All posts by finallymama

Keeping cool when it’s hot

This June, we’ve had recurring mid-day thunderstorms, warm nights, and above average temperatures of 34 degrees Celcius. What to do on hotter summer days?  Get wet, of course!

In the past, we’d frequent the Children’s Garden (Gardens By The Bay), Jacob Ballas (Botanic Gardens) and Port of Lost Wonder (Sentosa). This month, we wanted to check out Splash N Surf (Sports Hub) which wasn’t complete when the new stadium launched last year, but when we were there for the recent SEA Games, it was just too crowded 😦

We did however visit two new water play areas in LEGOLAND Malaysia and Bishan Park:

1) LEGOLAND Water Park: What a difference a year makes. Last time we went there, the experience was exhausting and hot as 2+ year old B was overstimulated. This time around, both LEGOLAND and B have matured. Notably, there’s improved logistics and ventilation, with more accessible rides and activities for B who’s over 100cm tall (we got in though he’s not yet 4 🙂 Best of all, we had a splashing time at the new world’s largest LEGOLAND Water Park.  Seeing B’s wet, tired and happy face was worth it. We’ll be back!
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Tips:
The combo park ticket is the best deal: Buy online if you can. For toddlers (under 3 years), entry to all LEGOLAND Theme Parks are free but you’ll need to pay RM10 for the Water Park for admission and two swim diapers. For the price of chicken rice? Go for it.
– Time it right: Come when it opens at 10a, stay till lunch (or keep returning throughout the day!).  Avoid the 1-3p peak time as it’s too crowded then and the ground gets uncomfortably hot.  Go see an indoor movie or take an indoor rollercoaster ride instead then. Park at LEGOLAND Hotel if you can as it’s right next to the Theme Parks and Water Park entrance. Else, there’s outdoor parking (with no shade at all) with a 15 min covered pathway to both parks

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– Height restrictions apply: Kids under 6, supervised by an adult (or  >12 years), can enjoy the LEGO Wave Pool (fun!), Build-a-Raft River and DUPLO Splash Safari. For Joker Soaker (similar to Port of Lost Wonder), Twin Chaser, Red Rush and Splash Out, riders must be at least 1.02m. Riders must be at least 1.07m to ride Slide Racer, Wave Rider, Tidal Tube, Brick Blaster and Splash N Swirl.

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– Don’t worry about your stuff: There are conveniently priced all-day lockers (half and full size) right past the entrance to the Water Park. Strollers can be kept on top of the lockers. Shoes can be easily slipped on, off, safely stored at every ride point, although most prefer to just walk around barefoot.  Larger cabanas by the Wave Pool and Beach Grill are also available for rent but IMO, unnecessary if you’ll be moving around from place to place.

2) Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park Water Playground:  Funnily enough, we frequent Bishan Park often but never tried the Water Playground (when it actually had water running). So on one of my childcare leave days, I arranged to visit the park early morning with some friends. Overall, it was a chill time with opportunities for kids of all ages to stay active, get wet and learn about nature and science.  Our kids ranged from 10 months to 10 years, and there was something for everyone there.

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Tips:
– When and how to get there: Water turns on between 8-11a and 4-8p daily, except for Monday-Wednesday when it’s closed. There’s a well maintained changing and restroom nearby. The carpark (off Ang Mo Kio Ave 6) is right next to the park or you can take bus services (50,53, 55,58) from Ang Mo Kio Bus Interchange or Bishan MRT Station. The Water Playground is situated within the larger Pond Gardens. While the kids gravitated to the central water source structure in the beginning, they eventually dispersed as they began to explore.  The bubbles, balls, buckets, squirt toys we brought along became a great way for the kids to share and make friends too.

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– Understated, simple yet smart design: I did miss the fountains and modern jet sprays as the initial water flow and level were quite low since the park had just opened. Once enough water accumulated though, the kids started to play and experiment with water as they got each other wet. The young kids mainly splashed and poured on multiple surfaces, while the older kids manipulated the sluice gates separating the canals that led to the main drain. (I think) The ropes lying around were there to change the direction of water, which would be a nice yet subtle touch.

