Chinese New Year – More than just goodies

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Ever since I can remember (which really isn’t that far back), we would have reunion dinners at my paternal grandmother’s place, where many of the uncles and aunties would gather. After I was married “off”, we would have reunion dinner at my ILs place, and join my parents at my grandmother’s place.

It didn’t really occur to me that some people have no reunion dinners to go to; worse, an ST article wrote that some people avoid their relatives completely because they disliked them, or their parents never talked and visited them. One girl said she had not seen her grandmother in 13 years!

Eating and feasting aside, we always look forward to catching up with our relatives, since we seldom have a chance to meet up on ordinary days. Having the chance to learn about our relatives, and about our histories, is essential in ingraining and defining us as a family to the children.

Research has also shown that families who have a rich sense of history are more likely to be be resilient, and having a strong sense of “intergenerational self” reinforces that they know they belong to something bigger than themselves. And Chinese New Year is the perfect time to reminisce the yester years, and catch up with our relatives.

Of course we have it easy since we only go to a handful of homes. The first few days were really relaxed, and our kids and their cousins also spent a lot of time at the park connectors or doing sports together, so at least we are not pigging out all the time.  On the other days, we weren’t too rushed, and thankfully the kids were never too tired or hungry, or bored. One of my uncles keeps two dogs and parrots. Another aunt kept them busy with some random toys including a soccer table, but even where there wasn’t much, they busied themselves exploring the different homes, or keeping themselves busy with some pens, markers and scissors and a whole lot of scrap paper. I think it warmed all of our hearts, especially for the older generations, to be asked by Mittens if he could come and visit again.

 

So as tempted as we always are to make use of the extended holidays and go for a getaway, I’m thankful for this little family of ours, and with our wonderful extended family, we’ve really been enjoying Chinese New Year together. This, past, and many more years to come.

Happy Chinese New Year everyone!

Da Vinci resources for kids

Now that you’ve read about our wonderful time da Vinci exhibition at the Marina Bay Sands’ Arts Science Museum, here are some of our favourite resources for learning more about da Vinci. There are some affiliate links in this post.

There are many books in the library in the Junior Lending section (for the older kids, I think 7) and above? And less so in the Junior Picture Lending (for the younger kids).

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 11.28.26 amOne of our favourites is “Leondardo and the Flying Boy“, by Laurence Anholt. We have also picked up several of his other books on other great artists like Picasso, Van Gogh, and Degas from our library.

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Da Vinci (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia is an interesting series which introduces the artists well. Not available in our libraries.

 

 

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Who Stole the Mona Lisa? (Geronimo Stilton #6) is a light-hearted story that also has some facts about da Vinci, the kids loved this! I wouldn’t discount the educational value of Geronimo Stilton books, because Mittens has taught himself how to play chess from one of his books! I’m too lazy to learn :D

These 2 books I didn’t enjoy as much, I think it was a little more complicated for the 6 YO. Avoid Being Leonardo Da Vinci! (The Danger Zone) by Jacqueline Morey and Leonardo Da Vinci: The Greatest Inventor (Discovery Education: Discoveries and Inventions)
by Nicholas Brasch are both available at our libraries.

Other resources

There are a ton of materials available online. Everything from Mona Lisa colouring pages, to puzzles to building actual structures. It is endless, and from all ages 2-99! But the exhibition at the Arts Science Museum and the books are actually quite a lot for these little brains to absorb, perhaps we’ll go back to other resources after the exhibition has finished its run.

(While researching I also found one game which I found so addictive – Fun Da Vinci. Not so much for toddlers though. Give it a try!)

Some homeschool activities on da Vinci from Confessions of a Homeschooler.

 

Before we return to the exhibition, here are some of the books that I want to check out:

Amazing Leonardo inventions you can build yourself by Maxine Andersen (J 7092.2 AND). Just as long as they don’t actually try to build their own flying machine. Right???

