Monday, 28 February 2011

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Recite Bible Verses to your Toddler


Age: From 1 year old

From How to teach toddlers about God? Stick to one goal and one activity. If you are a Christian mom, why not recite bible verses to your toddler?

The Word of God is alive and has power to touch and change lives. The Bible says:

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." - Hebrews 4:12

Here is a simple method:

1. Memorize a verse each week.

2. Recite the verse to your child at bedtime along with the lullabies.

3. Tell your child, "J, remember that this is what God teaches us to do/not to do".

Useful Bible Verses

Luke 6:31 - Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

Matthew 5:9 - Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

1 Corinthians 6:12 - “Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me,” but I will not be mastered by anything.

1 Corinthians 9:27 - But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7 - There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be silent and a time to speak

Proverbs 17:5 - Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.

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Additional Information:
I mentioned in the introduction of my blog that our greatest wish that J may grow up to be a man after God's heart, reflecting Joshua 1:5-9.

When J was a baby, I would pray for him and with him each evening before he slept. I still do so. Now that he is older, I am looking into introducing a little more. One way is to hide God's words in our hearts and in our children's hearts and let the power of God's Word works in their lives.

Sometimes I can get overwhelmed with the vast varieties of resources available in the internet, all the fun activities we can do to tell our children about God and His character. I wish I am a stay-at-home mom so that I have the time to try out and implement all these different activities, but I am a working mom. But still I can do something.

The solution is to keep it simple and stick to one goal and one activity.

One simple way is to share with him the word of God. The most effective way of doing this is to recite it to J. The most effective way of reciting them is to memorize them myself. And this is the one goal, activity and method that I have chosen. If I can do this one thing, I would have succeeded. This is the goal I set for myself this year. I will memorize just one verse (i.e. one sentence) when I am on the train or in the shower for example.

The other benefit is that reading, hearing and memorizing the Word of God will do me good too. Often time, it can be a struggle for mothers to find time to do quiet time. But yet quiet time is so important. Without it, we would not be able to hear His still small voice guiding us and giving us wisdom and strength for our daily life and challenges. When I use this method of memorizing a verse, it also becomes part of my quiet time. Furthermore, it is also a way for me to set a good example to J. Normally, when I recite it, I will be unsure of certain words, especially grammar. I will then look it up, and my English improves as a result.

Because this method is so simple, it is more achievable. I just need to make sure not to be too ambitious and memorize too many verses all at one go, then loses steam and stop, but just to stick to one verse.

Don't worry about whether you will succeed or not in bringing your child up to love God, just focus on planting the seed and enjoy the journey. Keep at it and continue to put in the hard work. If you forget or slacken, don't be overwhelmed with guilt, just come back again. If you do your part, God will honour your work. God will do His part. The Bible says in Hebrews 4:12: "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Just trust God. In 20 years' time, I believe I will see the fruit of the labour of God's Word working in J's life.

I have started sometime ago to memorize and recite Tang dynasty poems (ok, sometimes I do slack a little) to J. If God is the most important person in my life, why am I not memorizing the Bible verses, which have far more value than the Tang dynasty poems. The beautiful words of ancient Chinese poets have value, but the Word of God is invaluable. In the pusuit of achievements, I must remember to put God first. All things else come second. Otherwise, they will just become idols, meaningless and futile.

Last week was the first week I started memorizing bible verses for J. The verse I memorized was from Ephesians 4:29: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for buidling otheres up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

This week, my memory verse is from Ecclesiastes 5:10: "Whoever loves money never has enough money; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless." I just memorized it in the train on the way home from work. I am so excited to recite it to J this evening at bed time.

On a personal testimony that I would like to share. When I was young, my English was very poor, as I grew up from a Chinese-speaking family, and started learning English only at the age of 7. I struggled a lot, cried a lot and hated homework which required me to write composition. Because of the amount of energy put into English, I hated going to school. I even pretended to be sick to miss school, because I did not manage to complete the English homework. Because I had so much struggle with English in school, it is one of the reasons why I am determined that J should learn 3 languages right from day one, and not wait until he is 9 years old (the age kids start learning English in school in Denmark). When people tell me, "Don't worry, J will learn English". I just smile as I don't believe it. I remembered how much I had sweat and struggled to learn English. I got to know God when I was 12 years old. I actually learned English through reading and memorizing the Bible. Ironically, my English improved in leaps and bounds. The English skills I have today, I owe it to God and His Word.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

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How to Effectively Organize your Wardrobe?

Notice the two vertical blocks of IKEA's CD racks?

I have been told that our place looks very neat, and people wonder how we manage to keep it so neat with a toddler running around. I am asked to provide a list of how I plan my wardrobe, and here it is.

Don't be discouraged when you see our place, as firstly I am a neat freak, and I married a neat freak, and we gave birth to a neat freak, J. We are told at the daycare that J loves to help to clean up, and put things back to the shelves where they belong… ha ha… just like mommy. Since we are a family of neat freaks, it makes tidying up much easier, as there is strength in unity. You can’t do it alone. We also live in a country full of neat freats (Denmark). The average Danish home is very simple, Scandinavian-Zen style and clutterfree.

Having said that, there are some strategies that could help those who are not neat freaks like us.

3 Golden Principles

But before I start the list for the wardrobe, there are 3 golden principles that we practice in general, also with wardrobe:

1. Everything has its place and each compartment is a category

2. Take 5 minutes to tidy up after each day

3. Bin everything that does not fall into a category

Before planning our wardrobe, or even our apartment, I make a list for a compartment for everything. Those things that does not fall under any category or compartment, I will either throw them away or if it is worth it, I will create a compartment for them.

In this way, we manage to keep everything neat, as everything is slot back to where they belong the moment they arrive our home. And at the end of every day, when I am totally exhausted with J, having such a system helps me to clean everything up within minutes.
Below is a list specifically for organizing wardrobe:

1. Wherever possible, hang the clothes

Avoid folding clothes. Wherever possible, hang the clothes. I find that it takes me less time to hang clothes than to fold them and put them in drawers. I hang even the T-shirts that I use for going out (you don’t need to hang those casual T-shirts that you use daily that are fit for painting the house, of course).

2. Hang the clothes from the beginning

I hang my clothes with hangers from the moment they get out of the washing machine. The clothes are hung to dry on hangers and when they are dry, the clothes together with the hangers goes straight back to the wardrobe.

3. Arrange clothes by length first

Most people do this anyway, but I make some more defined groups. I hang the shirts together, the pants together, etc. There are 7 main groups by length as follows:

1. Her shirts
2. Her pants
3. Her skirts
4. Her mid-length dresses
5. Her long dresses
6. His shirts
7. His pants (folded half to space the length space)

4. Measure the length of space required

Everyone’s height is different. Remember to measure the clothes together with the hanger to find the optimal length of the hanging space that you need. Then tailor-made the shelves to fit you. You will find that you save space, if you do so. For us, my Significant Other measured the space it will need for my shirts, the space it will need for his’s shirts, etc.

5. Use different hangers for different clothes

Use thin and light hangers. The wooden hangers look good, but they are not very functional and take up space. I only use the straight wooden ones for the pants. I use the IKEA's kids' colourful hangers for the sleeveless clothes. They are less wide and take up less space. For my Significant Other, we use the wider plastic hangers or the thin metal ones for the shirts. We only use the wooden hangers for jackets, as they can take more weight.

6. Then arrange by type

I hang all the short sleeves together, because they take up less space (the short sleeves will be arranged by colours, of course). Then comes the long sleeves (and it will be arranged by colour again).

7. Then arrange clothes by colour

You may wonder whether it will take a longer time to keep everything in place. Actually no. I simply slot my clothes back to the colour spot where they belong together with other clothes of the same colour. When I want to retrieve my clothes, it is easier to pick them out. There is a zen-like quality to the clarity of clearness, when the wardrobe is arranged by colour.

