Cultivating the habit of saying “thank you” in my marriage

We celebrated the hubby’s birthday this week. It was nice spending time together, shopping, having coffee, and rounding it off with a yummy sashimi dinner. Especially after the busy period of moving and settling into our new home.

We’ve gotten into a habit of not buying each other gifts but instead would let the other choose their own gifts. I guess you could call it the lazy way out but I’ve realised that he also likes the process of browsing and choosing something.

So I decided to just write down a list of things to thank him for. I pulled out a simple card from my stash, and starting writing…

I thanked him for being a wonderful listener. I thanked him for tolerating my nonsense. For being understanding (and not judging) even when I feel upset or down. The list went on, and I found it was quite easy to fill the entire card with ‘thank yous’! Almost like turning on a gratitude engine…it just kept flowing.

I realise that after writing down the things that he does that makes me feel valued and loved, I started to see him even more positively. A sense of gratitude welled up, and I also thanked God for him.

As fallible and as flawed as he may be (and I, too) I saw that I had a lot to be grateful for.

Gratitude changed my perspective. I think it also helped him to recognise the things he does that really mean a lot to me.

Simple things like listening to me when I’m feeling down or lost.

Simple things like laughing with me, or making me see the funny side of a situation.

Small things like caring for the kids, and playing with them.

(Never underestimate these small things, guys. They can mean a lot to your tired spouse.)

Although I wrote the card for him, I actually felt quite good after writing it, as if expressing it somehow made me pay more attention to the good, and feel happy as a result.

I think I need to put up a little note on my workstation, to remind myself to say “thank you” to him every day. (And not wait till his next birthday!!)

And maybe also sneak little surprises / notes into his work-bag from time to time.

Never underestimate the power of these humble words “thank you”. They can enhance your marriage relationship, and even counter existing negativity…Most of all, I think it keeps our hearts soft towards each other, and trains us to focus on the good aspects and encourages the other to do the same.

What’s your favourite way of expressing thanks to your partner?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

Make saying thank you a habit in your marriage






Moving house

We have moved.

After months of praying and planning. After weeks of decluttering, packing, and organising the right things into the right boxes. (Then as we drew closer to D-day, it became more like frantic stuffing of things into any visible spot of space in random boxes.)

moving house: our life in boxes

The hubby was absolutely amazing at packing. This is the first time we’re moving as a family of five, and he acted as if he’s had heaps of practice. I was bowled over, many times over. And not to mention grateful, because I had a few assignments to work on and had my hands full at some points.

Looking back, I still can’t believe we made the decision to move, did our homework on potential places we’d like to live in, recee-ed, liaised with agents, found tenants for our own place, the list goes on — all in a matter of weeks.

Of course, we actually started contemplating the decision a lot earlier. But you know, once settled, it seemed as if things fell into place rather smoothly and with no surprises. Like the slick clicking in of well-made wooden puzzle pieces.

Then on D-day, wham. The movers swooped in like a flock of trained birds, professional and organised to the core, cling-wrapped everything that needed extra care, and moved our entire life (in boxes) within half a day. I was tired (but also in awe) just watching them.

After I arrived at the new home, the husband was already getting stuff organised. (Did I mention that he’s organised already??) But the entire living room was filled with boxes. And the IKEA guys and our electronic goods were going to be arriving in a matter of hours! So obviously we got down to unpacking and flattening those boxes in a jiffy.

Some hours and buckets of sweat later, we managed to clear sufficient space in the living area for the IKEA staff to assemble our sofa, dining table and TV cabinets. Thank God for a big enough store-room to house our “non-immediate use items” – otherwise known as stuff that the husband and I just couldn’t bear to throw away. Heh…

Then our electronic goods arrived and we all had to learn how to use the washing machine. But really we were quite distracted listening to the guy. The clock was ticking away in my head – we need to clear as many boxes before the kids arrive at our new home! (I had mum’s help to care for them for the day.) I was anxious… I wanted them to have enough space to get acquainted with everything – their new bedrooms (albeit with their old beds), their new toilets, their new wardrobes, the new play area…

Now obviously we could’t finish unpacking everything within one day. But we made good enough progress and the kids were so excited when they arrived. And we all sat down to a nice (tapao-ed) dinner and listened to their stories of what they did at grandma’s. (They obviously had little clue as to how hard we’d been working.)

