We Can Be Like Lee Kuan Yew

I am a lot more affected by the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew than I expected to be.  While I’ve enjoyed reading the various tributes and tidbits of his life, I am most saddened by the poignancy of life and the inevitability of death. I’ve suddenly realized, ah… Death also comes to such a giant as he;  one day it will come to me as well.  Perhaps that explains why I couldn’t finish reading the story “I’ll Love You Forever” to my kids today without choking up. One day, my children will grow up and I will grow frail and weak and will pass on, just like LKY.

I’m not a great wordsmith or writer but I just wanted to pen a few thoughts running through my mind today as I was obsessively going through article after article about LKY.  Here are 3 things I noted about him as a man and what we can all learn from him.

1. LKY had vision and passion.  
LKY had a vision of where he wanted to bring Singapore to while others couldn’t see it yet.  With a clear vision, he was able to lead with boldness and conviction.  With a clear vision, he was able to channel his passion and bring others along with him into making Singapore from third world to first.

It’s fortunate that having a vision is not limited to great minds like LKY.  As ordinary people, we can and should have extraordinary vision and passion – for our families, our workplaces, our communities.  Without vision (in other translations vision = revelation, divine guidance, prophetic vision) the people cast off restraint.  If we don’t know where we are going or what we are supposed to be doing, then we are running around in our busyness like headless chickens.  What is your definition of success?  Do you know what you want to see in your children in 20 years?  I may not see a teacher or a lawyer but whoever K and Z become, I hope they will find their divine calling, stay close to God and be generous and joyful.

2. LKY was not just a speaker but a doer.
LKY was a great orator.  But more than a politician’s words, he made sure he and his people did the doing and the building.  They built HDBs, set up government offices, schools, industries and multi-racial communities.

What am I building today that will last beyond my lifetime?  Conversely, what am I tearing down with my words, my complaints, my sarcasm?

3. LKY was first and foremost a husband and a father.  
His love story with his wife moves me most.  That they were both esteemed so highly in each other’s eyes, that they chose to place each other’s needs above their own are beautiful building blocks of a successful and long-lasting marriage.  That LKY and KGC were husband and wife and parents first stood out most for me.  Am I the best version of myself to my husband and children?

LKY and KGC

While LKY is an exceptional leader, he was also extraordinary in the ordinary things – things that you and I can do.  Unlike LKY, I won’t be a well-loved leader of a nation but like him, I can be an extraordinary spouse and parent. Unlike LKY, I won’t have a state funeral but like him, death will come upon me someday.  Unlike LKY, I won’t have accolades pouring in from around the world, but like him, if I can be fondly remembered by a few good friends, my children and family can call me blessed, and my husband esteems me highly, I think I can be happy with that kind of a full life.

Thank you Mr Lee for demonstrating that 1 man, 1 family, 1 generation of pioneers and leaders, 1 small country, when imbued with a spirit of excellence and tenacity, can achieve great things.

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What’s After Learning Letter Sounds?

[This post contains some links to my shop.  I’m going to show you a couple of ways you can use this material, found here.]

Alphabet Matching Cards

Alphabet Matching Cards

Are you a phonics reader?  Was it taught or caught for you?  During my time (sounds so ancient), I think we weren’t explicitly taught phonics.  Whatever phonics we did utilize, if at all, was learnt incidentally.  It’s hazy in my mind now how I learnt to read.  I think it was the mere exposure many times to a particular word (sight words) or eventually, one just figures out the pattern by trial and error.  After going through the Montessori course, it’s a bit clearer now how to move beyond learning individual letter sounds and I’d like to share a bit, if language learning is your thing!

When children first enter N1 or N2, one of the first formal curriculum they will encounter for language will be phonics – letter sounds.  The school may use various phonics tools like Zoophonics or Letterland, and/or employ really singable and memorable songs like Ants on the Apple etc.   The key point is to help the child learn the sounds each letter makes.

In addition to Ants on the Apple/Zoophonics/Letterland, there are a few activities to start the child writing (yes, spelling!) and reading.  I’ll list and explain some activities and materials used in the Montessori Pink Scheme in language learning as we go along.

  1. Sandpaper Letters 
    To help the child trace and develop muscular memory of the shape of the letters, the teacher introduces the child to the sandpaper letters.  She will introduce the sound, e.g. ‘p’.  Then she’ll ask the child to trace the letter.  This is to give the child tactile experience of “writing” the shape of the letter.  K’s school, and I suppose many others, will further reinforce their letter sound knowledge through drawing and art and craft.  I admit I’m a little surprised that they take 1 whole year to learn 26 letters (and not very well still, cuz K still can’t write very well).  But yes, actually, it makes sense that these little minds do take that long because it is a lot to master.  26 different sounds and shapes and they all look pretty similar!  If your child takes longer than that, please don’t worry or rush them and remember it is hard stuff for 3-4 year olds.

    If you are interested, you can make your own set of sandpaper letters for really cheap!  It just takes a bit of work and time.  First, buy some medium grade sandpaper.  I was kiasu and bought the roughest possible.  K made quite a fuss when I asked her to trace the letters.  Haha… Cruelty to small, tender hands?  Print out the alphabet in A5-size (or whatever size you like).  Cut them out.  Flip the letters and trace them onto the sandpaper.  Cut the sandpaper letters out.  Mount them on card stock or construction paper.  For a more detailed tutorial on how to make them, see this post from our very own Kiasuparents.com .

