Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Of course the kids fight!

People ask me if my kids fight - probably because most of the time, I choose to post pictures of them while they are smiling, or helping one another. My typical response is "Yes, of course they do. But it's okay, it's normal for siblings to fight." And it is. I do not know of any siblings who did not fight when they were kids. My sis and I certainly fought a lot when we were young. As did everyone else I knew.

I think what is important for the kids, is to make sure that there is a resolution after each fight. We will make each party see where the other party is coming from, by explaining to them why their siblings reacted in a certain way. Teach them to place themselves in the other person's shoes. Make them recognise that in an argument, usually ALL parties are in the wrong, in one way or another. And make them hug and make up - and reiterate that it is okay to have different opinions. That having an alternative viewpoint doesn't mean that you do not love each other. So lastly, yes, emphasizing that even though they just quarreled, they still loved each other.
Of course siblings fight! Just make sure they make up :)
In getting the kids to empathise with each other, we will sometimes also ask the kids "Why is your brother/sister behaving this way?" This way, they would learn to put themselves in another person's shoes and think for themselves why another person will behave the way they did.

Increasingly though, we find that the kids often have good insight into each others thoughts and line of reasoning. Case in point, yesterday night, the twins were playing with Lego. Now, when my children play with Lego, they are more likely playing with the Lego mini-figures (creating their own dialogue between characters, their own unique storylines, role-playing etc), rather than use the Lego pieces to build a new structure. This is especially so for Asher. He excels at this sort of pretend-play. Thanks to him, my collection of action figures see quite a fair bit of play time as well.

Despite the peace-loving nature of Asher, he loves to play fighting games! That's his way of achieving balance, perhaps!

So, last night. Asher and Shawna were playing with the Lego figures, and suddenly Asher burst out crying...

Mummy me:"What's happening guys?"
Asher:"It's Shawna! She say her person cannot die! How can that be?! Everybody has a weakness, but she says her person doesn't have any weaknesses at all."

Shawna just looked at me and shrugged nonchalently, clutching her Lego person.

Asher:"She says she doesn't want to play dying. But how can someone not die?! Everyone dies one day!"
Me:"Asher... if Shawna doesn't want to play "dying" then why don't you guys play without the characters dying? Just play, but, don't die lah."
Asher:"No, cannot... must die!"
Me:"If Shawna doesn't like to play dying, she has a choice not to. You also have the choice of not playing with her, if she doesn't like to play the way you want to. But what is better is if you two compromise and agree on what you want to play, so that you can continue playing together, isn't it?"

Asher just continued sobbing, anguishedly.  Just as I was thinking, since when did Asher get to be so morbid and fixated on death... Isaac looked up from reading his book, and said in a low voice to me, explaining...

Isaac:"Mummy, Asher is not playing "dying". He is playing "fighting". So if Shawna's character cannot be hurt and never dies - it is invincible, and so she will never lose, and Asher can never win."

Shawna smirked.

SIGH. Moment of revelation. So that's the crux of it. Asher was upset that he could never win if Shawna chose to make her own character invincible. I was very impressed with Isaac's assessment of the whole argument though. Well done.

In the end, it was laughter that came to the rescue. I turned to Shawna, started tickling her and saying "Wah you invincible ah?! Invincible to tickling or not, huh, huh, huh?!" Then everyone laughed as I randomly picked up a Lego man and said "I'm Mr Black Pants! I'm invincible too! My pants will NEVER EVER GET DIRTY!" and then everyone started inventing invincible people.  And Asher was smiling and having fun again.

I know we are greatly blessed, when I look at my family :)

Friday, 9 October 2015


Being twins, Asher and Shawna have always been close since young. It also helps that they have different characters and temperaments. Asher is usually the one giving in to Shawna during arguments, but Shawna is usually the one who does things for Asher, like taking stuff for him, or buttoning his shirt and wearing his shoes for him.
Twins at about 18 months. Talking, reading together, hugging!
Just this morning...

Asher:"Shawna, I was carrying that bag, and all my things are inside. I just put down for the moment only, to have my lunch..."
Shawna:"But I want to use it!"
Mummy me:"Shawna, Asher has been carrying that bag the whole morning, he obviously wants to use it. Why don't you take another bag?"
Shawna:"Huh... but I want this bag..."

I turned around, when to the bag cupboard to search for a bag for Asher. And when I turned back to the kids...

Me:"What happened here?! Who dumped Asher's things that were in the bag on the ground?"
Shawna looked up at me in admission...
Me:"Shawna, I don't like this behaviour. Don't throw your brother's things on the floor like that!"
Asher:"Mummy, mummy, it's okay. I let her do that. Because I am letting her use the bag."
Me:"Really? Wow, that's really nice and kind of you to let her have the bag to use. But still, Shawna, you should not put his things on the floor like that, at least place them on the table."
Asher:"It's okay lah Mummy, as long as she is happy, can already."
Me:"You're spoiling her rotten, you!!!"
Asher & Shawna at approximately 18 months, playing together.
I have always emphasized to Isaac, Asher & Shawna that they are important to each other, and that they being brothers and sister, should always love and cherish each other, forever. I'm glad my efforts have seemed to pay off, but I am aware that it's still and always will be a work in progress. Just praying that the bonds they create now, will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

His dream came true!

Remember our friend Shin Ming, whose dream was to meet Vettel? His dream came true! Below is a screen capture of what Shin Ming just posted on Facebook. 

I posted the first blog post about Shin Ming's story and his dream of meeting Vettel about three weeks ago, on 31st August 2015. Within minutes, I had friends messaging me in private, saying that they have forwarded to friends they knew who had connections to the Singapore Grand Prix (SGP) and all the vendors working on the event. When I woke up in the morning, more messages greeted me on Facebook Messenger, on whatsapp, on sms. It was very heartwarming. Everyone wanted to help. Anyone and everyone who could help was helping. Soon, I started hearing the same message from many different people: "I sent to my friend, but she says senior management is already aware of this and is trying to do something about it." We even had people who had no contact with any of the companies associated with the annual F1 night race in Singapore trying to help by writing in to the press and to Singapore Grand Prix themselves.
Screen capture of Shin Ming's Facebook post
Some of those who were trying to beef up the case for Shin Ming in their appeal to the appropriate senior management, asked me "Why does Shin Ming want to meet Vettel? Why does he like him so much?" So I asked Shin Ming, and this is what he said, in his own words:

"I like him as we are both born in 1987. 

