Friday, January 30, 2015

Home Sweet Home

Friends! I stand before you today as the self proclaimed IKEA champion! 6 trips in 10 days, y'all! And some of these trips with two kids as well! But all those trips (plus those to other stores, and the endless hours of research online and discussions with the significant other) have all been worth it. Because today folks, my living room looks like this:

Last month, it looked like this:

You know, to be fair to my former living room, it wasn't all that bad. But now that it belongs in the past tense, I'm able to pin point what exactly bothered me. The lights did not match. The bookcases were too dark. Our furniture lacked personality. In fact, the entire room lacked personality. And most of all, the walls were just too dark. They were so dark that no matter what we did - changed the sofa, hung up bright paintings - did nothing to brighten the room.

One of our biggest mistakes back then was that we didn't check out how much sunlight the living room got. The dining area hardly got any sunlight at all during the day, and it was made worse by our choice of wall colour. We opted for earth tones then because we wanted to create a cosy feel. Dark and gloomy was what we got instead.

The thought of re-painting the walls constantly crossed our minds, yet it was the thing we procrastinated most about. Because seriously, who has the time (and patience) to clear out everything to make space for painters? Not to mention who is able to find temporary accomodation for a couple of days till the horrid smell of paint goes away? But when Dulux asked if they could paint my living room for me and said that I wouldn't have to clear anything because their painters would do everything, I was sold. And truly, they did everything. You can read about the process at Asian Parents here.

This is what our living room looked like during the painting. I cannot believe I once thought I would be able to re-paint the living room myself! Oh, naive you are indeed, Adora!

In five hours they were done and we were left with a gorgeous white wall (we chose white but there must have been over 50 shades of white to choose from! I remember when white was simply, just white!) and clean floors. Because they even swept up after the painting was done! Smell? So little that my kids were even around when the painters were putting on the final coat of paint.

It felt like I had a new house!

Blank walls! Oh, the possibilities! I stared at this wall uncomfortably for a week, wondering how best to dress it up

I moved stuff around, experimenting with new layouts and configurations, then suddenly, something in me just clicked - this was the PERFECT time for a complete room makeover! We'd just gotten our walls painted white in an attempt to brighten up our room, and most of our dark furniture started to hurt our eyes because the contrast was so extreme. Plus, there were things that we'd been intending to change for a while, and this was the best opportunity to do so. And this was the time I learnt that furniture is nothing without fittings.

We were mindful of our budget, yet there were things that really needed to go. Most of the stuff stayed, but we did make some purchases (after many hours of browsing and window shopping!). Out went our black bookcases, and in came two very tall, very wide, and very gorgeous ones in a light birch colour from IKEA. You probably recognise them; every other home in Singapore has them. They're the famous Billy bookcases, one of IKEA's best selling items.

Against our new white walls, they blended in beautifully. We considered white but there was the risk our living room would end up looking like an insane asylum so we opted for birch instead. And that armchair! It's a preloved vintage chair that I bought at - you will not believe it - $35! I am so in love with it. And I love Hock Siong, where I bought it - gosh, when I visited, it felt like I had stumbled upon the set of Mad Men!

We also repurposed the old homelearning bookcase into the family games unit to promote more family time. Already, we're enjoying sprawling on the living room floor with the games. And those orange boxes below? The kids' toys - one houses blocks, another is a home for train tracks, one's for dress up and the other holds random bits and pieces. Oh so neat! I love it! No more runaway toy boxes! This is an old Expedit bookcase (now known as Kallax) from IKEA, another preloved item, from my mum!

I had a bit of trouble adjusting to this particular wall - it's the area that gets the least sunlight, so while all the other walls looked white, this one showed a slight hint of purple. But nothing a picture frame can't fix!

I knew that one of the factors that contributed toward our house looking so disorganised (apart from the fact that we have two very small and messy kids) is that our wall art was all over the place. This time, I was determined to (attempt to) coordinate. The problem was our budget - it wasn't very big. So buying 'real art' was out of the question. Else I would have loved to get a lovely painting of our neighbourhood. Instead I got two big basic white frames (these ones) and made these babies for the dining area.

