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Monday, October 29, 2012


Sophie's class at daycare has a pet hamster affectionately and imaginatively named Hammy. The kids take turn to care of it on weekends and this past weekend was Sophie's turn. It happened to be a long weekend so we got to spend an extra day with Hammy so that was nice :)

Trying to be as gentle as she can
Being so gentle with Hammy

I have to admit that Jude and I were initially a little trepidatious that something might happen to Hammy while in our care. I can't even keep a cactus alive so you can imagine our anxiety at a real life scampering creature that has actual needs. But Sophie was a most committed caregiver and made sure Hammy got its seeds, fresh water, and change of shower sand every morning.

Taking her responsibility to feed Hammy very seriously
Taking her responsibility very seriously

She was very very gentle with it and would find every opportunity to run by its cage and give us an update of what Hammy's up to (which usually wasn't very much in the day- it's a more "run around his wheel at 12 in the morning kind of hamster...)- "Look Mama, his eyes are open!"; "Hammy is burrowing under the sawdust!"; "I think Hammy's stinky. He's giving himself a bath."; "Dada, Hammy's running in his gym!"

And laughing at its antics
Laughing at Hammy's antics

There were also many quiet moments when Sophie was content to just sit and watch Hammy, whether it was doing anything or not. I wondered what was going through that little brain of hers as she contemplated this living creature so much smaller than she is.

She spent a lot of time just watching Hammy
Just watching...

She was sad to bring Hammy back to school today, but at least she'll still get to see it everyday. It was a wonderful experience for all of us, particularly for Sophie who did such a great job.

Loving Hammy
Such a good caregiver

Even though Hammy was by no means a demanding animal to care for, Sophie still learned about what it means to take care of a pet, that it's not all fun and cuddles and that it has needs that must be met first. We talked about how different Hammy is from us (he doesn't shower with water, doesn't drink from a cup, and only eats seeds), but also how alike many living creatures are (we both need water and food, and have the same desire to be clean).

Also, we now we know we can ostensibly own a pet and not run the risk of accidentally "misplacing" it... ;)

More pictures here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A room of one's own**

Until we moved back to Singapore, Sophie hadn't had a room to call her own. In Ann Arbor, she shared a room with our books and Jude's wardrobe while her toys and books took over our living room downstairs. So one of the most important things we wanted to give her in our new place was her own room that she can call her little haven.

We didn't bring any big pieces of furniture back with us, but we did bring a whole ton of books, including three boxes of just Sophie's. And so that became the central focus of her room. I had blogged about Jane Mount's children's books spine portraits, specifically her Ideal Bookshelf 1 a couple of years ago and we were finally able to frame and hang it up.

Janet Mount book spines portrait from 20x200

We brought Sophie's display bookcase back with us so that went in her room as well.

Books galore!

Initially, when we first started buying books with book jackets, I found them such a bother and Sophie would always pull them out anyway. But then I started saving the book jackets of books that Sophie really enjoys reading and got the idea to frame them as wall art now that we have a little more wall space.

Framed book jackets

Her kitchen set and lemonade stand are also in her room which makes Sophie so happy because she now basically has all her favorite things in one place. It's easily our favorite room in the house and we spend a lot time there just hanging out- reading to Sophie, allowing her to "serve" us food, having pretend picnics, etc. Whenever we need to be doing something else-- write an email, do the laundry, make dinner-- we know we can leave Sophie in her room and she will be perfectly content and happy. Sometimes, we actually have to bribe her to leave the room because she can stay in there forever if you let her.

The room has come together really nicely and we're quite proud of it. And to make things sweeter, we found out yesterday that Sophie's room has been featured in apartment therapy's My Room series!

[click for link]

apartment therapy is one of my favorite home and design websites and I love browsing through their Nursery and Kids room tours. And so it's just really exciting to have them showcase something we've put together, especially something as close to our hearts as Sophie's love for reading and books, and the room we've created to nurture that.

**From my favorite Woolf essay.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Our snuggle bunny

"I didn't have a good day at school today. Can we have lots and lots of snuggles at home?"

So said Sophie on the drive home after daycare today. The poor thing sounded miserable and I asked her why she didn't have a good day (even though I had already gotten most of the story from her teacher at pick-up).

Incident #1: "I had an accident. I fell off the swing when it didn't stop."

One of Sophie's favorite things at school is a round net swing that she loves to lie on. Apparently, she decided she was all done with it and launched herself off before her friend who was pushing stopped.

Incident #2: "I bumped my head on something."

