Thank you, Joseph Schooling

Dear Joseph,

I know that the chances of you reading this is close to zero, what with the international media casting its astonished eye on you, now that you have have slain a giant. And let’s not forget the mountains of accolades that are being heaped upon you by our local media. But I still want to say a huge thank you to you, for helping to transform what had seemed so laughably impossible into reality.

This morning, at 9am, I was in bed nursing a head cold when my four-year-old burst into the room. “Wake up!” he said. “Joseph Schooling is going to compete!” And so I dragged myself out of bed and sat my aching head down in front of the telly with Aidan and Zac, my two-year-old.

“I want to sing the Majulah Singapura,” Aidan whined. “Where is the Majulah Singapura?”

The competitors lined up at the starting blocks, we held our breaths and shushed our noisy children. We wanted to indulge in the moment, to see if you could land the gold that we have talked of for so long and yet unable to achieve so far. Everyone leapt off the blocks and we watched as you emerged from the water, masterful strokes propelling you forward strongly. And then you turned and I started cussing out of fear that one of them Amazons would overtake you.

And then it was over. 50.39 seconds. You did it. It was so fast and yet for all of us – whether we were sitting in the kopitiam or at home with unwashed faces – it felt like an age.

You did it. Who could have foretold this moment?

We ate our breakfast and then it was time for the awards ceremony. You know, my kids love, LOVE singing the national anthem. They grabbed a flag each, plonked their bums on the coffee table and watched as you waited to go up the podium. Next to you were the three silver medalists, all great names and Goliaths to your David, especially that one named Phelps. You looked so small next to them, and so lonely. I guess it is a bittersweet feeling, to be on top and yet be so alone.

Your name was called, you stepped up and this was it, the moment all of us have been waiting for: the national anthem was played.

Majulah Singapura.

You did it.

My boys waved their flags madly and sang along quietly, their eyes glued to the ascent of our flag. And when it was over, they turned to look at us and grinned. And that was when I thanked you.

Not just because you put our little red dot on the international map with your achievements. Not just because you worked so hard to get that gold.

But mostly, it was because now my children have someone to look up to. Someone to prove that it is possible to achieve the impossible, that following a dream, a passion can pay off as long as they put in the effort.

They may not be national swimmers – I mean, let’s just focus on getting Aidan to put his face into the water mmmkay – but who knows what is in store for them in the future. Maybe they will become artists. Or musicians. Or writers. Or footballers. Maybe they will want to carve their own paths, away from the straight and narrow route that our education system will push them towards. Maybe they don’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer. Maybe they would want to be themselves, aspiring towards a goal that our society may scoff at.

Before you won this morning, we did not have that role model. There was no trailblazer. And now that you have gone and landed this amazing feat at our feet, our children can have somebody to look up to.

So really, you did not just win an Olympic gold, you have gone and rewritten the rules of the game for Singapore.

Tonight, before he drifted off into dreamland, Aidan whispered to me, “Mummy, can you buy me a cap?”

“A cap?”

“Yes, for swimming,” he replied, nodding in the dark. “Like the Olympic swimmers. Like Joseph Schooling.”

And for that, I, as a mother, thank you.

A new page in #Singapore 🇸🇬 history! Joseph Schooling – Olympic Gold 🎖#MajulahSingapura

A video posted by Jimmy Liew (@jimmyliew) on

Review: People Impact IQEQ Programme

I am not much of a fan of enrichment classes.

Right now, my kids do not attend any classes except for swimming and (soon) music lessons. That’s all we have signed them up for and that’s all husband and I agreed to sign them up for. Whatever academic stuff that they know, they learn through the daycare.

Sometimes, I wonder if I am not helping them with this mentality. Sometimes, I wonder if they will struggle when they go to primary school and realise that their classmates are miles ahead of them in terms of academic development. But we consciously choose to allow them these few years of playfulness and freedom, so that’s a risk we have to take.

When People Impact asked if I was keen to try Aidan out for their IQEQ programme, I hesitated. But like any good reporter would do, I decided to do my research and checked out their website. What I saw intrigued me.

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Instead of focusing on academic skills like literacy and numeracy, the programme seemed to be emphasising more on “soft” skills such as creativity, problem-solving and communication. As an educator, my students have shown me that it is those with high EQ and people skills who are able to succeed in life. The students who do worst in school can thrive and excel when they are out in the industry because they have the right personality and attitudes.

So yes, I decided to check it out with Aidan. We attended one of the classes that was meant for the older kids in kindergarten and even though parents were usually not allowed to sit in, I was given the opportunity to do so and observe.

When we got into the classroom, I was pleasantly surprised by the intricately designed “maze” on the floor. Judging by their reactions, so were the kids. There were seven of them in total, including Aidan, and I was told that the usual teacher-student ratio is 1:8. There were two teachers that day, CK and Aileen, who got Aidan to introduce himself to the class since he was new. I was rather surprised that A was immediately comfortable in that new environment, given that he can be pretty reserved. He was happy to introduce himself and Teacher CK assigned the other boy in the class to be his mate – the two got along so well!

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The first activity had something to do with the 4×4 maze on the floor. The kids were first divided into two groups. Within the groups, they were to work in pairs, with one child giving instructions to the other on how to “safely” exit the maze without being eaten by the lions.

