Friday, May 31, 2013

Just a little nervous

Last Sunday, after Rachel's Shichida class, a very nice lady came up to me and asked, "Are you Leona?". Why yes, I am! It was an absolute pleasure to meet Sandy and her gorgeous little one! We chatted on and on. I felt as if we were already good friends, and her little one and Rachel connected instantly. It is wonderful to know that we can make connections and forge friendships through this little space on the worldwideweb and I am always, always grateful for the goodwill and warm wishes for Ryan and Rachel. Everytime a reader reaches out, it feels like we are part of a loving community - it is an amazing feeling.

If you are coming to Ryan's showcase this Sunday, do say hello! Our entire little family will be there. I can't guarantee that everything will go as planned at the event - nervous nervous - I'm praying for positive vibes and leaving everything to the powers that be.

Richard and I spent two or three nights last week putting together a short video for the event which will be screened just before Ryan takes the stage. It shows some of what Ryan normally does at home plus some of his "hobbies" like swimming and modelling. Existing readers will recognise some snippets from the blog, plus there will be some new "previously unreleased" video footage as well.

Leading up to the event, we are going to be spending the weekend in as lazy a manner as possible - there's no violin class this weekend and Rachel has no Shichida class either. We have been getting to bed rather late over the past few nights, so squeezing in some naptime is going to be a goal. Hope your weekend will be restful too.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Updates on Rachel

Some significant updates this week. Firstly, babydoll is standing up without assistance! I ticked it off after I caught her standing on her feet for about half a minute (after which she got distracted by something and crawled off). From a squatting position, she can push up into a stand entirely on her own, and from a standing position, she can lower herself into a squat and then a sit.

It's very strange to see her standing on her own! It's almost as if something is missing. I still worry that she's vulnerable and I still feel the urge to provide physical support. I have to consciously restrain myself from reaching out to her. She doesn't seem particularly amazed that she is standing up, so I don't want to make it seem like a big deal and risk stressing her.

In a less earth-shattering development, babydoll's hair has grown long enough to get into her eyes and cause her discomfort. We haven't had the heart to trim it though. Well, matters came to a head (bad pun, I know!) and her nanny came up with the obvious solution - tie up lah! 

Here she is sneaking up on the dog. I think this "flower" on the top of her head makes her looks even more like a doll.

I've been digging up the hair accessories that I've accumulated for her, although I don't have many - now I have good reason to collect more!

In very-important-to-me news, Richard and babydoll have moved back into our master bedroom! I mentioned a few weeks ago that we paired up and slept in different rooms. I put Ryan to bed while Rachel went with Richard. It was part of an effort to wean Rachel off night latching and to give her the chance to consistently sleep through the night. I felt that I was actually preventing her from getting a good night's rest because, if she woke up during the night the first thing I did was to put her on the breast. It was the fastest way to quiet her and put her back to sleep. If I didn't do that, Rachel would fuss and search for the breast herself and then Ryan would wake and, realising that the buffet line was open, he would want his share. Rachel would wake a few times and she would wake Ryan up at least once of those times. It was physically shattering on me, to be honest.

The tipping point came when I was so ill and not recovering because I was not getting sufficient rest. Richard put his foot down and split us up. I was horrified at the idea but Richard didn't waver. He took care of Rachel throughout the night while I continued our existing routine with Ryan. I recovered after a couple of good nights and Richard reported good progress with Rachel so we continued on for a bit, and last week, we re-united everyone under one air-conditioner. I'm pleased to record that we are all doing very well now.

Eating! Always a hot topic when it comes to babies. As babydoll is so easygoing about food, we find ourselves taking extra care in selecting food for her. I give her a lot of finger food and she really enjoys that. I should point out that I am not adopting baby-led weaning for Rachel. Some people think that giving finger food to your children means you are doing baby-led weaning - nope, that's completely off. That's like saying your bicycle is the same as your neighbour's Aston Martin, just because they both have wheels.

Baby-led weaning is a method that was marketed as "helping your baby love good food". However, having tried baby-led weaning with Ryan, I can tell you that Ryan is a very picky eater, so I wouldn't swear by it as a preventive measure against picky eating. As for Rachel, well, she already loves food and I don't think that's going to change soon, so I don't think we need to do baby-led weaning. I just don't believe that spoonfeeding breakfast cereal to her is going to switch off her love for food. 
There are some principles of baby-led weaning which I find to be true and useful and I do bear these in mind. First one is, babies are generally happier about food that they can touch and feel with their hands. Second, if your baby says she has had enough food, then she has had enough food - trust her and don't force her to take more. Third, eat together as a family - this includes your baby - and make it an enjoyable time. She will learn that a meal is an occasion, she can see how cutlery is used, etc. Fourth, try to let your baby eat the same dishes that the rest of the family eats.
I would still recommend reading the book on baby-led weaning because there are lots of good insights in there and some useful perspectives on feeding solids. If you have a picky eater you might even want to give the method a go. I guess it really depends from child to child.

