Saturday, June 29, 2013

A good Saturday

My ambition for the weekend is to restore sanity to my home. The lights are getting replaced and fixed, the floor is going to get a good mop, and I am going to excavate and evacuate as much as I can.

This was the scene this morning when the lighting contractors came to replace our light bulbs and some of our light fittings. As my home brightened up, so did my mood.

After a late lunch at home, we ventured out to Kinokuniya at Ngee Ann City. Picked up a load of books from there and proceeded to Sabai for dinner. Ryan was asleep the whole time. Rachel was awake so we took turns to eat and look after her. She no longer wants to sit in the high chair and is always moving about, so one of us has to be completely focused on her at all times.

Ryan woke up after dinner but he was disinterested and unenthusiastic and wanted to lie in the stroller. But hey hey! Look who we bumped into!

Yes, it's his good pal, Brayden! We were in the lift down to the car park at B3 when the lift stopped at the atrium at B2 and, through the open doors, we saw the kids' fair going on. We decided to hop out and take a look. We had been searching for a white shirt for Ryan and hadn't had any luck at Takashimaya, so we thought we'd try the fair. As fate would have it, Brayden and family were at the fair too! And look - both boys are wearing Superman T-shirts! How coincidental is that?!!

Ryan perked up immediately upon seeing Brayden, practically leaping out of the stroller. Brayden and family had yet to have their dinner and Ryan needed his dinner too, so we latched ourselves onto them and we all went to Crystal Jade Kitchen. The two boys spent the night running around, talking, laughing, hugging and holding hands.

We were the last ones to leave the restaurant and we were also among the last few cars to leave the mall. The littles fell asleep soon after we got home, as it was already pretty late by that time. A good day, I'm sure everyone will have sweet dreams.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Simple life - buying fruit

I thought I'd share some on-the-go shots and snippets of our day-to-day life with the littles.

Some days when I fetch Ryan from school and arrive at his nanny's place, I park near a fruit/fruit juice shop. After I park the car, I will look back at Ryan sitting in his car seat and ask him if he wants to buy some guava. He always says yes. I will give him some money and he will keep it carefully in his hand while we cross the busy road to the shop. As we walk, I ask him, "What are you going to say to Aunty?" and we talk about what he should do. I will remind him of the social niceties - to say Hello Aunty, Please, Thank You, Bye Bye Aunty and See You! We talk about the money he is holding - how much it is, whether he needs change, the denominations of the coins or notes, how much one packet of guava costs. We talk about whether he will share his guava with anyone (he always says Bella - but Bella is no longer looked after by his nanny).

This is the shop, and you can see the shopkeeper inside (the one with the checkered apron and her hair up in a bun). She looks like a lovely lady.

I say that the shopkeeper "looks" like a lovely lady because I've never actually spoken to her. When we reach the shop, I always stay a distance away and let Ryan go in by himself. After all, the whole point of discussing what to do and what to say is so that he can do the task on his own, without me. In any case, I know that the shopkeeper will guide him if he needs help. So I keep my distance. The shopkeeper and I smile knowingly at each other from afar, both of us understanding that this is a good experience for Ryan - he feels capable, he feels independent, he feels confident.

There is usually a queue but Ryan always goes straight to the shopkeeper, bypassing everyone. The shopkeeper always serves him first no matter how long the queue. Ryan has been visiting this shop ever since he was an infant in his nanny's arms and the shopkeeper adores him. I would prefer him to queue up but that is just not going to happen here. The shopkeeper treats him like a superstar and, of course, I love that she does.

After the shopkeeper has packed up the guava for Ryan and hung the bag on his arm, she will give him a hug. No matter how busy her shop is, that hug is a guarantee. Then, Ryan will wave and say Bye Bye! as he skips out to me. He reports with a grin, "I said Thank You!" and I know he isn't telling me for the sake of getting my approval. He is bubbling over with joy and sharing his joy with me, knowing that he did a "Great Job".

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Silver linings

I'm back in the office today! After four days of being a SAHM, playing on the floor, and pee-ing with the door open, it's time to get re-acquainted with the view of the haze from my office window. The view is much better than when we left for KL on Friday night.

This was the sky when we drove back into Singapore on Sunday night - the moon was a pink-orange yolk hovering just above the horizon. The more polluted the air is, the more gorgeous the moon. Silver lining in every cloud.

