Friday, 28 February 2014

Our "No TV at Home" Rule

We have a "No TV at Home" rule that I have been wanting to blog about, but haven't made the time to do so. Then the hubbs forwarded me an email from Screensavers, said that his ex-student was one of the members and asked if I could help her out... So it appears that Screensavers is a public information campaign founded by three final year students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University of Singapore. They wish to advocate that kids have less screen time, and have come up with the 6 handy tips below, which you can also read more about here at The Screensavers Guide.  
http://screensaverssg.com/
Individual graphics by Screensavers; collage compiled by Tan Family Chronicles. Read more about the tips here at The Screensavers Guide.  
They requested that we share our stories on how we implement any of their tips. I guess our "No TV at Home" rule falls into the "Not Too Long" tip.

Now, we didn't always have this "No TV at Home" rule. In fact, it used to be that the kids would always need the TV on during dinner time, and they would watch TV while eating. This was a legacy from the days before the kids attended their childcare, and their caregiver at that point in time found it easier to feed infants and toddlers when their eyes were glued to the TV. And hence, this bad habit of watching TV while eating was instilled as soon as they could sit upright. 

When they started attending childcare, the kids learnt to eat in school without TV. But at night, when they came back for dinner, they would once again demand for TV during dinner time. Understanding that this was what they were used to, hubbs and I gave in, and would allow them to watch TV during dinner time. We understand that too much TV is not good for them, so we figured that we will limit it to the hour or so when they are eating, to watch TV. Afterall, they don't watch TV the entire day already since they are in childcare, and their Learning Vision childcare does not play the TV for them to watch.
But despite us "limiting" the time that they can watch TV to their dinner time, it would tend to drag on with the cries of "Just one more episode?" etc. And, the kids would eat sooooo slowly! Mostly because they would just stare at the TV without chewing and swallowing regularly. To top it off, the twins started talking and all three kids would fight over what show to watch. This is because we don't let them watch TV per se - as in, it is not the regular television broadcast programmes that they watch - I buy dvds of childrens' programmes which I deem to be educational, for them to watch. Hence, they all had their favourites - Isaac would want to watch Little Einsteins while Shawna would ask for Barney, and Asher would want something else. 
Bring the Fun Out - says the Screensavers! We totally agree! Kids have fun just bouncing the ball, or kicking it around. We do stretching exercises with the kids, and play games like "What's the time, Mr Wolf?" (middle picture, top row) The kids always have tonnes of fun, and it gets them all hungry (so they eat dinner without problem) and sweaty (so they don't oppose bath time either!). And best of all, they'd sleep very well at bedtime! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!
We used to mediate and be judges, decide who gets to watch what first, and insist everyone take turns etc. But it was mayhem. There was always quarreling and fighting, tears abound, and no one was satisfied. So one day, on a regular day that had the regular mayhem, tears, fights and drama concerning who gets to watch what  programmes, and how many episodes etc etc. Hubbs stood up and said "THAT'S ENOUGH! NO MORE TV!!!" And he walked to the TV, unplugged it, and put the TV, cables and all, into the bomb shelter which was our storeroom. 

The kids were stunned. They looked at hubbs. Looked at the storeroom door. And looked at the bare, empty spot which used to have their beloved TV. Gone. WAIL!!!! They started bawling and crying their eyes out. They threw horrible tantrums that night, all three of them. Hubbs hollered once more, to get them all to keep quiet. And they did... whimpering a little. I quickly herded them into the bedroom to read to them, and that was Day 1 of cold turkey, of the kids going without TV.

The next day, and the day after, the kids timidly asked for TV, but hubbs and I just shook our heads and said "No". On Day 2 we said, "Quickly eat, and we can go downstairs to the playground." And their eyes lit up and they started eating purposefully. On Day 3, I said "Quick finish your food, and we can play board games!" The kids eyes widened with joy and they quickly ate while perusing the games shelf, calling out the games they would like to play.

For the record, after Day 3, the kids stopped asking for TV during dinner time (or any other time). We kept them busy of course. Occasionally, it was going downstairs to play at the playground or to cycle or play ball. Mostly, it was playing board games, crafting, and reading.We found that we now had much more time to do all these things. Before we banished the television set, we were already playing board games, crafting and reading. But watching TV took up so much time that we only had time to play board games and craft during weekends. Now, we could do it almost every night! The kids loved their new activities, and didn't request for TV again. Not even after hubbs placed the TV back in its place - as we needed space in the storeroom.
Reading is the magic key to take you where you want to be! :) we're mighty glad the kids are loving books!

It helps that hubbs and I both love reading. We have tonnes of books and I still can't resist buying more! I buy books from everywhere, but more often than not, from The Groovy Giraffe, partly coz it is opened by my secondary school pal, but mostly because they sell brand new books at prices cheaper than any store! Key in TanFamilyC to get 5% off your shopping cart any day of the year! From now till 19th March 2014 - key in TanFam15 to get 15% off the Children Category! Dang! I'm going shopping myself! Been eyeing an Enid Blyton book set now that Isaac is almost done with the Five-Find-Outers set I got him!

