Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Zero to Ten

Ain't trying to act cute at my Motherly age, but some fun can spice up the mundanes. Showcasing the 'Asian culture,' from the 'Asians at work' video

A family team effort that was only successful after multiple shots and days. Just how UN-photogenic we are to get pictures right. I was trying to be as demure as I could, without those overly cute poses - The Mummy's version.

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And.... The final... TEN!
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Peekaboo!


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Friday, 19 April 2013

What's in their Names

What's in the kids' names? Before we had kids, while still dating, it seemed like the man and I often chat up on suggestive names for our future kids. Even before he popped the flowers and ring. Simply means, we appreciate nice names around us. And when it was our turn to becoming parents, we took a long journey to decide on names.

JAZZELLE 
When we found out my first pregnancy was a girl, we wanted to settle with 'Gisele'. Nope, not Gisele Bundchen inspired, just happened to see it somewhere. Then we realised, this name got kinda common, and my mum joked in dialect, "Ji siao!" Which means always causing trouble in Hokkien. So nah, it's back to the drawing board.

We goggled lots and referenced to a book of names we bought. And there, I saw how beautiful this name was spelled - JAZZELLE. Feels like music with elegance to me! It's an American name which means, the promise and special one. Indeed how precious and unique a child is. As husband and wife, we didn't take long to consent on that name. Even though Jazz came unexpected, I know it's God's promise to me, her Mother. 

韶恩
Her Chinese name is Shao(2) En(1). My mum's into feng shui, and she wants her grand kids' Chinese characters to be 'auspicious.' So we went to a geomancer. Not that we are into it, but we are totally clueless about Chinese names. We were given many characters to match and finally picked these with my parents help. 韶 - Beautiful, ancient music. Which lined with her English name. 恩 - Gratitude. I hope she grows to hold great appreciation and gratitude within her.

JARETH
Our second child's a boy. We've no intended names and so we went back to the book of names. I flipped for days and nights, but nothing caught my eyes. I thought having another J name was ideal, but was very open to having names with K or E, but to no avail as well. My then colleagues would send me links of J names, give suggestions and even though Js are an extremely common letter of names to begin with. We chose it! The sibling identity perhaps. This boy's name was a headache, the man and I could not come to an agreement. Days before his birth, we settled him as Jevon. But thoughts after thoughts, with friends telling me it sounded like a girl, I went back to the book again. I've been wanting to call him JARETH. It was shortlisted, but the man did not agree. And on the day he was birthed, still undecided until it was time to register his name, my man gave in. Well of course, I'm the child's mother, we have that unique womb bonding of 38 weeks. JARETH shall be it! An English name with many variations. According to the Welsh, it means gentle. We hope he grows to be a fine gentleman.

智宇
His Chinese name is Zhi(4) Yu(3). Also given many characters to matched, we decided on 智 - Wisdom, Knowledge. 宇 - Universe. We put them together and thought, wow! A powerful name. He gotta have the wisdom and knowledge of the Universe. What a name to live up to! 



Well, names being just names, we all need identity. A gift tag from parents to their babies, to carry with for life. "Don't you dare denounce the names we gave you, Js. It's our gift to you both!" Live with it and love it! Just like how we love you both.



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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

No to Anger

I'm on an anger management project. One that got me on and off track a few times, but still not giving up till I yield success. I want to yell lesser NOT yell at the kids and get my anger controlled. Easier said than done, but 'try' is the keyword.

Let me first set a realistic time frame - No yelling and get anger controlled for at least 2 weeks. After which, I hope I can celebrate success and keep this as an ongoing parenting project.

I've listed 10 things to aid my project and got it pasted at my 'time out' corner, in the kitchen. Out of the kids' sight, so they won't take advantage of my project to get mischievous. Each time they hit my nerve, I'll set off to do my 'time out.'

Seeing is believing

I tried to negotiate a little, how is it possible to not yell after giving the kids so many repeated commands or when they committed an intolerable act? So, I guess, it's alright to bring that regular tone a little stern and down, but not to pitching it higher. Sounds fair huh. 

