Category Archives: Parenting

‘Big Brother’ Training

Andrew: We’ve taken another long break from blogging – well, because we’ve been busy managing both kids. We’re homebound currently as Dylan is recovering from HFMD and Emmy’s sort of mid-way through, hence what better time to start blogging again!

We’d like to share more about how we’ve been helping Dylan grow into his role as an elder brother and take care of little Emmy. I’ve never thought that there was much that could be done, given that he’s still so young and largely dependent on us for most of his needs. However, I’m surprised at how he has stepped up and impressed us on many occasions with his sweet, brotherly behavior! Here are some ways which we have involved him more as a big brother…

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“Is this the ‘off’ button for her crying?” (Obviously things don’t always work out well from the start…)

1. Small care-giving tasks

Andrew: while he might not be able to do things like carry Meimei or change her diapers, we’ve involved him in as many ways as he can.

One simple way is in getting his help to get tissue paper for us to wipe Meimei’s spit-up or drool. We did this not only by giving him instructions on what to do, but also sharing with him the context and the effect of what he did. For example, we would say, “Oh, Dilly, Meimei is crying now and she’s spit up her milk. What should you do?” Initially, he’d look a little lost, so we’ll tell him to take tissue paper to pass it to us, which we would use to clean Meimei. He gradually realises what’s going on and now, he will not only pass the tissue to us, but even take the tissue to clean Meimei’s spit-up on his own.

There was once he didn’t even need any prompting from us. I recall I was carrying Emmy and then Dilly came by and looked at her. He then walked towards the tissue box and started pulling out pieces of tissue, which I didn’t think much of as he usually does that as part of his play. He then walked towards me and cleaned up Emmy’s spit-up! It surprised me because I hadn’t even noticed it myself. Little kids really impress you with the things they learn.

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There are other small tasks we involve him in to varying degrees of success, like helping to rock Meimei in the bouncer (which sometimes ends up making her cry even more when he gets too excited), carrying Meimei when she cries (yes, we do put her in his arms occasionally and he does try to rock her), hugging/kissing Meimei when she cries and even feeding milk!

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Jasmine: Don’t be fooled by the pictures. Emmy is still as determined as ever to refuse the bottle, spoon, teat etc. Haha.

2. Prayer time!

Andrew: We’ve shared previously about our family devotional time and how we put Dylan to bed. Well, he’s progressed leaps and bounds since then and now is able to lay his hands on people as we pray (thanks to Grandma for teaching him that!). It’s quite cute to see him as he closes his eyes very earnestly and has now even learnt to say ‘Amen’ (sounds more like ‘Amah’ for now) whenever we close the prayer in Jesus’s name.

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We let him be the ‘big brother’ to lead, by letting him do the laying on of hands while we pray and we also let him decide who’s next in line for prayer. If Emmy is not in the room, he’ll always stand up and stretch his hand towards the door to pray for her. It’s really quite sweet!

3. Taking turns

Jasmine: Sometimes we have to attend to Emmy or hey, even our own selves, so we ask Dylan to wait. For toys, instead of sharing, which is abit abstract (and to the child, “sharing” is equivalent to losing the toy) and applies more in the context of food, we ask him to wait for his turn.

4. Care-giving through play

Andrew: Well, trust Jasmine to find toys on Amazon that will help older siblings learn care-giving. (Jasmine: Actually I just bought them coz they were cute.) I believe these toys are actually more to cultivate the heart of care-giving, rather than actually teaching them practically how to care for the kids, given that it’s not quite possible for Dylan to actually do these things for Emmy yet.

Jasmine: There has been much research about the importance of doll play in helping children make sense of their world in a miniature way, so we bought him a Manhattan Toy Sweetpea Snuggle Pod (aka his beloved “baebee”). I also have a spare Snuggle Pod (with bunny ears) for Emmy but am hiding that from Dylan for now.

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Jasmine: Dylan actually showed zero interest in Sweetpea for months, so she went on vacation at Grandma’s house, when one day Dylan re-discovered her in a box and has played/ napped with “baebee” everyday since.

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Jasmine: I also bought a doll sling and matching cloth diapers from Etsy to extend the doll play.

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Only one problem… Sweetpea doesn’t have legs.

Of course, any shawl will do, but this sling has special plastic rings that snap off for safety reasons.

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And here is a pic of the original ring sling, the one I used to carry both Emmy and Dylan from birth- and still do now for quick errands!

 

photo(37) Slinging Emmy at four days old

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Andrew: Dilly really enjoys slinging Sweetea… just this morning he asked to sling her again, then walked around patting it/her(?).

Jasmine: And nobody taught Dylan, but he will rock, pat and shush the baby when he slings her! I think he learnt that by watching us carry Emmy!

Andrew: Lately, Ee Ee also bought him a little baby doll bathing set, which is his current favourite toy! (Jasmine: I let Dylan choose an old face towel to serve as rubber baby’s bath towel.)

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Jasmine: Dylan likes to soap up rubber baby…

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Then towel her dry…

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But he’s found a new use for the shower hose…

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As a nasal aspirator! Yes, Dylan still remembers those traumatic times of flu when we had to aspirate his and Emmy’s nose. When he saw the shower hose, he immmediately said “suck nose” and put the purple tube to rubber baby’s nose. Oh dear, why does he look so gleeful…

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Jasmine: Just to end off by assuring mums of boys that doll play will not make boys effeminate, but rather let them experience what it’s like to be caring and nurturing- traits which mass media ironically seems to stamp out of boys. We did not force Dylan to play with dolls but waited for him to be interested. On the other hand, he is still like any other little boy who loves cranes and trucks and running around.

Andrew: It’s our hope that both Dylan and Emmy will grow up to be close siblings and best friends in future.

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Emmeline’s Birth Story

Andrew: We wanted to combine this entry with the post on Gleneagles Staycation, but the post became too long and difficult to write coherently, hence we separated it. This was logical too, given that the birth story deserves a post on its own!

The labour process took a while as we waited gradually for Dear to enter into active labour. Gynea checked in a few times and we both had time to slip in a few naps here and there and watch some TV too. I will never forget that we were watching Wheel of Fortune before Emmy arrived, commenting how the puzzles were so ‘Americanized’ and also on how Pat Sajak and Vanna White never seemed to age. LOL. Soon enough, Dear entered active labour and the ‘pushing’ process began. With 4 hard and long pushes, Emmy arrived! It was surreal how fast the whole process was. Must have been all the naps that helped Dear gain all the strength to push – or perhaps the motivation that the nurses gave that she will get a diamond after pushing. *shudder*

Jasmine: I don’t ask for much, just the Dior Bagatelle ring:D

Personally, comparing Dylan’s birth and Emmeline’s birth, I no doubt prefer the experience of birthing Dylan. I felt very much more in control as I was able to stay at home and eat, shower and rest during the early stage of labour, going into hospital only when my contractions were five minutes apart and ready to enter active labour, which was why our whole experience in the birthing suite for Dylan took two hours from the point of entry to the delivery.

However, with Emmeline, we checked in and spent almost nine hours in early and active labour. The experience was quite immobilising as I was on epidural and could not walk but had to remain on my back- this is actually quite contrary to the natural rhythms of labour, where you can walk to relieve labour pains and rest when you need to. However, the good thing was that it was a natural birth that didn’t need further assistance- when the contractions started coming hard and fast (like every minute), the pushing only took twenty minutes and four pushes and our little Russian doll was out!

Andrew: The moment she arrived, our little girl was wrapped up completely, which has thus earned her the nickname of ‘Russian Doll’ or Dolly. She’s so cute!

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Mummy: My first thought was, she’s beautiful! My second thought was, she’s got Andrew’s lips but they look good on her! Pouty. Heh.

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Daddy comforting little girl – trying to examine if she has any moles, like Dilly!

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Emmy taking her first peek at the world, looking even more like a Russian doll!

Emmy @ NICU

Andrew: Emmy had to be put in the NICU for a while, because her breathing was a little ‘grunty’ and there were concerns about whether there was still water in her lungs.

However, it was really nothing to be worried about as our ped told us later that it was more that Emmy couldn’t be kept any longer in the delivery suite, but also couldn’t be moved to the nursery as her breathing hadn’t stabilised, so they put her in the NICU as a ‘lodger’.  Wow, this little girl is really getting the best treatment from birth eh!

Jasmine: With Dylan, we were able to initiate breastfeeding minutes after birth, which was a wonderful experience, as he was quiet and alert, and it made for a lovely hour of family bonding time before he had to be taken away and washed.

