Thankful Tuesday: Having a village of support for a short break

Last week we escaped on a 3 day holiday without the kids. Although it was short, we enjoyed the freedom, the company of our friends and of course all the amazing food that Penang has to offer and unbelievable prices. We literally ate throughout the entire day, sampling as much as possible, shopping or taking breaks only so that we could start eating again!

We travelled with two other couples, and coincidentally (or is it a birds-of-a-feather kind of thing?) all of us have three kids each. So 6 of us on holiday meant that we had to make arrangements for, and rely on something like 15 adults to help mind the 9 children, aged 6 months to 11 years, while we were gone. As a rough guestimate, I think only about 4 of these adults actually help out daily or a few times a week – the others are occasional caregivers/entertainers that had to be roped in!

But lest you think we just scoot off and wash our hands of everything, it is no mean feat planning the logistics, and managing the various personalities and temperaments of all those involved, even when we’re away. And I’m NOT talking about the toddlers!

I know some parents who have never, or rarely travel without their kids, and with a larger brood it gets even more difficult to get away, but if like me you’re with them SO much during the day, it’s almost a necessity to have a chance to sleep uninterrupted, to have a breather, to just go to the next room without being yelled after for, etc. On an ordinary day, with one kid not yet in school and who probably naps less (or equivalent) to her 4.5YO brother, one who doesn’t nap, and and everything else inbetween, it just feels like it can get a little overbearing. Just by a tiny weeny bit.

The chance to travel and explore new places, do new things, to feel young and carefree again, to be able to enjoy the moments without having to be interrupted to feed, entertain or wipe someone’s bum, even if it’s for a short few days, is precious.

So we are of course extremely lucky and so grateful to have these 15 people whom we can count on to help make sure the monkeys don’t kill each other over the weekend. It’s also good that the kids know they can depend on someone else other than their parents, and for us it’s nice to have the opportunity to miss the little monkeys. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and a break is good for both parents and children, no?

And while we might have returned to kids who have caught the flu, whose eyes have turned to squares from too much screen time, or kids who might need a little coaxing back to their routines, we are thankful for all the people who have stepped up to help out, even if it was a little stressful or caused them (and us too!!) a little emotional distress. But hopefully it was not have been too much emotional distress, and that when it comes to the next time round (oh I’m definitely looking forward to our next trip, whenever that might be!), they will hit by selective amnesia and be placated by the copious amount of goodies we brought back this trip :p

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are you doing this weekend? (August 2014)

I love the old adage, “When it rains, it pours”, and it seems like this is one of the weekends where there will be so many things going on!

The Singapore Garden Festival has been ongoing since 16 August, but sadly it looks like I might have to give it a miss if the kids don’t get better from their flu.

There is the Rise and Shine Expo 2014, and you can read more details about it in my previous post here. Even if you’re not keen on the parenting seminars or trial workshops, it’s worth a visit. Also do look out for Thinkersbox at booth A13 and 15, who are running a special promotion for their Intellibox, which I previously reviewed here.

Gymnademics will also be at Rise and Shine. We have been attending the classes there, and I will have my review of their classes up very soon! You can learn more about their classes and their upcoming September holiday programme. More details here.

Then there is also the Mother a Tongue Language Symposium which comprise of workshops, activities and performances, and exhibitors, organised by the Ministry of Education. For many of us, bilingualism (ok, just learning Mandarin) can be quite a struggle, so this should be an interesting event.

Then there is the Act 3 NTUC Income Kite Festival 2014!

And if none of those events interest you (only the Garden Festival is a paid event, the rest are free leh!), there are plenty of OTHER fun for free things you can do in Singapore (on any weekend, not just this coming one!). Hope over to Gingerbread mum’s Fun for Free page to find out!

Now if only we (ok more like I!) had the energy to attend ALL the events!

Fun for Free Singapore – Police Heritage Centre

“Singapore is SO boring!”

“There’s nothing to do for kids here!”

“Singapore is SO expensive!”

I’m sure these are common gripes you have either made or heard about Singapore. The truth is, there are plenty of wonderfully entertaining places scattered all over the island. And many which are FREE! In conjunction with National Day, my dear friend the Gingerbread Mum started a blog train on FUN FOR FREE SG (Singapore, lah) places, so today is my turn to bring you a fun for free place. Read on, and then head over to the FUN FOR FREE page to see MORE exciting fun (and free, if you didn’t already get the concept) places – all 31 of them!

