The start of a new journey into primary school

Dear Vera,

You’re going to primary school. The other day at P1 orientation, you looked excited and hopeful as you found a spot in your class, and took in the new surroundings and new faces.

It’ll be a big day, for sure, come January next year. I know you’ll be excited, because this is the attitude you hold towards life. Full of promise, fun and hope; full of learning new things and making new friends.

Full of growing up.

I’m so grateful for you, my dear daughter. You’ve been a wonderful help at home, caring for and helping out your younger brothers when they find themselves stuck. Sometimes you take on the mummy role, which is both funny and exasperating to watch. Funny because you’re actually pretty good at bossing them around. Exasperating because you try to exert an authority which you don’t truly own.

I feel I learn so much gentleness from you; the way you console your brothers when they’re in tears sometimes puts me to shame.

I can’t count the ways that you bring joy and grace into our home – grace, that is the meaning of your name. But I know it, because I’ve received these gifts from you often.

It’s amazing to watch you grow. Such a privilege to be the one to guide you and teach you God’s ways. We recently had the opportunity to serve together for the community, and it gave me just a small glimpse into the future. You will have a big heart for people, and help those around you who are in need – perhaps even through creative ways.

Sometimes when things get stressful at home, I tend to get overwhelmed and sometimes lose my cool. During those times, you just try to listen and nod your head, and do your best to help. That often helps me feel better, and I’m grateful.

Yet, I know you’re just a child – still growing, still learning, continually being moulded by His unseen hands. I have to constantly remind myself not to place too-high expectations on you, not to expect you to be the perfect goody big sister. You are a wonderful one no doubt, but your name is Vera (not big sister) – a little girl who loves to learn and try new things, who loves to take on challenges with a hopeful grin, who loves a bit of drama and crazy-good-fun in her life.

Even though you cross a new milestone into primary school, you’ll still have a long way before you, and I hope you’ll run this race slow and steady, like the tortoise rather than the hare. I pray that God will strengthen your faith and character as the days go by, and that you’ll learn to walk in wisdom and grace all through your learning years (which never stops by the way).

Very often when formal schooling starts, we start to focus on performance, results and external achievements. But I pray that I’ll keep my eyes on what matters – that I’ll focus on your inside, your character, your faith in God.

I pray for His favour to be upon you in the area of friendships too, and that you’ll continue to be a blessing even as you are blessed.

I’ll miss you, my little girl, but I look forward to hearing stories from you when you come home from school each day.


Sherlock Hong Adventures {Book Review and Giveaway}

If you’re a fan of mystery books, you’d know that it’s important to have a protagonist that is believable and easy to identify with.

In the Sherlock Hong series, Singaporean author Don Bosco does a great job building the character of young Sherlock himself. He is a young detective, belonging to the International Order of Young Seekers, impulsive, with a nose for adventure and an eye for suspicious details.

According to Don, his character “Sherlock Hong is inspired by Sherlock Holmes, the great detective in those classic mystery stories. And Sherlock Holmes is known for a few things: having great observation skills, being very well informed about all sorts of obscure topics, and being lost in his own world.”

“In that sense, I think our own quality of life improves when we practice these traits too, in a sensible way. Observe very closely the people you encounter, so you can understand them and interact with them better. Appreciate all the tiny details in the world around you, because that gives you more options about what you can do. And take some time to create your own personal sphere of comfort and love, so you can share this with your family and friends.”

Wise words indeed.

Sherlock 1

There are 4 books in this series – The Peranakan Princess, The Scroll of Greatness, The Legend of Lady Yue, and The Immortal Nightingale.

Vera’s favourite of the series of 4 books is The Peranakan Princess. She says it’s not as scary as the rest and it’s interesting because it features a little girl who sings and turns a man into stone!

Vera has always loved books with a touch of magic, since she started reading independently, but this is one of the first mystery books she’s read.

I decided to read through The Peranakan Princess myself and found it actually quite riveting. The story involves a Peranakan Princess and her magical Book of Secrets. The young detective Sherlock finds himself on a mission to thwart an evil plan to kidnap one of her descendants, so as to prevent the powerful magic manual from falling into the wrong hands.

The language is simple and easy to read, almost like Sherlock was writing a letter to us himself. I asked Don why he chose to write the series this way, and here’s what he said:

Prior to this, I had done a lot of writing and editorial work. Mostly informative, academic and lifestyle content. So I thought I was a pretty competent writer. But when it came to writing stories for children — and I mean stories that are exciting and emotionally engaging, that keep the kids turning the pages and eager to discover more, rather than the kind of educational stories for classroom use, where you want to put it away as fast as possible — I was stuck for a long time because what I wrote always came out proper and clever, but not fun and delightful.

After a lot of trial and error, one day I was daydreaming and I started to imagine that Sherlock Hong was talking to me. I could hear his voice very clearly, and sense all his gestures. So I hurried over to the computer and typed it all down. And that was it! After that it was quite effortless. The stories naturally have a wonderful sense of intimacy and enthusiasm. They feel authentic. I know it sounds a bit eccentric, that I’m using my daydreams like this, but it works for now. And that’s why the Sherlock Hong books are in this form!

