Welcoming the Year of the Dog

Chinese New Year is upon us!

On the first day of Year of the Dog, we woke up to a very clean house, a table laden with CNY snacks and mandarin oranges. (Thanks to all the hard work the past few days!)The kids wished us 新年快乐 and we blessed them with their first angpows for the new year 🙂We got dressed – the boys in lovely Missy Messy shirts for the first time – and snapped some family pics. The props made for nice pictures even though the lion dance troupe was not so reliable! Then we paid a visit to my in-laws. The boys served tea and wished the grandparents happiness and good health. Also snapped some pics with all 6 cousins which was a bit nutty!
Then we went home for CNY lunch. My little nephew greeted us in his traditional Vietnamese costume and baby niece matched her red angpow perfectly! It was a tall order getting four wriggly boys (and one sleeping baby) to smile nicely for the camera. I think we did good! They ran away screaming with joy when the last photo was taken 😉
We had another round of lo hei at home. My mother prepared a splendid spread of CNY dishes – pen cai (filled with so much goodness), BBQ pork ribs, abalone and veggies stir fry, pumpkin soup just to name a few. I was more than happy to eat the leftovers for dinner.

That about summed up our CNY festivities – I think we were all secretly glad we could finally sit back and relax and enjoy the long weekend ahead.

Wishing all a happy and bountiful year of the Dog ahead!

Reunion dinner on CNY eve

The past weeks have been a flurry of activities as we prepared for the arrival of Chinese New Year.

We (by we, I mean I) did some springcleaning around the house (best time to declutter and throw things!) and decorated the house (quite minimally). I tried to keep the buying of things to a minimum – I didn’t even buy ba kwa this year! I got mandarin oranges and a small stash of CNY snacks. Also decided to make some that I actually liked to eat so I baked pineapple tarts, salted egg yolk cookies (so good!) and hae bee hiam cookies (not so good).  Of course, to ensure a bountiful year ahead, we also remembered to get new clothes and shoes, top up the rice jar, washed the cars and pumped petrol! PHEW!

(I wish we had made it to Chinatown though – we never seem to every year!)

We had reunion lunch with my in-laws the weekend before.

Then, on the night of CNY eve, we gathered for steamboat reunion dinner. My mum and helper were busy all day cleaning the house, buying groceries and preparing food for the steamboat (I was working that day) while the kids ran amok underfoot.My month-old niece joined us for the first time. We did the usual lo-hei (which Jo would later call the ‘rising up thing’) and dug into the steamboat. The kids also roasted marshmallows for fun. Yum!

Then we shoo-ed the kids to bed so we could clean the house and do the last round of laundry before the clock struck twelve. I also put out all the snacks, packed angpows and put out the snacks and laid out our clothes and shoes for the next day.

Goodbye, Year of the Chicken!

Ryan is 6!

A week after Jo turned 4, Ryan turned six on 5 Feb 2018.

As it is his last year in kindergarten, I tried my best to make his birthday a memorable one. Ryan being Ryan has a lot of expectations of his birthday. He chose what design he wanted on the cake, he reminded me to prepare a gift for him and told me he wanted to go to a trampoline park as a treat (we let the kids choose one ‘special’ place to go to for their birthdays).He was a bit shy about wearing his own clothes to school – he said he wanted to be in school uniform (okay I would feel the same way as a child too) – but I told him it was his special day so he should bask in it! Finally he agreed. Snapped some pics with his balloons before we sent them to school.Ryan was very sure he wanted a Pokeball cake. I started on the cake really late and was frosting it till 2.30am!!! Pikachu’s face was really hard to get right – I must have re-did his face at least 10 times. Turned out ok in the end – it did look homemade and the red Pokeball part could be redder. Sometimes I wonder why I like to torture myself – why don’t I just fork out the money to buy a cake?!! My kids wouldn’t care! A mother’s love knows no bounds, haha.Very cute to see Ryan with his teachers and friends – I still remember celebrating his first birthday in kindergarten and he has grown so much! The cake was yummy and Ryan went to share some with his previous teachers as well. It was quite rushed affair and I felt like we were disrupting the children’s day so we didn’t stay around for long. Hope Ryan had a good time!

We got Ryan a Scrabble set – which Sean and I have been enjoying a lot, haha. Ok I am sure he would enjoy the trampoline park treat.

Happy 6th birthday to my sweet and funny Ryan! We love you!

A Paw Patrol birthday party for Ryan and Jo

On Feb 3, we held a joint birthday celebration for Ryan and Jo who share birthdays that are six days apart.

