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ShopaholicMin&Co.

Braving the World with Our Mini-Me(s)

Safeguarding Our Children with Sex Education

Have you thought about sex education for your kids? Often, people think that sex education should only be covered as kids’ ages hit 2 digits. However, I feel that sex ed. in various degrees should be covered from a young age. Prevention is really better than cure.

E is in Primary 2 (8 years old) this year. He has been in an all boys school for 2 years now. Before he started Primary 1, we went through the basic type of sex education with him, i.e. appropriate and inappropriate touches, who can or cannot see your privates. Through this year, I felt a pressing need to cover “the birds and the bees” with him. Firstly, the seemingly increasing number of sexual predators in schools, as covered in the news. Predators come in all shapes and sizes and I wanted to be sure that he would be well-equipped to identify one and to know what to do should he be exposed an inappropriate situation. Sometimes, the people we trust are the ones hurting them 😥. Secondly, he was also increasingly exposed to different “colourful” words in school and was curious about each word. Thirdly, I wanted him to feel safe that we could chat about stuff like that together and never be worried that I would be angry. 

Every child is different and one could always wait for a “teachable moment” when they ask a question. However, there’s a possibility that you may wait forever.

I found a webpage that covered a general age-by-age guide on when to cover what for sex ed: http://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/age-by-age-guide-to-talking-to-kids-about-sex/

Do have a read. It’s a pretty good guide.

With all these in mind, I went in search of books that could help me cover age-appropriate sex ed for E and Z (starting Primary 1). Knowing what to say and finding the right words to say is sometimes so hard. I wanted to find a couple of books that we could read together factually, instead of me stumbling for words and running for the nearest quilt for cover. 😜

I would like to recommend 2 books that I have bought and read through with the boys. They have been such a great help in covering the topic with the right words and the right facts.  If you’re looking for somewhere to start, these 2 are great to begin with.

1. I Said No!     by Zack and Kimberly King

An awesome resource, especially for younger boys. It uses a very simple and structured approach to explain different social situations and people that the child might come across. It uses Red and Green Flags people to help children process and identify if the person is potentially dangerous to be with. Predators can even be living in our homes 😱! And what I like about it is, it gives the child a step-by-step on what to say and do in such a situation.

As adults, we think that our children will be able to stand up for themselves, as long as we have told them what to do. But, as children, filled with fear and uncertainty in such situations, they may find themselves lost and confused. Haven’t they all been taught to follow adults’ instructions? This book covers many different situations and people, helping children to understand that, sometimes, people they trust may betray them. Role-playing these situations will increase the likelihood of the child following these advices should something similar occur.

I also like how the book emphasizes to the children at the end to always tell someone. Tell a parent, a relative, a teacher, or even to call the police. Children should not feel ashamed, and should not hide, in such situations. Only then, can they get help. 

2. “Where Did I Come From?”     by Peter Mayle

This book has been in print from 1987, and it has remained to be one of the better books to explain “the birds and the bees” with children. The cover says it all: The facts of life without nonsense and with illustrations.

It starts with listing the physical differences between a man and a woman and all the proper names of the different anatomy. Be prepared for detailed pictures. However, they are all in cartoon form and I personally found it both humorous and honest. It then proceeds to making love and I find the description honest, but yet appropriate for children.  If your child has asked you, “What is sex?”, I found that the description in this book is as factual as it gets, without any embarrassment.

The book goes on to describe quite generally how a foetus develops in the womb across 9 months and how our real birthday came about.

And I like how it ends.

All children are blessings, to be treasured and valued, and I hope everyone who reads this would be motivated and able to equip their children with skills to identify and prevent any unwanted situations. 😊

Milk Kefir Overnight Oats Recipe

Now that you have read about how awesome milk kefir is, in Min’s earlier post; here’s my (germy) kids’ favourite kefir breakfast – Milk Kefir Overnight Oats! 😋

It’s the easiest recipe ever, power packed with healthy goodness, and super yummy! My kids always give me a huge grin when they find out it’s milk kefir oats for breakfast! That’s pretty amazing, considering how they previously always rejected oats when I tried serving warm oats with honey and raisins. This breakfast is also pretty filling and keeps their tummies happy until lunchtime! (Tee Hee…Mummy’s happy as she can sleep in 😴 while the kids help themselves to the kefir oats, all ready in the fridge for them in the morning! 😁)


Milk Kefir Overnight Oats (2-3 servings)

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Ingredients

1 1/2 cups cultured kefir

4 1/2 tbsp (add more if you prefer a thicker consistency) of instant/baby oats

Fresh blueberries*

Fresh raspberries*

Honey, to taste

*use whichever is your favourite fruit, or use dried/frozen fruit!

 

Method

1. Pour the cultured kefir into the prepared cups or containers.

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2. Add instant/baby oats and honey. Give it all a good stir!

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3. Add blueberries and raspberries on top (or whatever other fruit!)

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4. Cover and keep in refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.

5. Wake up in the morning to a delicious breakfast!

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Pssst..Sometimes, I sprinkle some granola on top just before serving the Milk Kefir Oats, it adds a yummy crunch!

Enjoy Folks!

Kefir: Elixir for the gut

Do you and your family take probiotics supplement? We all know that probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for our digestive system. These organisms help stem the growth of harmful bacteria and also helps keep our general immunity levels up! 