With Emmy, due to her breathing issues, we weren’t able to initiate breastfeeding for several hours, and she unfortunately had to be put in the NICU. Of course, I was pretty worried when I heard “NICU” and “lung problems”, especially since I was having severe afterbirth pains and couldn’t do much apart from intermittently whatsapp family/ friends to update them on Emmy’s condition, based on whatever I heard from Andrew, who went down to NICU to check on her, or so he said…

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Andrew: I couldn’t stop taking pictures of her and must have spent about 20 – 30 minutes at the NICU, taking photos of her. The nurses must have thought I was a little crazy, especially when I set the timer, so that I could take this shot:

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Well, it was more for Jasmine’s peace of mind as she had asked me to go to NICU to let her know how baby was doing…. so, my photo-craze is perfectly understandable!

Jasmine: I never expected Andrew to take a NICU selfie?! I really have unleashed a trigger-happy man.

Emmy arrives in our room!

Andrew: After her short stay in the NICU, Emmy finally arrived in our room all wrapped up and peaceful.

What a beautiful head of hair and such red, chubby cheeks!

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I had forgotten how delicate and light (!) a newborn was after carrying Dylan for the past few months. This little girl is light as a feather – I can carry her in one hand and she’ll just lie there peacefully and fall asleep, without squirming. Lovely!

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Jasmine: Do not be fooled by these serene little newborn expressions.

It’s only been one week in, but based on her crying alone, we can already tell that her personality is different from Dylan’s. Dylan’s hunger cries were very sad and he could be coaxed to wait for his milk, whereas Emmy is a feisty little thing, who cries so loudly when she is hungry that her double chin just quivers tremulously, making you feel amused and sorry for her at the same time. In that sense we think that Dylan takes after his father’s personality while Emmeline takes after mine. Which is a good thing for a girl… I think. Heh.

Visiting

Andrew: As it was a rather short stay (plus the time spent in the NICU meant Emmy could not have visitors the first day), our visitors were our immediate family members. Of course, we wanted Dylan to visit so we could spend time together as a family and not want him to feel left out. We heard he was really cranky the first day after he came to visit, so we’ll be spending more time with him, so that he won’t feel left out.

Jasmine: What helped was that we prepared a present from his baby sister to him, plus we and my family played with Dylan when they brought him, instead of cooing over Emmeline straightaway, so that Dylan wouldn’t feel neglected. In fact, Andrew and I also tried to fuss over Dilly first whenever he came to visit, instead of holding Emmeline, so that he would get his fair share of attention.

Andrew: Back to the hospital visit, he had lots of fun running around and eating my bread bun!

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Family Photos

Jasmine: Of course, this entry would not be complete without some family pictures!

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Our first full family portrait!

Jasmine: We’ve been teaching Dylan to use “soft touch” on his penguin and Chong Chong bear, in preparation for his meeting his sister for the first time. Here’s Dylan stroking his mei mei! He also loves to dig her ear and peer at her when I’m breastfeeding her. Of course, sometimes he still gets a bit excited and pokes her but I’m sure it’s not intentional. Heh.

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What a loving brother

Shots of our families:

Andrew’s side

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Jasmine’s side

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Andrew: To end off, we’d like to say a big thank you to Jasmine’s mum and siblings for taking care of Dylan while we were in the hospital. We could see that he was well taken care of and had a great time at Skang-rila, once again. Heh. In fact, if we have time, we might do another post of his staycation there.

Jasmine: One last thing, it really is easier the second time around. Though both were natural births, my recovery from Dylan’s birth was much longer and more painful, whereas with Emmeline, I was able to get up and potter around that same night after the epidural wore off (she was born at noon). I can’t say I’d wanna go through childbirth again but I am grateful that baby Emmeline was born safe, sound and healthy!

Hospital Bag for Gleneagles

[Andrew: We wrote this entry earlier this week, not expecting to see baby girl this weekend, hence we can now add some comments retrospectively!]

Jasmine: We are usually advised to pack a hospital bag between 34-36 weeks, but I only just got around to doing it at almost 38 weeks!

We are fairly light packers plus we stayed at Gleneagles for Dylan’s birth, so we know roughly what to bring this time round. Most hospitals have maternity/ newborn packing lists online, so you can check those out to see what you need.

1. Toiletries for Mummy

Jasmine: Gleneagles provides basic shampoo, body soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, so I’m just bringing my skincare along, mostly chosen to deliver maximum moisture since I’ll be spending a few days in air-con.

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If you’ll also allow me to sneak in some quick beauty reviews:

  • Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum: my combi skin turned to dry skin this pregnancy and this serum helps to restore essential balance to the skin- minutes after application, dry patches are smoothed out! The Sulwhasoo website lists 100 ways to use this very versatile serum- I’ve tried it on stretch marks, on the eye area, for aromatherapy and facial massage. You can even use it as an overnight mask, or mixed with your BB cream/ foundation!
  • Hada Labo eye cream: the best and most moisturising eye cream I’ve had for only $22 at Sasa- skin is still plumped and smooth an hour after application
  • Shiseido Ibuki face cream
  • Crabtree & Evelyn Pomegranate hand cream
  • Clarins Huile Tonic travel size
  • Stila cosmetic pouch which I bought from DFS 10 years ago and which goes travelling everywhere I go

2. Maternity clothing and other essentials

Jasmine: Postpartum recovery often involves serious blood loss, to the point of giddiness (for me), so I’m planning to just live in the hospital gowns to avoid loads of messy washing later on. Towels are also provided by the hospital, so I’ve only packed one black dress with nursing access e.g. snaps down the front to go home in.

Other things that you may like to pack include nursing bras, disposable undies (see blood loss point), maternity pads (so much thicker than the overnight sanitary pads, they’re more like mini foam mattresses). Yup, how fun and glamorous right.

Two other noteworthy things that made it to my hospital bag:

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I’m not going to go into detail, but google Medela’s Purelan and you’ll understand. It came in extremely handy the last time for  breastfeeding, and food-grade so that it need not be wiped off every time before baby latches on.

Also, my Belly Bandit from my previous pregnancy, which can be worn immediately after birth for back and tummy support! This is in bamboo fabric, so unlike the original version, it’s comfortable enough to wear to sleep. I remember that my previous time in hospital, I was in alot of pain and ended up clutching my stomach alot just to painfully, gingerly get up from bed. Hopefully this helps!

3. Logistical and electrical necessities

This would include camera, phones, chargers and laptop (for blogging heh). [Andrew: Or updating on Facebook :)]

4. Presents from baby sister to Dylan!

Jasmine: We came across a helpful tip to present the older sibling with gifts from the newborn to help minimise any sibling rivalry. Now that Dylan is in an imitation stage, my gift to Dylan was a doll sling and matching cloth diapers for him to carry or change his bear if he sees me doing the same with his baby sister.

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Andrew’s gift to Dylan is this Melissa & Doug airplane carrier that he scored for just SGD20 at a sale at his workplace!

Andrew: When Dylan first arrived, we passed him his present from his sister and he excitedly started playing with it. Yay! Hopefully that alleviated some of his feelings of sibling rivalry.

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On a side-note, am quite amazed at the number of ways this toy can be played with. The box of the toy actually contains a list of extension activities, most of which would require Dylan to be older to really understand though:

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  5. Going-home outfit for baby girl

Jasmine: When we referred to the hospital packlist during Dylan’s birth, we didn’t bring any clothes, and were quite surprised when the nurses asked us what we’d like to change him onto upon our discharge! In fact, he would almost have had nothing to wear (except the swaddle cloth) if a nurse hadn’t given us one of the little shirts that they let newborns wear in the nursery.

This time, we’re better prepared, so we’ve got an Aden + Anais white swaddle, a rosebud dress and Seed romper (we will choose one, depending how big baby girl is), and the teeniest mittens and socks handed down from my Ee Zhai. It’s hard to find newborn mittens that fit such tiny wrists (think Ee Zhai found hers at Pumpkin Patch), and I remember Dilly scratching himself lots in the hospital, so this I think will be very, very useful! In fact, I’ve decided to bring both pairs, just to allow for a change!

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Andrew: Seed maternity romper brings back lots of memories as it was the first piece of baby clothing we bought in transit on our way back from Tasmania!

The mittens and socks proved to be very useful as baby girl kept sneezing a lot, so we put them on to keep her warm (and cute)!

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Jasmine: The one thing we’re missing is a hat, but that’s no biggie as the hospital provides them, and they make a wonderful, sentimental souvenir- I’ve still got Dylan’s hospital hat in a box 😀

No need for diapers either, as the hospital provides a pack for use during the stay, which you can bring home. It’s Johnson’s, which I don’t particularly like, but if baby girl can wear that with no skin issues, I don’t complain about free stuff. Heh.

