Category Archives: milestones

Happy half birthday!

“All I want for Christmas is you…”

Baby J turned 6 months on Christmas Eve. We are so thankful to finally complete the adoption order and register his new birth certificate earlier this week! We were told this was a fast turnaround time, even though it felt like such a long process. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the other waiting and hopeful adoptive couples on this journey — we feel you, dear friends! ❤️

Other highlights:

  • He’s been loving the explosion of new tastes so far as we introduce solids 3x a day
  • He drinks milk and some water from his sippy cup
  • He comforts himself with an assortment of teethers, towels, his trusty thumbs, and oddly, wet wipes
  • He enjoys his sound books, playing peekaboo, finger songs and balls
  • His babbles are sounding more like speech, and he says a very clear and loud “MAAAAA!” when he’s really needy (hungry or wants to be held 😂 )
  • He rolls both ways, pulls up on his cot sides, scoots backwards … I see an active few months ahead!
  • He’s now 90% in height and weight at 68 cm and 9.05 kg 💪

We love you so much darling J! 💕

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.

Weekend mornings at Pek Kio

While participating in a survey/article on “hubbies who travel and how moms cope,” I realised how precious (in both the good and rare sense!) family and couple time has been for us.  This weekend routine helps ensure that we don’t become strangers in our own home: We typically end the work week with a Friday church couples and kids fellowship, reserve Saturday for core family time, and aim for Sunday evening dates while the kid is off with the grandparents and hubby is still around in Singapore.

One of our weekend morning activities is to catch early breakfast in the neighbourhood hawker centers and then “tour” the surrounding playgrounds and exercise corners before it gets too hot and crowded.

Here’s what we found at Pek Kio:

WP_20140928_029 pek kio
Must try: Peanut pancake, chee cheong fun, prawn noodles, Juz Bread bakery next to the center, and free parking on Sunday 🙂

WP_20140928_012 owen playground
Main playground next to the Pek Kio market with a single octave musical keyboard – that was mostly in tune – below the slides. Eat while they play, in many ways!

WP_20140928_015 piano close up

WP_20140928_032 ippt training facility
Burn some calories walking/jogging/scooting around this training facility directly across the road

WP_20140928_035 running track
If you’re not into going around the track, there’s some exercise equipment nearby too

WP_20140928_025 Moulmein community garden
Just around the corner along Owen Road, there’s a little Community Garden project…

WP_20140928_027 51 owen
… which is beside another playground with lots of interesting climbing options

Tired of playgrounds, try pull ups instead
Tired of playgrounds?  Try pull ups instead!

WP_20140928_020 bird cages
Catch your breath while spotting the bird cages – “On every tree there sits a bird, singing a song of love… Hi-li Hi-lili Hi-lo!”

WP_20140928_021 49 dorset
Have very young kids?  Visit this small playground at 49 Dorset

WP_20140928_024 48 dorset
Wrap up at the 48 Dorset Road playground, with its specially designed equipment. It’s close enough to the carpark so you can dash back to get any food or market items to take home

How to get here:
Bus 131 – bus stop B50081 right in front of the center
Farrer Park MRT – 8 mins walk from Exit D
Ample parking around Cambridge, Dorset and Owen HDB sites

Linking up with Gingerbreadmum’s Fun For Free Fridays

Out of the cot

Today, I’m thankful that B has handled his “growing up” transitions well: Sleeping through the night, feeding himself, nursery drop-off, potty training, mid-day naps, and now, moving to a junior bed. Sure, there are challenging days, but when I speak to other moms, I feel grateful because our experience has been TOTALLY by grace and luck, and not due to any different or better parenting methods on my end.

Just before B turned 2, he climbed out of his cot, and landed on his bum!  We figured if you can’t stop him, teach him how to do it right  – so we showed him how to climb out and land safely in the interim. However, after a few more attempts, B lost interest in “escaping” and I delayed any major changes as we were adjusting to nursery drop-off earlier this year. Meanwhile, we’d read and talk about big boys sleeping in big beds, and also show B his friends’ new beds or mattresses. Between 18 months to 2.5 years, most of his buddies had already switched – with mixed results – to make way for a new sibling, prevent bumps and falls, replace a smaller crib, etc.

