The beginning of Advent

We are keeping Christmas simple this year. We got a small tree and put up some decorations.

Then Sean asked, ‘Where’s that number thing that you always make for Christmas, Mama?’ Oops, no copping out this year then!

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So I whipped up this Advent calendar using materials I had in the house. It is similar to the ones I made last year and the year before. I love it because it is the one time in the year that I get to utilize the toilet rolls I have been hoarding all year!

The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent.

I mapped out our plans for December and included an activity for them to do every day (e.g. making popcorn, buying a present for your brothers, drink hot chocolate and marshmallows) till the 25th. We will be away for a week so I made sure to weave our holiday plans into the advent activities as well.

And since my boys are crazy about Pokémon Go this year, I added three Pokémon figurines (I got them from Qoo10), one for each of them, every day. So far, they are loving it!

It’s a really nice way for them to count down to Christmas. Here’s wishing you and your family a cozy Christmas!

A visit to Bollywood Veggies and Hay Dairies

On a particularly trying week, I thought we could all do with some cheering up. So I bundled everyone into the car and drove across the island to Bollywood Veggies for lunch.

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My boys happily roamed the plantation, poking their noses in the small nooks and crannies, balancing on tree stumps, checking out the scarecrows and picking up fruit as big as their head. They begged me for coins to make a wish at the wishing well (they refused to tell me what they wished for ‘coz then they wouldn’t come true, Mama!’). They also played basketball and hopscotch and were all sweaty from running around in the midday sun.

They had so much fun. I really think I should bring them for a kampong stay one day. Any suggestions?

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Thereafter, we tucked into a hearty lunch at Poison Ivy. Most of the food they served were grown within the plantation – our meal was wholesome and delicious. I wish they had more non-spicy options for children though!

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On our way out, we popped by Hay Dairies to see the goats. Too bad we missed the milking session (0900-1030 every day except Tuesday). The boys enjoyed seeing the baby goats and were very enthusiastic about feeding the goats – I think they were very well-fed that day, thanks to my boys.

We rounded off our visit with fresh goat’s milk. Mmm!

As it turned out, sunshine, fresh air and wholesome food were just what our weary souls needed 🙂

The boys are at the perfect age where they really enjoy such visits, and they remember them too. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, The Animal Resort and Farmart (all new to us) are next on our agenda!

PS. Our last visit to Bollywood Veggies, Jurong Frog Farm and Hay Dairies in 2015.

An All-Star Nick Junior Christmas at City Square Mall

‘Tis the season! If you love Nick Jr like my boys do, you are in for a real treat at City Square Mall this Christmas!

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Over the weekend, we gamely joined Dora the Explorer and her sidekick Boots on a journey together with PAW Patrol’s Chase and Marshall, and for the first time in Asia, Bubble Guppies’ Gil and Milly to deliver a Christmas present to Santa in the North Pole. With the help of Backpack and Map,  we found our way up the Snowy Mountains, to the Icy River and all the way to Santa’s home with lots of singing and dancing along the way.

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My boys, especially little Jo, was completely star-struck and really enjoyed the entire show 🙂

Definitely the most characters we have ever seen at a mall show – this is one Christmas adventure you wouldn’t want to miss!

Two more videos from the show that will surely get you in a groovy mood for Christmas:

Nick Jr –  A Present for Santa ‘Live’ on Stage

Date: 3 to 18 December (except on Mondays) 

Time: 2pm & 7pm on weekdays (except on Mondays), 1pm, 4pm & 7pm on weekends

Venue: L1 Atrium, City Square Mall

After the show, we also got to meet the boys’ favourite PAW Patrol characters Chase and Marshall and Gil and Molly from the Bubble Guppies.

Nick Jr All-Star Meet and Greet

Date: 3 to 18 December (except on Mondays) 

Time/Schedule:

Weekdays (except Mondays) 2.45pm: Dora and Boots; 7.45pm: Chase and Marshall, Gil and Molly. 