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I was honestly very impressed by the activity. It not only reinforced spatial skills in the children – they had to instruct their teammate which direction to turn and how many steps to take, for instance – and it also encouraged them to speak up with confidence. The children clearly enjoyed this very much, they were full of relieved smiles when they managed to guide their friends out of the maze!

The next activity was Cloud Nine. This time, the children were split into three groups of different colours. The teachers would show each group a picture and every child had to name an object immediately and physically associated with the item in the picture. For instance, a picture of a table could elicit answers like “chair”, “cup” and “pencil”. Once every group member has given an appropriate answer, their hot air balloon would be allowed to ascend to the next cloud on the wall. The idea was to move up to the ninth cloud.

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This took quite a fair bit of time as the children needed some guidance now and then. But the kids gave it all their attention since the activity played on their innate sense of competition. Everyone wanted to move up to the next level! And it was a clever way of broadening the children’s perspectives, allowing them to draw the relevant associations from difference sources of information.

The third – and last – activity was conducted in a separate classroom, which the teachers had ingeniously turned into a pseudo laser-tag room using raffia strings. Here, the kids were divided into two groups and tasked to retrieve numbered tags from the walls while navigating through the complicated “laser” beams safely. If someone touched a raffia string, the attached bell would chime and the child had to freeze on the spot until a teammate makes his/her way over to tap her shoulder, thus freeing her. It was a game of team work and also built their gross motor skills.

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The kids were alternately IMPRESSED and SCARED of the laser beams! You could see from the anxiety on their faces that they thought it was real, that they really couldn’t move if they touched the string. And when they got out safely, they all broke out in huge smiles. Before his turn, Aidan whispered to me that he was a little scared. But he did great! He not only managed to retrieve his number swiftly, he was able to help save his friends a couple of times.

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Once the session was over, the teachers would invite the parents in and give them a quick debrief on what their children were up to that day. They would also sit down with certain parents to give them one-on-one feedback on their children’s progress.

During their one-on-one session with me, Teacher CK noted three things about Aidan: firstly, he was a very verbal child, and had no problems speaking up and understanding instructions (just goes to show that he has selective listening at home, HAH!). Secondly, he apparently has good focus for someone his age (for instance, he was able to sit and wait while the other kids had their turns). Lastly, he was definitely not the dullest tool in the shed, phew! I was told that they would love to have him in the programme because they felt that he had the potential to be a leader.

Wow, who knew? That little tyrant who drives me nuts on a regular basis could potentially have a high ROI. Although why he cannot focus on simple tasks like putting his toys away at home when he supposedly has strong focus leaves me perplexed.

All in all, I left the centre very impressed. You could tell from the details of the activities that the teachers had spent time and effort in crafting them. Each activity nailed their intended objectives. More importantly, the children kept up their attention and energy levels for the entire two hours that they were there. Aidan had skipped his nap to attend the class and he never wavered. The teachers were able to effectively facilitate the activities and motivated them through positive affirmation.

Would I continue the classes for Aidan? I would definitely love to – costs and logistics notwithstanding. Aidan clearly had fun and we capped off that lovely mummy-firstborn afternoon by going for coffee at one of our favourite cafes, One Man Coffee.

SPECIAL FOR BUBSICLES READERS
If you are keen to try out the IQEQ programme, you can sign up for a single trial class for your child at just $5/child (Usual: $20). Or take up a special one-month regular class package $288 (Usual: $588).

Just email info (at) people-impact (dot) com (dot) sg with your name and contact details as well as your child’s name and age. You’ll have to let them know that Yann from Bubsicles sent you their way to enjoy this deal!

This special offer expires one month from the published date of article. However, you can sign up first with this special offer and arrange for a later date to come for the lesson.

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Disclaimer: We were invited to attend a trial class by People Impact. All opinions are strictly my own and no monetary compensation was received.

Wash them hands!

[Author’s note: I am not a medical expert – far from it – so this entry is a personal opinion piece.]

I have quite a few bottles of hand sanitisers sitting around the house. We used to dutifully carry a giant bottle around in the diaper bag when Elliott was younger because hand sanitisers equate to clean hands, right? I cannot remember where I read this (probably one of those articles shared by friends on Facebook) but did you know that unless hand sanitisers contain alcohol, they are largely ineffective against viruses that causes illness?

I did a bit of snooping on the internet and found this and this. I’ve extracted some bits here:

From the first article:

Is using a hand sanitizer a good substitute for soap and water?
It can be—depending on the particular product and situation. The best way to clean your hands is to wash them with plain soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, especially if they are visibly dirty. This creates mechanical friction to loosen and rinse away microbes. If you don’t have access to soap and water, the next best thing is an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains a minimum of 60 percent alcohol (typically listed as ethyl alcohol). These products kill most (but not all) bacteria and viruses on contact. They also work well against fungi but not against bacterial spores (such as those created by C. difficile bacteria).

What about alcohol-free sanitizers?
Instead of alcohol, some hand sanitizers contain quaternary ammonium compounds (notably benzalkonium chloride or benzethonium chloride) to reduce microbes. These agents are less effective than alcohol, plus they lack evidence of real-life benefits. Moreover, they may be contributing to bacterial resistance (see inset). Other alcohol-free hand sanitizers contain “natural” ingredients like tea tree oil and thyme, which may kill some germs but not enough for them to be good alternatives to an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The CDC recommends only alcohol-based products.

From the second article:

Frequent hand washing is the best way to keep yourself healthy and to prevent the spread of illness. The most effective way to wash your hands is with plain old soap and water.

