Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What Motherhood Means to Me

This post is part of a blog train which was orchestrated months ago among 25 mum bloggers. The train started in mid-March and I am posting my portion so as not to disrupt its journey. For the next 6 days however, I will join the rest of my friends in Singapore in mourning our founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and will have no interaction via this blog, TheGingerbreadmumBlog Facebook page, nor on the @gingerbreadmum instagram account.

Photo taken on a regular bus ride, on a regular day of simply being mum.


Motherhood is waking early
But we also sleep real late
Two napping kids in the afternoon
Is reason to celebrate

Our days are filled with invisible tasks
That take up all our time
Like mopping floors and cooking meals
And cleaning toilet grime

It's about ignoring strangers' advice
It's about following our gut
And pretending to be energetic
When the day is anything but

We chase our kids at libraries
We shush them on the bus
We're afraid to see a viral video a stranger made
And gulp and say "That's us"

It makes us appreciate the tiniest of moments
That may go unnoticed by the untrained eye
But we never let the opportunity to say "Good job"
Or a chance to kiss a pudgy cheek slip by

Motherhood is about sharing meals
With little ones who may or may not eat
It's about hiding at the laundry area
With our own chocolate or some other treat

We're up to date with TV stars
Like Dora and her monkey
We can tell you everyone who's on
The cast of My Little Pony

Our bodies are aching like never before
From carrying and squating and lifting
Our minds are stretched beyond limits
From our preschooler's questioning

We take too many photos
Of every smile and frown
Just because we need to remember
The people who turned our lives upside down

Sometimes our days are full to the brim
But sometimes we're so lonely
For no one else can empathise
But a mother and a mother only

It's about losing touch with all your friends 
And getting irritated with your partner
And putting your own life on hold
While you nurse and nourish and nurture 

We ignore our better judgement
As we learn to let it go
While we observe playground politics
And watch the kids settle on their own

We relearn and revisit things from our past
Like Santa and Tooth Fairies
So we can fill our kids' childhoods
With our own precious memories

We may happy or we may angry
We may be brave or weak
But we love and hug unconditionally
And give kisses by the heap

We read the same book 30 times
Even if it bores us to the core
Simply because it's the favourite book
Of a little one we adore

It's about taking deep breaths
And saying "This stage will soon pass"
When we step on Lego blocks
Or Barbie dolls and cars

How many moons does Jupiter have?
What are the words to Yankee Doodle?
For all the questions we don't have answers to
Our new best friend is Google

Private toilet time is a luxury
We've learnt to appreciate
Sometimes we sneak away with phone in hand
And fake a tummy ache

"No", "Maybe", "Come on, let's go"
Are weaved into everything we say
Like plastered smiles and exasperated sighs
That's just how we roll day by day

We have to watch what we say
We never know who's around
Perhaps our little ones with sharp ears
Or busybodies around town

Unsolicited advice, like "That's not the way"
You know, that kind of thing
We get that a lot on a daily basis
Some we can laugh off, but some will sting

We may have been regular women
Who did regular things for fun
But once we had our babies
We became Public Enemy Number One

Suddenly we faced public scrunity
In the choices we made every day
Babywearing, breastfeeding, schooling, discipline
Everyone had something to say

Motherhood is like some strange time continium
Which no one can understand
The minutes drag like hours
But the years fly by like days on end

Our worlds may topsy-turvy
Our lives, whirled and twirled
But this never ending exhausting job?
We wouldn't trade it for the world

It's unbelievably fulfilling to receive hugs and kisses
Even if faces are dirty and sticky
Because our hearts just melt without us knowing
When they mutter "I love you, Mummy"

******


More about motherhood, and my other attempt to rhyme, when I wrote about being "That Kind of Mum"

Up next!
Jennifer or DinoMama as she is fondly known as to some, is a full time working mum who believes home cooked meals are the best and tries to cook healthy meals for her family as often as possible. When she's done coaching DinoBoy with his school work or is not playing & bonding with him, she will be sitting at a comfy corner in the house busy working on something on her crochet hook. One day she hopes she will be able to be a full time stay at home mum where she can fuss over her family 24/7.



This post was written as part of a "What motherhood means to me" blog train hosted by Dominique from Dominique's Desk. You can read all the posts here.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Learning from The Lees

We all know him from the things he's done for this country. But among all the things I've read about him, what's struck me the most was that he was, above all his work commitments, a family man and a loving husband. And the relationship they had was indeed a beautiful one. 

This isn't a post about politics. Or my love for the country. It's about a man and a woman who had such great love for each other, and what we can learn from their 60-year marriage. 