At the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, Vettel became the youngest driver in history to win a Formula One Grand Prix. He was then only aged 21 years and 74 days. I am impressed that someone my age can achieve so much. This gives me the courage and motivation to achieve more. 

Do you know he won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from pole again, to take the Drivers' Championship lead for the first time in his career and became the youngest world champion in the sport's history? This really made me believe that age isn't a limiting factor in achieving great things.

The podium finishing Japan Grand Prix secured his second successive title with four races remaining, making him the youngest ever double world champion and also the youngest back-to-back champion. At this point in time, when he won his second successive title, I particularly looked up to him. I can honestly say that I idolize him. 

2012 was Vettel's third consecutive championship, and at age 25 he became the youngest ever triple world champion. Again, I was totally impressed by this. Vettel sealed his fourth world title at the 2013 Indian Grand Prix on 27 October.

I was by then convinced that everyone can achieve great things in their own ways or areas. In fact, he has set many records for being the youngest driver to achieve many things.

Young, doesn't mean you can't achieve."

He had me at "We were both born in 1987." They were the same age! Shin Ming admitted to me before, that that was one of the first things that particularly drew his attention to Sebastian Vettel - they were of the same age; both were 28 years old this year. It spoke volumes to me that Shin Ming would be so enamoured with Vettel. It is almost as it Shin Ming were living a life of achievement and excitement vicariously, through Vettel. It struck me how positive Shin Ming was. He chose to be happy for his idol, that his idol could be successful in his field even though he was the same age as him. Shin Ming did not choose to be bitter at not being able to even drive a normal car, much less a racing car. He did not allow the bitterness to eat away at him inside. Instead, he allowed the wonder and the success of a fine young man like Sebastian Vettel, to inspire him and light up his life.
Shin Ming has his dream of meeting Sebastian Vettel come true!
Many of the organisations having dealings to do with the race, all wanted to help. From the external security vendor Horus-i to Singapore Grand Prix themselves and many other parties who modestly declined to be named - all wanted to help in whatever way they could. The request was escalated to their respective senior management who helped it along in however they could but almost all requests came to the same juncture - it all rested on the decision of Vettel and/or Ferrari. Being unsure of the outcome of the request (since the decision lay with Vettel/Ferrari and no one else), all these parties tried their best, within their ability to offer whatever they could to Shin Ming. One company offered to buy Shin Ming and his parents tickets to the best hospitality suite there was. Another company offered to give Shin Ming a tour down on the tracks itself, where he would be able to come up close to see the race cars themselves. Another managed to get Shin Ming an cap autographed by Vettel himself. Truly, it is heartwarming to know of how everyone who knew Shin Ming's story tried to help.

In the end, it was a contact from Shell who is the fuel sponsor of Ferrari Scuderia - Sebastian Vettel's team, that managed to engineer a private meeting between Shin Ming and Vettel. Being the humble, and highly private man that he is, Vettel did not want to have any media involved in the meeting. Shin Ming told me that his dream was about to come true, but swore me to secrecy, allowing me to only inform those who were actively still working on the request. He said to thank everyone who tried to help him, that he really appreciates it. Then, he told me he was trying to learn to speak a bit of German right now, in preparation for his meeting with Vettel. It was obvious how excited he was to have his dream come true.  
Shin Ming, Sebastian Vettel and the card Shin Ming made for Vettel.
On Thursday, 17th September 2015, just days before the Singapore Grand Prix, Shin Ming got to meet his idol.

"I finally got to meet Sebastian Vettel. I asked him if I could try speaking German to him and hope he can understand me. I said "Willkommen in Singapur, schön dich zu treffen, ich bin Shin Ming”. I asked him if he knew what I just said. He nodded and said that I just I welcomed him to Singapore, said nice to meet him and told him my name. He said my greeting in German was not bad, and asked where I learnt it. I said I learned it from Google. I asked him why he agreed to meet me? He replied that it is a pleasure in doing so, since I am here (in Singapore). I asked him what time he woke up, he said I woke not too long (my guess is 2-3pm, time was around 5pm). He told me he was trying to adjust from Europe time to Singapore time.

I told I had something for him. He said "Oh you shouldn’t have!" and proceeded to pick up my thank you card. I asked "Do you like it?" He said "Yeah!" He read my message where I mentioned that we were the same age, born in the same year. He asked he when my birthday was. I told him mine and he replied "Oh I am older!" even though we were just born months apart. Then the photo taking started. I prepared an extra copy for him to autograph so that I could keep it as a memento. I used my instant camera so the photos can be pasted on his card.

We chatted about other things too.  I told him we had Sunday tickets for the race. He asked where we were sitting at - the Empress Place but I was not sure which turn it was. He thought awhile and said it was probably Turn 10, I will need to take a look later to memorize the circuit. I said "Yeah, 23 corners 61 laps. I asked him how you do you memorise the circuit, cycle?" He said "I would walk." He looked at my wheelchair and asked how fast I drive? I said only 6kmh, not like you going at 300kmh. I even joked with him "With the time I take to do a lap, you would have done 30 laps!" 

We then spoke about the heat in Singapore, and I told him that I hope the haze would not be so bad on Sunday. I asked him if was aware about the changes to Turns 11 to 13, to which he replied "Yeah, I know about it, it is changing to other side of the road on Anderson Bridge, but I'm not sure why they change it." I jokingly said "It was to make life difficult for you guys." I told him "I will be watching this Sunday, and I hope you would be on the podium No. 1! He smilingly said "No pressure." 

Throughout the meeting I find Sebastian to be very friendly and I can interact with him comfortably like a friend does. It didn't feel like two strangers meeting for the first time. It's like we were friends.