I have been juggling, juggling and juggling these past few weeks. We've been travelling quite a lot and being away means that things on my to-do list will pile up. I have lots of household chores to do - and yes, I do wish I had help but where would an outsider even know where to begin? Every single horizontal space in my house is covered with stuff, even the floor. There is only space to walk from one disaster zone to another. I have a part-time maid who comes in once a week to mop the floor and iron the clothes. She hasn't been around for three weeks, because we've been travelling, and this week I will be so embarrassed to see her. Maybe I should tell her not to come. There's no empty floor space for her to mop, anyway.

In my four days of being a SAHM, I won only one battle with my home - I overpowered the laundry basket. Keeping up with the laundry appears to be the only household chore that gets done at the moment, so I'm not going to let that go to pieces, even if it kills me. Silver lining in every cloud.

Ryan and his cousin, Jerica, playing with his letters at the restaurant. Ryan is wearing the box for the letters on his head.

I started 2013 with the resolution that I would simplify. Simplify my home, simplify my life. Yet, as at today, 26 June 2013, I have more stuff in my home than I had at the start of the year. The children's playroom has become a storeroom, the study is crammed so full of stuff that you have to squeeze your way through to the computer, the sunroom upstairs has become another storeroom, I've started hanging my clothes on a clothes rack because my wardrobe is full (of clothes I don't wear), our shoerack is spilling over with shoes that are too small or just broken, our stovetop is piled up with more stuff ... Oh, I don't know what to say.

Then there are so many things that don't work - the living room lights have not been working for months, the LED light in the stairway has not been working for more than a year, the music system in the living room doesn't work, our fibre-optic internet doesn't work (and Singtel doesn't seem to be able to fix it), what oh what is happening.

I guess the lesson is - I don't need much. We buy ten things, we use only two. Yet, in our messy out-of-order home, the four of us still laugh and play and hug and bond. Even as the haze forces us indoors, even as our home closes in on us, even as our available space contracts, even as we are forced to limit our adventures to the mat in the living room, our little family is happy, contented and learning to live with each other. Silver lining in every cloud.

Apart from boring household chores, I've got some interesting things on my to-do list, lots of ideas, lots of plans. I always have ideas simmering on my stove (the stove in my brain. the stove in my home is buried under a mountain of stuff, remember). The more stressed I am, the more ideas I have. Maybe it's my way of focusing. Maybe it's my way of escaping. Maybe it's just my way.

I do have a few actual projects now and that has been a huge pleasure for me - to know that I can still accomplish something, even if I can't accomplish everything. Which gives me hope that one day I will, I will, I will accomplish everything. In the meantime, small steps, little achievements, tiny pats on my back.

And hey - now that I've come to the end of this post, I realise that I've answered the most popular question from readers - "how do you do it all"? I can finally tick that off my to-do list. Silver lining in every cloud.

Rachel with her favourite Uncle Kenneth, and her cousin Justin.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Back home and staying at home

We got back on Sunday, greeted by clear skies and upbeat spirits. Funny how the weather affects everyone's mood. The haze hit KL hard on Sunday so we felt doubly blessed. We bought two air purifiers in KL and stuffed them in our car boot with our luggage - now that's what I call a big boot. If the haze returns, we plan to give one to our nanny.

Our nanny is on holiday for a few days so I'm at home with the littles till she gets back. It is tiring but good. Except when it comes to nap time! Not good! The littles tend not to nap when i am home with them - it is a departure from their routine so maybe they think they don't have to nap? Where is the 'OFF' button on these two?? Haha!

Actually, it's all good. During naptime, we lie down and we talk, and I'm just as guilty as Ryan for starting new conversation topics instead of focusing on sleeping. Relaxed and physically in contact, it is a natural moment for bonding and connecting. So we talk. About anything. About everything.

I guess naptime becomes frustrating because I want to go do something else. But really, when I think about it, isn't having a quiet moment bonding with my son something to be cherished? And really, does it matter if he falls asleep or not? He is already four and a half, having some quiet downtime does go a long way in providing a pressure release, so I shouldn't be worrying about that part. So, when I feel like time is being wasted as I wait for him to fall asleep, I think about it and realize how absurd I am to feel that way. Lying down, chatting quietly with him, sharing secrets and jokes, fears and hopes, I am making the best possible use of my time. If I were to give this up to do my chores... well, that would be a waste then, wouldn't it?

Here are some photos of the littles - hope they entertain you as much as they entertain me!

Today, I'm sharing some excerpts from Ryan's pre-school portfolio for his last term in N2.

