Happiness is... being truly present

Posted by ~Summer~ on 31.8.15
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You know, being a stay-at-home mum is what I see as a luxury and privilege which allows me to be with my kids 24/7. However, many a time, I end up using much of this precious time on doing the endless chores, blogging or just finding nuggets of me-time in between.

I am cooking when I can bring them for some outdoor fun.
I am washing the dishes when we can have our fruit dessert together.
I am mopping the floor and letting the kids watch TV on their own.
I am checking my emails when we can be doing some reading or writing.
I am publishing a post when I can be playing LEGO with the toddler.
I am playing Candy Crush or CSI when I have a moment to spare.
I am staying up till wee hours to blog when I should be resting with the kids so that we can replenish our energy for a brand new day.

I'm not saying that all these are wrong because chores are chores and need to be done somehow, and loving to blog or stealing some me-time occasionally are not things to be ashamed of. I'm just thinking that it's time to remind myself that the family should always take priority and I shouldn't let myself be more concerned over a stained mattress than a needy kid.

Perhaps it's because of the pregnancy that makes me more lethargic. Perhaps it's because of a dear friend who reminded me that being around in social media is not as important as being with your family. Perhaps it's because I just think it's time for me to do so. This month, I tried to cut back on the chores and close one eye when I can, which means saying "It's okay" to untidy rooms, dirty floors and eating out a little more frequently. I tried to sleep much earlier and even take afternoon naps (which you must understand is not a norm for me previously) so that I wake up feeling more refreshed and ready to rock the next day. I tried to blog a little less even though I know that the passion thrives and it will remain a hobby for a long time to come. I tried to do more things not just for the kids, but with them and I must say it has been quite a liberating time for me too.

In this month's "Happiness is...", it's about being truly present for my kids and the people I love.


For the first time, we went to the National Orchid Garden which is located on the highest hill in Singapore Botanic Gardens. As part of the Jubilee celebration, all visitors got to enjoy free admission, hooray! While we are not fans of flowers and can't name most of them, it was definitely an eye opener for us to see over 600 beautiful species and fascinating hybrids on display. We also took the chance to introduce Vanda 'Miss Joaquim', our national flower, to the kids and told them how its resilence and year round blooming quality represents Singapore's unique culture.

We also found time to sit down to feed the swans, fishes, turtles and I was amazed by how Ariel would be so fascinated by the pigeons and would go near, so very near, them and reach out her hand to feed them small pieces of bread, much to their delight.

Having kids who sleep a little late means we get to go out for suppers at 10pm. Oh yeah, yummy waffle topped with chocolate ice cream and marshmallow, how sinful yet heavenly! For good or bad, the hubby and I kind of allow the girls to indulge and even when they are having a cough, we tend to close one eye and occasionally still give them sips of cold drinks or ice cream. Yup, a friend told me you can't possibly win every war so just pick your own battles, yeah?

The three of us also went on our girly nights out when the hubby was busy and we braved the peak hour crowd on the bus or MRT to explore new routes, visit new shopping malls, went to a library we've never been, have some splashing fun in water playgrounds (we love Splash-N-Surf at Kallang Wave Mall!) and in the span of a month, we watched not one but two movies - Pixels and Inside Out! I'm trying my best to cherish these evenings with my two girls before the baby boy pops, which could possibly change many of the things that we enjoy doing now.

On our family weekends, we also ventured to the west including playing at Westgate Wonderland for the first time and making our way to Science Centre during the Jubilee weekend. Although we had to skip Snow City due to the 4-hour queue, the lucky thing was we did not have to queue to enter Science Centre and managed to visit Interplay - Where Science meet Arts just before the exhibition ended. The kids had so much fun just dancing and goofing around!

On the eve of our nation's birthday, we specially made a trip down to Gardens by the Bay to view the special SG50 edition of Garden Rhapsody. The four of us just found an empty space to lie down, waited patiently for the show to begin and sang our hearts out when the familiar tunes like Home, Count on Me Singapore and 小人物的心声 started playing. I refrained from standing up and moving around trying to take pictures (except this one at the finale) but instead told myself to just immerse in that beautiful moment. I did. And it was so magical.

