Category Archives: kid #1

Letters to my son

It’s been 12 weeks since B graduated to big bro status and is no longer the center of attention at home after 8.5 years, for better or worse….

B, we are blessed by your generous spirit. You readily embraced little J, giving up your room and time to him. You always kiss and cuddle him, want to read and play with him, even if you are often too loud! It tickles me to see you mimic how I talk to and care for him. Someone has been watching 😆

B, you still share your heart with mama though our time alone is limited to occasional lunch dates and car chats. You will always have my ear — be it to complain about compo, rejoice in a hard-won tennis match, share your latest diep.io and Minecraft discovery, “inform” me about virtual play dates, or reluctantly confess what you did in class! 🙄

B, you are also more mindful of your ADHD lately. I see you try very hard to focus better and be less hyper especially as expectations increase. I’m proud that you want to give your best — no excuses, no exceptions. I’m also thankful for teachers who care and give us constructive feedback. We are all in this together, son! And I promise (to try) not to be such a kiasu tiger mom with you. 😉

Though I feel you’ve grown so fast, and the days and nights are different now, you will always be my baby, my firstborn, the child who made me a mom. 😘

Travelling without kids

I’ve been travelling a lot for work this year, with a particularly intense past few months.  The person most interested in my trips is B, who peppers me with questions – besides just “When are you coming back, mama?!” So I decided to transform my work trips to mini-lessons in geography and history.  It’s become such a regular occurrence that B looks forward to these “special projects” with mom on free weekends when I’m home!

We started by reviewing the continents and oceans, and have been covering regions, e.g. North America, Southeast Asia and South Asia depending on where mummy travels to.

We’ve been working through a lovely colouring book country by country, supplementing the maps with library books and internet searches to make it more interesting and interactive.  I too learnt something new as we saw highlights of the India-Pakistan cricket matches, the tough life of elephants in Thailand, the history of junk boats in Vietnam, and so on.

img_0234

I also try to get souvenirs for folks back home and sometimes the best things are free too!  For example, B loves activity books at this age, and luckily many hotels have good fun ones they’re usually happy to pass to “your little one waiting back home.”

IMG_0235.JPG

B has always loved working with his hands and solving puzzles, so activities like these 3D puzzles or LEGO blocks are also a hit.  It amazes me how he’s able to sit down, and painstakingly put these together (with help as needed) – some times for 1 hour or more!  Now that B reads decently well, he also enjoys discovering information on his own, and likes to cite (sometimes random) facts about popular places and people.

img_0230
Did you know?  The Taj Mahal is a World Heritage Site in the city of Agra in north India, built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died at the age of 39. “That’s too young,” says B!

So if you’re travelling, and wish you could but can’t bring your kids along, try these.  They’ll feel involved, learn about the world, and can perhaps view your trips in a positive way by looking forward to these moments. We know it’s hard to be apart – so check out the video for a little something to cheer you up 🙂

For more, follow Finallymama on Instagram.

How many ways can you play-doh?

Which kid doesn’t love science?  It satisfies their natural curiosity, especially at the age when they don’t stop asking “why” and also devour anything they can read (or be read to). It’s also – simply put, pretty darn cool.  Lately, B has gotten rather obsessed with space.  He’s watched the Magic School Bus Lost In Space episode at least 20 times – I caught him at it again with Netflix on my iPad early this morning when I woke up!  He creates LEGO rockets and launches them on a journey through the planets.  He loves to show the Solar Walk 2 app on our Apple TV to anyone who visits our home. He talks about being an astronaut when he grows up, staying on the ISS (after we read about the historic year in space), travelling to Pluto which he insists IS a planet, a “dwarf planet.”  He’s also been asking to go to a planetarium – but as the observatory at the Science Center isn’t terribly kid-friendly or that exciting (sorry), I told him we’ll try to visit California or Houston one day.

This weekend, we decided to use PLAY-DOH to build a model of the solar system. B was fully engaged for 1.5 hours, even pausing to check out facts on my iPhone like where’s the asteroid belt, which planets have rings, what’s the right comparative size and colour!

image

PLAY-DOH has been a staple at our home – and we continue to find creative ways to use it. When B was younger, we’d set tubs out during play dates as it usually kept the toddlers occupied for a while, plus, it’s not that messy and super easy to clean up. When B struggled to write and draw well, his teachers recommended PLAY-DOH to strengthen his fine motor skills in a fun way.  These days, we take it out to support creative play at home with some fun hands-on experiments and imaginative story telling on a range of topics like natural disasters, dinosaurs, and geography.

