Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Greatest Thing About Having Kids Is...

Our family was involved in the filming of a TV commercial a couple of months back. A TVC to promote parenthood amongst Singaporeans. As we interacted with the crew, one of the questions posed to us is the title of this post. As I ponder... several things came to mind.

Deeper appreciation for my mom and dad
Having kids has certainly made me appreciate my own mom a lot more. I never knew how difficult being a mother was, until I became one. My mom and dad moved to Singapore to seek employment when they completed school. Their schooling years were difficult as my grandparents were not well to do. My mom shared that they did not even have money for textbooks, and relied on what was handed out by the welfare organisations. Very often, by the time they received their school books, half the school year had gone by. With little more than the clothes on their backs, and no immediate family support, they moved to Singapore and laboured to carve out a better life for themselves and in time, their children. I can only imagine how hard the initial years of bringing up me and my sisters were for them. But my mom and dad are resilient, and they soldiered on. They provided me with many opportunities when I was a child, and always gave me things that I needed and wanted. As a child, I didn't understand why they didn't like yummy stuff like fried chicken, fish balls  and strawberries, and always let me have the last piece. But now that I am a mom myself, I find myself doing the same for my kids. They are quick to dote on their grandchildren, but also give me the space I need to be the parent. They have never criticised the decisions I make for my kids, and never interfere when I discipline them. That to me, shows me how much they know and trust me. I treasure their wise counsel and am thankful for all the help I get from my mom and dad... with washing smelly bums and changing soiled diapers, making milk, mending uniforms, cutting fruits into bite sized pieces, tucking my boys in bed... Having kids has made me a better daughter for I now appreciate my parents so much more.

Deeper appreciation for my husband
The first month with a newborn was the most difficult. I struggled with breastfeeding, had difficulty deciphering what my baby's cries meant, and craved uninterrupted sleep. I still remember cradling a crying Nathan, sitting by his cot with tears flowing down my own cheeks. Dean walked into the room, put his arm around me, and said 'we can do this together'. We prayed and asked God to help us in our journey as parents and will always look to Him for wisdom and guidance in our parenting journey. It has been such a joy watching our boys grow day by day. Dean makes it a point to be involved in their daily lives despite his hectic work schedule. I struggled long and hard over deciding whether to quit my full time job to be a stay home mom. I worried about many things... Will we have enough money? Will this be long term? If I want to return to the workforce in future, can I still find a job? I do not have answers to these questions but jointly, we decided that in this season of our lives, it is best for me to stay home. He asked me not to worry about whether I can find a job in future. He encouraged me to quit and focus my energies on bringing up our boys. He is working hard to provide for our family, and I am thankful that I am able to be so involved in our boys' growing up years. Having kids has certainly drawn us closer together as a couple and made me a better wife.

Deeper appreciation for the simple things in life
Having Nathan and Noah has opened my eyes to the way kids view the world. I learnt to see beauty thru the eyes of a child, I learnt to delight in simple pleasures. Our home is filled with much joy and laughter. Our weekends are filled with fun and games. Our hearts are filled with love and hope.

So, the greatest thing about having kids? I can't put my finger on a single thing because it is so much more than that. Dean and I are blessed with two boys who have brought us much joy. True that there are adjustments to make, and heartaches along the way. But our lives have been enriched and made more complete ever since they joined our family.

Do you have children of your own? How would you answer the above question?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bali with Kids

I never really thought that Bali was a family friendly place to visit... More than 10 years back, I went there sans kids and all I remembered was a lovely dinner by the beach and my first full body massage.

We wanted to go on a holiday with the kids, and Bali is about as far as our Krisflyer miles can take our entire family. So I went about my reasearch and was pleasantly surprised to discover several gems. We stayed in Bali for 6 days and had just enough to fill our itinerary.

If you are planning on visiting Bali with kids, read on.

