Tuesday, 26 June 2012

All you need is LOVE

My three lovely kidzes ~ February 2012 | Isaac @ 4 yrs 6 mths | Asher & Shawna @ 2 yrs 1 mth
Love is a many splendoured thing.
Love lifts us up where we belong.
All you need is love!
I was made for loving you baby, you were made for loving me!

I love the Elephant Love Medley from the movie Moulin Rouge. I often sing to the kidzes bits of the song, amended as appropriate, of course! :) (Elephant Medley Originals Mix!)

I have this theory that kids understand more than you think they do. So, from the point when they were conceived, I would make it a point to talk to them like they understand, like adults, rather than baby-talk them with goo goo gaa gaas. This theory runs along closely with the "subliminal messaging" theory. Or perhaps, I should not call it "subliminal" but the "psychoing" theory of "Tell the kids something often enough, and they will believe it." Hmmm, actually, hubbs calls it "nagging". Bah! What does he know :p (lots!!!)

Another theory I have, is that siblings should grow up close, and loving each other. Life is too short to spend the first 20 years of your life hating your siblings, and spend another 5 to 10 years building a relationship with your very own siblings and parents - and that is great if you do. If you don't, it's sad, just sad. I should know, I lived like that. It wasn't only in the past five to ten years that I got closer to my sister and my parents. There are no grotesque skeletons of any sort in our pasts. Things simply were the way they were because of the usual circumstances of a combination of factors: full time working parents, sister and I got distributed to the the paternal and maternal grandparents for them to take care of, coupled with the growing pains of puberty. My parents were also the typical Asian stereotype of their generation where they were not into hugging nor saying "I love you"s, at all.

Hence, I formulated my plan even before I had kids.
My objectives were simple:
  • To let the kidzes know that hubbs and I would love them, always. (Even when we scold them, or beat them, or say NO to everything they want.)
  • To have the kidzes love each other, always. (Even if they annoy and irritate each other, and quarrel and fight - they should still love each other.)
Isaac with Papa & Mummy circa November 2007 | Isaac @ 3 months
With all my theories and my plan in mind, I started with Isaac. I started from the day he was conceived. In my tummy, when I spoke to him, I told him that I loved him. When he was an infant,  I would constantly hold him close, hug him, sniff him, kiss him and tell him that I loved him. When he was a baby, I started singing to him songs with lyrics that I made up, telling him that I loved him. I once told myself that I must kiss him at least 50 times a day and say "I love you, Isaac" to him at least 10 times a day. I don't think I hit this quota everyday, but I certainly tried my best.

There's this exchange I used to have with Isaac very often. It still happens every now and then. It used to be a daily affair though... Here's how it started:

Me: "I love you Isaac. Can I have a hug and a kiss, please?"
Isaac:"Okay" He hugs and kisses me once.
Me:"Thank you! I love your hugs and kisses! I'm gonna kiss you back! I'd give you... 5 kisses!"  and I proceed to peck him on his cheek 5 times in a row.
Isaac:"I also give you 5 kisses!" then he kisses me, like, 8 times. (he miscount - at that time, he was very young, like two and half years old)
Me:"Wow! You gave me 5 kisses plus 3 bonus kisses! I'm going to give you 10 kisses!" and I give him 10 kisses.
Isaac:"I also give you 10 kisses!"then he kisses me like 12 times...

After Isaac learnt the concept of "Bonus kisses" he was very amused by it and often used it. His counting also got better so that he doesn't miscount...

