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A Thanksgiving reflection

Hooray! B has finally joined the rest of his classmates who’ve turned four. As his last week of nursery approaches, I’m looking forward to our Thanksgiving break together before he gets promoted to kindergarten. Here’s some reflections on his first full year in childcare.

Dear B,

You’ve shown social maturity and adaptability with the many changes this year. There were farewells to old playmates and adjustments to new friends and teachers at school. You didn’t like spending less time with mama as I not only returned to full time corporate work, but travelled away on business quite often – at one point for almost 3 weeks straight. Yet your teachers remarked on your “very positive self identify and sense of belonging”, 他会告诉老师:“妈妈不在新加坡”“我的爷爷来接我” as you figured things out and embraced the village of caregivers around you.

You’re growing in knowledge and imagination (and negotiation skills)! Being constantly surrounded by books has motivated you to learn how to read, first reciting from memory, then through sight words, and now as you blend and decipher more and more each day. “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”  We try to read together every night when I’m at home, borrow or buy new readers (like the Timmy and Tammy series below), and write down “new” words together.

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Flipping through our notebook with all the new or tough words

You are learning to persevere and not give up. You were frustrated that you couldn’t draw or write as well as some of your friends but I’m glad we encouraged you to keep on doodling and scribbling. Since you like mixed medium, illustrated stories and numbers, we incorporated math and sensory play, gave titles to your art and made collages of our holidays. Mama too has learned to be patient and not compare! Remember Leo, the late bloomer.

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Colouring isn’t my favourite, but completing a number puzzle is!

Speaking of perseverance, you completed your first sport events this year. Mama crazily signed us up for an 800m Cold Storage kids run (which I thought was only 100m – oops), and I am so proud that you finished it even if we held hands and walked part of the way. You also biked solo in the OCBC Cycle event and grew confident enough that you cycled with us around Maldives. You didn’t even realise that those training wheels never touched the ground! We’ll upgrade you soon to a 16″ big boy pedal bike once you’re tall enough 🙂

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You’re starting to apply yourself in things that interest you, like violin. Though some days I bribe you to practice with car stickers, you surprise me with your progress and willingness to continue each term. Your teachers even invited you to perform as one of the musicians this year, and you did wonderfully! I’m glad you’re learning that “what separates the talented individual from a successful one is a lot of hard work.” While we’ll still explore many things and may drop others as you grow up, I’ll always support you in your pursuits as long as I can and you want to 🙂

Perhaps mommy and daddy could also work on two areas this coming year while your fantastic four is “under construction.” One is to more intentionally live out our faith as individuals and as a family. B may not like sitting still to pray, but he loves the bible stories and has made more friends at church. How can we help you grow into a godly man?  How can we serve our church community together?

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Same, same, but different! B likes to compare between the kids bibles

The other area of course, is Chinese. Although we found a good programme at Sparkanauts, I still wish for more time with you since no one else speaks Chinese at home. Your teacher suggested that we use videos, games or apps – 在家中可以观看有教育意义的卡通短片或者儿歌 。或者通过 ⼀些华文的电脑游戏来学习华文。家人可以使用华语和他进行沟通,增强他的日常生活⼝ 语。老师可以在和他的沟通中纠正他的句型错误并完整他的句子 –  beyond continuing to speak in Chinese. Mama has been quite strict about screen time, but perhaps we could try this in the coming year? That way, maybe ama and 公公 could get immersed too 🙂

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Some of the things we’ve tried for Chinese, if only I had more time!

My darling B, you melt my heart when you say, “I love you more than all the numbers, mama” and you make us laugh with “Now I like daddy, but I really like mama … when I’m old and I like mama, I’ll really like daddy.” I thank God every day for you and how blessed we are as your parents.

