Category Archives: food

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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Weekend mornings at Pek Kio

While participating in a survey/article on “hubbies who travel and how moms cope,” I realised how precious (in both the good and rare sense!) family and couple time has been for us.  This weekend routine helps ensure that we don’t become strangers in our own home: We typically end the work week with a Friday church couples and kids fellowship, reserve Saturday for core family time, and aim for Sunday evening dates while the kid is off with the grandparents and hubby is still around in Singapore.

One of our weekend morning activities is to catch early breakfast in the neighbourhood hawker centers and then “tour” the surrounding playgrounds and exercise corners before it gets too hot and crowded.

Here’s what we found at Pek Kio:

WP_20140928_029 pek kio
Must try: Peanut pancake, chee cheong fun, prawn noodles, Juz Bread bakery next to the center, and free parking on Sunday 🙂
WP_20140928_012 owen playground
Main playground next to the Pek Kio market with a single octave musical keyboard – that was mostly in tune – below the slides. Eat while they play, in many ways!

WP_20140928_015 piano close up

WP_20140928_032 ippt training facility
Burn some calories walking/jogging/scooting around this training facility directly across the road
WP_20140928_035 running track
If you’re not into going around the track, there’s some exercise equipment nearby too
WP_20140928_025 Moulmein community garden
Just around the corner along Owen Road, there’s a little Community Garden project…
WP_20140928_027 51 owen
… which is beside another playground with lots of interesting climbing options
Tired of playgrounds, try pull ups instead
Tired of playgrounds?  Try pull ups instead!
WP_20140928_020 bird cages
Catch your breath while spotting the bird cages – “On every tree there sits a bird, singing a song of love… Hi-li Hi-lili Hi-lo!”
WP_20140928_021 49 dorset
Have very young kids?  Visit this small playground at 49 Dorset
WP_20140928_024 48 dorset
Wrap up at the 48 Dorset Road playground, with its specially designed equipment. It’s close enough to the carpark so you can dash back to get any food or market items to take home

How to get here:
Bus 131 – bus stop B50081 right in front of the center
Farrer Park MRT – 8 mins walk from Exit D
Ample parking around Cambridge, Dorset and Owen HDB sites

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Our first sticker ch(art)

We introduced B’s first sticker reward chart last month and it’s become an ongoing work of art and lesson in self-control for all of us.  The sticker chart tackled two areas that I felt were within B’s reach but he wasn’t consistent and/or disciplined enough about:

1) Self feeding and sitting down for meals (snacks not included) – I was so excited when B would use his spoon or fork to eat porridge, yogurt, oats/cereal, fruits around 16 months.  He’d eat pretty much everything in his first 2 years.  Alas, that didn’t last 😦  Now there are times when a mealtime battle looms, sometimes for a reason (sick), sometimes for no reason (aka #terrific2s). Besides stickers, I’ve tried reducing  snacks, reasoning with him, even a “join us, eat what you can.” When B eats slowly and gets picky, he still needs prompting and bite-sized food to make it easier (and faster), but all this has helped without  needing a rotan!  Yet.

2) Going to the potty – B started gradual potty training around 18 months. We first introduced potty books and a standalone potty, then wore trainers at home, moved to a kids potty seat (on the big seat) by 2 years as he was tall enough then. We’re now seeing increasingly diaper-free days and he’s comfortable standing up or sitting down to pee, when the boy urinals are too high (or there are none). The sticker chart is helping to minimise accidents outside, transition to diaper free in school, and when he needs to do his big business coz for some reason, he doesn’t like to sit and poo!

For both areas, I try not to make a big deal out of it and affirm the positive, though I admit, I’m not a patient mom…. As he’s young, I didn’t want us to be too fixated on any “final big reward” so I kept the design fun and open, with him having the freedom to choose and add stickers to celebrate his accomplishments. It’s nice to hear him say “Mama, I pee, so now get sticker!” or “I am big and strong!” (after eating) as he enjoys and understands what this sticker chart means.

Hmm ... where shall I put my sticker?
Hmm … where shall I put my sticker?

