Reflection and Resolutions 2014

My little baby is going to school!!!  I think I’m having more separation anxiety than Kyra.  It’s sad but my anxiety stems from a few reasons.  I’ll no longer be her only teacher – she’s going to adore and worship these other women coming into her life.  Also, I’m sad to let her go at this juncture because our relationship has been pretty rocky.

I end 2013 with some regrets and heartache.  One question I often get is, “How is Kyra adjusting to Zach?” I’d say that she’s adjusting quite well and she really loves her little brother, showering him with hugs and kisses.  But I think with the arrival of Zach, my relationship with Kyra has gotten quite strained.  Since the pregnancy, well-meaning family members have tried to “relieve” Kyra off me – carrying her when she demanded to be carried, attending to her needs and wants, and I can just relax in a corner.  Not that I didn’t enjoy this treatment, but I now think that maybe starting from then, she has felt that I no longer love her as much or at least, no longer available for her.  Added to that, I’m still the disciplinarian.  This situation has prompted some very heartbreaking comments from her lately, like “Mummy, don’t love me” (ie. I don’t want Mama to love me) and “Mama loves Zach, Papa loves Kyra”.

So anyway, it’s the time of the year again where we reflect upon the past year and promise to do better for the next.  I want to start 2014 with a few resolutions and I’m excited to reclaim lost ground with my baby.

  1. Start and end each day with a hug and kiss.
  2. Bend down to her level and have eye contact.
  3. Carry her as much as she still wants me to, before it becomes physically impossible.
  4. Put away my handphone and ipad (or books and magazines) when I’m with her and just be with her.
  5. Focus on building character.
  6. Play with her.

While surfing around, I found some pretty nice ideas that I want to try this year!  I want to start a Blessings/Thanksgiving jar where we will write things that we are grateful for everyday (or as often as we can remember).

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There’s also a New Year’s interview sheet where we can fill it up over some years and see how we’ve grown.  Image

[Click on the pictures to go to the original sites]

I hope 2014 will be a better year for all of us!  We are all good Mamas and can only get better.  🙂

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Dear Kyra, 

No matter how old you are, Mama loves you very much and you’ll always be my baby.  I will do better to show love in a way that you understand but I’ll still discipline you (firmly but not harshly) because that’s part of love.  I know you’ll enjoy school very much and I hope you grow up secure and confident, knowing that you are God’s prized possession and Mama and Papa’s pride and joy, always.  

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What Christmas Presents Should We Buy? BOOKS!

I’ve been very inspired by Mother Kao’s post on the importance of frequently reading to (and with) your child and also to buy a collection of well-loved books for them.  I’ve always thought: why buy when our local libraries are well-stocked with books?  Besides, I only read most of my books once and they are forever sitting on the shelves collecting dust.  I’ve forgotten that children, unlike adults, love reading and re-reading books.  In fact, the more they read the book, the more they love because the words and images become familiar to them. So yes, I’m now on a book buying spree! 

Where to get cheap(er) books?  Online!  Just discovered and tried bookdepository.com and let’s just say the prices are pretty attractive.  However, you won’t get all your books in 1 parcel.  They tend to come in dribs and drabs over a few weeks.  So if you can wait, why not? 

While we’re at it, one of our favourite sites is flipforjoy.com.  It offers quality award winning books around the world translated into Mandarin (some titles are bilingual).  Invest in good stuff this Christmas and partner Flipforjoy in a charity drive with Rainbow Centre Singapore.  They are pledging a $5 donation with every book order (https://www.facebook.com/flipforjoy).    

So, keep reading anything and everything this holiday and look out for our upcoming book reviews!

Birth Stories

Some interesting trivia for you!

DID YOU KNOW… that only female kangaroos have pouches to carry their joeys in?  (I didn’t know!  I thought both male and female kangaroos had them.)

DID YOU KNOW… that female kangaroos can be in a perpetual state of pregnancy?  (WUT??)  They can carry up to 3 joeys at any 1 time.  One joey hopping in and out of the pouch, another one developing in the pouch and another embryo in pause mode.  God must have thought extremely highly of the female kangaroo to make her such a prolific giver of life.  (Source: http://www.koalaexpress.com.au/kangaroo%20facts.htm)

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Anyway, this post is about Kyra and Zach’s birth stories since Mummy M said that she liked reading them.  Time has a way of making a lot of painful details about motherhood fuzzy so I’ll try my best to recall.  Promise.  No gory details.