Our family was on probiotics supplement until we were introduced to kefir a few years ago by a family friend. We have not looked back since! Do read on to find out how we have benefitted from kefir. 

WHAT IS KEFIR?

Kefir is a cultured milk product drink. It is similar to yogurt, in that it is also tart and has a sour taste (depending on how long it has been cultured for). It originates from the Caucasus Mountains in Eastern Europe. 

The drink is cultured using kefir “grains”. These grains are not the typical wheat or rice grains that we know. It is whitish in colour and looks like cauliflower. 

– kefir grains

These grains act like a “starter” in yogurt. The grains feed on milk sugars and grow with every culture! They are sieved out after kefir is cultured and can be reused for a new batch. All you really need is your first batch of “grains” and you can keep culturing kefir at home! This is a very affordable way of supplementing probiotics. 

KEFIR VS YOGURT

Most of us are more familiar with yogurt, as they are more readily available. However, yogurts only have about a handful of strains of good bacteria while kefir has 10-20 strains! A wide variety of strains produces more probiotics and the drink becomes even more effective in keeping our gut healthy. 

I have one of the weakest guts I know. I get diarrhea easily compared to others. With every bout of diarrhea, it takes my stomach a few hours to resettle. But with a cup of kefir, my stomach resettles in an hour and I will be back to normal. 

MY KIDS AND KEFIR

My kids are now big fans of kefir. I started M (my no. 3) when she turned 1. She took to it so quickly! Now, she gets upset when I do not have kefir in the mornings. If you are worried about the tart or sour taste, you can flavour your kefir! You can add honey or fruit purees and kefir can be used to make yummilious smoothies! 

I am a very lazy mummy in the mornings. I can’t seem to get out of bed, often till it’s too late. 😜 To assemble a cup of flavoured kefir quickly, I add in half a bottle of Yakult into the kids’ cups and top up with kefir! Very quick and easy. 

To help the older kids get accustomed to it, I add in a whole bottle of Yakult in the beginning and reduced the amount of Yakult as they got used to it. They took to it really quickly!


– thumbs up for kefir!

CHEAP TO CULTURE!

With 3 kids, it can be so expensive to provide them with supplements. Kefir is so cheap to culture! After the first batch of “starter”, you only need to keep buying fresh milk. 

GOODNESS OF KEFIR

Not only is kefir high in probiotics, it also provides protein, calcium and vitamin B! As the good bacteria and yeast in kefir provides lactase, most of the lactose in the full cream milk would have been consumed. It can be a good alternative for lactose intolerant individuals! 

If you are worried about the high fat content in milk, you would be glad to know that the milk sugars are eaten up in the culturing process, leaving only 1/3 to 1/2 of calories left (depending on duration of culture).

We have been so happy with kefir that a few of our friends have joined us in culturing! Good things must share right? 😉


– kefir culturing on my kitchen counter

WANT SOME?

Would you want to give kefir a try? Germy, Jo and I are all culturing our own in South, East and Central Singapore! We would be very happy to share kefir “grains” so others can benefit from it too!  However, grains may take time to grow, depending on the type and how much milk we use.

To help us cover some costs in constantly growing our kefir grains, a bottle of kefir consisting of 1 tablespoon of grains (can culture 1-2 cups of milk each time!) and some milk will be $15. It will also come with a full set of instructions on how to culture it at home! 

Try it today! Have a happy gut! 

If you are interested, do drop us a message via Facebook!  (Only meet ups in Singapore)

https://m.facebook.com/shopaholicminco/

3M Post-It Display Board

As we approach the end of the year and progress into our final school term of 2016, I can almost smell the desperation and fatigue of the parents around me, as we doggedly plod on with our school-going kids. 😥 It’s almost as if we are collectively holding our breaths, waiting for the post-exam period when we can legitimately celebrate the start of the long school holidays! (And jiggle to the tunes of Christmas songs that would be playing everywhere!💃🏻Yay! Christmas!🎉🎄)

Before we can begin our celebratory holiday jiggles however; the reality of Semestral Assessments (SA2) loom just around the corner for our primary schooler Izzy! There is first a pressing need to get the study area organized and prepped for the upcoming “battle”! 😝

With Izzy, we’d found that having a notice board near her workspace, where we can put up the important school notes that need regular reference (e.g. Spelling and 听写 lists, SA2 revision topics, etc…), has been helpful with keeping her on-task as they also serve as a visual reminder of the pressing to-do list. It is also much easier for her to refer to the relevant notes as they are frequently needed. While we’d been surviving by washi-taping these notes in clear folder sheets on the wall, we constantly needed to re-tape the notes and rearrange them as new notes were added. Not very efficient. It was time to relook at the available options and go shopping! 😆

I eschew drilling holes in my walls as I have a penchant for reshuffling and tweaking the look of my home on a whim; and was on the lookout for an aesthetically pleasing notice board that was big enough to accommodate at least four to five A4 sheets of paper, yet did not require any unsightly holes in my walls. Sounded impossible, as most of the bigger boards would require drilling in order to hold up the bulkier and heavier frames, but 3M seemed to have one such product! 😁


The 3M Post-It Display Board is large enough (45.7 x 58.4cm), lightweight, easy to mount (wall- friendly 3M command strips are provided), and comes in designs that would go with most home decors! The entire board is a reusable adhesive surface (much like a long lived Post-It pad), hence our school notes can be simply pasted on the board without any need for pins or magnets! That’s a sure plus for a family like mine, where small items in our home tend to find their way into the mouths of our youngest child and dog! No need to worry about those annoying pins and magnets finding their way into undesirable orifices! 😅


It can be cut to whatever shape or size one’s creative mind desires, and can even be mounted onto fabric surfaces! The possibilities are endless! You could even use it as a easy photo collage wall!