8. Go vertical Singapore-style

Most people put their trinkets, creams, etc. horizontally on dressing table. These take up precious space. I learn from the Singapore urban planning strategy and create "high-rise homes" for them. If the trinkets are citizens of the Wardrobe-land, then the vertical IKEA CD racks would be their homes.

9. The upper shelf for him and the lower shelf for her

My Significant Other's shirts and pants are hung on the upper bars and mine are hung on the lower bars.

10. Shelves

Plan the numbers of shelves, drawers and baskets you need. Some things are better folded and displayed on shelves such as the following:

1. Thick woolen cardigans
2. Casual homewear t-shirts
3. Shorts
4. Bath towels (this can be stored in the bathroom, if you don't have space in the wardrobe)
5. Bed linens (this can be stored somewhere else, if you don't have space in the wardrobe)

11. Drawers

No matter how much you try to hang your clothes, there will still be things that work best folded. Below is a list for each drawer:

1. Jewelery
2. Her bras
3. Her underwear
4. His underwear
5. Pajamas

12. Baskets

Most of us run out of drawers at some point. There are some things I find useful to put into baskets. You would also want a basket for the clothes that you want to re-use, which are not quite ready yet for laundry, but are not clean enough to be placed back to the wardrobe. Here is a list for the "Re-use Basket":

1. His socks
2. Her socks
3. Her stocking
4. His clothes for re-use
5. Her clothes for re-use

13. Folding clothes

Fold the clothes so that they are similar in size to optimize the shelf space used to store them. However, this can cause a potential marrital argument. If you and your spouse have a different style of folding clothes and could not agree, then it is better to let this go. It is better to have a good marriage and nicely folded clothes :-)

14. Hanging tree

We find having a hanging tree useful to hang clothes which we want to re-use such as pants. You can also use hangers that is behind the door.

15. Hanging hooks on the side of the wardrobe

We save space by hanging belts on the side of the wardrobe.

16. Racks on the side of the wardrobe

You may find that a rack on the side of the wardrobe serves as a useful hanging place for his ties and her long winter scarfs.

17. Small compartments

We find it useful to have small compartments for the following items, and IKEA’s CD rack serves the purpose perfectly:

1. Scarfs (3-4 CD compartments)
2. Necklace (3-4 CD compartments)
3. Ring
4. Make-up
5. Perfume
6. Skin care items (although we prefer this to be kept in our bathroom)

18. Mirror mounted on door

We find it useful to have full length mirror mounted onto the door that we enter our walk-in wardrobe, as it saves wall space. If you do not have a walk-in wardrobe, it is useful to have one of the wardrobe doors to be made of mirror. To save budget, this can be from IKEA’s Pax.

19. Table space

We find it useful to have a table space in our walk-in wardrobe for things such as hair-dryer, etc.

20. Spotlights

Lastly, if you are building a walk-in wardrobe, spotlights in the ceiling complete the look :-)

The benefits of being organized

We pay for cleaning help, so it does help us to save money by reducing the cleaning time, when the place is neat and easy to clean.
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Room Time (for Toddlers/Preschoolers from 21 months)



Age: From 21 months old

I heard about the concept of Room Time Time from “On Becoming Toddlerwise” By Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, a Christian-based parenting book. Room Time is a progression from Blanket Time as the child gets older. I wanted very much for J to be able to do Room Time and have been wanting to implement it. Today, I was determined to follow through with my plan, and I succeeded with 10 minutes with J.

What is Room Time?

Room Time is a form of structured independent playtime, where toddlers/preschoolers play on their own in their room, where mommy chooses the time, the place and the activity or toy the child should pay with.

What are the objectives?

1. To teach focus skills – so that child does not jump from one toy to another without really exploring it

2. To teach parameter skills – so that child is willing to stay in a place, although there is no playpen gates to restrain him

3. To teach obedience and self-control – so that child will be willing to listen to the instructions of mommy and daddy

When to start?

Room Time is generally suitable for toddlers/preschoolers from 21 months, but you can start earlier, if you could feel that your toddler is ready.

How to implement Room Time?

1. Start slow

Start with only 5 minutes at a time consistently every day or once a week. I set the egg timer to 5 minutes and told J that it is now independent play time. I allowed him one toy. During Room Time, usually mommy chooses the toy, but today, I asked him what he would like to play. He chose the aeroplane. I told him that he should play with it alone for 5 minutes and he can get out of the play room when the timer goes off. He played with the aeroplane while I stood outside the play room, encouraging him to go on. When the timer went after 5 minutes, I praised him and told him that Room Time is now over, and that he can come out of the playroom, or he can continue. He chose to continue. So I set the timer for another 2 minutes and then again for another 3 minutes, at his third request. You can always add time again, but once you set the timer, you should not take time away. Slowly work it up to 15 minutes, 20 minutes and 45 minutes.
If you have never implemented Blanket Time and jumping straight to Room Time, you might want to start Room Time together with him. You may want to read a book of your own on the bed, while he is playing in one corner of his bed room. Then slowly back away until you are out of the room and he is willing to play happily.

2. Use a timer

Use a timer to set the time you aim for your child to have Room Time. In this way, your child will come to understand that Room Time is limited, and thus, he may treasure it more. You can always add time.

3. Plan ahead

Think the night before, what activity or toy you want your child to play with during Room Time the next day. Then prepare the activity or toy so that it will just be ready, when you start Room Time. By doing it right at the beginning of Room Time, and showing resolve, it will reduce the tendency of your child from choosing the toy himself, and then jumping from toy to toy.

4. Be consistent and keep trying

Even if you don't succeed the first time, try it again for 5 minutes the next day (or for working moms like me, the next week). Try it again and again for 5 minutes until one day you succeed. And even if you succeed, there will be good days and bad days. Good days when you suceed and bad days when the Room Time just do not materialize. Just keep going. For me, even if I fail throughout these two years to implement Room Time, the effort will still be worth it, as the by-products I would have gained from trying - such as determination, persistency, never giving up spirit - would be worth it. If anything, I would have gained a refining of character in the process of implementing Room Time, whether I succeed eventually or not.

5. Pray and commit your plans to God

Now you have your plan, and it all looks very good. For me, my spirit is willing, my plan is fool-proof, but alas my flesh is weak. When I pray and commit to God my plan, I humble myself before God and show respect for Him. I acknowledge that I am mere human, and I find strength and help from God to overcome my weaknesses. When I do succeed, I know that the glory truely goes to God, and that it is not my own effort.

If you ever wonder whether God really answers prayers, and if you have not known Jesus, I wish for you sincerely my friend, that you will come to know the God who loves and cares deeply for you. You can start by praying to Jesus and commiting all your plans to Him, and see for yourself whether He does not prove Himself real in your life.

What is the ideal room?

It can be your child's bedroom, or any area or corner that is convenient for you. For J, it is the play area near our living room, as it enables me to keep an eye on him easily.
Should the room door be open or close?
The goal is to close the room door eventually, but it did not be. If you close the door, be very sure that the room is child-proof. Our play area is closed off by shooting doors. So my plan is to slowly reducing the opening, until one day it is completely closed, when J is ready. If your room is just a play area, without any door, it is also fine.

What toy would be suitable?

It should be a toy that has some novelty effect, or could hold his attention for some time. For J, it is the following:

• kitchen toys
• stacking wooden blocks
• stringing wooden beads
• cars and trucks
• building wooden or plastic train tracks
• colouring
• musical instruments (tambourine, drums, xylophone, etc)

Don't worry, however, about changing toys too frequently. It is alright for the same toys for a week as it will help a child to play with what has been given to him.

What to do when your child wonders out of the room?

If your child comes out of the room to ask for help with some toys, gently lead the child back to the room. Tell him firmly but gently that he should not leave the room until the timer goes off, but if he needs help, he should wave to mommy and calls out to mommy and from behind the door line to get mommy's attention.