All set! Now, if only baby girl will come out…. (Andrew: Haha, well, your wish was granted!)

Shopping for Maternity Clothing

Jasmine: One of the key differences between this pregnancy and the last – where I previously couldn’t wait to try all the maternity fashions, I am now trying to stay in my regular clothes as long as possible. This was possible until the end of the second trimester, but now that I am heavily pregnant, I have little choice but to wear maternity clothing- and I am grateful for the added give that specialised maternity wear provides, through gathers/ pleats and longer fronts to accommodate a growing belly.

I previously wrote an entry on renting maternity clothing, especially if they are one-off pieces that you need for travelling or special events, and we were so surprised by how popular it was! It’s still one of our top three posts of all time, so strange! Anyhow, encouraged by that, here are some of my favourite, most-frequently worn maternity dresses and how I went about sourcing them. Almost all were recycled from the first pregnancy and cost less than SGD$40 🙂

1. ASOS Maternity

This was my first stop when I found out I was preggie for the first time! I went on a crazy rampage and bought at least ten dresses from the sale section, each costing between maybe SGD$20-40. [Andrew: Oh yes, I remember the two whole boxes of clothes that arrived. Thankfully they were good buys as good maternity clothes are not easy to come by locally.] However, do scrutinise the product information closely. For instance, I didn’t realise that this double-layered chiffon dress had a sheer back, which meant that I had to wear a tube underneath, when your basal body temperature is already higher during pregnancy. This minor inconvenience was fine when I was working in aircon all day at MOE HQ, but now that I’m moving about in a warm classroom, having to wear additional layers definitely isn’t practical. [Andrew: Ah what a waste – this pink dress is one of my favourite!]

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Another ASOS buy. I like the lace flutter sleeves and cheery yellow! There are many maternity body-conscious styles available on ASOS, but I’m not really one for showing off the bump too much (except when I need a seat on the train), so I stick with more flowy silhouettes like this.

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My favourite ASOS dress, which can be layered for colder weather, but also smart enough for cocktails and canapes at the Shangri-La (or maybe they just close one eye for pregnant women).

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What’s great about ASOS is that alot of the prints and fabrics from the regular sections have also been used for maternity styles, so no worries about looking like a frump! While I’m glad for the low prices and au courant prints, I probably would not buy from ASOS Maternity again as the maternity dresses cannot be worn for breastfeeding.

Come to think of it, I could probably write a whole post on breastfeeding fashion heh… But suffice to say that if you are a preggie mama with the intent to breastfeed, do look out for button-down or surplice/ wrap dresses so that you can nurse discreetly and conveniently in them in future.

2. Raid your mother’s closet.

Well, I guess this depends on your mother’s style and size, but my mum had quite a few loose sheath dresses that she lent me. I’ve held on to this blue swallow dress through both pregnancies, even while travelling in Tasmania!

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[Andrew: Interestingly enough, I bought a matching swallow-print shirt when I was in Tasmania! Unfortunately, this unglam pic of me with the ‘shower cap’ at the chocolate factory in Bali is the best shot of that swallow t- shirt:

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3. Normal dresses that can be used as maternity wear

Jasmine: If you are determined to stay in “normal” clothes but not inclined towards wearing workout/ yoga gear everywhere, look for dresses that are empire-waisted and elastic-waisted. The skirt should be at least knee-length, so that it will not become  too short as your tummy expands.

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Do also keep an eye out for breathable, stretchy materials like jersey or cotton.

We found this dress in a vintage cum Korean shop in Compasspoint for $39.90, and it met all the above criteria… so I bought it.

4. When travelling, scour the summer sales, especially in beachwear boutiques.

During my first pregnancy, I found quite a few dresses in the surf shops in Australia/ Tasmania! The sizing tends to be more generous to suit Caucasian ladies’ frames, while typical surfwear styles like billowy tanks or airy drawstring dresses are actually quite perfect for pregnancy clothing!

I scored this maxi dress on sale at one of said surf shops, and wore it for our fine dining lunch at Peppermint Bay…

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[Andrew: Dearie looks really beautiful in this dress!]

As well as our newborn shoot for Dylan. It’s got some sequin detail on the V-neckline that you can see up close:

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5. Just buy la, especially if the dresses pull double duty for pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Jasmine: Anything to boost your preggie/ postpartum self-esteem :p

Spring Maternity does a great range of maternity wear with nursing access- I bought quite a few pieces when I was preggie with Dylan and am still wearing them for this second pregnancy, including this owl-print dress with hi-lo hemline:

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I have surprised even myself by buying only two dresses this pregnancy: the black and grey striped one in Point 3, which was just too comfy to pass up, and this lavender knot dress from Seraphine:

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I actually eyed it during my first pregnancy, then was quite put off because Kate Middleton bought two of these dresses, which meant that 1) it became too ubiquitous (I prefer wearing stuff that no-one else has) and 2) the “Kate effect” meant that the dresses were sold out everywhere online and our local maternity stores did not stock this brand. I actually stalked the Seraphine UK website for months before suddenly discovering that this dress was back in stock, in my preferred colour and size!

What’s a preggie mama to do?? When the universe gives you a sign, whip out your (husband’s) credit card.

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Where almost all my other dresses featured in this post are under SGD$40, this one rang in at SGD$100. I try to justify the price tag by noting how comfortable it is, and how flattering the knot front is to my bump. The tie at the back is also useful as I can adjust it during postpartum weight loss, so it won’t be too baggy on me then. Lastly, this dress has a deep V-neck which can be pulled aside for breastfeeding, so I believe it’s a piece I’ll be getting alot of wear out of for several more months, judging from how often I wore my other pregnancy-cum-breastfeeding dresses the last time around! That means my cost per wear will be lowered! [Andrew: That’s Dearie’s philosophy for shopping for clothes and how she justifies buying so many clothes.]

Fathers’ Day Feature 2: Becoming a Father

Andrew: I’ve been meaning to write this piece for quite a while, but I didn’t quite know how to angle it or if what I’d be writing would just be trite and cliched. Nonetheless, I thought I would just note down my journey as a father thus far, as it’d be something interesting to look back on in a few years time to see how things have changed (or not).

Pre-Dylan

Before Dylan came along, Jasmine and I were excited about his arrival, yet at the same time, I was filled with trepidation and fear, not knowing how I would handle a child of my own and if I was up to the task. Much of the advice given then was ‘You’ll just learn along the way!’ or ‘Nobody is ever ready to be a parent, you just do it!’ and one of the best advice, which I still hold on to right now is, ‘You can read many books and hear so many different pieces of advice, but at the end of the day, trust your own instincts as a parent’

Honestly speaking, we were not the kind of parents too who wanted to go for pre-natal classes or read up extensively on child birth and child development. Yes, I did buy the book What to Expect when Expecting, but beyond the first few chapters, it just got too much for me. The only book we kept reading was Praying Through Your Pregnancy, which became a very good prayer guide for us – very comprehensive in praying for health, against past bondages/hurts, for emotional wholeness, even your child’s future partner! One thing we were very conscientious about was to read Psalms/Proverbs to Dylan and to pray for him and talk to him every night. Honestly speaking, we’re less attentive to our second one right now and take it as part of the bedtime routine we do for Dylan. Dear used to read up from the web on how baby was developing each week and we’d pray for him and talk to him.

Dylan’s Arrival

After hearing many stories of long labours, I was surprised when just after 2 hours of labour, our dearest son was born! Was amazed at how delicate and small he was, however, I was just also in a state of numbness (as I’ve told Dearie before) – not quite knowing how to feel or what to do.

It was only the next day, when they pushed Dylan in after cleaning him up and he looked so small, so vulnerable and so sweet that my heart was filled with joy at the arrival of a child we could call our own. Then, the journey began of us learning how to take care of him.

Our very first family photo

I still recall the first time I had to change his diapers in the hospital and how I fumbled clumsily through it! The nurse had just left the room and within 10 minutes, BabyD started bawling and crying. I checked him and there was a distinct, foul smell that I immediately recognised! However, I had never put on diapers for a baby before – what should I do? Will I hurt him, like break his back, if I do it wrong? As Dearie was resting, it was up to me to do it, so I just went ahead to do it. Opened his diaper delicately…. pulled out the wet wipes and then wiped his ass as gently as possible, so I needed to wipe a few times – back then, my impression of babies were that they were so fragile. He was crying and kicking a little! Then I wrapped up the diaper in any manner I thought useful, and put on his new diaper slowly, not knowing which was the correct way at first, then trying to find the sticky-ends. After about 10 minutes, I completed it and my heart was practically racing! Talk about Murphy’s law – just about then, the nurse came in… and she said, ‘Oh, you changed his diapers? Well done!’.

