Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Got Smoked By A Windows Phone

Well actually it wasn't me. It was my husband who got smoked. But boy, this was a great viral campaign and an interesting challenge at that. We almost had that 100 SGD but unfortunately my husband was unfamiliar with my Iphone and couldn't find the Post button (i.e. the challenge was to post an update on Facebook). Anyway, see what the buzz is about. Oh, and my husband is in there somewhere in the montage.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Learning Exercises

I love books. When I was in elementary and subsequently high school, my favorite place was the library. I loved having a library card and filling in the slots in my library card with borrowed books. At one point in time, I was even Library Club President! Well, I wanted to pass on this love of reading to my children so of course me and my husband started reading to our children very early. We started reading to our eldest daughter when she was less than a year old and we continue to do so until now. Those reading sessions at night are now my main bonding sessions with my daughter since I work the whole day and only get to see her when I leave for work (9-930am) and when I get home late at night (8-830pm). These reading sessions also allow us to check her learning progress and provide cues as to whether or not we should be introducing new concepts to her to further her development.

For example, in earlier posts, I mentioned that most of the baby books geared to kids 18 months and older talked about shapes and colors, so we naturally started teaching her about shapes and colors first.She learned to identify the different colors and we would ask her to tell us the color of every day things, ask her what's the color of our clothes and her clothes, what's the color of the sofa etc. Same thing with shapes, we would run through the different shapes together and ask her to identify each one and then we would practice by asking her to identify the shape of every day things. We used books and puzzles. She had some confusion at first, which is natural, and mixed up the colors a bit, and had difficulty saying the name of the shapes such as triangle and rectangle, which is quite a mouthful for a 2 year old, but she eventually got all the basic shapes and colors right.

 Puzzle on Shapes

     Book on Colors

While learning shapes and colors she was also going through Baby Einstein flashcards and learning about animals, nature, and every day objects. We were also exposing her to the alphabet and to numbers by letting her play with alphabet blocks as well as alphabet and number puzzles and teaching her what each letter and number looked like and sounded like. At night when her dad took her out for walks around the neighborhood, they would also practice number recognition by looking at the car park numbers in the community parking lot.  

Alphabet and number puzzles

Then a week or two ago, she started to spell out the letters on her Baby Einstein flashcards. She was holding up a picture of a cow and then she said 'see' and I thought 'Oh she wants me to look at the card' and I said 'Yes, I see, it's a cow' and then she kept saying 'see' 'see' and I still couldn't get what she was trying to tell me, then she said 'oh' and then it hit me. She's trying to spell! So I told my husband we should help her to start to spell and get magnetic letters and numbers for her to play around with, since the current wooden puzzles we had seemed a bit static and less fun to play with.

 Playing with magnetic letters

Magnetic letters: Uppercase numbers 

She's been having fun with it and showing off. So while we're having dinner, she'll be playing in one corner and then rushing back and forth to the dinner table carrying her magnetic letters and then shouting each letter out to us. Once she's more comfortable with it. We'll start helping her spell out simple three-letter words and then gradually build up to four, five letter words and so on.

We are also supplementing her learning with books and flashcards. 

Learning ABC

Learning Numbers

And all of these learning tools are either borrowed from the library (books, mostly) or quite cheap (puzzles, flashcard and magnetic letters and board cost about SGD6-7 each). Or one can even have D-I-Y materials. For example, since a whole wall in our living room was filled with my daughter's artwork, he just wrote the numbers and shapes on some paper so my daughter can easily go up to the wall and practice that way as well. 

Wall graffiti: Numbers 

Wall graffiti: Shapes

And as with any learning exercise, it's always good to practice positive reinforcement. We always clap and tell her 'very good' and 'good job' each time she recognizes a letter or number correctly. It gets her enthusiastic and excited about learning. In fact, she's trying to teach her younger sister as well. We'll have to see how that works out though.    


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Loot!

It's Mother's Day today! That one day of the year you can get away with asking hubby for anything. Now I didn't want hubby to buy me fancy stuff but I did need new shoes and new work clothes, so I asked if we could go shopping after lunch. So after having Mother's Day lunch at Chili's in Tanglin Mall, we packed off the nannies and kids in a taxi and set off to go shopping at Isetan. And wouldn't you know it, Gap was having a sale at Promo Studio at Shaw Centre offering 80% off all women's clothes and additional 20% off the discounted price for purchases of 5 pcs and above.

Here are some of the pieces I bought, arranged in different outfit combinations:

I bought 14 pieces in all, totaling SGD140 (or an average of about SGD10 per item), equivalent to about Php4700. Sure, it took me 2 hours to comb through piles and piles of clothing but it was worth it. Thanks hubby! And Happy Mother's Day to all fellow moms out there!

Note: The Gap Sale runs until May 22, 2012 so if you want to get your hands on really good deals, try to drop by.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mommy and Me Shoes

We just came from a lovely brunch with former housemates last week at Wild Honey...