Sometimes if you belief in your dreams, it may really happen. I thought it was a crazy and desperate thing for me to post on Facebook about my dream. I never expected that there would be people like you and all these other people, who would actually want to help me.

So I think, if you have a dream, you should try to chase it. Never try never know."

Victorious Vettel - Winner of the Singapore Grand Prix 2015
picture from http://www.singaporegp.sg/on-track/gallery/2015/photos
On the 20th September 2015, Sebastian Vettel emerged victorious on the Marina Bay Street Circuit of the Singapore Grand Prix, leading the race from start to finish, at a total time of 2 hours 1 minute and 22.118 seconds. This is his 4th win in Singapore, having previously won the night race in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Personally, I am not an F1 fan. So even though Sebastian Vettel won the Singapore Grand Prix three times in a row from 2011 to 2013, I have never heard of the name "Sebastian Vettel", until Shin Ming said that he wanted to meet him. However, now, I will remember the name Sebastian Vettel for life. I will remember the man who was kind enough to agree to meet a young man he doesn't know. The man who is so humble and unassuming that he did not want to have the media around when he met Shin Ming. To me, he was a winner even before the race started. For he has won the hearts of Shin Ming and all the rest of us, people who have been praying for Shin Ming to have his dream come  true. From the bottom of all our hearts, thank you, Sebastian Vettel.

Oh, and by the way, congrats on being the winner of Singapore Grand Prix 2015!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Birth Story of the Twins - Asher & Shawna

Hubbs and I have always loved kids. We knew we weren't going to stop at two. In fact, I remember, when hubbs was courting me, we were sitting in the garden of the Science Centre (I know, so geeky, right, we?) in the evening after dinner when he asked me how many kids I wanted to have. I replied "At least three." He grinned toothily at me in the dim light. "So how many do you want?" I asked. "Four." he said firmly. "You said 'at least three' - so I have hope for four!" Hahaha no, no, this is not a post to declare that I am pregnant. Unfortunately, we are not. We are quite open to having a fourth, but inertia is great. What I was trying to say was... it went without a doubt that we would want to get pregnant again after we had Isaac. And thankfully we did! Or we wouldn't have Asher and Shawna! :) I'd written a pretty extensive birth story for Asher & Shawna back in 2010. Go read! :)
Tan Family Kidzes: Asher, Isaac, Shawna!
One of the most common questions we get asked is:"Do you have family history of having twins?" The answer is yes. My aunt, that is, my mother's sister, has a pair of twins - Mark & Richard - who are thus, my cousins. After we realised we were pregnant with twins, I read up about it online and found out that everyone has a chance of conceiving identical twins - as a fertilised egg splitting into two - is completely chance, and can happen to anyone. However, the chances of having non-identical twins is increased only if the mother has history of having twins on her side of the family. 

So we had completely no idea that we were having twins, as we didn't really have any reason to expect it. We went for our first gynae visit at Week 7 as we knew it wasn't much point of going earlier. Dr Ang found one zygote, we listened to it beating, and saw the tiny thing on the screen. "Congratulations Pamela & Matthew, you're pregnant!" and we went home, happy that we were pregnant again. For four weeks, we discussed plans for logistics of having a baby plus a toddler (Isaac!) after I delivered, logistics for after I went back to work. 
Isaac & Natalie - practically twins! Cousins born just 3 months apart.
Then in Week 11, we went back to the gynae for our monthly check-up and suddenly, we were told we were having twins! The twins were large enough to be clearly seen on the screen now. Read this post here - has ultrascan pix which I can't find now. We were quite shocked, but elated! We loved babies and it truly felt as though we've won the lottery! Seriously, it was the best deal I've ever had - buy 2 get 1 free! hehehe... 

If you read the link of the post I indicated in the paragraph above - it ends off by saying that we were having twin girls. What?! Asher was a girl? Nope! The gynae made a mistake! haha! She thought she only saw one placenta, and so assumed that they were identical twins. Asher closed his legs during the gender examination and so seeing only Shawna, doctor assumed both were girls. It was only during the 20th Week detailed scan did we find out we were having non-identical twins, of differing gender. It was what I prayed for when I knew we were having twins, and even though we were told we'd be having two girls at one point in time, I kept thinking to myself "With God, anything is possible." And I was right, I got my dragon phoenix twins - a boy and a girl! :)
Pam & Hweech @ Cel's wedding!
This is me and my buddy Hweech, in December 2009, less than 2 weeks before the twins were born. I was huge! I couldn't find any clothes that would fit over the huge tummy, so I was very thankful for that black tummy band I had. It helped support the weight of my belly, as well as maintain my modesty on a daily basis. 

This pregnancy, understandably, felt vastly different from the pregnancy with Isaac. Simply put, this round, I was asleep for most of the First Trimester. So, so tired. Second Trimester this time round felt like Third Trimester of Isaac's pregnancy. And Third Trimester this time, was just HEAVY. So heavy. Towards the 30+ weeks, I had a plastic stool placed in the toilet, so I could sit while I showered. As well as in my wardrobe area so that I could put on my clothes sitting down. My heart palpitated with the strain of supporting three life systems. The short walk from my master bedroom to the living room left me breathless. Yet, I was still determined to have one last steak at the nearby mall, before I delivered the twins. As I walked into the shopping mall, people beside me gasped and leapt out of my way exclaiming "Siam ah! Siam ah! Duah dou lai lo!" which meant "Scram! Scram! Pregnant lady coming!" in Teochew, a Chinese dialect.
Pregnant with twins - 52 inch waist at end of Week 37. Unable to carry Isaac while standing up, we could only cuddle while sitting, or lying down. For much of my pregnancy, he would be draped on me (and the twins!) in the position shown on the upper right hand corner of this collage.
We managed to hold out till we completed 37 weeks of gestation. For twins, 37 weeks was considered full term, like 40 weeks is to a singleton pregnancy. Asher was head down, and Shawna was in a breech position. Hence Dr Ang recommended that we conduct a c-section to deliver the babies. She said that if both babies had been head down, we could have tried for a normal birth. But seeing as Shawna was breech and this was a multiple birth - she advised we go for c-section, lower risk, she said. Aye okay, c-section it was. I didn't really mind. Maybe that's because my mother gave birth to my sister normally, and then gave birth to me via c-section because I was in a breech position too. Besides, I just wanted the kids out safe and sound, so "less risk" sounded good to me.

