Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Kai hosted his first play date

We have had some friends over before, but they were first and foremost friends of Sito and me - CW, CY, LC and Siok, KLK. Kai has been to his friends' parties - H and A from the old preschool, and T earlier this year. A friend's mum arranged for Kai to go over to their place last year but the Woodlands incident happened so we put it off. Recently, he went to the east for a play date which I think was his first proper play date. And he was very keen to invite friends to our house after that.

After asking me a few times, I finally acted on it a couple of weeks ago. He finalised his invitation list, and we agreed on the date - yesterday, first day of PSLE marking. All five accepted the invitation and suddenly I had eight boys at home yesterday!!

A couple brought swimwear but I was not about to monitor eight boys when there are more than one pool downstairs! So they mainly played Nintendo and hide-and-seek. Hide where? No idea, haha! But I think they had fun at the room balcony which straddles two rooms. I had to hide the gym ball under my desk lest someone played with it and rolled over...

The brothers were home coz child care was closed. And they had looked forward to the play date as well, especially Yang. It was not just because of the pizza lunch! They played with the bigger boys too, who were very nice and played with them too :)

I was mighty pleased to catch this shot :)


It just so happened that all but one boy were in a black shirt! And the one boy who was not, was wearing a bright blue shirt the colour of my boys' pants! Very coordinated. So I have very nice photos of them at play and at lunch - it was like a uniform!

Making a note here that Pizza Hut's large pizzas are not the super large ones from downstairs. The super large ones seem way more value-for-money... But ok la, they didn't even finish the two large pizzas. The nuggets were all gone though! One boy ate like nine and told me he was very full, hoho!

We were left with two friends for the last hour or so. With fewer kids, I joined them in front of the TV. They were taking turns to watch someone play Nintendo *.* until I asked them to switch to another game where they could all play together. 

I played with my younger boys - this one anyhow played


This one was even worse!


It was nice to meet Kai's friends. B and T were very sensible and quiet boys. Bubbly boy C kept making cute sounds. E and OJ were very comfortable with adults. All of them made themselves at home, as boys would do, I guess. But I think my boys were the noisiest of the lot, which probably explains why the noise level was very similar to our regular weekend despite having more than twice the number of boys!

Cleaning up was massive though. The lunch table was thankfully easy. It was the rest of the house. There were a few ice cream wrappers on the floor. The floors were sticky. The balcony doors were sticky. What's with boys and sticky hands??!

It was quite a hot day to head out too early so I fed them TV while we cleaned up a bit. Then we went downstairs in somewhat kinder weather to scoot around before heading to the foodcourt. And I was ready to crash. And crash I did - I think I slept at about 9 pm. Yang and Yu woke very late today, almost 8 am - they probably crashed too!! :p

Random thoughts about monetary gifts for birthing a child

We benefitted from the Baby Bonus three times. Yeah, free money! But every time it came up in the news, I couldn't help feeling upset when I read people's comments. 

The Baby Bonus is a support for child-raising among those who want children, not an encouragement for having children if you don't want (more) children. People should not have a child for such monetary gifts. If they do, I seriously doubt their credibility to be good parents.

The latest is this new Baby Support Grant to encourage couples who want a child to not delay trying for one. But can $3,000 really help if the couple already has difficulties during this pandemic? 

The amount of money needed to raise a child is way higher than any Baby Bonus. The amount of effort and time too. Not to mention foregone income, holidays, freedom and even glamour

Before kids, I dressed up anytime I liked. With kids, I dressed up for work on weekdays and went into auntie mode on weekends - no makeup, no hairdo, no jewellery, not even my wedding ring - until recently. Due to WFH, I don't dress up for work anymore. To make me happier, I dress up every fortnight - to go to the grands, haha! Helps that the kids are bigger now and can leave my hips.. Daddies aren't spared too; Sito has been carrying the baby bag for years, including a girly Kate Spade :p

Mummy duties don't care that I'm dressed up...


While the Baby Bonus didn't play a role in our decision to have three kids, it definitely helped defray costs in the first couple of years. It's like the surprise hongbao from a distant relative - good to have, just don't expect it and don't expect it to make much of a dent in the course of raising a child.

The money is long gone now. What has really helped all these years is the more intangible stuff.

At lunch with ex-boss on Thursday, she mentioned how she didn't enjoy her maternity leave in the early 2000s and went back to work after six weeks. I recalled my own maternity leave with much joy though. At home, I entertained myself with drama or books after entertaining the baby. And I was always up for going outside with baby in my arms or on my chest. 