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As part of Children’s Season 2014, we booked a tour of the Singapore Police Force’s Police Heritage Centre, which is tucked away in a little corner of the Police Headquarters at Irrawady Road, Novena.

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The Police Heritage Centre is open to members of the public but you need to make a booking and can’t just walk in like other museums. You have to bring identification of everyone above 7 years old (because younger than that they don’t have student pass right?) and exchange them for visitor passes. And there are lots of police regulars on their way to police business. That didn’t seem to scare the boys into behaving themselves (darn).

"How can I help you ma'am?"

“How can I help you ma’am?”

We arrived and started with trying on some uniforms. Only Mittens was sporting to do so, and the younger two were only interested in showing me their butt. Oh the joys of motherhood. Because this tour was designed for kids, the guide was quite good at engaging the (older) kids and making it more interactive. It’s not easy to make history come alive and be more relevant for children, so it was definitely better having a guide than if we had gone through the centre ourselves.

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Luckily I haven’t been stopped by one of these guys on the road! (Well if he wants to commend me for being a courteous driver, I won’t mind!)

Mittens quite enjoyed himself learning about the history and various aspects of the police uniform, batons, guns and all. They display historic as well as modern day equipment.

There is plenty of interesting history, including a display on the racial riots, which Mittens said he had learnt about in school (which surprised and impressed me). They showed many things police that have changed over the years – the uniforms, the various police landmarks , such as the now Red Dot Museum (my mum said they used to have to take their driving license test from there!), and the building with the colourful windows that is now used by the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA). They also showed the various police vehicles including the “ang chia” (literally, red car), which was used for the riots.

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Rioters. Literally, right??

Rioters. Literally, right??

The centre is pretty new-ish that incorporates installations with technology, making it more relevant to modern day policing. It is very interesting, but not so fun for the younger ones, so I think the minimum age to really appreciate the centre would be 5 or 6 years old.

 

The National Museum of Singapore and Peranakan Museum (and what else?) are incorporating technology into their installaions, and although

A few of our museums (NMS, Peranakan, etc) are incorporating technology into their installations, and although this is a little creepy, it illustrated the old kampung “neighbourhood police post”. See that long banana leaf thing? It was used to beat out fires if necessary!

This is a traffic light. As in the man manually controls it! Behind him on those white screens are some videos of I think it was the Japanese occupation and WWII. I ushered the kids quickly past it, as it was a little graphic. Photo source: Singapore Police Force.

The centre is semi-stroller friendly there is one small area that you can only access by stairs but I think it wouldn’t be a problem to leave the pram by the side and visit the area. It’d be shocking if someone stole your stroller at the police headquarters right?? There is no parking on the premises, and you can park at Ren Ci but we parked at the Novena Mount Elizabeth Hospital. Or, it’s a short walk from the Novena MRT station.

You can find more photos from SPF themselves on Google+ here.

 

Police Heritage Centre
Police Headquarters
New Phoenix Park
28 Irrawaddy Road
Singapore 329560
T: 64782123
Website

Opening hours:
Tuesdays to Fridays 10am to 530pm
Saturdays 10am to 1pm
Mondays, Sundays and Public Holidays CLOSED.

“Admission is free but visits are by appointment only. Group visits of 30 persons or less are encouraged for an optimal experience. A complete tour of the centre takes about one and a half hours.”

 

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Tomorrow, Mummy PC will be bringing you back to the nature, into our very own forested area to experience the real beauty of a nature trail, which she thinks it suits family with young children. PC is an ordinary mother of two girls, blogs and digi-scrapbooks at scrapmumloft. While juggling a job outside, she manages a 90sqm dwelling and its occupants exhaustedly. Often fight with time and produce what-she-thinks-best outcome, that includes huffing and puffing to catch a bus or a train after work to reach the girls’ student care/childcare and receives their grins. She is one blessed mum!

Check out her blog at scrapmumloft.

 

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And here are the 30 other fun for free places on the blog train!