 

 

 

 

  • NLB info here

    NLB info here

    Neo Leo: The ageless ideas of Leonardo da Vinci by Gene Barretta

 

 

 

 

 

  • NLB info here

    NLB info here

    Monday with a mad genius by Mary Pope Osborne (JS OSB) and Leonardo da Vinci: a nonfiction companion to Monday with a mad genius by Mary Pope Osborne (J 709.2 OSB)

 

 

 

 

  • Who stole Mona Lisa? by Ruthis Knapp (JP KNA)
  • Leonardo’s Palette by Gerry Bailey (J 709.2 BAI)
  • Da Vinci by Brendan January (J 709.2 JAN)

For non-fiction books in our local libraries, just look under J 709.2 for more titles!

And don’t forget you can one ticket to the Da Vinci exhibition and get another ticket free when you present your Singapore Airlines Krisflyer card. Find out more information here.

 

 

Growing with the Tans

Aww! Kim Kardashian Gets Glam with North on Her Lap

Mummy Ed:

This was too good not to share… The “news” article is bleah and boring, but the comments are absolutely hilarious. Feels like it’s Friday already! (Well almost ok? Hang in there!)

Originally posted on Celebrity Babies and Kids - Moms & Babies - People.com:

Whenever we feel a little overwhelmed at the office, we like to pause, take a deep breath and think about Kim Kardashian.

After all, she’s got red carpets to walk, wardrobe malfunctions to dodge and the approving smile of husband Kanye West to bask in.

Busy she may be, but Kardashian still finds time to stay glam and clock in quality time with her daughter.

In an Instagram photo that takes balance to a whole new level, Kardashian holds sleepy daughter North, 19 months, while her beauty team gets to work. “Quick glam and a snuggle,” she writes.

Kim Kardashian glam photo North Courtesy Kim Kardashian

View original 56 more words

Da Vinci: Shaping the Future at MBS Art Science Museum

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) was an Italian Renaissance artist, architect, scientist, engineer, mathematician, designer, and musician. He is widely believed to be one of the greatest painters of all time, and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived. From his iconic paintings, which include the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, to his groundbreaking work in anatomy, physics, hydraulics, technology and military engineering, da Vinci’s contribution to human knowledge is vastly significant. Fundamental to his life and works was a deep respect for nature and a strong preference for direct observation and experience. While the texts of ancient Greece and Rome were popular sources of information for his Renaissance contemporaries, da Vinci did not take this information for granted. He considered experience to be the only means of obtaining truth and knowledge. This approach, combined with his innovative holistic perspective, was the root of his technological ingenuity and his artistic genius, which continue to teach and inspire practitioners in both the arts and sciences today.

 

I have been meaning to blog about this for the longest time! We have been so busy with school and work, but that’s another story to tell.

In December we were invited by Marina Bay Sands to attend a guided tour of the Leonardo Da Vinci: Shaping the Future exhibition at the Arts Science Museum.

da Vinci timeline

The timeline was a lovely visual way to represent da Vinci’s life and in relation to what was going on in the world.

In December 2013 at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, we visited an exhibition on the various inventions of Leonardo. That was our first exposure (for the kids) to da Vinci. At that time we didn’t even think much of it, and didn’t think the kids were really interested, but I was pleasantly surprised that Mittens could recall it a few months later. Shortly after, we watched Sherman and Mr. Peabody, which I thought was a wonderful way to make history come alive for kids. After that I started borrowing more children’s books on da Vinci (as well as other famous painters), as a way to introduce history and art to the boys. I will share my resources in the following post.

Everything Connects - it's a wonder that da Vinci was SO talented in so many areas, but also it's not surprising since everything in life is connected, isn't it?

Everything Connects – it’s a wonder that da Vinci was SO talented in so many areas, but also it’s not surprising since everything in life is connected, isn’t it?

So when MBS asked if we were keen to join them, We arrived at the museum on a rainy day, and just a precaution, there is no sheltered entrance into the museum. Even overhead bridges these days have shelter, hello? Luckily we came armed with hoodies for the kids so we were ok.

Despite the rain, let me first tell you that we thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience. Throughout the exhibit, there are plenty of hands on activities so even the littlest ones can be entertained, and really, young and old can learn so much on so many levels. I also liked how all the hands on activities were just the right height for tots, which shows that they really thought through accessibility for the kids, rather than just having it as an afterthought.

da vinci geometric

Scout entertaining herself while the older kids are participating in the tour

 

You can see da Vinci's sketches on the backdrop.