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Time is precious, waste it wisely

This month, I have 3 weeks of no business travel. Hooray!  His teachers and my parents tell me that he’s thriving – at nursery and at home, even when I’m away. But when I’m back, B has definitely become more demanding of me, my attention and time. I find his worst behaviours tend to get triggered on evenings when I’m the most tired too. In those moments, I’m learning that  empathy, consistent TLC with a dash of discipline (when appropriate), and some basic psychology (choices, counting down, consequences) goes a long way. While days at work remain focused and full, I’ve been trying to carve out precious time with the kiddo every day. This week, instead of rushing to pick him up after work and head back for our regular home-cooked dinner, we detoured to Clarke Quay. We shared a Hokkaido ice-cream and watched the river boats chug by, B scooted while I attempted to window shop, and we had a later than usual dinner with daddy near his office by the river. FullSizeRender While I have less time to plan those projects and outings which B and I enjoy, I find that simple spontaneous activities together can fill that need B has for mama time, which has typically evolved around art and craft, books and music. This week, after countless volcano eruptions and floods, I suggested to see what happens next. So we cleaned and dried our clay models, rolled and flattened them like play dough. B had fun figuring out how to spell “VOLCANO” and “FLOOD”; find and make the clay letters, and later created his version of what the ground would look after a natural disaster – with animal tracks and dead trees. He was also overjoyed to receive some dino and volcano stickers from a friend at school – everything just came together nicely 🙂 The best part? These at-home activities didn’t take much time or money, just some hands-on investment and imagination. Yet IMO, they pay off far more than classes or toys. IMG_2600 A mom friend recently asked me if I felt guilty working full time.  I’ll always remain an engaged parent regardless what the circumstances are.  I didn’t feel guilty leaving the corporate world back when B was 6 months old, which led me to start up CRIB with some awesome ladies. I don’t feel guilty today with my commitments at full time work either. I think perhaps a big reason is that I’ve had the benefit of choice – and I chose to do what felt right, and what I was passionate about at that time. Honestly, having been a full time mom, flexi mompreneur, and working mom, I must say, the grass always seems greener!  Working full time has its ups and downs, like days such as these: I really need to work todayBut rather than guilt, let’s focus on making the most out of the time we have today. After all, time is precious. Waste it wisely. For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.  

Recreating natural disasters

What do the Nepal earthquake, Sydney storm, and Mount Batur in Bali have in common?  They’re all natural disasters!

This weekend, mama decided to run an impromptu lesson on natural disasters based on recent events and trips. As we always do, we borrowed books – on floods, earthquakes and volcanoes …

Books

We talked through the news (printed and online), looked up YouTube videos, and even dug up these water and land formation cards I made when we were homeschooling. Back then I got more out of these than he did, so it was nice to see him actually read some of the words now, recognise more formations and associate what he’s seen like Singapore island, Marina Bay, Macritchie Reservoir, River Valley, Puteri Harbour, Bukit Timah (hill), Jurong Lake, Alexandra Canal, etc.
Formations

Best of all, we recreated these natural disasters at home, getting some hands-on, messy fun along the way!

First, I took out our modeling clay and aluminum food trays. Using the visuals as a guide, I invited B to make a mini volcano and river inside the trays.  I helped him to shape the volcano while he did a good job on the river, adding little trees and animals along it too ….
Clay

Then, I hunted around the house and found these items – baking soda, dish soap, paint, vinegar, paper or plastic cups, water and something to stir with.  If you remember science class (or else, just search online), you’ll know what comes next!
DIY

Fill one cup with vinegar and set aside.  In the other cup, mix a couple of spoonfuls of baking soda, a dash of dish soap and paint (to match what you’re trying to simulate). Add water and stir until it’s a nice even mixture. Pour this into the volcano to get the red “magma” inside or blue “river water” along the banks.
Magma

Lastly, pour the cup with vinegar slowly into the mix and see the volcano erupt with “lava” spilling out,

and the riverbanks overflowing!

How awesome is that? We had so much fun that B asked to do this again. And again.  Science is cool.

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This is my daddy!

Busy mama almost forgot that it’s hubby’s birthday today.  Thanks to awesome tech, we whisked together a DIY birthday card just in time for a very special man when he came home from his overseas business trip.

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Daddy’s portrait and writing done 100% by B on the Kids Doodle iOS app, edited on the birthday template on Pages for Mac with added text and printing by mama, all under 15 minutes!

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Christmas in Bali and advent-ures at home

This past advent celebration and annual family holiday was especially fun and meaningful.  B retains and expresses so much more now PLUS the grandparents joined us throughout, resulting in lots of inter-generational fun, bonding (and free babysitting!).

