Thursday, July 24, 2014

Parenting with Empathy...Even When It Feels Hard

Baby AJ turned 1 month yesterday. As an adoptive Mom, I'm not entitled to maternity leave* so the husb and I have been trying means and ways to juggle work and caring for the new-born simultaneously from Day 1. My Mil was kind enough to fly from Penang for 10 days to aid in the transition; my Mum comes over in the mornings on most days but from dusk to dawn (the dreaded witching hours and night feeds), we are all on our own. In our sleep-deprived and exhausted state, the patience wears thin, especially when the baby refused to be pacified after a full feed, a nice warm bath, nappy change, soothing music and baby massage. Some nights, we are driven to our wits' end when the wailing just won't stop for no apparent reasons. A sense of helplessness overwhelms us, and we wonder what have we gotten ourselves into - to choose to parent a new-born after 6 years of relative ease with Dana.  Each time I find the husb losing his cool (and I losing my patience with him for losing his cool), I remind ourselves that the baby is just equally helpless- crying is his only form of communication with us, his caregivers. So we gotta to be extra patient, extra loving because he is crying to express a need (most of which are physiological at this point).  It really is, easier said than done because there are a whole lot of stressors (mostly work-related) which contribute to the tipping point.

Giving him a good bath after I come home from work...

An article 'How to Be an Empathetic Parent Even When It Feels Hard' on the Huffpost Parents affirms my positive self-talk. Here's an excerpt to encourage all fellow parents who finds this parenting journey tough-going. Here goes:

Sometimes when I watch my child crumple into a screeching, sobbing mess at my feet, all I hear in my head is, "You have got to be kidding me! I don't have time for this!" I can't feel his pain, I can't understand his mind and I can't find empathy for him. I want him to snap out of his nonsense at this instant. But he can't. Not without my empathetic touch.

Why can being empathetic be so hard?

1. We're exhausted.

It is SO hard to understand another's point of view or distress when we feel exhausted.  Tell that to parents of a newborn who hasn't had a good uninterrupted sleep for the past few weeks/months.

2. We feel overwhelmed by our stressors.

When financial, work, relationship or physical stress sets in, we often cannot see past our own challenges. 

3. We feel annoyed or impatient with an unfinished task at hand.  We get caught in an avalanche of anger.

When we are about to snap, it is very hard to feel empathy for others.  When we have something on our mind, such as a specific task to complete, we can get preoccupied with not getting that task done and not be able to feel someone else's distress.

4. We feel trapped and unable to get away.

Anyone who has experienced feeling trapped or abandoned can get quite triggered by a screaming child. I have heard many Moms say they go numb and want to walk out of the front door. One Mom said it's like getting a puppy and suddenly realizing what you've got yourself into, except unlike a puppy, you can't give the child back.

5. We want to avoid the feelings another is experiencing.

Some parents might know exactly what their child is feeling, but just don't want to feel or understand that irrational fear or sadness.

What can parents do to increase their empathy?

I believe the first step to being able to deeply connect with the emotions of our children is to be able to shed our own agendas, exhaustion and triggers. The thing a screaming, overwhelmed child needs most is for an adult they feel close with to stop talking, to open our arms and just be there until the screams and crying subside.

When our child is losing it and we are about to, also, it's a great idea to remember that when we are at the end of our parenting rope, our children feel the same way, except they don't have tools to manage those intense feelings yet.

This is what I recommend to increase empathy when doing so is hard:

1. Take control of exhaustion and a busy life.

I made big changes to create space for myself. I did this by making a schedule that included time for rest and fun. I also stopped trying to cram 15 things into a block of alone time and instead tried for 10. I also let go of some tasks that I really wanted to do, but weren't essential. I adjust my schedules and get the word "busy" out of my life. 

2. Don't take another's struggles, meltdowns, or freak-outs personally.

Young children are not attacking you; they just don't have the language or ability to communicate their intense emotions (yet). If your buttons are getting pushed, it is your responsibility to address that, not your child's.

3. Take charge of intense emotions, do not let them take charge of you.

This is a process that requires learning skills and practice. I have some suggestions on how to do that in this article.

