Monthly Archives: October 2013

Watching ‘horror’ movies

Halloween was around the corner and ‘The Haunted Mansion’ was aired last Saturday. It started Eddie Murphy, it was by Disney and I had watched it before. I was not sure if it was suitable for Z but he had caught other science-fiction movies. Whenever he found a scene scary, he would tell me and bury his face into my shoulder.

Hence, when ‘The Haunted Mansion’ was broadcast, I kept asking him if he was scared by the film. He insisted no but he asked a lot of questions and I explained very patiently to him. By bedtime, he told me he was scared because of the scene featuring skeletons coming out of the crypt.

I explained what movie making, scripts, props and studios were about. I told him that every thing featured on TV was not real, except for the news. He understood but still could not get to sleep. It seemed more like he did not want to sleep but I gave him benefit of doubt. He got to stay up very late.

On Sunday night, he said he was scared again. He woke Mr H, his favorite parent, up and whined about wanting his dad to bunk in with him.

On Monday morning, I knew I had to devise a solution. My poor decision had caused my partner precious sleep. We could not decipher if he was genuinely scared or he was trying to play punk.

I informed Z that since he could not differentiate what was real or fake, he could not watch tv programs anymore. On Monday night, we reinforced the rule. Z kicked up a fuss but was resigned to the explanation that he could not watch tv programs due to his inability to differentiate what was real or fake.

He resumed sleeping through the very night.

Outwitted.

Information overload

I always thought it was ironic that many parents lamented about how tough parenthood was despite the higher education and network exposure we had today.  True that children today were different from how we had behaved as children.  However, we also had many many resources such as books, websites and connections to support groups.

What was it about us that rendered us so different from our parents’ generation?  Most of them had no helpers and they coped majorly fine!  Little wonder why each generation thought the younger generation was a strawberry generation.

Perhaps the first thing we could correct was our mentality.  It was not about acting as a cool and unruffled parent but genuinely believe that we could make it work and most importantly, be flexible and have a mind of your own.  Not everything prescribed in a book or website was a template solution.

Haven’t we learnt from school to study information from a few sources and analyze before putting a report together?  How about when we ran science experiments?  We needed to have a control setup, change some variables and observe the results.  Even if the results did not go according to plan, we were still expected to state the observations.  If we could apply that to parenthood, wouldn’t that help us?

My mother was a SAHM to 3 children and she made it look like a breeze.  She had no qualms about bringing 3 of us out alone, and sometimes even overseas.  She cooked the most awesome meals.  She had time to make us do work.  Based on her limited network (no social media last time), she was able to find tutors for us when she did not have the tacit knowledge to teach us.  Of course, I could not apply her methodology wholesale because our circumstances were different.  It was up to me to decipher what worked and picked it up for my own use – as what most companies would call it – ‘best practices’.

As parents, we were meant to be leaders of our children, not managers.   The former was doing the right things and the latter was doing things right.  Let us not be caught up with doing things right and be in a frenzy about how to do it right, when doing the right things would have achieved better results.

One day, I would expect Z & X to be confident parents too.  Of course, I would expect them to be as hands on as Mr H had been.

I felt parenthood was only as tough or easy as we believed it to be.  I felt it was akin to saying “I’m not a math person” when someone said parenting was tough.

I’m only a pumpkin, I’ve no blood

This totally cracked me up at work. It was also why I thought X had the most awesome infantcare teachers.

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Happy Halloween, everyone!

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This was where X had inherited the costume from.

Z at 10 months’ old

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Z, with the near broken eye at 22 months’ old

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That year was a real Halloween for us.

Both kids with their mediocre costumes, no thanks to their parents with a poor sense of handicraft.

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This was a very orangey post and made me think of all other things orange.

Getting your babies & toddlers to sleep

Good habits started from young the womb.

Once was lucky, twice probably meant there was some logic involved.  I slept regular hours during both pregnancies and both Z & X seemed to attune to that by sleeping through from 6 weeks’ onwards.

We had heard advices on diluting the milk and reading up on books to make babies sleep.  I had flipped through Gina Ford at Borders and promptly switched off.  However, I thought the most logical advice as given by my antenatal class instructor was communication.

