Category Archives: terrific2s

The Magic Three

My darling B:

You are now 33 months. Just 3 months to go before you turn 3 years old! Everyone warned me about the terrible twos, but the year turned out to be pretty terrific instead. Hopefully I don’t jinx the remaining months ūüėģ You had your moments of wild, irrational flail-on-the-ground tantrums, but through it all I kept the 3 Ts in mind:¬† Tank up on love, Transition gradually, and Timing matters!

In light of your and mama’s developments this year, here are 3×3 things to celebrate about you!

3 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT YOU

1) THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE: You love reading. You bring books¬† to our bed in the morning, want to read at mealtimes, and negotiate the number of stories for bedtime. ¬†You are ever curious. You’ll ask “What happen, mama?” when I’m reading the news or listening to the radio. The library is like your second home where you can occupy yourself flipping through books or telling stories to friends (imaginary or anyone nearby). Your face lights¬†up as you associate what you read with what you see in real life. When your gears start spinning, you turn to me to say “Remember the [book/event/person/item]?” and a wonderful process of discovery ensues. When you see text, you track the words with your fingers as you “read.”¬† You like to call out numbers,¬†upper and lower cases that you recognise from Letterland phonics, and even Chinese characters.¬† It’s truly a delight to watch you learn!

Watching the night sky from our balcony got him intrigued about space so we’ve borrowed many books about it (like this one).¬† Here he’s simulating the moon rotating around the earth ūüôā

2) A SONG IN YOUR HEART:¬† Since you started carrying a tune, you¬† haven’t stopped making music. Even as a baby, you’d often hum and move to the rhythm and beat.¬† These days, we don’t need alarm clocks because you wake us up with your singing at 7a or earlier! You make us laugh with silly adaptations and lead your friends in rousing renditions of songs from Majulah Singapura to Wheels on the Bus to “šłÄś≠•šłÄś≠•ŤĶįŚēäŤĶį‚ÄĚ.¬†¬† This year we tried some structured music learning at home, and we’ll continue to look for ways to help you hone this gift now and beyond.

3) PASSION FOR VEHICLES: Be they in the air, on the road, on water, in print, real or toy, rides or stickers Рyou like them all! You  observe routes, recall directions, names of roads and who stays where. Your pretend play is getting more creative too. You manipulate everyday things at home, LEGO and wooden blocks, toy vehicles, tracks and figures to form construction sites, accident and rescue operations, traffic jams on the highway, neighbourhood multi-story carparks Рall with sound effects and commentary.

One activity you initiated is to lay out your vehicle flash cards and we take turns to find the right one as we¬†play “I Spy” and ŤŅôśėĮšĽÄšĻą?”

Sometimes I need to set time limits so you don’t get too obsessed (i.e. kick a fuss when it’s time to stop or leave). But this shows me¬† you’re capable of focusing and innovating on what interests you. If only we could figure out how to replicate this for other stuff¬† ūüėČ

3 AREAS YOU’VE GROWN IN

1) (SELF) HELPER: Although I still prompt you to eat faster or finish up, I’m thankful that you continue to help yourself at meal times and have a healthy appetite, drink well, (mostly) eat greens, fruits and are willing to try variety – Asian, Western, Middle Eastern, mild herbs and spices. You even ate durian!

Since we started our first sticker chart on toilet training, you also have less accidents and better control.¬† You let us know when you want to pee and poop instead of us asking or taking you regularly.¬† There’s still occasional overnight bed wetting and leaks (esp. when you’re too excited or shy) but you’ve made great¬†progress that we’ve moved on to a new chart for wearing/undressing clothes and shoes.

Out with the old, in with the new sticker chart

Lastly, although you need reminding, you do help to clean up after play, unload dirty clothes into the laundry bag and bring your dishes to the kitchen after meals. Well done!

2) FINE MOTOR SKILLS:¬† Thanks to your current preschool, you’re constantly encouraged to experiment and express yourself through art and craft. Mama is so thankful for the amazing teachers there!

Our little artist at his first school exhibition

Although there’s less¬†opportunities for us at home together, I cherish the times when we play simple number and finger games and do crafty activities that build your fine motor skills.¬† Of course, you still treat glue like paint, colour all over the¬†page, use brushes, pencils, markers and crayons like stamps, wield the scissors and chopsticks with two hands when your fingers are tired… But you’re getting there. Just persevere and keep up the great work!

Our art wall is constantly full even though mama recycles often

3) THE GREAT OUTDOORS:¬† We now do more things outside and for¬† longer before you ask for a “śäĪśäĪ‚Äú!¬† You’ve always been a cautious toddler and not a big fan of being under the hot sun.¬† Yet as you grow, you now scoot with more confidence and speed, are eager to get wet and play in the sand (caveat: area must be “clean and cool” enough), jump in the¬†pool at your weekly swim class, pedal the tricycles at school and ride your balance bike to deliver items and messages from¬†place to¬†place.¬† I only wish you’d wear your safety helmet more often so mama doesn’t worry … too much.