We're not really the kind of family who would put up random pictures of scenery or abstract art, and much as I love doing art and crafts with the kids, this was something that I did on my own one night. I love the bright burst of colour! So simple yet so striking. Oh, the joys of a white wall! One thing that our living room lacked too, was plants. I'm known to have brown (as opposed to green) fingers, and have always tried to steer clear of plants. But I'm loving how these two are breathing a fresh breath of life into our home. And yes, they are not being ill-treated.

I've long toyed with the idea of a huge picture or painting on this wall, but everything was either too expensive or impersonal. So I made these instead with 3 simple and easy-to-find things: Stretched canvas, cloth, and super glue. The vintage chair sparked a love for vintage in me, so the fabric was chosen to match the chair (Spotlight!). The completed pieces didn't cost much so if and when we tire of them, we can simply make new ones with new fabrics. My initial plan was to get one big stretched canvas frame but Spotlight was having a special promo on a pack of two smaller ones, so I was easily swayed. Here's my DIY post on how you can make your own stretched canvas one-of-a-kind piece.

Max and I are the sort who like moving furniture around occasionally, and ultimately the sofa might go back to be against that wall, so we made sure the fabric panels were measured to fit the sofa. 

I love this area now but I'm thinking a coffee table (preferably a vintage one with those slim slanted legs) will pull everything together. But the rug! I never thought we were rug people but this one is simply gorgeous!

Cushions for the sofa! We have a white sofa from IKEA and it's got washable covers (how clever, right? Washable covers when you have young kids?), but it's also pretty badly stained with markers (thanks, Calla) and spills (thanks, everyone). Cushions not only help to mask some of these stains, but also make the room look more homey and cosy.

This pic shows the room without soft furnishing (cushions and rug). Compare it to the previous pic! Different eh?

Lighting. I mentioned that this room doesn't get a lot of light. Primarily because it's quite big. A good problem, I know. To save costs, we decided against putting downlights in a false ceiling when we moved in. But that also meant that we always had insufficient light at night. So we were very excited to change all the living room and dining room lights.

Out went our old entrance light which was a lovely deep red Vietnamese lamp that reminded us of our honeymoon (we honeymooned in Hanoi). The problem with it was that it was so dark that it didn't really to its job. Well, it was pretty, but also incredibly dark. So we opted for a paper lantern which really brightened things up (we chose this one from IKEA. There are many others at Daiso as well!). Our living room got a lovely red one which cast a wide distribution of light over our long dining table - in the past, only a portion of the dining table would be lit! The hardest light to choose was the one for the living room. This was the one that cost us many moments of debate at IKEA's lighting section. Finally, we got this one to match the armchair and I love love love how it fits in so beautifully. Max however, is a bit bothered by how it sways with the wind both from the window and the ceiling fan.

For additional light, this standing lamp is both a reading lamp and an uplifter - it gives us direct light for reading, and its uplifter is bright enough to light up the entire living room area, supporting the warm glow of the ceiling lamp. And the best part is? It was really affordable - yay!

So there you have it, our living room make over! I've mentioned before that I've yet to sit back on the sofa, breathe a sigh of contentment and say "Ahhhhh". Well my friends, now I can. Thank you, Dulux, for giving us this push. We all love our new living room. This is home, surely, where my senses tell me.

Disclaimer: Actually, this isn't a sponsored post. The one that I wrote for Asian Parents was, but I wrote this as a part 2 of sorts, because I wanted to share about the other things we did to create this look and feel. Plus, all purchases were made on our own account, so. 

Double disclaimer! : A few weeks after everything was bought, IKEA invited me to be part of their blogger programme, which included a sponsorship package. Just thought I would clear that up. And here's what I wrote for IKEA about our #1nightnolight challenge.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Bright Idea for a Good Cause

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by IKEA, who asked me to talk about a very special project. Of course I said yes. Because 1. It's IKEA and 2. It's a really special project. Glad we cleared that up.

In our home, we try our best to cut down on electrical usage, primarily because of cost. But I will admit that I cannot resist turning the light on in the living room just because .... it's so pretty. In the process of our recent living room makeover, we made better decisions concerning lighting and have been enjoying our new lights so much.

We have this uplighter and it does wonders to the living room. Basks it in a warm glow somehow. When I look at my living room like this, I feel like a real grown-up, like my own childhood dream of 'playing house' has come true, to have a home that I love.