What are the benefits?

1. Provide you time to unwind

Your child will be able to focus and entertain himself for some time during the day. This provides you some time to catch your breath, or do the chores such as preparing dinner, without having to resort to the TV as a babysitter, or having a child constantly whining for your attention. It is good for the child and healthy for mommy’s mental health.

2. Easier to manage during outings

Having been able to play alone in a room setting, your child will also be less likely to be some wild fireworks that flutter around, whenever you bring him to a supermarket, for example.

3. Higher chances of pursuing a tertiary education

You will increase the chance of your child, especially if he is a boy, going to university. Reports shows that in Denmark, there is a growing problems of girls pursuing tertiary education and boys not. The explanation is that the education system is more conducive for girls than boys, since girls are in general better able to sit down in class and pay attention. It will be a big social problem, if this problem is not addressed, as the boys will have problem finding a marriage partners, when they grow up. Thus, being able to sit still, concentrate and pay attention is a very important skill to acquire that will increase the chance of academic success.

References:
On Becoming Toddlerwise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam

http://www.babywisemom.com/search/label/roomtime

http://www.babywisemom.com/2011/03/independent-playtime-is-not.html

10.9.2011 (2Y6M5D) - Room Time with fanta colour peg board...
On Becoming Toddlerwise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam is available from Amazon:


Saturday, 26 February 2011

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J Summary (23M21D) - Language & Moral Development


Language Development

This week had been back to normal. J has recovered from his flu, and was back to his normal, cheerful, smiling, laughing and chatty self. His Danish continues to progress faster than his Mandarin, but I think it is in general still slower than other Danish kids. J does not speak so much in full sentences.

Now that he has recovered, he is willing to speak Mandarin again, repeating everything I say, except some words like elephant, which he insisted only in using Danish! If he is speaking in any sentences, he is only speaking 2-word sentences, again in general slower than other kids his age, but the range can be very vast.

I am taking this in my stride, and continue to be determined to go on... I SHALL go on... If it is easy, it is not worth the effort.

Moral Development

J is fast becoming one of the oldest child in his class. I spoke to J about the little girl Emily, who was in his class. How she was so caring and good towards the smaller kids. I told him that just as he had received from her, when he was a young baby, how she used to come over, hold his hand, and brought him into the circle into the class. I asked him to remember that, and that he should do the same for other smaller babies who newly joined the class. He was smiling and grining all the way.... It seemed that he had understood what I was trying to say.

J doesn't snatch things from other kids, and despite other kids snatching things from him, he does not retaliate. I am actually very amazed. J has taught me a precious lesson in meekness, in being forgiving and kind, in being strong and confident and not showing any anger than I ever have learned. In some aspects, I find myself learning from him.

Yang Li commented how good natured J is. I think it is because he has napped and slept well in the night this whole week. He was very patient and willing to sit still at the art & craft session at the library today, and he was a good spot in wearing the masks. He had been a mommy's boy today.

On the minus side, he is not so keen to do things himself. He still wants me to feed him. I have to attribute the blame to myself, as I am such a tidy clean neat freak, that I never quite allow him to make a mess of the dining place when he was a baby. Now, I am paying the price.

J may not be the brightest when it comes to language or learning ABCs and 123, but I hope he will keep up this positive moral development. I am reminded to pray harder.

Friday, 25 February 2011

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Nonya Chinese Black Glutinous Rice Dessert/Nonya Kinesisk Sort Klæbrig Ris Dessert/黑糯米甜点 [hēi nuò mǐ tián diǎn]

From my mum, May Loh’s recipe
Serves 4

Preparation & Cooking Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Ingredients:
- 1 cup black glutinous rice
- 1 litre or 4 cups water
- 2-4 pandan leaves tied to a knot (also called screwpine leaves) (optional)
- 3 TBS brown sugar
- 2-4 tablespoons low fat milk or thick coconut milk

Directions:
1. Wash the black glutinous rice and place in a bowl with enough water to cover.

2. Place the black glutinous rice, water and pandan leaves in a pot.

3. Bring to a boil and lower heat (no. 4 on my stove) to simmer for 45-60 minutes or until the glutinous rice is soften.

4. Discard pandan leaves, add brown sugar and stir well.

5. Ladle into a bowl and serve with 1 or 2 tablespoons low-fat milk (traditionally it is topped with coconut milk, but low fat cow milk is healthier).

Nutritional Value:
Black glutinous rice, also known as forbidden rice, is an excellent source of the trace mineral manganese, and a good source of the minerals selenium and magnesium. The black color is due to its outer coating of black bran. This also gives the rice a rich nutty flavor when it is cooked, and adds to its nutrition, as the bran provides important dietary fiber. Forbidden rice provides other nutrients, including the amino acids common to most rice varietals. It is rich in antioxidants just like blueberries. It contains phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, which provide antioxidants and other health benefits. In addition, this rice provides many minerals important for human health, including iron. But because of its glutinous nature, it is a very starchy food and thus very high in calories. It should be eaten once in a while as a sweet treat. If you wish for an even healthier version, go for black rice, which is a long-grain rice whereas black glutinous rice is short-grain. Black rice or black glutinous rice completes the nutritional rainbow.

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Additional Information:
Forbidden rice may have gotten its name because only emperors in ancient China were allowed to eat it, due to its rarity and high nutritional value. In Chinese herbal medicine, black rice is often recommended as a tonic. It is believed to strengthen health and promote longevity, which explained its other alias: “longevity rice,” and “tribute rice” and it was reserved exclusively for emperors.

I was walking in Lyngby Stor Center yesterday to get some groceries after picking J up from the childcare, and suddenly, it stroke me again that I am very far away from my other home, Singapore, very far away from my mother, father, siblings and friends. A feeling of being very unfilial came over me. I reminded myself, why I am here in Denmark, because I married my Significant Other. This is my second home which I have come to love, although I still love and miss Singapore, and especially with all my loved ones there. Being in a cross-cultural marriage means that one of the parties will always be torn apart separated by the distance from loved ones. Singapore has changed a lot since I left 10 years ago, but it is where all my loved ones reside. It is not that I am unhappy with my life here or living among Danes. I am very happy with the home we have set up in Denmark. The Danes are very nice people, and I am most happy living among them. I just also wish that my loved ones are also living among me too. When feelings of home-sickness strikes, I am always comforted by God who oversees all things, also my original homeland and loved ones in Singapore. His still small voice never fails to make me snap out of it, and carry on with my life here.

I know my parents probably feel the same. They are very happy for me, though I imagine that once in a while, the realization of their daughter being far away must have also hit them. Whenever a sudden bulge of home-sickness strikes, I will begin to crave comfort food. My mother hardly makes dessert, but if she does so, this is one of those desserts that she makes. This morning, I phoned her to get the original recipe and I start making it now. I am now adding one more recipe to the records of my heritage for J, and also as a tool to hold on to my sense of self, having transplanted myself out of Singapore to Denmark.

I am so pleased to learn from my friend Jannie that I can get pandan leaves from the Chinatown in Copenhagen. I am so blessed to live in this modern age, where (almost) everything is available anywhere in the world, enabling me to indulge in my comfort food.

My Significant Other tried this dessert for the first time this morning, and I am so pleased that he liked it. He is now taking his third bowl :-) Over the years, we have come closer and closer in terms of food, and we have grown more and more to like each other's food. It meant a lot to me to be able to enjoy my childhood food with my Significant Other.

