Back To School For Jay

Recently Jay went back to school, on the 2nd of January, to start grade 3. For those not in the know, the school year starts in January here in Singapore. Which means that the long summer holidays, although it’s always summer here, are in November and December.

As a side note, Singapore has two seasons, hot and dry, and hot and wet. I haven’t seen a winter in 18 years now. The closest I came was summer in Canada, where even their August weather is colder than anything I’ve experienced in a long time. And yes, I did get some odd looks for wearing jumpers while I was there.

Anyway, back to Jay’s first days of grade 3. We had expected to have some resistance from him. Especially since he has to get up at 6am to catch the school bus. And he’d spent the last couple of months going to sleep late and not getting up until 8 or 9 every day.

Surprisingly, while he was (and still is) very sleepy when he gets up, we haven’t had any real problems with getting him up and meeting the bus on time.

Unfortunately, the first Thursday back, he came home with a cough and fever. This is one of my major gripes here, parents will send their kids to school (and go to work themselves) when they are sick. What this results in is a constant flow of illness through the classes and, to a lesser extent, the workplace. Now, is it just me, or is this counterproductive? Wouldn’t more work be accomplished overall if those who were sick and contagious stayed home for an extra day or two?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I think it’s a question that should be asked and thought about.

The end result though, is that Jay got sick from his classmates the first week back. He took Friday off and went to the doctor, took his medicine and by Monday was back at school. Not too bad, right? Well, now here we are, Monday morning, starting his third week back and he’s got another cough. So, he did make it through the second week unscathed, but he’s sick again and we’re sending him to school because that’s the way it’s done here.

This is the problem, every month that’s he’s been in school here, here’s come home at least once with a cough or runny nose. And sometimes with a fever. The only times we let him stay at home, are when he has a fever. And this seems to be how it’s done here. So we go with the flow and continue the cycle of kids infecting other kids, and hoping that one day it will be broken. Just not by us, cause Jay can’t miss any more school than he already does.

Other than that though, Jay’s first couple of weeks of grade 3 have gone well. He’s started swimming lessons, even though he’s been swimming for years. He’s excited to start science class. And his other classes are continuing, with math still his favourite subject.

Should We Punish Creative Behaviour

I think this is a question most parents will end up asking themselves at one point or another. When should we put a limit on our children’s creativity? And has it been destructive enough to require punishment?

Maybe a little background is in order. A few years ago Jay got angry at SO and basically threw a tantrum. The specifics aren’t important, and in any case, I don’t remember them. The next day, SO came home from work to find “I love (heart) you mummy!!!!” written on our couch (as seen in the above picture), as an apology. We didn’t end up punishing him for it, although he did get a talking to not to do it again. But should we have? It was a creative way of saying sorry, but at the same time it was also destructive.

Over the last eight years, our walls have put up with a lot of abuse. There are drawings and words on the walls and doors in pretty much every room. And I’m not talking about drawings on paper that we’ve stuck up as artwork. I mean, he has literally (in the proper sense) written and drawn on the walls.

So when do we punish it? And when do we let him use his creativity?

It’s sad to say, but I think a lot of the time we’ve made that decision, not based on the severity of the crime, but on how we felt that day. If we’re not in a good mood, he gets punished. And if we are, he gets praise for his creativity, and told not to do it again.

The biggest problem with this approach is that it leads to confusion on Jay’s part, and an unpredictability on ours. What we really need to do, is be consistent in our approach and guide him through an acceptable way to express his creativity by setting limits on how and when he can be creative.

It’s something we’re working on, and by the time he reaches university, we may have mastered it. Hopefully.

Until then, our walls are works of art, and we’re parents of a confused boy. But at least he knows we love him, and he loves us. We have the evidence all around us.

Christmas In Singapore

Because of work and other life commitments, we decided to stay in Singapore this year for Christmas. This made it Jay’s third Christmas that he didn’t spend in Australia. This was a big deal, because it means it’s just the 3 of us spending the day together. Although this year, one of his cousins from Jakarta was staying with us, and even though he’s in his twenties, it still gave Jay someone else to play with.