The thing about Sophie is that she doesn't really walk or run. She scampers. That's her default mode of getting from one place to the next. And she's also sort of easily distracted. Which means en route from one place to the next, it is not unusual for her to knock into something because she got sidetracked by something else in her line of vision. And apparently, that's what happened today with a certain concrete pillar.

Incident #3: "I was afraid to go potty and I cried and cried and cried."

This happens occasionally when Sophie only wants to go potty at home. It's not related to cleanliness (because this has happened even when we're at nice, clean bathrooms) but more about familiarity and comfort, I suspect. And today was one of those days, when she just refused to go potty even though she needed to. Holding your pee for 6 hours couldn't have been comfortable but apparently, every time her teacher asked if she needed to go potty, she would just whine and cry.

According to her teacher, she also didn't take a good nap (probably related to #3) and was sort of fussy and out of sorts for most of the afternoon.

Incident #4: "I got a bloody nose."

Sophie's pretty much recovered from whatever bug was ailing her over the weekend but there was still some residual runny nose this morning. So it seems Sophie was probably blowing it too hard or poking around in it with her finger so much so that it started to bleed.

So really, it was such an (im)perfect storm of a whole host of unfortunate things happening all in the same day...

"I wanted Mama and Dada."

Fundamentally, I think this was the issue, that after having spent four straight days at home with us because she was sick, it was just a little tough going back to the routine of school. She missed the snuggles and hugs and our constant attention, which I guess is really kind of wonderful if you think about it :) Like my friend Adelene commented, at least she could verbalize how sad she was feeling and knows what she needs to be soothed and comforted.

Which we gave her plenty off this evening- there was a lolly for finally going potty after almost 8 hours, videos with Jude while I got dinner ready, an extended post-dinner fruit-for-dessert chit chat on the couch (together with a talk about how she could  have a better day at school tomorrow, sans boo-boos), 7 books instead of the usual 3 before bedtime, and lots of hugs and snuggles in between. And so our snuggle bunny went to bed happy as a lark and looking forward to school in the morning.

Let's hope tomorrow will be a better day for her :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012


It was one of those things that went about as soon as it came. Sophie stayed home from school since Thursday and today's probably the first day she seemed completely back to her usual self mood-wise (although slightly sans voice coz of phlegm in her throat...). It started with a fever and a cough and the poor thing seemed pretty miserable.

Day 2 of staying home from school :(
Sick bunny

She didn't have much of an appetite and only wanted to eat blueberries and jam sandwiches. She also then started wheezing, which worried us more. She hadn't had an asthma/wheezing episode since January and to make things worse, our nebulizer that we've always used in the U.S. conked out on us despite using a power transformer to convert the power wattage. Thankfully, we managed to borrow one from our sister-in-law and also eventually bought a brand new one, thanks to Jude's mom-- family rocks!-- but Thursday was really a little stressful to say the least.

Thankfully, Sam and her friends came by in the middle of the day to cheer the sick bunny up when they had a 4-hour break in between classes- again, yay to family! (and an apartment close to the university). It gave me a little breather and also really helped to relieve much of Sophie's lethargy- thanks Yiyis Sam, Ellie, and Su!

Auntie Ellie and Auntie Su came by to cheer up the sick bunny
Dress-up with Yiyis Ellie & Su

Yiyi Sam visits with a sick Sophie
Reading with Yiyi Sam

By yesterday, although there was still some residual coughing, Sophie was more than well enough to attend an early morning wedding mass AND a MacDonald's birthday party, all before noon. Recovering from a cold is hard though and she zonked out for a power nap before the party. She really needed that- she wouldn't have been able to have all the fun she did blowing bubbles after otherwise :)

Bubbles at birthday parties are the best!
Nothing better than bubbles at birthdays!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nope, not yet

At the allergist. With her own stethoscope,
you know, just in case... 

I wasn't expecting any sort of earth-shattering news like she's completely outgrown her allergies or anything; in fact, I was more concerned about the possibility of having to draw blood and how upset Sophie might be. In the end though, the doctor opted for a skin prick test instead and the results show that Sophie still has a bad allergy to egg and all dairy products. Sigh...

Most children outgrow these common allergies by age 2, if not 1. So the fact that her allergies still linger even after she's turned 3 means she falls in the category of children with "persistent" allergies. There is still a likelihood that she may outgrow them, but there is also the possibility that this is just something we're going to have to keep managing.

