Monday, November 28, 2016

And so, 9 months


Dearest Baby J,
Two weeks ago, while everyone was in an uproar about the US elections, you quietly turned 9 months. I keep saying this, but I'll say it again, I cannot believe how fast time has flown, and that you will no longer be a baby in 3 months time. How quickly you've grown, while we've been busy trying to take care of all of you. How beautifully you've grown, into a smiley little ray of sunshine in our home.


The past month has seen you becoming a whole lot more clingy. You only want Mama at certain times of the day, and you will scream and wail if anyone else carries you. You are also very attached to Papa and your brothers, and you enjoy just crawling around while your brothers play near you. Nothing makes you happier than to be on the floor, meddling with your brothers' trucks, and trying to press the pedals on the piano. You love sitting in when your brother practices his cello, and he likes playing "Twinkle Twinkle" for you to hear.

You've started babbling a whole lot more, and will demand for "mum mum" when you are hungry. And boy do you love your food! You enjoy your porridge, and you love tofu and pumpkin and baby biscuits (which your brothers are always trying to steal from you). You let out an occasional "Papa" (much to Papa's delight), but you certainly know your way to Mama's heart, because you are the first kid in the family to call "Mama" before "Papa". All your brothers did the "Papapapa" thing first, but you, it's always Mama.


You've been pulling up to stand, and are starting to cruise a little. You are one really wriggly worm, and diaper changes are a huge challenge because you are the fastest escapee of the family! You'd think we'd be so accustomed to these milestones since you are the fourth kid, but I think I'll never tire of seeing all of you grow and hit your milestones.

Speaking of milestones, your teeth were pretty slow in coming, and about one month ago you still only had four little teeth. Then all of a sudden, you started sprouting 5 teeth at one shot! You've been biting everyone, and chewing everything, and you're also at the clawing stage, so my arms bear the brunt of your little nails and teeth.


It's been  fun dressing you up in all those little dresses, and you've been blessed with so many pretty hand-me-downs that we've hardly had to buy any clothes for you. You are a bead addict, and love chewing on silicone bead necklaces. I've given up trying to put hairbands on you, since I've never figured out how to wear them properly so that you don't look like a lion, and you're always trying to pull them off.

Seeing you grow each day has been such a blessing. Please slow down, little girl, and we love you so!

Love,
Your Mama and Papa.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Weekend Wanderings: Charlotte's Web


Last weekend we brought the boys to watch Charlotte's Web, while my dad helped me to babysit Baby J. I had really looked forward to catching the play with the kids, since Charlotte's Web is one of my favourite books (but one that never fails to make me cry every time I read it!). This stage adaptation of the book by E.B. White didn't disappoint, and managed to bring to life the story of Wilbur the pig and his unlikely friendship with Charlotte the spider. Wilbur is saved from going under the butcher's knife by the ingenuity of Charlotte, who spins messages on her web to praise Wilbur. The story is a wonderful reminder of how true friendship transcends any of our differences, and always protects and seeks to serve, and I really enjoyed the play by The Little Company.


The cast was stellar, and I was quite amazed at how effortlessly they juggled all the characters in the story between the six of them. Sharda Harrison was wonderful as Charlotte, with her acrobatics and acting (although I found her striped get-up a little distracting).


The hubby especially liked the character of Templeton, who was played by Dwayne Lau. He brought to life the rat's calculative and greedy nature perfectly!


The kids and I loved the farm animals: Wilbur the pig (by Ann Lek), Gander (by Ivan Atienza), Goose (by Ethel Yap) and Sheep (by Matheus Ting). Each played their role so well, and the geese especially made me smile with their quirky characters!


Junior J and Lil J enjoyed the play tremendously, since they were familiar with the story (I had previously read the book to them). Small J, though quiet throughout the play, got rather restless nearing the last twenty minutes. I would say that this play is more suited for those five and up, since the humour and dialogue are more complex, and there is no singing and dancing involved. Also, I think it would be great to read the book with the kids before attending the play, to allow the kids to have a better appreciation of the story.