This is the summary:
Ryan is a curious learner, challenging his own understandings as he researches and investigates new ideas. He is able to make connections with his prior knowledge and now verbally shares his ideas as well. During our inquiry "There are many ways we express ourselves" Ryan developed a strong awareness that he can communicate his ideas and theories, using graphic representation to support his intentions. As he explored different line formation through symbolic languages Ryan also developed his repertoire of different languages and forms of representations. He continues to revisit the light space and is fascinated by the different qualities of light. During our inquiry "The possibilities of different types of light", Ryan was engaged in an independent exploration and observed two of his peers also engaging in a similar representation of rainbows. He was able to sustain his concentration on his own representation and also support and question his friends, demonstrating flexible thinking and also considering new possibilities as he listened to their ideas.
Ryan has a good knowledge of familiar aspects of written language, using spelling patterns and high frequency words in his independent writing. He is able to use his knowledge of visual memory cues when reading story books. With encouragement, he is beginning to make connections with personal experiences and story book characters.
Ryan also has a good awareness of number, using numerals during writing experiences to sequence ideas. He is able to identify numerals and is fascinated by patterns with numbers, using a 100 square grid to explore relationships with numerals. He is a methodical thinker, using his prior knowledge to support his new understandings and is able to respond to questions, with increasing confidence. During our inquiry "People play to explore and learn" Ryan worked with a group of friends investigating light spectrums, he revisited his thinking over a period of several days and used writing as a tool for communication to share his ideas. With encouragement Ryan is beginning to share his thinking during morning meetings, using his own drawings or a prop to support his sharing.
This is the summary by his Mandarin teacher:
Ryan enjoys listening to stories, reading picture books and watching performances with increasing attention, eg. singing "The Rabbit" song. He displays increasing interest to use language to interact with teachers and peers in a familiar environment in learning Mandarin. Ryan also demonstrates keen interest in learning new Mandarin vocabulary and is able to name simple basic strokes. For Ryan's reading progress in Mandarin, he is able to recognize simple characters as well as the strokes to form a Chinese character. He is also able to compare and follow the strokes to form the Chinese numerical characters. Ryan explores core cultural festivals of Chinese: Spring festivals and other related festivals.
Here are a few of the reports on selected experiences:

As Lewis began to cut out smaller pieces of paper, Ryan observed Lewis's action and began to cut a shape from his paper. He returned to the light spectrum several times to check and see if he was following the curved line he created with his paper. Ryan used his prior knowledge of rainbow forms to support his intention, connecting the curved form with the light spectrum, he worked purposefully and quietly as he executed his idea.
Ryan's representation demonstrated a strong understanding of his own intention as he explored the possibilities with white paper. It is interesting to see how each child has a unique perspective and Ryan observed Lewis's idea of using his scissors and then used it to support his own intention. Ryan demonstrated a good awareness of scientific understandings, using scientific vocabulary to explain his observations, connecting with his prior knowledge. He also used mathematical concepts associated with shapes, using language such as "curve" and "over" to describe the shape of the rainbow.
Another one:

Harrison and Ryan engaged in a representational experience at the light table, using the small pieces of glass mosaic they began to sort the pieces into different colours, using a spectrum of red/pink, orange/yellow, blue/green, black/white as they organized the pieces into different pots. Once they had finished Harrison began to build a line, using the blue coloured pieces. Ryan observed Harrison and began to add mosaic pieces to his line. "Are you helping me?" Harrison asked as he began to place each piece. "Yes! I can help you making the line", Ryan replied. "Yes let's do it together! We are making a rainbow spiral!" Harrison exclaimed. "Oh a rainbow spiral, I know that!" Ryan replied.
The boys worked purposefully, sustaining their interest for over 20 minutes until all of the pieces had been used. "See it's empty! The rainbow spiral is ready!" Harrison shared. "Yes, the rainbow spiral is sooooooo beautiful!" Ryan responded. Miss Lucy then invited the boys to record a sign for their work so they could share their ideas with their friends.
Ryan and Harrison worked comfortably together as they built a relationship with a new peer, both boys sustained their attention for a long period of time, working alongside each other as they took turns to place the glass pieces. They used verbal communication to share ideas as they observed each other's actions, collaborating on a shared idea towards a representation. Ryan used drawing as a tool to support his intention, drawing the shape or "design" of the rainbow spiral. They both used writing as a visual form of sharing a message, writing their names to communicate to others their work.
Another experience:
Ryan continued to explore with recycled toilet rolls by cutting them into halves. He observed that his "cut-out circles" are actually semi-circles which resembles a rainbow - "it looks like a rainbow". When he placed these semi-circles on the mirror table, he discovered "it is a circle again!" Ryan then shared that he would like to build on his idea the next day so Miss Faith invited him to write his name next to his rainbow shapes project. Ryan readily agreed and wrote his name down independently.
Ryan displayed a clear mathematical conceptual understanding of circles and its properties. He associated circles and semi-circles to the rainbows he had created independently. Ryan identified the relationship between these shapes and the rainbow and he understood that 2D and 3D shapes have characteristics that can be described and compared. Even as Ryan went on to explore the semi-circle shape with the recycled toilet paper rolls (3D), he identified the reflection of it and connected it to a full circle.
That one was nice to know because Ryan and I had been working with 2D and 3D shapes at home at the time, using Montessori materials. 

