Sunday, April 22, 2012

To Love Again

My father got married again this week. And a lot of people kept asking how we felt about our Dad remarrying. We weren't expecting it but we could see he was truly in love and if anyone deserved to be happy, it was my Dad. So if he was happy, we were happy. Here's to Dad and his new bride and to finding love again the second time around. You are a truly lucky man, Daddy.

Domeng and Meldy

                                   Lexi as Flower Girl              Nuestra Senora de Guia /Ermita Church

My Family  

All photos courtesy of Hershey Fernandez

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

From W-A-H-M to Working Mom

I worked at home part time this past year so I could focus on my pregnancy and subsequently spend more time smoothly transitioning into a life with a toddler and a baby. I was still in contact with people in the industry, still working, but that didn't stop me from feeling uncertain and slightly worried about my job prospects when it came time for me to look for full-time work again. Eventually I did land a wonderful job and learned a lot from the job search process which I'd like to share to other moms out there who are going through the same experience.

1. Revamp your resume

I always keep my resume updated at all times, in the same way that I always update my performance evaluations throughout the year - it's easier and you don't have to spend time remembering achievements and commendations you need to put in your resume to make it stand out. However, resume styles do change over time and I do try to refresh my resume so it always showcases my work history in the best way possible. I used a sample template from an Oprah magazine issue I came across so my latest resume is now more achievement-oriented rather than descriptive. See link below for the article.

2. Go digital, sign up for LinkedIn 

I signed up for a LinkedIn account and within a week or two I had headhunters contacting me. It's a much easier way of expanding your job search. In fact, I was probably contacted by 6-8 headhunters/direct recruiters through LinkedIn alone. I was also able to reach out to previous colleagues who I helped endorse me for openings in their companies.

3. Build relationships with your headhunters

I had actually signed with a previous company through a headhunter and didn't bother to tell the headhunter who signed me that I was leaving the company and moving on to another job. I felt the relationship we had was transactional. Once the transaction was done, the relationship was over. That was a mistake. I came across this headhunter again during my recent job search and she eventually, again, helped me secure the job I now have. I am grateful to her and now realize that sometimes despite your expansive contacts network, your great work history there are jobs you can't get to until someone gets you a foot in the door. A good headhunter does that for you.

4. Don't take it personal

Since I wasn't working and was mainly focused on the job search, I spent a lot of time waiting for responses to emails and waiting for callbacks which sometimes came late or didn't come at all. Sometimes I would have a seemingly great interview and never hear from the headhunter again. Each time I would feel a bit rejected and worry that my work history wasn't enough or my personality didn't quite translate over the phone. Was I monotonous? Were my examples too complicated? Did I not sound interested enough in the job? Did I not ask enough questions? But my husband told me, 'look these people are busy, they have so many things to do and it's probably not a priority to give updates to candidates they're not really interested in anyway'. So yes, wake up call. At the end of the day, if you don't get a callback, you're not right for the job, end of story, move on.

5. It could be timing

I had been in Singapore for a month and still no solid leads despite talking to the big research agencies and a number of headhunters. I initially mentioned to headhunters that I was only interested in openings within Singapore and had to call back a couple of them weeks later to say, actually, I would now also be open to other locations like Shanghai, Hongkong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. I would even consider going back to Manila if there was an opening there for me. But somehow, there were no jobs in sight. By chance, I met up with a researcher friend of mine who said, 'You know, it could be timing. There were a bunch of openings that got filled up in Q4 and people won't leave until after they got their bonus, which is maybe after Q1 so that's why there's not much available now.' And I thought, that makes sense. When I heard that I suddenly felt less pressured to land a job immediately. There are seasonal patterns to when people tend to move and change jobs within any industry and it would be useful to note these seasonal patterns when you yourself are looking for work.

6. Learn when to compromise and when not to

There was a point in time during the job search where I felt I was getting nowhere and was willing to compromise to secure a job. My headhunter (the one who placed me twice) told me, 'Don't even consider jobs that are obviously below your work and your pay grade. Don't even think about it.' And I stopped in my tracks because for a while I did consider it, and she was kind enough to pull me back and imply that I already worked hard to get where I am and there was no need to backtrack.

And so after much waiting, fear and uncertainty I landed a job, and one that I never imagined I would get. And I wouldn't have gotten it if I rushed through the process and accepted any one of the first few jobs I applied to. So if you're on the job hunt, my advice is to be patient, with time and a little bit of luck, you'll also end up working for the company of your dreams, like me.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday Snapshots

Easter bunny with party banners from

Tiffany-blue Easter eggs. Recipe from

Lexi trying her hand at Easter egg decorating

Plain, dyed and decorated Easter eggs

Chocolate eggs

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lexi and Adi Episode 3

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Diaper Bag Evolution

I have had only a few diaper bags so far as I didn't want to be one of those moms who changed diaper bags every so often. My first diaper bag was actually a gift from my officemates, a Skip Hop Duo Diaper Bag which was on my baby gift registry.