I love my home and my husband and I are on a perpetual home improvement phase; we're always making small changes here and there. I cannot bear the thought of losing my home. Which is why when IKEA approached me to share about the "Brighter Lives for Refugees" project, which helps people who have lost their homes, I knew this was something I couldn't say 'no' to.

At this juncture, I have to point out that my opinions about IKEA are possibly biased - I played in the ball pit at IKEA Katong when I was 6 years old, I was a big fan of IKEA in my teens, I worked at IKEA in my 20s, and since then, my respect for the company that has taken upon itself to create a better everyday life for everyone, has grown. So yes, I believe in its values, and yes, I believe in the good it is doing. But no, it is not without reason. This is a company that honestly wants to help, and does everything it can to. You can read about IKEA's other efforts to help communities around the world here, and how sustainability is part of everything it does here.

IKEA has been partnering with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to bring light to otherwise lightless UNHCR refugee camps around the world including Ethiopia, Chad, Bangladesh and Jordan. Through this campaign, solar street lights, indoor solar lanterns and other renewable energy technologies have been provided to families in these camps.

In Singapore, the sun sets at about 7pm, and day breaks at about 7am. I cannot imagine going through 12 whole hours in complete darkness, yet it is a norm to millions of people around the world. There are about 10.5 million refugees globally, half of which are children. To them, even a simple activity like going to the toilet, reading, or returning home at night - everyday things that we take for granted - can be a dangerous task. Having light will play a big part in making their lives safer.    

We may be far away, but we can help too. For every LED light bulb sold during 1 Feb - 28 Mar 2015, IKEA donates €1 to help the UNHCR by funding its projects that help refugees in refugee camps across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. You can read more about the IKEA Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign here

While it isn't possible to simulate the exact conditions of a refugee camp, IKEA has requested that I try out a night without electrical light sources, just to have a feel of it. The tricky part was to involve the kids as well because well, they're a part of our lives and all. There were the usual things to do like get them cleaned up after dinner and ready for bed, with stories and all that.

Just to get everyone on the same page, this is what it's like in the bathroom with no lights on, "without kids" versus "with kids". 

And, just so you know, light switches are every kid's best friend. On and off, on and off, on and off... Our house is on a perpetual disco-light mode. So we had to remind them that light switches were off limits. More than usual. And then we armed them with these wind-up LED torches - no batteries!

As for the adults, we prepared ourselves for a different kind of night. I know what you're thinking. You're looking at today's date to see if you should congratulate us 40 weeks from today. I'm sorry to disappoint you but we simply went about our usual routines which included watching a movie in bed.

I'm one of those weird ones who get a headache from overpowering scents, particularly from air fresheners and candles. But I figured one scented candle in the bathroom couldn't hurt. Thankfully I was right.

Because kids are, you know, kids, they were really excited to see candles all over. We were careful to place them in high spots so that the kids were not able to reach them, but still, they couldn't resist blowing out a candle or two. After singing Happy Birthday of course. They had fun flashing their torches on the ceiling, and playing with their light sticks, but reading books proved to be quite a challenge.

When bedtime approached, they were accompanied by our old battery operated Christmas lights that I put in a plastic corner. No candles in their room for two reasons: 1. air conditioning and 2. it's fire, and they are kids - active, curious, I-want-to-touch-everything kids.

In the living room, however, when I knew they were sound asleep, I laid the candles on the coffee table, something I'd not done since they arrived. The kids, not the candles.

How difficult was the challenge? Well, we had to consciously remind ourselves about the switches. Usually we walk into a room and the first thing we do is flick the light switch on. It's second nature. So we had to be mindful of our actions. Truth be told, it was challenging but not entirely impossible. We still had the street lights outside that provided sufficient light that prevented us from bumping into tables. Washing dishes in relative darkness wasn't easy. But nothing a couple of torches couldn't fix.

It may have been a fun night for us, but the harsh fact still remains, that millions around the need light, and through IKEA, we can help make that happen. The next time you're shopping for lights at IKEA, look for LED light bulbs; for every LED light bulb that you buy, you can help someone have a brighter life.

