Monday, March 31, 2014

Our very tiny pool

I've mentioned our *very tiny* swimming pool before, so I thought I'd show you some photos of it today.

A couple of months back, Richard had the brilliant idea of converting this small space into a water play area for the kids so that's what we did. We do have a decent-sized swimming pool as well as a kid-sized swimming/wading pool in our condo so this is really an extra, although it serves a slightly different function.

I said that it's tiny, but to be fair, it is a little bigger than it looks in the photos! It is big enough to fit four of us quite comfortably and if we fill it up deep enough, Ryan can even swim in it. Usually we fill it up to the level of babydoll's shoulders when she's sitting down in it. We drain it out after every use after using some of the water to water the plants.

It is long enough to fit both Richard and I sitting stretched out, one at each end, with plenty of space leftover between and beside us for the kids to romp around. Of course, it's not meant for adults to swim - if we wanted to do that, we would go down to the proper swimming pool at the condo. For us adults, this is meant to be a chill-out place where the kids can also have fun. Richard and I usually have long and meaningful conversations in the pool, even with the kids splashing about around us, because we are so relaxed and comfortable.

It is surrounded by walls and very private, which means that we can get into the pool wearing just a t-shirt and underwear/shorts. Richard and I have imagined sitting in our tiny pool late at night, when the kids are asleep - just the two of us, with candles burning on the ledge and drinks in our hands. I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon though!

We've been using it once a week, almost every week, and usually, it's the four of us in the pool at the same time. The kids absolutely love it.

A side note on babydoll's water skills. Babydoll is not doing any swimming lessons yet, but she does have a lot of water time. She goes swimming in the public pool with her nanny's family once every fortnight (one of her nanny's daughters is a swimming instructor) and she has lots of water play at home. As you can see from the photos, she has a lot of water confidence and, although not a swimmer, she is independent in this pool.

We made some inquiries last year with Aquaducks to enrol her in a time slot near Ryan's lesson time, but didn't have any luck. Our plans for the family's routine this year are still a little uncertain, so we are holding off for now. We do still hold the view that swimming is a critical life skill to have, so that is definitely on the cards for babydoll in the near future.

If you're wondering, Ryan started lessons when he was one year old, mainly because we did not have access to a swimming pool at that time. I didn't expect him to learn to swim at that age; I simply wanted to ensure that he retained his water confidence. Now, four years later, he can swim pretty well. I am forever grateful that we did expose him to the water at a young age because there's been so many occasions where he's been able to go into the water independently - birthday parties at swimming pools, trips to water parks like Waterbom Bali, holidays with swimming at the beach or in the hotel pools, etc. Quite apart from the fact that I don't worry (too much) about him, he also gets to enjoy himself and have fun, instead of stressing about being in the water.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Some sweetness for the weekend

We are going horse riding tomorrow! Ryan's been invited to a birthday party at Gallop Stables. Sounds fun, yeah? Babydoll is starting a new term at Julia Gabriel's Bilingual Playclub, so she's going to have her bit of fun too.

Be good, be happy, have a great weekend. See you back here on Monday.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Life of a model

A quick post today about a party that Ryan attended last week. He's been attending so many birthday parties this month but this one was not a birthday party. It was a catwalk workshop for child models. I dropped him off at 10 am and he spent the day playing games, doing some art/craft, posing for photos, etc. The highlight of the party was, of course, the catwalk show performed by all the child models at the end of the day. All the parents were told to come at 5 pm to see the show. 

It was such a great feeling to see Ryan walk out on to the catwalk and pose. Once he came out onto the stage, he scanned the audience and when he saw Richard and me, his grin was so wide! He was so happy to see us and he was really happy to show us what he could do.

I styled him for the party but only in terms of his outfit. His spiky hair with red highlights was done at the party. I think he looks like Dragonball, huh?

After the party, we took Ryan to Poulet at Great World City for an early dinner, before fetching babydoll from her nanny. Here he is - High 5!

