Review & Giveaway: The Eighth Note Music School

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Although I love listening to music, I never progressed past Grade 2 piano…..back when I was in Primary 2. Those days there weren’t any Kindermusik music exploration programmes as there are now, and it was impossible to find a music teacher who was keen to teach music without pushing for examinations. And maybe I’m just not musically talented either :p

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We all know how important music is to the developing mind of a child. It helps hone auditory discrimination skills, pitch, timing expressing emotions, etc. I absolutely adore classical music, and I have always been keen on music lessons of some sort for the kids. But it’s never easy when you have more than one child and many classes are parent accompanied. In the past I’ve tried Kindermusik, Juzmusic, and Music For Young Children (MYC), but usually the timing, location, etc. all didn’t work out.

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So I was very curious when The Eighth Note approached me to have a trial with them. Me and my Grade Two piano qualifications (which happened way back when big hair and puffy sleeves and shoulder pads were still in fashion) obviously do not know much about music lessons for kids, but The Eighth Note approach is slightly different from the aforementioned experiential programmes.

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The Eighth Note teaches mostly on an individual or small group basis. For us, they allowed us to try several instruments over 4 lessons – the ukelele, the keyboards, and the drums, and they allowed me to have both boys in the lesson, but as parents with more than 1 child will know, sibling dynamics are often a little tricky, and although Abacus participated in the lessons, it was Mittens who was more actively learning. My boys have no music background, and probably even less so than Scout, since she has been going through the solfege and regularly looking at music notes at her Gymnademics classes. So if they had to start from the very basics of Do Rei Mi, they might have died from boredom. Or it might have been me dying from their whining about it.

jamming!

jamming!

For the lesson on percussion instruments, the boys were first introduced to the various parts of the drum, taught a few simple techniques. Then the teacher asked which song they wanted to hear, and they chose One Republic’s Counting Stars. So he proceeded to play the electric guitar AND sing the song (thank goodness he knew the words, all I know are nursery rhymes these days), with Mittens was on the drums. Scout even plonked herself on the keyboard with a shaker (actually a cabasa) in one hand and the other on the keyboards to join in! I think this point was a real a-ha moment for Mittens and really piqued his interest because it was like “playing a real song!”.

Like a pro! She had such a serious look on her face and sat there for a very long time! The keyboards were (thankfully) turned off.

Like a pro! She had such a serious look on her face and sat there for a very long time! The keyboards were (thankfully) turned off.

We went for the lessons at their Bukit Timah branch, and while there I had a chance to chat with the founder, David, on all things music and kids-related. They are quite well established teaching schools, and like my friend mylilbookworm mentioned in her review, David and the other teachers were also not bothered when my kids were banging away on the drums, or making a ruckus while I was trying to have a conversation. I guess sometimes us parents are harder on our kids than other people are! Most of all, I like that since the lessons are more or less individual, you have the flexibility of scheduling your time, which is so important for a busy mum of a few monkeys like me.

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Giveaway: For all my dear readers, The Eighth Note is giving 4 free lessons of 30 mins for the first reader to like The Eighth Note on Facebook here, and email them at hi@theeighthnote.com.sg

 

The Eighth Note Music School

19 Lorong Kilat #01-04
Singapore 598120
Tel: +65 6465 1418

Parkway Centre #02-02
Singapore 449408
Tel: 63480628

Disclaimer: We are so thankful for this opportunity to The Eighth Note for the opportunity to learn more music, and for the teachers’ patience in allowing the entire troupe to sometimes participate in the lesson. We all enjoyed it tremendously!

 

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How can it be December already??

I am alive! I can’t believe that I have not written a post in so long. The school holidays have now started, and we’ve been so busy, as always. I love how there are always plenty to do during the school holidays but I’m now left with one week (out of 6?!) where we have nothing planned at all. Which really should be what school holidays are about, isn’t it?