References:
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-forbidden-rice.htm
http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Magic-of-Black-Rice-New-Superfood
http://www.bewellbuzz.com/nutrition/black-rice-antioxidants/
http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_journal_individual.asp?blog_id=2856894
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_rice


This is how you tie a knot with pandan leaves

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

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My Conviction on Home-Cooked Food

I grew up in a rather traditional Chinese family in Singapore. When I was a child, I used to hate cooking because my mother told me that girls must learn to cook, and boys do not need to do that. Thus, I REFUSED to learn, to the exasperation of my mother. I did not even know how to fry an egg or cook a pot of rice. I used to fail my Home Econs in high school and I took pride in failing that subject (if I ever made an effort to pass the subject, it would solely be to raise my grade point average in the notoriously ultra competitive Singapore's education system).

Coming to Denmark, I used to think that the Danes are weird creatures that they like to stand in the kitchen and make food. Never do I realise that one day, today, I have to eat my own words. This series marks my mentality change and my progress from cooking to baking... from baking buns from instant mix to baking bread from mixing the ingredients myself... boy, I have come a long way! And the journey ahead is still long, but so enjoyable and interesting.

A cosy home comes from making home-cooked food. Many shared memories cannot be replaced. If I may be allowed to give a piece of advice, my advice to my fellow Singaporeans is - don't leave it to your maids to cook. Do it yourself. Make it a fun kids' day to spend by experimenting with the different ingredients that God has created and making food together with your kids. Don't be afraid of the mess it creates and the time it takes (triple so long to make a meal when kids are involved). You will be teaching your child a lot of things - the Science, Arts, life skills, bonding skills, etc. Don't leave it to your maids. Blessed are the home-makers. Few have that opportunity. I am determined to teach J to learn how to cook and bake, although he is a boy.

Note:
My philosphy is in using high quality ingredients and baking only healthy wholesome buns, bread, etc. If you are looking for recipes for cakes and cookies, then the series on baking is not for you, and you will be disappointed.
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General Strategies Behind the Working Woman's Fast Food

I am determined NOT to compromise on my family's nutrition when I start working after a long and wonderful maternity leave.

My criteria of food are:

1. Fast
2. Easy
3. Nutritious
4. Affordable
5. Traditional yet modern

How do I achieve that?

1. Use frozen vegetables

By using frozen vegetables, you save a lot of time (by forgoing the need to wash, rinse and cut vegetables) without compromising on the nutrition.

Frozen vegetables are at least as nutritious as fresh vegetables — and in some situations may actually be more nutritious.

Frozen vegetables have been picked at the peak of their ripeness, and immediately flash frozen. As a result, all of the minerals and vitamins are locked in, ready for your benefit. This means that in some cases, frozen vegetables might be more nutritious than vegetables purchased from the produce aisle which have been sitting for weeks.

Frozen vegetables may also have the outer cellulose layer already broken as a result of the freezing, making it easier for your body to digest the vegetables.

Because the cellulose layer already broken as a result of the freezing, frozen vegetables do not taste as good stir-fry. However, they taste superb using the steaming method and save even more time than if you have to steam fresh vegetables.

2. Eat vegetables raw as far as possible

Raw vegetables take less time to cook and retain most of the nutrients. Some vegetables taste great raw such as kale and red peppers.

3. Make simple dips and sauces

Make simple dips and sauces that pour easily on food to spice it up within seconds. Many of these sauces and dips can be made in advance, thus reduces greatly the stress of the peak hour time between 4-6pm of families with kids!

4. Use automatic utensils

Use automatic rice cooker, electric cooker, etc. that do not require you to stand around and stir while cooking, and automatically switches the power off when done.

5. Use pressure cooker

Use pressure cooker to reduce cooking time significantly for food which usually requires long cooking time such as beans and meat stew.
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My Principles on Sweet Treats

May 2010

I started this series in anticipation of the exposure J will get when his world gets bigger and bigger, when he will very soon discover the existence of cakes, ice-creams, sweets and chocolate. I know there is no way to avoid it, and I should not try to deprive J of the enjoyment of desserts.

However, I can manage it by offering J a more nutritious, healthier and perhaps tastier (due to the fresh and natural ingredients used) alternative.

Before THAT day arrives, I have now started to immerse myself into learning about and experimenting on with how to make delicious sweet treats, and really enjoying the process a lot.

Here are some wholesome sweet treats made with fresh, natural, healthy and nutritious ingredients for the occasional cravings.

I try to avoid processed food and ingredients that give nothing much but empty calories as well as containing the harmful E numbers as much as possible.

Thus, my principles are:

1. Use NUTS to obtain the richness, chunkiness and crunchiness.

2. Use FRUITS such as banana and dried dates to sweeten dessert naturally as far as possible.

3. Use FROMAGE FRAIS (french white cream cheese) or UNFLAVOURED YOGURT (Ymer or Greek yogurt tend to have the creamiest texture) or avocado to achieve the creaminess.

4. Use VANILLA BEAN to obtain the base flavour naturally

5. Use FRESH MILK instead of water to achieve the volume and retain the dairy taste.

These base ingredients generally contain nutrients packed to the rim and the good fats necessary for brain development, especially for babies and kids. Adults need these good fats too to guard against heart disease and Alzheimer's.

Nevertheless because of their sweetness, these food remains as such OCCASIONAL TREATS and should not be part of the staple food on a regular or daily basis. Thus, they are called sweet TREATS for a reason.

I don't believe in giving J Cheerios, Oreos, rice-crackers, commercial biscuits, teething biscuits, cornflakes, etc. and hope that I don't ever have to start giving him that. These products tend to be highly processed and contain a high amount of sugar, empty calorie white flour and artificial flavouring.

The Bible says:

"Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6
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Healthy Black Bean Soup/Sunde Sorte Bønnesuppe/黑豆湯[hēi dòu tāng]

Serves 2-4

Preparation and Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
1. 1 cup dried black beans
2. 2 dried bay leaves (laurbærblade)
3. 1 litre or 4 cups water
4. Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Cook beans with water in a pressure cooker for 20 minutes at high pressure (setting no. 2 on my pressure cooker and no. 2 on my stove).

2. To save energy, switch off the stove, but let the cooker stay on the stove for 5-10 minutes.

3. Then carefully open the release vault and allow the steam to escape before opening the lid.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Discard bay leaves and blend the black beans directly in the pot with a stick blender and serve :-)

Tips:
1. You can soak the beans the night before, but it is not really necessary.

Nutritional Value:
Black beans are an excellent source of iron and manganese. Black beans are an excellent source of cholesterol-lowering fiber and high quality protein. Black beans are high in dietary fiber, folate, molybdenum, tryptophan, vitamin B1 (thiamin), complex carbohydrates, magnesium and phosphorus.

Black beans have also recently been reported to be an extremely good source of nutritional antioxidants. Gram for gram, black beans are found to have the most antioxidant activity in the bean family.

Black beans help protect against cancer, lower heart attack risk and are good for diabetic as it give you energy to burn while stabilizing blood sugar. When combined with a whole grain such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice, provide protein comparable to that of meat or dairy foods without the high calories or saturated fat found in these foods.

Additional Information:
I accidentally concorted this healthy yet super delicious recipe, while trying to follow a much more complicated recipe. I tested it, and this simple soup brought out the flavour of black beans perfectly. But unfortunately I went on to add all the other ingredients (olive oil, carrots, cumin, chilli powder, celery, onion and garlic) the other recipe called for, and it turned out disastrous. Next time, I will just stop at this step. This recipe is amazingly simple, but yet it tastes so good, which is hard to believe. But it truly does. Try it and DON'T add any other ingredients. You will fall in love with simply black beans with this soup :-) I didn't have any picture for this soup, as I didn't think of taking a picture before I added all the other unnecessary ingredients. Will put up a picture when I make this soup again.

From today's experience, I learned one lesson: sometimes the fewer ingredients, the better, and it is best to use one main ingredient.

