Friday, March 27, 2015

Goodbye Mr Lee Kuan Yew

I am not a regular follower of politics. I don't even subscribe to newspapers preferring to read online. It has taken me a while to gather my thoughts on this, after all I am no expert in this field nor was I there to experience first hand the tumultuous times before Mr Lee Kuan Yew became Prime Minister. 

But what I am, is a product of the first generation of citizens under his leadership - the 2 children policy, the emphasis on a quality education and English as our first language. And though I do not agree with all the policies, I have been blessed. 

I have been blessed because I grew up having the opportunity to study and at a subsidized rate by the government. I grew up at a time where the government was slowly improving the lives of its citizens where the blackouts and water disruptions / rationing I experienced slowly trickled to a stop. 

I also grew up witnessing and benefiting from the economy boom where jobs were created and we had better quality of life as compared to my parents' younger days. I recall one of my most exciting excursions as a young girl was when my parents brought us to try out the MRT when it was first launched. Family outings for us included trips to Singapore Botanic Gardens and Chinese Gardens. All these, were part of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's plans for our country, to transform us into an efficient Garden City. A small red dot with no natural resources unlike some of our neighbors but we had people and the focus was to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy. 

My daughter and I took a vacation to Krabi last year and we went on a day trip for elephant trekking. At the waiting area, my daughter commented on the strong stench and was visibly uncomfortable with the bathroom as the sanitary facilities were not as clean or as modern as she was used to. That scene brought me back to years and years back where I possibly was her age and Chinatown was also in a similar state with an overpowering stench due to the state of its sewage system. How our country has grown. 

I can't help but marvel how clever our leader was with the foresight on including the clause on water supply in our separation deed from Malaysia, how corruption was eradicated and how girls are given equal standing in society. As a mother now, I look around and truly appreciate how much he and his team have done to create a better Singapore not only for himself, but for us and for the generations after. Perhaps if I were not a parent, I would have taken many of these living 'conditions' for granted. But motherhood has opened up my eyes where I view things differently. I am blessed because our children are able to run around in parks and playgrounds freely, safely. Our children are also given a chance at world-class education so that our country remains competitive globally.

I am also blessed in his vision of creating a multi-racial society as my marriage is one that is inter-racial. From it, I have a beautiful daughter whom I give thanks for, daily. Being a product of this education system has given me the ability to homeschool my daughter in her preschool years too where we had many wonderful experiences and adventures. Sure, not all our policies are perfect but at 35, I was still learning to be a mother to my child. At 35, Mr Lee Kuan Yew became responsible for many lives. 

I have been reading reports that have been sprouting non-stop on Facebook on overseas visitors, from Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing to Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart to dignitaries who travelled to Singapore pay respect and say their last goodbyes to Mr Lee. And I am proud and I am amazed. 

That a man, in just 50 years, became internationally recognized as a powerful statesman and a much sought after 'advisor' whom other world leaders treasured his insights and counsel. He and his team certainly helped put Singapore on the map, and not just any dot but a prominent red dot where our country is known for its highly-qualified workforce, and for its safe and stable environment.

To Mr. Lee Kuan Yew: 

Sir, my daughter and I caught a glimpse of you last year at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. It brought me great joy and pride to explain to her who you are and what you and your team have done for our country. You will be sorely missed this National Day as we celebrate the Jubilee year. But I am comforted in the fact that we will still 'see' you through your works - from our award winning Changi airport to our public transport system, from the flats we stay in to the parks and beaches our children run in. Thank you Mr Lee, for your dedication and for this nation which we can truly call our home. May you rest in peace. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

I Theatre's Aesop's Fables Review

"Short, straight to the point yet punchy" would be the words I would use to describe this 50 minutes production. I Theatre has woven in not 1, not 2 but 8 fables in this production. Narrated and acted out by 5 friends (Diggle, Gander, Moleskin, Crowfoot and Lambkin) who are part of the Crowfoot Troupe, the audience is brought through a fast-paced and humourous journey.

With a history of more than 2000 years, many of us grew up listening to Aesop's Fables where each and every single one has a precious lesson and value to tell.

