Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Happy holidays, happy bonding!

Just concluded a 5 days fun at DisneyWorld, Florida, Orlando. We watched parades after parades, took fun rides, watched musicals, live shows and had great fun beyond words. It felt like a happy land with dreams coming true. So memorable. 

What kept running in my mind during the days weren't really the parades, rides or shows, but how a little girl responded to the host during an interactive show. She was asked "What's the best part you like about Disneyworld?" The 4 or 5 year old look alike girl replied, "playing with my daddy!" And the crowd went, "Awww..."

I was so touched. I thought Mickey or Donald would make her best day. But nah. We know kids are usually honest. Doing rides, watching shows and meeting characters with her daddy must have made her really happy! It simply means that kids want our time, to play with them. Anytime and anywhere. That's probably the most memorable part for any childhood, to carry and bring into adulthood.

As 2012 comes near to a closure, let's take time to bond and build our family to greater heights.While blogging takes a sabbatical break (family bonding), my man, myself and two little kids wana wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Have great holiday fun!

Back next year with updates of our year end vacation. If 211212 doesn't come true. Haha. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Winter Grinchland fun

Love being where we are for the fun activities they constantly have for families. We had a time of Winter Grinchland fun today. Held mainly for folks in the village. It's getting really cold here, but it doesn't snow at where we are. At the Grinchland fun, the kids were exhilarated and had a little snowball fight with the 'man made' snow. Jare loved it so much that he kept getting onto it.

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Icy cold snow
Then we welcomed Santa who came in a fire truck.
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Hi Santa
And a petting corner with the really tame animals like rabbits, lambs and chickens. So cute!

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Jazz loves cuddling the bunny

And the kids went on a pony ride.

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Riding a white pony
Then onto the horse carriage for a breezy ride

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Two black horses
And we met the real Santa. Forgot to tell him our wish list though...

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Ho ho ho!
And there! The green creature who stole Christmas away, but we got it back and Christmas is still on!

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Grinchy smile
Not forgetting happy food for the little ones, cotton candy and popcorn! I had two sticks of cotton candy. Some kind of lost childhood for me. Yums!

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Poppy popcorn
Concluding the fun with pink butterflies face paint.

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Painting well captured, darling

An FOC event with heaps of fun! The kids really enjoyed, so did the grown ups. Event like this reminds me of my serving term in the grassroots, in SG, where events are held within the neighborhood for residents. I want to be really honest about this, the events organized here are more fun and impressive. Maybe weather plays an important factor in making everyone enjoyable. So cool! And it seemed like these events aren't constraint by budget. It didn't look like some cheesy, old school planning. It's all so creative and engaging. Everywhere and everything is so family friendly that I believe any couples here would be enticed to have kids, not just one, but a few.

Truly appreciate all manpower efforts in making this so memorable. Looking forward to what's next...

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Thankful for gifts

The kids had surprise gifts from their friends!

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Boxes at doors are surprises
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Reindeer kiss!
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And Yes! Chinese books! Yipee!
Thank you mummies for your thoughts. It really made the kids happy.

And this from Aunty ET last month:

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Thank you! It's always heartwarming to be remembered in this far away land.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Homemade Christmas Wreath

It's been raining the whole of last week. Outdoors are out, and so we did some indoor craft. When we shifted into our place in September, the first thing I did at the backyard was to collect pine cones! They look really pretty and a rare find in SG. September was near Christmas, and I knew my plans for these pine cones.

I got the kids to paint the cones in Red and Green, the Christmas colours. Jazz did red and Jare did green. I did the touch ups and finishing. Here's what we simply had:
  • 6 pine cones (opened)
  • Tempera paint
  • Floral wire
  • wreath or Styrofoam wreath
  • Ribbon or any other ornaments

Tempera paint are very good paint for most surfaces. Only bad is that our is not water proof, and so it's not weather proof. I got the wreath from Michaels. It was my intention to get the plain Styrofoam wreath, but it was more expensive than the wreath that has 'leaves.'

An extremely simple craft that I don't even have precise steps. Just decorate it whichever ways you like:
1. Paint pine cones
2. Tie the pines cones (between it's scales) to the wreath with floral wire
3. Top if off with other ornaments

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Opened pine cones collected in Sep
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Pines cones collected at winter
Pines cones collected at different season look differently. Those collect at fall have got their scales opened, which makes it easier to tie to the wreath. Pines cones collected now have got their scales closed, it makes good ornaments too. Perhaps with strong glue.