We’ve had it for about 2 months now, and its adhesive qualities still seem to be going strong despite Izzy taking the notes off daily for reference and sticking them back!

My initial concern was the longevity (or not) of the adhesive surface, and whether it would end up as a “magnet” for dust; however no issues with both so far. 😊

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We got ours from Popular bookstore at SG$20.60, and love it so far! Anything that helps with study area organization is a huge plus for us – less time wasted, fumbling around for reference lists and more time to focus on the important things! We try to keep the board visually uncluttered and only put up the information Izzy needs for her daily school work. Other lists for parental reference (e.g. school calendar, upcoming excursions, etc…) remain stuck on the refrigerator for my reference.

Hope this helps other parents who might be desperate to get some order in the study area, or for any other reason!

All the best in this last leg of the year folks, we can almost smell the school holidays! 😜

(by Germy)


[11 Oct 2016, an update]: Some have asked if the adhesive surface could hold up more than a single sheet of paper. I tested with a stapled stack of 4 sheets and the front pages tended to drag the ‘anchor’ bottom sheet down over time.

Using a clear plastic folder to hold the stapled sheets resolved the issue. That has held up well! The maximum weight it can take is probably about 4-5 sheets of paper in the clear folder though. 😋

Mifold – The Grab and Go Booster Seat in Singapore

Are you lovin’ the convenience of taxis, but yet apprehensive about the lack of safety for kids traveling in them? The answer might be here. 

As most of you would have read from our previous blogpost that my family (Min) has gone car(e)-free for the past year. We have taken quite a number of taxi rides with the kids through this time. I absolutely love not having a car and zipping around in taxis, buses and trains instead. Though it is legal in Singapore to take kids in taxis without carseats, we know it is not the safest option. A friend told us about the Mifold recently and I just had to try it out.

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WHAT IS THE MIFOLD?

It’s basically a very very compact and foldable booster seat for ages 4 – 12 years and catering for children 15kg and up. It it literally the size of some purses. Have a look:

It weighs 750g, light enough to be carried everywhere. It’s even the ideal booster seat to take on overseas trips! No more booster seat rentals to pay for. And it is great for Uber and Grab cars too!

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Seat belts in cars are built for adults. When my kids are belted up with the normal seat belt, the bottom belt usually wraps around their stomach and they would instinctively place the strap behind them for comfort, as the strap tends to cut into their neck.

Traditional booster seats lift the child up into a regular adult position. However, I’ve also noticed that traditional booster seats may slip during a ride. There were a couple of times where I had to push the booster back into position while Z was on it.

Instead of lifting a child, Mifold does the complete opposite. It brings the belt down to the child’s height.

Mifold1


Here is Z belted up:

IS IT SAFE?

I am happy to learn that Mifold has gained all regulatory approval in the European Union, United States of America and Cananda.

Have a read here on all the relavant regulatory approvals obtained:

http://www.mifold.com/regulatory-approval/

OUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE MIFOLD:

– Remembering the Mifold

At the start, I had to keep reminding myself to pack the Mifold into our bags. There were times where I realized that we had forgotten the Mifolds after we’ve embarked on our trip. It is forming a new routine and habit and I am sure it would become more instinctive as we go along. It dawned on me that it may be much easier to get the older kids to carry a backpack each, with their Mifold packed inside, together with their water bottle, before each day out.

– Setting up the Mifold

Setting up the Mifold is not difficult at all and it will get easier with every practice. If it is your first time heading out with it, I would advise you to practice setting it up with your child on, at home before heading out. Most taxi drivers in Singapore do not wait for the kids to be fully buckled before moving off. Therefore, getting more practice in and having the belt guide and clip adjusted before its maiden trip will help everyone get settled more quickly and help you feel less frazzled in the cab. I had E and Z shouting “Mummy, help me!” and M screaming “Mummy, carry me!”all at the same time. It’s a miracle I am alive and typing this today. 😜

Also, measure the size of your kids’ bums against the Mifold lap belt guides before embarking on your first trip (size I, II or III). It will save you loads of pain trying to figure the right size in a moving car. My kids know their sizes now and they would adjust the belt guides to the exact size before boarding. All they have to do when they get in is to open it up, sit on it and belt up.

Belt guide on the Mifold
Belt guide on the Mifold

Be prepared that your kids may need to your help to belt up. It will take some practice for them to get to the level of proficiency in the Mifold promotional video. There’s some level of fine motor skills needed to slip the seat belt into the guide and kids need to get used to trying to clip the chest strap down on their own. They may also need help to get the belt out of the guide at the end of the ride.

However, once they’re strapped in, they look perfect. My kids no longer slip the chest strap behind anymore. They feedback that it feels comfortable and they stay in it without fuss for the entire ride. And I am glad they are safer!

Here’s to living a car(e)-free life!

The Mifold can also be incredibly convenient if you own a car too! Not having car seats permanently buckled in can be liberating! I remember the pain of having to unbuckle the carseats and stuffing them into the limited boot space whenever the back seats were needed to ferry others when kids were in school. You can even just stuff the Mifold into the seat pockets!

WHERE TO GET THIS?