During our time at the hospital, they taught us some basic skills like how to bathe the baby, swaddle the baby and for Dear, how to breastfeed. It just seemed to pass so quickly and soon enough, it was time to go back and we were on our own!

Bringing Dylan home and the first few months

As first time parents, we were so anxious for him at everything – he had jaundice, diaper rash, cradle cap + eczema and all these small things kept me so worried, especially the eczema as we went to the doctor and tried various soaps and treatments for it, most of them temporary. We were so anxious too when Dylan had to be warded to undergo light therapy for his jaundice – it felt like he had just been with us for a few days, then we had to be separated again.

Angry Dilly, after being sunned to treat his jaundice

At the same time, I was trying to hone the various skills needed. Bathing was only done by our confinement nanny when she was here, so it seemed like something that not everyone could do. I was similarly fearful when I first had to do it and I do recall there were times when my hand accidentally slipped and Dylan just cried out loud, causing me to panic and get rather anxious. Looking back, it just seems silly to be so nervous about bathing. Heh. I remember a lot of running around to get stuff, like 0-6 infant formula when Dear’s milk flow hadn’t yet stabilised and then being befuddled by the range of brands out there.

Of course, in the midst of the stress, there was also much joy in the house now, as we laughed and celebrated all the small moments with this new life. Lots of photo-taking and posting of cute moments on Facebook too!

Learning how to put him to sleep was another learning curve for me, but I was determined from the start to learn all these things. Still remember the early days of me carrying him in my arms and walking back and forth, while singing worship songs to him, before he gradually fell asleep and I would then pop him in the bednest and quickly to go sleep before waking up at 4/5 a.m. for his night feed. These were memorable moments as I saw them as father-son devotional time too – his favourite song was ‘Jesus loves me, this I know’ and ‘Still’. I would often use these times as personal worship time to praise the Lord too.

Honestly speaking, Dylan’s sleep patterns were relatively good as he only woke up once at night, so I could help with the night feed and still sustain myself at work, without being too tired. I remembered it was only around the 3rd month or so, when I started to realise, ‘Hmm, maybe this isn’t so hard after all?’.

Something that signified to me that my life was different was interestingly, my IPPT (a fitness test that all Singaporean men have to go through) – which I took soon after Dylan was born because my window was closing. Throughout the 2.4km run, I found that I had new motivation to run and to do well, because I knew that I was keeping fit and persevering for the sake of my family. This was the first moment that I did realise that I had entered the emotional journey of fatherhood.

Resuming our normal lives

Post confinement, it was time to return to our normal lives of church, family gatherings, socialising… It was also about time as Dear was bored stiff just being confined in the home mostly, though technically she wasn’t as she still had rather regular trips to NEX.

We have shared numerous posts before on how we’ve ‘integrated’ Dylan into our lives, so I won’t go into the practical things we did. However, what was more important was the idea that Dylan was now becoming truly a part of our lives, instead of previously where we ‘stopped’ our lives just to focus on him for a while. So many different things to think about now whenever you go out – you usually try to dress more casually to make the carrying of baby and his stuff out easier, you ensure that you choose locations with convenient nursing venues or not too crowded places, as far as possible you schedule outings around his nap-time. Basically, there was a whole new set of considerations to think about.

Bringing Dylan to Biennale 2013

Yet at the same time, there was a sense that things were the same. It’s a bit of a strange feeling – Dearie has asked this question to me before, “How much has having a child changed our lives?” (Yes, we do discuss such geeky questions, but it’s only during staycations or holidays when we have time to slow down and really chat). Honestly, yes, we have much more to think about right now, but fundamentally, we still do feel that we are doing the same things as before, while now having another companion with us. Yes, we no longer have the flexibility of flying off on a holiday whenever we want to or going off to midnight movies on a whim – in fact, movie-watching is kind of a rarity now. However, there’s now a deeper dimension to all that we do, because it is no longer just about us, but also about enjoying life together with our son and role-modeling to him through our lives at home and beyond.

Having Dylan has also deepened my wife and my relationship as we now really serve as ‘partners’ at almost every moment, supporting or relying on each other’s strengths at various points to manage Dylan and take care of him. There has been much more need for us to communicate clearly, understand each other and to work together to ensure Dylan, and both of us too, are well taken care of. Of course, as much as it can be a source of joy, having a child can also be a source of strain in the relationship when you disagree or when you’re both tired and one has to sacrifice to take care of your son. Nonetheless, these have also been opportunities for us to work on our communication issues. Being good fathers and mothers and building a strong marriage do go hand in hand, but ultimately, there still needs to be intentional effort to build the marriage, and that’s something I’m hoping we can continue to work on.

As for whether having a son has changed me, I can honestly say that it has – seems like quite an obvious statement as I’m sure all parents will say so. He has taught me to be more expressive and crazy, since babies respond mostly to extravagant and outward shows of emotion. He has taught me more patience too, especially over things that aren’t logical or beyond my control – I’d have to admit I lost my temper a few times when he just kept crying and refused to be comforted, and this still happens from time to time now. Always thought I was quite patient, but I guess not. Heh.

Most important of all, my son has taught me the importance of appreciating life, slowing down and not letting small moments pass you by. Every small thing that he does, that we often take for granted, becomes such a great moment of joy and celebration – from him learning to grasp an object, to flipping over, to crawling, to his first steps. There’s just such excitement when these happen and even, a great sense of pride that he’s growing so well. A simple meal with your son becomes an opportunity to interact with him, play with him and see him grow in his grasp and hand-eye coordination. For someone who was previously used to rushing through life, doing many things a day, just slowing down to appreciate time with my son has been refreshing.

I am even considering buying a much better camera so that I can properly ‘document’ all these moments with my wife and son. Recommendations are welcome. Part of the reason why we revived this blog too was also to capture these memories and I can’t wait for the day when Dylan can also start contributing to the blog – it’d be so cool – a family blog!

Jasmine: Andrew is a really great dad. There are times when I’m on bedrest and he will bring Dilly to church on his own and put Dylan in the carrier and run errands for us. Once, my pastor saw him and Dilly in church, and remarked to me later, “Wah, Andrew is quite good ah?” I can see how fatherhood has grown him –-not just in patience and endurance, as he was already much better with those two traits than me—but in being expressive, affectionate and letting his fun and playful side come out more.

Looking ahead

Andrew: 14 months on, I can honestly say many of the fears and anxieties I faced are no longer present. I’m more confident as a father, but I do honestly feel that the journey has barely begun.

Right now, the care Dilly requires from me is more practical and more in terms of ‘entertaining’, yet as he grows older, there will then be more needed for me in terms of growing him spiritually, in his character and conduct as well as, helping him to navigate the various phases of life, from school to work. Not to mention of course the additional challenge when Dilly has a new sibling! Wow, just 1 year on and Dilly is already going to be a big kor kor – it’s crazy.

Photo: At the clinic, i. asked Dilly to smile and he gave me this sweet little look... :)

Bringing Dylan for a jab

Honestly, parenthood has been a tough and challenging journey, but the rewards are immense. I’m looking forward to more adventures as Dear and I learn how to build a loving family together!

Montessori with a Toddler: Practical Life Activities at Home

Jasmine: At fourteen months old, Dylan loves imitating us adults. For now, the big thing is walking, and we give him plenty of chances to totter around the house barefoot (best for foot development) all day, But as he becomes more confident and dexterous, he is copying our actions and trying to “help” us, for instance, he will help Daddy pick up all the (clean) diapers after he is done throwing them around. After observing his interests, I decided to come up with some Montessori-inspired practical life activities for Dilly.

Montessori philosophy stresses respect for the child, and allowing the child the autonomy to explore and eventually master his environment. We do let Dylan “help” us in many authentic ways, such as moisturising his tummy, or  “vacuuming” the floor…

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Actually, my helper is holding the vacuum up, some distance behind him

But Montessori practical life trays  are still useful as they help to isolate a specific skill that they may need in real life and give the child repeated opportunities to perfect it, through repetition. These practical life trays allow the child to build focus and concentration, while improving hand-eye coordination etc. Trays are used to demarcate the boundaries of the activity, but as I have no trays, I have used… my high chair tray. Heh.

