Back, and busy…

Hello! Sorry for the long absence. I have been away so long that it’s hard to know how to restart writing again. So many milestones that have happened in absentia, which I hope i’ll find time to recap on.

Ruby is now almost 15 months. She loves walking, watching black birds from her window, and going to the park. Her idea of fun recently is: listening to mummy sing nursery rhymes, flipping through books, transferring pom poms with a spoon, and for the past week – throwing things and screaming!

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Anyway, today I thought i’ll share a little activity I made for my little bookworm. (She still loves books, we even had a book-themed first birthday party for her.)

Taking a cue from her favorite book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, I made some felt cards to make an gobbling game that makes our story time more interactive.

First, I cut out shapes of the five types of fruits that the caterpillar eats. I used Daiso felt pieces with adhesive backing, so it was convenient to stick it on the cardboard pieces.

Then, for the caterpillar “gobbler”, I pasted the felt caterpillar on cardboard and attached it on to an envelope.

Ruby has a lot of fun trying to put the fruit shapes into the envelope when we are reading the book. Great for practising fine motor skills and learning the names of fruits.

Of course, her favorite part of this activity is when we arrange the cubes of the ten things that the caterpillar ate on Saturday! She will put her hand on her tummy to show that the caterpillar has a stomachache.

(I didn’t make the cubes, they came with the book set that I bought preloved.)

When we reach the end of the book, we turn the cubes to form a beautiful butterfly. She will smile and clap.

I’m enjoying this toddler stage when there’s more activities to do together.

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“I think I threw my baby out with the trash,” and other nonsensical worries

It was just a dream, but I remember it vividly… it was set in the sleep-deprived newborn days of my fictional second child, a ruddy infant with a thick crop of dark hair. She was so tiny she barely fit in one arm.

The time came to change her diaper, and I proceeded to the changing table but was so distracted by its messiness that I totally forgot about the baby. By the time I turned back to the table, she was gone! I rummaged in the rubbish bag, thinking I had thrown her out with the trash.

Following the direction of the screams, I saw she had rolled out of the house into a drain. I saw her tiny skull smash the gutter and her body plop into the murky water. “Mom is coming!” I dashed towards the baby….

Yup, my dreams are a tad dramatic, but it’s not just my subconscious mind that plays up the worst fears. Ever since becoming a parent, I’ve found myself more inclined to be paranoid in some ways. Here are some things that I was worried about:

  • The time RJ was having a cold and we were worried she was not responding to sound. (Googled: How to know if baby is deaf…)
  • The day I was driving with her alone in the back seat and I had a sudden worry that I would forget to bring her out when I reached my destination. (Read an article about parents accidentally leaving their child in the car seat and they died 😦
  • The time we found five red dots on her skin and we were worried it was chicken pox. (To be fair, she had just met her cousins that week and they had recently recovered from it.)
  • The time we freaked out over the bleeding from her umbilical cord stump. (Turns out, someone at home accidentally poured “yu yi” oil on the belly button.)
  • In her first month she jerked a lot and I almost worried that she was having fits or restless leg syndrome. (It was just normal developmental stages + an active baby.)
  • During the first checkup I asked the paediatrician whether she had nystagmus because her eye seemed to jump when she looked to the side. (Infants’ pupils take time to fix into position.)

Does access to more information make parents overly worried?

Thanks to Dr. Google, every symptom seems to have a diagnosis with a fancy medical name and a long list of scary details. Those facebook links and whatsapp articles also contribute to this culture of assuming the worst.

It’s easy to scare ourselves even if we’re not a hypochondriac. Especially first time parents whose lack of experience keeps us vigilant and often drives us to imagine the worst.

These days, I’m learning to let go of my fears (which are intangible, and have no factual basis) and focus on what is happening at the moment ( Take a deep breath and ask yourself questions to determine the facts. What do we know so far? Why are we worried?) This is definitely a more productive and helpful approach that keeps the fears at bay.

