Friday, June 20, 2014

A dilemma - Dolphin Discovery Programme

I have been faced with a dilemma for the last two months. Earlier this year, the girl asked to go to the Dolphin Discovery/Adventure programme offered by Resorts World Sentosa (RWS).  In all honesty, I have been rather apathetic about the call to free the dolphins.  I was undecided about what I should do with regards to the girl's request, not because I personally feel for the cause but rather that it is the social pressure of "the right thing to do".  In April, I was sent some direct mail from RWS and there was a promotion for the activity.  Well, I decided to first make a reservation for late June and then take some time to think about it.

A month back, another one of the dolphins died. This renewed the call by activist to free the dolphins.  Even SPCA urged RWS to let the dolphins go. With that affecting my thoughts and probably conscience, I decided to explain to the girl why we should not participate in the programme. After our lengthy conversation, we managed to come to a compromise on doing something else instead.  However, a few days later, as I told a friend about our change of plans, she simply asked me if I eat foie gras, which I definitely do.  Then she said to me to "not be a hypocrite".  This hit home.  I am a carnivore, I eat much more meat products than most of my family members. I have leather bags.  I had fur coats (handed down from the husband's grandmother).  And although I would not torture nor abuse an animal, I am no animal activist nor advocate!  Yes, we make donations to SPCA and WWF to help them in their work but to truly make a stand, I realize that it would not be me.  The truth is, if left to me, without the influence of all the various media and voices of the activists to boycott the Dolphin Island, I would not have hesitated to bring the girl there.  And now, I am left wondering if I am imposing my half hearted conviction on my daughter because it is the socially acceptable thing to do. Or should I truly let her decide because I know how much she has been looking forward to the experience. 

I still have a few days to seriously consider and decide. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Project - Paint a Doll House

I am always on the look out for fun projects or activities to do together with the children.  These are deposits made into their memory bank and I like to think that when they grow up and look back into their childhood, they will remember all these precious time we spend together.

As it's the local school holidays, many malls are running promotions with kids related activities.  Parkway Parade is giving away a carton doll house or a train station with every $80 purchase and as I happened to be in the mall and did some shopping, I was able to redeem a set of the former. 

The kids were excited when they came home and saw the unpainted carton doll house.  I explained to them that we had to paint the house together first before we could play with it.  The kids thought it would be fantastic to use it together with their Sylvanian Families toys when it is completed.  The moment they finished their afternoon tea/snack, we started to get to work!  

The girl took responsibility of painting the roofs and the boy wanted to work on the floor and the carpet.  I helped with the walls and some of the exterior.

We were hard at work for almost two hours but only managed to finish 40% of the painting. We had to stop as it was getting close to dinner time and the kids needed their showers. 

We took a day off as I had plans for the kids to attend a rainbow loom workshop (which will be reviewed in another post) the next day.  We went back into project dollhouse the day after and managed to paint all of the interior!  

Here's the final look of the inside of the house.  

With the help of the husband, I assembled the house after the kids went to bed and now it's almost completed. We just have to add some colours to the exterior and I'm sure the Sylvanian Families will be ready to move in! 

The kids were delighted when they woke up in the morning and found the house the way it was.  

We did not paint the exterior as we went to watch "How to Train a Dragon 2" today but I'm sure we will just need one more day! Tomorrow I hope I'll be able to post an updated picture of the fully completed doll house. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy Father's Day

To the wonderful daddy of my little ones,

Happy Father's Day!

I thank God for the papa that you are to our children.  You are slow to anger, generous with affections, kind with words, ready to be silly and fun with them, willing to listen and so much more.

Recently I saw this fun chart from Nickmum about who the child loves more, Mum or Dad.  I read it out and you promptly agreed with everything it says.  And rightly so, in our household, I'm the disciplinarian and da-ddyy is the fun guy.  The one who teaches them how to put the carrot on their top lip, sing silly songs about sweat, doing crazy stuff in the swimming pool while mummy stresses that someone is going to get hurt.  So, the kids are always going papa papa papa papapappapa and I can hardly blame them.  

I remember how you took both kids single-handedly back to France for the holiday for the first time when I could not take off from work.  The boy was almost two and the girl was four.  You flew for THIRTEEN hours with them, and then had to transit for another FIVE hours!  What a trooper!  Everyone I speak to is amazed at how you manage to handle both kids by yourself.  And since then, you have made a few more trips with them back to France by yourself while giving me a break to take holidays on my own.  You are certainly one of the most hands-on dads ever!  