4. Stay in charge of self-talk each time empathy is needed and emotions flare.

When my child is freaking out, before I start to feel sorry for myself or allow anger to take over, I say, "STOP!" Then I say, "This is not about you" followed with, "On your knees." (When I drop to my knees to be at eye level near my overwhelmed child, for some reason an instant connection happens).

5. Never be afraid to acknowledge you need help.

And lastly, if any of the above feels impossible, it is time for some help. I continually count on my trusted friends, husband and sister to keep an even keel. If you have had traumatic events and difficult challenges in your life, I encourage you to seek support and learn skills that will be helpful for you and your family.

Empathy is when a person accurately communicates that they see another's intentions and emotional state. It means watching our child's frustration and focusing on how life feels in that little child's body, while putting our own anger and agenda into the background.  I constantly tell myself that 'this too shall pass...he wouldn't stay a baby for long' so I should cherish this stage while it lasts. I'm gonna persevere and try parenting with a bit more empathy today than yesterday. Won't you join me?

His hands in mine...


* For those of you who must know, adoptive Moms are eligible to 1 month's adoption leave (as opposed to 4 months maternity leave), but it can only be granted upon the passing of the Adoption Order (which usually takes 3 to 6 months).


Friday, July 18, 2014

The Skyline Luge Sentosa: All-in Addictive 'Alpine' Fun in the tropics!

There’s nothing like having a dose of adrenaline to inject excitement in any family outing. Over the years, Singapore has added to her play-worthy landscapes many such new attractions ranging from indoor gyms to outdoor parks.

I brought the daughter to revisit a family-friendly adventure activity that not many know has been around for a decade. Recently revamped, I dare say the Skyline Luge Sentosa is the ONLY place in Singapore to offer this unique dose of adrenaline rush complete with stunning sea view and a literally uplifting experience. Judging by the crowd (even on a weekday), one can tell it's really popular among tourists and local families alike. To add to its accolades, Skyline Luge Sentosa has also been awarded the Certificate of Excellence for four consecutive years (2011 to 2014) by Trip Advisor.

Skyline Luge, Beach Station, Sentosa

The Skyline Luge gives your family an addictive and entertaining 'Alpine' experience right here in sunny Singapore by first hoisting your entire family up on skyride chairlifts to the top of the Sentosa hill where you will then race down your luge in one of the two winding tracks Swiss-style. All this without breaking the bank account or subjecting yourself to jet-lag to fly to the land of the Matterhorn! What impresses me is that we can experience the Skyline Luge Sentosa with the entire family, even children as young as 3 years old!

I still remember I went on the Luge for the first time with Dana on my lap 3 years ago when she was still a tiny tot. I was apprehensive initially but the moment I steered the luge down the tracks with relative ease and heard my daughter giggling non-stop, I knew we had to come back. And we did!

Here are some family-friendly pointers from our Skyline Luge Sentosa experiences:

Safety: 

At the Luge, safety is paramount. Before your first ride, the helpful staff will brief you how to steer, maneuver, slow-down and come to a complete halt (all in a 4 simple pull-push-left-right motion). To gain speed, just leave it to gravity and the gradual slope. You’re in total control of how fast you want to go. Release the steering completely and you come to a complete stop. It’s seriously simple and safe. The low CG (Center of Gravity) and wide bottom of the Luge will ensure that you will not skid off or fall off. Helmets, customized by age and size, are given and must be worn. If you have a child with you, there is ample space for both of you to sit comfortably together on the Luge. The additional weight of your child only makes the Luge more stable. For children to ride the Luge alone, they must be 6 years or older (or 110cm in height).

I can ride the Luge on my own, yay!
Safety briefing for your first ride

The helmet selection and safety briefings are done before your first ride. For subsequent rides, the queue will move much swifter. During our recent visit on Youth Day, the wait was 30 to 40 minutes for first riders. If you want to avoid queues and heat, I suggest you go either early in the morning or in the evenings. They open from 10am till 9:30pm daily.

Red helmet for our adventurous little Luger...

Sun:

This is an outdoor activity. Right after you purchase the tickets, you’re out there with the elements. Go armed with sunscreen, mozzie repellant and lots of drinking water. The ride allows you to bring a small water bottle or small haversack as long as you can sling it securely over your head and across your shoulder.