Our typical schedule on a weekday night in the past few years (before Isaac started attending primary school this year) goes like this -
6.30pm - Pick the kids from childcare.
7.30pm - Dinner time
8.15pm - Bath time
8.45pm - Board games or Crafting time!
9.45pm - Read books
10.30pm - Getting the kids to stop reading and go to sleep!

Before we stopped the kids from watching TV during meal times, they could take almost 2 hours to eat! Leaving not much time for anything else after dinner other than to bathe, read and go to sleep! Now that Isaac is in Primary 1 and has to wake up early. I try to fetch the twins earlier, and move the entire schedule forward by a hour or so. It's really not much time at all.So we're really thankful that we managed to go TV-less with the kids.

When we play board games with the kids, or craft, or read to them, with them, sometimes we post pictures of them doing these activities on our private Facebook accounts, and friends would sometimes comment:"Wow! Where do you get the time to do so many things?!"  Initially, we would be slightly puzzled, and simply reply "Oh, after dinner lor." or "Okay lah, not very often. No time." to which our friends would say "Wah, but you do a lot already." It was during one such conversation with a friend did I realise why we had more time "Oh, we don't watch TV at home. We have a "No TV Rule!" then the friend went "OH... no wonder..."

The kids do get to watch TV, though. Just not at our own home. They get to watch TV at their grandparents' home. We figured it was very hard to control and demand that OUR parents don't watch TV, so we figured that's going to be the only time our kids get to watch TV. My in laws' place has cable tv, and so the first thing the kids ask after calling his Grandfather is "Can we watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates, please?". My parents place doesn't have cable, so they usually watch the Korean dramas that my parents watch - which I don't really mind coz the dramas are more often than not dubbed in Mandarin. It fit right in with my plan to deal with the Chinese language.
Card games and board games can be fun and educational at the same time. They are great for spending quality time bonding with the kids, and wonderful for playdates and gatherings too. [ Playdate with Owl's Well's J & E - top left hand pic] Games can be as fast as 5 minutes, or relatively short 15 minutes, to 30 minutes, if you like. You can watch your kids grow by playing board games - see how their mind ticks! It's very fascinating!  See more such games at My First Games

So that is where the kids get their dose of TV. Thus they can hardly accuse us of not giving them TV time. But given that we only visit the grandparents at most once a week for both, the maximum number of times the kids can watch TV during a week, is two times. They have also come to accept the fact that they don't watch TV at home, and so they don't ask for it. Unfortunately, this also means that they come to associate their grandparents' home with TV. So we try to dampen that by bringing board games and they can play the board games with their grandparents or auntie & uncle.

We do have a home theatre though. A high definition projector and a 101 inch fixed screen home theatre, complete with a 5.1 surround sound system. I was a huge movie buff you see. So we do have movie nights, on Friday or Saturday nights. So, we do indulge the kids and ourselves with the occasional movie. And I could write an entire blog post on the benefits of watching movies rather than TV.... But yeah, the kids are not totally TV-free.

But in my frank opinion, just being TV-free on weekdays, to have a "No TV at Home on Weekdays" rule already brings with it many benefits. Mainly, you get a lot more time to spend with the kids doing activities which are not and mind numbing. In the long run, this will also ensure that your kids do NOT turn into TV addicts, because they know they can survive without it and can be indifferent without it.

Oh wait, did I mention that we have a "No iPad at Home (even on weekends)" Rule? Yes, that one is more draconian because iPad is even more addictive than the TV. Yes, even I was a bit addicted to the iPad though I tried to secretly use it in the toilets instead of in the living room... See?! The extent we addicts go to?! But I could see the kids following in my footsteps. So after one more muttered "We should ban iPad at home..." from hubbs, I declared to the kids
Mummy me: "No iPad at Home! If you want to play iPad, you can play at your grandparents place."
Kidzes:"BUT we'd be busy watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates there!"
Me:"Then you have to make a choice. If you want to watch TV, then you don't get to play iPad. And if you want to play iPad, then you don't get to watch TV. Oh and if you guys fight and quarrel over the iPad, then I will keep it and nobody gets to play it."
And that was that. No more iPad at home.
The kids love colouring, painting, cutting, pasting, and most of all MAKING STUFF! I'm a big fan of making our own toys out of recycled materials. See what we have done in our Crafty Critters tag :) Crafting lets the kids exercise their creativity, practice their fine motor and hand-eye coordination, and keeps them very occupied. What more can you ask for?!
So what's the point of this long post? I am saying, that if all the benefits of going TV-free and iPad-free appeal to you,  you can do it! You CAN implement the "No TV/iPad at Home" Rule too. 