1 Aug: Tiong Bahru Park by Gingerbreadmum
2 Aug: Queenstown Heritage Trail by Princess Dana Diaries
3 Aug: Jurong Regional Library by Finally Mama
4 Aug: Singapore Maritime Gallery by Peipei Haohao
5 Aug: Singapore Philatelic Museum by Kids R Simple
6 Aug: Sculptures of Singapore by Gingerbreadmum
7 Aug: Fire Station by The Js Arena
8 Aug: Esplanade + Merlion by Prayerfull Mum
9 Aug: Bukit Batok Nature Park by Meeningfully
10 Aug: Lower Pierce Reservoir Park by The Kam Family
11 Aug: I12 Katong – water playground by Universal Scribbles
12 Aug: IMM by Mad Psych Mum
13 Aug: Tampines 1 Water Playground by Amazingly Still
14 Aug: Sengkang Riverside Park by Itchy Finger Snap
15 Aug: East Coast Park by Toddly Mummy
16 Aug: Sembawang Shopping Centre Playground by Joey Craftworkz
17 Aug: Animal resort by Raising Faith
18 Aug: Botanic Gardens by Mum’s The Word
19 Aug: Police Heritage Centre by Mummy Ed (THAT’S ME!!!!)
20 Aug: Venus Loop, MacRitchie by Scrap Mum Loft
21 Aug: Road Safety Park by Miracule
22 Aug: Marina Barrage by J Babies
23 Aug: Gardens By The Bay, Children’s Garden by Finally Mama
24 Aug: Changi Airport T3 by Mother Kao
25 Aug: Pockets of Nature by Mum in the Making
26 Aug: Changi Airport T1 by Growing with the Tans
27 Aug: Pasir Ris Park by Ingspirations
28 Aug: Gardens by the Bay Supertree Grove by My Lil Bookworm
29 Aug: Vivocity Play Area by Amazingly Still
30 Aug: Punggol Promenade + Punggol Waterway by Chubby Anecdotes
31 Aug: Westgate Wonderland by Xavvylicious

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rise and Shine 2014 and discount codes and giveaways!

R&S-Disney ebanner CROSS 15 JUL

The Rise and Shine Expo 2014 is back! Our family had a blast at last year’s event (or was it the year before??), on the rock climbing wall for Mittens, bouncy castle for the kids, eating lots of vitamin samples, and getting some hands on at various booths like Gymnademics and Thinkersbox. I enjoyed chatting with some of the various vendors and service providers about all things related to children, and learning more about kids and new products. So we are definitely looking forward to going again this year!

As always, there will be many things on sale, such as toys, books, apparel and accessories. There are also some exhibitors who will give out free samples of their products, and many vendors who will be hawking their educational resources. There will also be fun activities and competitions such as a bike race and colouring competition. There will be parenting seminars as well as trial classes this year, and I think we are set to attend the Little Groover’s Dance class as well as the Brainy Moves Science-based Holistic Brain Training Program.

 

Rise and Shine 2014
Friday to Sunday, 22-24 August 2014
11am to 9pm
Suntec Convention Hall 401-403
Free admission!

 

DISCOUNT CODES AND GIVEAWAY!

First, the discount code. Use the code MUMMYED for:

  • 70% off the Raising and Independent Leader workshop by Modern Montessori International, better known as MMI, who run child care centres (UP: from $15 + goodie bag worth $50). Click on the link to find out more about the workshop!
  • 70% off the trial classes for Gymnademics and Brainy Moves (UP: $10 + goodie bag worth $50). Gymnademics will be leading parents and tots (9 months to 2 years old) through gym activities and movements; and Brainy Moves are about working out both brain and body, boosting learning and cognitive abilities. Find out more about the classes here.

Now for the GIVEAWAY! We’re also giving away 2 free passes to each of the trial classes for Gymnademics (enter the Rafflecopter here) and the Brainy Moves (enter the Rafflecopter here). That’s 4 passes in total!

If you win and have more than 1 child, you can always purchase another trial class at 70% off using the discount code above. Hurray! The giveaways end on 13 August, so please do take part soon!!

 UPDATE: I have emailed the winners already, congrats!

 

 

Motivational Monday: How can we change our country?

A simple sign, to help motorists figure their way out of the maze of a car park in my estate. I've also suggested that they put an additional sign on the back wall (past the Out sign) that says Season Parking only, but no news so far!

A simple sign, to help motorists figure their way out of the maze of a car park in my estate. I’ve also suggested that they put an additional sign on the back wall (past the Out sign) that says Season Parking only, but no news so far!