And soon, IKEA will only sell LED lights - they last longer (up to 20 years!), consume up to 85% less energy compared to traditional lightbulb (thus saving us money on electrical bills!), they contain no mercury, light up immediately and can be recycled.

More good news? Yes please! Bring your used halogen or incandescent lightbulbs to IKEA Alexandra and IKEA Tampines from 6 to 8 Feb 2015 and receive free LED light bulbs. It's a 1-for-1 exchange, up to 3 lightbulbs per person, and limited to the first 1,000 bulbs per day. Now that is a bright idea!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bring Back That Lovin' Feeling

Before I had kids, I didn't know exactly what kind of mum I wanted to be. Slowly, as the kids grew, and so did I, I dug deeper and deeper into my own memory banks, and asked myself what my own parents would have done in each situation.

There were things that I agreed with ("You're in charge of your own homework, dude!") and things that I didn't (let's just say I am stricter than they are!), but one thing stood out: I wanted to be a fun parent, just like they were when I was a kid, and how they are fun grandparents now.

I wanted to bring them for picnics, for treasure hunts, on long walks, play at beaches, explore different playgrounds, teach them to skip pebbles on the water... all these fun things, which to be honest, are really challenging at times without a car.

But being a fun mum - it's something I strive very hard to do. Every single day I ask myself if there's somewhere we could go to explore. We don't always make it out of the house but the thought still comes to me every single day. And then work came along for me, and school for them, and slowly, ever so slowly, these fun times just somehow got snatched away from us.

Everywhere we went, we spent more time getting ready, and more time in transit than actually being at the venue. And when we're there, I'm looking at my watch half the time, worrying about being home in time for bed. In other words, I became the opposite of the fun mum I had set out to be.

But today, Small Girl and I had a morning out, just the two of us, and I rediscovered how much I enjoyed spending time out with her without any agenda. We went to the museum because she asked to, we took the train there and the bus back because she asked to, we moved at her pace, we shared a slice of green cake because she wanted to. We even played with vending machines, something which I almost always pull the kids away from, simply because we 'don't have the time to stop for this'.

Many a time, I'm guilty about not spending enough time with the firstborn, because she's the one who's had me 'taken away' from her. Small Girl doesn't know any other life but this, to have a sister to share her mother with. But Big Girl remembers a time when it was just me and her. And so I often try to make it up to her by going on special dates with her. I love these dates, I do, but I'm beginning to panic because there will come a time when I'll feel guilty about not spending enough time with the little one as well.

Oh, Motherhood!

It's hard to explain - we go out often, the three of us, but it's hard to really enjoy something in depth when one's attention is split. When we're out together, I'm always chasing after one or the other.

But the kids are growing, and I'm also learning along the way, so hopefully, one day soon, we will be able to go out and enjoy each others' company in a less hurried fashion. But in the mean time, Fun Mum is back in action! Well, her spirit is willing, at least.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Creating Your Own Wall Art

We recently had our living room painted. Which spurred us into first cleaning up, and then motivated us to finally make some changes that we'd been intending to and procrastinated upon.

One of the things I'd always wanted was to have art of some form on the walls. We love the kids' drawings but decided to limit them to only certain parts of the home because well, as much as we love them, we sometimes need a break from their um, creativity. And noise.

The thing about us is that we're not the typical couple that would spend lots of money on a piece of art. We're not the oil painting sort, the landscape sort, nor the abstract sort. In all honesty, I don't know what sort we are! So I decided to create our own one-of-a-kind wall art :)

I love how it turned out. I chose the fabric to match our new-old armchair (it's a preloved vintage piece that I recently bought) and I couldn't be happier with the final outcome. And the best part was that the whole thing didn't cost us an arm and a leg, plus it was made within 15 minutes! The only thing that put me off this was the fact that I thought I needed a fancy schmancy stapler gun. I tried UHU glue instead and it totally worked!

