Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Periodic table fun

Timeline : January 2018 (Anouk is almost 3)

We had made a wall-hogging periodic table sometime in April 2017. And from time to time we used to read out the complete table to Anouk in the order, just for fun and because she was ready to sit through the whole thing. J And though she never repeated with us, ( we never insisted, just read it out, without asking her to repeat), we were quite surprised to see her reciting the elements, 10-20 of them in a stretch. It was quite fun to name the elements in the order.. After a while she started showing a bit of correspondance between symols and actual names.. She started a routine of going through the periodic table after dinner time and we tried to record her recitation, but she'd rarely complete the list - either due to waning interest towards the end or digress to a variety of reasons - to say good night to her nanny or spotting a bug somewhere.. :D
And finally on 28th January night, we could record her Periodic table of elements "reading"(mostly reciting the by-hearted list) completely in the first and only go, for the night :) I sometimes listen to the recording on the days I feel low, and the whole elements list in 3 year old baby voice surely perks my mood and day J

Voice recording on 28/01/2018 
Image : Our DIY periodic table (1.22 m X 0.72 m)

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Canada - Oct '17

Lap 1 : Singapore to Vancouver

Top left clockwise : 1. Changi Airport 14 Oct'17 2. Onboard the China
Southern airlines  SIN-Guangzhou 3. Guangzhou to Vancouver 
32 month old Anouk and her parents set off for the 2017 vacation from Changi airport on the morning of 14 Oct’17. Anouk slept off her way to airport from our Jurong West home and seemed all set for the first stretch of the 18 hour journey with China Southern Airlines flight to Vancouver - the 4 hr flight to Guangzhou. Bade goodbye to Princy at the airport, who was boarding her flight back to Trivandrum, couple of hours after ours. Anouk was all excited to have the first official flight journey with a seat of her own. A warm Indian meal, very polite flight attendants and a quiet nap for Anouk made the first stretch a pleasure. Reached Guangzhou and the 2 hr transit time was easily filled with security check, finding the boarding gate and Anouk getting refreshed and changed for the next stretch of flight to Vancouver. “Amma, thats a TV in front of Scout’s seat !!” and “Amma, there is Andy-going-to-college-Toy-story in the TV!!” were some pleasing comments that the parents set gleefully listened to in the first 10 minutes which guaranteed a peaceful stretch of travel. Anouk was super co-operative to eat her meals, to make regular trips to loo and to stretch her feet in the pantry area whenever asked to. Surprisingly we also managed to catch up with movies and reading.

Lap 2 : Arrival @ Vancouver and travel to Toronto the next day

From left bottom (clock wise) - 1. Settled @ Hotel YWCA on 14th
2. All set for the trip to Toronto 15th early morning
3. At the Vancouver airport (domestic terminal) for the trip
 to Toronto
Reached Vancouver the morning of 14th local time.. Yay, the beauty of gaining almost a day :D Completed all the PR formalities and out took all the Down jackets and toques, for the chilly and windy short walk from the airport to the Skytrain station outside. Caught the Sky train from the Airport to Stadium-Chinatown and checked in at the YWCA for a day’s stay before going to Toronto, for a week’s travel. Settled into the cozy room, had warm showers and Arun went out to get a local sim and grocery for dinner and next day breakfast before setting out to airport again. The room was equipped with a small refrigerator and the pantry was just outside our room. So fixing a small breakfast the next day before setting out to airport was painless.

Lap 3 : Toronto 15 Oct -22 Oct

Reached Vancouver airport from the YWCA via train. The Air Transat flight to Toronto was at 11 in the morning and was expected to arrive around 6 pm at Toronto. Because we had a long flight the previous day, all three of us were barely awake through the flight. Things that I previously believed “only happened to others” like the flight not getting a slot in Toronto to land, but low on fuel, hence re-routed to Hamilton airport, getting re-fueled and reaching Toronto, around 3 hours late, while not getting any meals in the airlines- were happening and tiredness really was taking new dimensions. Took a taxi from the airport to the apartment at Vaughan. Our AirBnB host was very and commendably polite and showed us around the place before he handed off the keys and we literally crashed in to the bed.

