Making bed

I’ve been trying to get the kids to make their bed since the beginning of this year. I totally get Jason when he questions, “why must we make the bed? We’re going to sleep in it at night anyway.” Or, “Noone will see it, why bother?” Those were my exact sentiments when my mother made me fold my blanket when I was young. I did get into a habit of doing so and soon(maybe after many months?) it became second nature. I’m hoping it will be the case for them.

So why do I bother asking them to make their bed? Since I quit my job, I’ve been staying home more.  I just prefer to look at a neatly-made bed rather than a messy one when I pass by their room. :)

It’s not something Jason totally agrees with, but he does it anyway now. My standards are not very high, so the task actually takes them just seconds to do. All I ask is they arrange their pillow(s) neatly at the top, and leave the bolster at the foot of the bed. Jason who previously went without a blanket most of the time, has decided he doesn’t want one on his bed at all, to save the trouble of folding/arranging it. The air con is switched on for only an hour each night, so he doesn’t get chilly on the bunk bed. Shannon’s usual blanket is a cot sized one so she folds that in no time.

He sleeps on the top bunk, so I suggested he make his bed the moment he wakes up to save the trouble of climbing up again later on. Doesn’t always work but we’re hopefully getting there.

Shannon, on the other hand, has taken to the task like fish to water. She makes her bed most days, and even reminds me to make mine. The few occasions she didn’t do so, was when she woke up in a bad mood, or when she was late for school. She even offers to do korkor’s job for him ever so often.

Beds as made by Shannon.

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Since she does his share on some days, I sometimes get him to do the job for her in return. He doesn’t always agree but he did one morning. Then he excitedly pulled me into the room to check if he had done a good job. This is his version of a made bed: Two eyes with mounds of blankets(bedsheets) as eyeballs, Shannon’s Friend as the nose, and the bolster as an unsmiling mouth – because he doesn’t like making his bed. Something like that :-l

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Chek Jawa and Changi Boardwalk

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The last time we went to Pulau Ubin, the kids were just five and two. So when we mentioned Ubin during our recent Changi Cove staycation, neither remembered that we took a ferry there with their grandma three years ago, had lunch there, before they both started whining about how hot it was and we left soon after. I didn’t refresh their memory either, some things are best left forgotten.

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This time, I wanted to bring them to Chek Jawa. We’ve brought them cycling at Pasir Ris and walking at Sungei Buloh Nature Park recently, and while they still complained about the heat, they did enjoy themselves, okay, to a certain extent. Anyway, I’m determined to get them outdoors more often so they don’t have much of a choice…

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While we originally wanted to cycle to Chek Jawa from the Ubin ferry terminal, we eventually chose the easy way out and took a van there instead. The van drivers were milling about near the bike shops. We paid $4 per person, to and fro. I think it works out to being less costly than renting four bicycles, even though bike rentals are cheaper compared to, say, East Coast Park.

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I wanted them to enjoy Chek Jawa so thought cycling there which would take an hour or so, on some fairly uneven ground for the last half of the journey, would result in them being too tired. So we hopped on the van and reached the Chek Jawa board walk in 15 minutes or so. There was a family with young kids who cycled all the way to Chek Jawa, so it’s definitely doable. Perhaps next time!

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There was a short walk from the drop off point to Chek Jawa wetlands.

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We started off with the coastal boardwalk, which took us out to the sea, ending with the wetlands. Unfortunately the tide was coming in so we could not see as many creatures as we would have liked. We saw tiny fiddler crabs, lots of them, fishes, and a dog jumping in for a swim.

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It looked like a pristine coastline, but unfortunately was filled with lots of rubbish when seen up close, empty plastic bottles, plastic bags and even what looked like a disused fridge.

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Thankfully the little one was happy to walk most of the time…

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Except for a short ten-minute phase when she said it was too sunny for her. I gave her my shades, her papa carried her, and then she decided she was fine to walk (and hop and skip) again.