Of course, in Australia we usually just spend Christmas day with my parents and my brother, so there’s no other kids for him to play with there either. But we do usually see some of my cousins while we’re there, and Jay gets to play with their kids.

Anyway, back to our Christmas in Singapore. It’s a completely different experience to what we have in western countries. Sure, they have some decorations up and you get sales and things, but I don’t remember ever seeing a Santa here. If they do have Santas here, it’s definitely not like Australia where you have one in every mall. In a lot of ways, you could live here all through December and not realise it’s Christmas at all.

We went grocery shopping on Christmas eve and it felt no different than any other time of the year, there wasn’t even any Christmas music playing. Just the regular sounds and goings on of a regular shopping day. Okay, there were crowds everywhere, but that’s normal for Singapore anyway. When we’re in Australia, my parents always complain about the crowds, but for us the malls there always seem empty in comparison to what we get here.

Christmas morning even seemed to lack the excitement and anticipation of our normal Christmas mornings. Jay woke up and went to play is games like any other day. We did have a special breakfast of ham and eggs, like we normally have in Australia. After that we did the presents, which did get Jay excited and he tore his apart and started playing with all his new stuff, including a microscope that fascinates him. I wonder if he’s going to grow up to be a scientist.

For lunch we had roast pork and salads. Remember that we live on the equator, a white Christmas here would mean the end of the world, so we have salads for lunch like we would’ve in Australia.

Over the course of the afternoon Jay played with his new toys, and I’m pretty sure he finished at least of of the new books he got from my parents. The rest of us just spent the time relaxing and not doing very much at all. Okay, that’s about the same as what we’d do in Australia, but we don’t have a pool at home here to do it around.

Since we’d been stuffing our faces almost constantly during the day, we had a relatively light dinner of ribs and some other stuff that was on my plate. And that was about it for our Christmas in Singapore. Nothing really special, but we spent the day together as a family and that’s what’s really important.

Christmas In Australia

Since we got married, SO and I had only had a couple of Christmases in Australia. But after Jay came along, we decided to try to go there as much as possible. This year is only the third time that we haven’t gone back since he was born. The first time I’ve already written about. The second was the year my brother got married in Canada and we spent a month there with him and his new wife earlier in the year and didn’t want to take more time off work. This year we were just too busy to take time off and travel. This post though, is about times we did go there.

As Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s summer for Christmas, so we don’t have white Christmases. Rather, we spend the time around the pool, swimming and having barbecues. Santa comes on Christmas Eve, but leaves our presents at the foot of our beds instead of in stockings over a fire place. Most of us don’t have fireplaces anyway.

One year I remember, we were all up and getting breakfast ready when my father asked Jay if he wanted to open his presents before we ate. Jay’s response was classic, waving his arms he said “No no no no”, and insisted we wait and eat first. He’s not as patient anymore, but it’s a story that we tease him about almost every year and we manage to eat most years before he runs off to demolish the presents.

Talking about opening presents, it’s interesting to compare cultures. SO’s family, who are Indonesian and ethnically Chinese (making a mix of 2 different cultures there), don’t celebrate with Christmas trees or the exchange of presents. Instead they go to church and have a religious celebration there. At least some of her family does, the rest will spend the day relaxing and spending time with family.

Last year thougn we had a bit of culture shock when my brother brought his daughter, Canadian wife and stepdaughter for their first Christmas In Australia. Okay, being a western country, the traditions are much the same. But Australia has much better weather. The big difference is apparently how we open presents, although I’m not sure if it is just their family or Canadians in general.

So picture this, we were all seated in the living room passing out presents, and Jay, being the youngest and most excited. He helped hand out the presents to everyone, and then sat down to destroy, I mean unwrap, his presents. He tore into them as any 7 year-old would, and a look of shock appeared on the faces of the 2 Canadians. Apparently, when they unwrap their presents, even as kids, they do it with precision and decorum that we savages are unfamiliar with. Each present, we were told, has an explanation and after they delicately unwrap it, they wait to hear the reason they were given that specific gift. They did that for the gifts they gave us, which I did like and made the gifts meaningful.

Our gifts, on the other hand, were chosen because it’s something our asked for, something you need or something we thought you’d like. No explanations given, you have to work that out on your own.

