Our first visit to the Labrador Nature Park

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Thought of exploring a new place (new as in places that we have not been to) than to go back to those we frequently go to.

So we headed to the Labrador Nature Park. It's a pretty nice park between the Keppel Club and the West Coast Park. It's along the coaster line of the west coast, so it offers nice scene and sea breeze. The park is not crowded (could be just today, as it's raining in the afternoon), hence it's quiet. Feeling good.

There are 2 parts of it. We didn't know anything about this park. So we just anyhow tried. First we followed the sign to Carpark A, which is up the hill, nice simple and short trek in the bush. There is a very cosy cafe too. We have our coffee while the kids and the grandparents have their fruit juice, plus the rojak that we packed from one of the coffee shops at Clementi (I know, quite a funny combination and to have it at a really cool cafe, keke).

It's a historical site. Something to do with World War II, think it was one of the battle ground (didn't read the signboards in details). So there is a fort thingy in front of the cafe.

We then saw the other side of the park, which was along the coastal line. We drove down instead of walked down so that we didn't have to walk up again. There are Carpark B and C. Apparently most people come to this side of the park. We walked a long the park slowly and enjoy the scene.

The kids are enjoying the park.

We were there from about 5 to 7pm. So bonus was to admire the sunset :-) Photos taken with my 2 years old iPhone3GS, not too bad ya :-)

There is a playground at the park. Surely the kids wanted to have a go with it. Xi Yu surprised us by climbing up the vertical stairs confidently (see the video below)! She wasn't able to do that the last time she used a similar stairs. Oh, now she can walk up and down the normal staircase without holding onto the railing or our hands.

Xi Yu climbing the stair independently! See how confident she is and how strong her arms are!

She then went through the tunnel, climbed another fly of stair, came to this very tall slide and slided down without any fear!

She repeated this many times. My very cool hubby said just leave her alone. No matter how cool I wanted to be, I just cannot be as cool as him. I tagged behind her whenever she climbed the stairs. It's only at the very last time when she climbed, probably she started to get tired, she slipped and almost fell!! I was so relieved that I was there to save her, well, she might hold on tight and might not fall, but if she did, she would have injured badly. I just have to be careful with her till she is as steady as Hao Re.

Where's Hao Re? This little boy really truly is a clean freak!! He climbed up to the structure, then he sat down and used his hand to sweep off all the sand on the floor! So many kids running around and made the floor sandy again once he has cleaned it. He kept on cleaning till we left :-P He did the same when we were at West Coast Park last Sunday. Such a funny boy!

Sure we will come back again!
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Parenting Quotes

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Was reading Young Parents Issue August 2011 while Hao Re was attending his piano classes the Sunday before last. Came across these quotes, they were taken from people who are involved in childcare related businesses, either an educator or business woman. I think some are pretty good that I should share it here:

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Working mum

It's not easy to be a working mum. We need to juggle work and home.
We want to be a good employee, a good mum and a good wife.
We want to achieve our KPIs at work.
We want to give our best to our family.
All at the same time, to achieve work life balance.

It's a little tougher when we don't have help.
No maid because we don't want to give up on our privacy or we cannot tolerate things not being done the way we want, or both, or for other 99 reasons.
At times it can be very challenging.
We just bite the bullet and do it.
We can do it because we are mums/dads.

It gets even tougher if one (mum in particular, no so much for a dad I reckon) needs to travel for work.
For me, the traveling part is actually okay.
Except we need to arrange for grandparents or relatives to travel to this tiny island down south to help out everytime a travel need arises.
It's in fact a nice break for me from the routine.
Stay in a nice hotel, have dinner and shower peacefully and a few nights of totally undisrupted sleep.
Get to solve a lot of work issues very effectively.
But what makes traveling not okay was when you bid goodbye to the kids, telling them you are going off for a work trip, they cried buckets, struggle to get off from the Baba and Grandma, and reaching out their hands for Mama.
Hao Re even had nightmares, woke up crying for Mama in the middle of the night.
Made me thought of quiting my job at that very moment.
Was feeling so guilty and was really sad that I have to do this to my kids.
But, but, but, when I called my husband just now,
Apparently they didn't even mention about Mama, and no more crying at all.
They were happily watching TV, which was not allowed when Mama is around.

So for a working mum who needs to travel for work every 1-2 month, it's actually not as bad.
As long as the travelling keeps to this low frequency.
Any increase in the travelling frequency, I would have to ask to change my job scopes or look for other jobs.
Just gonna make the most out of it, when I have to sacrifice my family for this.

