Sunday, August 31, 2014

Project kids' house

After my project doll house with the kids, recently, hubby and the boy worked on project kids' house.

We had some carton boxes left over from our move and things that we bought.  Instead of throwing the boxes away, the hubby has been diligently saving aside pieces that he felt would be useful in making crafts with the children.  He has big plans for building houses, boats etc!

So last Sunday afternoon, the boy and the husband decided to work on building a little kids' house.  They had a rather grand plan to build something that both the boy and the girl could fit into!  And so, the work began.

They took out all the necessary tools and a some proper planning was done.  They cut out some panels of the carton box for the walls and even had a window built with clear sheets to resemble glass.

And after three hours of hard work, the house was finally finished! The kids added a door bell using one of the girl's toy which makes music.  And they also created a sort of chimney. 

Here's the final product. 

The kids have been spending lots of time inside the house. They even brought some of their toys to store in the house and created a "store room" just outside of it.

I am sure the kids are going to have fun with the house for a few weeks at the least. 

This is a fun project that you can definitely try with some spare carton boxes that you might have. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mummy's Personal Time Off

Mummies; we are always putting the needs of our children first, buzzing and fussing over them. It is not uncommon to hear mummies complain about how they have lost themselves in their roles as mother and wife and how their individual identify and needs are placed on the back burner.  In France and Canada where I used to live, I heard of mummy friends who sometimes, on certain crazy days, do not even get a moment to shower themselves! That is the extend of the devotion we give to our children.

Finding a balance in our roles

I am a huge advocate of regular me time for mummies.  I firmly believe that it is important for us, mothers, to maintain a balance in the roles we play, as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, an employee etc. And more importantly, we must not neglect ourselves.  It is essential that we celebrate and give time to our unique person.  As with any other jobs, we would find ourselves short tempered, stressed and on the verge of burnt-out if we are overworked.  Similarly, if we consistently suppress our own needs by sacrificing all our time and energy in the name of being a better or more involved mother, we will face exhaustion.  We ask for work life balance when it comes to the corporate world but we often forget to apply this balance when we are mothers, whether we are a stay-at-home mum or taking on a professional career at the same time. 

Step back and Evaluate

In allowing ourselves me-time, we give ourselves  a chance to step back and evaluate. This can be so refreshing to our mind and soul. We could use this time to look back at how we are doing, plan ahead in how we want to parent our children and allow ourselves to be more intentional rather than reactive in our interactions with our children.  At the same time, we can also allow our inner self to breathe and take stock of where we are in life.  Have you ever stopped to think if this is where you had planned for yourself five or ten years ago before getting married? Are you happy with your current life? How can you make it better and more meaningful for yourself and your family?  These reflective thoughts probably could only take place when we are not overwhelmed with the day to day constant demands of our children and family.  I believe that, sometimes, we need to be selfish to take a short period away from everything, to become more effective in caring and loving the spouse and children. 

So recently, I took two weeks away from the family and went to the US. I started this tradition about 7 years ago when we lived in France and I took three days away to Rome by myself.  It was utterly amazing to not have to answer to anyone for three days.  Three days to just be myself and give me the liberty to put myself first. I did not have to worry about rushing home, what to cook, plan activities for the children or anything like that.  In those three days, I could do whatever I wished and had the quietness and calm to look into how I see my life ahead. I make conscious decisions about the future of our family and was able to see things in a clearer perspective. 

Taking a moment to take in the beauty of God's creation.

From that experience on, I went on to take a solo trip of two to five days every other year.  At the same time, I would also take a trip with one or two girlfriends in the alternate years.  These trips has helped me recharge and provided clarity on my life on an on-going basis.  I also feel that it has helped me not only as an individual, it propelled me forward as a mother.  During these quiet reflective moments, I am able to evaluate myself as a mum.  Am I doing well?  Have I been parenting the way I said I will?  Have I lost control of myself or allowed my stress level to accumulate to a point where I am less tolerant and am impatient with my little ones?  Have I been a good role model at home and in public?  Are my expectations of my children realistic?  And I can take the time to slowly answer my own questions instead of just brushing them off in the hustle and bustle of each day.

So yes, I do recommend parents take some time off, maybe once every two years.  Even if it's just a two days one night trip away.  I had taken two days off to a small resort in Batam to just quieten my mind and it was refreshing.  The break from everything can renew your spirit and bring about a good breather from our sometimes crazily busy life as a mummy.  As it is, our work is never ending right? :) 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Spending time with the children individually

When we have more than one child in the family, it is normal that we do things together with all the kids.  I personally find it very important to also spend time individually with each child to give him or her our undivided attention.

