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Archive for the ‘Parenting 101’ Category

This morning, I relied on this ‘Pause + Pray’ list in Thirst’s reflection piece for the words to pray for River Valley High school:

  1. Pray for peace and comfort to all who are hurt and grieving.
  2. Pray against every fear and trauma arising from this tragedy.
  3. Pray for protection on our schools and young people.
  4. Pray for wisdom for the decisions that need to be made by schools, the authorities etc.
  5. Pray for kindness, compassion and love among Singaporeans.
  6. Pray for humility and repentance as we seek God’s mercy and grace.
  7. Pray for God to move in a powerful way in our nation, for Him to redeem this for good.

Read Thirst’s full article ‘River Valley High School death: Making sense of a painful loss’.

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This article first appeared in Parentwise, a new site providing resources for young parents.

Caleb was not an easy toddler to handle. He slept very little and hardly ate much. He also had a steely will, so it took an extraordinary amount of effort getting him to do the simplest things. I was sleep-deprived, frustrated and felt like a failure in parenting.

So, I hit the books to learn the basics of Parenting 101.

I read books by experts with strategies to give you a happy baby and a rested mummy. A few experts offered different classifications to help you identify what type of personality your toddler has, so that you can apply techniques to manage your child effectively. Another used a “Cry it out” sleep training method so your baby can learn to self-soothe and eventually be conditioned to sleep through the night.

I knew quite instinctively that “Cry it out” sleep-training wouldn’t work on Caleb. I recalled one afternoon when I left him in the crib to self-soothe while I showered. When I came out five minutes later, he had already cried himself completely hoarse. He also had one leg over the crib and was in the midst of climbing out. 

I also went through great pains with Caleb’s eating, or should I say…not eating. I borrowed cookbooks from friends and spent inordinate amounts of time persuading my toddler to eat, without success. Soon, I learnt that any recipes offered with the opening words, “Your child will love this…” was guaranteed to be rejected by my fussy toddler. 

One evening, after failing to get Caleb to eat dinner, I decided to ignore him completely. He slinked around me for some time and finally said, “Mummy is angry. Caleb wants to eat so Mummy will be happy.”

By then, I had cleared his dinner. So, I rummaged through the food cupboard and handed him a box of milo pops. He munched on it and said, “Caleb is eating. Mummy is happy now? Mummy, eat one milo pop, then Caleb is happy.”  I was torn between smiling and sighing.

Caleb at 2 years old

It didn’t help that around me, some parents seemed to handle these things with little effort. I recall a mum whom I met as I was waiting to pick Caleb from our church’s Sunday School toddler class.

“It must be a lot of work for you,” I said when I learnt that this mum had four young kids.

“At this age, they only eat and sleep,” she said breezily. “It’s so easy.”

Here I was, exhausted from parenting one toddler. I felt like a kid with red marks all over my report card.

One “lightbulb moment” for me as a parent came from a book which a friend gave me. In “The New Strong-Willed Child” by Dr James Dobson, he used the example of a supermarket trolley to illustrate the personality of a strong-willed child. To paraphrase his illustration, some of us find ourselves with a supermarket trolley that we can push in the direction we want with ease and minimal effort, which makes grocery shopping an easy task. These trolleys are the ones with straight and well-oiled wheels. This is the compliant child.

Others find themselves with a supermarket trolley that won’t go the direction they want it to go. These usually have crooked, bent wheels that refuse to yield. The person who is pushing this trolley ends up expending seven times the energy to make it move. This was exactly how I felt with my strong-willed toddler.

Over time, I’m learning to stop giving myself poor grades as a parent. After all, parenting is a life-long learning journey, not a fixed syllabus one can ace.

When Caleb was in his twos, I also glimpsed how much he has a mind of his own.

“Caleb, do you look like mummy?” I asked one day.

“No,” he replied.

“Do you look like Papa?” My husband asked.

“No,” he replied. “Caleb looks like Caleb.”

