Thursday, May 31, 2012

Linking Memory

Here's a video of Ryan doing the linking memory exercise at home. This is a memory game that we play in Shichida, where the child arranges a set of cards according to a prescribed sequence.

In class, the sensei has been revising 10 cards every week (from set 2A). For this Sunday's class, the sensei will revise the fourth and last group of 10 cards (cards 31-40). The following class, the children will be asked to link all the cards (cards 1-40) in 3 minutes or less.

At home, we have been linking 40 cards for some time and we are at the point where Ryan doesn't need to revise the sequence beforehand - he just gets down to business straightaway and gets the cards in order. Sometimes, he is not in the mood to arrange the cards, in which case he will simply recite the sequence to me verbally.

The first part of the video shows Ryan arranging the set for this Sunday's class revision, which are the cards from 31 to 40. After that, I asked him to arrange the cards from 1-40, which he does. In the video, we are doing the exercise very slowly because we are on the floor and it's a little awkward for Ryan to get around the cards - you can see that he's constantly tidying the lineup. Also, although he can arrange the cards quite effortlessly, he is actually not at his most enthusiastic - yesterday he did not want to play this game at all (he only wanted to recite the names of the cards verbally) - so today we are easing back into it slowly. When we are doing it "properly", with no lagging, Ryan can complete the exercise in under 2 minutes. If I do the arranging as he recites the names of the cards, we can get it done in under a minute.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bloom Shots - Part 2

This pose was suggested by me! I thought it would be a cute image!

We had a bit of trouble getting the right spots to contact each other - mainly because Richard had to half-squat and adjust to the right height while carrying Ryan on his shoulders - not easy! Plus, as my tummy was not big enough, I had to lean back to stick it out and, at the same time, lean forward to kiss Ryan!

We went through quite a hilarious time trying to get the shot and so I thought it would be fun to show you some "bloopers"! 

Here's me missing the mark - I think I got Ryan's eye! And Richard is nowhere near my tummy!

Here's another blooper - I moved myself forward to get my tummy in the right position for Richard but ended up smooshing against Ryan! Ryan is also straining a little to reach me because Richard is pulling him downwards a little.

Last one: Ryan still looks a little awkward (his expression kind of reads: What the heck?) and both Richard and I are sticking our lips out like pigs' snouts! Haha!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Err... isn't he your son too?

I'm sure you've come across this situation: a child is behaving badly and the mother says to the father, "Tell your son to behave" or "Can you get your son to sit down?". Or it could be father reporting to mother, "Your daughter was very naughty in school today" or "Your daughter refused to eat her lunch."

The phrase "your son" or "your daughter" is usually said in a tone that conveys annoyance, displeasure, disappointment, blame and/or frustration. Not nice things to inflict on your spouse.

Richard and I use the phrase too, but we do it in a completely opposite way. We only use it in positive situations and always as a good-natured joke. Like when Ryan is being especially cheeky or adorable or impressive, we might say, "Your son is winking his eye at the girls! He must have learned it from you!" or "Your son was really good in swimming class today. How about a hug for him?" We have never used the phrase "your son" in a negative manner. We've never had to discuss it, we just never did it.

In this post, I want to talk about using, or rather NOT using this phrase in negative situations, such as the situations in my opening paragraph. It always intrigues me. After all, the son/daughter belongs to both the father and the mother ... right? Both parents have an equal part to play in parenting their child ... don't they?

Obviously, I feel strongly against it.

Using "your son" on your spouse is essentially distancing yourself from the problems or issues at hand. You're saying that you're an outsider to the problem or the issue. Sometimes, you're even trying to blame your spouse while telling him/her that you had no hand in it.

But all that can never be true.

Both parents have a role to play in guiding the child - both before and after the event. If there is an instance of misbehaviour, it is a culmination of what has happened before - lack of good parenting, lack of guidance, etc - and both parents should be accountable and responsible. In other words, if there is blame to be assigned, both parents are equally blameworthy. And when I say "parent your child", I don't mean taking care of the child's physical needs. I'm not referring to caretaking or childminding. I'm talking about parenting - guiding the child, showing the child right from wrong, instilling good values and manners, cultivating good habits, etc.

And moving forward, if something needs to be done to resolve the situation, then both parents are equally responsible to do so. There is no "your son" or "your daughter". It must always be "our son" or "our daughter". Always.

It doesn't matter if you think that you were not the cause of the actual situation, it doesn't matter if you were not even there when it started, it doesn't matter if you don't know what is going on in that moment. What matters is that you are there now. What matters is that you are just as much your child's parent as your spouse is. So the question is, what are YOU going to do?

You have a choice to parent or not to parent. And if you choose not to parent, if you want to tell your spouse that it's "his son" (and not "our son") and therefore that your spouse should do the parenting without you, well, I think it's reasonable to say that there's something seriously wrong there.

Once you have a child, you are a parent. You can't choose when you want to be a parent. You can't choose to be a parent only in good times and distance yourself in bad times. Your child is your child everyday, every minute of every day. And you are your child's parent everyday, every minute of every day. If the child is being naughty, he/she is still your child. If the child has done something he/she shouldn't have, he/she is still your child. Step up and deal with it.

