Thursday, August 29, 2013

Straits Times feature.

Hello peeps :) I was recently interviewed by Straits Times and featured on Sunday Life!.
The article talked about play and how parents viewed playing with children, as more and more parents are sucked into the notion of work-home-sleep-work and spending less time with their children.
Also, it is becoming a common thing that children as young as 3 years old or even 2.5 years old are sent to enrichment classes on weekends instead of doing stuff like building sandcastles on the beach, or simply just spending time playing with their siblings and parents. 

 Not long ago, a worried Mum posted on The New Age Parents board asking for advise on her child going for phonics enrichment classes. She asked whether enrichment classes would improve her child in terms of phonics and language skills.
I replied that what was her purpose of sending her child to enrichment class? Was he/she having problems in school? And to gauge a child's improvement, she should compare him or her knowledge level before attending enrichment classes VS after enrichment classes see if those enrichment classes are benefiting her child, and not compare Child A with Child B of the same age on their knowledge levels.

The topic of enrichment classes are discussed to death on every parenting board, and anyway, here's the article:

Interestingly, when I said I look for the brands of toys, I actually meant I prefer buying from established brands which are safe for my kids, ie. using toxic-free paint or will not have brittle parts which fall apart easily.
And yes, I am rather fussy in the selection of toys I buy for the kids (I'm actually fussy in many other aspects as well). They must be value for money (best if on sale), yet be reasonably good quality and preferably serve a purpose (teach hand-eye coordination and the above as I was quoted verbatim in the article).

That said, there are certainly some things which no toy can substitute in a child's life, such as bonding time with his or her family.

Playtimes like these do not cost a thing, are not "branded", but make family togetherness.

Would like to share an article written by another Mum, who blogs at A Magical Childhood:

What should a 4 year old know?
I was on a parenting bulletin board recently and read a post by a mother who was worried that her 4 1/2 year old did not know enough. “What should a 4 year old know?” she asked.
Most of the answers left me not only saddened but pretty soundly annoyed. One mom posted a laundry list of all of the things her son knew. Counting to 100, planets, how to write his first and last name, and on and on. Others chimed in with how much more their children already knew, some who were only three. A few posted URL’s to lists of what each age should know. The fewest yet said that each child develops at his own pace and not to worry.
It bothered me greatly to see these mothers responding to a worried mom by adding to her concern, with lists of all the things their children could do that hers couldn’t. We are such a competitive culture that even our preschoolers have become trophies and bragging rights. Childhood shouldn’t be a race.
So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know.
    1. She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.
    2. He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.
    3. She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.
    4. He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he couldn’t care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.
    5. She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.
But more important, here’s what parents need to know.
    1. That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and that it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.
    2. That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but mom or dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.
    3. That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.
    4. That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90% of our children’s toys and they wouldn’t be missed, but some things are important– building toys like legos and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials (good stuff), musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress up clothes and books, books, books. (Incidentally, much of this can be picked up quite cheaply at thrift shops.) They need to have the freedom to explore with these things too– to play with scoops of dried beans in the high chair (supervised, of course), to knead bread and make messes, to use paint and play dough and glitter at the kitchen table while we make supper even though it gets everywhere, to have a spot in the yard where it’s absolutely fine to dig up all the grass and make a mud pit.
    5. That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids. Yes, we all need undisturbed baths, time with friends, sanity breaks and an occasional life outside of parenthood. But we live in a time when parenting magazines recommend trying to commit to 10 minutes a day with each child and scheduling one Saturday a month as family day. That’s not okay! Our children don’t need Nintendos, computers, after school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US. They need fathers who sit and listen to their days, mothers who join in and make crafts with them, parents who take the time to read them stories and act like idiots with them. They need us to take walks with them and not mind the .1 MPH pace of a toddler on a spring night. They deserve to help us make supper even though it takes twice as long and makes it twice as much work. They deserve to know that they’re a priority for us and that we truly love to be with them.
And now back to those 4 year old skills lists…..
I know it’s human nature to want to know how our children compare to others and to want to make sure we’re doing all we can for them. Here is a list of what children are typically taught or should know by the end of each year of school, starting with preschool.
Since we homeschool, I occasionally print out the lists and check to see if there’s anything glaringly absent in what my kids know. So far there hasn’t been, but I get ideas sometimes for subjects to think up games about or books to check out from the library. Whether you homeschool or not, the lists can be useful to see what kids typically learn each year and can be reassuring that they really are doing fine.
If there are areas where it seems your child is lacking, realize that it’s not an indication of failure for either you or your child. You just haven’t happened to cover that. Kids will learn whatever they’re exposed to, and the idea that they all need to know these 15 things at this precise age is rather silly. Still, if you want him to have those subjects covered then just work it into life and play with the subject and he’ll naturally pick it up. Count to 60 when you’re mixing a cake and he’ll pick up his numbers. Get fun books from the library about space or the alphabet. Experiment with everything from backyard snow to celery stalks in food coloring. It’ll all happen naturally, with much more fun and much less pressure.
My favorite advice about preschoolers is on this site though.
What does a 4 year old need?
Much less than we realize, and much more.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

whadda Sunday.

