Welcome to the family!

*Phew* It’s been a really hectic 2 weeks ever since I last posted something.

On 9 January, we welcomed a new addition to the family with the birth of our second daughter, Gabrielle. She came out on a Sunday at 4:25pm, weighing 3.0kg exactly. The photo below was taken about 20 mins after she came out:

My mother brought Gloria to visit us at the hospital the next day and she was really excited to meet her new sister at last! The picture below says it all :)

Since then, it’s been a sleepless week for my wife and I as Gabrielle is more active in the wee hours! She sleeps for long periods during the day and is very active after midnight.. why oh why..

Gabrielle looks just like her elder sister Gloria when she sleeps. But when her eyes are open, they are larger than Gloria’s. Gabrielle has more hair at birth too.

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Ashamed..

My family and I were settling down at a coffeeshop for breakfast this morning, when an elderly woman about 60 years old carrying a large plastic bag approached us.

She asked if we would like to buy some tissue paper from her, at $1 for a pack of 6. I turned to my wife and asked if she needed any. She said no as we already had quite a few in our bag, so I turned back to the woman and declined. Instead of going away, the woman went into a “pity me” mode by saying something like (she spoke in Mandarin) it’s just a dollar and she’s an elderly person, implying why can’t we just help her by buying. And she just stood there… so we relented, hoping that she would quickly move on and leave us alone.

She thanked us profusely and moved on to the next table. I was a little put off by her earlier antics so I just ignored her. After I was done eating, I led Gloria away to play so that my wife could finish her breakfast. While on Gloria’s heels as she was running back past the cafe, I took notice of two youths having their morning coffee just a few tables from ours. They were really uncouth and their conversation was laced with Hokkien swear words. By then, the old lady had reached their table. Given their behaviour and mannerisms, I was expecting the old lady to be shouted at or shooed away.

To my surprise, the youths obliged without even saying a word!

That really put me to shame… Being a graduate, PR person and soon to be father of two… I should have been more gracious towards her!

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Gloria’s new toothbrushes

I leave it to my wife to buy all our daughter’s stuff. Everything from hair accessories to shoes.

My wife had started brushing Gloria’s teeth ever since she had about 4 of them. She started with those standard soft rubber finger toothbrushes and Gloria enjoyed every moment of having her teeth brushed by her mom. And it was only recently when I noticed a new addition to the bathroom wall. A toothbrush holder for a set of new toothbrushes! But how quaint they looked. At first glance, they don’t really look like toothbrushes at all:

I thought they looked pretty much like a pair of medieval weapons, if you’ve watched those movies before. Especially the one on the left. Compare it with the spiked club below:

Anyhow, Gloria just loves these new brushes all the same! She would walk herself right up to the entrance of the bathroom, look up at where the brushes are, and point to them while saying “Uh!”. And one is not enough for her. She will only walk away satisfied after you hand her both brushes and she’d put them into her mouth and starts chewing on them…ugh…

There’s actually 3 in the set (no idea where our third one ended up), and it comes with a safety shield that attaches to the shaft to prevent choking when your child handles them on his/her own. They’re made by Pigeon, a Japanese manufacturer of baby and mother care products since 1957. Click here to view more details on these brushes on their official website. Each of the brushes are meant to be introduced at a different stage in your child’s growth. Gloria should be using the one that looks like a spiked hammer now, and the other one that looks like a spiked club now ends up like just another of her teethers.

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Cat poo coffee anyone?

You are looking at probably the most expensive coffee bean in the world. And it’s sitting on my desk at work! I got it from the guest speaker at a recent weekly staff devotion who handed these out to help illustrate his key message. He said that these were the cheapest he managed to find and it cost him US$10 for 100g packed in a really nice tin. Really good deal because they are widely known to go for at least US$100 per pound (approx US$22 for 100g). And after doing my own research, I found that a cup of coffee made out of these beans goes for about S$30 at a cafe in town.

Coffee made out of these beans are called Kopi Luwak or Civet Coffee. The beans come from coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet. These Civets are unable to digest these beans, which are eventually passed through their digestive tract after remaining in the animal’s stomach for a couple of days. The beans are extracted from the Civet’s poo, washed thoroughly, sun-dried and roasted lightly before they are packed for distribution.

I have not tasted the coffee before, but reviews and articles say that it is smooth, chocolaty and without the typical bitter taste of coffee.

For more information on how Kopi Luwak is made, you can read the two articles below:

Wikipedia – Kopi Luwak

NY Times – From dung to coffee brew with no aftertaste

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Not quite the typical modern dad and mum?

Being a new dad for a little over a year, I’ve come to realise something really interesting.

At the back of our minds, we have this image of how modern mums and dads are generally like. Their demeanor, parenting styles etc.. Of course, our own experience with our parents’ styles of bringing us up do have a certain degree of influence on these mental images. But somehow there’s always this standard image of modern mums and dads that we conjure up in our minds.  Especially with regards to parenting styles. You know, like how most modern dads would generally have an “anything goes” attitude as long as the safety of their child isn’t compromised. Most modern dads would get into the thick of the action while playing with the kids. Most modern dads wouldn’t think twice about feeding their cute little tots some candy or fast food once in a while (usually when mom isn’t looking). 

In contrast, most modern mums are generally more (over) protective of their kids, they tend to get more worked up than the dads when they find that little scratch on their child’s arm. When it comes to play, most modern mums are content to watch lovingly by the sidelines while the kids run wild with dad. And with all their knowledge of a healthy diet for their kids, candies, chocolates and fast food are all forbidden until “they are older”.

In a nutshell, most modern dads are thought to be the fun ones while most modern mums are the strict and “by the book” ones.