They chose a Paw Patrol theme – I kept the theming quite light as I didn’t want to spend too much money buying tacky party favours that would be thrown away after the party. Anyway, half of our guests are Sean’s age so I didn’t think they would care much for the theme!Jo wanted to help me with the birthday chalkboard this year. I thought he did a very good job.

We actually blew two big bunches of helium balloons but the wind was so strong that day the chalkboard fell and broke and all our balloons flew away. Sigh. The saving grace was, the weather was really good that day. (I was quite worried because the weather forecast was heavy rain!!!)

We didn’t do a barbecue so my mum and my helper spent all day prepared all the food for the party – we had the usual fried beehoon, deviled eggs, salad, fish/sotong balls and freshly squeezed fruit juice. Foops grilled satay and chicken wings during the party.We had quite a small group of children this time round. First game to warm them up: Pin the badge on Marshall. Everyone gave it a go an Easy peasy game! We played Pass the Parcel next with silly forfeits like ‘Bark like a dog,’ ‘Lick someone’, ‘Name the Paw Patrol dogs’, ‘Do a silly dog dance’ and ‘Give the birthday boys hugs’.

The children are a bit more self-conscious but they are usually quite sporting anyway. I foresee some of the older children will not want to play this game soon!Next we played a simple dartboard game just for the fun of it. (Foops’ idea coz he just bought it from Decathlon so I just went with it)

We also tried out a funny game a la A Minute To Win It: Suck It Up. The children just had to suck up as many Smarties as they could with a straw. Quite chaotic but the children enjoyed it. If we had to play it again we would probably use individual plates coz… saliva. Gross.

Throughout the entire party, the children would randomly come up to me to ask me the Treasure Hunt was. Even when we were playing other games. They were so happy when I declared it was Treasure Hunt time – they went to grab their own goodie bags (so well-trained by my past parties) and waited patiently for us to flag them off. CHIONG AHHHHH!

So cute to see the children run around looking for treasure. I was really time-strapped this year so I just got a lot of snacks and a drink (10 different types!) so they could hunt to their little hearts’ content.Happy kids showing off their snacks loot! For the birthday cakes this year, I ordered an awesome Paw Patrol jelly cake (from Aunty Yochana Jelly Cake on FB). So much work had gone into each jelly cake – I was more than happy to fork out money to pay for it! I also ordered Paw Patrol-themed Nutella blossoms (steamed cupcakes) from Sucre Delices. It was a bit too much cake for our party 😉We gathered and sang the birthday song. Happy birthday boys!

Last but not least, it was piñata time! I wasn’t too keen to make a Paw Patrol badge or bone so I made a watermelon-shaped piñata. Easy to make and so cheery and cute! Have to say it held up pretty well against the violent children. Took many, many rounds to bash it open!Check out the crazy kids scrambling for sweets! Don’t eat too much and remember to brush your teeth!

For the goodie bags, I gave out cute socks (from Taiwan), a story book/notebook, necklaces for the girls and small toys for the boys. Hope everyone had fun 🙂

We didn’t manage to play this game at the party as it was too windy so I made the boys play it at home just for laughs.

Dear Jojo, you are four! I am so happy I am still your favourite person. You like to be very manja with me and cuddle up to me (you still like to pretend you are my baby) and follow me everywhere I go. You can speak a bit of Chinese and you sometimes like singing Chinese songs together with Ryan. You can write your ABCs and 123s though you still flip them around sometimes. You like cutting and pasting things, signing them off ‘Love, JOJO’ and giving them to me. The three of you play together a lot and also fight a lot. You are very feisty and will not hesitate to punch your brothers when they make you angry – erm, we have to work on that. Everyday, I am still trying to figure you out but so far I can tell your mind works in a very smart way and you are the life of the party. I don’t know if it is because you are the youngest but I am extremely fond of you (and you know it)!

Dear Ryan, you are six! Ah I could write a book about you. At six, you are sharp as a tack and opinionated as ever. You love taekwondo, soccer not so much (coz you don’t like getting muddy). You have a very firm idea about everything, right down to the clothes you wear everyday (right now, you are obsessed with Uniqlo Heattech shirts and tights so that’s all you wear). You can easily out-talk your brothers and even us sometimes! You are slowly learning to read now – I really hope you will love reading like Sean. I am still anxiously waiting for that magic light bulb to go off in your head 😉 You are very good about practicing the piano though you still get very stressed over it sometimes. You have a penchant for collecting things. You even have a ‘time capsule’ of all your favourite things. You tell me you like ‘shiny things’ and you really want a shiny diamond. You are a magpie who goes everywhere looking for ‘treasure’ (which could be random plastic bits or half a button). You really keep us on our toes but we will have you no other way. We love you!