Using the phrase "your son" or "your daughter" says a lot about the type of parent and the type of person you are. Longtime readers of this blog will know that one thing I hope my children will learn is that it is our choices and our actions that make us who we are. And that I hope my children will be pro-active in helping whenever help is needed, in pitching in whenever they can make a difference, and in taking responsibility when they ought to. This parenting situation is, at its core, a basic example of that philosophy.

Trying to distance yourself from a problem which you cannot hope to help with is one thing.
Trying to distance yourself from a problem which you can help with is bad.
Trying to distance yourself from that problem and pushing the responsibility onto someone else to solve that problem is worse.
Trying to distance yourself from that problem and pushing the responsibility onto someone else to solve that problem when that problem involves your own child is the absolute worst.

I know what some people will say - something like, "Oh, it's no big deal, it's just something I say. It doesn't mean anything."

It means a lot.

The consequence of using this phrase is twofold. First, and obviously, it creates a rift between husband and wife. It is rude and disrespectful to speak to your spouse like that. In a way, the person saying it is using emotional blackmail and guilt to get the other person to resolve the matter - "it's not my problem, it's yours, so you deal with it." That speaks volumes about your approach to not only parenting, but your marriage as well. I know that if Richard ever said that to me, I would be worried about our spousal relationship and I would start to doubt the relationship between him and our son. I might even be pissed off. After all, it would be a sign that he is not interested in our son, he blames me for our son's misbehaviour, and he doesn't want any part of it.

Second, it has an intense effect on the child. Think about what you are demonstrating to your child, what you are teaching your child. Imagine hearing your mother say that to your father. Wouldn't you think that your mother is not interested in you, she blames your father for whatever you did, and she doesn't want any part of it? Wouldn't you wonder why she doesn't seem to care about what's going on with you, why she is shoving the burden of dealing with you to your father? And wouldn't you be sad to hear your parents speak to each other in such an unpleasant tone?

If it's "no big deal" to you, then it should be "no big deal" for you to stop doing it. And if you feel that you must keep doing it, then it's safe to say that you have a huge problem, in which case, it certainly would be a big deal.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Random snippets

Here are some photos taken with my phone over the last few days.

The first two show a sample of what Ryan does at home most of the time - play with his letters and other stuff.

He made up this game where he would stand underneath the basketball hoop to balance the ball on his head... this was half-past one in the morning but, as you can see, he is as energetic and as happy as an Energiser Bunny!

I took a day off on Friday as I had a non-work related appointment in the afternoon. It was a terribly hot day - and I was happy to have an excuse to use my new hat!

I did something really crazy after my appointment - I didn't have my car with me so I walked from Haig Road to Telok Kurau Road (along East Coast Road). My original intention was to hail a cab but somehow I didn't get around to it and just kept walking. Took me about 45 minutes! Granted, I was walking quite slowly, looking at the shops along the way, even popping into one or two, but 45 minutes of walking (while carrying some heavy bags) is no joke for a woman who is 36 weeks pregnant! Not forgetting that I had just done 1.5 hours of physical exercise before that during my appointment (I'll share more on that in a separate post - it's something I'm very excited about!). I survived... but it's not an experience that I will be eager to repeat!

We sorted out all the car seats. We bought a new one for Ryan, which you can see in this photo. His old carseat is now in Richard's car. This new one plus Ryan's old infant carseat are in my car. No space for any other passengers!

We spent Saturday night having dinner at Pasta Brava with a big bunch of rowdy mates from JC (junior college). We had a fabulous time and the gathering lasted till after 11 pm. Ryan was the only child at the dinner, and our friends were amazed that he was "not very demanding" - hahaha! Yes, he was very good and lasted throughout the dinner without any fuss.

We didn't do much on Sunday. We went for Ryan's swimming and Shichida class. Richard had to go into the office after lunch ... and he worked with his team till 9 am the next morning (today) to meet a deadline. Ryan and I hung out at home, and I did appreciate our time together, just my son and me.

Friday, May 25, 2012

"If" by Rudyard Kipling

I'm still thinking about the question I posed in yesterday's post. While I haven't found my answer yet, I was reminded of my favourite Rudyard Kipling poem, "If", which is like an inspirational map for personal integrity and a motivational philosophy for life. I've loved it since I first read it and, when Ryan is older, I'll certainly be introducing him to it. A little trivia for you: lines from the poem appear over the player's entrance to Wimbledon's Centre Court, demonstrating the poem's timeless and inspiring quality.

Here's the poem. Hope it brings you inspiration this weekend. Have a great one.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

One gift

I don't have much to share today. Mainly because I've been preoccupied thinking about something which I haven't settled on an answer for yet. I have a ton of possible answers, but I need the one that feels right to me.

The question being, "If you could give your child one thing, what would that gift be?"

Now, this is a particularly interesting question for me because I typically don't ask God (or fate or whatever) for things. I thank Him a lot after things have already happened - for a safe trip, for good health, for good weather, for joy and peace in our home, for recovery from illness - but I seldom ask Him for things. I usually accept whatever is planned for me and, at the most, I will ask for patience and strength to get through the experience.