Anyway, theory aside, let’s move on to some practical life activities that I set up for Dilly. My own approach to activities is that they must be QUICK AND EASY to create. These took maybe a minute to grab the stuff from my kitchen:

1. Scooping activity

Setup: Two bowls, a spoon and some rice (or beans/ pasta/ pompoms)

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Dylan loves this happy-faced spoon bought by his Ee Ee

Dylan is in a phase where he likes to use implements. I noticed that at dinner, he would hold his spoon or place it in his mouth and try to scoop up leftover porridge. Thus, I set up a scooping activity where Dylan had to transfer uncooked lavender-scented rice from one bowl to another.

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Although I realised it was quite hard for him to scoop such small grains with such a shallow spoon, I was really proud of him for concentrating for 15 min. and yes, managing to transfer some rice to the other bowl too! When he threw one of the bowls on the floor, that was when I ended the activity, and gave him his little Daiso broom to sweep up the rice on his highchair tray.

Andrew: Dylan is really quite into ‘scooping’ right now and even during meal times, he always makes noise when is fed and wants to seize the spoon from us now. The problem is that he only scoops the food into his mouth for a while, following that he starts to scoop porridge out and either fling it on the floor or scoop it onto his high chair table and subsequently start smushing it around. Well, I guess everyone starts somewhere…

2. Water transfer activity

Jasmine: Setup – Two bowls, a sponge (cut in half for smaller hands), and water

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Water play is a sure hit with our little one. I added food coloring to the water so it would be easier for Dylan to see. He was supposed to transfer the water from one container to another by squeezing the sponge. This activity was pitched too high, and he was more interested in dipping his hands in the water though. I’ll probably revisit this in future as the act of squeezing the sponge is good for hand-eye coordination and building strength.

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What was more successful was the extension:

3. Cleaning

I sprayed a little more water, and gave Dylan some tissue so he could help wipe the spill up!

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4. Baking

Of course, Dylan’s favourite was helping Granny bake bread! We gave him a little ball of dough and Granny showed him how to flatten and roll it.

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He enjoyed the sensory nature of the dough, just squishing it delightedly in his chubby little palm and banging on it.

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Andrew:  He looks so cute, with that concentrating look and hair all so sweaty, like he’s working hard rolling that little piece of dough. Maybe he’ll inherit the baking genes from Granny that somehow Dear didn’t! 😀

4. Latch board

Jasmine: This one was Amazon-bought, but I have a friend who made her own by hot-gluing lock fixtures onto a plank of wood (Andrew: Two friends actually – I’m so glad Jas didn’t get ME to DIY this.)! Dyl is fascinated by all the keyholes of our drawers and will spend ages (meaning 10 min) trying to pull the key out and slot it back.

Thus, this Melissa and Doug latch board, with six different locks and doors revealing different numbers/ colours/ animals, was a useful practical life activity for Dylan, and one that keeps him quiet and busy too. He has so far managed to open doors no 6 and no 4!

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If you’re wondering why he’s in his crib, we’ve introduced a new Quiet Time routine for him after his afternoon nap. I’ll turn on the music, explain to him that this is his Quiet Time, and bring in some toys that he can play with (usually the latch board and books work the best), whilst Andrew or I sit quietly nearby and read. We try not to talk to him or intervene in his play.

We’re only 4 or 5 days in, but Dylan can go up to 20-35 min of Quiet Time play! Of course, he may whine a couple of times for attention or try to pass us a toy, but we will smile, accept and return the toy, and minimise the interaction, and he will go back to his own play shortly. This is not a Montessori idea, but we thought it would complement Montessori as it fosters independence and concentration.

We also have a special box filled with toys for his Quiet Time. These include his beloved maracas, balls and books. Even the box itself (actually a $5 dumpling carrier from Toastbox) is fun to explore with the lid, the removable felt and all the different textures!

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Andrew: Thanks Dear for planning all these meaningful activities for Dillie. I really do see that the length of his concentration is improving indeed and nowadays he can spend almost 20 minutes just on the same toy, on his own initiative. He is really learning to take anything from the environment to keep himself occupied, without adult intervention or guidance, exploring how to use that item. Now he’s been walking around with our bamboo pole ‘holder’ for the past twenty minutes! It seems like he loves playing with household items – that bodes well – he can help out with the housework in future! 

10 Tips for Travelling with a Baby

Andrew: In addition to being the most photographed baby, our little boy is probably one of the most well-travelled babies too, having gone to 3 countries even before he is 1 – Bali, Shanghai and Taipei (Jas, her mum and sis went with Dilly when I was on reservist). And that’s not including Tasmania, which he went to when he was still inside Jasmine. Heh.

Having travelled so frequently, we thought we’d  share a few tips we’ve learnt (many the hard way) over the past few trips. We’d have to caution though that these were tips that worked for us and for Dilly; but nonetheless, we think they could be useful for most parents.

1. NEVER choose a connecting flight if there’s a direct flight available.

Andrew: We learnt this the really hard way when we went to Shanghai. In trying to seize the cheaper tickets, we chose a flight that left at the break of dawn (around 4 a.m.), which had a stopover in Hong Kong and then reached Shanghai around 5 p.m. the next day – that’s almost 12 hours of travelling and lots of movement across different modes of transport.

Dillie was still calm and happy during the first leg of the journey as you can see below (especially since that was Mummy’s seat he koped, while Mummy sat on the floor):

20131121_100850 …. but by the time we reached our second connecting flight, he was so cranky. The flight back was worse, because there was only a thirty minute allowance between flights, which of course meant we missed it and had to wait almost 2 hours for the next flight. At the end of it all, we were spent and exhausted. No more connecting flights for us!

At least we had the option of unrolling the Supermat in transit so that Dilly could stretch his legs.

 

2. Request the bulkhead seats- don’t assume the airline will just assign you one.

Jasmine: I had to email both the Cathay general reservations desk and the Cathay Singapore office to ensure that we got the bulkhead (front row) seats. These come with a bassinet upon request and of course, more leg room, for all the baby stuff you have to bring on board. At times, you may even wind up sitting on the floor while baby takes your seat.

However, there were a couple legs where despite our request, they squashed us in some middle seat, and even when the flight attendants asked people (middle-aged, no kids) in the front row to exchange seats with us, they wouldn’t. I made sure to walk Dilly near them whenever he cried. Hmph.

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At least they gave us a little bag consisting of diaper and some Mustela samples, for diaper changes on the fly. The white dish came with the Heinz baby meals (more on that in point 4) and was quite useful for holding stuff or, um, as a toy.

3. Bring an old favourite or new toy while travelling. This will keep baby occupied and quiet, especially during takeoff or landing.

Jasmine: We brought Dilly’s penguin (it was less smelly then) and favourite electronic book, which was a lifesaver on flights. Nursing him during takeoff (or giving a pacifier) also helped him regulate the popping of his ears. If you have enough luggage space, bring one hand-carry specially for baby’s stuff. You can put it close to you and it makes it easier to find baby things in a jiffy.

4. Bring a nursing cover or enough expressed milk.

Jasmine: Taipei was outstandingly breastfeeding-supportive, with nursing rooms in every Metro station in the city centre and shopping malls.

Nursing rooms with change stations, sinks, bin, chairs and water dispensers in Taipei Metro stations

However, most places we went to did not have such facilities, so the nursing cover was very handy (with manual ventilation).

IMG_4484In addition, I made the mistake of not bringing enough expressed milk to Bali, thinking I would be able to express enough. However, I did not factor in that with the amount of time spent outdoors and the considerable energy needed to care for baby overseas, I would not be able to produce enough on that trip, even though I squeezed in three pumping sessions a day. Thankfully, what we had brought (plus direct latching on demand) was just enough for Dilly.

Also, when passing through customs, always hand-carry your breast pump and your milk. Tell customs officials that this is human milk and CANNOT go through the x-ray machine (the x-ray will breakdown the delicate composition of breastmilk). Request a visual check instead- if you are adamant enough, officials will relent.

5. If your baby can eat solids, also pack enough food.

Food-wise , airlines will only provide jars of baby food for the flight.  One look at the ingredient labels (first ingredient: sugar) and we threw the Heinz bottles away. In fact, I drank up the baby apple juice. If pre-processed baby food’s not your thing, do prepare enough of your own.

We actually thought that Dilly would be able to eat the noodles and porridge in Shanghai and Taipei, but he didn’t like the taste compared to the freshly-made ones at home- the plain congee was too bland while the savoury ones with century egg etc were out of the question. Thankfully, he was still getting most of his nutritional intake from breastmilk then.