Try these following tips from yours truly
1. Be firm about it.
Unplug the TV and chuck it in the bomb shelter, if you must. We tried reducing the timing bit by bit but it doesn't really work. Expect a cold turkey period of tantrums, moaning, groaning and whining. We had a 3 day cold turkey period which I think is quite short. I actually expected a week or more. Generally, I think, the more addicted your child is, the longer the cold turkey period will be. Remember, they will get better, so you must persevere!!!
2. Adults, please control yourselves.
Frankly, I think it will be tougher to get the adults to quit watching TV, compared to the kids. If you truly want the kids not to watch TV, there should be no TV in the house that is switched on - if not, the temptation is there. Adults, you have more options open for you, you can surf the net to watch during lunch time at work, or watch after the kids go to sleep. Get relatives staying with you to cooperate by watching the TV in their own room, perhaps? I know of mums with No TV Rules who download Korean dramas to watch on the iPad. Whatever works - get creative!

3. Arm yourself with alternative activities.
Yes, without the TV or the iPad as a nanny, you will need to occupy the children's time. Other than homework...
  • Read, read, read! Benefits of reading are well documented and have a long lasting effect - get them addicted to reading and it would be an even better nanny than the TV would be - in more ways than one! [Brand new discounted books available here, quote TanFamilyC to get 5% off your shopping cart!]
  • Play games with them! Board games, card games, kampung games, DIY games, jigsaw puzzles! Games are highly educational as it stimulates and enhances problem solving skills.
  • Bring them outdoors, to the playground, or just downstairs for a post-dinner walk. Lots of Fun for Free ideas here by The Gingerbreadmum
  • Crafting! Make a toy instead of buying one! There are many mummy blogs out there with wonderfully nice and easy crafts to make! Just Google! :)
  • Toys! Get them interested in their toys again! Lego, building blocks, toy soldiers, cars, dolls, cooking toys etc... These are toys which promote open-ended play and that is good for the children! Use their imagination! Enhance their creativity!
  • Activity, puzzle, sticker books! Colouring books! All these are fun to do and would help to reinforce that reading and books can be fun too! 
4. Allow the kids some TV time, but elsewhere.
Set fixed parameters for your kids to have TV time, and preferably not at home. This way, they will not associate their home with TV time, and they will naturally seek out other activities to keep themselves occupied, even when you are unable to 'entertain' them.

5. Persevere and don't backslide!
Ride over the cold turkey period and your battle is half won! Next, persevere and keep it up. Don't backslide by succumbing to the easy way out of using iPad or TV when you need the kids to do something on their own while you cook dinner or do some work. Let them get used to doing some solo activities like reading, doodling, playing with toys. Your efforts will all go to waste if you backslide too much! 

So you see, there is lots to do, even without the TV or the iPad! You can do it! START TODAY!!! 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

[Media Invite] Disney on Ice - Treasure Trove

We received a media invite to attend the roadshow of Disney On Ice: Treasure Trove. Since it was at JEM, which was relatively near our place, I agreed to attend. I didn't tell the kids where we were going, or for what, though. "It's a surprise!" I told them, and then milked it for all it was worth ala "Okay no more tantrums, you want your surprise tomorrow, right?" :p
Disney on Ice: Treasure Trove Roadshow activities
And boy did the kids love it! Their eyes opened wide when they saw the roadshow, and they enthusiastically went about completing the different stations on the Treasure Map they were each given.

Disney On Ice is coming to town again, and this time it's Treasure Trove they are presenting. From 19th - 23rd March, this period coincides with the March school holidays in Singapore, and it would be the perfect treat for the kids to go! I've always wanted to see what Disney on Ice is like, and this would be our first time ever, so I'm actually quite excited about this. Isaac too, would be intrigued since he enjoys ice-skating.
Love this picture of Asher & Peter Pan! :)
I managed to get Asher to pose with Peter Pan for me, I told him to cross his arms and stand like Peter Pan. I thought it was a pretty good likeness! :) The wavy trick mirrors caught Shawna's eye too - different mirrors with different visual effects. 

This was the first of Disney On Ice's roadshows. They have three more roadshows coming up, do drop by if you're in the vicinity of:
  • Forum The Shopping Mall from 28th February to 2nd March 2014
  • West Coast Plaza from 7th to 9th March 2014
  • Square 2 from 14th to16th March 2014
Shawna looking in the tricky Disney mirrors
After completing each station, the kids were satisfied to have conquered most of the roadshow stations, and were contented to sit down and do some colouring at the tables. The emcee of the event that day even came by and spoke to Shawna and Asher. To my surprise, they were very cool and answered the lady's questions when they were being "interviewed". The lovely picture on the bottom right hand corner of the collage below was one taken by the JEM photographer - got it off the JEM's Facebook Page here.

Would you like some printables for your kids? Here's some from the Disney On Ice Asia website
- Disney On Ice Treasure Trove Colouring Printable
- Disney On Ice Treasure Trove Maze Printable

And guess who we got to meet that day? Mickey Mouse! When we were lining up to take pictures with Mickey Mouse, Shawna asked me "Is Minnie Mouse coming too?" :) Being the boy/girl twins they are, Mickey is always associated with Asher and Minnie Mouse - Shawna. I had to disappoint her that day to say that I didn't think Minnie Mouse was going to appear that day. She'd be thrilled to see her on the actual day when we watch Disney On Ice Treasure Trove! :)

I think in the meantime, I can print and cut out the following printables to make Mickey's and Minnie's ears for them! :)
- Click and print Mickey's Ears
- Click and print Minnie's Ears
As mentioned, Disney On Ice: Treasure Trove plays in Singapore from 19th - 23rd March 2014. Tickets are available from www.sportshubtix.sg ; the box office at the Singapore Indoor Stadium Admin Office; through calling +65 6333 5000; or at all SingPost Outlets island wide. More details here.