As part of our National Day celebration, we also booked a chalet at NSRCC and invited our families over. My aunt, who stays in Malaysia, and my 81-year-old granny came over for a BBQ and joined us for a mass KTV session too, woohoo! I was also over the moon to have my parents stay over with us and it was the first time in a long while that I swam with my mum. What surprised me most was how she tried to read a bedtime story (in English somemore, a language she is not so proficient in) to the kiddos and how my Dad then tried to read one in Mandarin. Plus, we went bowling together for the first time ever and my mum made us laugh out loud by sending the ball to the gutter almost every time and emerging with a grand score of 13. Those moments made me giggle so much yet warmed my heart more deeply than the scorching sun or burning charcoal.

On days where we don't have idea of where to go, we would just follow our hearts and let the spontaneity take over. For instance, we went prawning and then cycling in Punggol, delighted to find the 亲子车 where our kids could sit in front of us and there were even special handlebars and footrests designed for them. The hubby also took us to Verve Pizza Bar where I tucked into my well-loved lagsane and fried calamari while the kids had this cute looking mouse pizza. We then ended off the night with a leisure stroll by the river where we simply laid down to enjoy the peace and admire the awe-inspiring night views our city has to offer.

Another happy news is that we found out that we are having a boy! While I am a little apprehensive, or even a little scared, about whether I can get used to taking care of a boy and how things are going to change in the household, I am most excited than anything on the thought of being outnumbered by the kids. Yes, this year end is going to be pretty fun and I'm glad that the girls are as thrilled as I am to know that they are going to have a didi very soon! If you have not read it, here's how I surprised the kids and revealed the baby's gender to them through this fun DIY volcano experiment.

Last but not least, I think my best and most memorable mama moment this month was when my big girl learnt to cycle! I was the one who insisted on taking them cycling and even got chided by the hubby for wanting to accompany Angel, supporting her, keeping her from falling over and running behind her every step of the way. Well, better now than just before or after giving birth, right? It was my third 1-hour session with the girl and this time round, I was happy to see that she was much more confident and finally could balance and cycle on her own for a good 30 seconds! So proud of you, my dear!

For me, it was also a lesson learnt because I realised I would somehow lose my patience in the middle, nag at her for not trying hard enough and even regrettably tell her how her cousins took a shorter time to master it in a bid to motivate her. As always, I realise I need to remind myself to step into the space more, keep my cool and be more loving, patient and encouraging as I try to be a teacher to my kids. Most importantly, I need to tell myself to enjoy the journey of getting there with them as we overcome obstacles one by one, and that the destination is not what should matter most at the end of the day.

How was the month of August like for you? I sure hope you had a great Jubilee celebration and managed to enjoy some quality time with your loved ones too!


What are you HAPPY for this month? 

Happy memories have a special way of touching our hearts every time we think about them. Join in my linky party at the end of every month and let us smile, rejoice and share the simple joys of life. Highlight and press Ctrl + C to copy my button above, include it in your post/sidebar and add your link below. For happiness is all around us.

The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers {Giveaway: Family package of 4 tickets}

Posted by ~Summer~ on 28.8.15

Since we watched The Incredible Book Eating Boy earlier this year, we have fallen in love with a handful of children's books by Oliver Jeffers, including Lost and Found and How to Catch a Star.

So, when we knew that another of his classic picture books is coming live on stage very soon, you bet the kids are very much looking forward to it. If your kid is a fan of Oliver Jeffers and enjoys theatrical productions, GOOD NEWS, I have a family package of FOUR tickets to give away at the end of the post!

I Theatre presents 

Big Wooden Horse and Theatre Royal Winchester’s production: 

The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers  

An inter-galactic adventure tale for children 3 and up! 