Jojo Potato turns 4!

Jordan turned 4 on 30 Jan 2018.

He is at this really cute age where he is completely clueless about dates so he has been asking me when his birthday is for the past few months! He was really happy when we finally told him it was January his birthday month!

For his birthday celebrations in school, I made necklaces for the girls and catapult kits for the boys in advance. (Did the same for Ryan’s birthday as we would be celebrating a week later)

The night before his birthday, I baked a cake and frosted it. I initially wanted to make a simple pandan chiffon cake but no, both Ryan and Jo said they wanted me to make them big fancy cakes like their friends. Argh, they were less demanding when they were younger.

My first attempt making an icecream drip cake – I am a bit rusty coz I haven’t been baking at all but the lemon cake turned out alright. It was the icecream drip part that stressed me out – the cone started getting soggy and started to unravel after a night in the fridge and the sprinkles melted into the buttercream leaving a gooey mess. Very stressful. Fixed it as best as I could in the morning and kept my fingers crossed that the cake would hold up till we got to school.We blew up some balloons and woke the birthday boy up for school. He was super grumpy that morning. That’s what happens when you stay up late trying to bake your child a decent birthday cake – your child’s sleep gets messed up!

It was our first time in Jo’s new N2 class. His teachers are warm and lovely – he has the same form teacher as last year (she used to teach Ryan in N1 too) and his other teacher used to teach Sean in N2!

The children gathered to sing the birthday song and Jo blew out his candles. Later, he handed out the goodie bags to his little friends. Happy to know the children liked the cake! Kids were so cute and the teachers made them sing a song for us and wave us goodbye.

Jo still can’t really tell me his friend’s names or tell me what happens in school so it was really nice seeing him in class with his little friends.We saved a big slice of cake so we could sing the birthday song with Sean when he got back from school.

Jo was most excited about his one and only gift from us. We got him a Tegu set – the boys were playing and fighting over it all day so I think it’s a good toy!

Happy 4th birthday, my little sweetheart! We love you!

Edusave Good Progress award for Sean

It is said that parents have a close bond with their firstborns – I think it’s because every experience they go through is so new to us as well.

We received a nice surprise in December – Sean was awarded an Edusave Certificate of Academic Achievement for coming in the top 25% in his cohort and an Edusave Good Progress Award for being the 10% in his cohort for improvement in academic achievement and good behavior.

He worked hard last year – I pushed him a fair bit, especially for his final year exams – so I thought it was a well-deserved award. I didn’t think he did THAT well (in fact there were many others in his class who did much better) but still, it is a very nice feather to add to Sean’s cap! 🙂The award presentation ceremony was held at our neighbourhood CC last weekend. There were about 120 schoolchildren from many primary and secondary schools (Sean was the only one from his school) and a noticeable feeling of pride in the air.

When Sean’s turn came, we accompanied him up to stage to shake hands with MP Mr Chong Kee Hiong (whose four sons are coincidentally from the same school as Sean) and  quickly snapped a family photo. I was quite impressed by how quickly all the awards were handed out – all done in 1 hour!

Ryan and Jo were super excited to see Sean receive the award. Now they are all motivated to work hard in school 😉 The prize was a generous $100 cheque in Sean’s name. The boys were exhilarated – we brought them to Popular the next day where Sean bought comics for himself and yoyos for his brothers and decided to save the rest.

Well done, Sean. May you continue to persevere and work hard to achieve great things in life!

Back to school

It’s 2018! Happy new year!

Both Sean and Jo headed back to school on 02 Jan 2018 (Ryan has 3 extra days of holiday). I had to chase them to bed early the last few days of holidays so they could adjust to waking up in semi-darkness again.

No pics of Sean because it is always a mad rush to get him to finish his breakfast and get out of the door in the morning. He will be starting P3 this year with new teachers and classmates – I am both nervous and excited for him!

This year, I hope to groom him to be more independent and diligent in keeping up with school work. Few changes in store for him this year: 1) He will be sitting for Grade 3 Piano (both Practical and Theory) which means lots of piano practice everyday; 2) He will continue with his badminton CCA but will stop soccer training on weekdays and 3) He has stopped Berries but will be going to Tien Hsia twice a week. The syllabus is more aligned with what he is doing in school and one of the two days will be dedicated to composition writing and oral (which I have no idea how to help him prepare for at home).