Me:"I love you, Isaac! Can I have 10 kisses pleeeeaase?"
Isaac:"I love you, Mummy. I will only give you 5 kisses."
Me:"5 only? Not 10?"
Isaac:"No, 5 only."
Me:"Okay, 5 kisses is good too." Isaac proceeds to kiss me 5 times.
Isaac:"Now, I will give you 10 bonus kisses!!!"
Me:"Wow!!! 10 bonus kisses!!! yay!!!" and he proceeds to kiss me 10 more times :)

Isaac was exactly 2 years and 5 months old when Asher & Shawna were born. He loved them, but he also begrudged them for "taking me away from him" for I had to spend a lot of time breastfeeding the twins. I knew that I had to work doubly hard with Isaac and the twins, to get them to consciously love one another. I did not want Isaac to be jealous of Asher & Shawna.
Isaac, Asher & Shawna circa January 2010 - twins were just born! Isaac @ 2 yrs 5 months
We often placed the twins on a single mattress that was placed beside our king sized mattress. Isaac loved to lie down on the mattress with them. But everytime he did, something like the following conversation would ensue...

When the twins were just a few months old...
Isaac:"Mummy, Asher kick me."
Me:"Isaac, it's okay, he didn't do it on purpose, it was accidental."
Isaac:"You say accidental also must say 'sorry', right?"
Me:"Yes, but he's a baby, he can't talk yet. I'd say sorry for him okay?"
Me:"Sorry, kor kor."
Isaac:"Mummy! Shawna beat me!"
Me:"She didn't beat you. She's just touching you. She wants to sayang ("love" in Malay) you, that's all."
Isaac:"Mummy, Asher kick me again!"
Me:"Isaac, the babies are not doing anything, they are just moving. If you don't want them to touch you at all, don't lie down next to them. Now you're lying in between them, they're sure to touch you."
Isaac:"But I like to lie down with them."
Me:"Oh, that's nice. You're right, I like to lie down with them too. But see, when they touch me or accidentally kick me, I know they did not intend to hurt me, so I'm not complaining. Also, it wasn't even painful at all when they kicked, coz they're so small! Were you hurt when Asher accidentally kicked you? Is it painful?"
Isaac:"No. Not pain."
Me:"Ah, that's good. So, don't be angry with Asher and Shawna okay? They just want to love you."

Soon, Isaac got used to the twins, and them moving around touching him, and accidentally kicking or hitting sometimes, but he didn't complain much anymore (only when it really hurt). Then we started to have conversations like those below...

Isaac:"Mummy, why Shawna keep touching my face?"
Me:"Because she loves her kor kor Isaac. She wants to sayang you. She loves you so much, so she wants to get to know you. She does this by touching your face."
Isaac:"Mummy, Asher keep pulling my shirt. And he climb on me!"
Me:"*laugh* Yes! wow! He loves you so much, isn't it? He wants to play with you coz he loves you."
Isaac:"Mummy, Shawna pull my hair and poke my eyes!"
Me:"Oh no! Shawna, please be gentle! I know you love kor kor Isaac and want to play with him, but you must learn to be gentle with kor kor, you can hurt him when you poke his eyes and pull his hair, so please don't do that. Isaac, are you okay?"
Isaac:"Yes. She just loves me so much, right?"
Me:"Yes she does. Coz you're such a good kor kor. And Asher loves you too."

Nowadays, one of the favourite activities of the kidzes is: body pile! They love to climb on top of each other and just pile onto each other, laughing away. Though sometimes the twins are a bit rough on Isaac coz they don't know they strength. So usually, once I see a body pile coming on and one of the twins go pile on Isaac, I quickly go "See Asher so love you, Isaac! He loves to play with you... Oh and Shawna too! They love you so much!!! Be gentle!!! Take care of kor kor! Love him! Don't hurt him!!!"
Isaac, Asher & Shawna July 2010 | Asher & Shawna @ 7 months | Isaac @ almost 3 yrs old

I would constantly talk to Isaac this way; I still do. Though, of course, we adapt as we go along. When the twins were old enough to start snatching things from Isaac, he got very frustrated. This is how our conversations go...