The most fun outdoor family activity in Sentosa!

Speed:

You’re in absolute control. There are no accelerators. Just a simple all-in-one brake and release steering mechanism which allows you to control the speed of the Luge. As a beginner, you may want to avoid the crowded time-slots as there may be more maneuvering needed to steer clear of other riders on the tracks. During our visit, it was the wifey's first time on the Luge. Those who know her well would know that she's not extremely sporty and adventurous sort but despite that, the Luge was enjoyable and simple enough for her to go on it not once, but 5 times!  When they say once is not enough, you gotta believe it! It's that addictive, even for a novice!

The satisfaction at being able to ride in her own Luge!

Selection:

There are two tracks offering only slightly different levels of excitement. After all, they both merge midway. To us, the Dragon Trail starts off with a bit more bends allowing more thrills at the corners while the Jungle Trail with lesser bends allows you to gain speed right from the start. I personally prefer the Dragon Trail whereas the wifey and daughter like the Jungle Trail.

Waiting for our turns to start Luging!

The tracks take on an entirely different feel at night.

During the day, you’re able to see details of the tracks more clearly allowing you greater control. Also, the day ride on the chairlifts allows you to photograph the panoramic vista with ease.

The skyride at dusk...

At night, the tracks are lit with multi-coloured lights, bright enough to illuminate the bends and fellow thrill-seekers. Seeing the lights whiz by amidst the darkness adds to the level of thrill and excitement. The night rides tend to be also way cooler and less crowded.

Mesmerizing track lights at night...
A totally different Luge experience!
Did she like it? You bet!

Undecided? There is a day and night combo ticket for those who want the best of both worlds.

Scenery:

Gorgeous scenery. Day and night. The 10 minute ride on the ski lift rewards you with a bird's eye  views of the sea and our city beyond Sentosa. The night view is mesmerizing albeit more challenging to photograph. Unlike the cable car, the skyride chairlifts have no 'cabins' so you’re ONE with the stunning views. Exciting and not for the faint-hearted!

 Enjoying the views on the skyride...
 Going uphill was a rewarding experience in itself!
Night vista...

Souvenir Photos:

No need to stand in front some green screen and have ‘fake’ scenery superimposed onto your family portraits. The photos taken during the skyrides and luge rides are as real as they get - they capture your family’s thrill-seeking, spontaneous moments! Should you wish to purchase a photo, just inform the friendly staff at the counters to reserve them under your name for viewing once you’re done.

‘Once is never enough’: we can't agree more!

Getting there:

Whether you commute or drive, head towards the Beach Station in Sentosa. Once there, follow the signs to the Skyline Luge or, better still, look up and you’ll see the skyride…for you, the thrill has just begun.

Here we go again! Seriously addictive fun!

SKYLINE LUGE SENTOSA
Website | Facebook

Ticket Prices here
Opens 10am - 9.30pm daily all year

SPECIAL GIVEAWAY!!!

The Skyline Luge Sentosa is sponsoring 3 lucky PrincessDanaDiaries readers with a Four Ride Family Pass (for 2 adults and 2 kids) each! Simply follow the steps to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is open to readers residing in Singapore and ends on midnight of Thursday 31 July 2014. The lucky winners will be notified by email. All the best!

Terms and Conditions:

* Family deals are applicable for families with children below 16 years old.
** Children under 6 years or shorter than the required 110cm to ride alone, may ride the Luge in tandem with a full paying adult.



Disclaimer: We thank the Skyline Luge Sentosa for the kind media invite, friendly hospitality and for generous sponsorship of the giveaway. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions and photographs, are as usual, ours.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

From Austrian hills to Singapore shores…comes The Sound of Music!

Watching musicals is our family’s all time favourite activity. The creative synergy of music, dance, drama and theatrical props bring plots and themes to life like no other genre. It’s also the best way to cultivate a love and appreciation for performance arts in our kids.

In Singapore for a limited season till 10 August 2014 

Arguably one of the world’s best-loved musicals, THE SOUND OF MUSIC tells the true story of a young nun-wannabe, ‘Maria Rainer’ who was sent to be a governess to the 7 children of a widowed naval captain. She re-introduced music to their homes, dispelled the captain’s loneliness and brought laughter back to the children’s regimented lives. Eventually, she won their hearts and they escaped together from the Nazis to Switzerland (before finally settling in America).

