[Friday Flips] #BabyLove: My Toddler Life

[Review + Giveaway]

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#BabyLove: My Toddler Life is an attractive picture book that depicts the life of a toddler in a technological age in which his life is recorded on social media.

Told from the viewpoint of the child, this story talks about his daily life with his mommy and the fun and learning both of them share. Seeing his mommy constantly using the mobile phone to take pictures of their daily account and posting them on social media, the toddler gets curious about the device and picks it up when mommy is not looking. He then fiddles with it and takes his own selfie, intending for mommy to share on social media. When his mommy finds him using her phone without permission, it’s the perfect teaching moment and she reminds the child that what matters most in life is time together filled with love and attention.

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[Source]

When I read this book for the first time, I thought this is actually targeted at parents as well and I can totally relate to the mommy because I do those activities all the time – recording what we do together and uploading the pictures for memories’ sake. Yet, there is a clear message to us all- to put down our phones when we are with our children and enjoy the moments with them.

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I love this book for its simple, rhyming narrative. The story isn’t long which is helpful for young children but the meaning is clear. Moreover, its bright and colourful illustration will certainly entice readers. Faith and I had a great time as we read and discuss this book together. Sorry, there are no pictures of us because we just want to enjoy that moment.

Good for children age 2 to 5 years old.

[GIVEAWAY]

Book Publicity Services has kindly agreed to gift one reader with #BabyLove: My Toddler Life. What you need to do:

  1. Like the post on my facebook page.
  2. Tag a friend whom you think would be interested in this book.

Simple? This giveaway is for local residents (Singapore) only and will end on 16 February 2017. A random participant will be picked and we will then be sending him/her a copy of the book. All the best and remember to put down the phone and enjoy your time with the kids! 😉

Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine unless otherwise stated.

 

[Review & Giveaway] Baby Cadet class @Sparkanauts

Daniel completed his four sessions at the Baby Cadet class at Sparkanauts and it’s a joy to know that he has been responding well to the class. Read about his first session here.

Since the second lesson, he didn’t need time to warm up to the teachers and could confidently played with them before the actual lesson began. Perhaps it’s due to the presence of his sister (who was allowed to be in the class as well) but it is heart-warming to know that he’s so comfortable with the teachers.

Over these few sessions, I have observed that Dan really paid attention when words were flashed at him. He could concentrate for that short amount of time and it’s certainly a good start to learning words. At home, I used the parent-child bonding package (which they send via email after each lesson) to further reinforce what he had learnt in class. I may not be seeing instant results now but I know he is constantly learning and I need to keep up! So I’m thankful to be provided with the resources to teach him.

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Besides intellectual stimulation, there is this portion of the body strengthening segment which I like. Daniel could always stay on the trapeze for the required amount of time but when it comes to his stamina, he would have to work at it.

This boy couldn’t crawl long and would often give up halfway through although with each lesson, he crawled a longer distance. He had not gotten the hang of getting up and down the steps and slopes so by observing him in class, it serves as a form of feedback to me. I could then help him in his weak areas. Here, you can see the sister encouraging him to continue crawling.

Besides working on their gross motor skills, the kiddos also got to practise their fine motor skills! In this instance, Dan got to feel the texture of the materials for his Singapore flag.

There is also the music appreciation component in the class! Okay, so I absolutely ‘cannot-make-it’ in terms of music so I’m glad that I could learn together with him! 😉

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We have been missing the class for two weeks now but each time when I sing the welcome song (sung at the beginning of the lesson) to him, he would look at me, flash me a smile and automatically raise his hand, a practice that the babies do in class. I know he has benefited from the lessons and I can safely say that for myself too. From the class, I learnt about some of the exercises and tips that I could do with him to help in his overall development. Consistency is key, of course, and I can’t wait for him to continue with the class. It is truly holistic in nature which I like!

This is random but this is Faith with her teacher when she was attending the class as a 1YO. Now they meet again!

[Giveaway] If you are thinking about trying out Sparkanauts classes, here is a wonderful opportunity to do so. Sparkanauts is giving away a trial class pass for THREE readers. You can then go through the lesson for yourself (together with your child, of course) and decide if you want to continue with them. Sounds good?

What you need to do is to share with me the age of the child whom you want to win the trial class for via the comment’s section in this blog post. Remember to leave your email address!

– 3 winners will be chosen at random
– Giveaway is only open to Singapore residents.
– Ends on 3 September 2016
– The winners will be announced on this blog post and on Raising Faith’s facebook page the following day and will be contacted by Sparkanauts directly.

Sparkanauts

www.sparkanauts.com | FB https://www.facebook.com/Sparkanauts
293 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh, SAFRA Toa Payoh, #02-01, Singapore 319387
T: (65) 6259 0307
Operating Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 9am to 5pm

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Disclosure: Daniel is given a four sessions package by Sparkanauts for review purposes. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

 

The first six months as a mother of 2

[Reflections]

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Dan recently had his 6-month’s checkup and that means that I have been a mother of two for half a year! Hooray! You may think that it’s no big deal but to me, it is. Life has changed so much. With just one kid, life is a breeze. Two?

Before the boy popped out, I had many friends who asked me if I would be getting a helper to cope with household chores and looking after the kids. It’s a definite NO for me because I treasure my personal space and since we don’t live in a big place, I reckoned I could manage, somehow. Also, I think managing one more being causes too much of a stress to me so hiring a helper is out of the question.

This time round, getting the folks to help out has been reduced drastically as compared to the time when I had Faith only. Dad couldn’t help because he was just too weak; he couldn’t even carry Dan for more than five minutes. My FIL is getting old too so just two hours with an active preschooler wears him out. That leaves me with two kids, on my own.