Ryan enjoyed himself thoroughly and is very much looking forward to the next party!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Babydoll at the beach

A couple of weeks ago, we joined a group of parents and children from Ryan's preschool for a few hours at the beach. Each family brought a mat and a plate of food and whatever their children would want to play with. The kids had a grand time playing in the sea, building sandcastles, kicking the ball around, and just running about enjoying the evening. The adults mainly sat around and chatted with each other. It was a very casual and relaxed outing.

Babydoll had a whale of a time as well. If there is one characteristic about this little girl that I would name, it would be that she goes all out. She explored the sand, and by that I mean that she was, at times, fully prone on the beach with sand all over her, including in her hair and in her diaper. She picked up and investigated stuff like shells, sticks, leaves and seeds. She gleefully ran down to the water's edge and laughed out loud when the waves chased her back up the beach. She participated in everything wholeheartedly - from eating the watermelon with gusto (even though it had a fine layer of sand on it) to helping another kid fill up her bucket with sand to chasing after the football right along with the best footballers in the group. 

Apart from holding her hand when she played in the sea, I left her to her own devices and, on the whole, she was happy to play on her own or with the other children. It was glorious to watch her so uninhibited and free. Hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed watching her that day!


Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Before I had children, I thought that playdough was such a great toy. It looked like so much fun, there was so much scope for creativity, you could make your own, you could give them away as gifts, there were so many tools that you could buy for it, it was so colourful and so versatile.

When Ryan came along and we had our first playdough set, I confess that I wasn't that fond of it. I guess it was a case of "the grass is greener on the other side". When I didn't have the chance to play with it, I thought it was such a great thing. Once I had it, I found it ... not so great. 

One of the first sets of playdough we had came with a plastic fridge and all sorts of tools to shape the playdough. Ryan enjoyed that and we played with it regularly. It was a nightmare to clean though. All the little bits that were stuck in the crevices of the fridge and in the various tools drove me nuts. The perfectionist in me would be cleaning and scraping and saving every last bit of it. There would also be little bits everywhere on the floor or on the table or wherever. Let me repeat - it was a nightmare to clean up.

We only played with two small tubs because I refused to open any more than that. I also disliked mixing the colours up because that would mean that I would have to get new playdough for the next session. So we never made all those wonderful replicas of hamburgers and sandwiches and whatever with all the different colours in one creation. I prefered to keep things open-ended so our creations were usually some shapes and whatever fantastical things we imagined up on our own. I wish that I could say that they looked pretty but they were all mono-coloured and boring, heh heh.

Despite my efforts, we accumulated more and more playdough sets. Even as I thought that we were finally going to finish up a tub of playdough (yay!), I got saddled with five more tubs (!). I just couldn't keep up. It seemed as though everyone we knew gifted Ryan a set. We even ended up with a second plastic fridge which was identical to the one we had. As much as we appreciated the gesture behind the gifts, we couldn't feel excited every time the gift wrap revealed yet another plastic playdough contraption. My anti-excess mentality kicked in and I got quite turned off - how much playdough do you need right?

Then there were all those bright plastic toys that came with the playdough - the more there were, the less I wanted Ryan to play with them. We opened up the Sesame Street themed sets, like the Elmo that you see in these photos and, I think, one dinosaur themed one, but left the rest unopened (till today). I still restricted the actual playdough to two or three tubs and by that, I mean the original two or three tubs that we started out with.

When Ryan started preschool (at 3.5 years old), one of the things that greeted him on his first day was a table of playdough. I was so happy to see it because it meant that I could pack away the playdough at home!  There were tubs and tubs of playdough at home, most of them unopened, and several plastic playdough sets. I happily packed them all away.

Of course, I was in denial. Because the container wasn't going to vanish overnight and I couldn't just throw it away.