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Jare doing green
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Jazz doing red
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The wreath and the cones
And now, mummy does the job of securing the cones to the wreath, ending it off with a shiny silver ribbon. Our homemade wreath, all done! Probably one of it's kind in the world. A stroll at malls and shops has wreaths with silver, golden and white pine cones. But red and green, hmmm... just us!

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Homemade wreath

I love this DIY and low cost wreath.


BWS tips button


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Hollywood - LA

Over the thanksgiving weekend, we drove down to LA for shopping and Hollywood fun.

Universal Studio
We spent Thanksgiving day at Universal Studio Hollywood. We love our day there. Whatever rides found in USS were also found here, except for the Madagascar and upcoming Sesame street. It's definitely larger with more rides here, but most of them, in fact, all of them couldn't take the kids. They were under height. The shows were good enough for them though. And, I must applaud the existence of their child switch rooms which allowed the man and myself to take turn onto the ride. We switched turns after each other, without having to re-queue.

I love the studio tour very much, it was about 45mins and awesomely good! Other than touring some famous movies and dramas site scenes, the tour included a 3D king kong show which was really impressive. Totally awesome to see the live scenes from screens.
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With scooby doo!
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Desperate Housewives: Susan Defilno's house
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Studio tour scene
We ended our day with the WaterWorld show. As good as the one in USS too. Just that they used actors from the CSI drama and had more props. Amazing effect it created. The kids love this  noise-defying show too.

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Plane crashing splash!
USH is all fun! Both kids didn't nap the whole day till after dinner. Couldn't believe the stored energy they had.

Celebrities house tour
Next day, we took a tour to the beautiful houses at Hollywood and Beverly hills. It was so chilly when the near 2 hours tour entered into sunset. It got so cold riding on the open top truck. The kids fell asleep midst of the tour. While the grown ups continued to admire the beautiful houses built upon. All kinds of structure and designs, so cool! We saw houses belonging to celebrities like Katy Perry, Michael Buble, Jodie Foster etc. And quiz time, guess which celebrity this house belongs to? Answer at caption.

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Keanu Reeves' house!
Premium Outlets
Contributing myself to the black Friday sale crowd, I've also shopped crazily at Dessert Hills Premium Outlets and Camarillo Premium Outlets. It's endless shopping that I can do in there. Long lines were already formed outside some shops when  I was there at 12 midnight. I queued for one of the shop that was giving 50% + 20% off the entire store. I couldn't resist, I withstood the coldness to queue. This took me an hour, and with some other shopping, we left Dessert Hills Outlets at 5a.m. Shopping kept me so awake. Oh no no, the man and kids were sleeping at a nearby hotel. My cousin who was on the trip with us, came along to shop with me. And happy shopping is when you think the money is all well spent. Ops!

Food Adventure
Along the way, from dessert Hills to Camrilo, we did some food hunt. We had lunch at Mrs knott's chicken dinner restaurant. We were there few years ago and I was thrilled to have re-visited it for its delicious and tender chicken. Their biscuit bun has a memorable taste and texture, and not forgetting to eat it with their jam. All so good and satisfying!

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Crispy chicken!
Another hunt that our friend recommended was Jinya Ramen bar. Their ramen was really good and tasty, for a moment, it didn't feel like we were in a non-asian country. The kids slurped up the noodles very fast and quick.

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A very good and fun trip we had! 

Give Thanks!

It was another long weekend, the thanksgiving week. It's America's national holiday and also a time when families here would come together for a special meal. A time to express thankfulness for what they have. I thought this day should be more widely observed, so everyone can be more thankful for their lives, at least reminded once a year.

Two weeks ago, Jazz's school invited us for a simple thanksgiving meal. Turkey was served and it was indeed a great get together. Even the man could slot the meal in between his timetable. Nice!


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Food on the table
I like the culture that Thanksgiving is observed every year here. It reminds us to be thankful of our life and whatever we have. A time to reflect past achievements and be contented.

I'm really thankful for what I am, what I have and where I am. The list of appreciation is never ending, I'm pretty much contented. More shopping might content myself further. Haha. A heart of gratitude allows more of the receiving. Just as everyone was celebrating the joyous occasion, I made a secret pledge to not fret at the kids, for at least the whole of last week. I want to be thankful for having them as my children, I want to be thankful for the opportunity to raise and teach them. And the outcome of my pledge - I failed big time! But, I will try again.

In everything, give thanks! Roads are sometimes bumpy and tunnels never seemed ending, for everything that happens, there's a sure reason and always a learning point. 