Before I finish, I have one more little anecdote to share. When Jay was about 3 or 4, he was helping my father cleaning around the pool. As they were manoeuvering around, Jay slipped and tumbled into the pool, kersplash. My father casually reached down and grabbed his arm, pulling him out. Wiping the water off his face, Jay looked up and said “That wasn’t supposed to happen!”

Jay’s First Christmas

Since it’s almost Christmas, I’ve been thinking of the past and specifically of Jay’s first Christmas. Since he was born in the first half of November, he was only around 6 weeks old when Christmas arrived that year. Also, since he was adopted, we had spent most of that time finalising the adoption and organising his trip to Singapore to join us here.

As it turned out, his adoption was finalised about a week before Christmas Day, but then we also had to get him a passport so that he could actually travel. Because of work, this task fell to SO, while I stayed in Singapore.  SO went to Jakarta, where Jay was being looked after by her family, and went to work getting all the paperwork organised and applying for his passport. By some miracle, and SO’s extraordinary powers of manipulation, I mean hard work, she’s not manipulative at all, she managed to get the passport on Christmas Eve.

Now as you can imagine, getting a flight out on Christmas Eve or Day is basically impossible. As a result, I ended up spending Christmas Day alone in Singapore, while they spent the day with family in Jakarta. To be honest, it wasn’t the worst Christmas. As I’m an introvert, I enjoy time alone, and this was probably the last day I could really do that.

The following day, what a lot of us call boxing day, brought a boatload of people to Singapore. First, my parents and youngest brother arrived. They’d been planning to come since before we knew about Jay. And later in the afternoon, Jay and SO arrived.

It was perfect timing, he arrived only a few hours after my parents, and they got to meet their new grandson as soon as he arrived here. They didn’t get to do as much sightseeing as they had planned, but they did have a good time getting to know Jay, and showing us how to do things right in looking after a baby.

I did get in trouble at one stage though for feeding Jay some mango, but I don’t know what was wrong with that. He loved it, and it’s still one of his favourite fruits.

Jay’s Trip To Legoland Part 2

In last week’s article I started to talk about our trip to Legoland Malaysia, if you haven’t read it yet you can check it out here.

When I left off we had just headed down to dinner. There’s not much to say about it other than it was a buffet, which is something Jay always likes. The food was okay, but not as good as you would expect from an expensive hotel, particularly the western dishes. The Asian dishes were better, which is common in Asia with the western dishes never as good as what we get back home, unless you’re really willing to pay for it.

Back in our room, there was a puzzle to solve to open a safe. They have a list of questions Jay had to find the answers to, such as how many scorpions there were in the carpet, numbers on the wall etc. Once he’d answered them all he had the combination to open the safe. He didn’t manage to quite get them all right by bedtime, so he had to continue in the morning. He did manage to get them all before breakfast and upon opening the safe, he was rewarded with a few Lego souvenirs. It was a nice treat the hotel gives to child visitors and he has brought them home and treasures them as a memento of his visit.

After breakfast, we headed off to the theme park. They have a type of passport that you can get stamped when you go on the rides. If you get all the stamps, you can enter into a competition to win a stay at the hotel. Over the course of the day, we managed to go on all the rides and get all the stamps needed, even all 3 roller coasters, the largest of which he had balked at on our previous visit. He did chicken out at the last minute the first time we lined up for it, but after seeing me go alone and telling him it was the best roller coaster there, he did go on it. It’s now his favourite ride and we ended up going on it a half dozen times.

Like the previous day, whilst there were quite a lot of people around, we hardly ever had to wait in queues to get on the rides. This was good as it meant we could easily do all the rides multiple times and easily completed the passport.

Another of our favourites was the 3D movies, which we managed to see 2 showings of. We ended up seeing the same movie twice, but the first time was in English and second time in Chinese. Jay and SO can both speak some Chinese so they understood most of the dialog, but I didn’t understand a word. I guess it was okay though, I remembered enough from the first viewing so that I knew what was happening, but if I hadn’t I would’ve been completely lost.

