I love you to the moon and back {Review of "Guess How Much I Love You"}

It's the year end school holidays and in wanting to start it on a heartwarming note and give a sweet surprise to my big girl who turns eight this week, I brought the kids to watch a theatrical show that we've been anticipating for a long time. Think Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown hare and some of you will know what I'm referring to.

Yes, it is based on the best-selling book "Guess How Much I Love You" - a British children's book written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram which has been captivating hearts around the globe for the past two decades. 

I remember the first time we came across the book was when we borrowed it from the library and we had a delightful read during our bedtime storytelling session. It reminds me of how my girls will always be saying things like "Mama, I love you more", "I love you most", "I love you more than you love me", "I love you forever and ever and ever..." in such sweet tones that melt my heart. But the truth is, they will never know just how much I love them and they can only keep guessing how much. In fact, a mother's love for her child can never be measured and even if I want to, I can't explicitly describe the love I feel for each of my kids too.

They were intrigued by what it meant to love someone to the moon and back and since learning the phrase, they have been saying it to me just so to let me know that they love me deeply. Yup, these tiny beings can be so sweet at times, right?

On the day of the show, which was held at School of The Arts, we arrived early and were thrilled to see a collection of Guess How Much I Love You and I Love You All Year Round books being sold just outside the theatre.

There was also a photobooth where we could put on some hare ears (the bunny ones are our own!) and take a photo for keepsake. What amazed me was that the organisers took down our email address and sent us our digital photo also immediately, which was really a nice and sweet gesture of them.

Moving onto the show, we were in for a hippety hoppety time and the kids, including the little toddler, got really excited when the hares came on stage. Their furry costumes came complete with a white chest, pointed toes, long brown ears and even cute noses too! How adorable (and how stuffy for the cast)!

With just Big Nutbrown Hare, Little Nutbrown Hare and the narrator, the three-man cast entertained us for nearly an hour by taking us through the seasons - from the budding trees in spring to the blossoming flowers in summer to the fallen leaves in autumn and the icy snow in winter. I thought the way they made use of props to illustrate the seasons was ingenious, including using cutouts of trees which could flip like pages of a book, hidden colourful blooms, a silky blue cloth for the icy river, puppetry for the animals and insects such as bird, owl, butterfly and frog, falling bits of paper for the snow, a surprise spider web and many more.

As Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare went through each of the seasons, they would tell each other how much they loved them, for instance by using how high they hopped, how wide their arms could stretch and how far their toes could reach the sky and so on. Big Nutbrown Hare would usually 'win' because he was bigger, taller and mostly because he truly loved the little one so, so much.

The use of catchy, melodious tunes, choreographed dance moves and interaction with the audience members made it so much more engaging and I like that the love being portrayed between Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare was untainted, pure and unwavering throughout the passage of time. The way they would give each other big bear hugs, the way Big would lift Little up and spin her around, the way Little would pull at Big's ears just to make sure he could hear her clearly - all these and many more sweet gestures reminded me of the strong, relentless love between a parent and child.

That warm, fuzzy feeling that stirred up in my heart was probably why I love this show so much, even if the hubby couldn't identify with it. Yes, men are just not as emo or sentimental, are they? My favourite part was the ending when the brightly lit moon appeared in the dark blue sky and rounded up the play perfectly. Even though the last line of the book, and the show, has already turned into a popular line to declare one's love, I still loved it when Big Nutbrown Hare put his arm around Little and whispered it in that sweet, loving tone of his

"I love you right up to the moon - and back".

Yup, I've a feeling we'll be reading this book for many more nights and I'm going to think of creative ways to let the kids know just how much I love them. Much thanks to ABA Productions for inviting us to the show and we can't wait for Kidsfest 2018 to come!

P.S. Kidsfest 2018 will take place over four weeks in two venues from 17 Jan to 11 Feb next year. There will be a total of six exciting productions to watch and I'll be sharing more in depth about the line-up, as well as give away tickets for you and your kids to watch your favourite show soon, so stay tuned!

Disclosure: We were invited by ABA Productions to review "Guess How I Love You" as well as host a giveaway (Congrats to the winner Angelina, I hope you enjoyed the show too!). All opinions are my own.

Never too young to start {Review of Heguru Education Centre Part III}

Posted by ~Summer~ on November 15, 2017

When I was told that kids as young as six months old can embark on a right brain training journey at Heguru Education Centre, I felt the same thing that most parents felt - skepticism. I mean, they can't read, write, listen to instructions or even sit up well yet, are you sure they can make it through an entire lesson? Most importantly, do they even benefit and learn anything from class?