The birth itself was quite anti-climatic. Hubbs, expecting to have a rousing good time cheering me on like he did the last time, was disappointed when he was told to sit down against the wall, to one side of the operating theatre while I was being sliced open like a chempedak. He was able to be in there in the first place, because we opted for local anaesthesia (epidural). I wanted to be awake and conscious when I delivered the babies. However, I was to be sorely disappointed. The last thing I remembered was looking at the operating theatre lights above (so like the movies!), then lying on my side, trying hard not to move, and feeling the needle going into my spine injecting the epidural into my system. They must have administered a larger dose than necessary for me, because it kinda knocked me senseless. I wasn't unconscious, but I was extremely drowsy and wasn't really aware of what was going on at all. 
Babies are out! This was how they looked when they were just delivered. Different as day and night, huh. Their characters are quite different as well. Asher came out with tonnes of vernix on him - we suspect he cleared the stuff all out when he came out first, leaving Shawna a spotless exit. Then again, could be because I didn't eat enough coconuts in my final weeks :p
Unbeknownst to me, Matthew said that the way the twins were delivered was like squeezing toothpaste out of the tube. Here, the tube was mummy me, and the twins were the toothpaste. I was only barely aware of the nurses placing a bundle of white towels on my chest saying "Mrs Tan, here is Twin 1." and just when I was starting to be aware that there was a baby amongst the white bundle, she whisked Asher away, and placed another bundle of white towels on me proclaiming "Mrs Tan, this is Twin 2." I was just barely conscious enough to bark instructions to hubbs "Remember to take pictures, dear!" before I closed my eyes to rest, feeling at peace knowing that the babies were safe.

For much of the next 24 hours, I was vomiting, vomiting, vomiting. This time round, the side effects of the epidural hit me particularly badly. I could not eat nor drink. Anything that went down, came straight up. Even if there was nothing in my tummy, I still managed to vomit. However, my stitches did not hurt at all. Plus I stopped vomiting after about 24 hours. So, again, not complaining.  Babies were safe, that was the most important thing of all.
Papa and the Tan Family Kidzes! The bathtubs they gave for each child we delivered could have been in a nicer colour, but other than that, we simply loved Mt Alvernia, the hospital we delivered all three kids in. Great service, cosy environment - the perfect place to welcome our kids into the world.
Love this picture above. Isaac was just two and a half years old when the twins were born. Sometimes, we mummies talk amongst ourselves and we say "These first borns have a different character.". But really, they're shaped by circumstances, isn't it. Isaac's been a big brother since he was two and a half years old. Big brother to two younglings too. He's had to grow up quicker just coz he has twins for younger siblings. For one, for the safety of the twins, I had to stop carrying Isaac when he was less than two years old. But for the twins, they've already five years old, going on six in a few months time, and yet I still carry them occasionally! 

Isaac rose to the occasion marvelously. He was and is a great big brother to the twins.
Children are blessings from God!
This post is part of the ‘Birth Stories’ Blog Train hosted by Owls Well. To read other exciting birth stories please click on this link. If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting birth stories, you can start with this one here by daddy Adrian of In The Wee Hours. Mummy Delphine is the one who is usually blogging In The Wee Hours of the night. She can’t quite believe that she is a mother of three kids. She has no artistic talent and does not know how to cook, so she spends her free time reading, blogging, and collecting matryoshka. Occasionally, she successfully coerces Adrian into blogging, like in this post. Go read!!!
In the Wee Hours

At next week's stop we will be visiting Justina and her lovely family. Jus is blessed with three little boys and blogs about her family and homeschooling adventures at Mum in the Making. She has itchy fingers and loves to craft, and survives on chocolate and coffee.

Oh and of course, remember to read The Birth Story of Isaac the First, if you haven't already done so!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Birth Story of Isaac the First

This post is part of the Birth Stories blog train hosted by Owl's Well blog :)
Just look at my babies. They're all so big now. I can hardly believe it has been so many years since they were born. I'm one of those who totally subscribe to the saying "Time flies when you have kids!"

I searched my blog archives to 2007, when Isaac (and this blog!) was born. I think I must have wanted to quickly get this blog going at that time, because I found quite a few posts on Isaac's birth story. Most of it has been captured in this post detailing what happened the night before till when we were called to check in to the hospital, this post about the actual moment of birth (sort of!) and this post - which has pix of new born Isaac. So you can head over to those three posts, if you wish to read what I wrote eight years back. In this post... I'd just ramble on, if you don't mind...

Look at us then! So young! It feels weird. It's this feeling that everything seems like such a long time ago, and yet, also feels like it happened not too long ago! We got married in 2005, and we'd been trying for a baby since. Both our parents kept quiet for a year or so, then... they couldn't control themselves anymore and they started... harping. My mum would pass me articles from the weekly health supplement that newspaper had in them, articles relating to fertility - ya know, what foods to eat to aid in fertility, what exercises to do, what clothes to wear or not to wear - but hubbs' jeans wasn't very tight at all! Oh and she started asking if hubbs shouldn't go cycling so often... My mother-in-law was more direct. She started telling us about every relative however remote. Who was pregnant, who just gave birth, boy or girl, how heavy etc. She started reciting the statistics of how quickly who and who conceived after marriage... You can imagine their relief, and ours(!!!), when we finally got pregnant.

Isaac was our first child. This made everything new to us, a first experience, and hence we were kinda nervous and inexperienced. But then, having no kids then also meant that we had lots of time to read up and talk to people about anything and everything regarding the pregnancy and birth before the baby was actually born.