The original 1959 Broadway production was adapted into the 1965 movie immortalizing Julie Andrews as Maria. It won five Oscars, including Best Picture, and remains one of the most popular and iconic movies of all time. Now, the musical finally makes it way to Singapore after a successful run at West End’s London Palladium.

This 2.5 hour long musical is superbly staged. From the sets that transported us to the Austrian hillside and Nonnberg Abbey in Austria to the familiar tunes, this production faithfully recreated the 1965 classic for us and I must say, as a big fan of the movie, they did a wonderful job. Right from the get go, the chorus by the nuns, sung live in Latin to the uncanny resemblance of lead actress Bethany Dickson to Julie Andrew’s Maria (her silhouette at the opening scene had me gasped, “is that Julie Andrews?”). At the Gala Premier which we attended, the audience reserved their biggest applause for the Von Trapp children (of which 6 out of the 7 children are played by 18 of Singapore’s most talented young actors and actresses aged from six to 13, auditioned from among 200 hopefuls).

So long farewell, Auf Weidersehen Goodnight...

There is something for everyone in THE SOUND OF MUSIC – children will be enthralled by the lively children cast and happily breaking out in a bit of ‘karaoke’ sing along to catchy tunes like ‘Do-RE-Mi’, ‘Sixteen going on Seventeen’, ‘My Favorite Things’ etc. Adults will empathize with the protagonists’ inner dilemmas of love, patriotism and loyalty. If you’re into metaphorical language  (like me), you might be able to pick up some clever allusions on stage – such as when the Captain stood between his beau and Maria and the nuns standing in a triangle formation with Mother Abbess at the apex giving a moving rendition to the inspiring song ‘Climb Every Mountain’.

Climb Every Mountain...Follow Your Dreams...

Some signature scenes from the movie were missing (e.g. the marionette scene of ‘The Lonely Goatherd’) as it follows closely to the script of the original musical. This is however ‘redeemed’ by the excellent set designs. The most surreal moment had me staring unbelievably at the two gigantic Nazi flags draping down from the sides of the Grand Theatre Stage here in modern Singapore, accompanied by the flag of the Third Reich. What is also worth mentioning is also the competent live orchestra, which launched with impeccable timing into melodies like ‘Maria’ and ‘Edelweiss’ with timbre and texture which did the classics justice.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC is THE one musical every family must watch and THE musical to start kids off in the musical genre. So go beg, steal or borrow a ticket to watch it before it ends its run here else you’ll have to climb every mountain to catch it on Singapore’s shores again.

My Favorite Things...
 Get Tickets here

SHOW DATES
11 July 2014 (Friday) to 10 August 2014 (Sunday)
Tue to Fri: 8pm
Sat: 2pm & 8pm
Sun: 12pm & 6pm

VENUE
Grand Theatre, MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands

DURATION
Approximately 2 hours and 34 minutes (including 20 minutes interval)

TICKET PRICE:    From S$65 to S$195* (excludes booking fee of SGD$3 per ticket)

BOOKING:

By Phone: +65 6688 8826
In Person at: Marina Bay Sands Box Offices 

For more information please log onto www.MarinaBaySands.com

 Don't miss it!


All images credited to Base Entertainment Asia.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

More than meets the Eye: Trick Eye Museum Singapore

Tucked away in a corner in Sentosa is Singapore’s latest family attraction - the original 3D Art Museum that would bring you to places where you wouldn’t normally go, to experience things you would normally wouldn't even dream of.

Overcoming a mammoth obstacle...

We first experienced the Trick Eye Museum on our South Korea tour a few years back. I remember it fondly for changing my perception of the visit – literally and metaphorically. Before that trip, I thought it would be mere child’s play. I tagged along half wishing I was somewhere else. I was glad the visit turned out to be fun and a memorable experience.

Ticket Office

Before I elaborate further, let me get you THERE first because the location can be a bit…illusive (pardon the pun). Because the map on the brochure may be a teeny weeny bit small (or maybe it’s my age) and asking passer-by may just lead you nowhere (after all, it's so new).

