Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How Five Cents Can Help a Child

Do you have a five-cent coin with you now? Please take it out and have a good look at it.

What do you see?

Well, it’s very small and light, it’s gold, and it has the image of the fruit salad plant on one side and the coat of arms of Singapore on the other.

But beyond what you can see physically, have you ever pondered its worth?

Like me, you probably never did. In this affluent country we live in, a five-cent coin is almost of no value. After all, what can it buy us?

Yet somewhere else in the world, five cents can do much.

What five cents can be worth

According to Children's Hunger Fund, US$0.05 is enough to provide a hungry child a meal (see CHF gift catalog). 

Ok, so US$0.05 is about S$0.065, I’ve stretched that a little.

But my purpose is to get you to see that what appears of little or no value to us can make a big difference to someone else - sometimes, a difference as huge abetween life and death. 

Image source: CHF

And last month, the world’s total population has hit the 7 billion people mark. Yet it's estimated that this year, a startling 6 million children will die from hunger related causes. Just think, 6 million children - that's more than the whole population of Singapore! 

Image source: CHF

The problem may seem overwhelming, but if each of us contribute just US$5, we can make a huge enough impact. 

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." Mother Theresa

What two mom bloggers are doing

Alternatively, here's how you can help - through what many Singaporeans do best - shopping. 

Two mom bloggers Pauline and Rachel have come together to do a fund-raising for CHF (in fact, Rachel is the one who initiated this awareness campaign about CHF and the two of them are so humble that they initially didn't want to make known their identities). Together with another friend, they will be setting up stall to sell exquisite and unique hand-made crafts.

Here are the details:

Date: Saturday, 3 December
Time: 2 - 9pm

All proceeds from this bazaar event will go to CHF. Look out for a signage that indicates it's a fund-raising activity for CHF.

So if you're in Orchard area this Saturday, swing by  *SCAPE to support these wonderful ladies in their effort. 

And if you are inspired enough, you can organise a fund-raising activity for CHF too!

Here are some suggestions:
  • Bake sale
  • Make and sell a product
  • Skip a meal (you get to lose some weight by doing good) or a Starbucks coffee and donate the money to CHF

Or if you have a child who has learnt to save some money, talk to him/her to give a little of his savings to help hungry children.

What else can you do? 

You can also help create awareness about CHF. 

Simply share on your blog any of the information you've read here (or from Rachel and Pauline's blogs), together with the logo above (just right click and save image in your hard drive).

Appeal for friends and readers to go directly to this page to make a contribution. All it takes is US $5.00 for 100 meals for the children. Of course, it will be great if you can contribute more. 

Or you can also go to this page to make a donation to other areas of needs, such as disaster relief and orphan care. 

If you blog about this or plan to organise a fund-raising activity, please drop me a note here. Let's encourage one another to make a difference to those who are in need.

 I'll leave you with this quote that I find so meaningful:

"How wonderful it is that nobody needs wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." Anne Frank

About Children's Hunger Fund

Children's Hunger Fund is a Christian nonprofit organization that works to alleviate the suffering of children in impoverished regions across America and around the world. Through strategic partnerships in targeted communities, CHF works to improve the lives of poor children and their families comprehensively, meeting their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Since CHF began in 1991, the organisation has distributed more than $927 million in food and other resources to serve the needs of more than 10 million children in thirty-five U.S. states and seventy-two countries worldwide.

Since CHF's inception, an average of 99% of its total contributions have been used for programs serving the needs of children.

If you are one of those who scrutinises a charity's financial statements before making a contribution, examine the figures here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Look Mom, I Can Fit in Here!

I must be a bad mom. Unlike many parents, grandparents (and even the maids) who bring the little ones out for  grocery shopping, window shopping or at least to the playground EVERYDAY, I don't. From Mondays to Fridays, he gets out of the house about thrice on average. Perhaps because of this, my boy is bored. So bored is he that he has resorted to some unconventional idea of play.

It started a few months back with this....

