Happiness is... staying home and positive

Posted by ~Summer~ on June 04, 2020
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April 2020 was a special month that all of us would never forget.

It was the beginning of the circuit breaker where we subsequently had to stay at home, eat at home, study at home, work from home, exercise at home, play at home, do everything at home, and basically face each other at home 24/7. Yup, while it all sounded scary and intimidating at the start, I think many of us slowly but surely got used to the notion and perhaps a few of us even felt thankful to have this opportunity to bond with the kids and understand them a little better.

For me, since I have been with the kids at home all along and staying sane throughout the day has always been a challenge, the dreaded part was more of trying to manage all the different HBL schedules and not feeling torn apart by their constant needs, be it to solve a problem sum, handle a technical glitch, join a Zoom meeting or teach them to read a Chinese word for the thousandth time. There was one thing I was super thankful for and that was having the hubby home much more than usual and the kids were so, so happy to be able to spend more time with Papa.

To even be able to stay home as a family and be able to do what we do, that is a huge blessing in itself, isn't it? It's amazing how our mindsets as parents affect the way our kids think and behave, right? I realised that in order for us to make the most of this stay-home period, the key difference laid in having an optimistic outlook and cheerful attitude - and it all had to begin with me. So even though I was physically exhausted and mentally drained on some days (aren't we all?), I did try to start each day with a happy, hopeful heart in the hope that it would 传达正能量 and the kids would feel it too. Only then, would we be able to find the silver lining and make the best out of what we had.

Now that the circuit breaker is ending soon, hearing how the kids would say "Staying home is fun!", "I wish I could stay home more", "I'm not very excited to go back to school", "There are so many things we can do when we are together" makes me feel relieved that, like me, they did cherish and enjoy this rare experience. In this post of "Happiness is...", it's about staying home and staying positive.

These kids definitely turned my world upside down on most days during CB but perhaps, it was never the right side up in the first place to begin with since I became a mum. Haha. I always think having kids helps me to see things from a different perspective and while this trio consistently tests my patience and challenges my beliefs, I am glad that they remind me just how much more I still have to learn in this motherhood journey. A whole lot more.

Here is a quick recap of some of the things we did together in the last month.

-> Photoshoot

We had our family photoshoot on the first weekend of April before we stayed home for the next few weeks. It was likely one of the last times we had a breath of fresh air in a park together and looking back, I wonder if we would do better to cherish such simple luxuries in future? I sure hope so. Going to the beach, dining out together, visiting the zoo, taking a stroll in the park, exploring neighbourhood playgrounds, playing a game of tag, admiring the blooms - these are the little things in our lives that we need to learn to treasure more. Read our review of Bloom Photography and check out more of our photoshoot pictures in my previous post here.

-> Home Based Learning 

I think many of us will better appreciate teachers and schools after seeing how it can be frustrating just to handle the needs of a couple of kids, right? I guess I'm quite lucky in the sense that the elder two are quite independent in terms making sure they do and submit their work on time. So, I only have the youngest one to deal with in the mornings and that means sitting through two hours of online lessons with him every day. However, that is not to say that the girls don't come bombarding me with all kinds of questions from time to time because the fact is they still need my guidance in some subjects and well, we don't have tuition so Mama needs to solve everything. It irks me when they come to me for every little problem they face so I make it a point to tell them to try, try and try - doesn't matter if you fail, fail and fail - before coming to ask me anything. And yup, show me the workings to prove you tried, okay?

We don't have a tablet at home - one of their teachers was surprised to hear so - and at times when their lesson timings overlapped, we had to try to sort it out. Thankfully, I managed to learn how to screen share from phone to TV so including my laptop, we could have two people having different lessons at the same time and that just mean I had to run to and fro whenever needed and obviously, with the devices taken up, I couldn't do much of my work or even scroll through social media too - which might be a good thing, right?

The kids seriously miss their art classes so they were elated when the teachers at heART Studio started online classrooms for each of them so they could continue to learn to draw, shade and colour through the step-by-step tutorials. Thanks so much for all the effort, dear teachers!