You can see da Vinci’s sketches on the backdrop.

What patterns shall we make today?

What patterns shall we make today?

There are many graphics and interactive media that helps to explain many of da Vinci’s concepts in more simple terms. There are also several art installations by other artists which were inspired by da Vinci’s work in the various themes of mathematics, natural sciences, architecture, technology and music. I liked the Glass Microbiology by Luke Jerrem, which was glass representation of viruses, even HFMD, and protozoa.

More amazingly, there are on display some of da Vinci’s original works. Of course not the Mona Lisa, but his original scribblings from his notebook, called the Codex Atlanticus. Of course we were not allowed to take photos of these, because they are so old that we want to preserve them for future generations right? In fact, they are only to be displayed for something like 90 days, and then it has to go back into storage for another 3 years or something! From February 11th, they will display a new set of the Codex. All of his notes are written in Italian, and one of the cute boys in the group remarked how he did not understand Italian; after the trip I told the boys they did know some Italian, and for days they couldn’t stop saying “spaghetti bolognaise”, “fettuccine”, and “carbonara”, in an Italian accent I taught them :p

 

Here are some other photos of the various exhibits.

I don’t have a photo of it, but the video on the Last Supper? Mind blowing. Must watch.

We ended the tour building with blocks, and experimenting making parachutes out of different materials to see which would work best. We spent about 2 hours at the exhibits, and I had to tear the kids away to get them to leave, especially the last section.

 

We really enjoyed the whole experience I might take the kids again before the run ends on May 17. After reading through more books, of course. If you are interested in going, on Family Fridays, enjoy free entry for 2 kids under 12 for each paying adult! And there is a free guided tour for families on Fridays at 330pm. I would strongly recommend the tour unless you’re very familiar with da Vinci, it helps to have someone take you through the exhibit. The guide we had was also very good at engaging the older two (who were 4.5 and 6.5 when we visited). I think we all learnt a lot more than if we had gone ourselves!

There are also other tours:

  • English: Saturdays & Sundays from 22 November 11:30am & 5pm, Mondays to Fridays from 24 November 1pm
  • Mandarin: Saturdays & Sundays, 2pm & 4pm

Oh and the exhibits are almost all bilingual, in both English and Chinese, in case you have any friends (or in my case, MILs) who might like to know.

Find out more about the exhibit on the Art Science Museum website here. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!!

P.s. Buy one ticket to the Da Vinci exhibition and get another ticket free when you present your Singapore Airlines Krisflyer card. Woohoo! Find out more information here.

 

Disclaimer: We were invited by MBS to journey with them through the da Vinci exhibition. No monetary compensation was received, but I think the exhibition and the tour are well worth the money even if we did have to pay!

Mariner of the Seas Dec 2014

Image source: Wikipedia. I couldn’t have possibly taken a photo of the boat when I was ON the boat… and from the Cruise Centre you don’t get a nice view of the boat).

Last month we went on a fantastic cruise holiday. We took the Mariner of the Seas to Port Klang on a 4D3N trip.

It was so different from the last time we cruised with the boys 3 years ago, when they were almost 4 and not even 2 years old; and especially since we left Scout at home. I know some of you might balk at the fact that I left one of our kids home, but she had the undivided attention of both her grandparents, which in a way is better than having to share the attention of both her parents with 2 other older brothers? At least for a weekend lah :)

Anyhow, having one less child to take care of made it a breeze! And the boys are at an age where they were better able to enjoy themselves. When the daddies were busy, and the other kids were napping, the boys and I gamely went around the ship doing our own things, watching 3D movies, exploring, etc. What a nice change in pace! I think all mothers need a break from young dependents every once in a while :)

Off to a performance! Or movie! Or whatever!

Off to a performance! Or movie! Or whatever!

 

I’m not going to bore you with repeating what you can find out from the brochures, but I hope some of these tips and experiences will help.

