Sunday, March 16, 2008

play the guitar, write songs, make pie!

I received an email from my brother's girlfriend, L. An offer to take them out.

Herbert and I would be happy to take Shane and Alix in exchange for your uninterrupted afternoon/evening 'me' time. :) So, let us know! Go read, play the guitar, write songs, make pie!

As the day rolled by, I told the crayolas that their uncle and je je would bring them out for FUN. Shane was so excited he refused to take his afternoon nap. He kept opening his eyes asking for "when will uncle Herbert come and the fun start?". They did come. This was their first time taking them out by themselves. I had no words, no words to describe to my 32 year old brother - how challenging this could be. It would be best if they just experienced it for themselves.

"There is a sweater in Alix's bag and I put on a diaper to be safe!"
With those words of assurance, I left them holding the babies.
============

I kept checking my phone but received no calls during the first hour, second and even the third. Boy, they're good at this! At about 8 pm, L calls telling me that Alix is crying. She hands the phone to Alix who is sobbing into the receiver.

"We just sat down for dinner, but suddenly Alix started to cry. I don't know what's wrong, I've asked her. I also brought her to toilet."

"She's probably tired and wants to go home."

"OH"

They were experiencing their first taste of TODDLER MELTDOWN.

I wasn't home when they got back so we didn't get a chance to talk. Next day, I receive another email. They crammed in a day more than what Gary and I could have crammed in a month! This was one trippy trip but I'm keeping this email forever, because it is pure love and self sacrifice when someone offers to take your kids out for a day they and I will never forget.

Unlike me, my brother's girlfriend found the words, the words to describe the experience. They spared no expense in making them happy. Alix was given her first barbie and I now know, why ever since the outing - she stops at the ladies section and gazes extra long at the high heel shoes.

=====

I believe Herbert's conclusive words were: I have a new-found respect for Carrie.

The day started out great - we read 'Mog's Missing' in the car. Apart from my very poor enacting of "GULP", I think they liked the story. We had trouble finding parking at the theatre but we got settled in quickly once we got them their own copies of every brochure, flyer, programmer booklet and pen. When the show started, I thought Alix looked a little uncomfortable - she was wiggling about on the cushion seat on the floor, and kept looking up at me. I asked if there's something wrong but she didn't say anything so I pointed out the glowing puppets and kept her attention on the stage. When her discomfort became more obvious, I asked if she wanted to go outside for a while and she said yes. We went out and she admitted that she was afraid of the dark (and perhaps the glowing clown). I read her the story of Circo Korjak from the programme booklet, hoping to entice her with the story and getting her involved with the plot since she has such a fondness for reading and fables. I asked if she wanted to go back in to see Olej become a magician and she said no, so we gathered our things and we headed down Cairnhill to look for a cab.

She was very cooperative and compliant - made no protest at the long walk or even the terrible long wait (30mins). She even helped me hail a cab. We went to Paragon and she was excited about all the bright shops and shiny things and we looked at jewellery and shoes (I showed her what a high-heeled shoe is, as we were talking about the different charms on her Barbie bracelet; we later spotted a rose and a crown). We then sat down for a chocolate oreo milkshake and she was very happy about it. She ran around in the open lobby of Paragon until Herbert and Shane came by to pick us up after the performance ended.

From Herbert's account of the event, Shane was clamouring all over him but was overall, engaged with the performance. They even showed a 'behind-the-scenes' segment,demonstrating the use of puppets and how the entire performance was staged. Shane even got an autograph from the performer!

We were heading to United Square but somehow ended up at Novena Square. It was probably this detour and anti-climatic discovery that we were at the wrong place, coupled with the extra driving etc., that contributed to the kids' fatigue by the time we sat down for dinner. We had a quick energy perk by letting the kids pick out some sweets for themselves before heading to Toys R Us. As we passed a clothing store, I asked Alix if she wanted to look at dresses first before toys, and she said yes. We went to our respective gender-specific sections and allowed the kids to pick out what they wanted. Here, Herbert and I operate very differently. :) He tells Shane that he can choose clothes that are not too expensive, so Shane went about looking at all the price tags first, then eliminated his choices by size. He doesn't show any disgruntlement when something he chooses isn't in his size, he merely tosses it away and looks for another. He saw the pants and said "I want camouflage!".