All in all, I'd say get those tickets if you have kids five and above!

Details for the play are as follows:
Date: Fri, 28 Oct - Sun, 11 Dec 2016
Time: Weekends & Public Holiday : 11am & 2pm
Weekdays : 10am, 1.30pm, 2pm, 2.30pm, 3pm
Venue: KC Art Centre - Home of SRT

You can purchase your tickets here on Sistic. Do note that discounts apply for family packages as well as Three Little Pigs ticket stub holders.

Disclaimer: We were kindly sponsored tickets for purpose of this review. All production photos were obtained from the Singapore Repertory Theatre's FB page. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

All Things Felt: Heartfelt crafts from Nepal (and our cosy corner)

We have an attic, which is currently serving as our homeschooling room. Usually I try to school Junior J and Lil J together at their desks, while the younger two are playing at the side. I've been trying to make the play area cosy for the little ones, so recently I set up a little corner for the kids.


The tent was a lightweight one that I purchased months back from Cotton On Kids, while the cushion was from Typo. I planned to get a rug for that area, since it makes it so much more comfortable for the kids, especially the baby who is crawling and sometimes still topples over. I am not a fan of foam playmats, and the younger kids tend to yank at the pile on carpets, so both were a no-no for me. I happened to chance across these gorgeous felt ball rugs over at All Things Felt while browsing Instagram, and decided that this was IT.  

I contacted Divya to find out more about those lovely rugs in her little shop. Divya hails from Nepal but is currently staying in Singapore. Her story was a most heart-warming one: All Things Felt was set up in the wake of the Nepal earthquake in 2015, to share the beauty of handmade felt products. Her business seeks to empower women by preserving these artisanal skills, while providing work for them.

Source: All Things Felt FB page

Her shop stocks various felt products, ranging from garlands, wreaths (perfect for the upcoming festive season), to puppets and baby mobiles. However, the felt ball rugs are probably the stars in the shop, as you can customize them into any colour combination you want, and there is a huge range of colours to choose from.

Source: All Things Felt FB page

Imagine the possibilities! 

Source: All Things Felt FB page

Source: All Things Felt FB page

I chose my colours with some advice from Divya. She informed me that it would take 3 weeks or so to make the rug, as the process is a long and tedious one. I was happy to wait (but do note the production time if you are thinking of ordering one as a gift for Christmas!), and the wait was worthwhile because it came exactly as how I pictured it. 


I love the colours, and how wonderfully textured and inviting this rug is to little hands. The felt balls are sewn securely together, and this rug is very comfortable. The baby loves sitting here to play, and it is reassuring to know that the dyes that are used to colour the felt are non-toxic. 


This rug doesn't slip easily since it is heavy. However, if you find that it does slide about, using a non-slip layer underneath solves the problem. I was a little alarmed initially, as I noticed that there was a fine layer of dust under the rug each time I lifted it. However, Divya reassured me that this was just soap silt from the felt-making process, and that this problem resolves with time. And indeed, there is no more dust underneath, now that the rug has been laid out for two weeks. 

One point to note though if you decide to get one of these: ensure that you keep a sharp eye out for non-potty trained toddlers, as well as toys with velcro on them (such as play food that you can cut). The former might have an accident on the rug, while the latter tends to stick and damage the felt. That aside, we are loving this rug! These rugs cannot be washed, but can be wiped clean or gently vacuumed.


I was intrigued by Divya's story, as well as the process that goes into making these felt ball crafts, so I thought I'd let her share more:


Jus: Hello Divya! I would love to introduce you to my readers. Are you local? How do you like staying in Singapore?

Divya: Singapore has been home for two years now, but I’m originally from Nepal. I grew up there, but moved to India to study when I was 13. I then went on to work in Mumbai, India, before shifting to Singapore. Singapore, in many ways is very similar to Mumbai, where I’ve lived for seven years in the past, and that is one of the many reasons I love staying here!


Jus: How did All Things Felt come about? Could you share with us some background to your little shop?