Parking

You can park at the cruise centre for as little as $45 for 4 days, or rather that’s what one of my friends paid! Totally worth it if you live far away and want to skip the taxi queues. On the day we arrived the queue wasn’t too long, but according to our taxi uncle, the cruise centre operator is nowhere near efficient as the uncles who man the taxi queues at the airport who ensure that the taxi queues super fast. Also we had docked that morning with another cruise ship, so yes, there were more people to fight for taxis with :D

Luggage tags

On the first day we arrive at the cruise centre at almost 1pm and check in and board immediately. You can check in online and then print a luggage tag, but it’s just easier to get the tags when you reach the cruise centre. We boarded and headed straight for our amazing room!

Accommodation

On our previous trip we had a deck 2 ocean view stateroom. Then we only had 2 kids, but my mother was rooming with us although officially she was in the next room’s headcount. The Pullman beds in some of the staterooms are quite a novelty for the kids. So although with the 5 of us it was a little bit of a squeeze, it was cosy as well. Except for the bathroom which felt really small. You can hardly move around in the shower stall!

Source: Cruiseweb.com

SO, on this trip, we took advantage of a Kids Go Free offer, and booked early for a suite room, which is twice the size of the ocean view rooms, and is almost half the size of my entire home!! I really really loved the room! Probably even more so after having stayed in a normal pigeon hole of a stateroom!

royal caribbean, RCI, grand suite

Although the kids liked the space, they did say they prefer the ocean view staterooms for the Pullman beds. Typical of kids, eh? Maybe if we had the whole family of 5, connecting staterooms rooms would do too, but it definitely wouldn’t be as spacious as a suite!

Tip – get on the RC mailing list and act fast when there’s an offer!

Grand suite sofa bed

This was the boys’ sofa bed, which was super comfy!

 

Photography

The photo package was USD$249 for unlimited hard and soft copies of photos, and on the first day they were handing out coupons for a discount of $50 on the package. Single prints of 8 x 10″ are about $24.99. There are many photography stations throughout the day, and photo taking is non obligatory, so don’t feel shy to pose for photos so that you have more options later. They have backdrops and studio box lights for formal portraits (even a blank white backdrop), and some meet and greets; otherwise the photos without the studio lights tend to be hit or miss. The photography stations were understandably more popular on formal night, but there are moments when photographers are less busy, so don’t feel shy to make use of it! We definitely wish we had taken more photos, in the end we only purchased 2.

 

Activities

Royal Caribbean, mariner of the seas

So many things to do! So little time!

 

Although there are kids clubs for kids from 6 months to teens, there are really so so many activities each day that we never ever dropped the boys off there! In fact, there are so many activities that I would have loved to do!

Some of the activities like ice skating we had to give a miss because they were just too popular, and I didn’t want to waste an hour (or more!) queuing for it. I mean, just to sign the indemnity form for ice skating you have to queue for like an hour if you’re unlucky? Anyway, there are so many skating rinks in Singapore now right? The line for just signing the indemnity forms was crazy long on the first day (they were open 3-4pm), and on this second day (after we ported at Port Klang) after breakfast it was a much shorter wait and right after that Shrek came out for photo ops just next to the ice skating area, so there were hardly any queues.

Mariner of the seas pool side

Romero Britto Pool side – we enjoyed swimming at the pool quite a bit!

There are SO many activities going on each day, I wish that the ship would give you the itinerary of the ENTIRE trip at the start of the trip, instead of only the night before (I think they’re ready at like 6pm?) so that you can better plan your activities, e.g. leave ice skating to the last day or go on the first day, etc.

 

Entertainment

There are many performances to watch each day, and I love that some of them are things we normally wouldn’t be bothered to bring the kids to at home. The Centrestage performance was especially enjoyable with the Orchestra because they had songs from all genres,  including snippets of a few John Williams tunes, and the boys could recognise the Star Wars tunes. There was a comedic/dance/acrobatic performance by a duo who was on Ukraine’s Got Talent (or similar?) and David DiMuzio who is a YouTube sensation. Overall, great family entertainment, and not too stuffy so if one of your kids gets fussy you can just up and leave without feeling embarassed.