It's been so much a part of our lives that it really doesn't seem that hard actually. We're still reading food labels vigilantly, watching out for cross-contamination at home and at the grandparents', and being really careful to ask questions when we order food outside. Managing Sophie's allergies has been both easier and harder now that we've moved back to Asia- on the one hand, there are less foods with dairy in them in Asian cuisine so Sophie has had the opportunity to try (and fall in love with a whole myriad of foods that she otherwise wouldn't have eaten in the U.S., case in point- fishball noodles...); on the other hand, egg is used so prevalently in Chinese cooking-- in thickening sauces, coating meats before they are fried, as a glaze to so many pastries, etc.-- that it's hard to know if something *really* doesn't have egg in it, not to mention the risk of cross-contamination.

We're lucky that Sophie's daycare has been really wonderful in working with us to manage her allergies. Her current teachers aren't as used to dealing with children with allergies as the teachers in Gretchen's House but they've still done a great job always being very careful and thoughtful about keeping Sophie away from possible allergens. The common practice of children celebrating their birthdays in school-- together with cake and treats-- has been a little tricky for us though. Sophie almost always can't have any of the cake but her teachers have been really good in letting us know in advance when a birthday celebration is coming up and I've packed her a special vegan treat as a snack so she doesn't feel left out. And Sophie's cognizant enough about her allergies that she never kicks up a fuss about why she can't have regular cake like the other kids. She never asks for it. In fact, when I offered her soy ice-cream last week, she insisted she couldn't have it, and that she can only have sorbet- "No cream, Mama. I can't have cream because it's not safe for my body. I will get hivey hives hives."

Hopefully, the day will come when Sophie will be able to enjoy food free from care or worry. But right now, she relishes what she can eat happily and joyously and is always open to trying new (and safe) foods. Which is more than we can ask for, really :)

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Snail and the Whale

So excited for The Snail and the Whale at the Singapore Repertory Theatre!
So excited!

Sometime last year-- or maybe it was Christmas the year before-- Sophie received the activity book to The Snail and the Whale from my friend Khanh Duc who lives in the U.K. She fell in love with it almost immediately-- you know, because of the whale-- and I had to get her the storybook just so we could find out what the story was actually about. Since then, it's become a solid favorite and regularly comes up in our nightly bedtime reading. It's a beautiful story about a tiny snail's immense wanderlust and how it ends up saving the life of the "great big grey-blue humpback whale" (Sophie's favorite line from the book...)

And so two months ago-- literally a week after we had just arrived back in Singapore-- when I found out that the Singapore Repertory Theatre was going to be putting up a production of the story in October, I jumped at the chance to get tickets. They are a little pricey, I have to say, and probably not something we can do on a regular basis, but Sophie (and us too) had a wonderful time, which made it so worth the while.

We only told her we were going to the play on Friday night-- she's at that age when telling her things too early in advance only frustrates her because her grasp of time is still sort of tenuous-- and it was the first thing she asked about yesterday morning when she woke up. She got washed up and had breakfast in record time and we didn't even have to ask her twice to wear her shoes (which usually takes her forever...) Nearly bursting with anticipation by that time, she still managed to make sure she brought her copy of The Snail and the Whale along and even wanted to bring her whale plush toy with her, but changed her mind in the end because she didn't want to lose it at the theatre.

And she had an awesome, awesome time :) The production company did a fantastic job keeping the play intimate, interactive (complete with squirting water at the audience!), and funny enough for a three-year-old to appreciate. They used the book as a metaphor for a more melancholic story of a daughter missing her seafaring father, which I don't think Sophie got, but that Jude and I kind of liked actually. Props were cleverly used (customized modular furniture were re-arranged to form the shape of the whale) but modestly and sparingly so it didn't get too overwhelming for the kids or distract from the story.

Having such a good time!
Super grainy picture from during the play

Sophie was entranced from beginning to end. She would periodically ask worriedly, "Is it ending yet?" and settled back in comfortably when we said no. And when the 55 minutes was over, she asked plaintively, "Can we watch it again?" like it was one of her beloved Kipper videos. We had to explain to her that a play involves real people acting 'live' and that you can't just watch it immediately again from the beginning, and promised to take her to more plays in the future. That seemed to satisfy and we spent the rest of the day talking about her favorite parts of the production (when the father-- the whale-- was tickling his daughter-- the snail) and the parts she didn't like so much (any parts involving crashing waves, thunder, or lightning).

We of course had to read the book before bed last night (and tonight too) and she actually started singing some of the lines in the book just as the actors did in the play. The story has gained greater resonance for her now that she connects it to a different context and we're glad she got that experience to enrich her already deep love for the book.

More photos here.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

There's a kind of Lush

I take my radio very seriously. I can't remember a time when I didn't listen to the radio. The fact that it's free makes it just inherently democratic. And everyone I know listens to the radio.

