Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Homelearning Group Outing - Mums and Tots Bento Workshop!

After  a few 'misses' trying to plan for some field trips / activities for the Homelearning Group, we finally managed to go ahead with a simple Bento workshop!

As shared here, one of the challenges I have for myself for this year is to prepare breakfast for Dumpling daily. I have been interested in Bentos for a long time because they look so pretty and so cute! (Well, definitely better than my Bah Chor Mee in terms of presentation no?)

It took a bit of to and fro and finally, we managed to secure a location and a instructor! :) With 10 other pairs of moms and kiddos, we had an enjoyable Sat afternoon. I was expecting it to be hard but it turned out to be quite simple. Dumpling did half of the work and when it became tough (such as punching out the seaweeds), I'd take over. I also took the lead in experimenting how to "fill up" the bento box and Dumpling followed suit.

And while the instructor was setting up and we were waiting for some more participants to arrive, what else would a blogger mum do except to get the kids to pose and take pics? :p

The kiddos were busy entertaining themselves too... :p

After a short wait, we finally started! Here, Teacher Jo introduced the various tools...

And Dumpling was listening on intently...

And off to work they went! Dumpling was all serious and had her first go at the rice mould

Her Hello Kitty started to take shape (puncher on the right can be purchased from Daiso) as she added the eyes and ribbon

Whiskers and other items such as the greens, cheese, etc. 

Other kiddos were also busy with their creations

Tada! Dumpling and my Hello Kitty Bento Box!

What we learnt from the session? 3 key things:
1. Tools and more tools!
2. Greens add a dash of colour
3. You need fillers to fill up the gaps! (Crab sticks, greens / tomatoes, fruits 'adorned' with cute animal picks)

Below, proud mamas with their kiddos! 

Looking for more Bento ideas? Here's the creations by the kids! LOVE LOVE LOVE the colours, the various shapes and ideas!!!

And finally, Lulu with Mama Sue!

The session was fun and it was nice to have some kiddo and bonding time. I had a great time chatting with some of the mummies too. And guess what? Lulu even asked me for a Bento workshop for her BD party! LOL

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Parenting with Love: Super Mama I am not, Just Plain 'Ole Mama Sue

Fellow mummy blogger June's post set me thinking last week when I first read it. Being a homeschooler and a working mum, it is truly enough to get me totally occupied. My day ends only when Dumpling retires for the night and by then, I would be totally 'shattered' and it would be around 11pm. That sorta set me thinking when fellow colleagues and friends jokingly said that I am a Super Mama.

This cannot be further from the truth. I learn to just cope and pace myself. Reflecting on how it has been for the past 4odd years, I think I can safely say these are my survival 'tips' and what keeps me 'centered'.

The right battle
I learnt to pick my battles to fight. There are certain obligations / socials which we sometimes have to fulfill but we do not attend all of them because of nap time routines, etc. With a kid at home, our apartment also looks more like a kindy with books and craft materials all over so I learnt to not be anal about such matters. There are days where Dumpling picks at her food and the greens and yes, I learnt to let that go too. If it has been an hour, we'd just clear the dining table though by then, I will usually be curbing my temper and doing a Lamaze breathing exercise in an attempt to not to lose my cool.

Ask for help
When I first thought of sending Dumpling for Chinese classes, I discussed this in depth with my in laws and my parents. Only after we got the A-OK and commitment from all sides, that's where we proceeded with our plans. On days when I teach, my in laws would kindly come by and meet Dumpling for breakfast. My mum also helps out in the afternoon after Dumpling finishes school and I have a helper who has been with us for a while so that helps as we have some common understanding of what her role and main duties and what our expectations are.

Stay grounded
Truth is, I do not aim to excel in motherhood or peg myself in comparison to anyone. If I'd do that (and with my Type A personality), I would have been stressed out to the max! I simply cope with the best possible way that I can. I try not to go down the comparison route and just enjoy the ride. I try to stay focused on providing a good homeschool environment and education for Dumpling and continue to also focus on inculcating the right values. I also 'open myself up' to learning from the mums and members in my Homelearning group. As one blogger mum shared before, the focus is not on developing (for the lack of a better term) my child to be better than others but such that she is better today than yesterday; where we try and learn and attempt something new daily.