Past few weeks, while I was attempting this project, I've realized a good way to get Jazz cooperate better in the morning. On her grumpy mornings, she would whine and and sit on the bed till, probably the sun sets again. My hundred times of plea, asking her to brush her teeth and change up never seemed effective. So then, I realized, yelling after the third command doesn't benefit either of us positively. I'll just have to go chirpy in our moody morning - "Good morning Darling!" "It's a bright morning, smile!" "Mummy loves you! You're such a goodie girl." My smiles and praises got her mood lifted and after a while, she's all ready for breakfast and school. Sometimes, she'll ask me to help brush her teeth, which I'll usually not interfere in the routines she's capable of. But fulfilling that request once a while doesn't seem harmful. So sure, I brushed her teeth! It's probably one tantrum less to be avoided. Parenting is sometimes about getting hold of the tricks.

I hope project 'No to anger' will yield success. And to all Mums, welcome to join me... or maybe you have already perfected the skills to anger management. Happy to hear your tips, if any.




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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Parenting with lessons from childhood

Very often, I spend moments reflecting my parenting style on the kids. The more I ponder upon, the more I see the linkage of my styles being a result of the left over issues from my childhood. The environment, Asian parenting and ways my parents brought me up were reflective of what I would do or not with my own children in my Mothering life. 

1. Discipline
Js are my parents first grand kids, they dote them very much, and always intervene my disciplinary process, just to get them out of my 'merciless' punishments. But, when I recalled my childhood days, the day I started recording events in my memory, I faced the same punishments. My dad would raise the cane at us, more than my mum. We seldom use the cane on the kids, unless it's an extreme intolerable act. That Asian parenting culture instilled from olden days till today, still lingers in some families. We didn't even buy a cane since the days Jazz got me mad, it was a balloon stick we've been threatening with. Interesting object. Time out, thinking corners, thinking chairs weren't common in my childhood days.   

2. Words of Affirmation 
Positive reinforcements were rarely practiced in my household then. Those praises given by my elders and teachers made me a happy child. Academic was a great focus at home. When I was in primary school, my dad told us scoring below 90 is not acceptable between primary 1 to 3, and primary 4 to 6, 80 was the bottom line. I gradually had the fear of not doing well in tests and exams, spellings and mental sums. There was once, I failed a subject! And bingo, I was whacked really hard by his merciless cane. I never dared take school lightly, tried my best to score. And there was once, I topped the class in Maths. I told my dad, but with doubts he questioned, with disbelief he asked if a score of 79 really topped the class. "The Maths standard in your class must be bad", he said. That kinda broke my little heart, I was proud when I stood up for a moment of glory in class, and it didn't seem anything to my lovely dad. "Where is my encouragement and praise?!? I thought I did well." An effort recognised by my classmates, but not my family. This is how peer influence and acceptance can gradually become a great part of a child's growing up life, which can eventually overtake the family roles. 

I'm not smart by talent, I often make up with lots of hard work, take a longer path than others to success. Other than academics, I don't recall myself getting caned for other reasons. Academics trait is dominating in Asian or maybe just SG families. It's getting more competitive, and it's not surprising how parents get so tensed and worried over their child's grades. Parental roles in education are really important. Reward and Recognition are important. We know our child best, and should try not to be over or under protective, but understand their progress and emotions. We should constantly change and evolve to counter every challenge.

3. Focus on the goods
Trusting and believing in our little ones are important to us, as well as to them. Those words of affirmations doesn't cost much, say them sincerely and thankfully! As parents, we usually focus too much on the bad and talk too much about it to our children. I've since learned to end each night's prayer with the good acts they did for the day, surely there's at least one. It really did matter to Jazz, one night, she told me, "Mummy, can you tell God what are the good things I did today?" She likes to hear me talk about her good deeds too. But of course, as a praying parent, I was just focused about handling mischievous children with more grace.

4. Parents' choice with no regrets
Beyond academics, my Mum would pack my schedule with piano, ballet, swimming and art classes. Frankly, I really disliked them, I never saw through them, except for swimming. The thought of those piano lessons shivers me, my then teacher would smack my wrist each time I played a bad note. But what are those lessons to a child, I only wanted more free time for play. The only thing I enjoyed was probably doing ballet and scoring a distinction for an exam before I totally stopped. I had no idea why this wasn't continued. Today, I regret, Big regret of my gave ups. I wished my parents would have 'forced' me through them. They probably took the easy way out of coaxing, listened and acted on my plea for 'freedom'. If I were 'forced' through it, I would have been able to play a beautiful score on the piano or get paid to teach ballet. From this experience of mine, I can't help but to always think, "It's mummy and daddy's choice, not yours." "Simply because I don't want you to regret." And giving up is not an option. Or maybe, a right technique must be adopted to instill and encourage ongoing interests instead of pushing it too tough.