Here’s how we did it: For my vehicle loving boy, I chose a design that would appeal to him – hand drawn, copied and adapted from here. I explained what, why and how – even got B to help paint the background while I wrote out how the system would work (with tiny images for our non-reader to see). We stuck it at height level along the corridor between his bathroom and our dining area. As he adds his stickers, he’s also adding to his work of art aka the sticker chart!

B squirting out watercolours for the background
B squirting out watercolours for the background
Our first sticker chart art (as of today)
Our first sticker chart art (as of today)

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Traipsing around Tiong Bahru

May hasn’t been a merry month so far 😦 Once again, the flu bug hit and everyone got sick – at least once. As B and I are still recovering, I decided some fresh air and a little exploring would do us good. So we headed to Tiong Bahru: B liked the tilting train though the slides and flying foxes were challenging for a 2.5 year old – thankfully it was cloudy, the park looks like it could get real hot! Later on, we strolled through the neighbourhood, stopping by Wu Hu Aquarium (oddly, B wanted to eat fish after this!), Woods in the Books and Tiong Bahru Bakery. Will be back next time to visit Ah Chiang’s Porridge, Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice, Flock or PoTeaTo (with or without B, haha)

Tiong Bahru Park Adventure Playground
Tiong Bahru Park Adventure Playground
Looking down at the mini maze and old school merry-go-round
Looking down at the mini maze and old school merry-go-round
Happy (but now skinny) boy

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An apple a day keeps the doctor away… but what if you get sick?

The whole family was plagued by so many health issues last year, that I’m gradually changing our lifestyle and diet as we enter into a healthier and happier 2014. While I’m not 100% for naturopathy, I am keen on minimising our reliance on pharmaceuticals and unnecessarily invasive treatments. Hopefully all these changes can also improve the chances of our #2 babymaking efforts!

Here’s what we’re trying that seems to work so far. Thanks to Google and friends for the tips.

 1) Sore throats and runny nose: Doesn’t it feel like if it’s not you, a friend or family member will catch this at least once a week? The unnatural cold front in Singapore, and fluctuating temperatures doesn’t help!
– Avoid dairy, bananas, cold food. Subsitute for calcium with tofu, soy beans, almonds, oranges, greens
– Nasal douche or spray with sea salt (antibacterial, isotonic)
– Diffuse or drop chamomile, eucalyptus (for older kids), camphor / tiger balm (adults) on pillow or clothes
– Apply pain relieving rescue cream twice daily from nostrils to top of nose and cheeks
– Soak flax seed overnight, boil and reduce to make a warm compress/ paste and apply to head, cheek, nose ideally for 30 mins each day

 2) Cough: If persists more than a week though, go see a doctor as there could be a respiratory infection. Don’t wait like I did!
– Serve up pork rib (or vegetable roots) soup, red dates with daikon (white radish) or watercress
– Drink warm manuka honey, lemon and chamomile tea
– Diffuse or drop lavender (cramped cough), eucalpytus (congestion), thyme (suppressant), myrrh (anti-inflammatory). If no oils at hand, use Vicks BabyRub
 – Try warm curd or lemon packing too

 3) (Mild) fever, diarrhea, vomiting from an upset tummy / stomach bug: B had all of this around Christmas. We didn’t see a doctor as his temperature never exceeded 38C, and I wanted to allow his immune system the chance to produce antibodies to cure the body. He recovered within a few days with:
– Drink, drink, drink! Peppermint, fennel or chamomile tea, ginger with lemon and honey water
– Ensure sufficient zinc and fiber: Fruits (bananas, apples, pomegranates, grapes, cranberries, cherries, blueberries), carrot, ginger and sweet potato porridge, wholewheat bread/flour, veggies (carrots). Cut down on dairy, white bread, sugar, chocolates, juice
– Barley tea and/or ginger to settle the tummy. The taste can be hard to swallow for kids so add to their favourite foods (i.e. porridge, fish soup … and of course, baked goodies, like gingerbread men 🙂
– Wear cotton clothes, go on diapers (sets back potty training, but oh so necessary!)

