Thursday, 24 April 2014

Qing Ming Tradition

It's been the longest time ever, since I joined my parents and grandparents on a trip to the temple, for Qing Ming Jie (清明节). A time of the year, usually early April, where people remember and honour one's ancestors at grave sites. Earlier this month, since I was home with the kids, my mum asked us to join them. We did. For decades, my parents and grandparents had been faithfully doing this, and usually the elders went, rarely my cousins. I guess we are the generation of people who don't or yet to perceive the meaning of Qingming festival. Or maybe we had no opportunity of sharing closeness with the deceased.

The purpose of our trip was to pay respects to my great grandparents, a couple whom we had never met. Only at the columbarium. This is probably one of the deterring reason to making our trip yearly. We need to be mindful about our ancestors and the root of our origin. We may have branched out in different directions, but we are still that same family tree. Always remember: 饮水思源 (Never forget one's origin).

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Paying respects to our ancestors

Js are the first set of grandchildren and great grandchildren on my paternal side. It was a great opportunity to show them how respect and memorial is done. And I thought it wasn't too early to start talking about this morbid tradition. Js swarmed me with many curious questions from how a person gets into the little niche space, to the burning of paper money, gifts and food offerings. It was also where I drew a line between tradition and superstitions.

I was very cautious of being respectful all times, maintaining our family relationships and remaining our Christian stand. Over the many years, my grandparents and parents have accepted our differences in beliefs. And yes, they  honoured our faith too! Religion differences should not be a deterring reason to not participate in family traditions. Just trust our heart and mind for wise discernment.

QingMing could be a tradition under threat, with many youths skewing towards the western culture. It isn't too much effort to exemplify this form of love, respect and filial piety along the generations. All we need are parents who would teach and pass on the tradition. And of course, as time evolves, there are now various ways of memorials. From graves and tombstone days to ashes in niche or seas. Some even do memorial online! Tradition or not, I'm sure our loved ones will always hold that special place in our heart.

I'm blessed to have both my parents and grandparents still showering their love and affection over Js. Treasure our loved ones, always!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Easter Egg Hunt Party

We had an extremely fruitful weekend. The privilege of joining a group of awesome fellow bloggers from M.O.B, for an Easter egg hunt party. When the minds of mummies are gathered together, we get only the good stuff for our little ones. Fun filled activities!

It was a very well planned event with storytelling, egg hunting and games! We had a huge turnout of about 30 children! I'm glad Js showed no resistance in blending with the crowd and activities. I guess their favourite segment would be the moment of egg hunting, where every egg has a pleasant surprise of edibles and non-edibles. And yes, they had some mini buffet on chocolates. Which also reminded me of those kinder surprise childhood days, where I got not only toy, but chocolate too! Growing up is sometimes about chocolates.

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Game time!
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Thanks for the photo, mummy Angie! Photo credit: Princess Dana Diaries.
It spells FUN when parents and children are gathered for the execution and participation of a great party. My best moment was watching their expressions when they cracked open their surprises. Just get that camera ready!

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Loving his little surprise!

Thankful for mummies who put ideas together to make this happen. We've met some nice people and adorable little people too! I'm convinced  to do an egg hunting event with the kids every year! You don't need great funds, extravagant locations or fancy delicacies. All you need is just an idea, pooled resources and kind volunteers! 

You know it was crazy fun when Jazz said, "That was so fun, Mummy!"

Friday, 18 April 2014

Easter egg hunt at home!

It's Good Friday! Another significant time of the year, for the believers of Christ. We talked about it in the family and we want the kids to know it isn't just a day where Daddy gets a day off his 5 days work schedule. It is significantly about the cruxification of Jesus. That He carried the cross to Calvary, and endured hours of suffering on the cross before his death. After two days, on the Sunday that is now celebrated as Easter Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead!

I have in brief, shared this story through an egg hunting game with the kids. We did it the simple and un-challenging way, all within the premise of their room. An easy hunt gets me excited kids, and probably less turnover to the already very cluttered room.

Every egg found has a written fact about the occasion we're celebrating:
  • Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected from death
  • Jesus was crucified and He rose from the dead
  • Good Friday is the day Jesus died
  • Easter Sunday is the day Jesus came back to life
  • Jesus was reborn and lives today
  • It is called Good Friday because Jesus died for the good of mankind
  • Eggs represent a symbol of new beginnings, new life and renewed faith
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Ester story

And the hunt begins. Jazz is generally a better searcher than Jare, or maybe it's a big sister trait. Jazz found 3 and Jare found 2 eggs. 1 egg left unfound.

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The search team began hunting

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Found! And let's read.
It was good fun watching the kids hunt for their eggs and celebrate their accomplishments. Little brother cracked the shells and big sister did the reading. Nice team here! 

We didn't end our game just there. We did another round of hunt the next day. This time, I left some sweet notes and good value quotes. In hope that these reminders will get stored in their little minds: 
  • Respect the elders
  • Be kind to the people around you
  • Sharing makes playing fun
  • Love your brother/sister always
  • Stay happy and smiley always
  • Always clean up after play
  • Honour your Father and Mother
  • You are my sunshine
  • Family is love. We love you!
  • You know... Mummy loves you always
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My lovely quotes for them
That's our simple, low cost and non-snacking way of egg hunt. After all the hunting, cracking and reading, we ended the game with lots of hugs and kisses.