When it comes to children, well, I've heard some mummies-to-be wish for stuff like good looks and intelligence for their unborn babies. Without criticising them, I have to say that I don't take that sort of approach. I don't wish for things like that when I'm blowing out the candles on my birthday cake. My view is that, whatever God chooses to give me, I will cherish, love and nurture. I don't think of my baby as a product that I can customise and dictate specifications for - big eyes, thick hair, cute face, brainy, etc. I don't have a picture that I send to God of how my baby should look like. I don't think any of that really matters when you're talking about your children. (Besides, to me, God is not Santa Claus. I'm supposed to be serving Him, not the other way round.)

I certainly hope for good health for my children, but that's a hope, not a wish or a demand, and I've surrendered long ago to God's will on this issue.

As for traits like kindness, honour, accountability, courage, etc., I have similarly never asked that God bestow these traits on my children. The way I see it, it is my parental responsibility (and Richard's) to cultivate these traits, and if our children grow up lacking, we're not entitled to blame God, we're not going to blame fate, we can't blame anyone else or anything. Richard and I should and will be accountable.

Nevertheless, while I was crafting my post on fairytales and fantasy, this quote came to mind:
"I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity." ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Which got me thinking: If I was allowed to make one request for one gift for my children, what would that gift be?

It is an intriguing question for which I haven't got an answer yet and I'm definitely going to keep thinking about this until I do.

What would your wish for your child be?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bloom Shots - Part 1

I'm sharing some shots from our maternity photoshoot last week. This set didn't work out so well - I just look plump rather than pregnant! Still, I love them because they're great family portraits, especially the first one where Ryan is posing so confidently and cheekily!

Our home learning routine is constantly evolving, so what may have been the case a few months or weeks ago, may no longer be the case today. This is an update on our present routine.

As you would have read from past posts, we did quite a lot of travelling in April, and during that time, we took a break from home learning activities. In fact, we went on a break even before that, because of various reasons. Nevertheless, when I say that we took a break from home learning, I don't mean that we did nothing. It's not possible to do nothing - Ryan is constantly on the go, looking for something to do.

So what has he been up to? Well, Ryan has been spending a lot of time perfecting his reading, spelling, writing, alphabet recognition and phonetic skills. He even picked up the ASL (American Sign Language) for the alphabet after watching a Youtube video a couple of times. In fact, he loves surfing Youtube for videos on phonics. (We monitor his surfing quite closely, he is usually on our laps or right next to us when he is on the iPad.)

We play spelling games all the time. For example, when we're talking to each other - I might tell him the food is hot - and he will spell out the word HOT. When we're at home and he has his mobile letters with him, I will call out words for him to spell, like "Happy Birthday" or "Shining Star" or "Great Job" and he'll use his mobile letters to spell them out. We also use various types of spelling "toys", like the one which I shared on the blog in February (we've since finished all the cards). Here's a new video of him using it.

Apart from the activities related to reading, we are generally doing less of the left brain stuff and focusing on the right brain stuff instead. So we do ESP games, eye training, dots programme, memory games, etc. That actually takes up very little time -  maybe about 15 minutes per day.

We still do a lot of art-related activities, which can be as simple as playing with stickers or more elaborate painting on the easel. There're still a lot of musical activities going on - dancing, singing and playing with toy instruments.

Ryan enjoys a lot of free and unstructured play - eg. pretend play with play dough, free play with blocks, pretend play with toy cars and soft toys, building with Lego, etc. Ryan loves to construct intricate and elaborate structures like the one on the left in the photo below. You can also see in the photo that Ryan has moved on to the blocks on the right - this was immediately after he put in the last piece in the massive structure.:

Ryan makes a new track design EVERY night, without fail.

Here he is playing with stickers, after finishing the construction of the little structure on the table.

I don't know if you noticed the difference but there IS a difference from our last update - we've reverted to our initial approach of "not teaching". This was always our philosophy, right from the start and it worked amazingly well. Only this year, I came up with a small list of things I wanted to teach Ryan because I felt that he was getting bored and that he was ready for more structured teaching. So we spent February and March teaching him various things. He soaked it all up.

In April, as I mentioned above, we took a break and I took the time to review our routine. Ryan was doing really well but I was not really happy with the routine. I wasn't comfortable with it. I knew without a doubt that we needed to revert to our initial philosophy of "not teaching". And so we did. And that's where we are now. Still as busy as ever, but with a different mindset. I'll elaborate in a separate post what I mean by our philosophy of "not teaching", although you can probably guess already.

One thing never changed though, which is that we always let Ryan decide whether to do the activity or not. This was true even when we were "teaching" Ryan stuff in February and March, and it will always be our mantra.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Butterflies on Saturday

As you may have guessed from yesterday's sneak preview, we visited a butterfly farm on Saturday. This was at Butterfly Lodge at Oh's Farms in Sembawang. We went with two other families - Ee Fann/Shann/Rou Ern and Chris/Alicia/Brayden. Actually Shann and Alicia were intending to use the excursion as a learning platform for Rou Ern and Brayden, and they had made plans to go together. I gatecrashed their outing, knowing that Ryan would love the chance to meet up with his little friends. Lucky for us, they were gracious enough to let us tag along.