Jay managed to get his licence from the driving ride this time, which he had failed to do last visit because of the crowds there, and he was proud as punch to get it. We even went on the log ride, which was fun but left us all drenched. The passport we had was soaked though and we had to get a new one. Fortunately that had been earlier in the day, so we easily replaced the stamps we’d already gotten.

Two of Jay’s favourite rides involved shooting, the brand new Ninjago ride, which was one of the few where we had to wait to get on. And the other was the Lost Kingdom Adventure Ride, which we did a couple of times. I think Jay would’ve like to go on the Ninjago ride again, but he was put off by the line. It didn’t matter though, we spent the whole day going from one thing to another and enjoyed everything.

I think this is one of the good things about going to these places with a child, you get to enjoy these things through a kid’s eyes, and it brings enjoyment to things that as adults we are no longer interested in.

Overall, we had a great couple of days there and we all have memories that will last us a lifetime. I’m not sure how much longer he’ll be interested in Legoland. This may be our last visit there, but I hope he’s going to stay young for a few more years. I can see though, that sooner or later he’ll want to go to the bigger parks made for teenagers and adults. I do look forward to taking him to those, but at the same time I want to keep him young for just a bit longer.

Jay’s Trip To Legoland – The Extra Birthday Present

Jay’s school holidays started a few weeks ago and as an extra birthday present we decided to take him to Legoland just over the border in Malaysia. For those who don’t know Singapore, it has their long summer (it’s always summer here) holidays in November and December, 6 weeks of no school, and return to classes at the beginning of January. We’d taken him there earlier in the year on a one day trip, but this time we decided to spend the night at the Legoland Hotel and spend one day at the theme park and the other at the water park.

To get there we took an early 8am bus that took us straight to the park, after stopping at the Singapore and Malaysia checkpoints where we had to disembark to go through immigration. You know it’s funny, Jay has been through the immigration process so many times (somewhere between 40 and 50 times in his 8 years) that it’s something of a second nature to him now. It does make me wonder how many other kids out there his age have had the travel experience that he has.

Anyway, after we got there and checked into the hotel we ran into our first obstacle. In the lobby are areas filled with Lego blocks for the guests to play with, and Jay decided to wanted to play with them instead of going to the water park as we had planned. After a little encouragement though we ended up getting changed and headed off to the water park.

The parks are designed, I believe, for smaller children up to about 12 years of age, with smaller versions of the water slides that you find in the larger water parks. Surprisingly though we found a lot of teenagers present, which my wife, SO, explained were probably there because they didn’t have the more traditional water parks that we find in other countries. It was quite surprising to me to see how excited these teenagers were for rides that were obviously designed for much smaller children. Even the smallest slides that I would say are most appropriate for 5 or 6 year olds.

That day also gave us the opportunity, painful as it was, for Jay to learn about the sun and how my skin is different to his. If you guessed I got sunburnt, you’d be right. Even after applying sunscreen several times during the day, I still ended up with a nice reddish colouring, and on the back of my shoulders I must have missed a spot, because they were quite painful for several days afterward. The good thing though is that Jay got to see the effects of sun on our skin, and even though he has darker skin than me and tends to go darker rather than burn, I believe he has learnt a valuable lesson about what can happen when you spend to much time in the sun.

We had a nice lunch there, but I didn’t feel the food was as good as the theme park foods I’ve had in Australia and the U.S.. Or maybe it was just that I was a lot younger then and the food just tasted better because I was having so much fun.

At one stage Jay had a nose bleed, nothing major but SO thought it best to take him to the first aid post. I would’ve just grabbed a couple of napkins and waited for it to stop, but I was grateful to step into the air conditioning and get away from the heat for a while. After a few minutes he was okay and off we went again to plummet down more slides. Jay definitely knows what he likes and we kept returning to the ones he enjoyed the most.

Unlike most water parks I’ve been to, the Legoland park was quite empty, or maybe we just got lucky. Oh, there were a lot of people there and even a couple of largish school groups, but nothing like I’ve seen at the water parks in Australia. So most of the time there were little to no queues at the slides, and we managed to go on some of them between 20 and 30 times.