I pray for Grace and give thanks. Daily. When it gets a tad trying and overwhelming at times (especially when she is sick and I have had less than 10 hours of sleep in a total of 3 days and where I am still heading to work daily), it helps that I am able to release all these to a higher being. To my maker and creator. To someone who loves me despite my weaknesses and yet is willing to gift me a child. Not just any child but my child. A child whom He thinks is the best fit for me, who stretches me, tests me yet loves me unconditionally. A child who adds a different dimension to my being, a child who loves me despite the fact that I am not a Super Mama. Just plain 'ole Mama Sue.

And in her eyes and in her words, she is "very thankful to God for giving her Mama and Papa and for loving me." I cope by looking into her eyes and being at peace with myself as I see the bright love that shines in them. I cope by gathering strength in knowing that whatever that I do, Dumpling is secure in my love for her and feels that Mama Sue is the best mama for her. 


Monday, January 21, 2013

Parenting with Love: Child Readiness???

Source: unknown

I am a believer of child-readiness and the sensitive periods for children's learning be it for reading / writing or for any other activities. In one of Dumpling's weekend classes, when we first started, some of her other classmates 'left' that class which I later found out that they were at a 'new' class that Dumpling joined a month later. 

A few weeks ago, I overheard and participated shortly in a conversation when one of the mums shared her decision to withdraw her child out of the class. In her words, she felt that the class was progressing too quickly for her daughter and she has decided to go into private lessons route where she feels that it would be more suited for her child's pace.

It was from the same conversation that I realised that her child, EV, and another student JG were transferred to this new class not because they were 'ready' (this is a higher level class) but more so because they did not like the earlier class as it was getting full. After highlighting their displeasure to the school, the school decided to have both kids at this new class.

Both kids are younger than Dumpling and are possibly amongst the youngest in the class. Based on my understanding, the class is supposed to be for kids who are 4 or at least nearing 4. There is a big difference in that 6 months to a year gap because of the motor skills that's needed. The oldest child in the class is 5 and she is progressing along very nicely because at that age, she has the maturity / focus and the motor skills to do the tasks.

Now, for EV, I do empathize with her. Based on the lessons that I have seen, she does look a tad 'lost'. While the rest are on midway on Task A, she is still playing 'catch up' and there were a few times I saw her sighing and looking a tad sad. I do wonder if such a decision has affected her confidence and self esteem. So for that, I applaud the mum for knowing when to pull the brakes.

Having said that, I also wonder if the child would have been prepped better if she had stayed in the earlier class where her foundation is laid properly before she is "advanced" to this class which does not seem suited for her. Frankly, I am surprised that the school made such arrangements because in this case, it clearly backfired where both child and parent are clearly not ready. Or maybe the school did prep the parent but perhaps the parent decided to plow on?

I certainly understand that all parents want the best for our children. In this Kiasu society, it is hard not to worry where sometimes we, as parents get blinded with all these "comparisons" that we forget who we are doing it for - us or for our kids. It is hard to steer away from such comparisons but as a family, we are doing our best as we often remind ourselves to take a step back and ask if Dumpling is truly ready. By readiness there are a few factors - not just academically but the maturity, emotional aspects, etc.

Now, back to JG. JG's dad commented that he does get JG to practise daily while he (the dad) watches TV. OK, I have to admit that I do struggle with this bit. To me, as a parent, we have to also show interest and 'support' in what the child is doing. If the child is struggling and the parent is not involved - be it to guide to simply be present for that emotional support, then it would certainly be unfair to expect the school or any organisation to be able to do much. After all, the classes happen merely once a week, how much do we expect the child to be able to remember from that one class if there is no home support? When it comes to such incidents, I do wonder if I am the weird parent here. :p

Friday, January 18, 2013

Foodie Fridays! 10 mins Breakfast Challenge - Wrap and Roll!