My birth story was quite a textbook case in terms of how we got the signal that it was time. We got The Show - no, not a live show! The bloody discharge - and no, I'm not cussing!!! The Show is where the volcano plug comes out onto your undies. A red sign to say It's Time! But people told us that it would take quite a while from The Show, to the actual show the husband should get when his baby eventually pops out. So we calmly went about running errands, like packing our bags for the confinement month stay at my parents',  dropping off homework at hubbs' then tuition kid, dropping the bags off at my mum's place - and promptly got scolded by my mum for not going into the hospital immediately. So we quickly skipped along to the hospital...

We got to the hospital without any dramatic traffic jams nor accidents, and while in the lift on the way up to the delivery ward - we got a call from my gynae. She basically went "Why are you not in hospital yet?!" Red faced and chastised, we went "Erm, here! Here already!" as we rushed to the nurses station and quickly got registered before a bounty could be placed on our heads.
10 cm dilated! Finally!!!

It was a waiting game from then on. There was the pain of contractions which I endured for four long hours. In this four hours, I dilated a further half a cm. 0.5 cm in 4 hours?! I mentally sketched a graph in my head which had dilation in centimetres on the x-axis and number of hours in labour on the y-axis. It was an extremely steep line. That, and a nurse telling me "You don't need to be a hero." - made up my mind for me to take the epidural. And also because I remember Dr Ang telling me that having an epidural would make me more relaxed so that I would dilate faster.

But no, it took more than 10 hours for me to further dilate from 2.5cm to 10cm. Despite being on epidural and hence not feeling any pain, I did not get to sleep during the entire time, and was feeling very tired by the time I was 10cm dilated. Then I got sleepy too, waiting for my gynae to arrive. And when she finally did, I was almost too tired and sleepy to push. I remember hubbs being very supportive, enthusiastically cheering me on as though I was his favourite basketball team, asking me to push, push, push. I remember pushing with all my might - in between naps. Yes, I managed to nap in between contractions, hubbs says I'm champion at napping - this takes the cake, I guess.

Later, Dr Ang told us that she almost gave up and almost asked us to go for emergency c-section. But she didn't - because I pushed and pushed with all my might. My mum had told me that giving birth to my sister was like pooping - just push, and out she came. She gave birth to me via c-section because I was in a breech position. But pushing Isaac out was definitely no poop in the park. I pushed like I never pushed before. Partly because I couldn't feel anything, due to the epidural. And because I couldn't feel anything from chest down, it was difficult for me to push - does that make sense? So I just pushed with my mind - I willed my body to "push" even though I couldn't feel myself pushing. And out Isaac popped!

I remember my gynae pulling out my placenta, and doing some stitching down below. I prayed and thanked God that I couldn't feel her sewing at all. Then they placed Isaac on my chest. It was a relief to see him. For up until a baby is born safe and sound, there would always be uncertainty and danger. Apparently he had the umbilical cord wound around his neck. Again, said a prayer of thanks. Then I quickly motioned for them to take Isaac away and give me a pan as I needed to vomit, and bleeaaauughhhh... I was told that that was the side effect of having the epidural, to vomit. I was lucky this time, I only vomited once.

Post birth, my pains came mainly from my enthusiastic pushing of my entire lower half of my body - my stomach muscles, thigh muscles, calf muscles all ached so badly, as though I had just climbed Mt Ophir in the 15 hours of labour. My stitches did not hurt at all, and healed well, very quickly. Or maybe the magnitude of the muscle aches simply eclipsed the pain down below so much so that I didn't feel them. Whatever the case, I wasn't complaining. So that, was how Isaac saw the light of day.

I shall leave you here with our favourite picture of baby infant Isaac - and return tomorrow to regale you with Asher & Shawna's birth story!
Our favourite photo of infant Isaac

This post is part of the ‘Birth Stories’ Blog Train hosted by Owls Well. To read other exciting birth stories please click on this link. If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting birth stories, you can start with this one here by daddy Adrian of In The Wee Hours. Mummy Delphine is the one who is usually blogging In The Wee Hours of the night. She can’t quite believe that she is a mother of three kids. She has no artistic talent and does not know how to cook, so she spends her free time reading, blogging, and collecting matryoshka. Occasionally, she successfully coerces Adrian into blogging, like in this post. Go read!!!
In the Wee Hours

At next week's stop we will be visiting Justina and her lovely family. Jus is blessed with three little boys and blogs about her family and homeschooling adventures at Mum in the Making. She has itchy fingers and loves to craft, and survives on chocolate and coffee.

Mum in the Making

Thursday, 10 September 2015

OCBC Cycle 2015 - Mother & Child Experience

OCBC Cycle is an annual mass cycling event that the local bank Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation has been organising yearly, for the past few years. I first participated in OCBC Cycle 2013. As detailed in that blog post, The Blogfather himself - Winston - was my cycle buddy. That was 42km long and I managed the distance fine, though I wasn't breaking any speed records, that was for sure.

Last year, I took part in OCBC Cycle 2014, together with some friends. That race was approximately 33km, if memory serves me right. For both my 2014 and 2013 events, I took part in the event meant for the adults. Hubbs wasn't with me on either event - mostly because this range of distance covered was even lesser than the average distance he covers on a weekly basis, so - no kick for him, if you know what I mean. But we both had the same idea, that we would like the kids to eventually have a taste of participating in such a mass sports event themselves. 
Part of the experience of going for the race - is collecting your race pack! :)
The perfect opportunity presented itself this year when OCBC invited us to participate in OCBC Cycle 2015 - The Family Ride. The Family Ride is a category whereby one parent and one child signs up as a couple to participate in the event. I was very excited and immediately signed up myself and Isaac for it. I had automatically dismissed the twins as being too young even though they both could cycle a 2 wheeler independently, and the lower age range for the Family Ride event was 5 year old - the twins' age this year. 

Having participated in previous years' events, I had assumed that the actual day and event would be chaotic and crowded - something which was okay for adults to navigate, something which I think Isaac and I can handle - but no, "Not the twins, too young." I thought. And even though Isaac is 8 years old this year, I still had some doubts whether he would get lost in the crowds. As we cycled towards the reporting area for our event, I started giving him instructions, telling him where to wait for me in case we get separated in the course of the event. Yes, I'm paranoid that way.

