Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Parenting 101’ Category

Caleb and I recently followed Ben on his 16-day work trip to Switzerland and USA.

It was an important family trip for us after 10 months of being in and out of doctors’ clinics and multiple scans following my surgery last June where I had one breast removed and reconstructive surgery following a breast cancer diagnosis. I thank God that I am well and was ready for my big trip.

As Ben’s work locations were in two rather un-touristy towns, I packed several small travel toys and activities for some afternoons where I might just want to veg out in the hotel room when Ben was at work.

I wrote out a travel checklist to remind myself of various things to pack into our luggage.

Caleb, who loves to be involved in everything, saw my list and decided to start his own travel checklist.

He followed me around the house, asking me how to spell words that he added to his list.

When he reached item #24 on his list, he told me, “Remember to bring Joy.”

“Bring what?” I asked as I busied with packing his clothes and toys.

“Being Joy…you know Joy? Joy in your heart,” he said.

I paused from my busy bee state and looked up. “Wow…,” I said. “Okay, we will bring Joy.”

Caleb travel list

“And don’t forget me,” Caleb said as he added his own name to his packing list. “We’ll also bring God and Jesus,” he said, adding two more names to his list.

And so we did.

We had a free and easy, chilled out vacation.

Caleb St Galen

Caleb and I spent a morning playing in a patch of residual snow outside our hotel.

An afternoon in the bookstore when it was too chilly to be outdoors.

Caleb snow.png

And other simple pleasures.

And we were filled with joy in our hearts.

Caleb&Em.png

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

When I wrote Prince Bear & Pauper Bear 10 years ago, I borrowed nieces, godchildren and friends’ kids to do book readings with me. I never imagined the day when I would be on stage with my own son doing a book reading together.

That day came yesterday when Caleb and I did a mother-son book reading together at the start of the ARISE! concert yesterday.

It was a special moment for me to see my 6-year-old read Prince Bear & Pauper Bear confidently, and then join the rest of the children’s choir in singing, shouting and praising God with songs and worship.

Book reading1

Photo credit: Ong Puay See

book reading2

Photo credit: Arlene Alegra-Wood

Caleb Elijah Elise.png

Caleb singing “Revelation” together with his cousins and Music Director/Composer Amy Tan

 Related link:

http://singapore.kidsarise.com/

Read Full Post »

Caleb’s just turned 6! And he’s grown by leaps and bounds in the past year, from skills to perspectives, resilience to new focus.

6th-birthday

1.      Ditching the Wheels, Making a Splash

Caleb has been cycling on his 4-wheels bicycle since 3/4 years old. Just past his 5th birthday, he decided, rather nonchalantly, that he wanted to ditch the two training wheels and cycle on two wheels. He wobbled on his first attempt along the road outside our home. On his second try, a few minutes later, he steadied up and took off!

Next, he decided to try swimming without his swim-jacket. After a few kicks and splashes with Ben, he started diving into the pool swim-jacketless. That he had crossed these big milestones without cajoling or expectation made them that much sweeter to see.

A few months later, he started to bathe himself on a few occasions and then consistently clean up after himself after his big business.

It’s been a treat to watch him leap from one milestone to another, and wonder what he will do next.

 2.      Wielding lightsabers & Lego Force through the Dark Side

On 1st June last year, midway through 5 years old, Caleb had to grow up rather quickly when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As his full-time caregiver, I had to learn to let go of him for stretches of time as I went through surgery and chemotherapy. He also had new routines to get used to without me being his constant, like my dad taking over ferrying him to and from kindergarten.

Thanks to the combination of Star Wars and Lego, Caleb’s love of Star Wars turned him into an adapt master-builder which saw us through my wilderness period (aka the Dark Side) when I stayed home through stretches of time.

He built his way through 2000-piece Lego structures, from the Millenium Falcon to Tie Striker to A-Wing Fighter and various other spaceships whose names I cannot remember.

 

Star Wars with Angel.png

With God-sister Angel on their Monday playdates which my dearest friend Gail started during my chemotherapy months

 

 3.      Not my Hongpao!

A couple of days back, a good friend sent me a blog link for a friend’s 7-year old daughter Janelle who has a rare heart condition and is in need of a heart transplant. The cost of the surgery and health complications had led to ballooning expenses and they were trying to raise funds to cover cost.

Ben and I thought it would be a good life lesson to use to teach Caleb about helping others in need.

Yesterday morning, when I was still half-sleep, I heard Ben talking to Caleb, “Would you like to give $100 of your hongpao money to help Janelle? Papa and Mummy will give $500.”

“What? Not my hongpao money!” I heard Caleb protest before I fell back into sleep.

An hour later, over breakfast, Ben said, “Did you hear what he said?”

“Yah,” I muttered. “He doesn’t want to give his hongpao money.”

“No, he did,” Ben said. “He decided that we give $100 and he give his $600 hongpao money.”

