A Day in the life of a solo-parent

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Soloparenting. A word synonymous with lonely, tiring, frustrating, sometimes happy but mostly tough. I'm no stranger to this. In fact, most would agree, I am a veteran! Ever since Big K was born, the hubs had travelled on the third week of my confinement. Then when Small K was born, I prayed fervently that he could at least be around for the full month but SURPRISE, he flew on week 3 as well! Deja vu! Leaving me to mambo with 2 young ones! As a newly minted mother of two, this certainly wasn't my idea of bliss. My confinement any fell ill the day the hubs left and I had to send her home the next day. Mom came to my rescue but she, too gave up the next day after one night of disco.

As the days went by, things became better. Not because the travels diminished but perhaps I became numbed by it all. What can't kill you will make you stronger right? It's nice if the hubs is in town. He does most menial tasks and picks the kids up at night. Settles them and reads them stories so that when I reach home, all I needed to do was to give them a hug and a kiss. Everything else falls on my shoulders when he is away. We have no helper and I work crazy hours. I used to grumble a lot as his travels could be at the eleventh hour and sometimes spans across weekends. Mega hate! It is tough to plan birthday parties or anniversary celebrations with his uncertain schedule. You could book him one minute, but the next minute he will pull a disappearing act again. He, is worse than a pilot! These days I take things in stride. I plan things for my kids and if he is around, it would be a bonus. In fact, it is much easier to plan things without him being in the picture. Coz he isn't a fan of kids' parties or anything kiddish.

So how is a day in my life like? Well, last weekend was a pretty atypical one. It was packed with activities back to back! On Saturday, we had a media event to attend followed by some playground fun, then off we went to a birthday party, swimming class and finally dinner at the mall. We were out from 9am till 9pm! You think that is epic? Well, let me share with you what we did on Sunday -- 17 September; 8am to 11pm:

I was egged by mmlittlee and decided to take the plunge to drive through the causeway myself together with my two littles, to Legoland. In all honesty, I was scared! What if I lose my way? But it is one straight road isn't it? What if I got robbed? Hmmm, I don't have that much money to begin with. All these worries flooded my mind and I decided to seek the hub's opinion. The man gave me a credulous look and flashed the green light stating that is was a brainless thing to drive across the causeway and that anyone could do it. Ohhh, but would anyone do it with two kids aged 5+ and 3? His mentality is built on the fact that his mom is an independent woman who would drive in alone with her brand new family car, without informing anyone, across the causeway, just to pump petrol or buy fresh fish! I informed the mother-in-law of my plans and she was actually more concerned about the jam more than anything else.

So, I went. And with the guidance rendered by mmlittlee, I conquered the 2nd link! The way home was a little more harrowing as I followed SoNatty's hubby's car and was led to the first link instead. It was late at night, plus it was raining. But somehow, i wasn't afraid. Now, we all know how crazy traffic is over at the the first link and true enough, I lost sight of his car! But fret not as my training in chauffeuring for years has given me good topo sense. Plus, the immigration building was within sight. It was really rather brainless. The only problem:: The jam at 930pm! Thankfully the kids were good. Small K slept through while Big K slept but woke up midway asking if we have arrived. Sorry baby, the jam's bad. 

So after a grand 2 hours, we arrived home and I quickly got Big K to brush her teeth and while she was at it, I quickly loaded our dirty laundry and then chased her to her room and made her sleep. While the washing machine was spinning, I also managed to shower, do a facial mask, folded my clean laundry, washed their bottles, prepared soup for the next day and followed up on my little business over at LeBox. It was a race against the washer! That kept my adrenaline up! This, in fact, is a typical exercise I do every night! I would set something to do and settle all other things within the given time frame. Multitasking is in the blood of most soloparents. It is a survival skill! That night, they slept very well. They did, as usual, climbed up my bed midway, but I was too tired to even notice. Plus, with the hubs out of the way, 3 on a bed wasn't that bad a crowd.