As shared in an earlier post, my personal challenge for this year (and I am gonna take it one step at a time on a month-on-month basis 'cos long term commitment scares me!) is to prepare breakfast for Dumpling daily. Not just that but because time is usually tight for me in the morning, my intention is to prepare bentos / breakfast pack which takes 10 - 15mins max!

Ever since we visited the Zoo to see the Pandas recently, Dumpling has been talking about Kai Kai & Jia Jia. :) Since I am such a noob at this whole Bento business, I decided to just add some small touches of the Giant Pandas instead of doing a Panda bento featuring panda moulded rice which is not suitable for brekkie too.

What's in the bento:
1) Cherry Tomatoes with Laughing Cow cheese cubes (Fibre and Calcium)
2) Tuna flakes in sunflower oil (with a dash of pepper and light mozzarella cheese) Wrap (Protein, Calcium, Carbs)
3) Panda butter cookie

This was done within 10 mins as all that I needed to do was to spread the wrap with mozzarella cheese and tuna flakes. Do drain away excess oil from the Tuna so that it does not make the wrap soggy.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gloobaloo and the Enchanted Forest - GIVEAWAY!


Gloobaloo is Singapore's homegrown Mascot. A curious and cute alien from Planet Global who has travelled to Earth on his Big Boat Spaceship, he wants to make new friends and learn all about Planet Earth and her environment.

Staging his 2nd musical performance at Kallang Theatre, Gloobaloo, a Big Boat Studio Production, returns with his friends as they bring you on a musical journey into the Enchanted Forest in search of the Fire dragon that is destroying the plant life in the forest.

Together with Chirpy and Grumpy, the wacky twins, Gloobaloo will make new friends with the friendly and playful bird, Wikki Zikki, who has feathers as colourful as the rainbow. Watch the graceful mushroom fairies prance and dance, meet the ageless unicorn who is the guardian of the forest! Come journey with them and see how this exciting story unfolds.

With original songs, upbeat music and choreographed dance, Gloobaloo will unleash your child's creativity through exploration of dance & music, melody & rhymes! Here's a link to watch a clip of the performance last year.

One lucky reader gets a chance to walk away with a pair of tickets worth $70! 

Just leave a comment below on why you think you should win the tickets! I will pick the funniest / most original comment :) For more information on the play, here's the sistic link.

SHOW TIME: 16th March 2013, 10am
VENUE: Kallang Theatre

* Seats and date / time are fixed and cannot be changed.
* Tickets are also not exchangeable for cash
* Participants need to leave your email address and full name to qualify
* Contest ends 31 January 2013
* Winner will be notified by email
* As the musical is being staged in Singapore, this is for Singapore residents only
* Winner to bear the cost of registered article postage

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rise & Shine - A breakfast challenge for Moi!

I am pleased to share that Beanie N Us is proud to be part of a breakfast campaign and one of the Ambassadors and Partner Bloggers of Rise & Shine.  Rise & Shine is a community initiative started by a group of mothers and four Nanyang Technological University students. The mission of this initiative is to provide parents and educators alike an opportunity to learn, share and identify holistic approaches in raising healthier and happier children.

What was interesting for me was to see these data which the NTU students put together when they conducted a primary research with 363 parents of primary school students in Singapore. Here's what they found! 

As a mum, the scary part of the statistics for me is that 1 in 3 children skips breakfast and that 46% said that there is not enough time to eat. Whoa!!!!! *Alarm bells sounding off here* It is scary to me because I can only imagine how hungry the child would be waiting all the way till recess for a chance before he/she can finally have a bite!  
The NTU students have come up with some interesting outreach activities as part of this Breakfast Campaign. For those who wish to find out more and educate your child on the importance of breakfast and healthy breakfast options and choices (important for children to know as they will be buying their own meals during recess!), the team puts up educational information and does story telling sessions at various shopping malls and libraries using an interesting story - Daniel and his Mystery Friends, which introduces Breakfast Friends.

For parents who are looking for ideas, the team also provides cooking demos too!
Here's where you can view the schedules.

Additionally, you can find a link to healthy recipes here should you be looking for inspiration like me!