We’re not sure what we would do now, when at least half his dietary intake comes from homemade porridge and breakfast foods like ABC muffins and blueberry pancakes. I’m also not a fan of those sachets of baby foods, even if they are organic and sugar-free, as I prefer giving whole, fresh table foods.

Bring a full body bib along to minimise mess!

6. Carriers and slings make better travelling companions, as compared to strollers.

Andrew: Unless you’re driving, we’d strongly recommend carriers and strollers. We did see some couples pushing their strollers through the crowded Bali markets though, and I admire them for their courage, but the carrier is such a life-saver. It’s light-weight, versatile and if you buy the Ergo one, it’s actually not too hot. We put him in the carrier when we were at the Tagalallang rice paddies and Dylan managed to fall asleep! Of course, it’s also for the sense of security, knowing that your baby is right next to you (in fact, right on you.)

If anything, it could make for a nice stylish photo, like the one below:

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Of course, when we were desperate and tired of carrying him, dumping him on the airport trolley had its benefits…

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While waiting for our flight at Shanghai Pudong Int’l Airport

 But nothing beats our very own Changi Airport for world-class amenities, including child-friendly facilities!

7. Prepare adequately for bath-time.

Andrew: We learnt this the hard way when we went to Bali – we forgot to bring his moisturizer (which was very important cos his eczema was bad then) and he was so terrified by the big bath-tub and shower (we tried both). Bathing, which he usually enjoys, became such a scary time for him. Even when I tried lowering him in the bath-tub with me, he would scream.

The next trip to Shanghai – we wisened up and bought this cheap, make-shift – but very cheery inflatable bathtub for him and all turned out well:

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The only thing with using the bath-tub is – you need to have enough qi to blow it!

We three clever ladies didn’t have enough breath to inflate the bathtub in Taipei so we bathed baby in the sink. Next day, we got the lovely hotel staff to blow it up with a balloon pump.

 Look at how relaxed this baby is!

8. Be prepared to improvise on sleeping arrangements

Jasmine: This may seem obvious, but prior to booking, check if the hotels offer cribs. Our Bali and Shanghai hotels did but we elected to have Dilly share a queen-sized bed with my mum.

In Taipei, we booked a family room with two king-size beds (which didn’t actually cost much more than a standard room with just one bed) so Dilly slept with me, which made it much easier to breastfeed at night.

Dylan staring out from behind chairs, which Ee Ee used as a barricade to prevent him from falling

Bring some comfort items from home so that the space will seem more familiar to baby, helping him to get adjusted to the new room faster. For Dylan, we brought his penguin (as if we had a choice haha), a blanket, to be used as a bedspread and his swaddle cloth, so the scent would remind him of home.

9. Plan a relaxed, well-spaced out itinerary.

Andrew: During our honeymoon, we could cover 4 attractions which were quite far apart in a single day, travelling from 11 a.m to almost 11 p.m. Obviously, you can’t do this with baby.

Usually travelling with a baby involves just 1 or 2 major locations a day, with plenty of time in between for feeding, diaper changing, getting baby to nap properly and just resting  – for mummy and daddy too, because traveling with a baby is tiring.

Be flexible and prepared to go back earlier if needed. We ordered room service or had meals delivered in on quite a few occasions, just because it’d be too much trouble dining with baby outdoors, especially before baby could really sit up without support in Bali, or if we were not sure if restaurants had high chairs.

Dilly saw all the supper snacks we bought back from Ningxia Night Market and started smiling and crawling towards Ee Ee, who took this photo… but all he got was milk!

Just enjoy the quality family time and not be overly concerned about ticking off the check-list or ensuring that you’ve covered everywhere comprehensively.

Jasmine: When planning itineraries, I also research  notable restaurants that are near the destinations using Google Maps and online distance calculators, and cross-check customer reviews on Tripadvisor to ensure that they were baby-friendly. Once in the country, we would also call a day in advance to make reservations and request a high chair if needed.

Us at the original Din Tai Feng restaurant in Taipei, with Dilly sitting on the xiaolongbao mascot!

Us at the Hello Kitty restaurant in Taipei! Thanks to Charlene for all the Taipei pix in this entry!

Overall, I’d still say we managed to cover most places we wanted to go to… and of course, get a good amount of shopping in!

10. Just do it!

Andrew: Many parents hesitate when it comes to travelling, especially with a baby – worrying about health concerns, stress, baby crying on the airplane. Well, we experienced all that too – Dylan wailed like mad on the flight back and almost nobody wanted to sit near us. It was like the parting of the red sea, where the seats next to us slowly emptied out. (Jasmine: Oh yeah… we now say that if you’re a REAL parent if you’ve flown with a wailing baby!) It was tiring, in Shanghai especially, because Dylan couldn’t quite adjust to sleeping there and kept waking up through the night. However, we don’t regret traveling with baby one bit!

Yes, he won’t remember anything – but we will and we have many lovely photos to remember it by too and stories to share. All the trips with baby also involved other family members, so that was quality family bonding time too.

With my dad at Humble Ambassadors’ Garden

Newborn Fashion for Baby Girl

Jasmine: When we were expecting Dylan, we were very chill about his wardrobe and only bought a couple of cute rompers at the Sydney airport and while in Tasmania, for souvenirs’ sake. We also were quite confident that Dilly’s grand mum, aunt and all his relatives would be buying more than enough clothes, and they did! In fact, Dyl is still wearing quite a few pieces gifted from his first month.

From Seed Maternity at Sydney Airport

On sale at Salamanca Market in Tasmania

However, with a little girl on the way, things are a little different this time round. We (actually Andrew) have pulled out all the stops buying baby girl clothes! Here is our current (but by no means complete) collection. It is a listing of our indulgences and essentials, but if you are looking only for what is absolutely necessary, I’ve got a handy summary at the end 😀 (Andrew: …. you’re evidently having too much fun writing this entry.)

Andrew: Honestly Dear, I am currently trying to take stock of which items of Dillie’s can be reworn by baby girl when she arrives. Heh. Not quite true that I pulled out all the stops, but strangely enough, even though she hasn’t arrived, buying clothes for her just makes it feel like we are pampering her already. We really haven’t been half as attentive to her as we were with Dillie, so I guess it’s our way of showering her with love.

1. The Carter’s on Sale Capsule Collection
Jasmine: When I was on bedrest, I had to shop vicariously through my mum and sis, who went to the Metro sale and whatsapped me pictures of all the baby merchandise and helped me buy the ones I shortlisted. Oops… actually I think I still haven’t paid my sister back. Oh well, such a great family I have! Hee.

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Jasmine: I love the colors, styles and quality of Carter’s baby clothing, but they are always so expensive in Singapore. With the 20% + additional 20% off, my mum and sis helped me buy all these cute little mix n match outfits! I am actually not a big fan of always buying pink for baby girls, not so much because of the gender stereotyping, but because I find it quite limiting. I asked myself, would I like to have a wardrobe based on one colour? Probably not. So we chose some yellows and mint greens too, and even navy blue:

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Love the owl print on these leggings

In fashion,  a capsule wardrobe is a small collection of staple clothing items that can be endlessly co-ordinated for different looks and occasions. This Carters’ series seems like a capsule wardrobe in itself- not only are all the pieces somehow colour-coordinated, the varying lengths of the bottoms (shorts, bloomers, leggings, long pants) and the cotton material are great for both hot weather and aircon temperatures!

 2. Gender- Neutral Rompers

Jasmine: After having Dylan, we’ve realised how convenient rompers can be- plenty of mobility and comfort for baby, no need to think about a matching bottom and easy-peasy diaper changes!

This is one of our favourite pieces- a polka dotted romper with spaghetti straps! I don’t believe in buying revealing clothing for little girls… But this was so cute and it came as part of the Carter’s set above anyway! (Andrew: I can just imagine Mummy and little baby girl wearing matching clothes since Dearie loves polka dots too – just matching the polka dots, not the romper part. LOL.)

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I love gender-neutral colors for babies. Dilly always looked like an angel and it allowed us to focus on his face and sweet smile, so we bought a neutrals three-pack for baby girl, with a bunny print, a cloud print and a raglan beige.

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Truth be told, Dylan has plenty of gender-neutral rompers that we can recycle for baby girl (Andrew: Exactly!), but I just wanted baby girl to have a few items of her own, instead of a 100% hand-me-down wardrobe. Not that she will know the difference, but I guess it will weigh heavily on the conscience of this shopaholic mummy!

