Counting down to 2017 with 7 blessings

2016 has been an eventful year for me personally, as well as for the whole family. Here are 7 things that I’m particularly grateful for.

#1 I reinvented myself as an educator.

It all started when I heard mummywee was starting an enrichment centre with a difference, a.k.a. The Little Executive. It focuses not on teaching content, but on teaching skills, growth mindset, and positive learning habits. I got employed on a part-time basis, and I’ve been on an exciting learning journey there for about half a year. Not too long after, I also embarked on an educational therapy course, harbouring hopes of helping kids with special needs find a stronger footing in this world, emotionally, socially, and cognitively.

It’s been…scary. I’m thankful for the people who believe in me, and who continue to push and encourage me. But it still is scary. Many times, I start to doubt myself, and my choices. But I remind myself that any change will take time, and that it’s okay to start from ground zero.

I read this article about finding that intersection between what you’re good at, what makes you feel appreciated, and the belief that your work is improving people’s lives for the better. It spoke to me, and if you’re in a similar position, I hope it helps you find courage too!

#2  I registered my first company and grew my freelance writing business.

I remember starting out 2016 worrying about how and where to kickstart my writing gig. The work came alright, but in dribs and drabs. It was rather demoralising. But I’m thankful to the hubby who was patient and supportive. By the time we reached the halfway mark of 2016, things were looking more positive. My writing gigs got more regular and the projects I had were also more diverse – ranging from corporate storytelling to travel writing to social media management. All without much hustling on my part, so I am very grateful.

It’s taken me a while to embrace this WAHM thing – the most difficult part was in carving out a workable routine amidst caring for the kids, playing with them, and helping them through various learning stages and challenges. I also realised that I needed me-time more than over, just to stay sane and keep all the balls up in the air. The flexibility has been good, but the downside is the uncertain paycheck at the end of the month. That is something we have chosen to live with for now, so it’s back to simplicity – less holidays (maybe short getaways), less buying, less hoarding – but we are at peace with this choice.

#3  We went on our first church camp to Malaysia as a family of five.

villas on water at sunset

The bus ride to /from the camp site was a tad long and challenging with 3 young kids, but we made it, and was able to enjoy the beautiful and comfortable resort, and listen to and learn from God’s word. The kids made a really good friend along the way, and she turned out to be our villa-neighbour for the next few days – what can I say, God’s grace works in awesome ways…The kids even managed to have a sleepover together, making a long-time dream of theirs come true.

#4  We moved house and settled in quite seamlessly.

room

brothers playing together

kids on bicycles at the park

Things happened really quickly, everything worked out like perfectly fitting pieces of a puzzle, and we moved in a matter of weeks after settling on our home of choice. It almost feels like we’ve been living here for ages. The boys will be starting school soon at the kindy nearby, so I really hope they’ll settle in just as well as they have to our new home.

#5  Vera adjusted well to primary school.

I’ve shared a little about our primary school journey here and here. By and large, Vera has settled well, made a bunch of good friends, and learnt to take charge of her own learning and responsibilities. This has made such a difference to our journey as first-time primary school parents. I found that I could keep my nagging to a minimal and just provide the support she needed at various junctures. There are still gaps, that’s for sure, and I wrote about that too, but I tell myself she’s growing at her own pace too – for me, I just need to watch out and remind her when it’s really needed. Sometimes when we step back, the child seems to take on more and learn more in the process – do you see this too?

#6  JJ found an awesome sports coach.

jj-sports-class

Now this one gets me really excited. JJ has always shown an affinity for sports, not least because he’s quite a movement junkie and has sooo much energy to release. When my friend recommended me this sports class (that is also affordable), we jumped at it. He learns so much from this awesome coach, and is constantly stretched – not just physically but mentally as well, because this coach doesn’t let things go without prompting and challenging the kids to think and strategise and plan. Now that I’m an educator myself, it is just AMAZING to watch. I learn even just by sitting through the 1.5 hour class.

#7  Josh turned Terrific Three!

mum_josh

Ahh, my dear Josh. You turned three and I know all that newfound independence is getting to you and sometimes makes you really cranky. But you know we love you, even if you’re screaming the roof down at the moment. You bring so much joy to our lives…more than you’ll ever know or realise. May the Lord continue to bless and keep you, and grow in you a heart of wisdom, love, and obedience.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Come 2017, and I am still learning. To leap, not blindly but knowingly, into the arms of a very real and invisible God. To embrace uncertainty with a child-like faith. He is a loving God, a God who is ever-generous with His people, a God who always provides…

Every morning, God’s generosity greets us in at least a dozen ways, but we barely recognize it as we frenetically prepare for our day. When we lay our exhausted heads down at night, we often fail to look back on the many gifts that dripped from God’s hands into our little lives…This Thanksgiving season, will you remember to remember the generosity of God? Remembrance produces upward worship, inward humility, and outward generosity. – Paul Tripp

Blessed 2017, friends. May His love and peace shine brightly in your lives always…

happy boy in sports class

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Fun holiday activities with the whole family

The December holidays have been jam packed with activities from the get-go.