4) Rash and bites: We go outdoors alot and get our fair share of mozzie and sandfly bites, no matter how much lotion and repellent we use! Our family also has a history of adult eczema although B so far shows no signs …. yet
– Aloe vera or papaya based gels, peppermint or oatmeal bath (fill a cloth bag with leaves/uncooked oats)
– Calendula, coconut oil, olive oil, tea tree oil and oatmeal based lotions. Oatmeal worked wonders for me since I first discovered Aveeno while working in New York. It’s anti-inflammatory, seals in moisture, relieves irration
– If rash also includes oral sores, it could be HFMD, scarlet fever, chicken pox
– If rash is chronic, likely to be eczema. Check this out!

5) Healthy, organic living wherever possible. I was quite particular about this while pregnant and through B’s first year, but slacked off last year:
– Organic grocery shopping at Fairprice Finest or if I can’t find something and need it quick, I’ll stop by Brown Rice Paradise or Four Seasons Market
– Organic online shopping from iherb, The Fishwives, The Organic Grocer, Fassler
– Organic (casual) dining at Real Food, Balanced Living as these are nearby. Get more recs  here or join the Organic Living Meet Up

6) Massage: Ironically, I had more massages when working full-time and traveling lots:
– This year, I’m aiming for at least twice a year (for me)
– Casual, 15 mins twice daily (for B) on the back, belly button, head, hands and feet meridians
– Don’t know what oil to use?  Read this!  If inspired, make your own blend of jojoba, thyme, bergamot, cypress, tea tree and angelica oils 🙂

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Dr Mummy

我爱我的动物

July saw a big leap forward in B’s cognitive, and in particular, speech development. Words started to “click” and it was great to be there with him along the way.

Theme: Animals!  It started with us doing an extended craft activity around Margaret Wise Brown’s “Big Red Barn” when we were stuck indoors during the worst of the haze.  The rest of the month was spent on tonnes of books, songs, art and craft, puzzles and outings. We even managed to make this bilingual as B’s new Chinese term was all around the  (Farm)

ABC or Art, Books and Craft: Maybe it was a matter of time but I felt like we found a key to unlock his brain by engaging in more kinesthetic learning this month. We expanded upon a few fave books with a big red barn diorama, a zoo numbers and colouring activity based on Eric Carle’s “123 To The Zoo,” and built our own family tree after reading “Who’s Like Me.”  Some highlights below:

Music and Movement: I finally brought all 6 kids CDs into the car to play on repeat whenever it’s just B and me.  From the classic Old MacDonald (he loves the E-I-E-I-O!) and Incy Wincy Spider actions to his Chinese Playclub’s ditties like “的” and “鸭” as well as Kindermusik’s Morning Song (with different greetings for animals/people).  It was nice to see him not only sing to the words and rhythm but overcome his shyness to move and dance along.

Outings: No surprise, we went back to the zoo to check out the Breakfast With Orang Utans with friends (overpriced, not worth it!) and the new Frozen Tundra polar bear exhibit (cool!). Next time, we’ll visit in the afternoon as B is up longer and can catch more live shows.  We also went to the Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium (nice, esp. the spider crabs, jellyfish and dolphins). Here’s other animal adventure places we hoped to/will visit as there wasn’t enough time to see them all! 

Personal:
– Hearing B say “I love you” (sounds more like “I low you”) melts my heart 🙂
– I know I’ve said it earlier, but the Big Red Barn opened up a world of language, esp. speech for him.  He comes up with 3-word descriptors like “big purple ball” (i.e. my yogilates ball) and “dark blue sky” (the view from his window when he wakes). Loves to make animal and vehicle sounds, say opposites thanks to Dr Seuss (big/small, in/out, up/down, high/low), colours (primary+secondary+some tertiary), numbers (1-10) and family names. His thirst for books seemed to have grown exponentially too. He demands to read “more, more books” every time and delights in finishing up familiar sentences or words. Of course, he repeats interesting new words in English, Malay, Chinese and especially, my in-car swearing :0
– Self feeds when hungry and when he likes his food.  Otherwise, he’ll eat with distractions and/or help.  Developed a temporary bad habit of throwing down his spoon/fork/food when done or cranky, but that’s stopped now since I told him off with frequent reminders to put it down on the table (practicing les gros yeux!)
– Naps are still too short but nights are great so we’re rolling with it. I get my downtime or work done at night, spend quality time with him in the mornings, try to take him out each day with a special/ family outing once a week
– Potty training still ongoing, slow and easy.  Undies at home, diapers when out
– All in, it’s been a pretty awesome though tiring month.  Gratifying to see the effort pay off, esp. when I wonder what’s become of me and where I’m headed this year….