Then this....

And in the past two weeks, it has been this....

(when he thought no one was looking)

Emptied a book basket...

... and cramped himself into that small space and finding out it ain't comfortable

Then he started emptying the toy baskets and found that they worked really well...

Anyway, I call this the 'See Where I Can Fit In' game. It makes me feel kinda guilty - guilty that I haven't bought him more toys, guilty that I haven't taken him out more often (but it's been raining a lot too!), guilty that I've been too caught up with work and whatever else.

BUT... looking at the bright side of things, I must say he's getting more creative, and he's definitely learning how to make the best out of a situation. Which don't you think is an important life skill to acquire?

So hey, maybe I'm not such a bad mom after all?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Latest Love Affair

At different phases, my boy has been fascinated by different things. Guess what's caught his attention now?

Yes, it's the washing machine. Don't ask me why. I cannot fathom.

He loves watching the clothes gets spun around and would even point out which garment belongs to who (dad-dad, mama, por-por - which means grandma, or jie-jie, our domestic helper).

Recently, he has a new watch-the-machine-spin ritual.

He would take a stool, plonk it down in front of the machine and stick his butts on it for at least the next five to 10 minutes. Then he'll get up and start pressing the buttons or try opening the door. Or worse, he starts exploring the many bottles of detergents nearby and a battle ensues, with us (the helper and I) trying to stop him from grabbing (or worse, opening) any of the said bottles. Ah.. this is what keeps me the WAHM busy.

How about your little ones? What's their latest fascination? Please do share, so I can know what might potentially be up ahead!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Letter to My Son

You are almost two now and everyday, you never fail to amaze us by how much you’re learning and how quickly you learn.

Just last week, you started climbing the metal gate (and how adept you’re at it!) and the first thing that came to my mind was – who in the world taught you that?! And when you climbed high enough, you pressed the door bell and flashed your sweetest smile.

Ahh... yes son, you can now reach the bell without having any of us carry you – and well done for finding your solution to the challenge! I’m proud that you’re able to do that, but be careful alright? Choose a safer solution if you can help it and not make mommy’s heart miss a beat!

 Meanwhile, your good observation skills and superb memory is certainly a great help to mommy, who seems to be getting more forgetful these days. You can remember things that I’ve taught you just once, like the colour grey or what a spade is, and you know where some things are kept, even when I thought you’ve never noticed them. Like the other day when I said I needed to take your temperature, you ran to your room to get the thermometer and I thought you didn’t see where I’ve placed it.

Mommy can see that you’re becoming more sociable too. Remember our recent trip to the library? At the entrance, you went up to one slightly older boy and shook hands with him. After that, both of you went into the library together and even introduced books to each other. I hope that when you start school, you will enjoy learning and playing together with your new friends.

But for now, rabbit and teddy bear remain your best friends, who together with mommy, daddy and jie-jie, are your ‘guinea pigs’ for all your culinary creations – usually rather ‘exotic’ ones, like a one-pot dish comprising sausage, orange, eggs, banana and fries.

When your soft toy friends are sick, you will put on the stethoscope and try to find out what’s wrong with them and then feed them medicine. Would “doctor” be your answer when asked what you want to be when you grow up? It will be interesting to find out what your dreams and passion are. Whatever they may be, I hope that you will pursue your passion and put your talents to good use.

These days, whenever you misbehaved and I get angry, you would apologise by signing ‘sorry’. Seeing you ‘say’ sorry, and sometimes so profusely, makes my anger dissipates almost immediately. You know, the truth is, mommy won’t be angry with you for long. I love you too much for that. I just hope that when you’re older, you can understand why sometimes I need to discipline you and not allow you to do certain things.

It’s been raining more frequently, not surprising since it’s the year end. It means you can’t go to the parks as often as before. Now that the weather is turning cooler, you also don’t ask for the air-con anymore. Do you remember how you would go to mommy and daddy’s room, take the remote control and switch on the air-con yourself? Daddy and I were amused and laughed at how you know about enjoying creature comforts at such a tender age. Not only that, you’ve also learnt how to switch on the TV and surf channels with the remote control! We are proud of the skills you’ve picked up, though sometimes we wish you could wait a while longer on some of them!