On that note, if you’re looking for something to do with the kids over the school break, check out PLAY-DOH’s 60th Anniversary Celebration from June 6-12 (12-9p daily) at Waterway Point, Village Square Level 1 (West Wing). There’ll be a variety of birthday activities including the attempt to enter the Singapore Book of Records with the largest cupcake tower, workshops, story telling and photo ops with mascots by Da Little Arts School, among other fringe activities. On top of that, the first 1000 to contribute their cupcake creations will also receive a free Hasbro goodie bag.

For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Instagram.

Learning to swim, learning to love

Last month, B swam a few proper strokes with his face down and holding his breath in the water. No big deal, right?  Yet something this trivial was a breakthrough after years of stops and starts.

B loved water since young, and I was so inspired by this book, I tried to follow it but failed miserably. Our swim time together was constantly interrupted with my string of early miscarriages, full time work, frequent travel, and lack of “substitutes” – aka the grandparents who also faced several health setbacks.  That led to a 1.5 year hiatus where B lost water confidence and regressed to saying “I can’t swim,” “don’t want to wet my face” and “too scared.” At parties, B’s friends would dive in pools and take big water slides, and he’d feel left out… So this year, we decided to try again. I intentionally planned more water play, bath tub or pool time together, and hubby signed them both up for Saturday morning class, which proved great 1-on-1 time to bond too.  There were happy tears when he passed his latest Duckie level last month, and is transitioning to learn freestyle and breaststroke – swimming on his own!

B’s journey to learn to swim made me think about my journey to learn to love in our marriage. As we celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary today, I’m reminded how tough marriage is when you bring two imperfect people together in an imperfect world. We start highly motivated with great intentions and textbook ambitions but life’s ups and downs get in the way. We tend to compare with others, only to feel shortchanged or discouraged. We lose faith and confidence, think and eventually say negative things. We’re tempted to quit after all the pit stops and detours as the effort seems too time consuming, emotionally draining, isolating – and too often, not worth it.

But the breakthrough comes when we presevere. Be it a challenging milestone or moments in marriage, don’t give up for it’s never too late to turn things around.

A family that runs together….

Last year, B took part in his first race at the Cold Storage Kids Run 2015. It was quite an experience for both of us – especially as mama didn’t realize the race was actually 800m till the day of!

This year, we’re excited to be part of the  Cold Storage Kids Run again – this time, with a special appearance by grandpa – 公公 – who is gamely joining in the 3Gen Family Fun Run (also 800m). After all, a family that runs together, stays healthier and happier together too 🙂 Come run with us at the Meadows @ Gardens By The Bay on Sunday, May 22, 2016!  On top of that, get a special discount for early bird sign ups with this code: WEMISSYOU16

image
Three gen musketeers

About the run

Singapore’s Cold Storage Kids Run is Asia’s first kids focused run. Back for its 9th consecutive year, the event theme for 2016 is “Eat Healthy. Get Active”, promoting a healthy lifestyle and family bonding through exercise and a healthy diet. Early bird rates are now available up till 23 March followed by the normal registration period from 24 March to 3 April. This year also features the 3Gen Family Fun Run (which we’ll be participating in), Fancy Dress Family Fun Run, and two child celebrity ambassadors – football protégé Iryan Fandi and running enthusiast Abbie Rose Humphreys. Avid footballer and 10-year-old Iryan is the youngest son of illustrious local football legend Fandi Ahmad while 7-year-old Abbie Rose is the daughter of popular local columnist and author, Neil Humphreys. Visit http://www.kidsrun.com.sg for more info.

For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook or on Instagram.

Conversations at four

Four years old.  These precious moments with B remind me how he’s growing up. Though mama has less time for him, he finds every opportunity to catch up together, to the point of “moving in” at night and talking a LOT about his “day” (which could mix a few days up) when he didn’t use to before 🙂

B got off his chair and ran over when he saw me return from work:
B: Mama! Hug 20 times! (We totally did). Missed you, mama
M: I missed you too, B.  Mama’s not feeling too well unfortunately….
B: Wait, I get you something (Runs off, returns with the thermometer). Here, let’s check
M: Thanks B, so thoughtful. Pray that mama recovers over the weekend, OK?
B: OK. I pray that the germs go away. Mama gets well soon and we can play.

After dinner, we make time for music (violin, sometimes piano), read (alternating between Chinese and English), then wind down for bed. Just when I’m snuggling down in my room, B comes inside, bearing another book, his pillow, blankie, soft toys…
B: Mama, see I brought all my things over. I’m sleeping with you tonight!
M: You know, B, you’ve been sleeping on your own since you were one. Don’t you like your own room?  Where’s daddy going to sleep?
B: I like my room but I want to sleep together mama. Maybe until I’m 20 years old (!) (Heads out to find daddy).
B: Daddy, you sleep in my room, ok?  I’ll leave the door open for you