However, when we got to the waiting area, I realised that the crowd wasn't very big. Perhaps about 30 pairs of parent + child? And the route? Was a very safe loop on the internal road named Stadium Drive - entirely cordoned off, and isn't even a main road to begin with. They actually put up the map on the official OCBC Cycle registration website, but I couldn't really imagine it until I experienced it.
OCBC Cycle 2015 Kids & Family Ride Route
Another question that I had before the race was "What's the distance?". Well, the entire loop isn't very big at all. It feels less than 1 kilometre to me, probably about 600 to 800 metres a loop. How they do it is, they let everyone start, and everyone gets to cycle around that loops for 20 minutes. If you're fast, you can zip ahead and do many loops. If your child prefers a leisurely ride, you can take your time and cycle at your own pace. However, given that the loop wasn't very big, and that we were in the 8 to 9 year old category, most kids (and parent) managed to cycle at least two loops. We easily managed four loops, and we weren't going very quickly. 
OCBC Cycle 2015 : Waiting for the race to start, in the holding pen.
Let me bring you though it all. The day before the race, we went to collect the race pack. They will inform you of the race pack collection details via email, so you would know what documents and form of identification you should bring with you, to go to a designated place to collect your race pack - which includes your t-shirt and number tag. Details of your race can be found online, and they usually include it in the race pack too.

Turn up early for your race. You don't want to miss your race because you were stuck in a traffic jam, or couldn't find a carpark lot. In this race, the holding pen is open 30 minutes before the scheduled race start time. The collage above shows us waiting in the pen. Thankfully it was in the carpark that was sheltered from the sun.

Just before the race starts, they herd us out of the carpark, onto the service road, as we walk our bikes up to the start line (below). You can see the two pictures, one of the crowd in front of us up till the white gantry which marks the Start line. And the other picture which shows the crowd behind us. Not very many people, yah?
OCBC Cycle 2015: Family Ride (8 - 9 years old)
In fact, the view below is the view we have for 90% of the 20 minute ride. As I was riding, I was able to take these pictures safely, using a compact camera hanging from my neck that I could operate with one hand. As we were riding loop after loop, it occurred to me that the organisers have hit upon the perfect solution for a mass cycle event for kids. The route is entirely physically cordoned off from traffic, and there are race officials standing at every 10 metres or so along the entire route. Plus the route isn't long at all, thus, should there be any mishap - help can be issued very quickly indeed. 

I laughed at myself - thinking back to how paranoid I was about Isaac losing me in the crowd. About how glad I was to be able to join in the race with him, thinking that such mass cycling events were too dangerous for a young child to navigate alone. How wrong I was! This is as safe as it possibly can be - in fact I don't even have any suggestions for them to further improve safety - and I am usually one with a lot to say! :p
Spacious enough for leisure riding, or for faster riders to overtake.
We had a good ride. Isaac and I enjoyed ourselves very much. It was a very short ride, just 20 minutes - we could have gone on for much longer. But we can always do that on our own time. For the purposes of a mass cycling event for children and families - I think it was just about right. 

Already, I was mentally making plans for the kids to cycle on their own next year. For if this was how the kids' events were organised - I had no qualms about the safety aspects of it. For in addition to these physical safety precautions, the organisers had the emcee brief us repeatedly that "THIS IS NOT A CONTEST! IT IS NOT A RACE!" to emphasize that we were all to go at our own pace; that there was no need to rush ahead. Safety number one - nice! :)
All smiles, Isaac at his maiden mass cycling event - OCBC Cycle 2015.
When the 20 minutes is about up, the race officials (in lime green) line up and herd the riders off the route, and other officials start to hand the kids their medals and drinks. Isaac happily sipped his ice cold 100 Plus gratefully, a good respite from the heat.

He drank about half of it, and stopped. I asked if he couldn't finish it - but he replied that he actually wanted to keep it to share it with Asher & Shawna who were back at home - since they were not only missing out on the ride, but also the sweet drink, which is a rare treat for them. Earlier, during the ride, he was talking excitedly and then suddenly stopped. When I asked if something was the matter, he said he wished the twins were there too. It was heartwarming for me, that Isaac really loved his brother and sister, and missed not having them with us. I knew he appreciated having time with me, and yet, he also missed his siblings. So pleased I was, that I told him to finish up his drink, and we'd get the twins a bottle of 100 Plus from the petrol station on the way home.
Race ends when you see race officials herding you off the route!
Overall, we really enjoyed the event. If they continue to organise future races in the same way, I'm of the opinion that the races are absolutely safe for young kids to participate on their own. For as much as we parents want to protect our children, we also need to learn how to let go, and let them go at it on their own... Here, OCBC Cycle makes it easy for parents to take that step to let go, and let the kids brave a well-planned event like that on their own. Well done, OCBC Cycle! We look forward to next year's event!

Isaac with his finisher's medal for OCBC Cycle 2015.
 Read more about the OCBC Cycle event from the links below!

Monday, 31 August 2015

He has a dream!

I have a story to tell you. A true story. I kept thinking about how I was going to tell this story, I kept thinking about it for days, weeks. I have finally decided to tell it the way I am most comfortable with... chronologically, from the beginning. Well, sort of.