Divya: The Nepal earthquake in 2015 saw the world come together to help its people stand back on their feet. With help pouring in from all directions, I decided to do my bit. With firm belief in the craft and the wide variety of the products that could draw consumers in Singapore, I hope to open a new door for the artisans of my country. I see this is a sustainable way of assisting the artisans, who are mostly women. Nepal, with its snow-capped mountains, idyllic rivers and streams, pagoda-style temples, intricately terraced rice and paddy fields and market courtyards, has a timeless atmosphere that is simply captivating. 

With the intent of bringing the splendour of the Nepalese hillsides to homes in Southeast Asia, All Things Felt hopes to touch more lives with the magic of its products. Various kinds of handicraft are a reflection of a nation wrapped in various ethnicities and cultures. Production of handicraft is an age-old practice in Nepal. Handicraft—both textile (pashmina, hemp, silk, felt, etc.) and non-textile (silver, handmade paper, wood, ceramics, etc.)—is an important source of foreign exchange for this otherwise poor country. Each handicraft weaves with itself a beautiful story—one in which the artisan is taught with utmost precision and love the art of making by one of their own. 

Nepal is also largely a patriarchal society in which women are disadvantaged. Traditionally, women from poor families in Nepal do not have access to formal education, and are often marginalised and vulnerable to domestic abuse. Through All Things Felt, we endeavour to empower these women through the preservation of traditional handicraft skills and culture. The fact that we are able to help women in our small way to earn an income, educate their children and to feel more confident in their abilities is what excites and encourages us the most. 


Jus: I love how your shop endeavours to help these Nepalese women, and keep these artisanal skills alive! I know these rugs are works of art and require many hours of labour. Could you share more about the process of making these rugs so we can better appreiciate the work that goes into each one? 

Divya: Felt is a matted mass of sheep’s wool. Most craft producers in Nepal import the wool from New Zealand. The wool is first carded. Carding is a mechanical process that disentangles the wool fibre to produce a continuous web or sliver suitable for subsequent processing. Carded wool is then dyed into a myriad of different colours. The dyes used are non-toxic and free of chemicals. Unlike industrial chemical processing used to create most felts, most producers in Nepal—us included—use a technique called "wet felting", wherein using friction and soapy water, the natural wool fibre is matted, condensed and pressed to create the material. After the wool is dyed, our artisans make individual felt balls using soap and hot water. The felt balls are rolled until they are roughly 2 cm in diameter. Once done, the artisans put the balls in cold water and rinse them, after which these are dried in the sun. Once completely dry, they are ready to be sewn together to make the rugs. This is the most complex and time-consuming task. The workshop we work with employs only women who work in small groups of friends and families and can opt to work from home. The flexible nature of the work provides a great option for young mothers, allowing them to care for their little ones and families and at the same time earn a livelihood.


Jus: It's great that your workers are able to care for their families while producing these crafts! Could you share your dream for your little business? 