We stayed at a different hotel every night as we were planning on travelling all the way up north. My itinerary is detailed below, together with the hotels we spent the night at. I'd have opted to stay at Mara River Safari Lodge for two nights and spent the second day doing the Odyssey Submarine if not for a hotel voucher that we wanted to utilise at Intercontinental Hotel. We had to spend two weekend nights at Intercon and hence, had to do a bit more driving to Odyssey on the second last day. So if you are planning to go on the Odyssey Submarine, consider staying somewhere nearer Gianyar.

The best way to get around Bali is to hire a driver. He doubles up as your tour guide and can give you insights into Balinese life. We hired Merti from Drivers with Distinction to bring us around. His rates are reasonable and our kids enjoyed his company. Drop him an email if you are planning to go to Bali. If he is busy on the days that you'd be in Bali, he'd be able to recommend someone else from his team of 8 drivers. I was so glad that his car is equipped with seat belts for every passenger. I brought along my boys' booster seats so they can be safely belted up while we travelled.

Other than the main city area, the roads leading up north are narrow windy roads. If you are relying on google maps to provide you with distance / time estimates, do multiply the estimated journey time by at least 1.5. It took longer than I had anticipated to reach our destination because of the road conditions. Thankfully, my boys were such angels on the long drives and hardly fussed. It helped that there were interesting things to see along the way. The blue highlighted path in the map below marks out the path we took in Bali.

View Bali in a larger map

Weather was generally dry in September. It gets cooler as we drove up north, and that was lovely! Avoid rainy months as there won't be much to see or do indoors.

Other than the more established hotels and restaurants, most other attractions and eateries only took cash. Have sufficient Indonesian Rupiah for the trip. You'd need to pay airport tax of IDR150,000 per person when you fly out from Bali. Only cash is accepted. Thankfully, our hotel left a note to tell us about it. If not, I might have tried to use up all my Indonesian currency. 

As both my boys are already toddlers, we didn't have to worry about bringing / cooking baby food. They pretty much ate whatever we ate, though we made it a point to stay clear of street side food. There are many home style restaurants that serve simple home cooked fare. My favourite was at Strawberry Stop, located just opposite the Ulun Danu temple. There is a strawberry farm in the same compound and they serve the nicest strawberry juice. Main courses are about USD5.

I will be writing about some of our favourite attractions over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!
Bali Safari & Marine Park
Bali Treetop Adventure Park
Strawberry Farm at Bedugul
Dolphin Watching at Lovina
Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
Odyssey Submarine

Friday, September 6, 2013

Freshly Baked Madeleines

I've always loved eating madeleines. And after I introduced them to Nathan and Noah, they love it too! Quite often, we'd go to Starbucks for breakfast, and we'd usually buy a small packet for the boys. Several times, they ran out, and they were disappointed. Oh well... we finally decided that since we love madeleines so much, maybe we should try baking them ourselves. 

So there... I scoured the web for some recipes, and finally found one that I liked. The following is adapted from the Joy of Baking. I adjusted the quantities, and this recipe fits on my madeleine tray nicely.


Makes 10

60g butter (melted)
65g flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 eggs (at room temp)
65g sugar
15g brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1) Preheat oven to 190 deg C.
2) In a mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar at high speed until it turns creamy and pale yellow in colour. 3) Add in vanilla essence and beat for a few more minutes.
4) Sift 1/2 of the flour into the batter and fold in. Continue with the other half and fold in gently.
5) Add melted butter. Stirring in gently.
6) Transfer batter to madeleine tray. 
7) Bake at 190 dec C for 20 minutes.

Madeleines make little boys happy
Put it in the oven to cook!

Fresh out of the oven

The best part is, madeleines taste so much better fresh out of the oven! These days, I'd bake it almost every Saturday and Sunday for breakfast. Simple. No fuss. You can choose to double the quantity, bake one batch on Saturday, refrigerate the batter and bake the other half on Sunday.

Tip - get a non stick madeleine tray. costs more but saves you the hassle of greasing the tin. mine glides off so easily!

For teacher's day this year, we baked some to share with the teachers we love. I sure hope they enjoyed it as much as we do. 

Happy Teachers' Day!

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