Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rosy Hearts Tulip Princess 2009

Today we all went to Liana's first party. It was thrown by her daycare center. All the kids brought a snack to share and a gift for the Christmas exchange. The dress code is fancy dress (i.e. British for costume party) and the theme was floral. I have been feeling sleep deprived since I had a terrible cold last weekend. At first I didn't even want to go because I felt tired and didn't want to bought together a costume with a floral theme. Radi, Liana's main care giver, put some pressure on me. I caved and went shopping Friday evening (the party's Saturday morning). I bought some grapes for the snack, a teething toy for $10 for the gift exchange and some lavender daisies for $1.80. Friday night Liana went to bed at 11 (her usual bedtime is 8:30) because she had terrible wind and spit up 4 times. I went to bed at almost 1 am. Saturday morning I wake up at 7, hunt up a vaguely Christmasy gift bag, wash the grapes and sew some daisies on a headband. Presto, we are ready to party in less than 30 minutes. Of course, I haven't showered, and nobody is dressed or has had breakfast, but we are still ready to party and Liana looks adorable. The dress is from Grandma Jo. Thanks Mom.
At the party there is a costume parade. Leo leads Liana out. She charms the crowd and is crowned Rosy Hearts Tulip Princess 2009. She got a sash, crown and a wrapped prize 2 times bigger than her head, which we are saving to Christmas to open.
The Rosy Hearts Tulip Princess 2009

Liana receiving her crown.

The Tulip Princess is nonplussed about all the attention. (Note that I am also in the floral theme. I would have worn flowers too but I had no stretchy head band to sew them too. )
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Saturday, November 21, 2009


Liana is now drinking from a bottle with ease. We have no idea why she stopped wanting the bottle and then just as suddenly accepted it again. We now refer to her sometimes as the MLC -- mysterious little creature. Now that she can take a bottle I feel much more relaxed about returning to work in the next few weeks. I would have hated to think of her crying because she was hungry and stubborn about the bottle.

Liana has also had all of her shots. At the pediatrician, Liana screamed the loudest of all the kids. She even startled the doctor. I felt absurdly proud of her.

Pudding's new perch

We bought a new TV cabinet because the one the landlady had was very rickety and without doors. A pint-size baby could have pulled it over. Since Liana is also very fond of grabbing things and Pudding is fond of chewing on wires, we also thought it would be a good idea to put all of the electronics someplace neither one could get at them.

Pudding likes the cabinet because it allows him access to a place that was previously beyond him. He used to get so frustrated because geckos would scamper up there temptingly out of reach. He stays up there all day -- sleeping, washing and generally lording it over all of us down below.

Liana playing with bunny

We've noticed that Liana is able to see much better now and has more control over her hands. She's always been waving them around but now she is grabbing a hold of things with decision rather than just coming across something mid-wave. She grasps the end of her t-shirt and tries to bring to her mouth, and bashes the animals on her rocker mobile. She pinches Leo when she's getting upset although she probably didn't decide to do that. Before this Liana never showed much interest in playing with toys. Now she particularly likes the bunny Grandma Jo bought her. I think it is all the textures. The bunny is fuzzy and the blanket part is soft velour with a satin lining. She grabs it, rubs it across her face and then tries to chew it. I like in this picture how the small bunny completely covers her with some to spare.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Liana at 2 months

Liana has reached two months and has a new expression as a present. Her new happy expressions certainly make up for her increased fussiness. When she was 4-6 weeks old she accepted everything. Even a bottle straight from the fridge was OK. Now she often refuses a bottle even when she is hungry. I nurse her when she refuses the bottle but I worry about how Leo and the day care will cope once I return to work at the end of the month. Hopefully the fussiness will go away in the next few weeks.
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Helping Liana sleep

Liana has started fussing when she gets tired. Before she would simply fall asleep during the day, now we have to help to sleep. She's also close to 5 kg now which means it is very tiring to carry, bounce and rock her to sleep. Fortunately Leo remembered his mom wearing his nephew around the house in sarong. Now either Leo or I have one of my sarongs looped around our chests when we carry Liana. The cloth limits her movement and she starts to get sleepy that much faster. The picture on top is Liana as she is about to relax into sleep after wearing herself out crying. The bottom is the much happier Daddy with a less fussier baby.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Always Something New

A few posts ago I wrote the trite but true statement that babies change so fast. Then I wrote it with a sense of wonder. Now it is tinged with a bit of exasperation. This week I feel that Liana is one step ahead of me. As soon as I feel that I have a grasp on taking care of her and can relax a bit without worrying about coping, she changes. I used to know all of her cries and could easily tell that she was hungry and needed to nurse. Never used to think about getting her to sleep -- she slept when she felt like it.

