#SGLovesKusama

Like the rest of Singapore (it seems), we tried to catch Yayoi Kusama’s Life is the Heart of a Rainbow exhibit on its last weekend at the National Gallery. The queues were legion, but BB enjoyed it, so — worth it!

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist most famous for her distinctive art made up of intricate dots, nets and pumpkin motifs. She’s also known for her dazzling room-sized installations, unique performances, and sparkling mirrored infinity rooms. This was the first time her art would be exhibited in Southeast Asia so it was definitely a must-see, in my view.

I thought it would be cool to bring BB along for his first art exhibit. Instill a sense of culture and love of all things creative, and all that. O, how naive I was. 😂

I first got a sense I wouldn’t be lingering around admiring the art when we entered the Narcissus Garden room. BB immediately wanted to be put down. He was eyeing the stainless steel balls and I could sense he was itching to touch/kick/lick one. The gallery attendant was shooting evil looks at our little group, and we (i.e. me, Hubby, and Yaya C) passed BB around in a joint effort to keep his little arms and legs from touching the whole thing.

Lesson #1: my son has a pretty solid kick.

The next hall housed the installation The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended Into the Heavens, in Kusama’s distinctive yellow-and-black spotted theme. This was a slightly easier hall to navigate, but we still had a heck of a time keeping BB away from the hanging frames.

BB loved the room where the pumpkin installation was. “Circles!” he said, and proceeded to sing a few lines from that Blippi tootbrushing song we play to him every night to encourage him to brush. (♫ “Circles, circles, on the sides of your teeth…” ♫)

We definitely failed our Let’s-Keep-BB’s-Hands-Off-the-Artwork challenge in The Tulip Room. He loved the colorful dotted tulips — I have several shots of him leaning against the giant flower pots with a “Do Not Touch” sign clearly seen from the back. *sigh*

In BB’s defense, Kusama herself encouraged an interaction between the viewer and her art. So maybe BB is appreciating Kusama’s work properly after all.

Lesson #2: Toddlers be toddlers.

The longest queue was for the immersive infinity room experience, Gleaming Lights of the Souls. While the mirrored room was meant to “invite contemplation in an infinitely repeating, expanding space”, because of the crowds each group was only allowed around 12 seconds to “contemplate.” Still worth the queue, I think.

Finally, we visited The Obliteration Room, a room and its furniture painted white. The room was filled with thousands of colorful round stickers. Visitors could donate S$2 to the gallery which comes with a sheet of stickers — go wild and stick it anywhere, everywhere.

I think I spot an Ikea Malm dresser
According to The National Gallery, the inspiration for the room comes from when Kusama was a little girl. “She started seeing the world through a screen of tiny dots. They covered everything she saw—the walls, ceilings, and even her own body. For 40 years she has made paintings, sculptures and photographs using dots to cover surfaces and fill rooms. Kusama calls this process ‘obliteration,’ which means the complete destruction of every trace of something.”

As it was a space meant to be fully immersive, BB definitely loved it. He had a blast pretend-drinking out of the cups scattered in the area, climbing some shelves, and checking out a bicycle. (I think I spotted a few Ikea pieces in there.)

Kusama’s art is truly a treat to see in person. But my key takeaway from this day is you haven’t truly lived life on the edge until you bring a rowdy toddler within hair’s breadth of artwork worth millions of dollars. Bow.

Phrase on repeat today: “DO NOT” 🙂
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To My BB

In the middle of moving house (again!), nonstop work stuff, your mama trying to study for a certification exam, and just general busy-ness one can’t seem to get rid off, you’re growing big, our little one. Not so Squishy anymore. So I’m hereby christening you BB, a.k.a. Big Boy.