My eyes opened wide and my heart swelled in a proud parent moment. He had gone from initially objecting to reflecting upon it and then deciding to give up his hongpao money on his own free will.  

Later, that day, when he was building his Star Wars Lego set, a Christmas present from auntie Jing Siew, I gave him a cuddle and said, “Do you know why I am so proud of you?”

“Don’t know,” he said.

“You did something amazing this morning, remember?”

“Forgot already,” he said, focused on his Lego.

“Remember you gave something up?”

“Oh yah, that,” he said, “a lot of money.”

And that was that. A significant milestone crossed in his nonchalant way.

 

Related Link:

Help Fund Janelle’s VAD and heart transplant

Inside Out Kid #3: Mummy, You can take out your Pretend Hair at Home

Read Full Post »

This week marked the end of my last chemo cycle. Because the tumour removed in July was rated triple-positive (estrogen +ve, progesterone +ve and HER2 +ve), my oncologist has proceeded with the next phase of treatment. He’s started me on 3-monthly injections to take me to early menopause and daily Tamoxifen pills for the next 5 years – all to tame my hormone levels (so to speak) and reduce chances of recurrence. I’m also on 3-weekly antibody injections for another 7 months. As these aren’t as potent as chemotherapy, it means I can resume normal routine.

Not that I have been in a hurry.

Over the past 6 months, I’ve switched to a slower mode and will not be rushing to get anything done too quickly.   

So, I’ve kept it simple this December. Taking Caleb on a few outings. A few Christmas/year-end get-togethers. Plenty of quiet time to reflect on the year fast passing and the true meaning of Christmas – the birthday of Jesus the Christ.

On a literal level, I am seeing things anew. Like my eyebrows growing back. Now I can raise new  eyebrows in the new year :).        

 

zoorasic

The Lehs see dinosaurs at the Zoo’s Zoorassic Park

 

Read Full Post »

Over recent weeks, two ladies from Ben’s work circles were diagnosed with breast cancer. I didn’t know them before this but we connected so I could share my current chemo experience with them.

It wasn’t so long ago that I reached out to friends and friends of friends who had gone through cancer to ask for advice. The best 5 tips that I gleaned from doing so have seen me to this final lap of chemo:

1.      Shave the Head

My breast surgeon told me that it was practically a certainty that I would lose my hair and told me that I was better off shaving my head before it happened. And it usually happens two weeks from the first chemo. Two other women who had gone through breast cancer told me the same thing.

I had a crew cut just before starting the first chemo.

Right on target, two weeks later, my hair fell off in chunks. If 1cm length hair can fall off in chunks, imagine what it would look like for normal length hair. My pre-emptive shave took off the trauma of the hair loss, although it still shook me slightly when it happened.

2.      Gargle Sea Salt

As mundane as it sounds, gargling sea salt water 3-6 times a day kept sore throat at bay because chemo causes heatiness. I slackened during my third chemo and had a terribly painful throat for a few days.

3.      Look Forward  

In the first two weeks after my first chemo, I was miserable from staying at home. I had already been home for a few weeks following my mastectomy and reconstruction surgery.

Now I was cooped up at home again, with a major “puberty” acne outbreak from the chemo drugs, feeling ugly and forgotten as the rest of the world went about their life.

Having a 5-year old kept me from sinking into misery because I needed to be together for my son. So, I started scheduling one appointment a week with friends, either for lunch out or in. It gave me something to look forward to.

I also started work on one new picture manuscript which kept me happy and buzzing for weeks.

Taketwo (2).png

4.      Take Walks

Before the breast cancer diagnosis in June, I was a slug. I never exercised.

But I started taking daily brisk walks around my neighbourhood from the first day of chemo. As a friend said, it ups the happiness quotient. The fresh air and outdoors perked me up, woke my muscles (more like ached my muscles) and helped me sleep better.

5.      Read, Pray, Listen

During my chemo and antibodies infusion-thon, I listen to gospel music and bible verses. When I am having four potent drugs pumped into me for 4-5 hours, God’s Word and worship music are the most powerful ways of counteracting any negative effects of the drugs.

I also spend time daily on God’s Word and the bible verses on healing in particular- it’s my daily medicine.  

This has also been a period of much reflection for me. In this 5 odd months, I have journaled more than in the past 2-3 years. It’s been a good time to detox off the negative things that I have accumulated in my life and in my heart. I’m looking towards a new season with a renewed heart.

Tremble and[a] do not sin;
    when you are on your beds,
    search your hearts and be silent.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
    and trust in the Lord

                   –        Psalms 4:4-5

 

 

Read Full Post »

I was supposed to finish off with my final chemotherapy session last Friday. I had planned what I was going to wear and eat during that last session. I had even counted off the last day of this final chemo cycle for a celebration.

So, when my oncologist told me that morning that we would need to hold off the last chemo, my heart sank a little. Based on my heart scan report, he wanted to wait it out and review me again in three weeks to see if I was ready to proceed with the last chemo session.