1. Help babies to differentiate night & day via a sundown routine of wiping down, doing baby massage, informing them that it was night time & changing into long sleeved pyjamas.
My take: We took this a step further.  We planned a routine as guidance but things would always change on the ground.  Be flexible and move along.  As long as both babies and parents were happy, why stick strictly to 8pm or 9pm for that matter?  If they slept so early, they would also wake up early!  By being flexible, both kids also adapted to our flexible schedules if we had dinners with guests or friends.

2. A overly tired baby is unlikely to sleep well.
My take:  This is true.  Even as adults, if we had stayed up past our bedtimes, it would be harder to fall asleep.  We could count sheep and force ourselves to sleep, but babies?  How? It was my job during maternity leave to ensure that the baby napped sufficiently by hook or by crook – be it rocking for hours in the rocker while I watched TV or strapping in a baby carrier while shopping for groceries or heading out. I would also provide them a workout on the play gym I.e. 5 minutes kicking at the play gym, 5 minutes ‘leg cycling’, 5 minutes on the tummy, 5 minutes reading, 5 minutes playing with toys and learning to grasp. At 2-4 months’ old, their energies could be expend quite easily. One of my favorites was to let them swim with a neckfloat. They would kick so much that they would sleep for eons thereafter.

3. Do not pick them up at the slightest whims at night
My take: It could be false alarm at times.  To be more accurate, only when they broke into huge tears would we wake up and attend to them.  Z was a tad too long ago to recall but Baby X was so used to not being picked up that he would be happy to roll about in his own bed quietly till I went to his room.

4. Diluting the milk
My take: I believed babies would only wake up for milk because they were hungry.  If your child required the additional resources, why deprive him/her of it?  Until you encountered the other extreme of milkstrike, you would be very thankful for every single milk-drinking opportunity.

5. Crying it out
My take: This used to be my default school of thought.  The elders used to say things like the babies could be manipulative so we should carry them less and should force them to accept the reality that they were just supposed to sleep through the night.  Until I read ‘Science of Parenting’ which explained that babies were incapable of manipulative thoughts because their brains were not so developed yet.  They would cry out of instinct i.e. fear, hunger, discomfort.  If you understood the science behind it, would you bear to let your baby howl for hours?  We had tried that with Z for 2 nights of 45min after confinement had ended.  It was so heartbreaking and Mr H put a foot down on it.  You know what?  Eventually, due to good habit nurtured from the start, Z eventually slept through the night from 6 weeks onwards.  The ‘Science of Parenting’ also explained that excessive crying was bad for the baby’s development because they would always lack a sense of security and hindered their independence.  On hind sight, I thought that was largely true.  Z was always assured that we would be there for him, even to date.  Besides, wasn’t it an ironic trend to be stingy with hugs and cuddles whilst they were babies and spoiled them by giving in to their unreasonable demands as a toddler?

6. Mind over matter
My take: Babies could feel our frustration.  We should always be calm when handling the babies, more so when putting them to bed.  We should also be confident that we could make them sleep because I believed they could feel our resolve and determination, regardless of how this sounded.  If the babies could feel that ‘we mean business’, it was half the battle won.

7. Sleeping apart
My take: If this arrangement was possible and comfortable within the household, it was actually good to sleep apart.  I did not start off planning to sleep in separate rooms from Z.  However, when we planned our matrimonial home, we custom-built a number of fixtures, rendering impossible to squeeze a cot in the room.  We did not think it was safe to co-sleep with a baby on a Queen-size bed either.  Hence, that was how we ended up sleeping in separate rooms from Day 1.  I was a light sleeper and I was breastfeeding exclusively.  I would wake up at night to change diapers and nurse him before he had the chance to cry and wake up.  Even when Z dropped the dream feeds, I still woke up to express milk for stockpile and would check on him.  Hence, Baby X also slept by himself in his own room since Day 1.  This time round, Mr H was the light sleeper and would rouse to Baby X’s cries.

What was the ultimate goal of doing all of the above?  We wanted our children to have a well-rested sleep so that they would not be cranky the next day, and most importantly – so that we could have a good sleep too.

