Which I also found strange because things usually get easier the more you keep doing them. Now that I'm still nursing Ryan at almost 18 months, people just ask, so when are you going to stop? Usually, in order to put them at ease, I have to come up with some sort of target (maybe when he goes to school, maybe when I start planning for number 2, etc.).

I find it interesting to see all the different reactions and I suppose I'd ask the same questions if the positions were reversed. It's also interesting to listen to mummies who no longer breastfeed. Some give you a passionate explanation about why they stopped breastfeeding. Listening to these mummies, you can tell how much they loved breastfeeding and how much it hurt to give it up. Other mummies think nothing of it, they just move on.

Let me put the record straight. I am pro-breastfeeding but I am not a lactivist and I am not anti-formula. If you don't breastfeed, I'm not going to ask you why not.

Above and beyond being pro-breastfeeding, I am pro-choice. To me, breastfeeding is just one of the many choices that we make as parents and every mummy is entitled to make her own choice based on her personal circumstances. My circumstances, both at home and at work, have allowed me to nurse my baby and to continue nursing him. But if my circumstances were different, I could very well be formula-feeding my baby now. So there really isn't any point in comparing which is better, I think every mummy wants the best for her baby, be it in terms of food, education or life experiences.

Ryan is 17 and a half months now and his milk is still exclusively from the breast. During the workday, I express and pass the bottles to his nanny the next day. When Ryan is with me, I latch him on, I never use a bottle. Sometimes when he latches on one side, I will express (usually by hand) from the other breast. During the night, Ryan latches on if and when he needs to, whether for comfort or for milk.

Is it stressful? Well, yes and no.

Yes it's stressful, because I don't keep any stock in the freezer, which means I can't slack off on expressing. I don't keep any formula on standby at all and neither does his nanny. Milk supply does drop sometimes, eg. when I fall sick or when I miss pumps at work, and it is pretty stressful to have to catch up when I'm feeling sick or when I'm so swamped with work. If I have to be in the office on a weekend, I have to plan ahead and squeeze in an extra pump so that Richard can feed Ryan while I'm out.

But no, it's not stressful, because after nearly 18 months of this, I know how to deal with the issues that crop up. I don't sit around and worry and fret.

The main issue is low supply. When milk supply drops, I know the cause - I've been sick or I've not been eating/drinking enough or I've not been expressing enough, etc. - and so I know how to remedy the situation: express more frequently, eat/drink better. If supply is still low after a few days then I empty my breasts even more frequently and supply usually jumps up again. If low supply still persists, then I take fenugreek for two days and supply will also get a boost.

The other issue is getting the most out of every express. This is important because it keeps the breast in high productivity and keeps supply up. Also, I do have a busy workday and sometimes I can only get away to pump once a day so it is really vital that I make the most out of it, and so I do. I can stimulate letdown easily now, I usually do three letdowns in one session, until the breast is well and truly drained. Normally, I pump on the first letdown, then I hand express on the subsequent ones.

Disadvantages to breastfeeding at 17.5 months? Well, I'm lucky that Ryan has had no problems with breastmilk or with latching and so there are no disadvantages as far as Ryan is concerned. I believe that, at this stage, when our babies are nearly 18 months, breastfeeding is really not so much about our babies anymore. It's really more about the mummy and how she feels about it. So, all the "disadvantages" are mine, and these would be the changes that I have to make in my lifestyle. I don't have complete liberty in choosing what to wear - I always have to think about ease of latching/pumping. I have to carry my pump/bottles/milk to and from home/work/nanny. I still don't get uninterrupted sleep at night.

Still, I don't see these "disadvantages" as disadvantages. These are lifestyle changes that I made with no regrets and no complaints. There are many changes I've made since Ryan came into my life and I take breastfeeding as just one of them. If I had to choose all over again whether to breastfeed or not, I would.

So is it worth it? Well, I won't talk about the health benefits of breastmilk. Of course, breastmilk is superior but I do think that formula milk is pretty good. I honestly think that there's not a lot of difference after the first year, especially when our children can make up whatever they need from solids.

But yes, it's worth it! There are tons of "lifestyle advantages" - the main one being I don't have to use a diaper bag (and I have yet to see a nice-looking one!). More importantly, and as any mummy who has successfully nursed her baby will testify, it is an incredible bond, one that is both physical and emotional.