Now, as a working mother, for me breakfast is something which I do struggle with. Daily. I am usually the first to wake up, herd and chauffeur everyone out of the house to work, etc. I will be the first to also admit that I do not take breakfast (yes *gasp!*) simply because I do not have the luxury of time to sit by the dining table, read the papers calmly and snack on my sandwich. (That, I feel, seems to happen only on TV or in families with no kids! :p)

I am, however, very anal about Dumpling having some 'power bites' packed for her daily in her snack box where she eats them at her Chinese class at 10+am. So far, my choices of breakfast for her have been ok, nothing exciting, just ok. So, it is no wonder that lately, Dumpling started "rejecting" the snack boxes because she is well, just not interested in eating. Sigh...

It is a personal challenge for me now to google for interesting (and enticing) breakfast ideas which I will pack for Dumpling daily. Not only should it be yummy, it should also be healthy. My helper and I have been attempting to make things more interesting for her with cute bento stick picks for her sandwiches, etc. I do realise that this is not enough and it is a personal goal to put in more effort on packing healthy and yummy breakfast boxes for her. 

The Rise & Shine Breakfast team helped me kickstart this breakfast challenge by sending me a breakfast kit last week. :)

I will be sharing my breakfast journey with Dumpling, the recipes and also will be pinning them on my pinterest board. Do join me on this little journey of mine! 

About Rise & Shine Breakfast Campaign: 
The Rise & Shine is a nationwide campaign that is strongly supported by major government agencies including Health Promotion Board, People's Association, Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports and the National Youth Council and many others. It is the first campaign of its kind in Singapore to drive greater attention to raising healthier and happier children.

The team at NTU (from left: Hui Ying, Wayne, Wilson & Xi En)
For more information, you can visit Rise & Shine's Facebook page.  

Photo and Infographics source: Rise & Shine NTU Team

Monday, January 14, 2013

Fun with Math - Money money money, it's a rich man's world!

Teaching Math does not come naturally to me. While I did fairly well in this topic in school, I personally feel that it is a very specialized field. This is because the children's foundation for Math needs to be built on slowly; if it is not strong, the child will struggle as she / he progresses as the concepts are related.

I am still not a very big fan of worksheets but I recognise that as Dumpling moves into P1, she will need to be "exposed" to such activities. We started exploring on the topic of "Money" where I made a small pack of activities along with some learning aids. I wanted to introduce the concept of money and value in a fun way and with pretend play.

So with the idea, we created a Supermarket scene which co-relates to the activity sheets and word problems.

Dumpling and I turned this into a game - not unlike the game show "Supermarket Sweep"! I also turned it into a memory game as I rattled off the grocery items and she had to remember the list and zip off to taking the correct items! :p 

Dumpling took on the role of a shopper pretty seriously I must say. We did the topic in this order:
1) Familiarizing her with the coins
2) Understand 'value' of the coins

3) Shopped &
4) Applied them to the word problems where she pasted her items on the mat and did the sums

The topic lasted for a week for us as we worked through the topic slowly. It was very fun working through the topic with pretend play. :) We also took turns where she would shout out the items for me to buy and I had to work on the sum while she looked on. For bigger numbers, Dumpling used the abacus to help her. 

This is part of our Fun with Math series. Stay tuned for our next post to our trip to the Supermarket!
Edit: Here's the download for the money packs activities (supermarket items & money pack) that we have done. Please note that these are for home school and home use purpose. Please do not tweak it and sell it. It is not meant for any form of sale / profit. 

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Foodie Fridays - Frog's legs anyone?

I have a taste for meat - all kinds. Tried some exotic ones before and one of my favorite is Bullfrog. I know that it's not everyone's cuppa tea but with the 公保style, it's really yummy!

Thankfully Hubs is good in the kitchen too and this is one of the dishes which he doesn't really like me to cook and would rather do it himself instead. :p I am certain not complaining since it's oh-so-yummy!