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The AMK-Bishan Park Water Playground is as different from LEGOLAND Water Park as it gets!  For me, I found it a great place to unwind in a beautiful environment that has surprising ways for kids to discover and learn about science and nature, while cooling down on a hot day.

What else does a man need to be happy?

We started regular music with mama times since B was a baby and now at 3.5+ years, (we think!) he’s ready to begin formal music classes … in violin!  I was fortunate enough to find out about Wolfgang Violin Studios (WVS) from one of my fellow CRIB co-founders, and contacted them to enquire about trials and options a few months back.

WVS has locations at UE Square and Tembeling Center. They run good Baby Beats classes on rhythm, pitch, dynamics and note recognition for kids ~2.5 years to 4 years. Unfortunately, weekday accompanied classes are tough for us, with B in childcare while I work full time. So I decided to wait until he was ready to join Kinderviolin, their beginners program for younger kids aged 4 years up.  As it turned out, WVS recently launched Twinkle, a pre-Kinderviolin class that essentially consists of small group violin lessons offering individual instruction with a max 2:1 (student-teacher) ratio.  This was a nice fit for B who can now focus (a bit more), has had regular music exposure at home (Little Musician, percussion, keyboard) and at school, continues to love singing and improv, but is also new to formal instruction.

We first had a trial violin assessment as B wasn’t a graduate of Baby Beats.  It was a pretty chill 30 mins, 1-1 with one of the teachers. At the end, B gave them a thumbs up, they said OK, so we’re good to go!

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It was quite a challenge to find good music classes with no literal “strings” attached – no requirement for parents to buy their own instruments, no need to accompany kids in class, etc. This class was a godsend for me as a working parent. And so now B’s begun his violin journey with a great age-appropriate drop off program to take his interest further, and a violin loaned by a friend – which fit perfectly, hooray!

Watermelon Apple? At the end of class, parents were invited in to watch our kids perform, with the chance to speak to the teachers and also follow up on what was covered. There’s also a journal to track progress and specific areas to work on for each kid. Today, they played us a line from this piece, taking turns with melody and rhythm.

Materials for the next year - but let's try one term first!
Tackling one class at a time!

B, as you “practice” holding, bowing and fingering for the next 10 weeks, remember, we all have to put up with the screechy string playing too 🙂  But most importantly, let’s all enjoy the journey together.

For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook or on Instagram.  For music ideas, come visit by Pinterest tot music ideas board.

Perfect in our imperfections

This year, B (mostly) ran his first 800m race at the 2015 Cold Storage Kids Run.  Seeing him press on despite feeling hot and tired made me proud – and reminded me to persevere and not give up despite how we feel sometimes. Motherhood is kinda like that, isn’t it?!

We're almost there, B!
We’re almost there, B!

This year marks our fourth Mothers’ Day. Every time, I can’t help but thank God (again!) for B who made me a mother, and was the catalyst for this Finally Mama blog.  I’m all too aware of my imperfections as a mom but am glad that since I made my 2015 Chinese New Year resolutions, I’ve been able to find greater contentment this year at working full time, supporting CRIB, and being a mom to (just) one – adorable, amazing, appreciative, and at times, aggravating – 3.5 year old kid.

Thanks to B’s teachers and dad, I received some nice (surprise!) dedications this year:

Presenting me with my letter
Presenting me with my special letter
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with DIY coupons to redeem and art for Mother’s Day

What was inside was so simple yet awesome in its effort. B’s drawing and colouring isn’t great at this age. I know he wants to write and colour better, but I’ve been trying not to “correct” his grip and control, but rather let him keep scribbling, drawing, painting, clay and play doughing et al.  So, it touched me to see him try to write his name, illustrate each “coupon” accordingly (with his smiley faces) and colour the flower as best he could.

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Coincidentally on Mother’s Day, I also started to volunteer once a month at his Sunday School N2 class.  Many (including hubby) would argue that my schedule is packed as it is!  But I wanted to play a bigger part in his faith journey, support the staff that put in so much effort to manage the kids while we are free to attend the main service, and also spend more moments with him on a weekend, especially on weekdays when I’m away.