Andrew: As it is, our clothes cupboard for Dylan is already almost 75% full, with one drawer for his socks and another drawer for his home clothes which he wears and another drawer for clothes which he can’t wear yet or has outgrown. We might need another wardrobe altogether when baby girl arrives. That being said, I have to say it’s more fun buying clothes for little girls than little boys. Just seems like there are so much more designs, colours, styles you can play around with, whereas for boys, it’s just shorts, t-shirts or polo shirts.

3. Going Out Outfits

Jasmine: Not strictly necessary as babies can pretty much live in playsuits and sleepsuits, but if you have a baby girl I think that’s valid reason to indulge. We bought some blouses and shorts for her. (Andrew: Since when do you buy clothes based on ‘necessity’ anyway?)

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The shorts are ruched at the hem, so the butt will look fluffed out. The paisley green pair is also special, it was the first piece of clothing I bought (on sale at another of my favourite kids’ brands, Gingersnaps) when I found out we were having a girl.

When they are so young, there’s really no need for shoes as they can’t walk, but we did buy her some socks to match all the pinks, greens and yellows in her wardrobe. Socks are much more useful than shoes at the newborn stage, they help to keep baby warm.

Andrew: The white dress with light pink, purple and green prints  in the top right corner is so girly, sweet and colorful in a very subtle manner – just the kind of dress I feel will be perfect for a little baby. Think our little girl’s going to be a really well-dressed baby.

4. Home Wear

Jasmine: Ohhh I love baby bottoms and always thought rounded bums and fleshy thighs were the most adorable thing ever about babies. They are also as easy to unfasten as rompers for diaper changes and keep baby cool in our tropical humidity too without looking quite as "naked" as just wearing diapers!

I got a pair of these frilled knickers from Mothercare, as well as The. Cutest. Bloomers. Ever from Amazon, which I had been eyeing since, frankly, my first pregnancy. Each bloomer has a cupcake with a cherry and ruffled icing on the bum! I wanted to say this was my splurge item for baby girl but I realised all the going-out outfits above were splurge items. Moving on.

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Jasmine: And some mittens and booties as well. Dylan has plenty (and we got them in white too so they would be gender-neutral as well) so we just bought one wee set. From experience, the mittens with the wide bands (and not gathered elastic) fit tiny newborn wrists best and won’t slip off. As with socks, it’s good to have a few pairs as these tiny items get lost easily.

We also bought these singlets and cotton bloomers for day, and long-sleeved PJs by night. For the bloomers, the gathers and teeny bows make the butt more puffed-out, which I like on babies.

If you like these, surprise surprise, Andrew picked them out. In fact, he specified that he wanted "more pink" since it was a baby girl. (Andrew: Sorry, call me traditional!)

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The singlets and shorts are gonna be essential, I just know it. In this hot weather, it’s pretty much all that Dilly wears, and the ribbed singlets may look miniscule but can expand- he’s been wearing them from birth till now so I’m quite confident baby girl will get as much wear out of her sets.

5. Gifts Etc

Jasmine: Of course, baby girl is so blessed! Even before she is born, she has lots of people who love her buying things for her already!

Here is a wonderful denim dress and mustard romper with puff sleeves, sponsored by her Ee Ee. Hey sister, go on another Europe trip so you can buy baby girl a Europe collection too!

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Update (2 June): the buying continues! My mum and sis bought these little dresses on sale for baby girl which we will probably pair with her bloomers. The rosebud one is so teeny it can be worn by my sister’s Rilakumma bears (ugh). When baby girl grows bigger, she can wear them as tops too, with shorts which are meant for Dylan right now!

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My aunt got a five-pack from Mothercare for her baby Leia and gave me one! This newborn size is not easy to find and I liked the colours in the store but refrained from buying, so… it all worked out!

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My dear cell girls bought these technically for Dilly, but I’m sure Dilly won’t mind sharing with his sister. Heheh. They were so thoughtful to buy stuff for baby on their travels- Celine bought the cat set from Taiwan and Jillian bought the monster set (with very cool angular pants) from Korea! Can’t wait till Dyl and baby girl grow big enough to fit into them!
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Lastly, my cousin Steffy got these soft washtowels for baby girl from Perth. It comes with a cute little cow that I hope will not be the next Smelly Penguin.

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We already have plenty of towels including our very useful apron towel, but washcloths are a great addition as it was about time to retire some of our washcloths which Dylan has been using daily for a year and are beginning to look a little tired. And more Aden+Anais bamboo swaddles for baby girl, since Dyl got so much use out of his. We went with white (rather than the pink/mauve version of Dyl’s aqua set) so it erm, wouldn’t clash with our nursery colours.

What else I would like to buy- probably a tutu, a little white lace bonnet for sun protection and more cute socks with faux ballet slipper patterns. Oh, and mother-daughter dresses in whimsical circus patterns! Lest I frighten anyone (probably just husbands of friends, haha) with the photo spam above, let me share some words of wisdom:

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Fridge magnets say the darndest things. Thanks Miao for the magnet!

I should probably add that all the items above were bought for varying ages from newborn size all the way to 6-9 months, so baby girl will only be wearing a few of these at any given time, which are actually intended to supplement the hand-me-downs from Dilly and (I hope) all her older baby girl cousins *blatant hint alert*.

However, if you are a baby clothing minimalist (which makes perfect sense since the clothes will be worn for a few months to a year at best), this is our list of clothing essentials:

  • At home by day: 5 sleeveless rompers (aka playsuits)  OR 5 singlets and 3-4 pairs of shorts/ bloomers/ diaper covers
  • At home by night: 5 long-sleeved, footed rompers (aka sleepsuits) OR 3-4 short/ long-sleeved tees and 3-4 pairs of long/ footed pants.
  • Going out: forget those fiddly jackets and cardigans. Just wrap baby in a swaddle cloth (on top of whatever she is wearing) and add socks.
  • Bath: 2 towels and 3-4 washcloths

Last tip for new parents: get clothes that snap down the front (faster than buttons or kimono ties, gosh) rather than things you have to pull over the baby’s head. It can be scary for baby to not be able to see, and quite unnerving for parents when baby is wailing. We had a few snap-down shirts for Dylan (again, a three-pack from Mothercare) and they were very easy for us to handle.

Dylan in a snap-down shirt at exactly one month old

Instead of pulling a shirt over a wriggly baby’s head, you can just turn baby to one side to pull his arm through one sleeve, and repeat on the other side. Fuss-free!

A couple more examples:

Dylan in a Petit Bateau romper from Uncle Miao and Auntie Crystal

Another snap-down romper from Granny, all the way from Japan

This time, we are feeling abit more confident in our baby-changing abilities so we haven’t gotten any snap-down rompers…. yet. But if a nice set comes up, it will certainly be on my radar 😀

Come soon baby girl, I can’t wait to dress you up!

Shanghai Family Shoot

Jasmine: As you know by now, we love planning and going on photoshoots, especially as a way to mark milestones in our lives, such as our NYC honeymoon and our maternity shoot when I was pregnant with Dylan. We decided that we would do a family photoshoot with nine-month-old Dylan when we went to Shanghai! We chose a Shanghai-based American photographer, Dave of Spotted Photography, and gave him the brief- to be as creative with his shots as possible!

Preparations and Logistics

Jasmine: We opted for a five-hour session as that would give us plenty of time for costume change, diaper change, etc, as you never know how long it will take with a baby in tow!

To make it easier for us, we also had a chauffeur to minimise travelling time (and we chose attractions that were all nearby, anyways) and hired a babysitter through our hotel. This babysitter was very helpful in holding baby when we were taking couple shots (so if Dylan doesn’t appear in the shots, fear not, he wasn’t left to his own devices, but was kept within our sight at all times), feeding him and even making him nap! At one point when it was especially windy, she even doubled up as the photographer’s assistant to hold the light-diffusing umbrella while carrying Dyl!

Andrew: Photo-shoots are actually quite logistically challenging, especially outdoors ones, when you also have to plan for multiple costume changes – not just for us, but for Dylan too. With Dylan, the additional challenge was planning it to coincide with his nap time such that he wouldn’t be too cranky. I was quite worried it’d be tough, because we had extremely long travel time the day before (almost 12 hours in total) and he didn’t sleep too well. However, to my surprise, it went amazingly well. Dave was also able to keep the session going along at a relaxing enough pace, such that we felt like we were getting sufficiently nice shots and we had lots of fun while at it too. Dylan was good throughout… Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

At our Art Deco hotel, the Yangtze Boutique Hotel:

Jasmine: We wanted to shoot in our hotel room, but the space was too tight, so we did a couple of quick shots at the lovely Art Deco foyer instead.