And on Father's Day, it's a celebration of what a great papa you are.  It's to confirm (plus stamp and chop) on the fact that the children love you very much.  So much the little carnivores are willing to go to a no-meat restaurant so that you can enjoy some clean real food. :)

Here's the man of the house with his two munchkins at Real Food Cafe Killiney.  

And the kids made papa cards.  The boy made a card and a seahorse fridge magnet in school.  The girl made a little booklet with some stickers telling her daddy how much she loves him.  She even wrote them in both English and French, just in case!  

Happy Father's Day my love.  I hope you had a good day..... and I'm sorry your special gift has not arrived in the mail. SOON OK!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My take on TV/Smartphone/Tablet and children.

There has been a lot of discussions and researches done with regards to the use of the electronic screen for young children.  In the past, parents were only concerned about the television but now, with the prevalence of the smart phones and tablets, our lives have been invaded by electronic screens!

When the elder girl was born, the iPhone was not yet launched to the public and they were not swamped with tablets either.  The iPhone first generation was launched in January 2007.  However, even without the smartphones and tablets, there were televisions during that time and researches that spoke about the ills of watching TV for children age two and below.    

Here are some studies on it if you are interested in reading more about television and the effects it has on children:-

1) Television and Children by University of Michigan  On the webpage, you will also find more resources on the influence of TV on little ones, on their brain development, attitudes, performance in school etc.

2) American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry's point of view.

3) An interview with Dr. Dimitri Christakis of Center for Childhood Health, Behaviour, and Development at the Seattle Children's Research Institute, and professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington.

Yet, in this day and age, there can be some place for the use of TV/iPad etc. Some things might need visual aid. I used a YouTube video to teach my 8 year old about conception! Obviously I can't show her that!  And we sit to watch videos on how to rainbow loom together.  In general, I do prefer to let them be amused by toys and books rather than the electronic screen as there are too many studies talking about the harms it does to the brains and the children's learning and cognitive skills. That said, I have to be honest to say that when we lived in Paris and I had no external help, I had to turn to the use of the TV to help entertain my daughter when I cooked.  Between the ages of two and three, she was very mobile and therefore, while I cooked, the television was a way to keep her quietly entertained. The hard truth is using toys and games requires more active participation from the caregiver and in some situations, the television is an easy babysitter.  In such cases, I had to turn to educational programmes or children shows for help. Admittedly, it was not the best option but a choice I made.  

However, in Singapore, considering that we have help, I do try to restrict the use of the electronic screen.  My kids, at age 5 and 8, used to get about 1-2hr a week of iPad and possible 2-4 hrs a month of TV up to a year ago. Now, they get about double that time, the elder a bit more than the younger one. The rule of the house is no tv on weekdays. As my 8 year old has homework to be done on the iPad/computer on weekdays, she gets to use it for 30 mins (total) during the week. And of course the other times they get a copious amount of screen time is on flights since it's hard to bring the whole load of toys along on the plane. 

Personally, small amounts of tv/iPad/computer time is acceptable risk for children, especially age 3 and above. This is done with the understanding that children flourish better with one-on-one contact and it is a choice I make to sometimes rely on the electronic screen when I need moments without the children interrupting me, it could either be when I am talking to my adult friends or just need the kids to leave me alone for a bit.  I know for a fact that pretend play helps their imagination, so it is better that they play with their toys and learn through play than learn by being "fed the information" via the electronic screen.  It is the same thing I do with sweets/sugary treats vs healthy snacks.  I sometimes relent and give the kids some of those horrible sweets. 

At the end of the day, these are part of the many choices we make as parents.  We need to understand the risk when we make our decisions.  With my daughter, she watched more TV when she was little as I used that as a form of babysitting as I was a stay-at-home mum with little help.  For the boy, he had very little exposure to TV when he was little because we were in Singapore and had a live-in helper as I was working.  So, with the electronic screens, it's really what we, as parents, are willing to risk and sometimes, the situations we are in.  I'm sure as all loving parents, we seek to do the best for our children.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

A video of the future Thierry Henry?

Is this the future Thierry Henry in the making?

Blog Tour: Why we write, How we write

I have been invited to join a blog tour where we would discuss our writing process and link up with other bloggers whom we want to introduce our readers to.  I was tagged by a good friend of mine, Michelle who blogs on MummyWee.

