Sunday, January 23, 2011

Coconut, coconut, say Ek-O!

On Thursday, I was planning to bring Rosabelle to Little Oxford to look at the last of the kindys on my shortlist, but when I called in the morning, they said classes for those at Rosabelle’s age and a year older are already full, and though I can feel free to view/visit (no appointments required, hmmm…), I will only be put on a shortlist. And so I thought… it’s 大寒, supposedly the coldest day ever in winter, and we had no car, so I needed to take a taxi to SOHO New Town, then take a short walk opposite to Shin Kong Place for lunch. Thus, the shopaholic in me took over – Little Oxford is just a back-up and the lowest on my shortlist anyway (not that good), and we have all the time in the world to look at it in better weather, so I decided to bring her to Shin Kong Place directly.

Luckily the winds weren’t really strong that morning, but it was still sub-zero cold, and taking a cab these days in our apartment area is really tantamount to striking the lottery, which I thankfully did after walking quite a distance outside, carrying her, phew!

Upon reaching there, we randomly walked around (I really wasn’t keen to go hardcore and shop – stay rational, woman!), going to the usual Panasonic Centre to take a photo (will be fun to track her look/growth in all the pictures as I always date them), then to the kid’s section to play some Quercetti beads/Lego. Since we headed out late, I did not give her any fruit snack, and was counting on an early lunch (as I was hungry too), but obviously she didn’t want to leave the toys section until after much cajoling.

I then went to Crystal Jade, where there was a queue of 6 tables in front of us – oh dear! As I was looking at the menu in the waiting room, Rosabelle kept running out, and at one point, I really did lose her and even grabbed my bags, wanting to run out and look for her, but hesitated. Within seconds, she bounded back in. In times like these, I’d prefer to wait awhile more and see if she can find her way back, than for us to run after each other in circles, but it was quite scary at that split second thinking I had no idea where she was, all alone. Luckily her sense of direction is not as terrible as mine…

Other than a loo trip, nothing else uneventful popped up during our 15-minute wait, where I had already filled out the dim sum wait list so that by the time we were led to our table, they could immediately process our order. In spite of them running at full house and having a restaurant full of diners asking/shouting/demanding for anything and everything, service was really commendable (erm, that’s why they charge a 10% service charge PER adult).

Our girl was really quite hungry, first slurping up the plain water I emptied into her bowl (which she toppled over and thankfully did not soak her pants…), then eating up 3 of the 4小笼包 I ordered – if I wasn’t so hungry and quickly ate one up, I’m sure she would have walloped them all. Then she downed one whole slab of glutinous rice with conpoy chicken, and half a small bowl of pork porridge with preserved egg. Clap, clap! To top it all, 7 strawberries wolfed down after that, haha! One lady seated next to us with an 18-month-old daughter commented it’s amazing Rosabelle can be so well-behaved over the meal and feed herself. (*pat on back* - for both mother and daughter, erhem…).

After lunch, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to head home immediately as it was quite a heavy meal, and she had woken up late that morning anyway. So we headed to Huamao Shopping Centre using the underpass, because I wanted to look for a Teletubbies Centre I was reading about.

Confession time: I used to love Teletubbies quite a bit - when they first came out, I actually ostracized them for being so irritating (what’s with the babyish gurgles/sounds and ‘Again, again!’ when they wanted to repeat the exact footage two times over…), uncute (are they mocking pear-shaped women?!!!), and even agreed to some of the conspiracy theories about Tinky Winky (the purple one with a triangular antenna) being gay (which male wears a ballet frock to dance, and likes purple and triangles – both of which are elements of the rainbow club)?

But I was converted on one rainy afternoon (I’d like to think it was bad weather that kept me in with really NOTHING else to do in Singapore, forcing me to flick TV channels) when I viewed one episode on TV. Gosh! Seriously! These 4 babies are sooooo cute! I can totally relax with the gurgling, their ‘everything is so rainbow-y and sunshine-y’ world, the cute baby-faced sun, and had a favourite in Po (at times Laa Laa). It’s embarrassing, I tell you. I even changed my computer icons to a Teletubbies pack, so I’d be greeted with a ‘Ek-O!’ when I turned it on, have a baby’s face instead of an hourglass, and Po’s face instead of a pointer (you get the drift). Eh, they are apparently teaching kids quite a lot of things, ok?