1. Always make time for your family, no matter how busy you are
She went home for lunch every day just so she could spend time with the kids. 

2. Always show love for your spouse
She laid out all his ties for him when they travelled together, and only went out of the hotel after she was sure he was alright. She remained in case he needed her for anything. 

3. Always make time for your spouse
When she had a stroke, he continued his work as first Senior Minister then Minister Mentor, and worked his schedules around her so that he could spend time with her. 

After she passed, he changed his spot at the dining table to face the wall, where he placed pictures of himself with his wife in their old age. 

4. Be a dutiful spouse
After she had a stroke, the highlight of both their days was the time spent with her every night, reading and talking to her. 

5. Keep your displays for affection only for your spouse
There's no need to show the world how much you love your spouse; what matters is that he/she knows. 

6. Have mutual respect
It never bothered him that she was older than he was, or that she, in his own words, was smarter than he. He always consulted her on her opinion and she was the one who vetted his speeches and important documents. 

7. Accepting advice
When she had her first stroke, he encouraged her to continue swimming. One day she said "It's a public holiday, can I take a rest?" He said "go for a swim, you'll feel better". She swam. 

8. Always remember your spouse's needs
So that she could continue to swim in comfort, he had colourful wet suits made for her. So she could swim in any weather without fear of getting cold 

For more personal and beautifully written accounts, here are consolidated posts written by their daughter Prof Lee. https://somethingaboutsingapore.wordpress.com/category/dr-lee-wei-ling/page/2/

Friday, March 13, 2015

What is Primary 1 Really Like for Kids?

There are several wonderful posts on how you can prepare your child for Primary 1 - how to prepare her academically, teaching her to care for her belongings, showing her how to count her money and buy food.

Today's post however, is slightly different. I've asked 50 parents to share on their Primary 1 kids' real experiences in school. A timely post since these wonderful kids have all completed their first term of formal education, don't you think?



Recess
"After 10 weeks of school, I realised my son didn't know that a vending machine gives change." - Neresa

"Every day after school, I ask what he had at recess. Every day, his answer would be 'fish ball noodles'. Every single day. Today we are in week 9." - Marilyn.

"She said, 'I didn't know that the school canteen is so big! I can eat from a different stall each day!'" - Angeline.

"There's some lunchbox black market thing going on. And the one who brings the Oreos commands the highest bids!" - Susan. 

"My daughter brings $1 to school daily. On the first week, I gave it to her all in 10-cent coins, thinking it would help her count better. Every day she would spent all her money on two pieces of sushi. I thought that was very expensive sushi, until last week when I gave her a $1 coin, and she started bringing home change. That's when I realised that she's been overpaid!" - Jiahui 

"'I can buy chicken rice, or Ribena. But I cannot buy chicken rice, and Ribena. Because Mummy only gives me $1.50.'" - Celine.
  "No matter what I pack in her lunchbox, no matter how much or little I pack, she never finishes her food!". - June.
  "For the first 3 weeks I was the typical bento mum. Now I've given up preparing packed lunches. Because play is more important to him, and sleep is more important to me." - Heather.

"She came home one day and announced that she bought 20 fish balls at 10 cents each. I asked her why and she said 'Cos I had 2 dollars!'". - Cindy.

"'I have to be very careful when I bring my food to the table. If I drop the fish ball, I have to buy another one.'" - Mabel.


Bookshop
"Pei Pei has realised that the bookshop is a great place to visit during recess! In the past 10 weeks, she has bought 6 packets of colour paper, 1 correction tape and probably some other things I don't know of!" - Waiwai.

"Let's just say my daughter and the school bookshop owner have become quite close friends." - Grace.

"My 7-year old daughter is doing the exact same thing as me when I was 7. Pocket money is for bookshop expenditure and not for food." - Adeline.

"She didn't even know about the bookshop. Until one day I asked her to get an extra pair of school shorts. There has been no turning back." - Christine.

"6 packs of coloured paper! Will we ever get down to using 6 packs of coloured paper!" - Valerie.

"The school bookshop. It's a dangerous place." - Carrie.


Classmates
"At the end of the first day, my son ran up excitedly to me and said, 'Mummy, there are 2 other Kaydens in my class! The teacher has to call us by our full names!'" - Jasmine. 

"At dinner we all share about our days. My Primary 1 girl's days are always the most interesting, filled with 'Today so-and-so farted in class and we all laughed' and 'So-and-so got scolded for losing her water bottle'." - Pei Ling.

"Belle tells me that C's father is a teacher too, that P has 2 brothers, and that M is so chatty in class that she always gets scolded. I am up to date with the class gossip." - Frances. 