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I’m not perfect, but I’m in the “World’s Best Mom” to someone 🙂

Last but not least, this year, I also wanted B to appreciate not just mama but his grandma, as both grandparents have stepped up this year to help with chauffeuring and childminding. Daddy took B to a nearby nursery where he chose fresh carnations for each of us “moms” – mama, ama and nainai.

Ultimately, what makes most happy as a mom are the spontaneous expressions of love and honest remarks that affirm the bond B and I have.  Just as we love our kids through the ups and downs, so too do they love us despite our imperfections.  And although we “older and wiser” adults should guide them as they grow, our kids often teach us wonderful lessons too – like ending a race well, no matter how tough the journey can be sometimes.

This post is part of the “Dear Mummy” blog train, a series of letters and dedications from our kids to moms.  

Next up is Winnie, who blogs at Toddly Mummy, where she shares her thoughts on parenting, and fun moments from their home learning sessions and outdoor adventures. She sometimes share about her favourite food too, along with occasional side orders of stuff that she finds useful as a busy mum.

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Time is precious, waste it wisely

This month, I have 3 weeks of no business travel. Hooray!  His teachers and my parents tell me that he’s thriving – at nursery and at home, even when I’m away. But when I’m back, B has definitely become more demanding of me, my attention and time. I find his worst behaviours tend to get triggered on evenings when I’m the most tired too. In those moments, I’m learning that  empathy, consistent TLC with a dash of discipline (when appropriate), and some basic psychology (choices, counting down, consequences) goes a long way. While days at work remain focused and full, I’ve been trying to carve out precious time with the kiddo every day. This week, instead of rushing to pick him up after work and head back for our regular home-cooked dinner, we detoured to Clarke Quay. We shared a Hokkaido ice-cream and watched the river boats chug by, B scooted while I attempted to window shop, and we had a later than usual dinner with daddy near his office by the river. FullSizeRender While I have less time to plan those projects and outings which B and I enjoy, I find that simple spontaneous activities together can fill that need B has for mama time, which has typically evolved around art and craft, books and music. This week, after countless volcano eruptions and floods, I suggested to see what happens next. So we cleaned and dried our clay models, rolled and flattened them like play dough. B had fun figuring out how to spell “VOLCANO” and “FLOOD”; find and make the clay letters, and later created his version of what the ground would look after a natural disaster – with animal tracks and dead trees. He was also overjoyed to receive some dino and volcano stickers from a friend at school – everything just came together nicely 🙂 The best part? These at-home activities didn’t take much time or money, just some hands-on investment and imagination. Yet IMO, they pay off far more than classes or toys. IMG_2600 A mom friend recently asked me if I felt guilty working full time.  I’ll always remain an engaged parent regardless what the circumstances are.  I didn’t feel guilty leaving the corporate world back when B was 6 months old, which led me to start up CRIB with some awesome ladies. I don’t feel guilty today with my commitments at full time work either. I think perhaps a big reason is that I’ve had the benefit of choice – and I chose to do what felt right, and what I was passionate about at that time. Honestly, having been a full time mom, flexi mompreneur, and working mom, I must say, the grass always seems greener!  Working full time has its ups and downs, like days such as these: I really need to work todayBut rather than guilt, let’s focus on making the most out of the time we have today. After all, time is precious. Waste it wisely. For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.  

Recreating natural disasters

What do the Nepal earthquake, Sydney storm, and Mount Batur in Bali have in common?  They’re all natural disasters!

This weekend, mama decided to run an impromptu lesson on natural disasters based on recent events and trips. As we always do, we borrowed books – on floods, earthquakes and volcanoes …

Books

We talked through the news (printed and online), looked up YouTube videos, and even dug up these water and land formation cards I made when we were homeschooling. Back then I got more out of these than he did, so it was nice to see him actually read some of the words now, recognise more formations and associate what he’s seen like Singapore island, Marina Bay, Macritchie Reservoir, River Valley, Puteri Harbour, Bukit Timah (hill), Jurong Lake, Alexandra Canal, etc.
Formations

Best of all, we recreated these natural disasters at home, getting some hands-on, messy fun along the way!