After we showered them and sent them off to bed, we continued unpacking. Unpacking was what we did for the whole week really…We had so many things, I was scratching my head as to where to put them / how to sort them. It amazes me how much we own and how difficult it is to give/throw things away.

It’s now been a week plus in our new home. We’re feeling a lot more settled. Most of our things have found their proper places. Above all, our hearts have found a new home. We’ve scoured the neighbourhood for good eats, good (read: economical) finds, and good fun.


We’ve taken mental notes of where to go to get what, and also a rough idea as to what to do with the boys in the mornings…

Oh yes, the boys. They are school-less for the rest of the year. I guess it’s mummy’s turn to teach them for a bit. (We moved at an awkward time and the kindy nearby doesn’t have vacancies until next year.)

brothers playing together

There are still things to be done…But my heart is full.

The kids have adapted well, and seem to have settled into a new rhythm. This was my biggest prayer point, and I see that it is being answered.

Change can bring stress, but it can also bring growth. When I look back, I see so many areas where God has moved and helped us through this big change. Very subtle things, if you blink you’ll probably miss it. But when you reflect and ponder, it’s there, right under your nose. His invisible hand of mercy and grace; his never-failing love. The God we love is amazing, even in taking care of seemingly insignificant and mundane little details.

I pray that this will be the beginning of a fun and fruitful chapter for us to grow as a family, and to embark on new adventures.






12 strategies that have helped control my child’s digital diet

We live in an increasingly hectic world. I work as a freelance writer, and when there are looming deadlines for my writing assignments, it’s ever-tempting to let the kids go to their “nannies,” namely the iPad, TV, or computer.

My kids’ digital diet has been steadily increasing. Almost every day, JJ (or even his younger brother) will come to me and ask for some TV time.

I decided that I needed to do something about it, in order to curtail a downward spiral.

But why is it important that we moderate our children’s digital diet? What do kids lose when too much time is spent with and on screens?

This article captures it well: Even the smart kids are lacking social and conversational skills. They don’t know how to:

1) read non-verbal cues (which is a real problem because non-verbal makes up the bulk of all communication)

2) take turns

3) stay on topic

And surprisingly, it is the wealthier ones who are most affected:

A 2014 study in the journal Pediatrics found a 63 percent increase in disability associated with speech problems between 2001 and 2011, though the percentage of kids with disabilities rose just 16 percent. And the biggest increase was among the wealthiest families.

So what are we parents to do? Here are 10 things that I’ve found helpful for my kids…

1. Decide on a schedule

Work as a family to draw the boundaries.

Decide on a duration and limit that suits your family and your kids’ age.  For some, this could mean 45 min of screen time daily. For others, it could be 2 hours but only on weekends. There isn’t a right answer, but most experts recommend limiting to 1-2 hours of total screen time per day. As a guide, children under 2 need little or no screen time, while older kids can get some screen time a few times a week.

On weekdays, I work their TV schedule around the times I need to bring them out. For example if your child has music classes on Monday and swimming on Thursday, then those are no-TV days.

2. Make it a family decision

Kids are intelligent and understand more than what we give them credit for. Talk about why you need to set limits for screen time. Talk about the dangers of excessive screen time (less outdoor play, reduced social interaction, and how that affects children and even young adults). And then set the rules together as a family. This helps them to understand why too much TV could be a problem, and helps them to gain ownership over the rules that are being set.