And what comes after Thanksgiving Thursday is Black Friday! Crazy sale everywhere and I went crazy at premium outlets too. Giving thanks for the 'money well spent'.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Homeschooling approach

When Jazz left her school in SG, writing and reading were not in her academics. I wasn't bothered, I left everything to school. Now that I'm homeschooling her, I gain achievements when I see good results. Over the weeks, I've been so frustrated on getting her to write an A. She could write some other letters, but not the 'A'. She would trace so many times on the dotted A, but never able to do without aid.

For some reasons, I got really mad when she couldn't get it right after so many days of traces. The Asian parenting in me, push push and push. To certain extend, I felt that I was forcing her. Ok, I was. I felt her fear in me when I started to yell and threaten. I didn't want to instil that learning fear, but it really isn't easy to homeschool our own child. I have my expectations too.

So then, after that one fearful lesson with her, I warned her against watching TV, ipad or any fun indulgences, until she can write 'A' independently. I lowered my expectations too - No rush, give more time, practice drawing lines and curves again. I knew I was wrongfully wrong to get so impatient. The next few days, she asked me for the TV, I said, "Do you know how to write your 'A' now?" She said, "Let me try." I love hearing the word 'try' rather than "I can't do it" upfront. With her piece of paper and pencil, she wrote me an 'A' independently! I was impressed and what worked? Not the tiger parenting in me, but the motivation style of parenting. The TV was her motivation. She put in all effort to achieve her reward. Couldn't believe this worked so wonderfully for us.

All by herself - Her first time
When crayons and paper are given in restaurants
She's also progressing well in reading, which I'm happy to be coaching her through. A mother, a teacher. The multiple roles we play. Every child is different. Some work well under pressure and some with motivation. It's all about experimenting the approaches. Maybe a combination of styles work for me.

She was reading a book from the library which I read to her less than 2 times. Next moment I saw, was her attempt to read the book on her own. I was delighted. I've been reading and guiding her to read books with simple words and short sentences. Her phonics foundation really helped. Thanks to her ex-teachers. Together with some sight reading and those very repetitive words for beginners, it helped in her reading journey.

After this fearful 'A' lesson, I told myself, never should I be yelling and forcing this way again. I know, this is easier said than done. I will try. 

Learning milestone: 3 years 7 months

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Trip to San Diego

It was the long weekend again, together with our friends, we drove down to San Diego for its ZooSea World and of course the Premium Outlets at Carlsbad, where I lost sanity to 2 pairs of lovely shoes. I did 1/3 of the to driving journey, it was a good drive, except for the slow traffic when we were crossing LA. Jare was surprisingly the better behaved passenger than Jazz. Jazz drove me nuts a few times. The journey was about 10 hours each way.

We visited the zoo on Saturday. It's huge with many species of animals and I'm glad we could view most animals by hopping onto the guided bus tour. The kids had fun viewing the animals and it sure feels good to be touring the zoo in the breezy weather than the hot scorching sun.  

Cotton candy look alike clouds
Two humped camel
Can't remember what animal this is
The animal that attracts the most crowd is the panda. It was heavy human traffic at the panda's habitat.
The very shy panda
Jaguar and Leopard are differentiated by their spots
Buys for the zoo!
It was good fun at the zoo, but honestly, I think Singapore zoo is much more fun and experiencing. It's also in the top ten list of World's best zoo, some sources have even listed Singapore zoo as number 1. 

On Sunday, we visited Sea World, which I enjoyed it more. I love the shows, especially the one featuring killer whales. Killer whales aren't as threatening as its name sounds, they look kinda awesome to me. I bought a killer whale plush that day. We called it 'Shamu.' As how they named their performing star.  

Awesome flip!
I wish to give it a stroke too
Up close with Stingray
I was at Sea World 4 years ago and there wasn't much fun for little children. This time, there was a little theme park opened for the little ones - Sesame street Bay of Play. There was some kiddy rides and adventurous play for kids of different ages. Water play area was closed due to the very cold weather. Rides within the area are themed to Sesame street and we even took pictures with some Sesame street pals, Elmo, Grover and Telly.