Be sure to check out if you qualify for any of the promotions available so as to get you some discount off your tickets. I saw promos by Maybank, Redoxon, PAssion Card and others. Check here and here for more details. 

Catch a preview of the show here - it looks amazing! :)

Friday, 21 February 2014

The Lesson on Backgrounds

I've never been very good in art. I can't draw for nuts. Hubbs says he's just as hopeless. So when it comes to guiding the kids on drawing stuff - we're learning right along with the kids. So when an opportunity came up last year for a sponsored session at HeART Studio along with other blogger friends, I jumped at the chance to go.I didn't know much about art nor drawing technicques, but I sure wouldn't mind learning.

So there we were, a bunch of mummy bloggers, going for an art lesson together. It certainly was fun having a lesson together with some friends, instead of strangers. However, I understand that their area of expertise lies in conducting art classes for kids as young as 3 years old. They have canvas painting, 3D painting and even clay modelling. They conduct lessons by the term, as well as have special sessions during the holidays. So if you don't wish to commit to a whole term of weekly lessons, you could do a one off during the holidays.
Our session that day was one of canvas painting. They provided everything from the paint, paintbrushes and canvases, to the easels and even the aprons that we wore - to make sure we don't get any paint on our clothes. We were given a small photocopy of Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers, and told to copy it, to paint it. We were guided to do a rough sketch on the canvas of the flowers and pot, before we started painting it. As we were allowed to choose whatever colour combination we wanted, the anti-establishment sentiment in me dictated that I chose a combination of black and blue to be my background. My table in the picture was a dark mash of green and black. I chose a bright red for my vase and stuck with yellow flowers to balance off the dark background.

And so off we went, choosing our own colours, and painting our flowers. It was amazing to see what the entire class came up with. For, despite us "following" the same picture, our different choices in colours and the unique style and strokes of our brushes resulted in the beautiful works of art that were all distinctly beautiful in their own way. We were one pleased bunch of artists that day.
My friends and I, including Justina of Mum in the Making and Evelyn of Evespiration.
So I went home and showed off my hard work to hubbs and the kids. Hubbs made appropriate noises of appreciation and the kids were especially excited and envious that I had produced such a beautiful piece of art (in their opinion!). Isaac, in particular, was very jealous and envious of my art, and despondently asked why HE couldn't produce such a piece. I said:"You can! If you try!" I also took the opportunity to point out to him that my artwork was particularly striking as its background was wholly coloured. I had previously been trying to get Isaac to colour his background of his drawings whenever he painted stuff, as I felt that it improved the overall look of his painting and made it look more complete. But he would claim his hand was tired, and refused to colour the background. Thus I made use of this chance to emphasize to him the effect of having the background of the painting coloured as well.
Isaac with Teacher Joranna and his painting
Coincidentally, a few days later, his Teacher Joranna from his Learning Vision childcare, bought some fresh orchids from the florist, brought it to class, and asked the class to paint the flowers. The similarity in the painting assignment must have inspired Isaac and he took pains to paint the entire background of his painting. The results were rather stunning, and soon everyone in class started to want to paint their backgrounds as well. Isaac was very pleased with his painting and proudly showed it to me when I went to pick him up. He hadn't finished painting the background when I picked him up, so I decided to wait and let him finish it, before we left for home.

Teacher Joranna then regaled me withe the stories of how Isaac's classmates, inspired by his painting, decided to paint their backgrounds - and in blue too. I confided in her that Isaac had previously refused to colour his backgrounds, claiming that his hands were tired. Did he not complain this time round? No, she said, he had patiently, slowly and steadily coloured the entire background of his painting. And so it was. In the time that I sat there, talking to Teacher J while Isaac painted, he did not make a single complain.

So my lesson at HeART Studio even taught Isaac a lesson, the lesson on backgrounds :) I thought it was great how the childcare teacher thought to do something as simple but brilliant as bringing real flowers to class to ask the kids to paint them. I think it was only in secondary school when I did something like that. Isaac was really blessed to have good teachers in his preschool.

I think his work of art is more beautiful than mine! Don't you think so? :)

mamawearpapashirt

Monday, 17 February 2014

Day 9: Prayers for the Safety of our Children


Tan Family Chronicles' Pray With Us series
Day 1: Prayers for the Dearly Departed
Day 2: Prayers for the Littlest Ones We Never Got to Know
Day 3: Prayers for Those Here, But Not Present
Day 4: Prayers for Children to Be Well
Day 5: Prayers for those with Cancer
Day 6: Prayers for Those Who Want Kids But Can't
Day 7: Prayers for Those with Down Syndrome
Day 8: Prayers for all Marriages


Day 9: Prayers for the Safety of our Children

I'm a paranoid mum and I am always afraid that someone may snatch or take away my children. I hear of all the attempted kidnappings that the police claim did not take place, and I'm convinced it is a conspiracy to cover up the truth to prevent parents from panicking. But most rumours are based off at least a smidgen of truth - so I really do believe that the attempted kidnappings may have taken place. (Notice how the police say 'kidnappings' did not take place? Yes, that's because the kidnappings were not successful! But 'attempted kidnappings' probably did take place! Aaaarrruuugghhhhh!!!! Panic! Panic now!!!) Nevertheless, I do think that parents do have to maintain vigilance with respect to the safety of their children.