    DIY sandpaper letters

    DIY sandpaper letters

    Or, you could get one of these letter frames and ask your little trooper to trace the frame.  That could work as well!  Your child can also match the letters to the corresponding frames.

    K tracing the frame of K.

    K tracing the frame of K.

    SAM_0528

    K tracing K on the flipside of the card, which shows the standard way of writing.

    SAM_0521

    Matching wooden letters to the corresponding cards

  2. Large Movable Alphabet 
    Montessori schools also use a material known as the Large Movable Alphabet which is a set of individual wooden letters that the child can feel and touch.  They learn to match the moveable alphabet to the corresponding sandpaper letters as a follow-up activity.  Montessori’s method always follows the principle of introducing the child concrete to abstract representations of a concept.  Since print is abstract, she tries to concretize it by letting the child handle and play with wooden letters – to touch and manipulate.

    Matching Large Moveable Alphabet and Sandpaper Letters

    Matching Large Moveable Alphabet to Sandpaper Letters

    You’d be a carpentry genius if you try to DIY yourself!  I’m not, so I bought 1 set myself and had another gifted to me by dear friend Mummy J!  But if you don’t mind not having the neat wooden frame that houses all the letters so beautifully, there are many cheaper options available, example, those plastic letters with magnets at the back or this Matching Alphabet set.  Basically any set of letters that can be moved around will do!  I like the 3D effect and the weight of wooden letters.  If not, you can even print and cut those letters out yourself.

  3. Segmenting Words into Letter Sounds (Using Moveable Alphabets)
    This next part is when your child is already very familiar with the individual letter sounds.  Now, we’ve got to help him/her break words down into the sounds and then put the sounds together again.  This is the beginning of reading!  Exciting eh?

    So I show K a picture card (or toy or object) and we talk about it.  What is it?  Where do you find it?  Of course, we pick easy 2-3 letter regular phonetic words which are familiar to her.  Regular words mean if we segment the sounds, they can be sounded back together e.g. jam.  ‘Apple’, though a familiar word, is NOT a regular word because air-pe-pe-le-eh put together does not sound like “apple”.  So I ask K, “What sounds can you hear from the word ‘jam’?”  I repeat the word many many times and if it’s the first time we are sounding the word, I may even have to segment it for her.  On good days, she can pick out the sounds quite easily.  On distracted days, I’m talking to a flighty bird and hitting my head against a wall.  She manages to pick out the sounds and I realize that she’s good at hearing the beginning sound and getting better at the ending sounds, but she’s not too good at hearing the vowels yet – which is quite common, I guess.  Then, I arrange the sounds in the correct order and we read out each sound again.  I then blend the sounds for her to hear – je-air-mm, je-am, jam.  We do no more than 3 words a day.  And I try to repeat those same words till it comes more naturally for her.  We have been stuck at words with vowel ‘a’ for the longest time, since maybe last September and we are moving very slowly onto the ‘e’ words.

    Sounding out the sound and searching for the letters.

    Sounding out the word and searching for the letters.

    SAM_0531

    Found all the letters!

    The point is after they get so good at segmenting words into sounds, they can do spelling tests just by hearing the words!  Of course, this only applies to phonetic, regular words and not sight words, like ‘dinosaur’, to which, there aren’t many shortcuts unfortunately.

    There we go!  3 or more different ways to use this educational toy over a pretty long stretch of time.  The Large Moveable Alphabet is used throughout Pink, Blue and Green Schemes (all the way to 5-6 years old where they learn longer words and combination vowels).  Quite worth it right?  Only problem with this (and other letter sets) is that there is only 1 letter of each.  How then do you form longer words or words with repeated letters?  e.g. ‘bee’ or ‘add’?  Print/write your own and make multiple copies of each letter!  K’s school has jotterbooks where the child sounds out the letters, then paste each letter to form a word.  The teacher lets them draw and articulate what the word reminds them of or means to them.  Such a great idea to help the child contextualize words and not just rote learn all these words in what seems like a vacuum.

    Final word.  I’ve tried pushing, I’ve tried taking a more relaxed approach in teaching K to read.  Definitely, without a doubt, relaxed is better.  Introduce these activities gently and slowly to your child.  If he/she shows no interest, finish up and put it away, pull them out again a few weeks later.  Eventually, he/she will catch on and when they are ready to read and when they want to learn, you’ll be ready for that window!  In addition, read, read, read to your child!  It’s, without a doubt, a great time of bonding.

Z in cot

3 Things I’ve Learnt About Sleep Training

I had the perfect set up with K and Z sleeping on their own in separate rooms. Previously, I had managed to sleep train Z that I could put him down sleepy but awake in his cot and he would go sleep by himself.  But after Hong Kong where we all bundled up on the same bed, our friend, Z, has learnt that it is so nice to kuay sio (snuggle up amidst warm bodies) with a lot of people.  Thus, ever since we returned, he has been unable to sleep in his cot even after rocking and patting for hours (ok.  I exaggerate, more like 40 minutes of crying, which still seems like eternity)  So what we resorted to doing is to let him sleep in K’s room on her bed since she doesn’t like sleeping on it and I’ll have to pat him and stay with him till he falls asleep.  K too, has needed LimpehZ to accompany her till she sleeps.  This honestly isn’t the most optimal solution since some nights, we fall asleep and wake up disoriented and unrested at midnight.  I have also since moved my desktop out since it’s impossible to work with the 2 of them trying to sleep in the room.  Here are some reflections on the topic of sleep training my kids.