Here's Ryan inside the butterfly enclosure. It's much smaller than the one at the Jurong Birdpark, but it was chockful of butterflies, and because of the small size of the enclosure, we got very close to the beautiful creatures.

This is Rou Ern, brave little girl. She is very loving towards all living things.

Brayden closely examining a flower. Ryan has the same T-shirt that he is wearing - it says "MOM ROCKS"!

The entry fee is S$4 per adult, the three children went in for free, and the lodge threw in some free postcards of butterflies. 

Here's Ryan (with Brayden) comparing the butterfly on his postcard with the one on the flower.

After the one on the flower flew away, Ryan tried to see if his postcard butterfly wanted to sit on the flower!

It was around noon and the sun was at its hottest. I don't know if it had any effect on the butterflies, but they were very active, flying left, right and centre, so we got a really good look at them. We could touch them and even "catch" them in our hands.

Here's Ryan sweating it out and Rou Ern with her cheeks all pink from the heat! She's wearing a reversible hat made for her by her grandmother!

In this corner, there were a dozen or so butterflies just hanging about on the ground, maybe trying to cool off? Rou Ern went to catch a few while the boys looked on.

This was set up at one end of the enclosure - I suppose the lodge collects and transfers the pupa here when it's ready to hatch.

Before we left for lunch, Alicia and Shann bought some caterpillar kits. One kit consists of two caterpillars and some leaves (caterpillar food). You feed the caterpillars with the leaves everyday until they pupate and after some time, the beautiful butterflies should emerge!

We had lunch at Beaulieu House in Sembawang Park, where they serve both Chinese and Western food. The weather was still crazy hot - the children took the fathers out to the jetty for some suntanning, while the mothers pretended to be busy inside the cool comfort of the restaurant.

Lunch was topped off with ice-cream! We stayed on so long after our lunch that the kitchen had closed for the afternoon so they could offer only ice-cream to us, which we gratefully accepted. Ryan took two small dollops of the ice-cream before he decided he was happy enough with the wafer.

We didn't expect to stay so long but, by the time we left Beaulieu House, it was 4 pm! What a great outing!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sneak preview of our Saturday

Hope you are having a good weekend! We had a busy Saturday, I'll post more about it tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a sneak preview!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

More about fairytales and fantasy

I had an interesting comment from reader Sherlyn on my post "Fairytales and Fantasy" - she said that her son's paediatrician had recommended more pretend play to help her 20 month-old son in his speech development. I would agree. When I last saw the boy I mentioned in my post (who dislikes pretend play and other creative pursuits), he was about 37 months old and had been attending pre-school and a couple of enrichment classes for some time, but he was still unable to string more than two words together on his own, without copying or echoing something he had heard.

As a more positive example of how pretend play and fantasy does help in speech and expression, I want to introduce you lovelies to this really wonderful blog called My Amazing Days. It's expertly written by an adorable girl called Rebecca, who is about 7 or 8 years old.

I thought of Rebecca's blog because she has an ongoing series of posts where she invents and authors stories about the adventures of the animal characters in her Sylvanian Family collection. Rebecca (and her sister) engage in a lot of pretend play with their collection. The stories spring from a wonderfully rich imagination which is able to imagine scenarios grounded in both fantasy and reality. The vocabulary, the sentence structure, the syntax, the pace, the various adventures that the characters get into, the emotional responses of the characters, the response that the story elicits from the reader (suspense, relief, intrigue), the creativity that makes it "unique", the consistency across the chain of posts - everything is just perfect. Have a read and you'll see what I mean.

I would think that Rebecca's creative talents were, and are, nurtured by her mother, Janice, who obviously has a deep appreciation for the value of a good story, fantasy-based or otherwise. The apple of creativity certainly did not fall far from the tree in this case. Apart from keeping a vast library of good literary stock and doing some writing/editing/illustrating, her mother also makes little handmade toys and other handmade creations which she sells through her online Etsy shop Bikbik and Roro. Janice says in this  2010 interview by Bloesem Kids that she and her two daughters often take on many creative art and craft projects at home like drawing, painting, clay sculpting and origami.

I should mention too that Janice and her daughters are all very pretty!

Another thing I want to share with you is some home learning materials from Montessori 123 which is based on, you guessed it - fairytales (and nursery rhymes)! The activity is to match a card with text with a card with a picture. The description of the activity is as follows:

"These riddle stories are designed for those students who are just starting to read simple stories. The familiar nursery rhymes and fairy tales provide a structure and context that makes the reading task easier. When the child matches the text card with photograph cards that are described in the text, they are working on important reading comprehension skills."

The third thing I want to share is this post from Teacher Tom, a pre-school teacher who runs a progressive play-based cooperative pre-school in the USA. The post is called The Troll. I won't give you any spoilers save to say that I was amazed to see the troll! Do have a read!