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For Kyra, I remember feeling really antsy about the whole birth process.  Like many first-time mothers, I tried to read up on the various ways you can give birth (Yes, there are MANY ways.)  Like a lot of women, I was ambivalent about taking the epidural.  On the 1 hand, I would, in principle, want to experience a natural natural birth (without anaesthesia).  On the other hand, I’m not sure about my own threshold of pain.  I was also really scared about the episiotomy.  So for months, I was praying for a SSS delivery – safe, smooth and swift!  The last month was a pretty agonising wait.  Being the first time, I was so sensitive to every braxton hick I kept counting and recording the intervals because I didn’t know which ones were braxton hicks and which ones were  real birth pangs.  I needn’t have worried about not being able to tell the braxton hicks from real contractions because trust me, you will know the difference.  For new mothers, if I may describe it, it’s really like menstrual cramps, except like 10 times worse.  Then it steadily progresses to be 100 times worse (but more about that later).

So I experienced contractions at 5 a.m. on Kyra’s EDD, 23 August 2011, and I waited till about 6 plus to be sure the contractions were regular before telling the Husband, “I think you don’t need to go to work today.”  So by 7 a.m., we reached Mount Alvernia (great experience there, by the way), did the paperwork and got ready.  The nurses checked and said, “Oh, 5 cm dilated.  Halfway already.  No need epidural la.”  I stopped her immediately and said, “No no no… I need.  Please ask the doctor to come.”  So I had the epidural and was happily numb and couldn’t feel much.  At 8 plus 9, my gynae, Dr. Soon, came and said, “Okay, let me go down and grab a coffee and then we can start pushing.”  I was so numb that when I was supposed to push, I didn’t quite know how and the nurses had to push my stomach to help me push the baby out.  That was painful cuz I felt they were suffocating me.  The doctor also helped to suction Kyra’s head to make the process faster so by 10 a.m., she was out and I had my baby in my arms without going through too much pain.
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ZACH
Fast forward 2 years later.  I know I wanted to take the epidural the second time round.  That was the only birth plan in my mind.  I was also timing my braxton hicks / contractions very diligently because many have told me for second and subsequent births, everything happens really quickly and I better go into hospital early.  On 24 October noon, I thought I felt regular 15 min contractions.  I was still having lunch with Mummies M and J and XX!  Usually we’d hang out with the kiddies till dinnertime to wait for the Husbands to come meet us but that day, I felt off-colour so I went home to my parents’ house.  Thank God I was with them and didn’t hang out as usual.  The regular contractions kinda disappeared so I thought they were just stronger braxton hicks.  Then at 6 p.m., I got woken up from my nap from intense squeezing around the tummy.  There was no mistaking it, but I waited and timed them – 15 minutes apart.  I tried to very calmly tell my parents I needed to go hospital now and proceeded to call the Husband.  I was calm because I thought there was still quite some time.  Contractions 15 minutes apart will take a while to progress right?  My dad was flipping out.  I think he was really scared I’d give birth in his car.  I went home to get my bag but by then, I felt something wrong because the contractions became 15 min apart –> 8 min –> 7 min.

I reached Mount Alvernia at 7 p.m.  and still waited at the delivery suite for a nurse to check me in.  It was quite a few minutes before a nurse came and attended to me.  She even thought I was here for induction.  She asked me for a birth plan and I said no plan – just give me the epidural.  She proceeded to check me and she shrugged and said, “Sorry dear.  10 cm dilated already.  Too late for epidural.”  Dang-dang-dang-dang…. For a moment, I couldn’t believe my ears.  I only had 1 plan and that was to take the epidural.  What now??  What were my options??  I think I was ready to burst into tears if I didn’t have to deal with another round of contractions.  Okay… faced with no options other than to give birth the way women for thousands of years have always given birth, I tried to remember what was said in the pre-natal class but obviously, either I remembered wrongly or that woman was talking rubbish because IT WAS NOT WORKING…. The nurses were really good though.  They just coached and told me to breathe the laughing gas in and out deeply.  Did it help?  I think it didn’t relieve the pain but at least it gave me something to concentrate on while tiding over the rounds of contractions.  In between the contractions, I remembered praying a lot because I wasn’t even confident if I could do this on my own strength.  I was definitely not psychologically prepared to do this without the epidural.  The nurse was also telling me not to push yet cuz the Husband and Doc weren’t there.  So after what seemed an interminably long time of breathing in and out, I didn’t care anymore and just started reacting instead of thinking.  While I’ve always thought of myself as being in control – I’m not the kind of woman who screams hysterically – I screamed hysterically.  And grunted in pain.  And screamed again.  I might have scared many fathers and women waiting outside but oh well… The truth is, giving birth (without an epidural) was never meant to be a controlled and glamorous activity, and the truth shall set them free.  By then, thank God the Husband arrived and was saying encouraging but nevertheless unhelpful things, e.g. “You’re doing well.  Very good!”  (If you’ve attended pre-natal class, the husband is supposed to be the coach to instruct the wife to breathe in and out deeply or take shallow breaths etc.  But of course he forgot all those too.)  Dr Soon finally arrived just in time to deliver Zach and I think it took 2 pushes to get him out.  Wow… I did it.  God helped me do it.  It was so fast that I didn’t expend too much energy that I couldn’t push in the end and need an emergency c-sec.  God answered all my prayers – smooth, safe and swift delivery.