Jo starts N2 this year which shouldn’t be a big change for him as his form teacher and classmates are pretty much the same as last year. Ryan happily tagged along with me and accompanied Jo on his first day.

Jo wasn’t really too happy but the early wake-up call and the fact that Ryan had no school. As the morning went by, Jo grew more and more weary of the crying children around him (mostly from N1). He started to cry on and off and refused to let Ryan or me out of his sight. Aiya why are first days of school so distressing?!He fared a bit better during snack time and when the teachers led the children in songs with a parachute. But the waterworks restarted when it was time to go home so my obliging sacrificial lamb Ryan had to accompany him on the bus ride home.

Jo was very teary and stressed for the rest of the day. His many questions included: Why must I go to school? Why can’t you be there with me tomorrow? Why doesn’t Ryan have to go to school? Why can’t adults go into the classrooms? What if I am scared and you are not there? Poor baby.

He cried and refused to put on his uniform the next morning. I decided that my presence only made things worse so I kissed him goodbye (still howling) and left for work. Ryan reported that he cried and screamed all the way to the bus with my helper. Eeps.

Later that day, I received a video (from the class Whatsapp chat group – there was none for Sean or Ryan in their four years of kindergarten!). There were a small handful of children still crying in class and I saw Jo sniffling and feeling sorry for himself (so cute and sad) but the lovely teachers kept dishing out hugs and looking out for them. He has wonderful teachers this year – he got the same form teacher as last year and his other teacher was Sean’s Chinese teacher in N2. Jo was MUCH better at home that day and even said he is ok to go to school the next day.

No more drama from Day 3 onwards. HURRAY!

I hope Jo will have a good year of learning ahead. Carrying on from N1, Jo is in a ‘special’ Chinese class where everything is conducted in Chinese. The parents fought really hard to keep the class (there were talks of scrapping the morning session at first – which stressed me out so much).  He still refuses to speak Chinese but will surprise me occasionally with big Chinese phrases or a complete Chinese song!

Day 4 – Finally, it’s Ryan’s turn to go to school. Look how happy they are together!

Ryan is in K2 this year so it’s their last year in kindergarten together. He is a smart and confident boy who clearly enjoys school. One thing I hope to do this year is spend more one-on-one time with him (sorry, my neglected second child) and encourage him to do more reading for both English and Chinese (I think Sean was actually more adept than him at this age) as well as do more Math work in preparation for P1.

Have a good school year ahead, boys!

December holiday art class with Global Art

How was your December school holidays?

My boys had a very relaxing break at home (before we left for Taiwan, that is). They are turning out to be such homebodies (just like their Mama). I think that’s what holidays should be like – sleeping in, no schedules, no assessment books, just playing and reading at home. All day long. Too bad I had to work as usual 😉

Every holiday, I try to let the boys try out new-to-them activities and develop new skills.

This December holiday, I signed the boys up for Visual Arts holiday classes at Global Art in our neighbourhood.  Somehow I realise I always sign them up for art-related holiday classes – Mama loves art, that’s why!

The boys sometimes tell me in frustration they don’t know how to draw things so I thought it would be good for them to go for proper art lessons. I have also been wanting to let them try out different art mediums. They have been painting with acrylics for most of their past holiday classes so this time they would be working entirely with oil pastels.

My boys enjoyed the 1.5 hour daily lessons at Global Art very much, so much so that they asked me to extend it from 8 to 12 lessons!

I appreciated that the class was small (actually just the two of them in the mornings) and pitched at their level. The lessons were very structured and the teachers patiently taught them fundamental skills such as how to take care of their materials, colouring in gradients and basic sketching techniques.

I was amazed by the beautiful artwork that the boys produced over the month of December. Wow the colours really do pop with oil pastels!

Ryan, in particular, really took to the classes. I think they appealed to his OCD nature – he took great pride in taking care of his oil pastels and keeping bag in a neat order. He liked that there was a certain technique to colouring and sketching neatly. I may consider signing him up for regular classes to develop his love for art.

Some samples of Ryan’s artwork (he told me the teacher put up one of his artwork on the walls so it is not pictured here):

Sean is a bit more of a free spirit. He doesn’t have much patience for colouring or drawing neatly but he is more fearless which means he is not afraid of making mistakes and he will draw whatever his heart desires. He did a great job and I really liked his freehand sketches, messy lines and all.

