Monday, September 1, 2014

Thankfulness: The Rock

We've been together something like ten years, married twice to each other, and have seen each others' worst habits (or maybe not). We've fought over worthy causes, and about petty things. We've laughed together, we've loved together, we've celebrated our differences and shared common interests.

But in all the time we'd been together, I had never ever seen him in as much awe as I did the time I blew my top, courtesy of the good folks at PMS Pte Ltd. Let's just say I was probably like a recently caught caged animal. Or at least that's the image I got. Whatever it was, it wasn't pretty.

I will never forget how my husband came up to me (or maybe "carefully approached me" would be a better description) and said the words, "Be careful. You can never retract your words", and attempted to calm me down with a hug of just the right pressure. My husband who recognised that I wasn't myself, and together with me, blamed those damn hormones.

All these years he'd let me think I was the one running the show when actually he's always been the strong one between us. 

My mum's always said I needed someone like that to balance my jumpy nature; she's so right. I'm so grateful for his quiet strength. The rock. My rock.

Thankfulness: That Wretched Mattress

My friend J from Mum in the Making (who won the Best Family Blog category in the recent Singapore Blog Awards, y'all!) tagged me on Facebook for a 5-day thankfulness challenge, sharing 3 things I'm thankful for and each day tagging 2 other people. I politely declined because I think I've worn out my list of people to tag from the #kindnessforall movement! Also because short and sweet isn't something I'm particularly good at, and I can't write an essay on my Facebook status.

I feel bad though, so to make up for it, this week's posts will be focused on thankfulness.


We have a mattress on the floor in our kids' room. I dislike it. I mean, it's very comfortable but I dislike the idea of having it there. It's unsightly, it takes up half the room so we can't play there, and it just doesn't belong. But it's there to serve a purpose; we lie there when we put the girls to bed, and sometimes we fall asleep there and find ourselves there when the sun rises.

If we don't fold it up in the morning, it remains there during the day. If we do fold it up, it's still a cumbersome thing and though it means that we have more floor room, it also means it's blocking something else. So, I dislike it.

But one morning I woke up to the sound of a kiss. But I didn't feel anything. Then I heard footsteps and the door knob. I looked up to see Poppy padding out of the room and then in my groggy state of mind, it hit me - she had kissed sleeping Calla who was wrapped up in the blanket under my arm.

I woke up with a smile that morning. Because unsightly mattress or not, I am blessed. And the thing about realising how very blessed I am is that I started seeing all the good things about having that mattress in the room:

I get to talk to the girls as we wind down for the night. I get to hug them and smell their hair and be the last person to say "Goodnight my angels; sweet dreams, I love you" to them. I get to hear them whisper to each other and giggle. Now I just let them. Because when they grow up, I want them to remember chatting into the night with each other, and not how strict their mother was with their bedtime. 

One day that mattress will be gone. One day we will have that wide open space. One day we might even be able to walk five consecutive steps without stepping on a toy or book or loose blanket or raisin. But when that one day comes, it might also mean that the girls are old enough and independant enough and no longer need or want us to put them to bed.

So a cleaner and less cluttered room can wait. I'm grateful for now, and for that wretched mattress on the floor that is the cause of my anguish.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

LET'S PLAY! - Rainy Day Activities for Kids

Rainy days can be stressful, because you're couped up at home with a bored kid or two, and they're literally climbing on you from boredom.

I have a 2-year old and a 6-year old and while they are sometimes happy to entertain themselves with books or toys, they will ultimately find their way into my hair and ask for me to play with them. I can't possibly bake with them nor share the load of housework with them all the time (though if that's what you want to do, I share a list of 100 household chores your preschooler can be involved in), and there's only so much Monopoly I can play!

If you're a parent who's also cracking her head on what to do when thunder and lighting strikes, here are some ideas! Plus many more at the bottom of the page, contributed by fellow parents. Enjoy!