Hands should be washed: Before, during and after preparing food; before eating or drinking; before and after caring for someone who is sick; before and after touching a cut or wound; after using the toilet; after changing diapers; after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; after touching an animal or animal waste; after touching garbage.

While antibacterial gels can quickly reduce the number of germs on your hands, they do not eliminate all types of germsIf soap and water is not available however, antimicrobial gels are the next best thing.

It was such a revelation to me (like, OMG I’VE BEEN DOING IT WRONG ALL THIS TIME?!?!) because there I was, insisting that Elliott use the hand sanitiser after each playground visit, or before partaking in a meal. I always thought that it would do the job of keeping his hands clean. I did wonder why he was still falling ill despite my religious use of the hand sanitisers (the ones we use are alcohol free, safe for children, etc etc).

As it turns out, the only way to keep those damn viruses away is to wash both hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. To be honest, trying to balance a heavy toddler against a wet sink while trying to wash his both hands with your one available arm (because the other arm is wrapped around him, holding him up) is really not the easiest. What usually happens is some random squirting of soap onto his palms, some quick rubs, then a rinse. I guess that is better than not getting the hands washed, yes?

Ever since I discovered this fact, I’ve made it a point to get Elliott to wash his hands with soap whenever we are out. I have also noticed that this frequent hand-washing does lessen the number of times he has fallen ill. I do not have clear evidence that washing his hands after any activity helps in keeping the viruses away but so far, so good. To me, the following (among others) are hotbeds for viruses to be passed on – indoor playgrounds, outdoor playgrounds and kiddy rides. We cannot walk past kiddy rides without him having a go at it so we always whisk him off to get his hands washed ASAP.

This article from Singapore General Hospital sums it up nicely. Have a read! Here are 2 important points, in summary, on what people should clean their hands with:

Liquid soap and water

Water alone will not remove dirt and bacteria. Soap allows these to be scrubbed off easily as they bind to them. Any regular soap will do. Antibacterial soap kills bacteria more effectively but has not been shown to be more effective than ordinary soap in reducing the rates of colds and infections in generally healthy people, said a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States this year. What matters more is good hand hygiene, independent of the soap you use.

 

Alcohol-based hand sanitiser (containing at least 70 per cent alcohol)

Hand sanitisers are a quick and effective way to disinfect your hands when soap and water are not available. Cleaning hands with alcohol-based hand sanitisers takes probably 20 seconds, while washing hands with soap and water needs about a minute including the time taken to lather, rinse and dry the hands. But alcohol-based hand sanitisers are not effective if the hands are visibly dirty. Dirt needs to be washed off with soap and water.

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(I do wish more public toilets have child-friendly sinks like these. Maybe one day…)

So everybody, please remember to wash your hands (whenever you can), especially of our little people! They touch everything (and anything), and those same hands reach out and touch their face ALL THE TIME. Stay healthy!

Bad Moms: review

So last night, three creaky old ladies went out WITHOUT KIDS.

That’s right, sista, that was us – me, Selene and Yi Lin. We were so hip, we were invited by Golden Village to attend the preview of Bad Moms. It was the first time that the three of us met for a girls’ night out since I was 37 weeks pregnant. That was TWO WHOLE YEARS ago. Therefore, you can understand how excited we were.

Plus, it was for a movie aptly named Bad Moms. Back in May, we had all watched the trailer of the movie and we were like, YEAH GURL.

In a nutshell, the movie is about three women who were so stressed out from trying to be the perfect mothers that they snapped. And snapped they did: they went on a rampage against the smug, NO-GLUTEN-NO-SUGAR-NO-SALT-NO-BPA-NO-ADDITIVES-NO-EVERYTHING-BUT-YES-ORGANIC-EVERYTHING judgy mums. They decided to free themselves from the shackles of trying to achieve that perception of perfection and be themselves – me as a person first, then a mother – again.

Mila Kunis was great as a mother who seemingly had everything – a beautiful house, two (sometimes) lovely children, and a career. She spent so much time trying to keep up with that image that she’s overworked, over-stretched and exhausted. Kirsten Bell, as the stay-at-home-mum to four little people, was the meek and passive mum who grew a spine over the course of the movie. And Kathryn Hahn was the escapist mum in denial.

To be honest, this movie is full of cliches, some bad, some pretty hilarious. And really, what can you expect when this is a movie about motherhood that is written by men. Which is why the movie is so rampant with mentions of penises in all manner and forms. Then there is that pre-requisite, sort of lame love story going on as well. So don’t go in there thinking that it’s going to be an intelligent discourse on gender stereotypes and the roles of women in society.

But I will say that it still struck a chord in me in some ways. As a mother who is juggling a career, two little (sometimes ungrateful) children while trying to ensure that my marriage stays fresh, I am, more often than now, exhausted. A mother’s mind is never idle nor still, we are constantly thinking about something, whether it is about ordering groceries or planning for the weekend or wondering if we are doing enough to prepare our children for the rigours of primary school. And in that quest to keep up with the perfect Instagram mother with the perfectly plated meals while looking svelte in perfectly done make-up with beautiful, shiny hair, it can be tiring.

So I get it. I get the frustration that Mila Kunis’s Amy feels. I get that feeling of trying to do everything right but it still ends up wrong anyway.