As a very light sleeper, the slightest movements and breathing sounds would disturb my sleep.  I was very thankful that both children did not co-sleep with us on the same bed or in the same room.

When Z could walk, he would walk to our bedroom and tell us that he did not want to sleep in his own room.  Despite a history of owning the room and sleeping by himself, he still wanted company.  That was when pointer #8 came in to seal the deal.

8. Marketing their own room to them

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We converted his cot bed to a toddler bed.  I positioned all his toys within reach.  Then I re-launched his room to him.  At appx 12~14 months’ old, Z was delighted.  He claimed full ownership to the room and was not interested in our company.  He would play till he slept, or played the moment he woke up.

Later on, whenever he changed his mind about not sleeping by himself, we only had to remind him about how sad his toys would get, he would be caught in two minds and always opted to return to his room.  Of course, Pixar helped – with the Toy Story cartoon.

The cot was  also the best $369 investment ever made because Z used it for 3 years before handing over to X and X was 9 months into using this same cot.

Dozed off

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We saw many developmental changes in Baby X in the past month. One of the changes included dropping one of the two daily naps. Back at school, he was no longer that baby who would fall asleep by himself. He was active, he wanted participation, he wanted to play all the time. They had to include him for morning walks. The lack of morning nap led to a case of dozing off while waiting for lunch to be served. It was hilarious.

Baby X had also decided he was too cool to pose for my photos. It had been increasingly difficult to get him to smile at the camera. Here was a sample of the results, which largely explained the lack of Instagram photos!

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We had been out to pick up some simple props for Z for a mini Halloween party at the block.

Running shoes

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Isn’t it annoying that our metabolism and even collagen reproduction rate drops as we get older?

I have two pair of track shoes. One for outdoor use and one for indoor use, so that I don’t have an excuse on why I can’t squeeze out time to exercise.

I miss the younger days when polishing one tub of ice cream means nothing to the weighing scale and the waistline.

Having home cooked meals

They said the way to a man’s heart was through feeding him. I had 3 boys to feed which meant 3 times the work.

Baby X was easy to settle since I could make many servings of baby food at one cooking session. All I had to do was to use the Avent digital warmer, input the right settings and leave it to be heated up.

I would cook dinner for Z, Mr H and I. Since Z was part of the equation, it only meant cooking with less/zero oil/salt/seasoning. It was a healthier option for both Mr H and me too.

Mr H and I had been on a perpetual diet and hence, I could get away with cooking 2 dishes for dinner because we couldn’t have finished 3 dishes or Mr H would end up overeating. Cooking lesser dishes made my job much easier though I had to plan on a weekly basis to ensure that there was no repetition within the week (or 2 weeks). The weekly plan was also to facilitate wet marketing shopping on weekend mornings.

Last night, no thanks to the heavy downpour in the late afternoon, traffic was heavy and slow. We reached home at 7pm. It was pretty late so I had to change my cooking plan – switch the pumpkin chicken soup to steamed chicken.

I set the rice to cook, heated the baby food, washed the chicken, trimmed away all the wobbly fats, added minimal seasoning and steamed for 20min.

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While the chicken was being steamed, I chopped the onions and cut the broccoli (already soaked and washed beforehand). Next up was peeling and washing the prawns with salt. Pan fry was the fastest way to get things cooked. I sautéed the onions for 1min (or till golden brown), added the broccoli for 3min of pan frying and finally stir in the prawns till they were fully cooked.

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By this time, we could set the table because the chicken and rice would be ready in the next 5 minutes. I usually would take the ‘free’ time to wash up.

So yes, it was possible to have home cooked food but it required a certain degree of multitasking and practicing.

所谓熟能生巧。

Before Z came along, I only used the kitchen a maximum of 5 times a year. After Z could take rice and soup from 12 months’ old onwards, it became a minimum of 5 times a week. Cooking was also an arena where the more you cooked, the more efficient you would become.

Would I need a helper just so that we could have home cooked meals? I didn’t think so.

Having no additional resources only meant you made the best use of your existing resources, seeking greater effectiveness and efficiency.