I loved this bag as it had easy access pockets so you didn't have to rummage in the bag to get bottles or milk powder or wipes. The color was also quite neutral so even my husband could carry it and not think it was too girly.

I received a diaper bag as well from another set of officemates (yes, I had generous officemates). It was a Fleurville Diaper Bag, but as it was much smaller than the Skip Hop bag, so we only used it for those rare occasions when we would step out of the house for short errands and didn't need a whole arsenal of baby stuff.

Last year, I gave birth to my second daughter and for awhile we were using separate diaper bags for the two children. But then it seemed a bit bulky to be carrying too many bags when we could pare down and just have one big carry-all.

It was at this point that I started looking at totes and fell in love with the DwellStudio Madison Diaper Bag. It would be the first diaper bag we would buy ourselves, but at SGD150 retail price, it was a bit expensive. So I started to look for the bag on eBay. I was looking for the Transportation design but eventually ended up with the Baby Dots Chocolate design, which was a steal at USD50. And quite spacious too since it contains all our to-go baby essentials which include: 2 hats, 1 sunglass, 2 sets of clothes, 2 sets of diapers, wipes, changing pad, nappy cream, biscuits, water bottle, milk bottles and milk powder, bibs, umbrella, baby sling, toys and books.

I would never have looked at another diaper bag again. Except that I was browsing through baby items at the Boutiques at Fort Canning yesterday and found this.

The Tribe Singapore Sling bag. I like that it is quite roomy, has tons of zippered compartments and comes with removable nylon pouches for miscellaneous baby stuff. You also don't have to worry about your stuff being out there for all the world to see since everything is zipped up and tucked away. Best of all, the leather is so yummy and the cognac color so lovely I would love to carry it even as a regular bag. At SGD649 though, this is more of a want rather than a need. Chalk another one up for the wish list.

For information on the tribe bags, go to

At home Easter Sunday activities

I've been surfing the Internet in the past few weeks for things to do with the family for Easter Sunday. Here in Singapore, Easter Sunday is quite a big celebration, with most hotels offering up buffets and having special activities for kids like Easter egg decorating, face painting, balloon sculpting and magic shows. However, the cost for such celebrations tends to be steep with the price ranging from SGD50 to 150 per head (buffet usually free or slightly cheaper for kids). The cheapest option I found was Easter Sunday High Tea at Pantry at the Stables which offers SGD40 for 2 adults and SGD22 for each child. This would cover High Tea as well as participation in the Easter Egg hunt, face painting and take-home goodie bags. However, as my hubby pointed out, my 2 year old daughter might not fully enjoy the Easter egg hunt. And so, I was tasked with thinking up at home Easter Sunday activities for our daughter instead.

So of course, I decided on face painting, easter egg decorating and a mini-easter egg hunt.

I'll post about the easter egg decorating and the mini-easter egg hunt after Easter Sunday, so for now, I'll just talk about our face painting efforts.

Now I'm no face painter but given that I've been helping my daughter with her art activities I'm thinking how hard can it be? So I went out to look for face paint supplies at children's toy stores. 

I was choosing between Snazaroo, Giotto and Micador face paints and eventually bought the Micador face paint set seen above. It was a basic set, quite affordable (SGD15.90) and easy to apply (no need to use sponges). 

At first, my daughter wouldn't let me draw on her face, but as my husband pointed out, she just needed to be curious about it and needed to see it being done on someone first.

Here's what I drew on hubby's face.

And though my daughter eventually relented and allowed me to paint on her face. She would stay still only long enough for this.

I'm excited about this. Will probably have to look for more face painting designs on the internet. But looking forward to face painting fun.

As for our easter egg decorating efforts and our mini-easter egg hunt, I already have the recipe for making easter eggs, now just have to decide whether to buy small chocolate eggs or big chocolate bunnies or just buy one big plastic egg (ala Swedish PASKAGG which is a big paper egg filled with chocolates and candies). Stay tuned.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Never too young or too old to enjoy creative play

I have been a work-at-home mom for a couple of months now with a lively two-year old in the house. Seriously, she's like the Energizer bunny. The second she wakes up it's like, boom, energy level through the roof. So in order for us to to manage this little bundle of energy, we've invested in tons of creative play tools for her to busy herself with during the day. And since we had a lot of play tools, we also needed a way to store them properly.