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I think God did prepare me for this situation because a couple of weeks before the birth, He asked:  Do you trust in the epidural more or in Me more?  Hm….  Obviously He didn’t believe my answer and wanted me to prove it.  Haha…

If (major IF) I were to have a third child, I doubt I’d voluntarily choose a natural birth without epidural again.  It does take an extraordinary amount of desperation or determination to do it without the epidural.  My suggestion to first-time mothers who carry a let’s-see-how-painful-it-is-and-if-I-can-take-it mindset towards taking an epidural, DON’T!  There are other ways to test your threshold of pain.  Labour is not one of those times.  Decide early to take it and have a more painless and relaxed birth.  Chances are if you are ambivalent about taking the epidural, you probably don’t feel strongly enough about not taking the epidural anyway.  But should you end up in a similar predicament like me, don’t despair too badly too!  You will be able to give birth to your child and probably faster than if you had taken an epidural.  Just listen to your body and the nurses and you’ll get through it more than fine.

Whether you gave birth to your child with or without the epidural, know for sure that your body had endured that kind of intense pain to bring your child into this world and there’s not much else that you can’t endure to be that mummy for your baby.  (That’s how I psych myself to endure feeding Zach one.more.day. even though every time he bites down my mind just explodes in pain.)  You are a Good Mama!  We all are!

Philippians 4:13 
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

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Let the Daddies Rise Up!

I attended a memorial service the other day of a great preacher of God.  He had been serving God for 50 years and just a few weeks shy of his 50th anniversary in God’s service, he passed away.  It’s quite interesting that he was the Reverend who dedicated me at the Baby Dedication service and then 28 years later, he dedicated my baby too.  She pooped explosively while he carried her, shocking the first 3 rows of people.  That’s my girl… 😀  During the service, many people spoke about his accolades but the 1 thing which stood out for me was how often he was referred to as a loving father.  One of the speakers made this statement, “Fathers create culture.  They set the tone in the family.  They say ‘do this, do that, don’t talk like that to your mother.’ ”  That set me thinking about the importance of the Daddy’s role.

That boy you dated.  That man-boy you married.  Suddenly overnight, everything changes and he becomes a father!  Wut… Compared to us mothers, who’ve had 9 months of physiological and hormonal changes to help us prepare for the baby, it’s drastically different for the guys.  It is possible that nothing in his life changes during the pregnancy (no vomitting, no sleepless nights, didn’t feel no flutter kicks in the tummy) and then one fine day, a naked, bloody, mucous alien-looking thingey lands in his arms and he’s told to cut the umbilical cord.  No wonder Fathers get pretty shell-shocked.  But the best of them soldier on despite being shell-shocked, faithfully trying to care for the mothers, receiving guests, smiling, trying to keep up with being present but not in-the-way of the MOTHERS (wife, in-law and own mum), who assume utmost importance in the household now just because they have/had milk.

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But the poor boy tries and soon, he gets the hang of things he can do and does well.  He plays with the baby.  She never fails to giggle in glee as he becomes her human amusement park ride.  He talks to her via a soft toy.  Once, the Husband was sharing something in church and Kyra was whining.  My mum told her, “If you cry and make noise, you must come out and cannot listen to Papa.  If you keep quiet, you can remain in the service.”  She didn’t make a squeak.  She was listening and looking at her Papa intently the whole time.  That’s how enchanted she is with her Daddy.  Interestingly and sadly, I begin to find myself being relegated to second-position in the household.
K: “I love you Papa!”  
Husband: “What about Mama?”  *silence*  
K: “I love you Papa and Mama!”