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Andrew: The shot above was taken using a remote-controlled flash-gun, which the photographer placed behind us to ensure there was sufficient (and dramatic) lighting. Dave was our most experimental photographer thus far (and trust me, we’ve been through quite a few) with so many unique tricks up his sleeve. It was a really fun photo-shoot.

Jasmine: I’m wearing a dress from a Korean shop at Nex with black stockings and my Aldo boots which I bought from Washington two years back. Andrew is wearing a H&M t-shirt with a maroon velvet H&M blazer he bought in the US and never had a chance to wear.

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At Nanjing Lu

Jasmine: As the shopping street was a 5 min walk away from our hotel, we then strolled over (while taking pictures) for more warm-up shots.

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We’ve topped up our hotel outfits with a Warehouse coat and H&M beret for me, and a Basic House cardigan for Andrew. Dilly’s outfit is from H&M and his reversible soft shoes are from Mothercare.

Andrew: Love this shot – it’s a tender, family moment, characterised subtly by the bike in the background transporting cartons. Dillie, as usual, looks like his innocent, cute self – just sucking on his fist and looking curiously around. 

Jasmine: Our photog said that the quality of light in Shanghai is particularly mysterious because of all the smog.

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 spotted_013 According to Andrew’s colleague, the shot below looked like a frame from a happy ending of a Korean drama- "one year after getting married, now with a baby". Heh.

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At 1933 (an Art Deco slaughterhouse)

Jasmine: This was my favourite stop by far. An Art Deco abbatoir given a new lease of life as an upmarket art gallery and high-end shopping mall. This was where our photographer got really creative, seizing on all the interesting angles and lines afforded by the place! In fact, I think quite a few of these shots are featured on his front page!

The facade alone was stunning in its geometric patterns:

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Our only family shot there, as Dilly later fell asleep on the babysitter, covered in my jacket. Andrew and Dilly are wearing matching suspenders and bow tie!

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And quite a few romantic shots along the open-air aisles. I love the broken lens effect, where the photog detached the lens from the camera, creating pictures with blurred and sharp parts.

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I’m wearing a ribbon top that I bought years ago from Far East Plaza with green Uniqlo jeans, and the BCBG leather jacket that I bough at 50% off during outlet shopping on our NYC honeymoon. Andrew is wearing H&M suspenders and bow tie.

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As the sun was setting, we then proceeded to the rooftop of 1933 for some final pictures…

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Andrew: This was my favourite spot for photos too – just a maze of pathways and hidden corners to play around with. The photographs there have such a dreamy feel.

Before making our way to our last stop, the Bund!

Shanghai Pre Wedding Photos (13)

Jasmine: The Bund is the river that runs through Shanghai, with gorgeous 19th century buildings of assorted architectural styles lining each side. A sight to behold especially at night when all the buildings are lit up, we wanted to dress more formally to match the cityscape.

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I’m wearing the Notte by Marchesa dress that I bought at 40% off, for my sister’s wedding,  before I found out that I was pregnant. Two months pregnant in this picture, to be exact. Sigh. Time to make a new dress. The star hair accessory was based on a Rodarte clip that cost $600USD, and handmade by me for less than $30SGD!

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Our photog thought this area would make for cool shots due to all the curved lines. This was when our babysitter had to double up as his assistant, by holding the umbrella that diffused the flash so that the brolly wouldn’t fly away.

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And Dyl, in the Rilakumma suit Mum bought him from Japan. She bought it without realising it was Rilakumma, Charlene’s favourite bear.

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spotted_047 Andrew: This last part was where Dylan got naughty and started ‘bullying’ me by taking off my specs and ‘slapping’ my face – look at how calm he is, while ‘smushing’ my nose. Dearie and the photographer had a good laugh, just watching me getting bullied. It was gd fun!

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And rounding off the night with a shot in front of the Pearl Tower!

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Andrew: The temperature when we were at the Bund was below 10 degrees and it was very windy. Everybody around us was wrapped up in their jackets and scarfs, whereas both of us were just wearing the one-layer you see above. (Jasmine: just to note though that while we didn’t mind a little chill, we were always careful to ensure that Dylan was safely bundled up in long sleeves, long pants, socks, shoes, hat PLUS winter coat on top. We only changed his outerwear, and even then, only indoors or in the car.) 

Andrew: We attracted a lot of stares – people must have thought we were crazy! Hey, we’ve been through worse… During our NYC photoshoot, the temperature was close to zero and we were also in 1 layer! Dear’s so resilient when it comes to photoshoots. Check out the photographer’s own blog entry of our photo-shoot!

Green Toys Submarine and Dump Truck: Product Reviews

Jasmine: I love toys (probably more so than Dylan!!) but we all know that toy production has a harmful impact on the environment, with the waste generated, toxic by-products and also the BPAs and phthalates in some plastic toys which could pose a danger to kids.

I was excited when my endless hours of aimlessly surfing Amazon  toy research  led me to this company, Green Toys, which makes toys out of 100% recycled milk jugs. According to their website, every pound of recycled milk jugs saves enough electricity to power a TV for 3 weeks or a laptop for a month! (Andrew: Btw, every ‘green toy’ we buy is sufficient to power the electricity in our house for 3 days, based on our current electricity bill.)

And not to mention, the entertainment value of the toys was highly rated on Amazon, so when a Green Toys sale came up at Motherswork, I just had to get a couple of toys!

Andrew: Oh man, I thought usually it’s the parents who have to stop the kids from buying more toys! Looks like I’d be alone on this in future. Dearie even commented after leaving the toy shop that we should bring Dylan here some day in future, to which I told her, “You never bring a kid to a toy-shop, because you’ll end up with him wanting to buy everything.”

Submarine

Jasmine: As you know, all Dylan’s bath toys are gifted so this was the first bath toy we got for him. I like that it has so many possibilities in water- it can float when empty, sink when filled with water and has a handy handle and wide spout for pouring!

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Dilly didn’t quite enjoy being ‘rinsed’ with it today and kept wincing and closing his eyes, even trying to climb out of the bath-tub. Heh.

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However, he liked spinning the movable propellers, which rotate underwater. 

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The top of the sub also lifts off so you can put toy figurines in, for more imaginative play! This seems like a great unisex toy, and at just $13 on sale, would be ideal for a birthday gift!

Dump Truck

Andrew: I still remember when I was a kid, one of my favourite toys was a big yellow dump truck! It had a handle by the side, which you could use to tip the dump and I had endless hours of fun with it, pushing it around and loading it with Lego blocks. Occasionally, we would also recreate destruction scenes, where we would specially create a nice house/building using Lego and then ram the whole dump truck through it! LOL. This is the kind of game boys love to play. Anyway, on to Dylan’s toys…

Jasmine: We were deciding between this and the recycling truck, which would be great for inculcating eco-friendliness in kids (one mum blogger wrote that her children had “recycled” every piece of scrap paper in the house by end of the week!). However, we thought that a dump truck would be a classic for both boys and girls, and it could hold many of his toys, such as his little collection of balls:

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Dylan can also tilt the dump bed to empty out whatever’s inside. I can imagine that this is a toy that will grow with him, and will be perfect for sand play. The wheels are super large so they run well both indoors and I presume outdoors too.

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However, what he really enjoyed was our little tweak to the truck- adding Daddy’s belt to convert it into a pull toy.

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Because of the way the belt was positioned, Dilly couldn’t quite steer the truck right, so Andrew improvised again, taping our measuring tape to the truck.

Andrew: First of all Dear, please do not use my accessories/clothes as toys for Dylan. Next thing I know I’ll find my cuff-links dumped in a tupperware of rice as part of your ‘treasure hunt’ activity. Secondly, you clearly have no idea how pull toys work (or any basic sense of motion)! Basically, Dear had attached my belt in such a way that the truck would be pulled sideways, which goes in a completely opposite direction to its wheels… Let a man do it…

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Jasmine: Tip for all wives, if you want your husband to be involved, make sure you do it wrongly so he will feel compelled to “fix it”. Darnit I’m good!

And off Dilly went!

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Jasmine: He had fun pulling along various things in his dump truck, such as the balls, books, diapers (the clean ones) and even… smelly penguin.Which sadly he did not dump.

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Dylan has been playing with the dump truck for the better part of this afternoon and night, so we are now going to box it up and keep it until his little sister is born, then present it to him as a gift from his sister! My mum says I shouldn’t be a cheapo and that I will most likely end up buying more toys since I’ve been put on yet another week of bedrest –_-