References:
http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=2

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

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Book Summaries


I love to read. My strengths are that I can read a book from cover to cover literally without getting bored and I can finish a book within a day, even if I have to go without sleep. No matter how busy I am, I always find time to read, as it helps me to de-stress. My weaknesses are that I am a very narrow reader and I don't read fiction books at all. I dive deeply into a subject matter, but I don't read widely, and as such I have a rather poor general knowledge. And because I have rather poor general knowledge, I am very bad in making small talks (and thus I dislike cocktail parties). Currently, the subject matters that interest me most are... you guessed it, child development and parenting :-)

Objectives of My Book Summaries:
1. To serve my needs
My book reviews are not exactly the conventional book reviews as they are written first and for most to serve my needs. They are mainly summaries of important or main points from the books that I read, and as summarized as I can trim away the "fats". I make these summaries to help me to absorb, digest and internalize these learnings in a format that best suited to my brain to remember them and as well as to facilitate easy electronic search and retrieval. Most are wholesale text from the writers, but some are in my own words to help me understand those points better in my own context.

2. To help others

Secondly, if my notes can be of help to others who don't have the time to read, but would like somebody else to do the hard work of making a structured summary, I would gladly do so by posting them in this blog :-)

Since these points are not my own ideas, I have acknowledged the source under the "References" section to give credit to those writers who write and publish the books at the end of each post. Whenever possible, I will also provide a link to the book to Amazon.com in my posts, because I think these authors deserve to get some more people to buy their books.
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Teaching Shapes in a Fun Way


A fun way to teach children the difference types of shapes is to sing it. Here is a great video from KidsTV123:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfRuLS-Vnjs

Another fun way is to make it into a game. Here is a good suggestion from I Can Teach My Child:

http://www.icanteachmychild.com/2011/07/tape-shapes.html

Monday, 21 February 2011

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Healthy Oatmeal Banana Muffins/Sunde Banan Havregryn Muffins/英式香蕉麦片松饼 [yīng shì xiāng jiāo mài piàn sōng bǐng]


Makes 12 muffins

Preparation and Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:
- 3/4 cup Graham's wheat flour
- 3/4 cup oatmeal
- 1 TBS ground cinnamon
- 2 TBS wheat germ (optional)
- 1 TBS brewer's yeast (optional)
- 1/3 cup brown sugar or blackstrap molasse
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt (optional)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/2 vanilla pod or 1 TBS pure vanilla extract
- 2 medium bananas mashed
- 1/2 cup walnuts chopped
- 1 TBS ground flaxseeds (optional)

Directions:
1.Combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, ground cinnamon, ground flaxseeds, brewer's yeast, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

2. In a large bowl, beat the egg lightly. Stir in the yogurt, oil, and vanilla. Add the mashed banana, and combine thoroughly.

3. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. DO NOT OVER MIX! A lumpy muffin mixture is always good sign.

4. Add in the chopped nuts and mixed well.

5. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper bake cups, and divide the batter among them.

6. Bake at 175°C (350°F) for 18 minutes.

Storage:
Freeze well. Can freeze for 8 weeks. Thaw them for 10-15 seconds in the microwave or overnight in the fridge.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Additional Information:
If I make it for my family, I will only add 1/4 cup brown sugar, which is a bit on the bland side, but even healthier :-) But that is alright with me, as I don't want my family to grow loving muffins too much... ha ha!

References:http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/banana-oat-muffins/Detail.aspx
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Oatmeal Banana Pancakes

Ingredients
- 1 cup uncooked rolled oats
- 1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/8 cup brown sugar (or omit)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 2 cups milk
- 2 TBS olive oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 banana mashed
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 TBS brewer's yeast
- 1 TBS ground flaxseeds

Directions:
1.Place the rolled oats into the jar of a blender and blend until the texture resembles coarse flour.

2. Whisk the blended oats, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, brewer's yeast, ground cinnamon and salt together in a bowl; set aside.

3. Whisk together the egg, milk, olive oil and vanilla.

4. Stir in the mashed banana.

5. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Let the batter stand for 5 minutes.

6. Heat a lightly oiled griddle over medium-high heat.

7. Drop batter by large spoonfuls onto the griddle and cook for 2 minutes until bubbles form and the edges are dry.

8. Flip, and cook until browned on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter.

References:
http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/whole-wheat-oatmeal-and-banana-pancakes/Detail.aspx

Sunday, 20 February 2011

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J Summary (23M15D) - Language Regression

Language Development, or should I say, Regression

J is getting better at Danish, but not much progress with Mandarin this week, nor English. In fact, his Mandarin has regressed. Overall, J spoke less this whole week, as he has been sick the whole week with a nasty flu. He was still sick today, but got a little better by evening. He now prefers to use Danish words for things he used to use Chinese words for. Daddy had been doing the bed time routine, and thus it perhaps explained so.

Am I discouraged? Do I waver?

The road ahead is long and tough, but I will by sheer steel will choose to continue to pursue the long and narrow road, sustained only by the inner peace of God to cheer me on. Oh God, in this sometimes lonely journey of parenthood, how I thank you so much for being with me, for Your sweet presence, it meant so much to me. Despite that, I shall not sway or waver to the right nor to the left, but I plucked up all my energy I have to discipline myself to speak English with him today and read English books. It was mentally very tiring for me to switch between the languages, but I shall persevere on by God's grace.

Even if I do not succeed 10 years from now, I would be glad that I have tried my very very best.

I take courage from the Bible in Isaiah 40:28-31:

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Yes, I will go on... with the strength of the LORD.

Bed time reflection

As I put J to bed, I was so tired. As scenes of the day flashed through my mind, how it was driving me crazy to spend the whole day with him, and how I was tempted just to turn on the video to entertain him, so that I have will have some time to myself. But I have to remember to enjoy his limited remaining toddlerhood. I will soon mourn the passing of his toddlerhood, as he is clearly approaching preschoolerhood. I remembered around the same time last year, I was mourning the passing of his babyhood. Time is flying by fast! And J is growing up so fast. I have to learn to treasure it. I wish time will go slower.... that J will grow up slower... that we will grow older slower...

Saturday, 19 February 2011

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Activities for Pre-schoolers (2-4 Years Old)


Below are some wonderful activities recommended by http://www.babycenter.com/ during time at home or when the weather is bad and you can't go out or when you need to keep your child near you in the kitchen.

They may be a little too sophisticated for the younger children in this group, thus adjust accordingly and be selective about the topics.

1. The power of pretend play

Pretend you are at your child's favorite restaurant. Outfit your child with an apron and help him set up a table and chairs for his stuffed animals.

Or, pretend you are going on a picnic: Set out a blanket with a basket and ask your child what kinds of food he would pack.

Pretend play gives your child ample opportunity to use his imagination, says Jerome L. Singer, Yale University. Research shows that kids who play make-believe tend to be happier than other kids.

2. Make a mini kitchen

Set up a small table for your child in one corner of the kitchen with a few cooking utensils (small pot, cutting board, butter knife) and some of the ingredients you're using for dinner. Your child can imitate you while pretending to make dinner, too. If your child has a play kitchen in his room, consider moving it into the kitchen where you can cook side by side.

3. Cook up a story

Use kitchen items for inspiration. For example, the pasta you're about to dump into the boiling water can represent scuba divers on a daring mission. Encourage your child to add to the tale or start one of his own. Telling stories is terrific for children's language development, helps children organize their thoughts, learn new vocabulary and also boosts their self-esteem.

Tip: Your child will love hearing about a main character that greatly resembles him.

4. Sorting fun

Set a bunch of different objects — fruits, silverware (no sharp knives!), cups — on the table and ask your child to separate them into different groups. While he's concentrating on the task, talk to him about the objects he's sorting: What color are they? What are they used for? Not only will your child have fun with everyday objects, he'll also learn about them. "Sorting is one way young kids explore the world," Kenworthy says.

5. Funnel fun

Seat your child at the table in front of two plastic washtubs with beans or colored rice, provide a funnel and some spoons, and show your child how to pour the beans and rice back and forth.