Oliver Jeffers, award-winning author of How To Catch A Star and Lost and Found returns with an inter-galactic tale about a little boy seeking adventure.

One day a boy finds a plane in his cupboard. He flies his plane higher and higher until he runs out of petrol and lands on the moon. He is frightened, lost and alone until a passing Martian lands there too! Who is the strange alien? Can they be friends? And how will they find their way back home?

This exciting new production for families and young children has been created by the team behind the hit shows Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus and The Night Before Christmas.

Writer and director Adam Bampton-Smith said: “Oliver Jeffers’ fantastic picture book is perfect for adapting into a live stage version. The story of friendship between the boy and alien is one that everyone can relate to, coupled with those wonderful images which we have incorporated into the stage design. There is plenty of audience interaction and some great new music produced by the composers of The Gruffalo and Room On The Broom.”

Event Details 

Date: 12 to 20 September 2015

Venue: Alliance Française Theatre, Sarkies Road

Recommended for: Anyone 3 years old and above (All patrons will require a ticket to enter)

Duration: 50 minutes with no interval

Ticket Pricing: Adult/ Child - $32.00
                             Family Package (4 Persons) - $121.60
                             Big Family Package (5 Persons) - $144.00

Tickets are now available through www.sistic.com.sg, SISTIC Hotline (65) 6348 5555 and all SISTIC authorised agents.

About I Theatre
I Theatre is one of the region’s premiere professional producing companies for family orientated theatre, creating an average of four brand new theatre productions a year. We aim to produce theatre experiences that will be as accessible and challenging, funny and thought provoking to an adult as to a child. I Theatre has produced some of the most unforgettable family theatre Singapore and the region has seen – Rainbow Fish, Wizard of Oz, Ant and The Grasshopper, The Arabian Nights, Puss In Boots and many more!


For all readers of A Happy Mum, here's a chance to win a Family Package of 4 tickets to The Way Back Home!

This giveaway is open to all readers who can make it for the show on 12 Sep, 2:30pm! To participate, leave a comment in this blog post with your name and email address. Indicate in the Rafflecopter widget that you have commented and to increase your chances of winning, you can choose to carry out the rest of the options. Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Terms and Conditions
1) This giveaway ends at 2359hrs on 1 Sep 2015.
2) The winner will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to respond, failing which a new winner will be picked.
3) Tickets will have to be self-collected by 8 Sep at I Theatre's office at 27 Kerbau Road on weekdays from 10am-12pm or 2pm-5pm.
3) All incomplete entries will be disqualified.
4) To be fair to all readers and sponsors, please take part only if you can attend the show.

Disclosure: We received a media invite by I Theatre for The Way Back Home. All opinions are our own.

The rustic beauty of Pulau Ubin {Tips for a family visit}

Posted by ~Summer~ on 26.8.15
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There are days when we feel like escaping from the bustle of the city and finding a quiet spot in the countryside so as to enjoy the charm of rural life. Living in a metropolis like Singapore, that can be easier said than done. Nonetheless, we make it a point to find ways to stay in touch with nature and let our kids get up close with flora and fauna.

Other than nature reserves, there is a place that we like to visit because this island retains the rustic beauty and simplicity of a bygone era. With the last remaining villages and kampongs, it allows us to be transported back in time to 1960s and allows the kids to learn about how the local residents depend on wells for water, diesel generators for electricity and farming and fishing as a means of living.

Yes, I'm talking about the Granite Island - Pulau Ubin.

Pulau Ubin, an island shaped like a boomerang, is located just off the north-eastern corner of mainland Singapore and has an area of 10.2 square kilometres.

How to get to Pulau Ubin
It's pretty easy and convenient to get to the island. All you need to do is to take a public bumboat Changi Point Ferry Terminal which is near the Changi Village Hawker Centre. At the terminal, go down the stairs or take the lift and be sure to join the correct queue (not the one that goes to Penggerang, Johor)

Cost of bumboat: $2.50/person
Maximum number of passengers in one bumboat: 12
Additional cost per bicycle: $2

These bumboats operate from sunrise to sunset and they leave every time a group of 12 is formed. Each ride takes only approximately 15 minutes and if you are wondering, infants and babies are allowed as long as they pay!