If you are a mother who is tired, wants a break and in need of some no-brainer laughs, then please, grab a few of your mummy friends and WATCH THIS MOVIE. Because you will get the feels AND the silly jokes AND be all light-hearted after that.

(Also, you will get to ogle some hot eye candy in the movie. Which was damn awesome. I loved it. But don’t tell your husband you heard it from me.)

(Also, be aware that the movie is full of the f%*k bombs. Which we didn’t mind, since we are the sort of mums who tend to go WTF once in a while. But obvs not in front of the kids. Nooooooo sireeeeee.)

(Okay, I might have done it once. Like when I was driving the boys home and some idiot cut abruptly into my lane without signalling and I screamed, “WHAT THE F**K!!!!” And the four-year-old went, “What did you say, mummy?”)

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Bad Moms is currently showing at Golden Village cinemas – go!

Disclaimer: We received tickets to the preview, courtesy of Golden Village, but all opinions are my own.

Welcome back, Dr Bronner’s!

Long, long ago, I used to have this thing for Dr Bronner.

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He was a regular at my house. One of the reasons was that he certainly made himself useful – he was very, very good at what he does. I have had him from the very tip of my head to the soles of my feet, and it’s all mmm.

What the heck, you must be thinking. Well, it’s a love affair between me and Bronner – Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap, that is.

I discovered it at a time when we had adopted our cats and I started paying more attention to the toiletries and cleaning agents that we were using. It was when I started to systematically purge harmful chemicals from our supplies. A quick search on Google led me to it and it was then available on iHerb. One order later, the rest is history.

(I tried looking for it in Singapore, calling up the major health and pharmaceutical chains. All I got was, “Dr what? We have Dr Ling, is it the same?”)

One of the reasons why I was so infatuated with Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap was that it contains no chemical additives, no Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, parabens, synthetic fragrances, petrochemicals, artificial dyes, preservatives, thickeners or harsh chemical foaming agents. Being made of organic ingredients, it was absolutely safe for the family. According to the EWG guide (which I use religiously), the liquid castile soap scores an A (lowest risk of hazard). There are eight different fragrances, with each serving a specific function. For instance, the tea tree variant is good for acne-prone skin and dandruff.

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Another reason for my undying love was that it was good for cleaning everything – from my body to my floor. I know, it sounds dodgy, like urghs, a floor cleaner for my skin? But trust me, it works. My favourite for the shower was the lavender one – I’d dilute it 1:1 with water (I am cheap that way) to use as a shower gel so that it can last a little longer! The baby unscented one was used for Mr A, while the Peppermint one was used as a floor and counter top cleaner.

Now, while the manufacturer claims that there are 18 uses for this magic product, I did not put it all to the test. I tried using it as a shampoo and it turned my hair into hay. So I decided to stop being experimental and stuck to what worked best.

Unfortunately, iHerb stopped stocking Dr Bronner’s! I tried out its alternative but this new relationship never worked out. So I left for greener (unintended pun but PUN!!) pastures and embarked on relationships with other products.

A couple of years later, to my surprise and happiness, I discover that there is a local stockist for Dr Bronner’s. Nature’s Glory has all eight of Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap on sale on its site. The soap comes in all shapes and sizes, perfect for your individual use.

So yes, I have rekindled my love with this good ‘ol doctor. Yay!

GIVEAWAY
If you are keen to try out Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap, Nature’s Glory is happy to give away 2oz bottles of the product to 10 readers. Simply comment “yes please!” in the comments box below. We will pick the winners at random.

Just keep swimming

No, the title has nothing to do with Finding Dory – that’s one in the many movies that I haven’t had the chance to watch yet.

(One thing good about children, I get to save money on entertainment because I don’t have time for entertainment! We have cancelled our cable TV for years and we watch, like, three movies a year. Hah.)

Anyway, this is about swimming lessons.

When Aidan was a wee bugger, we contemplated signing him up for swimming lessons. But the prohibitive costs – swimming classes for little humans can be really expensive – plus the distance plus our sheer laziness put us off going for formal classes. We took him to the pool occasionally and he grew to love swimming but on one condition: he had to have his puddle jumpers.

And then Zac came along and with the kids being in the same age brackets, some friends and us decided to form private swimming groups. Between the few of us, we have five preschoolers and four toddlers, enough to form two classes. And so we began our formal lessons last October.

I don’t dare to speak on behalf of all the kids but I daresay that my kids have definitely benefitted from the parent-accompanied lessons.

With Aidan, he’s always been quite cautious and fearful of water dribbling down his face. I don’t know if it’s a natural inclination or if it’s because of that one time when he tripped and fell face forward into the water (#parentingfail) but he is really, really resistant. For the past few months, he had steadfastly refused to put his face into the water. And that made it really frustrating for us. I started questioning if the lessons were effective and if we should switch instructors.

There was nothing wrong with his physical form though, he was perfectly happy to float and kick. He just didn’t want the water near his face. So much for swimming, right?

And then we had a breakthrough.

We hadn’t had lessons for two weeks and I was not expecting anything out of the usual. As the coach worked with Coco and Claire (yes, Yi Lin, Selene and I are in this together!), Aidan put on his goggles on his own accord. And then, suddenly, he dipped his face into the water.

Just like that. No fuss, no whining, no pleading, no cajoling. He just stuck his face in and he was out a second later.

“Look papa!” he called out to his father. “I put my face into the water without holding my nose.” And then he proceeded to do it a few times to show his father and the coach.