Of course, a mummy who does not nurse or who has stopped nursing does not necessarily have a different bond with her child. There are different ways to bond, and all are good.

Just because I choose to breastfeed, doesn't mean that I think less of formula feeding. I think there is a problem in that formula feeders don't get enough support. Of course, breastfeeders do require a lot of support and there is a lot of support for them in terms of information and support groups. But I find that this big push for breastfeeding and all this stuff about how "breast is best" give formula feeders "Bottlefeeding Guilt", and they feel like they have to justify why they don't breastfeed. I don't agree that there should be any judgment about which is better, especially when we're talking about children who are nearly 18 months old.

So, I just want to say that, inasmuch as breastfeeders are given support, formula feeders should be too. We should all bear in mind that, all that truly matters is that the baby gets fed and the mummy is happy.

If you have the interest, visit this blog: Fearless Formula Feeder. This increasingly popular blog is catching the attention of both formula-feeders and breastfeeders for its support for formula feeders, without having to pass judgment on anyone. Great reading.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Monday's here AGAIN??

Seems like just a blip ago that I was writing about (last) Monday, and now it's Monday again.

Well, the weekend started well enough. After a late Friday night playing mahjong, we had a good sleep-in on Saturday. We woke up and went for lunch at Cedele (at Great World City). We ordered fried brown rice for Ryan and he gave it the thumbs-up. ELC (Early Learning Centre) was having a sale at the atrium so we picked up some items for Ryan there, including a set of 10 farmyard animals. Ryan has been telling me that a cow goes "moo-ooo" and a duck goes "tak tak", so I'm building on the theme.

For dinner, we tried out a new restaurant - The King Louis at Vivocity. Ryan wasn't that excited about eating, although the food was quite good. After that, we went to walk about in the bookstore before calling it a night.

We went for Ryan's swimming class on Sunday morning. Richard and I have been thinking about whether we should continue with his swimming classes after we shift to the east. We've been with the swimming programme since January this year, and after six months, the exercises are still the same, so we were wondering if we should just do the same exercises in our own pool and enrol him again when he's old enough for the next level where there will be new and different exercises. But I see that Ryan is doing really well in class. He is so happy and confident in the water. When Coach Dave launches him into the water (head underwater), he's just delighted and starts kicking his way towards me. Previously he would stop and try to get his head up first. I think I can see the beginnings of a swimmer! I suppose these things take time especially because we're dealing with infants and toddlers. It would be faster to teach a six year-old because a six year-old can listen and understand instructions. But an infant/toddler learns by practice and experience, trial and error, all of which take time. I'm glad we stuck to it, I can see that it has paid off, so I think we'll stick to it a little longer.

Ryan achieved 9 kg a few months ago so it was safe for him to graduate to the front facing car seat. We wanted to retain the ISOFIX base that we were using for the infant seat but the only model that could fit onto it was the Peg Perego Viaggio 1 Duo-Fix, which wasn't out in Singapore yet. Anyway, no hurry, so we placed an order. After waiting a few months, we finally picked it up on Sunday.

Ryan hates the new car seat. I think the main reason is that, where previously he couldn't see me, now he can, and so he cries and cries to get my attention. Perhaps when he couldn't see me, he thought that I was unable to come to him so he settled down. Now that he can see me driving in front, he knows that I can stop and come and get him so he keeps crying for me. It will definitely take him some time to get used to the seat. In the meantime, I'm trying to show more empathy.

Anyway, after picking up the car seat and a short nap, it was time for Shichida class. It's the start of a new term, Ryan's fourth.

Dinner was a spread at Kopi Tiam at Swissotel The Stamford. We had bak kut teh, curry chicken, nasi goreng and pan fried sea bass. We were so full, we staggered home and crawled into bed. Bye bye weekend.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Weekend, here we come!

It's finally Friday! I'm so looking forward to the weekend when I can kick off my heels! I have ice-cream in the fridge that's been waiting and waiting (oh so long) and a little boy who can't stop dancing in his new flip flops!

Have a good weekend!

(look at the big toe sticking out! this photo was taken by his nanny's daughter who bought the flip flops.)

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