Know what’s the worst thing? I was already in university. So there. If you already did your math, you’d know these folks came out like about 10 years ago, so I couldn’t have been that young, could I? Anyway, I’m so glad (think my ex-boyfriend also was) that that senseless devotion to capturing every single episode (this was before the days of freely-available DVDs and downloads, mind you), and enjoying a seemingly hookah-moment in those 30 minutes I was in La La Land was over!

Point is, up to now, I have not yet introduced Rosabelle to TV – no Sesame Street, no Walt Disney, no Baby Einstein, no whatever award-winning thingey, so she was first inducted into the Teletubbies club whilst flipping through a parenting magazine. And there I was, reliving my ‘childhood’ memories by going through each and every character and singing ‘Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Lala, Po. Teletubbies, teletubbies, say hello. Ek-O!’. Before I knew it, she was picking them out in other reading materials, and could even sing along. Shudder… That’s why I thought – no harm heading down to the Teletubbies Centre if it makes her (or my?) day, right?

And so we got there, as she excitedly asked me when I got waylaid by a Muji sale on the way, whether this was the Teletubbies Centre. It’s amazing she actually agreed to her mother’s request to shop around in Muji first, even when she was so eager to get to Teletubbies land, haha. It wasn’t a very big space, maybe about 4-5 shop space, but had everything a Teletubby fan could ask for – as you can imagine, this is a BBC set-up, so there’s loads of branding (they don’t even have this in the UK or the States, only in China, as this is a big market for them, and they are already well-known enough in English-speaking markets).

The receptionist brought us around to the different activity rooms (for crafts, dancing, cooking), and the play areas with exercise equipment/slides, Teletubby dome, library area etc. It was all very nice and unique, and Rosabelle wasted no time in helping herself to the different toys and equipment as I enquired about the prices. It costs RMB120 per entry, but of course you play for free if you attend their classes (which, at the cheapest package, costs more than RMB200 per session). Yuliya also has Kindermusik here on Saturdays, but at a rate almost double what I pay for Familier, it certainly isn’t worthwhile! (I asked Yuliya about it and she said she can’t fix the rates at Teletubbies Center, but at Familier, she can, so she doesn’t really do much publicity about her work at the former. As she rightly pointed out, Teletubbies is a brand, and I can imagine paying so much for their marketing/franchising etc etc.)

I spoke to the boss, and she admitted rental is rather expensive at Huamao, but the BBC had strict stipulations she had to follow in looking for a space, and of course talked about how different/premium they are from other centres… However, they asked if I’d like to bring Rosabelle for a trial session the next morning for their crafts class for RMB50 – hey, why not?

During this time, Rosabelle was playing with their assistants/teachers, and at one point, she actually pushed their small supermarket trolley out, having the two ladies run after her. Apparently, she was having so much fun, speeding up when she saw them chasing her, and when they caught her, she said she was going to the supermarket to buy things, haha! And when the teacher pretended to sell her a mangosteen, she also pretended to take fake money out of her pockets to ‘pay’ her.

As you can imagine, I had a hard time trying to get her to leave, but it was already past 4pm and I didn’t want to outlive our visit (we didn’t pay for her to use the facilities), so when we finally got onto a taxi, I asked if she was tired. She said no, and that she wanted to go home to look for Nainai, and that she misses her, aiyo!

When we got home, she immediately KO-ed after I nursed her, and amazingly slept through the night that night (i.e. did not get up for milk), woohoo! But bad thing is she got up by 8am the next morning, when I was still groggy. I am sure she is on some energizer-spiked drug at times – even us adults are so tired out!