Michelle is a friend from my Junior College days and among all my friends, she is one who is usually very cool tempered and very easy to get along with.  If, there was anyone whom I had thought could have a multitude of children, she would be the one.  And in her blog, she writes about her experiences staying sane with six children.  Yes, you heard right, SIX children! She discusses everything from sleep issues, PSLEs, fun places to visit and her parenting style.

For my part, I am supposed to talk about the following:-

1) What am I working on?
Currently I am working on a few topics that are close to my heart regarding parenting. On the top of my list is about the use of the electronic screens, e.g smartphones, tablets, computers and TV.  The other topics include the importance of one-on-one time and the use of "teachable moments".  

2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Due to our experience of living in different countries over the last 9 years, I find my parenting style and, therefore, my writing very much influenced by the countries I lived in.  In our local (Singaporean) context, some differences might be more glaring than others.  Considering that blog was started in Canada, continued in France and now relaunched in Singapore, the topics span across three continents.

3) Why do I write what I do?
When I started this blog nine years back, it will to document my pregnancy journey, then it become a great way for families and friends to stay connected to our lives, especially that of my children.  Slowly, as I mature as a parent, I found that I wanted to share more about my parenting journey and what I found worked for me.  Now, I find myself being passionate about families and this is one channel where I can share my experience with other parents.  As part of my desire to serve families, I am also a facilitator for "Parenting with Confidence" workshops and I will be starting a graduate diploma in counselling to focus on marriage/family/children counselling soon.  

4) How does my writing process work?
First and foremost, I write about the activities that involve my children, from their weekend activities to birthday celebrations and our holidays.  These provide me with the basic material to keep the blog going.  At the time, I find myself preparing drafts on pertinent topics that I either read about or happen to be discussing with fellow parents. At the moment, these topics are secondary as I find myself trying to catch up with a backlog of post of the various activities that we have enjoyed in the last six months.

And next up, I have tagged another mummy blogger/writer, Meiling, who writes on Universal Scribbles.  I met Meiling when both of us were going through a course to become facilitators for the Parenting with Confidence workshops.  There, we realised that our kids were attending the same kindergarten!

Universal Scribbles is a blog about fining a balance between motherhood and having a successful career.  Something that I am sure resounds with most of us.

Find out more about Meiling's writing process next week on 16 June.

Her blog:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Happy 8th Birthday my ballerina!

Since a year or so back, the girl became an avid ballerina who has classes three times a week and she sees herself becoming a professional dancer.  For her birthday this year, she decided that she wanted a ballerina theme party and I was secretly delighted.  A pretty pink party?  Sounds awesome to me!

As Google is my secret best friend, I quickly turned to him for help.  I spent a few hours looking for inspirations for a ballerina party and these were some of the ideas I loved and adapted into the party.

And I was happily using mostly pink in the colour scheme of the party when the girl told me that she wanted to invite one lone boy to the party!  Errr.... okay, the invites were already printed but all the same, we sent them all out, nine to girls and one to a boy!  With the little boy in mind, I adjusted the colour scheme to pink, blue and purple.

Together with the girl, we decided that she has too many "things" and we should instead opt for donations to SPCA in lieu of presents.  The girl choose SPCA as the designated charity as she love animals.

And so, the actual day of the party arrived.  My god-daughter agreed to help prepare some of the photo booth props and also came early to help me with the decorations and prep.  Another of my niece came a bit later to help with the organisation of the party and games.  My helper prepared the food.

We had rather simple food as I am not a huge fan of heavily processed food.  There were carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, cherry tomatoes, strawberry and marshmallow sticks, ham and cheese sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, emmental cheese cubes, chicken breast nuggets and veggie nachos.

Finally, the party room is ready and the guest started arriving.  We had three different activities station, a nails station to get their nails painted, a tattoo station to get some glitter tattoo done and finally a photo station to take some cutesy pictures.

During the course of the party, the girls (the lone boy who was invited did not turn up) played musical chairs and made princess wands in between doing their nails, getting tattoos or taking Polaroid photos.

The girls making the wands.

Some of the girls at the nail station

The silly parents of the birthday girl having fun at the photo station while the guests and birthday girl went for a swim (do not worry, there were adults watching the kids while they swim).

The girl had a great party.  She thoroughly enjoyed herself however, the little boy was feeling a bit neglected because no one played with him.  I think for the next party, if it is going to be all girls, we might organise a playdate separately for the boy so that he would not feel so left out.