Materials you'll need:
Plain stretched canvas (I initially wanted one big one but Spotlight was having a pack of 2 smaller ones on sale!)
Fabric (slightly bigger than stretched canvas) - I also got mine from Spotlight.
UHU glue

Step 1: Measure fabric. Leave about a 1-inch border around your stretched canvas

Step 2: Cut fabric. I simply folded a line and cut along it. Doesn't matter if it's not totally straight because it's going to be on the back of your art piece anyway. Iron your fabric. You must do this or the creases will be very obvious

Step 3: Lay your fabric with the right side facing down on the table, then the front of your stretched canvas on top of it (i.e. the wrong side of the fabric should be in contact with the front of your stretched canvas). Apply UHU glue to one side of the back of your stretched canvas, then fold side of fabric over. Press down to make sure it's secure and allow to dry. UHU glue dries up fast so 2-3 minutes is really enough.

Step 4: Repeat with opposite side. This allows you to stretch the fabric well to avoid air pockets. Stretch it as much as you can, then glue the side down.

Step 5: Repeat the gluing process, folding corners in as neatly as you can, kind of like you're wrapping a present. I added some glue at the folds for good measure.

Step 6: Press down all sides firmly, then flip stretched canvas over (so that the front is facing up) and press the sides down again to ensure everything is stuck on well.

Step 7: Done! Hang up and admire!

The best thing about this is that it's relatively cheap and so easy to do, so you can change your fabrics whenever you tire of the prints! So there you have it. No more excuses for blank walls! ;)

This post is part of a series run by the very creative A Happy Mum. Check out her blog for more fun and creative ideas that she enjoys with her two little princesses.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Confessions of a Primary 1 Parent

This year, my Big Girl started formal education. Kindy was fine and fun, and yes I shed some tears when she started kindy too, but something about Primary School makes it, I don't know, more real somehow.

In kindy, the kids were probably in a small physical environment. Primary Schools are bigger. Much bigger. 

In kindy, we didn't have to worry about our kids buying their own food, and finishing it up within the short recess period. 

In kindy, there was hardly any homework. There were no such things as tests. Or exams. Or having to bring your own stationery to school. 

At the Primary School level, these things all become real. And I have to confess, I'm as nervous as she is. 

Simply because it's a daunting experience. Remember your first day at work? When everything was new to you. New systems, new people, new environment, new procedures. Now imagine that, and being 6 years old and the smallest in a big big place. 

I have to confess that while many other parents are worried about their kids' academic performance in school, my primary concern is my daughter's ability to survive the school in general. 

Not the school school per say, because it is a beautiful school and we love it and think it fits her, and her it, wonderfully. But rather, the things that come with it. 

The teachers, for example. Will she have teachers who love their jobs and want to help 6 year olds to learn? Or her classmates. Will she fit in and make friends or will she be bullied? 

Will she be able to make good food choices, or end up spending all her money at the bookshop? Will she get overwhelmed by the sudden surge of school rules? Will she get lost in that huge compound? 

Like many other parents, I feel my heart ache (and my head too, from the lack of sleep) seeing my little one get up before the sun. But I have to understand that school starts at 7.30am because work starts at 8.30am or 9am. I would love to have school start a bit later, but I understand and accept it. We'll just adjust and be thankful that we are able to have early bedtimes. 

I think the most stressful part for me is that I have to make these decisions right from the start, and stick by them throughout both my kids' years of education. That's 10 years per kid. And I have two. 

What kind of decisions? Like if I want to be a homework parent for example. Do I want to sit down with them while they do their homework? 

I dug deep into my own memory bank and remembered what my own parents did - I was left to do my work on my own, but they made it very clear that I could check with them if I ever had any problems. I remember calling my mother at her office when I was about 7 or 8, asking how to spell "vegetables". 

So I'm nearby when she's at the dining table with her worksheets, and she knows she can call out to me if she needs help. And by help, I mean real help. So not "Mama can you cut these for me?"  More like the "how to spell vegetables" kind. 

And even then, I won't give her the spelling. Rather, I'll guide her through. Which, I believe, is more tiring at the start, but more effective in the long run. 

Do I want to pack her bag for her? Nope. But for the first month, we'll look at her time table together while she packs her bag on her own. So far I've not touched her school bag. Because I want her to learn responsibility. If she forgets to pack something in, and gets reprimanded in class for it, she'll be more careful the next time. If I keep doing it for her, she will never learn. And I will never get a chance to rest. 

Perhaps it is this same reason that I won't join the class parent chat group. Because I want my child to learn to listen to instructions in class, and carry them out when home, and to suffer the consequences of not doing so. 