...and were walking around the basement of Paragon when I stopped short because I saw such great-looking kicks. The same kicks Daphne Osena-Paez bought during her recent Shanghai trip - Feiyue.

Now Daphne apparently got hers cheap in Shanghai but I got a good deal as well. The brand was part of the Mothercare bazaar and they were actively targeting moms by offering 30% off on any two pairs bought. They had such cute designs for kids and for adults that we bought a pair each, one for my toddler and one for myself.

I chose the designs for Lexi to try on but the kid has style opinions already! She tried a plain red canvas (like the design I chose), a plain pink canvas and a blue hi cut style. When we asked her what she liked it was quite obvious since she wouldn't let us take off her blue Feiyues anymore. It was much harder to choose for myself since there weren't a lot of designs in my size but I eventually decided on a plain red canvas design.

Lexi's Blue Hi Cut  Feiyues and my Red Plain Canvas Feiyues

                                       Lexi in her Feiyues                         Feiyues in a box

Lexi and I both love our Feiyues. She keeps jumping up and down in her shoes and who can blame her. These Feiyues have crazy soft soles (they're kung fu shoes) and I would love to get more but maybe I'll wait until I get a chance to get to Shanghai to get them on the cheap. Here's hoping!

The best educational videos

When I had my first child, I swore to myself  I would never let her fall under the spell of the likes of Barney, Wiggles, Bananas in Pajamas and Teletubbies whom I find strange and just plain weird. I would choose which educational videos and programs I would expose my child to and not just plop her in front of the TV, open to being a convert to any cartoon show trying to reel in babies and toddlers. I would look for educational videos that really impart learning and aren't just trying to sell you a cartoon character and the subsequent licensed products that evolve from fanatic adulation of such characters.

So far, our favorite videos have been not just educational, but fun and entertaining. Here's our list of favorites:

1. Kids Hirit Vols. 1 and 2 (with Suzi Entrata-Abrera)

I got these videos as a gift from my sister. My daughter started watching them at age 1. She would watch these videos first thing in the morning from her playpen and seemed to love the fun songs and the interaction between the kids in the video. She watched it so much that the videos got scratched and we had to throw them away. We promised ourselves we would get replacements but were only able to do that recently. Now that she's watching it again, at a more appropriate age, it's really helping her identify letters. We were doing flashcards the other day and usually she would just identify the image shown on the flashcard but this time around she tried to spell out the letters on the flashcard! I couldn't believe it. Thank you, Suzi. The repetitive requests to watch your videos are starting to pay off.

2. Baby Einstein DVD collection

I was actually looking for books on ebay when I chanced upon this Baby Einstein DVD collection. There are 26 videos in the collection, each tackling a different learning topic, like language, numbers, music, animals and so on. I hadn't seen them in Singapore or the Philippines so I ordered them from the US. They were quite reasonably priced as well, at about USD60 or Php2,500 for all. Both daughters have seen all the videos as there are some that are more appropriate for babies and some for toddlers. The videos use lots of imagery and orchestral music as well as puppet characters. They're quite enjoyable to watch and sometimes I even sit down to watch them with my kids.

3. Little Einstein DVDs

Little Einsteins come from the same company which developed Baby Einstein so they're also quite educational but geared towards a slightly older group of children. The Little Einsteins are a group of really smart kids who go on missions and travel the world. For each episode they usually highlight a famous work of art or music and a famous place as well. I love it because I've never seen anything like it. This is the only children's program I've seen which really promotes art, music and geography to kids in an engaging manner and doesn't assume these things are beyond the understanding of children.

So far these are the ones that are in constant rotation during the kids' viewing time. We're trying to look for other educational video programs so if you have any suggestions or recommendations, please do share.

What's your and your kids' favorite educational videos?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lexi and Adi Episode 4

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Just Keep Moving...(Part 2)

Three apartments later and the saga continues...

We loved living with housemates but with a growing family we needed more space for the baby and the subsequent nanny which we planned to hire. So we decided to split up. My sister stayed with me and moved with us to our next apartment which was a 2-bedroom unit in an old condominium building. How old was this condominium building, you say? Well in the two years we were there, we had witnessed construction on three (!) new condominiums on each side of the building, one after the other. Needless to say, the unit was rented out cheaper than the going rate at that time, but to be fair, the noise was quite tolerable. Now this apartment was smaller than any of the other places we had previously rented given the fact that it was a 2-bedroom but we rented it out of necessity more than anything. It was cheap, it was central and it was just the right size. Also, it was now all ours (and my sister's, of course), or rather it was now the baby's. The apartment was taken over by baby stuff. There was a playpen, high chair, stroller, toys, milk tins and feeding bottles in the living room; sterilizer and bottle warmer in the kitchen; baby bath tub in the bathroom and tons of cabinets to store baby's clothes and paraphernalia all over the apartment. My husband also went on a babyproofing binge and tried to stick safety bumpers all over our furniture, which was an epic fail, since our baby pulled them all out anyway the moment she learned how to. Still, we had a lot of memories in that place because that was where we learned how to parent.