But today, as I watched you put the toys into the basket and carried it to your room and placed it back on the shelf, my heart swelled with pride. You’re gaining greater independence and you sometimes act like an adult, like how you now prefer to sit on the dining chair instead of the highchair.

Thankfully, one thing that has not changed yet is how you still prefer to be carried by me, bathed by me, fed by me and on one else but mommy to accompany you at bedtime. I know someday this will all change, perhaps it will come sooner than I expected. I can’t imagine how it will be when you are bigger and start dating. I hope I won’t get too jealous of your girlfriends, and eventually wife. 

But till then, I relish in being the centre of your world, and I am so thankful for all the joys you’ve brought me. I hope that when you’re all grown up, you would still see me as a wonderful mom, as just I think you’re the sweetest little boy in the whole world. Mommy loves you. Forever.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Not Sure Where to Go this Weekend? Try the Animal Resort

Do you know that besides the zoo and bird park, there are other places in Singapore where children can have a close encounter with animals? Well, I surely didn't, not until friends started sharing with me about them. The latest that we've discovered is The Animal Resort.

The Animal Resort, whose core business is actually pet business, is located at Seletar West, near Jalan Kayu which is famous for its prata shops, otah and durian/chocolate cake from Jane's Cake Station). 

What You Can See and Do

Stepping into the resort, we were immediately greeted by smell of animal dung - now, how much more 'kampong' can it get? 

While some animals like chicken, peacock, horse and goat were behind fence, there were others roaming freely on the sprawling grounds. We spent about an hour there feeding small animals and exploring the place.

The goat and the horse - I wish they have their own kind for company, they looked so lonely!

Getting to know some feathered friends... as you can see, some of them were roaming freely!

Top pic: Kenan feeding the rabbits. Bottom pic: We put the carrot at the cage and the guinea pig happily gnawed away at it.

Top pic: There were a variety of feeds for the different animals; we bought carrots ($1/pack), which can feed the horse, goat, rabbit and guinea pig. Bottom pic: The shed which holds the rabbits and guinea pigs.

Top pic: Kenan was amused by the talking parrot, which said "hello" to us. Bottom pic: Looking at fishes in the pond.

Our verdict: The resort is rustic but some people may find it run down. Overall quite a good place for young children to be introduced to animals and have close encounters with them. After you're done, you can hop over to Jalan Kayu for some prata and otah! 

The Animal Resort
T81 Seletar West Farmway 5 
Singapore 798061
Tel: 6338 7665
Email: ricted@singnet.com.sg
Free admission

Another similar place that you may like to visit is the Pasir Ris Kid's Kampong. Read about it here

Hope your little ones will have a fun weekend!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Packing for a Holiday and Other Tips for Travelling with Tots

When we were preparing for our trip, the biggest headache was in packing for Kenan. It being our first family holiday, I decided to ask friends who had travelled to Hong Kong with their young children for some tips. Here's sharing with you the tips I've picked up, as well as what we learnt from our trip.

Packing for the little one

Besides bringing along the essential items like clothes, diapers and formula milk, we brought along the following:

Part 1 Items

  • Medicine – for fever, cough, running nose and diarrhoea (happened to be at the PD a few weeks before our trip and I asked her for the medicine. Otherwise, I'm sure you could also go to a GP and ask to buy the medicine, explaining that it's for a holiday) 
  • Syringe/measuring cup for the medicine
  • Thermometer
  • Nail clipper
  • Face and bath towel for the little boy
  • Detergent and sponge for cleaning cutlery and milk bottle

Part 2 Items
  • Spoon and fork with a small scissors for cutting food – I don't bring scissors out when in Singapore as I’ll use fork and knife to slowly cut the food into smaller pieces. But when we were on holiday, I rather use scissors to speed things up. Didn’t bring bowl or plate; fed Kenan food direct from whatever utensil I was using.