Today, we pray for the safety of our children. We pray that they will always be safe from harm, be it self-inflicted, by accident, from strangers who would harm them or want to kidnap them, or even from friends & family who abuse or ill treat the children in their lives. 

We pray for all children to listen to their parents and teachers who teach them ways to keep themselves safe and free from harm. We pray that they listen well, learn, remember, and apply their knowledge as and when the need arises. We pray that in the event anything untoward happens to them, that they will not panic, and instead, be resourceful and have the presence of mind to act in their own defence and free themselves from harm. We pray for there to be NO kidnappings, ever!

We give thanks that Singapore is a relatively safe place for all of us staying here, and we pray that it would go on to be even safer. We pray for all parents not to be complacent towards their children's safety. We pray that people will be vigilant and look out for signs around them that may point to a child being abused, and that they have the courage to report their suspicions to the appropriate authorities.

We pray that people around the world who are ill-treating children (and or adults, really), will come to their senses and stop doing so immediately. We pray that those who do not stop ill-treating children (and adults) be apprehended by the authorities and be suitably punished and prevented from conducting the abuse ever again to anyone else.

We pray for law enforcement personnel all around the world, that they uphold their duty to maintain law and order and that they do not abuse the power vested in them. We pray that they be given the wisdom, knowledge and luck they need to do their jobs and catch all who flout the law, especially offenders who abuse children and other people. 

We pray that child labour and child trafficking of any kind will cease in the countries around the world.

Pray with us.
The infographic on Types of Child Labour below is provided by the Save Our Children Campaign.

Save Our Children is a campaign founded by a group of students from Republic Polytechnic. They aim to raise awareness on the exploitation of child labour. Find out more about child labour at https://www.facebook.com/saveourchildrencampaign; Save Our Children

You Can Make A Difference!
  

Friday, 14 February 2014

Day 8: Prayers for all Marriages




I started this series on the first day of Chinese New Year 2014, to give thanks, pray and remember those of us who may not be in the best of moods to celebrate the new year. My target to do 15 Days is half done!
Day 1: Prayers for the Dearly Departed
Day 2: Prayers for the Littlest Ones We Never Got to Know
Day 3: Prayers for Those Here, But Not Present
Day 4: Prayers for Children to Be Well
Day 5: Prayers for those with Cancer
Day 6: Prayers for Those Who Want Kids But Can't
Day 7: Prayers for Those with Down Syndrome

Day 8: Prayers for all Marriages

It's Valentine's Day and Yuan Xiao Jie (Chinese Valentine's Day) today and hence there would be many people around the world celebrating their love for their partner. Love is gentle and love is kind. Love is a commitment to each other, to want to love, and to want to make it work. Love is hard work.

We want to give thanks for those of us who have found our partners to spend the rest of our lives with. We pray for all married couples that they will honour their wedding vows to each other and commit themselves to working hard for their life together, as it takes both to make things work.

We pray for couples to have constant communication, loving looks, tender touch, attentive actions, wise words, and  forever-lasting fidelity. May the world blossom with love and let divorces die away.

Today, we bring you love, love, love... We don't need flowers, nor wine and presents to celebrate love. We bloggers, celebrate love, with words. 

Love, from www.MamaWearPapaShirt.com
pix from www.mamawearpapashirt.com
Mummy bloggers...

June of MamaWearPapaShirt pens a note to her husband at Little Lessons: Gifts of Love

Missus Tay reflects on  how there can be love even if you're not physically with each other every day at Gifts of Love and Appreciation

Susan, A Juggling Mum shows us her lovely scrapbooked love notes that she has put together for her love in Love Notes to My Valentine
And since it takes two hands to clap, and two people to make a couple... we have Daddy bloggers declaring their love too...

pic from www.daddymatters.sg
Daddy David of Princess Dana Diaries blogs about his wife Angeline, and serenades her with a love tune at The Ring, The Shoes, and The Handbag: A Valentines Dedication
Daddy Winston, The Blogfather, reminisces his past love life in 28 Valentines, 1 True Love
The above are just two of the 14 daddy bloggers at Daddy Matters who blogged about love this Valentines Day, read them all, links here!  

pic from www.mummywee.com
Last but not least, we pray for those who have gone through or are going through a divorce. For those who are facing difficulty, hurt and pain, in their marriages and relationships. 

Michelle, the Mummy Wee, talks about this in her post Lesson #6: Love is no Fairy Tale

Last but not least...
As Pamela Lim says in her Facebook update The Stubborn Love 
"As Singaporeans would put it: open your eyes big, big and choose correctly. Because after that, there should be no turning back."