We’ve just returned from 2 holidays back to back (with another to go before the end of the year), and a day before we left we had to send our helper home for good as she had finished her contract and wanted to return. So on top of being busy, our house looked like it had exploded. Literally. We have since been joined by our new helper, but she is completely new to Singapore, and her English seems very limited, so.. well I shan’t bore you with any of these details.

Oh did I also mention that due to the husband’s work commitments (namely people leaving their claims to the last minute; and him prepping to move his work to a much larger space), the three kids and I left for vacation first, and the husband joined us later. Of course it helped that I had 8 other family members along, but that’s one off my achievement list! I think I could probably do it again, although I hope I never have to :)

We’ve also been busy with holiday programmes, such as a Chinese camp at KidStartNow. Abacus loves it but Mittens isn’t as enthused. This was our second time attending our camp, and I’m amazed at how excited Abacus was about going because he is usually VERY reluctant by nature, and Mittens is usually the one who is enthusiastic, or at least open to trying new things. Many people have raved about their programmes, and but there you go, I guess different strokes for different folks – there might be times where you can’t find one programme to suit all them kids. Do give it a try if you are looking around for a good, engaging Chinese programme!

We also attended a lovely Christmas programme at BlueTree Education, started by my lovely friend Mother Kao, which even Scout participated in somewhat and loved it! I will write more about that soon.

The boys have also completed 2 days at Heart Studio, and they love these art lessons because the work they make is just amazing! Many of my friends are full of praises for their art programme, and the boys amaze themselves (and myself too, of course), with the work they are able to produce under the guidance from the teachers. It’s certainly different from the kind of art they create at home, because no matter how much I guide them, it always turns out to be an entire sheet of mostly black paint, and they’re just all interested in mixing the paint with the water. Maybe I should just change that to a science session, eh?

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The boys and their masterpieces

We will also be attending an EQ4Kids session at Kidz Literacy Cove – the boys last attended a phonics workshop with them and really enjoyed it – actually Abacus enjoyed it more than Mittens, but I’m just thankful that my shy reserved second son is slowing blossoming, in his own way.

This school holidays feels so different because next year Mittens will be starting Primary 1 and Scout will be starting Nursery 1. How life will change for us! I am almost in denial about this happening because I have not yet prepared anything for school. For either of them. Or myself.

So, I am very much still alive, and I have so many posts to be updated, but forgive me for enjoying my time with my babies while I still can. :)

Poolzies – cute pool shoes for toddlers!

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Ever found yourself at the poolside saying, I mean shouting to the kids “Walk! Don’t run!!”. We all know it’s dangerous to run by the pool because it’s slippery everywhere, and often the tiles in and around the pool are so sharp! (Why is that so, anyway? So un-user-friendly!)

I was pleasantly surprised to discover Poolzies which are water shoes for babies. As divers (although actually I’ve hung up my fins), we’re so used to the idea of booties (no, not those that newborn babies wear!). But water shoes for kids are a lot less common.

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Now Scout has loved the water since she was born. She used to enjoy her baths as a newborn, and at a little past 2 years, is progressing quite well in her swimming lessons, holding her breath under water effortlessly. The only problem with this confidence, is that I have to be extra vigilant with her, and she is always trying to squirm away to swim on her own play around the shallow pools or pool steps.

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So when I was sent a pair of Poolzies I quickly tried it on her. She liked them, although sometimes she will want to wear them and sometimes not. And sometimes she will just want to wear them in the house. Kids, eh? They are a lovely lycra material, which have UPF50+ protection. The soles are made from material known as Toughtek USA which I think is soft enough so that it’s easy for kids to wear and grow into. It’s not the hard type of material that most booties are made out of. They are also very light, so they won’t hinder the child’s movements when they swim.