I still have so much to share about the value of fairytales and fantasy and their importance in our children's lives, but I'll restrain myself and end with this post from No Time for Flashcards titled "Positive Princess Books for Kids". If your child is fantasising about princesses and fairytales involving princesses, this post will give you some great recommendations for books with stories about princesses, with lots of positive messages for him/her.

Hope you enjoy these little sharings and hope you have a great weekend! We have another busy weekend planned, so there will be some interesting stuff to share next week!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bump tales 2

Yesterday was an exciting day - we went for a maternity photoshoot in the morning! We had a lot of fun! I'll share some of the shots soon.

We went with Shann and her family for the shoot and after that, we had dim sum lunch at Red Star in Chinatown. After dropping Ryan off at his nanny's, Richard and I went to watch "The Avengers" at the cinema - enjoyed that a lot!

When we went to fetch Ryan in the evening, he had just fallen asleep! His nanny told us that he was in such a good mood, playing the whole afternoon, that he refused to take his nap. He eventually dozed off while writing at his writing desk. He ended up sleeping till the next morning! He must have had such a fun time at the shoot and at lunch, playing with Shann's daughter, Rou Ern!

Actually I was on medical leave yesterday. After lots of very late nights, I had been waking up the past few days with thick green phlegm clogging up my nose. Three nights ago, it turned into a terrible cough that kept me awake the whole night. Zombie-fied the next morning, I staggered my way to the doctor and, as I am coming up close to my EDD, she immediately put me on a half-course of antibiotics, with approval for 3 days of medical leave (I used only one and a half days, heh). I fell gratefully into bed that afternoon and hardly ate anything that day. The next day (yesterday), I put myself on the scale and found that I'd dropped nearly 2 kg, in just a day!

The photographer was astonished to learn that Shann and I are due to deliver so soon, she said our tummies were so tiny. Some of my shots didn't quite work out because my tummy was not prominent enough. She is certainly not the only one to make such a comment, which prompted me today to write about weight gain during pregnancy because I don't want to give the impression that it is necessarily a good thing to gain so little weight or that you should be dieting to stay slim during pregnancy.

I'm definitely not a lightweight in terms of actual kilos. The thing that keeps me looking compact is that I'm still relatively proportionate. There are definitely advantages to keeping things light though - I don't tire easily, I can wear non-maternity clothes, my posture doesn't suffer, and Ryan and I can still hug each other to sleep. However, it's not because of any conscious attempt to diet.

During pregnancy, it's pretty common, at least for me, to have my weight fluctuate 2-3 kg up and down. I've heard many pregnant ladies report that they lose weight, especially when nausea strikes or when they get sick (which would be the case if they were not pregnant anyway). I remember losing 2 kg right at the start, between my first and second appointment at the gynae. On the other hand, there were several days when I would discover that I had put on a kilo overnight after a sumptuous day of feasting and many other days when I shed the same kilos overnight after being careful with what I ate during the day or when I was too busy/had no appetite to eat.

In general, of course, I did put on some kilos - baby, amniotic fluid, expanded uterus, increased fluid, extra blood, placenta, more storage of maternal fat, nutrients and proteins, enlarged breasts, etc. - it all adds up. Completing nearly 35 weeks of this pregnancy, I've put on 6 plus kg. Which is not really something to brag about - my gynae says it's on the low side because I started out the pregnancy heavier than I was when I started my previous pregnancy! Generally speaking, slimmer people need to gain more during the pregnancy than fatter people. In other words, I was fatter to begin with - hahaha! I attribute that to the fact that I am still nursing (need to keep on a few extra kilos for breastfeeding). Good news is that, if you don't put on anything extra apart from that, you should shrink back to your pre-pregnancy state very quickly after delivery!

As I started out heavier, the slower rate of weight gain means that I am now approaching the same weight I was at when I was at the same stage in my previous pregnancy. At the moment I'm just about a kg more than where I was previously, and I expect to end up at the same weight when I deliver. So I do believe that, if you eat right and stay active, and you don't have any medical conditions (like diabetes, etc.) your body will end up at the optimum weight that it needs to be at.

While you should be careful to eat healthily and not put on excessive weight, slow or little weight gain could mean that you are not storing enough fat to carry your pregnancy to term, which may result in a low-birth weight baby at delivery or even a premature birth. (If your baby is of normal weight, it could simply mean that you were heavy to begin with, as in my case). In any case, the important thing is to hit the required weight for a healthy pregnancy and to stay healthy while you do so.

Here's something from Epigee Women's Health which says pretty much the same thing:

"Can Complications Arise from too Little or too Much Weight Gain?
Women who are underweight before pregnancy need to be extra careful about gaining weight. Being underweight could result in a premature birth and/or the low-birth weight of your baby.

If you are overweight before pregnancy, it is important to note that even though the amount of weight you are recommended to gain is lower than that of women of a normal weight, you still have to gain weight. Pregnancy is no time for dieting. Without the necessary amount of weight gain, your body will be unable to store the amount of fat required to carry your pregnancy to term.
That said, a greater than normal amount of weight gain during pregnancy should also be cautioned against, as this may lead to obesity after childbirth, which could lead to a whole host of other health problems."