See you, my dear kids and hubby in another 80 hours!
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Arts and Crafts @ home

We were browsing the two Mister Maker books that I got for him many months ago, when we were really crazy about Mister Maker then (see, it's not always bad to watch TV, if not for the TV program, we would not have done so many arts and crafts, or worse still, I didn't even know how to start! But no, if you are curious, we are still on "NO TV policy", the TV hasn't been switched on for them till today). During that crazy period, we did one Mister Maker crafts every day right after watching it on the TV, and we did it for a consecutive of 2 weeks. Then it gets cool down, we did it once in a while by picking a page from the book (haven't watched Mister Maker on TV for a long time).

These last few weeks, Hao Re has been asking me to do arts and crafts again. He brought me the book almost every day, asking me to do a craft with him. We started with browsing the books, reading the books, and to reading every single detail of the pages, but I always gave him reasons that we don't have certain materials needed (it's an excuse, really). I just don't feel like doing, bad mummy I am, worried about the mess that Xi Yu would make :-) Yes, it's not Hao Re, but Xi Yu, as she couldn't take instructions very well (already very good for her age) and she loves to mess things up.

Until one day, on a weekend, Xi Yu was taking her nap, so I thought it's the best time to do a simple craft with Hao Re, and so we did. That made him so happy!! I should have done this weeks ago, hehe.

Basically just stuck some cotton wool onto a board, then paint the different shapes form using different colours (I was still lazy, only let him choose 3 colours, hehe).

Then, just a couple of days ago, we finally got to do a nice one! That's because my parents are around, and they help to entertain Xi Yu (she was not interested to join us anyway) while me and Hao Re got on with this play-dough ice-cream! It's a really fun crafts, from painting the cup to make it like a ice-cream cone, to mixing and kneading the flour/salt/water/colouring to play-dough, and then form a ice-cream.

So mighty happy with the ice-cream he made, he has been asking to do this for weeks! End result was pretty good ya. Hao Re did everything from the beginning till the end, with the guide and help from me. Wonderful craft!

Yes, both crafts are ideas of Mister Maker (from the books).

And the play-dough recipe here, think some of you may ask. We have tried 2 versions of making play-dough.

First version (more elaborated or original version that I got from a fellow mummy):

250g water
100g cooking salt
1Tbs cream of tartar (optional)
280g plain flour
15g oil
Food colouring

-Mix everything except colouring in a pot. Cook over medium heat until it becomes thick, ready for kneading. Will take about 5-10mins.

- Then put on floured surface. When it's cool enough to handle, knead till dough is no longer sticky and play-dough is smooth.

- Divide up accordingly and knead in colouring.

Though it's more work and involved heating up, the end product is nice, smooth and just like those commercial one!

Second version (modified or short-cut or lazy version):

100g cooking salt
1Tbs cream of tartar (optional)
280g plain flour
Food colouring

- Mix salt, flour and cream of tartar briefly. Then add in water and mix (add more water if necessarily to get the right softness).

- Knead till play-dough is smooth.

- Divide up accordingly and knead in colouring.

Easy to do. Good when you only need the play-dough to make some craft, like what we do for the ice-cream cone. Though it can also be kept and reuse, Hao Re didn't let me destroy his ice-cream and it got harden.

Hope we can do more these few weeks when my parents are around to help out :-)
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A Saturday spent at the Jurong Bird Park

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Received a mailer from our insurer, Great Eastern, for 50% discount of admission tickets to the Jurong Bird Park, in line with the Children's Day. So we decided to bring the kids there on Saturday.

It's full day of fun at the park! We were there from 10.30am all the way to 4.30pm! Hao Re has superb memory, he remembered what he has seen during his previous visits, and he demanded what to see. We have to follow his instructions :-) This time round, he was not so obsessed with the map, but Xi Yu was, haha.

Now let's the photos do the talking (all photos taken with iPhone as hubby didn't want to lug the camera along, so don't expect too much ya).

Made Xi Yu took photo with the King Penguin, the second largest penguin on earth. Xi Yu is taller than the King Penguin but lighter. Xi Yu is now >90cm, and weighing a grand 15kg!

At the amphitheatre watching the show. One of the mascots didn't appear that day, and Hao Re kept asking/talking about this, he can remember things so well! The staff gave them a mask each, made them very happy :-)

At the Lorry Loft feeding the lorries.

Having the ice-cream as dessert after our lunch. Xi Yu's white dress has turned into a rainbow dress after this ice-cream session :-)

After that, watched a special Children's Day show, that made Hao Re laughed a lot. Then he insisted to go to the playground. Hubby took a quick nap while they played. Then went to a few more enclosure, and caught one last show before leaving the park.

Think we will not go back for the next few months, as the park is really small, I can see Hao Re started to get bored, hehe. Like the show, he knew what to expect. Like the Lorry Loft, he was not excited at all when we went in, haha. Should go the Zoo next.