First, I took out our modeling clay and aluminum food trays. Using the visuals as a guide, I invited B to make a mini volcano and river inside the trays.  I helped him to shape the volcano while he did a good job on the river, adding little trees and animals along it too ….
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Then, I hunted around the house and found these items – baking soda, dish soap, paint, vinegar, paper or plastic cups, water and something to stir with.  If you remember science class (or else, just search online), you’ll know what comes next!
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Fill one cup with vinegar and set aside.  In the other cup, mix a couple of spoonfuls of baking soda, a dash of dish soap and paint (to match what you’re trying to simulate). Add water and stir until it’s a nice even mixture. Pour this into the volcano to get the red “magma” inside or blue “river water” along the banks.
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Lastly, pour the cup with vinegar slowly into the mix and see the volcano erupt with “lava” spilling out,

and the riverbanks overflowing!

How awesome is that? We had so much fun that B asked to do this again. And again.  Science is cool.

For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.

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Special Giveaway: Complimentary OCBC Cycle Mighty Kids Rides (2-5 years old)

Does your kid love his or her wheels? Thanks to the good folks at OCBC, I’m thrilled to offer our readers a chance to join us at the 7th Annual OCBC Cycle this August 2015. This year, there will be three categories of races – adult, kids/family, and corporate. The kids rides are split by age groups: 2-5 years, 5-9 years, 10-12 years old. We have 5 complimentary places to offer for the Mighty Kids Ride 2-5 year old category (100m race). Come ride with B! 10294405_10152824407070879_4641835021139591367_n Some questions you might have:

1) Where and when is this event?  OCBC Cycle will be held at the Singapore Sports Hub for the first time in August 29-30 2015.  It should be an exciting weekend of cycling and cycling-related activities, with about 9000 cyclists joining with their friends and families (over two days) at this inaugural event.  Note: The kids and family rides will take place on August 29, 2015.

2) What are the participant benefits?  From March 2015 onwards, participants can look forward to a series of cycling-related activities, such as a photography seminar and sports injury management talks. Participants in the kids and family rides will be automatically included in a lucky draw and stand a chance to win either one of 20 pairs of one adult watch worth S$1,000 and one kids’ watch worth $70, or one of 30 kids’ watches worth S$70. All watches are courtesy of Cortina Watch.  There are also many other special offers along the way if you follow the OCBC Facebook Page.

3) Which bikes are allowed for kids?  2-5 year olds will be allowed to ride on a tricycle, balance bicycle or bicycle with training wheels.  No strollers, scooters or roller boards though 🙂 Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 8.43.26 am B will most likely go on his balance bike:

Ready to ride?  Drop us a blog comment below on “Your favourite family biking spot in Singapore” and head on over to our OCBC Mighty Savers Kids Ride Rafflecopter giveaway – the more entries you submit, the higher your chances of winning!
Here are the five winners!  We will be in touch separately with your sign-up details and discount codes.
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For more updates, reviews and giveaways, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.

A child who reads will be an adult who thinks

B is reading! Actually reading.

I knew this moment would come, but I was still quite surprised when it did.  His delight at putting letters and sounds together to read books (and in many cases, new words) is totally infectious.  And so addictive, he’s even neglected his “first love” – vehicles that is, not his mommy!  He still enjoys reading about them though, like this simple early readers series below.

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Books about vehicles were the ones that B started “reading” on his own

Lately, he wants to read when he wakes, on the road, while eating, after school, before sleeping so besides lugging books around, we also play mommy’s “crack the code” game. All you need is a paper and pen, get them to decipher word sequences (e.g. TO, TOP, STOP; GO, GOD, DOG; WOO (our family name), WOOD, GOOD, FOOD, COOK, etc.), and if there’s time, especially those long family dinners out, ask them to make a story or draw a picture from all of that!

Best of all, this happened naturally.  No pressure, no expectations. It’s been a fun journey to get to this point, yet I feel like we’re just at the end of the beginning. What we did was to start young (B had his first library card at 7 weeks!), surround him with books (we borrow more than we buy), highlight print in our daily environment, talk and read regularly together.  I then followed his lead, introducing things at his own pace with help from our “village” of hands-on caregivers, a must-have for working moms. The grandparents who are avid library goers, and nursery teachers who reinforced phonics via  Letterland, were open to suggestions beyond the “curriculum” – which lists reading as a 5 year old target. I also remember this book about language development that influenced my views with its easy yet systematic approach in the early years: From awareness, to recognition, from sight reading by memory, to pretend reading while tracking words, and finally, actual reading.

