Choosing joy and what it means to me

April is turning out to be a rather reflective month for me. I’ve been intentionally reading more, which is one of my priorities this year, as part of carving and creating more time for myself.

It’s also been a joyful, happy and encouraging month. Thanks to all the photos I’ve seen under the #ichoosejoy initiative. Have you seen them yet?

As I looked through all the light and cheery pictures, I saw some common themes arising.

Many posted playful, fun-filled moments.

Loving family moments.

loving family moments

 Yummy moments. 

Beautiful and inspiring moments.

inspiring moments

Even the mundane, not-so-joyful, moments made it into the list.

And finally…heartwarming seeds-of-friendship moments.

friendship moments

If you look through the pictures again, you’ll see that they are filled with our favourite little people and places, and plenty of those warm fuzzy moments. Things that we can’t really put a price tag on, except maybe the food bit.

When I embarked on this project, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was just hoping that it would encourage others (and myself) to look for joy in our everyday moments. Even amidst the highly-stressed and fast-paced lives we now lead, I thought that surely we would be able to find something fun, funny, delightful, and joy-giving.

Just as this quote goes, “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”

One mum and fellow blogger commented at the start, that even though she finds that her life is not quite full of joy now, she will give it a try.( I was glad that she did, and not just one picture too.)

For me, it’s also helped change my focus from the difficult days I’ve been having with the kids. As most of you would know, life with a headstrong, I-want-it-all-NOW toddler can be quite taxing, and it’s been the case for me.

I was struggling to choose joy, and to just enjoy my children just as they are.

But as I saw the beautiful moments captured here, I was forced to change gears a little, and to look at my temporary pains in greater perspective. To look at the bigger picture.

It helps to know that I’ve gone through these pains before with Vera, and she’s now more mature, and more able to listen, more able to love and give some thought to others.

It helps to know that there are many other parents and mums like me, struggling quietly in our little corners, and yet we have that ability to choose our feelings and to let joy and hope rise up in ourselves.

This is what #ichoosejoy is really about. So thank you. And please don’t stop choosing joy, chasing it, and capturing it here.

Do connect with all the awesome mums on instagram (user nicks shown above), and hashtag your pictures #ichoosejoy to make a difference in our community. 

20 ways to be a frugal family in Singapore

 Singapore is an expensive place to live in. Safe no doubt, efficient uh-huh, but expensive.

For those with kids, it’s somewhat a double whammy because of the necessary items that are now on our 2-metre long shopping list. Because of the kids, we choose to eat healthy and are usually more willing to spend on good quality meat, fish and vegetables, but these can all add up to a hefty monthly grocery bill. If your kids are lactose intolerant, or have special dietary needs, it just gets worse.

Since I’ve become a mum, my money mindset has changed quite dramatically. Well, okay, I still give myself (and others) treats once in a while. I am still addicted to great coffee and chocolate cake. But gosh, the guilt when I over-spend is humongous. It sits on me like a giant panda, and makes me promise never to do it again.

In my past four years as a mother, I have limited my trips to the malls, switched from Starbucks to coffeeshop alternatives, and in the past year especially, I’ve cut down on taxi-flagging. (This last one is quite a milestone for me.)

This year, the hubs and I have made a commitment to spending wisely and saving more. We are inspired by others who are able to live on little and yet are big on giving back to society, so it’s not just about cutting back, it’s also about cutting back so we have more to give. (I know it sounds a lil’ lofty, but it’s always good to have a goal, no?)

So I’ve done some research and come up with a list of ideas.

1. Switch your mindset to frugal. You automatically save about $100 a month just by doing this mental shift. Amazing, but true. The trick is you have to really really want it. (It helps to have a goal and purpose too. For instance, wanting to save more for your children’s education, or to start a business.)

2. Have fun exploring free places. Parks, Botanic Gardens, beaches, friend’s homes, you name it. *If you’re running out of ideas, check out my Fun page or follow us on instagram.

3. Cook in batches and freeze. I used to do this when the kids were younger. It was more convenient, and gave me the assurance that the kids were having healthy home-cooked meals. I do this less now, but I hope to get back to cooking and baking in the next few months.

4. Pack a sandwich / dinner leftovers to work once a week. This is something that I picked up as a student living in Australia. The food there was pretty expensive, and it was quite the norm there because the locals packed their own too. I think it’s relatively less common in Singapore, but I know of people who do it regularly, and I think it’s quite healthy too.

5. Try not to use the air-con if the weather is cool enough. If you really need it, get the kids to bunk over for the night. It’s bonding, plus energy-saving all in one.

6. Borrow instead of buy. The library is a great place to find good books, plus it’s always a treat for the kids. Or you can always arrange a book swap with a group of friends. It’s fun and savings all in one!

7. Say no to luxury items. If you can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with pampering yourself with a new handbag or another pair of dress shoes. But imagine what long-term goals you could possibly invest in if you bought one luxury item less. Or you could buy a few quality pieces of shoes/clothing that’s on sale. Just saying.