It helped that the malls were very mum/baby-friendly by then. While Kai was super easy to nurse even while walking, Yang and Yu did better in a nursing room, and nursing rooms were plenty and mostly clean. Diaper changing areas are essential and easily found. And it's not just the malls - I have fond memories of nursing in GBTB amid the flowers, hoho!

These seem trivial but they really did make life with an infant so much more enjoyable and easier. The boys also liked being outside - so much more to see. I can't imagine being holed up at home with a crying baby!

Before COVID-19 came into our life, we were often at playgrounds outside. We are really lucky in Singapore - every housing estate has a playground or more, and many malls also have free playgrounds. There are - or were? - also plenty of chargeable playgrounds for parents to indulge or babysit their kids.

Moving to BP, we also get to enjoy walking around a big pond nearby though we haven't done that as much as I would like to. There are many nature trails as well, and I'm keen to explore them now that the kids are old enough. 

I can think of only one complaint now - many family packages are meant for two adults and two children, which are not very helpful for us!! A couple of weeks ago, we were trying to book a staycation for December but we couldn't find one with a decent price coz with five, only the biggest rooms in the fancy hotels can accommodate us :( Else, they offered two rooms which totally defy the reason for the staycation in the first place.

To think that I would have loved to have four - I had hoped for two boys and two girls way back! But we started late and chasing after tots gets harder with age, Sito not keen for so many, and we would dread a fourth boy, hoho! Ok la, at least we can still fit into a taxi.. Yesterday, I learnt that Kai's current (:p) best pal has five siblings *.* Gosh... This one can take only public transport or need two taxis/cars!

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Enrichment...

Tonight, I'm talking about enrichment - first, art lessons; then, tuition; now, others.

After over two years, Kai and Yang had their last swimming lesson on 27 Sep.

I've been wondering for a while about the goal of these lessons. I mean, two years! They can swim somewhat but are we to continue with lessons with no end in mind?

Then the coach asked about raising fees. It was a 30% increase. Affordability aside, we really wondered where we're going with this. Not to mention, he was often not on time so things were a bit rushed every other Sunday when we went to the grands for lunch and nap.

So we decided to stop. Maybe next year, when Yang is all settled in P1, I'll find someone who can teach weekday afternoons. And Yu can come home earlier to join in :)

Very happy with his "new" top and a cap!


After sitting with Kai for his online Chinese tuition, I had a brain wave - I could make slides to teach things to the kids!

I was trying to do some national education over National Day but it was so hard to find good videos and then get them to focus as I scrolled for the YouTube videos. Slides would make it so much more structured! I can still use videos to complement the lessons!

Since the idea rooted itself in my head, I have finished a deck on rice, and am now on emotions. I have a list of topics in my phone and I fill them up with bits of info during my daily commute between home and school before sitting down to pull the info together. It's quite a bit of work, but hey, I can use each three times :p

I'm very excited about it! I have a work lunch tomorrow but hope I could start my first lesson with Kai too :)

Finally, tuition...

I tried.

I tried not to give him tuition.

I tried to coach him myself.

But in the end, I had to start Kai on Chinese tuition :(

During the circuit breaker, I realised that Kai couldn't understand his Chinese HBL even though his teacher recorded all the instructions as it would be difficult for the kids to read instructions. How did I find out when I couldn't supervise his HBL which started in the morning when I was working? 

First, the teacher called. She called everyone to check in la. She told me Kai's online work was ok except for this instance where he submitted a 9-sec recording when his classmates submitted 1 or 2 min worth of recording. He didn't follow the instructions and anyhow did it!

Then, there was a checklist. Towards the end of HBL, I realised that he didn't do a lot of his offline work! We spent the last week catching up like mad.

We discussed. Kai and I. We agreed that he would try to brush up on his Chinese with my support. We would read more Chinese, go through all of his XinPengYou magazines, and speak more Mandarin at home. The deadline was end July.

There was a slight improvement. He asked for an extension so we tried for a bit more.

Then he had HBL on 2 Oct... The next day, I signed up for a trial for online tuition.

At the trial on 5 Oct


He wasn't terribly pleased with having tuition. But he did it anyway. While he was restless, he sat through the hour of revision and told me he liked it at the end. But doing the homework with him was a nightmare again, grrr!

This week, he asked the teacher whether there was homework again. She said there would be homework every week. His jaw dropped, haha! And the homework this week was double that last week! He was mighty displeased about it. So far, we're maybe 30% done.

He decided he didn't like tuition after all. But hello, I've paid for 12 lessons. So he wanted to stop after 12. I haven't told him I got two free lessons too - one with the 12 and one due to referral from JY :p I told him it would all depend on whether and how he would improve.