1. I cannot employ Cry-It-Out method beyond 8-9 months.

I’m a fan of sleep training.  I think God is merciful to me because I REALLY need my sleep.  If I don’t get sleep for 2 days, I go cranky and crazy and will give up all national secrets.  I tried the Babywise method and K started sleeping through at 4 weeks, Z a bit later at 3 months.  By 4 months for both babies, I was at the end of my tether.  I really couldn’t stand their incessant need to be rocked, carried and patted to sleep and when I gently put them down with bated breaths, they would wake up kicking and screaming because: How dare I put them down in the cot when they fell asleep?!  The atrocities of this universe!!  After a period of storming and norming and I kinda knew their pattern (chao kuan), I guess I could more or less tell when they really needed comfort and when they were just being bratty.  I tried the pat for 100 counts in my head (cuz it’s all the mind-numbing patting I could take at a time), then whether or not they fell asleep, I would put them down in the cot.  They will cry, of course, then I’ll pick them up after 10 minutes, soothe them, tell them I love them, then do it all over again.  First 2 days , I will take maybe 4-5 rounds of doing that before they fell asleep but after the third day, I saw a marked difference in the crying times and soon, the kids can be dropped in the cot and they would sleep on their own.  Yay!  Go me!!

Even for a hard-hearted mother like me, I was surprised at myself that I couldn’t use this method anymore once the kids reached an age where they are more responsive and… sentient?  It’s the age when they can call mama.  It’s as if they are not just screaming at the air but can direct their displeasure at someone.  When they scream for me specifically, I can’t help but give in to their pitiful cries.  So when we came back from HK and I tried to have Z sleep in his cot again, his emphatic screams for me just ripped my heart out and I couldn’t use the same method to train him again.  So that’s the end of CIO.  No choice.  He’s now muscled his way into his sister’s room, kicked her out of her bed and colonized it for himself.  But he’ll still need me to pat him and let him snuggle to sleep.

Worthless advice #1:  Use CIO when young and train them.  Don’t go to HK on extended holiday and ruin all the training.

2. Be patient with the child and yourself.  Sleep training can sometimes take a really long time.

When we were expecting Z, we were cheap and wanted to reuse the cot for him but didn’t want K to think we were taking her bed away from her to give to her brother.  So we bought her a mattress and told her months before Z’s arrival that she was now a big girl and can have her own bed.  But I think she was pretty overwhelmed at the sudden lack of boundaries and freedom and she came over every night to sneak into our bed.  Being really anxious about training her properly (I was somehow very fearful that if I didn’t nip this problem right now, she will still be sleeping with us till 16).  So I took it upon myself to march her right back to her bed when I found her at trying to sleep with us.  Then she would want me to lie down and sleep with her but I was also unwilling to do that.  There were a lot of tears and wailing and foolishly, I even tried locking her up with the Ikea safety gate, hoping she would cry it out and learn to sleep by herself again.  One day when being confined in her room with the safety gate, we left her to cry and we suddenly heard a loud plonk.  When we found her, she had landed on the floor, fortunately on her palms facing the floor (and not on the back of her head).  We found out later that she gripped the rail of the gate with her toes and somehow vaulted herself out.  Needless to say, that was the last we’ve seen of the gate.  She was about 18 months.  K took a long long time to learn to sleep on her own on the mattress, maybe say… almost a year!  But LimpehZ is her choice of companion so when she wakes up in the night, I will shove him out of bed.  “YOUR daughter is calling for you.”  😀

On hindsight, I think our mother-daughter fights started since then and I actually regret that whole period.  Why wasn’t I more patient with her?  Why couldn’t I see that she wanted me to be with her because she was scared and insecure?  Why was I so anxious for her to grow up and be independent when she clearly wasn’t ready?  I think… I really wanted to see myself as a strict (and maybe successful?) mother then.  Like, I really wanted people to see me and say she’s got it all together.  Her children eat so well and sleep on their own!  Etc etc…  Now I realize I can’t give 2 hoots about what people think of me.  What matters is what God and my children think of me.  Am I loving?  Am I patient, kind, long-suffering, gentle and humble?  Do I exhibit Jesus’ character? Probably not really at that time.  From then on, LimpehZ became K’s favouritest parent and I’m in the ranks of evil stepmother.  If I can turn back time, I will definitely try to be more loving and patient with helping her sleeping on her own.

With Z now, when he wakes up in the middle of the night crying, I will pack up all my stuff, make myself comfortable and lie near him.  Doing that makes him calmer faster and he settles back into sleep fairly quickly, without needing a bottle of milk.  It has worked so far and he only wakes up occasionally now when before, when we first came back, he would wake up 2-3 times every night if he realizes I’m not there.