Here’s my Tip #1: Whether you’re driving or commuting, head towards the ‘Universal Studio Globe’ once you arrived at RWS Sentosa. Look for the entrance to ‘Malaysian Food Street’. Enter and walk right through to back end of the Food Street. When you exit, look to your right and the museum's right there! If you miss the little red-framed ticketing booth, the queue around it would sure catch your eye.

Tip #2: It's advisable to get there early as they control the number of patrons entering the museum to allow all visitors a fair chance at the exhibits. On the day of our visit, there was already a 90-minute queue waiting to get in at 2pm. If you hate crowds, plan your visit on a weekday.

Once inside the Trick Eye Museum, be prepared to spend at least 1.5 to 2 hours exploring the 80 different optical illusions. The exhibits, like the ones in South Korea, require you to play-pretend all sorts of poses to get that realistic shot. There are markers strategically positioned to help ensure your shot looks like you’re skydiving, or escaping a fearsome Piranha. In my case, I even fulfilled one of my dreams to be in the Olympics (scroll down to see photo proof).

  I'm skydiving!
 Something's fishy down there Daddy!
Fulfilling my Olympic dreams as a synchronized swimmer!
Wait till I tell Mommy...

Tip #3: Go armed with a tripod (or selfie rod) if you want get decent shots because it can be quite challenging, making these poses, with what seems like thousands of eyes staring as they wait their turns. You‘d have to make every shot a fast one and make it count.

I must say this outpost offers nothing less than the original South Korean version.  The Princess and I enjoyed our spontaneous Youth Day outing to the Trick Eye Museum.  What’s really special is that you get to relive the whole experience again each time you view the photos back home! Now, I'm doubly convinced that illusion can be real fun!

 She has always wanted to be 'a-head'...
By golly, I shrunk my Daddy!
SSSssssss-save us!!!

Waterfront @ Resorts World Singapore

Operation Hours: 10.00am to 9.00pm
(Last Admission at 8pm).

Ticket Pricing
Adult: S$25; Senior Citizen (60 & abv): S$20
Child (4 - 12 yrs): S$20

Special Giveaway!

Trick Eye Museum Singapore is generously sponsoring 3 pairs of admission tickets (1 pair each) for 3 lucky PrincessDanaDiaries readers! Simply follow the steps here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


This giveaway is open to readers residing in Singapore and ends on midnight of Sunday 20 July 2014. The lucky winners will be notified by email. All the best!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I Theatre Presents Round the Moon, Blue the Sky


As parents, we've all been asked these questions by our children, "Why is the moon round?" "Why are there so many colours and shapes in the world?"

Add caption

One night, Smallest Dragon sees the moon, and wonders why it is the shape that it is. Fascinated, she sets off to find other round things – and quickly realises that there are many other important shapes too. As she explores, she also discovers the wonderful wonder of colours!

Round the Moon, Blue the Sky is a fast-paced, lively and physical production about Smallest Dragon who is always asking questions, poking her nose into things and curious about the world (much like our inquisitive children).

Combining a unique blend of physical theatre, riveting puppetry, black light magic and lots of audience interaction, this highly engaging and educational performance is specially tailored for children from 2 to 8 years old; although older children and grownups will find much to amuse, enthrall and engage too!

For 1 week only, I Theatre brings you Round the Moon, Blue the Sky - a special collaborative project featuring the best from Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. It will be showing at the Alliance Fran├žaise Theatre from 21st to 27th July 2014Tickets are now available for sale at all SISTIC channels.This energetic and playful adventure should not be missed!

FLASH GIVEAWAY

For your chance to win a family pack of four tickets (worth SGD120) to watch Round the Moon, Blue the Sky on Saturday 26 July at 2pm, please follow the steps below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is open to readers residing in Singapore from now till noon, Friday 11 July 2014. The lucky winner will be announced on our FB page and notified by email on the same day.  All the best!