So when babydoll was old enough (ie. not mouthing everything in sight), I dragged out the container and opened it up for her. This time I had no problem opening up more tubs and mixing colours and in fact I fully encouraged it, because that's the way to use it up the darn thing, right? It's still a nightmare to clean, but I'm good with that because now I throw away the little pesky bits instead of stressing about making sure I collect all of the bits to keep for the next session. We still have a long, long way to go before we get through all our tubs of playdough, though. A long, long way.

And yes, it is still a great experience for the children. I remember Ryan taking some time to get used to it; now he handles it with no fuss at all. Babydoll also had an uneasy first session with it, but took to it much faster than her brother.

At the moment, I keep a tub of playdough out at all times, within the children's reach, so they have access to it at all times, together with a tray of shape cutters, rollers, and things like popsicle sticks, googly eyes, straws, feathers, chenille sticks, lego blocks, etc. Once in a while, I will drag out the big container with all the plastic equipment for them to have a go but I find that I'm much happier and more willing to initiate a playdough session if we don't have the plastic equipment around. I prefer having the children go back to basics, creating without boundaries, and working with other "non-playdough" equipment. I feel that I can really see the benefits of playdough this way.

So you see, sometimes it's not the children who need time to adjust and to learn. Sometimes the parent needs time too, hah!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Weekends at our house

We've been very busy lately. March has been an eventful month for our little family, full of big and small events. Ryan has been attending a birthday party almost every weekend and his work schedule was also fairly busy. Babydoll has been having an exciting month too - she's had a few interesting experiences.

Since the start of this year, we've had a new weekend routine. On Saturday mornings, babydoll goes for her Bilingual Playclub class at Julia Gabriel, which is two hours long. Richard usually accompanies her while I stay with Ryan. The two littles have Shichida in the afternoon so if Ryan has a linking memory test or poem recitation that day, I will spend about ten to fifteen minutes practising with him before we go outdoors to play (Rachel has nothing to prepare). I might also take some time to tidy the house, while Ryan works on some of his own projects. I usually rush through all this because I want to get to the part that both of us look forward to - getting outdoors!

We spend most of the two hours outdoors and that is the best part of those two hours. Actually one of my resolutions for 2014 is to spend more time outdoors so this is a perfect pocket of time to do it. I treasure this time with Ryan very much. We take his kick scooter out and head for either the beach or the playground. He is always happy and we always have a great time chatting and connecting.

Sometimes Ryan and I will eat lunch on our own before Richard and babydoll get out of class. Otherwise, we all eat together at home. After lunch, Ryan will have a shower while babydoll goes down for her nap. We all leave for Shichida together around 1 pm. The rest of Saturday is free and we usually spend it splashing about in our new and *very tiny* swimming pool.

On Sunday, we all go out for breakfast (usually prata) before Ryan's swimming class in the morning. When he's in the pool, either Richard or I will bring babydoll somewhere. The first time, I brought her to the Botanic Gardens while Richard stayed poolside. Since then, Richard has been her companion and they usually visit the art museums or art galleries around Dempsey Hill. The rest of Sunday is free.

We switched the kids over to the Shichida branch at Toa Payoh this term. At the Springleaf branch, they were closing Ryan's class (there were going to be less than four students in the class) and they were also going to change the teacher for Rachel's class, so we took the opportunity to get them into matching time slots which, as it turned out, was only possible at Toa Payoh. It's a little further for us to get to Toa Payoh but having the two kids go into class at the same time is such a time-saver and parking is so convenient. The disadvantage of having matching time slots is that, when one of the parents can't make it, then both of the kids can't go for class. This happened a few times when Richard had to take a meeting on Saturday. We skipped class and I stayed home with the two littles.

For next term, our schedule will change again, as Ryan's Shichida class is, again, closing. We've switched the two kids over to Sunday afternoon in matching time slots, still at Toa Payoh. Actually, I wanted to withdraw babydoll from the programme but the school said that it was too late into the term and I would have to forfeit my deposit if I withdrew her then. Since we'd already signed Ryan up for next term, we decided to let babydoll continue as well. I'll share my reasons and thoughts on withdrawing from the programme another time.