Advice-you-can-consider #2:  Don’t do what I did with K and regret that you’ve been too harsh with your child.  They are only so small once.  Hold them while you still can and while they still want you to.  When they refuse to sleep on their own and you’re going crazy with lack of sleep, just take a deep breath, breathe in their baby sweetness and tell yourself, they won’t smell like that at 16 and you’re unlikely to have to do this till then.

3.  There is no (foreseeable) end to sleep training.  

Most parenting books only speak of sleep training for the first year.  No one ever mentions we will need to train them again and again thereafter!  I thought that after the first 4 months training them to sleep on their own, I would be set for life, but no… they suddenly change pattern and start waking up in the middle of the night.  Arrghh!!  What happened??  I guess… nothing major, just that your baby is growing up and they get more conscious and fearful of various things – it’s too dark; it’s too bright; doggie is not with me; daddy needs to sleep beside me etc.  At every stage, how we deal with their perceived fears do affect them.  Do we brush those pleas for help callously away and demand that they grow up and deal with it?  Do we go along with them and give validation to their irrational fears?  I don’t know and I suppose there’s a time and place for each response and you have to make that call as a parent.

Cover-all-grounds-hence-totally-useless advice #3:  Go with your parental instincts.  You know your child best.  

If you’ve persevered till the end of this post and feel like throwing your shoe at me for not learning anything, I’m sorry!  I guess it’s really all a learning process and every child is different right?  There’s really no one-size-fits-all method.  Learning from my mistakes, I think I will go with the gentler method of meeting the child’s calls for reassurance, however ridiculous or demanding they may seem.  As parents, by all means set standards and boundaries (e.g. for us, from day 1, we wanted to have our kids sleep independently on their own beds; no co-sleeping for us) but help them move towards these goals step by step as and when they are ready.  They will let you know and surprise you one day when they are.  As K said one day when she finally slept through on her own, “Mama, are you proud of me?  I slept well in my bed last night.”  Well done my child, well done…

Z in cot

Only realized it now. One of Z’s last few pictures of sleeping in his cot.

K and her best friend Spot

K and her best friend Spot

Quarry Bay Park

Review: Kornhill Service Apartment in Hong Kong Island, Taikoo

I am writing this post to highly recommend this under-the-radar service apartment that we chanced upon in our search for our 5 week Hong Kong stint.  It’s Kornhill Apartments at Taikoo City on Hong Kong Island.  I was looking for someplace which needed to have the best of all worlds – cheap, convenient, have amenities and be near parks and  playgrounds.  The situation was getting quite desperate as I realized that even with the generous budget LimpehZ gave me, I cannot find a suitable place!  It’s either too small, too expensive, too claustrophobic or unsuitable for young children.  Honestly, I’ve trawled through all the listings on service apartment sites and finally noticed this little, tiny, obscure banner which was Kornhill Apartment.  I knew this was it!

The poster so attractive right??  Even Caucasians like to live here.  Like if we stayed here, we'll be Caucasian like them.

The poster so attractive right?? Even Caucasians like to live here. Like if we stayed here, we’ll be Caucasian like them.

Best thing about Kornhill is its location and accessibility to all the essentials.  Situated on top of Aeon Supermarket / Shopping Centre, on top of Taikoo MTR, means I can make supermarket runs anytime I need and not have to plan too far ahead what to buy.  Supermarket runs ended up being THE main activity which broke up the monotony of the last few weeks (because we were all so tired out after Disneyland that even the kids didn’t want to travel too far out).  This shopping centre also has a mini arcade with kiddie rides and that has been a great carrot to dangle in front of K who will ask to sit the horsey ride everyday.  Zzz… That’s ok cuz it was HKD$100 for 110 tokens.  Cheap kiddy rides for the win!

Fun times at the arcade!

Fun times at the arcade!

Did I already mention that it sits on top of MTR?  Yup!  This makes travelling to anywhere else in HK a breeze!  Only 20 minutes MTR ride to Admiralty and Central, which important for LimpehZ.  Kornhill Apartments is connected to Kornhill Plaza which has many eateries like Genki Sushi and Watami, Yoshinoya and MOS Burger.  Nearby is Taikoo City Plaza which ain’t some dinghy mall, mind you.

My loot!! Okay.. and K managed to weasel some shoes of her own too.

My loot!! Okay.. and K managed to weasel some shoes of her own too.

It has the likes of Zara and H&M, Pandora and Swarovski plus other mid range brands like coach and Maud Frizon (highly raved-about shoe shop by my friends).

Past the ice skating rink (yes! Taikoo City Plaza is big and swanky enough to have an ice skating rink), we often walked across the bridge to for easy access to Quarry Bay Park. This playground was the main selling point for me because I knew I needed someplace superb enough for K to run wild.  Super massive by Hong Kong standards, it has served as a great place for K to expend her energy at being cooped up in the apartment. Really love it!  Plenty of parents and helpers just park their strollers at the side and follow their charges around.  It’s safe enough for that.

Huge and well-maintained Quarry Bay Park

Huge and well-maintained Quarry Bay Park

Back to the interior of the apartment – it isn’t luxurious, but the 1 bedroom suite is complete enough with its amenities.  There’s actually a view. So emo Z can stare out there thinking of his girlfriend.

I wonder when is my next meal coming...