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Same same but different?

Time to reflect on what we’ve tried, what’s worked, what’s not – one month into our revised schedule. Basically, our weekday “homeschool” time has become a bit more intentional.  It’s been mostly fun, often stretching both our discipline and creativity, but I trust there’s positive returns from all this!

Weekdays:  “Homeschool” with mom, plus Chinese, music, swim, playdates
Saturday:  Daddy bonding @ Gymnademics, family time
Sunday: Sunday School @ Sunbeam, family time
As/when: Outings at Macritchie Reservoir, Botanic Gardens, theatres, museums, etc

Routine: Besides the usual bilingual words, math and puzzles, I added right brain activity books and printed worksheets this month.  IMO, these are still quite hard for his age, but I’m trying to introduce matching and memorising as a game and build his competence in tracing and controlled colouring.

Themes and special project(s) were around:
(1) Food – new.  Building on B’s fascination with our kitchen and groceries (he enjoys role playing cooking!) supplemented by Gymnademics home material
(2) Colours – reinforce. B correctly identifies primary colours, though he can’t say them all clearly yet.  Colours also translate into teaching other stuff like shapes, numbers, music et al.  To expand on later

Books: Courage of The Blue Boy by Robert Neubecker; and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (great excuse to dig B’s torn and tattered copy out!)
Learning thru play: Rather than buy new toys, we made colour sorters and counters using recycled caps and straws. He likes this though finishing them all in one go is the toughest task 😉 He enjoys it even more when we mix it up i.e. figuring out how smaller straws fit into the bigger ones, grouping the same colours, counting with sound effects as he puts them in…

 

Music:  Inspired by Schoenhut pianos, I added coloured stickers to  help draw attention to the actual keys on the electronic keyboard, as he would be drawn to the buttons and lights more (downside of not having just a piano). He’s learning to play specific notes based on colour prompts and maybe one day soon, I’ll colour code simple songs to help him play by sight!

Art and craft:  We do this almost every day (crayons, markers, stamps, pens, playdough, paint on paper/easel/canvas/etc).  But once in a while when mommy is motivated, we collaborate on something bigger. This month we made a food pyramid using pictures relating to the new words in his vocab, coloured different segments per food group, added dots to indicate number of servings, etc.  When we were done he said “Yum!” A few days later, while eating his pumpkin/carrot risotto, he even pointed to the pumpkin and said “dot dot dot dot” (i.e. there are 4 dots associated with the “green” segment).

Outing: Culture heaven for B!  We attended FOUR delightful toddler events @ Singapore Art MuseumEsplanade PLAYtimeCircus Minimus and the Gymnademics Big Day Out.

Character: B is unofficially in his terrible twos, and it’s time to actively focus on character building.  As his personality and preferences emerge, we need to also model and enforce the right behaviours.
– He now says more words each day (finally!). No surprise, a popular phrase is “no no no” even if he means “yes.”  How do we constructively encourage him otherwise?  Also should we consciously avoid using “NO!” in our own speech, esp. with him?
– His sleep has also regressed slightly. From consistent 11+ hours overnight and ~2 hours mid-day to occasionally waking up in the wee hours and/or crashing earlier for his nap. His 18-month brain must be on overdrive!  How can I be sensitive to this, adjusting and accommodating as needed?
– Mealtimes have also become more challenging.  Our eat-anything-yum boy could self feed with a fork and spoon at 16-17 months BUT now struggles to complete meals on his own and even rejects foods he used to like (e.g. tomatoes!).  How to keep trying though it’s frustrating, messy and sooo inefficient?

This past Sunday School gave us some food for thought. They taught that gentleness is touching others gently, moderating your strength, helping others, obeying your parents.  This is part of the series for 18-29 month olds based on Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  Which brings me to the final lesson this month: No matter how much I plan, accomplish or wish I did more or less of, ultimately I need to lean on Him and trust that all will be well. God is the BOSS!  Not B.  Definitely not me.

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