While going to Legoland is an atypical day, my days as a solo-parent is generally the same. With work packed to the brim in the day after I send them off to school in the afternoon and #momlife at night. Weekends are no better as I try to pack their day with at least 2 to 3 activities. Sometimes, this can go all the way up to 4! Psst! I'm gonna share with you what keeps me alive! Nope, it isn't coffee as I'm not a coffee addict, but the following items!

I will take double the shots if i know it was going to be a long day. It works! A healthy alternative to red bull!

Ok, the above varies, but essentially, alcohol can be my best company during solo days. It keeps me sane.

Solo or not, things are pretty much the same. Life goes on and the pillar of my life are my two cuties.  I used to cry a lot over this, but after some time I realised, no one's gonna pity me. No one's gonna help me. So i have started sharing with like-minded friends instead. For all you solo parents out there, I advise you to be mentally strong and to focus on things you enjoy. One reason why I tend to fill my plate to the brim. This keeps me positive and focus instead of letting my imagination run wild or wallow in my pitiful state. Plan your life around yourself and if the partner is around, it's a bonus. I do get my mood swings too but little milestones like solo to Legoland gets me back on track again!

As I was crafting this post midway, a text from the hubs came in and I am now hit by severe mood swings. He is currently away but has informed me of his tentative October schedule. I'm usually quite chill except that this round, it will clash with Big K's graduation performance! The girl will be so devastated if she knew her dad isn't able to make it! It would scar her for life! Most would say that he didn't mean it since it is work. Yes. I have to agree. I have to be that oh-so-supportive wife who doesn't gets into a crazy fit each time he announces his long hauls. But this time, I am this close to losing it. Because, he didn't realised that it clashed till I commented. Clearly, what I had been telling him didn't register despite incessant naggings! I had told him to lock this in his calendar eons ago. Really hoping for a miracle to happen now.

Life as a solo parent can be so daunting and mentally and physically draining. I get a lot of moments when I am plagued with guilt for not being able to give either child the attention they crave or deserve. I have to exercise restraint as things does get a little intense and patience does get tested. But let's be strong and support each other. We can't fault the man as it is work. But perhaps a little more sensitivity, mindfulness and appreciation would go a long way?

To all soloist out there, how do you do it? Share your tips!

Review & Discount: Pramwash, Singapore's First Baby Stroller Cleaning Company

Saturday, August 12, 2017

How often do you wash your pram or carseat? Come on, let's be honest here. We almost never wash our pram and our carseat, well, we try to wash it once a year. It's a chore to take it out and wash and it takes a few days to dry. Meaning to say, we will be without a carseat for a few days. A no-no, since I uber my kids every day.

When I got to know about PramWash, I was excited. They are the first baby stroller cleaning company based in Singapore with full-service stroller cleaning options available to local families. They have grown so much that they have recently expanded into a larger space to accommodate their growing client demands.

So how does it work?
They have essentially two types of packages available -- The Complete and the Intensive.
The complete package will remove accumulated dirt and bacteria and freshen up your pram/ car seat/ carrier for your baby's everyday use. This package includes vacuum, wash, wipe and sterilising of the fabrics and frame. Prices start from $25 for a carrier to $170 for a double pram + 2 car seats. A really good deal don't your think?

The Intensive stain removal package is required for very dirty prams with any sort of stains that need to be removed. This is done right down to the wheels (Provided the wheels can be dismantled). This package includes all treatments from the complete package with an additional step to remove yucky hairs from wheels.

Our pram isn't exactly that dirty as we underutilise it. However, it has been around since Small K was born and hadn't been washed. Meaning to say, 3 years of dirt has been accumulated! I am pretty sure there is a lot more which the naked eye cannot detect. The professionals at Pramwash dismantled the entire pram and ensured that each part is cleaned thoroughly.

The products used are all child friendly. Before they do any cleaning, a functionality check is done to make sure the pram in good working condition. To start off, they remove the fabric frame, vacuum and soak the products for stain removal. The chassis is then given a wipe down. The fabric will be steamed clean and heat-dried. Finally the product will be reassembled and returned to the client.

