Archive for November, 2013

Goals for the Mama – 11/22

November 29, 2013

Goal 1: Confidence Building
– Going to potty without anyone there
– Climbing up his playground from the side
– Trying to teach him that it’s not ok to ‘kill’ people even if they are bad guys. I guess kids don’t understand what dying really means but it’s good to steer him towards less violent options like shooting sticky cannons and putting bad people in jail.
– Teaching hm the effects that lack of sleep has on him

Goal 2: Chinese
-Watch 巧虎
– Read 巴巴爸爸建新家,蚂蚁和西瓜x2,小熊进城, 包姆和凯罗的天空之旅,窗外的礼物,11 只小猫建新家,摇摇晃晃的桥x2, 喜羊羊x3, 快跑云梯消防车x2, 巴士到站了

Goal 3: Math
– Counting using the abacus. Trying to teach him to count in 10s.
– Concept of multiplication as adding the same number many times e.g five 2s is 10. Pointed out to him that two 5s and five 2s both make 10.

Goal 4: Reading
– Reading the last words from familiar Dr Seuss books
– Playing with magnetic words
– Sounding out random words like those we saw on a magazine at the store while waiting in line

Goal 5: Fine motor skills
– Drawing robots and cutting them up to make a puzzle


Calvin’s Robot – Unicron

Our First Foray into Black Friday Madness

November 29, 2013

So for the first time ever since we’ve been in America, we actually went out to the stores during thanksgiving for the infamous black Friday sales. When we were in Cornell, I don’t think we even knew that there is such a sale. In fact, I barely shopped online then. And only occasionally in stores because the prices were not attractive. So the item that got us out of the house tonight, right before Calvin’s bedtime was this.


Yes, even more Lego. After realizing that Lego prices in USA are much lower, I thought this might make good gifts when we go home next year. So we lugged home three of them, one of which has been claimed by Calvin for his Christmas present. As you can see, we are not romantic souls here. Santa Claus does not secretly deposit toys for him on Christmas because he has been good. He also got to pick out three little toy cars for himself since we missed getting any for him the other day when he threw a tantrum and was being difficult.  He couldn’t stop giggling to himself all the way home, or according to his papa going ‘tee-hee’ in a super cute and adorable way. We think it will occupy his thoughts about all of 2 days before they merge into the big pile of little cars he owns.

Well, I couldn’t help but think that we have a lot more fun because he’s around. There are many things we do that I probably won’t be bothered with if it were just the two of us, but in the expectation of his enjoyment, it is all worth it. Things like hiking at the national park, apple picking, strawberry picking, braving crowded sales etc. Oh and also baking cranberry bread, in the name of thanksgiving which we do not celebrate, mainly because of a book we read about thanksgiving. We did have a special meal with braised duck and home made potato chips. The cranberry bread ended up really wonderful. Johnny said it tasted like fruit cake. I never liked fruit cake, but we are certainly making short work of this cranberry bread (more like a cake than a bread?) Calvin even gamely tried out the raw cranberries, which tasted horribly tart and bitter by the way.

20131129-000556.jpgI find myself even eager to try out new experiences because I would like him to try it out too. Given the strength of our inertia, it’s a good thing we have Calvin to get us moving.

Grumpy Reluctant Sleeper

November 28, 2013

This morning, Calvin woke up early despite sleeping later than usual yesterday. It all happenned because he was trying to read a book in the dark after lights out. I’m not sure if he managed to see anything in the books because there was only the dim light from his night light. I heard the rustling sounds of pages turning, so I went in and told him he shouldn’t read books when it’s dark because it’s bad for his eyes. He got really upset when I took his books away. He was wailing for a while, which is normal when he is all tired and gets emotional. Finally, he settled down and fell asleep within minutes. Except half an hour later, he woke up, cried a little and told me that he’s feeling sad, went to the potty and then took a while longer to fall asleep again since he was wide awake.