Zzzzz…. Is it because Papa is the good guy while Mama is the disciplinarian?  Actually, not really.  He scolds her when she misbehaves and smacks her hand when she touches the plugs (rules and consequences we have agreed on beforehand).   But perhaps because of the consistent and loving discipline, his authority in baby’s eyes is amplified.  It is a special gift and authority from God to fathers as the heads of households.  When he speaks, the child listens; when he’s around, the child feels safe;  when he loves the mother, the child knows everything is well in her world.  The research about absent fathers is clear and they are all negative.  Check out Centre for Fathering (http://fathers.com.sg/about/visionmission/).

So where does that leave the mothers?  Of course we are important!  We are the life-givers!  We feed the kids, bathe them, clean their poopy backsides, soothe their boo-boos, teach them etc etc… Nobody says (or dare say) mothers are not important.  But I think at times we have to learn to let go and stay out of the way for fathers to do their job.  We have to constantly remember to encourage them that what they are doing is important to the health of the family.  Somehow, unintentionally (or so he thinks… Mwahahahah…), I have outsourced teeth-brushing, last diaper change for the night (every night, unless he’s working late, then I pity him and take over) and weekend baths to him.  These times are my sacred times – I take a long bath, I play Candy Crush and watch my toe-nails grow.  Very.important.stuff.

Of course he will drop the ball sometimes.  We are all human!  Mummies J and M will know I’ve been battling sleep training (another post for another day) with Baby for the longest time.  It’s a long story but basically, I’ve been marching her back to her room every time she sneaks in at 2-3 am because she’s not allowed to climb into our bed and have another bottle of milk.  So for a few months I’ve had interrupted sleep and it’s fraying my nerves and temper.  One such night, she came in and cried.  Papa held her in his arms and allowed her to sleep.  On him!  “Papa love… Papa love…”  Wah… That cut me deep.  I.felt.betrayed.  I cry…. It’s like your partner in crime, your soulmate, your best friend, ganged up on you with the enemy.  Okay.. I am being dramatic.  So okay, the next day, we resolved everything and he admitted he wasn’t thinking straight at 3 a.m. (I mean, who is right?)  Then another night, she tried the same trick again.  This time he marched her back to her room and stayed there with her till she settled down and didn’t give her milk.  He said, “If I give her milk, you cry.  So I decided to let her cry instead.”  Aww… sho shweet…  Touched.  🙂  These days, he’s “tanking the Kyra” more for me, for which I’m really grateful!  [‘tanking’ = taking the enemy’s hits so your weaker partner has a fighting chance].  So I guess like all marriage issues, it is important to communicate expectations, compromise and try to get him to stand on your side and help.  Easier said than done, but in the long run, it will pay off rather than do everything yourself.

Mothers, though strong, can’t do everything alone.  Get his help, share the load, parent and discipline together.  It’s definitely more fun than going at it alone.  Since the kid (especially girls) is going to idolise and worship her father anyway, might as well make him do more to justify the adulation right???

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What to do with my 2 year old?

I have 2 pet peeves.  One is when I tell people I’m a SAHM and they say, “Wah… so good hor.  You very freeeee!”  (The other pet peev was when I was a teacher and cab drivers in the morning would say, “Wah… so good hor.  You very freeee!!!!!! Got holidays, go home at 2 pm.”  Zzzz….

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So!  I decided to share and write a post on some of the things that I do with Kyra at home that gives me some feeling of accomplishment.  But seriously, even without these things, just child-minding is not exactly a picture of a carefree, tai-tai lifestyle that SAHMs lead most of the time.  I found myself actually dreading the full days I spend with her at home because it just seems to drag on so interminably!  I dread the feeling that I’m not spending the time productively enough with her and yet I also don’t really know what to do with her!  She is so demanding of my attention and time that I sometimes resort to saying to her, “Mama needs to poo!” *runs and hides in the toilet for 5-10 minutes with my phone or magazine just to enjoy some quiet and solitude*.  Terrible right!  I know!

With this recurrent fear and dread week after week, I basically got sick of feeling this way.  When I feel unaccomplished, I go ahead and write myself *tada!!!* a syllabus!!  Generally, a big picture and plan that I’m heading somewhere makes me feel a lot better and more in control.  Hence, I created a list of activities for myself to do with her and it does give me great joy and satisfaction to record and see her progress at things that I set out to teach her.  This mode of recording and reflection has been extremely helpful at observing what she’s interested in and what she’s ready to learn and I can just go with her rhythm and flow to teach her what she wants to know.