It's the long weekend! Have a great time of family bonding, everyone!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Odd and even numbers

We did odd and even numbers yesterday! It took me a while to craft out my lesson plan for Jazz. We talked about even numbers having partners and being able to equally divide into 2 groups. Odd numbers don't get a partner and are not equal when divided by 2. 

We tried inventing a song, 2,4,6,8, 10 are even, 1,3,5,7, 9 are odd. Try singing to the first 2 lines of Twinkle twinkle little stars.

Then we played with handy items, colour pencils, to visualize the even and odd. I wrote the numbers 1 to 10 on square papers, and asked Jazz to sort them into the 2 plates of odd and even. We checked the answers, and sang the song again!

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Sorting in progress
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Items for visual and numbers for sorting
Next, I shuffled and stacked the numbers together, gave her a set of instruction to reaffirm our learning. Circle the odd numbers and cross out the even numbers.

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Circle or cross?
After some learning on odd and even, we started classifying the odd or even, whenever a number strikes us -73, 123, 678, 984, 89723950! These aren't challenging. The last number says it all

More of Math learning ahead!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Understanding my Singapore

Spent our first 2 weeks awakening to reality, and I must confess, life in the states seemed too comfortable to start appreciating our origin again. Singapore, our country and our home. I know its culture, people and place, and I finally know why some would choose to leave for a life abroad. Having had the opportunity to spend a mini fraction of life overseas, I can't help, but to share some lovely experiences in the states, with our local observation. And of course, there will always be perspectives and rooting reasons to understand our origin:
  • I held the lift and door for you, but received no appreciative words. But... I understand that a verbal expression is one we, Asians can be rather reserve about.
  • I walked into most stores with no greetings or help from the salespeople, not any, until I approach. But... I understand they were giving me space and a stress free shopping experience.
  • I checked out my groceries at the register, I was so used to being greeted and asked if I could find what I needed. But... I said, 'Hello!' instead. Hope that made your day. 
  • I drove with much patient on the road, you got impatient with me. But... it's a country of the rat race. You could be rushing for an appointment.
  • I would roam my kids alongside the road, with much confident that drivers always yield to us. But... I'm mindful that land is a scarcity here, we hardly have a bicycle lane, what's more about widening the road for spacious pavements. I woke up from being complacent about road safety.
  • I requested for something to be served differently in a restaurant, I got declined. But... I understand, you have a decent basic pay regardless of the service rendered. 
  • I waited for my man to start dinner at 6pm, but not till 7 plus. But... I understand the hectic work life inculcated and that road jams are common almost everyday. 
  • I bought some big items and conveniently asked about free returns or refunds, if item does not fit. I got declined and was shown the terms and conditions. But I understand, a relaxed in such policy will give you a big headache. An honour system that endeavours trust, honesty and honour, is one unestablished among our people. With ikea an exception, we love!
  • I took an elevator because I have a twin stroller in tow, and I got bumped out when it got crowded with people who seemed able on the escalator. But... I understand the long day or rushed hours that got your legs tired. 
  • I tried to smile at strangers whom my kids were playing with or gave me eye contact while walking past, I got some amused looks. But... I understand, smiles aren't what we commonly exchange among strangers. I do hope smiles are contagious though.
  • I empathized a child who was publicly chided by his dad. But... I understand the mindless respect we have for our children in the early years of Asian culture. 
  • I bought my car at an exuberant price. But... I understand the need to control the numbers of cars on our very congested road. 
  • I tried to cook healthy home meals for my family, with realisation that its cheaper to pack from the hawker. But... I understand, this is what serves the busy people conveniently.  
  • Last but not least, while browsing through some retail products, I realised how cost of living is so much easier in another land. But.. I understand we hardly have some strong and good local brands to rely on. 

We are extremely thankful for the brief experience of life abroad. It gave us opportunity to widen our perspectives, be gracious and teach our children the good values in life. The goods that we should learn and preserve, and the bads that we should abandon and not practice.

There's always a flip side to every story. There will always be our love in Singapore and buts in another land...

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Box of surprise [Review of iNbox]

Last week seemed like a wrecked up week, where we tried to find routine in midst of tuning into our local biological clock. While we've been busy unpacking our carried home luggage, I was so concern about keeping the kids occupied with meaningful activities. And yay, I remembered the kind folks from Smart Alley, had sent me an iNbox while we were still in the states. 

iNbox, an educational fun box developed by experts, with 4 to 5 activities inclusive, subscribed monthly to your doorstep! A good surprise of creative fun and meaningful learning each month. It comes with a set of very clear guided instructions for the different activities. And yes, parental involvement makes learning more in depth. It's all about getting those little hands and minds to work, enabling them to create, explore, enrich and story tell. 