A significant difference was noted for our carseat. We are guilty of eating in the car. You see, very often, the kids are so slow in eating their breakfast such that we have to allow them to eat in the car. And with that, we are prone to "accidents". The brown stain was made by Small K who sat on an egg chocolate given to him for Easter. We didn't realise the source till almost a week later! *horrors! Thankfully the ants did not come! I tried using wet wipes and Febreze to clean off the stain but to no avail. To make myself feel a little more at ease, I sprayed on some disinfectant. Thereafter, I left it as it was. Thanks to Pramwash, my carseat is now as good as new! I love how attentive they were to details even like delivery. A message was sent to me about the delivery and collection and a follow up from the staff was also made. There was a slight hiccup with the courier company which didn't dare take our carseat initially as no instructions were given to him (he claimed) but that was quickly rectified with a text to Pramwash

Perhaps you might be asking:: this doesn't solve my problem of having no carseat for almost a week. Well, fret not, their sister company, PramShare is a rental specialist which will be able to help you if you do not have a spare carseat. Smart or what?

"Babies are messy by nature, cleaning up their messes is just part of growing up," said Kenneth Tan, Founder and Owner of PramWash. "However, an unfortunate side effect from their messes can be dangerous health situations that make raising children even more difficult for parents. That's where PramWash steps in."

For you, my readers, 
Enjoy 15% off all services excluding delivery.

Apple the code: JANICEWONG15%OFF, valid till 31 October 2017. 

What are you waiting for? Give your babies a clean seat to sit on!

Disclaimer: I was given a free wash for a pram and carseat for the purpose of this review. No additional monetary compensation was received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/ services.

Review: Kidstartnow June Holiday Superhero Camp

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

It's the June Holidays once again! My favourite time of the year! Not because I get to rest more, but on the contrary, I have to work harder! There's a host of activities out there for us to participate in! It is so tough to squeeze them all. Hence, one has got to be selective.

This June, we have been kindly invited to attend a 4 day Chinese holiday camp organised by Kidstartnow. There are three classes held:

1) Role-playing and conversation camp for 3-6 year olds
This focuses on role-playing and oral conversation. 
Maximum of 8 students

2) Show and Tell & Word recognition camp for 6-8 year olds.
This prepares children for show and tell in primary school as well as boosts their level of vocabulary 
Maximum of 10 students

3) P2 game show camp for 8 year olds
The camp reinforces concepts learnt in school so that kids are well-prepared. 
Parents also get personalised progress report sent to them, as well as actionable tips on how to help kids achieve better grades.

This camp has been consistently sold out since its inception in 2013. With such track record, it must be pretty good right? In fact, they have expanded and now have two outlets: Bedok & Serangoon. We were in the camp for show and tell and mommy is loving it! Truth be told, I am, like any other parent, Kiasu. Not to a large extent but I do want my child to excel in school. Big K is a pretty smart girl, however, she is rather soft spoken. Last year, when she was in K1, our preschool teacher highlighted that she wasn't sensitive towards Chinese characters! Say what? How could that be, I asked myself. Granted I did not do much writing with her, I have definitely read a good amount of books with her. Sometimes, I am being forced to as the school assigned them books to read at home. At my in-law's place where she goes every weekday evening, the family speaks to her in Mandarin. Coupled with that, we lived with the in-laws for almost half a year! So, I couldn't really accept the fact that my daughter was inadequate in the language. I panicked and we pulled up our socks. We did see marked improvements, but honestly, I needed more help. Chinese isn't my forte. Just like many, I dreaded the subject. I was put through rote learning when young and I did not want my child to go through the same path of learning. 

At Kidstartnow, for preschoolers, they use a multi-sensory approach that combines animated stories, games and role-playing to build a deep passion for Chinese and a solid foundation. Learn through play! That's exactly what I have been advocating since day one! 