Flying Elmo
Spinning fun
Elmo and Grover
Crazy fun!
And all that made our parenting easy when we're out is the pocession of our new twin stroller. Where they sit, snack and sleep in. Finally having mercy on our arms.
Popping popcorn in stroller
Road trips are exciting yet torturing when the kids don't take it well. These days when we hop into the car, Jazz would question, "Is it a long or short drive?" Car journey phobia I guess.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Daylight Saving Time

Turning back time? Possible if you heard of daylight saving time (DST). It simply means turning the clock back by an hour during fall and moving forward by one hour during spring (Depending on one's location). It's my first time hearing about this and I thought, what's all the 'time mess' about? The biological clock in us is already a routine, so much so that even an hour makes a difference. And so, after reading about Daylight Saving Time, I felt it was a smart invention. 

The history was way back to 1784, when one of United States founder fathers, Benjamin Franklin suggested Daylight Saving Time, with many happenings in between, this was only adopted by United States in 1918. From Fall to winter, there's less sunlight during the days than during Spring to Summer. It allows us to make better use of daylight in the evening, and possibly use less electricity too. That gave sense to the term. 

And so, it's the first Sunday of November, the smart phones, ipads and our laptops' clock have all auto changed. Everyone will have to 'Spring Forward' and 'Fall Backward.' Interesting knowledge I've gained.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Halloween Fun!

Since arriving here, I've been anxiously awaiting to see how the western celebrate Halloween. It sure is one thing that's not common in Asia, though getting popular.
Initially, I intend to brush through this festival without talking to the kids about it, since it'll only be a short stay here. But it was difficult to avoid, as Halloween decorations are everywhere. There were pumpkins, spooky figurines, costumes, parties held by our local communities, spooky storytelling in the library and there was costume parade in Jazz's school too. It's like a big thing to them. Halloween was even in the cartoons they watched. And alright, I didn't really talk about the history, all I said was about dressing up in costumes and going house to house for 'trick or treat.' 

While getting all excited about this day, my Christian Singaporean neighbours told me they won't be celebrating Halloween. I got curious, "Why not?" Isn't it one festival, we Asians would wish to feel the fun of how the westerns celebrate. I don't celebrate back home too, but why the specification of mentioning not celebrating. They explained as I questioned, and that was when I ended up reading more about Halloween. Obviously, I'm one of the many joining to celebrate without knowing it's origin and myths. Different cultures view and celebrate Halloween differently. In brief, about 2000 years ago, it was a pagan holiday, honouring the dead. Some people view Halloween as a time for fun, putting on costumes, trick-or-treating and having theme parties. Others view it as a time of superstitions, ghosts, goblins and evil spirits. Which is why, some Christians view it as participating in an evil holiday. I perceived understanding after reading and knowing more about this festival. 

With the endless debates going on, we felt taking part in the celebration is dependent on each comfort's level. It ain't gonna be our yearly affair, but no harm having one or two years of Halloween fun, bring home some good memories and stories to keep. The kids were all excited about this day too. Throughout decades, the origin seemed to have been 'diluted', costumes have become cute and tame for the little ones. It became a very commercial festival too. Looking at the amount of candies the kids collected, I really wonder how much candies are sold throughout the world for trick or treat, and costumes too!

These were some spooky fun we had at an event organized by our local community and costume parade held by Jazz's school.
Kids parading around school in their costumes

We also went for two Halloween parties held by our neighbour and my man's schoolmate, which we went un-costumed because we didn't buy. Haha. Was great fellowship though.

And so the day came, 31st October. Together with some other families, we arranged to trick or treat together. It was also a chance, I wanted to train Jazz on her boldness and stranger approaching skill, I wished she would be all bold to ask for her trick or treat, but she was all so shy. She followed behind the older kids to get her privileges. At least along the way, she brought forth her words softly, 'trick or treat' and 'Thank you."

It was really happening, before we left home, a group of kids knocked on our door. I was thrilled when they chorused 'trick or treat!.' I gave each child two packs. So happy to see their smiles and hear their 'thank you.' We then left a box of candies outside our door for any kids who came and to not leave disappointed, they can help themselves to the candies. It was half gone when we came home. The sky was dark when we got home and Thank God I had dinner all prepared before we left.

Our cart of candies for giveaway
Scary decos
Trick OR Treat
My puppy boy
There were so many people on the streets!
Webs and scary people everywhere
This got the kids scared
Half filled - More to go
After dinner that night, we went for a Halloween party organized by my man's schoolmate. Adults and kids had treat bags. We indulged in sweets and cakes. The kids had a late night and it all seemed to be caused by the sugar.

Cupcakes!
Collection of the day
Halloween's over and we all had great fun! Home is now overstocked with candies, which are now treats for the adults. Having stepped into November, we are so looking forward to Christmas! I sure know the reason for celebrating Christmas.