I bought the Mifold brand new from Carousell. There are some stock available there. If you would like to buy direct, please visit http://www.mifold.com and it will redirect you to their indiegogo campaign site. They do ship internationally, though it is chargeable.

If you have bought one and need some help with setting it up, you may want to refer to this YouTube video:

Our Daily Omega-3 Fix 

Growing up in Singapore, I remember watching and singing to the advertising jingle of a particular cod liver oil brand (one of the rare occasions in my life where I could actually sing in Chinese). I was also regularly fed one tablespoonful of that milky-white (rather vile) substance by my parents, who firmly believed in its magically vague qualities of “boosting YOUR immunity” (they never took the stuff themselves) and making us grow as tall and strong as we possibly could grow.

So when I started having children of my own (to force feed similar vile-tasting supplements), I naturally started them off with cod liver oil. After all, we’ve all been told that it’s great for developing brains and all that right?! 😜 As our family grew, I found the need to delve deeper into the finer points of why, which, and how; to find the best fish oil to suit our varied needs at different ages.

WHY – Benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids 🐟 (In particular – Docosahexaenoic acid, DHA; and Eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA)

The main reason why we eat fish, cod liver oil or fish oil is to glean benefits from Omega-3 fats. Our bodies can’t produce their own omega-3 fatty acids, these must be consumed. Regularly taking the right amount of DHA and EPA potentially has an anti-inflammatory effect on our systems and can help with improving:

– Triglyceride levels (which translates to a healthier heart ❤️)

– Brain function and Attention (Duh, who doesn’t need this 🙋🏻)

– Depression and Mood (Read: PMS wifey rampage)

– Hormonal Imbalance (Please read above on “PMS wifey rampage”)

– Joint Pain and Mobility (Mr. Germy and I have gone past the “mid-30s” age and creaked into a need to address this)

– Skin conditions (2 out of 3 of our kids have naturally dry skin and/or eczema-prone skin)

– …The list goes on!

Is it necessary to supplement with fish oil? In the past, I have been tempted to stop supplementing and simply feed the family more fresh fish on a weekly basis; however I realized that it’s actually more expensive to do this, given the cost of fish and the amount we’d need to consume to get the suggested DHA and EPA levels! Assuming a person hopes to consume 500mg of DHA daily, that would mean eating about 540grams of fatty fish (e.g. salmon) a week. This means fatty fish in our meals 3-4 times a week; and equates to 2.7kg of fish (or more) for our family of five, per week! Besides the staggering cost, it was likely that my family would soon gag at the sight of fish.😝 So, I continue to supplement while trying to include fish in our home cooked meals 1-2 times a week. Less stressful for me, especially as I also have a monkey who isn’t particularly a fan of eating fish!

“More fish?!”

WHICH oil (Cod Liver or Fish oil)

Fish oil is extracted from the flesh of fish (e.g. tuna, herring, cod, and other deep-sea oily fish species). It has higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, however does not have much Vitamin A or D (a.k.a “sunshine vitamin”).

Cod liver oil, on the other hand, is extracted from from the liver of cod fish. It has less Omega-3s but is very rich in Vitamins A and D. In countries with seasonal climates, some people take cod liver oil in winter as they spend less time outdoors and hence make less vitamin D from sunshine. They then switch to fish oil in summer.

As mentioned, I started my kids off with Cod Liver Oil. These days, I find a good fish oil sufficient for our needs. After all, we live in sunny Singapore! Seemed unlikely we would ever be short of sunshine (and sweat)! 😜 I would rather the higher DHA/EPA levels!

HOW to feed the clan (capsule, gummy or liquid)

Now, how to find a form of fish oil that everyone in our family (4years to 30 *ahem* plus years old) could swallow without any drama? 🙄 Capsules were out of the question, as the kids can’t swallow those humongous things, and squeezing out the oil would result in wastage. There are the popular and well-advertised gummy versions; however I find their DHA/EPA amounts usually rather low. We would have to take quite a few gummies daily to take the levels suggested, and that also equates to quite a lot of SUGAR. 🍭😒 Wasn’t quite so keen to get my kids into a sugar high, just to get their daily DHA/EPA fix. I also tended to forget feeding them the appropriate amounts if multiple servings were required! Furthermore, gummies worked out to be more expensive as we would have to eat more of it to consume decent DHA and EPA levels! Seemed like the best option was a palatable liquid form with higher Omega-3 levels; as I could just spoon it into everyone, at their individual dosages!


The fish oil product I chose needed to meet these criteria:

Little or no fish smell (something my family could swallow without gagging)

At least 500mg DHA and EPA per 5ml teaspoon (so there’s no need to have multiple daily doses, once a day of either 2.5/5ml would suffice)

Affordable enough to feed all five of us at varied dosages!

After trying out quite a few fish oil products, I believe I have found just the PERFECT one for my family!

Carlson’s ‘The Very Finest Fish Oil’ (Natural Lemon Flavour) is extracted from anchovy, sardine and mackerel. It is available on iherb.com at an affordable SG$44.90 for 100(5ml)servings (each serving contains 1600mg of Omega-3 fatty acids; DHA 500mg and EPA 800mg). What’s more, they claim to regularly tested by an independent laboratory, to be “free of detrimental levels of mercury, cadmium, lead, PCB’s and 28 other contaminants.”