Five years ago, I started doing that after the birth of the little boy as I was worried that the elder girl would feel left out or displaced.  She was going from being an only child to having a demanding little baby brother in the house.  To help her to slowly adjust to not having all the attention, I used to spend Saturday mornings taking the girl out soon after her brother turned one month old!  At that time, we were living in Paris and had no extra help.  Most of my day was spent with the boy when his sister was in school however, the girl had very little focused and undivided attention so I made the effort to co-ordinate with my hubby to care for the little baby when I took the girl out for two hours (the intervals between the time the boy needed to be breastfed).  And since then, life has become a lot easier when we moved to Singapore and have a live-in helper.

After we moved here, I could even take individual holidays with them.  I took the boy to Perth when he was coming to two years old, and then to Sydney recently at the age of 5.  The girl and I went to Tokyo and Nice together.

Now, I take the children out separately for meals at least a couple of times a month.  These moments are precious to me as I believe I am building a string of positive emotions and character in them.

Knowing that they are loved

One of the most crucial reason I continue to spend one-on-one time with my children is because it is a way for me to reaffirm them and let them know I love them.  I tell them "I love you" all the time but what better way to express it than to give them undivided attention.  I also have to make a conscious effort to put away my smartphone when we sit down at the table.  It is, as much as possible, a no distraction, dedicated time for them.  I want them to feel that they matter to me and are worthy of my time.  I want them to know that I care about what is happening in their lives and spending quality with them is important to me, that they are important little people in my life.

Building values into their lives

When we spend a meal together, this is a time when we are chatting, catching up on what is going on in school, with their friends, or even using those time to reinforce certain values that I want to build into their lives.  I want them to know that I am willing to listen and listen attentively.  I want them to know that I am someone they can look to when they need moral guidance.  Before we share the meal, we always say a prayer and during these one-on-one time, I also pray for our conversation to be truthful and full of love.  As parents, we can speak life into situations and build up their character, teach them resilience etc.  Sometimes, I am the one sharing about things that happen in my life and about how I am dealing or have dealt with it.

So here are some of the one-on-one times that I spent with the kids.

Took the boy to Marina Bay Sands.  We tried out the sampan ride and then enjoyed a sandwich together. 

Another time when we went to the Podi for dinner together.

Took him to &made when he wanted a burger.

The girl and I spending three days in Nice, just the two of us.

Having breakfast, just the girl and I.  She is growing up too fast!

There are many good benefits to spending time individually with the child including building into their memory bank, bonding with them, creating a great habit of keeping communications open and honestly just enjoying each other's company.  I totally encourage all parents to do this, even if it is once every other month.  Try it!  Let me know about your one-on-one time. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

DC Comics SuperHeros exhibits at Singapore Philatelic Museum

Every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, the girl has ballet lessons and as and when possible, I'll take the boy out with me when I send her for her class so that I can spend some one-on-one time with him.  Last Thursday was no exception.  I was running out of ideas on where to go when I remembered that a friend had pointed out the DC Comics SuperHeros' exhibit at the Singapore Philatelic Museum to me.  Since we were not too far away, I decided to head over to the museum in Coleman Street.

The place is easy to find and parking can be found just next to the Peranakan Museum (which is another interesting museum to visit for both tourist and locals) or further up the road on Fort Canning.

So here we are, right by the museum.

When we entered the museum, I realised that entry is free for Singaporeans!  YAY!  What a nice surprise!  Since it is a DC Comics SuperHero Exhibit going on, some SuperHero apparels were also on sale.

I was a little disappointed that the exhibition room for the DC Hero was rather small, but for the little boy, it was enough to keep him entertained and interested.

Checking out Batman.

His favourite part of the exhibits, the Bat Mobiles.

Various characters.

Learning a little more about the superheros and their names.

The exhibit area was kind of small, just the size of a room.  There are other exhibits to look at as well but all in all, we spent about 30 to 40 mins there.  It was great timing since the girl's ballet is an hour so we managed to go grab a quick snack before heading back to pick her up.

The exhibit is on until 30 November 2014 so if your child is a fan of the Super Heros, definitely check out the museum.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bake sale for UNICEF

A recurring common topic in my home the last week had been about getting a lovebird after the kids visited my cousin's home where they had a chance to play with a very domesticated 9 year old lovebird.  On the other extreme of topics, they have also been discussing about giving away some of their things and money to the children who are less fortunate.  The boy wanted to do a Ribena stand like what he had done previously to raise money but now living in an apartment, it is not as practical to set up a stand outside our front door!

After some thought, I suggested that they bake and sell cookies.  They loved the idea and I settled on an easy sugar cookie recipe for them.  This recipe is easy to follow and fun for the kids as well.

As the recipe needed the dough to be chilled for 3-4 hrs or overnight, we decided to make the dough at night and bake them in the morning!  So on Saturday night, after dinner, I helped the children set up the ingredients.  I decided against using my KitchenAid (that would have been too easy) and asked the kids to mix the butter and sugar the traditional method, with their hands.  After some mixing, both complained that their hands ache and requested for some help.  However, they were both diligent in doing their parts to mix in the eggs and flour.  Once all that was done, we put the dough aside to be refrigerated. 