It all began with this Facebook post. Hubbs shared it on his Wall.
This is Shin Ming. Like he says in his Facebook post, he is a 28 year old young man, with a condition called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. And he has a dream of wanting to meet famous F1 driver Sebastian Vettel in the flesh. Now, I know what you're thinking - you see stuff being forwarded on Facebook all the time, and most of the time you're wondering if it is even real, or if someone is trying to pull a fast one to gain some benefit. I feel the same way for most things I see - but not this one. Because hubbs and I know Shin Ming personally. In fact, we both knew him before we even got together (yes, yes, as boyfriend and girlfriend lah). The first time we met him was more than 15 years ago, when he was just a boy of 13.
Shin Ming at ages 3, 4, 6 and 7. Back then, he could walk and run. Perhaps he wasn't as coordinated as the rest of his classmates, but he could still walk and run and play as children would. He had not yet realised that he was different.
Hubbs and I got to know each other through volunteering, you see. We were both volunteering with Happy Friends Club - which was basically a group of friends and friends of friends who came together to organise outdoor camps for children with physical disabilities. Shin Ming was one of the kids at the camps we organised and volunteered at. Kids, then. Now, 15 years later, thanks to Facebook, we managed to keep in touch with many of our kids, and kids no more they are - all young adults now. "Our kids" - yes, those were our first kids. For at the camps, we were paired one volunteer to one child to take care of them for the entire weekend camp - their parents would not be there.
Shin Ming and Zaki, together with their family, at Camp Christine, 1998. At 11 years old, Shin Ming could still walk unassisted, though he started to tire more easily and wouldn't be able to stand for long periods of time. The top left hand corner shows Shin Ming getting through an obstacle course, one of the games, during camp.

These kids had a myriad of physical conditions. Most, if not all, were born with the conditions they had: cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, arthrogryposis and other conditions that I have trouble pronouncing. Yet, as most of them were just physically disabled, they could attend regular schools - provided the schools were handicap friendly, or at least willing to make special arrangements for the kids. Shin Ming was full of praise for the friends he made at school. Back then, in the early 2000s, schools and places weren't as wheelchair friendly as they are now. There were hardly any ramps, stairs everywhere, and no lifts in schools during that time. Fortunately, the schools were generally willing to make adjustments to help accommodate students with physical disabilities - like moving their classroom to the ground floor. However, despite that, some classes had to be at specific classrooms - like science labs - that were not situated on the ground floor. Shin Ming was blessed to have had friends who would help him carry him and his wheelchair up the stairs.
12 year old Shin Ming was smaller size compared to his peers. At camp, we played games, and have activities which sometimes included acting or dressing up.

I digress. The thing is, when I first saw Shin Ming's Fb post, I knew I had to help. Here's a kid of ours and he needs our help - of course we had to help! I messaged him and he agreed to be interviewed by me for a post on my blog. Hubbs and I went to meet him at his house, and we spend a couple hours chatting.

He is Lim Shin Ming, turning 28 this year. He was born with a condition known as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). What is Duchene Muscular Dystrophy? DMD is a genetic condition which affects only boys. It is a degenerative muscle disease whereby one's muscles get weaker and weaker as the he gets older. The muscle weakness is hardly noticeable at birth, but gets more and more pronounced as the years pass. Like in Shin Ming's case, he was still able to walk when he was 3 or 4. Then he needed to start using walking aids. And by age 13, his legs were too weak to walk, and he had to be wheelchair bound.
Follow this link to where it is posted on Facebook by one of the kids, a young lady now by the name of Yuan Ping :) Thanks to Facebook, quite a few of us volunteers still manage to keep in contact with quite a lot of the kids - who are young adults now! Shin Ming now sits on a wheelchair - second from the left.

Shin Ming's parents first realised that something wasn't right, when he was about 5 years old. They noticed that he was walking a bit differently from other kids his age. But at that time, Shin Ming said he wasn't really aware of it, he did not really know what was happening. This was because he didn't feel very much different from his friends, even though his parents noticed that he had an odd gait. It was only when he was about 10 years old did he start to feel more self conscious about his condition, how he couldn't take physical education (P.E.) lessons in school, how he couldn't run like the other children could.

"Why is it me?" his 10 year old self asked. At that time, he only knew that he and another boy in his school, Zaki, had this condition. But even then, he kept thinking "Why me?".  Then he joined AWWA TeachMe and Muscular Dystrophy Association of Singapore (MDAS) and got to know more people with his condition. "That was when I started to realise, that I was not alone after all." he said. Somehow it helped, knowing that there were a number of other people besides he and his friend, who had this condition too.
14 year old Shin Ming and his friends all enjoyed attending the camps very much. So much so that the volunteers get to see them every 6 to 12 months.

At 13 years old, when he was in Secondary One, Shin Ming's body was so weak, that he now could not walk at all. He had to use the wheelchair. "I felt like my world changed again. Because now my mobility is largely reduced. For at that time, accessibility is not as good as now. My parents would bring me out for dinner with extended family, and even overseas trips. But it is difficult to travel once I was wheel chair bound."

Subsequently, Shin Ming attended Nanyang Polytechnic taking a course in information technology. By this time, he was really weak and mobility highly restricted. Again, he was blessed with a group of very helpful friends, who helped him with taking notes, carrying his books, navigating the school, and even with toileting - emptying his urinal for him. His voice broke a little as he expressed his gratitude at having such friends. Without the help of his friends, he surely would not have been able to go to school, attend his classes.
2004 MDAS Camp at Changi chalets. We had BBQ that night! :) Look at all the handsome dudes!!!

Along with losing the strength and ability to walk, Shin Ming's fine motor skills were also in decline. In the past when his hands were still strong, he used to enjoy playing with his Lego building sets. Now, he can no longer hold the small pieces. Instead, he spends his free time watching TV and on the internet, using a highly sensitive mouse to type on an on-screen keyboard. He also does freelance work for a company named SEOciety (official website here) that specialises in Search Engine Optimisation. "Trying to earn my keep, help pay the bills." he says with a wry smile.

Shin Ming remembered very well, the camps that our volunteer friends had organised for him and his friends. "When I joined AWWA, the most memorable things were the holiday camps. Whereby we get to try out different things, with the help of volunteers." These brought back memories for hubbs and I as well. We remember how we set up real tents outdoors, to give the kids an experience of real outdoor camping. The times where we carried the kids to the beach to sit on the sand, because they have not done that before. How we brought them canoeing in double canoes where we willingly did the rowing for two people because some of the kids did not have the strength nor the range of movement in their arms to row.
2005 Camp Challenge! Shin Ming has a nice shot with Huey Huey - who is one of the main people brain & brawn behind all these wonderful camps for the kids!