The best part is, it passed (with flying colors) the taste test with my kids! I was actually surprised at how much they loved taking this fish oil directly from a spoon, they fight to be the first to have it! There is little or no fishy smell, and a very light lemon taste. Its texture is like a very light (almost watery) oil that goes down smoothly, and with NO fishy burps after. We all love it! Even Zac, who usually balks at trying new foods or tastes; took well to this, at the onset.

Our family takes it once a day, right after dinner. No issues remembering to dose them, as my kids love it so much that they remind me! Currently, we only take Carlson’s finest fish oil and a good probiotic; these have been working great at keeping us at our optimum! 😄

So there you go, my deets on the fish oil that has worked well for us so far! 😋

“When is it my turn?!”

First-time iherb customers can get up to US$10 off your first order if you enter the code “EGE440” when you check-out your shopping cart. iherb also offers many other awesome products at extremely competitive prices, and free shipping to Singapore for orders over SG$54.99 (Max 10kg).

– By Germy

Car-less in Singapore with Kids

Little Black Car

I have 3 monkeys to call my own. We made the decision to say goodbye to our Little Black Car last June. Since then, I have been asked the same questions by so many people:

  • Is it cheaper without a car?
  • How do you do it with 3 kids? (Often accompanied with some exclamation)
  • Do you miss having a car?

So I decided to blog about it and help others out there with the same questions understand our experience of being car-less for over a year. Let me answer the above questions one at a time. 😉

For your information, this blog post is targeted at people who can probably afford a car, but may be thinking of not owning one, due to the rising costs, limited resources, and desire to channel these resources elsewhere (aka kids and maybe shopping 😜).

Is it cheaper without a car?

Of course! We bought our Little Black Car 11 years ago at $50k. It had a running cost of approximately $12k a year. To purchase a new or secondhand car now, would mean a higher running cost (higher COE, costlier parking, servicing, repairs and sometimes, traffic and parking fines 🙈). According to my financial controller (aka husband), we would be looking at at least $15k a year.

Since we said our goodbyes, we spent less than $500 a month on public transport (including cabs) for all of us.  E is on school bus at $135 per month. Some information on our lifestyle: During weekdays, husband and I would take a bus or train most of the time, as kids are in school (E in primary school and Z and M in childcare). During weekends, we take cabs as and when we feel like it. We are quite liberal with our cabbing habits.

Having schools that are within walking distance or a short bus ride helps too. The childcare that Z and M goes to are walking distance to our home. This means that we do not have to spend on school busses. If you’re looking to buy a new place and going car-less, remember to look out for schools within the area before committing!

I think it is quite obvious that it never makes financial sense to own a car, especially in Singapore. I often call our Little Black Car a money sucking machine.

How do you do it with 3 kids?

To be honest, I was quite uncertain at the start about going car-less. But aren’t we all, with all types of new experiences? After trying it out for a year with 3 kids in tow,  I can safely say that it is really not that painful.

As mentioned before, on school going days, it is quite straightforward. Primary schooler travels to and from school by school bus. Preschoolers walk to school with me at 9am. I used to drive them to school when we had the car and I do appreciate the walks to and from school now. I get to chat with them, kiss them while they’re walking, stop to see caterpillars and snails doing their thing, and much more. I spend many walks laughing at Z teaching M how to jump and Z looking for Ninja Turtles in the drains. 😂

What's in there?

 Maybe those turtles would jump out soon…

We keep enrichment classes to our area too. This reduces a lot of traveling time and logistical pains.

On weekends, if time permits, we take buses and trains. I have never heard my kids complain about not having a car. They seem to enjoy all the bus and train rides! If we are constrained by time, we do not hesitate to take a cab. Neither do we let locations get in our way. Sentosa? Sure. East Coast Park? Sure. Changi Airport? Sure too! We use Grab and Uber a lot! Ease of use of apps made getting a ride so much easier.  No waiting by the road and flagging taxis with 3 monkeys swinging around. It also helps that we live in central Singapore. Most of the time, we are able to get a cab/car relatively quickly. Sometimes, quicker than my kids can wear their shoes and head out of the door. A cashless system is also much appreciated. It means I can hop out of the car once I have arrived without having to deal with my wallet and a baby and things. We have only had surge pricing for Grab/ Uber in very few instances.

Park

– Cycling to the park together!

When we head out shopping with 3 (I know, why do I even do it?!), and we have walked a distance (I.e. Walking from Istean Scotts to Ngee Ann City), it has been much easier to hop into a cab at the end of shopping trip than having to walk back to the car with our shopping!

Not to mention, we no longer have to queue and pay for parking! I’m always snickering to myself when I arrive in a cab and see cars queuing into packed carparks. Going to popular malls on Saturdays are no longer daunting.

Moreover, with our current traffic conditions, using public transport is often not much more time consuming. Our weekly ride from Bishan to Tampines is approximately 45 minutes. A car ride would be 30 minutes, but we would have to spend 15 minutes waiting to enter Tampines Mall or Century Square. 😅 Though I have to say, living a short bus ride away from Bishan and Marymount MRT stations keep us connected to most parts of Singapore.

Kiss

– Getting too comfortable on the bus

I personally feel that boarding the bus is the most difficult part of the entire journey. Through this one year, I have encountered so many kind bus drivers and fellow riders. Countless number of people have so kindly given up their seats when I had a baby with me. I have had bus drivers who waited till I was seated before moving on. I am a proud and grateful Singaporean.
Here are some tips to get that boarding process smoothed out:

  • Get a light, easy to fold and carry stroller

You are required to fold all strollers before boarding any bus. We have a Babyzen Yoyo and a Maclaren Globetrotter. Both are about the same weight and one-handed closure but the Babyzen Yoyo’s compactness has made our bus trips a lot easier.