Getting out and about

So here’s to you, my little big baby, who’s becoming a big little boy. Love you to the moon and back!

We are Singaporean

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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, settling quickly for 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 ūüôā

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Our first sticker ch(art)

We introduced B’s first sticker reward chart last month and it’s become an ongoing work of art and lesson in self-control for all of us.¬† The sticker chart tackled two areas that I felt were within B’s reach but he wasn’t consistent and/or disciplined enough about:

1) Self feeding and sitting down for meals (snacks not included) – I was so excited when B would use his spoon or fork to eat porridge, yogurt, oats/cereal, fruits around 16 months.¬† He’d eat pretty much everything in his first 2 years.¬† Alas, that didn’t last ūüė¶¬† Now there are times when a mealtime battle looms, sometimes for a reason (sick), sometimes for no reason (aka #terrific2s). Besides stickers, I’ve tried reducing¬† snacks, reasoning with him, even a “join us, eat what you can.” When B eats slowly and gets picky, he still needs prompting and bite-sized food to make it easier (and faster), but all this has helped without¬† needing a rotan!¬† Yet.

2) Going to the potty – B started gradual potty training around 18 months. We first introduced potty books and a standalone¬†potty, then wore trainers at home, moved to a kids potty seat (on the big seat) by 2 years as he was tall enough then. We’re now seeing increasingly diaper-free days and he’s comfortable standing up or sitting down to pee, when the boy urinals are too high (or there are none). The sticker chart is helping to minimise accidents outside, transition to diaper free in school, and when he needs to do his big business coz for some reason, he doesn’t like to sit and poo!

For both areas, I try not to make a big deal out of it and affirm the positive, though I admit, I’m not a¬†patient mom…. As he’s young, I didn’t want us to be too fixated on any “final big reward” so I kept the design fun and open, with him having the freedom to choose and add stickers to celebrate his accomplishments. It’s nice to hear him say “Mama, I pee, so now get sticker!” or “I am big and strong!” (after eating) as he enjoys and understands what this sticker chart means.

Hmm ... where shall I put my sticker?
Hmm … where shall I put my sticker?

Here’s how we did it: For my vehicle loving boy, I chose a design that would appeal to him – hand drawn, copied and adapted from here. I explained what, why and how – even got B to help¬†paint the background while I wrote out how the system would work (with tiny images for our non-reader to see). We stuck it at height level along the corridor between his bathroom and our dining area. As he adds his stickers, he’s also adding to his work of art aka the sticker chart!

B squirting out watercolours for the background
B squirting out watercolours for the background
Our first sticker chart art (as of today)
Our first sticker chart art (as of today)

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A typical school day – before and after

The¬†first term has come and gone better than I expected! In April, B started taking his mid-day nap in school. ¬†Before this, I’d usually rush to¬†pick him up on time after my meetings, work or lunch. He’d be too excited to see mama and though he was tired by 1p, he’d often skip naps and end up cranky by evening. Now on weekdays, he naps daily at school (~1.5-2 hours), I pick him up after¬†3p and we¬†spend the rest of the day together. I’m thankful for the wonderful teachers and friends that’s he’s made, how well they’ve helped him adjust¬†to nursery life, enabling us to have quality time together and apart.

Singing with the ukulele in his uniform
Before school: Singing with the ukulele (in his uniform)
After school (nap): Afternoon snack with mama in his pjs

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Releasing your child to (pre)school

B has been attending half day preschool at Odyssey for a week now. I drop him off before his 9a class start and pick him up after lunch around 1245p, in time for his mid-day nap back home. He did us all proud, adapting better and faster than expected. There were less tears, increasing confidence and engagement in class, and even “thank yous” and “byes” to his teachers, friends and favourite things in school (i.e. gardens, school bus) by end of the week.

In fact, he coped better than I did after 2+ years of being together (almost) 24/7. In their first week newsletter update, his teachers were clearly pleased with his progress – and probably relieved too!

Once we decided on “where”, I spoke to a few friends, read Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution and Stormie Omartian’s The Power of a Praying Parent to prepare for “how” and “what if”. Here’s what I didn’t know or fully appreciate till B started:

1) Visit with your child as often as possible before class starts, taking photos to recall. I made memories by adding little pages for his journal which worked better than any “going to preschool” kid book because they were real, some with pictures of him in them! When day 1 came along, B was familiar with the names and images of his school, class and teachers. Ideally, we’d have loved to accompany him to playgroups at school or with his classmates beforehand, but we didn’t have this option.

2) If possible, ask to be the only new child in the class, say for a 2 week period, and avoid starting after a long holiday as many “experienced” kids still get separation anxiety on the first day back. This ensures sufficient attention and no peer crying effect which stresses out everyone around. A fellow mom friend shared how 5 kids in her child’s class (different school) cried for almost 3 hours until they vomited. Teachers were quite overwhelmed and parents clearly distressed!