I wonder when is my next meal coming…

He really likes that spot. I honestly don’t know what he’s thinking when he’s there – probably when’s his next meal coming.  All day children’s cartoons (albeit in Canto) on cable served to keep the kids pretty happy – they can sing the theme songs in Japanese now!  There’s a DVD player too which was handy as I brought some cartoons.  There’s always wifi (number 1 important NEED! Don’t worry, I’ve got my priorities right) so K can stream their Peppa Pig or Hi-5 episodes for her much-needed dose of English.  The bed!  It’s like super king size or something but I’m positive it’s bigger than my king bed at home!!  It fit the 3 of us comfortably while poor LimpehZ slept on a mattress on the floor.  The kitchenette is fairly well-equipped though I’ve had to learn to cook rice in a pot without a rice cooker.  In any case, there’s plenty of congee, Macdonalds, CoCo Curry house or MX (their chain Cha Chan Teng) within easy reach. Plus!  There’s Gongcha!!!  My ultimate comfort food!  Limpehz will sometimes call back n ask if that day was a bubble tea day.  If I mutter something that’s not cogent, he knows what to get me (#greenmilkteawithpearls.  If there are no pearls, #imgonnagetrealmad).

Z says, "I have arrived!"

Z says, “I have arrived!”

Apartment cleaning was twice a week.  There’s a laundry and dryer room so while LimpehZ went to the gym (complimentary gym membership!), he’d do a laundry run so we didn’t really need to bring so many clothes!  The staff were really helpful and professional. Anything that needed fixing was sorted out almost immediately. I was impressed because the stove didn’t seem to be working on a Sunday but they went a technician down immediately to rectify the problem.

So yeah! For a family living in Hong Kong for a short stint, I’d highly recommend Kornhill. Tho’ after 5 weeks, I felt so bored….  Mainly because I was living the life of a resident and I couldn’t explore the more exciting, grittier parts of Hong Kong alone with 2 kids.  I realized I really like being a tourist in the Kowloon side more – come on night markets and wholesale shops!!!  If you find yourself needing mid-term accommodation which is safe, clean and convenient, do consider Taikoo Kornhill Apartments!

Hacks and Tips for Hong Kong Disneyland!

We are now certified Hong Kong Disneyland experts!!  Certified by.. me.  Having spent 3 days there, I think we are rather qualified to share our experience, what worked and what we would have done differently, for your future reference!

Firstly, we really thank God for the awesome weather.  It was a really hot weekend but considering the week’s forecast was rainy, we were really thankful God answered K’s prayers to hold the rain!  That is a miracle for a little girl so excited about Disneyland.

I must say I didn’t have high hopes of enjoying myself, what with the rumours about the crazy crowds (true story) and not having any grandparental help, I resigned myself to not riding anything vaguely, potentially heartbeat-raising as I saw myself having to watch the kids all the time.  But surprisingly, having spent 3 days there, there was enough breathing space to do just that.  Watch and learn –> Directed to Mummy M.  Lol…

It’s a really long ride on the MTR from Hong Kong Island –> change at Central –> Tung Chung line –> Sunny Bay –> Disneyland (DL).  Prepare your kids for that because they are going to ask you every 5 seconds, “Are we there yet???”  It took us about 50 min to an hour on the MTR.  The last train ride from Sunny Bay to DL is really what started the whole magical experience, even before we set foot into the park.  An interesting train approached the platform.  With it’s iconic Mickey Mouse windows and holding rails, really plush, cushiony seats and DL figurines mounted in glass windows, you can’t help but perk up in anticipation of the promise of the wonderful day ahead.

Onboard the Disney train! So excited!  Why your face like that Z??

Onboard the Disney train! So excited! Why your face like that Z??

Which, at this point, we realized we forgot to bring our vouchers for the 2-day ticket.  *No…… :O*   So no choice, ding-donging back to HK island was clearly out of the question with LimpehZ so he just had to shell out some more money to get a 1 day pass – this explains why the heck this crazy family ended up spending 3 days in HK DL (it’s not like it’s Florida DL, come on…)

#Tip 1: Bring your vouchers.  
#Tip 2:  Get DL vouchers at the travel agency instead of buying direct from DL website.  They may just be cheaper.  

If you study the DL map, there are 6 lands.  Each land usually has 2-3 major, thrilling rides and the rest may be interesting, but are usually less popular. Depending on what kind of theme park goers you are (LimpehZ and I are thrilling rides kind), we were trying to hit all the major rides once through before slowing things down.  That was pre-kids.  Now, we’d be happy if we got to go for 1 big ride a day.  So for the first day, we realized we could only hit 2 areas and we went straight for Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.  Tomorrowland has 1 major hit ride that even Z can go on!  Must do Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters – it’s like laser tag.  Real fun.  We went for 2-3 repeats of this ride.  The thing I love about DL is that a good proportion of the rides can accomodate really really young kids – as long as they can sit fairly unassisted and you can sit next to them to hold them safe, they’ll let you and your baby up the ride, so mummy doesn’t need to miss out on too much fun.  There’s another big ride here called Autopia – some go-kart ride but there was a height limit so we weren’t too keen on any of us going on alone.  And of course… Space Mountain.  Definitely thrilling so no go for the kids.

#Tip 3: Take Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and if you child wants to, Orbitron.