In this play, some of the fables are old favorites while others, are lesser known. Starting with 'The Miller, His Son and Their Donkey', we learn the lesson that there's no pleasing of everyone. In the story of 'The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs', we learn that greed can amount to great loss and it is always wise to think before we act. These values are verbalized by the actors after every fable.

With the rest of the fables spanning from the well-loved The Fox and the Crow to Androcles and the Lion, children are taught important moral values one story after another in a speedy pace.

The band of quirky 'creatures' bring these fables to 'live' where these skilled actors (familiar faces from some earlier I Theatre's productions - Ant and the Grasshopper, The Little Red Hen, Grimm's Fairy Tales, etc.) slipped effortlessly from one role into another, taking on the many personas in the fables.

Dumpling's favorite character is Moleskin who kept losing (and looking for) her cheese and who was also very believable as the mouse in The Lion and The Mouse.

The music is catchy and props are kept simple and imaginative - big, bright and colorful oriental fans which make up the Peacocks' tails while masks and headgears are used, sometimes with humorous effects. (Check out crow below :p)

There were many other funny moments such as those in The Fox and the Crow where the crafty fox heaped outlandish praise on the crow (which had Dumpling cackling away) and when onions were used as goose eggs for the substitution of props.

In its signature style, I Theatre engaged its audiences by inviting ground participation. 2 volunteers were chosen to help with the re-enactment of The Sun and the North Wind. Now, Dumpling watched this play a second time (YES!) recently with her school and regaled me with tales about how her classmate was chosen and had great fun on stage. :)

As compared with the previous programme booklets for its previous plays, I have to say that I Theatre has upped their game this round with the Aesop's Fables booklet.

The design spots clean lines and a simple layout which made it really easy to read. Best of all, the booklet also includes 2 pages of activity fun (4 activities in total) contributed by Little Day Out where they are related to the fables. 

All in all, it was a 50 mins well spent at the theatre. :)

About Aesop’s Fables
Date:                             26 February to 21 March 2015
Venue:                                 Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel
Recommended for:     3 to 13 year olds and families
Duration:                     50 minutes with no interval
Script & Lyrics: Brian Seward 
Music Arranged and Directed by: Bang Wenfu

You can purchase your tickets from Sistic here

Disclaimer: We were invited to watch the production and give our opinions of it. We were not compensated for the post. All opinions expressed are entirely ours.

If you have enjoyed this post, please follow me on my Facebook Page where I share my parenting thoughts, food photos (be prepared for tons of them!), early shout outs for giveaways and interact with you, my readers! You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Aureus Academy Giveaway!

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination
and life to everything.” - Plato

It's been 2odd years since Dumpling started her music education. She has been enjoying her classes and I came to know of Aureus Academy as some of Dumpling's friends are attending and enjoying their lessons there. I am excited to share that Aureus is giving away some Spring Camp passes (happening next week!) worth more than $400! 

Before we get to the giveaway, I wanted to add that I have been receiving questions via PMs on and off and thought to take the opportunity to reach out to Lawrence (co-founder of of Aureus Academy) and pose some of these questions to him! :) 

Me: Let's start off by telling us a bit more about Aureus Academy. 
Lawrence: Aureus Academy opened its first branch in September 2013 at Delfi Orchard. We currently have 3 locations which are at Delfi Orchard, Forum Shopping Mall and our new flagship at Rochester Mall. We have plans to open 2 more centres in the next year as well!

I was trained professionally as a concert pianist, and often received requests to teach privately. As we did more research, we realised there was a huge demand in Singapore for music teachers, but that the quality and experience varied greatly. We decided start Aureus Academy, that only hires professionally trained musicians who are able to work well with young children.

Me: how is Aureus Academy unique or different from the other music schools?
Lawrence: Our goal is to ensure that each and every child receives an excellent foundation and an enjoyable learning experience. Because of this, we only hire teachers who hold qualifications (Bachelor’s and Master’s) from performing arts universities. Several of our teachers even have glowing reviews from the Straits Times as solo performers! 