We left his current convertible cot bed as is (it fits a 70 x 140 cm mattress) … until now! Sometime last month, he kept asking to “lower bed, go out” and would start yelling for “mama, mama” if no one comes fast enough once he woke up. It dawned on me that B is taking the initiative, that he’s able to settle and sleep on his own and to play safely when he’s up. Even hubby noticed it! So this weekend, we dropped one of his cot sides, installed the portable bedrail that we got months ago and let him have fun climbing up and down.

B's convertible cot bed (from 6 months and counting)
B’s convertible cot bed (from 6 months and counting)

So far, B eagerly gets into his newly converted “junior bed” after we read and pray together at night. He still sleeps well (thankfully!), generally wakes up happy, wishes us a “good morning” and now, gets his milk from the kitchen, sings and plays around the house until we’re all ready to start our day together. His independence is amazing to see and I pray these smooth transitions continue for a long while 🙂

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Traipsing around Tiong Bahru

May hasn’t been a merry month so far 😦 Once again, the flu bug hit and everyone got sick – at least once. As B and I are still recovering, I decided some fresh air and a little exploring would do us good. So we headed to Tiong Bahru: B liked the tilting train though the slides and flying foxes were challenging for a 2.5 year old – thankfully it was cloudy, the park looks like it could get real hot! Later on, we strolled through the neighbourhood, stopping by Wu Hu Aquarium (oddly, B wanted to eat fish after this!), Woods in the Books and Tiong Bahru Bakery. Will be back next time to visit Ah Chiang’s Porridge, Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice, Flock or PoTeaTo (with or without B, haha)

Tiong Bahru Park Adventure Playground
Tiong Bahru Park Adventure Playground

Looking down at the mini maze and old school merry-go-round
Looking down at the mini maze and old school merry-go-round

Happy (but now skinny) boy

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Special Review and Giveway: Six Karen Katz Lift The Flap Books (Bilingual)

Your boy is playing with his favourite bus/water gun/thingy.  His friend eagerly comes over and tries to snatch it away.  “B, please share?” “No!  Don’t want!” Tantrum ensues. Sound familiar?

Toddler hitting, screaming, biting and throwing are common behaviours that they’ll need to (un)learn – but that process can be challenging! Karen Katz offers some help with a series of delightful little books filled with adorable, true-to-life illustrations, and clear, simple and repetitive text. Thanks to Read With Me Mommy, this series is available in a compact set of six bilingual books in English and Chinese: I Can Share (我可以分享), No Hitting (不打人), No Biting (不咬人), Excuse Me (对不起), Best Ever Big Brother (最好的大哥哥), Best Ever Big Sister (最好的大姐姐).

Complete set of 6 bilingual books
Complete set of 6 bilingual books

What we like: It’s bilingual!  So you get a double 2-in-1 deal – reinforce behaviours AND learn key phrases in English AND Chinese as you enjoy reading it over and over together 🙂 As with other Karen Katz books, the text is separated from the pictures, each in their own page, making it easier for kids who are learning to read. Many tots actually memorise the story or conversation based on pictures, which is a great start to language development, but books like these take it one step further by helping them to focus on and recognise words, letters and characters. The whole page flaps cleverly reveal the right response, which usually involves “magic words” for proper manners or positive redirection for sticky situations like sharing and self-control. Note: This is best for 18 months to 4 years as it’s not in a board book format, so turning the pages and lifting flaps require a bit more control (and care).

As a bonus, the set also includes two books on growing up from the perspective of a 哥哥 or 姐姐, ideal for older siblings who are adjusting to a new baby at home. But even if you don’t have a sibling (yet – like us), it’s still relevant for your tot to read about big boys or girls who eat, sleep, read and go to the potty on their own 🙂

I'm a big sister
I’m a big sister

Read With Me Mommy is a user-friendly online bookstore which is conveniently organised by age (0-3 years, 3-6 years, 6-10 years, 10+ years) and book type (sets, board books, cloth books, etc.). There is currently a 5% discount promo for all DBS/POSB cardholders and free local mail delivery for ALL purchases.

As a special giveaway, Finally Mama readers stand a chance to win a brand new complete set of 6 bilingual lift the flap books worth SGD$24.90 with FREE local delivery.  Giveaway closed!  Just CLICK HERE to enter the giveaway and follow these steps:

1) Like Finally Mama on Facebook
2) Like Read With Me Mommy on Facebook
3) Comment below on who you’d like to get this for and why!