Then we headed to Craycrayland I mean FantasyLand where all the mini Elsas gravitated unwittingly to meet the Mother of all Queens – THE QUEEN ELSA and Princess Anna.  They are located near Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.  Once you cross the bridge over the weird-smelling water, through the doors, you’ll find their spot on the left.

Meet Queen Elsa and Princess Anna at Sleeping Beauty Castle

Meet Queen Elsa and Princess Anna at Sleeping Beauty Castle.

When we first stumbled upon their spot, we saw a few people milling around so we joined the queue.  When things weren’t quite right, the staff told us that the real queue actually snaked all the way behind the castle and the 2 something pm slot was full.  If we wanted to take photos with her at 3 plus 4, we had to join the queue NOW.  It was 11 am.  Wut?!?  If your child thinks meeting Elsa and Anna is the point of this DL trip, you’d better get your behinds at the doors at 10 am SHARP (opening hours) and ignore all else and do your best 300m sprint here to beat other parents with the exact same purpose.  Otherwise you’ll just end up queuing half the day away for a 3 minute magical encounter, which your child will love, not so sure about you.

See see!  I also took pictures with Elsa and Anna!  Z: Who that?

See see! I also took pictures with Elsa and Anna!
Z: Who that?

Anyhow, we took pictures with them but they didn’t take pictures with us.  Boohoohoo… But life goes on.  Anyway, K says she doesn’t like Elsa anymore.  She likes Ariel now.  Such is the undying passion and love of a 3 year old.

Fantasyland is pretty big and there are lots to do and see for children of preschool age.  Very toddler-friendly too.  There’s the Dumbo ride, Cinderella Carousel, Mad Hatter Tea Cups, It’s a Small World (*warning.. it will drive you monkey nuts just sitting on it once), the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – which you can get a Fastpass and return at the designated time and you zoom straight to the head of the line (almost).  Superb system!  By then, we were pretty tired and we laid our heads down on some bench to take a rest.  If you go on a weekday, there really are lots of spaces for you to take a rest.  However, if you have to go on a weekend, chances are, you’ll be fighting with a lot of people.  It’s really mountain people mountain sea…

#Tip 4:  Get your meet and greet with Elsa and Anna out of the way as fast as possible.  
#Tip 5: Get fastpass to Winnie the Pooh and Space Mountain (There are only 2 Fastpass rides).  I didn’t think Winnie the Pooh was that great.  Your kid may get scared cuz K was.  
#Tip 6:  YOU HAVE TO WATCH THE SHOWS!!!  Golden Mickeys are in Fantasyland and Festival of the Lion King is at Adventure Land.  

I really really am very impressed with the shows and parades.  They are spectacular!! You know you go to some theme parks and they put up shows?  You get this feeling that they are just side features that you do if you get tired or after you finish the rides.  But these!  I feel they are good enough to be main attractions on their own with the amount of manpower, stage performers, makeup, props (WOW, you’ve got to see them).  Golden Mickeys is some ‘award show’ that they incorporate snippets of a lot of Disney movies that we grew up with into the lineup.  I don’t know.. it must be the swelling orchestra, or the grand harmonious singing of movie theme songs, or the costumes or some witchery going on that I felt moved to tears (ok, only slightly).  I think the stupendous success of Disney is that it has managed to retain its charm over generations – that the things my daughter is enthralled with are the same things for me as I was a child.  It’s a shared experience yet unique enough for each generation that it doesn’t feel dated or inaccessible.  I loved it!

Festival of the Lion King was really nice too!  But for you who have watched the Lion King Musical, which I heard was really spectacular, maybe you won’t be too impressed with this.  But I didn’t so I was floored by the stage, the set-up and the props.  Just try to catch both shows.  They are equally good in different ways.  But if your child is the Disney Princess kind, then the Golden Mickeys will appeal to her more.

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On Orbitron, Spinning teacups, Lion King and Cinderella’s Carousel

There are 2 parades, which we caught on different days.  I felt the 3 pm one is way better than the 7 / 7:30 pm one.  People seem less crazy about lining up the streets, trying to chope a good spot so it’s fairly easy to get a good place, say 1/2 hour, 20 minutes before the parade.  LimpehZ chose a park bench which allowed us to sit comfortably to catch the floats going out.  It was comfortable and I’m not complaining.  But there was a whole dance routine which we couldn’t see so if you want a good view, camp along Main Street, in front of the shops.

For the night parade, it was absolute madness!  We hauled the kids back to the hotel to take a nap and planned to reach DL at 7-ish.  By then, all the streets were jam-packed with people and one could hardly move.  We ended up in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (right corner-ish if you face the castle). IMG_8077 It turned out serendipitously to be a great spot!  The floats would move in from Fantasyland (the red dotted line is the parade route) and they would stop in segments and performers would do their routine before moving off to the next segment.  The floats happened to stop in front of us and we had a good clear view of the performance.  Public service announcement though – if you happen to already sit in front, please don’t stand up!  If everyone sits down on the street, everyone can get a comfortable view.  The floats are huge enough!  Once the front people stand up and take out their selfie pod, the rest of us will have to stand and put the kids on shoulders, which is really tiring.  Don’t blame us for giving you the evil eye.

Day Parade - Flights of fantasy, Night parade - Paint the Night, Disneyland at night is gorgeous.

Day Parade – Flights of fantasy, Night parade – Paint the Night, Disneyland at night is gorgeous.