Pray with us. 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Day 7: Prayers for Those with Down Syndrome



I started this series on the first day of Chinese New Year this year, 2014, to give thanks, pray and remember those of us who may not be in the best of moods to celebrate the new year... My target is to do 15 Days.
Day 1: Prayers for the Dearly Departed
Day 2: Prayers for the Littlest Ones We Never Got to Know
Day 3: Prayers for Those Here, But Not Present
Day 4: Prayers for Children to Be Well
Day 5: Prayers for those with Cancer
Day 6: Prayers for Those Who Want Kids But Can't


Day 7: Prayers for Those with Down Syndrome

In today's post, we have a guest post by Mary of SimplyLambChops who has three lovely children, Ch, L and K. At this moment, K is in ICU in hospital, with a complication that could be life-threatening. We pray for K, that she gets well soon. And for Mary and her family. 
Cast of SimplyLambChops: Mary, Zy, Little K, Big Sister Ch, Big Brother L
I was 34 years old when I got pregnant with my third child. Based on my age, I had less than 1% chance of having one with Down Syndrome (DS). K, my third child, was medically confirmed to have Trisomy 21, or commonly known as Down Syndrome, after birth.

Life after the confirmatory genetic test was heart-breaking, not just for my hubby and I, but to the entire extended family. Many asked if we knew she has DS in utero, and stated all the possible pre-natal testing for DS that we were supposed to take, to see if we missed out any. Some tried to comfort by saying “never mind, since we already gave birth to her, we just have to make the best out of this”. I remember reading more about DS and secretly wished that I hadn’t make that decision carry on with my pregnancy when our gynae told us his suspicion. There were also many days and nights of uncontrollable tears of guilt and sadness.

Two years have passed since then. Life has been good. I should proclaim that it has been wonderful! There were definitely frustrating and stressful periods. Probably more than what a parent may get with a “normal” child. For example, we were anxious when K’s weight remained constant for many months, and that it was way off the lowest percentile on the growth chart. She had to be put on the nasogastric tube for a while to boost her weight gain. What added to our stress were the rude stares strangers gave when they see K with the NG tube. Also, K is physically and mentally slower than her peers. She can’t speak our human language yet, and has feeding issues that tire me out as I help her with her feeding therapies. She has a few medical problems too. The sad news is, as I am typing here, she is lying on the bed at the PICU (Paediatric Intensive Care Unit) , critically ill and being supported by the heart-lung machine (ECMO).

But...

K brings so much joy to our family and to many of our friends. I give thanks to God for gifting her to us. Through her, I learnt to be a better parent. She has increased my faith in God, and I am strengthened by her fighting spirit even as she struggles to live with the help of the machines. My family has also been more closely-knitted as we learn to be more understanding while we persevere to help her in her daily activities. Through everyone’s loving support and God’s grace, K amazes me with her developmental milestones. She has grown to walk by 2 years old, babbles a few monosyllabic words, is able to wheelbarrow hand walk for at least 3 metres (clap clap!!), and understands our instructions well.

I pray for all those with Down Syndrome, that they will not be judged, or dissed by the society. I pray that they will be socially included and hopefully one day, be embraced by the society. I pray for their health, that they will be able to have a quality of life despite their underlying medical conditions. I pray for them all, that they will be an inspiration to others around them with their warm personalities and talents, and not be hidden away for not being able to contribute to the economy. I pray for those who have the ability to achieve more to do as best as they can, and to persevere through all difficult therapies and challenges.

I pray for the parents of those with Down Syndrome, that we continue to have the courage to provide the best we can for our child, to love them and to support them, financially or emotionally. I pray for the parents to have a stronger marriage so that they can stand together to brave through the challenges they face, and give each other the support they need. I pray that the parents will also draw strength from God by being closer to Him. I pray that we be uplifted and encouraged by friends and the community around us. I pray for wisdom for the parents especially when we need to make decisions for our child with DS.

I pray for those who are expecting a child with DS that they have the courage and strength to continue their pregnancy, and not choose abortion as the solution. I pray that they will be encouraged by the many successful stories of those who have DS, and to be able to find a good support group in their community.

I pray for the siblings of those with Down Syndrome, their caregivers and their extended family that they be not selfish with their love for the one with DS. I pray that they will be patient when daily interactions are frustrating and perhaps, energy zapping. I pray for them that they love the one with DS and shower them with kind, nurturing words and accept them whole-heartedly.

I pray for those in the medical field who take care of their patients with Down Syndrome. I pray for wisdom and careful decision making when they decide on the healthcare plan to administer to their patients as people with DS have slightly different responses to the medications and other medical procedures as compared to the general mass. I pray that they do not have any bias which may cloud their judgment and professionalism.

Pray with us.

**March 21 marks the World Down Syndrome Day and you can help to raise awareness of Down Syndrome. The DSA (Singapore) is organizing a Buddy Walk and Carnival in the heart of Orchard Road on the 22 March 2014 and you can wear socks of different colours to make a statement in support of all persons with Down Syndrome.

