Friends who know us in person – and that includes my students who stalk this blog – know that my parents are retired Mandarin teachers. Here’s a curious thing. Ever since my Mom got hooked onto Made-in-China TV drama serials a couple of years back, she’s fond of using this new phrase – “没事”, which literal translation into English is ‘no’ ‘problem’.

I didn’t really think much of it, until my own trip to China in June this year. During our daily interactions with our Chinese hosts and at the hosted reception events, whenever we expressed appreciation and gratitude for the great hospitality shown, our hosts’ response was also always “没事没事!”. It took me a while to get adjusted to all that!

Heck. I even learned a couple more language idiosyncracies between spoken Mandarin here and over there. For instance, whenever I’m in a Chinese restaurant and need wait service, my inclination is to say “小姐”, which translates approximately to  “little sister”. In my mind that’s a polite and complimentary way of speaking to a female service provider. Unfortunately, this is absolutely a NO-NO-NO in China. I was told that calling a waitress 小姐 in China is akin to saying that the person is er, a woman of the night and of questionable virtues!

27. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Baby Blues, Traveling · Tags: ,

Hannah knows Christmas isn’t too far away. She’s spotted the early festive decorations at shopping malls and even cheekily asked if those trees are ours. We still have our tree from last year, sans a couple of leaves and white fluffy decors that got permanently detached, so went about setting it all up last weekend. The tree was a lot easier to set up compared to our attempt last year, and alongside Hannah’s help, it was all done in less than 30 minutes.

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Little helping hands.

Hannah was also delighted to find her pink haversack she used a while ago while she was in day care, and has quite taken to it again. She stuffs all her toys (especially Goofy) into it and brought it out with her over the weekend, even for quick trips to Compass Point for brunch.

Unfortunately, while she’s become very good at retrieving her old toys out from her toy box, she’s not nearly so diligent in returning them back to their rightful places when she’s done with them. I’m pretty certain all parents of young children experience this: that it’s a real challenge getting the kids to put aside and keep their toys when they are done playing with them. Well, at least Hannah doesn’t protest when we tell her to keep her toys. She’ll immediately get right to it.

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Strutting with her new bag.

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Counting at brunch.

We’re also planning to take a short holiday this coming Christmas break. Not too far, given financial prudence + Hannah’s going with us + Ling’s pregnant. I’m eyeing Melaka, and have done a preliminary booking to stay at a nice property. We’ll see if our plans pull through soon enough. It won’t be Hannah’s first trip out of the country but if we do go to this city, it’ll be her first in a more urbanized place.:)

We celebrated our 6th Wedding Anniversary on Sunday with High Tea at the Carousel @ Royal Plaza on Scotts. Ling has been raving about the place since a visit with colleagues there earlier this year. Prices were about reasonable for the seafood/international/cuisine spread, with Hannah eating for free. That said, apart from the sashimi, boiled prawns and mussels station – which every patron made a beeline for immediately after High Tea started – I didn’t think there were standouts in the rest of the fare.

The rest of the weekend went by quietly, home bound for the most of it excepting brunches at Greenwich Village and then with parents on Sunday. Ling is still walking around with a slight daze i.e. nausea and been rather listless. Hannah on the other hand is as chirpy as ever, and still wants to spend as much play time with us. I’ve noticed that she has a ‘priority’ list of play activities that she loves to do with us, starting with her favorite at the top of the list:

1. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse games (Disney has a suite of fun and partially educational Flash browser games on their web site).

2. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episodes

3. Swimming

4. Lego bricks to build her Clubhouse

Yep, she’s sold on everything to do with the Clubhouse, though thankfully, as before, she doesn’t kick up a fuss when she doesn’t get to do those play activities centered on Mickey Mouse and friends. I’m not certain if it’s a healthy sign or not though, that she seems to just want to spend time with us doing something and anything and seemingly unable or unwilling, normally, to play on her own.

Oh well. Can’t complain too much since we hope that she’ll still want to spend time with us parents when she gets a lot older. If we’re just so lucky, this might be habit forming for her that carries through to adulthood.:)

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Looks like it’s time to get her a real camera. I’ve been looking out entry-level cameras designed specifically for children. Found one: the Nikon S30.

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Weekend nap with Pluto. No other toy accompanies her to bed with such regularity.

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Granddad bought her a toy guitar over the weekend. Well, at least it’s not a drum set LOL.