The rest of the class went swimmingly well (PUN! PUN!) and we were so, so proud of him.

As for Zac, he has progressed from screaming his lungs out the entire class to this:

A video posted by yannisms (@yannisms) on

Oh, it’s not that he hates water or swimming. He actually loves playing in the water. He hated having to work in the water. He screamed when he had to practise kicking, screamed before we dunked him into the water and screamed after he emerged from the water. It was pretty painful.

And then it was almost as if the switch clicked and he suddenly realised that hey, swimming is actually quite fun! He stopped screaming (THANK THE HEAVENS) and started enjoying it. He is now gleeful when he has to jump into the water, can hold his breath well under the water and knows to kick his way to his papa while underwater. He is so, so, good at it now, we all love to watch him swim.

Now that we have gone through this whole swimming process, I have come to a few conclusions.

Firstly, start them young. At slightly over two years, Zac is doing brilliantly. He has zero resistance to water and is practically fearless. Meanwhile, the older kids who started at a later age are so cautious that it takes a whole lot of cajoling (and bribing in some cases) before they would even put the tip of their noses into the water.

Secondly, be patient. I was not. I tried not to push Aidan too hard but at the same time, I was immensely frustrated by his stubbornness. But he did it in his own time, in his own way. I needed to respect his development.

Thirdly, praise the effort. We didn’t criticise him when he refused to do it but told him to at least try. And if he did make the effort but did not complete the act, we acknowledged his attempt. And when he finally did it, we told him how proud we were of him for trying.

Fourthly, get a good instructor. The first instructor we had was a doozy. She was decent but was bad at scheduling, bailing out on us at the last minute. We complained to the school and they sent us a replacement who was so, so good with kids. She made them work, doled out heaps of positive affirmation and was so patient with Aidan when he flat out refused to do certain things. The kids all love her. I know mine do, Aidan loves to run towards the pool every Saturday yelling “TEACHER W!!!!”

So there – now go forth and rear your own human Dory!

GIVEAWAY! Mummybebe baby products

As most of you know by now, I am quite the crunchy mama. I like my products natural this and natural that. When local distributor mummybebe contacted me to ask if they could send me some of the products that they have, I was more than happy to say yes.

One of the brands that they carry is Farlin. Now, I usually associate the brand with the bigger items such as bath tubs, breast pumps, walkers/rockers etc. I was pleasantly surprised to know that they also carry baby cleaning products that are natural and eco-friendly.

Take, for example, the Farlin 2.0 Baby Bottle Wash. It is a FDA-certified product and is also phosphate-fee, phosphorus-free & fluorescence-free. While my kiddos don’t use milk bottles anymore, we use it everyday to wash their water bottles.

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And to add on to their eco-friendliness, the product also comes in refill packs. The 100ml travel-sized bottle is also great when you are on holiday – I recently found myself washing out all our water bottles using a bar of soap. Ack. Should have gotten me one of these.

Mummybebe was also kind enough to send across the Farlin Bon Bon Bowl. I decided to let my thug baby, I mean Zac, try it.

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Did it pass?

Well, yes. The bowl, which is supposed to be non-slip on any surface, held on pretty bravely until the very end. I would say that it works if you do not have a child who is stubbornly ripping the bowl off from the table. But I do love the versatility of the bowl.

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There is a soft silicon lid, which supposedly allows baby to have his food take-out (but which we didn’t try because Zac eats everything that we eat these days). There is a food divider as well as a feeding bowl. I placed some meat and rice into the dividers and soup into the food bowl for Zac. Worked pretty well! However, the bowl is pretty small so you have to replenish the food for big eaters.

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The bowl also comes with a soft-tip spoon, which is useful for babies learning to grasp cutlery.

In a nutshell, I think this bowl is great for little ones who are weaning for the first time. I can see how this would be useful for both baby-led weaning babies as well as puree-fed ones. Mums with toddlers with healthy appetites (and a desire to move things) like mine may find this a bit too small.

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GIVEAWAY!

I asked mummybebe if they would be so kind as to allow our readers to enjoy their products and they kindly said YES.

So three lucky readers stand to win a $50 e-voucher, to be redeemed for any product at mummybebe. All you need to do is follow the steps below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions
Giveaways are open to Singapore residents only. Winners will be contacted using the contact particulars provided when entering this draw (email address as requested) and will have 48 hours to respond, failing which a new winner will be drawn.

All incomplete entries will be disqualified. All entries will be verified before the winners are announced. To be fair to our sponsors, please note that all fake Facebook accounts (eg. accounts set up purely to take part in contests with no or very few real friends) will also be ineligible to win. Giveaways are in no way directly linked to Facebook.

Disclaimer: We were given the book for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

That Saturday

I shared an entry from my locked blog here previously. This is a continuation of that entry after we found out that we lost Bean. Our Bean. If you have always wondered what goes through the mind of a woman who has to undergo a D&C procedure, here’s my account of it.

That Saturday

I’m lying here at Dr Y’s clinic in a freezing room, waiting for time to pass after having pills inserted into me in preparation for the procedure.

Right beside this room is a consultation room separated by a thin door. Piercing through the icy silence is a doctor introducing himself to a couple. Doctor is talking to a happy couple about their baby, pointing out the baby’s head, heart chambers, measurements, etc. This doctor is extremely detailed, going into details about baby’s brain being normal. The happy chuckles of the couple intersperse the doctor’s consultation. Oh look. Baby is covering his face. More laughter. Everything’s excellent! Looking great! Oh it looks like a boy. But it may be a girl as well – its too early to tell.

