Remembering Mr Lee

I never knew that I would feel so sad about the demise of someone whom I have not met personally. I guess although I have not met him in person, he is no stranger to all of us here in Singapore and the world over.

Growing up, we watched him on TV, delivering his speeches and waving to the crowd during National Day Parades.

Our two boys, Zac and Jay, know who he is and we have talked to them before about the things he has done for Singapore.

During last year’s National Day Parade, we watched him on TV. That was the first time Jay became interested in this important yet frail-looking man and started asking us about him.

When we heard news of his hospitalisation earlier this year, Jay remarked that he hoped Mr Lee would be well to celebrate SG50 in August. That was the exact thought that I had too.

So, we were all saddened to wake up on Monday morning to the news of his passing. The boys heard more about him in school that day, where they saw our Singapore flag flying at half mast.

The hubby and I brought our three kids to the Istana on Tuesday evening, to pay tribute to this great man. The atmosphere there was quiet, peaceful and solemn. Many were penning down their messages, while some were taking photos of the tribute site. Our family penned down our individual messages too.

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Standing there, I felt a sudden wave of sadness and blinked hard to push back my tears. The man who has built Singapore from third world to first world is gone.

We will not see him waving to the crowd this National Day.

Yet, in a way, he is not totally gone, because everywhere we look in Singapore, we see the product of his labour. The safe, clean and green city that he has envisioned has become a reality for us all. A reality that many might have taken for granted over the years, but once again reminded this week.

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These few days, as we watched the news and read articles of this great man, we’ve had many opportunities to talk to our kids about the things he has done for the nation. It is because of his vision, that today, we see even the poorest among us have HDB flats to live in, that every citizen has an equal chance to receive an education, that we can walk safely on the streets at night, that we can live in a city that is so clean and efficient.

Of all the many articles, quotes and views about the man that have been published and shared the past few days, the one that touched me the most are the words spoken by his son:

“What will we miss about him?
I think — so many things, but I think the key thing is, that with him, you will not lose. You will be all right and you will come through, and that sense of confidence and trust in a person, because of the experience, because of what he has gone through, because of what he has done, because of what he has contributed and demonstrated, is not something which you can replicate with any other person.
He was unique. He played a unique role in Singapore and
I think we have been very lucky to have him.
He is a father, he is a father of the nation, and he made this place.”

~ Mr Lee Hsien Loong
(Source)

Yes, he is truly unique… and we are thankful for his passion and life work of building a safe nation where we and our children can grow up in.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the father of the nation, we salute and thank you. You will be dearly missed.

Written by Zac (at Istana)
Written by Zac at Istana
Written by Jay at Istana
Written by Jay at Istana

Do You Read To Your Children?

Reading to our three kids is such a normal occurrence in our home that I often find it unusual and strange whenever I hear from others that they do not read to their children.

During the first 2 to 3 years of Zac’s life, either my husband or I would read to him every night before his bedtime. Every. Single. Night. It was part of his bedtime routine.

When Jay was born, we started reading to him too. With two kids of different ages, guess what we did? I would read to one of them while the hubby read to the other. On some nights, both boys would be read to together, by either one of us.

Then when Elly came along, life gets pretty hectic with three kids at home. It can get challenging trying to read to the 3 of them together. But we still did, as much as possible, although I have to admit that with Elly, I didn’t manage to read to her as much as to her two brothers.

This is one area that I feel bad about, towards my girl.

Elly loves to be read to. She often comes to me and asks me to read her some story books. To her, it is a great bonding time, her special time with mommy.

Sometimes I read to her. Other times I didn’t. And the reason I gave her? “It’s late, you’ve got to sleep! Sorry no books today…,” I would tell her, when the real reason was that I was just too tired and couldn’t wait for them to all go to bed so that I could have some time alone!

Guilty. :(

Although Jay is already in Primary 2 and has no problem reading chapter books by himself, he still asks me to read to him once in a while, especially before he leaves for school or before his bedtime. To him, reading aloud time is his special bonding time with mommy too. I am sad to say that there were also many times when I rejected his requests to be read to, simply because I was too tired. Again. :(

Recently, I came across this book while researching for my lessons and immediately went to the library the next day to borrow it.

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After reading only the first few pages, I was already feeling excited and really happy that we had been reading aloud to our two boys from the time they were a few months old. The benefits of reading aloud to our children are way too underrated.

The most wonderful thing after I started reading this book is, I now feel a renewed motivation to want to spend time reading aloud to Elly every single night. I know she will be thrilled! In fact, I’m also going to make a greater effort to read aloud to Jay more often too!