Isaac:"Mummy!!! Why every time I have something, Asher or Shawna will want it?!"
Me:"That's because they love you, Isaac. They are curious to see what you have. They know that if you have something, it must be good coz they think you are very good. That's why they want it."
Isaac:"But every time also they snatch from me!"
Me:"Asher and Shawna shouldn't snatch, they should ask nicely from you. But they really love you, it is just that they are so young, so they don't know how to ask. So we must teach them how to ask properly, and not to snatch."
Isaac:"Then why every time I do something, Asher and Shawna also wants to do?!"
Me:"That's because they love you so much. They love you so much, they want to be just like you. Just like how you love Mummy and Papa so much, that every time we do something or have something, you also want. Right?"
=> This comparison drives home the point so strongly that Isaac is dumbfounded. So now he understands why the twins always wants whatever he has, and wants to do whatever he does. He still gets frustrated sometimes, but at least he understands. Now, sometimes, he says to me

Isaac:"Mummy, I know Asher and Shawna love me so much that's why they always want to do what I do - so I let them try."
Me:"That's great, Isaac! You're such a good kor kor! No wonder they love you so much! I love it when you're such a good boy!"
Isaac BEAMS :)
Isaac, Asher & Shawna circa second half of 2010 | Isaac @ 3 yrs plus | Asher & Shawna @ 6 to 12 months
And Isaac really is such a great kor kor (Teochew for "older brother"). Most of the time he is very sweet and patient with Asher and Shawna. He talks to them, he plays with them, he shares with them, he teaches them... though some times I know he does it to elicit praise from me, but there are also many many times I have seen him been loving and kind to his brother and sister even though he didn't know I was looking. Certainly, there are also times where he gets frustrated with them and screams at them, or refuses to share with them, but Isaac is as human as the rest of us, he has his down times too. On the whole, the three of them get along most of the time and play well together.

I'm glad my plan worked. I also know that this is an ongoing project, and I hope and pray it would continue to work. I am confident it will, coz we need is love. To (sorta) quote Jesus and JK Rowling:"The greatest power in the universe, is Love." Fortunately, we have that in abundance.Do you?

Friday, 8 June 2012

Theorectical Mummy Me

March 2012 | Asher & Shawna @ 2 yrs 2 mths | Isaac @ 4 yrs 7mths

Ever since I was young (like 15 years old) I knew that I'd have at least three children. I'd always loved kids, and I loved the idea of having my own kids, of being a mother myself. So from a young age, I would imagine how I would and should behave when I am a mother. What I'd say to my kids, how I would say it, the way I'd behave with my kids, things we'd do together. Anything and everything. Friends comment that I "think too much" but I like to think that I'm simply "getting prepared" for "when the time comes".

I am a subscriber of a number of theories. Firstly, kids emulate their parents. Thus it is important to walk the talk and behave the way you want your child to behave. This includes saying "please, thank you, you're welcome" - the whole gamut. Hubbs and I are conscious to always say please, thank you and you're welcome when we talk to the kids themselves, and also to our helper, and anybody else. When the kids forget, we'd also ask them to say it. It is tedious, yes, but it is necessary - due to the theory of "kids emulate their parents". If we want the kids to do it, we have to do it too. And if they forget, we must also conscientiously request that they say it, even if it means they have to repeat after us. Again, tedious but necessary.

Secondly, I believe in positive reinforcement of good behaviour. Meaning, I praise a lot. And I mean a lot. When the kids do something well, or something positive, I will make sure I single it out to praise. I'd say things like "Isaac, thank you for not throwing a tantrum even though Shawna snatched the toy from you. She is wrong to snatch, but you were understanding and you did not scream at her and you did not snatch back the toy. I saw that you let her have the toy, thank you so much for sharing. You're a very good kor kor (older brother)." and only after I say this to Isaac, do I turn to Shawna to discipline her for snatching. Isaac went through a phase where he would have thrown a tantrum, or screamed and snatched back from Shawna - this is why I am keen to single out that I am aware he did not exhibit any negative behaviour - and praised him for it. Most children are simply attention seeking. Hence, doing this will encourage them to exhibit positive behaviour to elicit praise, hugs and smiles - i.e. the attention they seek - rather than exhibit negative behaviour in a bid to trigger a reaction from the adults.
I have my justifications and reasons to my theories - but they were, at the time before I had kids, just theories. I felt, and hope, that it'd work. But who knows if it'd work until it does? Well, I am pleased to report that I can already see it working on my kids. To illustrate this, I shall relate what happened this morning...