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While the boys were interested in looking for crabs, fish and other creatures and spent a long time trying to photograph them, I walked ahead with Shannon most of the time.

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It was a hot and humid late morning, so she was happiest when we reached a clearing and there was shade.

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We spent half an hour sitting here waiting for the boys, while she was captivated by the fiddler crabs crawling all over the sand.

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I realise it’s too tiny to be seen here but I had no inclination to go nearer to them… The things sticking out are pencil roots and the crabs are the orange spots dotting the sand.

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When the boys caught up with us, Jason wanted to go nearer to get a picture of the crabs.

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So they both went down to the sand, but naturally by the time they got there, the crabs had gone back into their homes…

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Shannon’s proudest moment was when she made it up the Chek Jawa viewing tower by herself.

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A family picture using a selfie stick their papa got from his Teachers’ Day dinner!

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All in, it was a fruitful morning. We spent about two hours at Chek Jawa, stopped for a drink at a coffeeshop near the jetty, before hopping on the ferry back to lunch at the hawker centre and then the air-conditioned comfort of Changi Cove Hotel.

Then the next morning, we attempted to see the sunrise. “Attempted” because we woke up at 6.15am and made it to the Changi Boardwalk.

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We waited until the sky grew brighter and brighter but saw nothing spectacular – because it was too cloudy!
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Chek Jawa wasn’t the most comfortable for these urban-bred kids, but at least it made for good fodder for Jason’s Chinese holiday homework – “What I did during the September holidays”.

I thought the teacher was smart to ask to have it typewritten – so much easier than reading the pencil scrawls of eight-year-olds. And using hanyu pinyin to type it out meant he would not have to constantly ask – How do I write this word…

 

我的快乐假期

星期四下午,我的爸爸妈妈带我和妹妹去樟宜村度假。我很开心。我们到了酒店就去休息室吃饼干和玩游戏。

第二天早上,我们吃了早餐后就坐船去乌敏岛上玩。在岛上我们去了仄爪哇海滩。我看到了鱼和很多大小螃蟹。我也拍了很多五颜六色的螃蟹照片但是我没拍鱼的照片。然后,我去了很高的月台。在月台上我可以看见很多树木和鸟。之后,我们坐了船回去酒店。

第三天早上,我们一起身就去吃自助早餐。早餐非常好吃! 我的口水不停地流!最后,我们就回家了。

我以后还想回来玩!

Changi Cove Hotel Staycation

Unlike last year‘s September holidays, we did not leave the country this time – because we forgot to renew Shannon’s passport! By the time we got round to doing so, it was a week from the holidays, and I thought it was too stressful trying to figure out if it would get done on time. So we decided to take a staycation instead.

Changi Village is about as far from our home as it gets in Singapore. Ironically, it is even further than taking a trip to our usual favourite spots in Johor… So it came as no surprise when Shannon asked if we were reaching Malaysia yet, before we even reached Loyang.

Changi Cove Hotel is fairly new, just under two years old, located in Netharavon Rd near Changi Village. In fact, it overlooks the government Cranwell Bungalows my parents used to book for the school holidays when I was young.

The minimalist-rustic reception was complete with casually dressed receptionists in polo T-shirts and white jeans. None of the stuffy hotel suits here.

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It appeared to be The Place for corporate retreats. In the two nights we spent there, we were one of two families with kids during breakfast. The rest comprised KKH bigwigs, ITE staff and NTU folks. Below is the small breakfast area. Simplicity is probably the name of their game. Decor-wise and food-wise. Reasonable variety, less than the usual hotel buffet but satisfying nonetheless. The kids loved the free flow of Horlicks and Milo. Jason would be happy with any breakfast as long as he sees scrambled eggs (me too), while Shannon is happy with just cereal and milk.

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The room, while small, stood out for several factors.

1) Nespresso Machine: It was our first encounter with the machine, complete with three capsules each day. Hubby had fun making coffee.