1. Weigh fruit and veggies
Yes it may sound like a lame activity to you. But these kids had so much fun doing this!
You will need: various fruits and vegetables, writing material, and a weighing scale. I set the following two rules and found them to be very useful: each fruit and veg must be kept before the next one is brought out for weighing (this prevents me being left at the end of the activity with a whole table covered with fruit and veg), and that kids must always be together (because the activity would end so much earlier if they split the search!)

You can expand on this activity as much as you want - get the kids to divide the items into groups by colour, weight, size, or to write the names of the items in Chinese, or draw them, or discuss about which ones they like/dislike, or rank them in ascending/descending order. For me, I got them to simply weigh them all, and then to find out which were the heaviest and lightest.

2. Engage all your senses!
Sensory bins are our go-to activity for now. The 2-year old gets a different sensory bin practically every other morning and I keep them new and interesting for her by rotating the materials. It doesn't have to be expensive or messy (though of course, they would love for it to be super messy), and you don't have to have a big stash of materials nor a big storage space either. We simply play within an IKEA Trofast plastic drawer and when play time is over, all the filler materials (which are packed separately in Ziplock bags) are stored in the drawer. New to sensory bins? Here are ten ideas to get you started!

3. Enter the world of imagination!
We love pretend play!

Our IKEA play kitchen is one of our best investments. With the help of some plastic fruit and vegetables, you'll be able to open your own little restaurant. But for this, the kids mostly like to involve me (but oh their faces when they bring you a tray of food! Those shy little looks when you tell them the plastic chicken thigh is the most delicious thing you've ever tasted! And how they try to act grown up when you ask them questions!).

When it comes to playing Doctor-Doctor though, they're usually happy to give their stuffed toys medical check-ups on their own for some reason. Though Doctor-Doctor is something I don't mind playing because I can sometimes sneak in a little nap, or at least lie down a little by saying I have a broken leg or a tummy cramp. Choose something that your doctor will have to order bed rest for, folks!

But a favourite these days is the pretend library. We had an old cardboard box and I cut a hole in it and voila, a book drop. It's great because they're always fighting about who gets to drop the books when we go to the real library, so now they can have as many turns as they want. Plus, I'm finding less books scattered around the house.

4.  Conduct experiments!
They can be real Science experiments, or pretend ones. Both my kids love playing with water but they play with it differently. The 2-year old enjoys a good splash but the 6-year old is very precise with her movements. She loves nothing more than an hour of pouring and mixing. Funnels, food colouring, measuring cups, syringes, medicine droppers and lots of clear containers!

(As a kid I did the same thing and pretended I was a Scientist in a white lab coat!)

5. Paint!
I may not always have food in my freezer, but I almost always have coloured ice. Priorities, people, priorities! So, a big piece of paper, a couple of cubes of coloured ice, and away they go! I spread the paper over a plastic sheet to make clean-up easier.

6. Get dolled up!
Throw on your wigs (yes we have wigs) or hats (yes we have hats) and tutus or get your doll sets out. We don't have Barbies but we do have these amazing cardboard dolls that come with such fantastic clothes that I sometimes find myself trying to get inspiration from them! (I must have reached a low point in my sense of dressing, yes)

7. Easel up!
The easel is another one of our most used things at home. The kids prefer to write/draw with pens and markers (instead of chalk) so I simply tape a piece of paper over the chalk board side so that both are appeased. If you don't already have a white board easel, quick go get one! We draw and write lots and lots on it and I feel so happy at the amount of paper we're saving!

The 6-year old is a big fan of mazes, quizzes and activity sheets. So I often draw something for her to greet her when she gets home from school. I did a whole Pacman series one day and she found them to be so funny. Yes I played a lot of the real Pacman growing up!

I hope to keep this list updated as we grow! Feel free to link up if you've got ideas on how to keep kids happy at home without electronics!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Alive Museum Singapore, or AKA My "Claustrophobia Alert!" Warning

You must have heard about the Alive Museum SG by now, or at least seen pictures of your friends on Facebook, posing with strange things with mock shocked expressions. As I looked at those pictures, I wondered if this was something my kids would be interested in. My 2-year old and 6-year old who traditionally enjoy being out in wide open spaces. Then the kind folks from Alive Museum SG offered to host us one day so I thought well what's the harm in trying, so off we went.

