Archive for March, 2013

Sensory bin #4

March 31, 2013

Calvin 0313 (25)This is the fourth of our weekly sensory bin or project box as he calls it. It’s a bit tough to keep coming up with new ideas for the bin so I may update it less often soon. Granted I feel pretty motivated to keep at it since Calvin gets so excited about it. It really encourages him to do a lot of scooping and pouring that is good for his fine motor skills. I have yet to entice him to use the little bread tongs/ child chopstick to pick things up though.

This bin is basically just splits green peas from last week and a bag of small Pom poms. I was kinda running out of ideas so this actually has no real theme to it. Calvin quickly decided they were berries and started making berry juice dinner for all of us. Later, I made a little tree out of pipe cleaners and we pretended that the Pom poms were apples on the apple tree. So looks like maybe I should just do some simple additions every week instead of trying to do a complete overhaul. I have to say I’m becoming a lot more ‘crafty’ than I’ve ever been. Admitted I still feel like I have fat fingers that can’t get the paper to line up properly in origami, stitches that are not even, pictures that don’t look like what they are supposed to…..



Easter Egg Hunt #2 & Kite Flying

March 31, 2013

We went to J’s professor’s house for an Easter egg hunt again. It’s a little bit further this time, about 30 mins away, literally mins away from Seth’s grandparents farm that we went to last week.

When we got there, Calvin was just as excited as before. This time it was a more cozy affair with 12 kids instead of 60. They served adult food this time – bagels, smoked salmon, fruit salad. Yummy! We were helpfully directed to a little corner that no one else went to and got a good picking which is good since Mr Calvin likes to go slow. Actually we enjoy looking for the ones that are tucked into little corners that no one else found. For Calvin, most of the fun is in the hunting because fortunately he doesn’t know about candy yet. While the other children greedily gobbled the sweets as soon as they could, Calvin spat out both the gummy bears and the chocolate eggs that we found inside. We’ll see how long this can last. While I feel like I’m kinda depriving him but it’s probably better for him this way.

some of the kids were playing with their kites so we decided to give ours a go too. As before, it was a horrible flop before we realized that the kite was attached the wrong way. Whoops! So with that, we finally got our kite flying. Calvin managed to fly the kite by himself! Mostly he held onto the string while I hold his other hand and run just so he would go in the right direction. He couldn’t help but turn around every so often to see his kite flying. He’s definitely developing an independent streak recently, with lots of “I can do it myself. I don’t need any help”.  He didn’t even want us to hold his kite for him… I’m glad he has developed enough self confidence to do so 🙂

At one point, his kite got tangled up in a tree and we were shouting for him to stop. He was having so much fun that he just kept on running. So we had to take his kite away and gave him his second good talking to about stopping when we tell him to. To his credit, he was upset when we took away the kite but managed to control his emotions well enough to tell me he was upset and talk to me. I told him we’d play a stop and go game and if he did well, he can have his kite back. I feel kinda softie doing that but he has been trying hard.

There was a girl who asked if she could fly our kite so I let her have a turn except she went ahead and gave another little girl a turn and then wanted another turn. Calvin was starting to look a bit upset, saying something like “It’s my kite/ turn”. So I quickly got it from the girl after her second try. I guess sharing is still hard especially since he had been waiting for us to figure out how to fly the kite (2 failures from both of us + 2 tries with another kid to get it flying before I figured out what was wrong)  and had just managed to fly it for the first time ever.  All in all, I think he did pretty well.


March 27, 2013

There’s a boy in Calvin’s school that has been bugging him for a while. At one point, when Calvin didn’t want to go to school, I even suspected it was because of that boy S. I’ve seen that boy harass Calvin and reprimanded him before. Things like tapping him on the head even though Calvin was trying to get away, rubbing sand on his jacket at the playground, blocking his way so he can’t get up the playground etc. For a while, he wasn’t showing up around Calvin anymore, at least when I’m not around so I thought it was all good.

