Growing pains

The other day, I was walking behind the boys as they trotted hand in hand down the corridor to the lift, and it dawned on me that they have grown quite a fair bit this year. To be sure, they are both still on the (very) small side, but I distinctly remember those too-long school shorts reaching below David’s knees on that first day of Primary 1 that now seems like such a distant memory. Those same shorts are a clear 2 cm above his knee now. And I marvel at Daryl’s newfound swagger and style of walking that he only picked up sometime this year too. How my heart ached in that moment of realisation that my boys are growing up right before my eyes…

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Icky Gooey Bubbly FUN!

When David told me some months ago that he wanted a science-themed party for his seventh birthday, I think my first thought was “Oh no.” Not because I didn’t like the idea – I’m thrilled the boy is curious about a million and one things – but because I had NO CLUE how to plan a science program! I did google for some experiments that we could do, but just couldn’t envision how that would work out with a group of at least 10 kids. Crowd control is my weakest link.

Then I discovered Mad Science, the team which makes science come alive in fun and engaging ways for children with their collection of interesting gear and interactive programs. David and I watched some of their experiments online, and he was hooked! When the Mad Science Singapore team offered to sponsor us with a Mad Science program for his birthday party, he was over the moon – and so was I 🙂

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A visit to Ergoworks!

David has been so excited about getting his new workspace from Ergoworks, ever since I posted this some weeks back. And during the September holidays, we finally managed to make the trip down as a family to check out their extensive range of ergonomic products! Of course, somebody had to bring along his current Geronimo Stilton book to test out his new table 😉

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It begins now

During a recent conversation with a mummy friend, we were sharing our thoughts on how the world today is a pretty scary place to bring up our kids in. Stories of kidnapping, child abuse, pedophilia and school bullying abound, not to mention the very real threat of terrorism that is always closer to home than we think. And on a more personal level, the fact that our kids are now at the age when they spend close to half of their waking hours in school, and that is a huge chunk of time when we parents have no control whatsoever over who they will meet, what they will talk about, what they will see and how they will choose.

“It feels like he isn’t just growing up – he’s growing away,” I said to my friend. And it’s true – he makes so many little decisions on his own now – what to eat at recess, for example, and whether to play ball with A or watch fishes with B – and sometimes, just sometimes, he pulls his hand out of mine when we are reaching the school gate.

“I can walk by myself, mummy,” he says. Cue mummy heart break.

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Three things you need to know when shopping for an ergonomic workspace

The word “ergonomic” has become part of our regular vocabulary today. We see it sprinkled generously in newspaper ads and furniture showrooms, promoting bags and shoes, desks and chairs, computer keyboards and even pillows! The problem is that, while many brands and manufacturers may claim to be ergonomic, their prices can vary quite a lot. How’s a parent to make a discerning choice when it comes to picking out the best option?

Thanks to the world wide web, the answer is not so hard to find, if we would be willing to take the time to look. 🙂 My motivation? I wanted to find a workspace solution that works for my older boy, who spends a significant amount of time at his table these days – be it on school work, Berries homework or his own art. Due to his small size, he has this (bad) habit of kneeling on his chair in order to get a good view of his work. Or sometimes he slouches on the table and writes with his head leaning on the table, because he is tired of kneeling. We know that such a posture is bad for his still-developing body and certainly poses a strain on his eyes, and we want to stave off the possibility of wearing spectacles for as long as possible.

Of course we’re tried nagging at him to “sit properly”, but it hasn’t worked very well thus far. We’d also been feeling that maybe a better chair with a back rest might be more comfortable for him than his previous and current backless stools.

So I decided to read up on some possible workspace solutions for his posture, and along the way discovered some misconceptions that many (including us) may have about how ergonomic products work. Here are three things you should know:

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Just do your best, David!