And then began a whole morning of sulking and extra grumpiness. One moment, we were happily playing and then the next, he’ll have a request I can’t fulfill. Like when he wanted to have a workbench with hammers and nails so he can do his woodworking projects. He was not convinced by my explanation that the dining table chair was not going to be a good place for hammering nails. And Mr Elephant-who-never-forgets started remembering that he had a hammering toy from Ikea. When he couldn’t find it, Calvin concluded woefully that it must have been one of the baby toys that mama gave away to “the little girl”. Ugh, whoever said that kids won’t remember toys they rarely play with was not referring to a Calvin like entity. Many websites advised parents to bag up those rarely played toys for a few months before getting rid of them. Well, I did, but many months down the road, he will suddenly remember he had a certain toy and ask about it.

And then later, right before lunch, he wanted to play with the soapy tub of water to wash his rocks again. It was 10 minutes to lunch and I was using the oven. There wasn’t space in the kitchen to set up his washing station. What’s more there wasn’t time to clean hm up before lunch if he started playing with the soapy water. The last time he did it, his pants were soaked. And the rejection started another round of sulkiness. All the wonderful games we played before that was forgotten, he sat at his playground and sulked. He rolled on the floor and sulked. He was also promptly ignored when he was crying and wailing that he won’t wash his hands for lunch. I congratulated myself on my zen when I told him calmly “When you are ready, go wash your hands and come eat lunch.” After a few more tries to illicit some response from us and failing, he quieted down and decided he was ready.

We took the opportunity to point out that he was having a grumpy kind of day becuase he didn’t have a good night’s sleep last night. It makes good arsenal when he asks, as he always does at night, why he has to sleep. So with that we finally weathered through a tiring morning and had a good nap that we both sorely needed.

Calvin’s Progress in Chinese@ 2 months

November 27, 2013

Two months ago, I saw a Facebook post by a former colleague asking for help for his daughter’s elementary school Chinese homework. I’ve seen his daughter before and we even bought her a baby toy a while back. It then dawned on me that she is probably in Primary 1 and I was assailed with a sense of panic. Are P1 students expected to construct sentences and write so many Chinese characters? At the rate that Calvin was learning Chinese, which is close to nada, he would be woefully unprepared if he enters a Singapore school. It was then that I stepped up my efforts to teach him Chinese.

I started by trying to speak more Chinese with him, giving simple instructions in chinese. We also watched more 巧虎 videos just so he can get accustomed to the sound of people speaking it. I also started hunting down pdf scans of Chinese books because I only have 20ish little books that I brought along from Singapore years ago. We began to read about 5 books a week. It was hard to find books that are suitable for his infantile level of Chinese and have a good story that engages him. I don’t want to have to translate everything in English because that would defeat the purpose of reading Chinese books in the first place!

Then about one month later, we started using the flashcards from the book 四五快读 which I also bought more than 2 years ago. I wasn’t so concerned about him learning how to read. It was just a more structured way for me to help im understand the meaning of common chinese words. After about one month and more than 50 words later, I have to say his memory of the chinese characters are pretty good. I’m pleased that it teaches chinese characters in a way that is interesting. He probably won’t remember most of them after a while since he’s not reading yet.

Now, we’ve been reading about 10+ books every week and I’ve also ordered some Chinese books that is floating over from China right now. I’ve also started playing an hour of Chinese songs every afternoon while he’s having quiet time. I am very pleased that he can understand a lot of the simple things I say to him and even attempts to form word pairs 词语himself. I wonder if we will be able to raise his competency to such a level that he will be comfortable in a Singapore school. I guess all I can do is to try to create a more immersive environment for him and hope that he will pick up reading Chinese books too. It’s also heartening to see that he will pick out Chinese books for me to read to him. It makes me want to buy a while library of Chinese books for him. I guess compared to hiring a tutor for him now or in the future, this is a small investment to make.

Wintery Thanksgiving

November 26, 2013

We are having a cold, cold week because of a storm coming. I think we’ll see some ice this week. I am loathed to step out of our house. Even inside the house, I’m wearing a sweater and my hands are chilly. At least we are not traveling anywhere this week. We can technically huddle inside our house the whole week if our sanity allows it.