Then last week, when Johnny brought him for the school field trip. The harassment started again. It started in the morning when S was playing with an abacus and banging the beads to the sides. When he saw us, he said “This is Calvin at the side and I’m shooting him”. Then later, he came with another bunch of boys pretending to play spies and “shooting” us. He also made fun of Calvin when he was pretending to play moving house, laughing with ill intentions in his face. And at the playground, he and another boy tried to force Calvin to slide down the slide by pulling him, even though Calvin said quite emphatically that he doesn’t want to. And S said he would push Calvin off the playground. Yeah, things that were basically enough to enrage a protective papa and mama bear both.

I never thought he would have to deal with a bully at 3 years old. I’ve been teaching him how to say no to that kid and to tell the teachers if he doesn’t stop the bullying behaviour. But we are probably going to have a chat with his teachers as well just so they can help keep an eye on them. I certainly hope he will be able to learn how to deal with such annoying bratty bullies.

Spirited Child

March 26, 2013

In retrospect, I realized that C is what they call a spirited child which is also kinda like an euphemism for kids who are more difficult to handle. Not that I don’t love you just the way you are, my little one. It’s just that I’ve always puzzled at why many of the advice I’ve read on parenting never worked.

Some of the more pronounced traits are his first reactions to new things. He’s usually slow to warm up to new objects, activities or places. When I bring a new unfamiliar toy home, he would usually leave it in a “neglected” corner, barely interacting with it. Then slowly, his interest will peak after a few days(?). Maybe it’s after he has seen me handle it a few times. He tends to be uncomfortable with unfamiliar places and would need to be carried around.

Or having problems with regularity. When he was a baby, I kept trying all those routine setting stuff that people suggested but it never worked. He has almost never cried from hunger. His nap times were always irregular and even his bowel movements up till this day is totally unpredictable.

Then there’s the difficulty handling transitions. He always needs advanced notice to switch to the next activity. And his persistence – when I tried to ignore his cries, he just cries even harder and longer. And just tonight, he went on and on about having a torchlight that he can leave on the whole night without getting hot (my excuse for turning it off)

Not sure about the one about being high energy now but I read some anecdotes about how the babies never wanted to sit in strollers and wanting to not only be carried but to be in constant motion even when carried and that was C to a tee.

The label itself not really important. He definitely exhibits some of the characteristics. It’s comforting to know that he’s not the way he is because we’ve spoiled him or from bad parenting. That’s just the kinda of person he is. I’m going to get another parenting book about such kids and see if I can pick up more tips to help us with the more exasperating situations.

Calvin 0313 (23)

Easter Egg Hunt #1

March 24, 2013

A parent from Calvin’s preschool had kindly invited us to have an easter egg hunt at the grandpa’s farm nearby. It was a 30 minute drive and we arrived a little early. About 30 mins before the egg hunt began. Calvin was excited about it that he kept asking “Is it time to do the easter egg hunt yet?” Finally the other parents came in and we made some small talk etc. After waiting with bated breath for so long, Calvin got a little tired out and we held on to him to keep him warm and let him rest a little. And finally, the hunt started. The bigger children dashed all around grabbing eggs. Even though we had a head start by virtue of being younger, our slow pace was no match for the zest of those eager 5 and 6 year olds. The funny thing was in their haste, they left a trail of green eggs behind, spotting only the brightly colored ones and we had a field time picking up a variety of green eggs and finding some elusive ones that were tucked in odd nooks and crannies in the tree roots.

Oh and Calvin got his first taste of candy when he ate one of the little sugared eggs decorating his cupcake. Well, the good thing is we rarely have sweets in the house though there is an abundance of chocolate. Some of the easter eggs do come with candy inside. It’s funny how so many of America’s celebrations end up with candy and chocolate – Vday, Easter, Halloween, Christmas. I’m still hoping we can keep him in the dark about candy for a little while more.

There’s still another egg hunt at J’s mentors house. Maybe we can have our own little easter egg hunt inside the house too one of these days.

Calvin spree

March 22, 2013

So I did say I wasn’t going to buy lots of toys for him. Well compared to many people, I can probably comfort myself that it’s still relatively little. Except for a few items like the jungle junction tree house, the Tidmouth sheds and one action chugger, we actually don’t have toys that are tied to particular TV characters. After a while, I realize that he would prefer to use his imagination and pretend that his more generic toys or blocks are whatever he wants them to be… Cars, trucks or even people.