Eventually, I got pregnant again, decided to take a break and packed up my family to move back to Manila. When the second baby came though, and with me having no regular work (I was working freelance), we realized Singapore presented more opportunities for us to provide for our growing family and moved back.

  Global Ville

We are currently in a lovely 3-bedroom unit in a condominium building which has lots of other families with young children. There is a sense of community we've found here which we haven't experienced elsewhere. We're friends with the guards, we're familiar with the other residents (although our kids are probably more popular than us) and people are generally friendly to each other. Also, everything is just next door. There's a wet market, a 24 hour supermarket, bakeries,  hawker centres, clinics, preschools and even a cinema (though that last one is a slightly longer walk). I would love to stay here even though me and my husband both work an hour away from our home. But it seems we can't catch a break. Our new landlord has again decided to sell the place. We're almost 5 months into our 1 year contract so we're guaranteed a stay until the end of the year, but after that, who knows. I guess we just have to keep moving.  


Just Keep Moving...(Part 1)

I came to Singapore in December of 2004. It was my first Christmas away from my family. It was also the first time I've been on my own, away from home. I spent that first Christmas in a rented 3-bedroom apartment which I shared with 5 adults and 3 kids. For the next few months, I adjusted to living alone and living with strangers. I learned to queue for the bathroom, to take turns doing laundry, to pay my share of the rent and utilities on time, to do ironing, to wake up in time to take the bus to work and to subsist on canned soup and noodles. It was a cheap and quite pleasant arrangement. My housemates introduced me to new friends, one of whom would later become my husband, and made sure I wasn't lonely. But I also missed having privacy and having a place where I could relax and just be myself. So when I heard one of my old officemates was coming to Singapore, I got in touch and asked her if she wanted to share an apartment with me. Soon after, we found the perfect apartment and moved in together.

I loved our first apartment. It was on the top floor (4th floor) of a relatively old building, which meant bigger cuts, bigger space. The landlord just renovated the place so it looked like a condo, with all new fixtures and furniture and unlike other owners who scrimped on renovations and would just splash new paint on the walls, this landlord was a graphic designer who wanted the apartment to look nice. We had accent walls, pendant lamps, modern furniture mixed with antique furniture pieces, and granite flooring for the bathrooms. And she splurged on the kitchen as well. All the kitchen equipment was Ariston, there was a double sink, a humongous 6 foot refrigerator and even an oven. Everything was sleek, shiny and new. Win-win all around. Sure, there was no elevator, but hey climbing up and down those stairs was good exercise. The two of us would eventually share that apartment first with my sister, then two other friends and then my fiance. However, all good things soon came to an end and the dreaded renter's dilemma happened...our building was up for en bloc sale. We had to move.

       Our first apartment at Shrewsbury Road

By the time we moved out of the Shrewsbury apartment, there were six of us sharing it. We moved literally a stone's throw away to an apartment on Moulmein Road. Now this apartment was the complete opposite of our old one. Whereas the old one was sleek, shiny and new this one was the kind of apartment you could describe as lived in, homey and had character. It was again an old building, more of an apartment complex really and this time we were on the second floor. Again we had lots of space, windows all around and overhead fans in all the rooms so it was very airy. Technically, there were only 3 bedrooms but we converted the storage room into a tiny bedroom so it fit all six of us. We rented it unfurnished and brought in our own furniture. Some of the furniture from our old apartment made its way to the new one (bought from the landlord) and we added new pieces as well. By this time I had gotten married and that was my first home as a newlywed. That apartment was also where I started to learn how to cook. However, that was around the time of the economic crises and after months of renting, the owner decided to sell the place. Despite having a 2-year contract in place, we eventually came to an agreement with the landlord to move out after a year provided the owner compensate our moving expenses. And so we moved again.

Our apartment in Moulmein Road

With our next move, we realized how difficult it would be to look for a 4-bedroom apartment and considered splitting up. But we thought we'd try looking first before deciding anything. And good thing we did. Our next apartment was quite a find. It was a split-level penthouse apartment on the 17th floor of a newish condo. It had 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, a balcony and outdoor rooftop. Big enough to fit all six of us. The views were quite stunning and there were lots of floor-to-ceiling windows to enjoy such views. It was a great place for parties and there were a lot of things to celebrate. Here was where I got pregnant and where we brought our first baby home to. You could just imagine how fit a pregnant woman I was climbing up and down stairs inside my home everyday. But again (I'm sure you know the drill by now...) the owner decided to sell the place. And no, that's not a euphemism for the owner decided to throw us out. So we moved, yet again.

 Scenic Heights (our third apartment)