The first time we visited Pulau Ubin with the kids, Ariel had just barely starting walking and so had to be in the baby carrier nearly the whole time, which was a full day long! No, strollers are not a good idea. Still, we were grateful for the perfect, sunny weather and couldn't wait to start exploring the island, which seemed to be much bigger than what we remembered.

Together with some of our friends, we went on a Sensory Trail organised by NParks which allowed us to experience Ubin's wonderful nature through our different senses during the 1.5-hour journey. The trail was developed in 1995 to allow the visually handicapped a chance to experience Ubin using their senses of touch and smell.

Thanks to our friendly guide, we were able to touch, see and smell fruit trees, spices and herbs for cooking, plants used in traditional medicine and native plants of the mangrove forest. The trail also took us through the backyard planting of the Ubin village home, where fruit trees such as papaya, banana, rambutan and breadfruit were planted. Have you heard of the fishy plant or the one that is called toothache?

As always, though the plants, flowers and fruits were fascinating to a certain extent, my girls were somehow more drawn towards the creatures and bugs. Yes, I'm not kidding. Don't ask my why but anthills and spider webs just excite them.

At the end of the trail which left us in thirst and perspiration, you know what we craved for most? A juicy, cold, sweet Thai coconut! *slurps* Seriously, these were a little pricey but considering how heavenly they tasted, we could never give them a miss.

Throw in a seafood lunch which is not only value for money but fresh and delicious too, I think I can understand why some Singaporeans love to come to Ubin for a weekend getaway. Although most people would prefer to eat at the famous Ubin First Stop Restaurant, we chose to enjoy the homeliness of the simple fare whipped up by the two sisters at Sin Lam Huat (新南发) Eating House. The steamed sea prawns were really good!

While all of our friends chose to return home after lunch, we decided to continue our day of exploration and ventured into Chek Jawa Wetlands, one of Singapore's richest ecosystems.

Visitors can either walk (just so you know, it would take over 40 minutes), cycle or hire a vehicle to get to Chek Jawa Wetlands. The first time we came here, we hired a van from the village for over $20 for a return trip. The driver will drop you at Punai Hut and you will have to walk the rest of the way in. When you are ready to go off, just give the driver a call and he/she will pick you up. We had it free and easy but for those of you who prefer to learn about Chek Jawa's natural heritage on a guided tour, you can book in advance here. Each tour takes one hour and costs $60 (maximum 15 people per group).

The intertidal flats at Chek Jawa Wetlands are most suitable for visiting during low tides of 0.5 metres and below, when you will be able to see most of the marine life. At higher tides, the area will be submerged under water. If you don't want to depend on luck and wish to avoid disappointment, check out the tide timings table when planning your visit.

I have to say we were really amazed and delighted by what we saw! Crabs, fish, mud lobsters,  sea stars, mudskippers and more! If you are lucky, you might even spot sea hares, sea squirts, octopuses, sand dollars, sponges and cuttlefish. Did you know? Chek Jawa is made up of 7 interdependent ecosystems – namely, its coastal forest, mangrove forest, its rocky shore, the sandy shore, sand bar, seagrass lagoon and the coral rubble.

If you are up to it, then don't miss the over 1-km boardwalk (Coastal and Mangrove) and the climb up the 21-metre tall Jejawi Tower for a bird’s eye view of Pulau Ubin. For me, these towers are a been-there-done-that kind of thing and I have to scale them at least once, I feel.

The boardwalk, which was built in 2007, allows visitors to get up close to plant and marine life without damaging the area. Special care was taken to construct the boardwalk, which is made from concrete but simulated to resemble timber. We much preferred the mangrove boardwalk to the coastal one because well, it gave the kids plenty of chances to come up close with mudskippers and fiddler crabs.