The last thing I want is for her to drift through her school days simply because she knows that at the end of the day, if she forgets anything, Mama can just type a message in the chat group and voila, the answer will unfold. 

It's hard to justify to others who feel it's wrong to adopt such a hands-free, "bochup" attitude. It's not that I don't care. On the contrary, it's because I care about molding my kids, and giving them the opportunity to learn on their own, that I have taken a step back. 

Because I firmly believe that education does not end when one receives her PSLE result slip. Or university degree. It's the world that I'm preparing my kids for, and that's the kind of education I'm giving them. 

But nothing is cast in stone. We can and will make changes along the way. She may be the one in Primary 1, but I'm learning too. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Has "Sorry" Lost its Meaning?

Some of you have been sharing about this on FB (originally from It hit a soft spot for me - we live in a house with a 6 year old and a 2.5 year old, and both are well, shall we say they are still learning to share. 

There's a lot of snatching and hitting and "Mama she took my --" and "Go away"s. Usually they both get sent to the time-out corner till they can apologise to and hug each other.  The hug is compulsory because to me it shows that the apology has been accepted and that the girls start afresh. 

The good thing is that they now both know that there's no way to get out of their time-out until they do what's required. And they almost always leave it running and with a smile on their face, friends again. 

We are a huggy sort of family and I fear a time when the hug is simply a thing to do to get out of the naughty corner. I love this approach to saying sorry; I hope the kids will catch on as well! 

What about you? Are you having trouble keeping the meaning of "sorry" in your home? 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Yes and No

Somehow, something clicked in me when the clock struck 12 on New Year's Eve. And no it wasn't my bad knee. 

It was the realization that - are you ready for it - I'd been spending too much time on my phone. So I'm going to - are you ready for it - consciously cut down on phone dates. 

I was so close to doing it some time back but then my phone broke down and #thelovinghusband bought me a new one. A rather awesome one at that. And foiled all my plans. 

Today, I did something drastic. Today I deleted Facebook from my phone. Because it was just not healthy for me. Because I want to talk to my kids and play with them and read to them. 

Because I want to be more patient with them when they are disobeying and not walk away when they are upset and convince myself that by aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed, I am using the time to calm myself down. 

So this year, it will be yes to being more of a mum. It will be yes to smiling more. It will be yes to looking at them. It will be yes to talking to them and tickling them and kissing them and hugging them. And yes to saying "I love you" and truly meaning it instead of just saying it. 

Because this year both kids are in school and somehow school makes them grow so much faster. Is it the water? The air? The food? I don't know. 

All I know is that the time is now. If I lose it, it is never coming back. And I don't want to lose it. 

So this year, it will be no. No to checking my phone so regularly. No to whipping out my phone to check the time (I'll wear a watch). No to taking photos of everything - I'll remember these moments instead trough my own eyes. No to posting pics of every occasion - I want to enjoy them instead. 

Today was the first day of school. A monumental day for us all. And I took but a handful of photos. Because I needed both my hands to make finger hearts for my 6-year old. And her smile when she spotted me among the crowd, holding up a heart? That moment when her searching eyes turned into a big wide grin? It was worth any amount of photos. 

Happy yes and no 2015 to you all. 

Ps do you also fall into the "oh well I'll just scroll a little on Facebook before bed and then BAM! It's 1am" trap? Because everyone lives such exciting lives and I want to know more more more! I've taken the plunge and have deleted Facebook from my phone. And it feels... Refreshing. Hello social media detox programme!  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Now they are small, and Christmas trees are tall

The end of each year always brings about a sentimental cloud. Not that I ever need a reason to be sentimental, but the end of the year marks a closing of sorts, doesn't it? When we take stock of all that we're grateful for, and all that we've done. When we say a prayer of thanks for the people that we love, and beat ourselves up with guilt over the things we could have done better.

With me starting work this year, my routine with the girls went out the window and amidst the flurry of work and all related to it, along came December. And now that I can exhale and look, I mean really look, at my children instead of glancing at them, I can't help but notice how much they have grown. 