The first two months

It WAS terrible. You may have seen wonderful pictures of us having fun and our faces beaming with delight but behind the scene, it was a lot of pain and tears – for Faith and me. I thought I had prepared Faith for the reality of a brother through talking to her about him constantly and reading her related books. I thought she was mature enough to handle the new arrival because she had told me that she was looking forward to the baby and she had been a good girl all along. The reality is, she wasn’t ready and she needed my attention at the same time when the baby needed it. I was without any help and I snapped, ALL THE TIME (ok, maybe MOST OF THE TIME).

But the beautiful thing is ‘THINGS WILL GET BETTER’. This message is consistently related to me by many mothers who have gone before me and I held on tightly to that promise like gospel truth and things did get better. Perhaps, Faith finally realised that the baby brother was here to stay or perhaps, I was more chilled about things and learnt that being present with the kids is more important that getting things/chores done.

But I still need to warn you, especially for those who are expecting the second one, that life will be rough, for the initial months and I kid you not. So, brace yourselves for the challenges to come.

On homecooked food

I am an advocate for homecooked food because I want the best for my family in terms of their health. But I know managing two kids and household chores can be demanding and I thought of the following options in terms of food:

  1. Order Tingkat (good ones)
  2. Buy a thermomix in the hope that cooking can be easier
  3. Humbly ask auntie-in-law to prepare dinner for us and pray that she would agree
  4. Eat out every other day

In the end, none materialised.

Ordering tingkat from good caterers is a very feasible option but no matter how good they can be, they will not give you the best that you want, IMHO. Will they give you a good cut of the meat? Will they use good oil? I may be wrong about them but they are, after all, running a business and until I can find one who is really interested in the welfare of their customers and are reasonably priced (remember we are surviving on one income?), I have to stick to cooking.

Thermomix? According to my friend who owns one, she finds it a real time-saver. I was almost tempted to buy except that I want my children to know that cooking is not about pressing some function keys and viola, you have food*! These days, there are indeed many efficient machines that makes life more convenient for us but I belong to the old-school group of people (please don’t judge me). I want my children to know their food source, how food can be prepared and understand the effort in churning out meals. This is how I was brought up and I’m thankful to my mom that she had insisted that my siblings and I go to the market with her to do grocery and that we help out in the kitchen. There are a lot to be learnt from these activities and I’m still learning.

*Comment is given based on my very limited knowledge of the product

Options #3 and #4 are actually not good options so they are discarded almost immediately.

So, I cook every meal except during the weekends. I may not be able to prepare many dishes and we mostly survive on one-pot meal but that is good enough. These days, I buy enough ingredients for a week on one trip, prepare them in small portions and freeze them until I need to use them. Specific ingredients for the next day are prepared and marinated the night before. And I find that thermal cookers are the best invention because the food can be prepared in advance and still is piping hot when we want to consume it. I absolutely love mine. BTW, a 1.5l is good enough for daily use.

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I consider homecooked food to be the best for my family. I cook so that my children can see me in action and learn the skills as they grow older. Obviously, they have to be involved at one point or another and they are often more than happy to help, at least for now.

Household chores

No helper? It’s okay! Just lower your expectation about cleanliness and change your mindset about household chores. Attempting these chores is a form of exercise, no? In fact, it’s the ONLY exercise I do these days though I hope to carve out time for some proper workout. My stamina has dropped! Boo hoo!

Be humble and accept help

There are many who, upon knowing that I do not have a helper, asked me how I cope. Somehow, I just have to cope? I mean, there are MANY parents out there who do not have a helper like us and they do just fine. Having said that, I am immensely thankful to friends who lend a helping hand to me whenever I need it. I have dear friends who cook extra food for me to bring home after Faith’s playdate, give me wonderful snacks for me to munch on, and more recently, a parent of Faith’s schoolmate who will always invite us over to have lunch so that I don’t have to cook.

And my FIL? He comes every weekend to iron our clothes and mop the floor. It’s his way of showing love to us so we don’t bother to protest.

Be humble and keep learning

I don’t want to kid you, that there are many times that I want to quit being a SAHM, or a mother because it’s so tough. My ‘before-the-children-came-along’ life was so much more exciting and when the going gets tough, I find myself yearning to go back to that life. Yet, and it’s true that “Children are a heritage from the Lordoffspring a reward from him” (Psalm 127: 3-5) and when I sit down to ponder the Word of God and the many fond memories that He has blessed our family with, truly I can say, “I’m contented.”

Many times, I feel that God gives us children so that we can better ourselves. I realised I am so ugly and imperfect but my children will always extend their grace to me. They (specifically Faith) will bounce back after each scolding session and flash me their innocent smiles. When I’m down and out, I hear a concerned, “Are you okay, mom?” There’s much to learn from the children themselves in certain aspects, if only we maintain a humble heart.

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Motherhood/Parenthood has to be a calling, at least to me. Little lives are in our hands and I’d better make sure that I do a good job in it. There are obviously things that we (the hubs and I) have to give up and we find ourselves having to die to ourselves daily. The last question above, “Are you willing to postpone your dreams to cultivate your children’s hearts now?” poked at my heart recently and I find myself having to reply…

Yes, I’m willing, Lord.

7f18fb92f0da51cb0164c120ea817335.jpgOh, so true!

I have survived the first 6 months (yipee!) but how will the next half a year be?

 

SEA Games 2015 and thoughts on sports

Our nation hosted the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games this year and we came in second, bagging a total of 84 goals, a record for the country! What a joy! And obviously, we took the opportunity to participate as spectators and attended the carnival held at the Sports hub.