Now we have to help her sleep. This also means that we have another level of meaning to her cries: Is she hungry, windy, feeling a bit lonely or sleepy? It's like the first week when I brought her home. She cries and I go through the checklist of checking her diaper, offering her milk, cuddling her or burping. I'm realizing that I was a bit cocky before.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A smile

Liana at 7 weeks old: Smiling!

Both Liana and I have reached a milestone. Liana has started smiling for us regularly. It is heartwarming to get one of her smiles every morning when I pick her up. We took her to the pediatrician for immunizations and learned that she is in the 97th percentile in size. That means that at 4.88kg (10.7 lbs) and 57.8 cm (22.8in) she is larger than 97% of the other babies her age. As you can see in the picture she is definitely much chubbier than she was before.

My milestone is that I bathed her all by myself. Before Leo and I bathed her together every night but now Leo is back to coaching at the tennis school. I have been able to bath her myself but so far I haven't been able to bath her, put her to bed and clean up the bathroom before Leo gets home.
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Liana at 1 month

Liana has crossed a developmental milestone. She has different cries for her needs. For instance, she grizzles. I found this word in my baby week-by-week book from the library. It describes a cry that is not a full-fledged 'I want milk' or 'Change my diaper.' It is more of a cross between a cry, moan and whimper when she wants to cuddled. Here she is grizzling for my Dad.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Liana at three weeks

Here's our girl relaxing in her rocker before her evening walk. For the past week she has been a big feeding binge. She always seemed to be hungry. Today she's very mellow and sleeping a lot. Possible growth spurt might be on the way.

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Pudding hiding out

Ever since we brought Liana home, Pudding has been spending a lot more time in the cubby hole of his cat tree. We think Liana intimidates him. He has never met anything noisier than him.
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baby on the go

Here in Singapore woman practice confinement the first month their baby is born. During confinement, neither the mother nor the baby leaves the house unless there is a very good reason like seeing a pediatrician. Mothers also eat special food like herbal soup and dishes with lots of young ginger. Some mothers don't even shower during confinement. Instead they take sponge baths.

I've been taking Liana out every day. People always ask the typical baby questions -- boy or girl? how old? When I say that she's three weeks, people are suprised, especially the Chinese, that she is out of the house so young.

Liana goes with me shopping, to places of officialdom like the embassy and Immigration Authority and to the park. We go to the park everyday. I think that she's the better for it. She's often fussy in the late afternoon (but not colicky, thank goodness). But when I pop her into the baby bjorn and go out for a 30 minute walk, she settles down, relaxes and then goes to sleep. Our walks make the evening much calmer.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Getting stronger

People told me that newborns change quickly but I was not expecting so many changes with Liana within just a week. Already she has become much more adept at using her body. She is more able to get her mouth in the correct position for breast feeding and she can grip things much more tightly. She can also show her emotions more readily on her face and her eyes are focused most of the time (when they are open.) I know it has been said by probably every mother, but I have to put it in my blog. Sometimes the trite expressions sum things up the best. Babies are truly wondrous little beings.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Liana meets the world

After a bit of a delay, our daughter arrived on September 4, 2009 at 2:08 pm. At birth she's 3.55kg or 7.8lbs and 53 cm or 20.9in. She's healthy and a very good eater. She's already putting on weight and is much stronger. She's also acquired new expressions. At first she had only two expressions -- surprised and furious. Now she has a range -- surprised, furious, blissfully milk drunk, intent and happy. Most of the pictures below were taken the first few days.
With Grandma Jo

Dara, Liana and Leo

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Kid, this is sunshine

Leo and I visited the doctor today. The baby is doing very well but is not really indicating a strong desire to come out and see the world so we scheduled an induction for Friday morning. Ready or not, kid you are going to see the sunshine by the weekend.

As part of the check, the doctor checked the baby's heartbeat with the CTG machine. The machine tracks contractions at the same time. In the 30 minutes the machine measured the baby's heartbeat, I had 4 contractions. I didn't even know I was having contractions. I asked Leo to tell me when the contraction line spiked so that I could know what they felt like -- nothing at all like what I expected or how others described it. It felt like the squeeze from a blood pressure cuff except that the squeeze moved from my midsection down to my pelvis. No doubt they will get more intense. However, I'm glad that something is happening.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Still waiting

I keep thinking that I will have some big news to post on the blog... but the baby has not decided it's time. Tomorrow we are going to the doctor to discuss what happens next.