8. Monitor your expenses. I would say this is the best way to understanding your spending habits and knowing exactly where your money goes. We have a spreadsheet to help us monitor our income/spending, and a balance sheet as well. We keep receipts and record them down at the end of the month. It may seem a bit tedious but after a few months you get the hang of it and will appreciate its beauty. When we exceed the budget for personal expenses, we try to be disciplined and cut back on spending in the following month.

9. Set up a bad mood fund. Pamper yourself and/or your spouse when you’re in a bad mood, without the fear of busting your personal budget!

10. Breastfeed for as long as you can. Hey it’s free, and it’s healthy!

11. Avoid sales like the plague. It’s the most tempting to buy items you don’t need, or may not actually like, during a sale. Unless you really need the item, and it happens to be on sale. Now that’s a different story. 

12. Sell pre-loved items online. You can do so at Buzzy Tots Exchange Corner or Craigslist. [Update on 27 April 2016: If you haven’t checked out Carousell, you should.]

13. Use baking soda and vinegar as part of your home-cleaning solutions instead of expensive supermarket cleaners. (I substitute half of my washing powder with baking soda, which also helps to make the cleaning more efficient.)

14. Buy less toys. There are some pretty good side effects of having less toys in the house. Less clutter, plus your kids get to utilise their creativity by thinking of ways to have fun with what they have.

15. Shop online. I’m a newbie at this, and but I recently bought two pairs of shoes from ASOS that were on sale. They cost half the price of ONE pair I would have bought at a store somewhere else. (A friend recommended Zalora and Saturday Club. I like Zalora because if you change your mind on your purchase, you can return it for free.) If you have a favourite shopping site to share, please do so in the comments below.

16. Don’t put your computer to sleep. Shut it down every night.

17. Switch off the lights immediately upon leaving the room. This is something I was taught to do as a child, and continue to do till this day.

18. Exchange things among friends. For instance, books, clothing, or even accessories. It’s fun, and you get to enjoy having a new look (or book), even if it’s just for a time.

19. Shower the kids together. They get a bit of fun splashing and we usually get wet in the process, but heck it’s fun and I think it does save some water and money. Well, okay maybe not…but at least it saves time. 😉

20. Cultivate a mindset of thriftiness and contentment in your kids. Teach them the value of money from a tender age and the concept of stewardship. This last tip will probably save you money through your entire lifetime. Not to mention your future generations too. 😉

Has parenthood changed the way you handle money too? If you have a money-wise tip to share, please leave a comment! 

 

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21 ideas on how to celebrate mother’s day

Mother’s day is just round the corner. If you’re thinking of doing something different, something other than the usual family dinner affair, here are some simple ideas.

1. Take the whole family on the duck tour

2. Fix a dinner date for her and dad. And I mean JUST her and dad.

3. Whip up a wholesome, home-cooked meal (honestly, it doesn’t matter if something gets burnt, it’ll still taste like a slice of heaven to your mum. Just make sure there’s chocolate cake for back up, and it should be all good.)

4. Promise to do the dishes and laundry for one whole week (you actually have to DO IT!)

5. Book a family photo shoot

6. Make her a mini photo album (best to use your baby photos; every mum loves looking at pics of her babies, especially when they’re all grown up already…)

7. Give her unlimited passes to “15 minutes all-by-herself time” (multiple passes can be used at any one time)

8. Make her a blessing jar

9. Book her into a cooking/baking class (Check out ToTT and So EZ Cooking Studio. Even Phoon Huat offers simple baking / cake decorating classes.)

10. Go on a weekend stay-cation (or if you’re game enough, try staying on a farm)

11. Book her in for a pampering session at the spa

12. Sign her up for a dancing class, or if she has two left feet, buy her a musical instrument (a ukulele perhaps?)

13. Write her a list of 10 reasons why she will always be the love of your life. Present it in a photo frame for keepsake.

14. Make her a vintage rose pin 

15. Make her breakfast in bed (the best part? Everyone gets to hop into her bed and chomp it down together!)

16. Adopt a pet from SPCA

17. Compile your favourite recipes and make a recipe book (remember to include some of her favourite food too)

18. Get artsy – check out this list of art jam studios in Singapore.

19. Get a new hairdo together – the works: perm, cut, color, and treatment

20. Buy her a new pair of shoes, though she may insist she doesn’t need one (every girl needs a new pair of shoes. When it comes to shoes, every woman is a girl.)

21. Make her a funny fridge magnet that says something like: “If your kids are giving you a headache, follow the directions on the aspirin bottle, especially the part that says ‘keep away from children'”

Ahem, okay kiddos, for the record, every day should be mum’s day. And really, for me, a big hug and many kisses, and maybe a nice cup of coffee, will be enough to make my day.

What’s on your wish-list this mother’s day? Here’s wishing all mums a blessed mum’s day! 🙂

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