"Apparently they have to work together in groups and that doesn't always work out well!" - Melanie.

"'We have to stick with our buddies all the time. Like glue.'" - Colin.


Toilets 
"Our son Mike goes to an all-boys school. On his very first day, he came back telling us that the toilets were 'really smelly.'" - Nicole.

"Apparently there's no toilet paper in the cubicles." - Sassy.

"'When our teacher tells us to all go to the toilet, it's very fun because we run there and laugh'". - Kai.

"'We have to go to the toilet two by two.'" - June.


Homework
"There was a really short honeymoon period and then it started. Homework, homework, homework! So much homework!" - Kelly.

"Her favourite lesson is PE. Because there's no homework involved!" - Alicia.

"He claims to like homework. We'll see how long that lasts! - Janice. 

"I've decided to leave the class Wassap chat group. Because all the parents were stressing each other out about homework." - Mei.

"'I don't like homework. I just want to play.'" - Huiling.
 

Teachers
"Kayden finally realized why every student bows to a particular teacher after 4 weeks. He found out this teacher is actually his principal..." - Joycelyn.

"I asked what her form teacher was like. 'She doesn't say quiet or shhh. She just frowns a bit and says 'Girls...' and then we all keep quiet.' Sounds like magic to me." - Aileen.
 
"My twins both decided that their teachers were stricter than their parents after about week 4." - Jeremy.

"'I love my teacher,' she says. Which is a good thing, I suppose." - Evelyn. 

"Josh kept getting scolded for talking too much before classes started. But he failed to mention that it was during 'silent reading' time." - May.

"Our daughter's teacher is really on-the-ball! She emails us once a week to keep us updated with the things the kids have been doing and need to do." - Adeline.

"Both her English and PE teachers are called Mr Tan; she finds that very amusing!'" - Angeline.

"'Mrs Lee is the Discipline Teacher. She is quite fierce but she can also smile." - Wei.

"'Miss Hamidah's shoes are noisy.'" - Jacklyn.


General

"After crying in the morning for a month, one day she suddenly stopped. Today however, she came home from school and told me "Mummy, I have bad news for you. I still don't like school'." - Catherine

"Two water bottles, one wallet, one shoe (yes, one) and countless pencils. That's our lost and not found count for now." - Josephine.
 
"She said, 'Father Barre's garden (within the school grounds) is magical! Every day I pick up a coin when I walk there!'" - Joanne.

"It's been ten weeks but he still doesn't know what time school starts. I suppose it's because we're the ones doing all the rushing in the morning on his behalf." - Michelle.

"Jake says he feels like a sheep because the students are always rounded up and 'herded' from one place to another throughout the day." - Kimmy.

"'I think I want to wear shorts under the pinafore. Because C (classmate) always like to lift my skirt." - Josephine. 

"Shoes get washed on Friday, and turn black on Monday. I wonder if girls are like that too." - Maryann.

"When the school circular advised us to label everything, I thought they were overreacting. I was wrong." Hayley.

"'I'm the energy fairy of my class!'" - Crystal.







 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Can Your Relationship Survive a Trip to IKEA?

Next month, Le Husband and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. In the course of our life together, we sailed through some decisions (like how we bought our house the very day we saw it ) and we disagreed about many things.

The funny thing is that we seldom fight about the children. Or the parents. Or the house. Or money. Or jobs. Or friends. Over the course of 12 years we have lived together, I can narrow it down to the one thing that brings out the worst in us; I can even tell you where it always happens.

At a big blue and yellow box called IKEA.



Yup, the place that has contributed to furnishing countless homes around the world, including the very one we love, is the very place that has most seen us frustrated and angry. At each other. It's where we roll our eyes and click our tongues more than ever. At each other. Nowhere else on earth have we ever walked away from each other, apart from IKEA. There are a million and one things that could spark off a disagreement on any given shopping trip to IKEA.

The main problem is that there are just so many decisions to make at IKEA - meatballs or salmon? KLIPPAN or EKTORP? Delivery service or get a back ache? Flat trolley or yellow bag? Ketchup or mustard? BILLY or KALLAX?

Plus, someone is bound to get distracted. Not that you can blame them, we're talking 20,000 products after all.



Someone is bound to get lost. Presumably because of distractions. And by the way, "Where are you?" is probably the worst question to ask at IKEA. And the worst answer is "I'll come to you". Because by the time you actually find your way to your other half, he would have wandered off to another location. Again, not that he is to blame. See above.