I’m reminded, from that conversation, that my kid is his own person. He has his own strong traits and developmental milestones will differ from other kids. As I learn to read my child better, it helps me to parent him better. And if I stumble through a lousy parenting day, I cut myself some slack. Tomorrow is a brand new day to start over.

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Caleb turns 10 this weekend. I asked my boy what wording he wanted on his birthday cake.

“How about ‘Wham! Bam! Caleb’s 10!’?”

“It sounds like someone pushed me against a wall and punched me,” Caleb said.

“Hmm…How about ‘Shazam! Caleb’s 10!?”

“Sounds like I’m a superhero with muscles. But I have no muscles,” he said.

“How about we just have ‘Caleb’s 10!’?”

“No… think of something before it,” he said.

“Then…Caleb’s 10!” I said.

“It sounds like a drama movie, when we reach the ‘Finally!’,” he said.

“Oh man, Caleb’s 10!” I said.

“It sounds like it is so difficult to reach 10,” he said.

“Sure can! Caleb’s 10!” I said.

“It sounds like you are asking the government for approval to celebrate my birthday. And they say “Sure can”, because I am 10,” he said.

“Abuthen, Caleb’s 10!” I said. “That’s Singlish for ‘Obviously’, since you always use ‘Obviously’.”

“Only English,” Caleb said.

I scratched my head. “Okay, since you have rejected everything, we’ll go with the last wording I can think of.”

“What’s that?” Caleb asked.

“Amen! Caleb’s 10!” I said.

He shrugged. “Okay.”

So, after our verbal sparring, we came to the perfect word for Caleb’s perfect 10.

And to one decade of parenting my witty, cheeky, wordy, quippy, funny kid, I say Amen!

Related Link:

Inside-Out Kid #13: Oh Divine, Caleb’s 9! 

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I’m bowled over to learn that Just Teddy has just been published in Taiwan! In connection with Our Daily Bread Taiwan’s 25th Anniversary celebrations, ODB Taiwan printed over 33,000 copies of Just Teddy which has gone into school libraries and public libraries across the country.

Taiwan is known for its xiao long bao, which Din Tai Fung restaurant chain introduced to stomachs here in Singapore (especially Caleb’s). Their chefs work in display kitchens, which allow us to see how each little dumpling is skillfully and wonderfully made.

I hope that readers in Taiwan, in reading my little Just Teddy picture book, will also discover how they are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the hands of our Creator God.

Ps 139:14 – “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

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Over three months ago, I was trying to organize an introduction dinner as a friend wanted to introduce me to a mum and daughter living near me. As I was told, the daughter Daryl is a talented artist. Could I give her some advice in that area? We couldn’t get to a date which all of us could make at that time.

So (because I couldn’t wait), I walked down the road to where the mum-and-daughter live, to introduce myself.

Over breakfast, I discovered that the mum Chiao Lin is an artisan when I noticed a dollhouse of stuff toys next to the dining table.

The doll house that started filling up over the weeks as we sewed Bear, Horse, Panda and Bunny stuff toys

After breakfast, Chiao Lin asked if I wanted to do a ‘sewing fellowship’. Those words stuck with me.

Divine inspiration struck me a few days later.

A sewing fellowship with a purpose.

It should tap our three skillsets (Chiao Lin’s sewing skills, Daryl’s artwork and my books & writing).

It would be wholly for a good cause.

Sew Sow Good Stuff SG was birthed at our next breakfast a few days later.

At Chiao Lin’s home, I saw a teddy bear, a panda and a bunny amongst the stash of stuff toys that she had sewn. All that was missing was a horse stuff toy, which would have completed the perfect match-up of her stuff toys with my 4-book Toy Series. Chiao Lin came up with Rusty Horse’s prototype quickly enough. And I donated my books to match up for the giftsets for charity sales.

We also wanted our giftsets to bear relevance to our pandemic times.

We made removable mini-masks for our socially-responsible stuff toys. And stamped every one with a Love SG label.  Because we love SG.