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Awesome activities!
It was a wildlife safari themed box that we received. As I opened the box, I could see and feel the anticipation of my long necked, curious kids. They can't wait to experience what's in stored! I assure you, it won't be just a moment of fun. Think about its unique way of educating, and depending on how you plan your schedule, it's a box of activities that can occupy the kids for couple of days. I'm sure you will reap rewarding results. The box came with (i) 2 sets of hands on crafts, (ii) an activity book, (iii) an illustrated storybook and (iv) a board game, which we are still revisiting since the un-boxed of it.

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I love his growing interest in books!
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Jazz is a board game lover!
My first concern upon opening the box was that, I've 2 kids, and both are within the appropriate age of iNbox play (Ages 3 to 7). It will be loads of convincing about teamwork. But to my surprise, the activities were well shared and satisfied for both Jazz and Jare, so yay! Great teamwork in our accomplishments.

As I went through the activities, I freaked out when I saw paint without paintbrush. Reading on suggested the kids to use their fingers. I put away that mess-free thought, and told them to use those tiny fingers like a brush. Even an apron was thrown in for some thoughtful mess, which we knew the younger child deserved it. What is art without free expression, anyway. I'm glad Js didn't whine about getting those fingers all coloured up. When it comes to art and craft, I am always, an almost total observer, with no intervention. Red elephant, multi-coloured cheetah and hippo? Go ahead and get wild! There's no disapproval to creativity.

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He is sure serious about work
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Love watching them paint in harmony
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Worked on their safari jeep as a team
And ta da! Free expression means getting the front and back of a jeep all mixed up. It looked good to me though.

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And rescued a fluffy raccoon!
With leftover paint, I suggested the kids to paint their safari jeep, which they decided to add colour to its wheels and give it a funny nose.

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Their made up safari
This whole lot of actitvities kept the kids occupied for some time. I am really glad it was some meaningful time spent with them in midst of our home settling chaos. It boosted me to seemingly feel more responsible and diligent as a mum, among the busy days. It definitely was my saviour when I had no time to plan their home lessons. 

Just today, hot and fresh from our mailbox, April's iNbox came in! The kids were thrilled to see that the box was addressed specially to their names. We are just so excited to be exploring it real soon! 

Get your box of surprise today!
Monthly subscription - S$28.90 per month (+ $3.35 for regular shipping)
3 months subscription - S$28.00 per month + FREE SHIPPING (One time payment of S$84)
6 months subscription - S$27.50 per month + FREE SHIPPING (One time payment of S$165)

12 months subscription - S$25.80 per month + FREE SHIPPING (One time payment of S$310)


From now till 20th Apr 14, get the 13th subscription box free, when you sign up for a 12 months subscription plan. Details as follow: 
1. Visit www.myinbox.sg
2. Sign up for 12 months subscription
3. Key in coupon code: RNSAF



Disclaimer: We received an iNbox for reviewing purpose. All opinions expressed are of our own.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Vacation closure - Mount Rushmore

Before heading home, we wrapped up our very prolonged vacation with a trip to South Dakota. It was my man's very long desire to be there and witness one of the seven man made wonder of US, Mount Rushmore. A National memorial sculpture, carved out of granite and dazzled the World. 

We arrived South Dakota, Rapid city on 19th March, spent a very slow and relaxed week there since there weren't much to do because of the season. It was Spring, but weather was still snowy cold. It snowed on some days, during our visit, which I thought it really made our farewell beautifully memorable. My mum was really excited to have her first experience of falling snow, in the years of her life. 

Mount Rushmore is an expression of endurance, patience and creativity that awed the people around the World. It took about 14 years to complete the sculpture of the chosen 4 historic presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. All with significant contribution as America's forefathers. A great exemplification of a country's unison.

This magnificent man made sculpture by Gutzon Borglum, wow-ed and impressed us totally!

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With the forefathers of America!
Apart from visiting Mount Rushmore, we did the Wind Cave National ParkJourney Museum, and Devils Tower, where we parted sadly with our travel buddies, the Lee and Koh families. It was an almost teary goodbye. While they set off for the second part of the vacation, we flew back to Monterey, to prepare for our home going.

Ain't sharing about the rest we visited as there are better places to visit if you go during summer. We had limited places of visit. But we had an invaluable experience during our drive to the Wind Cave National Park. We had a very close encounter with wild Bison. So close that it terrified us. While driving, there were Bison roaming and crossing our road path, causing our vehicle to reduce speed. We attracted some Bison, and decided to completely stop and admire them a little from the inside of our car. As the number grew, we got threatened and tried sounding the honk gently and moved off slowly. Phew! They were of no threat, just some big curious wild beings. 

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Bison roaming free
That up close encounter became the most exciting part of our trip!

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Saying Goodbye was the most difficult
It was a nice wrap up to our seemingly never-ending vacation. Just some weeks ago, we were enjoying the beauty of snow and its coldness, and now, back home in Singapore, it really is hot and humid! It's been such a long time since we perspired this much, with hair and shirt drenched kids.

Reality of coming back to origin is like waking up from a very long and detailed dream. I thought we just left home for the man's education, and now, we are back to where we were. It had been a good dream! Thankful for it.