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.

 

Writing Process Blog Hop

My lovely blogger mummy friend Adeline from Growing With The Tans invited me to participate in this interesting writing process blog hop. Although I’ve met Adeline only once (or was it twice??) she’s one of those fabulous people who don’t need much warming up to, and it’s been interesting reading about the work behind other mummy bloggers sites, so naturally I agreed to! You can read about Adeline’s writing process here. Also thanks to Adeline for not getting all kan cheong because I agreed to join the blog hop but was so busy and almost clean forgot for a long time!

 

What am I working on?

We have just returned from Shanghai and Hangzhou, so we are trying to adjust to our usual routines. Of course I plan to share more on our trip in due time.

I recently changed my site’s theme, and I really need a much nicer header, but I just haven’t had the time to design one (as if I can even do it??) or anything of the like. But I had to change the theme because I felt the old one just wasn’t me anymore.

Currently I have FAR too many draft posts – sometimes I’ll have a thought or inspiration and feel like blogging about it, but I feel uncomfortable writing a post that doesn’t have a structure that I’m comfortable with, or sometimes the inspiration is lost or forgotten, or sometimes there just isn’t the time to even sit down and have a coffee, let alone blog.

 

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Although there are some sponsored posts, and taking on paid assignments can be challenging in a good way, I’m not really planning on monetizing this blog. Sometimes I’ll approach companies or organizations as I’m keen on bringing interesting information to my readers.

I do like to share activities, eats, and travel, all kid-related. I try not to deviate too far from the parenting and children themes. I’m especially passionate about my country and making this a more child-friendly place, and many of my posts will reflect that.

 

Why do I write what I do?

Before I met The Man, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to get married, let alone have kids, and I certainly didn’t imagine myself having three! I’m not a supermum, although I wish I were, but I don’t have the patience nor tenacity. Every day, I try my best at being a good enough mum, and as so many other mums who have inspired me, I hope there might be at least some little nuggets of hope, inspiration, amusement, whatever, to other parents. I also like to keep things real rather than create an image of our widdle family in our white picket fence house.

I started our blogging on LJ with the usual “Here’s all the massively exciting things we did today!” but slowly realised our lives are pretty boring. And then I got bored of myself. I think I’ve evolved to where I’m comfortable.

 

How does my writing process work?

Mostly I write what I feel like writing, and I like the freedom of writing and not having to worry about readership and site stats and what advertisers might think. Not taking on too many paid assignments also means there are less commitments, so I write when I’m inspired. I know I could use a lot more photos in my posts, but sometimes I honestly don’t even have the hands to hold anything else, so maybe it’ll just have to wait until the kids are older.

 

Honestly, I never thought I would call myself a blogger, and I still have difficulty saying that now with a straight face! I feel a little embarassed to tell friends I have a blog. But being a blogger and getting to know other mummies, such as those from the Singapore Mom Bloggers has been such an eye opening experience and I’ve met so many amazing people.

 

Next on the blog hop is Diana who writes at Chubby Anecdotes – please do hop over to her blog to read about how she writes!

Shanghai Surprise (How being away from home brought me home)

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您好!

It’s been a week since we’ve arrived in Shanghai and we have another week to go! We have been busy busy busy from the time we landed. I haven’t missed FB and Gmail, although I’m a little annoyed that I haven’t got access to my google search, translate, and maps. But I’m learning to work with Baidu and the 大众点评 app has been so awesome in figuring out where to go and what to do.

I’ve loved having so much flexible time to explore the city. Each day I see how the weather conditions are before deciding where to go – rainy, hazy (one day the PMI 2.5 was up to 185!), or cranky. The cranky referring to the kids’ own temperament of course. And wherever we would be, 大众点评 would help me locate the more highly rated eateries and even what to order when there. What a life saver when you are already have your hands full minding the kids and don’t want to be walking around aimlessly just looking to fill those little tummies.

I think everyone has settled in here quickly, and we’ve been visiting sights and doing lots of new things. But it hadn’t been all rosy – sometimes kids like what is familiar to them, and although it’s been very comfortable here, it isn’t the same as being at home.

After the hubby left for home (someone has to work to pay for the holiday right??), the following days were trying and frustrating juggling three kids, a MIL, and a foreign land. I’m not the most patient mother, and unfortunately with more kids does not come more patience. Left with just their mother, the kids seemed to concentrate all their energy on making my life as difficult as possible. Ok, I’m sure they those were not their intentions, but at times it was hard to convince myself otherwise. As individuals they weren’t more difficult than ordinary kids, but put together and outnumbered 3 to 1 – let’s just say the circumstances didn’t illicit my finest moments.