Top row L-R 1. Inside Real Canadian Superstore 2. Some veggie purchase 3. Getting ready to go out
2nd row L-R 4. A quick nap in bus 5. Snack time in front of Service Ontario 6. @ Service Ontario after medical insurance
3rd row L-R 7. Anouk's paradise J ToysRUs 8. Ämma, Look at Thomas" 9. @ SBI Toronto
Come next day morning, and it was grocery time. We three set to the nearby Real Canadian Superstore by foot. Purchased the supplies for a week and the rest of the morning was spent in cooking the lunch - rice, moru curry, french beans and fried fish. Tummies happy, we all set out to finish the various admin tasks we needed to finish in Toronto. Our daily trips included those to Service Canada, Service Ontario, State Bank of India, CIBC Bank, Driving license tests and little Anouk’s Paradise.. ToysRUs (multiple times).. We also bought an ultra light travel stroller from ToysRUs, which really helped the now-not-so-little Anouk’s stroll and day time naps, during our trip. We travelled mostly through subways, public bus (GO and TTC) (one of the questions Anouk had when we came back to SG was whether the SG bus was a GO bus or TTC J) and a fair share of Uber. We found the people very warm, polite, cooperative and happy to help. We really have nice memories of the chats with the cab drivers and the warm greetings of the people we met on the sidewalk, as we set out for the day. On 20th Oct, we made a full day visit to the Royal Ontario Musuem. This turned out to be a spectacular treat for all of us, with the dinosaur fossil exhibits in particular. Anouk was super excited to see her “Rex” and flying dinosaurs..
L-R 1. Royal Ontario Museum  Row 1 L-R 1. Looking up at a Dinosaur 2. Triceratops  Row 2: L-R 3. Another fossil
4. In front a Tyrannosaurus Rex  Bottom Row : 5. "Ämma, look more and more Dinosaurs :) 

From top left clockwise - 1. View of apartment living room and kitchen 
2. Anouk lobbying to eat some "Neyy" :)  3. Outside the apartment 
 4. View from the Vaughan apartment
The apartment we stayed at Vaughan, Toronto was a fully furnished one, with fully accessorized kitchen. Apart from the pressure cooker that we carried with us, I didnt have to use any of the emergency kitchen accessories I had brought along. The apartment proved to be a real value for money in terms of the staying comfort. Anouk started to define new meanings to the word “vacation” as the time in life where you are allowed to watch one movie every single day, while her parents finished stuff around the place, before setting out everyday to tour the city. Our weekly routine pretty much was - finish preparing all the meals, including dinner by 11 am, getting ready and finishing lunch by 12 pm and setting out to explore and return by 7:30-8 pm to have dinner and off to sleep.

Lap 4 : Vancouver 22 Oct -29 Oct

From Top Left Clockwise : 1. Set to leave the Toronto apartment 22 Oct
2. At Toronto Pearson airport (domestic terminal) 3. Some reading at the
boarding gate 4. Indian grocery aisle @ Walmart, Surrey 5. Anouk inspecting
all the leaves on carrot @ Walmart :)
We packed our bags from the Toronto apartment on 22 Oct noon to catch the evening Air Transat flight back to Vancouver. We reached Vancouver by around 9:30 pm, took a taxi (with a very friendly driver who lives in Surrey) to the AirBnB apartment in Surrey. The AirBnB host was quite warm and friendly and after taking us on an apartment tour, he handed over the keys. Next day morning, after the breakfast, we again set out to buy the week''s groceries. Our apartment was a minute's walk from the Gateway sky train station. We caught the train to the next station (Surrey Central) to go to the nearest Walmart. Stashed the groceries for the week and came back, prepared lunch. Anouk surprised us with a nap that prolonged all the way to the night and we decided to call off any roaming plans for the day.

Next day, after finishing off breakfast and packing lunch and snacks, we set off for a day long picnic at Queen Elizabeth park, in the sky train. The park was a further 15 minutes walk from the train station. Anouk had her more than fair share of running around on the grass, splash-sploshing all puddles along the park and more running around. The park was an ideal place to spent all day for a toddler and was picturesquely beautiful in the late fall colours. After so much running around, Anouk immediately went to a nap when we started our way back and napped peacefully in her stroller.
At Queen Elizabeth park : Bottom left - view from the top of the Queen Elizabeth park - distant view of Vancouver city
View from the Surrey, Vancouver apartment in the mornings

The weather was nicely cool (9-14 C) and the landscape was really new for someone like us, who had been living in the sunny coastal towns for so long. The simple view from the apartment living room itself was so amazing and soul pacifying and we always looked forward to looking out through our apartment windows in the morning -to see the mist and the mountains and the beautiful falling leaves. This city is truly gifted by nature.
Over the course of next few days, we made day trips to Simon Fraser University campus at Burnaby, Univ. of British Columbia in Vancouver and also went to the stunning Stanley park with the 9km seaside walk (we didnt walk all that far J). The stroll along the sea-walk was so humbly beautiful and even little Anouk with her shouts of "Seagull !" & "Maple leaf !" thoroughly enjoyed the light stroll.
From right bottom ( clock wise) - 1. In front of Academic Complex (SFU) 2, 3 : At SFU  4,5 : At Metrotown Skytrain station

At Stanley park and the seaside-walk

At Univ. of British Columbia Vancouver campus

Lap 5 : 29 Oct - Back to SG home !