Babyzen Yoyo

  • Pack efficiently into backpacks

To survive bus trips, it is important not to rely heavily on your stroller’s storage and keep hands free. Look through your items and only bring essentials out. If your stroller’s storage basket is empty, all you have to do is to take your baby out, fold the stroller and board the bus.

  • Bring along foldable shopping bags

Feel free to use the stroller as storage while shopping, but having shopping bags that you can put all the little bags of shopping together into one bag will make boarding a bus more pleasant.

  • Use a baby carrier

If you have an infant, it is often much easier to travel with just a baby carrier and a backpack. However, if it is really necessary to have a stroller, bringing a baby carrier along is helpful while boarding and riding on the bus. When M was younger and I was out with her and a stroller, I would put her into the baby carrier, carry my backpack and fold the stroller. Having my hands free ensured that I could handle the stroller and hold another’s child’s hand.

In masks

– M and I in one of those hazey days. She in the carrier and me with my backpack, heading out.

Do I miss having a car?

Surprisingly, no. I do not miss paying for parking (which can amount to quite a bit!), queuing for parking, finding parking, driving in insane traffic, and dealing with cranky baby screaming in a carseat. Sometimes though, I do miss having the ability to make last minute errand runs. But those are generally avoidable with good planning.

I do think about my Little Black Car during stormy weather and only when it coincides with the time to pick up my kids. However, those instances are few and far between. I have also realized that even with a car, I would be drenched trying to get kids into their car seats anyway. I usually put M into a stroller with a rain cover on to keep her dry. Z will be given a raincoat and I will have an umbrella. M is happy to see the rain beating down on the rain cover and Z is happy dancing in the rain. I love how the kids see joy in all the things they do! Due to good planning from HDB and/or Town Council, we are sheltered all the way to the bus stop! I actually do not need an umbrella on rainy days to and from Bishan MRT.

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– walking to school while it’s raining…

I miss the radio in our Little Black Car the most! Driving was the only time I listened to the radio and I miss it. Maybe it’s time to get myself a radio at home!

Written by: Min

Sunflowers Animal FarmStay (Margaret River)

Suffering from post-June holiday withdrawal? Feeling like you need to plan your next sanity break soon?

As many of our friends would know, we recently enjoyed a long awaited Germy-family trip to Perth and Margaret River, Western Australia.

What made our trip extra fabulous was our five-night stay at the Sunflowers Animal Farmstay, Margaret River! We visited the farm with Izzy 6 years ago, and knew we had to head back. Trivia note, we previously bumped into Min & her little E there. Izzy was 2+ years and E 1+ years old then (ahhh the golden ages before they could talk back)…look at the wee monkeys!

E:”Hmm…I am uncertain about this bucket-wielding girl.”

Our urban kids loved their farm experience! There were activities for all ages, spread out through the day on Sunflowers Animal Farm. We found that staying-in as guests minimized the need to make separate trips to the farm for each activity (versus if we had stayed at another place). We simply skipped out of our cottage and dived straight into the fun! The farm’s central location also worked very well as a ‘base camp’ of sorts; we sometimes went back for a farm activity and/or break, before heading out again. This actually allowed us more time in other parts of Margaret River (Time savings are sooo crucial if you have kids like ours; perpetually needing to pee, poo, eat, sleep…then poo again!).

Plus, we realized that for our kids, once wasn’t enough! They kept asking to do some farm activities again and AGAIN! While drop-in visitors at the farm have to pay to join in the activities, stay-in guests on the farm get to participate in ALL the activities for FREE, for as many times as they like during their stay (during the scheduled timings, of course). Our kids sure maxed it out for this one (I am pretty certain that I saw the poor pony shudder by Day 3, when my kids approached for their ride)!


Here’s how we tried to make the most of our Sunflowers Animal Farmstay experience…

GET RAINBOOTS FOR THE KIDS

It can get wet and a little muddy at the farm during the winter months (June-August). It helped to have the kids wear rainboots, lest they turn their regular shoes into sodden messes! (More on that later: we had quite a blubbery and sodden Izzy mess!) Besides, who can resist how cute the kids look in rainboots?!

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We found cheap ones in Big W at AU$6 a pair (also available in Target and Kmart). Adults can do without boots, as we usually tread more carefully. We also brought lightweight raincoats for the kids (lightweight umbrellas for the adults) from home, just in case we got caught on a rainy day.

CHOOSE A COTTAGE THAT SUITS YOUR FAMILY’S NEEDS

The farm has a cluster of 4 cottages (North/South/East/West) to offer. Most have pretty decent views; however we chose the East cottage as it had our favourite views of the farmland. We also liked that it had the most direct route to the main action at the farm, which made it easy for the older kids to make their own way around while we relaxed.

View from East Cottage front verandah (on the right is the path that leads directly to the main farm building)

Those who prefer a playground-facing cottage might consider the West cottage, while those who want to experience having a real logwood fireplace can check out the West/North cottages. All the cottages have either a heater or fireplace. By the way, Sunflowers Animal Farmstay now offers free unlimited WIFI for guests! Very important for…ahem, the more tech savvy (read: addicted) folks!