Other links:
Down Syndrome Association (Singapore) http://www.downsyndrome-singapore.org/
I Can Do It! http://icandoitmama.wordpress.com

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

My plan to deal with The Chinese Language

This post was originally named "Our struggle with The Chinese Language". Then I decided that instead of whining about it, I should turn it into a post on my plan to deal with this! So, maybe it's just me. I'm the one who's not very good in Chinese. Hubbs is the one who gets mistaken for being a Chinese Teacher when people find out that he is a teacher, but no, he's a math teacher. 

Let's see, I have lots to blame my inadequacy in Chinese on. I could blame it on my parents - they don't speak Mandarin at all at home when I was growing up. Educated in English medium schools in 60s Singapore meant that you learnt Malay instead of Chinese, as a second language. At home, my parents spoke to my sister and I mainly in English, and some Teochew. I could even blame it on the primary school I attended - everyone spoke English there. But then, how come my sister ended up with A* in PSLE Chinese and As for every Chinese spelling, test and exam she ever took? My primary school friends didn't have any problems scoring As in Chinese either. Maybe it's just ME.
Look who are the new proprietors of the school grocery store? I love it that the school even made specimen money for the kids to pretend play. I asked Asher in Chinese "Uncle, how much is this apple?" and he replied "Don't call me Uncle!!!" hahaha...
My Chinese education really started only when I was in secondary school - most of the students spoke in Mandarin there. I was dumbfounded for the first two weeks - I couldn't talk. I couldn't reply, and I only half understood what my friends were saying. After recovering from the initial shock of it all, I started to reply in English (that's what I could communicate in!) and I even grew comfortable enough with my new friends to ask them to explain themselves if they use Mandarin words and phrases that I didn't understand. It started out kind of awkward, but after awhile, they got used to English-speaking me, and started to ask me what I meant if I used English words they didn't understand. And that's how I started to learn Mandarin, from my classmates. 

To this day, my secondary school friends fondly remember me as the one who couldn't speak Mandarin. Some of them take great joy in reminding me that I didn't know that xi1 gua1 was one of my favourite fruits - watermelon. My Chinese education continued in Junior College and in University, where, amazingly, most of my closest friends that I hung around the most during these schooling years, were all more Mandarin-speaking than English-speaking... So perhaps it wasn't that surprising that I married hubbs, who is as Mandarin-speaking as one could get in supposedly bilingual Singapore. 

But... I still had this fear of Mandarin, of learning Chinese. I remember the pain of learning Chinese. The embarrassment of scoring very badly in Chinese spelling, tests and exams. The three times I took O Level Chinese and twice in A(O) Level. Thinking of it makes the blood in my arteries bubble and freeze over... 
I saw the collection of nice Chinese artwork from afar and thought to myself "So pretty! Those must have been done by the K2s" But when I walked nearer, I was pleasantly surprised that they were done by Asher & Shawna's class! Got them to point out to me which ones were theirs :)
As such, I am determined to make sure my kids don't suffer the way I did. Hubbs loves the Chinese language and culture and is determined to have the kids learn about that too. Thus, our plan, from Day 1, before Isaac was born, was this - Hubbs would speak solely in Mandarin to the kids, and I will speak English. That was our deal. And so it was for the first two and a half years of Isaac's life. And it did work! Isaac would naturally speak English when he spoke to me, and speak Mandarin when he spoke to hubbs! Hurray!

Then, the twins were born, and we were plunged into the hectic and tedious times of caring for two infants at the same time. Isaac started attending school, and hubbs, in his state of physical and emotional exhaustion (from aftermath of the twins birth) lapsed in his Mandarin speaking to Isaac. For, as Mandarin speaking as he was, hubbs was, in a very Singaporean way, effectively bilingual. So when Isaac started attending school and being in an environment with more English-speaking people around him, he started to speak more in English. And he started to speak to hubbs in English, and when he did, hubbs unconsciously started to reply in English.

By the time we realised what was happening, Isaac was on a slippery slope downhill. That's when we realised that the key to this conundrum is really immersion. It reminded me of how I learned Mandarin myelf - from being constantly surrounded with Mandarin-speaking friends. Hence, while it is almost impossible to control the language other people spoke around the kids, it was necessary to keep exposing the kids to the Chinese language as much as we can, every single day.
Apparently, the kids used a straw to blow the ink to make the pretty paintings! So ingenious! Very nicely done too, I thought! The direct translation for the method of art is "Blow Drawing" or "Blow Art" - sounds very wrong in English :p

We quickly backpedaled and tried to cover our tracks. Hubbs went back strictly to speaking Mandarin to the kids at all times and stepped up his reading of Chinese books to the kids. When hubbs drives, the radio is tuned to Chinese radio stations. We have a No TV Rule at home, and the only rare exceptions on a weekend morning - is for Chinese cartoons. When we watch the kids favourite cartoon movies on our Movie Nights - we select Chinese as the language option. Hubbs even had me half convinced to speak Mandarin to the kids, which I do, but only for conversational Mandarin. For as much as my Mandarin has improved since I was a child, my level of Mandarin leaves much room for improvement and I am not comfortable in speaking sub-standard/incorrect Mandarin to my kids.