The adorable Boshi Panda (博士熊猫)
To be honest, I was a little apprehensive as this baby girl of mine isn't confident when it comes to speaking up. Not that she doesn't know. In fact, she does! Oral is extremely important these days with the new syllabus. The weightage have gone up and the format has changed. You are expected to give your opinions rather than regurgitate what your teachers have told you. Hence, I am particularly concerned in this area and am trying my best to boost her confidence.The moment we stepped into the centre, I felt at ease. The place was so colourfully decorated to the theme -- Superheroes. Even the walls had intricately cut out bamboo stems to make the whole look and feel complete. Dedication! It made the place very welcoming. Our teacher, 刘老师 was also a very experienced teacher who was able to nudge the child into participating. And, participate was what Big K did! I saw her prancing around in class from day one! She was exhilarated to be chosen to be Little Panda sister 熊猫妹妹. I guess the role has got to be hers, because she's the tiniest in class and the youngest!

In class, to encourage the children to participate, they were given electronic gold coins as a reward. Their scores can be seen on a screen and that got many kids excited. Most children are by nature, competitive. Even an introvert like Big K was raising her hand to answer questions! They were taught several Chinese words and phrases and even idioms through stories revolving around a pair of panda siblings who are constantly quarrelling. Through the story, they will learn about sibling love. Something which I inculcate at home as well. The children are taught descriptive words and each time, after explaining, the teacher would get them to make  sentence (造句). This is a fundamental skill as it would be useless if one only knows the meaning by heart but not know how to apply it. Big K was initially making rather short sentences. However, perhaps due to peer pressure, by Day 2, the teacher told us that she was making longer sentences! yay!

Now, I did say they made use of animated stories to entice the students. These stories were told in class and in addition to that, everyday, they would email us the link to review the story! Apart from accessing it through the email via the computer, one can also save it on the phone as a webapp! Lessons on the go! In this era of technology, it is very difficult to deny a child of access to the iPad. However, as much as possible, I only expose them to useful things and this definitely is one of them! Apart from listening to the story, there is also a tab to listen to the hanyu pinyin taught in class. Very helpful for both parent and child. Their proprietary software empowers your kids to excel quickly in exams by providing timely actionable feedback so you know how your kids are doing and who to help them.

Here's Big K playing with her friends before class. Look how tiny she is! She's the youngest but that's no problem as she was able to catch up really fast. Also, the teacher catered to her standards and guided her along. #proudmama

Over and above, I think it has been a very fruitful and beneficial camp for Big K. She has been opening her eyes each day and asking me if she would be going for the camp every. single. day! Wow! There are discounts available for bulk purchase for their June Holiday programmes so do enquire! If for some reason you are unable to make it for the camp, do give their regular classes a try too! There are trial classes.

Follow Kidstartnow on Facebook or check out their website for more details. 

Foundation is built when the child is young. It has to be laid well especially since many schools are starting off Higher Chinese at P1! *sweats. Big K is still not  speaking to me a lot in Mandarin but I definitely see an improvement as her passion for the subject seems to have been rekindled!

Disclaimer: I was given an invitation to attend the June holiday camp for the purpose of this review. No additional monetary compensation was received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/ services.

Sticker making workshop

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Last weekend we were invited by Smarter.me to attend an interesting workshop jointly organised by Faber Castell Singapore, Stickiemail and The lettering Workbook

Smarter.me is a platform set up by parents who understand the difficulty in finding the right course for your child. They believe that there should be a place where parents don't have to waste hours researching because they are assured of quality and fit. The platform categorises courses according to different interest groups. Not only are parents able to find a match easily, educators and enrichment centres are also able to reach out to their audience. If in doubt, you can always ask the instructor a question through the platform. There may sometimes be reviews from other parents who have attended for your reference. In addition, the instructors' and course details are clearly stated on the site, making it transparent for all.

Photo Credit: Stickiemail

Now, back to the workshop. I said it was interesting because it was a workshop where we MADE stickers. Yup, DIY. I don't know about you, but many a times, I find it tough to find good quality (non-China made) stickers in the design I want. For example, there was a time when Big K was obsessed over Frozen. Everything had to be in Elsa and Anna. I posted on Facebook asking where I could find stickers on those characters and most pointed me to Pasar Malam (night markets). Some kind souls even pointed me to a location where they saw such a market selling such stickers. Some as far as the West! I live on the other side of Singapore and there is NOoooooo way I was going to travel that far! But to appease Big K's insatiable appetite for Frozen stickers, I did drive around quite a bit in search for it! Finally, I found! Only to realise that most of the stickers aren't sticky anymore due to age. The glue had lost its adhesiveness and some stickers were even turning yellow! Can't blame the seller. They were going at 3 booklets for $3. 