To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul

Lately, B spontaneously calls out letters he recognises and sometimes sings the A-B-C Song while he pretends to “read” the print. Looks like he’s taking the next step to read WORDS on his own initiative, and not just recite from memory, vocalise or narrate what he sees. What a nice milestone for our brand new 2 year old 🙂 B’s also developed a list of places to ask for when we’re getting ready to go out. To my secret bookworm delight, we hear “go library and read book” almost every other day! Other regulars include “Bus stop and MRT?”, “play outside, playground, park”, “Botanic Gardens” (where he likes feeding the fish), “ama 公公”, “爷爷 奶奶” and his buddies’ “house”, “buy food at Fairprice” (we grocery shop together a lot), “ride toy car/train at shopping mall”, “music” and “Chinese class” (i.e. Kindermusik, Jiggle Wigs, Chengzhu). It’s encouraging to see all the time and effort in immersing him in a print and word-rich environment paying off – from getting his first library card at 7 weeks (!), daily newspaper browsing and storytimes, thematic flashcards if he wants to, and just when we relax, chat and read quietly together.

We couldn’t have done it without the network of public libraries in Singapore, notably the Bishan, Toa Payoh and Central NLB branches. The breadth and depth of parenting, baby and preschool books to toddler/family friendly activities is amazing AND free (or reasonable enough if you’re a foreigner). B’s been exposed to a wider range of authors, formats, topics – in both English and Chinese – than I ever was at his age. The books expand his vocabulary and imagination, plus save us money and reduce clutter with more informed buying (i.e. the read-everyday or hard-to-find ones) mainly online via The Book Depository and Fishpond, Read With Me Mommy and Flip For Joy (for Chinese/bilingual) or at the local Popular bookstores.

Last, a shout out to Fun With Tots, an ongoing series of six library workshops on print motivation, print awareness, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, narrative skills and vocabulary.  I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up with B, but was pleasantly surprised by the dedication of each of the librarians who prepared a handout of notes/resources and facilitated their topics with songs, books, parent/caregiver tips to keep everyone from adults to the little tots engaged. Even though it was close to bedtime (8p), B enjoyed each session and would say “go library at night”!  The only disappointment was that so few folks attended. It‘s ironic that parents prefer to spend money (sometimes up to ~$50-$100 per session) on enrichment classes based on early childhood experts, but can’t make time to visit the library or attend a hands-on workshop together (which BTW, costs $2 per 30 min session). Even if our kids attend daycare or preschool, or we work full time, we should still actively participate in fostering a love of reading, a thirst for knowledge and the capacity to imagine in our kids. Seeing is doing and believing. My dad was dubious when I wanted to borrow books on space for B … who liked it so much that he could name or describe all the planets in the solar system!

SO…. Head on over to your neighbourhood library and browse/borrow some books for the holidays.  You can also find out what’s going on at Bounce, the NLB channel dedicated to kids 0 to 12.  BTW, if like B, your kid is just learning his letters and enjoys music, take a look at all these alphabet songs and see what works best!

 
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. 
The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” 
– Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

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Warp speed ahead

My month long (un)common cold resulted in an excessive white blood count which was double the average and one day in A&E when all my joints were inflammed!  I finally caved in to see doc #1 who cleared B and I of bronchitis, but gave me antibiotics and allergy/congestion meds that I reacted badly to…. this led me to doc #2 who found some lung tissue scarring from my x-ray but nothing critical after various tests. He then prescribed painkillers, even more antibiotics and asked me to stop the previous meds. After 1 week of pill-popping and clinic hopping, I’m feeling closer to normal again.

Besides that, October turned out to be a full-on month of milestones and learning through play with B.  Even though I’m with him almost all the time, his growth spurts still amaze me, not just physically, but also how well he picks up vocabulary and grammar.  After accomplishing a task on his own (like his jigsaw puzzles), he claps and says “Yay! Good job, B!” or if he’s cheeky, “pandai boy” \o/ At breakfast one day, he placed his toy kangaroo on the table and said “Kangaroo watch B and mama eat pancake” and “daddy go 运动, then work” when dad went for his morning gym workout.  While in the car, he describes what he sees on the road and at times, will launch into a narrative, mainly on vehicles (of course), e.g. “Fire engine park in fire station, make loud noise nee-nah-nee-nah, lights go blink blink, firemen put out fire, many smoke, hot!”