While these qualifications are very important, an equally important step is a training and assessment process that is unique to Aureus that ensures that teachers are able to communicate and work with the youngest students.

In addition to this, we allow, and encourage, parents to sit in lessons so they can actively participate in the development of their child’s musical journey. We understand that parents are busy and can’t always make time to sit in, so we've also designed our very own student handbook that allows for communication and updates on a weekly basis. Teachers keep parents informed of each lesson by writing in the student handbooks - technique, pieces, aural, sightreading, theory, and practice notes.

Our lessons are also specially designed to engage each student in a way that suits their learning style. Whether our students are interested in learning an instrument for fun or looking for exam certification, Aureus Academy teachers tailor the lessons so they are specific to the learning goals of each student. We have students who have never touched an instrument before, students who want to learn pop music such as Coldplay, and students who are preparing for exams (grades 1 - diploma). All of these students have their music lessons tailored to their goals by our highly qualified teachers!

Lastly, Aureus Academy parents don’t have to worry about make up lessons as we are extremely flexible. We understand that things come up last minute, children wake up sick, or you just forgot! Because all of our teachers are full-time, we are able to give you make up lessons whenever your schedule allows. We often extend lessons or arrange lessons on other days based on your preference and availability.

Me: I often receive questions from readers on how to choose a music school. Can you provide us with some tips?
Lawrence: I think that the most important thing is that the student and teacher have excellent chemistry. All parents should request a trial lesson (preferably free!) that allows you to see whether or not your child is receptive to the teacher and his/her teaching styles. We have always made it part of our core philosophy to offer free trials at Aureus Academy, as it is critical to see how your child and teacher work together before making any commitments.

Some things that you may like to look out for also include:

  • Make up lessons - What is the policy for make up lessons? Short notice and Vacation?
  • Changing times - Do they allow you to change times if needed? Sometimes activities come up in advance and you should be able to arrange for another day/time.
  • Changing teachers - Do the teachers change (frequently)? Sometimes, you pay for lessons and half of them are not with the teacher you want / had the trial with. What would be the reasons a teacher would be changed?
  • Response times - How long does it take for them to reply to emails or answer questions on the phone?
  • Hidden Fees - Are there any fees that are not made clear from the ads/brochures?
  • Parental involvement - Do they allow parents to sit in lessons? If not, what is their reason? Are you briefed after the lesson as to what happened in the lesson, what the homework is and what areas to support in child in?

Me: Should a child start with music appreciation?
Lawrence: At Aureus Academy, we believe that individual lessons are fundamental to ensure consistent learning and progress. While group lessons do allow for exposure, I have always felt strongly that the personalised attention received in an individual lesson allows for a more progressive and enjoyable learning experience.

Me: How would I know if my child has a flair in music? Should my child specialize in a particular instrument? If so, how do we choose it?
LawrenceMusic is a fundamental part of what makes us human. We believe that all children have equal potential, and while certain aptitudes or strengths may manifest themselves in different ways, it is the responsibility of the teacher to help discover and develop natural talent. When students are very young, we recommend learning the piano or violin in an individual setting as they are excellent instruments for developing a strong foundation.

Me: How is music is important to children?
LawrenceThe benefits of learning a musical instrument are too many to number! By learning a musical instrument, children develop motor skills, cognitive abilities, discipline and are able to broaden their emotional horizons. We fundamentally believe that learning a musical instrument can have a tremendous number of benefits later in your life, even if you choose a completely different profession. 

Many of the world’s greatest minds and leaders, such as Albert Einstein, Bill Clinton and recent Nobel Laureate (Nobel Prize for Medicine 2013) Dr. Thomas Sudhof all emphasize how important learning a musical instrument was to achieving their great successes.

Me: My child finds it tiresome to practice; is there any hard and fast rule about home practice? How do I make it interesting?
LawrenceThe key to success in practice is developing a regular routine. Children thrive on structure, and it’s critical that regular practice (even if only for 5-10 minutes) becomes a part of a daily routine. People often get stressed out about practice as they reserve everything at the last minute, which results in the negative learning experience. If parents can make practice a positive part of a daily routine (using rewards help!) it becomes a much more positive, and beneficial, experience for all.