Over the past month you’ve somehow developed the ability to string together short phrases: “Ayoko ‘yan ayoko ‘yan” (“I don’t like I don’t like”, reacting to your chicken lugaw)“BB sakay car!” (“BB ride car” — thereafter proceeding to declare you want to ride all modes of transportation and then some. Your list includes random ones like “trailer truck,” “street sweeper,” and “cement mixer” thanks to your Usborne ‘Things That Go’ book), “Hi FRIENDS!!!” (to the kids / “BATA” who’re swimming in the baby pool at the condo — who promptly ignore your sweet face haha), making “MmMMmm” yum-yum sounds whenever you see pictures of food or see ones that you like (a short list that has Jollibee sweet spaghetti at the top), and so on. Your daddy and I honestly cannot keep track of New Things BB Does anymore.

I am floored by all the words you manage to remember. You parrot everything we say when you’re in the mood, and you sometimes say random lines from your favorite books at spot-on times (“OH YES” you once said to me after I asked you if you wanted to go out, while nodding — it cracked me up).

You now recognize some cartoon characters — we’ve relaxed the TV rule a little a bit so you’ve seen part of the first Cars movie (“Mc-KEEN!” “MATER!”) and the Minions. You get bored of the TV after a while though. (Yay.)

But boy, do you love your JAMS. You have a funny little dance when we put your favorite YouTube music videos on the speaker (belly thrust forward and back, jiggle shoulders up and down). Wheels on the Bus is still your #1 song, but you’re starting to branch out to the Hokey Pokey and Head Shoulders Knees & Toes. You know all the words to Johnny Johnny Yes Papa (down to your breathy HA HA HA at the end), Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and have your own version of Bahay Kubo and Ako Ay May Lobo (thanks to yaya Aca).

Your mama and daddy try to keep your days (at least the weekends!) and your heart full, BB. We took you to the Palawan Pirate Ship down in Sentosa one weekend and you loved the free sprinklers — though you fell victim to a cold right after. 😦

You had your third-ever boat ride to attend your Ninang‘s wedding in Bohol. You had the chance to play with your “BUCKET!” and get sand all over your bum. You met your “TITO BAYAN!” and now promptly remember him every time you see someone dark (LOL).

I’m sorry our little playgroup experiment didn’t work out, BB. Mama now knows that she shouldn’t rush you into being a big boy, that all she has to do is to fill your days with hugs and kisses and silly dances and joy — that the rest will happen in its own good time.

Kids Read #7: Dr. Seuss’s ABC

Some books are classics for a reason. I think Dr. Seuss books fall firmly within the classic camp.

Of the ones we’re fortunate to have, Squishy’s current favorites are ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ (“Sam-ay-am!” by his request) and this one, Dr. Seuss’s ABC.

I love reading Dr. Seuss out loud because it just sounds so musical. (“Big B, little B, what begins with B? Barber baby bubbles and a bumblebee!”) I discovered that “Seussian verse” is meant to sound better out loud — so it’s perfect for little kids who’re just starting to read.

Again in typical Seuss fashion we’re introduced to zany characters like the Fiffer-feffer-feff (see below) and Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz…

… and humorous activities like painting pink pajamas, oiling orange owls, dreaming of a dozen doughnuts and a duck-dog, and walking a quacking quacker-oo.

Squishy loves sounding out the letters with me (“Jee-jee-jee!” for G), which I take as a sign that he’s enjoying the book too.

I think Dr. Seuss’s ABC has a soft spot in my heart because we had a CD-rom (!) of the book back in the ’90s. Both the print edition and the CD have the same words, but the CD has some clickable content and sounds accompanying each page too (for example, you could hear the mice humming their midnight music on “M”).

Can’t go wrong with a classic!

📖

Dr. Seuss’s ABC (Random House)
By Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

Bought secondhand for around S$3 at the atrium in Lucky Plaza
🙂

Kids Read #6: Bee Safe by Joyce Piap-Go

I knew Squishy had absorbed at least one key lesson from this book when he pointed at one of our electric sockets, looked at me and said, “Basap” (“Be safe”).

We started reading ‘Bee Safe’ to Squishy when he developed a keen interest in poking around stuff he wasn’t supposed to be poking in the first place.

Source: Lunar Baboon

The book follows Dee the Bee as he encounters everyday situations at home, in school, or out and about, with a glimpse of the unpleasant consequences that may follow if Dee isn’t doing the “safe” thing. The book is illustrated by Maria Cristina Sison, a member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan.

It was tiring (and pointless) to keep saying “No!” every time Squishy reached for a socket or stepped into the kitchen when the oven was switched on. Because he’s too young, he won’t understand long-winded explanations either.

So, on top of baby-proofing where we can, we’ve taken to reading him this book and pointing out to him the spots in the house where he was most likely to encounter such situations.

We realized Squishy was remembering some of it when he suddenly started making a “boo-hoo” face whenever we tried to read ‘Bee Safe’ to him. We eventually concluded that he was associating the book with all the bad stuff that could potentially happen if he wasn’t careful … so maybe in this case the lesson was actually too effective, haha.

On a positive note, that means ‘Bee Safe’ is an easy-to-follow read even for toddlers as young as 1½ years old. Our point here was not to scare our little one, but rather introduce him to basic safety precautions in a loving and protected environment, with adults he knows and trusts.

Recently Squishy’s more relaxed about us reading the book to him again. “Dontdodat” (“Don’t do that”), he’d say, whenever he remembered parts of it (it’s really just the bits on the electric socket and washing hands that he remembers for now — which is just fine!).

It’s good that he’s friends with Dee the Bee again, because I just found out my mom bought the rest of the books in the series (Bee Polite, Bee Green, Bee Active, Bee Happy). Bring it on, Dee!

 

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Bee Safe (Hiyas Press)
By Joyce Piap-Go

Php 80 at National Bookstore

Kids Read #5: A for Adobo by Nelson Agustin

Squishy was reading ‘A for Adobo’ to his lolo on one of our regular FB Messenger calls and it went something like this:

Me: “A is for…?” Squishy: “Dobo!”

M: “B is for…?” S: “Babangka!”

“Nakakagutom naman yung binabasa mo!” (“Your book is making me hungry!”), my dad laughed.

‘A for Adobo’ is exactly as described — an alphabet book for the Filipino family who loves to eat (that’s us, ehem).

Each letter of the Filipino alphabet, i.e. A to Z plus Ñ (Piña) and Ng (Daing na Bangus), is accompanied with a beautifully-shot, high-resolution photo of each Pinoy dish.

I see what you did there with the “J”!

It’s a board book so it’s perfect for toddlers like Squishy. The bright colors and clean setting also make it a joy to read for the parent (that’s me — or Hubby!). I suppose the only drawback is that it tends to bring on unusual cravings for okoy (which Squishy pronounces with an exaggerated pursed-lip “oh”) and paella valenciana.

I see what you did there with the “X” and “Z” too 🙂

I think it’s an excellent find and a good way to introduce Pinoy food to Squishy. He likes saying some of the words so much that they sometimes sneak their way in to other alphabet book readings. The other day we were reading one in English to him and, on asking him for a word starting with E (and expecting “elephant” etc.) he suddenly says “Mada!” (for Ensaymada). Oh well, bilingual households ftw. 🙂

(Ignore the Movavi watermark in the video please! Am too cheap to spring for the registered version, haha.)

I picked up this book on one of my usual National Bookstore runs. I try to drop by whenever we make a trip back home. ‘A for Adobo’ can be found in National’s kids’ books section. I noticed there were both board book and softcover editions.

A highly-recommended read — except on an empty stomach.

 

📖

A for Adobo – Board Book (Tahanan Books for Young Readers) 
By Nelson Agustin

Php 275 at National Bookstore

On DIY Haircuts

Squishy started bawling the second he sensed we were about to give him a haircut at EC House Kids. His hair had been bothering me for weeks — it was growing past his ears, getting in his eyes. With him starting playgroup soon we thought it best to bite the bullet and get the haircut over with.

Squishy hates haircuts. He hates the buzz of the hair clippers. The last time he had it cut, it was in the Philippines, in Cuts 4 Tots at Glorietta. He was so stressed out he sweated buckets — they didn’t need to spritz his hair with water. He also cried his little heart out. It was agonizing to watch.

So we backed out of EC House, calmed him down with a few rounds of singing “Wheels on the Bus” and headed home. The Hubby thought we could do it ourselves with the help of YouTube instructional videos. (To be fair, the Hubby did learn to swim breast stroke via YouTube, and this kid learned how to drive. For Hubby, it was good enough to get him a beginner’s diving license!)

I watched a few “how to cut your toddler’s hair” videos and marveled at all the kids who looked chill at the sight and sound of clippers/scissors. I found one video that looked promising and, duly inspired, I set off to find the sharpest scissors at home and the baby comb.

Squishy’s “Before” photo. Readying his hair with a brush.

(As an aside, you may be wondering why Squishy’s always in an undershirt a.k.a. sando. I promise you, if you too were dressing a genetically sweaty toddler in hot and humid Singapore, this would be your at-home outfit of choice.)

Taking a cue from YouTube we played a Disney Cars 3 trailer on loop to keep him occupied. I combed his hair down following what I thought/hoped was his natural part.

Squishy is so sensitive to haircuts he kept swatting my hand away and moving side to side. I ended up just trying to trim the longish bits but generally following the shape of his previous cut. It was effing challenging to cut a straight line AND not snip a chunk out of my kid’s ear.

Stay STILL… please

I intend to fix it while he’s sleeping and he kind of looks like Moe from The Three Stooges but at least, AT LEAST, the hair is out of his eyes.

I remember my mom, for a brief time in our childhood, did our haircuts herself by putting a mangkok (bowl) on our head and cutting a straight fringe along the rim of the bowl. So you know, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

My mom got asked “O, where’s your boy?” ALL the time

Weekend Blah

As I was looking for photos for this post I realize I haven’t been taking them lately. What I have are mostly videos — of Squishy playing with his shape sorter, “reading” his books, loving his “colors” (what he calls his crayons).

He’s grown active these past few months and, when it comes to capturing memories, taking photos didn’t seem to cut it anymore. All I have are random shots of things whenever I remembered to bring my camera. Here’s one of him attempting to climb up Cinderella’s dress at Toys R’ Us because he thought it was a slide:

At this age, toddlers understand way more than they can say. Squishy amazes me by how much he can absorb like a big-ass sponge. Out of the blue the other day he said “internet” when he saw me showing Hubby a Facebook page and none of us were sure where he heard the word, much less what it meant.

He has a more nuanced sense of his favorite books now — these days he demands The Paper Bag Princess (“Pin-sess!”), Love You Forever, and Cool Cars (…which I bought for a dollar in the atrium of Lucky Plaza. Now I know where to get his books — and our Mang Tomas fix — next!).

Squishy can communicate in short phrases: “Hugas” (Wash, in Filipino) after he poops, “Hugas! Punas!” (Wash! Wipe!) when he knows we’re about to start his pre-bedtime ritual, “Pess, baba” (Press, go down) when he’s had enough of food, and he wants us to release him from his high chair’s seatbelt and carry him. Here, he’s giving us his “Stinky” face like one of the babies in his Baby Faces book.

I looked at a folder in my drive labeled “Squishy – 3rd month onwards” where I’ve dumped all our photos since early 2016. It’s a mess — I keep telling myself to get my shit together and organize it one weekend, but I haven’t gotten around to doing that yet. It has everything — Squishy’s weekly and monthly celebrations, trips we made last year, we-did-nothing quiet weekend moments, first birthday and baptism photos. Thousands of photos. In one folder. Eep! I will add it to the list “Things I’ll Organize/Do One Weekend…Someday” together with Squishy’s blank baby book.

Anyway, it’s amazing to compare my grubby little toddler in the present to the chub-tub baby he was this time last year. It’s a worn cliché but yes Virginia, they do grow up fast.

Squishy will be attending a formal playgroup soon. All his afternoon mates at the condo playground are gone, plucked off one by one as they all attend playgroup / childcare sessions of their own. It’ll be good for his social skills, he’ll get to interact with other kids his age, we think. (Probably the same thing all the other parents in the condo are thinking, which is kind of ironic in a way.)

I imagine if Squishy were in the Philippines he’d have fellow grubby little toddlers to play with outdoors. Maybe.