Weekends 1.45pm and 7.45pm: Chase, Marshall, Gil and Molly; 4.45pm: Dora and Boots

Venue: Basement 2 (near Travelators)

Conditions: With a minimum spend of $50, shoppers can redeem a Meet & Greet pass 1 hour before each live show, limited to 50 passes per session. 

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And that was not all. The boys were thrilled to venture outdoors and find that the City Green outdoor park had been transformed to an All-Star Nick Jr Wonderland!

They gamely tried their hand at the giant Team Umizoomi 1-2-3 Plink Game (super fun!), clambering atop the life-sized PAW Patrol vehicle displays, blowing bubbles just like the Bubble Guppies. There was also a Shimmer and Shine dress-up palace for girls. It can get pretty crowded so you can either try going during off-peak hours or be prepared to queue!

nick-jnr3While the boys were engrossed playing, we were suddenly surprised by falling snow! The boys were very amused. What a magical way to end our evening!

All-Star Nick Jr Wonderland

Date: 18 Nov 2016 to 1 Jan 2017

Time: 12pm to 10pm daily

Venue: L1 City Green (Outdoor Park)

Conditions: Shoppers can redeem a Wonderland Pass at L2 Customer Service Counter with a minimum spend of $40. 

Snowfall Playtime

Time: 8pm & 9pm daily (subject to weather conditions

Venue: L1 City Green (Outdoor Park)

Feliz Navidad, amigos! Happy holidays 🙂

Have wheels, will go places

After years of not touching our bikes (since the kids came along), we have finally figured out how to go cycling with three kids!

Thanks to a flash sale that I spotted on Decathlon, I managed to get my hands on this bike trailer for a steal and it can fit two of the boys perfectly! (It has since sold out and been discontinued, sorry!)

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So we have been cycling to the neighbourhood park on weekend evenings. If we ride both our bikes (one fixed with a child seat and the other the trailer), we can go places, yay! And we get a really good leg, no, whole body workout from the exertion too!

I have to say though it’s a bit scary to cycle on the main roads with the trailer because it is a bit wobbly sometimes so I think we will stick to cycling in parks (and always wear helmets)!

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The boys love sitting in the trailer and watching the world go by. Sean usually scoots along behind the entourage or just squeezes himself into the trailer, though I really hope he will be confident to cycle (on two wheels) for longer distances soon so we can all go riding together 🙂

I would love to attempt the awesome park connectors we have around the island as a family soon. To more cycling adventures!

A little makeover for the boys’ room

I last wrote about my boys’ room last year when they had just gotten their bunk bed in anticipation of Jordan’s arrival.
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1.5 years on, the boys are older and err, still not quite sleeping on their rooms!

In that time, they have amassed more toys and books and they were overflowing from the shelves and driving me a little crazy. So I thought we were due for a little room spruce-up 🙂

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Lesser toys, more room

I shifted the bunk bed away from the window so we can now open and close the blinds without hitting the bed every single time.

Then I shifted the KALLAX toy shelf over to the window and set it up horizontally instead of vertically. The arrangement instantly opened up their toy storage area which made it easier for the boys to display and access their toys, as well as clean up after they are done playing.

Definitely one of those why-didn’t-I-do-this-sooner moments 😉

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I also did a massive tidying and whittling down of their toys because I realized my boys always play with the same few toys (Tinkertoys, Zoob, Magnatiles, DUPLO/LEGO) all the time. Of course, they have their masak-masak toys, NERF guns, toy swords and light sabers too. One day I will write a post of their fave toys!

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I highly recommend putting toys into the clear DAISO shoeboxes so you don’t have to deal with odd-sized boxes and you can tell at one glance what is inside.

I packed up all of the baby toys for my nephew and gave away a lot of their lesser played-with toys. My pet peeves are soft toys, battery-operated toys (which always spoil very quickly) and toys that come in many little parts that would inadvertently get lost. I wanted to give away our Mother Garden toy kitchen too because a lot of the hooks/drawers have broken off but Jo still loves playing with it so that will stay for a while more.