Be sure to keep an eye on your child, Kenworthy warns: Some young children may try to put beans or rice in their nose and ears, where they can get stuck.

6. Play dough creations

Kids love to make their own cakes, cookies, etc. Set up a tray with coloured dough and some objects for your child to shape the dough with. Cookie cutters, toothpicks, and bottle caps are all good choices. Four-year-olds love to use garlic presses. Two- and 3-year-olds may have trouble squeezing the garlic press together, but they can use plastic knives and scissors to cut the play dough. Here is how you can make playdough.


7. Playful pizza

Buy ready-made pizza dough and give your child a bowl of cooked tomato sauce to smear onto the crust. Then let him decorate it with pieces of grated cheese, pepperoni, olives, slices of tomato and pepper, and anything else you'd like on the pizza. Many children like to make smiley faces or patterns. After you've cooked the pizza, point out to your child how the ingredients look different (mushrooms shrink, cheese melts, colors deepen) after they've been cooked.

8. Homespun place mats

Set up a small arts and crafts table in the kitchen with glue, markers, construction paper, scissors, beans, and various types of uncooked pasta. Your child can create colorful placemats for family members and decorate the borders with the beans and pasta.

9. Dish Soap Bottles

References:
http://www.babycenter.com/0_prime-time-fun-alternatives-to-tv_64419.bc

http://www.babycenter.com/kidsActivitySearch.htm?category=&phase=Preschooler+%282-4+yrs%29&queryString=&queryType=3&x=32&y=15

http://www.babycenter.com/kidsActivitySearch.htm?category=Educational&phase=Preschooler+%282-4+yrs%29&queryString=&queryType=3&x=22&y=15

http://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-Affordable-Play-Dough/

http://fun.familyeducation.com/sculpting/recipes/37040.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ys9Qmm6FfkM

http://www.ehow.com/how_2282292_make-edible-play-dough.html
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Teaching Alphabet to Preschoolers in a Fun Way

1. Letter of the Week - Focus on learning one new letter each week.

2. You can use letter flash cards and letter magnets to reinforce the shape of the letter.

3. Print a page that relates to the letter from the internet for your child to color each day. There are many sites available; it is easy to find seven different pictures for the letter you are working on (apple, alligator, etc.). And each day after your child colors the picture, he or she can put the picture on the refrigerator.

4. A couple of times a day, point to the magnet or picture and ask your child what the letter is. If your child is correct, you can give your child a small reward, like one gummy bear or a star on a chart.

5. Form the letter with your body - a brillant idea from "Having Fun at Home".

6. Baking Alphabet Bread

7. Make a "Alphabet Coded Scavenger Hunt" by recycling the egg packaging and allocating letters of the alphabet for each of the little cups. Your child could look for things beginning with each specified letter.

8. Make "Letter Mats" for hopping.

9. Make Letter Tokens for matching letters and spelling words.

10. Make Alphabet Box for teaching objects that begin with the same sound.

11. Shoot ABCs with Spray bottle

12. Tracing letters with thread

References:
http://www.savvysource.com/activities/activity_b261_letter-of-the-week

http://mama-jenn.blogspot.com/search/label/Letter%20%22A%22%20Activities
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Should Babies and Toddlers Watch TV?


This has always been a dilemma for me, an unresolved issue tugging at the back of my mind, and I am sure for many parents too. I was more inclined to a total no TV approach, although I do allow some educational videos now, but still not TV. There can be some merits, but the cons may outweigh the pros, especially with excessive TV watching. Thus, we need to be careful here.

What does current research say?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids 2 and older watch no more than one to two hours daily. The AAP recommends that kids under 2 watch no television at all.

Popping in a DVD or turning on the TV can buy you a precious half-hour to cook or just catch your breath, thus, reserve turning on the TV for those moments when you really have to get something done instead of making it a part of your child's daily routine. However, whenever possible, bring your child into the kitchen with you. You have plenty of "ingredients" for fun inside the cupboards and drawers. Here are some ideas of joint activities in the kitchen, while you make food or prepare dinner.

Small amount of viewing is alright, but research shows that excessive TV viewing by the very young has been linked with slower language development, obesity, and attention problems. Research also shows that too much TV-watching can actually restrict your child's imaginative and cognitive abilities.

There may be some learning merits in the TV or video programme, but bear in mind that passive learning is always inferior to active learning. For example, it is better to bring the child to the zoo or the farm so that he can see the lamb, touch and feel its wool, hear its sound in real life, and in so doing provide a face-to-face interaction. This is active learning. He can also see a lamb on TV, but that is passive learning. Active learning will stimulate all senses of the brain - sight, touch, smell and hearing more powerfully. Children will commit the new thing they are learning to their longer term memory faster and more efficiently if it is presented to them using several sensory avenues.

A recent study looked at three groups: children with unlimited access to television, children with moderate access who watched without a parent, and children with moderate access who watched with a parent. The last group scored significantly higher academically than did the other groups.

The problem definition

The problem lies more with me than J. It is because it is so hard for me to strike a balance. Once TV is introduced, it can be very difficult to cut down or take it back - both for the child AND the parents. The child may likely be very insisting of wanting more. The parents may be tempted to use TV as a convenient baby-sitter, to the detriments of both the child and parents in the long term.

What should the strategy be?

In order to ensure that balance is achieved, here are the following principles to follow:

1. Introduce TV only when you have garnered sufficient determination and self-control

It must be introduced in a very determined and discipline way. Introduce by tiny amount, so that it will not become a habit. If I can't handle the discipline and self-control in this area, it is better not to introduce it at all.

The first DVD programme we allowed J to watch was when he was around 2 years old, because I wasn't confident of myself that I would be discipline enough and would not to get tempted to use it as a convenient baby-sitter.

2. Make a plan and have a fixed schedule

This is so that you get to monitor the amount of TV watching.Thus, this helps you to achieve better balance for this activity.

For J, it is my aim to limit it to 30 minutes per session, once or twice a week during Video Time.

3. Be very selective of the program

I am very selective of the type of programme. It has to meet two criteria: both fun and educational.


4. Watch with your child wherever possible

Watch with your child and explain what's going on in the show and in the commercials (and clarify the difference between the two). Encourage your child to ask questions and relate what's happening in the show to his own life. If you are watching a DVD, you can pause to discuss what's going on.

5. Pray

I can have a very good strategy and an action plan that support the strategy above, but my spirit is willing, alas my flesh is weak. I need to consistently bring it to God in prayers to give me wisdom, determination, courage and self-control to follow through with my plan and strategy. I am not fully there yet. This goes for many of the other areas of parenting and life.

References:
http://havingfunathomeblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/simple-songs-for-memorizing-lists-and.html

Babywise and Preschoolwise

http://www.babycenter.com/6_your-28-month-old-gifted-kids_10329593.bc

http://www.babycenter.com/0_prime-time-fun-alternatives-to-tv_64419.bc

http://www.babycenter.com/0_tv-watching-guidelines_64211.bc?intcmp=Nav_HP_Hero3&pn=BC%2520Homepage

http://www.babycenter.com/0_too-much-tv_64203.bc

http://www.babywisemom.com/2011/02/vakt-multisensory-method-for-teaching.html

http://www.montessori.edu/prod.html#TV
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Educational Toys for Toddlers 2-3 years old

Here are a list of toys suitable for this age:

1. Tricycle

2. Leap Frog Alphabet magnets

3. Art supplies - markers, crayons, watercolors, and construction paper (ask your child to draw the sky, grass, or even the sound of rain)

4. Play kitchen - plastic fruits and vegetables that can be cutted, pots, and spatulas.

5. Books - Search out some well-tested favorites, such as Eric Carle's Very Hungry Caterpillar, Dr. Seuss's There's a Wocket in My Pocket, or Laura Joffe Numeroff's If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

6. Sand toys - a pail and shovel — he can build a castle or just make piles. For added interest, consider a bright yellow dump truck or front-end loader. He'll have a grand time loading up trucks and dumping his cargo.