On our living room, we have this piece framed up, to remind us that hard work matters. There’s a verse in the Bible that goes “… suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5: 3-4)

Hard work doesn’t always translate into success and achievement, but hard work has value in and of its own, and that’s one of the values we try to intentionally inculcate in the boys. And when school is the topic, there’s definitely lots of room for talking about what hard work looks like and why it matters.

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Daryl’s Paw-some Party!

The littlest turned F I V E earlier this month, and we celebrated his birthday on a Saturday morning with family and friends. Big big thanks to my grandma for letting us set 16 kids loose in her garden, and to my aunts, their helpers and my parents for settling most of the food. This was truly a family-event, put together with much love, and the birthday pup had an awesome – or should we say PAW-some – morning to remember!

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To my newly-minted F I V E year old

Dear Daryl,

Today, you celebrate reaching the ripe old age of F I V E. Where on earth did all the time go?! Mummy wishes there was a stop button I could press, to freeze and hold on to precious moments – too many of them to count – but there just isn’t one. All I can do is to be thankful for every single moment that we have spent laughing, crying, fighting and hugging each other.

Last night, I crept into your room to watch you sleep. I find myself doing that more and more these days, when the problems and struggles of little-boys-growing-up are no longer issues to be glossed over in a single heart-to-heart talk. So many little and big things weigh on my heart, for you and your kor kor, and it is only in the quiet of night that I can look at your sweet sleeping profile, sit by your bed and pray for you. Praying, too, that your daddy and I will have the wisdom and insight to know how to parent you and your brother, two completely different personalities, whom He has brought into our lives to cherish and cheer on.

Your teacher told me today that you are a “lovely” boy. You exasperate them endlessly with your running around and short attention span, then you charm them with your sweet hugs and smiles. You can be a tad too rough at play (thanks to the kind of antics you and your kor kor get up to at home I suppose), yet you cry when your friends are fighting or hurt each other. You are equal parts feisty and affectionate, a beautiful bundle of contradictions.

How can someone so lovable and cuddly be so… strong? But you are. You are so, so strong. Some days I feel like I am fighting battle after battle, and too many times I lose my cool and scream at you. This normally doesn’t happen in public, which is why so many friends say that I am such a patient mum. Uh, no, I am not. You know it well. 😉

All those parenting articles on raising a strong-willed child – they offer much needed perspective and practical help, and yet they are SO hard to practice. I’m still learning, as are you. To choose my battles wisely, to look for common ground instead of taking a stand, to listen before I react, to hug and hold instead of pushing you away, to give you choices instead of making them for you, to understand your needs before I demand that you meet mine. And yet, to be firm when it is necessary, to set clear boundaries and rules, and to teach you to respect authority.

I often look at this quote that hangs on your bedroom wall. It’s just something I printed off the web when I was expecting your brother, and it’s been hanging on your wall ever since. It challenges me, it inspires me, it reminds me that I am not just parenting a little boy, but a man-in-the-making. That’s you.

He has mud on his nose
And stars in his eyes
A good man
In a little boy’s body

Happy fifth birthday, my little Spuddie/Pup. Looking forward to more exciting missions and adventures with you in the year to come!

love, Mummy

 

Storynation: Where the story comes alive!

Everyone has a tale to tell – this is the heart behind Storynation, and a personal conviction of mine as well. From my boys’ fantastical tale of imaginary dino-friends and superheroes, to a lifetime of experiences shared with me by my grandmother. Stories are truly an integral part of all our lives, and yet too often, we don’t take the time to listen, to tell, and to discover.

I believe that story-telling doesn’t necessarily come naturally to everyone though. For me, I must say that I do enjoy story-telling – whether it be listening to others or sharing my own experiences, but I also recognise that it can be a struggle for many fellow parents who are not sure how to engage their children, especially restless, active ones like my Daryl, with a book. If that’s you, you’re certainly not alone.

From babyhood, my older boy, David, has loved reading books the way I do, i.e. sitting on the bed or sprawled on the sofa with a book on his lap, and being read to (then) or reading to himself (now). However, from babyhood, Daryl has pretty much been the polar opposite in this respect.