There were many fun exhibits, like this one, but many were the 'stick your head in this cut out and smile', which was quite disappointing for me.

There's a high chance you've read about your friends' awesome experiences, like these posts from fellow parenting bloggers (10 family-friendly tips by A Happy Mum, Life is in the Small Things' pictorial proof of camera-shy kids enjoying the exhibits and 3-generation fun from The Kam Family).

But no, not us. Well, not me at least. Halfway through our 90-minute visit, I was grabbed by claustrophobia. Although, my shortage of breath could have been due to poor ventilation, from chasing and grabbing kids, the crowd, or a combination of factors. At some point though, I did feel extremely uncomfortable; I didn't realise it then but the moment I saw the exit sign, I dashed out and immediately felt much better.


The kids enjoyed it though. There's a fair bit of climbing and exploring that will entertain any 2-year old, and lots of funny things to see for 6-year olds. Speaking of 6-year olds, mine was crawling on the ground for a shot and had a nasty scratch on her knee, plus a hole in her leggings. That put a damper on her mood for the last half hour of our visit.

I won't strike this place off as a no-go completely because it's undeniably a fun place to visit for both friends and families. It does however, cater to a certain type of people, and if you're the kind of person who prefers natural shots with your kids and not the 'plonk offspring here and "look here! do that!"' kind, there's a chance you might not enjoy this place so much.

There are suggestions all around on how best to take the most fun shots, like how to pose and where the best location for both photographer and subject. However since there are often many exhibits sharing the same room, you will often find yourself in a situation where you're either having to ask folks to scoot a little, or that you're in someone else's shot.

We were there late morning on a Monday which also happened to be a school holiday, and it was reasonably crowded. If you're the kind who enjoys taking things slow and browsing, then do brace yourself because this isn't going to be that kind of experience.

Let's just say I felt like I was on a package tour, you know, when you travel for hours on a coach, arrive at a tourist attraction and your guide tells you you have 15 minutes to take your photos and enjoy the sights and then you're back on the bus again (but wait, you also have to pee so you spend 10 out of that 15 minutes waiting in the toilet for your turn) so you rush through everything and wonder why in the world you're on holiday when you're rushing so much. It kind of felt like that for me.

So there you have it. My honest sharing on the Alive Museum SG. We won't be back, but here's more info for those of you who are keen. Like I said, everyone else I know who's been has enjoyed it!

Alive Museum Singapore
Suntec City Mall #03-372 (between Towers 3 and 4), where the old The Rock used to be
Opens daily from 10am to 10pm (with last admission at 9pm)
Tickets: S$25 for adults 13 years and above, $20 for children aged 3-12 years.

Disclaimer: I received complimentary tickets to visit Alive Museum SG. All comments and opinions are my own. I was in two minds about posting this review, but figured you'd rather read an honest review than a sugar-coated one.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Guilt-Free Parenting

Everyone's talking about stress-free parenting, scream-free parenting, screen-free parenting. I have no problem with anyone who wants to be stress free, scream free or screen free. I strive for the same things myself. My problem is that all these things seem to point to one common factor: that as parents, we are supposed to do everything right and we are definitely not doing everything right.

Why is it that parents are always under the spotlight? It's everyone's business if we choose to, I don't know, put a child leash on our kid at a crowded place, or if we choose to carry our 8 year-old whose feet hurt, or if we reprimand our kids in public.

We are human, just like everyone else. We are entitled to make mistakes, just like everyone else. We can make the wrong choices, just like everyone else. We should strive to be good parents, but if we don't meet the mark, it's between us and our kids and nobody else should feel the need to concern themselves with it.

Above being stress-free, scream-free, and screen-free, I aim to be a guilt-free parent. I aim to be the best parent I can be for my kids, and by that I mean that I set the standard, not Google, not any publication that says "How to be a good parent", not anything that I might read on anyone's Facebook feed.