I really enjoyed planning this party as it was almost a wish come true.  I have always been a more girly girl type of person and had always wanted a pretty party like that.  Maybe I should plan one for myself next year! :)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Superheros Birthday Party

Over the past few years, whenever I asked the boy if he would like to have a party for his birthday, he would say no.  This year, however, when I asked if he wanted a party, he happily agreed and wanted to have a Superheros theme birthday!  And so, this excited mummy went into overdrive mode to try and plan for the best possible first birthday party!

Of late, he had been totally into the Avengers and loved his costumes. He wanted all his friends to come in their favorite superhero character.   

This is the boy in two of his favorite Avengers characters!

I started with researching the internet and found many ideas for such themed parties.  They gave me a lot of inspirations. The first thing I wanted to settle was the cake.  After going through many pictures of superhero cakes, gauging my own cake-making skills and the time I have to physically make the cake, I improvised and came up with a two tier Captain America and Iron Man cake with some Avengers characters as toppers.  As I was working and did not have much time to make the cake from scratch, I bought organic cake mix and baked the cakes three days before the event and refrigerated them.  The top tier was vanilla and the bottom chocolate.  Two days before the party, I made my own vanilla buttercream (with reduced sugar, replacing 1/3 of the sugar with corn flour) for the vanilla cake and dark chocolate ganache for the bottom tier and creamed the cakes before refrigerating it to set them for decorating the next evening.

I made sure I found the figurines of his favorite Avengers, Thor and Captain America a few days before the eve of the party.  That night, I started around 9pm after the kids are in bed and only completed the cake at 4am!  I used the little character toys, which I bought from Isetan, as toppers and decorations.  I also made a small Thor's Hammer using fondant for the cake.

Here's the final work!

For party decorations, I bought some Avengers banners and printed some fun food names such as "Muscles Builder", "Superhero Juice" and "Laser Eyes Enhancers".  We had sandwiches, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, strawberry and marshmallow sticks, mini sausages, cheese cubes and some nachos. 

The food table.

We also planned some games for the 10 little boys and had a small bouncy castle to entertain them.  We did not manage to play most of the games as the boys were quite active running all around.  I will have to remind myself that most boys are not as patient as little girls to wait for everyone to gather and listen to instructions. 

Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, Ironman, Thor and others came to the party and after the three hour party, the Super Mama was exhausted.  The Superheros enjoyed themselves, ate healthy snacks and devour the cake.  Most importantly, the boy really enjoyed himself!  It looks like this is the start of more birthday parties to come!

Happy 5th Birthday my darling son!  You will always be my Superhero! 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The boy's first piano performance

About half a year ago, I started the boy on piano lessons and last Sunday (1 June 2014), he had his first piano performance in front of a small group of more than 100 people (mostly parents of the other performers).

I am very impressed with the school, Forte Musicademy.  I had initially shortlisted the school because it was right next to the girl's ballet school, Singapore Ballet Academy.  However, when I visited the school and the boy had a short assessment session with the principal, Ms. Karen Wong, I was impressed.  Going through the school's website (which unfortunately have not been updated lately), I liked that the students are also able to play in a trio at a young age.  In the end, even though the prices are steeper than the normal music school and costlier than having a piano teacher come to our home, we decided that it would be a good foundation for the boy.

On the big day, in the morning, the boy practiced a few times with his papa, the musically inclined parent, before we left for the school.  We were the first to arrive!  There are 19 students performing at the same session and the youngest was this little girl who is only 3 years old.  The oldest looked around 15 years old.  Parents and families came in full force to support their children.

The young pianist were all absolutely amazing, some more than others.  There were two young boys, age 8 and 9, who really impressed us.  The 9 year old played a difficult piece from Bartok and the other who looked like he was 8, played the piece March from Bach and Angel's Voices from Burgmuller.  And both of them played entirely by memory.  The husband was very impressed with the oldest girl, probably about 15 years old, who played the Sonata in E flat HobXVI:52 (1st movement) by Haydn.  She played entirely by memory and as explained by hubby, was also emotionally connecting with the music piece.

For the little boy, he played a simple piece and he did it very well, with the right tempo and without any mistake!  We are so proud of his very first performance!  Check it out. :)

I hope he will be able to play as well as the two little boys as he continues his lessons.  More importantly, I hope he will grow to love music.

And here's my little boy looking sharp.