Terms and conditions:
  • All tickets are strictly non-exchangeable for cash and non-transferrable.
  • Winners of are required to collect the tickets before the show itself at our office (27 Kerbau Road) by 16 July 2014. All tickets not collected after 16 July 2014 will be forfeited.
  • The tickets are strictly for the following show date and timing only: 26 July, Saturday, 2pm
  • Winners are not allowed to change their show date and timing.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

NDP 2014 - Power, Precision and Passion

I’ve had several juvenile misconceptions cleared over the weekend.  Every year, there would be the awe-inspiring, thundering aerial flypast by the fighter jets during Singapore’s National Day Parade. I've always assumed that:

Photo Credit

1) Due to the small air space that Singapore has, surely our government would have asked our friendly neighbours in Malaysia and Indonesia for some leeway into THEIR airspace so that OUR FIGHTER JETS can execute their maneuvers well.  2) These top fighter pilots who execute these well-timed flypast must certainly be appointed and 3) There would be a big red button inside the cockpits that says ‘Start’ so that pilots can scramble off real fast to defend the country.

As it turns out, the answer is ‘No’ to my three silly assumptions. Well, ‘Yes and No’ for number 2 at least. Allow me to explain:

As part of NDP2014 Preview, we were honoured to have the chance to meet the fine Air Force pilots and their powerful machines that will give us the traditional aerial flypast. Being the plane buff that I am, I was awestruck.

Wow! Not sure who is the child here - the Daddy or the daughter...standing behind the actual F15SG which will execute the flypast.

Firstly, Precision.  Major Nick ‘Dino’ Wong, leader of the aerial flypast shared with us the challenges in executing immaculate flypast during the parade – wind, weather and delays as well as their personal expectation of a symmetrical flypast with a mere 3 feet allowance between wingtips while flying at near supersonic speeds.

Precision carved out of hours and days of additional practice to tame the power of these jets. All these challenges well within the small airspace of Singapore. A few seconds' delay in the parade proceedings will see each pilot doing quick mental calculations at supersonic speed to recalibrate with each other to realign their positions for that perfect flypast all well within our own airspace. Stressful to say the least but so much pride in giving the nation the best aerial salute!

Every second counts in this aerial salute.
All lined-up and ready to roll. Photo Credit: RSAF

Secondly, Passion. These pilots, though best of the best among their peers, had to volunteer to be part of the flypast (as along with it comes additional training and risks involved). It’s heartwarming to know that each year, they would have a long list of pilots who volunteers for this daunting and demanding task. Even after volunteering, these pilots had to be put through a stringent selection process before being finally appointed!

Knowing all the commitment they had to put in, it was truly inspiring to be able to interact with these fighter pilots. Despite having the honour to be the RSAF’s elite, they are, in person, humble, down-to-earth blokes who desire to give back to the country with the talents and abilities the country has invested in them.

Pilots, Planes and the Princess. A truly memorable learning journey.
These are the amazing men that fly those magnificent machines.

You can literally feel the passion as they shared with us why they do what they do. What’s even more touching is to know that the RSAF plans the schedules of their training exercise to minimize disruptions to the residents living close by. How reassuring to know that, our Air Force (like our Navy) have their priorities right - it’s never about the Power of the machines, it’s always about the people they serve to defend.

As evening descends, we witnessed the pilots suit up and ready one of the F15SG for the NDP rehearsal at the Marina Bay Floating Platform. Though my earplugs had blocked out the loud jet sounds, it made me hear the excitement of my own heartbeat even louder. To top it off, we waved off the F15SGs and saw them roll down the runway and up into the evening sky.

Never have I imagined I would see the real thing right before my eyes.
From hanger...
...to the runway... (Photo Credit: RSAF)
...and off they go to wow the crowd! Photo Credit: RSAF

Although our children are born and/or bred in Singapore, it does not automatically mean that they grow up appreciative of their country. Loyalty to one's family and homeland, like many good values, are caught not taught, hence best role-modeled by parents (and other significant others like teachers).  So during this National Day, when you watch the aerial flypast, tell your children the stories of these men, their heart for the country and most importantly, tell YOUR story about how being a Singaporean has made all the difference. Power? Precision? No. Passion above all else.

Happy Birthday Singapore!

This is NOT kid's play...this is the real deal: sitting in the cockpit of an F15SG fighter plane.
Thank you RSAF for the awe-inspiring experience.

If  you wish to bring your families to catch the NDP aerial flypast action, check out the official NDP 2014: Our People, Our Home website for rehearsal dates, traffic advisory and other information.