If you've been dating someone for a while but aren't sure if he's the right one? Buy a piece of furniture and fix it up together. Relationship dynamics will come into play right away - You'll see how you both handle stress together, and how you react to each other in a stressful situation. What better way to shove a starry-eyed couple into a real-life situation than to give them the task of working together to assemble a complicated thing in a small space, in a short time? And if you survive this, please sign up for the next season of The Amazing Race.



The thing about fixing up furniture is that you've got to do it alone. Or you'll just end up being in each other's way. Because everyone has their own way or organising those thousands of screws and bolts and dowels, and a specific place to put their allen key. You've got to work together in a small space, yet give each other space. You've got to cooperate. You've got to have a system. And you won't have time on your side. Do you tear off all the packaging and stack it neatly somewhere? Or leave it to fly around in the wind? Do you read all the steps of the instructions first, or do you fix as you go?



Perhaps the best, yet at the same time worst, thing for us was that our lives together coincided with the beginning of my career at IKEA. And my job orientation included a product fix-up component. So I knew exactly what to do, yet couldn't command Le Husband to follow. Simply because of the whole "I man, make fire, hunt animal; you woman, cook animal, clean cave" thing. I blame the early cavemen. Not to say that I married one of those chauvinistic types. No, on the contrary, I married a rather open-minded "we are all equal" kind of dude. But, it was still early days, and I didn't want to crush his ego. Not that early anway.

I'm happy to update that after 12 years together and many pieces of furniture after, we still shop at IKEA. But now we know what works for us. One person politely proposes a product, the other one politely accepts. Any counter proposal is presented with carefully chosen words and laced with honeys and darlings. We know to take our time. And when we finally agree, we shake on it. The children play for an hour at Smaland while we zip in for a quick coffee and then to get the proposed - and only the proposed - product, then we zip out. There is no buffer for any distractions or detours. Then we bring said product home via cab, carry it up a zillion flight of stairs, where one of us will fix it up while the other engages in some other activity, only to return when said product is assembled and to praise partner with a high five and a "Good job!" compliment. It works. We're still married.

Why do we not simply pay someone to deliver it and fix it up for us? Because we're cheap. And that is one thing we both agree on. Which is probably why we're still married. To each other. Because if a marriage can survive IKEA, the marriage can survive anything.




Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by IKEA. For real. Oh, it knows that it plays a crucial part in making or breaking marriages. It knows alright.

The other two posts I wrote in this partnership with IKEA can be found here and here

Monday, March 9, 2015

Once a Cardboard Box, Not Always a Cardboard Box

My friend and fellow blogger Summer from A Happy Mum runs something called a Creativity linky twice a month. It pushes me to stretch my creativity to make stuff for my kids, at least twice a month. So this month, because we had a cardboard box lying around, we made these. And did it take long? And a lot of effort? Nope. One Mama, one paintbrush, one sponge and one hour. That's it! And paint, of course.


The original box came from a new TV bench we bought last month. The box sat in our storeroom for a long time because I had no idea what to do with it. We made a cardboard home many years ago when we bought our washing machine, but the TV bench box was quite flat so I didn't think I could make a 'home' with it. 



Then out of the blue I realised that it didn't need to be an entire house for the kids which allowed the kids to go in and out. So I ended up making just the front of the houses. Or to be precise, a shop and a house. Because the box came in two parts, and I have two kids. Which was great (that I had two things for the kids to play with, not that I had two kids. Well, also great that I have two kids) because they could both play at the same time, and it wasn't one playing and the other crying.



Those little flowers? They were a last minute add-on, and the 2.5 year old really loved making them. How easy are they! The 6.5 said "oh they're so simple, Mama" but that didn't stop her from making some as well to decorate her shop with.

We played at selling food, selling dolls, selling furniture. It's great money practice for older kids and fun counting practice for the little ones as well. But what's most important was that it was fun for them. Till the next creativity burst!



This post is part of A Happy Mum's Creativity 521 linky series. Hop over to her blog for more fun and creative ideas that she does often with and for her two gorgeous little girls!

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Name Recognition Activities

Got a child starting school soon? It might be useful for her to be able to spell (or recite) her name, and recognise it in print. I sing my kids' names to the tune of B-I-N-G-O and that's helped; thankfully they both have 5-lettered names! Here are some activities we've done to help our 2.5 year old better recognise her name:

My kids love pancakes. It's a weekend tradition. They're easy to make, and even the little ones can help with the mixing. We like this recipe and have been using it for years (in the same link I also share on how I made shapes; you can also use the same method to create letters). You can also make smiley faces to accompany your name pancakes! I guarantee they will disappear faster than you can cook them.