Finally we were all packed for the return travel to Singapore on 29th noon (local time) flight. Finished off breakfast, packed lunch, handed over the keys back to our host and set out in the skytrain for our trip back to the airport. The long queues and the boarding time occupied the rest of the time till we were finally seated in the China Southern flight to Guangzhou (14 hour). Anouk  was all easy to deal with in the flight back too, and again the parents set enjoyed some movie time :) The transit time at Guangzhou was around 4 hours before the last leg to Singapore. We finally reached Changi at 4am on 31 Oct (SG time) and was back home by 5:30. One set of relaxed parents and happy child.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Xmas '17 - the tree, ofcourse.

Xmas time '17.

Brought the ornaments from IKEA and set up the Xmas tree, much to the delight of little Anouk. Arun made good use of his Origami skills to make the silver top star as well as two small golden stars. All in all a happy kid and relaxed parents and still-standing-in-one-piece-Xmas tree.

Friday, 6 October 2017

DIY #9 - Indoor toddler tent

Its indoor camping time. Timeline : September '17.

We had two sponge foam (each 1" thick) mattresses, ever since kiddo was around 6-7 months. We initially joined them together using a duppatta and kept it on ground for kid while the kid learnt to crawl and later used it as a safety filler under her spring cradle. After the cradle era, the mattresses were stashed away for a long time, and in early September, we finally revamped the two mattresses - folded each one into half and stitched new covers - and voila, it easily made a kid's corner in the house. 
This gave us an idea about building a tent around it and make it a better toddler's-own-space. But we also wanted to be able to easily move it around everyday, while dusting and mopping the floor. The ever creative father guy came up with an idea of how-to for the tent and we proceeded with the plan immediately. One evening was all it took, from planning- procurement -conditioning - building - wrapping. 

Raw materials we used, as below.
  1. Bamboo poles - 2 (each ~2.5 m long)   
  2. Plastic twine
  3. Some old clothes and socks - for covering up exposed ends and making it child & floor safe
  4. Bed sheet -1 ( as a tent -wrap)(single size)
  5. Good mood and diplomacy skills - a lot, the kid wants to do everything, so had to ward off from time to time.
  6. Hooks/ Velcro - to keep the tent-wrap in place.
We cut the poles into halves, making four poles for the kid size tent. Tied them together using diagonal knots that I had learnt in Girl Scouting decades back. Just re-inforced using plastic twines and covered the exposed ends on top with some old clothes. The skeletal structure is super sturdy [Fig. 2].

Used a bed sheet to wrap the tent around. Stitched the hooks on to the bedsheet and secured it 
(1) at the top - this was very important, as it kept the bed sheet in place.
(2) around each front pole
On hindsight, velcro might have been a better choice and may change over to it, in future, when time and mood permits. The bed sheet length did not give room for too much flaps in the front. We also used some of the kiddo's old socks, padded it up and tied to poles as bushes - to prevent marks on the wooden floor.

For the final layout, we used a Rexine sheet on the ground, as a safe cover for the mattresses, placed the tent and filled the inside with mattresses. Thankfully, it turned out to be an instant love for the kid, who would go straight from her bed in the morning to have some tent time. From time to time, we see kid bringing toys, books, bowl of popcorn, to the tent, enjoying her own time and space.  The finished look is snapped below.

1. DIY Toddler's tent - Sep'17
2. Skeletal structure


Om Harisree Ganapathaye Namah

Anouk's Vidyarambham on Sep 30, 2017. Morning 11:20 SG time.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

DIY #8 - To all two-and-half-year-old Jedi-s and Sith-s

"Do or do not. There is no try." --Yoda

We saw a cute Lightsaber toy at Toys"R"Us a while back during a routine Lego Duplo shopping and the idea of a DIY light saber hit us. We decided on the swimming noodles, but wasn't able to make a trip to Decathlon for a long time. Finally, during a recent visit to Daiso, we found a 60" long pool noodle at an amazing S$ 2.00. We bought it and set on to make two toddler-friendly light sabers with all raw materials available already at home.