And I am not even halfway through the book!

Here are some excerpts from this brilliant book that made me want to commit myself to read aloud to my kids every single night once again.

“Children who are read aloud to early and regularly quickly acquire the skill of listening and the desire to hear stories. They understand the immense pleasures waiting for them in books and develop the ability to concentrate and relax.” (Chapter 5)

“No wonder experts tell us that children need to hear a thousand stories read aloud before they begin to learn to read for themselves.” (Chapter 3)

“…children need to know above all that they’re loved by their parents… And parents can show that love by giving children time – it may be as little as fifteen minutes a day – to read aloud together, to talk to each other, and to bond.” (Chapter 3)

“…if every parent read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation.” (Chapter 2)

“The best time to start reading aloud to a baby is the day it is born.” (Chapter 5)

And my favourite part of the book so far….

“If we begin skimping on reading aloud before bed, it may slip from the family routine altogether. Other things may start to seem more pressing. But what could be more important than our children’s literacy and the loving interactions that occur during a read-aloud session? Is feeling too tired a valid excuse? Surely not. The price of not reading aloud is too high.” (Chapter 5)

That paragraph seemed to be written just for me!

So, I am going to read aloud to my children once again. Especially to Elly every single night. And to Jay when he asks for it, and even when he doesn’t. I’m also going to ask Zac if he still wants to listen to me read to him once in a while, although he now enjoys reading books alone and can get really engrossed in them. It will be nice to read aloud to Zac once again.

Do you read to your children?

You really should. :)

Key to Sanity: Knowing and Setting Your Boundaries

Of all the words in the human vocabulary, the most difficult one for most of us to utter is, ironically, a tiny, two-letter word spelt N-O.

Yet, this little two-letter word is more important than we realised. Without it, we cannot set clear boundaries in our lives, and without clear boundaries, we will be pulled in every direction, running endlessly yet going nowhere, much like a hamster on a hamster wheel.

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I used to be one who found it difficult to set and keep boundaries in my life. I was one of those who were unable to say ‘No’… to friends, colleagues, family members, acquaintances and, (would you believe it?) even strangers!

Whenever I turned down a request, I would feel really bad. Whenever my boundaries were crossed, I would simply grit my teeth and “suffer” in silence.

However, whenever I endured in silence, I would usually realise an uneasy feeling growing inside me – a feeling of resentment, of frustration.

As I grow older, I learned to use the powerful, two-letter word without feeling guilty.

And you know what? The more you learned to say “No” to people who crossed your boundaries, the more confident you would feel doing it.

So, yes, it is easier for me to say “No” now.

The results? I have more breathing space. I learnt that it is not true that everyone else’s needs are more important than mine. I do not live like a martyr. More importantly, I am happier, more confident and more productive.

These are some steps we can take to a life of greater sanity:

1. Know your boundaries.

This is tied closely to your priorities. What are important to you and what are not, at this stage of your life right now? Make a list of all your priorities. A few of my top priorities now are my family, children and my plans to start a business.

As such, I am cutting down on blogging, especially on product reviews and events posts. There are many emails I receive daily for events and product reviews. I have to say ‘No’, because these are not my priorities right now.

This blog is NOT primarily a blog for product reviews. Neither is it a platform for advertising or events listing.

Alright. I have said it. A load off my chest.

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2. Set your boundaries.

What’s the use of knowing your priorities if you don’t do something to make them your priorities? So, it is vital to set your boundaries after knowing where your boundaries are. Take practical steps to put your boundaries in place.

For example, if you know that your priority is to have dinner with your spouse and kids on certain days of the week, make plans to leave your workplace on time.

Or if you know that your priority is to have a few hours a week to recharge, make plans to let someone take care of the housework and kids so that you can be alone.

It might be easier said than done, but it can be done, if we plan for it and make some prior arrangements.

3. Keep your boundaries.

This might be the most challenging part. After knowing our boundaries and setting them, we have to try our utmost to keep them. What’s the use of knowing and setting if we don’t keep them?

So, if you are like me, who are feeling burnt out because you find it hard to say “No”, take these steps NOW to know, set and keep your boundaries.

Here’s to a happier and more productive life! :)

5 Things in 2015

“Open your eyes, look within.
Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?”

I turn 40 today.

As a person who likes to reflect on my life, especially during significant times, such as year end, beginning of the year and birthdays, I have been reflecting on my 40 years of living.

