It’s time.

I write this as I am preparing to go back to school next year, after 4 years in HQ. I guess everything is 20/20 on hindsight. In 2014, the notification of my mandatory posting took me by surprise. Thereafter, the decisions to extend my stint felt more logical. Looking back, the past 4 years was exactly where I needed to be.

It’s the next step that scares me but as they say, whatever will be will be. I just want to teach and hopefully it will not require me to drive halfway across the island.

Another thing that I need to do is to let go and let God but it is always easier said than done.

– CK

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Room Transitions (Part 1) day

Over the past 2 days, we have taken the first step to transit Nat into his own room. Earlier on, I wanted to move him & his cot over when he turned 1 year old but that could not happen when Nat ditched his cot for the floor. The trigger for this transition was Nat’s bizarre sleep “migration” habits in the middle of the night. We decided to invest in a bigger kid’s mattress and will take this chance to let Nat have his weekend day naps in his room. The plan is to get him used to sleeping in his room so that he’ll eventually be able to sleep there in the night, hopefully around 2 years old?

On this topic of when should a baby/toddler move into their own rooms, I did some reading and also discussed it with HJ.

From very early on, we both decided that it was more convenient to room-share with Nat. Room-sharing is not the same as co-sleeping. In fact, while HJ is okay with occasional co-sleeping, I only let Nat co-sleep as a last resort i.e. when we’re too tired to soothe him back to bed, because of how it can potentially be very dangerous. This is because we can both be quite heavy sleepers and Nat has rolled off the bed a few times before.

As for when is the right time to shift Nat over to his nursery to sleep on his own at night, HJ felt that Nat is still not ready, and I agree. What do we mean by “not ready”? Sleep-wise, Nat is pretty easy-going as long as it’s not in the cot. Yet, that also makes it not safe because he could wake up in the middle of the night and climb up the armchair inside his room. By right, one should shift out all hazardous furniture but because we can’t move out the armchair anywhere else, we decided to gradually induct Nat by having him take his day naps there first.

Finding a bigger mattress was a bit tricky. As Nat is still a toddler, his cot mattress (120cm by 70cm) is good enough. However, since I am bent on letting Nat sleep on a mattress on the floor for as long as possible, it made sense to invest in a bigger kid’s mattress. Then we encountered some size issues. Nat’s room, being the smallest in the house, cannot fit a standard single mattress because there is also an arm chair and side table inside. Thankfully, we managed to find a 160cm one from IKEA that’s meant for children ages 3-7. Having only mattresses on the floor is very flexible because it can be positioned anywhere – either parallel or perpendicular to the wardrobe. The only extra things we have to do on weekends is carry his mattress back and forth between our rooms after his day naps because he will still be sleeping on the floor next to our bed in the night.

There are plenty of tips online for a smooth transition, so wish us luck as we try them.

On a side note, I wished we read this earlier and experimented with it.

A new study raises a reason why babies ought to get evicted before their first birthday: They may get more sleep at night in their own rooms. Babies who were sleeping in their own rooms at ages 4 or 9 months got more nighttime sleep than babies the same ages who roomed with parents…sharing a bedroom with babies interferes with everyone’s sleep because normal nocturnal rustlings turn into full-blown wake-ups. Babies and adults alike experience brief arousals during sleep. But when parents are right next to babies, they’re more likely to respond to their children’s brief arousals, which then wakes the baby up more. This then sets up the expectation from the baby that these arousals will be met with a parent reaction, causing a bad cycle to develop.

The last few lines = no shit Sherlock.

But, we’re very lucky because Nat at most wakes up once and as long as he finds a warm body or hand to pat him, he goes back to bed.

Or, we’re just plain zombies. There have been two occasions in the last few weeks where Nat somehow climbed onto our bed and found his way in-between our pillows. Neither of us was conscious enough to know what happened. We simply found him next to us at 630am and assumed the other person was responsible for his appearance hahaha!

Ipoh in 3 days!

For the March school hols this year, we couldn’t escape to Japan to see cherry blossoms because I was involved in a major work event. So our Japan trip has moved to June and we decided to go Ipoh in March. I was intrigued by Ipoh because it is not only historical but also very rustic and eclectic – totally my kind of place…

Day 1: We took the afternoon flight out of Singapore so only dinner was planned for our first day after checking in.

