Monday, July 7, 2014

Seven Years...

It has been seven years since we said our wedding vows on 7 July 2007.

I give you this ring as a sign of my vow, 
and with all that I am and all that I have, I honour you
 in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 

We have shared much joy, borne each other's burdens, celebrated victories and worked thru difficulties... And God has been faithful. 

Let us continue to seek God in all that we do, to trust that He'll provide in ways beyond our imagination, and be faithful stewards of all that He's entrusted to us.

Love you always.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Drink Your Coffee While Its Hot

A few weekends ago, my boys and I were at the airport, sending daddy off for a work trip. It was a Sunday evening and the boys were sad that daddy wasn't going to be at home the coming week. After sending daddy off, I took them to the playground at Changi Airport T3, just to cheer them up a little before making our way home. When we finally got to the car at the airport carpark...

Nathan: Why does daddy have to go to work?

Me: We discussed this before. Do you remember why?

Nathan thinks for a moment...

Nathan: Mommy, does all your money come from daddy?

That question tugged at my heart strings... As much as I had made the choice to be a SAHM, I do miss the corporate world. I miss being a part of project teams, I miss earning my own keep, I miss the satisfaction that comes with doing a job well... I miss lunches with colleagues and the occasional trip abroad...

After tucking them in bed, I picked up this book to read before turning in. As I read, my spirits were lifted.

I found morsels of truths and practical advice in this easy to read book... In fact, I finished the entire book that night. I could identify with many of the experiences cited in the book and found Joyce's practical tips helpful.

"You are irreplaceable. You are the only mum your children will have. And, every mum is the best one there is for her child, by divine appointment.

Just as coffee is best drunk while it's hot, we should savour the experiences we have with our children at each stage of their lives. You can always brew another cup of coffee if that first cup has turned cold because you were too busy to drink it when it was hot. But with a child, once you miss the window of opportunity to love and cherish him, that moment is forever lost".

- Foreword by Felicia Soo

I was reminded once again that motherhood is a gift from God above. God has blessed me with two adorable boys, and I am priviledged to have this responsibility of nurturing them. 

Do you get discouraged in your journey as a mother? How about taking some time out... enjoy a cuppa and read this book by Joyce Ewing-Chow. Armour Publishing is giving two copies of this book to my blog readers. To win a copy for yourself, follow the directions below.

Drink Your Coffee While It's Hot can be purchased from Armour Publishing through their online store.
Alternatively you can drop by their showroom:
Block 1003 Bukit Merah Central #02-07
Singapore 159836
(opens from Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm)

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Nathan's 2nd Violin Concert

It has been almost a year since Nathan's first violin concert. Today, he was wearing the exact same outfit from a year back. The pants are getting a little too short and the vest is also slightly too small... outfit aside, I'd like to think that he's improved. :) He played two songs today - Mattachins and Daisy Bell. The first piece was a duet with a friend (who happens to be the daughter of my secondary school mate) and the second, a solo piece. Both songs are ABRSM Grade 1 exam pieces; he'll be taking his very first exam in September.

To celebrate a job well done, Nathan got to decide where to go for dinner. His choice... Omakase Burger for the cheese fries!

It has been a joy learning the violin with him and I hope he'll always enjoy making beautiful music.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Keep Calm & Mother On

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities as a mother? Especially on days when your sleep was interrupted multiple times at night, you get woken up at 6am, when all you wanted was to sleep for just an hour more... The toddler spills milk all over the sofa, and the baby made a poopy mess on the bedsheets that you've just changed yesterday... and it's just 10am. Well, Keep Calm and Mother On! You're doing an amazing job raising the children that you've been blessed with.

Pauline Loh, an award winning writer with over 25 years of writing experience has put together an encouraging and hilarious book filled with over 300 things ever said about motherhood. From sacrificial things a Mum does, to how noble, loving and wise she is, this little handbook is meant to illuminate the strength and beauty of a mother and all that she unconditionally encompasses.

I picked out some of my favourite quotes from the book...