Focusing on the facts is kind of like holding on to the “totem” in the movie Inception, where you rely on something to ground yourself and separate fantasy from reality. If I had applied this approach to all the situations above, I would have found that I was making a fear-driven assumption based on an incomplete set of facts.

Five tips for letting go of your fears

So, Mummy, whether you’re worried about baby’s development, weight, or habits, remember:

  1. Trust your instincts, but also make allowances for misses. Sure, there is a remote possibility that it IS something to be worried about, but don’t overdo the guessing game and googling. To borrow a saying from Grey’s Anatomy, “if you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras”.
  2. Clear the air. Sometimes, just by saying the fears aloud will make us realise how ridiculous and off the mark we are. It usually sounds less scary when you say it, than when it’s in your head…
  3. Consult & Confide. Talking to someone with more experience helps put things into perspective and allays your fears. Like when I told a friend about the “suspected chicken pox” and she told me it was just mosquito bites. She was right.
  4. Give it time. There’s no need to rush to the emergency ward before giving yourself enough time to observe and figure out what’s happening. Without adequate information, your paediatrician would not be able to give an accurate diagnosis either. Of course, use common sense when applying this maxim.
  5. Above all else, be guided by baby‘s behavior. Trust baby that he will express himself or show signs of being unwell if it was really something to be anxious about. If he’s playing and eating like normal, just continue monitoring and wait til it passes. It’s probably something that will correct itself.

I told myself, the next time a scary thought passes through my head, I should not hold on to it. I want to spend my precious time enjoying the moments with my family and child, not obsession and worrying over every small thing. The easiest way to kill one’s joy is to be immersed in anxiety.

Let’s not live in our fears. Our children are only young once, it should be a time of joy and discovery for both parent and child.

Weekly Web Round-up (Volume 4)

Long1If you’ve ever huffed and puffed while pushing a heavy laden stroller in bumpy terrain, you may have wished that you could skateboard while pushing your offspring.

Well, now you can! This nifty invention (left) by stroller company Quinny is called the Long board Stroller. While I’ve yet to seen one yet, and have my doubts about how easy it is to manouvre, it sure is a a swag way to ride for both parent and tot.

Here’s some link love to kick start November:

Micro-advice to the TLDR generation takes its best form in this six word parenting advice experiment. Spoiler: “You’re gonna need a bigger wipe.”

When does one learn to be a father? According to this article, the best time to do so is when he’s a boy. Because that tricky work-life-balance thing really boils down to habits we form early on.

Does it matter which parent reads the bedtime story? Surprise, surprise. New research suggests that children develop better language skills when dad does it.

A boy tells Jimmy Kimmel that women can’t become President because “they’re too girly”. Hilary Clinton shows up to try and change his mind. Watch to see what he says after meeting her.

Could “redshirting” (the practice of deferring kindergarten by a year for children born in the later months) help your child gain an advantage? Some experts think it’s possible, but others disagree.

12 steps how to avoid sleep, according to baby

Step 1, 8pm – Wake up from the nap that I had after dinner. Recall how much I enjoyed the sweet potato sticks that my delusional parents tried letting me chew swallow according to the “baby led weaning” method. Miss said sweet potato food. Cry.

Step 2, 9pm – Parents try to comfort me, mother by offering the breast and father by playing a silly game with me. They have picked me up from my bed and put me on their nice warm bed with the expensive memory foam topper. Good. Be happy and laugh. Roll around said expensive bed so that parents do not have room to be comfortable, despite its King size.

Step 3, 10pm – Enough of the boob juice and games. Mother is nodding off while feeding me, and father has retreated to the shining bright square block he calls “phone”. I’m bored. Cry. Feed. Laugh. Accidentally doze off zzzzzzzz

Step 4, 11pm – Sweet dreams are made of this….

Step 5, 12am – Indigestion? Thirst? Turn over, open eyes and yelp a little. Fade back into slumber.