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I think they would also be great if you want a little protection while playing by the beach. From our experience at beach holidays, kids don’t seem to be as bothered by bits of coral and all on the sand, even when we adults found it impossible to walk along the beach without feeling too pricked. Perhaps because kids are lighter in weight and thus exert less force on the soles of their feet? Anyhow, a pair of Poolzies would be good for that too, and for hot surfaces around a beach resort or pool.

Check out Poolzies here!

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Disclaimer: We were sent a pair of Poolzies for review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Hong Kong Disneyland – October 2014

3 tips for Surviving Disneyland

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As part of our Hong Kong trip, we decided to visit and stay at Hong Kong Disneyland. My last Disneyland trip was maybe 10 years ago, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But like the rest of our Hong Kong trip, we had a fabulous time! Although hubby is not sure if he will want to return, I would definitely go again. Heck, I’d leave now if I could! Maybe I’ve had more of a Disney childhood than he has?

I really loved how there were so many rides for toddlers. Scout went on the Mystic Point ride (I did cover her eyes at some parts like the Medusa), Mickey’s PhilharMagic a 3D movie which she watched mostly without the glasses but loved it, The Golden Mickeys, The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (loved this!), It’s a Small World (who could miss this?), Autopia (yawn), Buzz Lightyear Astro Busters – she had so much fun shooting although some parts were a little scary for her, and the Jungle River Cruise which was a little scary too because the animals look so real! And of course she enjoyed the Festival of the Lion King so much she asked for “More, more!” After it ended! And there are still a number of rides that she has yet to go on so there is plenty for the kids.

Lots has been written Disneyland, so I shan’t go into the details of each and every ride. But here are my three top tips if you’re planning a trip to Disneyland soon.

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Where to rest those weary bodies.

For this trip we stayed at Disneyland Hotel. I have heard so much about how wonderful the hotel is, and it is extremely convenient to be located so near the Disneyland Park. We stayed here for 2 nights and took a 2-day Park pass. Actually we took the Play, Dine & Stay Package which included the park pass. Don’t forget to check out their promotions and offers, they often have coupons which you can download for discounts for dining. Also I hear if you buy an annual pass you get discounts on rooms and F&B and retail, which might also be worth it.

Can you spot me?? Probably not :D

Can you spot me?? Probably not :D

I loved the TWO king size beds (and they also provided us with a cot), the rooms are very comfortable, and we enjoyed staying there. There is plenty to explore – the jetty, the pool, the maze, and apparently you can even walk over to the Park. I was a little worried that we’d have to wait ages for the hotel shuttle during peak periods (after fireworks, etc.), but there were always so many buses, I doubt we waited more than 5 minutes each time for a shuttle.

Someone's excited about breakfast.

Someone’s excited about breakfast.

We didn’t do the character dining because my kids are always afraid of the mascots – I’ve heard it is quite a highlight, and I imagine that for those who like that (I think I would have!!) it would probably take the stay at Disneyland Hotel up a few notches. The breakfast was pretty decent, and as we had a late start, we filled up at brunch time, proceeded to the park, and then just had a snack in the afternoon before dinner that day.

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For future trips we might consider staying at Novotel Citygate (for much less) and commuting over to the Disneyland Park via the apparently pretty awesome Disney train (which we did not get to take this time!)

 

Loving the parades.

Loving the parades.

Keeping safe amidst the crowds.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the kidnapping stories, and all of us are pretty weary about that. We went on a Golden Week weekend, but I think the crowds were still pretty manageable. The queues for the rides though, were something else altogether but my second tip will help with that!

The only time I felt a little panicky was at night, after the night parade and fireworks session. When the crowd is dispersing, and it’s dark, and crowded, and a little chaotic, it’s hard to spot anyone. I had to be extra vigilant to keep all eyes and ears out for the kids. If I had to do it again, I’d make sure the kids had some markers on them – I’m thinking glow sticks (maybe all of the same colour, or colour combination) would probably be the best to make them stand out in the crowd!