On love

The truth is, when our mothers held us, rocked us, stroked our heads – none of us ever got enough of that. WE all yearn in some way to return to those days when we were completely taken care of – unconditional love, unconditional attention. Most of us didn’t get enough. 
- Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays with Morrie 

On sacrifice

She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn’t take them along.
- Margaret Culkin Banning, author 

On bravery

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.
- Washington Irving, historian 

On wisdom

Before becoming a mother I had a hundred theories on how to birn gup children. Now I have seven children and only one theory: love them, especially when they least deserve to be loved.
- Kate Samperi, author of Silken Cords 

On power

No influence is so powerful as that of the mother.
– Sarah Josepha Hale, author of Mary Had a Little Lamb

On encouragement

[Mama] kept the first school prize that I ever won, for
doing well in kindergarten—a pencil sharpener in the
shape of a tiny trophy, which is still today in the display
cabinet at home.
– Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, from his eulogy for his mother, Madam Kwa Geok Choo

On beauty

There is no velvet so soft as a mother’s lap, no rose as lovely as her smile, no path so flowery as that imprinted with her footsteps.
- Archibald Thompson, conductor and composer

A book filled with quotes that any mom would be able to identify with, and one that will fill you with so much gratitude and joy as you recall the special woman in your life you call mom.

Armour Publishing is giving away two copies of Keep Calm and Mother On by Pauline Loh. To take part, follow the directions below. 

Keep Calm and Mother On can be purchased from Armour Publishing through their online store. Alternatively you can drop by their showroom:
Block 1003 Bukit Merah Central #02-07
Singapore 159836
Showroom hours: Monday to Friday (10am to 6pm)

P.S. Dads, if you haven’t gotten anything for your children’s mommy this Mother's Day (pssst... it's this Sunday), round up your kids, and bring them to the store to pick something up for her… then get them to draw or write a card for mommy... something handmade will surely bring tears to her eyes, and make all the sleepless nights worthwhile. Your kind gesture will mean the world to her.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Stay At Home Mom's Survival Tips

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of marrying my prince charming and having two children – a boy and a girl. Together with that, I had lofty ambitions of becoming a doctor, an engineer, a banker, an accountant… my ambitions changed as I uncovered my interests and discovered my strengths. I dreamt of earning enough to provide my family with life’s little luxuries… nothing overly extravagant. Maybe just the average middle-income family with nice holidays overseas once or twice a year.

What I did not consider, was how I was going to balance being a full time mom and doing my full time job. It never crossed my mind that it would be a delicate balancing act that will require lots of planning and careful execution. In the end, an engineer I did become. I pursued postgrad studies fully sponsored by my then employer, married my prince charming and discovered I was pregnant about a year later. The timing was just perfect. I finished serving my bond just as my maternity leave was up. That gave me the option of leaving to look for a job that would allow me to do my job as a mom, and build my career. I switched to another job that offered more flexible work arrangements and for almost two years, I was a full time working mom. We decided against hiring a domestic helper, so my son went to an infant / childcare centre while I was at work. Those days were physically exhausting and mentally draining to say the least. But we managed well... until I had my second child.

As I was the one with the predictable schedule (as opposed to my husband whose hours were long), I was the one who'd drop the children off at daycare before going to work and then pick them up at the end of the day. I remember leaving the house with a baby, a toddler, two of their bags filled with things they'd need at school, my own hand bag, a trolley bag filled with my laptop, breast pump and mini fridge-to-go every single day. I did not have enough hands! I was not able to excel at work given the responsibilities I had at home and I was missing out on spending time with my children and watching them grow. I agonised over leaving full time employment.... Will we have enough money? What will become of my career? What happens when the kids are older? Do I return to work? Can I still find work? I hung on to my job for another year before leaving for good.

I have been a SAHM for a little over two years and I'm enjoying (almost) every moment of it. I miss the corporate world, the lunch breaks, the satisfaction of a project well done... but am glad that I get to be a greater part of my boys' growing up years. Ideally, I'd like to be able to work on a part-time / flexi time arrangement, but such work arrangements don't seem all too popular in Singapore. For now, I'm thankful to be a SAHM, and have no plans to return to full-time work anytime soon.

I'm not sure if seasoned SAHMs will find the following useful... but if you are a newly minted SAHM, the following 'tips' might make your journey as a SAHM a tad bit easier... From one SAHM to another... you're not alone!

We have a routine established since the boys were born and we stick to it religiously. This means fixed times for waking up, showers, meals, play, nap times and bed times. As they got older, we added things like time to practise the violin/piano, time for doing math, time for reading... The sequence is fixed. For example, after school, we have lunch, then shower, then practise the violin. After which, we get to either play for a short while or read a book before taking an afternoon nap. Somedays, Nathan might try to wriggle his way out of violin practice, but he knows that if he doesn't complete his practice, he can't move on to the next activity. Having a fixed routine helps me in planning my day. 