20150604_101120 I’m pretty sure that many families have brought their children to the carnival. There were stations for the kids to try out the various sports and activities. I was hoping Faith would enjoy the carnival but the fact is she didn’t. 20150604_103130 It was terribly hot that day we went down and she wasn’t in the mood to try out anything which was a real pity. The other kids who were with us enjoyed sweating it out and I could only envy them. 20150604_110345 In the end, she was contented with just the colouring activity. How interesting. I have always thought that she is an active child who loves running around and trying out new stuff. I would very much prefer that she likes the outdoors because her mom is one who adores being in the open. I am hoping that she would eventually develop a love for triathlon or marathon because these are sports which I was crazy about at one point in my life (now still am but I have to reserve them for later years). 20150604_125640

Just look how ‘stoned’ she was while trying out hockey. *Faint*

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I’m still trying to figure out what she is good at at this point in time. At the very least, I would try to expose her to all kinds of things, whether it be an indoor or outdoor activity. And definitely, I would allow her to follow her passion once she finds it.

Growing up, I did not have the opportunity to develop myself in other areas except in the academic domain. The only sports that my mother got me to learn is swimming because she believes that everyone must learn how to swim since we are surrounded by water. I soon got quite good at it and my coach even assured my mom that I would be able to achieve much if I continue to train. As a 7YO child, that was the highest compliment one could give me. Sadly, my mom decided that studies were more important than passion and stopped me from pursuing it. Isn’t it sad?

I hope I would not follow my mom’s footsteps. I don’t deny that academic education is important but if a child shows talents in other forms, we should allow him to shine in those areas too, no?

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That’s us supporting the waterskiiing and wakeboarding events.

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 I guess it is still too early to tell if she is a sporty kind of girl or one who loves to be indoors or both. We just need to give her the opportunity to be exposed to all sorts of activities and see if she is keen in any area.

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More importantly, it is our desire that she would pursue God first above all others. 😉

#holidayfun – Indoor playgrounds & some lessons learnt

These days, it has been raining and we decided on indoor playgrounds for our playdate. We went to the Fidgets World @ The Grandstand on Wednesday. I’ve heard good review from C who has been there a few times and I hope Faith would love it though I very much prefer the kids to be out in the open. Oh well, what can we do since it’s raining?

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I appreciate that it has a big space and therefore the playground has quite a lot of equipment that could entertain a kid for long. They have a small art studio for those who have creative minds and a baking area too!

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Art and craft studio

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Baking studio

We thought that the crowd would not be large but it so happened that the preschools in the vicinity are going there as part of their holiday programme. Arghh… so we had peace until about 30 minutes later and that’s when things got interesting. The playground sprang to life with happy voices of children and the stamping of feet. The toddler area was much quieter as compared to the other areas but the former was soon filled with young children who came with their parents (few) and domestic helpers (a lot).

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So, our little girl was just playing by herself, picking up the balls and putting them back into the proper place (Goodness! I must teach her how to PLAY!). She was contented just doing that when a boy about the age of 2 years old came and went charging at her, pushing her to the ground. I was like, “WHAT on earth is he doing?” Faith was more shocked than physically hurt and started crying. The domestic helper quickly asked the boy to apologise in which he did and went off to play. I thought this was an once-off incident and since this does happen in a playground, I told Faith to be ready to receive such actions from the children since it’s all part of playing. But honestly, I was a little taken aback. Does the boy have to do that? There is so much space but he just came charging at her and shoving her to the ground.

And then, the same boy had to do the same thing to her again and again. I was peeved! Each time he did that, the helper got him to apologise but in the end, the educator in me couldn’t take it anymore and I asked the boy in the face to apologise to Faith, and not the toys!

The cousin came and explained to me that he had already apologised but I told him that the little boy didn’t know what he was sorry for and he remained quiet. My senses came back and then I realised that he’s a boy with a lot of energy in him. He probably didn’t know that what he did was wrong. He did express his apologies but does he really mean it? It’s so flippant!

You may think I’m over-reacting since the boy is still so young. But I believe kids as young as him or even Faith can understand if you take time to explain. They are really smarter than we think they are. Of course, it also depends on the personality of that child but letting certain behaviour go ‘just like that’ is a no-no to my parenting or teaching philosophy/beliefs. More often than not, kids can understand and if we teach and model the right behaviour, they will get the idea. That’s what I have derived from a decade of working with children. No need scientific research to prove that.

This is actually a teachable moment and I seized it to explain to Faith that such behaviour will exist in a play environment and what we can do is to avoid the boy and play somewhere else. She did so which I’m glad. Anyway, I don’t think she’s that fond of the indoor playground; she prefers the outdoors.

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Lunch was at the site itself and they serve decent food. C brought her boys homecooked healthy food! Well done! Faith ate the blueberry muffins baked by her auntie and she finished them all, leaving only a small bite for me.

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Fidgets
200 Turf Club Road
#03-10 The Grandstand
Singapore 287994

The next day, Faith and her cousins went to the airport for an outing. We had wanted to go to the beach but the weather wasn’t kind to us, AGAIN! Thankfully, the airport has indoor playgrounds and it’s no surprise at all, that they are crowded with kids from the preschools. Sigh!

The small playground at T3

The small playground at T3

The bigger and more attractive playground at T1

The bigger and more attractive playground at T1

Despite being crowded, I’m thankful that the children were more polite and would give way to others even though they were all very engaged in the play. Very rough! And I’m also a proud auntie because my older nephew was looking out for Faith in the playground. 😉

Before the crowd came

Before the crowd came

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We ended with a mini picnic just outside the playground. Simply joy!

Where shall we be exploring next?

😉

Teach as you bake.

I love teaching because I see the value of education for it enriches and empowers one.

That is one main reason why I chose to become a teacher in the first place.

Then I got interested in baking and realised that it isn’t as daunting as I thought it to be.

When friends told me that they dare not bake and wanted me to share with them, I couldn’t resist.

It’s always good to empower people, even in baking.

In Boston, I started giving one-on-one baking tutorial…

Teaching Y chocolate cupcakes

Teaching Y chocolate cupcakes

And macarons...