Bought the cutlery set and a pair of small scissors from Daiso. I took out the pair of chopsticks and managed to put the scissors in, so everything was stored neatly and easy for travel.

  • Bottle of drinking water from Singapore - no problem with the customs at all! Just say it’s for the child. We mixed that with the water in Hong Kong for Kenan on the first day, in case of "水土不服" (we rather trust the old folks' belief than have him fall ill while overseas!).
  • Box of plasters
  • Antiseptic cream that works for both insect bites and cuts (bought from pharmacy, just ask pharmacist which can be used for toddlers)
  • Biscuits and raisins - for the plane rides and when we are out and about (sometimes meals get delayed and he can snack)
  • Some small toys – for the plane rides and for entertaining him at restaurants
  • Pigeon’s antibacterial wet wipes (“formulated with 100 per cent food grade ingredients”)  - which can be used to clean feeding utensils, pacifiers and teethers. I used it to clean the utensils before use, since I'm feeding my boy from it
  • Antibacterial wet tissue and disinfecting hand gel
  • Hot water flask (for making formula milk) - in the end, like what fellow mom blogger PC did, we ended up asking for hot water from restaurants (I asked her for some tips as she went HK recently, which she did generously. Read her posts on her HK trip here, here and here) .
  • Plastic bags - in case of soiled diapers and clothes etc.
  • Water bottle (Kenan's)
  • Milk bottle
  • Foldable umbrella
  • Small container for milk powder
  • Baby carrier

All the Part 2 items were what we took with us everyday, all squeezed into a single haversack. The hot water flask was the only thing that we left in the hotel after the first day.

Other tips we learnt:

When we were travelling without our little boy, we didn't notice if the roads were stroller-friendly or if restaurants have highchairs. But things are different when you travel with a tot. Since we never noticed these details in our previous travelling, we decided to ask friends.

The first thing I asked was if it was a good idea to bring along an umbrella stroller to HK and most of the answers I got were negative. So in the end, we brought along our Ergo baby carrier (I also bought a new haversack that was big enough to put in the baby carrier - which has a thick waist band that makes it a bit bulky even after folding).

We also chose flight timings which coincided with our boy's nap hours. True enough, shortly after he boarded the plane, he slept. It happened both times. So we didn't worry about the possible discomfort in his ears due to air pressure changes when the plane took off. 

For Hong Kong hotels, we picked those that were near MTR stations and the city area. This worked really well because on some days we were so tired that we actually returned to the hotel to rest and gave Kenan his afternoon milk before we ventured out again.

When eating at restaurants, we tried to go a bit earlier/later to avoid the peak-hour crowd. The staff were usually more attentive/helpful. And in case my boy throws a fuss, we won't cause too much of an irk to too many diners!

I hope you find these tips useful. If you have other great tips for travelling with young children, please do share, thanks!

Hong Kong Trip - A Note on Highchairs

During our Hong Kong trip, we ate often at restaurants, just so to spare ourselves the potential hazards (and damages incurred) from the curious-toddler-examining-everything-on-table syndrome by having bigger tables and more space around so he couldn't grab things easily.

It was interesting to note that unlike in Singapore where majority of restaurants use the white plastic Ikea highchair, quite a number of Hong Kong restaurants actually went the to the trouble of making highchairs that match the rest of the chairs in their restaurant. Even then, not all restaurants have highchairs, only the bigger/more expensive ones do.

The highchair Kenan sits in matches the rest of the chairs in the restaurant. It even has a foot rest, very thoughtful!

Highchair from the Crystal Lotus chinese restaurant in Disneyland Hotel

This other restaurant offers booster seats like this one, which is strapped onto the adult chair. I've never encountered this in Singapore, not a bad option.