His breakthrough in English reading has also motivated us in Chinese.  I want B to grow up effectively multilingual – but that hasn’t been as easy because we can’t replicate the basics at home: I’m not as comfortable reading and improvising in Chinese, no one else at home uses it regularly, and frankly, recognising Chinese characters relies heavily on memorisation. But since deciphering words gets B motivated lately, we’ve revived his interest using level-appropriate bilingual or hanyupinyin material.  His Chinese is in the 0-3 year toddler range, unlike his English proficiency – a great reminder how important immersion is, and also how we need to customise and be flexible with our kids!

We repurpose Chinese flash cards as a game:

We look for interactive story and activity books that come with stickers, puzzles, tracing and number games.  Some good ones can be found at Popular or through Flip For Joy:

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Unfortunately with Chinese, there’s no easy “code to crack” so I’ve turned to enrichment for further immersion beyond his exposure in school and our limited time at home.  There’s been slow though steady improvement, and we’re exploring new options this year.  I’ll probably write more on this once we’ve experienced what works best. Meanwhile, as Chinese self-discovery doesn’t come so naturally for us, we try to build on words he’s learnt already or books he’s reading, like this early readers book series which has a page with hanyupinyin at the back for banana-mamas like me :/

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And so our language journey continues. Along the way, we relish how reading unlocks his imagination and gets him thinking in new ways. For example: One of the first books we lap-read together when he was a baby was Herve Tullet’s “Press Here.”  It’s since been a springboard to introduce colours, actions, Chinese, board games and even inspired his recent Art Jam at school.

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Books are made of endless possibilities. Read on!

For updates, reviews and more, like Finally Mama on Facebook and follow me on Instagram 

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This is my daddy!

Busy mama almost forgot that it’s hubby’s birthday today.  Thanks to awesome tech, we whisked together a DIY birthday card just in time for a very special man when he came home from his overseas business trip.

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Daddy’s portrait and writing done 100% by B on the Kids Doodle iOS app, edited on the birthday template on Pages for Mac with added text and printing by mama, all under 15 minutes!

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For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Try something new this Goat Year

新年蒙福, 新年蒙恩 – Blessed Year of the Goat!  I’m sneaking in my post for the Things I Will Do Differently blog train in between house visits and prep for another overseas work trip. In the spirit of Chinese New Year, here are my reflections on what to do differently this year, inspired by 春聯 (spring couplets), which is quite a new feat for me too given my preschool level Chinese :).

心想事成 – Last year was quite a fruitful year – getting CRIB off the ground, transitioning B to full-day childcare and the grandparents to help more as I moved from entrepreneur back to corporate life. Yet, there was always this underlying frustration around our failure to conceive #2. With each passing month, I kept burying my emotions under a cover of busyness. This year, I’m focusing on enjoying what we have and not dwelling on what we don’t.

岁岁平安 – When days get busy, inner peace tends to flee, and we fall in a vicious spiral of stress and sleeplessness. This year, I aim to give 100% in areas that matter and not split all my time, focus and energy on everything everyday. No matter how early I wake, weekday mornings are always rushed, so I’ve settled on a new routine: After my son and I end his nighttime routine with his daily devotional, I linger in his room with lights out to reflect and recalibrate for the day ahead. I know once I walk out, I’ll start attacking my to-do list again, so this is precious quiet time for me.  Philippians 4:7 The peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ

笑口常开 – A related change I want to make this year, is to be more JOYFUL. When I do pause to take stock of things, I realise there’s so much to be thankful for but why aren’t more of my waking moments “happy?” When I look at my son and see such unadulterated joy in him (most of the time), I find that my happiness is more a function of choice than circumstance. This year, I choose to nurture a more positive, cheerful spirit which can hopefully affect every aspect of my life.  Laughter is the best medicine, right? 😀

事业有成 – Planning is in my DNA. I tend to live by “a failure to plan is a plan to fail.”  I’ve worn the planner hat for so long though that I forget to release control in my personal life – ironically, I’m better at delegating and bending at work than at home.  This year, I’ll go with the flow more in my leisure time, entrust the big dreams to God, and corporate goals to the collective team. Stop filling up my evenings and weekends with work or schedules – take detours like evening walks in Pierce Reservoir and Bishan Park near the office. Less nagging the hubby on his lazy weekend mornings – join him instead!