My past 5 chemo sessions had been right on track so I had left no room in my mind that the last session would move.

In the bigger perspective of things, I have much to be thankful for and this three weeks delay isn’t the end of the world.

But I had not planned for a delay. I was already counting down the days when I could:

– stop gargling salt water (multiple times a day) to keep sore throat at bay

– get pass the few days of insomnia from the steroid tablets that I had to take for the first 3 days post-chemo.

– ditch wearing  a mask when I go out

Amongst other things.

I was in R.O.D. mood but the Run Out Date shifted.

I’m a planner. But I did not leave room for this wet weather plan.

After going through 5 chemo cycles over the past 15 weeks, I couldn’t wait to count down the last 3 weeks, which has now extended.

So after a mild case of the blues last Friday, I perked up for my 5-year old’s year end concert the next day, which would have been one day after that last chemo. Although I have stayed away from crowded places and his Kindy events since June, I had promised him that I would attend the concert to watch him perform. So, I got to watch him without insomnia. And seeing him on stage (and we gelled his hair for the first time) made me teary-eyed and proud. It was a day where I sighted a big rainbow. 

 Concertday (2).png

I had a much bigger case of the blues just before the start of chemo 4 months back. I didn’t want to start. Although I didn’t express it, my girlfriends of over 30 years surprised me with a party on Hari Raya.

They showed up with food, balloons, party favours and a makeover for me. Everyone was yakking away at the same time and no one was interested to talk about bluey things. In fact, I could barely get a word in because everyone was talking at the same time. Outrageous 🙂.

 

party4.png

The party was a bright rainbow that lifted my start-chemo blues.

So, in these weeks ahead, I will quieten my heart as I watch and wait out the end of this season. And I will look upon new rainbows in my horizon.

Psalms 27:14 – Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes wait for the Lord.

 

Read Full Post »

Caleb would usually have “sleepovers” in my bedroom a few nights a week. It was a treat for him because we would play board games before bed, I would read him books and he got to sleep later, like a real sleepover party.

During my 9-day stay in hospital following the mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, Caleb spent most of his time with my parents ie. his grandparents, and missed his sleepovers with me terribly.

Even after I got home, we did not resume his sleepovers in my room for a while. He is a roller when he sleeps. I could not risk him accidentally kicking me or rolling onto me.

About two weeks after I had been home from hospital, I heard a wailing downstairs in Caleb’s bedroom when my mum was trying to put him to bed. After it had gone on for some time, I went down to see what was happening.

Caleb was standing a foot away from his bed, refusing to get on. His eyes were red from crying and he was at the end of making a long teary protest speech when I walked in. “…I’ve spent enough time with Grandma. I’m not getting into bed anymore until I sleep with Mummy again. I want to be with Mummy till infinity!” And then he broke down inconsolably.

My heart broke.

But it wasn’t the right time to give in because it might send the wrong message that a protest speech would get him what he wanted. I spent some time placating him and eventually got him into his bed.

That night, Ben and I discussed about re-starting Caleb’s sleepovers in our bedroom. But it would need to come with some temporary rules.

Usually, he would climb onto me and hug me to sleep. Then, I would transfer him onto the giant cushion on the floor next to me. In the wee hours of the morning, half awake, he would automatically climb onto me, hug me like a koala bear and fall back to sleep again.

That had to change temporarily till I recovered from my surgery wounds.

So, we worked out a couple of new rules:

#1 – Caleb could only sleep on Papa’s side of the bed.  

That meant that Ben and I had to switch the sides of the bed that we normally slept so that Caleb would be next to him, not me. I moved to the right side of the bed and Ben to the left.

#2 – We built a wall of pillows which divided our bed into two. Caleb had to stay on the other side. And he could not sleep on me like a baby koala for the next few weeks.

We pilot-tested the next night. In the wee hours of the night, Caleb automatically climbed up to my side of the bed and slept on Ben. The pillow wall stayed intact and we were all systems go for his regular sleepovers again.

kingcaleb

Goofing it up in my room during a quiet day at home

 

With my chemo-cycles now, we’ve still kept some of these temporary rules. For every 1st week of a new chemo cycle, Caleb has to forgo any sleepovers in my room. Given the amount of medicine pumped into me at each chemo/post-op session, I abstain from kissing him for a week till I flush out all the chemicals from my body. My oncologist said it usually takes two days to flush it out of the system but I prefer to buffer it up to a week where Caleb is concerned. Once that week passes, my routine with Caleb goes back to normal and I give him infinity kisses till he begs me to stop.

That said, I have explained to him that I cannot be with him till infinity because one day I will grow old and no longer be around. But I tell him that we have the assurance of God’s Word in the Bible that we will eventually be together in eternity in Heaven.

And Eternity is better than Infinity and beyond.

Related Links:

Inside-Out Kid #5 – “My Mummy is a Botak Head! But she covered it up.”

God Knows Leh #10 – Three Wise Women with Gifts of Frankessence, Mastec & Go

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »