Wednesday, November 18

Picture of the Week (POTW)

Picture taken at Great Reno Balloon Race. (Aug 09)

P.S. We will be on holiday till early December. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, November 9

Quote of the day (QOTD)

Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a stroke of good luck.
--H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sunday, November 8

Book: Apples & Pears

Would you believe that a woman's future health is written in her body shape? This is what Dr. Savard hopes her reader would buy into after reading her book: Apples & Pears: The Body Shape Solution for Weight Loss and Wellness.
This book is organized into 3 parts namely
1.About body shape
2.Medical Issues related to the type of body shape – metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, inflammation, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, varicose veins, stress and depression.
3.Solutions – in terms of diet and exercise program

The book explains how and why different body shapes benefit from customized diets, exercise regiments, medications, menopause therapies, psychosocial interventions and lifestyle changes. The aim of the book is to change the way women and their physicians perceive their bodies and understand their disease risks. It is also to empower women with relevant knowledge so that they can take necessary actions to transcend their biology. Body shape apparently is the most powerful predictor of a woman's future health. All women's bodies can be categorized as either "apple-shaped" or "pear-shaped" depending on where you are most likely to gain weight. The former tends to have her weight collects around the middle while the latter collects weight around the hips, buttocks and thighs. The differences are not merely in terms of physical appearance as they are related to differences in our physical chemistry, hormone production and sensitivity, metabolism and even personality.

It is an interesting read and I certainly gained new knowledge which I hope to translate into actions. The book is well-written and reader-friendly. At the end of chapter, she listed some action items which I thought is neat. I shall summarize what I have learned in bullet points.

  • Determine if you are "apple-shaped" or "pear-shaped" by using waist-to-hip ratio (WHR).
  • If your WHR is equal or less than 0.8, you are a "Pear". Higher than 0.8, you are an "Apple"
  • Fats are not created equal. There are 2 types; subcutaneous which means “under the skin” and visceral, “pertaining to the soft organs in the abdomen.”
  • The former, while unsightly, is harmless. Some of it may even protect us from disease. For example, they have been shown to increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and help maintain a steady balance of triglycerides in the blood
  • Excess visceral fat can be dangerous. It is more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat and most of what it does is harmful to the body. It decreases insulin sensitivity, increases triglycerides, decreases levels of HDL cholesterol, creates more inflammation, and raises blood pressure – all of which increase the risk of heart disease.
  • In general, apple-shaped women are at greater risks for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, stress and irregular menstrual cycle while pear-shaped women are at greater risks for osteoporosis, varicose veins, low-self esteem, poor body image, tendency for eating disorder and menopausal symptoms.
  • There is no “better” or “worse”, there is only what you are. And your body shape is not your fault. Learn to take charge by leading a healthy lifestyle.
  • Measurements of waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio are more predictive of future disease than weight.
  • Start measure your health by changes in the waist circumference and WHR.
  • Bodies are constantly changing throughout our lifetime. Nature seems to determine to make apples of all of us.
  • All children start out apple-shaped, and boys remain as one. Once the hormones of adolescence hit, girls can either remain apple-shaped or become pear-shaped.
  • For many women, bearing children changes the contours of their bodies forever.
  • Human body is not designed to give up weight easily – its survival mechanism wants to retain as much weight as it can.
  • Very low-calorie dieting is not the best choice for lasting weight loss. You may take off pounds very quickly but you'll also regain them in short order.
  • 25% solution – if you want to lose weight and keep the weight off without slowing your metabolism, restrict your calories by no more than 25%.
  • Eliminate 25% of what you usually eat will achieve this goal.
  • Pay attention to what you are eating. Recognize hunger. Eat only when you are hungry.

If you're not familiar with exercise and healthy diet, part 3 of the book provides a good introduction. Personally, i did not find it as useful compared to the earlier chapters. The most important thing in my opinion is to be mindful of one's health and lead a healthy lifestyle by eating and resting well, exercise and engage in meaningful relationships. On the whole it is a good book and I will recommend it to those who are looking to improve their health. I do wonder what happens to women who may fit a category based on their WHR but exhibit the opposing characteristics. For example, a "pear-shaped" woman who may have irregular menstrual cycle (which according to the book this problem belongs to an "apple-shaped" woman. Unfortunately, it was not addressed.

More reviews here. I tend to agree with E.Nocco's review.

Thursday, November 5

Sunday, November 1

An Irish blessing

You know how sometimes you hear a song or a hymn and it speaks to you? This morning, there were several hymns that spoke to me during mass and one brought tears to my eyes. I decided to approach one of the choir members to find out the title of the hymn. The title is May the road rise to meet you.

The choir sang it so beautifully and the words went straight to my heart. I am reminded that God is always here with me. I like to share this blessing with you and I pray that the road will rise to meet you especially if you are in need of His grace at this moment. Peace be with you.

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be at your back.
May the sunshine warm upon your face,
May the rain fall softly on your fields
And until we meet again
May you keep safe in the gentle loving arms of God.

For everything there is a season
a time for meeting , a time to say goodbye
in all things God is near
always guiding your way.

For everything there is a season
a time for loving, a time for letting go
in all things God is near
always guiding your way.

Saturday, October 31

Quote of the day (QOTD)

"Do not be timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again; you shall never be so afraid of a tumble."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, October 29

How to...

make a new habit stick?

Change. What can I write about change? All of us know that change is the only constant in life. Whether we like it or not, it happens. Sometimes change pounces on us stealthily. On the other hand there are also times when we initiate the change. For example, we don't like the image we see in the mirror or we have been falling sick frequently. We decide that it is time to take control of the situation and make some changes in our lives.

I am looking into creating a new habit and started surfing around for inspiration. I am constantly amazed and grateful that one can find almost anything on the internet. So this is what I found on how to make a habit stick. The full article is here. This is my interpretation of the article and my thoughts on this topic.

1. Commit to Thirty Days

The general consensus is that one needs at least 21 to 30 days to make a habit automatic. As such, it is important that you make the commitment to this change by doing it for a month. To strengthen the commitment, write it down and share it with someone.

2. Make it a DAILY affair

Consistency is key if you want to make this work. Whether you like it or not, do it because this change is what you desire. If you are not consistent, it is not going to be a habit. Period.

3. Start Simple

Avoid being overly-ambitious. Start small. Build on what you have. One day at a time. Be patient.

4. Remind Yourself

Review the commitment (refer to 1) whenever you feel discouraged. It is easy to lose the focus. Ask yourself why you want this change. The reasons will keep you going for a little longer. You can also place reminders to perform the action each day. Put it in a salient place, for example on the mirror in the bathroom.

5. Stay Consistent

Perform the new habit consistently for it to stick. If you want to eat more healthily, try doing consistently for 30 days. For example, eat yogurt for breakfast for 30 days. Use the same bowl, and eat at the same place and at the same time.

6. Get a Buddy

Find someone who is keen on the change. You can keep each other motivated. It also increases the accountability factor. You are more likely to fail yourself rather than a buddy.

7. Form a Trigger

Just as an addict has triggers to make him/her feel like using drugs, you can create a trigger for creating a new habit. What is a trigger? It is essentially a cue. One example is always bring a towel when you go for a walk. Eventually that towel will become a cue that it's walking time.

8. Replace Lost Needs

Often time people are not aware that when you create a new habit, you are giving up something that has been with you - FAMILIARITY. Familiarity is comforting. As such, it is important that you find something else to replace the needs that you might have lost.

9. Be Imperfect

Ah..this is a tough one and I will admit I have the need the be perfect. However this attitude is going to be a stumbling block because let's face it, one cannot be successful immediately at change. It is not that easy. It requires more - persistence, patient and determination. These are good qualities to cultivate. As such, expect difficulties and resistance and not perfection especially in the initial stage.

10. Use “But”

Okay, this is new for me. But after reading what the author has to say, it seems to make sense. It is a good way to interrupt bad thought patterns. Shouldn't be too difficult because we tend to use it on a day-to-day basis anyway. Example that the author gave, "I’m no good at this, but, if I work at it I might get better later.”

11. Remove Temptation

In the early stage, you should avoid putting yourself to temptations. If you are a recovering alcoholic, you wouldn't want to work at a bar or hang out with friends who drink. Yes, it does mean that you need to make the difficult changes and you may not like them. Liking something is not going to help. This is the time to grow up and accept the situation and do what is necessary to propel yourself towards the goal.

12. Associate With Role Models

Spending more time with people who can model the new habits will help to keep you motivated and not give up. There is a reason why Alcoholic Anonymous works. Not only do you find role models, you find people who understand what you are going through.

13. Run it as an Experiment

Personally, I think this is a great idea. Just try it out like it is an experiment. Sometimes, we tend to make judgement and avoid the idea even before we try. Thus, withhold judgement until you have been into the new habit for at least a month. Then evaluate and make the necessary changes if need be.

14. Swish

Apparently this is a technique from NLP or Neuro-linguistic programming. This is not an area that I'm familiar with so I won't comment on it. From the article: Visualize yourself performing the bad habit. Next visualize yourself pushing aside the bad habit and performing an alternative. Finally, end that sequence with an image of yourself in a highly positive state. See yourself picking up the cigarette, see yourself putting it down and snapping your fingers, finally visualize yourself running and breathing free. Do it a few times until you automatically go through the pattern before executing the old habit.

15. Write it Down

I am a firm believer in this. When you write something on a piece of paper, it concretizes the intention. Keep this piece of paper and use it as a reminder when you feel unmotivated.

16. Know the Benefits

Prior to starting the change, take time to list the pros and cons of the change. Keep that piece of paper. When you find yourself feeling lost, refer to the list to get you going. In particular, keep in mind the benefits of the change.

17. Know the Pain

One needs to be aware of the consequences of his/her decision. (Hence the need to list the pros and cons. There are cons to creating a new habit too.) For example, if you decide to train for a marathon, you will have less time for social and leisure activities.

18. Do it For Yourself

At the end of the day, this new habit is something that you wanna do for yourself. Avoid putting yourself on a guilt-trip. It is not healthy and helpful.

Wednesday, October 21

Thanks for visiting

Hi there! I like to apologize for the lack of updates on this blog. We were away on a long holiday and as a result i lose the momentum in keeping this blog. Thank you for still visiting :)

We had an incredible time on our cruise to Alaska. You learn so much when you travel - you get to see how other people live their lives, how they cope with life situations and most of all you get to see amazing sights. Alaska has lots to offer. On one of our excursions, we went on a train ride to Yukon, Canada and that place totally blew us away. Naked beauty is how I would describe it. When I look at all these beautiful sights, I can't help but feel humbled. I will share some of the pictures and let them speak for themselves. Enjoy!

Hubbard Glacier

Whale watching

White Pass and Yukon Route

Emerald Lake, Yukon Canada

Beautiful Glacier at Juneau

Dog-sled ride.

Beautiful skies

Wednesday, September 2

Healthy snacks

Frequent meals seem to be a better way to manage your food intake. With that you would need more ideas on what healthy snacks to prepare and here is one yummy suggestion.

Recipe of the hummus here.

Happy snacking!

Friday, August 28

Thursday, August 27

Responding with affection

Listen to Marianne Williamson on this here.

Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

John C. Maxwell

Tuesday, August 25

Quote of the day (QOTD)

"Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing."
– George Sheehan

Thursday, August 20

Science of Parenting: The Trying times

Children will be children and because of that there will be trying times. This chapter focuses mainly on the under-fives and provides tips on how to manage them. What is of importance is that the brain's dopamine and noradrenaline systems - which are vital for concentration and sustained attention - are slow to mature in children. Hence, the child is often easily distracted, impulsive, unable to focus, unable to filter out distractions and is prone to lots of manic behaviours. It is a tall order to expect the child to comply with adult behaviour.

When they just say won't or no!
There is a delicate balance between giving clear boundaries, rules and consequences for unacceptable behaviours and damaging the will of the child, which is of great life resource. Saying "won't" or "no" at 2-3 years old is precursor for the capacity to stand up for oneself, the passion to know what one wants and the drive to follow through. Children who move into total compliance at toddler age often suffer later in life from not having developed a separate self. They may be skilled at adapting to the needs and feelings of others but have little or no notion of what they want and feel. Thus, parents need to think carefully about how to respond to the child appropriately.

Trying times when they bounce about

  • Bouncing and running about is not being naughty.
  • You've guessed it, the higher brain has not yet formed the key pathways which connect to the lower brain.
  • The answer for this is to find a channel for their energy for example go to the playground or park, get them to jump on trampoline etc...

Trying times in public places

  • Find a space where they are free to run around and look for places where they are fewer people.
  • At cafes and restaurants, offer toy or colouring book to meet their stimulation hungers.
  • Turn shopping trip from hell into exciting treasure hunt. Engage and get them to assist with task-focused games.

Trying times on train/car journeys

  • If a child has to be on a train or in a car for a while, his motoric impulses become very strong, leading to fidgeting and restlessness.
  • It is extremely stressful for children to sit still in long rides.
  • Give something interesting to the child to engage the frontal lobes and activates the SEEKING system.
  • Play guessing game, story-telling, riddles, paper, crayon, puzzle etc..
  • Take a break from the ride and head to open spaces where they can expend their energy.

Trying times with meals

  • Children prefer to play games at the table rather sitting nicely to eat because when they are excited, the appetite will be suppressed.
  • If a child has become anxious about food or meal time, undo any negative associations between eating and place.
  • Try to activate your child's lower brain play system at meal times so she starts to associate food with fun instead of fear.
  • Give her patterned plates and allow her to play with food to explore new textures and colours.

Trying times with making a mess

  • It is important to avoid squashing your child's creativity and imagination. Imaginative, cooperative play is a real developmental achievement for young children.
  • That said, it is also crucial not to give the message that she can create whatever havoc she likes and expect you to clear up.
  • Make tidying up into a game. Use the “let's” game or the "choices and consequences" technique.

Trying times and toy wars

  • Children get heated up about possession of toys. Why is that?
  • Firstly, the emotional attachment she has with the toy provides her with a sense of well-being.
  • The toy is her territory hence she is likely to respond with rage to an invasion. Concept of sharing is foreign to her.
  • Use distraction and help squabbling kids find a solution. For older kids, teach them about trading and taking turns.
  • If possible, choose cooperative games instead of competitive ones till the child is older. The pain of losing can be too painful and young children are not good at putting things in perspective.

Trying times with wanting something eg. At a toyshop

  • Toyshop activates the SEEKING system which is to do with curiosity, exploration, will, drive, expectancy, and desire and this makes your child extremely aroused and focused.
  • If her desire is frustrated, her rage and separation distress can be triggered.
  • A good strategy is to pay no attention whatsoever to any pleading. Be firm and clear with “no” accompanied by an empathic response.
  • Don't try to reason with your child as it is futile because you're dealing with her higher brain when the lower brain is in the driving seat.
  • For children over 5, offer a choice. Once her higher brain is engaged in decision-making, it naturally calms the lower brain.

Trying times with not wanting to listen

  • Reason: they have difficulty to switch attention from one thing to another as easily as adult can.
  • One strategy is to build in a clear disengagement strategy, for example “I will count now from five to one..”
  • Make it clear what the rules are when you are out and about with your child.
  • Praise you child when she did as requested, “Well done. You did so well at coming back when I called.”

Trying times with telling tales and name-calling

  • Help your child to express anger and resentment in healthier ways.
  • Set house rules to prevent such behaviours.

Trying times with children at war

  • Fighting among siblings is common.
  • Parent power is influential and if you treat them wrongly, it can strengthen the primitive response in the brain.
  • Fights often happen because one or more of your child's psychological hungers is not being met. She could be bored, under stimulated, hungry etc..
  • She may be upset, angry and because she doesn't have words, she uses her fists.
  • Ensure there are do's and don'ts in responding to fighting

    1. Don't meet violence with violence.
    2. Don't scream, shout or smack. This method may be effective in the short term but this response is modelling using rage in difficult situation.
    3. Use firm but calm voice.
    4. Don't take sides or reward tale-telling.
    5. Help your child with “too big” feeling and don't leave her to deal with it on her own.
    6. Make sure there are some clear family rules about quarreling and fighting and read through them with the kids.

Monday, August 17

Half Full or Half Empty

If you want to know where you stand in the continuum of optimism and pessimism, this book has just the questionnaire for you. The main premise in this book is that the way we think can diminish or enlarge our control. An optimistic explanatory style stops helplessness while pessimistic style spreads helplessness. Explanatory style is the manner in which we habitually explain to ourself why events happen. This is a great modulator of learned helplessness as it determines how helpless or energized you can become.

Optimism has an important place in life as it can protect us against depression, raise our level of achievement and enhance our physical well-being. It is important to remember that learned optimism is NOT a rediscovery of “the power of positive thinking”. They do not consist in learning to say positive statements to yourself. What is crucial is what we think when we fail and using the power of “non-negative thinking”. Changing the destructive thing we say to ourself when we experience setbacks that life deals us is the central skill of optimism. Learned helplessness is the giving up reaction that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn't matter.

There 3 crucial dimensions to explanatory style:
1. Permanence
2. Pervasiveness
3. Personalization

People who give up easily believe the cause of bad events are permanent, persistent and personal . Everyone encounters failures from time to time. It makes everyone feels at least momentarily helpless and discouraged. For optimist it goes away almost instantaneously while for the pessimist, as you can guess takes much longer or never. The permanence dimension determines how long a person gives up for. As such, permanent explanations for bad events produce long lasting helplessness while temporary explanations produce resilience. Optimistic people also believe that good events have permanent cause rather than temporary. They tend to explain good events in terms of permanent causes – such as traits, abilities - while pessimists name transient causes – such as moods, effort or luck.

When you consider pervasiveness, it refers to whether this incident is specific or universal. Those who make universal explanations for their failures give up on EVERYTHING when failure strikes in ONE area. People who make specific explanations may become helpless in that one part of life yet strive on in the others.

The third dimension, personalization controls how you feel about yourself. The optimistic style of explaining good events is the opposite of that used for bad events. When bad things happen, we can either blame ourselves (internalize) or we blame other people or circumstances (externalize). People who blame themselves when they fail tend to have low self-esteem as a consequence. Low self-esteem usually comes from an internal style for bad events.

How we think affects how we feel and one particular self-defeating way to think is to make personal, permanent and pervasive explanations for bad events. Prof Seligman offers hope to those who are pessimists. He claimed that it is possible to unlearn helplessness by using cognitive therapy. Becoming optimist consists of learning a set of skills about how to talk to yourself when you suffer a personal defeat. You will learn to speak to yourself about setbacks from a more encouraging viewpoint. It takes effort and time to unlearn tendencies that we have practiced for many years. The book provides techniques to change to be more optimistic. You can find many examples of how this happen in various aspects of life - in school, at work, in sports, health as well as politics.

There are numerous advantages when you hold a more optimistic style of thinking. It helps improve health – catches fewer infectious disease, have better health habits, improved immune system. If you feel that you are ready to change your thinking style, do give this book a shot.

Tuesday, August 4

The Science of Parenting- Dealing with the letter T.....

the terrifying TANTRUMS!

I don't know about you but when a child shows signs of a tantrum, that is the cue for me to return the said child to the parents. Now, what if you are the parents? Here is the good news because in this chapter we will learn all about tantrums - why it happens, what are the different types and most importantly how we can deal with them. Armed with the arsenal, hopefully parents will be empowered and feel less helpless when tantrums happen. Firstly, we need to understand what is going on inside a child's head when he is being naughty. It is also essential to keep in mind of the child's feelings and relationship issues in addition to the overt difficult behaviours. According to the book, there are 6 main reasons that contribute to a child behaving badly. These are:

  • Tiredness and Hunger
  • An undeveloped Brain
  • Psychological Hungers
  • Needing help with a Big feeling
  • Picking up on YOUR stress
  • You activate the wrong part of your child's brain.

Tiredness and Hunger

  • Children behave badly when they have an unmet physical need for food or sleep. This is the easiest of the lot to deal with as you can ascertain this quite quickly.
  • Sleep loss intensifies negative emotions when we are under stress. It also causes imbalances in blood sugar levels and consequently affects moods.
  • Sugar and sweets may cause bad behaviour – sugar high. They get energy boost within 10-15 min and then they crash after a certain period of time. This can lead to hypoglycaemia, which in turn leads to aggression, anxiety and hyperactive behaviour such as rushing about and climbing up on things.
  • Hunger also disrupts the hormones in the body. To remedy, ensure that your children are eating proper meal.
  • Consuming certain foods or drinks may also play havoc with their brains.
  • Children are particularly vulnerable to food additives because their bodies and brain are so immature.
  • These are often found in processed food such as biscuits, sweets, soft drinks. They can have mood-altering effects and are common triggers for bad behaviour. Some additives reduce the level of dopamine and noradrenaline in the brain resulting in hyperactive behaviour in some children.
  • Opt for appealing healthy alternatives that are low in additives, colouring and sugar whenever possible.

An undeveloped emotional brain

  • Remember the Immature brain theory that we have learned about in the past chapters? Young children can't naturally inhibit their primitive impulses to lash out, run about and climb up things.
  • Sometimes a child is unfairly punished as parents are afraid of being manipulated and resort to punishments for the behaviours.
  • There are scientific evidence to suggest that a baby's or a young child's brain isn't developed enough to have thoughts about manipulating adults.
  • Glutamate system in the frontal lobes of the brain enables us to have clearly defined thoughts and intentions. And this system is not properly established in babies and small children, which means they lack the sophistication to be deliberately naughty or manipulative. This system starts to develop during the first year of life.

Psychological hungers

  • There are 3 psychological hungers – for stimulation, recognition and structure. Over time, if one or more of these remain unsatisfied, people can be emotionally unwell.
  • Under-stimulation (boredom) is a pain in the brain. It is registered as stress. To change this state, people do things to increase their arousal state.
  • Because children have fewer resources than adults, the stimulation they choose is often aggressive, noisy or destructive.
  • Part of stimulation hunger is incident hunger. If a child is not experiencing enough incidents, he will make his own, perhaps fighting his brother or throwing a temper tantrum.
  • Recognition hunger makes a child seeks attention.
  • This is a genetically programmed need for attention. This means having an impact on someone in a way that makes them respond. “If I have an impact, I know I exist.”
  • If a child feels that good behaviour does not impact on his parents, he resorts to bad behaviour instead.
  • Bad behaviour stems from the recognition hunger that says, “Please don't ignore me”. If your child thinks the only way to get your attention is to be naughty, to scream or to cry then this is what he will do. They will take what they can get.
  • We have a psychological need for structure. Without it adult feels restless, depressed, anxious or lose focus and meaning. It is the same with children. They need the structure of a clear house rules and consistent routine.
  • Consider the structureless time for a child waiting in a queue at a supermarket. Your child will suddenly become horrid. However, when you do some structured activities with him while waiting, your child will be fine.

Needing help with big feeling.

  • Children may be angered, frustrated or jealous of the attention being paid to a sibling and so on. These big feelings activate the stress chemicals in the brain and body and thus outbursts are often a child's way of relieving tension.
  • A child does not have the words to express his emotions, so he vents his feelings in a scream or a shout.
  • Parents need to help the children with the feelings so that the higher brain can develop essential pathways to regulate such feelings.

Picking up on your stress.

  • A child's behaviour is often a barometer of parental stress, depression, anger or grief.
  • Persistent screaming and raging in a child can be a way of discharging his parents' emotions.
  • The right prefrontal part of a child's brain can pick up emotional atmospheres in milliseconds. As such, the more stressed you are, the more likely your children are to behave badly.
  • Just as some dogs are susceptible to the emotions of their owners, so children are deeply affected on a bodily and emotional level by stress and unhappiness in their family.
  • If the atmosphere at home is tense, you child can be horrid. Conversely, if you're relaxed, chances are they will be calm.

You activate the wrong part of your child's brain.

  • The way you relate to you child is crucial. For instance, if you shout and issue endless commands – "Do this, don't do that" – you could be unwittingly activating the primitive Rage and Fear systems that are deep in the mammalian and reptilian parts of the brain.
  • In contrast, lots of play, laughter and cuddles are likely to activate the brain's PLAY and CARE systems. These release the calming opiods which make children feel happy and contented.

Temper tantrums

  • Because of their intensity, temper tantrums are not only frightening to the child himself but also leave the parents feeling inept, helpless and overwhelmed.
  • This is particularly true when parents' own intense feelings were not handled well in their childhood. It can be very challenging for a parent to manage his/her own feelings during a child's tantrum.
  • It is vital that parents stay calm and think of rational and creative ways to manage a child's feeling.
  • Why tantrums are important?

    1. These are key times for brain sculpting because the emotional regulation of a child's feelings enables him to establish essential brain pathways for managing stress and being assertive later in life.
    2. The too-good child who does not have tantrums, learned early on that when he expressed big feelings, he elicited a frightening parental response. The price of parental love, acceptance and approval is total compliance hence no tantrums at all cost.
    3. This child misses out of the vital brain sculpting that he gets from his parents when he expresses big, dramatic feelings. This means that when he faces frustration later in life, he may respond with angry outbursts or struggle to be assertive.
    4. Not ALL tantrums are battles for power. It could be a genuine emotional pain. It is a mistake to think that rage is always about control.
    5. There are 2 different types of tantrum namely Distress versus "Little Nero" tantrums.
    6. Learn to differentiate the 2 so that you can respond appropriately. For the former, move towards the child with comfort and solace while the latter you need to move away.

Distress tantrums

  • Parent's role is to soothe your child when he experiences huge emotional storms in his brain and body. Without comfort the distress can leave the child with toxic level of stress hormones.
  • Children can't talk or listen well when distressed. Avoid trying to talk to your child during this period as they won't be able to process it.
  • Take the distress seriously and meet your child's pain of loss, frustration or acute disappointment with sympathy and understanding. When this is done, you will be helping your child to develop vital stress regulating systems.
  • How to handle distress tantrums?

    1. Use simple, calm actions or provide a simple choice. For example, if your child is upset about getting dressed, ask whether he wants to wear his blue or brown shirt.
    2. Use distraction. This activates the SEEKING system and makes him feel curious. It can override the brain's rage or distress systems.
    3. Hold your child tenderly. Speak to him softly using soothing words like “I know, I know”.. This prevents him from becoming angry or withdrawing from you.
    4. Avoid using the time-out technique during distress tantrum.
    5. Avoid putting a child in a room on his own. Vocal crying may stop but he may continue to cry internally, which is more worrying.
    6. Remind yourself that the distress is genuine when you get overwhelmed.
    7. Using distraction to avert tantrum is not “spoiling” your child.
    8. They do not have an adult perspective on life and thus not being able to do or have something they want can activate full-blown grief reaction. This is a result of immaturity rather than being naughty.

Little Nero tantrums

  • Happens when a child tries to get what he wants – attention, toy, food etc – through bullying his parents into submission. They have learned that shouting and screaming produce results.
  • These children need to learn that they can't receive the gratification they want and that it is not OK to bully or control others to get what they want in life.
  • In little nero tantrums, there is usually an absence of tears and the child is able to articulate her demands and argues when you say “no”.
  • The more you reward the tantrum with attention and giving her what she wants, the more she will continue to adopt the behaviour and you are in danger of setting up a trigger-happy rage system in her brain.
  • Reason is the mere experience of rage without the capacity for reasoned thinking can result in rage becoming a part of your child's personality.
  • When this is not handled well at an early age, they continue use this strategy to win tantrums at age 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 20, 35 or 60. They might grow into power-seeking, bullying adults.
  • Techniques to handling Little Nero tantrums.

    1. Don't give your child an audience. It must be a solo performance for it to stop. Once you are sure it is not distress tantrum, simply walk away.
    2. Don't try to reason, argue or persuade. Attention and words reward his negative behaviour.
    3. Don't “kiss it better”
    4. Don't negotiate. You are rewarding the behaviour if you do.
    5. Give clear, firm “nos” and try to manage your own anger.
    6. Deal firmly with your child's commands. Give a clear, firm message about commands being unacceptable as a way to get what he wants. Eg. “I'm happy to talk about what you would like when your voice is as quiet as mine.”
    7. Give information about social charm. This works better with an older child whose brain is more developed.
    8. Use humour and play when appropriate. This can deflate a Little Nero's power bubble. Mirror him back to himself.
    9. Use Time Out as a last resort. It is only appropriate only if your child is hurting someone.
    10. Learn to distinguish between the 2 tantrums.

Other triggers
  • It is also useful to understand the triggers that are linked to tantrums. Typically, these are boredom, frustration and disappointment.
  • Find out if there are enough stimulations in the house.
  • Teach your child to express their feelings through words.

    It is no wonder that people say parenting is the hardest job in the world. Not only do we have to ensure that we bring up the child with proper care and love, we also need to work at having the knowledge, skills and the right dispositions when dealing with the child at different stages of growth. Maybe that is why people also say parenting grows adults up. What a challenge and privilege.

    Next up: The trying times

    If you miss the previous summaries on Science of Parenting click here and here and here.

    P.S. Your discretion is advised. Your comments and thoughts are most welcome.
  • Thursday, July 30

    Quote of the day (QOTD)

    We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the morrow, for they sap our energies."
    – Etty Hillesum

    Wednesday, July 29

    The Science of Parenting: Sleep and bedtimes

    Baby often looks the most angelic when she is asleep. New parents dream of having a baby who is able to sleep through the night as soon as possible. It is a great challenge taking care of a baby who is distressed and have difficulty in sleeping. The chapter on sleep and bedtime presents the latest scientific thinking on the subject of where and how your child should sleep and looks at current research into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The most important thing that you need to remember is you need to make your baby/child feels that all is well in her world at bedtime. When you succeed, you will prevent stress chemicals from being activated in the brain. That will leave her feeling very safe and loved as she sleeps and you can sleep tight too.

    Facts about baby/child and sleep

    • Babies are awful sleepers. Period. Accept this and you will stop seeing a wakeful baby as some kind of parental failure.
    • The following have been established in research:

      1. Babies are prone to wake far more than adults – average cycle for them is about 50 minutes versus 90 minutes for adults.
      2. Persistent or recurring infant sleep problems in the preschool years are very common
      3. Approximately 25% of children under 5 have some type of sleep problem.
      4. Up to 20% of parents report a problem with infant crying or irritability in the first 3 months of life.

    Your task:Calming the brain at bedtime

    • Primary goal: Bring your child down from super alert state by activating the calming brain chemicals, oxytocin and melatonin (sleep hormone).
    • Most likely way of achieving this is by establishing a soothing routine.
    • Whatever you do stay calm. If you are uptight, you can't expect yourself to calm your child. Your tone is everything. Your stress and anger can activate the alarm systems in your child's brain, making her feel unsafe to go to sleep.
    • Snuggle up and read a story. Your body contact with your child will activate oxytocin in her brain, which can make her feel sleepy.
    • Try and set up the atmosphere – dim light, soothing music.
    • Avoid giving food that will keep the child awake such as protein food like meat or fish and chocolate (stimulant) 2 hours before bedtime. Offer carbohydrate food like banana as it activates serotonin which can help make her feel sleepy.
    • Avoid activating the FEAR system in the lower brain. Keep a nightlight, comfort and assure him, or pray together.
    • You may choose to lie down next to your child while he goes to sleep. No talking when you do it. Pretend to be asleep yourself. The skin-to-skin contact will regulate your child's bodily arousal system and strengthen the bond you share.
    • Allow your child to tell you what her fears are concerning sleeping.


    • Extensive research shows that safe co-sleeping can be a real investment for your child's future physical and emotional health.
    • It provides a baby with a sensory rich environment because of the touch, movement, smells and sounds.
    • Skin-to-skin contact throughout the night helps to regulate a baby's immature brain systems.
    • Thermal synchrony happens where the mother's body temperature regulates baby's temperature. For instance, if baby is too cold, the mother's temperature will rise 2 degrees to warm her. Conversely if the baby is too warm, the mother's temperature will lower by 1 degree to cool her. Pretty amazing huh?
    • Co-sleeping means hours of extra body contact. The more touch a child gets in childhood, the calmer and less fearful he is likely to be in adulthood. The physical contact helps to regulate the stress response system in the brain.
    • Some studies show that children who have never slept in their parents' bed are harder to control.

    Risks of co-sleeping.

    • Research indicates that the fears about suffocating the baby is unfounded. In fact co-sleeping seems to bring a higher degree of maternal vigilance.
    • If you intend to co-sleep, it is important that you become aware of SIDS and what you can do to minimize the risks.
    • Research around the world shows very low rates of SIDS in countries where co-sleeping is common, for example in Asia. One study showed that only 4% of Asian babies sleep alone.
    • SIDS is caused mostly by unstable breathing and an immature cardiovascular system. Being in close bodily contact with the mother stabilizes a baby's heartbeat and breathing.
    • When do you stop co-sleeping? It's up to your discretion.
    • Studies show that the majority of preschoolers need an adult next to them until they fall asleep, and most come to the parents' bed regularly for comfort. Such is the power of the lower brain's fear and separation distress systems.

    All about Sleep training

    • Sleep training is often done because parents and their child are in need of sleep. It is vital for physical growth of the baby as the growth hormone is only released during sleep.
    • When you decide to sleep train, make sure you don't use a method that involves prolonged crying, even for a few nights.
    • Eventually children will grow out of separation distress and until them it is crucial that you meet their distressed states with reassurance and comfort.
    • Why the “cry it out” technique is not good? It may achieved the goal of the baby sleeping but it is at a high cost.
    • Because she went to sleep stressed from the desperate crying, she may wake up frequently in the middle of the might.
    • Baby sleeps eventually more because of the exhaustion, which also means that she sleeps with elevated stress levels. Studies show that after being left to cry, babies move into a primitive defense mode and this results in an irregularity in breathing and heart rate and a high level of cortisol.

    Kind sleep training – the safe and no-cry options

    • If your child follows you out of the room, reassure him that he is safe and that you will see him in the morning. Don't ignore and leave him to cry. Repeat the assurance as often as needed.
    • Avoid sleep training that is based on a deal to leave the door open. This activates fear of the door being shut. Repeated activation of this system in childhood leads to anxiety disorders in later life.
    • Use science to inform your methods when it's time for your child to sleep on his own.
    • When it time, it's been shown that acoustic presence of the mother can effectively bring down the stress chemical levels. Give your child a tape recording of your voice, or favourite story.
    • Your smell can also trigger powerful positive feelings. Give her something to hold in the night that smells of you. With baby, place near her a soft piece of cloth with the smell of our breast milk can be highly effective in settling her.
    • Make your child's bedroom a special sanctuary where she loves to be.
    • Encourage your child to have a cuddly toy which also activates comforting brain chemicals.

    After reading a few chapters of the book I find that there is a main theme running through - that is your baby/child behaves in a certain way because her brain is still developing. As such, it is crucial that parents do not blame themselves or be frustrated with the baby when he/she seems to "not cooperate". Patience and knowledge of what is going on helps to activate the frontal part of parents' brains so that we do not trigger our own reptilian and mammalian brains!

    Next up: Dealing with challenging behaviours.

    If you miss the previous summaries on Science of Parenting click here and here.

    P.S. Your discretion is advised.

    Tuesday, July 28

    Is clutter running your life?

    Enough Already! Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You is not just about decluttering the space around you. Instead in the book, Peter Walsh takes the readers beyond the physical clutter in the home. He believes that the homes, our heads, our hearts and our hips are intimately interconnected. The book sets to tackle the clutter that fills the head and impedes the different areas of one's life namely relationships, work, family, money, health and our sense of well-being.

    In all the different areas, the first step to declutter is always to ask yourself the important question - what is the vision you have for the life you want? With that as a starting point, it sets the direction for your effort in decluttering in different areas of your life. To ensure that your change is long-lasting you need to put in 3 key ingredients - clarity, self-awareness and commitment to change.

    Whether it is relationship or work or money, there are similarities in the process. Always start with the vision. Then clear the clutter of unreal expectations and watch out for obstacles. He always ends the chapter with a summary and how you can deal with the actual stuff that occupies the space and provide tips on them. On the whole, the book is informative, useful and well-organized (we shouldn't expect less for Mr Organization himself!).

    I took away lots of learning points and the following is the most important of all:
    Do the best you can with what you have, accept weaknesses and find ways to work around them. Give your love in all its imperfection.

    Thursday, July 23

    2 questions

    Something to ponder on:
    Question 1: Have you experienced joy in your life?
    Question 2: Have you brought joy to others?


    the movie - The Bucket List

    You measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you. ~Carter Chambers

    Wednesday, July 22

    The Science of Parenting: Crying and separation

    It is one of the hardest things - to see the baby cries especially when it is our own. It often makes the parent feels helpless and that is an awful secondary feeling. Not only is prolonged crying is hard to bear, it is also bad for the baby. The chapter on crying and separation in this book shows how stress from prolonged crying and separations can affect baby's developing brain. If you forget everything else, please do remember that crying is your baby's intense bid for you to help her with her overwhelming feelings and frightening bodily sensations. This is because her brain in not yet developed enough for her to manage them on her own.

    Why do babies cry??!!

    • Babies are sensitive, raw and vulnerable to stress.
    • They cry for various reasons - tiredness, hunger, over- or under-stimulated, fear of threats or shocks, the environment is not conducive - too bright, too harsh, too cold, too hot, too sudden and so on.
    • Amygdala, which is important alarm system in the lower brain, is perfectly on line at birth. Its main function is to work out the emotional meaning of everything that happens. When it senses that something threatening is happening, it communicates to hypothalamus, which then control the release of stress hormones which can then prepare the body for fight or flight.
    • Babies need help in managing this awful feeling. If they are left to manage this on their own, the higher brain may not develop the necessary wiring to be able to perform these stress managing functions. As a result, they may stay feeling stressed for hours or even longer. Without intervention from the caregivers, the brain's key response systems are in danger of being permanently wired as "over-active". The consequence of this is that they grow up having trouble turning off the over-sensitive alarm systems of the lower brain.

    The most important thing you can do

    • Calm down a crying baby and avoid prolonged crying.
    • You also need to have the mental and emotional space in your mind to really hear and take her panic and pain seriously.
    • Older babies are awash with new feelings especially when they experience panicky separation distress and when they are increasingly clear about likes and dislikes, what frightens or displeases them. Since they are not able to communicate in language yet, they cry to express their needs.

    What happens in the brain when babies cry?
      When babies cry, the stress hormone - cortisol- is released by adrenal glands. If the baby is soothed and comforted, the level goes down. If not, it remains high.
    • For prolonged period of time, cortisol can reach toxic levels that may damage key structures and systems in a developing brain; as mentioned earlier it would be permanently wired for over-sensitivity.
    • Early stress can cause cell death in hippocampus, which is a very important structure in the brain. It shrinks because of cell death within its tissues.
    • This could result in chemical imbalances in the brain. Chemicals that are essential for emotional systems are opioids, noradrenaline, dopamine, serotonin and they are still being established in an immature brain.

    The science of comforting.

    • There are 2 autonomic systems - sympathetic (Aroused) and parasympathetic (Calm & Centered)
    • With prolonged crying sympathetic becomes overactive while parasympathetic – VAGUS nerve- becomes under active.
    • The more responsive you are, the greater your regulation of her body arousal system will be and the more long-lasting the effects. Many parents are not aware that a child's bodily arousal system is still developing after birth and that it is super sensitive to stressful experiences such as being left to cry on her own.

    How to soothe your baby?
    Do things that will stimulate the anti-stress chemical system in the brain.

    1. Touch & Massage
    2. Sucking is comforting. Help her to find her fist or thumb to suck.
    3. Only use pacifier when she is utterly inconsolable. Main reason is because mouth is vital for communication and forming of sounds pre-speech. Also vital for oral exploration.
    4. Use movement & rocking – rhythmical movement resembles the security of the womb
    5. Low sound eg from washing machine or spin dryer resembles the security of the womb.
    6. Provide novelty – toys.
    7. Avoid over stimulation. When baby is over-stimulated bring him to a quiet, low lit room.

    Separations and time apart.

    • When you need to be separated and the baby cries, you have to take her intense feelings seriously. Do remember that you are her world, her everything, you represent her very safety!
    • The separation distress system in a baby is genetically programmed to be hypersensitive. Hence, your baby is NOT being “needy” or “clingy” or difficult or manipulative.
    • Because the verbal centres are not online yet, you are not able to tell her that you will be back. Hence, she will not know that you have not gone FOREVER.
    • Separation hurts small humans in much the same way as a physical pain. Thus, avoid pushing your children to independence long before they are ready.
    • Stress is NOT good for baby. Period.

    Childcare issue

    • It is important to get a nanny/child minder who adores little children and is great at responding to both joy and distress when you consider childcare.
    • Your child needs to be held in familiar arms when you are not there.
    • There are evidence to suggest early separations and depression may be linked.

    The NEED to cling. Why?

    • It is to bring down his bodily arousal level and high levels of stress chemicals.
    • Baby is trying to change the emotion chemical imbalance in his brain to a calmer and more positive state.
    • This is what research reveals. Mothers who had attended promptly to their crying babies had children who cried much less than those whose mothers had left them to cry. Prolonged clinging is far more likely when a parent has not handled the child's dependency needs well.
    • As the child grows, the separation distress in his lower brain naturally become far less sensitive. This is because of the development of the higher brain which inhibits this system.
    • Beware of false independence. It is extremely shame-inducing for a child to be in a state of desperate need and he is met with rebuff or criticism or to be told to be a big boy.
    • It is tough job. Bear in mind the long term investment that you're making – the long-term anti-stress effects of repeated activation of oxytocin in the brain from all that physical affection. Infants with more loving touch were better able to handle stress and were psychologically stronger.

    I learn best when I reproduce what I have read so this serves my need. I don't mind sharing the information but again if you can afford the time it is best that you pick up the book.

    Science of parenting part one is here

    P.S. Your discretion is advised.

    Quote of the day (QOTD)

    "I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be."
    – Groucho Marx

    Saturday, July 18

    18th July 2009

    Another anniversary is here since that fateful day when I decided to go ahead with the first of 2 surgeries to treat a rare illness. 2 years on and I am pleased to share that I am doing very well, I've been asymptomatic and my quality of life has improved tremendously :)

    I was reading the journal that I kept during those difficult period and I am impressed with what I wrote in there. The conviction and faith that I had in God was astounding. I almost don't recognize that person. Truly, it was through God's grace that I was able to go through all that I had to - pre and post surgeries.

    An excerpt of what I wrote:
    I want to remember the feeling - being at peace, cheerful and hopeful. There are lots of things for me to worry about and I could potentially be immobilized by fear. I'm going to take a different strategy- I'd stare fear in the eye. I will deal with it with faith. It's tough but I know I can do it with God's blessing and support from all round. 18 June 07

    Who is that person??

    I am truly blessed because grace, courage and wisdom came to me when I needed them most. That's the only explanation I can offer as to how I was able to cope with everything. As I have shared earlier I suffered a stroke after my second op on 17 September 07. As a result I lost the ability to read, write, recall, text, tell the time, use the mobile phone and other simple functions that I took for granted. I could only write or type simple sentences and even then it took me a great deal of effort and time.

    Samples of my handwriting at different stages of recovery - 5-days, 12-days and 7.5 months post-op.

    It may not be the politically-correct thing to say but I am grateful that I had the chance to go through what I did. In many ways my illness has shaped and molded me into a better and more mature person. I discovered my own strength- what I am made of. Never in my life did I expect myself to be calm and cheerful in the face of trials and tribulations. Through the experience I was/am reminded that I must not take my life and health for granted. Being ill allowed me to appreciate being cared for. I had lots of people praying and rallying for me and in some ways it was a testimony to the kind of person that I am. I was validated as many people wanted only the best for me and they came in full force to tell me that. That was a great feeling - knowing that you are loved. I believe after being through a recovery process myself it will make me a better (and more credible) clinician and listener.

    I am really grateful to my wonderful surgeon and his team - staff who went the extra mile to make me feel more comfortable when I felt most vulnerable. My husband who stood by me every step of the way and being my pillar of strength; my sister and mom who took great care of me; good friends who showed their kindness and generosity; acquaintances and strangers who prayed for the success of the surgeries and speedy recovery. I will always remember the kindness shown to me. Thank you!

    My hope is that my story will inspire you to live your life courageously and know that you are stronger and more resilient than you think. Seemingly "bad" situations can turn out to be opportunities for growth and learning if you choose to let go. Somehow when we feel like we have reached the limits we will discover that we can still extend the limits. And grace will find us and give us the special boost to get through life. Trust the process.

    Grace expands our intellect by endowing us with intuitive wisdom. Grace expands our will by giving us strength or courage we did not have before.

    I'm happy to share more of my experiences so feel free to email me if you want to know more :)

    Friday, July 17

    Picture of the Week (POTW)

    A dog that we saw at one of the beaches along 17-Mile Drive, CA.

    Kinda made me miss Casper, our Maltese who is back in Singapore.

    Tip of the day

    A simple way to start your day on a positive note is to make your bed! There is no faster way to inspire an immediate change in attitude than with an uncluttered, neat and clean bed. A made bed anchors a room, sets the tone for the day, says,"I respect my space," and shows a commitment to routine and organization.

    If you haven't have a made bed in a while do give this a try and see for yourself if it works.

    Here's to a good start to your day!

    Picture is from Bedzine

    Idea is from Peter Walsh's book Enough Already!

    Wednesday, July 15

    The Science of Parenting (Part 1)

    People often make the remarks that they wish there is a manual that comes along with the baby. That would be ideal but I suppose that's not how nature wants it to be. There is great satisfaction that comes with learning and growing, along with the baby.

    Once in a while I find books that pique my interest and curiousity especially if they are related to developmental psychology. I have always been fascinated especially with a baby whose growth is so rapid in the first few years of his life. The changes that I see are so incredible. I'm always thrilled when the child starts to speak and how the personality begins to emerge when just a year ago he was just looking so cute and not uttering a single word. To me, that's miracle.

    I came across the book The Science of Parenting in the library a few years ago. My first reaction was "there is a science to parenting? Wow!" After browsing through I was so impressed that I bought the book because that is the kind of book that I like to own. What this book offers essentially is to illuminate the impact of different ways of parenting on a child's brain based on evidence that the author has gathered. She has done extensive research into neuroscience of parent-child interactions and her conclusions have been drawn from more than 800 studies around the world. Isn't that impressive?

    I have enjoyed reading this book because it has given me much to think about and there are lots of useful information especially on why baby behaves the way they do like crying, and clinging to the mom for his dear life and so on. I shall attempt to summarize the key points from the first 2 chapters.

    Understanding the child's brain.

    • The brains are made up of 3 parts - the core reptilian brain, lower mammalian brain and higher human brain. These are interconnected by a massive network of nerves yet each has its own special functions.
    • Sometimes the 3 brains work together in a beautifully coordinated way and with the activation of some positive chemicals they bring out the best in humans. Other times, particular parts of the brain or chemicals are in the driving seat. This make people act in ways which cause misery to self and others.
    • The good news is, as a parent you can influence the activation of key functions and systems in your child's brain and the way in which the 3 brains interact. It can have an impact on the child's brain so that his higher brain will be able to manage these primitive lower brain reactions effectively.
    • Our rational brain can be easily hijacked by these lower regions. When we feel a threat, impulses from the reptilian and mammalian parts of our brain can hijack our higher human functions and we can behave like a threatened animal.

    Infant is born with unfinished brain

    • The brain continues to develop after birth thus it is open to being sculpted by both negative and positive parent-child interactions especially during critical periods of brain growth in the first years of life. Everything baby experiences with you as his parent will forge connections between the cells in his higher brain.
    • Designed this way so that it can be wired up to adapt to the particular environment in which it finds itself. This adaptability works for or against the well-being of a child.
    • Hence, the way you listen to your child, play with him, cuddle, comfort and treat him when he is being naughty are of real significance.
    • With emotionally responsive parenting, vital connections will form in his brain, enabling him to cope well with stress in later life, form fulfilling relationships, manage emotions well, be kind and compassionate, have the will and motivation to follow his ambitions and his dream, experience the deepest calm and be able to love intimately and in peace.

    The mammalian and reptilian parts of the a child's brain.

    • In the early years, his lower brain will be in the driving seat because the higher brain is unfinished.
    • What this means is the emotional systems and primitive impulses in his lower brain will all too easily overwhelm him at times. Hence, his intense burst of rage, distress, screaming, rolling around on the the floor in a desperate state.
    • He is NOT being naughty. It's just a fact about the immaturity of the human infant brain. His higher brain is simply NOT developed enough to be able to calm these massive feeling storms naturally.
    • Genetically ingrained emotional systems deep in the lower brain are rage, fear, separation distress, seeking, care, play and lust. These are set up at birth to support a baby's survival. Infants keep getting overwhelmed by the triggering of these brain systems because there is so little higher rational brain functioning “online” yet, to help them think, reason and calm themselves down.
    • It is important to understand this when faces with a genuinely distressed screaming baby/child. He needs YOUR HELP to calm down.
    • With consistently emotionally responsive parenting, your child's frontal lobes will start to develop essential pathways that will over time enable him to calm these alarm states in his lower brain.

    Chemicals that are important in good parent-child relationships

    • Oxytocin - released at birth and helps mother and baby to bond.
    • Opiods -hormones that give a sense of well-being.
    • These chemicals are produced when a child is lovingly touched or held.
    • Warm parenting will repeatedly activate the release of these hormones, creating a secure bond with their child.

    What science can tell us about stress.

    • Child's developing brain is very sensitive and highly vulnerable to stress.
    • When a child is not helped enough with his intense feelings, the alarm systems in his lower brain can be over-active in later life.
    • May over-react to minor stresses, become anxious and/or be angry or short-tempered.
    • Important to help child develop effective stress regulating systems and anti-anxiety chemical systems in the brain.

    Helping children with their big feelings.
    This is to develop top-down brain pathways. Over times, these networks will naturally start to control those primitive impulses, enabling him to think about his feelings rather than just discharging them in primitive action.

    1. Take your child's distress seriously.
    2. Recognize how your child is experiencing an event even if it's very different from how you are experiencing it
    3. Find age-appropriate words for his distress. Even young child will benefit from this kind of understanding. He will calm down because of the parent's tone even if the child doesn't understand the words.
    4. Meet your child's feelings with the right voice and energy. Match them.
    5. Be calm and offer clear boundaries. Offer clear boundaries by saying No firmly yet calmly when appropriate. He needs to feel that you are emotionally strong parent who is clearly in charge.
    6. A key factor in your ability to manage your child's intense arousal states is managing your own. Seek support.
    7. Use physical soothing.

    Long-term effects of not helping children

    • It makes life such a constant struggle if we are unable to manage stress well, and there are many people who can't just do it.
    • Suffer all sorts of mental problems such as depression, persistent state of anxiety, phobias or obsession, physical illness, being cut-off emotionally, lethargy and lacking get-up-and-go

    If you find this helpful, i do urge you to get the book.
    Next up: Crying and Separation. Stay tuned.

    Monday, July 13

    Quote of the day (QOTD)

    “Envy is a symptom of lack of appreciation of our own uniqueness and self worth. Each of us has something to give that no one else has.”

    Tuesday, July 7

    A good place to start

    Are you thinking about being in the family way? If yes, this is THE book to read before you start.

    It is super comprehensive and provides plenty of information that you may not have considered. The book is divided into 4 parts:
    1. Getting ready to make baby
    2. Making a baby
    3. Bumps on the road to baby.
    4. Keeping track

    The last chapter is mainly a fertility planner where you have samples of different charts. Comes in really handy if you're the type who needs to keep records of everything!

    In short, it's a really good guide especially if you're a first timer. There are tips for father-to-be as well.

    There is also an accompanying website where you can join a community and get even more resources.

    Thursday, July 2


    When i think of ark i think of Noah and the ark. Not too long ago a friend told me that ARK also stands for Act of Random Kindness. Here is my attempt at ARK and a story about a young fighter.

    Being ill is difficult. When your child is ill, it is so much harder because the feeling of helplessness is so overwhelming.

    I read with sadness the story of Feisty Princess Charmaine. A 4-year-old who is suffering from neuroblastoma stage 4.

    When I had to go through my treatment for Moya-Moya Disease, I was 31 years old. It was slightly easier for me to go through the various investigations and eventually 2 brain bypasses because I understood the situation I was in. I was also really blessed because there was a neurosurgeon in Singapore who was confident to perform the delicate operations. I was covered by medical insurance so I didn't have to worry about finances. I had strong support from family and friends. I also had people whom I don't know praying for me. I was deeply moved that they cared enough to do so and I was encouraged to keep fighting.

    I am so much luckier compared to Cynthia, Charmaine's mom. I can only imagine the pain she is going through to see her precious daughter suffering, not knowing if she will have the chance to go through the necessary treatment in the U.S. Charmaine is just a child who has been given a huge trial and she needs our help. I don't know Charmaine personally. I don't have a child of my own. I do have nieces and nephews and friends with kids around Charmaine's age. This is the age where they are full of curiosity and joy and they show great promise. Looking at Charmaine's pictures, i can tell how much joy she brings to those around her.

    Have a look at this precious girl

    Do give Charmaine, her family and supporters a chance to surmount this huge trial.

    More info on how to donate here.

    Feisty Char needs bullets to fight!

    Wednesday, July 1

    Quote of the day (QOTD)

    From the recovering community such as AA I learn that slogans and quotes are helpful to keep them focus. I love keeping quotes that speak to me and when I go through challenging situations, I draw inspiration from them.

    Here is a quote that spoke loudly to me when I had to go through the treatments for Moya-Moya Disease 2 years ago.

    A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.
    ~Helen Keller

    I read the memoir of Helen Keller- The story of my life - and was totally impressed. She had more challenges and obstacles than an average person and yet she was determined to pursue her education and contribute to society.

    When one hears stories like that it is hard to feel sorry for oneself when one's life is not half as difficult.

    Monday, June 29

    Ways to create oxytocin #1 and #2

    What is oxytocin you may ask? A quick search on wikipedia says it is a "mammalian hormone that also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain." So what is so special about this neurotransmitter that we want to increase its production?

    John Gray, the same guy who wrote the Mars & Venus series shared in his latest book - Why Mars and Venus collide- that Oxytocin is a feel-good hormone from Venus. It is also the love and bonding hormone. One way to deal with stress for women is that they need to learn how to increase or create oxytocin for themselves. It is not enough that she depends on the partner to do the job. The book gave a long list of what she can do to help herself. Help was also provided to her partner who may be clueless.

    Here I would like to share 2 tips.

    #1 Buy flowers for yourself. The choosing process stimulates production of oxytocin.
    Additional tip: If it makes you feel happier to get it from your other half, there's no rule that say you cannot buy on his behalf.

    #2 Place the vase in strategic place where you can admire the flowers easily. Not only do they brighten up the room, it makes me happy just to see them.

    The colours are so gorgeous. Ahh...

    Saturday, June 27

    What I Know For Sure

    Change is the only constant as they say. Things change all the time and it is not always easy to deal with them. Is there anything that we can hold on to in the midst of storms and rain?

    After reading The Top 20 Things Oprah Knows for Sure I was inspired to think about my own list.

    1. There is a Higher Power much greater than I.
    2. Life is full of surprises.
    3. No one is too rich to receive and too poor to give.
    4. This too shall pass.
    5. The desert spares nobody. Dark nights eventually find us all.
    6. Marriage is like a plant and it requires constant work and nurturing.
    7. Friends especially girlfriends are angels in disguise.
    8. Where there is a will, there's a way.
    9. Not all battles are worth fighting.
    10. Human being is adaptable, resilient and stronger than he/she thinks.
    11. Change begins with me.
    12. The best is yet to be.
    13. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
    14. Every day brings a chance to start over.
    15. Being a mother is the hardest job on earth.
    16. You reap what you sow.
    17. There is a time and place for everything.
    18. Seek first the Kingdom of God and all the rest will fall in line.
    19. Charity begins at home
    20. The attitude of gratitude can help you get through tough times.

    Sunday, June 21

    The one on suffering

    I read the article on suffering by a Catholic priest, Father Ronald Rolheiser and it struck a chord. I found it comforting and meaningful and it is something that I would like to keep in mind. I hope you draw strength from it too. Here are some excerpts:

    "Lost is a place too...being down-and-out, alone, lost, struggling for meaning, and looking bad, is also a valid place to be."

    I've always considered myself independent and capable of handling my life. Naturally I don't like the feeling of being lost. It gives me lots of anxiety and frustration. I think most people feel the same way. This is a nice reminder that being lost is a valid place to be and as long as I recognise this, it will help me ride through my own insecurities and anxieties. We often forget that suffering is the flip side of joy.

    "..this is a good place to be, a biblical and mystical place. that doesn't make it less painful or humiliating. It just gives you the consolation of knowing that you're in a valid place, a necessary one, and that everyone before you, spent some time there and everyone, including all those people who seem to be forever on top of the world, will spend some time there too. The desert spares nobody. Dark nights eventually find us all."

    "knowing this doesn't make it easier to accept feeling lost and on the outside, especially in a world in which being successful is everything. That is why it's hard to ever admit, even to our closest friends, that we're struggling, tasting more ashes than glory."

    "...inside that place, our souls are being shaped in ways we cannot understand but in ways that will stretch and widen them for a deeper love and happiness in the future.

    "Beauty is ultimately more about the size of our hearts, about how much they can empathise, and about how widely and unselfishly they can embrace. To that end, the desert heat of loneliness is helpful in softening the heart, enough at least to let it be painfully stretched. That happens more easily when we're lost, feeling like unanimity-minus-one, unsure of ourselves, empty of consolation, aching in frustration, and running a psychic temperature. Not pleasant but it's a place too.

    Friday, June 19

    Wednesday, June 17

    Who am I?

    Often time when I read a blog, I learn bits and pieces about the writers through the content and the style. Those writers whom I feel a connection with, I often wonder about their backgrounds. Guess, I'm just curious like that. I decided to offer a little glimpse into who I am. Just so you know I am pretty harmless although I do talk to myself aloud once in a while ;)

    1. I am a child a God. Baptized as a Roman Catholic and proud to be one.
    2. I am happily married to a wonderful man.
    3. I was born in Sarawak, Malaysia.
    4. I came to Singapore to pursue my studies at age 18.
    5. I have lived in Singapore since.
    6. I live in the United States of America (North California) currently.
    7. I was diagnosed with Moya Moya Disease at age 28.
    8. I went through 2 brain bypasses in July and September 07 respectively.
    9. I suffered several mini strokes and had a major one which led me to have Homonymous Hemianopia
    10. I studied Psychology as my major in undergraduate. I love Psychology.
    11. I worked as a Psychologist for 3 years.
    12. I pursued my interest in addiction work and became a certified Substance Abuse counsellor.
    13. I am taking a break from work to enjoy my new life in the States.
    14. I enjoy learning new things, going to new places and meeting like-minded people.
    15. I tend to be serious.
    16. I am a typical Piscean
    17. I love being in the nature.
    18. I love to cook.
    19. I enjoy walks.
    20. I believe in friendship and girlfriends rock!
    21. I learn that human beings are more resilient than they imagine.
    22. I indulge in introspection.
    23. I love to travel to new places.
    24. I enjoy taking photographs.
    25. I am a keen learner and a good student.
    26. I aspire to be a good wife and mother.
    27. I hope to realize my full potential.
    28. I enjoy imparting knowledge.
    29. I am an achiever and I am goal-driven.
    30. I am a survivor.

    Thursday, June 11

    How to...

    uplift your (occasional) low mood?

    Everyone has those days before. You wake up feeling a little out of sort and can't quite pinpoint what exactly make you feel so "weird". The worst thing is you engage in pep talk and you feel worse. What should you do next?

    I discover that sometimes it is more useful to switch from a thinking mode to other medium when you are stuck. For example from thoughts (word) to images or audio. I used to subscribe to Webshots where I can download gorgeous wallpapers. After a difficult session at work, i found comfort in looking at the pictures. Somehow they took my mind off the situation that i was in and my mood improved. This tip actually came from a friend. She said that we must store "wallpapers" in our mind of beautiful places or pictures so that we can pull them out and remember those moments when we feel down.

    I have several wallpapers that I like to extract whenever i feel a little down. Here is one of my wallpapers that usually does the work.

    This picture was taken at Railay beach in Krabi, Thailand. We saw this beautiful sunset after a wonderful afternoon of rock climbing. I was feeling high from completing 3 climbs (first time ever) and was mighty pleased. As an icing on the cake, we were treated to this gorgeous gorgeous sight as we return to the beach to wait for the boat to take us to Ao Nang. Seated on the mat with a large backpack was our instructor who was really helpful and patient. I remember sitting on that mat admiring the beauty, wishing time would freeze. It was awesome.

    As i recall this story now, the memory is so vivid. My heart rate slows down and I feel a lot calmer and at peace. I feel like I have been transported back to Railay.

    This is an example of Imagery Relaxation

    Monday, June 8

    Blindsided by a Diaper: Over 30 Men and Women Reveal How Parenthood Changes a Relationship. Edited by Dana Bedford Hilmer

    Main reason I picked up this book is the attractive title. When I found out that it is a collection of essays written by writers who are parents themselves I was even more enthralled. It is my personal belief that there is much to learn from the experiences of others; people who have been there and done that. The added bonus is they are written by established writers. As such, other than benefiting from their experiences, I get to enjoy their wonderful writing styles.

    Essentially the authors shared their experiences in dealing with the birth of a child and how they were blindsided by all the changes, how they cope and find the equilibrium again. It is definitely insightful and enlightening as stuff like these can't be easily found in the Parenting sections in a bookstore. This is an attempt to summarize and consolidate my key thoughts after reading the book.

    It is a given that life will NEVER be the same once a baby enters into the picture. While it is necessary and advisable to prepare for the arrival, accept that the preparation can never be 100%. No one truly knows if one will ever be ready for the massive responsibilities and that is not the point. What is of more importance is the willingness to accept that it is a journey with its ups and downs, joy and sorrows; that you won't be great at this parenting business right away (except for a blessed few). That with love, patience and perseverance, you will reap the fruit of your labour and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Here are some of the major changes:

    1. Expect severe, relationship-altering sleep deprivation after the birth of a child.
    Parents just have to accept that this is the reality. There is no point in being resentful. It is a stage which will pass sooner or later.

    2. 2 become 3.
    We have to bid goodbye to coupledom and accept that the adorable and sometimes terrorizing little bundle is going to be part of the new life forever.
    "We were never going back to the way we were before. We were forever altered by the startled awareness that the two of us have become three and that part of hearts were forever going to belong to the child."

    3. Know that this baby totally depends on you for his/her basic needs and these needs evolve all the time. You sign away the carefreeness forever, as parents never stop worrying about their child.

    4. Your priority and lifestyle will change. Embrace it.
    Awareness is always the first step in any journey. The next thing is to learn from these parents how they cope with all the changes and enjoy parenthood with its intrinsic bliss and pain. Marriage is often tested when the little one arrives and conscious efforts have to be made to prevent breakdown from happening.

    a. Accept and embrace the change. Live in the moment and avoid reminiscing the carefree past.
    ..Instead of trying to claw our way back to a couplehood that no longer existed, we totally surrender to our new existence. We adapted. Perhaps this and this alone is the key to survival- not to mention happiness – in marriage and in life: to embrace the change inevitably wrought by dramatic event, to recognize that looking back is not only pointless but destructive. What doesn't bend breaks.

    b. Know what to expect.
    For example, baby will be in phases; it has nothing to do with how good or bad the parent is. Preference for one parent is a normal stage.

    c. Just keep going. It shall pass. Whatever it may be- the colicky moments, sleeplessness, the never ending demands. Just keep going.

    d. Parenting is demanding. Period.
    Know when to surrender and not fight for control. As one of the writers wrote,"there is nothing else I can do." I believe the Serenity prayer comes in handy here.

    e. It is important to figure out how to balance responsibilities between couple.
    It won't always be equal but it should be equally acceptable. Yes, your marriage will be tested and there are 2 primary factors (according to the book) to determine whether a marriage will improve or worsen after a baby has arrived.
    a) Husband's ability to put his own needs aside and support his wife in her new all-encompassing role
    b) Wife's ability to forget about baby now and again and pay attention to the man.

    f. Communicate.
    Make effort to do it. One writer shared about her 3 AM marriage where she and her husband bond and rediscover each other at that time daily.
    “here we are just two people rediscovering each other in the dark. It is in these hours that I remember all the reasons why I chose my husband, why I will never leave his side and how he makes my life complete.”
    Another one said, "A marriage, like a house will last a lifetime with proper care. Without it, it fails with alarming speed. Words are the foundation of our relationship. When we don't make time to talk, the foundation cracks and alienation fills the void."

    g. Honour your vows.
    "Think of your commitment to your spouse as permanent as your commitment to your child. Take a long view of your relationship so you don't take slights personally. And of course to schedule play dates...I learn the importance of appearing good natured, being able to discuss irritating behaviour, rather than criticize character, to attempt to understand the source of brattiness, rather than react to it.”

    h. Know and claim your prize.
    Most of the parents share of their prize in parenting. What they have gained, how they have become better and stronger person as a result of the little one. This is the part that I find most encouraging and that I will cling to and claim should I become a parent one day.

    "Parenthood, like any intense experience is a crucible. It changes you, certainly but it also shows you what you were made from in the first place."

    "I am now different, but not less. I discovered a fuller, more enriched version of myself. In labor I was introduced to a woman who was stronger and more determined than the girl I knew. In motherhood, I found more patience, more compassion, more intuitive power than I knew I had."

    "But for each of those dark moments, there were a hundred more where we were overcome by pure bliss. ..this tiny everyday miracle; each movement she made, each sigh she issued, mesmerized us. Every time I looked at her, my heart felt bigger. Why didn't anyone tell us about that?”

    I appreciate that each parent's journey will be different. It seems to me that the joy and reward seems to be the same. I have always believed that parenthood is a divine calling. Not everyone has the opportunity to walk through that path and for those who have the blessings, do cherish and embrace it.

    Friday, June 5

    101 things..

    i wish i knew when I got Linda and Charlie Bloom.

    This is a great book for couples who are looking to improve and strengthen their married life. Often we hear that marriage is hard work and it is an ongoing challenge to keep the marriage alive. Sometimes the process can be so overwhelming that we choose the easier way out. Sometimes we commit the mistakes simply because we do not know better. Nevertheless when we have the willingness and openness to learn and grow from the relationship, there will be tons of opportunities presented to us. Just as it is painful when the plants are being pruned, be prepared that the process will be uncomfortable. Focus on the rewards you will enjoy when you persevere.

    The authors take turns in sharing their experiences and lessons they have learned in their own marriages as well as those who have sought their help. What I like about the book is how it is written in a format where you could bite as much or as little as you want each time. Each of the 101 things is covered in 2-3 pages. You will be surprise how substantial each bite is when you start to chew and mull over it.

    1. Great relationships don't just happen; they are created.
    2. Vulnerability is disarming.
    3. If your job gets your best energy your marriage will wither.
    4. One of the greatest gifts you can give your partner is your own happiness.
    5. There's difference between judging and being judgmental.
    6. It's possible to hate and love someone at the same time.
    7. When you complain about your partner to your friends, remember that their feedback is based upon distorted information.
    8. The only rules in a marriage are those to which you both choose to agree.
    9. Commitment isn't a prison; it's a means to greater freedom.
    10. It isn't conflict that destroys marriages; it's the cold, smoldering resentment that is bred by withholding.
    11. If you choose monogamy, keep your agreement.
    12. It's not what you've got; it's what you do with it.
    13. Even good marriages have recurring seasons, and there can be some hard winters.
    14. Your primary relationship is with your partner, not your children.
    15. If you think you're too good for your partner, think again.
    16. Growing up in a happy family doesn't ensure a good marriage, and growing up in an unhappy family doesn't preclude having one.
    17. It's never too late to repair damaged trust.
    18. Secrets are lies.
    19. Sex can improve wtih age.
    20. If you're keeping pace with the people around you, you're probably moving too fast.
    21. If you can't be happy without your partner, you won't be happy together.
    22. Marriage is like yoga.
    23. The prince isn't going to come.
    24. Getting help when you are unable to work things out isn't a sign of weakness; it's a sign of intelligence.
    25. One person, no matter how much he loves you, cannot meet all your emotional needs.
    26. Love isn't always enough to sustain a marriage.
    27. True intimacy can exist only between equals.
    28. The real issue is usually not the one you're arguing about.
    29. Love isn't just a feeling; it's action that shows our caring.
    30. Expectations set us up for resentment.
    31. Arguments can't be avoided, but destructive ones can.
    32. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our partner is our focused attention.
    33. Even people with great marriages sometimes wonder if they might have married the wrong person.
    34. Your partner cannot rescue you from unhappiness, but he/she can help you to rescue yourself.
    35. The cost of a lie is far greater than any advantage you gain from speaking it.
    36. Even the best marriages have irreconcilable differences.
    37. Your opinion is not the truth.
    38. Vacations are necessities, not luxuries.
    39. Truth takes years to establish and moments to destroy.
    40. Ultimatums and threats do more harm than good.
    41. Guilt-tripping won't get you what you really want.
    42. Give what you want to receive.
    43. Don't neglect your friends just because you've acquired a spouse.
    44. If you think, "You're not the person I married," you're probably right.
    45. Resisting the temptation to prove your point will win you a lot of points.
    46. What you judge in your partner is a reflection of what you judge in yourself.
    47. Your partner is your teacher and your student.
    48. Commitment is not a one time event; it's an ongoing process.
    49. Generosity of spirit is the foundation of great relationships.
    50. If your partner is being defensive, you may be giving him/her reasons to be.
    51. Marriage isn't 50/50; its 100/100.
    52. Trust can be rebuilt even after painful betrayal but it may require hard work.
    53. You can pay now or later, but the later you pay the more penalties and interest you accrue.
    54. The cheap thrill you get from putting down your partner isn't so cheap.
    55. Marriage requires sacrifice but what you stand to gain is infinitely greater than what you give up.
    56. Good sex doesn't necessarily make a marriage great but it sure helps.
    57. Forgiveness isn't a one-time event, it's a process.
    58. Even the tiniest spark can reignite the fire of love.
    59. If you find out what you partner wants and help him/her get it, you'll both be happier.
    60. Marriage alone does not make you a better person but accepting its challenges does.
    61. Creating a great marriage generally takes more time and effort than it seems it should.
    62. Creating a marriage is like launching a rocket; once it clears the pull of gravity it takes much less energy to sustain the flight.
    63. Being attracted to someone else doesn't diminish the quality of your marriage; acting on that attraction does.
    64. A successful marriage has more to do with how you deal with your current reality than what you experienced in the past.
    65. In order for it to thrive, love requires separateness as well as togetherness.
    66. We all have a terminal diagnosis.
    67. Don't keep feelings of gratitude to yourself.
    68. Knowing where your lines are and being willing to draw them serves your partner and yourself.
    69. You don't have to be able to love well to get married; the training occurs on the job.
    70. Privacy won't hurt your marriage but secrecy will.
    71. Possessiveness and jealousy are born out of fear, not love.
    72. Facing your fears build strength; avoiding them diminishes it.
    73. Authenticity is contagious and habit-forming.
    74. Don't say anything about your partner that you're not willing to say to them.
    75. Your greatest weakness can become your greatest strength.
    76. Of all the benefits of marriage, the greatest is the possibility of using this relationship to become a more loving person.
    77. If your partner thinks something is important, it is!
    78. Marriages never outgrow the need for romance.
    79. The sparkle of new relationship is always temporary.
    80. There is violence in silence when it's used as weapon.
    81. There's a difference between sex and intimacy.
    82. It's better to focus on what you can do to make things right rather than on what your partner did to make things wrong.
    83. The fire of infatuation has to cool before mature love can develop.
    84. Nothing deadens sexual desire faster than unresolved differences.
    85. The biggest risk is in not risking.
    86. If you think marriage counseling is too expensive try divorce.
    87. Forgiveness is its own reward.
    88. Revenge is its own punishment.
    89. When two hearts are connected, the biggest problems become workable; when they are not the smallest difficulties seem insurmountable.
    90. Constructive criticism generally isn't.
    91. The capacity to feel joy grows in proportion to the capacity to experience pain.
    92. There is no greater eloquence than silence of real listening.
    93. External conflicts are often outer expression of internal ones.
    94. One of the greatest questions you can ask your partner is,"How may I best love you?"
    95. There's more to be gained by understanding your partner's world than trying to get them to understand yours.
    96. A loving marriage can heal old emotional wounds more effectively than the best therapy.
    97. Just keep talking.
    98. Assumptions are fine as long as you check them out before acting on them.
    99. Marriages can stay fresh over time.
    100. Intention may not be the only thing but it's the most important thing.
    101. The amount of joy and fulfillment available in a loving partnership is considerably more than you can imagine.