Still some way to go on the toy decluttering front 😉

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Clothes

The best thing I have done for all our clothes at home is folding them like little parcels and standing them up in their drawers (all thanks to tidying guru Marie Kondo!) so you can see all the clothes at one glance and extract an item easily without messing up the rest.

I try to limit the amount of clothes the boys have to two drawers each. That really forces me to keep my shopping in check and makes me go through their clothes very regularly to sort out the outgrown/torn ones (my boys wear holes in the knees part of their pants ALL THE TIME!). I also swapped Jo (top) and Sean’s (bottom) drawers around so Jo can access his clothes on his own.

On top of their drawers, I hung up all their shirts and put all their commonly shared/accessed items such as bath towels, school PE shirt and shorts, hankies, singlets, socks, undies, diapers in neat compartment boxes for easy retrieval.

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Decorations

I put up a cheery bunting (from 3littlepicks) on their room wall as well as a Meri-Meri bunting (with their initials) on their room door. Erm yes, I need to get the wooden alphabets for Jordan 😉

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To decorate the walls, I put up some of their canvas paintings they have done over the years (using 3M velcro tapes which I swear by). Seemed like a pity not displaying them so up they went on the wall.

(If you are wondering what is that squiggly black thing on their bunk beds, that’s the handiwork of my monkeys who like to hang off the black ribbon meant to hold the bed slats together!)

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One thing I really need to get for this room is a new height chart. Their existing one is entirely blocked by the bed now.

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Books

We have about 3 medium-sized book shelves, and that’s really all the space we have for books in our house.

With this round of spring-cleaning, I finally packed up most of our baby books for my nephew and gave away a fair bit of our lesser-read books too (we like to drop our pre-loved books off at Dignity Mama).

We still buy books for the children (usually their favourites like Pokémon or Star Wars or Power books) but we try to borrow most of our books from the library nowadays because the boys go through them very quickly. I heart our local libraries – I am a frequent user of their reservation system for our books – and we try to visit different libraries every two weeks.

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It is not a radical makeover but I am happy the room is much brighter and neater now. The children are able to access their toys and clothes more easily now. With three kids, I am all for teaching them independence!

My next big project is to carve out a proper study space for the boys – right now, they do their work on the dining table – but that will require someone (ahem) to give up his precious man cave 😉

PS. The boys’ room last year and when we first got the bunk bed (so bare then!).

Sean’s experience at Little Executive

For the past few months, Sean has been attending weekly classes at The Little Executive.

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Helmed by two passionate and very capable educators (one of whom is none other than Mummy-of-Six Extraordinaire Mummy Wee), The Little Executive has a very interesting curiculum that is geared towards equipping children with executive functioning skills (or you could call them life skills).

Their tagline ‘From Classroom to Boardroom’ embodies  the 3 key pillars – Essential skills, Learning habits, and a Growth mindset which combine to create a powerful resource for children to develop and hone the high level cognitive skills required for first the classroom, and later the boardroom.

These pillars support children’s abilities to observe, think strategically, come up with new ideas, negotiate, and eventually make good decisions. The children are trained to question, ponder and follow the thought processes to enable them to push frontiers and pursue their dreams.

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If you have met Sean in person, you will find that Sean is a bit of a daydreamer. As a result, he sometimes has trouble sitting still, focusing on a task or paying attention to things going around him. Things like that don’t really matter when you are in kindergarten but the primary school environment may not be as forgiving anymore. As a parent, I am concerned of course and I would like to see how we can help him do better in this aspect.

The emphasis of the Little P1 Executive curriculum is on building:

  • Systematic, sensory-based, process-oriented learning practices
  • Detailed observation, clear analysis, and logical conclusion abilities
  • New associations and the vocabulary to make sense of new topics, subjects, and concepts
  • Multi-step thinking, solution formation, error analysis, and methodical approach
  • Expressive, narrative, descriptive, original, and elaborated communication skills
  • Social thinking and foundational self-awareness and reflection
  • Independent goal setting, planning, and organization
  • Accurate processing and ability to think under pressure

The hour-long classes are well-structured with a clear objective for every activity. The teachers were very patient and experienced in identifying each child’s strength and weaknesses and knew how to push them to do better. I look forward to their weekly updates because they are always spot-on on their observations of my boys!