So when I learnt that there is a sticker making machine, which is priced affordably, has hit the Singapore shores, I was beyond excited! This is such a great tool which is so useful even if you aren't a fan of scrapbooking. At the workshop, KY and her team from The Lettering Workbook showed us how easy it was to make our own stickers. You could doodle on a piece of cardstock, colour it and slot it into the machine then pull the tape out! Too lazy to even draw? Print from the Internet or better yet, recycle and cut out from old magazines! It's that simple! Even my 5yo could do it! Big K was engrossed in making them and was terribly upset at one point where she pulled a little too much tape and wasted a good portion of it. Frugal is her virtue. At the end of the workshop, I had to drag her away and she was once again, upset that we had to leave. Only when I told her that she could continue making stickers at home because we now own a Xyron Sticker machine, did a smile light up on her face! 

The free doodles given out by The Lettering Workbook was such a hit! It kindof made me want to doodle a bit at home as well! 

I printed these doodles from the Internet!

The machine is quite a saviour. I have been rather busy these days catching up on work and chores. I have completely no time to entertain or teach the kids. I was surprised that a few days after the event, Big K came forward to ask me if she could make some stickers with the little brother! Why, of coz! as long as you guys leave me alone! haha...I printed some doodles for them, got them to colour them and they made heaps of stickers and yes, I managed to get some work done! Yay! Win-win! If you would like to get your hands on one of these babies, do check them out online or the following retail outlets:

  • Times Bookstores
  • Kinokuniya Books
  • NBC Stationery & Gifts
  • Naiise
  • Made With Love
  • The Elly Store/Twelve By Elly; or 
  • via our online Storytime Kit collaboration partner, Tickle Your Senses. 
They do have several upcoming events, so do check them out as well!

After the event, we walked around the Faber Castell's Art Exhibition and feasted our eyes on how their marker caps could be made into various attractions in Singapore! I had always love their range of markers and colour pencils but never bought it for Big K as looking at the way the kids handled their stationery, I felt it would be a big waste! You see, their markers and colour pencils are often strewned all over the floor despite my incessant nagging and despite the fact that I did give them a designated place to store their tools. However, all words fall on deaf ears. 

With Small K, it is worse! He uses markers on Everything! Yes, Everything including his TOES and fingernails! (Cue: Jaw Drop). However, as Big K was colouring with Faber Castell's markers, she commented how smooth they were and that why I hadn't bought her such a set before! 'Nuff said. 

It was such a fruitful bonding session for my first born and I. We really enjoyed the session!
Thank you for the invite, guys!

Disclosure: We were invited by Smarter.me to attend the sticker making workshop. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/services.  

The birth of my number 4 -- Lebox

Saturday, May 20, 2017

I went through it again! The birth of my number 4! After my two Ks, my diapercake business Rhapnroll, I took the plunge together with fellow mummy xavvylicious on 27 March 2017 and started a new venture! The conception and gestation of this baby is certainly the shortest. Phew! I don't have to carry it for 9 months before my waterbag bursts and go through 27hours of labour pain (that was how long it was before Big K decided to make her appearance😅)

It was really by the stroke of fate that Lebox was conceived. It started as an innocent brunch date with xavvylicious on a fateful Monday morning at Forty Hands. We were chatting about random stuff and the next thing you know, it was a lightbulb moment for the both of us! We were so in sync in thoughts with respect to educating our children. We wanted to do more! We wanted to spread this love to time-starved mummies. Children are like sponges and it is such a sad sight to see their little faces glued to the google boxes or the ipads. I do not deny that a certain amount of screen time is necessary for our own sanity as well as to let the child be in the knowing. I wouldn't want them to be outcasted just because they didn't know Fluttershy is part of My Little Pony. However, the increasing reliance on gadgets is prevalent and we can't deny. Hopefully if readymade learning materials are readily available, parents may consider putting down the gadget and bond with the child.