Personalised t-shirts are great because they are fun and easy to make (even for kids). If you're not comfortable having your kids' names shown in public, you don't have to let them wear their personalised t-shirts out. It's still fun for them to wear it at home. Here's how we made ours. By the way, it's so durable! Calla's t-shirt is almost 2 years old and the paint hasn't faded at all!


We have so much washi tape, we don't know what to do with it. So I taped up Calla's name on white card paper, then taped the paper on to a tray with sides. You can use a box lid too if you like. Because of the next step. I let my 2.5 year old dip marbles into paint, then roll the marbles around. You can also let your little one do finger painting if you like, which mind ended up being anyway! When paint is still wet, remove washi tape to reveal name. Let dry.


We've had these snap cubes for the longest time but have had no idea what to do with them. My kids play at building tall buildings but that's pretty much it. If you don't have snap cubes, this works with Lego blocks as well.


Bringing activities outdoors is always fun. My kids love sand so learning activities with sand make so much sense. For this, I wrote my little one's name in sand using my feet (you can also use a spade if you like, but a stick/branch is likely to be too thin) because it sand is very dense and very dry. It's not quite visible when viewed from ground level so asked her to climb to a higher spot to look at it. Oh, her face when she saw her name - priceless!

There are more and more parks in Singapore which have playgrounds with sand (yay!) but our favourite is Tiong Bahru playground. If the beach is more convenient for you, you can write on a smaller scale on the more compact sand :)



What I would really like to do is to grow my kids' names in grass! That'd be so cool, wouldn't it! If you manage to do it, please let me know, won't you?

Like to find out what other activities we do? They're all compiled here, both activities we do at home, and places we like to visit as a family. Have a good week!

Friday, February 27, 2015

How to Survive a Walk-Up Apartment with Kids

 

When we bought our apartment as newlyweds, the fact that we had to climb four storeys daily never presented itself as a problem. Now, with two young children, I know the exact number of steps I climb everyday.

The good thing about living in a walk-up apartment is that it's excellent exercise for your calves and you can save a bundle on gym membership. The downside? Well, climbing stairs several times a day isn't quite on my list of "most fun things to do". Also, we sometimes have to pay extra for delivery services (like IKEA charges $10 for every additional flight of stairs).

But this is our 8th year of living here, today we've got 2 kids aged 2.5 and 6.5 respectively, and we're still standing, yeah yeah yeah. So I suppose this deserves a blog post of sorts. So here we go. How to survive a walk-up apartment with kids, by me.

1. Ditch the stroller
We had a lightweight combi but lightweight still meant weight. And bringing the stroller up and down those stairs while balancing a baby and at the same time gingerly trying to avoid knocking over our neighbours' plants was pretty challenging (here's our step by step guide on how to bring the stroller out, stairs, baby and all!). 

I used the baby carrier (first the Baby Bjorn then the Ergo) a lot. For longer outings, I would put the baby in her carrier, and carry the stroller on my shoulder, walk down the stairs, open the stroller, put the baby in, leave the carrier in letter box, and head out, and repeat everything in reverse when we returned. 

 
2. Make the kids climb
I know it sounds obvious but sometimes, kids being kids, don't see the obvious, and have a different perception of common sense. Having to carry/half drag them up 100 steps is not only virtually impossible, but also terribly frustrating. With the little one, I make it a game and challenge her to look out for markers along the way - numbers, certain plants - we practice counting the number of steps, we race. Sometimes we leave something on the steps near home when we head out for an outing, and I use that to entice the little one to climb back up ("Want to see if that brown leaf is still there?").  


3. Make use of grocery delivery services
Our local NTUC supermarket offers two options: we can either shop online and opt for delivery, or make our purchases at the store, and get them delivered. There's a minimum spending required for that (and delivery is free), but it's easy to hit it if you have milk powder or diapers on your list. Which are heavy and bulky items anyway. Other items to include on your delivery list: the heavies like bags of rice or laundry detergent. Redmart allows you to do everything fully online and prices are reasonable too. 


4. Have a reminder list at the door
What's worse than realising you've forgotten something when you're out of the house? Realising it when you are at the ground floor after having gone down all those stairs. Do you climb back up again (with the kids) or do you forego what you've forgotten? Either way, your outing's already started off on a bad note.


We scribble little notes and paste them on the back of our front door to remind ourselves of important things we need to bring before heading out. That said, there were still occasions where we've had to backtrack. Like when we forgot to bring our passports while heading out for a family holiday :)

When the kids started their school years respectively, I also had notes to remind myself what time they would return because they'd be dismissed at different timings on different days - after I found myself waiting at the bus pick up location at the wrong time on more than one occasion. Other things worth reminding: special items that the kids need for school, or if they have to wear anything special on particular days.  