I think that deep down, we all know what it takes to be a good parent. We know the right things to do, we know the things to avoid. We know because we all have an inbuilt values system that guides us. Somewhere along the line we've let social media influence this.

Folks, let's not do this to ourselves! It doesn't matter which of our friends homeschools, or brings their kids out on awesome adventures, or creates beautiful crafts with their kids. Blogs are great - they are entertaining, and some are even inspiring (by the way, thanks for being here). Pinterest is awesome because there are so many ideas to browse. Facebook keeps us updated with friends and we can see what they've been up to with their kids. Instagram is a quick way to share a snippet of your life and see someone else's. That's all great, BUT just please bear in mind that everyone's life situation and priorities are different from yours. Please, don't feel guilty about not doing the same things as they are. Plus, it's not a competition!

You're probably doing a great job with your kids too. I mean, you're not serving them mud daily or anything are you? Why not focus on what you're doing right instead of the things that have gone wrong? Scraped knees and bruised shins are all part of childhood; scars or not, stop blaming yourselves. Impolite kids? Haven't we all been through that stage ourselves? - Stop blaming yourselves. Big fat zeros on spelling tests? It's not you, it's them; stop blaming yourselves. Big sister always snatching from younger brother? Young brother keeps pinching older sister? Kids will be kids and it's all part of childhood; stop blaming yourselves.

No, don't just leave everything be because the world would go chaotic (particularly in your home). Do what you need to do, rope in your other half too, but recognise that you are not solely responsible for everything that goes wrong so don't feel guilty about everything!

Yes, we want the best of everything for our kids, but as George Michael so rightly puts it, guilty feet have got no rhythm. Shake the guilt off and get into the real parenting groove and live with your kids!


This weird random I-need-to-get-this-off-my-chest-cos-you're-all-good-guys-but-why-don't-you-see-it post was brought to you by Gingerbreadmum who, as you can see, has had too many coffees today.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Thankful Tuesday: Dates with the Firstborn

Last week I was thankful for time with the baby. This week I'm grateful for "Poppy Day"!

I scribbled "Poppy Day" on our calendar and the 6-year old, who checks the calendar frequently, was really excited. She'd had a designated Poppy Day before, where it was just her with both parents (we went skating at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands!), and was really excited about another. I told her she could ask me yes/no questions, and that I wouldn't divulge any further information.

My mum came over to our house and spent time with Calla (they had so much fun, she said), and this is what Poppy, Max and I got to doing:

Somehow, I never really noticed that her jeans had grown so short. I mean, I knew, but I never really thought much about it. This outing allowed me to see her as an individual, and not 'just one of my kids' (not that I have 20, but still).

Right under my nose, she'd grown so much. She's so tall now. She's so mature now. She's so 6-year old now. This outing was really timely. Poppy loves reading so much that she's happy to spend all day on the sofa with a Tintin comic or Mr Pink-Whistle or The BFG that we've taken it for granted. As an eldest child, I can identify with that. I've sometimes felt left alone and left out in my growing years because I could often entertain myself while my parents were off tending to my younger siblings.

I vowed that I would never let that happen to Poppy. I understand that reading is a wonderful thing, yes. I understand that it's sometimes nice to be by oneself with a good read, yes. What I am trying to avoid is abusing the fact that she enjoys reading by herself, and ignoring her while she spends hours reading.

So even when she's lost in her books, I sometimes just sit with her and ask if she'd like me to read it out for her, or just ask her if she's alright, or just plant a kiss on her head. You know, just to remind her that Mama's still here. 

So anyway. The outing. It was a good thing for all of us. And again, the same requirements applied:

1) it had to be a budget-friendly activity
2) it had to be something we could bond over
3) it would preferably be something that would normally be difficult to do when Calla tagged along

So bowling it was :)

Kallang Bowling Alley at Kallang Leisure Park has this amazing thing where the gutters guards go up when it's the child's turn to bowl! So they can bowl (or ball-throw) confidently without fear of their bowling balls going into the gutter. And the gutter guards automatically go down when it's the adults' turn; you just have to let the counter staff know which name they should programme the guards for. Cool beans!