For this reason, we're thankful that at Learning Vision, the kids' childcare/school, the Chinese teachers that the kids had since we joined have been very good! The kids spend so much time in childcare, so it's really such a blessing that we have such good teachers there. I often catch the twins singing to themselves in Mandarin. Whenever I hear them sing, I will ask:"What's that song you're singing? It sounds wonderful! Can you sing it for me again?" and they love it. They would sing it, and I would smile, laugh and clap and take videos. And I would ask them to sing for hubbs to hear, and for our friends and relatives.

I managed to take a nice video below of the twins singing two Chinese songs which they have learnt in school. The first one is about a little tadpole searching for his mummy. The second song is a song describing a frog, that it has large eyes, a big wide mouth, a white belly and four limbs. Love the actions that come along with the song. And even though Shawna and Asher sing it with a bit of an English accent, I think that's fine - so long as they find Chinese fun - that's much more than I could ever say for how I ever felt about Chinese!



The twins often talk about what they do in school, including Chinese class. They like their teacher Lin Laoshi,  who happens to be Taiwanese. Shawna has been asking me when Lin Laoshi will be back as she had returned to Taiwan for the Chinese New Year period. The day before her teacher left for Taiwan, Shawna came home and told me "Lin Laoshi says I must learn the Chinese New Year song and dance and perform to her when she comes back." She told me seriously :) She also says she misses her Chinese teacher and keeps asking how many more days it will be till she gets back. And when she talks about Chinese stuff, it reminds her of... Chinese Camp! And she would ask again "Can I go Chinese Camp again, mum?" :) "We'd see how it goes during the school holidays, Shawna." :)

This year, the twins are also old enough to register for an enrichment elective available in school - Chinese Speech & Drama! Hubbs saw the forms and filled in the forms so quickly that I didn't even see the blank forms to begin with. Apparently, the twins were so excited about it that they took the forms out to show their father - they know that hubbs handles all things Chinese, so they handed the forms to him instead of me, as they usually would. It's a good thing that English Speech & Drama is already included in the school's standard/regular syllabus, so we only have to pay a bit more for this Chinese Speech & Drama lessons. But the thing I like about Learning Vision, is that these elective enrichment classes are held in the centre itself, during childcare hours. So the kids are still safe in the same childcare premises; we don't have to ferry them anywhere for extra classes; and it's all done during the childcare hours so that we can spend the precious weekends bringing the kids out to play! Faboo! :)

So that's our plan in progress on dealing with this Chinese Language thing... So far it's working out pretty alright, since thankfully, we have good support from the childcare. But I shall think of more plans... stay tuned for more of Pamela's Plans! wrraaahhahaha!!!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Day 6: Prayers for Those Who Want Kids But Can't


Whatever your religion, the Tan Family Chronicles invites you to Pray With Us

Day 1: Prayers for the Dearly Departed

Day 2: Prayers for the Littlest Ones We Never Got to Know

Day 3: Prayers for Those Here, But Not Present

Day 4: Prayers for Children to Be Well

Day 5: Prayers for those with Cancer


Day 6: Prayers for Those Who Want Kids But Can't

Before I had kids, I have always loved kids. I knew from when I was in my early teens, that I would definitely want to get married and have kids.With this in mind, I made sure to select a future-father-to-my-children as a boyfriend. He didn't need to be a perfect boyfriend, he just needed to show potential to be a great dad to my kids. Decades on, I give thanks that I have made a very good choice in who I married. He turned out to be a good boyfriend and husband, but most importantly, a wonderful and involved father to our kids. We have gotten closer and we both admit we love each other more now, than on our marriage day - thanks to our kids. The kids have truly blessed our lives through and through. We give thanks to have found each other, that we both wanted kids as much as the other. We give thanks that we have had three wonderful kids, and we pray that we would be blessed with more kids, if we so choose to want to have more. 

We pray for those who are experiencing infertility and sub-fertility, may they, by divine action, be able to conceive without problems once again. We pray that all fertility treatment be affordable and made available to all couples experiencing difficulty in conceiving children, and pray that the treatment works. We pray that the mummy's body is strong and able to endure the stresses a pregnancy places on the body, we pray that the pregnancies be problem-free and safe for both mother and child.

We pray for people to have wisdom in choosing their significant others, that their significant others will think the same way as them whether it is to want or not want kids. We pray that those who do not want kids but find themselves pregnant, to not abort the child, but continue the pregnancy to have the child. If they should choose to keep the child, we pray that they grow to love the child and enjoy the thrilling roller coaster ride of parenthood. If they should choose to put the child up for adoption, we give thanks to them for not aborting the child.

We pray for all those who because of financial difficulties, are unable to have or keep their children. We pray that they will find a stable source of income. We pray that for all families who have no choice but to give up their children - to be able to find good, safe, wholesome homes for their beloved children.

We pray for all parents to want their children, and love their children. We pray that they will have divine guidance and help throughout their parenting trials and tribulations. We pray that they make time to spend with their children, to converse with them, to have fun with them, to love them and guide them, to grow old with them.

Pray with us.

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