Let me walk you through some of the activities they go through during a regular session to give a better idea of what you can expect at The Little Executive:

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First, the children start with some warm-up exercises:

  • Crossing the Midline (do click on the link to understand why it is so important!) is a simple exercise where the children walk slowly in a straight line whilst deliberately ‘crossing’ their legs over to the other side at every step. The ability to cross the midline is important because this encourages the left and right sides of the brain to communicate well together in order to coordinate learning and movement.
  • The children played a simple game where they take turns initiating a certain sequence of actions (for example, snap fingers -> put hands on head -> shoulder tap) in a certain rhythm and the rest of the class will follow suit. This tests their sense of rhythm, ability to follow non-verbal cues and improves their hand-eye coordination. Not as easy as it sounds!

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Then it was onto their first activity: Bobo’s Pokemon Go! (How clever of the teachers to use such a trendy theme to draw the children’s attention – little wonder why Pokemon-mad Sean is so enthusiastic about the classes!)

For Part 1 – Build your own 3D playground, Teacher Miss M showed the children how to construct their own 3D box without saying a word. So the children have to pay close attention to what Miss M was doing with her hands and this hones their ability to pick up non-verbal cues.

Then with their very own 3D grid and using Bobo the bear as a point of reference, the children were asked which Pokemon character was in front of Bobo the bead, behind, on the right and on the left. This builds on their perspective taking and ability to figure out directions and orientation.

In Part 2 – ‘Gotta Catch them all’, the children learned how to switch between 3D and 2D by changing the direction of Bobo in their 3D playground and filling in the worksheet with the corresponding answers.

We live in a three-dimensional world but children are expected to learn with a two-dimensional (verbal) model. Schools expect children to sit and listen to a teacher and re-produce the information in paper (worksheet) form.

This 3D-to-2D mapping and vice versa is thus a key mental manipulation and it encompasses spatial orientation and visualisation, thus being able to see things on paper in a 3D form.

Multi-dimensional thinking is a critical skill needed in primary school and it enables children to consider a problem from several dimensions, rather than adopting one approach. It is desirable because not only does it allow for greater intellectual penetration, a multi-dimensional thinker has the ability to think critically, without relying heavily on framework.

The benefits of multi-dimensional thinking are in all academic areas, including math sums, creative writing and comprehension.

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The second activity is called Stroop exercises with +/- 1. In essence, the children have to call out the numbers on a grid (called Stroop numbers). Later they progress to calling out the colours of the numbers and then the teacher decides if each child is ready for an additional challenge of +/- 1.

When that is completed, the activity is stepped up using Uno cards. As teacher flips 1 card at a time, children have to listen to the instructions and call out either the number, colour, or +/- 1.

This activity helps develop selective attention and ability to block out distractions and information you do not need. It is also the best way to develop processing speed, improve the ability to manage multiple instructions and train executive functioning.

The third activity is Mental Math (Uno Stress).

In this game, everyone opens 4 cards each and places one card in the middle. They have to place a card which is +/- 1 on top of the card in the middle, if they have them in their pile. The first one to clear all his cards wins.

This activity trains processing speed which is one of the key measures of cognitive proficiency. It involves the ability to automatically and fluently perform relatively easy or over-learned cognitive tasks, especially when high mental efficiency is required.

I like how Miss M would ask the children after they have completed a round how they think they could improve their strategy (e.g. put their deck of cards on the table versus holding the cards in their hand) and would challenge them to do better at another attempt. Who can resist a good challenge? And they always do improve!

Sean loves this game – his takeaway is always to pay 100% attention to the game so he can win 🙂

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At the end of every lesson, the children would summarise what he or she had learnt that day and set goals for the week. This guides children to focus on the ‘how’ i.e. the steps they need to take in order to achieve the goals, and reinforces the lessons learnt in class.