Me: What do you think of exams? Is it a must?
LawrenceOne of our core values at Aureus Academy is helping each and every child (and their families) develop at their own pace and preferred method. We have students who do not take exams, while we have others who design all of their learning around them. We recommend that exams function as a  meaningful part of a learning process, and not just an end goal. In addition to this, 2 of our 3 centres (Delfi and Rochester) are exam centres for the Associated Board of the Royals Schools of Music. 

Keen to experience Aureus Academy's pedagogy and approach?  

I am pleased to share that Aureus Academy is giving away 2 passes to its Spring Camps! 
1 x 2 days of camp (Worth $274)
1 x 1 day of camp (Worth $149)

In this camp, your child will get a chance to be introduced to the great Masterworks of the Western Classical repertoire in its Musical Masterwork segment. Students will be exposed to the great performances of works such as the Beethoven Symphonies and Stravinsky’s Ballets. 

Not sure what instruments are suitable for your child? This camp also features a Instrumental Exploration where he/she is exposed to the various instrument families, the instruments of the orchestra and are even given the chance to try their hand at a variety of instruments! A hands-on introduction to orchestral instruments and guitar in respective families (strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion).

More details in the flyers below:

If you wish to register for the camp prior, Aureus Academy has extended some really attractive discount codes! Call 6235 6488 (after 11 March!) and:

Be the first 2 callers to quote Beanie’n’us 50% to get a 50% Discount (savings of more than $70!)

The next 5 callers to quote Beanie’n’us 1-5 will receive a 25% Discount (savings of almost $40!)

The last 5 callers to quote Beanie’n’us 6-10 will receive 10% Discount

Earn credits using Rafflecopter below: 
Do remember to leave a comment on the comment section on "Which is the activity that you look most forward to in this Spring Camp and why?"

You can share this post with your friends on your FB page for extra credits!
(For Singapore residents only) 
The more credits you earn, the higher your chances! :) 

:: Terms and Conditions:
- Camp is for children who are between 4 - 13 years old. 
- Entries that do not fulfill the requirements stated will be disqualified without notice.
- Winners will be notified by email, through the email address provided. 

- This giveaway is for Singapore residents only. 

About Lawrence Holmefjord-Sarabi 

Hailed by The Straits Times as “Awe Inspiring”, Lawrence Holmefjord-Sarabi is an active 
pianist on the international
 musical scene.  As a concerto soloist, Lawrence has performed Beethoven’s
 Piano Concerto No. 1 and Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Philharmonia Healdsburg and Ukiah Symphonies. Lawrence worked both privately and in public masterclasses with various artists such as Evelyne Brancart, Tomislav Baynov, Yong Hi Moon, Marian Hahn, Leif Ove Andsnes, Lori Kaufman, Melvyn Tan and Andre Watts.

In competition, Lawrence was awarded two of the top prizes at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music Concerto competition. He is also the very first American in the history of the competition to become both a finalist and a multi-prize winner. His performance of the Bartok 2nd piano concerto received enthusiastic reviews from The Straits Times which stated “It is not every day one gets to hear Bartok’s thorny Second Piano Concerto, and one played with such finesse and ferocity as the American Lawrence Holmefjord-Sarabi”. 
Lawrence was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and began his piano studies with Virginia Cayton followed by Dr. John Robert Ringgold, a pupil of Artur Schnabel. Lawrence’s prestigious teaching lineage (through Dr. Ringgold and Artur Schnabel) goes all the way back to Beethoven!
Lawrence completed his high school studies at the age of 16 (in an accelerated programme) before pursuing his conservatory auditions. Lawrence is a graduate (and full scholar) of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory where he was the first American pianist accepted in the history of the conservatory. 

About Aureus Academy:

Aureus Academy is Singapore’s fastest growing music school with nearly 1,000 students enrolled amongst its 3 centres. Aureus Academy specializes in providing individually tailored piano, violin, guitar, and vocal lessons to students of all ages and abilities. It also believes that one-on-one is the best environment to learn a musical instrument. Recently awarded “Best in one-to-one Music Lessons” by Parent’s World Magazine, Aureus Academy offers free trial lessons so you can experience it yourself!