Not surprisingly, yesterday's checkup at the gynae showed that baby's growth has slowed again. I joked with my gynae - does that mean I have to eat durian? He laughed and said, no, try coconut instead - lots of plump fatty bits there! Thank goodness, because I hate durian... Nevertheless, although small, baby is still within normal limits - in the 40th percentile, which is considered "medium" range and my gynae said that there's nothing to worry about, everything is perfectly fine. Baby should catch up to safe weight in the next one to two weeks.

As we are closing in on the EDD now, we need to monitor baby's movements more closely (just make sure that there is some movement everyday) and Dr Chan will start seeing us more frequently now.

Anyway, I feel much better today, or at least good enough to get myself into the office, forfeiting the last day of my medical leave! I'm still having coughing fits off and on, so hopefully a good rest over the weekend will help. Here's a photo of me taken this morning!

And one more with my darling son!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fairytales and fantasy

"In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected."
--- Charles Dickens

More than a year ago, someone told me that he didn't allow his son fairytales. He told me his reason and I told him he was mistaken, but he didn't believe that I actually knew what I was talking about, and I left it at that. About a year later, this father was taking a walk with his son when they came across a cat. He greeted the cat with a hello, how are you. His son's reaction was to stare at him in puzzlement as to why his father was talking to a cat. And the father's reaction was pride that his son had "grown up".

His son was barely three years old. 

I felt sad, even pity. A three year-old not being able to imagine talking to a cat? Over the past year, his parents had also made it known that their son does not appreciate pretend play or even artwork (and so we would steer away from such activities to accommodate him when planning get-togethers for the children). Their son's mentality is probably a product of many factors, but I would bet that the deprivation of fantasy and fairytales is one contributing factor.

The parents' stance stemmed from their view that Maria Montessori was against the concept of fantasy and fairytales. They believe that she forbade "fantasy" although she encouraged "imagination".

I can accept that parents have different ideas on parenting. What annoys me is when parents adopt methods based on gross misunderstandings.

It is well-known that it is a myth that Maria Montessori ever said such things. Unfortunately, this myth has also been perpetrated by many people, including some schools holding themselves out as Montessori schools. Still, the fact that many people believe it to be true, doesn't make it true. All Maria Montessori said was that we should not take fairytales and fantasy too seriously, and that we should be careful of stories that are too frightening. Montessori's concern was that a young child would believe any fantasy story as the truth or, if the story was too scary, that the child would have nightmares.

"Fairy tales are very important literature. If I could I would make a collection of all the fairy tales in the world, so that grown-ups could know them better ... They are beautiful little stories for children, but not in place of this concentration on work." (Maria Montessori, The Child, Society and the World. p. 46)
That's as far as Montessori's advice went. To ban fairytales and fantasy, and to say that Maria Montessori said to do so is ridiculous. It's akin to refusing to cross the road simply because there are risks involved, even though those risks are manageable.

If you are concerned that your child cannot tell the difference between what's real and what's not, just tell him/her the story is pretend. Actually, the more "fantastical" and "unreal" the fairytale is, the less likely your child will take it to be real anyway. Children are not as dumb as some people think.

For me myself, I have no problems if Ryan thinks that the Sesame Street characters are real or if he thinks that Santa Claus and Batman exist. To me, that's the privilege and prerogative afforded to a three year-old and it is an important stage in his life.

"There is no need to be afraid of the children's fantasies, they represent a stage in development, it is a necessary stage and it is usually outgrown without difficulty."
--- Child

If you believe the myth about what Montessori said then it's not just fairytales you should be banning. It should be anything that has a fantasy element in it. It should be bye-bye to Cinderella, Mickey Mouse, Thomas the Train, superheroes, Popeye, Garfield, Smurfs, gnomes, pixies, elves, witches on brooms, animals that talk and outwit each other, Sesame Street, Santa Claus, the Easter Rabbit, Peter Pan... and that's just the "western" stuff. The East has its fair share of folklore and fairytales - there are many tales, whether modern or centuries-old, of talking animals, magical beings, and mythical creatures. Modern versions include Hello Kitty, Doraemon and tons more. Then there's pretend play, nursery rhymes, ... Disneyland?

Many of the best-known fairytales come to us from literary sources, eg. books written by Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, Aesop, even Enid Blyton (eg. The Magic Faraway Tree, Noddy) and by modern authors such as Julia Donaldson, Maurice Sendak, Dr Seuss, and many, many other respected children's authors. There are movies built entirely on fantasy (Happy Feet, Ratatouille, Toy Story, Madagascar, etc) and videos too (educational videos included). And then there is the world of theatre - musicals like The Lion King, Mary Poppins and Cats.

The consequence of believing the myth is therefore enormous. Like that boy, children lose out on a rich and valuable resource. They may find it difficult to sustain a period of pretend play and may be unable to appreciate other types of creative pursuits. In addition, their impaired ability to come up with creative solutions and ideas may adversely affect their abilities in math, science, and other "academic" pursuits.