The good part is that my mom is arriving tonight and can be at the birth.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I have been marking essays for about 2 weeks straight. I'm involved in a project to create a computer-based program that helps students find their grammar errors and figure out how to correct them. My involvement consists of reading about 90 first drafts, highlighting every mistake with the mouse, categorizing the mistake and typing in the correct version. More often than I'd like, I'm making an educated guess about the correct version. I'm also involved in marking about 90 placement tests.

I find that it's not the language mistakes that bother me the most. Most of the test takers don't use English as their first language. What bothers me are the poor thinking skills. These students are in university but I doubt that they could construct a logical argument in any language. Haven't they figured out that most things aren't absolute? I'd like to ban these words and phrases:

We all know...
There's no doubt that...
Well, isn't it true that...
Surely we all remember that...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Leo's new job

Leo just signed a short-term contract to coach at the Tanglin Tennis School. He's looking forward to coaching there because the students are all youth that show promise so he can work on a higher level of performance. He's already practicing his feeding techniques so he can get the ball to the student faster and more accurately. When he tried some of the tennis school drills on his regular students, he had them gasping after 30-45 minutes. The tennis school kids last for 2 hours. The other plus is that the work is regular -- five hours, five evenings a week and he is paid rain or shine. The extra money will come in handy with the baby coming. He'll still coach his regular clients on the weekends or mornigs. The boss is willing to offer a long-term contract if the Ministry of Manpower approves Leo's work application.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

latest ultrasound

Leo and I visited the doctor last Friday and got the 32nd week ultrasound. The baby is reassuringly average and has gotten into the proper head-down position. She's also looking much more like a chubby baby. At the last one she looked kind of like a wizened gnome.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

30 weeks

I'm definately getting bigger now. I almost always get a seat on the bus or train. Actually I'm getting so big that it took several photos before I got one that I liked well enough to put up on the web. Leo has been my long-suffering photographer.
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feeling Singaporean

Last weekend Leo and I went on a mini holiday to Kuala Lumpur where we spent most of the time in shopping malls buying baby stuff. I felt very Singaporean going on holiday and spending almost all my time shopping or eating. When we came back, I did another Singaporean thing -- telling all my friends about the good deals I got and describing in detail the food I ate!

Maybe this behavior is a sign because Leo and I decided to apply for permanent resident status. We both like it here and feel it is a good place to raise children. That's more than enough commitment to fill out a form and collect all the documents needed. Applying for permanent residency is not as troublesome as getting a green card in the US but we still assembled a sheaf of documents an inch thick to support the application. Unfortunately, a lot of people must want to apply for PR status now because the earliest appointment we could get to submit the documents is early September. At least by then the baby will be born so we can include her in the application too.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Third trimester

This week baby and I entered the third trimester. I was going to put a picture of myself up as I entered the third trimester. I deleted the pictures though -- they just don't look like me. Instead you get a picture of Sleepy Pudding making a nuisance of himself as I'm trying to pack for our trip to Malaysia. Leo and I are starting to get serious about preparing for her arrival. Today we attended our first pre-natal class on giving birth. I think I'm going to be thankful that Leo has been learning massage techniques in his physiotherapy work. Tomorrow we are heading to Kuala Lumpur for a baby-buying spree. When we come back on Wednesday, we hope to visit a nearby daycare center that offers emergency infant care.

We've also got a short list of names. We're not going to pick one until our girl arrives, but you can see where we are headed. Any comments?

English given names: Liana, Miri, Leona, Catrina
Chinese given names: Shumin, Shanyi

Her complete name would be in this order: Liana Siaw Shanyi
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Sunday, May 31, 2009

New laptop

Leo and I finally got around to buying a new laptop after talking about it for ages. We were actually forced into it because the old one ran out of memory and then stopped functioning when the internet was on.

Our new computer is an Acer Aspire 4935G. We got a good deal on it and some nice bundled software from the university. Part of the bundle was Adobe Creative Suite. I have always wanted it but never bought it because of the price (almost $1000 in Singapore dollars). I also love that the keyboard on my new computer is so large. It bettered my typing enormously. The third thing I love is the speed and memory. The old computer took three minutes to boot up and was constantly giving messages that virtual memory is low.

The last thing I love is that Leo is here to go shopping with me. He is really good at keeping track of all the stats when comparison shopping. It was 10 times easier buying this computer than my previous one.

Baby registry

Some people asked whether I was going to set up a baby registry. I said no but it was mostly because I didn't think there was one in Singapore. Most Asians tend to give cash in red envelopes, not physical gifts.

However, last night I found one that is great for people in the US. You can pay by credit card (note prices are in Singapore dollars -- they will be lower in US$) and the items will be delivered to me. The only drawback is that there is a limited selection of things to choose from.