Some modelling action going on there - in the set of photos above, Rachel is in a white Tommy Hilfiger dress which Shann bought for her from USA in April. I love how the skirt poofs up!

Last photo for today - Here's babydoll on our Miata. We've just sold this car and I'm feeling very very sentimental right now. I'll write more about it in another post.

That's all for now. Till next time, then.

If you have children attending Shichida classes (whether at Springleaf or Toa Payoh), do come and meet Ryan this Sunday, 2 June 2013, at the Makoto Club showcase at the Toa Payoh branch. The event starts at 5.30 pm. Not to worry if you can only come later - Ryan only gets on stage during the later segment - "Meet a Shichida Genius", which should start around 6 pm. I understand from the staff that they usually get a crowd of about 80 people (including children) and the crowd is usually a bit rowdy because the children run and walk about, so I'm imagining that it will be quite a friendly, casual event.

There will be another student at the showcase. I haven't met her yet but, if you know Tan Wen Yu, do come and support her too. I'm looking forward to seeing her on Sunday.

After the students' performances, there will be a question-and-answer session with their parents (including me), so it will be a good opportunity to find out more about Shichida parenting and home activities. Hopefully, I can give you something helpful to take away from the session!

For today's post, in addition to plugging Sunday's event (heh heh), I want to talk about the importance of the right part of the brain. I have heard people say many things about the "right brain" and about "right brain training" and, most of the time, their comments are over-simplistic to me. There are also some comments which don't make sense to me. So I thought that I would explain a little about how the right part of the brain contributes to our everyday life and, hopefully, that will shed a little light on how important it is. What I've posted here is a result of reading up here and there. If you would like the sources or some reading material, let me know.

First of all, it's just not true that most people don't use their right brains. Everyone with an intact brain (ie. no brain damage or anything like that) uses the left and right parts of their brains. At its very basic, if you can lift your left hand, tap your left foot, turn your head to the left - that's the right part of the brain working. That's why stroke victims who suffer damage to their right brain have difficulty moving the left parts of their body, and vice versa.

Second, the left part of the brain processes things in sequence, while the right part of the brain processes things simultaneously. So sequential functions like talking, writing and reading - these are performed by the left part of the brain. Recognising faces, identifying shapes, getting a feel of situations - these are performed by the right brain.

Third, the left part of the brain breaks things down into details, while the right part of the brain puts details together to see the big picture. So, activities such as sorting and categorising - left part of the brain does all that. On the other hand, the right part of the brain sees relationships and connections, even between elements which are very different. It gives us the power to invent, create, and synthesise.

Fourth, the left part of the brain handles text, while the right part of the brain handles context. Nothing new here - let's say I tell you that it's raining "cats and dogs". The left part of the brain will think literally of cats and dogs falling from the sky, while the right part of the brain will process it as a metaphor. This applies to emotional context as well - the right part of the brain connects details such as body language, facial expressions, etc. and uses those details to provide the context to what we say. So if my husband tells me that it's ok, but rolls his eyes at the same time, the right part of my brain will understand that it's really not ok.

Sometimes you hear people say how the left brain "takes over" when the right brain isn't active or isn't strong enough. I've said that myself, usually because I don't want to launch into a big explanation. In fact, that is an over simplification and is not accurate. Both parts of the brain contribute to nearly everything we do, although one part may be more active in a particular activity. Each part approaches things differently and both approaches are necessary for us to navigate life.

I was brought up in an age where the more facts you could hold in your memory bank and the faster you could recall them, the better and the smarter you were. I believe that this is changing now. Now, information is so easily accessible. At a click of a button, you can find out a million and more facts. People self-diagnose their medical ailments from reading websites, from sending out queries to forums and Facebook friends. I can learn how to play a guitar, how to sew a blouse, how to say "I love you" in Japanese, and how to roast a chicken - all from Youtube.

So, if a computer can pull up information and do it faster and cheaper, where does that leave us?

Well, I believe that the people who have the greatest chance of success in the future will be people who are creative and people who have high emotional quotient (people who have empathy). People who, having all the facts, can take matters a step further to design solutions, come up with new ideas and new perspectives, and initiate progress. People who see and create beauty - because, out of the twenty different models of washing machines you see at the store, the bestseller is the one with the good looks. And people who infuse empathy into their relationships and fill their lives with meaning. All these people will be more right brain driven.

This post is an overview but I hope it gives you some insight into how I view right brain training. It also explains why I emphasise certain right brain training activities and de-emphasise others. If you have any questions, feel free to email me or, even better, come down for the showcase on Sunday!