-> Art and craft

I honestly miss doing art and craft with the kids and there's always a reason to say why we didn't do it, like no time, no energy, no inspiration and so on, right? Being home 24/7 for such a long period meant that I finally ran out of excuses for myself and found the motivation to do something creative with the kids. Yippee yay!

We painted, did collages, designed masks, made a straw xylophone, designed masks, made paper chromatography bookmarks (learn how to do it in my Creativity 521 post here) and more! One of the most fun projects we did was turning a cereal box into a mailbox so that we could write cards and letters to our family and friends. I eventually did make a trip to the post office so that we really mailed the letters out, yeah? It was also good opportunity for us to spread positivity by letting our friends know that we missed them and that we looked forward to meeting them for play dates soon!

-> Home workouts

Usually, we will always be out running around and exploring Singapore on weekends. During the circuit breaker, although we couldn't really differentiate which day of the week it was since we were home all week long, I still wanted to make sure that we were staying healthy and fit by doing home exercises. Apart from joining the kids in doing their P.E. lessons, we also had our own Tabata, yoga, stretch and relax, and of course, DANCE sessions! Oh, remember how we were seen dancing on national TV at the start of the month? I hope that inspired some of you to get moving and groove to the beat! By the way, I still have many queries coming in from you guys whenever I post our dance videos so in case you are wondering, we don't use any special app or game. All we do is log on to YouTube, type in 'Just Dance' and search for the songs we like. They have some really cool songs and new ones are added regularly. The best part is there are so many different dance genres to choose from and the dance steps are usually not too hard to follow so the whole family can have fun together. Try it out and see if you like it too!

-> Cooking

I cooked so much less in April because whenever he was home, the chef hubby would take over the kitchen and whip up a storm! Even if he didn't, he would still go out to tabao food for us so I could continue to take a much needed break, yay! The big girl commented one day "I didn't know Papa can cook so well!" and I went "Well, he cooks better than Mama and I wish he could cook for us every day lor." That is the truth because I can't cook half as well nor have the creativity to think of new ways to cook like he does from time to time. Check out some of the dishes he did, like the crab bee hoon soup (made from fresh, alive crabs), hokkien mee and claypot chicken rice. Yummy!

That is not to say that I didn't cook at all because there were still days when he was not around and I had to reluctantly step into the kitchen again. Haha. The good thing is these kids are usually quite appreciative of the homecooked food they get, no matter how simple they may be. I love seeing how they gobble up my very un-fanciful dishes like steamed egg, stir fried vege and sesame oil chicken and their big smiles give me motivation to keep doing what I do.

I still like to keep them involved when it comes to meals so we did wraps, made pizzas, tried doing an Oreo cheesecake for my birthday, made our own mee hoon kueh using cutting moulds and so on. I was surprised to hear how a few of you were then inspired to make your own one-of-a-kind mee hoon kueh after seeing ours so that really brightened up my day.

Oh, we also decorated Easter cookies which delighted the kids and we made our own popsicles too. Guess what flavours? We had Yakult, Milo and Ayataka Green Tea popsicles! Yum!

-> Singing

My kids love to sing and that is something I am thankful for because I love it too. The three of them will always ask us to turn off the radio in the car so that they can sing their songs when we go out and now that we are home, we still sing when we do the laundry, when we watch music videos, when we dance and whenever we feel bored. Haha. Talking about music videos, I've been introducing some of my favourite singers (like GEM, JJ Lin, Jay Chou and Stefanie Sun) and their songs to them so that we can go and sing together at karaoke next time. To celebrate Navy Day this year, the girls also did a special song-and-dance with Papa. Go here to watch in full.

-> Virtual meetings

We might not be able to see our friends in person but we can still see them online, right? It's a different way to keep in touch but at least we can still do so! Besides writing lessons, we also joined in Zoom gatherings to celebrate our friends' birthdays, had video calls with the grandparents, cousins and friends and even did an online drawing game with some friends which turned out to be really enjoyable and fun.