All the way toward Kallang Leisure Park, she didn't have a clue as to where we were headed. So I seized the opportunity to drag the surprise further. I asked her to hop on my back and close her eyes and made her promise not to peep. Then we went into the bowling alley and I let her off and at first she didn't register the sounds. But the moment she saw the lanes, she squealed and hugged me. Oh she was sooooooo happy!

Kallang Bowling Alley doesn't take same-day bookings so call a day before. I suggest you give them a ring even if it's a last minute decision, because they are sometimes closed for private functions. We were there on a Monday in the late afternoon, and after a company event that took up 5 lanes left, the alley was reasonably quiet.

Oh we all had so much fun. It was really really nice to be able to spend time with our firstborn without having to chase the little one. Don't get me wrong, we love the little one very very much too, but spending two-parent-one-child time is something that we really enjoy and would love to implement on a regular basis, if the logistics allow.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sensory Bins for Toddlers

If you're new to sensory bins and have no idea where to start, here's a list of 10 bins we've made and enjoyed - I hope you'll find these helpful! (I share them on Instagram too; if you've got an account, I'm @gingerbreadmum)

1. Animal Farm
Materials: Rolled oats and plastic animals, scoops, small containers

This was the very first sensory bin I made when Calla was 1 year and 4 months old (you can read more about how it went here). If you've got a little one who still puts stuff into her mouth, this is a great sensory bin to start with because it's OK if she actually eats some of the oats (which Calla did initially).

With this bin, you can make the animals hide by pouring oats over them, and asking your child to 'feed' the animals with oats, or make them walk in the oats. Of course, throwing fistfuls of oats in the air is always fun but they will ultimately figure that out for themselves.

2. Flower Power
Materials: flower petals, tap water (just enough for petals to float), containers for sorting, tweezers/tongs. I also added a drop of Lavender essential oil which made it a very refreshing sensory bin for me to play with!

One morning when we were out on a walk, I pointed out flowers to her as usual and asked her to pick them up. The thing about my little one is that she is into twigs and leaves, not flowers. So I was left to pick the flowers. I quite enjoyed it though! When we got home, I put the materials all together and I love how pretty the bin turned out.

At first she was not interested in this at all, which really disappointed me because I was really enjoying the smell of Lavender so much! Then I brought out a lunchbox that had dividers, and gave her a pair of plastic tongs, and then she really started to enjoy picking the flowers out and sorting them.

3. Coffee Construction Site
Materials: Coffee grounds, construction vehicles

One morning I went to the neighbourhood coffee shop and (after hesitating and rearranging some packs of sugar and pretending to look at cakes) asked if they would so kindly keep their coffee grounds aside for me. I had to tell a little white lie and say that I was a kindergarten teacher because I didn't think that many would understand "homeschooling Mama wannabe". I returned in the evening, half expecting them to tell me that they'd forgotten because it was a busy day, so I was really pleasantly surprised that they had packed a container worth of grounds for me and gave it to me with a smile! Hooray for nice people!

This was before I thought I would ever bring in real sand into the house (I did ultimately, see number 5!). I thought the colour was perfect! We borrowed some construction vehicles, and threw in some toilet rolls just for fun. The kids loved it and oh I loved the smell! The coffee powder unfortunately cannot be kept; it will grow mouldy! Just um, believe me ok?

4. Dishwashing Day
Materials: Warm water, baby soap, cups, plates, non-sharp utensils, sponge

The 6-year old helps me with the dishes sometimes but the 2-year old is always standing on the stool next to us and watching. I'm not quite ready to expose her to a sink full of knives and oily pots so I made this for her. Her eyes lit up the minute she saw it and I dare say I saw a thought bubble form above her head with the words "Wow! I have the most awesome Mama!".

She got to washing the cups, the plates.... and then the bathroom walls. Yes, this bin, for obvious reasons, should be played with in the bathroom.