So I hope you enjoyed this peek into our weekend routine. All the photos were shot during Mama-and-Ryan time on Saturday mornings over the last few months.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Some sweetness for the weekend

This week has been quite the Ryan week, hasn't it? Even today was a Ryan day - he went for a catwalk workshop/party and had a grand time. I'll tell you more about that next week though, because here's babydoll to wish you sweetness for the weekend. These were shot in February when we were in KL. Their outfits (Rachel's dress and Richard's T-shirt) are not a perfect match, just similar. They wore the same outfits to Daddies Week at Julia Gabriel Bilingual Playclub about two weeks back.

Be good, be nice, be happy. See you back here on Monday.

Today, we met Ryan's teachers for this term's Parent Teacher Conference. As usual, we collected his portfolio from his teachers at the meeting. They told us that they had Ryan's strict instructions not to open his portfolio and they had not, so Richard and I did the same and chose to wait until Ryan was with us to go through it together.

We spent about 30 minutes talking about Ryan and Ryan's teachers had nothing but praise for him. They said that he is doing so well! Last term we talked about how they were working on getting him to be more assertive and to speak up more. His teacher said that, that could have been because, at the time we discussed this last term, we were only six weeks into the term and he was still adjusting and building relationships with the teachers and his classmates. This term, he is so different - he is super confident, he is socially driven, and he doesn't stop talking! Hahaha! He still speaks quite softly though, to the point that his teacher sometimes wishes he would just shout it out!

Last term, his teacher would ask him, "What would you like to do today, Ryan?" and he would say something like, "What do you think I should do?" This term, his response is. "I want to do painting, I want to play with the clay, I want to build with the blocks, ..." and his teacher goes, "You can't do them all at once!" Ryan goes, "Ok, I'll do painting first, then I'll do this and then I'll do that." His confidence really shines through.

This term, Ryan is very socially driven. In any activity, he will invite one or more of his friends to do it with him. For example, if he's going to work on his portfolio, he will ask one of his friends to sit down with him - "Let's do our portfolios together!" His teacher said that this is a very good thing. He has a group of friends that he loves to hang out with. Apparently, they are always chatting away, making up games to play and they really enjoy each other's company. They have been banned from sitting next to each other during circle time, because they won't stop talking to each other! Hahaha!

Ryan's teacher mentioned that, at this age (3-5 years), the children are ego-centric and, as an example of this, Ryan loves to do presentations, he loves to bring items to show his friends and he loves "showing off" - apparently, he demonstrated his catwalk to everyone in class the other day! (This ego-centric stage is a natural stage of development and it is highly encouraged. It is an important stage because the child learns to feel secure about himself, which in turn enables him, when he is a little older, to feel empathy towards others.)

So that part was about Ryan's social development. We also talked about more "academic" stuff and in this area, his teachers were thoroughly impressed, calling him a "genius". They said that he really thinks things through and considers them well before voicing his opinion in an "almost poetic" way. They said that his thinking is of a "higher order" and he is so in tune with everything. They were quite amused that they would find Ryan imploring his friends, "Look guys, that isn't going to work, just listen to me, do it this way..." - and he is always right. He just knows.

His teachers also told us that, when they conduct purposeful discussions with the class on a topic, Ryan is able to speak in context and also to think in context. They told us that most of the children can speak in context but it is really hard for them to think in context, but Ryan can. They also said that he has an amazing photographic memory. He can look at something once, or watch you do something once, and reproduce it faithfully.

For reading skills, Ryan's teacher said that his reading skills are amazing for his age (she was amazed that he could read the word "sketches"). She is working more on comprehension now - asking him questions about what he just read, asking him about his opinion on the story, etc. They use level books and she is using two different levels for his reading and comprehension (the higher level for his reading). She thinks he should be able to level up his comprehension next term. They are also working on punctuation. Writing is progressing really well. His pencil grip has improved, although still a little "soft". He enjoys writing quite a lot, actually.