5. Make time for meals
My parents were very hands off when it comes to rearing my 2 brothers and myself. I'm a middle child. My mum doesn't much bother about what we eat or do all day long, and my dad was away for business most time. They were just results oriented, not bothering much about the processes. We had a maid to cook and care for us and those were the days when we spent most time with our maid than parents! My parents were always out and busy, and we get really excited when we could even sit in or out for a family meal. Which is why it really is important to make frequent time for family meals, you never know what difference it makes to each child. Js are also the first pair of great-grand kids on my paternal family, we would meet regularly for a 4 generations meal, and I would always try not to miss even one of it. The love and respect we give for our elders, is observed and learned by our little ones too.

6. Quality Time vs Toys
My dad was a total opposite of my Mum, he was never thrift when it comes to buying our wants, perhaps to make up for his absences. He bought us whatever toys we wanted and once, he bought us a Rough Collie with much of our begging, without thinking about our abilities to care for it. In the end, we gave it up for adoption. Today, as I flash back, I wished for less toys, in exchange for more bonding moments with them. Or many toys, but more pretend plays with them. The good memories that are truly memorable, are moments when dad and mum spent quality time with us - They brought us to rocket fireworks in China, place where Dad worked, and go on vacations around the World, and going to the zoo or gardens.

7. Heart-to-heart talk
Parenting might get better but more challenging as our little ones grow, from being totally dependent on us to gradually losing that dependency, either for the good or bad. But much can be influenced by how we handle them now. Surely we know what's going on in their everyday life since they're still on dependency. The more dependent they are, the more you know. I fear the day that they gradually step out of that little bubble, take complete control of their own minds, and waver between the good and bad choices. It's good to have their own decisions, good to even sometimes fall and pick themselves up. But, what if it's a wayward road that might give no turning back. It sure aches the parents. While situations are sometimes still controllable, it's good to be in the know of their lives as they turn to adolescences. Heart to heart talk was never practiced in my growing up days, or maybe another trait of the Asian culture that doesn't inculcate this habit. Which is why we say it's not just important being a Mum or Dad, but sometimes, a friend. Such that there's no fear or barrier to pouring out feelings and thoughts to each other.

8. Physical touch
I have a very vivid scene of my neighbour when I played in her house some decades ago. Her Dad would get back from work, go to her to hug and kiss her. I was watching with envy. A 12 year old still getting hugs and kisses from Daddy. Obviously, we've stopped such affections at some unknown age. Hugs and kisses don't seem common in most Asian families, I'm talking about physical touch beyond those adorable ages. Kissing our kids goodbye, and saying, "I Love you" everyday outside their preschool's classroom is easy. They feel loved and happy. It's a routine. But doing this in upper primary or even when they enter primary school at 7, I'm not sure if they're gonna start telling me, "Mummy, lets not do this at the school gate, I'm embarrassed." So hmm... as long as we can, or as much as this routine allows, it would be nice. Physical touch contributes to positive attachment relationship between our child and us.

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Found this scenic picture to describe my feel

Today's parenting, with much cross cultural benefits and globalization, parenting have been refined for the better. Most of my friends are great mums who are very hands on and doing much more than what olden parents gave in the early days. It's the same amount of love with different kind of sacrifices, I guess. The day I got promoted to a Mum, I was really excited, I thought of the many instances my childhood had left me unsatisfied, and hope not to replicate those unhappiness in my own family. Times have changed, mums all around are getting more involved with their kids and are more educated. As much as a career mum is concern about her work, I'm sure she has great priority over her family. Even that sense of guilt for not being around gives great responsibility. 