3. Make it visual

Kids need reminders to help them control their impulses. After deciding on the days that we allow screen-time, I put it into a simple calendar. Because JJ isn’t reading independently yet, I put in simple icons to help him identify what the words are. But trust me, he knows what the two letters “TV” means…

And because he knows 4pm is TV time on a particular day, he will keep asking if it’s 4pm, how long more, etc. The schedule doesn’t mean that we need to be totally strict and inflexible. It actually allows for flexibility. For example the other day we had a playdate with some of his friends. Because they chose to watch a bit of TV, and it wasn’t a designated TV day, he negotiated to have it swapped with the following day’s TV slot. I agreed, and when the next day came, there’s wasn’t any mention of the two-letter word.

Of course, some days can be hard. He is after all still young, and waiting is a hard game to master. But it has its benefits, and sticking to the schedule, more or less, may even help them to learn the most important skill of all.

kids schedule

4. Have special TV times

We allow kids to watch their favourite shows on Netflix on weekends. The older ones get to pick one show to watch and this becomes their special designated TV time with the dad. You can even plan for a special movie night on weekends or certain holidays. This way, it’s the bonding that is the focus, not merely a screen.

5. Be selective with content.

Rather than allowing kids to watch anything on TV (because you never know what’s on supposedly kids programmes these days), I prefer choosing a variety of DVDs and/or programmes on Netflix and making sure that the content is age-appropriate for your child. I quite like some of the programmes on Netflix and find them both educational and entertaining (our favouites are Science Kid and Wildkratts!) plus the fact that I can hit pause when I need to, and of course…no ads!

6. Designate tech-free zones and times

Mealtimes and bedtime are the usually natural tech-free zones. Explain to your kids that these are special bonding and connecting times to talk and share as a family. It’s not good to be distracted by a noisy screen as we want to appreciate our food and actually taste what we are eating.

What happens when children eat with their eyes glued to a screen? First, they don’t learn to fully taste their food. Second, they have no idea when they are actually full. They only know that when they finish, the screen gets taken away. So it might actually take longer for them to eat, because they’re so distracted.

I believe it isn’t a route we all want for our kids. But if there is already such a habit, you can still take steps to cut down on the screen time, little by little.

7. Try audio books instead

Audio books are great, especially if you have preschoolers who are not of reading age yet. Listening to audio books help to hone their listening skills, and also visualisation skills, which is the brain’s ability to draw mental pictures. Check out Common Sense Media‘s and Modern Mrs Darcy‘s favourite audio books selection.

8. Increase sensory play

In order of turning on the TV, reach for a sensory bin. Sensory play can be messy because children are allowed to use their hands to feel materials like sand, foam, water, ice, or other things like beans and rice. But that’s just one aspect: the sense of touch. How about engaging the other senses such as smell and hearing? Sensory play also allows children to be in complete control of their actions and experiences, which encourages experiential learning. How do you do sensory play at home without making too much of a mess? Here are some ideas.

Sensory play is messy but fun!

9. Play old fashion board and card games

It helps to have a wide range of activities on hand to choose from, in order for young ones to not feel like they need to reach for the remote each time they feel bored. We love to play tic-tac-toe, Gobblet Gobblers, Uno games, memory games using cards, and good ol’ snakes and ladders.

There are many board games that can help encourage executive function and math skills too.

10. Head outdoors

Try to have outdoor time a couple of times a week, if not daily. Some sports or playground time? Outdoor play is an essential for children’s well-being. It stimulates creativity, promotes problem-solving, reduces anxiety, and increases imagination. (source)

11. Choose games wisely

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Tech can be used to our advantage too. When we need some time waiting outside, I occasionally let the kids play games like Cut the rope, which helps to promote flexible thinking and problem solving skills, and some Chinese word apps.

12. Lead by example

This is probably the hardest part for most of us. How many times have you heard your child say to you, “Mum, put your phone down!” (I admit, I’ve heard this at least once in the past week.) But if we can exhibit self-control, and even let our kids know our own strategies of controlling media usage, the kids will soon be inspired to do the same.

12 way to manage your child digital diet

I hope you find these ideas useful! What other strategies do you use at home to help your little ones control their media usage?