Aureus Academy is located at the campuses below:

:: Forum The Shopping Mall
583 Orchard Road
#B1-18, Singapore 238884
Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 8:00pm
Saturday – Sunday: 9:00am – 7:00pm

:: Rochester Mall
35 Rochester Drive
#03-08/15, Singapore 138639
Monday – Friday: 1:00pm – 8:00pm
Saturday – Sunday: 9:00am – 7:00pm

:: Delfi Orchard
402 Orchard Road
#04-03/04, Singapore, 238876
Monday – Friday: 2:00pm – 8:00pm
Saturday – Sunday: 9:00am – 7:00pm

Phone: +65 6235 6488

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Primary One: Bento Ideas & FAQs

I am officially into week 9 of daily bento for the kiddo. While not exactly totally new to this (I did a 10-min breakfast challenge last year), I still consider myself a bento noob. But I guess that I did good! Besides the salmon udon and blueberry pancakes which Dumpling asked for, I survived 3 weeks of almost no repeats.

I am no bento expert but I figured if I can do it, so can you! So based on the interaction on my Blog FB Page, I decided to put together a list of common questions and share some popular recipes. Hope this is useful!

:: Questions

1) What do you use to keep the items warm? 

I don't unless it is porridge or soup. One of the prerequisites for us in choosing a Primary school (and we have been very blessed) is to choose a school that is near to our home. Because of the proximity, we leave home at 7+am daily and her recess is at 9+am. So, basically I do not see much need to use a warmer.

The only exception is when I prepare porridge / soup and this is what I use:

I bought this via a BP on Singapore Motherhood Forum eons ago and it is still working well (I have 2.) You can get it from Pupsik here

However, Dumpling shared that fried rice which I prepared previously was a tad hard and dry. Bearing that in mind, I will add in a bit more stock the next time I fry it so the rice grains are softer.

2) Where do you get your bento kits / items from?

I was very blessed because my in-laws went Japan last year and came back with a boxful of bento items for us. But I went through a buying craze where I placed some orders here. I was buying tons from Daiso as well as another online shop but I have lost the contact. I have also recently chanced upon another blogshop Jmamababy here where it has a pretty extensive list of bento items.

I also saw some really cute lunch boxes and lunch bags at JED packs which I bought too as I like that it comes with the shoulder straps so it frees up her hands. Cute no? :p
While I am at it, here's another that I am eyeing because I like the compartments:
TUMTUM Trainee Lunch Box

3) What are the essentials in doing a bento?

As mentioned, I am quite a noob but here's some things/tools that I use almost daily:

These picks definitely brighten up any bentos with their cute cartoon characters. (The below is the loot from my in laws!)

Mini trays / holders (silicone and I got them from Daiso)
These are a must if you pack fruits / side snacks.

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Bento boxes
I use a mix of snack boxes (like the elephant series below) as well as the bigger boxes where there are individual containers in them and I stuff them all into the lunch box:

I mix and match them according to the food items (for e.g. the 2-tier ones I use for noodles since I cannot place noodles with other items in the same later / box) hence I have quite a collection of bento boxes (20+ and still counting!)

Amongst my bento box stash are many which I have not unwrapped / used!

For sandwiches, fun stamps / cutters really makes it fun for my kiddo. Additionally,  I realised that when I cut these out and make them into mini sandwiches, the kid eats better and faster.

I also bought some shape cutters (letters of the alphabet and cute animals) and really had loads of fun making them into "open face sandwich" with messages last year:

Bento, Breakfast for Kids

4) What fruits do I pack in?
Based on the advice given by some mummy friends, I usually pack in fruits that are uncut (with the skin still on them) - blueberries, strawberries, grapes, bananas, small apples, peaches, plums as they do not oxidize as much. If I have any left over (especially from the berries, I make them into jams.)