We also dress our kids (and husband) in the same gear so that they’re easy to spot; you can easily do the same with colours. It might sound cheesy but it helps reinforce that we are a group. I haven’t succumbed to the family uniform though. Yet.

 

Beating the queues.

Hong Kong Disneyland is not a large park (I’d estimate it’s about the same size as Universal Studios Singapore?), and most people take a 2-day park pass. You could potentially cut the visit down to only 1 day, although with young kids I don’t like rushing. We spent 2 days there, perhaps about 6-9 hours each day, and i still felt that was not long enough!

I am more adverse to queuing when it is with young kids, and during our stay it was pretty warm as well, which made it even more trying. One of our friends recommended the Disneyland Tour Services, which became the highlight of the trip for us. We spent our first day familarising ourselves with the park, and scheduled our 3-hour Tour for 3pm on Day 2.

How the Tour works is that there will be a guide to bring you around the park and you can enjoy the rides without queueing. Yes, you will even get priority over the Fast Pass holders! You can’t help but feel like celebrities, being escorted around and cutting queues. You can go on any ride as many times as you want, so you could potentially spend 3 hours riding on Space Mountain a zillion times, but I would suggest you use the service for the attractions that have a long waiting time. The ones with shorter waiting times you can always do on your own! The guides can even suggest which seats on each ride are the best, and make sure you get those particular seats that you want.

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Before we set off with the guides, they will ask which rides you are interested to go on and plan a route out for you accordingly. They also suggested we start off with the Golden Mickeys show, but going for any show while on the tour isn’t a good strategy because you’re paying for their time and the privileges. So I suggested we go on all the rides and end off at the 6pm Lion King performance, and we were able to go on rides up until 5 minutes before the show and didn’t have to queue to get in. It was fantastic ending the tour with front row seats at the Lion King, and having the performers come around to give us high-fives during the performance. Several times! If we had chosen to have gone to the Golden Mickeys we wouldn’t have had such an experience.

Since the Disneyland Hotel was a little disappointing for us, I’d rather save on the accommodation and splurge on the Tour Services. p.s. Although it is called a tour, there is no buggy service and you still have to walk the park :D

Another way you could beat the queues would be to watch all the parades on the first day, and then on the second day while the parades were ongoing go on the rides or vice versa so that the queues would be much shorter. Many of the rides are also much less crowded in the late afternoons and evenings.

So young, and already bearing the weight of the world!

So young, and already bearing the weight of the world!

 

I think I need to plan a trip to a Disneyland again soon :)

Travelling in a pack – Hong Kong October 2014

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Guess where?

We have just come back from a short trip to Hong Kong where we travelled in a family group of 14 in total, ages ranging from 2 to 69. After we had confirmed the trip, we realised that it was going to be China’s Golden Week, the week where the entire China and 1 billion of the world’s population is on holiday. Then there was Occupy Central. If ever there was a holiday that seemed doomed, this might have been it.

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Now that she’s past two years old, I am finally free of an appendage on the plane. Kind of.

Thankfully, it was enjoyable for all young and old. Although we didn’t get to squeeze in many sights, it was much less stressful that I worried it might be. This trip made me think a lot about why we travel with kids. Most times it’s not about checking sights off a list. I’m not bothered about making sure I go to all the must-see places. It’s more about being immersed in a culture, doing things that are different, and spending quality time together.

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Happiness is an egg tart

For this trip, I wanted them to experience things that are quintessentially Hong Kong – things like taking the Star Ferry (check), the trams (sadly, didn’t do it), walking along the crowded, dirty streets (check, unavoidable!), and touching base with their Cantonese roots (them, not me).

We also have a few friends who live there, but I told them honestly that I didn’t think it would be possible to meet up with them and lug all 13 other family members along! So I’m bummed there are a few things that we didn’t get to do – but I’m also glad that we were safe and sound amidst a mild political crisis.

 

How did we do it?

Here are some tips that might be helpful to you in the event you might feel the urge to attempt the seemingly impossible.