I think the key to a great mystery book is whether it keeps you turning the pages, and Vera finished a book in one sitting, and also devoured the other books quite quickly.

So…the verdict is: This is one mystery book series that will really hook your young reader.

How would you like to raise a young Sherlock too? Well, I’ve got one set of Sherlock Hong Adventures books to give away to a lucky winner!

To qualify:

1. Like mamawearpapashirt on Facebook (if you haven’t already).

2. Leave a comment on this photo on FB (Answer the question, why did Sherlock need to thwart an evil plan to kidnap the descendant of the Peranakan Princess?), and tag 3 friends.

Good luck!
– This contest is open to Singapore residents only. It ends on Sunday, Nov 22 (11.59PM). A winner will be picked randomly, and the sponsor will contact you regarding the collection of the prize.
– Incomplete entries will be disqualified.
Sherlock 2

Disclaimer: I received a set of Sherlock Hong books for review and was not compensated for this post.

What to do with kids in December holidays

It’s the last week of school and most of us are busy planning for holidays, as well as fun activities for the kids within Singapore.

Here is a roundup of what you can get up to in December in Singapore.

Christmas Toyland

Artist Impression, image credit: Gardens by the Bay

1. Gardens by the Bay “Christmas Toyland” Floral Display- 21 Nov to 5 Jan 2016

This Christmas season, toys reign supreme in the brand-new “Christmas Toyland” floral display. Venture into the North Pole and explore a magical wonderland where toy soldiers march alongside roaming reindeers, and teddy bears man a sleigh station – all amidst yuletide floral favourites like the poinsettia, Christmas rose, winter heather and holly!

Location: Flower Dome
 (Admission charges apply)

2. “The Future of us” Exhibition – 1 Dec 2015 – 8 Mar 2016

Capping the SG50 celebrations is “The Future of Us” exhibition – an immersive and multi-sensory experience that offers a glimpse into the possibilities of how Singaporeans can live, work, play, learn and grow as a community in the future.

Location: Gardens by the Bay. Admission is free but you’ll have to book your tickets here.

**Visitors with “The Future of Us” tickets are entitled to 40% off Gardens by the Bay Conservatory tickets.



3. 3-day Sports Camp – 21-23 Dec 2016, 9am-5pm

This 3-day sports camp is tailored to help your child develop resilience, confidence, adaptability and a sense of exploration. These attributes will set them for life as they are must haves for success in today’s world. It will be headed by Anita Leo, paediatric OT & creator of “How to Raise Resilient Children” and Darren Quek, Child Development Coach.

Day 1. Exploration Day – Green Corridor Nature Trail & Treasure Hunt
Day 2. Sports Connection – Multi sports for cognitive and motor skills development
Day 3. Maker Day – Day of making to spark off Creativity

Suitable for 5-8 year olds, $400 per child, meals and snacks included. Confirm your child’s place today.


4. NParks Connecting with Nature Series is a series of educational activities held in our parks where you and your family can discover more of Singapore’s biodiversity and wildlife. Here are 2 in particular that you might want to check out:

- A Walk with your Neighbours – the Macaques of MacRitchie – 12 Dec 2015, 5pm – 6.30pm

If you would like to learn more about your community and the interesting world of your  neighbouring macaques at Macritchie, please join our walk, led by experts from the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore. Suitable for children above 8. To register, email:


- Bats are Beautiful workshop – 12 Dec 2015, 6-8pm

Discover about different bats and their role in our environment in this thrilling bat-watching session. For kids between 5 to 12. To register, email:


5. Visit the National Gallery Singapore

On 24 November, the doors of the National Gallery Singapore will open to the public. As part of its Opening Celebrations, all visitors will enjoy free admission from 24 November to 6 December. Book your tickets here to secure entry.

From 27-29 November 2015, there will be an Art Carnival on the Padang, with live performances and the Share the Hope Façade Show. Don’t miss this stunning display of light, sound and visuals, set against the backdrop of the newly transformed National Gallery Singapore.


6. Project Breakthrough by SingTel and National Geographic

Project Breakthrough is aimed at students aged 9-11 years old to cultivate their love of science. This programme will launch during the school holidays and the children will get to meet the experts from SUTD, A*Star, and Science Centre, tour their facilities, and learn to create ideas and solutions for current issues. The programme will begin the week of 16th November. Kids within the age-group may register here.


7. KidsStop Holiday Programmes

KidsStop is offering 3 different programmes for various age groups this December.

  • Push or Pull – Wow so cool!
  • Fun with Kitchen Science II
  • Science of Magic

Details and registration here.


8. KidStartNow Chinese camps

KidStartNow organises regular Chinese camps for 3-8 year olds. More details here.


9. School holiday programmes by ActiveSG

Active SG runs various holiday sports programmes for kids. From basketball to archery to tennis camps, there’s something for everyone. Check out the activities here.


10. Children’s Worklab Lego and Technology camp

The Children’s Worklab at Forum Shopping Centre runs 5-day Lego and Technology camps for children aged 6.5 to 12 years. To find a camp that’s suitable for your child, hop over to the website to find out more.