First, our trip to Bali, the land of a thousand temples and a million smiles.  Although I’m saddened by the recent Air Asia crash, I’m grateful that the weather was fine during our visit.  After playing tourist the first two days (Kintamani volcanoes, Ubud rice terraces, fruit and luwak coffee plantations, Kuta shopping, Nusa Dua beaches, Gianyar elephant rides and Uluwatu temples), we lazed around the hotel pool and waterfront for the next two days.  Speaking Bahasa helped us secure a good local driver at 75K Rph per day (vs the 100-120K tourist/hotel rate). I was also relieved that food was not an issue from the 3 year old boy to the 70 year old vegetarian grandma, and everyone indulged my quest for the best bebek in Bali – usually alfresco with paddy field views and no aircon (sorry, hubby)  We had some me-time and couple-time too, although B woke up super early due to the early sunrises in Bali, and rolled off his large day bed in the middle of the night (!) Here’s to the fond memories:

Next, a recap of our crafty advent-ures since this post at the start of December.  With a fair bit of localisation and improvisation, we managed to work through most of Truth In A Tinsel, establish our nightly devotion (which co-incidentally reinforced calendar, dates and months), and pulled off some easy yet oh-so-pretty art and craft too!  Details are posted on my Pinterest board and in real time on Instagram. Here were our favourites:

We painted and glued a mini Christmas tree that conveniently stored all our advent clues (from Truth In The Tinsel this year). Using double sided tape, B also added "baubles" as a finishing touch
We painted and glued toilet paper rolls to form a mini Christmas tree, which conveniently stored all our advent clues too (from Truth In The Tinsel this year). Using double sided tape, B also added “baubles” as a finishing touch
Tape a bunch of toilet paper rolls together, print out letters ands shapes. Paint, decorate and peg away!
Tape a bunch of toilet paper rolls together, print out letters ands shapes. Paint, decorate, tie a string and peg away!
A toilet paper roll classic, that recycles all that wrapping paper. Stuff the rolls with little gifts (and torn confetti), wrap, tape and tie the ends with pretty ribbons
A toilet paper roll classic, that recycles all that wrapping paper. Stuff the rolls with little gifts (and torn confetti), wrap, tape and tie the ends with pretty ribbons
Perfect for kid gift exchanges, select cutters, paint and stamp away
Perfect for kid gift exchanges, select cutters, paint and stamp as and where you like
B's in a painting, gluing and cutting phase, so that's what we did with the ornaments
B basically painted, glued and cut all his advent ornaments

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Advent-uring together

Where has the time gone?

As a full time working mom again, I find that I have more focus as my daytime schedule, work and family priorities are very straightforward (sick days and school closure days aside). I also relish the me-time, especially when I’m travelling and am grateful that all the transition and support planning has worked out. When I was away for 10 days on an overseas trip, I was completely reassured that B is in good hands even though we both missed each other. What can’t ever be replaced though is TIME together. Our weekday mornings and evenings now just feel so rushed!

Speaking of time (or the lack of), I’m keen to carve out some quality mom-and-B time as we count down to the Christmas and New Year holidays.  Last year we learnt about the gift of Christmas, that the season is not just about gifting but also the act of giving, and God’s ultimate gift of life.  As B had just turned 2, he learnt Christmas carols, art and craft, how to pray for others and joined us in his first community service visit. Now that he’s 3, we’re trying to be more intentional to cultivate his faith. We started by including him in our weekly cell group fellowship this past Friday night. B was so excited before and after – though I’m not sure if it was due to extended time playing, hanging out with mommy and friends, or the extra special late bedtime 🙂

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Meanwhile, I’ve also been compiling ideas to try this Advent season, though as usual, my wish list is far longer than in reality:

1) Devotional: Reading the bible is now a regular bedtime routine. B actually takes his beginners bible out and asks (insists!) on a story or two every night.  As we’ve read through the Old Testament and most of the New Testament stories, this December, we’ll move to the One Year Devotions for Preschoolers book that we got from a friend.