Here's a quick look at the various items packed in her bento boxes:

And there you have it! Hope you find these simple tips useful! :)

Edit: (3 Jan 2016):
Fellow mum blogger Jenn often serves up healthy breakfast for her son. Here, she shares some quick 20-min recipes. :)

If you have enjoyed this post, please follow me on my Facebook Page where I share my parenting thoughts, food photos (be prepared for tons of them!), early shout outs for giveaways and interact with you, my readers! You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Parenting with Love: A reflection. 100 marks journey…

Dumpling is into her week 9 of Term 1 in formal school and so far, she has been doing great having comfortably settled into her school routine. At the homefront, I am still trying to work out a schedule where we have her activities out of school hours (dance / music / art, etc.) mapped out and balance it out with revisions, her homework and going through with her for spelling and 听写, etc.

I am still adamant about outdoor and play time so weekend mornings are wide open where we have play dates, catch a play / movie and head to the gardens or zoo. Twice to thrice a week, after work, I will bring her to the playground where she has half an hour of playtime too. Truthfully, it can sometimes be hard to balance this with her school work and revisions.

The chat group which we have has been very helpful as it allows me to clarify stuff (when to bring what files) and be updated on class matters. Amongst which are also teacher matters, assessment dates and at times, kids’ performances for some of these tests; the latter being more of a closed book matter as most parents do not share much on that end along with the extra activities their kids do too.

Recently a mum asked in the chat group how the kids did for that week’s 听写 and I was the only mum who shared. 

Coincidentally, a friend in a FB forum group shared this page in a book that she is reading:

(Excerpt is from Wow! 原来德国妈妈这样教孩子 by 赵丽荣著)

Loosely translated, it reads “if your neighbor was to comment that his/her child scored 100 points for his Math exam and asked how your child did, what would your answer be? What if your child was beside you, how would you then have answered him/her?”

In the group chat, I shared to say that kiddo knows her stuff but she was marked down because of her penmanship though I was nagging at her the night before. (Her U was tapered at the ends and while they didn't meet, it looked like a cross between an “a” and a “u”.) And the mum went on to ask, quite specifically, “So not 100 marks?” to which my reply was “Nope” and added that I did not fault the teacher for being strict as penmanship is one area especially for the Chinese Language where the strokes and all needed to be very precise.

So that got me reflecting over this 100 marks journey: are we, as parents, obsessed with this 100 marks journey and does it really make a load of difference if the kids get 100 marks for every spelling and 听写 test? Now, before you jump to the conclusion and say that I am saying this because the kiddo did not score 100 points for this 听写, please allow me to share that for English spelling, the kiddo has had perfect scores since the beginning of term.

On that reflection, take a moment and answer this: would it have bothered you?

My honest thoughts: was I annoyed that she lost marks over that “u”? Of course I was, specifically because I reminded and corrected her the night before. She had another incident in her first 听写 where she forgot the 标号 so she has a tendency to be careless. Now, if it were a question that she truly doesn't know, then of course, she cannot be faulted. But is it worth it to get ridiculously uptight over these mistakes? For me, nope.

It is not good for me to be obsessed with the perfect score as it is not good for my BP and definitely not healthy for her especially when she had a recent episode on being able to deal with mistakes. I have learnt to pick my battles and trust that she will learn to be more careful along the way. As a new P1 student, she is also feeling her way around as she has to deal with new faces, new teachers, new environment, etc.  I did share with her what the mummy asked and what my reply was and she has requested for me not to share on it anymore in that forum. I agreed to it as I have to respect her feelings too.

For myself, I have also learnt that some lessons are meant to be “lived”, not just learnt and well, she will remember one of these days. To me, it is also not so much as to how many marks she got for these tests but rather, what she does when she doesn't, that matters. Does she work harder? Is she resilient where she takes it in her stride and bounces back? For me as long as the knowledge is there and the attitude is right, I will be a paper tiger mum for the moment. J

Disclaimer: photo above is shared by a friend of mine which she borrowed from our library.

If you have enjoyed this post, please follow me on my Facebook Page where I share my parenting thoughts, food photos (be prepared for tons of them!), early shout outs for giveaways and interact with you, my readers! You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram. 
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