We covered Geography and Astronomy which mommy and B thoroughly enjoyed.  We looked at continents, oceans, water and land formations, and then, our solar system. He started asking questions about rivers, stars and satellites … hence, the odd mix.

Books – this time, the library selection was quite good:

Art and craft:

Map of the world on a paper plate (rubber band = equator between the hemispheres)

Ocean/rockpool diorama, using a re-cycled shoebox

Penguins and icebergs in Antartica

Land and water formations (can also use for clay modelling)

And last but not least, space: the final frontier – a perfect opportunity to learn comparatives and superlatives, i.e. planet Earth is smaller than Saturn, Mercury is the smallest, Jupiter is the biggest. Now he applies these words in all sorts of situations 🙂

Solar system puzzle

Space sand art
Space sand art

This month was also about confidence building and independence. He started to enjoy scooting on the YBike glider which we have on loan from a friend.  He’s walking his balance bike, an early birthday gift from 爷爷.  He even climbed out of his toddler cot bed once, alarming everyone! B grew more cautious climbing since that incident while I placed his large foam playmat under the bed until we switch him to a kid bed (or just a mattress). And on a bittersweet note, B got off the waitlist for N1 next January – it’s a half day, drop off for the year they turn 3. Lots of implications there, some of which I’m still processing internally.

Wheeee!

No time for flashcards?

This month, we covered TIME.  Thankfully, I managed to save time (hah!) searching for, making and adapting material for B as the theme coincided with the Gymnademics weekly home material.  It allowed us to reinforce numbers as B’s been sporadically saying 0 to 20 (in English) and 1-10 (in Chinese). We also dived into the concept of day and night, seasons and weather patterns as B loves pointing to the moon, sun, stars, rain, clouds, etc. 😉

Books. There are soooo many good books about time, numbers and weather. Reading books is even more fun now that he repeats most words and memorises familiar phrases that he likes. Here’s what worked well for us among the titles we could find in the library and had at home.

 
BTW, we really enjoyed “Only My Mom and Me” by Alyssa Satin Capucili which covers the days/seasons that a mom and child spend together.  But I had to return it to the library and haven’t bought it online yet 😦  Also, there’s many book-based activities from Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon,” a classic bedtime fave that shows how time passes before bed. Maybe we’ll try that in Sept….
Craft. We made a weather/week/time wheel to complement the theme.  B loves spinning it while saying the words and numbers. He’s also slowly learning how to manipulate the wooden clothespegs.
Music and Movement. When we reviewed the days and months, B would get stuck on Wednesday and had a tough time associating the months with “concrete” things.  These music videos helped! (Note: There are many out there online, these were the ones we liked more)  
 
Chinese?! One day, B re-discovered our stash of bilingual flashcards, gleefully exclaimed “WOW!” and brought them over to read together.  Whenever there’s time at home, he would open box after box to flip through. I try not to repeat the cards and end leaving him wanting more.  He tends to say the English word when he sees/hears me read out Chinese characters, but he does vocalise some Chinese, esp. those he hears frequently from songs, conversations and his first set of Chinese storybooks.
 
Art:  Since this was mommy’s first year as a Singaporean, we hosted a casual National Day BBQ, jet flypast and fireworks watching at our place. B excitedly says “boom boom fire” and “zoom zoom airplane when he sees his artist impression proudly displayed on the art wall 🙂
 
Outings and Special Projects: This month, B visited Megabugs Return! and the Science Center (rather underwhelming, seriously in need of upgrading), the Art Garden @ SAM (again!) and theIstana Open House for Hari Raya and National Day. We also returned to the Esplanade for Hello Ling, the second in the PLAYtime! series, which dramatised the effects of light or in B’s words “sunlight, starlight, moonlight … and rainbows!” To cap it all, B made his first (?) science discovery, i.e. a simplified “taugeh” project to grow green bean plants over time (i.e. the 7 days in a week) with the help of water, air and sunlight.
Personal:
– When asked “What’s your name?”  He’ll say it all in one run-on word “bwxy!”
– Mr Manners. B calls “Hi, Thank You, Please, Good Morning, Bye, Day, Night (and Sleep Tight)” if prompted though once in while we’ll get a spontaneous “Morning/Bye uncle/aunty!” while in the lift, charming our neighbours (and some strangers). The family tree will come in handy for those Chinese titles and names!