5. Creepy Crawlie
Materials: Sand (yes, real sand), plastic bugs, toy spade/rake, magnifying glass

This was a bin that I made for Poppy a while ago. I supposed if I had a garden I would do it again but sand is really quite a pain to clean up. So all you garden/balcony folks, this one's for you.

Younger kids can simply excavate the bugs while you can consider leaving clues and fun facts about insects hidden under the sand (like what I did for Poppy) for older kids.

6. Under the Sea
Materials: Blue paper (or you can use felt if you have), blue pom poms, sea creatures, small containers

Typically this would be done with water (a drop of blue colouring to about 1-2 inches worth of water works beautifully!) but this sensory bin was played in the room (instead of in the kitchen where we usually play), so I didn't want a pond on the floor or to have to change bedsheets.

The funny thing was that I presented this to both my girls (aged 2 and 6 respectively) and they both went for the pom poms first. The 6 year old started to created patterns on her palette, and the 2 year old followed suit. Of course, they fought over who had more pom poms. They pretty much both ignored the sea creatures for a while until I realised that there were many pairs in there so I would take one out and ask the little one to find the other, and when she found a match, the pair would kiss and she would keep them back in their container. Oh she found it to be so funny.

7. Shampoo Dough
Materials: 1 cup cornstarch (or corn flour), 1/2 cup of shampoo

This is probably one of the most interesting materials we've created. It starts of a bit yucky and you're wondering if you will ever get that sticky material off your hands, and then some magic happens and it starts to gel together and becomes really nice and soft. Over time and constant moulding and rolling, you'll find that you can actually shape it. But when you leave it for a while, it'll lose its shape and 'melt'. Which is great for snowmen! Yes, make snowmen!

We played with this for a long time and ended off with sticking coloured ice cream sticks in the dough, and finally, a birthday candle which everyone fought to extinguish. PS it smells lovely too!

8. Monday Blues
Materials: black eyed peas, black beans, random items (I used blue because Calla and I were on a blue colour theme)

There is lots of scooping and pouring, and scooping and pouring in this sensory bin! The sound of the beans in the bin really captivated my little one and she loved hearing it fall from spoon to cup as well. We also spent some time picking out beans that had dried up to throw.

There are some sensory bins that I prepare for them, that I am left to clean up after. Not this one. This one, Calla stayed to help me scoop the beans into the bag to store :)

9. Button Soup
Materials: buttons, small containers, scoops, sequins (optional but our sensory bin had them simply because our sequins just happened to already be in the bag with the buttons!)

My lovely mother-in-law sent us a big bag of vintage buttons some time ago, and I never knew what to do with them. So in they went into our regular sensory bin, along with some silicon cupcake holders and plastic ice cream cones, then the little one went to get some ice cream scoops to add to the bin.

With the tools I provided for her, I thought she would 'cook'. But she was scooping and scooping and overturning the cupcake holders and saying "Mama I make sandcastle!". They always surprise us, don't they? :)

10. Ocean Adventure
Materials: plastic sea creatures, blue water beads, water, blue rocks

I've saved the best for last! This is our absolute favourite for now. Everyone loves it, including me. The water beads re squishy and so fun to play with. Our beads come in a pack of various shades of blue plus colourless ones. At first I told Poppy I was going to show her some magic - I put my hand at an area where there clearly were no beads, then grabbed at the water and then ta-da!! Transcluscent beads! She was so amazed that our first game was to collect these invisible beads!

Note: if you've got a very young child who's still putting things in her mouth, you might want to wait a little before trying out water beads; they do look quite yummy!

I hope you'll enjoy sensory bins as much as we do. I cannot even begin to explain how very hooked I am to these things!

And now, really special news: to start you off on your sensory adventure (warning: there might be no turning back), I am giving away one set of Ocean Adventure to one lucky Singapore-based reader (closing date Friday 5 September)!

I'm putting this together myself (well, maybe with a little help from the kids) so please know that it is going to be a simple thing. It's a home-made gift from the heart so please please don't expect it to be perfect or jewel studded or gold plates or anything like that ok? No part of this post or giveaway bin is sponsored and goodness knows I can't afford anything gold plated! 