Overall we had a great time that day, mostly because I got to experience the fun through my son’s eyes. After we got back to the hotel, we showered and got changed and headed down to dinner…

To Be Continued…

Jay’s First Birthday

1st-birthday-cakeA few weeks ago I wrote about Jay’s 8th birthday and how he had a small party with only his best friend. And being an expat family that’s how most of his birthdays are spent, with SO, my wife, and I, and maybe one or two of his friends to help celebrate.

You see, the problem is, my parents and one brother are back in Australia, and my other brother and his family are in Canada. SO’s family, on the other hand, are all in Indonesia, Jakarta to be exact. Which creates the peoblem that we have to travel internationally to celebrate events with family. So as a result we tend to celebrate our birthdays a long way from our families. Except for Jay’s first couple of birthdays anyway. Christmas and Chinese New Year (SO is ethnically Chinese) are other times that we try to travel to see family, but I’ll write about them elsewhere.

Jay’s first birthday was a special event and so we decided to take him back to Jakarta to celebrate with family there and so he could begin spending time with his cousins (he has ten of them in Jakarta).

As a little background, SO comes from a big family and has 3 older sisters and 3 older brothers. And when we adopted Jay, we couldn’t take him out of Indonesia until all the paper work had been finalised, so he stayed with SO’s second oldest sister for a month until we could bring him home.

This is an important point, because part of our reasoning for taking him to Jakarta for his first birthday was so that she could spend that milestone with him. And we stayed with her family for that trip.

We all had a good time during that stay, although how much a 1 year od could remember it is questionable, but we do talk about it so he knows what happened even if he doesn’t really remember it.

It was an important occasion for all the family to. They got him a special cake and the whole family, about 25 people in all, went out for a special dinner together. The dinner was at a karaoke restaurant and we all embarrassed ourselves by singing. Even I went up and sang a couple of Indonesian pop songs while holding Jay. He was my shield and I felt protected holding him. And if you knew me, you’d know what a huge deal it was for me to sing in front of people, even if they are family.

It really was a great time and showed Jay’s acceptance into the family. It was also when he started to bond and form relationships with his cousins, and even though we’re a thousand miles away from them he’s very close with several of them and he always looks forward to seeing them when we visit or when they come to visit us.

Why A 3 Year Old Shouldn’t Clean An Ipad

ipadA little over 4 years ago, my 3 year old son, Jay, decided he needed to clean our iPad 1. And if it hadn’t been for the fact that he was so cute and adorable, and my wife holding me back, he may not have seen 4.

So how did we get to that point? I bought the iPad about 2 years earlier because I could see how much it would help me with my work and I could become much more productive. Okay, okay, the truth is I had spent some time playing on one with my wife’s nieces and nephews and I wanted to play the games at home by myself.

At first I did take it to work and tried to use it as another tool to help me with my work, but I just didn’t have the knowledge to know how to use it properly for that then. Over time that has changed and I now use my iPad Air 2 much more effectively, but back then it was basically just another toy.

The best thing we found was that there were a lot of apps and games that we could get Jay to use to help him learn, whether it be counting and math, or the alphabet and spelling. So I started leaving the iPad at home so he could play on it when we weren’t around and he was in the care of our maid.

We had given him strict instructions on keeping it safe and clean so it didn’t get damaged. In hindsight, we should have also told him how to properly clean it, but that he should leave the cleaning to Mummy or Daddy. Unfortunately we did not, and we ended up paying for it quite literally.

So on the fateful day that he decided to clean it, my wife got a call from our panicked maid telling her what happened, who then called to tell me. You know it’s not good news when the first thing your wife says is “Don’t get too mad”.

What happened? I hear you ask (or am I hallucinating again?). Jay had apparently been using the iPad with dirty fingers, he was only 3 at the time and I’m pretty sure 3 year olds attract dirt like a magnet, and he decided he needed to clean the iPad. I can’t really get that mad at him (now) for thinking like that, we had told him to keep it clean, we just hadn’t told him not to clean it himself.

So he took it to the sink and, you guessed it, he washed the iPad. Washing with water is the best way to get things clean, right? After all that’s how we clean Jay, and clothes, and dishes. So for a 3 year old little boy, it’s the most logical thing he could do.