Ling is right smack in her first month pregnancy blues, what with round the clock bouts of nausea (she’s BTW glad that I can do most of Hannah’s chores including feeding and bathing, except for brushing teeth that I still can’t get a handle of). For dinner this evening, she quipped that she needed extra-spicy food to help mask those inclinations to vomit. So, she asked for Thai food.

As it happens, there’s a delightful little Thai stall situated at a coffee shop near my workplace. We’ve checked out the place before for dine-in lunches and takeout dinners already, and the fare is decent. This time round though, the wife and I had a massive miscommunication about what we both wanted, and she ended up ordering food enough for four adults when it’s just 2 1/4 adults between the three of us, at most.

Where’s Matt to help us eat all this food? There’s beef noodles, green curry, olive fried rice, Thai fish cake, tom yam soup, white rice, and a plate of fish cakes!

Half an hour of struggle later and while I was driving back, I wheezed:

“I don’t think I’m going to ever want to touch Thai food again for a month.”

Ling went:

“I feel so bloated I’m going to merlion. Where’s the plastic bag…?”

Upon which Hannah chimed in and declared:

“Dinner was very good. I like it!”

So there.:)

14. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Baby Blues · Tags: ,

We had a delightful albeit lazy holiday-day with Hannah yesterday. I’m still especially surprised at how fast she’s able to put things together, and better able to hold conversations and ‘negotiate’ with us. For example, after waking her up yesterday morning, I asked the following:

“OK Hannah. What do you want to do today?”

“Can I watch one episode (of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) today?”

(Laugh). “Of course you can, but besides that?”

“Can I watch two episodes today then?”

(Befuddled). “Er, but besides that?”

“OK I want to watch three episodes!”

And yesterday evening over dinner, we were watching K-19: The Widowmaker, the old 2002 submarine thriller starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson. The DVD has gotten all moldy, so stopped and stuttered at numerous places throughout, making the entire viewing experience rather lethargic. Towards the end, Ling mused:

“Sigh. The show was so slow.”

Hannah immediately chimed in,

“We watch Mickey Mouse OK? Mickey Mouse very fast!”

OK it sounds funnier when it happened. And as for photo opportunities, here’s two.

We let her brush her teeth during her nightly winding-down routines and when we’re not in a rush, e.g. like in the weekday mornings.

She loves playing with Ling’s NTUC member cards whenever we’re at the Fairprice checkout counter.

12. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Baby Blues

It’s been more than a year since I did a picture post on Hannah through each month, with the last one here on our blog. Here’s the month by month summary of our girl as she grows.:)

2011 - 06

2 Years old in June 2011, and at a weekend morning just after waking up.

2011 - 07

2 Years 1 Month old in July 2011 and after her evening shower.

2011 - 08

2 Years 2 Months old in August 2011, and loving the playground at our place.

2011 - 09

2 Years 3 Months old in September 2011, and at Ikea for weekend brunch.

2011 - 10

2 Years 4 Months old in October 2011 at Kovan just before her memorable puking accident!

2011 - 11

2 Years 5 Months old in November 2011 and just after we set up our first Christmas tree for our home.

2011 - 12

2 Years 6 Months old in December 2011; not quite able to read yet, but still having an interest looking at pictures.

2012 - 01

2 Years 7 Months old in January 2011 and at Nex’s Fairprice supermarket.

2012 - 02

2 Years 8 Months old in February 2012, and with the Fujifilm X100. Ling loves the skin tones in this picture.:)

2012 - 03

2 Years 9 Months old in March 2012 and at weekend brunch with parents.

2012 - 04

2 Years 10 Months old in April 2012, and “Hannah is going to be three years old!”

2012 - 05

2 Years 11 Months old in May 2012, and having the first of her birthday celebrations.

2012 - 06

3 Years old in June 2012, and with a picture taken by Matt.:)

2012 - 07

3 Years 1 Month in July 2012, and on a weekday evening reading on our bed.

2012 - 08

3 Years 2 Months in August 2012 and at a cellgroup dinner at Compass Point.

2012 - 09

3 Years 3 Months in September 2012.

2012 - 10

3 Years 4 Months in October 2012, and starting to look all adult.:)

Hannah will be having a little brother or sister soon!

We found out yesterday from the test kit, but waited a day for Ling to get the confirmation from her gynecologist just now. Incredibly, it’s been nearly 4 years ago when we made the announcement for Hannah too right here on our blog.:)

We’ve been preparing Hannah for this possibility for a few months now. Just last week, we asked her again if she’d prefer a little 妹妹 (sister) or 弟弟 (brother). Early this year, she replied unhesitatingly 弟弟, but this time round, replied 妹妹 instead, and wouldn’t say why. Oh well – we’ll let her keep her secrets for the moment.:)

More Hannah photos taken in the last fortnight with the Sigma 30mm!