Step 6, 1am – Pee in diaper. Wait a minute, why does my tummy feel weird? Constipation? Does this have something to do with the vaccination I had this morning? Where’s my sweet potato sticks? Indigestion. Thirst.

Step 7, 2am – Shriek. Yell. Vociferate. I want something in my mouth NOW! Or maybe I don’t. Decide that since I got some boob juice, I’ll sleep for awhile. Then wake up in half an hour. Repeat process to make sure that Mother is woken up in the middle of her REM-dream-cycle and will be super groggy. (They are more pliant when you wear them down, you see.)

Step 8, 3am – Father wakes up and moves across the bed to see what’s happening. Mother asks him for water to give me, he hands her the Ikea sippy cup with the leaky spout. Mother attempts to use cup to feed me water. I move. Water spills. Cry. But drink the water anyway.

They are now disagreeing about whether or not to change my onesie because apparently, not changing it will make me catch a chill, but changing it will render me wide awake and unable to go back to sleep.

Step 9, 4am – I’m still not asleep. Mother tries to let me sleep over her shoulder. I don’t feel like being in this position now. Make a dry cough just to confuse them.

They are now running through the list of things that could be wrong.
They think I might have a piece of food stuck in my esophagus from dinner.
Or I’m having constipation and straining to poo.
Or I’m cold.
Or I’m having fever.
(Parents fumble with thermometer, take multiple readings and google “is 35 degrees considered fever for a baby?”)

Mother asks for water in a bottle that doesn’t spill. Father goes to the kitchen and warms up a bottle of milk instead. They now quarrel discuss about whether I need to be fed water or milk.

Step 10, 5am – Yowl, as if in pain, but not so convincingly so that they are confused whether I’m just tired. They finally figure out that I soiled myself. Father changes my diaper, poo a toothpaste tube big amount again while he is doing the deed. Cry because this is a new sensation and I’m upset that my poop is different after having solid foods. Alternate between playing and crying again after the diaper change. Repeat the poo performance.

They now have a bottle of milk AND a bottle of water for me. I’m sleeping on their bed. More incoherent discussions.
“It’s the BLW, she took too much sweet potato and she can’t digest it. (Parent googles “what to do if baby swallows a big chunk of food” and spends half an hour reading forums, academic papers, and parenting websites.)
“PLEASE sleep, baby. I’ll feed you puree and water until you’re four. I’ll give you a thermal blanket. I’ll hug you forever.”
“What’s wrong with my baby? I need answers. We’re going to the doctor after this, we’ll be first in line.”

Step 11, 6am – zzzzzzzzz
Mother swears to never feed me sweet potato again, collapses to sleep. Father scrolls google endlessly.

Step 12, 7am – Wake up. Smile and laugh happily. Mother mutters something about going to get up to get ready for work, but she’s too tired to move her body. Smile some more and touch her face. Where is my sweet potato?

A perfect moment

imageThis afternoon I experienced a moment of pure perfection, and then I squandered it.

It was 3pm on a Sunday.

Oh my sleeping child

My child was asleep, her wriggly frame for once was still – having struggled to fall asleep, stay asleep, or enjoy the sleep she sorely needed in what seemed like nightly battles and hourly wakings for the past dreadful month that left me defeated and perpetually zombi-fied.

Those six-month old fingers learning the pincer grasp have all too often scratched, gouged, pinched, stabbed me unintentionally – now lay motionless by her side. I wanted to press her palm with my thumb and feel its warmth uncurl through my veins, reaching the frosty corner of my heart conquered by stress, frustration, and many unkind tones.

I stared at the long lashes framing her chubby cheeks, wanting to stroke the wispy baby-fine hair that barely covers her head – hair that I imagine one day tying up with ribbons, or bangs to comb as she dances around me saying, “not now, mummy”.