We did venture out to the library for an installment of new books today. Calvin enjoys going to the library because he gets to play games on the library computer while I hunt down new books for him. Calvin goes through so many books every day – a minimum of 4-6 books a day before his quiet time and bedtime; he looks through another 7 or 8 more during quiet time; sometimes we read a couple more throughout the day too. Sometimes I run out of ideas of what books he might like. It’s kinda hard to just pull out books from the library shelves and find something he would enjoy. I end up doing a lot of research on good children books and then getting the library to put a hold on a big bunch of them for us. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure which books he will enjoy apart from the obvious ones with funny stories, vehicles, some types of dinosaurs. The simple books that doesn’t have a story doesn’t get read much. Not all animal books appeal to him. Some books he rejects even before we get to open the cover, maybe because of the drawing style. I’ve been trying to introduce some chapter books to him to see if he will enjoy them. They don’t come with many pictures or colors so it’s a bit of a tough sell.

At least we are armed with some new entertainment for the week. The other thing is that I’m eyeing some Lego buckets from Walmart’s black friday sale for gifts or to expand our own set. It only comes with 50 2×4 bricks and 134 of the 2×2 square bricks. It would have been nice to have more bricks so we can build bigger structures. I wonder if we could buy it online and avoid having to go out in the cold. As you can see, I feel quite determined to ‘turtle’ myself in the house. Maybe I just need to dig out my winter thermal wear.

Goals for the Mama – 11/15

November 22, 2013

Goal 1: Confidence Building
– Collecting lots of things from nature. He is taking great interest in things like rocks, pine cones, feathers when we go outside. We collected a bunch today on our walk.
– Jumping on the bed and 2 steps off the stairs while holding my hand and banister
– Got his 10th star in his 记功簿 and I gave him a special sticker. He seemed pretty pleased.
– Walking on the high balance beam at Little Gym with no support

Goal 2: Chinese
– Read 喜羊羊 x 4, 11 只猫的马拉松长跑, 11只猫开饼店, 11 只猫捉大鱼,快跑云梯消防车x2, 巴士到站了,小猫当当尿床,
– Knows about 50 words. Flashcards once a day.
– Counting beads on the bracelet he made at school. He rarely counts the same things twice now unless there are too many of them and they are all over.
– Counting just about anything — buttons on my shirt etc

Goal 4: Reading
– Sounding out titles of books, words on passing trucks etc
– I pick out some words for him to sound out when we read and also let him complete the sentences in familiar books

Goal 5: Fine motor skills
– Made 2 bracelets at school.
– More art by Calvin i.e sticking colored paper
– Cutting in a straight line across the width of an A4 paper. He said his muscles ached after cutting 3 or 4 strips 😛

Calvin’s 4th Birthday

November 21, 2013

Calvin’s 4th birthday was this week. We are not big on birthdays ourselves, though I did remember thinking I would love to have a McDonald’s party when I was in primary school, probably because of those little plastic toys that McD’s is so good at using to entice little children. So far, our birthday tradition for Calvin involves a cake and a present. And some balloons just because that’s what birthdays are supposed to come with. When I see the effort that many parents go to throw a big themed party – replete with major decorations, gazillion candy and sweet treats, detailed party favors, party games, even birthday t-shirts for everyone….   Just looking at it gives me a  headache. It’s just way more effort than I’d ever make for any party. I did say we are not party people….

Well, this year his dad came up with an idea of a scavenger hunt, he made lego arrows and a bunch of clues to lead him to various places in our house. Calvin was giggling happily and shifting his feet pretending he didn’t know where the clues lead to while he checks to see if we knows the clues. When one of the clues lead to the wardrobe, he quickly closed the door so we won’t see the clue inside. And finally, it led to a little box of Lego that is his birthday present. The scavenger hunt was a big hit and at night, he started reenacting it by drawing up his own ‘clues’ and hiding them around the house.


Initially, we planned to give him a remote control car for his birthday but we couldn’t wait and gave it to him during summer when the weather was great. I thought it might be interesting to buy him his birthstone, citrine since we were studying rocks and it’s not like it was an expensive birthstone like diamond/ emerald/ ruby. He has been saying that he can’t wait to get his birthstone, but his dad thinks he’d probably toss it pretty soon so we decided against it. We wanted to go let him pick out some little toy cars at the toy store but figured the last thing he needs is another bunch of little vehicles.