You know those small little super-bouncy balls? I have an entire collection of them from when I was young. I don't know how many, at least 200 balls, I should think. So, the kids love to play with them too. I'd usually give them one each to hold. They can't do the bounce-catch yet, but you know how kids love to have a toy to hold on to. So, this morning, Shawna pointed at a container that she knew our helper had kept the balls in, and said "Mummy, can I have a ball please?" So I gave her one, she asked for another (so she had two), and Asher asked for the small orange ball, and Isaac asked for one. We went down to the car, piled in, and off I drove, today I brought them to the childcare centre as hubbs was off cycling. So... we were in the car, on the highway, when...

Asher:"Oooops... Mummy, I drop orange ball!"
Me:"You dropped your orange ball? Oh dear. Mummy is driving, so I'd have to pick it later, alright?"
Shawna:"Shawna give you ball, Asher?"
Asher:"NOOOOOO!!!!!!" (he shouted)
Me:"Shawna, thank you for offering Asher one of the balls you're holding. That's very nice of you to share with Asher."
Me:"Asher, Shawna is being nice, to want to pass you a ball. If you don't want it, just say "No, thank you." You don't have to shout. Say sorry to Shawna."
Asher:"Sorry Shawna..."
Me:"For shouting at you."
Asher:"... for shouting at you..."
Me:"And? I will not..."
Asher:"I will not do that again."
Me:"Good. That's right. Please don't do that again. It's not polite."
Isaac:"Asher, what about my blue ball? You want this one?"
Me:"Asher, say "No, thank you, Kor Kor."
Asher:"No thank you, Kor Kor."
Isaac looked at me pointedly:"Me, Mummy?"
Me:"Ah yes, thank you for offering Asher your ball too, Isaac. That was very kind of you."
Isaac beams.

Why I'm proud of the kidzes:
  • see how Shawna offered Asher a ball without any prompting?
  • Asher apologised readily and remembered to say "I will not do it again" even though I had to prompt him. But I only had to prompt him a little, and not the whole line. Also, last night, in another altercation when he had to apologise to Shawna, he actually said "I will not do it again" without any prompting at all.
  • when Isaac offered Asher the ball, Asher did not shout at him like he shouted at Shawna before. 
  • Isaac also offered Asher a ball without any prompting. Albeit he did it coz he saw and heard Shawna getting praised for it. But this is precisely what I'm trying to encourage.

If you noticed, in the conversation above, I also said to Asher "That is not polite." rather than "That is rude." Similarly, I often ask the kidzes to "Please be polite." rather than "Don't be rude." This is my third theory that I believe in. That we should always use positive words rather than negative words. 
I have more theories... but enough for now. I'm just so very glad that these theories seem to work on the kidzes. Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Climber, climb on!

Remember this post on rock climbing that I wrote earlier this year? Isaac couldn't climb up at all. That wasn't my worry. My worry was that he seemed to have a defeatist attitude and did not want to try very hard at all - coz he thought he couldn't do it.

However, recently, we went back to climb again. This time, we brought my nieces along, three of them. Natalie, Isabelle and Rebecca. We wanted to expose them and let them try rock climbing. 
We wondered if Isaac will behave like he did when he climbed the last time - not trying hard thinking he couldn't do it. We needn't have worried, he had a total change in attitude! The moment we got there, he strode out to the wall and said:"Me, me, I want to climb!" We gamely allowed him to go first. This was the first time the girls have seen a rock wall and so they were probably felt a little intimidated, looking up at it. Not surprisingly, no one challenged Isaac's claim to be the first to climb.