7. Bath toys

8. Large construction blocks such as Lego blocks

9. Pull toys

10. Jigsaw puzzles

12. Wooden blocks for stacking and building

13. Wooden beads through the wire mesh

14. Wooden beads to string a string through

15. Balls (playing basketball with wastebasket)

16. Musical instruments - tamboourine, drum, rhythm sticks (encourage your child to dance, clap and hop to music)

17. Dress-up clothes - cowboy clothes, etc (Designate a drawer or a box for dress-up clothes, hats, shoes, etc.)

18. Rocking horse

19. Simple board game such as matching pictures

References:
http://www.babycenter.com/0_gifts-for-2-year-olds_5385.bc?scid=mbtw_post23m_2w:.1027&pe=2UyYa5h&st=MjAxMTAyMTk
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Healthy Carrot Muffins/Sunde Muffins med Gulerødder/英式胡萝卜松饼[yīng shì hú luó bo sōng bǐng]


Makes 12 muffins or 24 mini muffins

Preparation and Cooking Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:
• 3/4 cup wheat flour
• 1/2 cup graham wheat flour
• 2/3 cup dark brown sugar or blackstrap molasse
• 2 TBS wheat germ
• 1 TBS brewer’s yeast (optional, but this increases the nutritional value)
• 2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• Pinch salt
• 2 large eggs
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• 1/2 vanilla pod or 1 TBS pure vanilla extract
• 4 medium or 3 large carrots, grated (about 2 cups) or 1 cup unwanted fruit pulp when you are juicing fruits - optional (I recycle the pulp from fruit juice consisting of pineapples, apples, oranges, spinach)
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
• Decorate with 12 whole pecans on top (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).

2. Line twelve muffin cups with paper muffin liners.

3. Whisk the flours with the other dry ingredients - brown sugar, wheat germ, brewer's yeast, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl.

4. In another smaller mixing bowl, lightly whisk the egg, then whisk in the olive oil, and vanilla.

5. Quickly and lightly fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula.

6. Stir in the carrots or fruit pulp and chopped pecans just until evenly moist; the batter will be very thick.

7. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and decorate the top with a pecan.

8. Bake for 20 minutes* or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.

9. Remove muffins out of the tins, cool and serve warm.

* If you are baking mini muffins, bake for 10 minutes only should be sufficient, otherwise, it may get too dry.

Storage:
Freeze well. Can freeze for 8 weeks. Thaw them for 10-15 seconds in the microwave or overnight in the fridge.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Additional Information:
This is a healthier recipe, as it contains wheat germ, brewer’s yeast and does not contain as much sugar. I got inspired from my friend, Fon. My significant Other likes it. We haven't let J try it yet, and I am still contemplating whether I would make this for his coming 2 years old birthday. We want to hold off cakes and desserts for as long as possible.

It is still a little too sweet for us. I use this recipe if I am serving guests, but if we are making this for ourselves, and I can still reduce the sugar.

References:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/healthy-carrot-muffin-recipe/index.html

Thursday, 17 February 2011

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Conversation Starters with Children


You want to spend time with your child, nephew or niece, but sometimes you don't know what to say or ask. Or you end up asking the same thing, and getting a one-word "yes" or "no" reply.

Conversation Starters

The book "The Power of Teachable Moments" suggested some topics and questions (page 65) which you can ask children between 11-14 years old to get the conversation going. For younger children, rephrase the questions in a way they can understand and be selective about the topics.

Family

• If you were to design a new house for the family, how would you draw it? (Or just them to draw the house.)
• If Jesus were your brother, how would He treat you?
• If Jesus were you, how would He treat (name of sibling)?
• What’s one thing you can do to treat (name of sibling) as Jesus would?
• If you were in charge of teaching the Bible at this house, what would you do?
• Do you sometimes feel like everyone is too busy for you? Tell me about that feeling.
• What do you do on the weekends?
• What are you looking forward to most this weekend with the family?
• What is your least favourite family activity?
• Are you happier at home or at school (or church or soccer practice; you get the idea)? Why?
• Tell me about a time when I did something you really liked. What did that feel like?
• If you could go on a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?
• If you had a million dollars to spend on a family vacation, where would you go and what would you do?
• My worst chore is taking out the garbage. Do you have chores to do at home?
• Do you like playing inside or outside?
• Describe your perfect day, from the time you wake up until you go to bed.

School

• Teach us one thing that you learned today that you think we don’t yet know.
• What do you love/hate most about your school?
• Who is your favorite teacher?
• If you were made a teacher for one day, what will you do? How would you have run this class?
• What was the __________ (choose one: funniest . . . most surprising . . . most predictable . . . dullest) thing that happened to you today?
• What was the nicest thing you did for someone else today? What was the nicest thing that someone else did for you today?
• Tell us three adjectives that describe your day today.
• With whom did you have lunch today?
• Did anyone tell a good joke today? What was it about?
• What is the best thing about your teacher?
• How does your teacher keep the class under control? Is it effective? What could he or she do differently? What would you do differently?
• Whom did you talk to today? What about?
• If Jesus were the principal at your school, what would He do?
• What was special about this school day that made it different from all the others?
• What could you have done today to make the day different for someone else?
• If you could get a nickel for every time you heard someone say something nice or a nickel for every time someone said something mean, which would you choose? How long would it take you to earn $100?
• What do you do best in school? How can you tell?
• What does it feel like to do something you like and to do a good job at it?
• If you could do anything you wanted at lunch, what would it be?
• Which one of the adults at your school is the kindest? What does he or she do that you like? How can you be more like that person?
• If you were a principal for a day, what would you do?
• How does school help you fulfill your dreams?
• In 60 seconds, tell us as much about your day as you can.

Friends

• Which student/friend is the kindest in your class or group of friends? What does he or she do that you like? Why do you want to be that person’s friend?
• Who is the least popular kid at school? What does that kid feel like when he or she is at school? What can you do to be a friend and a support to this kid?
• How do you treat that kid? How would Jesus treat that kid?
• If something really embarrassing happened to you, which one of your friends would be least likely to tell your secret? How do you know?
• If you all went to the mall together, which one of your friends might ask you to shoplift? Which one would be likely to say, “That’s wrong”?
• Who is the person at school least likely to get into a fight? Why did you choose that person? Would you like to be more like that person?
• Who are the Christians in your class? How can you tell?
• Where do you eat lunch? Who sits with you?
• Who are the three most important people to you? Did you talk with them today? What about?
• Who is the most unhappy person in your class or among your friends? How do you know? What can you do for that person?
• Which one of your friends will give you the best advice? Who did you choose that person? Would the advice be based on the Bible? If not, what would it be based on?
• What are your standards for choosing friends? Which of your friends comes closest to that standard? Which one is farthest from that standard?
• Do you want more friends? Why?
• What does it feel like when a friend lets you down? Will Jesus ever let you down?

Hobbies

• I like to paint. Do you like art?
• What sports do you play?
• Did you ever break a bone?
• Do you play a musical instrument?
• What is your favorite board game?
• What is your favorite book? What is it about?
• What are your hobbies?
• What do you like about your hobby? How does it make you feel when you are pursuing your hobby?
• If you could spend time on your hobby or go to church, which one would you pick? Why?
• If Jesus participated in your hobby, would He do it differently? How would He use the hobby to help others? How can you use your hobby to help others?
• Is there a way to make money from your hobby? What are they? How can I help?
• Do you spend enough time on your hobby? How much time would be enough? How much time would be too much? How do you make those decisions?