And macarons…

And then a pair…

Teaching the gals potato gratin and macarons

Teaching the gals potato gratin and macarons

And subsequently, a group.

Teaching the folks raspberry sandwich biscuits

Teaching the folks raspberry sandwich biscuits

Teaching macarons to a group of lovelies

Teaching macarons to a group of lovelies

So, I thought, “Maybe I can continue to teach baking to whoever wants to learn how to bake a certain item?”

It happened yesterday when i invited two ladies to bake Lemon Meringue Tartlets since they expressed much enthusiasm in my pictures (posted on FB).

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I enjoyed myself tremendously. There is nothing like seeing a person become more confident in doing a certain task after showing her the ropes. Satisfaction to the maximum.

Perhaps, I can teach baking at my home… for a small fee?

Do you think this is feasible?

* By the way, I had a good photographer friend, Mabel, on that day who has an eye for details so Natasha could document her learning from the pictures captured.
Awesome.

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Bringing up Faith

I’ve always been curious about how the Japanese bring up their kids, especially after an incident when I got to observe how a Japanese boy behaved during playtime with his peer of another nationality. His actions surprised me.

You can imagine my joy when I chanced upon this book during a visit to the National Library. I wasn’t looking out for parenting materials but more of cookbook (what’s new?) but this caught my eye. After flipping through a few pages, I knew I had to borrow it.

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The author, Christine Gross-Loh, is born in the United States to South Korean parents. Her own family spent several years in Japan and from then on, she started taking an interest in looking at how parenting differs in various countries and how other cultures, apart from the US, foster resilience, creativity, independence and academic excellence in children.

I am just at the beginning pages of the book and I’m already intrigued. Perhaps, I’m just uninformed but it is interesting to learn that most Japanese parents she met felt it was important to get kids accustomed to less from the start. It is better for their characters, their imagination, their resourcefulness and their future lives not to experience immediate or excessive material gratification. It isn’t tasteful to spend money to accumulate lots of possessions for the child, many parents believe and having less enables the kids to appreciate what they do have. So, the few toys that the kids have are well played and cherished.

Another point which confirms what I saw in the kid from that past incident is that the Japanese sees scarcity and sharing as one crucial key to cooperation and relationship building. The kid I met shared his toys willingly but his peer didn’t want to share! Poor him. He went to his mother but was immediately pacified when she talked to him. No tantrums whatsoever.

Another interesting information about them. At restaurants, Japanese children didn’t seen dependent on toys to distract them as they waited for their meals. They are accustomed to less being more and could occupy themselves with a mere piece of paper – folding it, drawing it, etc. A toy could be played for hours as they thought of variations on how to play with it.

In summary for that chapter on ‘Why are we drowning in stuff?’, she mentioned that every child needs things within reason, but not every want is a need. Saying no is the hardest part of being a parent but it’s our job as parents to set those boundaries so we can teach kids how to set them for themselves. If we say yes too often, we’re depriving our kids: of knowing how to be satisfied with less; of freedom from unmanageable clutter; of the satisfaction of working toward and saving up for something they really want.

So this is just the iceberg and I have gone on to the chapter on ‘How parents around the world teach their kids to eat.’ Interesting read, I must say and I cannot decide if I should just continue to borrow the book or to purchase it.

There is much to reflect on because as new parents, I felt it is important that we think of the values that we want to impart to our children and with that, teach them through our actions in our daily activities. It can be difficult, I feel, in our society where consumerism rules but as da man told me, “We just have to explain to her as she grows up, why we do things differently from others.”

While I continue reading this book, I leave you with a quick-fix healthy meal – a Japanese one.

Chicken and onion (scallion) buckwheat noodle soup (for 1 portion)

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Bring a pot of water to boil and add the buckwheat noodles. Cook according to the directions on the package. Drain very well and place it in a bowl.

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Slice chicken fillet at a steep angle to make wide slices. Sprinkle the salt on the slices and leave for 15 minutes.

Put the salted chicken and water in a medium saucepan and bring to simmer. Add 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp sugar, silken tofu and scallions and simmer until the scallions are soft.

Ladle the soup mixture over the noodles and garnish with shredded seaweed and crushed chili pepper.

That’s it. No measurement. Just estimate. =)

Father’s Day thoughts from a Daddy

The wife asked me to pen my thoughts on being a father.

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What do I know of being a father anyway?

I’ve only been a dad for a grand total of 7 months. 29 weeks. 205 days.

My journey has barely begun.

And yet already, in this short time, being a dad has brought with it a myriad of emotions; joy, nervousness, excitement, fear, anticipation, doubt, pride, anxiousness, peace, frustration, and joy. Oh joy.

It is difficult to explain. But others have tried.

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Joy

“There’re two things I know for sure: She was sent here from heaven and she’s daddy’s little girl.

As I drop to my knees by her bed at night. She talks to Jesus and I close my eyes and I thank god for all of the joy in my life.”
– Bob Carlisle’s ‘Butterfly Kisses

Being a dad brings me great joy. I would not go so far as to say that Faith is ‘all of the joy in my life’. But certainly, the two ladies in my home make up most of the joy in my life.

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Pride

“For butterfly kisses after bedtime prayer; sticking little white flowers all up in her hair;

“Walk beside the pony, Daddy, it’s my first ride.” “I know the cake looks funny, Daddy, but I sure tried.”                                                                                                     – Bob Carlisle’s ‘Butterfly Kisses

There is a sense of pride that this little human being looks to you for safety and assurance, as well as for approval. Even at 7 months old, Faith responds to our tone of voice. She knows when we are comforting her, and she knows when we are rebuking her. (Even though her reaction to being rebuked may not last very long.) As parents, we are the ‘all’ in her life right now. And yet along with that sense of pride, comes a huge dose of…

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“Oh, with all that I’ve done wrong, I must have done something right. To deserve a hug every morning, and butterfly kisses at night.                                                               – Bob Carlisle’s ‘Butterfly Kisses

It fills me with humility to think that someone as flawed as I am, has been entrusted this great honour to bring a little child up in this world. That I (and my wife) are responsible not only for her physical well-being, but her mental, emotional, moral, spiritual well-being as well. God is good.

Bob Carlisle’s ‘Butterfly Kisses’ is a beautiful song from a dad to his (not so) little girl.There is, of course, the flip side. Of a child looking back on his/her dad.

Next time, perhaps I’ll talk about Dan Fogelberg’s ‘Leader of the Band’.

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Happy Father’s Day!

Linking up with

Joy of Learning Workshop

I had an overdose of caffeine and definitely, information.

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I was invited to attend Fisher Price’s Joy of Learning Workshop which was held this morning and to be totally honest with you, I was skeptical at first. Will it be another of those workshops which tries to entice you to purchase their products at the end of the session? I need to have an open mind, I know and boy, am I thankful that I went.

Perhaps I am just a newbie in this motherhood journey but I find myself soaking in all the information that I receive about parenting from various sources. Because my learning style leans more towards auditory, visual and kinesthetic, workshops suit me perfectly.

The workshop started at 9am but I was early and treated myself to a complimentary cup of Nespresso coffee (couldn’t decide if I want TWG or Nespresso). I figured I would need all the attention to take in the important information later.

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There wasn’t a real booth selling Fisher Price products wich was a pity because I would have wanted to buy something for Faith. It would be good use of time to browse the items for those who were early too but oh well, it’s really not a big deal.

The participants started streaming in slowly and we didn’t commence until 30 minutes after the stipulated time. It’s a tad disappointing but perhaps it’s just me – I’m not very fond of lateness. Ok, I need to practise mercy.

Thankfully, the presenter, Carrie Lupoli, got the workshop to a good start. She is IMG_1933one lively individual who shares her invaluable experience and knowledge with the audience. I was engaged throughout in this interactive workshop. I don’t think it is possible for me to consolidate my learning in just one post and definitely cannot complete it within a day because I have my responsibility to perform as a mother. But yes, I hope to share what I have learnt with you and it will be an on-going thing.

For a start, I’ll just share this graphic with you which I have gotten from Carrie Lupoli’s facebook page. Her page is a good resource guide so if you want to get updates, do LIKE her. 🙂

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First message: The first FIVE years of life is when the most significant growth and development occur in a human.

Questions to ask (myself): Who is the person in charge of facilitating this growth and development and how will he/she go about achieving the desired outcomes (which is ultimately his/her goals of parenting).

Food for thought and I’ll be back.IMG_4273

But one thing that I will certainly be doing (application) is to be consistent in documenting Faith’s milestones.

And no, I didn’t buy anything from Fisher Price (no proper booth anyway!) but I got a whole lot of parenting info from this workshop and a bountiful goodie bag to bring home. Certainly hope that Fisher Price would conduct similar events again. It’s worth the fee that one pays.

Disclosure: I was invited by Fisher Price to attend the Joy of Learning workshop for review purposes. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions are mine. Where pictures or information belong to others, I will always try to have them credited as such.

Children see. Children do.

What kind of a parent would you want to be?
What kind of teacher would you like to be?
What kind of a leader would you desire to be?

God answering our prayers may not always be a good thing

Thought I should archive Ken’s reflections to the cell group via this platform. For keepsake.

I’ve been prompted to write this email to share my thoughts on prayer. It is something that I have been thinking about partly because of Alpha and the things we shared and discussed on after listening to Nicky. And I feel prompted to share my thoughts.

Perhaps there is one of you in the email list that might benefit from my own clumsy reflections, or perhaps I am the one who needs to write it all out so that I have a better understanding of my own thoughts. Or perhaps there is a misunderstanding in my thoughts that God thought you could help to reveal.  Either way, bear with me. And if I am mistaken on anything, do help to clarify so that my own muddled thoughts do not lead others astray.

I have three main points:

1)      God answering our prayers may not always be a good thing

2)      We pray by seeking God’s Will

3)      Surrender is not the same as Sanctification

  Continue reading

Quote of the day.

Someone has said,”Education is going from an unconscious to conscious awareness of one’s ignorance.”..No one has a corner on wisdom. All the name-dropping in the world does not heighten the significance of our character. If anything, it reduces it. Our acute need is to cultivate a willingness to learn and to remain teachable.

Charles Swindoll

I’m thankful for…

[via]

1. a wonderful husband who loves me and supports every decision and venture I undertake.

2. a group of God-fearing brothers and sisters who have become family to us in this country.

3. the opportunity to learn and explore cooking and baking during this past year. I’m definitely more confident in the kitchen now.

4. good health.

5. the opportunity to have my TWA at PSS.

6. a job that is waiting for me and the privilege to work with my ex-colleagues again!

7. my family who has mostly been supportive in the decisions I made.

8. friends back home. They have been a constant encouragement via email and fb.

9. my country.

10. the Lord God on whom I can depend and who is so real in my life and loves me dearly.

WA @ PSS: Art Lessons

For the past couple of weeks, I have been spending time with Louisa, the Art teacher in PSS. She is an enthusiastic teacher and cannot stop sharing with me about the different techniques of Art. While assisting her, I had a good glimpse of the Art curriculum and was really marvelled by it. I only learnt some of the techniques in Secondary school! And judging by the works of the students, they were of really high standards.

I believe when the teacher sets high expectations and guide the students in achieving them, there is no limit to how much one can achieve.

First up, I was walking towards the Specialists’ room (for Spanish, reading specialist and drama teacher) when I came across this piece of mural. It looks a tad messy but it does show some images of Boston in Fall. And then when I look at who were the creators, I smiled. It’s the Kindergarteners!