Eating.

I love how this girl can barely see over the table but is happy to sit and eat on her own without assistance or without a high chair.

I love how this girl can barely see over the table but is happy to sit and eat on her own without assistance or without a high chair.

Because we had a large group, we made several meal reservations beforehand. Expecting tables in a popular restaurant would otherwise be fooldhardy. Eating in a 茶餐厅 meant that we’d have to split up, but that wasn’t a problem since you wouldn’t be spending 2-3 hours in a 茶餐厅 anyway. I also did a lot of research on Open Rice, plotted the various restaurants and eateries on Google maps, and read up on some reviews on places to go. I didn’t want to go to a food paradise like Hong Kong and end up eating McDonald’s. In fact, I stretched the truth and told the kids that there wasn’t any McD’s in Hong Kong :D

Food wise, I was pleasantly surprised that the kids loved everything. But then I guess who doesn’t love MSG-laden food, eh? Haha. Actually we did find the food salty, but it didn’t have the usual MSG aftermath symptoms. So it was ok.

Seeing.

We also researched as much as possible, from places to go, how to get there and opening hours. We over-planned, so that we would be able to decide on the spontaneously as and when what to do. One afternoon we thought we might take the peak tram up to The Peak, but after seeing the queue for the tram, and you know how kids LOVE queues, we just skipped and hopped across to the Hong Kong Park, where we spent some time at the playground, went to the aviary, and would have also stopped for afternoon tea at the Tea Museum had it not been close to dinner time. We didn’t discover those places by accident – having read about it helped not having to walk around aimlessly. Maybe it takes the fun out of discovering things while travelling, but when you have to move in a large group, including small kids, being prepared is not such a bad thing.

Perhaps it would have been better if we had planned the entire trip hour by hour, but I know with kids, especially my kids, you need to go with the flow. And of course with so many other people travelling together, it would have been hard to make the decision for everyone. Also we went knowing that there were some uncertainties we might need to deal with – particularly, Golden Week ; and Occupy Central. Had Occupy Central escalated beyond control, Plan B was to move the entire troop to the Novotel Citigate and explore Lantau Island, away from the maddening crowds; Plan C would be to stay in the hotel mostly – I’m sure the kids would have been happy just to do that, especially with cousins in tow!

We only had 2 days on Hong Kong island, and with the uncertainty of the protests, we spent almost one full day at Ocean Park. Ocean Park is fun for the kids, but I would honestly only recommend it if you have nothing else to do, or if you have more time than the 2 days that we did. It’s like a mini River Safari, with rides and carnival games (which we enjoyed playing while waiting for some others to go on a ride), and you can get much closer to the penguins at the penguin enclosure and at Tuxedo restaurant than at the Jurong Bird Park. The cable cars are supposed to be very scenic (sadly it was far too crowded for us to be bothered to queue!), but overall….not a must do on my list, especially if you’re pressed for time.

A big highlight of our trip was Hong Kong Disneyland, but I’ll save that for another post.

 

Staying.

There are some hotels in HK with family rooms. We chose to stay at The Mercer in Sheung Wan, in a one-bedroom “apartment”, which is a comfortable room size by HK standards. We had a roll away bed AND a cot, so it was comfortable for my family of 5.

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Photo source: Mercer, because by the time we got to our room I was too tired to take any photos and anyway it was in a mess after all of 10 seconds.

 

I still have many items on To-do in HK list to check off, but I’m sure we’ll be back soon. It was especially nostalgic for me because we spent a few years living there when I was young, so I’m excited to bring the kids back again (and for longer than just 2 days….).

In a nutshell, over-plan but go with the flow. We really enjoyed ourselves so much that we were already throwing ideas in the air for the next trip even before we flew home! Watch this space for more adventures :)

 

 

Agape Babies online store review (and discount code!)