I know I've taken for granted how family-friendly the restaurants and eateries in Singapore are. I must really applaud the business culture here and it makes me feel how fortunate we are to be living in Singapore, with all the conveniences and comforts we enjoy!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hong Kong Trip - Who Says Young Children Don't Know How to Enjoy Disneyland?

When we first decided to bring Kenan to Disneyland Hong Kong, we were a bit apprehensive. We weren't sure if a less than two-year-old toddler would know how to appreciate the rides and other attractions that the park has to offer. But all our concerns vanished and we soon learnt that the magic of Disney knows no age boundaries.

If you're contemplating a trip to Disneyland Hong Kong with your family, especially if you have young children, I would say it's a good choice of destination.

Comparing to other Disneyland parks, the one in Hong Kong is relatively small. This means the little ones will less likely be overwhelmed and the pace will be more leisurely for the whole family.

Here are some tips I've learnt to better enjoy Disneyland HK:
  • You can probably finish all the rides and shows in a day but if you prefer to enjoy the fun at a leisurely pace, then make it one-and-a-half day. That way, you can even head to the hotel for a nap before returning for more.
  • Go during the weekdays and it will likely be less crowded (translating to shorter waiting time at each attraction). We were there on a Tuesday and the crowd was bearable (we've experienced a much bigger crowd when we went to Japan's Disney Sea some years back).
  • Take note of all the show times and then plan the rides around it. From our experience, all the shows were great, though Kenan cried a little at start of the Lion King musical ('Festival of the Lion King', Adventureland), probably a bit overwhelmed by the sounds and lights. For each of the shows, you probably want to go there and queue at least 30 minutes before show starts.
  • Make use of your FASTPASS at designated attractions to minimise waiting time (read more about it here).
  • You can skip the shops lining the Main Street and come back for them later. Anyway, there's also shops at the hotel where you can continue the shopping experience.
  • You might want to save some of the popular rides for later in the day when the queues seem to be shorter.
  • Rent a stroller at the Fire Department on Town Square.
  • Don't miss the Flights of Fantasy Parade and fireworks!
  • Check out the Disneyland Hong Kong website for promotions and special offers.
By the way, the park will be having a new attraction - Toy Story Land, which opens 18 Nov. If you do visit then, please let me know if it's good.

I'll end off with some photos from our Disney trip!

Kenan enjoying the Flights of Fantasy Parade where there were lots of amazing floats and dancing characters. Crowds already gathered at both sides of the road about half an hour before show starts. Being the kiasu Singaporeans, we found a nice spot and sat down to wait.

The musicals were great! Kenan especially loved the Golden Mickeys show (top pic) and strangely, two days after we returned home, he suddenly asked me to play his music CD - and it's a first! He's never seem to be interested in music before this.

The Fire Dept - where visitors can rent strollers (in blue as seen in photo above). They even put a nice big name tag with your child's name on the back of the stroller for easy identification. You are required to park the strollers at designated area at each attraction.

Enjoying the Tinkle Bell Castle Illumination - a great show of lights and music

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hong Kong Trip: The Hotels (Part 3)

After a 20 minute taxi ride from the Grand Hyatt, we arrived at the last hotel of our Hong Kong trip - the Disneyland Hotel!

Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the hotel felt like being in a world of its own, one in which we were brought back to the Victorian era, except that everywhere we turned, there would be something to remind us that we were in the magical land of Disney.

For our stay, we booked a room with a garden view (we ended up having a full view of the main entrance, but I don't know where's the garden). The room came with a 'double' bed (it's smaller than a queen bed but bigger than a super single) and a double sofa bed, which was already opened when we arrived. We didn't request for a cot and our boy was happy to sleep on the sofa bed.

The bathroom - the toiletries are so cute right?

Mickey mouse door card and signage with Disney characters

Pic 1: High tea at the Grand salon seems very popular with hotel guests; Pic 2: The main lift lobby - the decor emanates Victorian elegance; Pic 3: the TV area near the front desk - children can be entertained while parents do the check-in/out;  Pic 4: Photo time - even adults are as delighted as the little ones.