Check out our choices at Search using "Dara" or "Leo Siaw".

Friday, May 29, 2009

Dara and baby at 25 weeks

Leo snapped this picture of me on the Vivocity outdoor deck. Not a bad setting, especially since Vivocity is a shopping mall!

I look much more pregnant if viewed from a side angle, but my eyes were closed in that photo.
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Saturday, May 16, 2009

More baby news

Everything has started progressing much more rapidly. I look at the photos in my last blog and I feel like they were taken several months ago instead of just last month. Here's an update:
  • I'm showing now. I occasionally get seats offered to me on the bus.
  • Leo and I found out that we are having a baby girl.
  • We have a short list of 4 English names, but we are still working on the Chinese name. Rest assured, non-Mandarin speakers -- we will choose one that you can pronounce.
  • I finally felt my baby move during a pre-natal massage two weeks. I was wondering if something was wrong because I couldn't feel the baby move. I guess she likes massages. I signed up for a package so she can get one every two weeks.
  • Leo and I met with the obstetrician last Thursday. She's American and used to practice in Tacoma (a city very near Seattle for the non-NWers). It was a bit odd to speak to another American who doesn't teach English. She spoke very fast and changed topics with only a little warning.

Leo and I are going to the Botanic Garden for a free concert Sunday evening. I'll ask him to take a picture of me to post on the blog.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dara and baby at 20 weeks

This weekend I went shopping for maternity clothes. Here are some pictures of the results. If I was wearing normal clothes, I would like more pregnant.

Pregnancy outfit 2: Pudding the cat roused himself from his nap to see what the fuss was about. Find the cat.

My Mom sent me the top below from the US. The jeans are new.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009


Leo and I are expecting our first baby at the end of August. So far parents-to-be and baby are doing well. We go for the 5 month ultrasound at the end of this month. We are both looking forward to seeing how it looks, moves around, etc. Hopefully, we will also learn the sex so that I can give a proper human pronoun. I don't know why this should bug me so much, but it does.

I'm sorry that it has taken me so long to announce it. I have been thinking off and on for the past few weeks about how to announce my pregnancy on my blog. This type of announcement seems better suited to less new-fangled means of communication. It feels awkward giving news about major life events like marriage, pregnancy, birth and death in a somewhat public forum. It's OK to innudate the world at large with trivia, but life-changing ones should receive special treatment. Fortunately, my blog does not receive much readership so it's probably not as public as I might fear.

Now that the ice is broken, I'll be updating you more often on how things are going.

Wish us luck. We are very very new at this.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Working too much

I know I have not been posting much. This past semester has been incredibly busy. For the first time, I have been bringing work home every weekend. I can't wait until the semster is over -- I only have 3 more weeks to go.

I remind myself that at least I am only busy during the semester and it only lasts for 12 weeks twice a year. A lot of people in Singapore have to keep this up year around.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Last week I wrote a midterm test for my pre-matriculation students. The text for the comprehension test was on the five stages of culture shock: honeymoon stage, hostile stage, acceptance stage, reverse culture shock. The acceptance stage is basically acknowledging that people do things differently without thinking its wonderfully exotic (honeymoon) or wrong and in need of correction (hostile). Reverse culture shock is when things about a person's home culture seem wonderfully exotic or wrong and in need of correction. I've been in the acceptance stage for a long time but recently realized when I watched Benjamin Button that I've begun to slip toward reverse culture shock. In one scene, the daughter is reading Button's journal to her dying mother in a hospice. She's sitting in an uncomfortable chair so she gets up and sits on the unoccupied bed next to her mother. Then she puts her feet (still in boots) on the bed. My reaction: I cringed and thought, "Eww, that's so disgusting. She should know better especially in a hospice."

While I have certainly complained about plenty in the US, I have never had this instinctive reaction that a common American custom is dirty. I haven't realized that I had assimilated some of Asian culture. It's a bit unnerving.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chinese New Year 2009

Our condo invited a lion dance troupe to perform and bring good fortune for the new year. The payment always has three 8's. Leo estimates that this one probably cost $888 for 15 minutes. He took these pictures.

Lion dancers on stilts. The musicians are down below.
View of the dancers underneath.

God of Fortune distributing chocolate to the kids.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mandarin classes

I've started to take Mandarin classes 2 evenings this week. I don't know why I have decided to add this to my already overloaded plate, but I'm managing. All the students are managing more or less. The vocabulary reflects our lives. I can now say "I am tired" and "We are busy." The only other adjectives I know are "good," "tall" and "short."