My Gym Buona Vista – Review and Giveaway! (Closed)

We were invited to try out gym classes at My Gym Buona Vista recently and we let JJ have a go because he’s a real Tigger and loves to romp, jump, and bounce all day long.

He started their Terrific Tots programme in May and have been looking forward to attending gym class every week since. Like…once the lift door opens on Level 3 of Rochester Mall, he’s out like a rocket. He barely turns to wave goodbye to us. He just can’t wait to move and play and jump!

What I like:

1) The class begins with free play.

Kids who arrive early get to romp, jump, scale walls, and hang on the monkey bars before class starts. And everyone knows when the class starts without the teachers even saying anything. The cue is in the music: when it stops, everyone stops their activity and assembles at the circle. Nicely done.

gym slide


2) There is proper warm up and stretching time.

Here they are below stretching their back muscles.

gym warmup

There is also circle time where kids get a chance to speak up and introduce themselves by answering a simple question. I thought it was good the programme actually incorporates some social skills component so the kids can get to interact with one another.

In this pic below, the kids are doing “tummies in the middle” – this is where the instructor will prepare the kids for what’s coming up, and give important instructions.

gym huddle

3) The exercises build up in complexity.

Round 1 is the simplest, then subsequent rounds add on another layer of activity. Take for instance this hanging beach ball game. In the first round, the kids have to just kick the ball. For the second round, they have to add on a forward roll. So it stretches the child’s ability to listen, follow and remember instructions.

4) The kids get to do circuits incorporating different actions and challenges.

In this circuit below, JJ had to swing on a rope like Tarzan, and then forward roll on a sloping gym-mat.

And for this one, JJ had to wind around some cones, climb up and down the stairs, and complete the circuit with a forward roll.

Every week’s activities and relays are different, working different parts of the body,and stretching different parts of the brain.
5) The gym setup changes weekly.

Things are moved around, and different tools and challenges are featured each week. The kids can play and practise on a balance beam one week, and hang on the monkey bars another week. So there’s always something new.

gym balance 2

6) Safety is always emphasised.

Whenever the kids have to do something requiring balancing, they are reminded to spread their hands like an aeroplane to help them.

Gym balance beam

For forward rolls, the kids are always reminded to tuck in their heads, to prevent neck injuries. For backward rolls, they are taught to use “pizza hands” which are hands that are spread apart to help them achieve stability.

The gym instructors also focus on imparting proper techniques before challenging the kids to do more complex actions.

Here is JJ doing a handstand on a plank. He has been practising handstands for a few lessons before this, and usually on a mat.


Before that, he was actually walking on the plank and practising changing direction by jumping and twisting.

gym twist on beam

7) The activities promote listening and memory recall skills.

In the picture below, JJ is trying to focus to jump into the right-coloured hoops. The kids were given verbal instructions to only jump into the green and yellow hoops, and to avoid the rest. Such activities may look simple, but it requires active listening on the kids’ part to be able to follow through the tasks successfully.

gym jump hoops

8) They use a range of manipulatives to train motor skills and agility.

One of my favourite activities was this one pictured below, where the kids have to throw a scarf into the air and catch it; then throw it, turn around, and catch it again. I could tell they were all having lots of fun doing this, because the way a scarf falls is…well quite different from say a ball. It was a sensory experience and I know JJ was relishing the touch of the scarf landing on his face. Quite a memorable sight!

gym hanky throw

All in all, JJ loved the classes and I believe he’s benefitted in terms of gaining better balance, coordination, and body control.

And now we have a…

~~~ GIVEAWAY!~~~

I have a trial class valid for redemption at My Gym Buona Vista to give away to 3 readers. Just follow the instructions of the Rafflecopter app below to join in! Open to Singaporean residents only. The contest will close 9 August, 11.59pm!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here’s a snapshot of the classes available here.

My Gym schedule

For further enquiries, do contact My Gym @ Buona Vista
Rochester Mall, #03-24/25/26,
Singapore 138639

Phone: (+65) 6684 9220

Operating Hours:
Tue – Sun: 9am – 6pm






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