Oh, by the way, the water playground is very close to completion!!! Think it should be in time for the coming school holiday. It's look really fun (similar concept like to one at the Zoo). If you are planning for a visit to the Jurong Bird Park for your kids, call them to check if the waterplay is ready, else your kids would be very disappointed to see it but not able to go in.
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Chinese books recommendation - 爸爸系列

Okay. This will be the last series of books that I am going to talk about. It's not everything that we have bought from Dangdnag, but I only selected these 4 series that the kids like the most.

We have only bought 2x from Dangdang. First purchase is HERE. Out of the 3 sets of children books, the <100层的房子> and <可爱的鼠小弟> are excellent pick, the kids love these! But, the series on the left bottom, about a kid and a frog, is a total failure :-( They have not even flipped, never touched it to date :-( I tried to introduce to them, they just refused. I wonder why :-)

The second purchase is better, they read all 4 sets that we bought. The Richard Scurry ones became Hao Re's favourite books. The 爸爸系列, which I am going to talk about in this post, is also one of their favourites. The rest of the 2 sets, they would pick up from time to time, though not as often as those I have recommended in this blog. Money well spend :-)

Now, come back to this 爸爸系列. It's, again, Japanese translated picture books. I chose this set because my hubby is very busy at work and hardly have time to spend with the kids. So I hope through these books, the kids can understand Baba needs to work, but that doens't mean Baba doesn't love them. Baba wants very much to play with them and to spend them with, even to cook for them, whenever he has time, it's just that he is tight down with work often.

And oh my goodness, this set works so well with Hao Re and Xi Yu. They ask to read these books very often (often, they want to read all 3 books at one go, luckily it's only 3 books and very few pages, else I would have to hide away these books also, keke). By reading these books to me, I really can feel that they get closer to their Baba despite the limited time they can spend together. Of course, even without these books, I always tell them how much Baba loves them, but he is very busy at work, and I like to pass some "authorities" to my hubby, e.g., when Hao Re asked to eat ice cream, I would get him to call Baba, only if Baba says yes, then we can eat ice cream (by the way, Baba never says no). And things like buying new toy, we will wait till Baba is free, then we go get the toy, and always tell them it's Baba who buys the toys for them. By doing these little small things, their Baba has a very special place in their heart :-) This wonderful set of books helps to "enhance" it.

The 3 books talk about different activities that Baba does with the kids - cooking a meal for the family on a weekend, bring them out to play at a park, and play music instrument together.

The cooking a meal, curry rice to be exact, for the family is a very funny and cute story. And surely it's their favourite out of the three. The story is something like Baba hardly goes to the kitchen. One day, when he was not at work, he decided to cook a curry rice for the family. But all the kitchen utensils and food, and even his family ran away from him, as they did not believe Baba can cook. Ended up, they realised Baba is an excellent cook, and they enjoyed the curry rice very much!

The kitchen utensil and food running away from Baba. Very nice pictures drawn.

Yummy yummy, the curry rice Baba cooked is very nice!

Whenever hubby has to work late, and has to work on weekend, we would have this conversation going,

HR/XY: 妈妈,爸爸在做工。
HR/XY: 爸爸做工很辛苦咧!
HR/XY: 要!爸爸很辛苦咧,我们要sayang爸爸。

There was one weekend, Hao Re insisted that hubby cooked lunch for us, because he wanted to see if the kitchen utensil and food would run away from hubby, as hubby had never cooked us a meal. That was so funny! You asked, if my hubby cooked lunch for the family as requested? No, of course he didn't :-)
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Chinese books recommendation - 可爱的鼠小弟

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This series, 可爱的鼠小弟, is nice, I like it a lot! It's written by Japanese and translated into Chinese version.

(Link to Dangdang:http://product.dangdang.com/product.aspx?product_id=20646032&ref=search-0-mix)

It consists of 12 books. Each book tells a different story, with a little mouse, called 鼠小弟 be the main character. In each of the story, he met many different animals, and these animals would appear from small to big size, and they all will be shown together on the same page at the end of the story. So the kids get to learn the animals and their relative size. The stories are very interesting and funny. I don't know how to describe it. You can hop on to Dangdang and there are some recommendations and descriptions about these books.

For example, the 2 photos below were taken from the same book. This story is about musical instrument. First 鼠小弟 was given a trumpet to practice on, in preparing for a concert. But he couldn't make a single sound out of it. So he planned to change with other animals. His girlfriend, 鼠小妹 was accompanying him. He met a few animals, and he realised the bigger the animal, the bigger the instrument they played, and each instrument needs a special skill. When he saw the elephant, the elephant was sitting in front of a piano. He gave up hope as he thought the piano is huge so there's no way he can play the piano. But the elephant was excited to see him and told him that he would be the perfect animal to play piano, because elephant's hands (legs) are way too big for the keys of the piano. Eventually everyone is playing an instrument for the concert, with 鼠小弟 playing the piano and elephant the trumpet :-)

Meet with the cat, and the cat plays a cymbal.