No wonder then, that Albert Einstein's famously quoted advice to an anxious mother who asked him how her son could become a scientist was as follows:

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."

Einstein supposedly credited his genius to his mother's reading of folk and fairy tales to him as a child. Einstein also said, "When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking."

Apart from showcasing creativity and imaginative (plus fantastical) elements, the value of a fairytale lies in how it presents moral values and ideals in a way which the child can easily understand. Fairytales clearly demonstrate the difference between good and evil, what is ethical/moral and what is not. In every reaction which the child has to the tale, he gains another layer of vicarious experience which sets his character more firmly in the mould of right or wrong. Every sympathy, every aversion, every conclusion, helps to give direction to his personality.

The "facts" used to tell the story - the mythical unicorn, the magical witch, the talking animals and monsters, the big bad wolf, the fantasy of a a pauper becoming a princess - do not matter. The framework is simply a safe and fun medium for the introduction of difficult concepts, for example concepts of morality, danger and even death. For example, in the classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood, the concept of stranger danger is introduced in a way that is accessible to and easily understood by little children. In the modern story of the Snail and the Whale (by Julia Donaldson), children are introduced to the concept of friendship and kindness. Fairytales give the children experiences which they may never have had and, in doing so, provide valuable lifelong lessons.

"Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life."
--- Johann C. Friedrich von Schiller

As for the supposed distinction between fantasy (bad) and imagination (good), this is another erroneous conclusion. In reality, Montessori never used the word "fantasy". She spoke Italian and the Italian word she used was more akin to "daydreaming" or, in our local lingo, "stoning". She felt that the child usually drifted off mentally because he was not being engaged in interesting activities. Thus, she was not against "fantasising" and certainly, she did not distinguish between fantasy and imagination. She was simply against neglecting the child and not giving the child opportunities to develop his/her potential.

That boy's father's attempt at explaining the distinction was that, playing with plastic toys and cartoon characters was to delve into fantasy and should be discouraged, while playing with wooden toys and pretending to slice wooden fruit was using imagination and should be encouraged. The boy's mother couldn't explain the distinction at all.

I'm sure you agree that the father's explanation is completely illogical and downright ridiculous. Try that on any rational-minded person and he'll probably look at you as if you've gone bonkers. Anytime there is a talking animal, or a toy or inanimate object coming to life, or a superpower or magic being wielded, that's imagination AND fantasy working hard for you. It doesn't matter if it's a toy or a book or a movie. It doesn't matter if the toy is made of plastic or wood, if the book was published this century or last, or if the movie is about talking animals or beanstalks that grow overnight up to the clouds. It's all fantasy, in its full glory. All borne from someone's rich and unrestricted imagination.

As the little boy's parents could not themselves understand or logically explain the distinction, they were inconsistent in their application. Thus, the child is forbidden the tale of Snow White but allowed the Chinese tale of animals climbing on top one another to reach the clouds. The child is forbidden the tale of the Three Little Pigs but allowed to read the tale of The Gruffalo (incidentally, the tale of The Gruffalo was inspired by a Chinese fairytale). The child is forbidden Barney the Purple Dinosaur but allowed to "feed" his wooden toy crocodile.

Still, although the little boy had some small exposure to fairytales (despite his parents not realising it), he could not reap the benefits, because his parents did not understand the purpose and value of fantasy and fairytales. They crafted their son's exposure with a different purpose and the true value of the fairytale was not utilised - the creative elements were not absorbed and the moral/ethical lessons on right and wrong were ignored.

I think the child was probably so confused that he just stopped imagining altogether. After all, how would a three year-old be able to decide what he could or could not imagine? If you gave him some wooden fruit to cut, what's to stop him from imagining that the fruit could shout out to him, "Stop!" Would he be able to tell himself, no I shouldn't be imagining that because it's not realistic? 

A child uses his imagination to create many scenarios, some may be fantastical, some may be grounded in reality. Why would you want to limit and restrict your child's imagination to only that which is real? This man's son could not imagine talking to a cat, because that's the stuff of fantasy-based imagination. But I'll bet that the creator of Garfield has nothing to be ashamed about. Moreover, what is not real to us now, may be real in the future. The impossible can be made possible, with the power of fantasy. If we all shut ourselves off from fantasy, there would be no inventions, no medical advances, no new methodologies, no new fashion, no explorations - we'd all be stuck in the Stone Age, believing that the world is flat, man could never reach the moon and women cannot wear trousers.

Typically, children deprived of fantasy and fairytales are limited by their parents who see and understand the world in terms of material gain and practical use - people who tend to measure the worth of all teaching in terms of strictly intellectual and "practical" products. That is certainly one way to create an adult, for better or for worse, but, in my view, it's a poor way to bring up a child.