Yesterday, when I went in to help Louisa, the first class was the Kindergarteners. They had their oil pastel drawings returned and this time round, they are going to paint over them. The results were amazing…for Kindergarten level!

  
The students adding paint colours to the drawings.

An artist in the making. When I chatted with her, she told me that her mother used to be an artist herself!

After the class, Louisa shared with me the techniques of drawing using pencils, chalk and paint. The Art curriculum in the school includes foil, claywork and using recycling materials, amongst others. She was so passionate that she kept on sharing, even when it ate into her ‘free’ time.

According to Louisa, these sets of painting palettes are good!

  
Left: Louisa showing me the light and dark tone in drawing a vase.
Right: A Kindergartener’s work using foam and paint.

A student working on foil.

As Louisa shared, I got more and more interested in Art and to link with other subjects. She was sharing with me that Art can be infused into all subjects (of course) like social studies and Science. And I have seen with my own eyes how she integrated Art into these. Since the students studied the different era like the Romans and the Greek, they got to create works representing those eras. Louisa also taught them the different periods in Art History, like the Modern Art, the Baroque, the classics, etc. Whoah! All these in elementary school! Amazing! I don’t even know the different periods in art and have to educate myself through going to the museums!

The Art curriculum in PSS is really very rich and I have invited Louisa to come to my school next year to share with my Art teachers. And I certainly hope that it will work out!

Below is a 8-minute clip on what she shared with me in class on 9 Nov 2011. The password is ParkStrSch.

Is that your lunch?

So, in the school I’m attached to, the teachers have about 20 – 30 minutes for their lunch before they have to go for their next lesson. In the staff lounge, during lunch time, one of the conversational topics is on the food that you bring to the table.

I brought my 2 muffin-sized brioche and Jo asked, “Is that your lunch?”

“Yup!” And I saw guilt on his face as he consumed another mouthful of pasta.

“Is that enough?”

“Yup! Don’t look down on them. They are rich with eggs and butter!”

Obviously, those two buns would not be enough. I just had no time to make a proper meal but they were enough to sustain me for a few more hours in school. We went on to talk about how difficult it is to prepare the lunchbox when you first get up in the morning and one of the ways to solve the problem is definitely to cook more the previous evening so that you can have the extra for lunch.

Perhaps I should be consistent in my effort to prepare a good lunchbox. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. No excuses. I’ll make an effort from next week onwards.

These poor teachers. They work round the clock from 8am to 3pm with a 30-minutes recess. And if they have extra duties, the hours could go on to about 5pm.

Same as us… sama sama. Just that we still stay on or continue to work at home to grade the papers and prepare for the next day’s lessons.

That day will come soon.

Oops… erase those thoughts. Mantra: work-life balance! Work-life balance!

The return of the prodigal son…

[via artchive]

The above title is written with reference from the parable and the painting by Rembrandt. Wonderful and deep insights. Quoted from the book by Henri J.M. Nouwen:

“Addiction” might be the best word to explain the lostness that so deeply permeates society. Our addiction make us cling to what the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment: accumulation of wealth and power; attainment of status and admiration; lavish consumption of food and drink, and sexual gratification without distinguishing between lust and love. These addictions create expectations that cannot but fail to satisfy our deepest needs. As long as we live within the world’s delusions, our addictions condemn us to futile quests in “the distant country,” leaving us to face an endless series of disillusionments while our sense of self remains unfulfilled. In these days of increasing addictions, we have wandered far away from our Father’s home. The addicted life can aptly be designated a life lived in “a distant country.” It is from there that our cry for deliverance rises up.”

[Pg 42-43]

“What happened to the son in the distant country? Aside from all the material and physical consequences, what were the inner consequences of the son’s leaving home? The sequence of events is quite predictable. The farther I run away from the place where God dwells, the less I am able to hear the voice that calls me the Beloved, and the less I hear that voice, the more entangled I become in the manipulations and power games of the world.

It goes somewhere like this: I am not so sure anymore that I have a safe home, and I observe other people who seem to be better off than I. I wonder how I can get to where they are. I try hard to please, to achieve success, to be recognised. When I failed, I feel jealous or resentful of these others. When I succeed, I worry that others will  be jealous or resentful of me. I become suspicious or defensive and increasingly afraid that I won’t get what I so much desire or will lose what I already have. Caught in this tangle of needs and wants, I no longer know my own motivations. I feel victimised by my surroundings and distrustful of what others are doing or saying. Always on my guard, I lose my inner freedom and start dividing the world into those who are for me and those who are against me. I wonder if anyone really cares. I start looking for validations of my distrust. And wherever I go, I see them and I say: “No one can be trusted.” And then I wonder whether anyone ever really loved me. The world around me becomes dark. My heart grows heavy. My body is filled with sorrows. My life loses meaning. I have become a lost soul.”

[ pg 46-47]

Google Age

I feel very much like what Nicholas Carr wrote in an Atlantic article (2008) about how the “Google age” has impacted the way he thinks.

My mind isn’t going – so far as I can tell – but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the exit. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

I took hours to read one research paper and the article ain’t long in the first place!

Ken’s Thoughts – Culturally Relevant Teaching

After repeated reminders from the wife that I should write more and share my thoughts with the world, I’ve decided that it would be best not to re-invent the wheel.

Essentially, I was already spending hours drafting and re-drafting papers for my course, and these reflect much of my personal beliefs on educational matters. So instead of re-writing new articles, why not just use the ones I’ve already written?

 

The following paper – Learning Environment – Culturally Relevant Instruction – is one that started as a very broad topic, but which I shaped to represent much of my thoughts on education, with a slant towards those who may experience cultural (not necessarily racial) difficulties in the education system they find themselves in.

 

As you, faithful reader, spend your time on the following article, do let us know how you like it. You are, after all, the reason why I’m writing in the first place.

 

Do you think this is a bad idea? Is the article too long? Too wordy? Does it lack the ‘oomph’ of shorter tirades? Would you prefer me to return to writing shorter notes?

 

Or perhaps you love the idea? The length is just nice for you to read at night, and has proved to be such a wonderful cure for insomnia that you think I should patent it?

 

We’d love to hear from you!

Happy Birthday, Singapore!

Dear Singapore

I realised after living overseas for just a short while that I truly love you. Many years ago, as a young woman, I had often thought of relocating and I even made deliberate choice of study just so that my certificate could open doors for me.

I grumbled about the monotony of life in Singapore and the idiosyncrasies of our fellowmen. I bemoaned the high COE prices and road congestions and thought that public transport was no better as the train seemed to always turn into cans of sardines (oh, and with all those odour!)  during peak hours.

I can go on and on about our local fashion scene, high HDB prices, mediocre nightlife and many copied theme parks.

But since living apart from you, I realised I do appreciate you for all that you are. In fact, I find myself being a complaining and whining lass. There are so many things that I can be thankful for and have taken for granted.

I will just end here. I’m frustrated with public housing prices now but also know that in comparison with other similar-kind of cities, we are still ok.

That’s all. Stay strong and safe, dear Singapore. I’ll be back and serve you again. Soon.

I should have known…

that a mere 5 textbooks would threaten to tip the weight limit of the check-in luggage.

Could all culinary textbooks/cookbooks be converted into e-books pls? Someone pls design an app for them! Or has it already been done?

Protected: Good news? Bad news? It all depends on how you see it.

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Random post

This is taken from ST (12 June 2011). I thought it’s a good question and the answer definitely worth taking note.

Q I’m a little confused by tart shell recipes. Some press the dough into tart moulds, then pour in the filling to bake. But most tell you to bake the shells till light golden brown, cool them, then add the filling to bake again. Is there any difference? Especially with regard to the texture?

As always with baking techniques, baking phases for tart shells are not arbitrary, but depend on the relative times needed for pastry and filling to cook through.

They are baked blind (that is, empty, but weighted down to prevent puffing) until fully browned and cooked, if their filling requires very brief or no cooking. These include lemon meringue pie, key lime pie and ice cream pies.

Shells are baked blind until partly done if their subsequent filling needs more prolonged cooking, during which the shells also reach doneness: for example, quiches, custard tart, bakewell tart, some kinds of fruit tarts and pecan pie.

Recipes sometimes instruct you to ‘waterproof’ the crust with brushed-on egg white before par-baking to make a barrier against moist fillings, preventing sogginess.

Some recipes based on shortcrust or flaky pastry begin with both raw pastry and filling, which cross the finish line together – such as free-form galettes, American-style fruit pies.

As long as cooking time and oven temperature are harmonised and controlled, there should be no major differences in texture between tart shells that have been baked with different phases.

Do note, however, that pastry shells will start absorbing moisture from wet fillings or humid air within a few hours of baking.

———————————————————————————————–

And one day, I hope to be able to come up with my own design of a cake. One day.

From: Encyclopedia of pastry dough – 100 kinds of pastry dough and petit gateau (旭屋出版MOOK)

And some questions that popped up recently:

1) What makes a good wife? Answers vary from persons to persons, I believe (duh, of course). 

2) Do I really need a 5-room flat? Would I consider a 4-room? Need to think deeper. 

3) Running half marathon in October? This question doesn’t really need much thought. =p

4) Do you think we are more patient when we are over here? I think so…

Protected: To do or not to do it…that’s the question!

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Random watch

It’s a random selection and decision to watch this movie. Do you believe in true love? In the show, one chinese saying was used – shi ge nan ren, jiu ge huai. yi ge xiang zuo guai. Sorry, this netbook has no chinese characters installed. Translated, it means out of 10 men, 9 are bad while one has something up his sleeve. Dear ladies out there, have you at any stage of your lives, thought about this? We want to find the 11th guy, the one who is a gentleman, who will be loyal and love you and you alone. Where on earth is this guy??!! Is he extinct?

In the movie, there are two guys who are in love with the lady. One is a flamboyant, assertive man and loves to take charge. Being with this type of men opens you to a whole new world of adventure and uncertainties and well, some of us women love it and our lady felt in love with him . The other is a gentleman and gives the woman the space and time to think through matters and yet chivalrous in the profession of his feelings to her. The showy man loves her but his weakness for women (he chose a fling with a stranger over meeting our lady) does not give our lady the assurance of his loyalty. So in the end, who do you think our lady chooses?

As an onlooker, I was worried for our lady. It’s obvious who is the one who truly cares for her, who will not perform silly acts to get her jealous and who will go to her rescue if she needs a shoulder to cry on. However, our lady was in love with the man who cheated on her (well, he loves her too but he has a weakness) and it really takes great wisdom and courage to choose the right one.

I was reminded of the hubs and the Lord as I cried my way through the end of the story. I have asked myself the above question before and has at one point given up finding the one who loves me truly, for who I am and who will be faithful to the end. Then he appeared all of a sudden and ever so gentle, even in his request for permission to ask me out. He is the one who pursues me first in his humble and gentle manner. No pretense, no flamboyance. It’s a very old-school style of courtship, one which is hardly seen nowadays.

And his character stays true and consistent even in marriage and though I always make mistakes, he’s always so forgiving. Like today, my oversight cost us to spend more on Athan’s European Bakery but he just shrugged his shoulders and comforted me, “It’s ok. We all make mistakes and this is such a small one.” To me, it’s really one that is so glaring; I should have checked! Anyway, I will keep the story to myself. =p

And I thought of the Lord. Do you know the Lord loves us first and pursues us? We are never the ones who seek Him first but He does the acts first, little acts here and there to make you notice Him. When our interest in Him is aroused, He does not grab us by the hand and show us everything we can have if we agree to a relationship with Him. He does so gently and slowly and waits ever so patiently for us to respond to Him. Though we are constantly blinded by the lights of the world, the riches and all its glory, he still waits for us. Though it makes Him sad by how we reject Him and how we live our lives, choosing other things over Him, He doesn’t give up on us. This is our God, the One who loves us first.