And climb he did! He scooted up the wall pretty quickly, stopping occasionally (like four times across his climb) to exclaim:"Mummy!!! Look!!! I can climb higher than I thought I could!!!" Yes, he repeated that last sentence no less than four time, in this first climb. He was ecstatic. Everytime he paused climbing to blurt that out, he grinned from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat.
We were very pleased with Isaac. This was an excellent first climb. No moaning, no groaning, and no "I cannot do this!!!"s. Fantastic! We're guessing it's the presence of his cousins that fueled him to put forth this astounding performance. So it seems, that positive peer pressure works wonders on Isaac. Things that make me go hmmmm...
Next was Isabelle, who just turned 7 this year. Ever since she was young, we pegged her for being a natural at rock-climbing. And she was! This is the simplest route on the wall, so she made it up in a jiffy. This wall ain't as simple as it looks - I should know, coz I climbed it. However, coz I climbed it after the kids did, I had put myself under a bit of stress. Everytime I hit a rough patch, I'd mutter to myself:"If the kids can do this, so can I!!! Just do it! Don't malu!!!" Luckily... I did! I managed to climb to the top of this route too. Phew!!!
No sweat! Isabelle came down, all smiles too.Isabelle, if you noticed, is wearing a proper adult sized harness - probably XS in size. The harness is fully adjustable anyway, so it can always be tightened to a snug fit. Below, is Chan Peng putting on the kids' full-body harness (same as the one Isaac wore) for Yu, his 4 year old son. Yu has already quite a few complete climbs under his belt. He is one steady climber.
While Yu gets strapped up and on his way, Rebecca is getting a safety briefing from hubbs. He was teaching them basic climbing safety protocol. For example, if you are the Climber and intend to start climbing, do signal this to your Belayer by calling out "Climbing!" and make sure your Belayer acknowledges this, usually, by saying "Climb on!" This is to ensure that your Belayer is aware you are climbing. For if the Climber climbs up the wall while the Belayer is distracted and not aware that he has commenced climbing, the rope will not be tightened and this would be dangerous if the Climber goes up quite high and falls. This is unlikely as most belayers will pay lots of attention to the climber once they are all hooked up onto the rope. But it is not impossible and it is always good to have proper climbing ettiquette, and err on the side of caution.
Look at them go! Isn't it amazing! Below, Rebecca has already reached the overhang portion. She tried a few times but couldn't conquer the overhang. But what is important is that she tried. Later in the afternoon, after lunch, she tried this route again, and still didn't manage to clear it. I had to send her for an enrichment class she had, so she didn't manage to have time to try it again.

Isabelle did though. Heard that while I had sent Rebecca off to class, Isabelle tried the wall with the overhang route and managed to clear it and reach the top, after a few tries! :) Good job, Izzy!!! :) I didn't get to try this route that day, but the previous time we came climbing, I couldn't clear the overhang on this route either. It really isn't easy at all!
I was trying to rationalise away why Isabelle could clear the overhang but I couldn't. "Must be my humongous butt. Too much dead weight. SIGH."  hehehe... This is partially true, I think. But then my body is much longer than the kids' bodies - just look at this picture above of Yu and the wall. Some of the bits were half his body height!

Natalie declined to climb. We didn't push her to do so. We'd let it slide this time. But next time round, we'd definitely get her to try.
Natalie @ 5yo | Isabelle @ 7yo | Rebecca @ 9yo | Matthew @ 39.75yo | June 2012
Isaac's second climb. And he was a lot faster this time too! He was still as amazed, though he only said twice "I can climb higher than I thought I could!!!" He was buoyed with confidence after his first climb, and thus he completed the second climb without any problem at all. Next time round, we'd let him have a go at the overhang routes!
Isaac @ 5 yo | Matthew @ 39.75yo | June 2012
Happy hubbs. Rock climbing is to him what boardgaming is to me. It's the activity of choice that he'd love for his children to be engaged in with him. And it's starting to happen. Happiness, somebody! Climb on!!!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

A robot we made 2 years ago

Two years ago, when Isaac just joined childcare for not long, the school asked us to help Isaac (together with him, that is) construct a robot out of recycled materials. It was meant to be a project with parent/child involvment. I mentioned this here before, but thought I wanted to talk more about the construction of the robot, so here I am.
Pictures taken in July 2010 | Isaac @ 2 years 11 months

As you can see, the robot is quite big. It's quite tall and can stand on it's own two feet quite well. That's because I weighted down its' feet with water. Its feet is actually two plastic bottles that previously held rolls of wet tissue. I wrapped up some tap water in some plastic bags and placed a bag each in each "leg" - so with the weight, the robot was very steady.