-> Skits

One of the most fun and creative things the kids did was coming up with their own original skits! One night, they just announced that they had a performance for me and asked me to sit down to watch. It was only a couple of minutes long and the story was about them being warriors who were fighting the bad guys. Subsequently, they also did skits about bullying, zoo, playgrounds and any theme they could think of. I joined in from time to time because it was just so fun and they were always elated to have Mama pitch in ideas too. If you are keen to watch our performances, go to my IG highlights and click under 'skits'. I think you might just have a good laugh!

Oh, they also made tickets for the hubby and I and we had to present these before we could enter and watch the performance. How cute, right? There's even a barcode for you to scan, haha.

-> Music

I think this circuit breaker has given many of us more opportunities to pursue our hobbies and rekindle our passion, be it in the form of baking, doing art, picking up a new language, learning music, starting an exercise regime and so on. For us, we started learning more songs on the piano and other than playing a few pop songs that we love, the girls and I are now learning more about beats, chords and rhythms through online tutorials. Yup, I've said this before but I am really thankful to see that while they both refuse to attend formal lessons, they seem to be enjoying learning at a leisurely pace in the comfort of our own home and that's good enough for me. In fact, it makes me eager and motivated to learn and play with them too and in a sense, they are helping me to pursue my childhood dreams and remind me that everything is possible in life as long as I don't give up.

-> Running

Amazingly, after the photoshoot, I went out less than a couple of times and that was for a quick grocery run and a slow jog in the park. Other than that, the hubby was the one who went out regularly to get our household necessities and join the long queue in the supermarket. He was also the one who would ask the kids to take turns to follow him out for a short run in the neighbourhood. Yup, it's good having a sporty Papa at home. Truth be told, unlike him, I don't enjoy running so much and would much prefer to sweat it out in the form of dancing or yoga. I guess we all have our own preferences in life, right? That said, I can't wait to bring the kids to the beach or go explore the nature reserves again soon!

-> Games

We've been playing lots of board games and card games at home, have you? It's good that we have a stash of them, most of which we've only played a couple of times. The kids enjoy playing Monopoly, Uno, Spot It, Jenga, Noisy Neighbours and many more! At times, they also like to make up their own games and it's fun to see where their imagination takes them. One of our most loved games was this Lego maze run that we did where we would compete to see who could finish it in the shortest time. The fun part was in designing our own maze and adding in things like bridges, tunnels and obstacles for the ball to jump over. Try it and see if you like it too!

-> Magic

This was something that totally thrilled and delighted the girls - Magic class! Thanks to Acel Academy of Magic, they attended the Orange Wand course which consisted of a total of 8 lessons. In each lesson, they learnt a different trick using a different prop (which were all sent to our mailbox). Besides learning an important value every time, they also built up their self confidence as they had to perform in front of their teacher Nigel and their classmates. My girls are really shy when it comes to public speaking so this gave them a great opportunity to practise and improve. They were always so enthusiastic to show their tricks to the family, especially the cute and gullible little brother, and it was nice seeing how they enjoyed the whole experience. Check out our video which showcases all the tricks they learnt!

-> Water Play

My kids really miss being able to swim but to cheer them up, we turned our balcony into a mini water play area complete with a slide, a tent, a baby bathtub, as well as buckets and recycled bottles. They came up with their own ideas to play including turning the slide into a water slide by having two people pouring water from the side while the third goes on it, setting up a refill station so they could take turns to refill the empty bottles and having fishing game by using a net to pick out mini animal figurines. It was a good way to keep them happy for a couple of hours and the best part was they were helping to clean the balcony too. Yay!

-> Celebrations

Last but not least, we also had a couple of milestones in April, such as me turning 37 and the hubby and I celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary.  Staying home doesn't mean we don't get to feel special or have a fabulous day because in the first place, it was always about spending that special day with our loved ones. Although the hubby was not around on my birthday, we had a pre-celebration before that and the kids made me feel extra loved on the actual day too.

As for our wedding anniversary, this was definitely a year to remember and it was the first time the kids did so much for us - including beautiful handmade cards, cute gifts of love and a hearty breakfast. I was touched when the girls told me they had been planning this for months since the start of the year and wanted to tell them that they were our best presents. Awwww. One day when you read this, my dears, please know that I appreciate all your efforts more than I could say. Thank you!