Most of the stuff are fairly open-ended toys like blocks (small wooden ones, the ones in the wagon, soft cloth ones, big foam ones), building toys (railroad tracks, Tinkertoy, trio blocks) and of course lots and lots of little vehicles of all shapes and sizes. The last summer when we went home, we (as in us, my mum and in-laws) went totally bonkers buying him new sets of vehicles like the emergency vehicles, construction vehicles, trailer truck, pickup truck. And then we gave him a 3 more small hot wheel cars for his birthday. Then he has one balance bike and I recently gave in and bought him a tricycle to encourage him to pedal so he can join the other kids in school and pedal. I guess that means the balance bike will retire for a while…

I also bought some craft related things for him. Mostly for his sensory bin which he calls his project box. Like pompom, buttons, pipe cleaners, lots and lots of beans (so far we have pinto and green beans). And some stencils to encourage him to draw. All in all quite successful because he’s been showing a lot more interest in drawing. For all my worries, he’s actually using the correct grasp for his age, the 5 point grasp. And even though he shows no interest in following our lead to draw shapes or letters, he can trace the stencils very well all by himself.

As for books, so far his books can fit into a medium-sized box and most of them are cheap buys from the library sale so I won’t feel much pain donating them when he’s through with them. Most of the time we just go through lots of different books at the library. His interests change so fast that reading the same books over and over bores him anyway. We did have a few incidents when he wanted a book and had to be disappointed when it was checked out at the library but I guess that’s a good opportunity for him to experience small disappointments in life.

And recently, we finally got to use the bath squirters I bought on a whim more than 2 years ago at full retail price at a store in KK hospital when we went for one of his checkups. I was surprised to find that he can actually squeeze those squirters with relative ease. Maybe all those different fine motor activities really helped him to use his hands.

In fact, seeing how engaged he is recently has motivated me to look for more things for him. I guess trying to be minimalistic is a good way to keep irrational purchases in check but I’ve never really been an impulse buyer. (though admittedly I’m a lot more indulgent with things that the two loves in my family would enjoy) And I still won’t be buying electronic junk anyway. Haha, maybe I’m just trying hard to justify buying even more things and seeing his eyes lit up in excitement. I am however going to try to quietly trim his collection, by trying to get rid of that Thomas the train toy that never really engaged him.

Being an empathic mom

March 22, 2013

Through all the tantrums recently, I learnt that the best method in the end was still to show empathy and acknowledge Calvin’s feelings. Like this morning, he woke up with the ‘turn off the lights’ shouting that he sometimes do. We would be totally befuddled because the lights are not on at all. It’s just the sun and we can’t turn that off. When we told him that, he got really mad. And finally I said, “You are really upset, Calvin. You wanted to turn off the light by using papa as a stool.” “yeah”, said Calvin. “that’s why you were upset when papa said you can’t” “yeah”. And after that he was a lot calmer and wanted to go down for breakfast. On the way out, he stepped on my leg, reached up to flip the switch to turn on the light and then turned it off again. “it’s dark.” he said with a grin.

After reading the parenting book from John Gottman, I have to agree that I would like my relationship with Calvin to be that of two people, not a person and her dog. I would like to respect his feelings as a little person and not dismiss his needs or requests as trivial. As it is, many aspects of his life are dictated by us – when to sleep, when and what to eat, when we can go out. He probably can’t help but want to be in control of some things even if they are small. This is also the age when kids tend to get insecure and scared especially those with great imagination. For example, being afraid of the dark because he starts to imagine strange things in the shadows or places that he can’t see. I noticed that Calvin is not comfortable about watching cartoons with strange-looking creatures. In fact when showed him sesame street and there was one part about a big giant, he started hiding his face behind my hand and peeking out at it. Then he told me he didn’t like it.

I think I’ve never been a really empathic person. I remember how e* used to tell me I was terrible at comforting people. It’s funny that after all this time, I’m finally learning to do it right.

And recently, Calvin has been such an angel that I do feel that I’m doing something right. Maybe it’s because I’m also less stressed and grumpy and he can sense that. He is actually very sensitive to my moods. When I’m upset, he will ask me “mama, are you happy?” or “why are you making that face?” when I’m not smiling. Maybe my moodiness made him feel insecure, but I finally worked things out myself and with Johnny so I finally feel at peace again.