Am I happy with where I am in life at this moment?
Do I have any regrets or unfulfilled dreams?

Most importantly, how do I want to live the next 40 years of my life (assuming I have another 40 years or more)?

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Pause… And Take A Deep Breath

Life has been pretty hectic this year. Besides spending my days running after the 3 kids, preparing them for school and coaching them after school, I’ve been busy with curriculum writing, lesson planning, teaching and tutoring. In between the craziness, I am also trying to cope with the never-ending housework, cooking and cleaning.

So, this space has been much neglected.

I’m going to hit the pause button by looking back at some of the things we’ve done the past two months.

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Messy Play in a Box: My Messy Box {Review + Giveaway}

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Messy play is not something new to our 3 kids. From as young as 2 years of age, all 3 of them have experienced some form of messy play at home. You can read more about some of our messy play at home here, here, here, here and here. :)

The wonderful thing about messy play for young children is that they get to explore and create freely. There are endless opportunities for learning and imagining. Messy play also helps young children develop their fine motor skills and hand-and-eye coordination.

The not so wonderful thing about messy play for adults is the cleaning up! Which is why many parents shun messy play. As I have shared before, I know of parents who refused to let their kids engage in any form of messy play at home because of the dread of cleaning up or the fear of messing up the house.

My view is, kids are little only once. The benefits of messy play far outweigh the hassle of cleaning up.

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How Long Is Eternity? {Review + Giveaway}

Have you ever been stumped by your children’s questions? I know I have.

My boys sometimes ask such profound questions that I have no answer for. When that happens, my usual reply is either “I don’t know” or “Go ask Daddy”!

If I am not too tired, they will receive a more positive reply such as, “Why don’t we find out more?”

What would you tell your kids if they were to ask you, “How long is eternity?”

I know I’d have a hard time explaining eternity to my kids.

But not anymore.

Thanks to Wild Crane Press, we received this book ‘How Long Is Eternity?’ and I have to say that this is one of the most unusual and thought provoking books I’ve read.

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Cherish The Mundane

Having been a mother for almost a decade, I have come to realise that the term “enjoy every moment” is so not realistic. There are moments in this parenting journey that I simply do not enjoy.

I don’t enjoy the tantrums and meltdowns, especially in public places or when I am too tired or in a hurry. I don’t enjoy the bickering between the siblings. I don’t enjoy the night feeds and having to wait for everyone to sleep before I can start work. I definitely do not enjoy the crazy juggling trying to keep all the balls in the air.

So. I don’t believe in “enjoying every moment” now.

Yet, once in a while, as I go about the daily routines or mundane motherly duties, such as reading the same book over and over again to my 4-year-old before bedtime, or walking my boy to the bus stop to wait for his school bus, I will pause.

And take a deep breathe.

And realise that all these mundane routines are what a person misses the most when crisis hits.

cherish the mundane, parenting inspirations

Have you ever been in a crisis before? A time when everything in your life is being shaken and threatened?

If you have, you would know that during such turbulent times, what your heart longs and craves for is the mundane. The simplicity of living a normal day, watching your kids wake up and play, preparing home-cooked meals for your family, sitting down for a simple meal with your loved ones, talking about the day’s events. Nothing spectacular, just the simple, mundane, daily living of a normal life.

The mundane which is often being taken for granted. We might even complain about the mundane, how boring, how uninteresting it is. How we wish for a more adventurous and exciting life.

It is when this mundane is being threatened, that we realise how much we miss it.

I have been there. When crisis hit the family.

That is why I constantly remind myself, not to take the simple moments of my daily life for granted.

Though I don’t “enjoy e.v.e.r.y. moment”, I cherish the mundane.
For life might not always be so.

Melbourne City With Kids

When we first stepped foot in Melbourne, the thing that welcomed us was the cool weather. Our kids were thrilled to experience what they called “outdoor aircon”, something which they don’t get to experience in Singapore.

There are plenty to do and visit in Melbourne. These are some of the places we visited which are a hit with our kids.

1. Eureka Skydeck

See the city from the 88th storey.

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Kuafu Chases The Sun {Review + Giveaway}

Besides reading to our two boys daily when they were toddlers and getting them to read on their own now that they’re older, one of the ways we got our kids to love reading is to expose them to a wide variety of books. You can read about our experience in getting our kids to love books here.

Which is why I usually welcome every opportunity to introduce new books to my kids. So, I was glad when Wild Crane Press sent us a copy of “Kuafu Chases The Sun” for review.

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