 

Got a good idea or feedback to make our country a better place for all? Many government agencies are always open to information and suggestions that might make things more efficient, user-friendly, create a better living environment, etc.

At the most, your suggestion might be declined, but your idea might help ease motorists confusion, like a simple “Out” sign I suggested to the HDB. Or, you (or rather I did) help the NEA discover a massive breeding ground for mosquitoes in your estate (the NEA officer said they found “thousands” of larvae!!!). Or the time I wrote to the URA, LTA, our MP, town council and NParks (in one email, because I wasn’t sure whose responsibility it was), to suggest ramps between our estate and the market and shops.

So the next time you have a whinge, a complaint, or an annoyance, stop and think about what can be done about it. You don’t need to run for political office or lobby to be a NMP. It could be discussing with your friends the latest issues, to think about different angles to each problem, instead of going on a social media hate rage against current policies. Or, it could just be the little things, like greeting your neighbours in the morning, giving that parent of that whiney kid a smile, making small talk with the aunties and uncles, etc.

If you need some ideas, here’s an old post of mine on some inspirational people who are doing just that. And if you haven’t already seen this video of several German students who surprise a homeless man, it is interesting and inspiring (although the group did later say that while they have been doing similar acts, this one in particular was staged as they did not want to infringe on others’ privacy, which I think is fair enough).

What can we all do to make this world a better place?

 

www.ajugglingmom.com

Shanghai 2014: Putonghua Summer Camp at YK Pao and learning Chinese as a Second Language

Boy, that’s a mouthful of a title, isn’t it?

The school is like an oasis amidst all the hustle and bustle of Shanghai.

The school is like an oasis amidst all the hustle and bustle of Shanghai.

After our maiden trip to Shanghai last winter, where we really enjoyed ourselves despite the blistering cold, we knew that we would be back soon. Of course we didn’t really plan to be back within half a year, but after our friends planted the idea of going to a Chinese summer camp, in China, of all the (appropriate) places to go, we were sold! So after some research, and lots of help from our friends who live there, we decided on enrolling Mittens into the 2-week Putong Hua Summer Camp at YK Pao School, an international school in Shanghai.

Although Beijing is considered more cultural than Shanghai, we have a few friends who live in Shanghai, as opposed to none in Beijing, so it was a natural choice for us. Also because it would’ve been difficult to be away for 2 weeks, the hubby was intending on returning to work during the camp, so he could be more assured of our safety than in a city where we didn’t know anyone.

A photo of the boy at one of the PE lessons, pasted onto the classroom window.

A photo of the boy at one of the PE lessons, pasted onto the classroom window.

 

Our primary intention of joining a camp was to pique our son’s interest in the Chinese language, so that it will be easier for him to pick it up along the way, as he still has many, MANY years to go. We’ve been consciously taking holidays in Taiwan and China so that the kids can be immersed in a totally Chinese environment since in an English-dominated environment like Singapore, it’s easy not to realise the significance of learning the Chinese language.

We chose YK Pao because their programmes are for children from 5 years old, whereas many other camps that I found only catered to older children. Since Mittens is in K2, and the summer camp calendar coincides with the start of the third semester of school in Singapore, Mittens had to miss 2 weeks of school. Obviously he would be able to do this would be in Kindergarten, and not after he had started in Primary School.

I think the Putonghua Camp was an eye opener for both mittens and I. The school’s objective of the camp was not to create a Chinese speaker overnight (or, within a fortnight), but rather to give the students a perspective of China, introduce them to the Chinese culture, and also work on some language skills.  Mittens enjoyed the camp tremendously, and I think he has gained a lot more confidence in speaking the language now. Even I am getting used to speaking more Chinese!

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Some of the materials that the children worked on during the camp.

The programme is very well organised and professionally run. They had language classes, where they learnt songs, poems, and more about Chinese festivals. There were also drama and music sessions, which included learning about the traditional Chinese instruments. There was also Chinese Maths, which I think is learning through traditional means? They didn’t mention the abacus, but they were introduced to the tangram 七巧板, and Chinese poker. Every day they would also have an hour of PE, something I’m sure Mittens enjoyed, which included martial arts, gymnastics, games and and twice that included swimming lessons at their indoor pool. They also had two field trips, one to a puppet show, and the other to the China Maritime Museum. The camp ran from 9am to 330pm each day.