Pic 1: Wanted to have breakfast at the Enchanted Garden Restaurant but the queue was too long (but if you can wait, it's will be really fun for the kids); Pic 2: the  nice area just outside the Enchanted Garden Restaurant; Pic 3: Indoor swimming  

Chanced upon the Prince Eric play room when we were roaming the hotel grounds - too bad Kenan didn't get to go as there was a private party going on. 

I like the Disneyland Hotel, though the hubby didn't quite appreciate the Victorian decor (laughs). I felt it was a pity we didn't have enough time to enjoy all of the facilities. If you do visit Disneyland with your family, I would highly recommend this hotel as it's really great for the children! Do factor in time and not miss out enjoying the facilities and dining experiences the hotel has to offer!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tolalu Giveaway - Announcing the Winners

Thank you everyone who participated in the Tolalu giveaway!

There were eight participants, two via email; winners were randomly picked by the website Random.Org and here's the results:

PC and Deborah

Congratulations to both of you!

Please contact me within the next 7 days about your prizes. Just email me at ruthwongwrites@gmail.com

Have fun picking the gifts for the children!

Hong Kong Trip - The Hotels (Part 2)

After a two-night stay at the Metropark Hotel, we 'upgraded' ourselves to a luxury hotel - the Grand Hyatt. Thanks to the hubby's previous frequent business travels, we can enjoy this little free treat on our first family holiday.

I saw it as one of the highlights of the trip and was looking forward to it. This time round, I didn't forget to take photos, and there were plenty.

Almost hedonistic

Stepping inside the hotel, we were immediately greeted by mammoth flower arrangements and huge marble columns, complete with water features and grand staircases flanking two sides of the spacious lobby, which all hinted at the kind of luxurious experience that was to come.

After checking in, a guest relations officer took us to our room, which they had upgraded to the Grand Harbour King room.

The room, which appeared almost twice the size of the one we stayed in at Metropark Hotel, was fitted with full length windows to maximise the spectacular view of the Victoria Harbour. Even our little boy was mesmerised.

Decor wise, the room oozes elegance with its wooden furnishing in soft, natural tones, but step into the roomy bathroom and it screamed opulence with its marble walls and flooring and gold-plated fixtures.

I'll let the pictures do the talking:

The busy harbour

The room offers a close up view of the densely packed commercial buildings and iconic skyscrapers 

The little boy was excited upon discovering the view - he kept pointing out to the "boats" and "buses" and beamed his bright smiles at us as he spotted one 'interesting' thing after another

The wardrobe faces the door, with the dressing table right next to it. A hair dryer is kept in the open drawer below and tissue in wooden box sits comfortably at one corner of the table. If I don't remember wrongly, this is the first hotel I stayed in with a dressing table as such.

Pics 1 & 2: The room with the down duvets and Egyptian cotton bedlinen; Pic 3: The minibar, hot water flask, cutlery etc. are on the left side; Pic 4: Work station with wired or wireless broadband, cordless desk phone and even an adapter - thoughtful details for the business travellers; Pic 5: telephones made available on both sides of the bed.

The spacious bathroom: black marble walls and gold fixtures dazzle under the lights screams opulence and lavishness. Our boy had a great time splashing around in the bathtub and us, of course we couldn't do without a good soak to ease away the muscle aches after a full day of walking!

Needless to say, the service was impeccable. The baby cot was already in the room when we arrived - there's no need for reminders. There were complimentary bottled water and they also delivered a bowl of fresh fruits upon our arrival.

The next morning day, we rang the concierge for some shopping information. They said they would get back to us, which they did quite promptly and also told us to pick up some information from the concierge on the way out. We were pleasantly surprised to be handed with a stack of 'notes', some of which were obviously freshly printed from the internet - we were impressed.

It was great stay. Too bad we didn't have time to try out the well-known restaurants found in the hotel or to check out some of their facilities - our trip was just a bit too short. Well, I do hope to return again in future!


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