3) Crying at drop off is normal. Crying at pick up is also normal. BUT it doesn’t mean your child has been crying all day! The tears usually stop once teachers are given a chance to take over, distract and calm down your child. By mid-week, B cried for less than a minute at drop off and pick up and after that, he was all smiles, no tears. The key here is to TRUST, reflect a positive mood and (the toughest part) LEAVE. I hung B’s water bottle around his neck which also ensured he was hydrated, and always had a towel ready, i.e. his comfort object since he was an infant. I had my doubts too at the beginning as I wandered around waiting for the call or tears which never came thankfully, all the while trying to spy in while not letting them see me. Eventually, I told myself to let go. Let others get to know and take care of him. Grant them your trust and allow them to keep earning yours and his. Also, enjoy the well-deserved morning off, mama!

4) It can feel like your child’s regressing. B was koala bear clingy over the weekend (we started on a Thursday) and had disrupted naps because he’d catnap in the car on the way back and not nap enough once home, or would wake up crying for me and wouldn’t go back to sleep without me holding him. Over the weekend, I reflected and determined to not be hasty – all of this eventually resolved or would resolve. And B would also continue to grow in character, knowledge and imagination. I just need to remember to project love for him, encourage interest in school and model respect for his teachers. Believe he will thrive!

5) Release your child into God’s hands. To quote Omartian: “We can’t be everywhere. We can’t see everything. We can’t know everything. But God can. Acknowledge our Father is in control of our children’s lives and ours, and we will have greater peace.” Amen!

Of course, I miss B everytime he’s in school and am trying to maximise our remaining time together with bonding and NOT mere enrichment – begone you tiger mom urges! Meanwhile, I’m enjoying giving more focus to entrepreneurial endeavours, including the The Whiz Times, and also having ME time for devotionals, pilates, books, brekkie/brunch catch-ups until my schedule changes again ūüôā

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Tidings of comfort and joy

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! This advent season, I wanted to impress on B the true meaning of Jesus’ birth and how it is not just about gifting but also the act of giving, and God’s ultimate gift of life. Although it was hard to break free from all the commercialism, we found a few simple ways to reflect this while still doing our fair share of Christmas mall hopping ūüôā

We made an advent calendar from B’s artwork with clear plastic pockets to mark the 24 days, which was December 1 to 24 this year. I liked how this simple template could be re-used many times for things like learning numbers, letters, words, days and months, etc. Each day, we prayed for specific family, friends, those in need, our country and world, ending with the fruits of the spirit — which B coincidentally learned in Sunbeam (Sunday School) year. On Christmas morning, we visited a single mother of 5 kids as part of our church’s community blessing project before joining our cell group for food and carols. I look forward to more fun, faith-based activities as he grows up. For 2014, we could try this weekly series based on proverbs, more on the fruits or even try working through this catechism as our church’s awesome new Devotional Journal weekly family section doesn’t quite work for young tots.

Of course, we also covered the usual Christmas craft and books. Between work, colds, family visits, playdates, parties and our year end holiday to Hong Kong, we couldn’t complete a nativity project or join many church events. After reading some books and our toddler bible, B recalls the nativity story by acting out a pregnant mama (Mary), old hunched men with presents (three wise men) and a wailing baby (Jesus)…. It’s a start I guess ūüėČ

As for craft, this time around I let him try cutting, gluing, threading (punched holes around the art), and letter tracing (glued glitter on words). ¬†We started with a¬†Christmas star for the tree, stockings and poinsettas. We used the remaining painted rolls to¬†make a turkey for a friend’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Wreath with holly, berries and gingerbread men
(Grandma made those cute origami mini-Santa Clauses)

Sticking ornaments on a car track painted Christmas card for his cousin

Home-made watercoloured ornaments ūüôā

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer

 
B in a snow globe
Collage art of peace, love and joy Рthe last 3 days in our advent calendar
Turning 2 has been a tipping point with some of the worst and best developments to date. B started shrieking for attention, tipping over his bowl/plate/cup when almost done (sooo annoying!), had bouts of skipped naps, early waking and general crankiness throughout the day. On the plus side, his interest in print (numbers and letters) keeps growing. He correctly spells out most words in big letters, is getting better at small letters, loves counting as well as spotting numerals. To my delight, soon after his birthday, he finally started singing. In tune! All the time! What was previously a monotone rap transformed into spontaneous singing and dancing to favourite songs and those he hears often (i.e. Jingle Bells). I even caught him singing nursery songs that I used to hum to him as a baby. Quite amazing what our kids retain at this age!

This Thursday, B will start half-day nursery, with mommy joining for a few hours/days before transitioning to a complete drop-off. I got him a¬†personalised¬†preschooler book, and also¬†printed out¬†photos of his new school to add to our scrap¬†book to get him familiar with the concept.¬†¬†It’s encouraging that the school also focuses on being global citizens, i.e. donating for charity and recycling for art. ¬†Here’s hoping B’s new journey with Odyssey will be even more rewarding and fun than it’s been with mommy and me so far.

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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 ūüôā 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 ŚÖ¨ŚÖ¨”, “Áą∑Áą∑ Ś•∂Ś•∂” 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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