Bed linen was rather dated but neat and clean, and the cottage had facilities for us to cook our own meals with fresh food bought from the nearby (5-min drive) town centre supermarket. Very useful for families on a budget, as it can get very expensive eating out all the time! I also found that the supermarket had a much better selection of asian vegetables and condiments this time, which made Mr. Germy (asian food fanatic) very happy indeed! And for those night owls who simply cannot tuck into bed early on those Aussie winter nights, the farm also allows you to borrow from their collection of Blu-Ray Discs/DVDs to watch the evening away.

Night view from East Cottage. Don’t forget to peek out for some star gazing!

We had consistently warm showers for our family of five, which can be a problem in some rustic farm accommodations! It can get really cold (6-9 deg. celsius) during the winter nights at Margaret River, so having warm water to shower is super important! There’s even a laundry shed with drying racks, if you have stuff that’s begging to be washed. Just bring some laundry powder, just in case!

PLAN AHEAD FOR YOUR FARM ACTIVITIES 

Knowing the timings of your favourite farm activities and planning your days ahead of time can help to maximise your farmstay experience, without neglecting the Margaret River region. Here’s our insider account on what went on at the farm!

  • Tractor Rides Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 4pm. 

This is an experience you do not want to miss! If you begin your farmstay on any of these days, be sure to arrive and check in by 3.30pm. This gives you enough time for an introductory view of your cottage, and to hustle the family to have their toilet stops (with 5 family members, toilet time allocation becomes serious business!) and what-not before the ride. The friendly farm owners will take you out on a tractor ride on the land beyond the farmhouse, where you’ll get breathtaking views and see wild kangaroos along the way. We arrived on a Tuesday (a little late at 3.50pm) and went straight for this!

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The tractor ride stopped at the bottom of a hill, where everyone got to race toy boats down a shallow creek!

Okay, here’s where it got exciting. Izzy was so eager to win the race that she fell into the creek! Needless to say, the missy was VERY hissy and pissy. Talk about a blubbering and sodden mess! AND, in our rush to join this ride, we had forgotten to get the kids to wear their rainboots! Ack. Moral of the story- Arrive by 3.30pm and REMEMBER to chuck the kids into their rainboots!

Nonetheless, we all had heaps of fun and Izzy’s dignity later recovered enough to enjoy roasting marshmallows over an open fire (also warmed her soggy toes somewhat).

All this took about 45 minutes, blubbery drama and all.

And because we arrived on a Tuesday, we got to do it again (not the soggy part) on Thursday!

  • Pony Rides for Kids 2-6 years old  at 8.30am

These rides with gentle Shetland pony “Basil” happened every morning.


Our two boys (Zac, 6yrs & Boo, 4yrs) loved it! I was a little worried for poor Basil when it came to my (rather hefty) Zac’s turn; however he (the pony) seemed okay, albeit moving slower than usual! Big sis Izzy was kept busy petting the newborn lambs nearby, so no complaints there!

“Eat more so that you have energy to give me a ride later, okay?” (East Cottage is visible in left background)
  • Baby Animal Milk Feeds at 10am & 4pm

The beauty of staying on a farm is that it’s very dynamic and newborn animals can arrive any day! We happened to stay during a week where there were 3 newborn lambs and some chicks barely a day old.

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The kids can help with milk feeds for the babies (lambs, kids, and calves) twice a day if they wish. Mine couldn’t seem to get enough of that!

“Stop! Baby feeding in progress!”
  • Egg Collecting at 3pm

Our kids enjoyed collecting eggs from the farm’s chicken coop (and stomping around in chicken poop…Thank God for those rainboots). Not only that, we got to keep half a dozen eggs! Yum, nothing beats having farm fresh eggs for brekkie.

We just needed to let the staff know of our intention that morning…went out for our day of fun, and headed back at 3pm to have our egg-citing time! Couldn’t persuade any of my kids to hug a chicken though. Too bad.

  • Feeding and petting the 300+ animals on the farm 

This took up most of our first morning at the farm as they have quite an extensive collection! Guests get free buckets of animal food to feed the animals, as they amble their way through the farm. Our kids loved feeding all the animals; but their favorites would be feeding and petting the free roaming baby kangaroos (joeys), cuddling the rabbits and guinea pigs in their spacious enclosure, as well as the quirky looking white alpaca!

  • Have “Chilli” Greet You in the Mornings

Okay, this doesn’t exactly count as a “farm activity” but it sure is one of my favorites! They have several border collies on the farm, and the matriarch doggy would be “Chilli”. She would go around to each of the 4 cottages every morning, to greet guests and remind them to enjoy the fresh country air (And sneak a snack or two). The kids were begging to let her into our cottage every morning!

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Just one look from you would have the dogs lying on the ground, begging for belly rubs. How to resist that?!

Such a relaxing, yet fruitful time. I would definitely recommend it for families with kids aged 2-10 years old. Our kids are STILL talking about their farmstay experience and ask me when we can revisit!

We surprisingly did not get sick of the place, even after 5 nights; and also managed to cover a fair bit of sightseeing in the Margaret River region! We caught a Whale Watching Tour (lots of Dory whale talk went on), visited the Mammoth Cave (henceforth re-christened as “Boo’s dinosaur cave”; it’s the only cave there with a visible dinosaur fossil by the way), Yallingup Sheep Shearing Shed (fantastic fun, this one!), Augusta Lighthouse (where 2 oceans meet!), Yallingup Maze (another place for the kids to get happily lost in, woohoo); as well as revisited many old favorites like the Busselton Jetty, Prevelly Beach (where Margaret River empties out into the ocean), Canal Rocks, the Chocolate Factory and Venison Farm!