We kicked it off with a fun day out with SingTel Cast x Nickelodeon Play app launch at Kidzania. The kids love getting reacquainted with their favourite characters, namely SpongeBob and the Ninja Turtles. From time to time we let them watch an episode from the NickPlay app. Occasionally we also have fun with the recipe videos where they teach you how to remake some of the characters using food and veggies! Get ready for loads of play; download the app for Android and Apple.

Fun day out with Sponge Bob

kidzania fun

We also went to play with “snow” at Plaza Singapura’s snow-play hut. Even though each entry is capped at 20 minutes, and the hut is quite a small space, the kids loved it, especially since they get to toboggan down the ice slide.

ps_snowman plaza singapura snow hut

JJ must have gone at least 5 times during the allowed 20 min snow play time! Just spend $30 in a single receipt for entry for 2 pax! Adults need to accompany kids who are under 7 yo, so be sure to accumulate receipts for yourself. And do note that $60 receipt doesn’t get you entry for 4, you will need two separate receipts of $30 each. Be sure to dress in long pants and bring along your socks! Jackets and boots will be provided for free. The snow play will be on till 25 Dec, from 11am – 9pm daily!

ice-bucket-2

Finally, the kids got to meet their all-time favourite cartoon character, Dora and friends, at City Square Mall!  Josh was extra thrilled to sit in his beloved Paw Patrol car. If you’re in the neighbourhood, do note that the Wonderland games and activities will continue till 1 Jan 2017!
chase-paw-patrol2

Finally the kids had a roaring good time at Dinosaur Discovery Camp at The Little Executive, where I was also helping to facilitate. They learnt so much about dinosaurs and the jurassic ages, that they haven’t stopped discussing the topic and asking more questions ever since!

Dino discovery camp at The Little Executive!

Looking back, it does feel like we’ve been rushing around quite a bit…and like, 2 more weeks to 2017?! But I am glad that we’ve managed to enjoy the holidays as a family and also got to spend time with good friends, both old and new.

2 more weeks and we hope to make the best of it. Vera and I set goals to help her revise her Chinese and build a stronger foundation. We didn’t really get down to that, so I hope we make up for it by reading more and revising difficult words.

I also set out to help JJ progress in his reading. He’s able to read more sight words now, and is attempting to sound out words by himself, so I hope to keep this up with him!

Next week, the hubs and I are taking some time off to do our annual reflection and planning for the new year. Will let you know how that goes. Amidst the craziness of the season, it helps to carve out some space to think and reflect.

Stay well, and have a blessed Christmas! 🙂

Every mom needs me-time

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Mums deserve a treat this Christmas – review of essano skincare products and giveaway

It’s 10 days to Christmas – are you feeling the heat yet? Is your to-do list growing at a monstrous rate and developing a life of its own?

I know that harried feeling, and I don’t like it. I’ve been trying to do what I can to simplify, first working on trimming my schedule (as well as the kids’), then also simplifying the tradition of gift-giving. I’ve ordered most of our Christmas gifts from Book Depository this year, and I think the kiddies will still enjoy them!

To me, the key to enjoying this season is to hold fast to joy and gratitude; so we’re counting our blessings, and sharing them with those around us, in small ways.

Another key is to simplify and slow down. For me, some easy ways to do that are:

  • Take a day off and have a personal retreat (bring a journal but leave your phone behind or switch it to airplane mode)
  • Cut down on activities on weekends, leave time to breathe as a family
  • Simplify our skincare regime

To help you achieve that last one, I’m really glad to share with you about essano’s range of organic and natural skincare products, just launched in Singapore. I tried out their products from the Treat Your Skin pack, which contains:

  • Certified organic rosehip oil 3ml
  • Gentle foaming facial cleanser
  • Regenerating facial moisturiser
  • Moisture restorative night crème
  • Intensive hydrating body lotion
  • A drawstring bag for on-the-go moments

essano treat your skin pack

After using all the products, I concluded that my favourites were the facial moisturiser and restorative night cream. I really loved the way they made my skin feel soft and supple, just overnight! (I think the night cream does a more intensive moisturising work so I tend to use it every few nights, while I rely on the facial moisturiser almost every night.)

Since I started using essano, I realised that I could cleanse, moisturise and treat my skin, just relying on this pack of nifty skin tools! This makes a nifty gift for time-stretched mums who often don’t have time to keep up with a regular skincare routine. The travel-friendly size also makes it easy to pack and bring around when travelling.