I like the next two experiences! Made me smile!

Ryan engaged in a graphic representation to explore his ideas of how rainbows are made, he drew a large circle, "This is the egg" he commented. "Do you think rainbows are born in an egg?" Miss Lucy asked Ryan. "Yes, they grow in an egg like a born then they come out and make a rainbow shape." He drew a curved rainbow shape with a bird inside, "See this is the bird in an egg" he commented, using verbal language to share his intentions.
The following day we invited Ryan to record a label for his drawing, connecting visual and written forms of communications. "What would you like to share about your drawing?" "The bird is growing in an egg and rainbows also grow in an egg" Ryan responded. Using his knowledge of letter-sound correspondence and sight vocabulary Ryan then confidently recorded the sentence "rainbow grow egg like a bird. The rainbow colors come from the egg."
Ryan confidently engaged in writing for a purpose, using familiar aspects of written language with confidence and accuracy, using spelling patterns and high frequency words. He identified a mis-spelling with the word "from", recording it as "form". He could proof read his own own writing and make corrections, demonstrating a strong awareness of the purpose of writing.

During one of our morning meetings, we discussed and shared ideas about how we think rainbows are made. Ryan participated actively in the discussion and shared his idea with the group. "I think the rainbow is from an egg. It cracks open and the rainbow comes out like this (fuzzy lines). Then, it will change into the rainbow shape on the egg. Then it goes back to the egg."
Ryan represented his ideas through drawing and was observed to be independently engaged in his thoughts and representations. He created a "life cycle of a rainbow" through his pictorial representation and was clear in the steps of how a rainbow is formed.
Ryan developed his own theory and created a "life cycle" of a rainbow. He communicated his ideas and provided explanations using his own scientific experience about how a rainbow is created. He also demonstrated the use of scientific vocabulary to explain his observations and experiences, using words like, "cracks open" and "change into rainbow shape". Ryan displayed confidence in sharing his personal theory in a large group setting and did not waver when his friends suggested different ideas to how a rainbow is created. He remained focused as he depicted his understanding and personal theory down pictorially.
There are a couple more experiences in the portfolio, which I won't share here. This has turned out to be a very long post! Anyway, just to end off - looks like Ryan is doing really well in school, enjoying himself, interacting well, and learning so much. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Bird Family is flying off

We are taking off for the weekend! The haze situation is ridiculous! We are off in search of the sun and better air quality! At this very moment, we are in the car waiting to cross over to Malaysia. The queue at Malaysian immigration is horrendously long - looks like we are not the only ones who came up with this brilliant getaway plan.

I will try to post over the weekend, to try to keep the updates current. In the meantime, have a look at the photo above. It's something Ryan drew this week at school. It's Papa bird, Mama bird, Ryan bird (also known as Brother bird) and Rachel bird (also known as Mei Mei bird). Aren't they adorable? His teacher helped him to cut them out for him to bring home and I put them together in a picture frame. Love it, love it.

I've collected his portfolio for this term and will share snippets of it on the blog soon. There are some interesting reports in there!

Ryan has finished three terms of N2 and will advance to K1 in August. Today was his last day in N2 and there was a small send-off party. He went around giving all his teachers hugs and his Mandarin teacher was in tears. What a year it has been for him - from not talking much to now explaining his theories and telling his own bedtime stories, from being an observer on the sidelines to becoming a contributing member of a community, from being the newbie in school to gaining independence and learning to clear his lunch plate and utensils and taking care of his belongings - he has blossomed wonderfully!

We chose Ryan's school because of its curriculum which we hoped would nurture his love for learning, his creativity, and his critical thinking skills, as well as hone his communication and social skills, and it has certainly done that. We can't wait to see what the next year will bring! A big thank you to his N2 teachers - they were Ryan's very first school teachers and we will miss all of them!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

In other non-haze related news...

I have nothing fresh to contribute to the hot topic of the day (ie. the haze), so I'm sharing some photos from our recent trip to KL, which coincided with Father's Day.

The kids got to spend some time with their grandmother from Australia.

Rachel still likes her uncle very much (my brother). She is starting to fuss when strangers pick her up now, but she never fusses with him.