At the visitor center (House No.1), which was converted from a Tudor-style house built in the 1930s, visitors can learn more about Chek Jawa's history and wildlife. While you are there, don't forget to talk a walk down to the viewing jetty too!

Besides the marine life, guess what other animals we saw that totally thrilled the kids?


We saw these scampering around, climbing up trees and some even tried to steal whatever they could from the bicycles which were parked.


These are usually tame but please, do not provoke them no matter what. We were lucky to spot families of wild boars and the cute little babies were even drinking mummy's milk! Did you know? Wild boar piglets are distinctive animals as they have light brown fur, with cream and brown stripes that run down their backs.


Now, if you think that Pulau Ubin is only for the young, bold and adventurous, that is not true. You've seen how we survived and had a good time on the island with the kids but did you know that we also brought our parents there more than once too? I've said it before but I always feel thankful to have parents and in-laws who are not just used to our spontaneity but they join us on our quests too! 

For our subsequent visits, we decided to go on exhilarating rides across the rugged terrain instead of on foot. Woohoo! For toddlers or small kids, it is safer to let them sit in front of you while the older ones can ride at the back. Rental prices for the bicycles differ but you can pretty much get a good one for just $8 an hour; try asking for a bulk discount if you are renting for the entire family.

I must tell you first that while the paths look smooth and level at the start, they can get quite rough and bumpy as you go along, especially when you are nearing Chek Jawa. There are also plenty of steep slopes to overcome so do make sure that you go slow and steady, especially if you have a child on pillion. When going downslope, there will be signboards asking cyclists to get off and push their bikes instead. Well, no one really does that and we didn't too (you will need to do it at times when going upslope, I swear), but just make sure you brake often and do not lose control of your bicycle.

It might look as if everything went perfectly for us on our visits but that isn't the whole truth. Sure, we did have a lot of fun and enjoyed the family bonding but there were little obstacles lying in our way too. I remember...

... having to cycle in the drizzle.

... dealing with hungry kids who wanted a snack and drink every now and then.

... my baby crying for milk at one point and I had to stop in the middle of the forest and breastfeed her on the bike.

... how my mum-in-law couldn't find a bike that she could ride solo and the hubby had to end up riding a tandem with her and panted at every slope.

... the toddler who amazingly fell asleep on her chair on the bike and we let her rest her head on a bag so that we could continue to cycle back.

All these made up our fond memories from our family visits to Pulau Ubin and I am sure they will remain in my heart for a long time to come.

Oh, one last thing, don't forget to stop by the quarry for an awe-inspiring view of the granite hills and the stunning aqua-coloured lake before you bid farewell to the island.

Gorgeous, right?

Charming, authentic and unspoilt. I'm pretty sure we will be back to witness more beauty of Pulau Ubin soon.


Tips for a family visit to Pulau Ubin

1) Bring along enough water for the little ones. Finger food, snacks or fruits will be welcome too.
2) In case of bad weather, you might wanna carry along foldable umbrellas or ponchos.
3) Insect repellent and sunscreen are a must.
4) Wear a pair good running shoes.
5) Caps and shades come in handy too.
6) Bring a set of spare, lightweight clothes for the kids.
7) If you are planning to cycle, carry a backpack instead of a sling bag.
8) Plan your timing such that it doesn't coincide with naptimes and ensure you can complete your journey before the sun sets.
9) Take things slow and include ample breaks, especially if you are travelling with the elderly and small children.
10) Remind the children to stay in the middle of the boardwalks in Chek Jawa as the sides are not blocked.
11) Do not feed the animals or go too near them.
12) Bring along a willingness to get sweaty, an attitude to brave the wild and a heart ready to have fun! Oh, and a camera to capture those precious moments too!

To download a map of Pulau Ubin, go here. For 2015 tide timings, go here. For a list of things to do, go here.

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