Sean’s goals over the ten weeks revolved largely around paying full attention to the task on hand and focusing on completing one task at a time. He made it a point to paste his ‘goal card’ on his cupboard in his room every week to remind himself of the lessons he has learnt in class.

Sean looked forward to his weekly classes because they were admittedly very different from the academic enrichment classes he regularly attends and he enjoyed the games and activities very much. I appreciated that the teachers would provide very detailed feedback on the child’s progress after every lesson – I definitely learnt a thing or two from them!

Most importantly, we did see a subtle and gradual improvement in Sean’s maturity and ability to focus on a task over the weeks. These things really do take time and practice, but I was heartened to see him being more responsible and mindful of his own behaviour. Hopefully, the lessons he has learnt will stay with him and he would be able to apply them in his long learning journey ahead!

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If you are keen, The Little Executive will be conducting free trial classes on 26 November 2016 (Saturday) for N2 to P1 children. You can find the timings here and write to knockknock@thelittleexecutive.asia to book a slot. I personally found the trial class very informative and enlightening – do go for it with your child if you can!

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This year end, do check out The Little Executive holiday camps as well! You can read about Ryan’s out-of-this-world Astronaut Training Camp adventure here.

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DINO DISCOVERY CAMP (N2 – P4), 29 November – 2 December

Your mini paleontologist will embark on a dino-dig, unearthing ancient dinosaur fossils and working together as a team to reconstruct a dinosaur skeleton! They will trace how dinosaurs lived through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, while learning about evolution. The kids will need to harness their acute powers of observation to identify each bone and work collaboratively to put the pieces together. This project highlights inductive and deductive reasoning skills, sequencing and problem-solving abilities.

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ASTRONAUT TRAINING CAMP, 13-16 December (K1- P4)

Calling all little astronauts! This December holidays, let us take your child on a mission to Outer Space. Through this unique 4-day camp, aspiring astronauts will hone their problem solving skills to complete Space Missions, enhance their teamwork and communication skills as they work together as a crew, and sharpen their sensory systems while exploring new territories.

P1, HERE I COME!, 6 – 9 December (K2s only)

Get your little one all set for Primary school with our 4-day prep camp aimed at honing essential skills used daily in the classroom. Through a series of fun and engaging activities, your child will enhance his ability to listen and remember, pay attention in class, think and ask questions and communicate effectively. Join us for a P1 prep camp that will help your child grow to become an independent and confident learner!

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Sean and Ryan are looking forward to the holiday classes for sure. If you are signing up, you can quote ‘olimomok15’ for a 15% discount. Thanks, The Little Executive, for having us!

Disclaimer: We were sponsored for a term of lessons for the purpose of writing this review. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions are my own, and the pleasure was all ours! 

Christmas Made Perfect at Frasers Centrepoint (and Alice in Wonderland: The Musical which you must not miss!)

It’s that time of the year again – the Christmas festivities have just descended upon Orchard Road! If you are heading to town to partake in the merry-making, you cannot miss The Centrepoint’s enchanting display of the Christmas Clockwork Kitchen!

The Centrepoint Lights Up for The Perfect Christmas!

Source: The Centrepoint

With the cutest army of Gingerbread men baking up a storm, a gumball life-sized glasshouse, a giant chocolate fountain and even a candy cane throne cookies, the storefront display is really something else, and I am pretty sure they are going to win the ‘Best Dressed Building’ prize that they are gunning for!

Source: The Centrepoint

We were lucky enough to be invited to The Centrepoint’s Charity Show over the weekend, where we were treated to a highly entertaining theatrical performance Alice in Wonderland, The Musical.

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It was such a treat for both grown-ups and children alike to follow Alice down the rabbit hole.

The cast (from Canada) was truly amazing – they wore the fanciest costumes, sang and danced to popular songs like ‘Eye of the Tiger’,  with much aplomb, performed acrobatic stunts and magic tricks.

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The 40-minute long performance was both wacky and whimsical, and we loved it! I can’t believe it is for free!