But you know what? Ask my kids what was the favorite part of their holiday, and they would reply in unison, “SUNFLOWERS ANIMAL FARMSTAY!!!

Izzy did say wistfully though, “If only there was a chance to milk a cow…”


– by Germy

Getting The Most Out Of Kidzania Singapore

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Kidzania Singapore opened their doors recently with much anticipation. The fun our whole family had in Kidzania Tokyo was sufficient to help us make the decision to try the Singapore version out during the June holidays.

We were quite anxious about the impending crowd before the day, as tickets were sold out days in advance. Full house? How long do we have to wait per activity? These are some thoughts that kept us on our toes. By “us”, I meant us parents. The kids were just filled with excitement.

On our day of visit, Kidzania was opened at 10am and closed at 7pm. That’s an impressive 9 hours worth of potential activities. Do not be fooled by this number. Firstly, there was a queue to register and obtaining the necessary wrist bands, bank cards and kidZos (Kidzania currency) before heading in. We arrived slightly later than 10am and spent a good 20-30min queuing. Secondly, after we headed in, we were slightly disoriented, and spent another 30min taking the kids around, figuring out what they wanted to try and where those were. Thirdly, there were activities that started closing from 5.30pm and therefore meant that there were fewer activities available in the last 1.5hours.

To help your child(ren) maximize the number activities that they can do within the day, you have to enter with a strategy. Without one, your kid(s) may spend the entire day completing only 3-4 activities. Considering that some activities had a wait time of 1.5-2hours throughout the day, that outcome may be highly possible.

Considering that we only got our act together at about 11.30am, and left at 6pm, it was a feat for E to complete 7 activities and Z completed 6.

If you’re planning to head into Kidzania on a high crowd day, here are some of my tips to help you and your child(ren) conquer Kidzania:

1. KNOW WHICH ARE ALL-DAY HOT CAREERS AND ADJUST EXPECTATIONS

Before the day arrives, it will pay to have the map of Kidzania and have a rough idea on where the different stations are. It will make a nice bonding activity to sit down with your child(ren) with the map and help them understand what is Kidzania all about, what they would be doing there and which careers they would like to try. They will need help to understand that they may not be able to try everything, especially those in the “hot careers” list. Having tantruming kids is no fun. You can obtain the map directly from the Kidzania Singapore website. I’ve included them here for your convenience.🙂

 

Hot Careers/ Stations List (in no particular order):

  1. Firefighter
  2. Bank Vault
  3. Police
  4. CSI
  5. Pilot
  6. Paddle Pop
  7. Pizza Hut
  8. KFC
  9. Hospital

These are activities required an hour or more of wait.

*Do note that the Pilot is the only career that had a different system of queuing. Kidzania gives out the Pilot vacancies at selected timings: 1030am, 1230pm, 230pm and 430pm. They give out 4 sessions worth of vacancies at these selected timing. For example, E n Z obtained their 1.30pm session ticket at 12.30pm. Staff would stop the queue once they have hit the maximum number of children for the 4 sessions. Staff advised kids to start queuing an hour ahead of a selected timing. We arrived at the Pilot queue at 11.40am and were 5th and 6th in line.

I personally recommend queuing for the 1230pm time slot. Kids could be fed their lunch while in queue and would be raring to go after obtaining the session ticket.


Super Z getting a career change

2. ARRIVE EARLY

Early bird gets the worm. The earlier you get into the queue for registration, the earlier  you can enter. This means that your child(ren) gets first pick. If you happen to be one of the first few in, remember to head to one on the “Hot Careers/ Stations List”. You may never see a shorter line for the entire day.

3. START WITH THE MID-RANGE ACTIVITIES

If you were not early enough, do not worry. Head for the mid-range activities! They should not have queues at the start as kids would have headed to the popular stations. These are stations that would have an average wait time of 40-60mins later. Complete one mid-range activity and head to less popular one after. What are some mid-range activities? Here are some suggestions:

  • Yakult
  • Dentist
  • Optician
  • Actor
  • 7-11
  • Lim Chee Guan
  • Lifebuoy
  • Spritzer


E and Z in the Spritzer activity

4. TIME-BASED ACTIVITIES

There are a few stations in Kidzania that operate only at fixed times. E.g. Performers for the Clock Tower are only recruited 15min before each hour (i.e. 1.45pm). If your child is free around those timings, they can take on those activities with barely any wait time.


E performing on the Clock Tower

5. BE A PARENT SCOUT

As my kids were queuing in their lines, I was their scout. Queues move and wait times vary (dramatically at times!) throughout the day. Catching a short queue at the right time makes a world of difference. As I was scouting, the Canon and Courier activities had no queue for a period of time! Helping your child to identify the next activity to head for will save them much loitering time through the day.

Last but not least, RELAX AND ENJOY the day. Enjoy the children. I loved how the parents were looking through each glass panel with pride and joy. I loved how each child was paying attention to the instructors with much anticipation and was beaming with pride after completing each  activity. I loved how my kids exited the place and felt like they have grown.

A day is not enough. We will and I am sure, you will too, be back.

Written by: Min

 

 

 

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