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2) Doodle Wall: Maybe it’s for the corporate people to brainstorm ideas in the room (poor them!), but it was a perfect canvas for drawing for my kids. The hotel thoughtfully provided whiteboard markers of various colours but we brought our own too!

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First time in their lives they got free rein to draw on walls. Jason took to leaving a message for the staff, hoping for more chocolates than what we got as a welcome on our first day. Nope, didn’t work. No chocolates on subsequent days.

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3) Beanbag: Like I said, the room was small, so in place of a couch or sofa, there was a huge beanbag. It was the perfect spot to snuggle up with a book (Jason) with her milk and Friend (Shannon).

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4) L’Occitane bath products: That’s my favourite. I don’t use such pricey stuff at home, so bath time was especially luxurious in the three days there!

While I had read about the whiteboard wall during booking, I didn’t realise our stay came with free soup and salad buffet each evening. So we ended up having dinner at the hotel both nights.

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I was surprised at the spread. Maybe my expectations were low. So it was a nice surprise to find five types of hearty soups, oxtail, seafood chowder, tomato, salmon and mushroom soups, as well as a spread of salad ingredients and even cheesecake for dessert.

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Only Shannon didn’t like the Western dinner we had, so we went out to Changi Village hawker centre to get her rice/noodles both nights.

But the best part of the stay was probably the free games we played.

The table soccer was located at the Verandah where we had our soup and salad buffet, so we stayed on to play for over an hour after dinner. Yup, all four of us. Three super-competitive players (them) and one relaxed and not-on-the-ball goalkeeper (me) made for much screams and laughter. Thankfully we were the only ones there most of the time. The corporate folks probably got a proper dinner somewhere else.

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The other place we spent most of our hot afternoons and nights after table soccer ended, was the Family Lounge. It had board games, newspapers, free flow coffee, tea, biscuits and kept us all very happy and well-fed.

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Again, we had the place to ourselves most of the time.

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All in, it was an enjoyable getaway. Laidback, relaxed, totally us. The kids said it’s even better than going to Malaysia. They would have been happy to just stay in the hotel all day. But we made it to Chek Jawa and the Changi boardwalk. Details in the next post.

Mid-Autumn Fun

I’m a big believer of family traditions. It’s Mid-Autumn Festival today, and since a couple of years ago, we started a mini-tradition of bringing the kids downstairs to the playground, where all the neighbourhood kids congregate with their lanterns, sparklers and candles on Mid-Autumn Festival. I sense such festivities being met with decreasing excitement as the kids grow older, so I was a tad surprised when both Jason and Shannon enthusiastically agreed to go downstairs with their lanterns tonight. I was looking back at a note I wrote in 2011, and I see how much they have grown. Same playground, same corner, (we somehow veer to the same spot every year); kids three years older. Today’s pictures aren’t very good as they were taken with my hp camera.

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We hang our lanterns on the nearby bushes because they make for a pretty photo backdrop. Below picture (from left): Two store-bought lanterns from previous years, Jason’s egg carton lantern from two years ago that is still is excellent condition, followed by Shannon’s hot-air balloon lantern. We don’t throw our lanterns away unless they are damaged. I just keep them in a large plastic container and it goes in our storeroom until the following year.

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Their favourite part is usually playing with sparklers, followed by lighting the candles. I forgot to buy sparklers this year, so we made do with leftover candles.

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And then they made their own sparklers by lighting up the ends of twigs.

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My mum and youngest sister joined us this year, so the kids were delighted with the extra company.

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We did something else this year. After we played with the candles, their papa whipped out a metal scraper he ran up to get and scraped off the candle wax and threw it away. I’m glad we did that, because we greet the cleaner uncle every morning, and he shares how tough his job can be. It feels somewhat hypocritical to be nodding along with him when we create part of the mess he has to clean up. And I’m glad that we have progressed to doing something about it after I wrote about it three years ago. (I’m referring to the last few pars in that long column). Better late than never. And even though Jason had only cursory interest when I tried to get him to do the scraping, hopefully we continue this tradition of scraping wax off after playing with candles, so it eventually gets into his head.