Still begs the question, who will be the better artist among the two of them? 😉

I sure hope the boys learnt a thing or two about colouring and sketching. Since we already paid for all the materials (which admittedly cost a pretty penny) and the boys had fun, I think we may go back again during the holidays.

PS. This is not a sponsored post. Just sharing our experience.

So this is Christmas

How was your Christmas?

As per tradition, we had a simple homely affair with family on Christmas Day. We made sure we snapped some pics while the children were still chirpy and somewhat cooperative. Love how festive we looked! Foops just got a ‘smokeless’ grill so all we did was buy some groceries, marinate the chicken wings and we just BBQ-d everything on the grill. Easiest Christmas dinner ever! Really proud how minimal we kept the gift-giving this year. The adults figured we already have everything that we need (and much more). Plus, Foops and I already bought whatever we wanted during the Black Friday sales (I got a slow juicer) so no gifts for the adults!

Even for the kids, I kept it to one big gift per child and it had to be something they could all play together. We already got Heely shoes for the boys. We gave Sean a Roahl Dahl book set, Ryan a big magnet toy set (from Taobao) and Jo a wooden soup pot to replace his broken one. They also got books, t-shirts, water bottles, board games from family and friends (thank you). Sean was a real sweetheart this year. He got it into his head that we needed gifts so he spent the whole morning wrapping up gifts for Mama and Papa. He emptied his dinosaur coin bank and wrapped up $2 worth of coins for each of us with a note (mine read ‘Thank you Mama for buying things for me. Love, Sean’). He also included a pack of biscuits and wasabi seaweed for Foops – he did ask me if I liked wasabi and I said just a little so he didn’t give me any. Haha!

Sean also chose two board books from our shelves (after reading a couple) and wrapped them up for baby E. So sweet.

As for me, my favourite gift of all was from my sister-in-law. She made a lovely Scrabble board with our names. Very thoughtful of her. I must find a nice place to display it 🙂

Merry Christmas to one and all. Enjoy the holidays!

Counting down to Christmas

December is here. Can’t believe the year has flown by just like that!

The older boys has been telling me they wanted to me to make them a toilet-roll advent calendar filled with Pokémon figurines similar to last year’s. So touched they still remember it so clearly. Believe it or not, they still play with the figurines everyday so I just had to set aside time to make it again.

I tried to include new Pokémon figurines that they didn’t have – I ordered a random bag of figurines from Qoo10 but thankfully most were new to my boys!

In my haste (I put it all together in one night), I forgot to write down Christmas-related activities for them to do and include them in the calendar. Gah! Which was just as well as we wouldn’t be in town for the most of Dec.

Ah well, the boys loved the calendar and it was the one thing they really look forward to every morning!

***

I really wasn’t planning to get a tree this year – I made it clear to everyone we would not be having a tree and the boys were okay with the decision. I just felt it would be such a waste as no one would be home and I didn’t want to come back from our holiday to a brown tree!

BUT after we got back home on the 21st, I did feel kinda bad for not having a tree. My boys are only little for a short while – Jo can’t even remember our last Christmas so now his memories of Christmas would not include a tree at all. Should we get a small plastic tree? But I didn’t want to think about where to store it. Maybe we could get a small not-too-expensive one from the nursery? We actually drove to the nursery after dinner one night to see if there were any trees on sale. But nothing was on sale and there were no decent small trees either. I really didn’t want to spend more than $100 on a tree we would be throwing away few days later.

Then on the Christmas eve morning, we were at Cold Storage buying groceries for dinner with some friends. Lo and behold, there were a few trees on clearance. $19 for a perfectly good-looking 6-foot tall tree! We just had to lug it home of course 😉

Now this is Christmas as we know it!

I was very happy to take out all our Christmas tree décor and ornaments. I have a habit of buying cute/unique ornaments whenever I see them so we have amassed a nice albeit a little mismatched collection over the years.

This year, we debuted a few new ones including beautiful personalized snowflakes from Urbanlil (thanks for the thoughtful gifts every year, Aunty S!), plus a couple of wire and wooden ones from H&M Home (from Taipei) and Kikki.K.

The tree lasted in our house all the way to the New Year. I thought I would keep it till it turned brown on me but it was still going strong by then. Finally decided to clear it because I knew I would have no time to deal with it – and its incessant shedding – once school started. The boys were quite sad to see the tree go.

Till next year!