There was a last fireworks display at 9 pm.  Best view would be in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.  But after the Paint the Night Parade, we went back for more rides!  Took one more round of Orbitron and we each took turns to look after the kids and the other went for Space Mountain.  So we picked a good spot, dragged some chairs over and watched the fireworks.  But the castle itself had some sprinklers and smaller fireworks display so you should totally check that out if you still have the appetite to rush for good spots.

#Tip 7: Along Main Street will be the best place to catch the parade but it gets filled up real fast.  Another good place where we were is in front of the castle.
#Tip 8 : Ariel and Belle appears in the night parade; Aurora, Snow White (what is her name?!), Cinderella and Belle make an appearance in the day parade.  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are so fortunate because your daughter doesn’t remind you everyday.)

Disneyland Hotel was nice!  Definitely a good decision because the kids won’t be able to last till 10 pm without an afternoon nap.  The beds were so soft yet firm and the free bedroom slippers so plush!  We took them home!  They have both adult and child-sized slippers.  They said we could!  At first entrance into the room, I guess I expected more… Disney magic, like cups, plates, amenities, beds, sheets to be more Disney-like but it felt pretty plain.  However, the room definitely wasn’t shabby and it was certainly clean and comfortable.  Oh!  You can request for guard rails for the children’s bed if you require.  Free!  Very very thoughtful of them.  It’s a much better option than those small, chunky toddler cribs.  There is an indoor heated pool.  It’s not sauna jacuzzi hot and it was still pretty cold, but the kids had fun swimming.  They even provide life vests for children!  Really impressed with the thought that goes into making everything kid-friendly.

Disneyland Hotel lobby, bedroom, toiletries and really plush bedroom slippers - adult- and child-sized

Disneyland Hotel lobby, bedroom, toiletries and really plush bedroom slippers – adult- and child-sized

The only bad thing about the DL weekend was food.  There really isn’t a painless way to eat there.  Seriously paying a lot of money for very bad food.  I’m sure there is really good food at even more exorbitant prices, like having breakfast with Cinderella would set us back S$80 per person!  Hmm.. Cinderella can eat breakfast by herself and the birds, thankyouverymuch.  We prepared cup noodles for 1 dinner and ended up eating popcorn and snacks the rest of 1 day.  By the second day, I told LimpehZ I feel weak.  I need some real food and carbs.  So we went to Lucky Nugget at Grizzly Gulch for some good old fried nuggets and fries. There’s a really funky ride there for thrill-seekers!  Must take!

#Tip 9: Try the Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars at Grizzly Gulch.  
#Tip 10: Big ride at Mystic Point, Mystic Manor, but definitely scary for kids.
#Tip 11: Rafts to Tarzan’s Treehouse at Adventure Land is no biggie, can skip if you’re not a fan of Tarzan.
#Tip 12: Jungle River Cruise at Adventure Land is fairly interesting but K was scared.
#Tip 13: At Toy Story Land, we sat the Slinky Dog Spin – kid friendly.  Didn’t try the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop (cuz I’m not a fan of vertical drops) and RC Racer is like a viking sort of ride.
#Tip 14: Go to the shops early cuz by afternoon, there will be nothing much left on the shelves.  And be prepared to queue 45 minutes just to pay.  Ridiculous.

Just before we left, we went into the Disney shops along Main Street to find a souvenir.  It was CrazyTown.  Stuff was just flying off the shelves!  It was like some mania that people just grabbed random stuff for fear that there would be none left. So some auntie behind me in the queue was advising her friend (and I was eavesdropping) to rush for the shops once the doors open so you get a full selection of the goods.  Urm.. Okay.  We got this Ariel cup!  She has been drinking lots of water from this magical cup today.  Worth the HKD75.

The magical Ariel cup

The magical Ariel cup

*Update:  Today (which is the next day from when I first drafted this post), K has decided it is no longer magical and she will not drink water from the cup anymore.  *facepalm* *

#Tip 15:  Collect stickers from the staff!  Collect them all!

This really really fun thing to do if you have the time.  Do you know that almost everyone of the staff have these stickers on them?  Sometimes they give out voluntarily, most are too busy and you have to approach them to ask if they have stickers.  During our last leg, it was like a personal mission for me to get the Ariel sticker for K so I went around asking.

The very coveted Elsa sticker!

The very coveted Elsa sticker!

And we finally got our lucky break with the cashier while paying for the Ariel cup.  She had the Ariel sticker!!!  We got the coveted Elsa one as well but K couldn’t care less.  I didn’t ask the cleaning crew though.  Cuz they all look busy and important with their shades…  You can try asking them and tell me if they have the stickers.

If you’re still reading, thanks for staying with me cuz I almost fell asleep myself. Let me know if there was something you did and I had missed out!  Happy holidays and may all your dreams come true – Disney-style.

*This post is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are mine though LimpehZ was supposed to give input but he’s now sleeping.  Disney, if you are reading this, please invite us sometime!  😛  *

We are all good enough

Maybe it’s a foreign land, or it’s the break way from normal routine but every night as I put the kids to bed (we only have 1 bed so that’s where all of them bundle up and I have to stay in there with them till they fall asleep), I have time to think, to give thanks for yet another day that we are all safe and we are all together.  Did I mention my greatest fear was that I’ll lose my kids in Hong Kong?