Daryl designed 5 Whimsically Essential postcards, as our tribute to Essential Services workers who continued working through our Circuit Breaker period, when the rest of us stayed at home.

The past three months has been a Sew Sow Good journey.

Filled with weeks of sewing fellowship and laughter.

Filled with new friends who came together for a sow-good purpose.

Over-filled with God’s favour from friends and supporters as we fundraised over and beyond the target that we had set.

As God’s timing would have it, I did manage to organize that by-then introduction-turned-celebration dinner. I had fixed it on Sat 3 October to mark the end of our production of our Good Stuff sets.

We launch our appeal video and sales through Facebook and Whatsapp on Friday 2 October evening. By dinner on Saturday, we had met our target of $10,000 fundraising sales. By Sunday, we had more than doubled our sales and sold out on our Good Stuff giftsets.

What happened in the next few days after is too much to put into words. So I won’t.

Except that this little mustard seed project started with the smallest of expectations.

We gave 100% of our sales proceeds to Child at Street 11, a quality childcare centre that supports kids from under-resourced families.

In God’s hands, we saw it multiplied over and beyond anything we could have expected.

And it was Sew Sow Good.

“Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”Matthew 13:32

Related Link:

Sew Sow Good Stuff SG #1- Threading how our paths cross-stitched

Sew Sow Good Stuff Facebook Page

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My latest picture book on local wildlife in Singapore is out in a BIG way!

Singapore has become increasingly wildlife-friendly in recent years.

So, how do we live side by side harmoniously with more furry residents lodging closer to our neighborhoods?

Help your little ones understand this monkey business in Macaques in my Neighbourhood, the 4th picture book in the local wildlife series published by Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

This follows on from my earlier three titles in this series:

Why did the Pangolin Cross the Road?

Little Otter, Litter Trouble

Python in the Playground

All these picture books (supported by the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism) are available at Wildlife Reserves’ online store. Get your copies for your kids and use these books to talk to them about how we can live with all these wildlife in our neighbourhoods!

Related Post:

Slithery Snake! Python in the Playground is no Snakes & Ladders story

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This week, Caleb returned to school after a two-month break.

School closure has been part of Singapore’s Circuit Breaker measures (ie. a semi-lockdown to break the chain of transmission of COVID-19).

I thought Caleb would be bored stiff staying at home for two months. Surprisingly, he wasn’t.

He enjoyed not having to wake up early for school. He simply rolled out of bed, had a leisurely breakfast and school started with a push of a button on the laptop as he logged in for Home-Based Learning.

Once Caleb completed his school work, he had plenty of quiet afternoons for play, reading and kicking a football around.  He must have enjoyed this routine because he asked, “Mum, so do I need to go to school for the rest of the year?”

 

As we bid farewell to our old life (pre-Covid19) and adjust to our new life post-Circuit-Breaker, we have been heartened by a new life birthed at home during our stay-home period.

A baby Bulbul was born in a nest cleverly woven by mummy bird amidst one of our potted plants.

I’ve been able to observe close-up as baby bird cries for mummy bird when she’s away collecting food, and also during feeding and baby naps.

 

(“Mummmy!! I want Mummmmyy!!! That was tiring…need a nap…zzz”)

 

This morning, baby bird shivered alone as the storm blew in and heavy raindrops pelted the nest.

I wanted to use an umbrella to cover it but it was too big and obtrusive.

Then, I tried sheltering it with Caleb’s old raincoat but it was too heavy to be supported by the scant foliage.

Finally, I took a leaf from mummy bird’s construction work. Well…two leaves, to be exact.

I cut them off the next potted plant and inserted their stalks in with the vines that mummy bird had woven to hold the leaves around her nest.

 

(Baby bird settles down after the add-on shelter to the nest during today’s heavy downpour.)

 

Baby bird seemed so vulnerable and afraid of the storm which it could not understand.