As a bonus round, I even got to hear the loud WHOO WHOO of their baby’s heartbeat at 171 beats per minute.

I wonder if this is God’s idea of irony.

…………………………………………………………

We spent the entire Saturday – the husband’s birthday – at X Hospital. The long day started at Dr Y’s clinic where the scan showed, once again, our baby without the heartbeat. A lifeless, motionless image on the black-and-white screen.

The appointment for the D&C was made for 12.45pm at the hospital. We headed over in silence, lost in our own thoughts. What’s there left to say?

Completed paperwork, signed a million documents, and was then brought to the day surgery beds. I sat on the bed while the husband sat beside me, occasionally leaning his head onto my pillow as we chatted. Time seemed to crawl.

Finally, at 11.45am, I was asked to change into the hospital gown. They were blue in colour. Nicer than the dull pink ones at KKH. Got changed and sat around some more.

Was wondering if I had to walk to the operating theatre on my own or I was going to be wheeled in. I’ve never been wheeled into an OT on a bed. The husband thought I had to walk. I hoped I didn’t have to. Turns out I was going to be wheeled in. There was a rare laugh out loud moment when the nurse wheeling my bed misjudged a wall and banged the bed clumsily against it. It was funny. I laughed. The husband laughed. The nurses laughed.

I’ve watched the scene many times on TV. The one where the concerned relative walked alongside the bed while the patient is being wheeled into the OT. It was the same except that it was a lot less dramatic. It seemed like a long journey to the OT and I stole a glance at the ceiling lights above me. Just like in the movies, I thought. I smiled at the husband as we entered the OT waiting area. He stood outside, alone, and smiled back at me. He said he’d be waiting for me when I awake later.

I was placed at the side of a waiting area where CNA was playing on TV. A man dressed in hospital scrubs stood by the tv, a huge SLR hanging by his shoulders. I guess he was waiting for his wife who was probably undergoing a C-section in the same OT. A distance away, a middle-aged lady was attended to by her doctor before her surgery. She’s scared of pain and told the doctor to do it fast and give her any type of pain relief medication as she will be happy to pay for a no-pain experience. If only money could take away pain…

I remember staring at the TV but cannot remember what was being shown. A cold draft from the airconditioner directly above me was making me shiver. I already had 2 blankets over me. I remembered – I haven’t had anything to eat or drink since the night before. I had to fast before the operation.

At about 12.50pm, I was wheeled into the OT. It was a real operating theatre, complete with the giant lights above and lots of gadgets on one side of the light pink walls. Interestingly, the radio played “Don’t dream it’s over” by Crowded House. How apt. I almost laughed. Loads of nurses in green scrubs walking all around me. While waiting for Dr Y, the anesthetist came by to insert the needle into my left hand. As usual, he couldn’t find my vein. He gave me laughing gas to help ease the pain. I took a deep breath and felt my limbs go limp. Before I knew it, the needle was inserted. Not too painful. Yay.

The operation was scheduled for 12.45pm. It was delayed till 1pm as Dr Y was running late. Damnit. I was starting to cramp due to the medication inserted a few hours earlier (it softens the cervix to prepare for the op). Had to prop my legs up instead of lying flat out to make it less uncomfortable.

There was a huge digital clock in front of me. It was 1.05pm and still no sign of Dr Y. Everyone was waiting for his arrival for the op to begin. Finally, at about 1.15pm, he arrived, to a flurry of movement. Dr Y asked how I was feeling, I said ok. I think I said something like ‘let’s do it’. Not sure why I said that. I think I was just tired of waiting. I remember he smiled, touched my right cheek and said ‘Ok’.

The anesthetist came by and started to pump in the GA. It didn’t hurt this time. I felt a warm feeling come over and then I was out.

Woke up to Dr Y telling me that all was ok and that he gave me a week of hospitalisation leave. Told me to take care and rest well, and that he’d see me next Saturday. I don’t know how I took it all in but I somehow did. I was then wheeled back to the day surgery recovery room and when I opened my eyes again, the husband was beside me. I was back on the day surgery bed. Things were a little groggy. It only lasted 15 minutes. For some strange reason, I couldn’t stop talking to the husband the moment I was conscious. He had to cover my eyes with my jacket and told me to shut up. I blame the drugs.

I napped for a bit and then got up again. By then, it had started to pour really heavily outside. The lovely and kind nurse gave me a cup of water which I gulped down. Water never tasted so good. Soon, I was given a cup of hot Milo and plain biscuits. That was nice too.

I couldn’t help but notice the figure of a digital man printed on the tape holding the needle in. I wonder what it represented. Cute. Also, I realised that I really really need to moisturise. I have very dry hands.

Soon, I was told to change out of the hospital garb into my own clothes. I was also instructed to pee. Not sure why but I guess they wanted to make sure that all was well. Now, I wished someone had warned me but when I peed, it BLOODY FREAKIN’ HURT LIKE HELL?!!! It was a burning sensation down there and I was going WHAT THE FUCK! and OUCH! OUCH! in my head. Told the nurse after and she said, “Oh, this is normal. It would be ok after this.”