Here's what you have to do (it's simple, don't worry): please share this post with friends with kids! That's all! I can only imagine the number of kids that would be having so much fun with sensory bins!!!

On this blog post, please leave your name and email address so I can contact  you if you win :) The winner will need to provide his/her address so that I can arrange for courier delivery. 

I'll pick a winner randomly in a week and announce the winner on the Gingerbreadmum Blog Facebook page. You're welcome to bribe me with praise/compliments about my hair or glowing complexion/send me flowers or chocolates but that won't really help in my decision. Though chocolates would be nice. 

Yippee for sensory bins!!!

Edited 31 Aug: congratulations Meiyi! Check your mailbox- I've just sent you an email asking for your delivery address!!

Thanks everyone for your participation. I will be sharing more sensory bin ideas soon!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Beach Solves All Problems

I no idea why but whenever life throws me a curveball, I feel like I need to head to the beach. Whenever I feel a little low, I always have the feeling that a trip to the beach will cheer me up.

These days, the source of this lowness is the thought of my little one getting shipped off to school. Yes it's in many more months. No it's not to boarding school. In another country. Where she will stay for years without returning.

But mums understand. One minute they're sliding out of our lady parts and the next minute they're in their graduation gowns, leaving us guilty as heck about all the times we screamed at them/ignored them/let them fall/denied their requests.

So, the beach.

The kids love it and I usually try to save activities that they love for occasions that they can both participate in. So in the past 2 years, I've only ever been to the beach with both kids. I bring Calla everywhere but somehow we've never been to the beach together. Alone. Wait does that make sense? Together and alone? I mean, just the two of us.

Going to the beach with both kids means that one will always have to follow the other, simply because I may have two eyes but they can't go in different directions. So I'm always yelling for one to "STOP!" or for another to "Catch up!".

Going to the beach with just one child is so pleasant. I get to be a relaxed mum and that child gets to do whatever she wants to at her own time. Strange that I never saw it that way.

So did the beach solve all my problems?

Let's just say I'm feeling heaps better.

Got a kid going off to school too? Here, have a tissue.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thankful Tuesday: Time with the Baby

This morning I looked at our calendar and saw the word "Orientation". My heart skipped a little beat. I've been accepting the fact that my firstborn will be going to Primary 1 in a couple of months in tiny tentative steps (are you a parent sending your kid to Primary 1? I think we all fall into two groups - which are you?), but this school orientation in particular was for my second child, who will start pre-Nursery next year.

But but but.... SHE'S JUST A BABY!!!!!

She still snuggles up to me for a cuddle. She still climbs on me to sit on my lap whenever I'm cross-legged on the floor. She still asks me to carry her. She still makes really funny mistakes when she speaks. She still sits whenever and wherever she's tired, not bothering about whatever's around her.

She's still wearing one-piece pajamas! Doesn't that all mean that she's still a baby?

Perhaps it was the realisation that she will soon be shipped off to school (well it's really only 3 hours a day, but still), that I went into Super Mama mode today. Today I sat with her and played with her the whole time. Today I was more patient with her. Today I smiled at her more. Today I hugged her more and asked for more kisses. Today was all about her, and everything - housework, cooking, social media - took a backseat.

The thing about the second child is that you tend to have to keep them away from their older siblings when you're trying to do something constructive with them, and after months or years of brushing them aside, you suddenly realise that hey, they're TWO YEARS OLD! And then you feel guilty about not having stared at them enough or smelled them enough.

Today I am very very very thankful for the opportunity I've had to spend one-on-one time with Calla. Every morning when Poppy is in school, it's just us. It's special. We do things at our own pace. We do things that are catered to her as opposed to simply following what her sister wants to do. We go out. We explore. We do the same things that I used to do with Poppy when Poppy was a baby.

For this, I am grateful. And for the remaining months I have with her at home with me until school replaces me for 3 hours a day. From now till then, I will remember to watch my child in wonder instead of rushing her when she does things she enjoys like like going up and down stairs. I will prepare more sensory bins for her since she likes them so much. I will remember to bring a bottle of bubbles out with me everywhere we go even if it means dirty, soapy hands.