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Some (shakily shot) excerpts from the show if you are keen:

From now till 20 November 2016, you can catch Alice in Wonderland, The Musical  at The Centrepoint. There are two showtimes daily:

Show 1
1pm – 1.30pm : Parade in Costumes
1.30pm – 2.10pm : Stage Show
2.10pm – 2.40pm : Meet & Greet

Show 2
6pm – 6.30pm : Parade in Costumes
6.30pm – 7.10pm : Stage Show
7.10pm – 7.40pm : Meet & Greet

That’s not all – there’s also Hi-5 and Chatterbox live performances happening at the Frasers Centrepoint malls around the island. Hi-5 performances are always top-notch – I am definitely going to make a trip (or two or three) down!

There are many more events and activites happening at the Frasers Centrepoint malls in the lead-up to Christmas, such as Christmas fun fairs, roving mascots, Christmas carolling and craft and cupcake decorating workshops and lots more. You can also get a Gingerbread plush toy for purchases $80 and above (you can see my boys hugging theirs in the our pics above).

I hope I have given you enough reasons to head down this Christmas 🙂

A peek at the Singapore Biennale 2016: An Atlas of Mirrors

As a special Friday night treat, we checked out the Singapore Biennale 2016 at the Singapore Art Museum with the older boys.

Titled An Atlas of Mirrors, the biennale showcases contemporary art in South-east Asia. You can expect to see exhibits that map and reflect the complex social, political, geographical and historical relationships shared by people and places in Asia. Its aim is to foster a deeper understanding of the culture and histories of our neighbouring countries, and help viewers consider how they picture the world and themselves from where they stand.

We didn’t manage to cover all the exhibits at SAM during our visit (because, kids) but here are some of the thought-provoking exhibits we really enjoyed:

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Inscription of an Island by local artist Lim Soo Ngee

It is hard to miss the huge bronze hand sculpture emerging from the ground in front of SAM’s front lawn. In Lim’s imagination, this was once part of a colossal statue that guided the ships of an ancient, mythical civilisation. But the statue collapsed and, being too large to be moved, was left to nature. Subsequently, the islanders drew a circle around the hand and used it as a sundial. The artist asks: might Singapore have had a Bronze Age to call its own? In proposing myth upon myth, Lim extends our sense of history beyond historical records.

The boys couldn’t resist clambering all over it of course. Great place for a photo op!

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Paracosmos by Harumi Yukutake (Japan)

The spiral stairway decked out in hand-cut (!) circular mirrors was a grand sight to behold.

As we ascended the flight of stairs, we found ourselves marveling at the ever-changing psychedelic glimpses of fragmented objects and mirrors within mirrors.

Shaped by Shinto ideas of interconnectivity, the mirror reveals itself as a paradoxical device: able to hold every other image by having no inherent image, it canenfold an ‘everywhere’ by being a ‘nowhere’ in itself. (Extracted from Singapore Biennale)

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Locus Amoenus by Ryan Villamael (Philippines) (top left)

Latin for a “pleasant place”, Villamael’s ‘greenhouse’ houses unusual foliage: intricate cut-outs created from archaic and contemporary Philippine maps. Coalescing notions of nature and nurture, culture and the cultivated, the work probes the imaging of the Philippines’ fraught history as the country that endured the longest colonial rule in Southeast Asia. (Extracted from Singapore Biennale website)

This was one of my favourite exhibits because it truly did look like a beautifully landscaped greenhouse filled with cascading foliage situated in the most perfect location, the century-old glass chapel of the SAM building. When you go up close to examine the intertwining leaves, you will find that they are intricately cut out of old maps and painstakingly wired together. Yet another great place for a photo op!

The Skeleton of Makara (The Myth of a Myth) by Tan Zi Hao (Malaysia) (top right)

At first glance, you may be mistaken to think this was a dinosaur skeleton, as was I.

But no, this was a fabricated skeleton of a ‘makara’, one of the most prevalent mythological icons in Southeast Asia which has its origins in Hinduism. It looked like an elephant-crocodile hybrid with the tusks of a wild boar and the tail of a fish.