Church

• If you had your choice between your favourite movie or going to church, which one would you choose? Why?
• If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
• Tell me about a good time you had at church? How did you feel?
• Tell me about a bad time you had at church? How did you feel?
• If Jesus ran your Sunday School or youth group, what would He do differently? What would He do the same?
• What could you do to make church more interesting so that you would invite your friends?
• What about our church would appeal to your friends? What wouldn’t?
• Do your church friends love God? How can you tell?
• Do you like your church friends or your school friends better? Why?
• When you grow up, what would you like to do at church? What sounds fun?
• If Jesus moves to our city, would He attend our church? Why or why not?
• Do the people at our church love God? How can you tell?

The Media

• If you were writing a newspaper article about your day, what would the headline be?
• You are going to be alone on a deserted island for a year and you get to take one book/DVD/CD. What would you take?
• What movie character would you want to be?
• If you could make a movie, what would it be about?
• In the movie about your life, what actor would play you? Your best friend? Your family members?
• What is it about this form of entertainment that attracts you?
• Why do you like this particular style (or genre or show) more than others?
• Why do you listen to or watch that? (If it is simply because friends do, ask, “Why do your friends listen to or watch it?”)
• How does this form of entertainment make you feel?
• Do the themes reflect reality? Do they reflect truth? If they reflect reality, do they also gloss over evil?
• How do the messages conveyed compared with the values you have been taught here at home or in church?
• Do you think these messages have any effect on how close you feel to your family, friends or God? Why or why not?
• Would you feel comfortable if Jesus sat here listening to or watching this with you? Do you think He’d be concerned, or would He enjoy this particular entertainment product?
• Does this entertainment reflect an opinion about God? What is it?
• What would happen if you imitated the lifestyles and choices of the characters in these songs or this program?
• What do you consider to be inappropriate entertainment? Where do you draw the line? Where does Scripture draw the line? Are they the same?
• How does it make you feel to know that by purchasing a CD, going to a movie, or watching a TV program, you are supporting the ideas being promoted?

Others

• What was the __________ (choose one: funniest . . . most surprising . . . most predictable . . . dullest) thing that happened to you today?
• What was the nicest thing you did for someone else today? What was the nicest thing that someone else did for you today?
• If you were writing a newspaper article about your day, what would the headline be?
• Tell us three adjectives that describe your day today.
• In 60 seconds, tell us as much about your day as you can.
• Teach us one thing that you learned today that you think we don’t yet know.
• If you were president, name three things that you would change about the country right away.
• If you won the lottery (or won $100) what is the first thing you would buy?
• If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
• You are going to be alone on a deserted island for a year and you get to take one book/DVD/CD. What would you take?
• Describe your perfect day, from the time you wake up until you go to bed.
• If you could invent something that would make life easier, what would it do?
• If you were running for mayor, what would be your campaign platform?
• What movie character would you want to be?
• If you could meet a person from history, who would it be?
• Tell us the last joke that you can remember hearing.
• If you could be an Olympic athlete, what would you be?
• If you could go on a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?
• If you could make a movie, what would it be about?
• In the movie about your life, what actor would play you? Your best friend? Your family members?
• Do you like playing inside or outside?
• I love your jacket. Where did you get it?
• What is your favorite board game?
•  What is your favorite book? What is it about?
•  Who is your favorite teacher?
•  What sports do you play?
• Do you play a musical instrument?
• My worst chore is taking out the garbage. Do you have chores to do at home?
• Did you ever break a bone?
• I like to paint. Do you like art?
• What do you do on the weekends?


Question Structure - Begin with "Start Questions" then "Follow-up Questions":

Start Questions:

• Whom did you sit with at lunch today?
• What are your discussions about?
• What was the topic of the day?
• Did anything funny happen?
• Did anyone cry today? What about?

Follow-up Questions:

• When that happened, how did you feel?
• Why do you think that?
• What basis are you using to take your position?
• If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
• How would Jesus have done in that situation? Why?
• How do you think the other person felt?

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Additional Information:
I am so glad I have found this! I have got to list it down and file it in my electronic achive. It will come in handy the next time I travel to Singapore to visit my family. Going to Singapore is one of the most hectic things for me, with heavy family commitments, but one that I gladly do. But sometimes friends don't understand and feel hurt by why I don't have time to meet up.

I have a nephew whom I love and pray for. He is now 11 years old. He is suffering from ADHD. Since young, he has a lot of challenges socially and at school. When I am in Singapore, I try my best to invest whatever limited time I have in Singapore with him as much as possible. I want to start a conversation with him, but sometimes I run out of topics. I want to show him that I love him and care about him. It is not easy for him to make friends, and I have been praying for him for 11 years now. Finally God sent him a wonderful friend from Boys' Scouts. I am so happy to have found these ideas to start a conversation, which I will fine-tune to suit my needs.

It's soon midnight. Now I can go to sleep.

References:
The Power of Teachable Moments

http://www.suite101.com/content/dinner-table-conversation-starters-a23684

http://www.myfamilyminute.com/articles/viewarticle/index.php?id=359
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Time Snatchers


We are living in a very time-pressed world. Things from right, left, front and back are often fighting for our time. For me, it is often hard to strike a balance.

However, to build a healthy relationship with our child, we need to supply quality time in a HEALTHY QUANTITY (page 17). We need to be very wise on how we spend our time.

The book I am currently reading called "The Power of Teachable Moments" warns of the following time snatchers (on page 23 that I would like to bear in mind) that could steal away the resources that could belong to our children:

1. House Beautiful - Let the house go and make it a home. Work on encouraging your children to reflect Christ and seek perfection in spiritual things. In the long run, that will bring your home more honour than creating a house suited for the cover of "Better Homes & Gardens"!

2. Standard of Living - Lower your standard of living to raise your child-raising standard. For example, a large house requires large amount of energy to repair and maintain, do yard work, headaches and emotional strain. Or do you spend a lot of time and emotional energy watching the stock market? Consolidate your investments and let your money take care of you, not the other way around. Simplify, simplify, simplify. If you can make do with fewer things, you will have more for your children in terms of relationship time. Get rid of those material possessions that drain your relationship resources.

3. Work - Strike a work-life balance. Do your best, but don't go WAY beyond the call of duty to the extent that you neglect your family. When your family suffers, your work will suffer too in the long run.

4. Hobbies - Right now, the best hobbyhorse to ride is the one your kids can ride with you. Unless your child can participate, cut back on time spent with the model trains, log off the Internet, put away the paint brushes - for now. You can dabble in those pursuits later, when your kids are in school or college. Make your children your hobby.

5. Social Events - Are you a social butterfly who needs to be present at every party that you are invited? Learn to say no. Consider meeting friends for lunch, instead of an entire evening.

6. Ministry - several ministry possibilities exist that can unclude your whole family. During this phase of your life, pursue these. Prayerfully ask God to show you when and where you are to minister to others.

7. Sports - Don't underdo it, but don't overdo it either. Get up early to do your workouts, before the kids are awake. When your kids are old enough, find sports that you can do together to keep fit.
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How to Make Time Well-Spent in the Car?

Age: From 3.5 years old

There may come a time, when we have to ferry J around to the various classes. Don't always turn on the radio, take the time to connect with our child child by:

1. Talk and ask questions like:
- What did you learn?
- What do you think about that?
- Tell me about your friends.
- What can I be praying for you?

2. Sing praise songs all the way home

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

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J's Lunch Pack 7


J's lunch pack for sunday after music class: Sphagetti meat sauce (made with minced beef, corn, carrot, peas, 4 homemade mix beans baby cubes and wholegrain pasta).

I added puree vegetables baby cubes (french beans and carrots) to increase the the nutritional value, but this is not necessary. It provides a contingency plan, if J doesn't feel like eating the whole vegetables in the meat sauce.

I make this dish for dinner today and freeze a portion for J's lunch on Sunday. In this way, it frees me to do other things during the weekend, and still having ready homemade food for J when we are out on Sunday :-) I bring it along with me in the bag on Sunday morning, letting it thaw naturally by itself, and it will be ready by lunch time after the music class.
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