It was a reminder that God provides in the midst of a storm…whether directly or through other forms of help.

With the shelter in place, baby bird calmed down and settled down to sleep.

Mummy bird returned. She did not object to the new add-on shelter because it kept with her architectural style and was environmentally-friendly.

MummyBirdBodyShelter

Mummy Bird sheltering Baby Bird from yesterday’s lighter rain. Caleb said she tucked her head in so that she and baby bird could see each other face-to- face to talk, like how he and I talk to each other.

 

And my little lesson from this?

We need to find the best way to co-exist with nature even after the COVID-19 storm passes. And that requires us to respect and take a leaf from Nature’s cues, be it bird or bats.

Related Links:

Pandemic Pause #9- Is God opening our eyes to what a virus is revealing?

God Knows Leh #38: One Metre Apart & the World on Pause Mode

 

 

 

 

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This coming week will see my last meeting on the Museum Education Advisory Panel for National Gallery Singapore. I will be ending my two year term on the panel in a virtual meeting, given the current pandemic situation.

It’s been a pleasure to get a sneak peek into the Gallery’s plans for engaging its audience and in particular, how the team has been reaching out to students and families.

I’ve missed my lazy afternoons at the Gallery with Caleb at the Keppel Centre for Art Education, given that it has been closed through this Circuit Breaker period.

Meanwhile, here’s a portal into the Gallery with a host of crafts and activities which children can do from home: Gallery Kids!

For parents who would like to spark their kids’ story-making, you can check out some ideas in the Gallery’s Artful Parenting May issue.

ArtfulParentingPg1

ArtfulparentingPg2

Stay home, stay creative!

Related Links:

National Gallery Singapore – Kids & Families Activities

Rusty Horse trots into Storytime with Senior Minister of State  

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We are living in unprecedented times. We are treading uncharted territory.

When China locked down Wuhan, a city of 11 million, it seemed out of this world.

Now, 19 countries around the world are in lockdown at last count (about 1 billion people, 20% of our world).

This week, Singapore barred short-term visitors into our country to slow imported cases of Covid-19.

Now, all religious worship services have been suspended. (Many have gone online.)

Along with temporary closure of cinemas, entertainment centres and enrichment centres.

To slow local community spread.

Safe distancing measures have tightened further.

There needs to be a minimum of one metre apart in physical spacing of tables in dining outlets and queues at public places.

We are advised to hold or attend social events with 10 or less persons.

One metre apart

Accompanied Dad for his medical appointment today. Only 1 accompanying person is allowed now.

At 5 years old, Caleb learnt about cancer.

We took time to explain to him when I was diagnosed in 2016. Armed with knowledge, he was able to be my happy pill through my cancer treatment.

At 8 years old, Caleb learnt about death.

We brought him to hospital daily to see grandma in her final week before she passed on from terminal cancer in 2019. We brought her body home for wake services. So, he had to get used to the close proximity to her casket, which was next to our dining table, for 4 nights.

At 9 years old, Caleb’s 2020 vocabulary now includes ‘Covid-19’, ‘lockdown’ and ‘social distancing’.

As a parent, I try to stay abreast of the facts and varying opinions of this pandemic so I can talk this through with my 9-year-old. After all, what we are living through is life changing.

“But didn’t it happen before?” Caleb asked at bedtime last night. “Like SARS?”

He was referring to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2003 which hit Singapore and our region in 2003.

“Not as bad as this,” I said.

I also explain why we will now head straight home from school, instead of dining out and going to museums and libraries.

And I tell him, “It’s okay to be scared. But we need to talk about it and pray for our world.”

We live in a world that is very ill.

As our consumerist activities and travel bug are temporarily nipped, the halting of factories and grounding of airline flights have cut carbon emissions and pollution, and is giving our earth a short reprieve to heal.

I hope that, with our world on pause button, we can be motivated towards healing the ills on our planet. And, as a people, humbly recognize our place in this world.