Adam started limping yesterday, and God knows if it was from Ashton's birthday party, or from the previous evening when we dropped him off at Peekaboo indoor playground for 2 hours while we ran our party errands.
Whatever it is, it sure is worrying, so I asked my MIL to come over and bring us to the Chinese sinsei nearest to home.
At the Chinese sinsei, he palpated and rotated and pulled and kneaded but Adam was unable to verbalise what was wrong, so we were advised to go to the A&E department to have his leg checked out.
Went back to my in-law's place with the kids, and got Andy to come over and fetch Adam & I while Ashton was left in the care of my MIL.
At KKH A&E.....
Parents: People like us with nothing better to do on a Sunday noon and think there's no better way to spend it than waiting for hours at the A&E department.

3 hours, lots of questioning and several X-rays later.....

Poor boy now has his leg in a cast. We have to return to the hospital next week for his Orthopaedic appointment.
By the time we are done with appointments and meds, it was already 4PM.
I have spent the past 5 hours shuttling around in nothing but a raggedy T-shirt, shorts and messy hair.
Sans makeup and lunch.
What a major parenting milestone today. Plus 200 parenting points.

Friday, August 23, 2013

My mundane yet crazy days.

Early morning activity: waiting for the school bus with Adam.
Compared to his previous school, he is happy and enthusiastic to go to school every morning as there are different programs for the kids, and of course the shorter hours.

I'm carrying Ashton while waiting for the bus with Adam. Life of a mum - hands are always full.

Once back home, need to settle Ashton's breakfast and bath. After that, LAUNDRY.
After this pile gets folded and packed nicely into the cabinets, another pail is waiting in the utility kitchen. Gasp!

Play-room before: It looks like a toy shop exploded in here.
Toys strewn everywhere - living room, on the coffee table, in the balcony.........
Have to sort and keep the toys for easy finding.
Broken limbs need fixing and dead batteries need replacing.
The other night, I stepped on a Lego brick and almost slipped. ZzzzzZzz

Play-room after.
Other things on the list:
Ashton has a hacking cough, needs a trip to the paediatrician.
School bus drops Adam off at 12:30pm.
Lunch beckons.
Nap time for the kids.
Bottles to wash and sterilise before Ashton wakes up and takes another feed.
Mop floors otherwise baby crawls and eats hair or dirt from the ground.
Puts bucket of laundry into washer (clothes in my home are washed separately according to Hubby's / mine/ kids/ bedsheets).
Takes a much-warranted shower while waiting for laundry to be done.
Children wake up.
... the list goes on ....
So you see, 24 hours is hardly enough for SAHMs.
Doing this for short term or once in a while, I can handle... But if scrubbing and washing is all I do day in, day out, then I'd rather work.
I don't buy the "I work to spend time / I work for passion" bull-balls. 
If you really want to spend time, there are loads of stuff to do as a mum on any given time of the day.
If you are working for passion, I find it even harder to believe it.
I have passion for many things, be it bags, shopping, playing with the kids, photography, blogging, going to the library.... anything but work; anything but waking up to an alarm every morning; anything but having to deal with stupid people and workplace politics. I definitely do not have passion for such things related to w o r k.
Everyone works for $$$. Mums especially. Children are expensive to have.
If you would like to be able to afford holidays every year with your family, to buy nicer stuff for yourself and your kids, to afford enrichment classes, to eat at nicer places once in a while, then you have to work for it.
Just always remind yourself - nothing good in life comes easy.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Our family Hong Kong trip: Michelin-star eateries.

Ming Court: 2 Michelin-star Chinese restaurant.
Level 6, Langham Place Hotel Hong Kong, 555 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok.
If you are looking for a nice sit-down restaurant to try contemporary Chinese food, you may consider going to Ming Court.
The items on the menu are special, and not arm-breaking expensive.
For our table of 5 adults, we ordered 5 dishes with some complimentary dim sum, which amounted to about SGD$200.
For a Michelin-star experience, I think it is still Ok.

Tim Ho Wan
Shop G72A & B, Ground floor, Olympian City 2, 18 Hoi Ting Road, Mong Kok.
+852 23322896
It is actually outside of the Olympian City building, so if you're at this main entrance, go into the mall, turn left (you will see G2000 and Mango), exit the door all the way straight, and turn right.

Only a short queue with fellow Singaporeans. We waited for only 20 minutes on a Sunday noon, compared to the 3-hour wait back in Singapore.
We never bothered queuing for Tim Ho Wan in Singapore, so I can't compare the food.