As I was talking to Shin Ming, something struck me. He was just an ordinary boy. He goes to school - primary school, secondary school, poly... He has friends in school. He likes to go out with his family. He plays with Lego, surfs the net, watches TV...  Except that he has a physical disability - he has a body that would grow weaker by the day, by the minute. "Progressively weaker day by day" was what he said in his Fb post. What he doesn't say, is that for his condition, his life expectancy is shorter than usual. The average life expectancy for people with DMD is 27 years. And Shin Ming turns 28 years old this year.

Trying to skirt around the topic as I asked him "What do you hope to accomplish, before you go?"  He gave me a resigned look, and I imagine he would have shrugged if his shoulders were strong enough to do so. "For people like us, the best that can happen is that we go peacefully." he said calmly, as though this has been at the forefront of his mind. And it might very well be... Shin Ming's body and general constitution is very weak now. His lungs are weak and he needs help breathing by using BIPAP machine every time he sleeps, or if he feels tired in the day. He is on heart medication, medicine to help his heart continue pumping.
2005 Camp Challenge - 18 year old Shin Ming and his group.

He expresses gratitude for his parents. He tells us how supportive his parents are. How they would leave decisions to him and do their best to help him accomplish what he hopes to do. He still enjoys going for outings with his MDAS buddies. But getting around in a wheelchair isn't the easiest thing to do, so his parents often sacrifice their own time to help him get around so that he would be able to meet his friends.

But it isn't easy, I imagine, to see his friends slipping away. Zaki, his first friend that he knows has DMD, has passed on more than 5 years ago. Shin Ming's voice is calm as he tells us who has left, and who is currently in bad shape. He did not sound bitter, he didn't sound sad, even. He was just factual about it.
2005 Camp Challenge had everyone go on an Amazing Race along the North East MRT line. The teams had to complete the challenges in store for them at each checkpoint on their race. Here's the team having a pit stop at McDonald's :)
I spoke with Shin Ming's mum, went to ask if she had any baby pictures of Shin Ming.  We chatted a little, talking about volunteers that she remembers. And I updated her: who and who is married, who has how many kids now, who is now based overseas etc. She asked me if hubbs was still teaching in the previous school he was at - I was amazed that she still remembered. And she commented a little wistfully, how everyone has "grown up", gotten married, and had kids.

And then it struck me, that her son would not be able to do that. He would not get married, he won't become a father himself, he didn't have time to establish his career... he was living on borrowed time. Already, he is older than the average life expectancy age for people with DMD. Maybe it's because I am a mother of 3 kids, but right there and then, I felt a shadow of the pain she must have had in her heart. How difficult it must be for her, to see her son suffer all these years. And yet, all she can do, is to love him and help him make the most of his days. For no parent should have to bury their child.
Family graduation pix for prosterity!
I think about my own children, how they sometimes complain about little things, fighting over a particular toy or book. How Isaac curses the the day homework was invented. How they take things like walking, running, playing - for granted. I think about Shin Ming, how he tries his best in school, even though it is physically difficult for him to be there. I remember the times when I am frustrated with my kids for not carrying out my instructions to the T, the times when I tell them to keep their volume down because they were excitedly talking at the top of their voices while playing with each other. And I am ashamed. Our issues simply pale in comparison to what Shin Ming and his family have had to go through, and are going through.

I think back to my question to Shin Ming, of what he intends to accomplish before he goes. Well, I certainly know what I wish to accomplish, before he goes. I would like to do my best, to help fulfill his dream of meeting Sebastian Vettel in the flesh this coming September F1 season. And I pray for help, for the right people to see this post, so that we can fulfill Shin Ming's dream. Do your part and we can make this happen! Forward this post to those you think can help us in this quest.

Did Shin Ming get his wish? Read this!
Shin Ming & Zaki :)

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Boardgames with Twins @ 20 months!

One of the apps that I like on Facebook, is the one which shows you photos that you posted on the same day, a year (or more) back. So, today in history, I posted these four pictures in my album Grow a Gamer with Games Bond Family, four years back. That makes the twins in these pix 20 months old. I'm a firm believer in using board games to teach, and more importantly to have fun, and bond over. Hence, we started playing board games with our kids way before they even turn 2 years old. It was a friend, Sarah of The Playful Parents, who coined the moniker of The Games Bond Family for our family! I love it! :)
Asher & Shawna playing Orchard by HABA.
Orchard is a classic German kids game. A co-operative game, all players are working together to harvest the fruits in all four trees on the board before the jigsaw puzzle of the crow is fully formed - thereby signifying that the crow is there to eat the fruits up. If all players managed to harvest all the fruits before the crow arrives (puzzle is complete), then the players win! If the crow puzzle is completed before all the fruits are harvested, then all the players lose the game. Great for simple counting. Slight strategy for the kids in learning to think for themselves which tree they should harvest from on their turn, should they have a choice. 

We haven't played this in awhile. Think we shall do so tonight! :) This game is also affectionately known as "The Crow is Coming! Game" because every time the dice rolls a crow - everyone shouts "The Crow is Coming!!!" :)
Asher & Shawna guloing away in Gulo Gulo
Gulo Gulo is another classic gamer kid's game. Long out of print, only the boardgame-crazy parents like me would have this game. A dexterity game where a player needs to extract the corresponding colour of egg from the Gulo's egg nest according to what colour tile you have flipped, this game is still being pulled out pretty often. Shawna and Asher can now set it up themselves and have a go at it as and when they feel like it. Definitely a keeper, grab it if you see it at thrift stores!
20 month old Shawna
Zimbbos is a simple game of stacking and number recognition. Roll a dot, stack an elephant next in line from numbers 1 to 10. Player who stacks elephant number 10 wins the game. Great for turn taking and execution of simple instructions, Zimbbos has been a great first game with Isaac and the twins. A quick, 5 to 10 minute game, it's a great insertion for our bedtime ritual as well. Play game, read books, brush teeth, sleep! 
Shawna Zimbbosing away while her brothers nap!


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