Like today was a perfect day. After that incident in the morning, he got to school without a hiccup. He came home in high spirits, had a good lunch and we were exploring his new sensory bin about spring together. He really enjoyed scooping and pouring the beans and he’s been very good about not making too much of a mess. He was pretending to cook “just like mama” and then giving me and papa his favorite food “crispy micken mhin” (it’s actually roasted chicken skin) or he’d pretend we are in a train and carry around this huge 13 gallon garbage bin that we’ve never used, pretending it’s a snack cart and giving out “fish-wiches”. The best part was when he put the bin on his head and torso and said it was camouflage. He then proceeded to try and catch his papa by bumping him.

Before naptime, he wanted to read an extra book and I nearly got him into a tantrum by denying him. Until I remembered that I wanted to be accommodating when it doesn’t really hurt anyone and relented to reading an abbreviated version of the magic school bus book. After nap was snack and more pretend play cooking. He was even doing his “work” cleaning up the house. How proud I am of him. Even though we still have lots to work on like his potty training and Chinese, we are no longer really worried about him as he has really blossomed and showing keen interest in trying new things at the playground and at home.

3.5 Year Milestones

March 16, 2013

I haven’t been keeping track of his milestones as much as I should have. So here’s a belated version for the 3 -4 year old. We obviously still have quite a bit of stuff to work on but seeing him make quite a bit of progress lately has made me more optimistic.

1. Language

He can say his name and age. He knows the name of the street that we stay at, speaks clearly and in complete sentences, ask lots of questions and can tell lots of fanciful stories. Sometimes he can’t seem to differentiate between his stories from reality. Recently, he seems to be developing invisible friends like one called ‘Peppely’ who lives far away and has a car. Then somehow his cousin Laura is a wagon (cousin by the same name actually exists though he has never met her)

2. Cognitive

Likes to ask all sorts of ‘why’ questions, recognizes common colors, shapes, alphabets. Fantasize very very creatively. I’ve begun to write down some of his more fanciful ones. I’m sure it will prove entertaining in the years to come 😀 He can also understand time a little better like morning, afternoon and night, that there are 7 days in a week. He can also remember many, many stories that we’ve read to him.

Some in the list that I’m not sure of are: Understand the idea of same and different; Counting – he doesn’t like to count out loud and often tell me the wrong number of items….; Sort objects by shape and color; Complete age-appropriate puzzles – Hmm, what’s age appropriate. He’s not very into puzzles. He’d rather pretend the puzzle pieces are something else. He can do peg puzzles very well. The alphabet one he can work on with some help. He definitely can’t do the 24 piece puzzles.

Mar 31: started to compare features and look at differences. Likes to play putting up “how many fingers” with me. Good for little car ride distractions.

3. Movement

  • Walk up and down stairs, alternating feet – This he can do on small steps but perhaps because we are overprotective — I loath to think of him tumbling down the stairs. He prefers to hold our hands or the handles when doing it.
  • Kick, throw, and catch a ball — He can throw a ball but not with any form of control. Kicking and catching is still beyond him.
  • Climb well – Hmm, probably not though he’s finally starting to show interest in trying out the playground structures.
  • Run more confidently and ride a tricycle – He can run pretty well. We got him a balance bike instead of tricycle so he hasn’t learnt to pedal yet. A brand new trike is on its way to our house though 😛 Recently, he’s finally getting the hang of scooting in his cozy coupe and also his balance bike!
  • Hop and stand on one foot for up to five seconds – Not at all. First he’ll probably need to learn to jump with two feet together
  • Walk forward and backwards easily; bend over without falling – This he does with ease and frequently

4. Hand and Finger Skills

  • More easily handle small objects and turn a page in a book
  • Use age-appropriate scissors – Not very good with the scissors. He can’t seem to open them very well. I’m trying to get some child size tongs to train his finger strength since he doesn’t seem keen to try the scissors
  • Copy circles and squares – Maybe a circle. Definitely not the square.
  • Draw a person with two to four body parts – Not interested at all….I guess he’s most likely not going to end up as an artist.
  • Write some capital letters – Only doodles so far.
  • Mar 31: wrote a few letters like C, S, and V

  • Build a tower with nine or more blocks – He can build a decent tower though he gets frustrated easily. If one falls off, he’ll use his hand to knock all of it down.
  • Dress and undress without your help – Still working on it but at least he can put his hands through the arm hole properly. Also recently practiced pulling his pants up and down, taking off his socks, putting his shoes on and off (very reluctantly…he keeps trying to ask us to do it for him)
  • Mar 31: can put on and take off his shoes himself.