"Me" Time
Set aside some time each day to be alone. This is actually really hard for a SAHM... with little ones following you everywhere you go... even when you need to use the toilet or take a shower. I get a little over 2 hours every weekday after dropping the boys off at school, but there's so much that needs to be done in this short time... I spend one morning at BSF and another one/two mornings at the gym. The rest of the mornings are filled with household chores. Occasionally, I arrange to have breakfasts with friends (usually fellow moms who have mornings free). My social circle has shrunk ever since I stopped work, and I do miss 'adult conversations'. But for now, it is hard to take time out, and I just use whatever pockets I have left to 'recharge'.

Adequate rest is a necessity for me. When I'm well rested, I find that I am less impatient with my boys and am able to engage them in meaningful activities. My boys still take one afternoon nap in the afternoon, and are usually in bed by about 9pm. I try to sleep by 11pm. Somedays, I'd be so tired by mid day, that I end up taking a nap when they nap.

"Homework" & Play
My children do not bring home any work from school (not yet), but this mama dishes out homework. I make my older son do work that he's able to complete without help while I am cooking (usually stuff from his math workbook, writing exercises or dot-to-dot puzzles). While he's at it, my younger son will be playing with Lego blocks. Having them engaged in separate activities minimizes the chances that I have to arbitrate fights.

Showers I shower both boys together, much like in an assembly line. Spray water from head to toe, shampoo, soap, rinse off, towel dry. So much faster and saves water. 

Everything is machine washed. When the boys were babies, I used to separate the baby clothes from the adult clothes. Now, everything is washed together and tossed in the dryer. As much as I'd prefer to hang the clothes out to dry under the hot sun (to save on my electricity bills), I do not have time to actually hang them out. It is so much faster to transfer them to the dryer then move on to other chores. Can someone invent a 2-in-1 washer and dryer, so I don't even need to do the transferring? Very often, we pull the freshly laundered clothes out to wear before they even get to return to the cupboards. Saves me the hassle of packing them back in the cupboards.

The only meal that I cook at home is lunch. It is usually one of the following: Marconi soup, rice with japanese curry, tomato based pasta, soup based noodles, pizzas, stews or porridge. It takes under 30 minutes to prepare, and uses no more than two pots (to minimise washing up). I find that boiling water using my electric kettle is much faster, than boiling it over the stove. So to save time, I'd boil water using an electric kettle, then transfer it to the pot on the stove to boil pastas, cook soups etc.

I've mastered the technique of eating fast ever since I became a mom, and I'm usually done before them. So I'll start washing the dishes while they are still eating, and by the time they are done, the only items left to wash are the bowls and spoons that they were using. It helps that we have a food preparation island in the kitchen which doubles up as our dining table. I can keep an eye on them and we continue our meal time conversations while I wash dishes.

Household Chores
With laundry and meals out of the way, the other major chore left is cleaning the floor. I recently acquired an iscooba. It vacuums and mops the floor when I'm out, saving me lots of time (and sweat). So thankful for technology. I get my boys to help by packing up their toys after they play, putting their dirty clothes in the laundry basket and returning their used utensils to the sink.

I gave up my full time job to stay home with the kids, to spend more time with them, to teach them, to watch them grow. Spending time being a mom, being a teacher, being a playmate, being a friend, is far more important than getting the house spick and span. My house is not as neat as I'd like it to be, not as clean as I'd like it to be... but that's not what I'd like my boys to remember me for - a good house keeper. Rather, I'd like them to remember the things I've taught them, the fun we had, the laughter we shared...

This post is part of a blog train hosted by Gingerbreadmum where 31 stay-at-home mums share their survival tips. We hope that you'll find our tips useful and remember that you're not alone!

Felicia will be sharing her story tomorrow. Felicia, a stay-at-home mother of two, is aspiring to be their greatest teacher. She occasionally dreams to be a fashionista in her too big maternity T-shirt and shorts while she indulges in some jewellery designing and crafting. Her two children, the Princess and the Rock are her main inspirations for her blog. Princess and The Rock aims to detail some of her thoughts and learning on being the parent of Princess and the Rock and her homeschooling journey with them.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tupperware for Little Ones

Tupperware is a brand known for quality plastic storage containers backed by a lifetime warranty. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that they recently added Twinkle Tup to their product range. This new product range includes training cups, snack cups, easy grip bowls, straw tumblers, cutlery and feeding bowls for children 6 to 18 months old.