Made in New Zealand with only plant and mineral based ingredients, essano products are cruelty-free and formulated without sulphates, parabens and silicones. The facial skincare range is powered by Rosehip Oil which is clinically proven to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, scars, stretch marks and sun damage.

~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~

I’m really stoked to give away one essano Treat Your Skin Pack to a lucky reader. This would make a perfect Christmas gift for yourself, or a special woman in your life.

To enter the draw, just do the following:

  1. Leave a comment on this FB post, sharing one way that you’re simplifying your life this Christmas.
  2. Get a bonus entry by tagging 2 friends on this instagram post.

*Contest ends 22nd Dec, Thursday, 11.59pm. Open to all Singapore residents. The winner will be announced on our Facebook page on 23rd Dec, so do stay tuned.

** Meanwhile, check out essano’s facebook page for updates on their products and promotions!

essano treat your skin

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Get Organised for Primary School – 3 Essential Skills Your Child Needs

It’s the end of the first year of primary school for Vera. We are thankful that she has done pretty well, and has been able to take responsibility for most of her school work and studies.

There are however still some gaps that I hope to work with her on during the holidays…here are the 3 essential study skills I wish I had taught her earlier.

1) Time management

Time management is a crucial study skill when it comes to exams (both preparation as well as actual taking of the papers) but it’s also important in day to day living.

Since school started, I’ve tried to wean her off my involvement as early as I could, since I felt she is capable enough to take care of her own daily schoolwork. For the most part, I think she’s learnt that homework is her responsibility, and if she doesn’t get it done, she has to live with the consequences.

But she has had days where she would have her lunch, dive into a book and then suddenly realize that she has homework to do in the evening…after dinner.

These little incidents (hopefully) serve to teach her to be more aware of the way she has chosen to use her time. I’ve also tried not to nag or scold her for it (it’s hard, I know. I literally have to bite my tongue to keep from saying “I told you so!)

Ideas on how to teach your child time management during the holidays:

  • Setting up a simple and visible routine and schedule would be helpful for kids starting on their primary school journey. It helped us to set her up in the morning and now I see we may need one for the afternoons too.
  • Use everyday lessons to think about time. Eg., if I choose to watch a DVD, I will not be able to finish my assignment – do I really have that luxury of choice or is it better to finish what I’m doing first?
  • Model time management – if your child sees you always in a rush for time or constantly late, what kind of lessons is she learning? It’s tough that our kids are looking and learning from our daily lives, but I think it also makes us try to do better each day.

2) Money concepts

Money is a great asset if only we learn how to manage it wisely. It’s a good idea for your child to learn how to handle money from kindergarten age. Start small – she wants to buy a bun from the bakery? Ask her how much it is, and give her the money to hand over to the cashier. Then check the change together. Kids are mostly excited to learn such skills and you don’t even need to encourage or cajole them to do it.

Before starting school, sit down and plan how much your child needs for recess. It’s a good time to check the meal prices at the school canteen during orientation. Usually a plate of veggie rice or noodles is about $1.50, but if she needs a drink or an extra snack, it may be safer to budget $2. I give Vera an allowance of about $10 a week. I chose to start off with a weekly allowance so she learns how to budget $1.50-$2 for each day, and not over-spend, but it really depends on you and your child how you wish to structure it.

At the end of the week, she always has some left over for her piggy bank. So it’s a good way to teach her frugality and the value of saving money for something worthy as well.

Tips on how to teach money concepts:

  • Give ample chances to order food at the food court/hawker centre. Check the change together.
  • Let your child accompany you to grocery-shopping and help him calculate the cost of your grocery list. (Start with a short list of 1-2 items)
  • If your child really wants to buy something for herself / a gift for someone, work with her to save money from her allowance. Or if she doesn’t yet have an allowance, you may choose to even give small rewards for household chores that she can do. I sometimes give 50 cents or a dollar when the kids make themselves useful, eg., packing the messy shoe rack, folding the laundry, or washing dishes, or vacuuming the floor.
  • Have 3 small piggy banks in the home – one for savings, one for spending, one for sharing (or giving to a cause). We teach the kids to dedicate roughly a-third of their “earnings” to each piggy bank. (But you and I both know it’s tempting to put most of it into the spending bank…so this is also work-in-progress.)

3) Planning and prioritizing

This is closely related to time management. How much time do you have in total for that English paper? How much time should you dedicate to the different sections to ensure you have sufficient time left for the final few questions? All this is related to being able to look ahead and plan accordingly.

This is also helpful for homework. If your child has 3 different kinds of homework due at different times, ask her, hmm which should you do first? When do you need to hand these up?

Sometimes your child will be able to tell you, “this is more urgent because…” Let them think and verbalize and come to this conclusion by themselves as much as you can.