The artist’s intention is to provide a ‘scientific’ basis to myth through presenting paleontological ‘evidence’; the replica of a fossil is intentionally incomplete to make it more believable. The artist shows how the dissemination of an icon such as the makara has influenced our historical narratives, and reveals how our construction or representation of history is sometimes based on something totally chimerical and imaginary, even absurd. (Extracted from Singapore Biennale website)

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Noah’s Garden II by Deng Gaoyun (China)

Entering the installation was akin to walking into a life-sized kaleidoscope. We were treated to a exploding feast of vibrant colours from the garden of artificial flora and labyrinth of mirrors which somewhat distort our perception of what was real and what was not. T’was an out-of-this-world experience!

In applying the colour schemes from maps the artist has examined to these artificial plants and classically-referenced ‘scholar rocks’ he has created, the artist defies the conventional systems of colour-coding in map-making, recasting the world with a renewed hope for the integration of richness and diversity and the resolution of conflicts. By evoking scepticism and uncertainty, his work raises doubt about the validity and accuracy of map-making; it creates a utopia while simultaneously disassembling it. (Extracted from Singapore Biennale website)

A word of caution here – the experience of walking through the kaleidoscope is rather disorientating so you may have to watch your children closely and not let them run headlong into the revolving mirrors!

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History Repeats Itself by Titarubi (Indonesia)

History Repeats Itself is a meditation on the history of power, seeking to make visible the legacies of colonial conquest in Southeast Asia. The burnt-out ships in this installation recall the ominous appearance of European armadas on the horizon during the early centuries of European colonialism. At the same time they make reference to the burning of ships in Indonesia by the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company or VOC) in an attempt to seize control of the lucrative spice trade. Standing atop the charred ships are shadowy, cloaked figures. Their robes are made of gold-plated nutmeg, a spice once worth its weight in gold, over which countless wars were fought. Their rich sheen suggests grandiosity and pomp, and their hollowness conjures the illusoriness of riches and power: at its heart, empty. They are spectres from the past, a dark mirror to our present. (Extracted from Singapore Biennale website) 

My picture doesn’t do the exhibit much justice but this was hauntingly beautiful and thought-provoking. I just had to go up close to inspect the gold robes which were indeed entirely made out of the humble nutmeg. Very impressive!

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Whilst browsing the exhibits, we also stumbled across The Learning Gallery: Once Upon This Island (which is not part of the Biennale as I came to understand later, ha).

Commissioned for Singapore’s SG50 Jubilee celebrations, Once Upon This Island explores the stories and lives that surround us and abound on this island-nation. Featuring selected works from the Singapore Art Museum’s permanent collection as well as new commissions, ‘Once Upon This Island’ navigates ideas of home, community, identity and memory, and raises pertinent and timely questions on what it means to live in contemporary Singapore – an urbanised, ever-changing city-state and island, set between peninsula and archipelago.

I am sure most, if not all, of the exhibits like the eponymous blue-white flip-flops and pictures of Chinese red lanterns the neighbourhood ‘Mama shop’ with the very apt slogan ‘Everything you need is right here’ would resonate with most Singaporeans.

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And if you are bringing your kids along, don’t miss Think! Contemporary Exhibitiona parallel project of the Singapore Biennale.

The Think! Contemporary Exhibition features students’ artworks from several primary schools in Singapore exploring various themes such as Family, Home, Community, Identity and the Environment, a response to the issues and ideas investigated by the artists featured in the Learning Gallery.
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I was very impressed with the standard of sophisticated and well-thought out exhibits by the students. There were paintings and excerpts hung on washing lines out of HDB towers, intricate seascapes made out of recycled materials, impressive shadow boxes and clay villages and gorgeous embroidery pieces, just to name a few.

This is a lovely place to bring the children – definitely a refreshing change from the other ‘grown-up’ art from the Biennale!

All in, there’s a lot to see at the Biennale (we didn’t even manage to visit the 8Q building) and you can expect to spend at least half a day inside. I would actually recommend not bringing kids to the Biennale if you really want to browse and savour the exhibits at a leisurely pace.