I watched her not-so-newborn chest heave up and down with every breath and her lips curve into a sudden smile, glimpses of some sweet secret her dream-time perhaps bestows. I wanted to put my hand over her raggedy doll frame and draw her close enough to inhale her sweet scent, feel her baby-soft cheeks on my lips, to drink in that blissful bursting-with-love moment that every parent of a young child feels occasionally.

But I couldn’t move for fear of waking her.

Oh, my sleeping husband

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Daddy and RJ , at 2 months

Beside her, my husband lay asleep, despite having had a full night’s uninterrupted sleep – a fact that in my sleep-craving moments I sometimes resented.

His arms were splayed out in front of his torso and I remembered the nights when, half-asleep, he heard the baby scream and instinctively reached out to pat the pillow like the hundreds of times he’s patted the little girl in his arms, or rocked her when she was a perpetually-wailing colicky newborn.

I remember him helping me when I moved the furniture (again!) in one of my crazy nesting moments that never stop even after her birth – and he lay down on the floor on the parklon mat to check out what it would look like from her point of view.

I thought he was looking for cobwebs, loose wires or too bright lights that might disturb an infant on the floor, instead he reached out to a soft toy on the low shelf behind and turned it upside down, “so that she can see its face when she looks up”.

I remember discovering biscuits in my work bag that he put there, knowing my ravenous pregnancy hunger would wreck havoc during a traffic jam.

I remember him helping me wash and dry the daintiest baby clothes weeks before the due date and trying to fold them without ending up with awkward shapes, then picking out a special outfit for us to bring her home from hospital in.

I remembered the man who never uttered a word of complaint through a year of excruciating rehabilitation after undergoing brain surgery. A man so economical with words and understated with feelings that his description of having a blood vessel rupture in his brain was, “I don’t feel good. I’m sick.”

I wanted to hug him and remind him how far we have come – three years ago, he could not feed himself, walk steadily, or see well enough to drive. Today, we are married with a child.

I wanted to tell him that we should not get caught up in the drudgery, inconveniences, and messiness of parenting a young child. That we should not take for granted that we have survived his near-death and recovery, by the grace of God. That we should not cease to be amazed and grateful that we have what we have today.

But instead, I lay there and watched the clock hand ticking, wondering if he would wake up in time for dinner with his parents.

Oh, my sleeping parents

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Sitting down on the escalator, because why not

In the guest room, my parents were asleep, tired from the exhilaration of the past week. They had come to visit us and see the granddaughter they had not seen for the past three months – who is suddenly able to sit up and eat solids now. Her infectious giggles and unsteady gait never failed to amuse them, they were besotted with their first grandchild.

Their faces would light up every time she smiled or cooed at them. Then their eager faces would dim if I would speak a harsh word or make a sigh of dissatisfaction. After living away from home for over a decade, it was hard to readjust to each other’s idiosyncracies.

The over-eager advice of first time grandparents is not always easy on the ears. Sometimes I cringe and bite my tongue when mother makes annoying running commentary or gives endless solutions to problems she hasn’t yet analysed.

But some moments are pure gold, like the time my dad decided the best way to play with his granddaughter while shopping in Ikea was to sit down on the escalator while carrying her, leaving an indelible memory that none of us would forget. Or the moment when I carried baby into the room and he said, when you were this high (holds his hand out to the bed height), you used to come into the room and tell me who bullied you, what you saw, everything.

I reflected that this is probably one of the more enjoyable stages in life, where one’s offspring is at the prime age of growth, and one’s parents have not yet reached physical decline. One distant day when the kids are on the cusp of teenage angst, and the parents are in the throes of aged senility, we will look back fondly at the madness of this time.

So this is the decade where perfection is attainable – when one is of use to our small dependent children and not-yet-dependent parents. Although we are too busy and tired to enjoy the moment fully sometimes, but I’m sure when we look back in the years to come, we will only remember the good things.

This afternoon I experienced a moment of pure perfection, and I savored it.