On Friday evening, we met up with some friends at the Build-a-Bear Workshop at Harbourfront mall and each child had their own soft toy made for them! Here's Victoria with her dog, Brayden with his rabbit and Ryan with his dog. Rou Ern, who arrived later, also chose a dog (which she put on rollerskates!).

Here's Ryan, at the start - the stuffing. It takes less than five minutes and you can stuff your toy as firm or as soft as you want.

Testing for optimum huggability.

Putting hearts into the soft toys, after filling the hearts with good wishes and good traits.

A good bath to shake off the past and to prepare for all the goodness to come!

Dressing up! Ryan initially chose a fireman outfit for his dog, but when he saw the Buzz Lightyear gear, there was no turning back. "To Infinity and Beyond!", he said, oh so excitedly!

Birth certificate and ownership details. Ryan chose the name, which was - you guessed it - Buzz. This boy has a very focused and clear vision. Hahaha!

We spent about $50 on Buzz and his outfit, after a credit card discount of 10%. The price will vary according to the toy and the outfit and accessories that you choose - and the range of stuff is really quite amazing (or alarming, if you are thinking about your wallet!).

All in all - good fun! The staff at the workshop were great with the children and made the experience a lot more meaningful than just picking up a soft toy. There were a lot of nice touches - making wishes for their new buddies, giving them baths, giving them names and birth certificates, choosing outfits and identities - everything adds to the emotional bank and enriches the experience.

After everyone was done, we went for dinner at Bosses Restaurant at the adjoining Vivocity mall. The restaurant could only accommodate our big group (13 plus 3 babies!) at two tables, so the daddies squeezed with the four pre-schoolers at the smaller table, while the ladies and babies took the bigger table. On hindsight, we should have swopped tables because the men ordered (and ate) so much food! They even walloped the leftovers from the ladies table! It's probably because they didn't have to make conversation with us - what a joy for them! - they just focused on eating! Hahaha!

After our competitive dinner, we adjourned to the ground floor so that the children could take the train ride around the mall. It starts and ends at the mall entrance next to Starbucks. A ticket costs $5 and the trip takes about ten minutes.

Here are the cuties, waiting for the train!

Ryan realised that their tickets had numbers on them and insisted that they all sit according to their ticket numbers.  His was number 5, which was the last, so he went to the back of the queue.

Bye bye Mama! See you later!

Back from their ride! They spent the rest of the outing running around outside Starbucks while the parents indulged in some "kopi". There were a few skirmishes, but generally they were happy to be in each other's company.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Art Garden 2013 at SAM at 8Q

Two years ago, after we went to Art Garden 2011, I (and Richard) wrote a scathing post about how it did not live up to its proclaimed intention to be "interactive" and children-centric. An anonymous reader described my post as a "damn bitchy entry" and said that I should have tried to "explain to my offspring the point of it". I was so pleased to see that comment! It highlighted exactly the point of what my post was about - that the children's experience was limited to standing in front of the exhibits while their parents explained the exhibits to them. That was all they could do.

I brought Ryan to the exhibition in 2011 because it touted itself as being "interactive". My idea of "interacting" with the exhibit was something more than my son nodding his head while I espoused the values of art and creative technique. In addition, my "offspring" was two years old and would not have taken kindly to me going on and on about the artist's vision and intention, motives and message. Let's not even harbour hope of my son entering in dialogue about the exhibits - he had yet to string a sentence together at that time.

We had just returned from USA where we'd visited a children's museum, where all the exhibits were interactive. Ryan thoroughly enjoyed himself there. In contrast, the exhibits at Art Garden 2011 did not engage him. They did not even interest him. I would not have been honest if I had minced my words when I reviewed the exhibition. It was so far from what it should have and could have achieved. I was frustrated and annoyed - the artists could have been more sensitive to their target audience and I felt as if they didn't bother to do any research on children's museums or children's art.

Art for children, especially very young children, needs to be interactive, accessible, tangible and tactile. In those areas, Art Garden 2011 scored zero for most of its exhibits. In addition, I felt that there was little understanding of how children learn and experience things. I do know *a little* about early childhood education so I'm not talking out of my arse.

This year's Art Garden? Without a doubt - TWO THUMBS UP! I wholeheartedly recommend that you bring your little ones there. If you attended Art Garden 2011 and you also thought that my post was "damn bitchy" and "unappreciative", please, please go to Art Garden 2013. You will understand exactly what I meant when I wrote that 2011 post. It's only when you know the standards that can be attained that you will realise how far short Art Garden 2011 fell and how much improvement could be made. And Art Garden 2013 is indeed a vast improvement.

Ironically, there is no mention of the exhibition being "interactive". Yet it absolutely is. And the children love it! In stark contrast to two years ago, all of the exhibits in Art Garden 2013 are touchable, feel-able and absolutely accessible. There is nothing to explain - the children get it straightaway. The evidence is right before your eyes - the children are engaged, keen and happy.