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So I’m sure I speak for everyone here when I say we were all surprised, as well as extremely relieved that the hubby made an unexpected return for another few short days. He didn’t breathe a word to us and was even in cahoots with our driver who told us he needed to run an errand in the afternoon when actually he made a trip to the airport, just so he could show up at the apartment!

We are also very thankful as his presence means a break for everyone from the evil and extremely cranky mummy who has been feeling overwhelmed and burdened with children. I actually felt sorry for the kids for having a mother like me!

This show of moral support struck me as a reminder of how lucky I am to have a partner who complements me, yet is completely different from me such that the kids get the best of both worlds. It’s easy to forget this with the busyness of every day life, the never-ending list of activities and things that need to be done to tend to the children’s needs.

When you have a whole Chinese acrobatic troupe to run (yes it gets that crazy in these parts!), it sure helps to not have to go at it alone!

Philips and Disney Night Lights review and discount code!

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Not only are these new SoftPals so cute, they are also sooo nice to touch and feel!

Last month, we were invited to the launch of the Philips’ new Disney Imaginative Lighting range. It was supposed to be a pajama party, so the kids went in their pajamas. I’m far too old to be seen out of the house in my jammies, TYVM.

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Philips Singapore introduced their new range of products, and all the kids present had a lot of fun exploring the new products, participating in the presentation, and busying themselves in the kids activity corner.

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This new range of products were developed to help comfort kids’ nighttime woes, and make bedtime easy and fun for them. But even if your children are doing just fine during their bedtimes, they will really love all the innovative products such as the SoftPals and Light and Image Projectors, of course in all of your favourite Disney characters.

Image Source Philips

Image Source Philips

We were gifted a very lovely LED Winnie The Pooh Torch, which the kids love. Actually they love all torches, but the Pooh is easy for kids to operate, and such a handy size!

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Photo source: Philips

 

We were also given a LED Mickey Mouse Night Light to review. At first glance it looks very simple and plastic, and no less than 5 minutes after I had put in the batteries and handed it to Scout did she drop it all of two times, and in its first hour it had taken a few beatings, but still held up pretty well, so thankfully it isn’t made of cheap, breakable plastic! The mouse ears are just adorable lah, don’t you think?

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Philips have already been in the market selling LED lights in many industries and many uses, so you can be assured that they use high quality LED lights in their night light range.

Philips Disney Mickey Mouse nightlight

Image source: Philips

It runs on batteries which makes it so much more mobile than having to plug it in somewhere. I hung it in the boys’ room on an existing hook near the door, so once I go into the room, it immediately lights up thanks to the motion sensor, and I can eyeball the boys, or the light helps me locate a torch in case I need to do something more like change diapers, put on socks, etc.

Can you spot it?

Can you spot it?

Here's a closer look

Here’s a closer look

The light is operated with a motion sensor, and will stay on for a specific amount of time depending on whether it’s night or day – so, longer at night and for a shorter duration during the day. It seems like it stays on for around 20 seconds at night. I’ve found that it can sense motion from maybe about a metre or so. The light is also a warm white light which creates a glow and not a shocking and annoying bright light like the regular lights in the room or a torch, so the kids never get bothered about it when they’re sleeping.

Philips disney mickey mouse night light

Image source Philips

I have to say, I wasn’t expecting much from a night light, especially one as small as this, but now that I have it, I really think it’s so handy! And I think that it would also be SO convenient to have in the bathroom so that if the boys need to pee in the middle of the night, they don’t have to deal with blinding lights, or getting their pants wet in the darkness.

 

Philips Disney mickeymouse nightlight

Image source Philips

 

You can buy the Disney range online here, and if you have a UOB card, just enter UOB15 at checkout for a 15% discount storewide including hue and Disney lighting! Valid until 31 July 2014 and other terms and conditions will probably apply which you might want to check out for yourself.

 

Disclaimer: Thank you to Philips Singapore for gifting us with a few products which have really changed the way we do things around here. It’s not every day that something like that happens!

 

Vaby – full of surprises!

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Earlier this week we were invited to a brunch to learn more about a new concept called Vaby. I dragged the kids down to The Playhouse, which used to be Seb’s Bistro, at Rochester Park.

10489912_1400558866899752_4622849007863395311_nVaby is a new subscription-based concept will send you samples from their various vendors each month, depending on the ages of your children that you’ve input in your profile when you sign up as a member. This means you’ll get age appropriate materials instead of random items that you don’t need.