If your child gets fixated over a particular piece of work, let her experience the natural consequence of that choice. Say she enjoys colouring and drawing, and so spent time on these unnecessary aspects while neglecting to answer the questions of the assignment, then she rushes through the last part and makes a couple of careless mistakes as a result. Use this as a teaching opportunity. Ask questions that will allow her to reflect on her choices: what do you think you can do differently next time?

Ideas on how to teach your child planning and prioritizing this holidays:

  • Work on recipe based cooking or baking during the holidays. Being able to ensure you have all that you need and when you need it is part of that same essential planning process.
  • If you’re going on a family vacation, encourage your kids to be a part of the planning and packing process. For instance, help him to think about what is necessary and what should go into the luggage first.

Vera and I will continue to work on her time management and prioritizing skills as we believe these are essential study and life skills that will serve her well for life.

With these tips in mind, I hope both you and your child will be better prepared for school next year! If you do feel that your child needs specific help to get organised and motivated to learn, you may also want to check out The Little Executive’s upcoming P1 prep camp in December. Happy holidays! 🙂

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What is the Size of Your Problem? (Problem-solving for kids)

Middle brother got really upset and whiny yesterday when he was told to wait to go swimming. He took awhile to calm down. In the evening, I drew this on the doors of our wardrobe and did some problem-solving and brainstorming with them.

What is the size of your problem?

When I asked him to identify where on the scale to place the size of the problem, he could rightly identify it as a small problem. When I asked where was the size of his reaction (a bit of crying and whining), he identified it as level 6 on the scale.

Then I asked, “Is the size of your reaction proportionate to the size of your problem?” Where should your reaction ideally be? He thought a bit and said, “it should be lower – maybe 1 or 2.”

I said, “Yes! That’s great! You can see that the size of your reaction should be lower on the scale.”

This is the second time I’m going through this concept with the kids so he’s had some prior understanding of it. On the first occasion, I identified what a level 1 problem looks like, for instance losing a toy or dropping a spoon. While someone falling into the pool would qualify as a level 10 problem : where there is real and imminent danger. As for reaction, kicking, screaming or hitting would be level 9/10, while frowning or sulking would be level 1. In the middle could be whining or crying.

Then I moved on to get them to think of ways that we could battle with the emotions of feeling frustrated and impatient at having to wait. So the next time he would have some strategies or ideas.

The kids came up with:
1) not whine
2) think about something you can do now
3) look at the schedule for ideas on what to do
4) don’t get stuck
5) think of a game to play (I contributed this one)

Essentially, these strategies/ideas are meant to help distract the child from his frustrations of the moment. (Tip: While brainstorming, it’s helpful to list down every idea that the child contributes and not throw them out just yet.)

I picked up this concept from a recent Social Thinking conference I attended. I learnt a few useful things in relation to parenting and helping kids with social / learning difficulties. This was one social tool that I immediately related to and started to apply at home.

I think it’s extremely useful in helping kids think about their reactions. Here are some lessons you can point out to your child while applying this “size of your problem” tool.

  1. We always have a choice on how we act and behave – Our goal is to choose to behave in ways that are more acceptable and in line with the problem or situation.
  2. Our reactions should continue to move down the scale as we grow older and more mature, even though our problems may get larger and more challenging.
  3. Our reaction has an effect on others – When we react at level 9/10 on a daily basis, we regularly cause small problems to become BIG HUGE problems. Other people are affected by it and may start to have negative feelings about you. If they continue to react at such high levels when small problems occur, it also causes a lot of stress to their family and carers.

Now all this may take a while to sink in and translate into real self-regulation and social consideration for others, but it’s definitely a good and helpful framework to introduce such social concepts to them early.

Whenever we meet with certain issues, I would stop and ask out loud “hmm, what is the size of this problem?” This gives the kids a chance to think and self-monitor, and measure their reactions accordingly.

Note that it may not work if the kids are already emotionally strung or in the middle of a wild tantrum, but I’ve seen it work when they are just at the beginning stages of a negative emotion.

Even for myself, when I mess up and over react, it gives me a chance to laugh at myself, and point out how I over reacted to a small problem. It has helped me to breathe and calm down, and not have big reactions to little things like a kiddo dropping his plate of food on the floor.

This is something I’ll continue to work on with my kids. It’s not just teaching them self-awareness, it’s also imparting the skill of problem-solving. And when they have the right attitude towards solving the little problems that crop up in daily life, I believe they’ll also be better big problem-solvers in future, be it handling school-stress, relationships, or even work.

Do try this at home! And let me know how it works out for you too. 😉

Here’s a shot of the size of your problem poster available from Social Thinking’s Singapore website.

size-of-problem-poster2

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