Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The dark side of the 3.5-year-old.

The day Linna turned 3 1/2 years old in Singapore.
Well, we're about a week into Linna being 3 1/2 years old... and I'm already over it. In just one short week, this kid has proven the strength of her lungs, vocals, and her ability to throw a record-breaking temper-tantrum. Papa Saigh and I have found ourselves just starting at each other in horror when the 3 1/2-year-old gets into one of her "moods", while I'm pretty sure we're both thinking...

A. How quickly can I make up an excuse to leave the house?
B. Linna obviously gets her rage issues from you.

"Threenagers" sure are a treat.

Quick example: Papa Saigh skyped us from India yesterday afternoon when Linna got home from school. Our laptop is hooked up to our TV so Linna can watch her shows on Netflix. When Papa Saigh called, I had to turn her show off so we could chat with him. Papa Saigh watched with his jaw on the floor as Linna started screaming at me, and hitting me with "Snuggles" (her blanket). I chose to ignore it at first, but after a few minutes of her disgusting behavior, I told Papa Saigh that we'd call him back after I put Linna in a time-out. That time-out lasted 45 minutes, and how our neighbors never called the police is beyond me. I took away the 3 1/2-year-old's "Snuggles", and she completely lost it. With a bright, red, vein-popping face, she screamed "NOOOOOOO!" at me in an almost possessed-sounding voice, flung her body around, etc. I was sweating, but I stayed calm and didn't raise my voice... even though I seriously wanted to lock her in a cage for acting like an animal. I explained to her why "Snuggles" got taken away, and that when she calmed down we could talk about it. This tantrum definitely landed a top spot on Linna's "Epic Meltdown" list.

On this same day, I received a note from Linna's teacher saying that Linna had a "not so good day" at school. She said that Linna became angry easily, didn't want to participate, and just wasn't acting like herself. This, accompanied by the "threenager" behavior we've been noticing at home, made me realize that something needed to be done.

Linna's teachers in Singapore are really great about letting the children decide
what activities they'd like to do each day. The water-play table is on of Linna's favorites.

When I really take time to break down the situation and Linna's current behavior, I realize that we/I don't really let Linna make that many choices/rules. We simply tell her how it is, and that's that. Lately, when Linna becomes angry, she'll shout things at me like, "If you don't do that, I will put you in a time-out", or, "I don't love anyone anymore, because you are having bad behavior". I'm honestly shocked by some of the things she says.

While I think it's important that all kids know that their PARENTS make the rules (not the kids), it's also important to give our little ones the ability to make their own choices, so they feel like their voices are heard. I'll be honest and say that the "control-freak" side of me hasn't really let our 3 1/2-year-old make many decisions lately, when that's all she really wants to do. How can I blame her for getting so upset over me turning off her TV show yesterday to answer Papa Saigh's Skype call, when I didn't even ask her if it was ok before I did it? I'd sure be pissed off if someone just turned off my TV show without warning or asking me first. These kinds of things happen every day, and as busy parents we kind of just over-look our own behaviors toward our children... when it's our behaviors that they're learning from.

After yesterday's epic meltdown, I apologized to Linna for not asking her if I could turn her show off, but I also explained that it is never ok to hit... EVER! I told her that I would work on asking her questions and letting her make decisions, as long as she would work on using her words when she becomes angry or frustrated. I also made a point to let her pick out her pajamas, the towel she used after shower time, her dinner, and her snack for school today... you know, the things that really don't matter. These decisions make her feel valued, and her voice heard, which I'm hoping will make for a much more peaceful household. And if not, you'll continue to find me numbing the "threenager" pains with a bottle of vino.

Fellow "threenager" parents... we got this!

Making patterns at school with Miss Wallace. Another activity Linna loves to do!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Linna's first gymnastics class at mini-hops.

If you have a 3-year-old like we do, you know that they just never seem to stop bouncing around. While we were back home in Minnesota for a visit this fall, we decided to sign Linna up for a few gymnastics classes, so she could burn off some of her excess energy and learn something new. I did some online research on some gymnastics schools in the Twin Cities, and decided to enroll our 3-year-old at Mini-Hops in Minnetonka, as a few of my fellow Minnesota Mamas recommended it. Although I never took classes there, I knew about Mini-Hops when I was growing up. The school has been around since the late 1970s, so it's a pretty well-known school with a great reputation. Mini-Hops is also a non-profit, so it's not crazy expensive like some other gymnastics school in the Twin Cities.

(This is Linna at her very first gymnastics class at Mini-Hops.)

(In the big gym with Coach Stef.)