Materials needed:
  1. Swimming needle (60" long) - 1
    • We got for two dollars from, well, the two-dollar store. Makes two swords.
  2. Duct tape - black (insulation tape)
  3. Duct tape - metallic colour (insulation tape)
  4. Scissors 
  5. Time - maybe total 15 mins
  6. Patience and good mood- a lot - to diplomatically ward off a 2.5 year old kid (who constantly wants to use scissors all by herself ) and to decide when to let her help with the cutting.
The finished lightsabers and the equipped warrior are snapped below. ( Timeline : Aug'17)

Sunday, 2 July 2017

And then, Johnny reads...

This post is not about any of our typical DIY activities, instead, just a personal note..and indeed very special.

In January'17, we had published our views on early reading and how we had introduced Anouk to the world of letters and phonics, starting when she was 18 months and how we were just beginning to learn the blending of sounds to form the words, when she was around 22 months. By Jan end, Anouk could read most three letter C-V-C (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant) words, though very slowly,  (with parents pointing out the letters) but very methodically. We went on creating word list after word list (courtesy: Larry Sanger's essay and word list database). The word list were created originally from Flesch word list and were very well organised. Apart from teaching Anouk how to form a word, it also introduced a huge world of vocabulary together with the aid to how to form a sentence with it. 

And not to mention the book reading - her reading interest elevated from small story books to elaborate story books, leaving the parents pretty tired after every reading session. We were literally exhausted from reading 4-5 books (big ones at that) at one go, and were trying to convince her after the 5th book, that its time to do other activities (which demanded a little less of our energy) J One thing that changed during our reading together, was that, we now started trailing our fingers under the words whenever we read books and after a while even if we accidentally removed our fingers in between (may be to scratch our head), Anouk was quick to drag our fingers back to the page J And apart from the reading sessions, kiddo will be seen simply browsing through the books by herself, a lot, through out the day.

With all these, there was one thing that left the parents set wondering--apart from the initial independent reading that Anouk demonstrated with the three letter words, she refused any further attempts we made, to get her read further words, all by herself. While she easily blended two-syllable, three-syllable, mutli-words etc, when we sounded them out, she did not show much interest in reading out those words by herself. Even a gentle push from the parents, like, "Hey, try if you can read this by yourself" was met with with a cheeky "Amma, you read it" replies.. And so, even after happily blending several hundreds of words, we(actually the mother-creature) decided to give up my attempts to make her read independently and pacified ourselves that she'll start reading whenever she wants to and additionally found solace in the fact that the kid still loved learning new word list on a daily basis. So far so good. All the while, the extraordinarily-cool father-figure tried to convince me saying "She knows these words. She doesn't read all the silly three letter words that you show her, because she find them, well, silly". The words in discussion were bag, cat, pet, zip etc. Anyway, me being me, I would still try to get her read the above said words and the like, from time to time, and met invariably with smirks, running away-s, and some blatant "Amma, no!"-s. 

Then, the sun rose on the morning of Sunday, July 2, 2017. Anouk was a bit under fever the previous night, though showed no signs of tiredness. After waking up and getting the usual wish of a bottle-of-milk-in-bed, unusually granted, Anouk was in a true sunny Sunday mood. When she saw the latest wordlist, which I had cut out early that morning and left on the dining table, she just picked the cards (this set of words was for "al" sound). When (as usual) I began to sound them out, she declared.."Amma, dont read; Scout reads..".
"Huh, what..."
 And she started one by one, while moving her fingers swiftly under the letters...
 "s-t-a-l-k...stalk, ch-a-l-k...chalk, h-a-l-t...halt, m-a-l-t...malt, s-m-a-ll....small"
and a few more and when done, casually kept the word cards back on sofa and moved to the next demand.. "Lets say wakey-wakey to Achachan"...
And I was too shocked to respond. All the while I was trying to get her read the simple three letter words and the little rascal is blending fluently and reading words like stalk, chalk etc.. Its a beautiful feeling when I can really laugh at myself. Later in the day, both of us made her read through another new set, to witness and convince ourselves. 

So, finally, at 29 months, Anouk had started reading out the words all by herself, moving her fingers underneath the letters, and not necessarily sounding out all the individual sounds (might be blending in her head). As I said in the beginning, just a personal update and a happy note. Happy reading for the days and years to come ! J