I also pray that as we live through this Covid-19 plague, we will:

  • Cooperate with stay-home measures
  • Find ways to strengthen the ties that bind despite social distancing
  • Bury differences and unite against this invisible enemy
  • And leave this world a better place for our children.

 

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”  2 Chronicles 7:14-15

Related Links:

All entertainment venues in Singapore to close gatherings outside work and school

God Knows Leh #37: Cancer, COVID, Containment, Cooperation, Change

 

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Caleb is 9 years old!

As I reflect on his past year of growth, I realise that it has been an education of life for me as a parent, as much as it has been for him.

  1. Life

Caleb belonged to the first batch of school kids in Singapore who didn’t have exams in Primary Two.

I recall that breakfast morning, when Caleb was in Primary One, when we found out about the revision to the school exam system. I read the headline news to Caleb that exams would be scrapped for Primary Two along with removal of mid-year exams for Primary Three and Primary Five.

“Yay!” we both exclaimed.

Then, we went back to eating breakfast.

I would say that sums up Caleb’s first two years in Primary School well.

I’m a Not-Tiger-Mum. Whilst school education is important, it’s really only one part of life. We got through his first two school years without assessment books and I did not give him any homework. Instead, we spent many afternoons at the public library borrowing out stacks of story books. Being a sporty kid, it’s also been lots of football, cycling and other outdoor activities.

Caleb’s Primary Two year, for me, also ramped up very quickly into educating my child in the school of life, loss and more.

 

  1. Loss

Caleb’s 2019 was about learning to have less of me around. My mum was in hospital for 5 out of the first 8 weeks of 2019 before she passed on.

On her final week in hospital, we brought Caleb to see her every day. He was initially uncomfortable to see Grandma all tubed-up and barely able to speak. But he toughened up and became a pillar of strength and comfort to me through those days and beyond.

During our family memorial service in hospital, Caleb was the first to speak up and thank Grandma for all that she had done for him. He prepared a list of things that he expressed gratitude for and also apologized for the times that he made Grandma angry. The rest of us adults followed awkwardly after the littlest one in the hospital room started the gratitude ball rolling.

For me, he passed his School of Love & Loss module with flying colours.

Caleb is 9

  1. Words-Worth

Since young, Caleb has had a mind of his own and has never been at a loss for words.

When Caleb was in his twos, Ben and I were having a debate in the car about who Caleb resembled looks-wise.

Finally, I turned to Caleb, who was in the backseat and asked, “Caleb, do you look like Mummy?”

“No,” Caleb replied.

“Do you look like Papa?” Ben asked hopefully.

“No,” Caleb replied. Without missing a beat, he added, “Caleb look like Caleb!”

 

Last week, I ordered Caleb’s birthday cake with the inscription ‘Oh Divine, Caleb is 9!’ which I was so pleased with.

“That’s sounds too serious,” Caleb said. “I want to change the words to ‘Caleb’s 9! It’s Party Time!’”

“But ‘divine’ and ‘nine’ rhyme much better than ‘nine’ and ‘party time’”, I said. “And ‘divine’ speaks of God.”

“But it’s my birthday cake. ‘Party Time’ sounds more fun,” Caleb said. “’O Divine’ sounds like (the song) O Holy Night.”  I didn’t tell him but my inspiration had come from that song.

He paused, then asked, “How old are you this year?”

“Why?” I asked.

“How old?” he persisted.

I muttered something that ended with a ‘nine’.

“You can put ‘O Divine’ on your own birthday cake,” he quipped.

“Fine,” I said,  rolling my eyes. Then I changed the inscription on his cake.

Whilst I’m for ‘Divine’ and Caleb is for ‘Party Time’, I hope that his ‘9 years old’ will be a blend of both. One where he looks to God for guidance and learns to be thankful for things big and small. And one where play will continue to pave the way to his growth and learning.

 

Related Links:

Caleb just turned 8! Every Reason to Celebrate!

Caleb is 7 and I am the right mummy for him!

 

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