day 675 | june 20, 2013 | Cabin Fever

It's been a maddening week. In my 2-year old daughter's words "What the haze is going on?!" Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) has been doing roller-coaster loopsy loops, staying in the higher end of the scale, and breaching hazardous levels. Because of this, we've opted to stay home, and since PSI 290 was breached yesterday, we've started turning the airconditioning on and sealing off most of outside air.

For the first few days, we thought that this would lighten into an acceptable range fairly quickly, perhaps in the span of a couple of days. But as days wore on and PSI 154 became 190, jumped to 290, and peaked at 371 (so far), it's looking like we might be with the haze for a while yet.

(As of June 21, New high of PSI 401. "Sustained PSI average levels above 400 on a 24-hour basis may be life-threatening to ill and elderly persons.")

While the leaders try to work out a "compromise" to address the problem, us regular folk will simply have to hold steady, and keep on keeping on.

Can you imagine how those who are regularly exposed are faring? The elderly who live alone? The workers who continue to toil even in these ashtray-like conditions? It's great to read stories about people taking a more positive approach to the crisis (see this), but they are few and quiet, drowned out by louder voices. I do hope a story of resilience, generosity, and compassion can be part of the haze history.

We miss sunlight, a breath of fresh air, and running around in wide open spaces like our beloved Bishan Park. Locked in for most of the day, the kids (and I) are experiencing a certain restlessness, and increasingly diminished health.  Grumpy grown-ups and restless kids can be a pretty explosive situation. That said, I refuse to let the haze defeat us. The haze is out of our control, but the way we respond to it is entirely up to us.
We're doing all the cautionary things like staying indoors, drinking up multivitamins, drinking plenty of water, and eating healthy. We're equipping ourselves with basic medication to deal with expected symptoms, runny nose, sore throat, headaches, and cough. We're doing the rain dance hoping for the God of all (and all the gods) to send some rain our way. We're also keeping informed of the progress of the 'discussions' which are hoped to lead some significant change in the situation.

As a life-lovers, we're sharing here some simple "everyday" fun that we've had so far, within the confines of home, as an invitation for everyone to keep their spirits up and find joy in the mundane.

HIDE AND SEEK. It never ceases to amaze me the many places these little imps can squeeze themselves into.
Sometimes, when you close your eyes, you become invisible. :)
No space in the home is spared. Seriously. When I'm desperate for 5-10 minutes of time for myself, one trick I've learned over time is to let them hide and pretend you're looking for them while catching up some things in your to-do list. Just be prepared to be scolded when you finally "find" them...

ARTS AND CRAFTS. There's a happy place called "Mommy's office" that has boxes labelled with fun things like "Paints and Brushes," "Washi Tapes," "Photo Fun," "Beads," "Glitter and Glue," and a collection of children's toys from previous birthdays which have not yet been opened (We have a birthday list gift policy.) It's a mini-disneyland of happy things to make a huge mess in very little time.

The "Paints and Brushes" box gets pulled out frequently. It's a Roo and Red favorite.
Everything can be painted on, as long as they give me enough time to set-up newspapers on the floor. 
 And when we run out of things to paint, well, there's always Red. :)
Making chalkboards, sticking them in accessible places, and writing all over the house. I intended to create a message board so the kids can drop messages for me in case I'm tied up at work. We've still got a tub of chalkboard paint. Tempted to color one whole wall with it!
 Beadwork! They still haven't gotten tired of making bracelets and necklaces out of their own names.
Make something out of scraps. We made a one-seater propeller plane out of cardboard. Roo's tried to make a computer for herself, and a cellphone for Red. I have a designated "scratch" area for the kids where they can constantly pick up materials and papers to work with when they're feeling creative.
At the end of the day, there's so much possibility in a blank piece of paper. Let the little ones make a little bit of a mess and explore that possibility.

PLAY PRETEND. The kids love playing with their legos, and trains, and my little ponies. But I love them best in spontaneous play when they work with everyday things and keep things simple.
We use newspapers to lay out a picnic in the living room. 
Blankets can be a makeshift hammock when you tie them securely on bedposts and window grills. 
My gowns, dresses, and scarves are dress-up costumes. I find it hilarious when Roo pretends to be mommy to Red -- because it candidly reveals to me how Roo perceives me as a mom.
Mommy and daddy are monsters; Blankets and pillows are weapons as well as fortresses. And when the monster war escalates, a pillow fight always gets both giggles and tears.

EVERYDAY MATH. One thing I love about Math (and yes, I know I'm sounding like a real nerd right now), is that it can be applied to everyday things.
There are toys that make it fun, and Roo and Red both enjoy these Math puzzles.

But even more fun is showing them my coin collection and talking to them about different places in the world; and then asking them to count up the coins. It's a slow way of counting, and there are plenty of questions on why a coin looks the way it does -- but it's a great teaching tool. When they're ready, we'll start converting everything to SGD using Oanda exchange rate. :)
Red learned counting upto 20 because of my candy collection. (Which reminds me, I need to re-stock!)

SHADOW AND LIGHT. With a simple flash light (or in this case, an LED light), we can have shadow play with little toys or cut-outs or our fingers. We can pretend we're hunting down something with a special type of light detector, or run around lighting up the darkest corners of the house we haven't looked at in a while. With some candy currency, I have also leverage the kids curiosities and used them as lighting assistants for indoor shoots as well. :)
Despite the new constraints, we are still capable of having a jolly good time! Hoping for the best, and preparing for the worst. And while we're safely tucked in the comfort of our homes, we're also looking out for opportunities to help.
Keep steady, everyone!

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