The purple detergent bottle that I split down oneside for the torso was the hardest to cut apart. I used a penknife to do it. Not easy though, coz the plastic was quite thick and tough.  But I like the effect. Behind his chest are two 2 litre bottles that used to hold Meiji Fresh Milk. I liken them to being the robot's lungs! kekeke...

If I recall correctly, I used old newspaper, rolled up, to use as the robot's skeleton, namely, his spine, neck and legs. So they'd hold the different parts of the robot together. The arms are made up of plastic bottles as you can see. Can you see the elbow joint? I simply cut a hole in the (upper?)arm and stick the forearm in. And I used ribbons to join the (upper)arm to the torso, so it's movable!!! So cool right?! How can you make a robot without any movable parts, right?!

I was so excited about building this robot that I practically built the whole thing myself. Isaac did help me paste all the papers on the robot though. I wanted him to cover the whole surface but he kinda got bored and said he was done. sighz. But we had loadsa fun doing this! Well, at least I did! :)

Friday, 1 June 2012

Hats Off!

I actually did this post below a long time ago - maybe two or three years ago, in another blog. I'm revamping that blog now, but didn't want to junk this post. So here it is :) Before the questions come; nope, My First Games doesn't sell this game. I got it from one of those HDB-flat-downstairs-toy-store. We really liked it though, and think it's a fantastic game for the young ones.

Hats Off is a simple dexterity game whereby one uses a plastic springboard-like device to spring/bounce the little plastic cone hats into the target box.
As you can see above, there are 4 colours - red, blue, yellow and green. Each player has 6 hats in his colour and the target box is a 6 by 6 grid split into 4 quadrants, once of each colour. There is a scoring system where if you launch and land the cones in your own colour zone, you get 5 points, and if your cone lands in your own colour zone AND on top of another cone - you earn 10 points. Player with most points wins.

Ths is a very simple game which has proven to be popular even with adults. However, in this review, I would like to concentrate on how this game is good for young kids.
This is my son, Isaac. Hats Off was the second boardgame that I had introduced to him. He was just about 16 months old when we started to let him play this game, in December 2008. Initially, he did not get the hang of 'springing' the hat - as in, he would just depress his finger on the push off, much like the action of pressing a button - but he didn't know how to 'pull back' slightly, so that the springboard can 'spring' off!
Just as I was thinking to myself that this was too tough a game for a 16 month old (looking at the Age 5+ sign in the corner of the box), and contemplated keeping the game till he was older... On the 2nd day of Chinese New Year 2009 (sometime late January; about a month of me trying to teach him to spring the device ) He suddenly knew how to! He could do it like a pro and he was consistent with his strength applied. Thus the hats almost always flew a certain distance. I would position the target box roughly in the region of where the hats were landing, and... he was having a great time!
Have a look at this video of Isaac playing the game. Sometimes he would get frustrated when the hats don't fall into the target box, and so we tell him:"It's okay... just try again!" After awhile, Isaac got his springing down pat, but I was still holding his springboard for him, thus, I started to teach him to hold his own springboard. After that, I wanted to teach him to AIM for the specific colour zone on the target box. But then I realised that he doesn't know his colours yet!

Thus, we used the game components for another 'game' - that of matching colours. Matching colours is an important game-playing device that is commonly used in many games. As such, it is a useful skill to learn.
Here you can see Isaac at the colour matching game, he enjoys it almost as much as the actual game. Sometimes we would purposely put the wrong colours in, and he would automatically pick them out and set them right.

Overall, this game is highly recommended for young kids - you just have to keep an eye to make sure they don't put the pieces into their mouths. We certainly have gotten a lot of play out of it.
Pictures above: Isaac @ 16 to 18 months


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