The next morning, while I was still deep in sleep at 7.30am, I was woken up by a chippy little voice, going "cookie! Cookie!  COOKIE!".  That was it, my sleep was over!  I crawled out of bed and prepared to get the baking started.

I took out all the various cookie cutters I have and prepped the little table for the children to cut out the cookie.  We spent about 60 mins, cutting the dough and baking tray after tray of cookies.

Here are the cookies being cooled.  One thing about the recipe though, I will decrease the salt to about half a teaspoon.

And here's a box of the cookies that was sold to their grandma who is visiting from France and leaving that evening.

In order to make the cookies more presentable for sale, I vacuumed packed them for the kids.  The girl priced the cookies at $0.50 each which I though was a little expensive but well, it was partly for charity.  The children decided, with the help of us, the parents, on splitting the sale 50/50.  50% to UNICEF and 50% to a fund for them to buy a lovebird.

Here they are, getting all ready and excited to go around the condo selling their cookies!

Our neighbours were extremely generous!  They sold out the cookie within about 6 households!  Some bought two packets of cookies!  And there we were thinking that they would have to go around all the four apartment blocks.

They collected $15.70 for UNICEF and I matched 100% of it for the donation.

The kids looking happy with what they had raised.

I was teasing the girl about paying me for the ingredients I paid and she said no.  Initially I was a little disappointed.  However, she made me realised how silly I was when out of nowhere, she suggested to her brother that they use the other 50% to buy hubby and I a meal at the restaurant instead of buying a lovebird!  How sweet are my children!

Anyway, I am thinking of doing another project with them before the start of their new school term in Sept to raise more money for UNICEF.  This time, I would like to involve more children.  Look out for it!


Friday, August 8, 2014

Sailing Lessons

The children went back to France with their papa for a 16 days annual summer vacation.  The little ones love their trips back to the south of France where they would enjoy being in the Mediterranean Sea every single day, sometimes twice a day!

This year, my mother in law had signed them both up for sailing classes. We had to go through a couple of hoops to get Loic certified by a French swimming instructor in Singapore so that he could be allowed to take the sailing course but it was all worth it. 

On the first day of the sailing lessons, the girl was able to go out in an optimist sailing boat together with another little girl as her partner.  The boy, however, did not get to sail as the winds were too strong for the 5 year olds to manage.  Instead, the sailing coach took all the smaller kids out to sea in a motor boat.  The boy had fun with that too.  He just love being out in the sea. 

On the second day, unfortunately, the little ones were again unable to go sailing and so, had to take the motor boat again.

The bigger kids, including the girl, learnt how to set up the optimist to get it ready for sailing.  They had to carry the mast, the sail etc, they learnt how to tie the knots to secure the sail.

In the sail boat, they learnt how to turn the boat left and right and how to catch the wind.  It was a basic five days course to teach them the foundation to sailing and to see if they would enjoy sailing as an activity.  It has great significance for hubby and his family because they used to go sailing every summer holiday for at least four weeks.  To have the children enjoy sailing as well would allow the children to share some similar passions as the family in France.

And now that they are back, they have been asking to go sailing again.  I would need to explore if they could at their young age and without us joining any sailing club membership.  Would be happy to know if you know of a place we could go to.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Kayaking with the boy

My mother in law is visiting from France and we had been busy doing activities all around Singapore.

Last week we were at Adventure Cove, went on the Duck tour, visited the Istana, watched the National Day Parade Rehearsal's Fireworks at Fullerton Bay, went up on the Flyer and so forth! It has been exhausting but the kids really enjoyed themselves. I'll be posting about the activities and my recommendations soon but I thought I would do a quick blog this evening on something we did in the morning. 

Last year we went on a private yacht with White Sails and knowing that my mother in law loves being in the open sea, I grabbed a Groupon deal a few months back for another of these charter when it became available again.

My dear husband took all the Fridays and Mondays off work while his mum is here and so, we decided to go today. 

This time, aside from the usual, the boy also had a couple of "first moments".  I took the boy kayaking and then towards the end, the boy also tried fishing with a real fishing rod!  Both were first time experiences for him.  I must say he really enjoyed them and I'm glad we managed to capture these moments too. 

I must say that although we did enjoy the trip, the yacht we went on today, HomeAway, was a little less comfortable compared to the previous which was called StarGrazer. WhiteSail did offer an upgrade to their biggest boat, Heritage Clipper, which I turned down because the look and feel of that yacht was less appealing.  Oh well, now that I know, I will be careful to make sure which yacht we get if we were to go on a private charter again. 

Aside from that though, the captain and skipper were also kind and helpful. They were obliging, helped to set up the fishing rod for the boy and even let him try driving the yacht.  

The little one had such a great time.  He left the boat telling us all that he wants to get one when he grows up. :-)  Well, he will sure have to work hard for that.