It's somewhat upsetting for me too, to have him go for Chinese tuition. My Chinese was very good *.* But I'm getting anxious. He will be in P3 soon - exams! Hope he can gain something out of this. I remember learning something in my English tuition in P4-P6 coz my school didn't seem to teach those stuff. My grades weren't bad but somehow I was sent for EMS tuition... I think I topped English in P6 - have a book prize for it :p

I know Kai never learnt much Chinese until K2 coz he was the only Chinese-speaking kid in his class in his previous school But I still can't help wondering if he could have fared better if I had the time and presence of mind to help him in Chinese when he was in P1. Was still working full-time then. Yang can already speak more Mandarin than Kai now. But when Yang goes to P1 next year, I'll be sure to help him more in Chinese!!

What can I say but sorry, first child!! :(

Let's paint!

We've been talking about art lessons for a while. I finally signed Yang up for a trial class on 20 Sep. It was a Sunday afternoon, and the piece was Chinese painting. I was able to stay for 15 min and saw the intro to the piece they were doing that day before they started painting.

I thought he did very well!


When I went back to the school later, I learnt that I couldn't have him take that class on alternate Sundays so I signed him for another trial class on a weekday. This class seems more technical. And since there was a trial for Yu's age group on the same day, I also signed him up - he was also interested but the earlier trial class was for Yang's age group.

What are you doing?


I stayed a little longer for Yu and saw him trace nicely :)


Yang's Japanese pagoda


Yu's spider with rainbow background


After the trial, both wanted to continue. I asked them multiple times whether they would still continue without the candies at the end of the trial class *.* In the end, I signed them up. So every Tuesday for two months, I'll take them out of school earlier for art lessons. They are always happy to leave school way ahead of their friends!

This is Yang's, done over two lessons


Yu's Christmas piece - why at this time, I have no idea!


Yu's again, coz he completes one every lesson


For this scarecrow piece, I saw him outline the clouds and trees with black paint. He could do it really well! 

The teachers will go through each kid's work at the end of the lesson, and let me know what the kid did and well/not so well. Where Yu couldn't do, his teacher would step in to help so it's quite a guided lesson. The class is also very small at two or three each. Hence the fees I suppose, haha! But it's quite fuss free for me - don't have to invest in any materials...

Need space to keep their transfer case and portfolio though!! So big - lucky I bought only one to share


Next week, I must remember to bring their tees lest they dirty their school uniforms!

Monday, 12 October 2020

Baby Yu is four!

We had a weekend full of cake!

1) Prima Deli Baby Shark chocolate cake for his friends
2) Prima Deli Pokemon chocolate cake for his brothers
3) Chateraise Strawberry fresh cream cake with WaiPo
4) Rive Gauche Strawberry cake for paternal grands

We started on Thursday afternoon in school. It happened to be a classmate's birthday as well so they celebrated together - with two cakes! The leftover cake was given to the K2s coz his friend's sister is Yang's classmate! Heard the kids were hugging the birthday boy and girl - so sweet :) Also heard that he had to be convinced that there should be four candles, not three - coz he said he was four only on Friday!!

Zhang Laoshi emailed me this and a video coz no parents allowed since COVID-19


I sat down for coffee downstairs after sending in the cake to wait for him coz he wanted to go home after having the cake. This boy wants many things...

Of course we had to buy some snacks and play on our way home


Friday was Children's Day for Kai. I took Yu out of school to celebrate his birthday. So only Yang had to go to school. Thankfully, he was quite ok to go to school; maybe coz he knew that he had concert rehearsal...

Watching his brother play Mega Man... Fun meh? :p


We finally set off for our excursion!


It took us three bus trips to get to the dragon playground in TPY. But it didn't take too long, or it didn't feel too long coz Yu was such a good boy! We read a few books featuring the dragon playground, starting with a book at home since National Day. Recently, I also found a few e-books with many local features and the boys love them!

At our final bus stop, we stopped for a little snack and to stick mosquito patches before taking a short walk to the playground.

Can you spot Yu running up the stairs? He dashed off when I pointed the dragon out to him :)


He bravely climbed up once I reached the playground


He took a while to slide down coz he was complaining about the sand...


With Mama!


Yup, brought our gear there!


Before the trip, I thought we could play at the playground for maybe two hours before heading to TPY central for lunch. But when we got there, I saw all the flies and ants, and started scheming how to get him away within an hour :p

Well, I needn't worry, for the heavens were willing! Yu told me he felt a drop of water on his arm. Later, the drops became a little more frequent. He was very willing to pack up and go :) He didn't fancy sand in his shoes very much even though the excavator and sand castles were fun, accompanied by the dump truck song on YouTube!

Spot the lizard on the tree!