Damnit. Couldn’t she have warned me first? I guess pee contains salt and after an op, it’s obvious that salt over a wound is going to hurt.

After yet more paperwork, the nurse discharged me at 4pm. Doctor’s orders, apparently. We said our thanks, and left the building into hard hitting, driving rain. It was as if the Heavens were crying for us too.

Another chapter is over. Again.

How to survive HFMD with two kids

I have just crept out of the bedroom at 1150pm. A has been crying out in his sleep, thanks to the pain from the dreaded HFMD, and the husband has just medicated him.

Ah, HFMD.

Unfortunately, it is a sad reality of life for those of us who place our children in daycare. This time round, we have absolutely NO IDEA where Patient Zero Zac picked it up from. Nobody in school got it, we haven’t been to anywhere that germs and viruses propagate freely and joyfully – nowhere except the playground downstairs.

Urghs.

Anyway, we have sort of survived this current bout of HFMD even though it came at a cost. We had plans to head up north to Legoland for Zac’s birthday (SOB SOB) but everything had to be canned. The silver lining was that since husband and I had already planned to take leave, we were able to care for our sick littles without worrying about work.

We seemed to have gotten off easy in that it was a pretty mild strain. The boys didn’t run any fevers (which was why HFMD wasn’t at the top of our minds), the spots were minimal and the only issue we had was with the ulcers in the mouth. Even then, they were able to swallow, even if their appetites are not optimal.

The toughest thing was in trying to separate the two energetic little bulls. MY GOD, CAN DIE. Zac was hilarious, he didn’t understand why he couldn’t go near gor gor and was constantly trying to bulldoze/hug/wrestle/play with Aidan. We had repeatedly explained to Aidan why Zac couldn’t go near him so our day would be punctuated with screams of “Zac touched me!” or “Zac don’t come near me! No! AHHHHHRGH!” Then a bemused Zac would do something like headbutt his brother for screeching at him. Gah.

But yes. We survived. And I thought I’d share some of the things that I had learnt during this episode.

#1 Try TCM or alternative treatments
We have been going to a TCM physician on a regular basis, seeing that these two are constantly sniffling and coughing. Once we received the official diagnosis from the GP, I quickly made an appointment to see our TCM clinic. The physician gave Zac medicines to take twice a day to alleviate his symptoms and the rest of us once-a-day meds to prevent the virus from spreading.

While the husband and I have been spared (SO FAR TOUCH WOOD), Aidan hasn’t but I like to think that the medicine he had been consuming helped to lessen the severity of it. Zac also recovered pretty quickly, he was “discharged” on Day 6 after his symptoms appeared.

#2 Manuka honey and elderberry syrup
Whenever I have mouth ulcers, I will take a spoonful of manuka honey, neat, every day and night. I have found that the honey helps my ulcers to heal fast. With Zac, I made manuka honey with lemon water for him twice a day and I fed Aidan the honey direct.

A friend once taught me to use a non-metal spoon when spooning the honey out and also to never use it with hot water so I’ve been doing just that! Also, try manuka honey that has a Unique Manuka Factor of 15+ to 20+. I got mine – cheap-ish! – from iHerb, please use this code (OTI683) for a 5% discount if you are purchasing from the site for the first time.

I also feed them elderberry syrup regularly and this time, I doubled the dosage. I get mine from iHerb too and it’s so much cheaper there – our local shops charge so much that it’s almost criminal.

#3 Sanitise, sanitise, sanitise
Immediately after Zac was diagnosed, I texted Su-Lin from Our Lifestyle Shop to ask if she had any B-Sanitized in stock. HFMD spreads by direct contact with nasal discharge (ie. AH-CHOO!), saliva, faeces and fluids from the infected person. When we battled HFMD the previous time, B-Sanitised came in handy as we sanitised everything that Aidan came in contact with.

This time round, there was an even greater sense of urgency as we wanted to prevent Aidan from catching it too. Well. I mean, we were sort of resigned that he would eventually get it too, seeing how they were both happily drinking and spitting out their bath water during the incubation period (I know…don’t get me started…). But we tried anyway and the spray was fantastic.

Plus, she informed me that the shop was now selling a HFMD bundle, which included B-Sanitized, SafeHands and Total Solutions Foaming Lemon Scented Disinfectant. Both disinfectants were so easy to use – just spray (and then wipe for the Total Solutions product). We used Total Solutions on surfaces such as tabletops, chairs etc, while B-Sanitised went onto the things that my infectious brood touched. We also made sure to wash our and their hands with soap all the time, and sanitised with SafeHands frequently.

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You could always use good ‘ol Dettol and water, obviously. But B-Sanitised and Total Solutions are gentle on the environment AND humans AND felines – plus Dettol is poisonous to cats.

#4 Feed them cold stuff
Seriously, while porridge and soups are great, the heat burns the ulcers. Trust me, I have had prior experience (yup, I am an unfortunate adult who suffered from HFMD). We fed them loads of yogurt – both frozen and homemade – and they also downed milk by the gallon. My mother brewed herbal tea that we kept in the fridge and I made (manuka) honey lemon. Aidan was able to scarf down noodles that had gone cold while Zac loved picking up his vehicle pasta one by one into his mouth. They also took cheese. So YAY. Whatever works okay.

Oh, and guess what – DO NOT FEED THEM CHOCOLATE MILK. Oh em gee. I tried that when I was ill and the after-burn nearly KILLED me. It was so, so, so, SO painful!