5. Let the kids be responsible for their own stuff
Now that they're older, the kids are in charge of their own things when we head out. They carry a little bag each - the small girl has her water bottle and a snack, and the big girl has her water bottle and whatever little trinklet she absolutely needs to carry. That way, I'm not stuck with each hand holding a kid, with bags slipping all over my arms as we descend those stairs!


There's not been any talk about any elevators sprouting up in our estate any time soon, and you know what? We've already gotten quite used to our stairs :) Happy climbing, everyone!

Hey, Four Eyes!


To someone with myopia, the world can be a very blurred place. Those of you with perfect eyesight, you probably have been told but I'll say it anyway: You are very very lucky. Oh to be able to get up in the middle of the night without fumbling for spectacles!

********

Here's a brief backgrounder about my hate-hate relationship with spectacles:

- I was first told I needed glasses when I was 10 years old. I jumped with joy. My mother shed a few tears.

- I was introduced to contact lenses at age 16 and have been dependant on them since.

- Wearing glasses out of the house gives me headaches. Followed by neckaches and shoulder aches. Sometimes they are so bad that I feel like throwing up.


********

Some people consider glasses an accessory, like earrings or necklaces. Not me. Glasses, to me, are a hindrance. Some people look cool with glasses. Not me. I simply look nerdy. And not in a cool way either. So it was contact lenses for me all day, even at home. Simply because my glasses were so physically uncomfortable and I felt so conscious with them on.

Each time I had to get a new pair of glasses, I had my eyes checked. Each time the opticians couldn't explain why I experienced all the aches, and hurried me through the eye examination so that they could serve the next customer. I disliked each visit immensely.

KJ Optometrists were very kind to offer me an eye examination, and further, a complimentary pair of glasses so I thought why not. Chances were, I'd leave with yet another pair of glasses that would cause me grief.

My relief from grief came in the form of Ms Li Leng, a Senior Optometrist from KJ Optometrists. Opticians, optometrists - is it a po-tay-to/po-tah-to thing? Same same but different? Well, yes and no.

Opticians can also conduct visual tests, the difference is that they interpret prescriptions that are prescribed by optometrists, and prepare suitable optical solutions according to those prescriptions. An optometrist is able to prescribe the suitable optical solution for specific optical problems, as well as diagnose any eye diseases and optical problems. There may be many optical shops in Singapore, but few have optometrists on hand. KJ Optometrists has 7 optometrists in their pool, who are also trained in treating young children. Good to know.



So this lady. She spent a good hour with me, giving me possibly the most comprehensive eye check up ever. She took the time to understand my history (but only eye related so don't worry, you won't have to tell her which school you attended, if you were a bad student, or which teacher you had a crush on), and patiently explained the possibilities for my problem.

On top of the usual "Can you read this off the chart?" and "Stare at the windmill" tests, I also had one really special one done - I had a picture of my eyeballs taken. See this pic below? Yup, those balls of light belong to me. I wish I could explain more to you other than to tell you that my eyes look healthy with good veins in them and all, but there was a lot of info to take in, plus I was still recovering from shock. Oh yes, the shock.

You see, my eyesight has been stable for a good 2 decades or so. I had no reason to doubt it because every optician (not optometrist. I almost guarantee that you will not forget the word from now) I saw did the regular tests and told me the same thing, that optical prescription (or 'degree' or 'lens power' in layman speak) was stable and all I needed was a new pair of glasses.

So when Li Leng told me, after all the stringent tests, that she was fitting me for a pair of glasses with a power of about 100 degrees weaker than what I've been wearing for 20 years, I was stunned. Turns out, in all these years, I had been wearing glasses fitted with an optical prescription that was too strong for me. How? I'm not quite sure.
 



What did she do that was different? The biggest difference was that she gave me (and my eyes) lots of opportunity to rest. I don't know about you but I get nervous before tests. Spelling tests, comprehension tests, pregnancy tests. You know. So I'm nervous before eye tests as well. Surely I can't be the only one who feels slightly embarrassed for not being able to read off the eye charts? Or feel nervous about "Oh dear, what if my power increases".

So she allowed me time to rest. Plus she was patient and explained everything to me. Like how she reassured me by saying that she was going to start off the eye exam with a very low power, one that would at first make everything very blurred, and this was to ensure she could get an accurate reading of my eyes. Her reassurance and confidence encouraged me to relax, and by relaxing, I was able to go through the tests without feeling hurried or stressed.