"The diet of babes cannot be determined by the needs of grown-ups. A spiritual malnutrition which starves would soon set in if adult wisdom were imposed on children for their sustenance. The truth is amply illustrated by those pathetic objects of our acquaintance, the men and women who have never been boys and girls."
---Henry Suzzalo

Ok, I think I’ve made my point. You may not agree with me, that's perfectly ok, but please have a better reason than a myth and a misunderstanding.
It is a drastic step to rob your child and to rid his childhood of fantasy and fairytales, so you better have, not just a reason, but a darn good reason for doing so.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bump tales

Today, I will share a bit about my pregnancy. No, I've no news to share about the gender. Let's just call the baby "Beanie" for now. What I want to do in this post is to look back through the past 8 months and connect the events with how the pregnancy was coming along.

We learned that I was pregnant in October last year. It was a happy, eventful month. We went to see Sesame Street Live - Elmo's Green Thumb at Kallang Theatre.

We went to see the US Navy 7th Fleet Band perform live at the Singapore Botanic Gardens where, when I wasn't snapping photos, I was jumping around and bopping about with my boys.

We made a trip to Malaysia to see the family. While we were there, we visited the MV Logos Hope and, yes, I carried Ryan out to the ship and up the gangway of the ship. When we were done, I carried him all the way down again while nursing him at the same time in the hot sweltering sun. Challenging!

Ryan started a new term at Shichida with a new sensei and, in addition to our usual home learning activities, we discovered that he could blend letter sounds and read simple words.

In November, I hit Week 8 of the pregnancy and decided it was time to go see my gynae. Dr Chan was pleased to see us back in his office so soon after we lost our baby in August and he complimented Richard on being a "fast worker"! Everything looked great on the scans and I was still feeling great, even with morning sickness and pregnancy fatigue starting to set in. I took a break from blogging around this time.

The rest of November was spent in a haze of nausea, which I wholly welcomed. There being nothing else to assure me that everything was fine, the nausea was a great comfort. I actually worried when I didn't feel the nausea. I also made several food donations to the toilet bowl. Everytime I did so, I would remind myself that it was a good thing because it meant that my baby was smart and intelligent (there are studies that suggest that the more severe your morning sickness, the smarter your baby), and that I would rather have lots of morning sickness than none at all.

We still went about our normal activities. We watched Jack and the Beanstalk at the DBS Arts Theatre and we watched The Gruffalo as a mini-musical at Forum the Shopping Mall. 

In December, Ryan finished two terms with Julia Gabriel's Edudrama programme and we decided not to continue. At home, we started Ryan on the bottle, although I continued to nurse him at night, and in the day whenever he was with me and if he asked for it. 

We started getting into the mood for Christmas. Days were slow, quiet and relaxed. I started to shake off the pregnancy fatigue and nausea (although I started throwing up more, especially when I ate a little too much!). It wasn't much longer after that when I was well into my second trimester and feeling wonderful.

At the gynae's after Christmas and Boxing Day, we saw Beanie's five fingers on one hand on the scan! About a week after that, in the first week of 2012, we had an amniocentesis done at my gynae's clinic. We opted not to do the detailed scan. While awaiting the amniocentesis results, we kept busy with various events, the most important of which was Ryan's 3rd birthday celebration which we combined with his little friends' birthday celebrations. We had another birthday celebration for Ryan when we went back to Malaysia for Chinese New Year. 

We received the results of the amniocentesis while we were still in Malaysia - all clear! Thank you Lord! A huge worry lifted off our shoulders! Back in Singapore, we saw Beanie's beautiful profile on the scan - perfect nose and lips.

In February, we had a small gathering at home with friends to celebrate Chinese New Year. We were in charge of the food so we spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking, in addition to tidying up and decorating the house. I climbed up and down chairs to reach bookshelves, rearranged furniture - there was nothing I wasn't up for!

Then, there was Valentine's Day, a picnic outing with friends and their children at Botanic Gardens (more cooking!) and Ryan updated his agency shots. Life continued as normal, with lots of trips to the playground, swimming, and home learning. Busy busy busy!

At the end of February, Beanie had developed enough to get a good 3D scan and Dr Chan said, "Pretty baby!"

In March, I entered into my third trimester. I still felt light on my feet and able to take on everything and anything. I started a frenzy of sewing projects, which meant that I was on my feet a lot of the time measuring and cutting patterns and cloth. Beanie had been lagging a little in terms of weight but in March, made a giant leap forward and caught up.

In April, we went to Hong Kong for a "babymoon" and to celebrate my birthday - what better place to spend your birthday than in the "Happiest Place on Earth" - Disneyland! 

We also travelled back to Malaysia to celebrate my father-in-law's and my sister-in-law's birthdays. When we got back, we buckled down and got to work on the pregnancy announcement video.

The scans around this time revealed the hair on Beanie's head - I'm sure that Beanie will have curly hair like Ryan's!

In May, we had a cozy Mother's Day party at home with friends, and I didn't slow down - I prepared most of the food and tidied up the house. Richard and I finally tackled the storeroom - we moved almost everything out and, after sorting through  and ditching the junk, moved what was left back into the storeroom. Admittedly, Richard did much more of the heavy lifting than I did.

So the past 8 months have been filled with lots of happy events and activities. The pregnancy hasn't slowed things down at all and I'm so happy about that because otherwise I would have missed out on a lot!  

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