With the intensity of the rat race, we also recognise that academics is essential. It isn't easy to marry academics to fun but we have been doing quite a fair bit in that area with our own children so why not spread the love to others? 

To focus on Chinese (for the moment) was pretty clear to me. You see, Small K doesn't seem to fancy the subject and in fact refuses to reply his teachers or us in Mandarin. I realised this could be because my plate had been so full, trying to keep those two little beings alive when Small K came to this world, hence I was not able to expose him as much as i did for Big K. It was only after almost 1.5years did I achieve a better equilibrium and ensured that the two did not starve, had clean clothes to wear and got to school mostly on time. The name LeBox was also inspired by Small K who is affectionately known as 乐乐. Lè can also be hanyu pinyin for 乐 and 'the' in french! And recently, a fellow mommy A also pointed out that it could take the meaning of LEarningbox! Wow! One name, many interpretations! I love!

So right after that brunch session, xavvylicious and I started brainstorming and spamming each other with ideas and like they say, the rest is history!

Without further ado, may I present you with Lebox first box based on the Dumpling Festival theme!

Did you know that Dumpling Festival is also known as double five? Don't know right? Well, I didn't as well! I didn't even know there were more than one folklore leading to this festival! Apparently 屈原 is not the only celebrity here! Anyway, let's start with what we are more familiar with. The Dragon Boat Festival memorializes the patriot poet Qu Yuan and has held an important place in China's agrarian society. It falls on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar, explaining why one of its alternate names is the Double Fifth Festival. 

To help children be more culturally aware, #leboxsg has proudly come up with a Chinese learning box filled with fun materials which allows your child to not only understand the culture more, but to boost his interest in the Chinese language.

Steaming inside the box are:
- A sticker storybook about the origins of Dumpling Festival -Sequencing cards to enrich literacy
- Supplies for craft
- Supplies to teach numeracy
- Bricks for fine motor skills
- Fun reusable worksheets for word recognition
- Right brain training cards
- Fishing kit to teach word recognition
- Oracy materials
- Parent Guide with detailed activity instructions

Our materials can be used to complement each other. There may be more than one way to play. It is up to your imagination.

For example, our right-brain material is a gem. It can double up as ESP training, memory training and telepathy! 

In case you don't know what I am talking about, here's the summary:

The right brain is sometimes known as the image brain. Through high speed training, it enlarges the vessel for the brain. ESP: It forms the right brain's 5 senses, similar to how the left brain senses are: sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell. So how do we play this?

  • Place the set of 4 cards in a row facing up.
  • Have your child hold another set of 4 cards facing down.
  • Ask your child to place each card facing down corresponding to what they think is the same as the set that is facing up.
  • When your child has placed all 4 cards, flip them over to check if they are the same as those facing up.

Another way of using this set is to hone their memory:

  • Place the 4 pictures on the grey board in whichever order you desire
  • Show it to the child for 3 seconds and then face the cards down.
  • Get the child to arrange his set of cards on his own board.
  • Once done,  flip over your set and let the child compare. If the child is having difficulty, start with one or two cards. Adapt the game accordingly to age and ability of your child. There are many possibilities and you may rearrange the cards and repeat the activity.

Lastly, we could work on telepathy with this set of cards. Telepathy is a child's ability to make a successful guess of what is visualised in the mind of his parent. You may think that this is bogus but it is a good skill to have when you need to tikam tikam for MCQ during an exam! It is actually to strengthen your intuition. So here's what you can do:

  • Line up the 4 cards in from of your child, faced up.
  • Line up 4 cards in front of yourself faced down.
  • Take one of your cards without showing your child what it is and stare intently at it and see the imagine your mind. 
  • Repeat this as many time as you like.

It isn't Dumpling Festival yet but I have started some activities with my children and they absolutely loved them!

Hop over to @leboxsg on instagram and shower us with love! 

We put in a lot of effort in this and hope that all Lebox users will learn in a 快乐 manner!!