She also asked me to read off a printed document, and to hold it at a comfortable reading distance, and adjusted my optical prescription accordingly. In all my years of check ups with so many optical outlets, I had never done that. But then again, it seems like such a natural thing to do, isn't it?



So after all the tests, I knew I was in good hands. But still, there was the problem of the frames. I have to repeat that I do not like wearing glasses. Mostly because I don't like the way I look in them. So if knowing the correct degree meant that I would start buying the correct contact lenses, and I would have to walk out of the shop without finding a pair of frames that suited me, I could live with that. But hey hey would you look at that, I did manage to find a pair that fitted me, and would you believe it? I actually love my new glasses!

After I collected my new spectacles, I wore them straight out and? No headaches! And these days I am wearing my glasses out more and more. This is big, this is really big to me. Like life changingly big.

But wait, there's more. What of my contact lenses? Imagine how confused my eyes would be if I had different optical prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses. Li Leng offered to exchange my existing and unopened lenses, and after I tried my new ones on, she even did a check to see if they fitted me well (to determine if my lenses allowed a natural formation of tears, to keep my eyes moist). Apparently all practitioners are supposed to do that, but somehow, I'd never had that test done. So this sealed the deal for me. Professionalism for the win! 

You know that I would only endorse what I truly believe in, and my friends, KJ Optometrists is like no other optical store I've ever visited. I am so grateful for Li Leng's professionalism and advice, and finally, for a pair of spectacles that I like and doesn't cause me grief. Thanks again, KJ Optometrists!

Specially for Gingerbreadmum readers!
Get 25% off all frames* when you quote GMUMROCKS at KJ Optometrists at Plaza Singapura from now till 31 March 2015.

*except for two brands - Tag Heuer and Oakley, which are price-controlled items

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KJ Optometrists is located at 68 Orchard Road, Plaza Singapura #04-52 (new wing), Singapore 238839. Tel: 6333 0280. Opening hours: 11am to 9pm daily. 

Disclaimer: I received complimentary eye checks and a swanky new pair of spectacles from KJ Optometrists. All opinions are my own and completely honest. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Family Room

We laugh spontaneously
We disagree frequently
We love unconditionally
We argue sporadically
We hug fiercely
We fight occasionally
We yell regularly
We live messily

We are not perfect, but we are a family, and this is where we live.

******




This is the room we term as "The Family Room".

It's where everybody gathers at. Where there's a spot for everyone. Where there are things to entertain everyone. Where everyone can sit and relax, or stretch out horizontally for a nap. Where everyone can engage in quiet time or a noisy activity.



This is where we eat, talk, play, read, fight, watch TV, fold clothes, work, build, destroy, laugh, scream, jump, run, cry, throw tantrums, sulk. In no particular order.

This is where we can be noisy. This is where we can be quiet. This is where conversations flow. This is where we sit in silence. This is where we are comfortable alone. This is where we enjoy each other's company.











This is where we have our own space. This is where we fight for space. This is where we whisper "I love you". This is where we scream "She started it!". This is where we talk about our history. This is where our memories are created.

This is where we are a family. This is where we invite others into our lives. This is where we live. This is where we love.




 
We've been through many round of changes but I think we've finally got it. And judging by the amount of time everyone's spending in this room, I'd say we all love it. Thank you, IKEA for making our bright and happy family room a reality. We love it.

Ps but hey, can your relationship survive a trip to IKEA? Find out here!

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by IKEA, where there's something for everyone and every budget. Also where you'll learn more about your spouse, get lost a little, work some muscles and grimace at the taxi queue.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Wet Market Tips from the New Age Auntie

The wet market is one of my most frequented places. There, I've said it.

There's something about shopping at the wet market that supermarkets cannot replicate. Yes, there's the convenience of late night (sometimes even 24-hour) shopping, but supermarkets just feel rather impersonal to me. I understand though that there are a variety of reasons why some prefer to stay away from the market, and most if these reasons are fear driven. 

Prices at the wet markets are generally lower than what you get at the supermarkets. I'm told our wet market is one of the priciest, but still, in the big scheme of things, I still save by shopping there. Also, I think that the things are fresher at the wet market.

Other reasons include:
1.Whatever I spend goes directly to the stallholders, and I can do my part to cut down on packaging wastage.

2. I'm able to get more personalised orders. Like I can ask for my pork to be grounded twice for example, or choose the particular piece of meat that I want minced. Or to have my fish fillets sliced thinly. My fishmonger tells me which fish is good for kids because there are lesser bones, and when I buy bones for soup, the pork uncle always asks if we intend to eat the meat off the bone too.