Tim Ho Wan is just a 10 minutes' walk away from our hotel.
If you're in HK, you have to stay at Langham Place! It is so convenient!
Leaf-wrapped glutinous rice with chicken.

Char siew bo lo pau. Soooooo nice that we ordered another serving.

Osmanthus jelly: a slightly sweet, light taste about it.

Other Tim Ho Wan branches:
Ground floor, 9-77 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po.
+852 27881226

Shop 12A, Level 1, Hong Kong Station, HK.
+852 23323078

Shop B, C, D, Ground floor, Sea View Building, No 2-8 Wharf Road, North Point, HK.
+852 29795608
 Ok this is the final instalment of our HK trip.
Hope you enjoyed reading it and found our guide useful if you plan on visiting HK :)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Our family Hong Kong trip: the culture, and eat-shop-eat-shop..

Day 1:  Dinner after a tiring day at Disney and Lantau. We went back to hotel to get our much needed baths, changed into fresh clothes and headed out to dinner.
In HK, we did all the touristy things with my in-laws and tried to make full use of our time by walking / shopping/ eating the whole day. By night fall, we were famished with all the activity.
Time to eat again! We wanna eat roast goose!!

At a cosy little Cha chan teng in Mongkok which served superb roast goose.
The service is above average, being a rather small cha chan teng. The waiting time to get a table for 6 was not very long, and food arrived at the table fast.

Chan Kee Roast Goose.
427-427A Reclamation Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
+852 2381 6161

The roast goose was excellent. Oily and juicy and sinful with every bite. Roast goose is not available in Singapore, so if you're in HK, definitely must try this famous eatery recommended by fellow Singaporeans!

Day 2: Argyle Centre and more shopping at Tsim Sha Tsui.

We booked a day tour for my in-laws to visit Victoria Peak and all the other touristy activities with Ashton, while we brought Adam shopping with us. Poor kid walked for long distances and so many rounds of shopping with Mummy!

Argyle Centre, Mongkok! It's like a mega version of Bugis Village so expect many cheap fashion buys but don't expect a lot for the quality.
I bought a midi dress there for $8 and various T-shirts for a song. Most of the shops open after 12:30PM so don't waste your time by going too early (like we did).

Getting ready my re-useable shopping bag for bargain-battle.

After shopping, we headed for dessert.

Prince Dessert.
11-13, Prince Ritz, 448 Prince Edward Road West, Kowloon City.
Tel: +852 3486 3194

Try their egg custard with bird's nest. Comes in a tray of 6.

Hubby had their hot dessert: Coconut with bean curd and tapioca balls. Also very nice!

Everything also nice to eat..... Fat die us.

Shop not enough at Mongkok, headed to TST for more shopping. By this time, Adam already KO into Andy's arms.

The shopping in TST is mostly for designer goods, but the outlets at Harbour City is always full of PRCs Q-ing outside. If you want to avoid these queues, and get better service without all those crowd squeezing with you as you browse, then go to Peninsula Arcade, opposite SOGO.

But frankly, it used to be that buying designer goods in HK was about 10-20% cheaper than buying in Singapore due to HK being tax-free, but the last I checked, their prices have gone up considerably and are now parallel with, or slightly more expensive than Singapore prices :(

Day 3: walking around the streets hunting for street hawker food.
 Since we did all the shopping in Day 2, we spent the rest of our trip simply exploring the streets and stopping for food whenever and wherever.
Like these grilled squid. So juicy!

and smelly toufu. I like! Tapao for my in-laws too :)

Hubby had this coconut milk drink which so many people were queuing for.

Yuen lai this is the reason lah. Don't know what's her name this HK actress helped to sell drinks here before.

Oh yah, this dim sum restaurant was recommended to us by my HK aunt.
She says the food here is cheap and good.
She didn't lie!! We ate so much and the bill came up to about SGD$100 only, for 6 pax. Ok what!

Shamrock Seafood Restaurant
223 Nathan Road, ground floor of Shamrock Hotel, Jordon.
+852 2735 6722 / 2730 3519
MTR station: Jordon.

Is yummy! Especially their braised pork with steam rice.
Makes me hungry just typing this post -__-

Day 4: Taking ferry at Victoria Harbour.
But first, gotta go to SOGO to buy lao po bing.

Bought the Lao po bing for our relatives, my colleagues and our own consumption.
What to do... Old people like us love to eat such tidbits.

At Victoria Harbour

Love my family photo at Victoria Harbour before boarding ferry. Ashton also wanna follow Adam & I make hand signal but don't know how to. Hehe..

My lovely boys in same outfits. Finally able to dress them alike because so hard to find the size difference.

The ferry trip ended with us at Harbour City. Decided to go walk around.

All the cosmetics so pretty! I can't bear to buy them because I know I won't bear to open and use...
 Thanks for dropping by.
We also went to two Michelin-star restaurants during this trip, they are posted here!