But this doesn't mean that all radio is created equal. In the words of George Orwell, some are more equal than others. I like my radio station to play good music, minimize the incessant and inane chatter that passes off as entertainment, and have as few ads as possible (although enough to keep it afloat, I suppose...) Oh, and I hope it isn't too much to ask that it also be clever and funny. And when I say clever, I don't mean serious; just a radio station with presenters who don't treat listeners as a vacuous, mindless mass. I don't want to hear rivaling jostling voices talk about the merits of dehydrated beer or bantering co-hosts debate whether falling down in slippery public toilets is really funny. Just play decent music and talk to each other (and by extension, me) as intelligent, thinking individuals. With a sense of humor. Is that too much to ask?

Thank god for Lush 99.5 FM. I chanced upon them while channel surfing the car radio in exasperation a couple of days after we bought our car and I haven't listened to anything else since. They play AMAZING music- Glen Hansard, M83, The Radio Dept,, Chairlift, Grimes, Nina Simone, and so much wonderfully more. My grouse with the other English music radio stations in Singapore is that they all sound homogenous. No matter how much they claim to target different audience (teens, working adults, women, etc), they all seem to play the same generic music. They could swap station addresses and I wouldn't be able to tell them apart. And don't get me started on the DJs- in the words of our friend, Tym, listening to some of the insipid rambling makes her want to stab her eardrums out.

Which is why I love Lush so much. Apart from the fact that they promise to air no more than two commercials back to back, I could listen to their DJs all day (and would if not for the fact that they actually don't talk much and just allow the music to speak for itself...) Joe Augustin and Petrina Kow are hilarious in the morning. They make me laugh at least once every morning, like today when Joe likened a predicted worldwide shortage of diapers (after an explosion at a Japanese chemical plant) to someone bombing all the True Blood factories around the world. I'm glad no one else was in the car with me- I think the cars going at 70km/h next to me could have heard me guffaw... The two of them have wonderful rapport and an uncanny ability to put a clever (and often funny-- note, not silly) spin on current happenings in Singapore and around the world.

Lush's roster of DJs and the creative team also reads like the who's who of the Singapore radio I grew up with- people like Dahlia Z, Georgina Chang, and Chris Ho, whose show on Lush, Clubscape, incidentally, was the only radio show in Singapore to be nominated at the recent International Radio Festival.

There's apparently some radio ratings survey going around and it seems Lush isn't doing too great relative to the other more popular and aggressively marketed music stations. I'm not sure how much the survival of the radio station is dependent on this survey or if there's some other way radio listenership is measured. But for the sake of preserving interesting and entertaining radio in Singapore, please listen in to Lush and keep it going. Hopefully you'll fall in love with it as immediately as I did.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


Sophie has never had donuts. She's probably seen them at the store or they might have come up in some book we were reading, but as with many pastries and baked goods, we've avoided donuts because of her allergies.

So I was surprised when a couple of weeks ago, she started asking for them. Specifically donuts with sprinkles. Until now, I still have no idea what triggered the request but I managed to find this recipe for vegan donuts and it looked easy enough. Finding donut trays turned out to be the bigger challenge and after looking around all the major department stores in vain, I discover that my mom and sis have a complete donut tray set (for regular-sized and mini donuts and even a little tool for injecting jelly-filled donuts) in the storeroom that they were about to throw away! Yay for bakers in the family!

And so yesterday, I surprised Sophie with a tray of unglazed mini donuts when she came home from school and got her to help me with the decorating. You should have seen her quivering with excitement- she could barely stay still enough to wash her hands and climb up her stool onto the kitchen counter :) It was quite the challenge for her to resist eating the donuts as she went along (I told her we would wait till we were done glazing all of them first)-- although she did steal a couple of sprinkles-- and she actually had a foreboding running conversation with each of them as she dipped them into the icing sugar glaze, "I'm going to eat you later.", she would say... ;)

"I'm going to eat you later!"
Talking to the donut...

But when it came to dipping them in melted chocolate, I think the temptation proved too much and she asked if she could "please, please, please" try one. It was such a plaintive request that I couldn't say 'no':

So happy!

Testimony to how much she loved "her" donuts, she asked to have two donuts for dessert instead of her beloved fruit, she brought three to school today for snack, and when Jude asked if he could take a few to work for his snack, she looked like a pirate who was about to have her treasure looted: "No please, Dada... Please don't eat all my donuts. Please. Pretty please..."

Mini donut bounty
Mini donut bounty

More pictures here.