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The samples could include clothing, diapers, books, bath and skincare products, or promotions for services such as pre-natal classes, photo shoots, party related services. Most of the samples will be of items that you will also be able to purchase on the Vaby online store, and there will sometimes be promotional prices for the items, so if you try something you like, you can buy more of it! Sometimes they might even include vouchers and other kind of promotions.

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I really like this new concept because it’s tailored to your needs, so for example, they won’t be sending me newborn stuff, and you’ll get to try something before shelling out too much money for something you don’t like. I think it will also be especially useful for new parents because it can be mind-boggling and very daunting trying to figure out all the various kinds of baby gear, equipment, toiletries, etc. When I was pregnant with my first child, I remember going to the baby department in Robinsons and leaving empty handed becuase I was just so darn confused!

So while I was learning all about Vaby, the kids were happily occupying themselves at The Playhouse. The outdoor play area is quite well equipped, and looks like loads of fun! I had forgotten to bring along the mossie repellant (which I actually always leave in my car) and thankfully I had some sunscreen spray, but the kids were still left with one bite each, so don’t forget to bring some repellent if you’re as sweet as us :) You can see more photos of The Playhouse here. I think it’s a great place for those from walking up to around 7 years old.

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The outdoor play area. Quite well equipped if you ask me, and sheltered as well, but still please go prepped with repellent.

After a short while the humidity was starting to make everyone a little testy, and I spied some mossies flying around, so I moved the kids into the indoor play area. They donned their socks and spent another good 2 hours (with a lunch break) playing and still wanted to go back for more! Definitely worth a visit, but please do remember to bring your own socks as they charge $7 for ONE pair. At that price you’d think they could throw in a communal mosquito repellant, don’tcha think?

My tofu mango salad, which was pretty yummy. Except I actually ordered the grilled eggplant salad. The grilled prawns were yumms!

My tofu mango salad, which was pretty yummy. Except I actually ordered the grilled eggplant salad. The grilled prawns were yumms!

The food at Rochester House is very decent. The mains like pastas are well worth the money, and I really liked the grilled prawn starter. The kids loved the chicken nuggets although the other kids meals themselves weren’t impressive, and some mummies thought it was too salty. I’d probably go with an adult main to share with the kids next time!

Vaby does seem very exciting, and such boxes already exist for other product markets, such as beauty. Vaby will be kindly sending us some boxes to review over the next few months, and we will also have five boxes to give away so do look out for that!

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Vaby will be holding their official launch for their members and vendors and everyone who signs up as a member is invited! You can learn more about Vaby while your kids enjoy the play areas. Just a word of warning – you might have to drag them away like I had to, or be prepared to spend the entire day there.

Simply sign up as Vaby’s member (and create your profile), and you’ll receive an invitation  to attend the official launch. Members who also “like” their Facebook page will also receive a Vaby box on the launch day.

 

Disclaimer: We were invited to brunch to find out more about Vaby. All opinions are 100% my own!

 

 

Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences

While I was pregnant with my first child, I read all the usual blockbuster books – What to Expect, Baby Whisperer, Contented Baby, etc. I don’t even remember how I picked it up from the library, but it was What’s Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life that piqued my interest in the developing brains of babies and children. So when I received the invitation from Wyeth Nutrition to attend Dr. Thomas Armstrong’s talk at the SmartKids Asia Expo on the topic of “8 kinds of Smart: Discovering and Developing your child’s multiple intelligences”, I knew I had to attend!

Although the seminar was short, and in my opinion really touched on what is but the tip if the iceberg, it was enlightening as well as a reaffirmation of some of the beliefs that I have about raising children. Dr. Armstrong believes that every child is born a genius, and touched on the different qualities of geniuses, and the different types of multiple intelligences that children possess. I would encourage you to read those two short but riveting links, but I will share a little on the multiple intelligences.

Often we have strengths in certain areas of intelligence,  but the list makes a good starting point for parents (and everyone!) to realise how different any child or person can be. Below is the list of intelligences, as well as some descriptors related to toddlers.

So, perhaps in our busy lives we have forgotten to make it a point to make sure our children have enough exposure to nature, so this list could help you make more of a concerted effort to spend more time outdoors to be more nature smart. Or, if you know your child is shy, perhaps you can encourage more peer interaction, developing their empathy for others, to encourage the people smart. You get the drift :)

The theory of multiple intelligences (taken from Dr. Armstrong’s website):

  • “proposes a major transformation in the way our schools are run.”
  • “gives adults a whole new way to look at their lives, examining potentials that they left behind in their childhood (such as a love for art or drama) but now have the opportunity to develop through courses, hobbies, or other programs of self-development”

Wow. Quite a heavy topic, isn’t it? The talk helped to encourage thinking of every child as unique and every child as a genius, rather than trying to fit the child into society or into an educational system, which favour word smart and logic smart over all the other intelligences.