On Father's Day, we went out with the family to celebrate the three fathers: Richard's dad, Jimmy and Richard. Jimmy couldn't join us for dinner so we continued the celebration at Margaret's house after that with Jimmy there.

Here's Rachel wearing a dress that Richard's parents bought for her for her birthday.

Here are my boys, the next day, at a restaurant called "Departure Lounge" in Uptown.

The trip was short and sweet. Rachel spent every night sleeping in her grandmother's room, which gave Richard and me a good rest. Ryan had lots of fun with his cousins and declared to us that, "I love Malaysia!" 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Celebrating Rachel's birthday again

On Rachel's actual birthday (yesterday), we took the family out for dinner at House at Dempsey. We planned to let Ryan have their truffle fries but Ryan fell asleep just as we arrived at the restaurant! We were determined to carry on, so I carried him into the restaurant and the staff let us have the setting with the couch so that he could carry on sleeping.

Rachel had all our attention then! She enjoyed herself - munching on truffle fries and climbing onto the table. Happy little one year old!

Babydoll wouldn't stay belted in her high chair so we took turns to eat and look after her. Richard ate first and when he cradled her in his arms afterwards while I ate, babydoll quickly fell asleep. That was the end of her birthday dinner, and the start of dinner for Richard and I. We both sat down, relaxed and had unhurried grown-up dinner conversation. We even ordered dessert! We lingered and lounged about for a long time, until the restaurant emptied out and we reluctantly decided that we should get everyone home.

A good night for Richard and I, even if it didn't turn out the way we planned. Happy birthday Rachel darling, and a pat on the back for Richard and me, on our first anniversary as parents of two.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Happy Birthday Rachel

My dearest Rachel,

Just when I think that you could not possibly be cuter bopping your head and shaking your butt to the beat, you get up on your feet under the high chair and start pole-dancing. Just when I think I'm going to give you your first scolding ever (for testing your new teeth while latching), you smile and wave and clap your hands at me, because you know I'm going to smile and wave and clap right back at you. Just when I think your brother is going to upset you with his possessive and obsessive hold over his alphabet blocks, you grin and yell right back at him. Your playful "AH!" to his insistent "NO", each of you yelling in turn until you make your brother see your point of view and the both of you dissolve in laughter.

You bring the sun out when you smile, a high-wattage grin that banishes every worry and heals every sadness. When you are sad, you are the saddest little girl around, your head and shoulders drooping under the weight of your woes. And when you are shy, you are the sweetest thing, hiding your face in my chest, your large curious eyes peeking out.

Ever the lady, you giggle girlishly when I throw you up in the air and you love it when I comb your hair out. You can't stay still, not even when strapped into your high chair. Just when I thought that you had climbed onto and conquered every chair in the house, you start climbing from the chairs onto the tables and chests. You love it when I carry you and chase after your brother and I know you just can't wait to be running around with him, and you will, soon - you started walking on your own over the weekend!

You are already a proficient communicator, ever ready to tell us exactly how you feel and exactly what you what. "Gah!" or "Aph!" hold a world of meaning, don't they? "Mama" and "Mum mum" may sound the same to others, but you and I know otherwise. And, once in a while, you talk to yourself in a long uninterrupted stream of babytalk, a language which we have long forgotten, which you use because you think nobody is listening.

And today! Today, you are one year old! One! Oh, babydoll, you are our blessing and our gift. You have surpassed all expectations, outdone yourself at every turn, and charmed the pants off everyone. Just when we think that we could not possibly love you more, you show us that we can and we do.

Happy 1st birthday, darling. We love you, we love you, we love you. As your brother would say, "I put you in my heart." And there you'll always be.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rachel's birthday dinner

We are back from a four-day trip to Malaysia. The main purpose of the trip was to celebrate Rachel's first birthday with our relatives.

It was Father's Day weekend so it was a little difficult to find a restaurant that had an available room for us, but Margaret persevered and we ended up at Grand Imperial restaurant in 1 Utama, with two tables of our extended family from both sides. My grandmother was there, and my mother flew in from Australia, so together with Rachel and me, there were four generations of ladies.

My little babydoll, a little bit of sugar ...

... and a whole lotta spice!

Her dress was a present from my mother from Australia. Really lovely.

More photos. Babydoll was basically passed around like the parcel in the game of "Passing the Parcel", heh heh - everyone hoping to end up with the prize. Surrounded and enveloped by love.

The cake was arranged by Richard's sister, Mary. We asked for it to have fruits, jellies and chocolate.

Happy birthday, Rachel! You are our little sunshine and we love you, love you, love you!

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