Alix shows such maturity for her age. She helped me fold the clothes back and put them on the shelf, and is very decisive about her preferences. I would take things off the shelf to show her and if she likes it, she'd insist on seeing if it fits her first. "It fits me", she will declare
before saying okay to getting an item. The only item she independently chose was the salmon-pink top with brown lace.

We went to Toys R Us and again, gave them free reign to choose their items. Alix immediately chose the Barbie with the tiara because of the book you got her I'm sure and she was very excited about listening to the CD. Herbert gave Shane a budget of $20 so whenever he saw something above that price, he would fling it aside with disgust. We are still unsure of Shane's
fixation with 'orange juice man'.

Dinner was (supposedly) at Globetrotters and everything was going well with getting the kids prepped to enter the Play Area. Alix was waiting for Shane to have his shoes and socks removed (we had some difficulty with negotiation over 'orange juice man' albeit appealing to 1) logic: you need both hands to climb up and down the play gyms; 2) security: I promise we'll take care of 'orange juice man' because he's only going to get more broken if he's in there or even, lost! 3) deceit: there is a regulation against taking outside toys in).

Somewhere in this hash session that Alix started to rub her head, cock her ear to her shoulder, squirmed about and started crying. We couldn't get her to tell us what was wrong because she acted like she was in pain, and when I asked if she wanted to go to the bathroom, she nodded. Once there, there was no activity and she cried more, so I asked if it's a tummyache, and she said yes, so I thought she was shy and said I would wait outside. When I checked on her, she said she was done even though she didn't do anything. I have very little experience with children so I said "Alix, I really like you and I think you're such a good girl and you've been so great today. And I really want to help you so I'm going to ask you a few questions okay? Are you in pain?" etc but I guess when she gets in that zone, she closes up. Her distress was so terrifying (for me) so I suggested that we go back out to call you, so she can tell you what is wrong, and in turn, you can interpret her cries for me.

You were right though - she did want to go home. The sudden onset is mystifying but I suppose their impulse control is very limited during their formative years and when something becomes a priority, it is hard to lose focus, or fast. She was now wailing in the restaurant, and by some stroke of luck, 'orange juice man' was no longer a problem and Shane was in the Play Area making friends. We ordered the Bob's Pizza (kids make their own pizza) and a fish and chips to share, but seeing how it was, we got the waiter to make their pizza instead and bag everything. I reassured Alix that we were going home to eat pizza and we did the activity sheets and puzzles, which stopped the crying. Shane was adamant against leaving once he saw that we were bagging the food so we bought Shane some more play time. Then I brought Alix to the Story Book corner and we read a story about an enormous turnip. Alix was still getting teary sporadically so Shane was really nice about leaving eventually, and saying goodbye to all his new friends.

We stopped for Ben & Jerry's (Shane chose chocolate and Alix chose Strawberry) and I guess that was the clincher. She brightened up immediately and we packed into the car singing Pearly Shells.

Thanks for letting us take them out, Carrie, and I'm sorry about Alix's distress. On the whole, they really are quite a joy and I guess this teaches us that fatigue plays an important part in their enjoyment and we should have been more aware of that.
Sorry about the long mail, but I thought you'd like to know how their day went. :)

4 Comments:

Blogger imp said...

that is such a very nice email indeed!

wow. hats off to your brother and his girlfriend for the babysitting!

11:54 PM  
Anonymous sesame said...

Your brother has got himself a real gem!

1:56 AM  
Blogger carrie said...

Hiya Imp! Sesame! - Have to agree that taking them out really scored major big points. Now, I wonder if they will try it again? Haha..

10:23 PM  
Anonymous ivan said...

Wah... Major Brownie Points there...

I suspect this is why they used to put alcohol in Baby Gripe Water. :)

5:37 PM  

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