身体健康 – Those of us whose love language is acts of service, tend to give and give till we run out of gas. This year, I allow myself to be responsibly selfish – to carve out specific ME times, to ask for or outsource help, to not skip meals, to actually complete my Pilates and spa packages, to leave B at home so that hubby and I can dinner date each together.  I believe if I “eat what nourishes my body, do what nourishes my soul, and think what nourishes my mind,” I’ll be a better wife, mom, daughter, colleague and friend…. and stay forever 羊 ;). Who cares for the carers? It starts with us.

恭喜发财,万事如意,金玉满堂,步步高升,青春美丽!

Family CNY 2015

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The next stop is at Meeningfully which is run by Shermeen, a fellow working mom to a 2.5 year old, a day-dreamer and closet romantic. She often tries to do too much in her attempt to juggle her multiple roles, and at the same time hopes time will slow down as she does not want her “cheeky monkey” to grow up so quickly. At 35 this year, read on about what she is going to do differently to acheive some of her goals.

Shermeen

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Christmas in Bali and advent-ures at home

This past advent celebration and annual family holiday was especially fun and meaningful.  B retains and expresses so much more now PLUS the grandparents joined us throughout, resulting in lots of inter-generational fun, bonding (and free babysitting!).

First, our trip to Bali, the land of a thousand temples and a million smiles.  Although I’m saddened by the recent Air Asia crash, I’m grateful that the weather was fine during our visit.  After playing tourist the first two days (Kintamani volcanoes, Ubud rice terraces, fruit and luwak coffee plantations, Kuta shopping, Nusa Dua beaches, Gianyar elephant rides and Uluwatu temples), we lazed around the hotel pool and waterfront for the next two days.  Speaking Bahasa helped us secure a good local driver at 75K Rph per day (vs the 100-120K tourist/hotel rate). I was also relieved that food was not an issue from the 3 year old boy to the 70 year old vegetarian grandma, and everyone indulged my quest for the best bebek in Bali – usually alfresco with paddy field views and no aircon (sorry, hubby)  We had some me-time and couple-time too, although B woke up super early due to the early sunrises in Bali, and rolled off his large day bed in the middle of the night (!) Here’s to the fond memories:

Next, a recap of our crafty advent-ures since this post at the start of December.  With a fair bit of localisation and improvisation, we managed to work through most of Truth In A Tinsel, establish our nightly devotion (which co-incidentally reinforced calendar, dates and months), and pulled off some easy yet oh-so-pretty art and craft too!  Details are posted on my Pinterest board and in real time on Instagram. Here were our favourites:

We painted and glued a mini Christmas tree that conveniently stored all our advent clues (from Truth In The Tinsel this year). Using double sided tape, B also added "baubles" as a finishing touch
We painted and glued toilet paper rolls to form a mini Christmas tree, which conveniently stored all our advent clues too (from Truth In The Tinsel this year). Using double sided tape, B also added “baubles” as a finishing touch
Tape a bunch of toilet paper rolls together, print out letters ands shapes. Paint, decorate and peg away!
Tape a bunch of toilet paper rolls together, print out letters ands shapes. Paint, decorate, tie a string and peg away!
A toilet paper roll classic, that recycles all that wrapping paper. Stuff the rolls with little gifts (and torn confetti), wrap, tape and tie the ends with pretty ribbons
A toilet paper roll classic, that recycles all that wrapping paper. Stuff the rolls with little gifts (and torn confetti), wrap, tape and tie the ends with pretty ribbons
Perfect for kid gift exchanges, select cutters, paint and stamp away
Perfect for kid gift exchanges, select cutters, paint and stamp as and where you like
B's in a painting, gluing and cutting phase, so that's what we did with the ornaments
B basically painted, glued and cut all his advent ornaments

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