On his birthday, I was also at school with him and brought some homemade cookies and his favorites – cucumber and raisins. While most of the kids ate *only* the cookie and a couple of raisins, Calvin finished off the raisins and cucumber, asked for more and more raisins and nibbled at the corner of his cookie before chucking the rest of it into the compost. I have a feeling he’s not a big fan of chocolate.

Then after quiet time, we enjoyed the apple raisin cake that he said he wanted. And for dinner, we had chicken wings with fries and the cucumber leftover from school. So that ends his fourth birthday. Next, I’ll have to prepare for his papa’s birthday!

Playdate at Pen Park

November 19, 2013

After the teacher’s conference, we decided to try to set Calvin up for play dates again, this time without asking him for his opinion. The last time when we tried to be democratic about it, he always said “No”. So we followed their advice to ‘Just do It’. We arranged for him to go to the park with another boy, C, who is a little younger than him (3 months by adjusted age) and somewhat similar temperament – easy going and likes to play independently.

We were a little late thanks to some road construction. By the time we got there, the kids were hungry for a snack so we started off by sitting down together, eating and sharing some crackers and grapes. Coincidentally, C’s mum was teaching in Johnny’s department some years back, even though she’s now a stay at home mom. So I guess she has even more years of studying “wasted” by staying at home. I instantly felt some rapport with her.

Calvin started running off the play by himself at the playground while C was still finishing his snack. I started playing ball with C before I said “Is Calvin hiding? Let’s go look for him”. So off we went to look for my little red blur of activity. I played together with the two of them to help bridge the communication gap. In Calvin’s mind, he was probably just playing with mama. So we pretended to be on a spaceship that crashed. I got them to play side by side for a while. Then Calvin decided he wanted to play ‘Hide and Dash’ with his dad. We got him to go over to C and his mum and explain how the game should go so we could all play together. I got the opportunity to teach him to look at his friend when talking. And then we were off, dashing off to hide and then when we were found, we would dash off to hide at another place. I certainly got some exercise this morning.

After a few rounds, Calvin wanted to continue but C wanted to play something else. Calvin was surprisingly able to accommodate and followed his suggestion to play an “Up and Down” game where they take turns climbing up and sliding down a slide and then zapping someone with their static 😛 Then Calvin wanted to play tag, so we had more dashing fun before it was time to go home. I am glad the two of them had a good time and played well together. We’ll probably have more play dates soon 🙂

Calvin’s Drawing & Stories

November 19, 2013

Tornado on earth blew the stars away and the comets got blown away too!?!


Calvin: “I want to eat gummy bears when I’m sleeping”

Papa: ” Then the gummy bears will be stuck to your teeth and the 细菌 (germs) will come and eat the gummy bears. Then you’ll get toothache”

Calvin: “Then will the 细菌 (germs) get toothache too since they eat gummy bears?”

Around the World According to Calvin

November 16, 2013

We were talking about all our upcoming trips to Washington and San Francisco this morning and Calvin interjected that after those trips, he’s going to go visit other places outside of America. First, he’ll go France, then Germany and England. When I commented that they were all in Europe, he asked me what other countries are there in Europe and so he promptly added Italy and Switzerland to his list too.  After that, we also added other continents like Africa and Asia.

Then I said ‘The people in France speak French. How will we understand them when we are there?”

Calvin: “We don’t have to talk to them. We are just there to visit.”

Me: “What if we go to a restaurant and we need to get something to eat, we won’t know what is on the menu. Then when we see ‘pain’ on the menu, we’ll get confused. Like eh, one serving of pain? Are they going to deliver that with a pinch?” I went on to explain that the word ‘pain’ in French actually means bread.

Calvin: “We won’t go to the restaurant. We’ll go home and eat lunch!”

Later that night, we were talking about our plans for Christmas.

Calvin: “Ok, on our way to San Francisco, we’ll stop at France and Germany first.”

He learned about France when we read the book about Louis Bleriot. We learned about the English channel and French flag as part of our lapbook.

His fascination with Germany came from reading a book on World War which he picked out because of the tank pictures. Apparently, he surprised his teacher in school when he told them that Hitler is a bad person and he started talking about Mussolini and the Japanese.

Looks like we have a little globetrotter on our hands. To think that I’ve never even left Malaysia until I was 12 when I went to Singapore for the scholarship interview. And the next country after that was China when I was 18.