When he was younger, it frustrated me a lot. I couldn’t help comparing at times, and worrying that he would have a hard time learning anything at all, if he couldn’t even sit still to listen to one short book. But over the years, I’ve come to realise that this little boy simply has his own learning styles and preferences.

He can sit still with a book at home – for a long time, at that – but only when left on his own to flip the pages and look at the pictures and words. Once someone (me or the hubs) reads to him, it’s like he’s got ants in his pants – he can barely stay in his seat for more than a minute! And yet. Somehow when he’s in school, the teachers tell me he is one of the best listeners during story-time. Hmmm…

And yet, even when my Daryl is not sitting still, I’ve discovered that he is actually listening very intently to a story or song. Lesson learnt: my expectations of what a child engaged in a story looks like is not necessarily the only way children show they are interested.

Someone like Daryl, and many other young children I know, loves hearing and creating stories, but not sitting down with a book. Perhaps it’s the sitting still that takes the joy away from the story-telling experience sometimes. I was reminded of this at the Storynation x Kaboodle session we attended during the holidays. Seeing my boy completely enjoying the world of stories and make-believe while NOT sitting still sure made my day.

If you’re wondering, Storynation is the brainchild of three dads who want to foster a love for stories and story-telling in the next generation. It is primarily a community platform for parents to learn the art of storytelling, be part of a co-creation environment, and to practice their craft in a professionally facilitated environment. You decide the pace and level engagement that fits your schedule and needs. Storynation‘s goal is to help you connect with the most important audience of all – your children. 

During the session, I learnt a lot from watching how master storyteller Roger Jenkins related the story to the children. For his first story, he used a felt board and felt characters to tell his tale of the naughty monkeys who stole a shopkeeper’s caps. He didn’t just tell the story as is, but injected it with all sorts of gestures for the children to do, and asked them questions along the way. For example:

“Look at all the different colours of caps the man is selling! Now I wonder, what’s your favourite colour? Who likes the red caps?” he asked the children.

Or “Every time the monkeys saw the man do something, they would copy him. Like if the man did this [he clapped his hands], then the monkeys would do…?” And the children would become the monkeys, copying his actions.

Now I typically try to be extra expressive when I read to the boys. But from Roger Jenkins’ example, I saw that there are other ways be a lot more interactive with Daryl, and think of ways to make the story more “physically” alive for him.

Roger’s second story involved a pop-up book, and again, with the use of a variety of questions and actions, all the children were drawn to its tale. Daryl was beginning to get restless, I could see, but something was helping him stay in his place and listen, instead of running around. What was it?

It turns out that the fun people at Kaboodle have this fantastic range of Bobles furniture, and Daryl loved his donut “chair” so much that he was gently bopping up and down the whole time he was listening.

After the storytelling time, it was time for Part 2 of their session. Rogers brought the kids over to the huge main play area, filled with all manner of shapes of these blue foam blocks! Daryl vaguely remembered them from his first time at Kaboodle two years back, and was thrilled!

First, Rogers coached the kids into how to build some basic structures – for example, a cake. With a combination of thoughtful questions and suggestions, he got the children to create structures of their own. Then, by asking questions again, he helped them to craft a story about their structure. Eg “What is that you’re building?” or “What is this part for?”

Through this activity, the children were given the opportunity to bring their ideas to life, and guided to think about why they were building what they were building in that particular way. I thought that was a fantastic learning experience -for them and us parents too.

All in all, the little boy had a wonderful time at the Storynation x Kaboodle Holiday Programme, and I gained a lot from our time there too. Check out more fun videos on the Storynation FaceBook page, and see if you can spot Daryl there!

Stories and big blue blocks are quite the perfect match, I must say. 😉

If you’re interested to find out more about Storynation and their upcoming programs, do check out their Facebook page and website.

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We attended the Storynation Program at a slightly discounted rate. No monetary compensation was received, and all photos used and opinions expressed are ours.