The Singapore Biennale 2016 runs from now till 26 February 2017 across eight exhibition venues in Singapore. Entry fee for Singaporeans/PR adults is $15, students at $7.50 and free entry for children 6 years and below. You could also purchase the family package for $36. More details here. Definitely worth a visit! 

A misty morning at MacRitchie

We have been spending a lot of outdoor time as a family. It helps somewhat with the grief. Being out with nature is extremely therapeutic for the soul 🙂

We had a rare Deepavali weekend with no classes for the boys so we decided on a whim to head to MacRitchie Reservoir to do the Treetop Walk .

The weather has been quite cool and pleasant recently so it was a great day for a hike. The boys were raring to go as you can see.

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We didn’t really plan our route and just hopped on Lornie Trail. Quite a pleasant experience tramping through the forest. We had fun spotting wild and flowers and odd-shaped leaves, small bugs and fish with the kids.

Sean did great, running most of the way with Grandma. After a while though, we had to take turns carrying the younger two. Ryan kept complaining about the muddy ground – I think I need to bring them on hikes more often to toughen them up.

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Alas, the route came to a dead-end at the SICC golf course (which was closed for renovations). By then, it had started drizzling too so we decided to head back. On hindsight, we should have taken the Venus Trail to get to the Treetop Walk. Ah well, we will know better next time.

The sky opened up just as we reached to the carpark and we managed to escape relatively unscathed. Not too bad for a morning’s hike – we still got a good 4km under our belt 🙂

 

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I am part of Fit Mummy Nation on Facebook – do ‘Like’ the group if you can. In spite of our busy lives, we believe strongly in keeping active lifestyles for the family and inculcating healthy mindsets in our little ones. For the months of November and Decemeber, we will be sharing posts on fun outdoor places to bring kids around Singapore with a list of things to bring and look out for, tips, etc. Click here for a much better writeup of MacRitchie tree-top walk done by another Mummy with three kids!

A review of SRT The Little Company’s Charlotte’s Web

Over the weekend, we brought the boys to watch Charlotte’s Web by Singapore Repertory Theatre’s The Little Company (TLC).

We have been lucky enough to watch many of TLC’s recent productions and we have always been very impressed by the standard of their work. My boys, especially Jo, still sing the songs and talk about the plays all the time. I am very happy to report Charlotte’s Web certainly lived up to our high expectations!

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If you haven’t read the book, Charlotte’s Web is an enchanting story of a pig named Wilbur who develops an unlikely friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. To avoid Wilbur being sent to the butcher, Charlotte proves to be a true friend by coming to his rescue. Charlotte uses her web-spinning skills to weave messages that praise Wilbur, making him a celebrated pig treasured by the farmer and his family.

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The hour-long play was very well-paced and the actors were stellar in their multiple roles, portraying every role to perfection. We thought Charlotte (played by Sharda Harrison) was particularly outstanding with her hypnotic acrobatic moves, cool spider costume and heartfelt acting. The cleverly-designed set and props did not go unnoticed too. Do expect a fair bit of dialogue with minimal song and dance – I would think the play is probably more suited to children aged 5 and above.

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On the whole, the story was quite eventful and captivating from start to end. Even little Jo enjoyed it tremendously and had tons to talk about after the show ended 😉

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Here’s a little stop motion animation video of Charlotte’s Web:

Charlotte’s Web is a poignant play that spins a positive message about courage and friendship. Probably one of my favourite TLC plays to date. Do bring your children to watch it before it ends!

DATES: From now till 11th December 2016, Weekends & Public Holiday : 11am & 2pm
Weekdays : 10am; 28 Oct 2016 (Fri) : 3pm

PRICES: From $25 – excluding SISTIC fee

Please refer to www.sistic.com.sg for more information about Group discounts/ Family Packages available.

VENUE: KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT, 20 Merbau Road

TICKETS: SISTIC at 6348 5555 or www.sistic.com.sg

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Disclaimer: We received complimentary tickets for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received. All photos except the last one are from SRT. All opinions are our own and as always, the pleasure was all ours!