A long train of thoughts with good and bad lessons from my childhood. Having them laid out gives me a clearer picture or reminder of what to and what not to miss in parenting, for as long as I Mother the kids. I've never felt bad about my parents, I love them in the past and in the present. There are much more good lessons than bad lessons I've learned. Not that we have significant successes or achievements, but at least my brothers and I grew up fine and decent, leading a mediocre life, in hope for a better future to come though.   

Time is in our hands and parenting is a lifelong journey, once you start, you can't return. I hope to do the best out of my time with the kids, before everything gets too late. I may not have the best choices for them all the time, I may err, under or overlook, and perhaps they can make better choices than me as they grow. They need to really convince me though, if our thoughts differ. Whatever the multiple choices are, my choices for them are always out of unconditional love and wanting the best for them. No idea what lies ahead, but doing my utmost best to give them a happy childhood, hopefully.



Friday, 5 April 2013

Staying abroad

Last year, a mummy writer emailed me, requesting to share my story of a SG mum living abroad, and here's where the article was published - singaporemotherhood.com.

Extracted story as below for memento:

KAREN CHEN, MONTEREY, UNITED STATES
Karen, 30, followed her husband to Monterey, US, where he is currently studying for his Masters in System Engineering. They have two children: Jazzelle, three, and Jareth, 20 months. The family has just entered the second of their 18 months there.

We arrived just in time for Halloween. Pumpkins were everywhere, and kids and adults alike dressed up in costumes. Even Disneyland was dolled up for the occasion. Even though it’s not common for Asians to celebrate it, I thought it wouldn’t be too bad to introduce Halloween to the kids and to have fun with the occasion. It didn’t take me long to decide on getting costumes for the kids. We had buckets and candies all ready for going around trick-or-treating in the neighbourhood!



My typical day never fails to include the yelling and disciplining of kids. I find myself getting crazily mad at every little mess or action even as they attempt to be funny. It boils down to being over-protective about child rearing. 

I have gradually noticed how easy the local parents here are with their kids and how independent their little ones are. It sure would make parenting less stressful if we are not as protective. At the same time this would give the kids great opportunities to explore without us being over-fussy parents.
Some people had told me that living in the States was more affordable than in Singapore. I have come to realise the truth of that statement as our days go by. Cars are so much cheaper here, even most appliances and brand labels. 

Any kitchen mum’s dream — A KitchenAid mixer! — is really cheap here. Housing isn’t exactly cheap, but considering that the space we have comes fully furnished with utilities, we actually pay a pretty decent rent.

Preschools here don’t really drill on academics. Most schools have kids playing all day long till their parents come to pick them up. The kids simply learn through play. It exemplifies how easy it is being a school-going child here.”

Karen’s Monterey recommendations:
• The Dennis the Menace Playground has clusters of outdoor playgrounds and entry is free. It is spacious and seldom overcrowded. A sure hit, even for non Dennis the Menace fans.
The Monterey Public Library is my book resource. I save much by not buying storybooks. We visit it every week for storytelling sessions. There are also some nights when they have bedtime storytelling, with little ones coming in their pyjamas and bedtime buddies. The sessions are entertaining, educational, and interactive. There are different themes each month with separate sessions for differently-aged groups of children.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Jazz turned 4!

Our little princess turned 4! Which also marks my 4 years of Motherhood. The little ones are growing really fast, sometimes, I wished they would stay that mini for long. Yet, on the other hand, I wish they would gain more independence quickly.

And here's my 123, ABC steps on planning a rainbow party:

We threw a little party for Jazz and her neighborhood friends. She loves having friends over for play. She asked for a rainbow party with a rainbow cake, that gave me a chance to attempt my first rainbow birthday cake. I'm not a good baker to begin with, but glad the cake turned out decent, except that I overlooked the sugar, it was too sweet. I went controlled on the colouring, which explained the pastel coloured layers. Here's where I adopted the recipe - Whisk Kid. As it was my first attempt, I didn't cut on its sugar. I would have preferred it less sweet on both the cake and buttercream. I love swiss meringue buttercream. Goes very well on cupcakes too.

Now I know why birthday cakes don't come cheap, they're time consuming to make. Pay me, I'll do it. Haha.