I initially bought an IKEA Trofast storage system for us to keep her play tools out of sight when not in use (see below, though the one I bought only accommodated three bins), but I realized later on it was better to just have them in plain sight where she could access them any time. Also since she tended to pull out the bins too quickly there was the constant danger of the bins falling on her whenever she opened them. And we didn't want that to happen. So that storage system eventually went to her younger sister, for storing Lamaze toys and soft books.

Eventually, she ended up with a storage space that looks like this.

This coffee table from IKEA used to be in front of our couch but we moved it towards the side of the TV to make way for our daughter's table/chair set. It then turned into a dedicated area for her play tools. 
This has all the materials any lively two-year old needs to keep her occupied.

1. Melissa and Doug Wooden blocks - This set of wooden blocks has letters and numbers printed on them (lower left hand corner of picture). Sometimes she plays around with just the cart, or she stacks the wooden blocks. She also has another set of colored wooden blocks just for stacking (upper left hand corner of picture).

2. Lamaze Stackable magnetic bugs - I wanted this to be her first set of stacking material but as it turned out she learned to stack the wooden blocks first before she played with this one. She doesn't play with it as much as the wooden blocks or her Legos though so this will probably pass on to her younger sister soon (upper left hand corner of picture).

3. Crayola Art smock - This is to prevent her from becoming too messy while doing art activities but since she deliberately puts paint on her face, hands and feet, the only thing this smock keeps paint off from are her clothes (upper left hand corner of picture).
4. Crayola Washable Paints, Markers and Crayons - Thank goodness for Crayola and their promise of washability. I don't use anything else. I tried using cheap and generic paints from a value store but it ended up costing me more since I couldn't get the resulting paint stains off my daughter's shirt (upper middle section of picture).

5. Alex Toys Foam Brush, Big PaintBrush, Crayola Paint Brushes, Paint Palette, Tape - We received the foam brushes from her Tita Jonet, bought a big paint brush and kept every paint brush that came with her Crayola washable paint sets. We initially bought the paint sets with the small tubs but realized she went through paints pretty fast so we started buying the larger size paint containers as well as a paint palette so we could ration out the paint. We also keep tape on hand when we tape down the paper to her table so she can paint (upper middle section of picture).

6. Stacking cups - This was given by her Tita Gigi and is quite a multi-purpose toy. She uses it for stacking, of course, but aside from that, it's also a water toy and a molding toy. It has holes at the bottom so when she scoops water, it has a trickling waterfall effect and the cup bottoms are actually molds of sea creatures so we've been using it when we play with clay as well (upper middle section of picture).

7. Homemade play clay with mold/cookie cutters - We just started playing with homemade play clay and I recently bought a set of numbers mold/cookie cutters from Carrefour so we could practice her numbers skills while playing. I also bought a set of molding tools from Soft Stuff at ELC which I feel is better for younger kids compared to the ones at Playdoh which are somewhat specialized and theme-based. The molds from Soft Stuff are just simple shapes (e.g. heart, duck, sun etc.) easily recognizable to toddlers (upper right hand section of picture).

Lexi with her new number molds

8. LEGO Duplo Building Blocks - This is the most basic set they have. Just blocks. No fancy houses or accessories yet. She's using it mainly for stacking. When she's a bit more advanced and shows signs of using it for pretend play (i.e. pretending it's a house or a dog or something), we might buy more in future (upper right hand corner of picture).

9. Shape Sorting Puzzles - We started her on shape sorting puzzles quite early. I think at 18 months. We started out with generic shape sorting puzzles, simple ones on farm animals, shapes, sea creatures and insects then we added more on letters and numbers, then colors and now she's doing dress matching puzzles as well (bottom right hand corner of picture)

10. Doodle board - This is a basic doodle board we bought at Toys'r'us and she uses it to practice her grip as well as to doodle and stamp (bottom right hand corner of picture).

11. Plastic gears - This was given by her Tita Jo and for such a simple toy, this is quite engaging. She likes to see how the wheels turn and she likes changing the gears as well. We've started to use the gears also as visual stimulation for her younger sister and I must say, this is quite hypnotic for babies as well (bottom middle section of picture).

12. IKEA Two-way easel - It has a chalkboard on one side and a whiteboard on the other. It also has a receptacle for chalk and another one for the paper roll. In hindsight, I would probably have bought the much more expensive Crayola easel where the whiteboard side is magnetic as well just so I get the additional function of using the magnetic whiteboard side for teaching her letters and numbers, using a magnetic letter and number set. 

Ikea Easel with Lexi's Wall of Art

I think it's quite noticeable that we don't have a lot of 'toy' toys as we believe it's much better for children to have more creative play tools rather than toys that have very specific and limited functions that they'll outgrow after some time. 

Another upside is that I'm also starting to like arts and crafts and really enjoying our painting and clay molding sessions as well. 

Maybe, I can have my own art wall as well. Who knows?