So basically, it’s a very simple excel document that I loaded onto Google Drive.  It’s a list of things that I got from my Montessori course and interesting stuff that I cull from other mummies’ homeschool blogs.  I’m gonna share the Practical Life excel sheet because I think it’s a good starting point with 2 year-olds and anyone can find these simple, ubiquitous materials in their home to carry out the activities.  Don’t worry about the column “Suggested Age”.  I just put it there as a guide.  Some activities do require the child to be slightly older (give her time to develop her skills or hand-eye coordination) but I find that given the opportunity and practice, the kids can and will be able to pick up the activities!

[To get the file, just click on the link!] https://app.box.com/s/pebyl6wf6cm3nqsevrk2
(I do have other activities from Language, Cultural Life, Math.  If you find the Practical Life list of activities useful, drop us a comment or message and I’ll share the rest as well!)

I pick out 1 to 2 activities I want to show her for the day and see if she takes to the activities.  I’ll record using my iPhone or iPad (loaded with Google Drive) her reactions, interest level and challenges and see how I can do it better the next time.  An example of what kinds of remarks you could observe is in the excel file.  (If your child, like mine these days, gets very distracted when there’s an iPhone or iPad around, then keep the gadgets aside and record your observations separately.)  Generally, I’ll try to introduce the activity about 3 times (on 3 different days, doesn’t even have to be consecutive days) before giving up and finding something else because I think kids sometimes takes awhile to warm up to an activity.  Don’t be too discouraged if your child rejects your activity and prefers to do something else!  It happens and it’s perfectly normal!  Sometimes, he/she is just not used to this new schedule that you’re trying or he’s just not interested in learning that day.  Don’t force it or get stressed up. Just keep the materials away and say cheerfully that we’ll try again another time.  If we “do learning” at routine times, the kid will come to expect and even embrace this time of undivided attention she/he has with you.

I do have a rule though.  That is if she starts on the activity, she has to at least complete it once and keep it away. I enforce this because I want to teach her to finish what she begins and to pack up her stuff after use.  This is really an ongoing struggle and Kyra is still not that perfect kid who packs up her toys of her own accord but this is something I think is important enough to persevere through.

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[Kyra doing a sorting activity with colours and numbers.  Sometimes these “success” photos give an impression that she did it in 1 try but no!!! It took us about 2 tries just to get her to know what I want her to do and then a few more times on her own to master this activity.]

By sharing this list, it’s not meant to put guilt on full-time working mothers that you can’t complete the whole list or worse, compare who’s doing more, whose kid is more accomplished at a faster rate, at a younger age etc.  But really, it’s a general guide, a suggestion to what you can do with your child to
a) feel better about the productive use of your time when with him/her,
b) to teach him/her some skills, hopefully useful at some point in time.

This is NOT the MOE syllabus, to be covered in X years and really, the child will eventually learn all of these things so let’s lighten up and enjoy the process!  Yup, hope you have fun with your child!  Let him/her take the lead and you’ll discover that he/she is ready to learn many things.  You just need to show and guide!

Again, if you like what we’re sharing, do drop us a comment, subscribe to our blog and recommend us to your friends too to get our latest updates and resources.  Tell us what you’d like to hear about and we’ll try to see if we have a worthy 2-cents’!

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The Start of this Journey

When we first mooted the idea of starting a blog, it seemed like a great idea! Who wouldn’t want to read all about our lives right? (Right….) but when you really get down to it, a thousand and one questions bordering on doubts start creeping in – will it be good enough? Will it be interesting? Is it funny enough? How to even start?

So after mulling over it, I think I just want to be truthful at the end of the day – to myself.  I want to document my experiences as a stay-home mum  and what I’ve learnt if and when I emerge from this tunnel.  I hope this blog helps me to keep accounts of how I spend my days, how to improve and how to do things better. In the process, I want to share successes and “shareable” materials which will hopefully help others increase their good days but also, to be authentic to document the bad ones so we all can learn from one another.

So as we embark on this journey together, let’s look forward to days we can toast and give ourselves pats on the back for doing a great job as best as we can with our kids. But I’m certain there will also be days when we can only hug our pillows and cry at what we are doing with our lives. If anything, I do thank God for wonderful mummy friends all around who offer such genuine friendship, always checking up on me, organizing numerous playdates so I don’t go stir-crazy at home! Let’s just put this down for the record: “M and J, thank you and I love you!”

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