1) 3 bullfrogs de skinned and cut up (we get ours from FarMart where they cut them up for us too)

2) Dried chili (pre soaked & de-seeded) this really depends on how spicy you like it. We usually use about 8 of them, cut into thirds

3) half a big onion

4) Spring onions
(Half a packet)

1) pre-marinate the bullfrogs with soya sauce (1tablespoon), a dash of pepper and half a tablespoon of cornflour

2) Store in fridge for at least 30mins, covered with 'Gladwrap'

3) Heat wok with oil and add in onions, then dried chili then spring onions. Sautéed for a min or 2.

4) Add in the bullfrog pieces and fry it for 2-3 mins

5) Add about a tablespoon of oyster sauce

6) Add water (half a bowl, more if you want more gravy)

7) Add dark soya sauce / oyster sauce (1 teaspoon) and simmer for another 3 mins over medium fire. Do check consistently so that the gravy does not dry out. If it does, add more water and stir in slowly.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fun with Math - at the zoo (panda enclosure)

We love animals. Because of that, we have been "Friends of the Zoo" for the past 2 years. There is something nice and relaxing to have a morning walk in the cool breeze of the zoo.

Our membership expired last week and we took the opportunity to head out to the zoo one and this time, with the intention of visiting the famous Panda pair :) Dumpling has been asking to see them for some time but we have been a tad busy on weekend mornings for the past few months.

We had to top $5 for the adults and $3 for child and this is for a preview of 15mins per session. These are "booked" in blocks of 20 mins frequency. We were at the zoo by 840am and our slot was for 920am. When we left the enclosure, the crowd starting trickling in, so do head off early if you can.

The entrance to the Giant Panda enclosure is just across the Otters. Once you enter, there is about perhaps a 2- 3 mins walk, along an "S" shape before we reach the Panda's enclosure. Along the way you can see some information about Yang Tze river and there were loads of small signages. I did not take any photos of the other enclosures (alligator, etc.) because they were all still empty. 

Before being admitted into the Panda enclosure, in a typical Singapore fashion, we had to queue (while a video was being played in the background on a videowall) while a Zoo staff reminded us not to be quiet and not to use flash photography (and in her words "call them by their names - Kai Kai, loudly" *guffaws*). And of course, we paused along the way for some shots :p 

Before we got to the "stars", we passed by the Red Panda section - they were absolutely gorgeous! 

There were some 'interactive' drawers before we got to the enclosure which Dumpling had some fun with viewing the contents.

And finally, we got to see the stars! :) Below is Kai Kai which really is the more active of the two. He clearly has a more inquisitive nature as he kept looking on at the visitors and I thought that he actually looked like he was smiling!

And here's Jia jia who was more interested in her food! :p

Of course, no trip in the Zoo is not completed with some general knowledge peppered along the way...

Dumpling was so excited to see the mascot outside that she squealed in delight. She also insisted on taking photo with just Jia Jia 'because she is so cute and pretty!' LOL


We clearly had a good time though a 15 mins preview is a tad too short if one were to spend time reading up on the various information signages along the way. It would have been great if we had like 20 - 25 mins where Dumpling can at least have more time looking into all the contents of those drawers than having to be rushed through. 

One of our key focus for homeschool for this year is on Math. So I have been getting Dumpling involved in "Everyday Math" where we have "Fun with Math" even when we are outside. We even managed to touch on some simple concepts at the Zoo that morning! 

1) Coins
We are learning on the topic of money and Dumpling saw this flower right outside the enclosure! This flower appears on one of our coins. Do you know what flower this is and which coin it is on?

2)  Calculation of entrance charges
Simple addition (we did this at home after the visit where she cheekily used her toes too!) LOL

3) Identifications of patterns
Dumpling spotted the ABB pattern while we were heading back out to the main area

4) Hunt for Vertical and Horizontal Lines!
This is useful for us when we do data collection

Dumpling had a fun time albeit it was just a short 2 hours visit to the zoo (we were there mainly for the Pandas that morning). What I hope to achieve with Dumpling is to make Math fun and applicable for her. It need not be boring or taught through just the drilling method so it was really fun being able to incorporate a little of of it in our field trip!

Math is one of the focus for our homeschool this year and I will be blogging more on how we can have 'Fun with Math' with our preschoolers in the following months to come!
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