Pool side entertainment

Pool side entertainment

What you cannot miss is the ice skating performance. Ice Under The Big Top was absolutely fantastic! We have never seen a life ice skating performance before, I think it was almost an hour long, and very interesting. The performers really put a lot of effort into it. Some of the reviews I’ve read always mention that the performers slip up, but I wouldn’t be able to skate to save my life, let alone on a moving ship??

Ice under the Big Top, Mariner of the Seas

The fabulous ice show!

We watched the 845pm show and there were already people queuing from 730pm (or earlier?!) which I guess you can do if you want the choice seats, but it’s a pretty small arena and I think if you get there 10-15minutes before the doors open you’ll be fine.

Shrek and Fiona joining the other cast members at one of the performances

Shrek and Fiona joining the other cast members at one of the performances

There are so many things to do, but as expected when there are something like 3000 guests, you might need to queue for some of the activities, which might be difficult if you have toddlers. It was less crowded when we were docked and people were out on excursions.

Tip – Don’t get overly stressed and make yourself queue for hours (Singapore also got ice skating right?), you are there to enjoy your time together as a family!

Mariner of the seas dinner performance

Even the waiters gave a performance!

 

Food

Mariner of the seas, Rhapsody in Blue

Lots of kids options. And you can order as much as you want, just in case they don’t like what they were served.

There is food 24 hours a day; when I told Mittens that, he was in absolute awe! And if you don’t feel like jostling with the crowds, you can always order room service! If you are on a diet though, don’t go on a cruise. You will be miserable.

With so many people onboard, meal times can feel a little like a food court. And also on occasion the lifts can take ages, but taking the stairs was a good way to get some exercise to work off all the food we ate. We walked a lot, up and down the stairs. I’m just glad I didn’t have to do it with a stroller or small toddler in tow!

Prior to my last trip on the Legend of the Seas about 2 years ago; I had read so much about how wonderful the food was, mostly from media tastings for food bloggers. Maybe then the kitchens made special effort for them, but during the actual trip I was quite disappointed. So I came to Mariner of the Seas with low expectations. Overall there were hits and misses; I really disliked the breakfast at Rhapsody in Blue, and felt it was better at Windjammer, but some of the Rhapsody in Blue dinner dishes were impressive! It isn’t a gourmet cruise, so we weren’t too fussed about the food.

 

Shore excursions

On our previous trip, we had a stopover in Malacca. We had to queue to board a smaller tender boat to reach the shore, then walk to Jonker Street. Although it is not a long walk, it was very hot, it was a Saturday so Jonker Street was certainly crowded, and I had to carry an infant around. So I really did not enjoy the trouble.

This time round the cruise stopped at Port Klang, which is at least 1 hour away from KL city. And since it was only a short cruise of 4D3N, we wanted to enjoy the cruise as much as possible and not waste any time on shore excursions.

Royal Carbbiean, Port Klang, Mariner of the Seas

Enjoy the view of Port Klang, boys, that’s the most you’ll get to see of it!

 

Parades

mariner of the seas

This was about all I could see of the parade. Boohoo!

The Dreamworks Parade is at the promenade, and we sadly missed most of it because by the time I dragged the boys out of bed from their afternoon nap and for a swim, it was so late! I considered abandoning the husband and boys just so I could catch it, but of course I didn’t ;)

The Promenade on Deck 5 is rather small, so do go early to claim your space. Unless you’re HUGE fans of Madagascar and Shrek, I think the whole Dreamworks thing is an added bonus, but I wouldn’t go on the cruise just because of that. Especially if you have a younger son who is terribly afraid of the characters, which was annoying because he either looked miserable in the meet and greet photos or was bawling his eyes out or refusing to let us even get near them.

 

Onboard credit

As we “recommended” our friends to join us on this cruise we were able to get $25 worth of onboard credits! So if you’re traveling in a group I suggest you check out this option. Better than nothing, eh? I happen to find out to spot the little section on the website to fill the details in, after online check in. They don’t advertise it much!