I won't go into the details of the exhibits here because you can read about all that on the website. I'm just recording our visit and sharing with you how happy Ryan was. You can compare the photos we took at the 2011 exhibition and see the difference! In 2011, he asked to be carried through the exhibition. Here, you can see him playing, touching and being absolutely engaged. Brilliant.

Ryan's drawing being screened on the Mirror Mirror on the Wall.
There was plenty of opportunity for the children to make their own art. Unlike in 2011 where they were given paper fruit to fold (which could only realistically be accomplished by older children and adults), this time, the art was accessible to all. Ryan came away with a kaleidoscope and a mask, both of which he proudly made himself.

We bumped into one of Ryan's classmates at this station, where the children were colouring and making kaleidoscopes.

All of us had a great time. Although geared towards children, adults aren't left out. The experiences will appeal to people of all ages. I found myself eager and looking forward to the next station. Ryan was very keen - he would excitedly call out, "Let's go over here!" when we approached a new station.

This was an interesting room - the sound room. You speak into the microphone and the graphics on the walls change according to the changes in the tone and pitch of your voice. Cool stuff. Ryan danced around the room and then gamely went up to the microphone and sang a song. He was intrigued and amazed at the moving and changing graphics and patterns on the walls.

So, I have all praise for this year's Art Garden. The students at Republic Polytechnic did an outstanding job. Great show - thoughtful and simple, unpretentious and educational, inclusive and respectful, and fun, fun, fun. Do attend if you can!

The exhibition is on till 1 September 2013. Admission is free for Singaporeans, PRs, senior citizens, full time NSFs, local students and teachers, as well as all children 6 and under. Visitors can also enjoy free entry every Friday from 6pm – 9pm and on Open House days.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Visiting Rou Ern in the hospital

After three posts on what we did on Saturday, it's time to move on! Our Sunday was quite the usual fare. Except that all of us were so tired from our Saturday exertions that we overslept and had to rush out the door for the children's classes. We were still late, of course.

I was still feeling half a human and stoning in the hallway after Rachel's Shichida class, when a blog reader came up to me and asked me, "Are you Leona?" Oh! Ah. My first reaction was happy surprise. My second reaction was dammit, why am I looking like I hadn't washed my hair for days? (Probably because that was in fact the case. Heh heh. Serves me right for thinking I could get away with it.) Anyway, in all seriousness, I was very happy to meet "M" and her good-looking child. It is always, always a pleasure to know that I share this space with other people.

In Shichida-related news, remember this post where I mentioned that Ryan had been selected as a Shichida Genius? I said that the showcase would be in March, but the centre decided to have it in June. So if you're a Shichida parent and if you are free on 2 June 2013, hop on over to the Shichida branch at Toa Payoh to see Ryan! Bring your family too! I will be there also - there will be a Q&A session with me so you can ask questions about Ryan, parenting and Shichida. How does that sound?

Ok, let's get back to our happening updates. Monday was busy busy busy because we spent half the afternoon visiting Ryan's good friend in the hospital. Rou Ern had come down with an infection and, to be on the safe side, her mom admitted her into hospital. Everything is well and good - Rou Ern was discharged on Tuesday with a clean bill of health. Hop on over to Shann's blog for the details.

We headed over to see Rou Ern after I picked Ryan up from school. Rou Ern wasn't contagious so I hoped that it would cheer her up to spend some time with a friend, plus Ryan is quite fond of Rou Ern so he would be happy to see her. 

Look at the grin on Rou Ern's face! 

Ryan brought along two sets of magnetic wooden letters and a set of numbers. He was so happy playing with them that he hardly ate his lunch. I bought two Happy Meals from McDonald's for the kids, but they hardly touched the meals - they were just too distracted with each other and with the letters. Ee Fann (Rou Ern's dad) and I sat on the floor, eating our own McDonald's meals and chatting while the children carried on their business.

We were there for more than two hours! I didn't expect to stay so long but ... well... just check out the happiness on this girl's face! I just could not bear to tear Ryan away.

Pinched the last photo from Shann, who arrived later to replace Ee Fann. Ryan is actually watching the TV in that photo, hence his slightly zoned out expression. This was in between other activities - both of them jumping up and down on the bed (despite Rou Ern being attached to an antibiotic drip); pretending that they were camping under the blankets; and chatting away.

Last night, I asked Ryan if he would like to call Rou Ern and he said yes, so I made a call to Shann. Ryan asked Rou Ern if she was feeling better and the two children chatted for a while. It was so adorable to hear them go on and on. Rou Ern and her family are leaving Singapore soon, so hopefully we will be able to meet up again for a proper outing before their departure.

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