Ryan's Mandarin teacher continues to be impressed by his Chinese language reading skills - both characters and Hanyu Pinyin. She said that he is able to read the Hanyu Pinyin accurately (it is still a mystery to us how he is able to do this, as we never taught him). He is able to read the characters without the Hanyu Pinyin, and he is also able to match the correct character to the Hanyu Pinyin. Ryan is also confident enough to read his Chinese storybooks to his friends and do presentations based on those storybooks. All this is a mystery to Richard and I because Ryan doesn't speak a word of Mandarin at home.

His teachers said that he also understands Malay - one of the teachers spoke to him in Malay and he responded. This was interesting news because Richard and I have never spoke to Ryan in Malay; we only use it to speak to each other sometimes. Ryan must have picked it up from listening to our conversations. Richard has taught Ryan some Cantonese and his teachers told us that he was speaking Cantonese with one of his Chinese friends the other day in school - they were counting in Cantonese - and they invited their Mandarin teacher to speak her dialect (Hokkien) with them!

In other news, Ryan continues to be picky about his food, although he has made a significant step forward - he has accepted the suggestion that he should at least give everything a try, so the teachers are happy with that. Small steps, small steps.

So, everything is really good, everyone is really happy with him and he is really happy in school.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Life of a model

Ryan and Pornsak reunited today for another TV commercial! The photo above is on Instagram @leftprofile (Pornsak's agent) and, as I'm writing this, it already has 99 likes at the original site! Pornsak also has another one going around on Instagram with Ryan - check it out here

Today's shoot was another fun session for Ryan. He was much adored by everyone and had a fabulous time. Pornsak kept telling Ryan that he wasn't Pornsak, he was "James" and Ryan believed him, so it was a funny joke that lasted the whole shoot. We were on set from 1 pm till nearly 6 pm and Ryan was in all the scenes except one. The shoot went very smoothly, which was a testament to Ryan's experience and ease in front of the camera. I'll write more about the shoot when the commercial starts airing on TV.

In the morning, Ryan had a fitting for a catwalk show at Temasek Polytechnic School of Design. The show is in April and we are pretty excited about it because it will be Ryan's first catwalk show! 

Here he was, on campus!

Attending the fitting was a very interesting experience! We went into the designers' studio space and it was full of the design students and their models in various stages of undress, everyone very busy with adjusting the garments, taking quick photos, and getting the right shoes. If you've ever watched Project Runway, it's very similar except that there were many more models and many more designers in the space. 

There were mostly adult models there, and all of them were super tall, super leggy and super slim. Ryan caused quite a stir when he walked in. I guess, in a sea of tall and leggy models, you can still stand out simply because you're not tall and leggy, hahaha. All the girls started ooh-ing and aah-ing over him and going, "So cute! So cute!"

Some of the models were modelling really huge gowns (like wedding dresses) and they looked larger than life to me. I can only imagine what they must have looked like to my little son, especially in that little studio space - he actually reminded me to stay with him and not to go anywhere. He was a little uneasy with the unusual clothes that he was supposed to wear but I managed to convince him that it was a costume made for him, complete with little "mouse boots",  and that put him in a good mood. (Recently, he has been telling everyone that he is a little mouse.)

In other news, Rachel went for an audition today! Richard brought her for that, as I had to accompany Ryan. We are not hopeful about landing the job - it's still early days for Rachel and she's still learning. Nevertheless, according to Richard, she performed much better than Ryan did at his first audition - she at least let the photographer take the standard shots. I remember that Ryan wouldn't let me leave his side   and the photographer had a hard time keeping him in position because he kept following me off the set! 

Anyway, it was a good day. Busy, interesting and fun.

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