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B’s beginners bible and a sample page from the preschooler’s devotional

2) Truth In The Tinsel: Designed for 3+ years, we’re trying it now as B has been introduced to the kids bible (see above) and can stay engaged on a home project over several days (see what we did for Teachers’ Day).  Also, the Christmas tree is quite bare as I did a bit of spring cleaning and I’m sure B will happily oblige to add more stuff to it. The idea is to read a passage of Scripture, make a Christmas ornament and talk through the related narrative every day. The story or activity can be adapted as needed – to match B’s level, attention span, and our time together. We did a “trial” to replace the star for our tree, loosely based on a sample page from the e-book:

Our new Christmas star using foam and paper stickers
Making a star using foam and paper stickers
Sample page - Star
Sample page – Star

3) Advent Calendar:  Last year, I recycled B’s artwork to make a wall calendar with clear plastic pockets to mark the 24 days till Christmas. Each day, we prayed for specific family, friends, those in need, our country and world, ending with the fruits of the spirit in our own lives. Although this calendar has since been used as a fun Letterland upper and lowercase matching game, we could always just repurpose this once more if I run out of time…

2013 advent prayer calendar
2013 advent prayer calendar

HOWEVER, I’d love to make a new advent calendar which could double as a festive decoration too.  Here are two DIY ideas that I like and find age-appropriate for toddlers: Toilet Paper Roll House and Scrapbook Gift Wrap Paper calendars. These could contain simple clues (for Truth In The Tinsel), scripture verses (from daily devotion), or just a list of fun yet meaningful activities or items each day.

4) Christmas books:  This year, I hope to check out the titles in this reading list as we’ve found quite a few (still) available at the public libraries in Singapore.  B also received a beginners Christmas piano song book from his aunt in California – and we look forward to incorporate that into our regular home music sessions 🙂

Unwrapping the gifts from  California :)
Unwrapping the gifts from California 🙂

Even if you don’t celebrate Advent but are keen to get some crafty time with the kid during the holidays, feel free to try these out, visit my pinterest board for more ideas, and of course share what you’re doing with us too. Happy Advent-uring!

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Hole in the bottom of the sea

B and his classmates have been busy preparing for their Term 3 musical showcase – based on Jessica Law’s adaptation of “Hole in the Bottom of the Sea,” with a bit of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Aquarium” thrown in for the sea effects. Hubby saw B perform live for the first time, and was quite proud of our little “crab!” This renewed B’s interest in sea life which was a nice break from weeks of vehicles and space talk at home. As we had previously done a diorama together, this time we tried a simple book-based craft using Marcus Pfister’s The Rainbow Fish series.

Here’s how we did it:

Borrow the book(s) from the library and read them!

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There are many books in the series, but we chose “Rainbow Fish To The Rescue” as it had a meaningful storyline (about sharing, caring and inclusion) AND it had a shark – which coincided with his school play

Print/draw fish templates for the lil one to colour. We used the fish colouring handouts from a play we attended. I let B choose his own colours and material. I guess he wanted to recreate the book’s actual look and feel as this is what he came up with – colourful crayons, blue/green watercolour paint, and glitter for the shiny scales:

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B’s more self aware now, and is still TRYING to paint inside the lines cleanly. He told me “mama, so messy!” but I said “No worries. We’re cutting the fish out and it’ll look great!”

I got him to broadly cut out the fish, then let him work on his sea animals puzzles while I trimmed the little fishies and prepared the box – drawing inspiration from a craft I found here.

Ha, I think you can tell which one mama did
Ha, I think you can tell which one mama did
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Puzzles help to reinforce and break the monotony of waiting (or painting too long!). While I finished the cutting, B “revised” his 1-10 numbers and Chinese names like 沙鱼 (shark)

Unlike our previous “fixed” diorama, I wanted this to be moveable so I cut horizontal lines (<1 cm width) to slide water bottle caps with the fishes tied and taped at the bottom to give the effect of “swimming.”  Any medium size box will do.  I just flipped our DIY bus/train on the side for this – recycling rocks!

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Top view of the box (jagged lines ‘coz I was doing this super quick!)

Finally, B punched holes, cut pieces of scotch tape and string, and threaded them through each fish.  I helped to tie and fix them to the  top of the box. WP_20140921_006For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

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