Anyway, we had all the time in the world for her to have her breakfast and get changed so that Wayne could fetch us back to Teletubbies Center for our class, and we got there just in time to join 5 other kids and their mummies at the lobby area. They had to each introduce themselves in turn, using a microphone, and our girl was really up to it, grabbing the mike and shouting loudly and clearly ‘两岁! 石玥! 两岁!' (She can now also introduce herself with a ‘Hi, my name is Rosie. What’s your name?’, saying it so sweetly I cannot help but smile everytime I hear it…)

I don’t really like the concept of them using TV to teach/introduce to the kids, but that’s how they get the children hooked on the series, I guess? Anyway, we were learning about the colour red that day, so we watched a short 3-minute clip from the DVD, and went into the classroom to get ready. I’d brought her usual meal-time bib, but they provided aprons and sleeve-protectors, so it was good.

Each child had a glass of plain water set in front of them, and as I was adjusting my bag, Rosabelle had downed half a glass. Oh dear! Luckily it’s just tap water and not some poisonous paint! They then got some red paint and a dropper, where they practised using the dropper to mix into the plain water, and then using this to ‘paint’ onto a blank piece of paper. Po also came into the room (one staff member dressed in the costume, of course) with her trademark red handbag (made crudely out of paper, if I may add). Throughout this time, whenever Rosabelle saw anything interesting, like the teacher bringing out the red paint or dropper, or when Po came by, she would run over to the other end with a 我看一下... and the teacher wasn’t the most encouraging, asking her to go back to her seat all the time.

Our girl had her own ideas and decided not to use the dropper. Instead, she emptied the whole cup of red paint onto her paper (thankfully quite thick paper), and I then helped her swish it around a little to form a pattern, before having her help me pour the excess paint back into the cup. After that, she took some crayons and starting drawing around on the canvas, then decided she was done, saying she wanted to go out. Erm… ok… in all, she only stayed in the room for 15 minutes. Thank goodness I am paying only RMB50 for this lesson – paying more than RMB200 would make me want to force her to stay inside to get my money’s worth man, haha!

And this is what she did.
I thought it looked like a giraffe, or even a seahorse, but when I asked her what it was she wanted to present to Nainai, she said ‘rainbow’. Oh, the beauty of a child’s vivid imagination, even with bi-coloured rainbows and all…

As I let her out to play around the center, I noticed they were preparing for another class, the cooking class, and asked if I could let her try that out for another RMB50, heh! I’m glad we attended the session, as it was quite fun as we learnt how to make 玉米饼, starting from patting the dough down, pouring flour over it, using a butter knife to spread peanut butter on, then twisting it into a bun (I failed miserably in this – other mummies obviously knew their jiaozi-making, and it was plain for all to see I’m not the Jamie Oliver of mums there), and flattening them again. At one point, Rosabelle was more focused on eating the peanut butter with her fingers, and she thankfully got over it to help me glaze her pastries with beaten egg before the teacher popped them into the toaster.

There were more children in this class, and when one boy older than her was squeamish about introducing himself, she quickly ran over and hugged him tightly, kissing him until he had to push her away, haha! As we had to wait half an hour for the pastries to be done, we of course hung around, and it was easy for her to while time away - though I did not really like the idea of being my own potty maid when Rosabelle had to go on a potty, and I had to walk to the shared toilets in the mall (imagine Hua Mao Shopping Centre as a posh place, then imagine me holding a potty full of yellow, smelly toddler’s urine) to empty it as they did not have their own toilets in the center. Sheesh….

When her pastries were done, the teacher helped to cut two pieces up, leaving a third piece for us to bring home. However, our girl insisted it was hers and wanted the teacher to cut it up as well. So when the teacher just sliced it into half, she asked that she cut it up into even smaller pieces, aiyo… That’s her enjoying her morning’s creation!
Those few pieces were enough to get her going, whilst I was simply famished and wanting to go for lunch. The staff even donned Teletubbies suit and did the same Teletubbies dance like 5-6 times in a row. I really pity the ladies… I’m sure they weren’t counting on dancing around in a pear-shaped suit to be in their resume, but have to take my hats off to them for remaining so enthusiastic throughout… In the end, we only left way past 1pm, with a few pieces of her pastries in a take-away for Nainai and Papa. It actually tasted quite good, haha!