Twinkle Tup is made of BPA-free food grade materials, child safe (i.e. no sharp edges, spill-proof, durable), dishwasher safe and backed by a lifetime warranty (except for straw and straw brush).

For children 6 to 18 months old, they have the Twinkle Totz Set, which comes with  Twinkle Snack Cup (1), Twinkle Training Cup (2) and Twinkle Easy Grip Bowl and Hang-On Spoon. The items can be bought separately.

For kids 18 to 36 months old, they have the Twinkle Kidz Set, which comes with the Twinkle Straw Tumbler (4), Twinkle Feeding Bowl (5), Straw Brush (6), Twinkle Cutlery Set with Casing (8).

We tried out the Twinkle Kidz Set for kids 18 to 36 months old.

It comes with a 350ml Twinkle Straw Tumbler, a 430ml Twinkle Feeding Bowl and a Twinkle Cutlery Set (ergonomically designed fork and spoon that fits nicely in a storage box). This makes packing food for the little one so much easier. The storage container has enough room for a portion of his lunch/dinner, and the cutlery is kept clean in its storage box. When he's done with his meal, I can keep the used cutlery back into the storage box to bring home for washing.

I am giving away a Twinkle Kidz Set worth $35. Follow the instructions below to win a set for someone you love!

Disclaimer: I was provided a Twinkle Kidz Set for purposes of this review. No monetary compensation was received.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Kidzania Singapore

As you might have already heard, Kidzania is coming to Singapore in 2015! Kidzania is an indoor theme park like no other. It is an entertainment and education centre for children 4 to 14 years old.  It offers interactive learning experiences through role-playing set in a kid-sized city. As in the real world, kids choose activities such as being a police man, doctor, journalist, fire fighter or supreme court judge (from a long list of available professions), earning Kidzos (the Kidzania currency) for the work that they do. They even have the option to spend Kidzos upgrading themselves at the 'local' university, thereby opening doors to more career options.


The industry partners for Kidzania Singapore include Killiney Kopitiam, KFC, The Learning Lab, Maybank, Pizza Hut, Yakult and WTS Travel, amongst several others.

I hope they'll inject some local flavour to Kidzania Singapore... like have a Kopitiam where kids get to flip pratas, make rojak and brew teh tarik... and have a construction site where construction workers work together to build HDB high-rise flats... and offer a city tour onboard an amphibious vehicle like in our popular Singapore Duck Tours. Judging from the list of industry partners, I'm guessing that kids will also get to bottle their own Yakult, make pizzas, and serve as KFC crew.

Other than working, kids can also choose to undertake undergraduate or graduate studies as The Learning Lab University. Modelled after great real-world universities like Oxford and Cambridge, The Learning Lab University will be the nurturing ground of a new generation of passionate, energetic and inspired learners. Kids can pick the professions they prefer: Cardiovascular surgeon, millionaire private equity investor, Supreme Court judge, and undertake studies to attain the requisite qualifications. The University is envisioned as an experiential facility, where kids have fun while learning collaboratively in a technology-enabled learning environment. Students 'graduate' with qualifications which allow them to earn more kidzos, opening the doors to better job prospects.

My boys and I had a blast at Kidzania Bangkok and we can't wait to visit Kidzania Singapore!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chugga Chugga Choo Choo!

We made a cardboard train over the weekend. Everything was made out of paper and held together by glue or masking tape.

The 'skeleton' was made of two cardboard boxes. One of them is the Huggies box you see in the picture below, and another one was a box that was used to hold reams of A4 paper. I cut the 'body' of the train out of mounting boards that I had leftover from a previous project. The boys proceeded to colour the body using crayons. 

The wheels were made out of paper plates.

Trying out the partially assembled train... The box is big enough to fit my 3 year old son.

We made the funnel out of a toilet paper roll and a party hat. I turned the party hat the wrong way around, and coloured it the way we liked.

We went on to colour in headlights and a front 'bumper', and got another good sized box for the passenger cabin behind. And there! Our cardboard train!

For another cardboard project, check out our Lightning McQueen inspired cardboard car!

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Mama to 5 Blessings

Monday, April 21, 2014

Teaching Simple Addition

I hold engineering degrees and am able to solve complex mathematical equations. But when it came to teaching my almost 4 year old son to do simple addition, I was stumped. It is something that I knew how to do, and could do it in an instant, but how do I teach my child the concept of addition and impart the skill of doing simple mental sums to him? After some trial and error, I've figured it out. If teaching 1+2 has stumped you, the following might be useful.