With the above in mind, what I discovered was that my parenting style is more like a modern mum while my wife’s is more like a modern dad! It’s been going on for a while already, but let me share an example that illustrates this phenomenon pretty well. This happened just today!

Scenario: At the local zoo where we stumble upon this new aqua-play area.
We were totally not prepared for it. Almost all the kids playing in this area came prepared by their parents and were running around in their swimsuits or cute lil’bikinis.

Wife: Hey look what they got there! Gloria’s gonna love it! Let’s take her in! 

Me: No way, we’re not prepared for this and she will get all her clothes wet. Let’s not try any stunts today shall we.

Wife: Hey, we didn’t just come all the way to the zoo to walk around and look at animals. We came here to have fun! So let’s have it! We can just take off her clothes and let her play naked.

Me: Uh, we’re in a public place and she’s a girl??

Wife: Aiyo, she’s just a baby, it’s OK.

After a brief argument, an excited little Gloria was led by the hand into the area by her mum while dad was more content to stay dry by standing guard over all the belongings and footwear by the side – and taking photos.

*chuckles*

By the way, Gloria had to go around totally naked once her diaper became too heavy with all the water that she was soaking up! We were really impressed with how absorbant the diaper was! Mamy-Poko brand.

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Prelude to the big lockdown

I never imagined it had to come to this someday.

Somehow, I was always trying to convince myself that my kid was different from her peers. That she could heed our verbal instructions and our discipline with absolute obedience. Afterall, my wife and I had observed and were always proud of the fact that Gloria never really had that lost or “blur” baby look ever since she was born. She was always focused and had that intelligent look.

But… kids are kids!  Like most of the other toddlers her age, Gloria does not seem to take “no” very seriously and deliberately attempts to touch stuff and venture into areas in the house on her own that she knows we firmly disapprove of.

She loves to go into the kitchen, one of the highest risk areas in the house. Through pure observation, she has learnt how to open the drawers. And these drawers hold many items that are extremely dangerous for her in her hands: knives, picks, can openers, fire starters etc..

So for her safety and given the fact that she’s such an active kid, we decided to invest in a set of child locks and child safety devices. This is something I always frowned upon as we are currently living with my folks while waiting for our home to be built. And we will only be here for at most another year before we move out to our own place. So that means an all new safety setup would be needed by then. Double work, double cost. Not good. Ah well, for Gloria’s sake (and Gabrielle’s too, when she arrives in January), this is something that cannot be avoided.

So I went about the house to make a note of all the areas that had to be made child-safe:

The toilet

1. The toilet seat! Gloria can easily lift the cover, put her hands into the water and splash it around… Yucks!!

The dining area

2. Corners of the dining table. We have a solid glass top and the corners are really sharp. Gloria may just run into them unawares while chasing a toy that went under the table..

The kitchen

3. The drawers below the built in oven. These are really low and Gloria can reach them easily. They hold all the kitchen tools that have sharp ends.

4. The cabinets below the stove. With the big handles, Gloria can open these easily too. We keep various glassware here and she has already smashed one!

5. The cabinets below the kitchen sink. They have the same big handles, and here is where you will find all things toxic. Detergents, thinner, bleaches, washing powder etc..

That’s about it for the initial survey. I will also need to figure out how to put all the power cables out of the kids’ reach.. We have so many lying around, especially where the television sits. Gloria can already walk right up to it and push the buttons. The cables are just behind.

Meanwhile, my wife is doing the sourcing for the child locks and safety devices. I’ll be going through them once she sends me the link.

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Auto mode

I was just reading the latest blog post by a picture editor of one of our local papers (here). He was talking about how many people are equipped with very good digital cameras these days but the true benefits of the equipment can’t shine because most users do not fully understand how to operate it. He concludes by saying that, ”To get the most out of your camera, from its simple operation to its special features, simply read the instructions that came with the camera.”

Yup, most non-photographer folks I know who own digital cameras would just leave the camera on auto mode for almost all situations! Despite the fact that the camera comes with a lot of cool features that would help the user get a better result, only if the right buttons are pressed. 

I’m not talking about cameras or photography here though. While I was reading the post, somehow it struck me that it’s quite applicable to us new dads! Correct me if I’m wrong, but once our wives discover they are pregnant with our first child, they start scouring for information everywhere – books, magazines, internet forums, google etc.. on how to be a great mom :) They read their manuals!

How about us men who become new dads? I’d like to believe that all of us are good guys who have a lot of great stuff packed in us. That’s why our wives married us right? There is no shortage of reading material for us too. But how many of us guys do bother reading up? So majority of us tend to go around in our “auto mode” most of the time. Like the auto mode on a digital camera, we rely on our sensors to make quick sense of a situation and react accordingly with our most basic, default capabilities. I’m guilty of it myself too. I wish I can do more, but I wonder if it’s because we have to juggle a lot more issues as the heads of our households, leaving us very little time to explore ourselves, “read the instructions” and “trigger our bonus features”? Let’s see…on any typical day, we are:

1. The PR department – We have to manage the delicate relations between our wives and mothers, our parents and our wives’ parents. Have you watched Meet The Parents and Meet The Fockers? And where required, handle complaints and crisis communications!

2. The Sales department – We bring in the $

3. The HR department - We have to see to the healthy development of our family members and to keep them happy in the family. Organise family outings etc..

4. The Finance department – We have to manage all our finances and keep a close eye on the family budget

5. The Building Maintenance department – Think Handyman

6….hmm…there’s more I’m sure!

Anyway, that’s how I usually end up relying on my wife to “push the right buttons” and trigger the best from me! How does she do it? By giving me “the look”, “the stare” or just plain nagging!

Cheers :)

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