At the end, he talks about “his day” while we lie in bed in the dark:
B: The other day at school, N and I came early. We ate something and then biked around. N told me I was going the wrong way. But I was right, he was wrong, and we banged each other.
M: Oh no! Did any of you get hurt?
B: No. Wait, maybe. N fell off a bit and cried.
M: Was he OK? Did you say sorry?
B: Maybe.
M: Maybe?
B: Well, I said sorry when we banged. And then he stopped crying and asked me to say sorry again, but I didn’t because I alrady said sorry. Then we played some more.
M: Hmm… It’s good you apologized. Please be careful the next time! (Note to self: Check with N’s mom and teachers). How was lunch?
B: Good. We had pasta. With chicken rice.
M: Pasta and chicken rice? Are you sure?
B: Errm we had pasta, peas, carrots, corn.  I like corn. Also, some chicken. I ate all my food.
M: That’s good! Did you eat fast like we’ve been talking about?
B: I ate faster than J! I said “Hurry up, eat faster!” But J doesn’t like corn. So he ate slowly.
M: Besides J, who ate with you?
B: (Tells me who sat exactly where and in which table)
…..
B: Mama, mama! I’m still talking. Are you listening?
M: I’m listening, but I’m quite tired too.  Talk more tomorrow, B? Love you, good night.
B: Love you. Good night, mama.  (Starts humming while I fall asleep)

Counting down

At one of the year-end parties lately, I was asked if I’ve enrolled B in any math or english enrichment classes, now that he’s starting kindergarten? Honestly, I was a bit surprised and then had a little kiasu moment! I started thinking: What head start are other local school-going kids getting?  How can B grow to love and excel in math and science? Will he face stiff pressure in a country where students have come out tops in the TIMSS international math and science assessment for years now?

Well, I don’t have all the answers to my questions but I do know that since he was a wee baby, math was part of our daily talk and B enjoys books, art and activities like puzzles that involve math. He’s developed decent number sense, ability to sort, compare magnitude, and sequence patterns.  He’s getting better at (re)constructing, and spatial awareness in describing, acting, drawing or writing out locations and directions. He’s also building familiarity with number bonds through DIY manipulatives and games like our recent ping pong ball roll, as well as reading and writing numerals and numbers in English and Chinese.

We “talk math” all the time, be it tracking the dump trucks we pass along the highway, counting the number of kids that need high chairs, figuring out the change from the drink stall aunty, identifying patterns in modern art when we visit museums, guesstimating how many gingerbread men can be cut from the rolled dough and how many baking trays are needed. He’s also getting exposed to decimals when I time how fast he can wear his own clothes, fractions after reading the The Gingerbread Man book and eating away parts of his own cookie …

IMG_0120… and even subtraction by counting down the days till Christmas!

Most recently, B is also learning how to tell time (analog, not digital), nicely reinforced in Chinese by Sparkanauts too!

Perhaps Singapore math requires much more than what we’ve done so far, and maybe B might have received a more structured approach in a Montessori school, but I’m glad we’ve laid some basics in place in an organic, hands-on way. To quote Mark Twain, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”  How have you helped your pre-schooler and primary going kid in math?

For more updates and reviews, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.

Rockin’ and rolling with math

We’ve spent more weekends indoors than we’d like lately, but the good thing is, B has had more time to play his cars, trucks and trains, draw and write, practice violin, of course, craft with mom.

The DIY ping pong ball runs with toilet paper rolls has been a regular activity at home.  But this year, inspired by a fellow mom blogger, I decided to use this to reinforce addition.  Here’s how we did it:

  1. Start storing your rolls!  Even with a 5 person household (+ grandparents!), we could only do enough for numbers 1-5 to start.
  2. Find a board that’s big and sturdy enough, preferably as tall as the kid and sufficiently wide so that you can do a lot of creative (and long) runs.  We used our TV box – as we’d just upgraded our ancient flat screen TV in time for our SG50 NDP party.
  3. Cut some into half lengthwise, and a few others into half heightwise.  The longer halves will be used for the ramps while the shorter rolls as your numbered “holders” or entry points.
  4. Get the kiddo to help you paint the box and rolls.  We didn’t have much time, and B was eager to get rolling, so we just painted 10 short rolls and numbered them from 1 to 10.  He could do all of this by himself now – another plus!
    IMG_0470
  5. Start sticking them onto the box, testing the roll as you go along.  By now, B could also figure out where to put things and we had fun cutting out the tape and placing them together.
    IMG_0473
  6. On a separate paper / nearby easel, put together the sums for them to do.  We started from the basics, i.e. 1+1= ? to 1+5 =?, which B already knew from finger counting, so he could draw the connection from adding the balls.
  7. Start rolling based on the sums that you see, e.g. for 1+3, put 1 ball in the #1 holder, and 3 balls in the #3 holder, check how many balls land in the box to see if you got the sums right!
  8. Get the kiddo to write the answer down.  Good practice here 🙂

IMG_0515

IMG_0521

Here’s the finished product 🙂

IMG_0601 IMG_0602

Dear hardworking dad, let’s take a holiday!