I will remember to use this precious time to the fullest with my Calla Lily, my baby who will soon not be a baby anymore.

Excuse me while I shed a few tears.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Poppy's Pirate Party

Like every other year, my main aim (apart from hoping that the birthday girl has a good time) was to keep the party simple and within a tiny budget. This year was no different. Poppy requested for a pirate themed party for her 6th, and I thought a poolside party might be fun for a group of 6-year olds.

Shiver me timbers, we be pirates! Arrr!


We asked all her friends to show up in their pirate gear and boy oh boy, did they ever! The plan was to give the best dressed pirate tickets to the Port of Lost Wonder (piratey piratey!!) but I err forgot!


The biggest difference is that this year, Poppy played a very active part in setting up for the party. In previous years, I kept everything secret, and she basically attended her own party as a guest in a way, where she would play the games and follow my lead. This year, I kept most things secret until the day, and then she helped to set up, and when her friends arrived, together, we ran the show, she and I.

Thing is, I wanted her to enjoy the party as well, and not be bogged down about the planning and logistics. So I kind of gave her a rough idea of what was going to happen, but when it came to the games, I didn't share any info at all!

She helped put up the party favours, which were drawings I made of the kids, and Poppy wrote piratey phrases on each of them, and I laminated the sheets so they can be used as a writing base with erasable white board markers

The first thing we did was to let everyone know their names. Their pirate names. Earlier Poppy had pasted all her friends' names around the party area, and when each of them arrived, she brought them to look for their names. For the duration of the party, they were called by those names. Poppy chose to be Captain Poppy Small Bones, Calla was Captain Calla Sea Slug, I was Captain Squid Lips and Max was Captain Black Beard. 

Then we had to make sure everyone got familiar with pirate lingo so we brought them around to where we'd pasted some common pirate phrases and made everyone repeat stuff like Avast! and Shiver me timbers! There were a few confused faces yes, but generally everyone got the hang of it :D

Next we taught everyone the pirate song.

Oh jolly pirates we
We sail the deep blue sea
In search of buried treasure
Come sail ahoy with me

It's from Peppa Pig :)

And then we were ready for the games! We played two games - "What be the time, Captain Squid Lips?" is the pirate version of "What's the time, Mr Wolf?", and Poppy and I took turns calling out the time. Then it was "Pirate and the Sword" which essentially was Dog at the Bone.

And finally, the treasure hunt! What's a pirate party without a treasure hunt!

I had so many plans with regards to the treasure hunt, like giving clues and drawing maps. But due to lack of time, we had to simply bury the treasure chest in a little sandy pit and give the instruction "Dig!". In fact, I was so short of time that I asked the lovely Nadia from Itchy Fingers Blog (who so kindly offered to take photos of the party for us!) to hide the treasure chest!

Then the kids were given instructions to get dressed in their swim gear, which got them all excited because they'd been told earlier that they'd be made to walk the plank.

While they got dressed, I had the time to draw 'the plank' at the side of the pool, in chalk, and throw gold doubloons and marbles into the baby pool - it worked out perfectly because the gold coins floated and the marbles sank, so the kids were really kept busy! If they were disappointed with my sorry excuse of a plank, they sure didn't show it.

So they were each given a plastic cup, and told to walk the plank, and look for treasure under the sea.

And then the party kinda kicked back into relack-jack mode from there with the kids splashing around and coming up for food periodically. We called them up for cake at one point, and back into the water they went.

Speaking of cake. It was sponsored by The Domestic Goddess Wannabe, and everyone but everyone could not stop raving about it.

Did not come with figurines

It is my humble opinion that at some point in any child's life, she should have a birthday cake cutting by the pool and in her swim gear!

Did the birthday girl enjoy her party?  She said "Thank you Mama! This was the best day of my life!". I took that as a big fat yes :) And there we have it. Our very low budget pirate party!

Special thanks to Nadia for the photos and Diana for the cake; thanks for taking those two heavy loads off me!

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