 

Onboard communication

We travelled with another family, and we did bring along a pair of walkie-talkies, but we never got around to using it. If we didn’t run into each other we’d just meet at dinner time and hang out afterward. I did see some people with walkies though, which is probably a good idea if you want

 

 

Mariner of the seas art

I also liked how there was plenty of art all over the place

 

Overall, the closest holiday comparison I can think of is Club Med, because they also have activities and performances and all inclusive meals. But a Royal Caribbean cruise is like a Club Med amped up, because there are so many more activities and way more performances. And there’s also the added bonus of convenience – no need to take a ferry (I really hate those), or fly anywhere; just hop onto the ship and you can visit another city while you’re at it!

We only cruised for 4D3N, and I would happily stay for another 2 nights. Or more! We are already looking forward to our next cruise holiday!

 

Dreamworks, Mariner of the Seas

Night performance, with a guest appearance by Alex!

More tips on how to get your child to brush their teeth

I have previously shared some tips on how we get kids to brush their teeth. Since you know kids like to mix it up sometimes and change their minds about what they like or don’t like, it can be an ongoing challenge, and there will be days when they just don’t feel like doing what’s best for them.

As part of one of the 5 ways we get the kids to brush their teeth in my previous post, one of the ways I mentioned, was to spin stories.

“We tell the boys that worms will make holes in their teeth because they love the food stuck in their teeth. We also do try and tell them that actually it’s bacteria and decay, blah blah blah, but I think it’s best to leave the cheemology scientific explanations to when they’re older, so for now we use worms as a way to personify bacteria.”

Well!

We were very amused that when we saw this TVC, because it perfectly illustrated what we were trying to tell them! I hunted it down on YouTube to show the kids again, as well as show it to Scout, since she is now coming of age to learn about worms. Haha!

We also recently saw another TVC, which has pretty good illustrations too. We are by no way recommending this brand, we do love the graphic illustrations though!

Enjoy!! :D


 

A Blue(Tree) Christmas

bluetree education, christmas

The group of kids who attended the BlueTree Christmas programme

Last year, (sounds like ages ago, doesn’t it??) we were invited to join a Christmas Holiday speech and drama and craft programme by BlueTree Education. It included story-telling, role-play, print awareness, lots of physical movement, arts and music, specially designed to encourage children to express their creativity! The theme was Christmas, so it was Christmas stories, Christmas nomenclature, Christmas art, and even a surprise visit from Father Christmas himself.

bluetree education, christmas

I love programmes where the kids don’t have to sit all day!

Each session started with warm-ups which the kids unwittingly coordinated themselves because they were always having so much fun running and chasing each other about the room. I guess they just felt so at ease in the classroom and with one another? The kids all got along well and they certainly fed off each other’s energy. Even after a 3 hour session, they had to be torn away!

The first half of the session would start with story-telling, and based on the story or the day’s theme, they would be introduced to several key words which would be reinforced throughout the lesson. Then there would be role-playing, coloring, or other activities. The second half of the session would be crafting, and I loved that the crafts were challenging, and not easy-peasey crafts, but at the same time the kids did a wonderful job with them, and were very proud of themselves. When we returned home with the sock snowmen, Mittens kept telling me all we needed was a pair of socks and stuffing, although at the moment we don’t have any socks to be turned into snowmen (sorry, son!).

IMG_5132

Because this was a special session for some of us mummies who already know each other, and because she wasn’t too disruptive, the teachers were happy to accommodate Scout (when she was not napping). She even insisted on taking part in some of the craft sessions. The highlight of the week-long session? Getting a Hello Kitty balloon from Santa Claus. And I know it was the highlight because that night at home (or was it the day after?), she actually said, “Santa Claus give me Hello Kitty.”. And before that, I didn’t even know she knew who was Santa!

IMG_2876

BlueTree Education was set up by a group of really passionate ex-MOE teachers, including one MotherKao, whom I love talking to because she has a lot of ideas and opinions, and I can tell you she is one passionate teacher!

Find out more about BlueTree here. Also, my dear readers get $50 any regular (not holiday) programme at BlueTree, just mention I sent you!