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For those who were asking about the results of the lantern competition, Shannon did win this year! There were six prizes. She’s not sure exactly which prize she won, or maybe there is no differentiation. But the bigger news is that the balloon burst in the week it was hanging in her school! And the paper mache did not crumble like we thought it would. It was just dented in some parts. So while she was delighted with her win, I was most satisfied to see that the balloon did not collapse entirely! :)

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Til the next Mid-Autumn Festival!

DIY hot-air balloon lantern

It’s the time of the year where we pull out our lanterns, let the kids play with fire (candles and sparklers), and eat over-priced, exotic flavoured moon cakes. But apart from the usual fanfare, mid-Autumn festival has taken on a DIY perspective since the kids’ started preschool because Shannon’s school organises an annual lantern-making competition that involves recycled materials and parents.

We get the notice several weeks ahead, but always leave it until the last weekend before we’re supposed to hand it in before we scramble to put together something that looks presentable. I thrive on deadlines… it’s part of the journalism training. I feel no impetus to get work done until just before a deadline. :)

The slight problem this year is I no longer have a box of recycled materials in my storeroom because there is now a recycling bin at the foot of our HDB block. So instead of letting cardboard cartons pile up in my storeroom, I bring them downstairs regularly, forgetting I would need some materials for lantern-making. So I started rummaging through my kitchen cabinets and googling for ideas. And I realised I’m not the only parent looking for inspiration, because this post from last year has been the top searched post and most-visited post on this site in recent weeks! There are lots of parents out there looking for diy lantern ideas, so I’ll share this year’s lantern, for what it’s worth, in case it helps parents in a year’s time.

We(I) settled on making a hot-air balloon lantern, just because I have a girly daughter who loves balloons and all things pink and pretty.

I first attached colourful paper straws to a disposable bowl using transparent tape. I used 6 straws since the bowl isn’t very big.

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Then, in the name of recycling, I found a transparent Delifrance plastic bag, blew it up and propped it on top of the straws. I thought it was the quickest lantern I’ve ever made and felt quite proud of myself – until the rest family saw it and gave me doubtful looks. “Are you sure that’s a hot-air balloon?” “The bag looks a little deflated…”

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So because we still had time, I decided to google how to do a proper hot-air balloon and found this useful site. This time, everyone got involved and I went to take a nap after I gave brief instructions to them and watched them for a bit. (Maybe they won’t complain about my creations after this haha)

The instructions involve using paper mache on a balloon. Tear newspaper into small pieces and paste them on the balloon using diluted craft glue (one part water, one part glue).

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Repeat steps until you have three layers of newspapers.

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I went to sleep after taking the above picture. We let it dry for a day, and were out almost the whole day last Sunday for a cousin’s wedding. Some pictures from the wedding:

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We got home and remembered the we had not completed the lantern. But since it was 10.30pm by the time we got back, we shooed the kids to bed, and finished the lantern while they were asleep.

A critical step that we didn’t have the guts to carry out, involved bursting/cutting the balloon, so there is a gap at the bottom and it looks more like a hot-air balloon. Reason? Their papa had no idea if they really pasted three layers of newspapers. IF they did not, would the paper mache collapse inwards? At 11pm the night before the lantern was due, we were not keen to find out the answer. I grumbled that it didn’t REALLY look like a hot-air balloon if the whole balloon was attached. But decided to keep quiet after my husband said: “I’m not going to be responsible if the balloon collapses/bursts.”

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So we stuck the whole balloon on the paper straws, tied some ribbons and pasted colourful tape to pretty it up.

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Added a bicycle light to light the balloon.

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And called it done.

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We reused the stick from last year’s lantern. And Shannon woke up delighted to see the completed lantern. Here she is before going to school.

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Happy Mid-Autumn!

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