Funny, cuz not too long ago, my greatest fear was not having kids.  How swift our fears change and morph every day and season.  3 years ago was a time of realization that some things in life – many things in fact – we have no control over.  E.g. that elusive A grade, that big promotion, that friendship, that relationship, having children… Really, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  What am I to do?  Kick and scream and whine (which I did a lot of) or say, “I give up.  I choose to trust that You are always good no matter what.”  While I thank God it was a relatively short time of waiting for K, it was a journey of faith that forced me to acknowledge God is sovereign and that if I cannot learn to release fears now, there will be so many other fears that will continue to plague me at every stage.

That joke scary truth about a mum with a newborn asking, “When will my life get back to normal?”  The answer is in 21 years or maybe never.  And it’s true.  From pre-conception to birth and beyond, from caring for an infant, toddler, preschooler and I expect for the rest of the kids’ lives and mine, I will always have fears.  Fear I may not carry till full term, fear that he/she may have developmental challenges, fear that he/she will not be smart enough, wise enough, kind enough, cute enough, loving enough, pretty enough, friendly enough, too friendly, too pretty, too cute, too kind that he/she gets bullied etc etc etc… Whatever your worry, I’m sure it’s valid.  And the fact is, sometimes, it does seem as the universe is conspiring against you and your children and there seems to be nothing you can do about it.

Except there is.  I need to choose to stop worrying and start trusting.  That the powerful and loving God I profess is big enough and He is on my side.  The Deliverer, Counsellor, Prince of Peace, Immanuel is on our side.  It is a daily battle to stop thinking toxic thoughts and step out of the fear but we have to win and overcome.  If anything, to show the kids that they can win and overcome their own fears too.  Then they will know that it doesn’t matter what their not-enoughs are – God is enough.  More than enough.


To my dear dear friends S and K:  as you carry your newborn darlings and start your first few months in the trenches, I pray you will start this journey knowing and believing you are good enough.  🙂  God will come through on your behalf and make up the rest.

First week in Hong Kong – Hong Kong Science Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui

Hello from Hong Kong!!  Yes, I’m now in Hong Kong living the expatriate taitai life  (in my dreams), more like DA Maid…  I realized I’ve been quite spoilt by my parents and in-laws who help me out a lot (thanks you all!).  And we have nice piping hot dinners (either at home or out)…  But now, I have to do everything myself. *cries* 😦  But I’m getting used to it… Soon, soon.  Slowly…

It ain’t half bad once I get the routine sorted out.  And part of the routine MUST include some time getting out of the apartment.  I tried 1 day being cooped up all day with the kids and it so.isn’t.fun.  At least 1 person will go mad and usually I’m the first.  The kiddos… well, they are quite the troopers and seem to adapt quite well.  They invent stuff for themselves to do, or K will just amuse herself at her brother’s expense.. i.e. disturb him endlessly, grabbing a fistful of his hair, pushing him down on the ground/bed… basically bully him.  Poor boy… Wait till he grows bigger.

This week, we went to the Hong Kong Science Museum at Tsim Sha Tsui.  Fantastic place!  Okay… I try to be enthusiastic about all the scienc-ey things like all the various physics exhibits – magnetism, light, electricity blah blah.. but sigh, I’m sorry but really, science still isn’t my best subject.  And K has an attention span typical of viewers of Korean MTVs – the 0.2 seconds change of scenes.  She presses a few buttons and before LimpehZ can explain the concept behind what’s going on, she’s run off to the next exhibit.  Urm… okay… moving along now…

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Best thing about the humongous place is that it’s really kid-friendly.  Everything is touchable and they can go crazy.  There’s also this kid’s area on the 4th floor.  I think we should have just come up here right away.  There’s this soft mat area for kids below the height of 110 cm (they are quite strict).  The whole place is littered with soft blocks and structures that the kids can build their castles and moats.  Fantastic!  Hong Kongers are really scrupulous about sterilizing everything (I suppose from their previous SARS experience).  Even my lift buttons are proudly sterilized every 2 hours – or so the notice says.  The kids’ play area is really clean and well-maintained.  Just remember to bring your socks!  There’s also a funky bubble area where you can make those giant bubbles.

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Oh!  There’s this really cool puzzle area with a lot of those brain-teaser things.  K really loved manipulating this puzzle – the Farmer needs to transport the grain, chicken and fox over the river but something will eat something else if left alone kind of puzzles.  She has quite a good sense of logic and with a few prompts, she kinda solved the puzzle.  I think I will come to these kinds of places when I’m old to stimulate my brain so I will delay dementia.  Or just play mahjong.

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Best part??  Admission was free!!!  Cuz it was a Wednesday!  So awesome right??  Good lobangs must share.

Hong Kong Science Museum
2 Science Museum Rd, Hong Kong
Take MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui Station, Exit 2B.  Walk along Cameron Road, then turn left at Chatham Road S, then take the overhead bridge across to the Science Museum.  (I assume it was right at the exit and had to wander around and ask for directions before I found it.)
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 10 am – 7 pm, Closed on Thursdays
Weekends 10 am – 9 pm
Ticket Price: $25 for adult, free admission for kids under 4.
Free entry on Wednesdays!