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Happy at 3 years 5 months!

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Comparing to see which giraffe she likes more.

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This was one of those weekend mornings when Ling didn’t have time to do up Hannah’s hair, so a quick hair band had to suffice.

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Pluto’s getting choked!

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She’s got a small scar (just beneath her birthmark on her left eye). Probably from scratching herself at night.

Pluto serving double-duty as her headrest.

Developmental notes: we’ve noticed that Hannah isn’t naturally inclined towards getting into tantrums, and standoffs between her and us for the last 6 months now seem few and far between, if at all to begin with. For example, while she adores her Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cartoons and would always ask “Can I watch two short episodes tonight Daddy?” when we pick her up from her Nanny’s place every evening, she won’t kick up a fuss when we tell her no and why, e.g. if she misbehaved earlier in the morning, or that we’ll be home late and too close to her winding down routine for the night. She’ll always cheerfully accept our explanation, and ask to do something else, usually an alternative play activity with Ling or myself.

At this point too, she also seems to be able to reconcile mistakes she’s made with saying sorry. Whenever she does something wrong, e.g. spill food at dinner because she wasn’t seated properly, she’d break into tears immediately and get very sad about it. When either one of us tells her firmly that she’s made a mistake and she should apologize, her tears will ramp up a little and she’ll cling onto the parent (usually Mommy haha) and say tearfully “ssooooorrrryyyy mommmmmyyy” in all sincerity.

And oh yes; just last evening, she was able to say all our names in full! She took a while to recollect – perhaps from what she was earlier taught – mine, and I had to prompt her for Ling’s. But it took her just one assisted try, and she can now readily say what all our full names on demand. Too cute, and something we’ll have to capture on video soon.:)

I remember clearly when Hannah had her first performance at her playgroup at the age of two and a half years old. It was DISASTROUS. I went there armed with cameras to record the special occasion but ended up with a wailing toddler in my arms. The moment we reached her playschool, she clung tightly onto me and refused to join her classmates. And she continued clinging onto me and sobbing from the start to the end of the performance. Lesson learned: To reduce separation anxiety from mommy (as her nanny was the person who had been fetching her to playschool), I should make it a point to fetch her to school as well.

So we have been sending Hannah to her school (a different one) on Mondays. Guess what, she tells me that she doesn’t like mommy to send her to school. Reason? She prefers taking the school bus. *long sigh* Anyway, the effort did pay off last Sunday. Hannah didn’t display separation anxiety from mommy on the day we sent her to Singapore Conference Hall for her kindy concert. Or perhaps her age was a contributing factor too?

After experiencing the whole shebang in preparing Hannah for her kindy concert, both Yang and myself agreed that involving very young children in concerts is economically unsound and requires too much logistics. (Unless the child is a prodigy of some sorts!) Sure, one does not dispute the fact that allowing young ones to perform in a song or dance fosters social skills and improves bodily coordination. However there are so many other ways that can achieve the same results and with better efficiency.

Here’s a little equation of Hannah’s recent dance performance:

$34 (costume – I think it looked rather unflattering on a little girl) + $50 (concert tickets; almost the most economical we could get) + $36 (cosmetics – as mommy doesn’t put on make-up so had to buy it) + $25 (professional photography as parents were discouraged from taking photos) = 5 minutes of glamour on stage = $145 of epiphany for us parents

On top of that, I was dismayed to learn that Hannah and her pre-nursery schoolmates were required to wear pull-up pants for their concert rehearsal and actual concert as there were too many kids (~300), too few toilets and probably insufficient time for teachers to bring them to the loo. Most kids have been toilet-trained and this method was either sending the wrong message or causing some kids to hold their bladders for hours before their parents arrive to fetch them home. FYI, the rehearsal lasted 7 hours and the concert nearly 4 hours.

Hannah and some of her classmates were positioned at the centre of the stage as they were the ones who could remember most of the dance routine. I noticed that there were some kids who appeared stunned and unsure during the performance. I wonder at the objective of putting these little ones and their parents through such an experience.

Did Hannah enjoy it? Of course. And she loved her big red bow and fancy leotard dress. Then again, she would be just as happy if not more with many other activities that are fuss-free and have honest value for money. Another lesson learned. We would probably take a break from future kindy concerts until she hits K2 – at least the meaning of ‘graduating’ from pre-school gives reason for celebration and lavish spending.

Hannah in a costume of the theme, sashaying about on stage.