Divya: All Things Felt believes that happiness is handmade. We bring the colour and vibrancy of the hills of Nepal right to your doorstep. We want to create more awareness around the gorgeous felt products and make them more known in Southeast Asia. Not only because we want to help our lovely artisans generate more income, but because we honestly believe in the magic of our products. We hope to bring a little bit of our home to yours.

~~~~~~~

Thank you so much for sharing, Divya! Looking at how much work goes into each rug really made me appreciate mine so much more. And I loved how these handicrafts empower women and mothers and allow them to earn a livelihood, while still giving them the flexibility to care for their families. 

If you are interested in learning more, please visit their Facebook Page or Instagram account to view the products that are available, or you can drop Divya an email at allthingsfelt.sg@gmail.com. That aside, All Things Felt would be showcasing their products over at the Boutiques Fair on 4th Nov (0900-2000 hrs) and 5th Nov (1000-2000hrs), at the F1 Pit Building, so you can also pay them a visit this weekend!


Disclaimer: We were sponsored this lovely rug for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are my own. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

J2 turns 5


Dearest Lil J,
You turned five last week. Five! You've been talking about this day for the longest of time. We decided that we'll do away with birthday parties for now, since planning for four parties in a year can be quite a stretch, and we also felt that we didn't really enjoy parties that much. Instead, you got to choose where you wanted to go, and you asked to visit the Night Safari. Which we did, on the eve of your birthday. That visit was quite a stretch, since it meant everyone was out beyond their bedtime, but we made it! We had an early dinner before that, and all of you got to go to Biscuit King to pick out a snack. We got to sit the tram, and we got to see the tiger really up close. You really enjoyed yourself!


You requested for pancakes on your birthday, so you got them. You were delighted that I added berries on the side. 


You were hoping to go out and play with your good friend, so we spent a lovely (but rather hot) morning at Marine Cove. You all loved playing in Macdonald's after that! Everyone received Transformer masks in your Happy Meals. 


We ended off your big day with a dinner at home with all four grandparents. You had asked for sushi  and satay. 


You also requested for chocolate cake. So we made you a chocolate cheesecake (and you and your big brother insisted on helping), and decorated it with lots of berries (which you gave the thumbs up). It was hard preventing you from testing the cake and ruining it!



You received various presents from us and the gramps: a vehicle playmat, a dump truck, and this vintage toy telephone. You really loved the phone, and spent the next day just making calls to everyone! Your friend also gave you a Smiggle pencil box which allowed you to make short recordings. You've been driving us crazy recording the weirdest things and playing them back repeatedly. 


As we celebrated your birthday across those two days, I couldn't help reflecting on how much you've grown. You're still our strong-willed child, the one who never gives in, but this year has seen you making progress about controlling that temper. You're still the active one, who's always climbing high and swinging low. You are our durian, tough and spiky outside, yet we know how soft you really are inside, because we see how gentle and loving you are to your little sister. You've recently learnt how to read, and you are good with numbers. You are fearless, waving at the dinosaurs at the Jurassic World exhibit while your brothers were hiding! I've learnt so much through parenting you, and I pray that God will continue to mold and prune you. 


Happy fifth birthday, my boy. We love you so so much!

Love,
Your Mama and Papa. 

PS: Life has been so full these days that blogging has had to take a backseat. However, I hope to get back to writing regularly soon. Meanwhile, thank you for always dropping by!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Life right now with 4 (Our Day In A Life)


What does your day look like? 

I remember asking this question way back in 2012, when we first started this Day in a Life series. It was so fun being able to take peeks into all these mummies' lives, that I ran this series as a blog train last year, and then again this year. Writing the posts forced me to take a good look at how we were spending our days. It was also great reading the posts, and reflecting back on how things have changed. In our 2012 post, we were based in Germany, and had only two kids. Then in 2015, we were back in SG, and there were three kids.

Now, we're looking at four kids, and so much has changed! I realize I had a whole lot more energy when it was just three, so I was bringing the boys out for co-ops and outings. But 2016 brought so many changes that I decided I would really go slow this year. Within the span of this year, we've welcomed Baby #4, renovated and moved into a new place, and also experienced our first official year of homeschooling (Junior J is supposed to be in Primary 1 this year). With the move came new challenges, since it was harder to keep an eye on all the boys, plus there were more hazards such as the staircases and the pond. I did what I usually do when I feel overwhelmed: eliminate to concentrate. As a result, our schedule and routines are a lot simpler this year, and here's how a typical day looks like:

My alarm rings, and I try to get out of bed. I have been clocking late nights for the past few months, due to some work and chores. Add to that a baby who nurses a few times each night, and it means I find it hard to be able to catch more than 6 hours of sleep. Too many things to do, too little time! I roll over to see this:


This little girl has been quite erratic about her sleep habits. Some mornings she wakes at 6 am to play, and I blearily hand her over to the hubby so that I can catch a few more winks. Then there are some other days where she's still asleep when I wake. Today is one of those good days. I wake her up, and change her out of her jammies. I carry her over to the boys' room, where I find all three boys are already awake and playing. Junior J is able to change himself, so I chase Small J and Lil J around to get them changed. If we're not running too late, we read a Bible story and say a short prayer.

I leave the baby to play with her brothers, and head downstairs to make breakfast. Small J follows me, saying he is "ungry" and that he wants "C-real". He shoves a bowl to me to fill, then opens the fridge. 


"I wan chocolate chip", he demands, and I pretend not to hear him. (He's always demanding for sweets and chocolates.) He continues to rummage the drawers.


I prepare breakfast, while trying to distract Small J from ransacking the fridge for chocolate. The older two love their oatmeal, while I usually have muesli and yoghurt. 


My dad is here! He's been a lifesaver, coming every weekday to help out with the kids. 


I bring breakfast out to the dining table, and find that the boys are already seated (for once!), and Junior J is reading to them funny extracts from an Ellie Belly book


We start on breakfast. Mealtimes tend to be quite a torture I must admit, since the older two take ages to eat. Lil J and Small J tends to run around after a few mouthfuls, and we've found that the best way to keep them seated is to read aloud while we have our meals. That means I have to gobble up my food in double-quick time so that I can read to them. Baby J joins us for all meals and sits in her high chair. I am hoping that this would help her to get used to sitting down at mealtimes. Anyway, if I am handlng the kids alone, I just don't have enough arms to carry her, feed myself and J3 at the same time!


Everyone brings their dirty dishes to the sink, and I get Junior J to practice his cello. I usually sit in to guide him or accompany him on the flute, while the younger three play. The first fight of the day starts between the middle two kids over some minor reason. I break up the fight, and manage to calm Lil J down.


After that, the boys either head for Junior J's swim class, or sometimes we have playdates. The three boys head to the nearby park or playground with my dad, on the mornings when we are free. It's a win-win situation: they get time to run and play, and plenty of sunshine, and I get some peace and quiet for about an hour. During that hour, I pat the baby to sleep, put her in the cot, and start preparing lunch. I cook the baby's porridge, and then prepare lunch for the rest. Usually I rely on frozen sauces or soups, and today we're having pasta with milk chicken. The chicken looks a tad dry, so I make some cheese sauce to add to the pasta. Half-way through cooking, Baby J wakes, and I drag her chair into the kitchen and pop her in.


Lunch prep is taking a little longer than expected because of my decision to make the sauce. The boys are back, and they show me their finds from the park. Baby J starts to cry. I feed her, and stir the sauce in between mouthfuls.


Baby J starts getting very restless, so I play a cello song for her on my mobile phone. The song helps, and Lil J also comes by to play with her.


Lunch is finally ready, and the boys and my dad start eating, while I finish feeding Baby J. I then scarf my lunch down and try to get the two younger boys to finish their food. Recently, I've been letting them listen to music or audiobooks during lunch to help them to stay seated. Today, we're listening to the Carnival of the Animals. When lunch is done, I cut and wash fruit, and everyone eats. I start the washing machine to run a load of laundry.


Once everyone is done eating, it is time for school. Most people are surprised (or horrified) to find that we don't spend more than an hour doing "school"! I've been keeping lessons short for a few reasons: the boys can't sit down for long periods of time, they lose concentration, and I have to settle chores, meals and baby's naps so I also cannot afford to spend a long time doing school. Only Junior J and Lil J do school, while the younger two would be busy playing nearby. I work with Junior J on his spelling, Chinese and Math. He then continues working on his Math independently and does some Chinese writing, while Lil J practises reading to me. I then cover Chinese, phonics and Math with Lil J.