#5 Grin and bear it
The above tip sounds silly, right, I mean it’s not like we are the ones suffering from the pain. But oh, my friend, you are wrong. We may not be physically suffering but our hearts are bleeding. When your child cries at every other mouthful of food. When he wakes up in the middle of the night, screaming in pain. When he points to the spots on his feet and says “pain, mummy”. When he refuses to drink water because he is fearful. When tears are welling in his eyes because the medicine is bitter and he knows he has to drink it. When he cannot close his mouth because he just has that many ulcers and saliva is dripping down his shirt.

You hurt with them.

But you need to be strong. Illnesses, as I have discovered back when Zac was warded for a week, is a test of your strength. And in times like these, parents have to be strong. It’s never about wallowing in self-pity, it’s everything to do with planning your next step so that your children will get and feel better. You can’t feel helpless because they are relying on you. And you try, try, try your best to be cheerful for them so that time passes faster for them (and for you too).

In this respect, I have much to thank the man for. There were moments when I literally put my head down on the table to sigh silently and when I looked up, he was engaging them in some silly activity – like bouncing balloons off his head or wrestling with them. Or he’d be showing them videos of airplanes or warships or space shuttles.

Seriously though, I do wish we had more childcare leave. Because one bout of HFMD can really wipe out your yearly quota in one shot. We were lucky that my mother was willing to watch Zac on that one day that we could not take off from work but there are many others who aren’t as lucky.

Goodbye HFMD. I don’t want to see you around. And may you, my dear reader, never have to use these tips. EVAR.

(Disclaimer: I was given a bottle of Total Solutions Foaming Lemon Scented Disinfectant as part of the ambassador programme for Our Lifestyle Shop but purchased the B-Sanitised on my own.)

GIVEAWAY! When does Squirky’s search end?

And just like that, we have come to the end of The Adventures of Squirky the Alien.

In the penultimate book, How do you get to the Garden Galaxy (which we wrote about here and which gave us all the sads), Squirky managed to track down the whereabouts of his biological parents. Faced with the prospect of finally reuniting with his parents, he eventually decided to give up that opportunity in order to go back to his life on earth with his adoptive parents.

I got to say, that decision truly gutted me. It was such a beautifully bittersweet moment – and I felt like writer Melanie Lee had personally sucker punched me. It was such a real dilemma, one that I can imagine many adoptive children go through.

And so, it was a pleasant surprise when Melanie wrote me to say that the last book was completed. I received it in the mail with much anticipation and could not wait to read it.

Was it a happy ending? Well, I won’t give it away here but needless to say, I thought it was the perfect ending. I really, really loved it. I felt that it reflected life so honestly, that we all make hard choices in our lives and we live these choices everyday. Some days are good, some days are tough – but we grit our teeth and move on. And so it was with Squirky too.

My boys and I, we have gone on the journey with Squirky for six books now and I have to say that it was a good, learning experience. Through the books, Aidan and I have spoken about the importance of empathy, for instance. And, funnily enough, almost-two Zac is a fan of Squirky! He loves to pull the books out of the shelf and wave them in my face with an imperious “Read! Book! Mummy, read!”

It got to the point that I had to hide the books because I was reading them for the nth time for the evening/week and I could practically memorise EVERYTHING (sorry Melanie!). Heh.

If you were looking for something new to read to your kids, I highly recommend this series. Not only is it culturally relevant, it’s full of lovely conversational moments that you can use to guide your tots. Plus, support local eh!

Dear Melanie, thank you for being so honest and open about your experience as an adoptive parent, and for bringing Squirky to life through your words. And thank you for sharing this story with me!

GIVEAWAY!
We have two copies of When Does The Search End? to give away! All you need to do is to complete the following steps.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note
Melanie Lee and illustrator David Liew are part of this year’s Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC), which is happening from 25 to 29 May 2016 at the National Library Building, Singapore.

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Check out these events below:

1. Launch of The Adventures of Squirky the Alien #6: When Does the Search End? [Note: This event is FREE and anyone can come!]
Date: Sun 29 May 2016
Time: 3-3.30pm
Venue: NLB Building, L1 Plaza

2. Squirky author Melanie will be co-presenting a talk on “Being Honest about Difficult Issues with Stories” with NIE Associate Professor Ruth Wong [Note: You will need to have signed up for either the Parents Forum or Preschool & Primary Teachers Congress]
Date: Sun 29 May 2016
Time: 1.15-2.15pm
Venue: NLB Building, L16 The Pod

She will also be moderating a panel discussing themes close to the Squirky book series:
– To S.I.R. (Socially Inclusive Reads) with Love: A socially inclusive picture book for kids, with or without special needs [Note: You will need to have signed up for the Preschool & Primary Teachers Congress]
Date: Sun 29 May 2016
Time: 11.15-12.15pm
Venue: NLB Building, B1 Multipurpose Room

Terms and conditions
Giveaways are open to Singapore residents only. Winners will be contacted using the contact particulars provided when entering this draw (email address as requested) and will have 48 hours to respond, failing which a new winner will be drawn.

All incomplete entries will be disqualified. All entries will be verified before the winners are announced. To be fair to our sponsors, please note that all fake Facebook accounts (eg. accounts set up purely to take part in contests with no or very few real friends) will also be ineligible to win. Giveaways are in no way directly linked to Facebook.

Disclaimer: We were given the book for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

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