– Potty training steps.  B regularly voices when he needs to pee and poop, does it in the toilet more often and has fewer accidents. Even though we’ve not yet gone all-in (i.e. he wears diapers/trainers when sleeping and when outside for extended periods), this has been so encouraging for us all. Yes!
– Hello, tantrums. Our gentle, observant 21 month old B has finally succumbed to his undeveloped cortex 🙂 Thankfully the tantrums are not frequent and rather predictable (i.e. he’ll say “No like! No want!” or throw a fuss when he’s upset, tired at end of day or had a poor nap, or wants to be independent).  I guess a happy, stimulating and secure environment with a balance of love and discipline is no longer enough at this age! B needs his autonomy, and we should “never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”  Maria Montessori said this best
– Gimme freedom! That’s perhaps why B likes music and movement so much.  I flip through the newspaper with him in the mornings, let him choose how many and which books to read, have regular messy, art and music playdates.  As his vocabulary expands, he’s forming more and more 2-3 word phrases to better express himself and is gradually overcoming his shyness to say words in Chinese and Malay too
“Today is Monday” everyday according to B, and it’s a delightful day!

我爱我的动物

July saw a big leap forward in B’s cognitive, and in particular, speech development. Words started to “click” and it was great to be there with him along the way.

Theme: Animals!  It started with us doing an extended craft activity around Margaret Wise Brown’s “Big Red Barn” when we were stuck indoors during the worst of the haze.  The rest of the month was spent on tonnes of books, songs, art and craft, puzzles and outings. We even managed to make this bilingual as B’s new Chinese term was all around the  (Farm)

ABC or Art, Books and Craft: Maybe it was a matter of time but I felt like we found a key to unlock his brain by engaging in more kinesthetic learning this month. We expanded upon a few fave books with a big red barn diorama, a zoo numbers and colouring activity based on Eric Carle’s “123 To The Zoo,” and built our own family tree after reading “Who’s Like Me.”  Some highlights below:

Music and Movement: I finally brought all 6 kids CDs into the car to play on repeat whenever it’s just B and me.  From the classic Old MacDonald (he loves the E-I-E-I-O!) and Incy Wincy Spider actions to his Chinese Playclub’s ditties like “的” and “鸭” as well as Kindermusik’s Morning Song (with different greetings for animals/people).  It was nice to see him not only sing to the words and rhythm but overcome his shyness to move and dance along.

Outings: No surprise, we went back to the zoo to check out the Breakfast With Orang Utans with friends (overpriced, not worth it!) and the new Frozen Tundra polar bear exhibit (cool!). Next time, we’ll visit in the afternoon as B is up longer and can catch more live shows.  We also went to the Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium (nice, esp. the spider crabs, jellyfish and dolphins). Here’s other animal adventure places we hoped to/will visit as there wasn’t enough time to see them all! 

Personal:
– Hearing B say “I love you” (sounds more like “I low you”) melts my heart 🙂
– I know I’ve said it earlier, but the Big Red Barn opened up a world of language, esp. speech for him.  He comes up with 3-word descriptors like “big purple ball” (i.e. my yogilates ball) and “dark blue sky” (the view from his window when he wakes). Loves to make animal and vehicle sounds, say opposites thanks to Dr Seuss (big/small, in/out, up/down, high/low), colours (primary+secondary+some tertiary), numbers (1-10) and family names. His thirst for books seemed to have grown exponentially too. He demands to read “more, more books” every time and delights in finishing up familiar sentences or words. Of course, he repeats interesting new words in English, Malay, Chinese and especially, my in-car swearing :0
– Self feeds when hungry and when he likes his food.  Otherwise, he’ll eat with distractions and/or help.  Developed a temporary bad habit of throwing down his spoon/fork/food when done or cranky, but that’s stopped now since I told him off with frequent reminders to put it down on the table (practicing les gros yeux!)
– Naps are still too short but nights are great so we’re rolling with it. I get my downtime or work done at night, spend quality time with him in the mornings, try to take him out each day with a special/ family outing once a week
– Potty training still ongoing, slow and easy.  Undies at home, diapers when out
– All in, it’s been a pretty awesome though tiring month.  Gratifying to see the effort pay off, as I wonder what’s become of me and where I’m headed this year….