Linna was put in Coach Stef's "Just Me" class on Tuesday mornings. Coach Stef is the director of Mini-Hops' preschool programs, and is simply amazing with the kids. On Linna's first day, she grabbed Coach Stef's hand and headed into the gym without any hesitation. The kids would go from the smaller gym to the big gym during their 40-minute class, learning how to use the uneven bars, monkey bars, trampolines, incline mats, and the foam pit. The gym is set up in a parent-friendly way, where spectators can watch the classes in each gym from behind a glass window. Linna loved when her Nana and Bompa (my mom and dad) would come watch her classes, because she could show off her new tricks! The teachers and coaches at Mini-Hops do a really great job at letting the kids decide what they'd like to do, while encouraging them to try new things. The kids also learned from each other by watching their fellow classmates try new skills, which I feel gave our daughter some much-needed courage and encouragement (she's a bit hesitant to try new things).

Stretching with Coach Stef in the big gym.

Candy corn on the balance beam for Halloween week.

Walking up the wall with Coach Diane.

During the month Linna was at Mini-Hops, she learned how to do a forward roll on her own, and really built some upper-arm strength by practicing on the bars and rings. She loved the long trampoline in the big gym, and the ring-swing in the smaller gym the most! The best part is that Linna was completely happy there. She was always excited to go to class, and felt so proud of herself when we left. One day, Linna had a new male coach/teacher in her class, and while I thought that she'd be intimidated by this, she actually warmed up to him right away. It was nice having a little change of pace, as we've been used to having female teachers in Linna's dance classes in the past.

We are currently looking for a gymnastics school here in Singapore for Linna to join, but we'll be signing up for another round of classes at Mini-Hops when we're back home in Minnesota visiting this summer. If you're looking for a reason to check it out, Mini-Hops offers FREE trial classes for new students. So really, what do you have to lose?! We hope to see some familiar faces when we're there!

Linna's favorite... the ring swing!

Linna's Tuesday morning class at Mini-Hops.
Mini-Hops Gymnastics
131 Cheshire Lane, Suite #100
Minnetonka, MN 55305
(952) 933-2452

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Homemade new york-style bagels and scallion cream cheese.

My finished product.
Everyone has that ONE food that they say they could live off of for the rest of their life. Mine happens to be everything bagels with scallion cream cheese... and Chipotle... it's a toss-up. When we were living back home in Minnesota, these two little food gems were very easy to come by. We lived within a couple miles of a Brueggers Bagels and Chipotle, and probably should have just opened up our own stores with the amount of money that I spent at these places. When we visit my sister and brother-in-law in Brooklyn, I go to the deli near their apartment at least once a day to get my everything-bagel fix, sandwiched with about an inch-thick of scallion cream cheese. I'm drooling as I write this.

Just my luck, two things Singapore does not have... New York-style bagels, and Chipotle. I've given up on my mission to find a Chipotle (or something similar) in this country because, let's be honest... you can't touch Chipotle (Ugh, the sour cream... NOM!). But, bagels on the other hand are flour, salt, and water. You'd think there would be SOMEONE in Singapore that could get it right!

Point blank... Singapore can't do bagels.

I've tried NYC Bagel Factory (they recently suspended/canceled their delivery service), Two Men Bagel House (Tanjong Pagar), Sacha & Sons (Orchard Rd. - Pretty expensive for what you actually get)... and while these places have some strong contenders... they simply are NOT a New York-style bagel and cream cheese.

So, I decided to make my own. When you miss something as much as I miss the crispy outside and soft inside of a garlic, onion, salt, and sesame seed-covered bagel, with a cold, creamy, and fatty scallion-packed cream cheese... you gotta do what you gotta do. After doing a quick Google search, I discovered that REAL New York-style bagels are boiled before they're baked. Interesting. I found a super simple boiled bagel recipe on the Sophisticated Gourmet blog, and as you can see, the recipe is simply dry yeast, water, sugar, salt, and flour (plus, your favorite bagel toppings)...

2 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

For full instructions, click here.

The 3-year-old eating her first bagel... a bagel that I made!
Rising bagels, pre-boiled.

I chopped up some fresh onion and garlic, and mixed it together with some sea salt and black sesame seeds (poppy seeds are illegal in Singapore - weird!). After boiling the bagels, I simply added the toppings to some of the bagels, then baked them. I realized while making these that Linna has never had a bagel before (blasphemy!), so I kept some plain for her to try. She loved them... especially the soft inside!

Simple ingredients for a fantastic scallion cream cheese.

As for the cream cheese, I simply chopped up some green onion/scallion (maybe a half cup) and mixed it in with a block of plain Kraft cream cheese. I had my doubts, but I'm not kidding you when I say that this cream cheese is AS GOOD, if not BETTER than the scallion cream cheese I've had in New York. I bought all of my ingredients at Cold Storage, and when I did the math, I figured that I made about nine medium-size bagels and a big tub of cream cheese for well under $9. The bagels are obviously better if eaten the day they're baked, as crust just loses it's crispness after day #1. This will be a regular recipe in our Singapore home, and I can't wait to gain another 10 lbs. (Gahhhhh!).

Now, if someone would only open a Chipotle in Singapore...