Luckily the maid was nearby and stopped him before it got too wet. But the damage had been done. The iPad was water damaged. We did what the websites all say, we dried it, we put it in rice (which rarely if ever works by the way) and waited a few days before we tried to turn it back on again. It was dead, wouldn’t turn on, wouldn’t respond in any way no matter what we tried.

Apple wasn’t any help, we could buy a refurbished one from them but that’s all they offered. Luckily we saw another shop after we visited Apple and went in to see if they could do anything. And wouldn’t you know it, they said they should be able to get it working again. $100 later and we had it back in working condition. Sure, the volume controls have never worked again, but other than that we haven’t had any other problems with it over the past 4 years. Yes, we do still have it and it works just as well now as when it was first repaired.

As for Jay, he now knows the proper way to clean electronics, and how much damage a little water can do to them. He still gets the iPad dirty with his magnetic fingers, but at least when it needs cleaning he’ll get SO or I to clean it.

Jay’s 8th Birthday

birthday-cakeSo Jay’s turned 8. Which seems strange to say because he’s exactly the same as he was when he was 7. Okay, he’s changed a lot in the last few years. How could he not? He’s getting bigger and learning more and maturing. But on a daily basis, we don’t really notice those changes. It’s only when we look at how our kids are different than they were a year or two earlier that we really notice how they’ve changed and grown.

Not that that is what I’m writing about today, but it seemed the right way to start. What I am going to write about is Jay’s birthday. And more specifically, how we celebrated it.

He decided he didn’t want to invite a lot of friends for a party, just his 1 best friend (who we’ll refer to as R for simplicity sake). As his birthday fell on a Monday, which was a school day, we (as a family) decided to have his friend over on the Saturday before. Since they both have lessons on Saturday morning, the boys and their Mummies (that’s the English English spelling I’m using cause that’s how we always spell it) met after their classes at a nearby mall and came home together.

Once they got home, the ladies set up camp in the kitchen, and I got locked in the bedroom (not literally but Jay did tell me to go in there and not come out) and the boys proceeded to demolish the house. Or at least did there best. Fortunately the walls were stronger than them, but not by much.

For afternoon tea, they had Indonesian fried bananas, and Jay delivered a plate of them to me in the bedroom (he seriously didn’t want me to come out). I’m going to mention the other foods they had here because if I don’t I won’t be able to concentrate on anything else until I do. As well as the fried banana, we also had a banana cake that Jay made the night before, which stood in for his birthday cake. They made pizzas for dinner, completely from scratch (meaning they actually made the dough and everything), which is one of Jay’s favourite things to do. Jay likes pepperoni and R likes Hawaiian, so they made one of each, which turned out to be more than enough for the 5 of us. For dessert they made a massive chocolate chip cookie. It was from a packet and supposed to make a dozen or more smaller cookies, but someone (aka SO) decided having one big cookie would be better. It didn’t turn out the best, but it still tasted good, and we had it with ice cream.

Okay, enough about the food, although I am strangely hungry now. And yes, that was all the food we had. There were no sweets/lollies/candies, whatever you want to call them. Jay didn’t want them and Asians don’t seem to do that as much as us Westerners do. Or maybe that’s just my wife and her family. Either was Jay isn’t a big sweet eater anyway, so he wouldn’t have enjoyed any more sweet stuff, and I would’ve been the one to eat it in the end.

Anyway, the rest of the time Jay and R spent running around playing games, playing with the PS4. And one of SO’s nieces is staying with us, so she got stuck playing hide and seek with them for an hour or so. I don’t think she’s read the article I wrote about playing hide and seek with Jay.

And that was it for his big 8th birthday party, but we couldn’t do nothing on the actual day. So we secretly ordered KFC for Monday dinner, and actually had it delivered and sneaked it onto the table without him even noticing. Which was a feat in itself since he was sitting on the couch playing his new PS4 game (one of his presents) with me. which is right in front of the door, and he was well aware when the door bell rang. I’m still not sure how SO got the food past him without him seeing.

For dessert we had Kueh Lapis Sagu as can be seen here, which is an Indonesian cake and one of Jay’s favourites. Unfortunately the Kueh Lapis I like is this one, but it was Jay’s day so we had what he likes.

The important part is that Jay had a good time, and I’m pretty sure we made it special for him.