I arrived back in Singapore late Thursday night, and belatedly remembered that this weekend was Father’s Day! #mommyfail. With not much time (or energy left, honestly) to buy or book anything elaborate, including this weekend’s popular daddy activities like the Aviva Superfundae, B and I snuck in a few hours at home instead to make our Father’s Day gifts.

This is what we came up with:  Stencilled vehicles on multi-coloured panels, monographed by our wee preschooler.  They were a shout out to how hardworking dads are and wishing them time to take a break and take us on holiday too 🙂  This turned out to be a relatively easy and fun DIY project for B who’s still learning how to write and paint “neatly” and prefers drawing vehicles.

FullSizeRender 12

Here’s how we did it:

1) Cut out panels in the desired shapes, ideally using canvas or repurposed styrofoam or cardboards.

2) Let the kid select a few colours of his choice for the background.  You could probably use any type of paint. We chose watercolour as that had the widest selection available, but also limited it to three colours per panel.  I was quite pleased that B chose colours that blended really well, unprompted.

FullSizeRender 10

3) Squeeze out, mix and paint the colours on the boards. Dry overnight or in the hot sun for a few hours. We used foam rollers to generate some texture. Plus, it covers the surface area faster (and dries faster – remember, we didn’t have much time!)

FullSizeRender 6

3) Choose the design, shape and/or letters to draw on the backgrounds. We just selected vehicle stencils for each individual.  I originally wanted to print each name in English and Chinese but I also knew how much B likes to “own” his artwork, and I’d be helping out too much to make things nice and legible at his age.  So, finally – we get to use those art stencils from ArtFriends – which last came out of the box when we did our group playdate cardboard house 1.5 years ago.  Alphabet stencils would also have been perfect here.  I tried making them, but gosh, those are hard to DIY!  I’ll just have to wait till B gets better at writing…

FullSizeRender 13

4) Select neutral colours for the stencils to stand out against the background, i.e. black/grey for lighter backgrounds and white for darker backgrounds.  Make sure the brush and paint are relatively dry to minimise leakage.  You may also need to help by taping over unused images or pressing the stencils down hard while your preschooler paints it over.

FullSizeRender 8

Bonus activity: Talk through who are the daddies in the family.  In our case, we did a little revision of our old extended family tree, and B wanted to make FOUR gifts for daddy, 公公, 爷爷 and uncle M (mama’s brother in the US) who I hope to visit  soon.

For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook or on InstagramLinking up with:

new button

What else does a man need to be happy?

We started regular music with mama times since B was a baby and now at 3.5+ years, (we think!) he’s ready to begin formal music classes … in violin!  I was fortunate enough to find out about Wolfgang Violin Studios (WVS) from one of my fellow CRIB co-founders, and contacted them to enquire about trials and options a few months back.

WVS has locations at UE Square and Tembeling Center. They run good Baby Beats classes on rhythm, pitch, dynamics and note recognition for kids ~2.5 years to 4 years. Unfortunately, weekday accompanied classes are tough for us, with B in childcare while I work full time. So I decided to wait until he was ready to join Kinderviolin, their beginners program for younger kids aged 4 years up.  As it turned out, WVS recently launched Twinkle, a pre-Kinderviolin class that essentially consists of small group violin lessons offering individual instruction with a max 2:1 (student-teacher) ratio.  This was a nice fit for B who can now focus (a bit more), has had regular music exposure at home (Little Musician, percussion, keyboard) and at school, continues to love singing and improv, but is also new to formal instruction.

We first had a trial violin assessment as B wasn’t a graduate of Baby Beats.  It was a pretty chill 30 mins, 1-1 with one of the teachers. At the end, B gave them a thumbs up, they said OK, so we’re good to go!

IMG_2027   IMG_0061

It was quite a challenge to find good music classes with no literal “strings” attached – no requirement for parents to buy their own instruments, no need to accompany kids in class, etc. This class was a godsend for me as a working parent. And so now B’s begun his violin journey with a great age-appropriate drop off program to take his interest further, and a violin loaned by a friend – which fit perfectly, hooray!

Watermelon Apple? At the end of class, parents were invited in to watch our kids perform, with the chance to speak to the teachers and also follow up on what was covered. There’s also a journal to track progress and specific areas to work on for each kid. Today, they played us a line from this piece, taking turns with melody and rhythm.

Materials for the next year - but let's try one term first!
Tackling one class at a time!

B, as you “practice” holding, bowing and fingering for the next 10 weeks, remember, we all have to put up with the screechy string playing too 🙂  But most importantly, let’s all enjoy the journey together.

For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook or on Instagram.  For music ideas, come visit by Pinterest tot music ideas board.