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During the Q&A session that several bloggers and I had with Dr. Armstrong, we talked about the downsides to special needs labels, as well as the flaws of educational systems in addressing the needs of a variety of children.

Dr. Armstrong gave two very interesting examples to illustrate his points. The first was that of Temple Grandin, an autistic lady who had trouble dealing with human relationships but revolutionized the cattle industry with her talents. My husband and I watched the semi-biographical HBO movie of her, and it is an inspiring movie which I would highly recommend. The second is that of a calla lilly. A calla lilly is a flower, yet has no petals. So should be calla lilly be labelled petal-deficient?

Some of the main takeaways for parents was his advice on how to “awaken” the genius in children:

  • Re-awaken the genius in ourselves (parents) – having children is like going through childhood all over again,
  • Encourage all the intelligences
  • Be sparing with technology – it dumbs the mind and early exposure to violence is not healthy
  • Provide simple experential learning activites – choose good quality toys or objects that encourage stimulation, rather than noisy flashy ones.
  • Encourage open ended exploration
  • Believe in every child as a genius
  • Supply proper nutitrion – scientists have established that certain nutrients have a structural impact on the brain, which in turn supports specific functions. For example, DHA impacts the cortex, which supports visual and cognitive development, choline has impact on the hippocampus and white matter, supporting brain and memory development, etc.
  • Children learn in multiple ways – seeing, thinking and doing. Good nutrition helps support overall growth and development in these 3 key areas. Scientists have also established that certain nutrients have a structural impact on the brain, which in turn supports specific functions. For example, DHA impacts the cortex, which supports visual and cognitive development, choline has impact on the hippocampus and white matter, supporting brain and memory development, etc.

Coincidentally sometime after the talk, based on a recommendation I saw online, we borrowed the book On a beam of light: A story of Albert Einsten, and the boys and I have been enjoying reading about his life. He did not say a word until he was three, and we read about how he has changed everything we know about the world today.

Learn more about the multiple intelligences from Wyeth Nutrition’s S26 website here, or Dr. Thomas Armstrong’s website here.

 

Do you believe every child is a genius in his own right?

 

Disclaimer: We were invited by Wyeth Nutrition to participate in the talk given by Dr. Armstrong. All opinions are 100% my own.

 

June Holidays 2014

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Boy have we had a busy start to the school holidays! We’ve been gallivanting around town (that sounds like something my mother would say, do people even say that anymore??), and apart from the kids sleeping later than usual, I wish the holidays were longer because I love school holidays! I like that we can do things “own time, own target”, meaning everything is free and easy and we don’t have to rush for school or (most) classes. I also take the chance to let the kids try out various programmes that they don’t usually get to, from art to sports, to whatever else we don’t usually have time for. I much prefer holiday programmes to weekly classes because its more worth the time to spend a few hours a day or for a few days really getting into something than shuttling up and down weekly for a 1-hour class, which can get really tiring for everyone!

So far we have already gone for:

  • Phonics workshop with KidzLiteracyCove
  • Ju jitsu and Muay Thai trial at Evolve MMA (it’s free too!)
  • Church camp
  • A private golf lesson, to gauge his interest

And still in the pipeline:

These are activities we’re also interested in if we can squeeze it in, although for trial lessons they don’t specifically have to be during the school holidays:

  • Lego building workshop
  • Another Muay Thai try out with my old instructors
  • Aikido/taekwondo
  • Fencing
  • Gymnastics
  • Ice skating

So many exciting things to do, so little time!

And on top of that we’re planning to take a little time off school next semester to attend a real summer camp, in another country! Well actually only Mittens will be attending the camp; but I’ll be bringing along half the village, including all the kids and two grandmothers. The hubby will only be able to join us for part of this trip because obviously someone has to be working so the rest of us can enjoy right??? 😁 I’ve been busy arranging the logistics and researching on places to visit, and am very stoked because this will be the closest I get to ever living abroad.

It has been a little challenging with later bedtimes (read: less me time, no time for blogging!), and with me getting sick a second time from the kids, I am making an effort to sleep earlier. So please excuse the lack of updates and enjoy your holidays!!!

 

20140610-215052-78652759.jpgp.s. Don’t forget the fantastic Children’s Season 2014 from several of the local museums – the exhibits at the National Museum of Singapore were absolutely wonderful, and will run until 3 August 2014. Best of all, it’s free!