It's inevitable that they will grow, of course. I mean, I do feed them well. But it's shocking at how fast they're growing. They are noisy and rowdy and cheeky and quite a handful, but I simply cannot imagine my life any different. And these are the things I never ever want to forget about their childhood:

Real candles, fake candles, pictures of candles, drawings of candles. The small girl sees them and she has to sing Happy Birthday to them and attempt to extinguish them. 

The year of the curl
This year was also the year that this girl's hair grew out. At the start of the year, she was still pretty much a baldie. And now, it's lovely locks galore. This is such a beautiful age, when the wind blows their hair in their face, and they are still mastering their fine motor skills so they brush the hair away clumsily with the palm of their hand. I love it. I love her. 

Ice-cream treats
How I love living in a neighbourhood where we can dress up (you know, just because) for an afternoon treat. Afternoon treats are essential to our relationship. Sometimes we can have a crappy day and everyone's on everyone's nerves, but ice-cream always saves the day. I am convinced that ice-cream was created for Mamas with young children.

And older sisters asking for matching hairstyles with their baby sisters? Oh be still, my fragile heart.

This year, the Tooth Fairy was kept busy. She probably had to take a loan to finance Poppy's teeth. It's funny that teeth take months to grow but we're so busy with our daily lives that before we know it, a new tooth has grown to take the place of the old one. I never want to forget this gorgeous smile.

Being carried
She's running around like the wind at home, but once we're out, she lifts her arms to me and says in her sweetest voice, "Please carry me. I cannot walk more. Mine legs are hurting". Never mind that mine arms are aching.

Or "We are too close to the road; it's too dangerous. Please carry me.". It's a strange ailment that only attacks when we're out and dissipates once we're home. I usually give her a target to reach, like the bus stop, or the recycling bin, and then tell her I will pick her up after that, but hope that she forgets. She never does. And when I finally pick her up? Oh that sweet feeling when she nestles her head in my neck, and her soft curls tickle my nose. And when she says "I'm just a small baby, Mama". It's hard to not love this baby.

Sometimes I plan all kinds of outing for the girls but I forget that sometimes all they want is to simply be at the neighbourhood playground. This year marked a turning point for us - we're now able to enjoy quiet moments at home when both kids are entertained with books on the sofa, or lying on their tummies on the floor and drawing. Sometimes it's fun to go out and explore, but sometimes, it's wonderful to just stay home and appreciate each other. 

This year, we started having two-way conversations with this girl, and they're getting funnier too. "Calla, come give me a hug". "No! I will not say yes!". And those moments when I overhear conversations between the two sisters? Simply priceless.

Yup, all in all, it's been a good year. I hope that you've had many beautiful memories of 2014 too, and wish you many more for the coming year! Happy holidays, everyone!

Poppy and Calla are wearing Pumpkin Patch's Fall range of clothing. Thanks, Pumpkin Patch, for the girls' lovely dresses, and for supporting Gingerbreadmum!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mama has Horizonto

Horizonto. I've been struck by a case of Horizonto. 

Technically it's called Vertigo, when one experiences dizzyness that comes with a misperception of motion, coupled by nausea and vomiting. At one point while hugging the toilet I have a brief flashback to the days of morning sickness. Oh joy. 

It came out of nowhere. From a loss of voice one day after work, to a sudden headache to extreme tiredness and finally a fever. The only thing that was constant throughout was my need to remain horizontal. Thus, Horizonto. 

Yesterday was tricky. Poppy cried when I told her she couldn't go for a play date at her friend's house because I couldn't even get out of bed. Which meant I could even stand straight. Except to half walk, half crawl to the toilet to throw up. 

In the end I gave in and somehow managed to get everyone dressed and out of the house and stumble into a taxi without puking. Thankfully Poppy's friend's dad gave Calla and I a ride home or I'm pretty sure I would have fainted by the roadside. 

Unsympathetic though my girls are to my situation ("Mama you're not sick!" "Mama you're not cold! Come play!"), they were kind enough to allow me to be horizontal for most parts. In exchange I had to let them jump around me on the bed and bear loud songs from their music player (because why have a music player when it can't play at volume 10, right?) while I drifted in and out of light sleep. And the construction from the neighbours nearby? It sure helped. Not. 