3. There are also perks like getting complimentary garnishing (I've never had to buy spring onions, red chillis or coriander). Shall I mention discounts? I shall. Many times, they're happy to round down prices when you buy a few more things. Some stall holders are also cool to babysit your previous purchases while you go shopping for additional items.

4. I don't have to feel pressured into buying a whole bag of something when most of it will end up getting binned. At the market, you can buy a couple of sticks of celery (as opposed to a whole pack), or half a butternut squash, or just 5 eggs (that come in homemade cardboard boxes, thank you very much!).

5. The more familiar ones are OK with me giving a verbal IOU if the nearby ATM is out of order.

We are very blessed to have a good wet market nearby, and I go there very often. Over the years, I've picked up a tip of two, and hope that through them, more people will feel less intimidated about shopping at the wet markets.


1. Don't be afraid to ask
Don't know the names of vegetables? I totally understand. At the supermarket, everything is labelled, making it easy to identify the vegetables you need. At the wet market, everything green and leafy to me was a blur. In the beginning, I'd grab the first green leafy thing and head off to pay, afraid to hold up the queue. I still don't know half the vegetables but for the other half? I asked.

I asked just about anyone - stall holders and fellow shoppers alike. If you're looking to cook a particular vegetable, ask the stall holder if he has it. It would be helpful if you had the name in Chinese or dialect, but if not, a lot of them now speak English. If you really need that particular item but can't explain it, show a picture on your phone. I'm serious.

If something catches your fancy but you're not sure how to cook it, again, ask. Now I have no qualms asking the people next to me, "Oh, how do you intend to cook that?". Mostly, they're happy to share. And mostly, the answer is "with a bit of oil and garlic".

Don't know what meat to buy for chops? Ask. Want to know if your meat can be minced twice? Ask. Don't know if a fish should be steamed, fried, baked or grilled? Ask. Need your fish to be gutted and descaled? Yes it can be done. For free. Just ask.

And don't forget your manners, and to smile.



2. Make a list
It's easy to get lost at the market, particularly if it's one you're unfamiliar with. By having a list, you'll be able to look for the sections that you want and help keep to your budget. Because remember, they don't take NETS or credit cards (though if you're more familiar with them, you could probably ask to pay them at your next visit)

This also allows you to plan your route. I like doing meats first, then fish, then fruit and vegetables. I carry a grocery bag to a) cut down on plastic bags and 2) it's easier for me to carry one bag on my shoulder than 5 in my hand. So my meats go at the bottom, then fish on top. The vegetables come in a big bag that I hand carry.

My reason for going this? Firstly, I prefer stacking fish on top of meat than vice versa. Because fish is more delicate and um, expensive. And I end off with fruit and veg because that can all get quite heavy to lug around. Secondly, would you prefer having money handled by the fishmonger or the vegetable seller in your purse? Noting that the latter's hands are usually dry as opposed to the former's. 



3. Go at the right time
I know it's a challenging thing to do for working folks, but if it's going to be your first trip to the wet market, I recommend you make it less intimidating by going at a less crowded time, yes, like weekdays. I've gone as early as 6am (thank you, insominia) and as late as 12 noon. My favourite time is probably about 8am when the hardcore shoppers have done their shopping, and the market is less crowded, making shopping more pleasant.

Markets are generally closed on Mondays. Because abbatoirs are closed on Sundays (therefore there's no meat to sell on Mondays). If you're lucky, you'll find a few fruit or vegetable stalls, or the dried goods stall open but generally, it's quiet on Mondays. Most markets open from 6am to about 12 noon with many stalls packing up by 11.30.


4. Put your queuing mentality aside
I'm not saying shove your way around. There's still an unspoken rule about first come, first served (and please be gracious about it too), but don't expect to queue up in a straight line. Make eye contact and speak up to get stall holders' attention (a simple "Excuse me!" or "老板/老板娘!" or because it's Singapore, "Hello!" will suffice). Because if you wait till you're noticed, my friend, you're going to wait for a long time.


5. Wear footwear that you don't mind getting dirtied
Is the wet market floor the cleanest? Nope. So leave your Jimmy Choos at home and go in whatever you don't mind getting dirtied or can easily be washed. Until you're a pro, you might even want to opt against flip flops because the floor can get reeeeally slippery.

 
I hope this has helped somewhat. If you've got any specific questions, feel free to leave them in comments, and I'll be happy to help! Because I'm proud to be a New Age Auntie! :) Happy weekend, folks.



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