1. Rote counting
Most children are able to rote count when they are about 2 years old. Singing songs like 12345 Once I caught a fish alive and Counting Bananas helps them to learn rote counting.

Rote counting backwards (i.e. from 10 to 1) will come in useful for subtraction, but not necessary at this time. 

2. Recognising numbers and using manipulatives to represent numbers.
My boys love working with manipulatives. I like how they think they are 'playing' but I am actually fulfilling my lesson objectives for the day. For counting, we use our bear counters. Lego bricks or bread tags work as well. I lay out numbers and get them to lay out the correct number of bears. Then I introduce 'more than' and 'less than' as well. 

This things about boys... they like lining the bears up in neat rows and pretending that the bears are soldiers in an army parade.

3. Use fingers to represent numbers.
Other than using manipulatives, children should be comfortable holding out the correct number of fingers to represent any number within 10. I find Nathan struggling with this initially, but as he 'practises' more, he was able to hold out the correct number of fingers in an instant.

4. Which is bigger?
Being able to identify the bigger number will help them to add quickly, especially when they are first starting out. There is a dizzying array of pre-school math books available in the bookshops, but they might not contain enough of certain type of exercises that I'd like my kids to work on. As such, I just buy one or two math assessment books and plug the gaps by writing out the ones that I would like more work on.

These are two pre-school math books that we have / are using. They are not necessarily the best around (since I haven't tried all of them), but I chose these two based on layout and breath of topics covered.

Having covered the "basics" above, one should have the skills required to do simple addition.

Method 1: Counting on
When faced with a sum like 8 + 3, we first identify the larger number. In this case, Nathan will determine that 8 is the larger number, and actually say out loud, "8 in my head", then he'd hold out 3 fingers, and count up from 8 as he folds down each finger one at a time... "9, 10, 11". 11 is the correct answer. When he first started out, he tended to start counting from 1 all the time... so he'd go... "8 in my head... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8..." and then proceed to count up. With more practise, he's now able to start counting from any number without starting from 1 all the time.

Method 2: Number line
The number line method is more visual. Kids start from 8 and draw arcs jumping from 8 to 9 to 10 to 11. Nathan is not quite able to visualise the arcs without actually drawing them out. So this means that he actually has to redraw the line each time he has a new sum, which is rather time consuming. Anyhow, the number line is useful for more complex sums, so it is good to know how to use it.

I had a look thru Singapore's Primary 1 Math syllabus, and also flipped thru two popular Primary 1 math assessment books. Much of what is done in the first six months (in Primary 1) requires a child to be able to add well. So it is important to get the basics right at pre-school.

Find opportunities for the child to use his skills in a meaningful way... When making lunch, I'd get Nathan to find out many slices of pizza each person in the family wants, then work his sums and tell me the total so have enough for everyone. Some restaurants have ordering chits at the table, so we write our orders down instead of having a waiter take down our orders. Most of the time, it involves writing the item code and quantity. I'll let Nathan take the orders. He's delighted that he's able to help, and it motivates him to improve. 

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pizzas that your kids can make!

I am a stay home mom, and my 'duties' include chauffeuring the kids around, preparing lunch, washing the dishes, putting the dirty laundry in the washing machine, preparing material for home-learning, supervising homework, arbitrating fights, keeping the house (relatively) clean... 

I have a little over two hours of 'me time' every weekday morning when they are in school. Besides trying to complete some of the things listed above, I fit in a BSF meeting (once a week) and gym sessions (once/twice a week).

As such, the lunches I prepare are usually one pot wonders. Meals must be fast to cook with minimal washing thereafter. Recently, I found something even better than one pot wonders... I outsourced the job of preparing lunch to my kids!

Ingredients for simple pizza base

For pizza base
A loaf of bread
Tomato paste
Mozzarella cheese

For pizza toppings
Minced meat
* Pick as many of the above as you like or replace with something that your kids like to eat

Before beginning, pre-heat oven to 190 degree Celsius.
1) Lay pieces of bread on a baking tray and spread a thin layer of tomato paste
2) Sprinkle a generous amount of Mozerella cheese on each slice of bread.
3) Top with your favorite ingredients.
4) Pop in the oven for 5 minutes.
5) Fill your tummies :)

Chefs hard at work

Other than cutting up the sausages into thin slices, the boys did everything else. They loved making their own lunch and eating it!


Do you have any simple recipes to share?

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