This time round, we walked to Pizza Hut for lunch, where we got a ‘window’ seat (it’s in Shin Kong basement level, so it means we got a seat just next to the underpass), and she was waving to everybody that passed us. I told her to look out for sad-looking people, and that they will definitely smile and wave back if you waved at them. She felt a great sense of accomplishment when I told her it makes the sad people happy if you are nice and friendly to them, and truly it is – you can see the most terrible of grouches, and suddenly, their whole face lights up, or they at least break into a slight smile when they see a child waving furiously at them. So sweet…

After lunch, I was hesitant whether to head on home directly, or walk lunch off, so we got going awhile until I remembered that I had a facial appointment at 3:30pm (it was already 3pm). After making a few calls, I then changed it to the next day, and thought that I might as well bring Rosabelle for a haircut. I asked if she wanted to go home or cut her hair, and she chose the latter, guess mainly because that meant she could stay out longer, haha! One salon I enquired with costs RMB88 per cut, and Rosabelle was walking out saying she did not want to cut her hair… so I went to the 5th level with the children’s section and figured these folks must have more experience with kids since they are just behind the kids’ play area (parents like myself would surely consider bringing their kids there, right?).

And so I enquired – RMB50 for a child’s cut, sounds reasonable… so I coerced/convinced/bluffed my girl into going into the hair salon, where she suddenly changed her mind and started crying when I took off her jacket and outer blouse. I had to carry her and distract her with the water spray, tissue paper, mirror etc, and of course she did not allow them to put on a shield for her. In the end, she only had a small towel around her neck, and that was after bluffing her that she was supposed to wipe the mirror dry after she was done with the spraying. As she stood on the chair, I then put my arm around her to stop her from moving/turning back, and at one point, she realized that the hairdresser had started snipping away, and she started crying again. I felt quite bad as it was already way past her nap-time, so she was understandably grouchy, but she very quickly got distracted by the mirror and water spray again, and was surprisingly cooperative for the rest of the cut.

When it came to the fringe, she of course fidgeted, so she ended up sitting on my lap as I used my hands to shield her eyes from the dropping hair. I was so proud of her for being such a good girl and not even moving, haha! The hairdresser ended up cutting a gentle slope for the fringe, saying a straight cut would look silly. But the slope was too gradual – it looked more like a cut gone bad than anything trendy, so I asked him to just snip everything to the same length, and then we were ready to go! Of course she and I had hair all over us, and I had to use a masking tape to stick hair bits off us.

She was rewarded with a short play session just outside as I settled the bill and got ready to go, and we then went downstairs to grab a taxi. Along the way, our girl received a lot of curious stares and smiles as she looked so cute with a coconut husk for a head, haha! Her face, like mine, isn’t the most slim (i.e. quite like the moon at times, the full moon at that), and with a forehead that’s quite broad, she did look pretty comical! I had two separate groups of strangers telling me she looked so cute with the hairdo, wahahaha….

The taxi queue was quite long, with about 5-6 people in front of us, but luckily they had the sense of mind to have the queue indoors, so that when it’s your turn, you go out and grab the cab (rather than having all of us stand in the cold). When it came to our turn, I asked Rosabelle to stay with the security guard indoors whilst I waited outside myself, mainly because I did not want her to stand with me in the harsh weather, and also because some drivers do not like to pick up fare with children. As I waited outside, our girl obediently stood next to the man, and at times ran out, or into the shopping centre, as the poor guy had to chase after/babysit her. On retrospect, it was quite dangerous as they cannot claim responsibility should anything happen to her, or if she got lost, but our girl was really the most obliging and actually made friends with the guy as I waited, heh!

At last, we got the taxi, and I actually got in and had to wait for them abit as the poor security guy came scurrying by carrying her – she must have scooted off somewhere and he had to chase after her. When we reached home, she happily ran towards the house with the packet of pastries she baked in class. She nicely offered Nainai one piece, and after getting changed, started chomping on the rest in the pack as well, claiming she was not sleepy and did not want ‘milk milk time’… so I got her to pose with her new ‘do.
How’s that for a RMB50 cut? I’m assuming at the rate her hair grows, it should hopefully look more 'normal’ by CNY, haha!
As for Teletubbies, I am not really keen to sign up, given the high rates, but will consider visiting the place for play time since it’s near our house. Ek-o!

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