We passed by many pretty flowers, a dead snail and this lizard. Yu said he was going to tell his friends about the lizard! Then he mentioned chameleons, which change colours :)

Passed by a regular playground


Had to whisk him off after this coz more raindrops


We passed by a supermarket and he wanted to go in...


We were walking along the shops on the other side and he saw an opening to the back - and climbed up a spiral staircase!


We also hopped into the library along the way to, um, wash hands :p He was hungry but the restaurant was not opened yet. So I gave him a second snack.

Balloons outside Macs while waiting for restaurant


And the restaurant, gosh... The Ichiban Sushi website said this outlet opened at 11.00 am. So we started waiting at 10.49 am. At 11.00 am, there was no sign of it opening. I called the HQ and was told it opened at 11.30 am on weekdays! So pissed. Sent them a screenshot of their website. Later, while paying, I found a notice of their opening hours on the cabinet behind the cashier. The cabinet was behind shutters just now - how was I to see it while waiting?! Sent them another photo of that notice.

By then, it was too late to go back to the BPP outlet in case of a queue - it was a school holiday after all. So we went to the bus interchange and bought some bubbles before going back to the restaurant.

Yu pored over the menu to decide between the car and the Anpanman kiddy meals, and glazed at desserts


Love it when he hugs me like this!


"Here's my meal!"


Left over half a bowl of udon, fries and two pumpkin croquettes (in Mama's tummy :p)


I was dead tired by then but there was still the journey home! We took two trains to get back. He seemed a little sleepy but he assured me that he was not. He had been resisting nap time for some months now. We agreed that he could drop his nap on weekends when he turned four. He was still awake when Sito and I got back around 9 pm!!!

On the other hand, I desperately needed a nap! But I promised desert. And I needed to go back for a meeting at 2 pm. I was running a bit late but meeting was pushed to 2.30 pm - I don't know if that was good or bad!!

Happy with his Yole! But he couldn't finish..


Before I could say anything, he dashed off to the kiddy ride *.*


Sweet smile when given his birthday present :)


That was before he realised there was no remote control, hoho! He had wanted one with remote control. But he had also wanted this car when I asked him. Yes, this boy wants many things!

Happy boy with happy yellow cake!


Sito came back earlier to celebrate Yu's birthday :)


Besides the napping deal, another deal is that he must not climb into our bed in the middle of the night anymore. In fact, we had three deals - the third being no more stroller but he had forgotten until our way home today :p All these deals are based on "I'm four years old already."

This was taken on 10 Oct so he didn't keep his part of that most important deal!


Ahhh, super cute, hoho! I do like to hug him, watch him sleep etc, but he's getting so big! And poor Sito suffers from 夺命剪刀脚 all the time... I thought he still came to our bed on Saturday night coz he didn't get the vitamin C candy on Sunday morning but he had his phone video leh... Confused...

Anyway, last night, he managed to stay in his bed for sure! I went through the bed+no funny video or no bed+vitamin C candy options with him a couple of times. Last night, I reminded him when he came in so he let me send him back. Early this morning at about 5.40 am, he came in and tried to stay on me. Took three tries to get him to go back and he slept through my 6.00 am alarm, phew!

Back to Saturday - steamboat lunch!


He happily sat on WaiPo :)


Where were the two kids looking?!


They were just watching Kai play Mega Man *.*


Then YQ and XW started some app on their phones - quite funny!


Kai was very happy to have JiuJiu there coz they could play Chinese chess. Even Yu who used to not get close to JiuJiu was happily sitting next to him - and putting booger on him! Yang was chatting with AhYee, don't know about what...

We used up the bubbles we bought on Friday - Kai made big bubbles!


These two made many small bubbles


Something was wrong with Yu's bike so Yang pushed him


Then Kai pushed him


Then both pushed him!


Kai and Yang asked for their bikes later. Kai's bike is also no good now. Only Yang's bike worked. Wonder if we should get new bikes since they're all taller now or just bring them where there are bikes for rental. We seldom ride these anyway.

Sito and I were still full from lunch so we decided to try to replicate our success at the foodcourt the Saturday before. That day, Kai had chicken rice, Yang had char siew noodles, and Yu and I shared cai fan.

That was our first time in the foodcourt in quite a long time


This time, Yu decided to have char siew noodles too - he finished everything on his own!


Next steps - variety and chopsticks! Quite glad we can move away from restaurants sometimes and just eat more local food. There's so much to introduce to them :)

All kids looking at the camera, yeah!


Yang decided to help Yu with the first cut and both ended up with cream on their little hands


Yu got the remote controlled car he wanted and a couple more toys. He was very happy :)

With that, we're done with kiddy birthdays this year!
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