  • The ‘must-eat’ pitstop was the famous beansprout chicken at the Old Town side – Restoran Tauge Ayam Lou Wong

Day 2: Prior to coming here, I booked a day tour to bring us around the city. We booked our tour from Ipoh Secrets, which was highly recommended by my colleagues who have been to Ipoh.

What was initially a small group tour of 8-9 people became a ‘private’ one with only the two of us and our guide, John!

Here’s where we went in summary. The sites in the heritage trail are very near each other so they’re very walkable even without a guide.

Ipoh Heritage Trail – we started with the former Ipoh Town Hall aka the Taj Mahal of Ipoh.

The Town Hall is opposite the Ipoh Railway Station, which is still in operation. It used to have a hotel on the second level but the hotel has ceased operation for more than a decade. John also shared with us about the “Ipoh” tree, that collapsed in the 1990s. It apparently has poisonous sap, which was used to kill someone before. True or false – I think we won’t really know.

Nearby is the Birch Memorial Clock Tower where our guide told us the history of the first resident of Perak and how he was resented by the locals and eventually assassinated. The memorial was subsequently erected by his son, Ernest Birch, the 8th resident of Perak.

As a History educator, it was very interesting to see how certain versions of history are celebrated while others are purposely erased by something as simple as the renaming of street names.

Then we walked through some of the old streets, in particular, the Concubine Lanes. What was formerly a street for the second and third wives of wealthy men is now a tourist lane with small shops.

Before lunch, John drove us to a house selling handmade charcoal-baked pastries. Sadly, the coal oven isn’t fired up as often anymore because the owner is going to retire soon.

Post-lunch, we made a trip to the first cave temple – Sam Poh Tong. It’s an active place of worship and extremely tranquil. It also had a Japanese pond with koi fishes and turtles. I personally like to visit temples that have elements of nature like the relics in Siem Reap and those in Japan, that are surrounded by gardens.

Next up was the famous and supposedly haunted Kellie’s Castle, which was my main place of interest. It’s a 25-30min drive out of Ipoh town so one can also go without a tour guide.

I can now conclude that I’m a castle-junkie because every trip thus far that has castles to see, they have appeared on my itinerary. UK in 2014, Germany in 2015, Japan in 2011 and 2017 and now Ipoh.

Our last stop of the afternoon was another cave temple – Kek Lok Tong. It had started to rain but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because during wet weather, water will drip down the stalagmites inside the limestone caves.

After the tour ended, we headed to Plan B, a cafe/bar that was formerly an opera house for a late afternoon snack.

At night, we cabbed to the New Town side to shop at Ipoh Parade mall because shops at the Old Town close by 5pm.

Day 3: We had half a day to sight-see before flying back so we reserved a tour at Han Chin Pet Soo – the Hakka Miners’ Club, the oldest Chinese club in Ipoh.

Interesting fact we found out about our hotel – Sarang Paloh Heritage Stay & Event Hall…. it was the former OCBC bank!

This is one main reasons why we had such a fulfilling trip to Ipoh…everything around the Old Town is so rich in history and I personally prefer the slower pace of the place compared to Penang.

I highly recommend our hotel, it’s so eclectic and filled with antique furniture that I wished my home had more of. The staff are also very welcoming and helpful.

Ipoh, you were simply amazing.

And now, I need to get over my travel withdrawal because I have to go back to work tomorrow.

– CK

Parenting

I still want to do no.1 ! But this is quite funny and very true. As I’m typing this, Nat is having his 2nd nap at my mom’s (because we went for Yoga class) and we’re watching Netflix before we pick him up. Even if it’s the weekend, there’s no need to shop, eat fancy food or catch a movie… I’m VERY happy with a bed and Netflix!

I guess the thing I miss most about life before Nat is the personal and private space we had.

Most of the time, there was only our schedule to think about. We could wake up at 10am and do whatever we wanted on weekends.

Now there’s no such thing as waking up at 10am. We’re up at 645am by default, 7 days a week but we’re also very lucky Nat does a continuous stretch of sleep from 9pm to 630am on most nights.

Speaking of space, we also had to make room for our helper in our study and take Nat into account as far as our home deco and furniture was concerned.

Nothing too dangerous or considered too impractical for children. Invisible grills that costs over a thousand. Door guards and shoe cabinet locks that still look aesthetically decent enough. All because I want a house that doesn’t look like a kiddo has taken over it.