I flitted through sleep and strange dreams as one usually does when a fever strikes. Through burning eyes I looked at them when forced. When I couldn't ignore them further I had to nod or smile through the invisible force squeezing my temples together. 

I'm thankful that they did not get up to much mischief, and that the moment my husband could take over, he did. But above all, I'm so thankful that this struck now when the kids are older and can occupy themselves, as opposed to when they were babies and were more reliant on me. Come to think of it, this is probably my first big illness since the kids were born. I suppose it's my body's way of saying "Right, I've waited long enough". 

The week isn't turning out to what I had intended it to be. We were supposed to go out and play with water balloons, suss out fake snow, buy new shoes, expel energy. But instead I'm stuck home and playing catch up with the Advent Calendar (this morning I woke up to Poppy's face in mine "Mama, do you think you could fill yesterday's pocket of the Advent Calendar later please?".

In any case, I'm on the road to recovery though the prospect of loud noises and bright sunlight doesn't appeal to me for now. If anyone needs me, I'll be in my cave. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

It's only been Twenty Years

A few weeks ago, I heard the news that my beloved former school was going to face the wrecking ball. Well, it is Singapore and I should have known that this was going to happen sooner or later. It's going to make way for a bigger building to be constructed in its place, so that more girls can don the blue IJ uniform and sing Forward Katong Convent and maybe some day many more babies will be rocked to sleep to that tune. So it's for a good reason, I suppose, but it didn't stop me from feeling all emotional about it.

With every cloud though, there is a silver lining. Amidst the gloom of demolition, I suddenly hooked up with old friends and schoolmates whom I'd not seen in 20 years. It finally gave me the push to go to the school again for one last look, something I'd been wanting to do for years. Among us - strangers, yet sisters, united by our motto and memories - we also rallied together to help our school bookshop owners (or otherwise known as "Auntie Bookshop") sell off all their stock to send them off on their happy retirement. So, lots of good came out of this.

My first class photo in the blue uniform - I'm right in the middle, in front. Teacher decided at the last minute that she didn't want to sit and picked me randomly. Not that I was the teacher's pet or anything. Love how our feet were hovering off the floor!
Last class photo. I'm seated, second from left.

It's hardly a secret that I remember the weirdest and most random things. So it probably won't surprise you that I can remember most of my Primary 1 classmates. And we're talking a l-o-n-g time ago. But there are things that I'd forgotten, and those good ole school magazines were around to save the day.

I can't remember how much they cost but for as far back as I can remember, it was compulsory for every student to buy a copy. I have all but one, the year I was in Primary 1 - My mother said "Well there's no need to buy it since you're not in it anyway." True, true.

Sure, we complained back then because they weren't cheap, but I'm glad to have them now. Oh, the excitement when we received ours every year! We'd excitedly flip to see if we were featured anywhere else apart from the class photo, we'd scan through the creative pages to see if our essays or poems were picked (mine never were), we'd laugh at the unfortunate ones who were caught in less than flattering poses and angles. 

These guys followed me with every house move and some of them are practically falling apart. 

I think I labelled everything back then.

I'm not sure how it's like now but back then, the graduating classes had their pictures in the year book in colour; everyone else was in black and white.

Remember autograph books? I had one of those but I'd forgotten that I got my friends to write little messages in one of the year books. Yes, I'm from the "Stay cool and funky always" era.

There's hoarding, and there's archiving memories because they light up the corners of your mind. I'm glad I saved these memories. Memories are unerasable, but having them in print just makes them so much better.

Do you have your school magazines too? I hope you have fun reminiscing like I did. Plus, it's also fun to laugh about our old hairstyles and fashion sense eh? :)

Up next is Justina from Mum in the Making (who won this year's Best Family Blog, yo!). Justina is a stay home mum to three little boys. She is a compulsive hoarder of all things recyclable and has a secret stash of toilet rolls. Hop over to her blog tomorrow to see what she's held on to for the past two decades!



This post is part of a blog train hosted by Agatha from Green Issues by Agy on "I Didn't Throw It Away". We have become such a throw-away society, but there are some things in our households that we still keep. Why is that so? Perhaps this blog train can unlock the reasons behind it! Follow the daily posts on this blog train and read about the stories behind the things we have kept for many years and why we didn't throw them away.

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