The school is a lovely environment that is an oasis in the chaos of Shanghai city. As part of the summer camp programme, the teachers would set parent-child reading homework each night, and I hope to continue the habit as far as possible while juggling the 3 kids sleep times and struggling with my own Chinese incompetences haha! I liked the content that they were taught, ranging from festivals to family and a variety of other topics.

After the 2 week programme, there was a performance by all the students, and even a short recital by one of the teachers who apparently used to be a national guzheng player.

This was 拔萝卜。Guess who played the 萝卜???

This was 拔萝卜。Guess who played the 萝卜??? (Click on the link for the song on YouTube)

We learnt from the introduction in the school that children typically take up to 7 years to master Chinese, which is one of the hardest languages to master. Or in some cases (me, point in case), I would think I’m not anywhere near mastering it. We also learnt that the children need a lot of perseverance and gentle guidance to master the language. A large number of the students in YK Pao are actually local children whose first language was Chinese, and they said that even those children often preferred reading English books as it was just easier!

Singing 小蝌蚪找妈妈

Singing 小蝌蚪找妈妈 (Click on the link for the song on YouTube)

 

We have not decided if we will send Abacus to the same programme. Now on hindsight, we would have preferred if he had more interaction with local students rather than international students, as the children all end up talking in English to each other. But at the same time, I was glad to give him the opportunity to spend a little time in an international school.

Perhaps given the same time frame, we could also achieve the same objectives of exposure to, as well as creating the interest in the Chinese language and culture, by simply touring together as a family. Maybe that combined with literacy and cultural Chinese holiday programmes for the boys to attend here in Singapore might be more suitable for our kids?

All in all, it was such a wonderful experience for all of us, and coming up soon is my post on exploring Shanghai with kids.

Shanghai: 5 things about the city

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The view from the Oriental Pearl Tower

 

Home sweet home! We spent two lovely weeks in Shanghai (and Hangzhou) and a week later we’re still trying to get back into our routines. Actually it’s been full of drama here at home because the day after we returned I realised that Scout and Abacus had a mild case of HFMD! Imagine the fun I had on the returning flight with a baby cranky that she had ulcers? I would feel embarassed, except, I’ve been on way too many flights with cranky babies, so, I didn’t! Ha!

 

Things I liked about Shanghai:

 

  • The weather currently: although some days rainy, it was generally dry and not humid. It was usually around 28-29 deg Celsius and even on the day it was 39 deg I wasn’t super clammy like how it is at home. Apparently it gets really unbearable toward the end of July.
  • I would consider it quite a child friendly city in that most people are quite welcoming of kids. Many Chinese people (including us overseas Chinese) can be rather boisterous so you never have to feel embarassed about kids making too much noise. The locals are amused and amazed that we have “这么多宝宝!”.
  • The civility. Most city people will queue in line, readily offer you a seat on public transport. Of course there are times when push comes to shove (literally), just remind them gently to get in line, or channel your inner kiasu self, and you’ll be fine!
  • The history. So much to learn and teach the kids about, but so little time! I could definitely spend more time in this city perusing the museums. But perhaps without the smaller whiney tots in tow?
  • Everyone’s up late. Many shops are open till 10pm, some spas never close. Too and I’m too knackered from a day out with the kids to really live it up!

 

What I didn’t like:

  • The traffic. Are there any rules to it at all? We mostly travelled off peak hours, so the traffic jams weren’t too bad, but there are always people, motorcycles, bicycles, and other vehicles going in all kind of directions. As a driver, it kind of scares me!
  • The air. When we were there the PMI 2.5 ranged between 74-277. Yuck. Thankfully we aren’t asthma sufferers.
  • The crowds. Ok admittedly for 25 million people in the city I think the crowds at some of the touristy places were still tolerable, but you have to be extra kiasu to get into some places.
  • The toilets. Although they’re now a far cry from the drains I’ve seen in my younger days in China and Hong Kong, many are still very cringe-worthy. Especially when you have kids who also need to go when they gotta go.
  • Too many smokers all over. But this is a problem on the streets of many cities all over the world. I really love not having to choke every time I walk down the street at home. Banish them all to a yellow box, I say!

 

More to come: Putong Hua Summer Camp in shanghai, and Things to do in Shanghai with kids! Meanwhile, you can also read about our previous trip to Shanghai here and here.