And I’m aware that such adjustments have just begun. Soon, Nat will grow into a bigger toddler and more revisions have to be made. I guess with a child or children, things don’t remain fixed for long. We’re always responding and adjusting to their cues and needs.

Guess this is what growing up and begin a parent means.

Travel Fever

Only a month of 2018 has gone by and I’m in need of another escape from reality. I know this mood swing will pass but I just feel the urge to do what I want, without having to consider so many things. In line with that, I can’t wait for our upcoming vacays – a short trip to Ipoh in March (w/o the kiddo) and a longer one back to Japan June (w Nat!). Yep, it’s our 1st overseas trip with him… he’ll be 19 months old and we chose Hiroshima because in my gut, Japan felt right and we’re both having withdrawals from our Japan trip in Dec 2017.

Ipoh was a recent, rather last-minute decision despite it being on my mind for weeks.

We just wanted to go somewhere nearby for a 3-day trip during the March term break.

  • Malacca was one of the choices but I don’t think I can last 4 hours on a coach.
  • Bangkok was also considered but HJ explicitly requested for a place that isn’t too chaotic and city-like.
  • I thought of Phuket, but we had gone there in 2015 so I didn’t feel like going back so soon.
  • There was just something about Ipoh – it’s history, food and the fact that it’s not as touristy as Malacca or Phuket that drew me towards it. So Ipoh it is then!

More on how I ended up deciding on Japan with Nat in another post because Netflix and supper awaits.

Tired.

I totally LOL-ed when I saw this quote/pic on Pinterest that said, “the bags under my eyes are Prada”!? Yup, and it’s only Tuesday. I strangely feel more tired on weekends. This is a pic of me, eating ice cream and ‘hiding’ in Nat’s nursery while he was getting washed up on Sunday night. The question we both have is, why do we feel more tired when we actually get to sleep continuously from 11pm-630am??

Then I think back to the early parts of 2017, when strangely I had the energy to take care of Nat round-the-clock. I also have no idea how I managed to wake up to pump 2x a night at 1 and 4am. Those days are long gone now and yet, I’m still tired.

The culprit… is the rushing.

Every morning, we rush to work. At work, we are rushing for meetings and/or to finish up pieces of work. I’ve also not managed to leave at 530pm on the dot since Jan, so I’m rushing to wrap up things so that I can zoom back to my mom’s place for dinner and to pick Nat up. Then we rush back home to wash him up so that we can start his bedtime routine such that Nat goes to sleep by 9pm.

So the only time we’re not rushing anymore is 10pm onwards and the whole cycle begins again the next day.

It was also much easier taking care of Nat when he was a baby, under 1 year old! Toddler-hood is no joke and I know this is just the beginning.

My short-term quick fixes –

  • TEA every morning for the caffeine
  • Concealer for my eye bags
  • BRANDS Chicken Essence on some weekends to last 12 hours being Nat’s Main caretaker

I’m already tired trying to analyze why I’m tired.

Good night world!

– CK

Toddler Crib

How shall I explain this… a friend at work shared that one sleeping arrangement is to align the crib next to the bed and remove one side or fix the toddler guard so there’s still some access if night soothing is needed. I tried it. Result: it works…… but only from 9pm-5am, before our friend would crawl over me and find a nook between our bodies to continue sleeping?!

The scary but funny thing is that some nights when I wake up randomly ard 3am, I open my eyes and feel a small sense of victory when I see Nat in his crib.

Sadly, this victory is premature and short lived.

Fast forward to 6am when it’s time to wake up, I turn to my left and I see my son. In my mind I can only wonder, “how did he end up here?!”

HJ has no idea either. Basically, Nat sleep-crawls over my body to end up between us. That can be the only explanation.

Nonetheless, we’ll leave this as it is for a while more because it is better for our backs. When Nat slept on the floor, and if he woke up randomly at 4/5am, he would only be soothed back to sleep if I went down into the floor and sat/laid next to him.

To secure the crib to our bed, we lock the wheels permanently and HJ also used cable tie to attach the crib’s legs to the legs of our bed.

I guess I’ve also undergone a mindset shift? Last night, after he fell asleep on my bed, I didn’t move him to his crib. I guess I didn’t mind him sleeping next to me from the start. I had spent the night out meeting a friend for dinner and didn’t see Nat the whole day.

Like what some of my friends told me, it’s true that our kid(s) are only this age once and before you know it, they’ll be so fiercely independent, you’ll wish they didn’t grow up so fast.