The laundry is done and I can hear the machine beeping. Lil J and I head down and we hang up the clothes, while my dad watches the younger two. For some strange reason, Lil J loves helping me with the laundry, and I am more than glad to have an extra pair of hands. 



We leave the clothes to sun (and that's one of my favourite sights: clean clothes drying in the warm sun!). I leave Junior J to finish the rest of his work, while his younger brothers play nearby under my dad's watchful eye. I bring Baby J to my room for her afternoon nap. 


She goes to sleep fairly quickly in the carrier. However, these days she's been waking every time I try to put her down in the cot. I give up and leave her on the bed instead. During this period, I catch up on messages, and message the hubby the question that I ask everyday: "What time will you be home?" I get good news: he'll be home before dinner!


This little girl doesn't nap very long even in the afternoons. She wakes after about an hour. I carry her to join her brothers, and then Junior J and I spend some time learning how to draw. Sometimes the boys request to do art, so they get to paint and craft. Today, they are too busy playing "camping" so I let them be. They start fighting again over some toys. I wade into the fray, separate them and spend some time comforting Small J, and then talk to Lil J about sharing. 


I head down to the kitchen to start cooking dinner. Junior J comes along to help. We're cooking beef stroganoff, and he helps me to chop the mushrooms. He complains that he does not like the smell of the onions cooking in butter, so he goes off to read a book, after helping me to chop the ingredients. 


Baby J is tired again and is due for her third nap. (These days, I feel like I spend half my life cooking or feeding kids, and another half my life making the baby sleep. Oh well.) Dinner is halfway done, so I head to the room to pat her to sleep. While I am patting her, the hubby comes home. Hooray! It's one of the rare days when he is back before dinner. He's been working late quite often these days, so the boys are very happy to have their Papa home earlier. My dad heads for home.


Baby J goes down for a really short evening nap. While patting her, I mindlessly scroll through my social media to unwind. Before I know it, its time for baby to wake. I head down to find one kid reading, another trying to ride his bike in the front of the house, and another playing quietly, and the hubby is sleeping. I wake him up, pass him the baby, and finish cooking dinner. We have dinner together and the hubby and I catch up, and we do the read-the-book-and-nag-at-kids-to-eat routine again. The kids fight over who gets the most mustard in their stroganoff.


After dinner, the boys have a bath, while the hubby bathes the baby. I clear the dining table, keep the already dry laundry, and have a quick shower. Then I read to the kids again, while feeding the younger two boys their milk. The hubby busies himself with loading the dishwasher and cleaning up the mess in the kitchen.


The kids finished their dinner pretty quickly, so they have some time to play before it's bedtime. Small J joins Baby J in her cot, and declares he is a hippo in a cage. He plays with her, while Junior J is again having his nose buried in a book. Lil J disappears, and I find him in the art area working with Biggie beads. 


Then bedtime rolls around and the hubs settles the boys down for the night. He reads a Bible story, changes them and prays with them. I pat Baby J to sleep. Again, she keeps waking when I put her down in her cot, so she ends up on the bed while I work next to her. I've been helping a friend to start her business, so I sort out some admin, and reply my mails. I do a little reading up to see how I can teach Junior J to draw. Some nights I write on the blog, but these days time to blog has been rare. 


Baby J is now in a deep sleep, so I gingerly shift her into her cot and then tackle the chores. The clothes get folded, I tidy some parts of the house, and before I know it it's way past 2 and time to sleep!

~~~~~~~

As you can see, our schedule has been pared down to the bare minimum. These days, I find it so hard to plan interesting activities, and I feel I'm just surviving rather than thriving. There's so much I would love to do with regards to the boys learning, and I'm always hoping for more time! But I've come to realize that this season with babies is always one of the hardest, but things will get easier in time to come. Meanwhile, its all about doing the next thing, and enjoying our children while they are little. I am thankful that life has settled into this rhythm, and I hope to slowly add more to our days. Bit by bit, step by step! 

~~~~~~~


This post was written as part of the Day in a Life (DIAL) blog train that is being hosted by this blog. Please click on the button above to read more DIAL posts. It's been so interesting taking a peek into the lives of other mums! 


Tomorrow, we get to follow Mark and Sue as they go about their day. Sue blogs with her husband Mark on parenting, homeschooling and life at Parenting on Purpose. Her greatest joys are being Teacher-Mummy to her two sons and travelling the world with them. Mark and Sue run a training and consultancy company called The Social Factor. They also are owners of an online store, Sensational Play. Hop over to their blog tomorrow to read more!

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