Elephant with the piano. Penguin is the conductor.

This series of books has many few words. And the words keep repeating and repeating, as it uses the same group of animals in all 12 books. So it's probably a good set of books for those who wants to expose their children to Chinese. They will get to learn the animals in Chinese. But then again, it doesn't come with han yu pin yu.

Have fun reading!
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Singapore Chinese Orchestra - Fiesta of Animals

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A musical event by the Singapore Chinese Orchestra 

The highlight for the past weekend was the musical event that we attended at the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. The last time we attended one was back in mid May 2011, and that time it was on percussion music instrument. All the kids enjoyed the show a lot. So we decided to attend this one. This time round, it's themed "Fiesta of Animals". It easily attracted the attention of the kids, young kids in particular, as there were many pictures of different animals pasted around the hall, and the performance went along with puppets.

The kids enjoyed the show, especially those pieces with faster music. Most of the kids in the hall got a little restless when the soft and gentle music was played. Haha, kids. The conductor did spend quite a decent amount of time and effort planning out this event. He tried to introduce different types of music, introduced some musical instrument, and by using the projector, he even added in and taught the kids the basis element of music - rhythm, pitch, tempo and dynamics. So not only that the kids got the enjoy the show, they learned something too. Though I liked the previous show better (it's better performed as what I remembered), I think this one was pretty good also.

If you heard of the Babies Proms (we attended once back in 2009) organised by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, it's something like that, a musical event especially made for kids. It's quite ironic that the tickets to Babies Proms are sold out every year (people even signed up as member so that they can get ticket before it's open to public sales), while this similar event organised by Singapore Chinese Orchestra is not even known by most parents. Why? Is it the publicity? Or they prefer SSO than SCO? Don't like Chinese musical? Or because SSO is conducted by an Australia ("imported" quality better than "local made")?

I think this wonderful event put together by the SCO is worth supporting for. It's a local production. The ticket is pretty affordable ($11 per person). The quality of performance is of top grade. The ambient is good. The music selection is good. The show is well planned and conducted nicely. Convenient location (@Shenton Way with parking at reasonable charge). And by the way, the whole show was conducted in English despite that it being a Chinese Orchestra. I know I don't sound convincing, because I cannot play any musical instrument and am not really a musical person. But read this review from this mum, who knows a lot about music and her kids can all play 1-2 musical instrument at very young age, she couldn't be wrong. Her comment was that SCO children concert is better than the Babies Proms!

Please support the SCO! Check their website at http://www.sco.com.sg/ every now and then for the next children show.

Half day trip to JB

We went to JB on the same morning. As it's time to stock up their Enfagrow. The price and the increase of price of formula milk is scary! In Singapore, it's retailing at >$60 per 1.8kg tin. While in JB, we got it for RM92 per 1.7kg tin (it's about RM70+ when we first bought Enfagrow 2 years ago, that's nearly 30% increase in 2 years!). So it's $20+ savings per tin!! We usually bought in bulk, like 10 tins at one go, so per trip, we saved >$200! By the way, this 10 tins can only last for about 2 months. Both of them are drinking Enfagrow and they consume 1 tin per 5-6 days!

We also got our car wash, finally! This car wash at the Jusco Tebrau is pretty good. They clean the exterior and interior very thoroughly for RM15. We haven't cleaned or to be precise, haven't sent our car for cleaning (we don't clean our car ourselves, as it's just simply too time wasting) for like, errr, many, many months, I couldn't even remember when was the last time, probably half a year ago, ops! The way how those car wash at the petrol station in Singapore clean the car is so disappointing that I rather save the few dollars, and they don't clean the interior anyway.

We started the journey back home at 3pm, thinking that we would have plenty of time for the SCO show at 5pm. It's all cleared, no traffic at all at the JB customs. So we were all very happy. But not long after we left the JB custom, after the first 2-3 turns, we saw the long long car queue already :-( We were still very lucky though that the queue cleared pretty fast and we were directed to use the counters meant for lorries. We were so lucky that we didn't miss the show at all! Only late for less than 5 minutes and no music was played yet. Phew! We were very stressed out as I bought the tickets for Isaac and his family and little Elijah and his family also joining us. All 10 tickets were with me! I took photos of the tickets and Whatspps them. Thanks goodness they were let in without the physical tickets! Must by my lucky day :-)  
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