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Thank you aunty Bel for the letters
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Love the colourful layers!
I love the convenience of online shopping here, clicked, clicked and clicked, party goodies and decorations were all settled. My 3 lovely webbies for party supplies are: Birthday Express, Oriental Trading and Party City. I do think some of the webbies would send to vpost, and then to a SG address, but only you don't mind the exuberant shipping fees. I did quite a bit of research on the theme and price comparisons before purchased. 

I attempted to avoid sugar in the goodie packs, but threw in some cookies and gummy in the end. Hopefully, it got the kids excited above the non-edibles. I've also included a pair of self made clips for the girls. My new found hobby.

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Goodie boxes with a balloon tied to
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Decorations - As rainbowful as I could
A simple little party seemed to get her mum really busy for days. I baked her cake the previous day so I could keep the next day free for other preparations, and perhaps give room for failed attempt too. 

I cut up a variety of fruits to make a rainbow platter - Strawberries, Cantaloupe, Pineapple, Kiwi and Blueberries. Tried to cover as many rainbow colours as possible. That also made me realised how beautiful all fruits are when they come together! Fruits were the healthy. The unhealthy were chocolates, candies and chips. I melted some chocolate to coat on the marshmallows and topped it off with colourful m and m. It was seemingly an evening of special pass to the paradise of candies and chocolates for kids.

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Battle of the healthy vs unhealthy
Aunty Bel made rainbow cuppies for the party, and they were really yummy! I made fruit tarts, prepared some mixed nuts with chocs, as well as colourful goldfish crackers, making up a 4 tier goodies. I lined the cups and cupcake stand with rainbow streamer.

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4 tier of goodies
To buy more time for other preparations, I catered the food. Am not a great cook anyway, except that I cooked porridge for the little ones. 

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Catered food and some self prepared
The kids played some games and did some beading, but nothing beats to having a 'slumber' party in the room, out of the parents' eyes. 

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'Slumber' party!
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Pinning the worms to the apple
And of course, not forgetting her all time favourite bedtime buddies. She gathered them for a celebration party too! 

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2nd round of 'slumber' party
At the end of the day, as exhausted as I may be, I enjoyed planning and preparing her party. I guess she had a great time playing with her friends and blowing those candles. The parents had a great time of fellowship too. Thank you aunties and uncles for the lovely pressies. In the blink of an eye, she turned 4, time really flies after having kids.

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Happy Birthday Darling Jazz!
Happy Birthday my darling girl! We hope you had a blast. I pray that you'll outgrow those whiny moods and tantrums quickly. Be a kind, caring and sharing sister to your little brother always. Most importantly, stay healthy and cheerful all of the days! Daddy, Mummy and Jare loves you!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and Napa Valley

It was the spring break and we just got back from road trip. Places after places. We visited Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and Napa Valley. There was still snow at Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, it was also where the kids had their first snow tubing experience. They love it! It was Spring, and snow wasn't as fine for play, but was good enough.

I used to think California is a state of theme parks, but this trip has enlightened me beyond. We did lots of beautiful sightseeing and indulged in gourmet food and wine in Napa Valley. Simply high life. What I loved most out of this trip was the many beautiful family shots we had. Thanks to a sturdy tripod and breathtaking views.

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Snow tubing in Yosemite, Badger pass ski area
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Our half attempted snow man

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We are the snow angels!
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Yosemite fall

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We did snow tubing in Lake Tahoe, yet again. The kids tried on the tube carousel, where a machine would pull the child filled tubes in rounds.

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He ain't heavy, he's my brother

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Our little snow man

Napa valley would be a really nice place for the kid-less, especially if you're into fine dining. But, with kids, fun goes on. We tasted wine, they tasted grape juice. We visited a few wineries, gained some knowledge about wines and bought some back for drinking leisure too. I love Napa for it's fine food and wine. And those chocolates you find there are really good!

We also visited the Old Faithful Geyser, where the underground river water erupts because of the heat pressure. It was nice watching, but I thought it wasn't anything impressive. What's more fun seemed like feeding the goats and sheep in their little petting zoo.

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A great visit to the Castello di Amorosa winery. We loved it the most!
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Animal therapy

A break from theme parks to scenic travels can be therapeutic. We did lots of walking with the kids, we even did a down and up slope trail with Jazz using her walking feet. Walking moments give us bonding moments, we chatted and chatted. So looking forward to next getaway again.