  • Screw and unscrew jar lids – Yup
  • Turn rotating handles – He can open the easier doors. Some door handles are too big and smooth for his little hands.


5. Emotional and Social

  • Imitate parents and friends – He sometimes likes to pretend to be one of us. His favorite though is to pretend to be the teacher and ‘teaching’ us all sorts of funny things.
  • Show affection for familiar family and friends – We get lots of hugs and kisses (on request). Definitely something to cherish while it lasts especially since he stopped giving those uber slobbery ones.
  • Understands the idea of “mine” and “his/hers” – Yes
  • Show a wide range of emotions, such as being sad, angry, happy, or bored – He’s been practicing his angry and sad feelings too. We love his fake angry face. He’ll scrunch his nose up and try to look fierce 🙂

One more thing that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere is potty training. He’s been refusing to sit on the potty so we were resigned to try a stool instead just for practice. He’s afraid of sitting on his potty for some reason. Could be because he fell in the toilet bowl in school, or the cold potty seat on his bum, just simply not motivated to do it since it’s a hassle? We’ll just have to try and try again. So many projects to tackle. Like teaching him chinese – I have trouble finding chinese books that I think he may like.


Tough days and lovely days

March 14, 2013

We had a couple of intense days with him this past 2 weeks. Some of the nights when he would wake up screaming about something totally random and unreasonable and then throwing a tantrum; he was getting difficult to put to sleep during nap times and bedtime. At first I wanted to try the trick I read about of ignoring him until he calms down maybe also because my conviction was reinforced by what his teacher had said to me as well. It worked ok on some occasions but in the middle of the night, it just didn’t work at all. J wasn’t very happy about just plainly ignoring him either. Initially I was stubborn about it and wanted to continue, after all, it takes time for disciplining to work.

Then I read a little more from an attachment parenting perspective and I relented. I think what we were doing just didn’t suit our nor little Calvin’s temperament. And it does feel rather cruel, that when he needs us the most, we turn our backs on him figuratively and literally. And it’s as if we are punishing him just for being sad or angry. What he needed to learn isn’t that it’s not ok to be sad, or angry or disappointed but to be able to express it in a way that is acceptable.

After reading a few more pages of advice from various parents, I decided to try the emphatic approach. Not so much in giving him what he wants but to acknowledge his feelings which is basically echoing him by rewording what he is saying. Actually I learnt this is one of those courses about how to be a good listener though it seemed kinda silly and impractical at that time.

So today he was breaking a plastic cup that we had lying around. The edges were rather sharp so I told him we’d have to throw it away. I tried the whole “I know you would really like to play with it” thing but that just made him cling on to it even more. So I told him he could either choose to throw it away himself or I would do it for him. When he didn’t respond, I took it away from him. And that’s when the stormy clouds gathered and a storm was imminent. Calvin started clawing at me and said “I’m going to take it back. Snatch it.” That’s when I tried the other tip I read about, which I thought sounded silly at that time too but figured I’d give it a try. I said “mama, please give it back.” and to my surprise, he really repeated what I said in the same calm tone. So I did return it to him and having won the battle, he promptly brought the broken plastic cup to the trash can and tossed it immediately. Well, let’s just say I was so glad it went well.

After the few grueling days, I was starting to feel like the world’s most terrible mom. Admittedly, I think I was getting too absorbed in myself to pay enough attention to him. So this was a wake up call for me to start on new projects again. We started a little sensory bin for him last week and I’m hoping to update it every week with different themes. I also finally got around to making cooked play dough in two new colors – green and yellow. The older ones were the no cooked versions and certainly didn’t keep very well. Hopefully these new ones will last a bit longer.

Kids says the darnest things

March 11, 2013

While playing at washington park, Calvin said, “Washington is where you get a wash”