I am so thankful that these days you can really buy anything online. And I’ve become such a huge online shopper because of the convenience. As a mother, having time to leisurely browse through anything in a physical store is a very rare luxury. So much so that sometimes when I do have a little pocket of time, I’m either rushing from place to place, or have absolutely no idea what to do with my time!

Recently Agape Babies approached me to ask if I would review their store. I first started buying from Agape Babies from the Singapore Motherhood forums years ago, and when I visited the site again recently, I was struck by how much has changed since then. It is now a beautifully designed site with such an extensive product range it took me hours to decide what I wanted to get!

agapebabiesApart from the extensive product range, and ongoing promotions and discounts, I have to say I really like the navigation. You can add items to your cart quickly without getting forced to go to the cart page, or other annoying things. Most of the time if I see something I like, I just like to add ‘em all to the cart and take my time to pick and choose later, so I hate it when I have to go to the cart and get asked if I want to checkout now NOW or NOW. Annoying right??

They also sell some products in bundles so you can save even more money. Hurray!

So out of the 2000 over products that they carry, here are some examples of the range of products I bought.

Orajel

Orajel toothpaste

Chinese Learning Cards

Chinese Learning Cards

California Baby Sunscreen

California Baby Sunscreen

California Baby Shampoo & Body Wash

California Baby Shampoo & Body Wash

 

Now here comes the pleasant surprise. I put in my order at 11pm one night after the kids had gone to sleep, and by 6pm the next day, the products were delivered. They aim to deliver by courier within 3 working days, so I was quite shocked and was when the courier guy arrived, I was trying to recall what I had bought! Actually that happens to me often because as I mentioned, I buy a lot of stuff online. In fact, because some items takes a few days and others weeks, often a courier will call to ask if anyone will be home to receive a package and I will still have no clue what is being delivered :D

Agape Babies offers a huge range of products, with over 100 brands and 2000 products in store. There are diapers, milk formula, California Baby products, baby food, toys, books, strollers, lunch boxes, baby carriers, and even baby bedding. Trust me, you will be spoilt for choice!

Find the Agape Babies site here, sign up for their newsletter for updates on promotions, or find them on FB and Instagram as @agapebabies

And for my dear readers, use the code “mummyed” to be entitled  to a 5% discount! The code is valid for a month – from 21Oct-18 Nov and excludes breast pumps, diapers, milk and sale category items. GO FORTH AND SHOP!! And let me know if you liked it as much as I did :)

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Disclaimer: I received store credits from Agape Babies for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

Halloween and other make believe for kids

This month we’ve been to three theme parks – Universal Studios Singapore, Ocean Park Hong Kong, and Disneyland Hong Kong. I hadn’t realised how big of a deal halloween is these days, and anyone in the hospitality line who can, is going all out to squeeze the event of what it’s worth (much like Valentine’s, Christmas, etc), starting from late September.

While USS and Disney saved most of their theatrics for the weekend evenings, Ocean Park had actors out entertaining visitors, posing for photos and often sneaking up on people to give them a little fright, or having a group of zombies in a mass dance. It was all in good fun of course, but with young kids, and impressionable minds, and not wanting to give them any nightmares, I steered them away as much as possible.

So it was also timely that just recently we saw an episode of SuperWhy on The Ghost Who Was Afraid of Halloween, in which Little Ghost is scared of everything he sees. He then learns the Super Story Answer is “make believe”, and realises that everything is not real.

Going to the Lights, Camera, Action! feature at USS (for my first time ever!) was also a good chance for me to try and explain to Mittens how movies are made, and although being in the midst of the storm was scary for them and felt so real, it was all calculated and executed so precisely. He later sat on The Revenge of the Mummy ride (he might have now surpassed me in the number of rides I’ve been on!) and understandably found it scary, but it helped to apply what he learnt in the SuperWhy episode that it’s all make believe.

 

If your child has similar fears, I hope this episode of SuperWhy will help him too. Enjoy!!