So that marked the end of our stay-home April and I can't say that it was uneventful because we still did quite a lot of activities and in fact, spent so much more time as a family, right?

Remember, a positive mindset makes all the difference and we always have the option of choosing joy. Hope everyone survived the CB just as well too, if not better. Till more updates for the month of May soon!

Capturing family moments with Bloom Photography

Posted by ~Summer~ on May 27, 2020
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There was one thing which made me disappointed when the Circuit Breaker was first announced on 3rd April. Oddly, it wasn't because of full home-based learning for the kids or that we were required to practise safe distancing measures and stay home. That, I assumed I could deal with because being a SAHM for over a decade has trained me up pretty well. It was because there was something I had been looking forward to and I realised that we might have to put it off for months till the pandemic blew over.

You see, we had booked our family photoshoot session with Bloom Photography and it was supposed to take place a week later on Good Friday where the hubby could join us. For weeks, I had been thinking of what we should wear since we were allowed to have two outfits and what accessories the girls could bring along. They had been feeling enthusiastic about it too because it was their choice to have an outdoor shoot instead of a studio one and they were very much excited to be doing it for the first time in Botanic Gardens followed by having a good time in the park. Well, I guess things just don't always go as planned, right?

So I immediately dropped Bloom Photography a note after the announcement and casually asked if we could do it over the weekend before the restrictions came into place. Truth be told, I was just trying my luck and wasn't really expecting a yes. To my pleasant surprise, they were extremely swift to respond and after contacting their photographer, Su Wen, we agreed that we would do it the very next morning, which was in exactly 14 hours or so. Yippee yay yay!

This had to be one of my best birthday presents this year because whenever I looked through these photographs, every one of them just feels so precious to me. Yup, I turned 37 on the very day CB started on 7 April, what a memorable year, right? It has been over one and a half years since we did our last family photoshoot and I can see the huge change in each of the kids. Time really flies when you are a parent, I'm sure you already know that by now. That is also why I love being able to capture these happy moments and turn them into lasting memories. Here's sharing more about our photoshoot experience that day.

We reached the venue at 8am in the morning, after somehow miraculously waking the kids before the sun rose to dress them up and making our way to the gardens. The girls and I managed to put on some light makeup and I love doing such girly things with them on special occasions like this.

Since we were going to have two outfits, we chose to first go with the formal wear and then switch into something more casual later on. That meant we had to carry along five sets of outfits and footwear as we made our way around and it was a good thing we had brought along our trusty, decade old Maclaren stroller.

As usual, it took a while before the kids were warmed up and felt more at ease in the new environment. In Su Wen's words, she said that our kids were very well-trained to pose and smile for the camera - that's the thing about being a blogger's kid, for good or bad. I love the natural shots she took of them, even though it might not always be one with a big smile.

We had different poses for our shots, some were done sitting down, some standing up, a few were walking or jumping while others were more freestyle. Being a mum herself, Su Wen understood the importance of capturing both siblings group shots and solo shots of each of the kids. I was thankful for that because it made each of the kids feel special and I can't even describe how precious these will be when we look back in a few years' time.

When doing the individual shots, Su Wen would direct the kids where to stand and guide them with the poses too. At times, she might take a little time to think or change our positions after trying out one or two shots but I totally appreciate how she tried to make everything as perfect as it could be. While I knew the girls would fully cooperate with her, I was half hesitant if the boy would be able to do it because he is usually wary of strangers and sticks to Mama like superglue. I guess he was on his best form that day because he did every pose suavely and even put on that charming smile of his as best as he could. Hooray!

By the way, 8am might be an awfully early time to do a photoshoot but seeing how beautiful the lake was and sensing how the weather wasn't yet too hot for comfort, I then understood why this was one of the best timings. Oh, if you are not a morning person or prefer a later slot, you can choose to have your photoshoot session at 4:30pm too.

I asked Su Wen if she could help the hubby and I capture some couple shots to commemorate our 12th wedding anniversary later on that month and she gladly obliged. These pictures are important to me because they are a reminder while the course of true love never runs smooth, to be able to find each other in the first place, we are beyond blessed.