I think I’m really loving the script…more on the views of actors.

Siu Mai

Originally, Ching-He’s recipe for her Siu Mai contains pork and prawn. The hubs is allergic to prawns and I didn’t add them in. I suppose you can substitute with bits of carrots, mushroom filling or water chestnuts for that crunchy feel but I was rather lazy and just did the bare minimal. I topped each up with a red wolfberry (goji berry – my mom’s essential eats each morning) to add colour to the Siu Mai. Good as a starter with soy dipping sauces of your choice. I found the skin to be a little hard when I took them out from the steaming as compared to when I boil them in water (wrapped); I prefer the latter.

Random thoughts:

* Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a slightly backward city. Living too long in a highly efficient country ( also less ‘ren qing’) has made me complacent.

* I want to continue to live a purpose-driven life and that purpose can only be given by the Lord God. Thankfully that purpose is not hidden from men; we just need to ask.

* I’m thankful for a hubs who loves and supports me in all that I do. It makes life so much easier.

* I am not a theoretical person. I’m just not good with words.

*  I enjoyed the free online photography seminar last weekend with Penny De Los Santos. Such a skillful and professional  yet humble photographer. I realized my photography is all crap after going through the seminar. Lots to learn and improve.

* I’m thankful for the friends I have, whether in my home country or here. They are all gifts from God.

* I’ve only about 6 more months left in Boston. I need to make full use of the time given. Just a thought: If you are given 6 more months to LIVE, what would you do? I think my answer would vastly differ.

Vote wisely.

I’m not good with politics, whatever politics it might be. I steer clear of it.

But this coming election makes me sit up to want to know more.

I’ve watched some of the speeches, read the thoughts of many, disgusted and touched by their reflections all at the same time.

Be wise, impartial and let not emotions rob you of the opportunity to make Singapore a better home for the citizens. Make informed decisions. In a way, the future of this nation lies in that ONE vote that you are entitled to and we pray for honest and committed politicians in the government, to fight for the good of our fellowmen so that we could advance as ONE nation.

Remember: ONE people, ONE nation, ONE Singapore.

On GEP

I always felt that the hubs has a knack for writing and yesterday, he put me on the cc as he replied to an email regarding the Gifted programme. Thought it would be good to store in here, and especially if you are interested to read his thoughts on it.

Hi Ken, quick question. I remember when you were in primary school, you were selected to go to R. School because you were the top few% based on your results. Do you think it is good ? Would you want your children to go? Do you think it makes a difference? Would the child who go to the school become better in terms of School results and character wise? Me and W met Sa’s Form teacher early this month and and she mentioned that Sa showed a lot of potential of going into that programme ( forgotten the name) where the top few% selected and will go to the schools that I mentioned earlier. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks, R. 

You’re talking about the Gifted Education Programme (GEP).
Before I answer your questions, I just want you to know that it was a long time since I was in that programme, and I think that the direction of it may have changed a little. (May. I’m not sure.)
When I was in school, the GEP had just started and there was public concern that it was a elitist movement. The GEP teachers therefore seemed to make it part of their responsibility to talk to us GEP kids about social responsibility, giving back to society and thinking beyond just helping ourselves.  Do they do the same thing now? I don’t know.  The GEP now seems to be more about helping high achieving students succeed.
Now, with that in mind, let me give you the short answer to your questions.
I think the program is good.
If my child had the opportunity, I would insist they grasp it. (I remember not wanting to change schools, dad and mum forced me to.)
I think it does make a difference academically because of higher expectations in general. Note that this can also backfire and be very stressful for your child.
Character wise, I think it depends on the teachers, and finally, I still believe that the family is most important.
Quick suggestion. If you can, talk to my dad. He might give more insights from the parent’s point of view. =)
There are a few things that will probably happen if/when she gets into the GEP:
1) She will meet classmates that are as smart or smarter than her. If she used to succeed easily in her previous school with little effort, she will find things different now. She will no longer be the one the teacher always turns to for the answers, she may be affected that she is finding trouble understanding concepts or giving answers even though her classmates seem to understand it already.  She will be challenged and she must learn to be resilient, hardworking, and still be confident that she is capable.
2)  Be careful that her success does not get to her head. She will realise soon enough that she got in because she is smart.  Help her to understand that she was selected for her academic talent. Different people are talented at different things and being academically talented does not make her superior to others. She must learn to recognise the talent in others.
3) She may, especially if her classmates are brilliant, start to doubt her own talent and worth. That is why it is important that she understand that while she may be academically talented, that does not define her. She is precious and worthy of love and all that is not tied to her academic talent at all. However, she is talented, and she should work hard to help that talent bloom.
4) Be prepared for longer school hours and weird school projects.  Be prepared that she will start to question more and ask more ‘why’ questions. Be prepared to listen and discuss with her your reasons for your decisions.  Be prepared also to point out to her that not everything can be resolved logically, some issues are matters of opinion, and that as the adult in the family, you have more say because you have more responsibility.  Help her to learn to respect others’ opinions even when she may not agree with them. Have high expectations of her, not just her academic talent, but have high expectations of her level of maturity, her values, her morality, everything. And watch her live up to your expectations.  But never forget that no matter how brilliant, how mature and how wise she might seem, she is still a child. She is still your child and she still needs your love. Pure and free, not tied to her academic performance or her show of maturity.
That’s all for now.
Hope this helps. =)
God bless, and feel free to keep asking questions. =)