So I think I’ll just (try) to embrace my son’s stickiness to us while he actually wants to be close to us.

Week 1 of 2018

How apt… and quite funny too but yes, it pretty much sums up how it feels to have completed the first week of a new year. I regret not piling up my stash of Somersby or Kronenbourg the last time we were at Changi duty free. Every work day this week ended after 6pm but I don’t mind. I actually prefer work to the chaos beyond the office. Then on some days, I’m just tired of mom-ing. I don’t think I do very much, but even the little I have to do, feels tiring.

WhatsApp Image 2018-01-07 at 8.20.50 PM.jpeg

2018 is the year that I have to seriously think about where I would like to get posted to in 2019, which is also dependent on what’s available for me. Throughout my entire career (since 2012), things were pretty much decided for me i.e. being posted to my first school and then to HQ. I simply went with the flow and made some smaller decisions along the way.

This year is different in the sense that I have to first know what I want for my career plans and then, pursue it. To be honest, all I can think of is running away to Japan, or London or Germany (my favourite places), for another vacation… because sometimes, I am so avoidant, I just want to escape and delay the inevitable. Sadly, I can’t.

On the home front, some days it feels more tiring than the work front and I can’t see beyond the week as far as Nat is concerned. Okay, maybe the month because I know when is his PD check-up next month.

There was one day, HJ, feeling really exhausted, looked at Nat and asked me, is this all worth it? (A bit late right hahaha) but yes, despite how tired it may be, I would not have it any other way.

It also reminded me that since Nat is our gift from God, we are but stewards of him on this earth i.e. it’s our responsibility to take care of him until the day comes where either of us will be called back to heaven. So that certainly puts things into perspective, esp. on those days when we just don’t feel like being parents.

Yet, some part of me does miss the freedom and the ability to do whatever I wanted without having to trouble my mom to take care of Nat if need be.

So I guess like the picture says, I have to just continue winging it… for the rest of the year.

The year in summary

2017 in a grid. Let’s see.

• Took no-pay leave and spent two extra months at home with Nat

• Went on part-time scheme and worked 3-4 days per week

• Actually did some proper exercising and lost 18kg

• Attended Yoga and Pilates, something I’ve wanted to do but never got round to it

• Turned 30 years old and;

• Traveled to four countries in the second half of the year!

2018 already looks to be a really busy year…

I’ll be returning to work full-time, and would have to start finding a school where I’ll be posted to in 2019.

Nat would be one, going on two – so here comes the whole new ballgame of dealing with a toddler!

I just hope that HJ and I will be in good health so that we can do whatever we need to do for our family.

As for everything else that I’m anxious about… I know they will sort themselves out somehow.

As each year goes by, I’ve come to realise that life is indeed too short to be worried about numerous small things so in the same vein, I will try not to be ruled (so much) by fear in 2018.

Here’s to a more daring and fulfilling 2018!

– CK

Montessori Method?

So for 2 months now, Nat has a habit of waking up 1x in the night where he would stand in his crib and clamor to join us in our bed. Even when he’s drowsy already, he will cry once he realizes he’s being put down in his crib. So I did an experiment last night by letting him sleep on a mattress on the floor. He slept from 10pm to 7am without a single sound?? Maybe this is the start of a mattress ‘bed’ and the end of the crib.

As last night was the first time, I slept next to him on the floor for a while before moving back to my bed.

We combined both his crib mattress and his old playpen/travel cot one so there’s more space if he rolls or moves in the night.

All because I did not want him sleeping next to me in our bed as the only workable option. Everyone has different preferences but personally, co-sleeping next to baby on the same adult bed is my last resort, only for times of desperation i.e. at 4am on a workday.

So what exactly is this Montessori method?

One aspect involves babies sleeping on a mattress from a young age inside their own room, that has been designed with furniture that is suited for them. The idea is for babies to have the freedom and independence to roam freely in a safe environment. It may suit or may not suit your baby as per what this article says.

In theory, I really buy it. However, I only found out about this after we bought his crib. So for his nursery, other than the leather aka lounge chair that we had no choice but to put it there since it was too big for the living room, every other furniture was intended to be “Nat-size”, such as his shelf and side table.

I don’t know how I’m going to move him into his own room in the near future but for now, if this mattress method works and does not result in Nat co-sleeping with us on our beds – I’m going to continue trialing it for the next week.

– CK