We didn't take long, probably over half an hour, to wrap up our formal wear segment before we made our way for a short break as we changed into the next outfit. By this time, the sun was shining brightly and all of us were perspiring. Thus, we were only too relieved to ditch the bulky dresses, long pants and uncomfortable heels for denim jumpers, T-shirts and running shoes. Casual is definitely more of our style and it was plain to see that everyone felt more comfortable in the second outfit. But then again, it's nice to have some shots of us in formal wear for keepsake, right? That is why I felt thankful that Bloom gave us the opportunity to change our outfits because we didn't get the chance to during most of our past photoshoots.

For our first stop after the break, Su Wen brought us to the swings which was a great prop for the shoot and I loved the lush greenery in the backdrop too. Oh, I have to mention this before I forget, the seats in Botanic Gardens were demarcated by that time because of the safe distancing rules and you could see crosses on the benches and swings. I asked Su Wen if that would be an issue but she said they would be barely noticeable and yup, she was absolutely right.

This was the one and only mum-and-kids picture we took that entire day. Yes, just one. But guess what? It is now the header in my blog because it was so well-taken and I love it lots. Sometimes, just one is enough, right?

We also did mum-and-daughters as well as father-and-son shots at the swing which captured the smiles of the kids well because they were just too happy to rock back and forth. I saw how far Su Wen was standing from the kids yet the framing of the pictures turned out really well and it goes to show the power of a good lens and a professional photographer.

By this time, it had been over an hour since we started and it was not hard to see that the kids were feeling hot and a little exhausted, especially the youngest. It was then that I realised I had totally forgotten to bring along some snacks to keep them happy and just when I was trying hard to think of what to do, Su Wen told the kids that she had brought along candies and gummies as rewards for them if they could endure a little more. Oh yay! Thank you for being so thoughtful and well-prepared! Yup, as guilty as I might be, sweets and snacks are really lifesavers at times so let's just keep an eye closed once in a while.

I was really happy to see how the family pictures turned out eventually, especially for the second half of the shoot. We took portraits at the bench, we tried out jumping shots, we even sat down on a picnic mat which Su Wen had brought along as a prop. This one above, where we tried to tickle each other, was one of my favourites. A picture tells a thousand words and many of these photos were able to capture our essence and showcase the natural, fun-loving side of us.

The kids were also delighted to do a running series where they would hold hands and just keep running towards Su Wen. Yup, if you wanna get the kids to smile or laugh naturally, get them to run, play catching, relax and be carefree.

After that, the kids were evidently out of energy already and I could tell they were eager to call it a day so they could rest. The hubby also commented and asked if it was going to end soon because I bet he felt famished by that time since he didn't have breakfast, haha. Su Wen was the one who urged and encouraged us to go to one final spot before we dismissed and I have to say that I am so glad we did it because... just check out these last pics we took!

Nice, right? It was a picture-perfect spot - thankfully it was shaded - and some of these made it to my top favourites that day. The kids took turns to take their last individual shots and I have to give them credit for smiling so sweetly and happily even though they were tired. Awesome job, kiddos!

To Bloom Photography and Su Wen, thank you so much for all these beautiful pictures of our humble family that will last us for a lifetime. We had a truly wonderful experience and I think the results speak for themselves. Lastly, to all parents, I would definitely encourage you to do a family photoshoot while the kids are still young.

Memories, they are simply priceless.



For those of you who are keen to have a family photoshoot and take home some precious, everlasting memories too, here is a special $88nett offer from Bloom Photography. Yup, it's really a good deal so don't miss it! They have kindly extended this promotion till 30 June for all A Happy Mum readers, all you have to do is email or text them (see below for details), quote "Bloom's offer" and if you make your confirmation within 7 days, you will receive an additional $20 off. Shooting validity is up till 31 December 2010. Make your reservation now, yeah?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored collaboration between Bloom Photography and A Happy Mum. We received a complimentary family photoshoot and soft copy photographs in writing these review. All opinions are my own.

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