Anyway, since I don't let my kids attend preschool until they turn three years old and I usually have ample time to spend with them every day, I thought I would let Asher give Heguru a try when he was 15 months old. After all, I've seen the progress in his sisters (read our previous review here) and it is recommended that you start from as young as possible before the child’s innate right brain abilities become dormant past the age of six.

So, he started attending the Infant and Toddler Course, which is parent accompanied, and I was thinking it would be a good chance to let him be exposed to right brain training, socialise with peers of his age and at the same time allow us to have some parent-and-child bonding through the class activities.

Asher begins his journey at Heguru Education Centre, thanks to Teacher Clarice and Teacher Jolene for their guidance

Infant and Toddler Course

For the Infant and Toddler Course, each lesson takes place for about 50 minutes and the ratio of teachers to students is capped at a maximum of 2 to 7. To get a good idea of the lesson content, you can read my review here where I divided the class activities into 12 broad categories and shared our feedback on each of them. Even though the lessons might be scaled down to suit the learning abilities of these tiny tots, the gist and objectives of the curriculum remain the same - it strives to unleash the full potential of the brain to help develop positive, confident children who have better memory and accelerated learning rates.

It's been over half a year since the boy started and coming from a mum whose three kids are all in the right brain training journey, I can only once again emphasize that if you are a parent, you shouldn't expect to see results in just a term or two. To see the positive effects of right brain training, it should be carried out continuously over an extended period of time, say in years, so as to let your child fully reap the benefits. This is especially so when it comes to the infants and toddlers because you will be unsure of whether they are hitting their milestones as a result of growing up or if the weekly classes have helped in some way. In many cases, it can be very challenging to pinpoint the exact areas where your child has improved as a result of of the lessons.

That said, I always remind myself that the topmost priority for me in deciding whether or not to pursue an enrichment class is - my child's happiness. He/she needs to show interest and be happy to go for class, be able to enjoy most, if not all of the activities, be enthusiastic to learn and return for the next lesson with a keen attitude. That has been my driving factor in determining what enrichment classes to try out, continue or put an end to for every of my children.

The good news is that all three of them are loving their classes at Heguru Education Centre and even if it means cutting their afternoon nap short, they have never dreaded the thought of needing to go for class. Yes, this applies even for the toddler who seems to have grown accustomed to the routine of having weekly lessons and he looks forward to it because there are so many things to learn and so many things to play too!

It's a little tough to be specific about his progress over the past half a year but I've narrowed it down to the below aspects because these are the areas where I've seen the most significant improvements.

1) Attention span

He might be the oldest kid in the class but his attention span was one of the shortest when we first started. He would begin to fidget after a while, start to lie on the floor or walk around the class, or just plainly show his boredom and start to dig into my bag for food or demand for me to nurse him. Yes, right in the middle of class! For instance, he tunes out whenever the flashcards come on and would start to look for other means to entertain himself - which means he stops paying attention altogether.

After all these months of training, he has a much longer attention span now and is able to focus on more of the activities. He fidgets less, walks around less, but sits down more and listens more. He still isn't really into flashcards and some of the more monotonous activites, but in the least, he doesn't disrupt the class and is able to concentrate for the bulk of the lesson, which is already a vast improvement in my view.

Focusing on the abacus as the teacher uses it to teach arithmetic concepts

Trying his best to listen to the teacher going through the stack of flashcards which takes place at intervals

2) Ability to follow instructions

Initially, he was not able to understand the teacher's instructions nor follow them well. A good instance was how he would be asked to choose one of the images during ESP training but he would always tap on both of them. This would go on umpteen times during a class and in fact, it went on for weeks even before he began to understand the concept. While this was hilarious at first because he would give that cheeky look when he tapped on both the left and right card, it went on lesson after lesson and I was wondering if he could ever understand what was required of him.

After a couple months of training, a routine to follow, peers to learn from as well as unwavering patience from the teachers, he is now able to choose a picture straightaway and use his fingers to tap on it so as to communicate it to the teacher. He is also able to understand instructions such as using two hands to return the materials to the teachers, passing his namecard, throwing the unwanted piece of his sticker into the rubbish bin after he is done and so on.

Learning to recognise pictures and match them to their names, in this case he is tasked to tap his finger on the "flower"

Training his extrasensory perception (ESP) by predicting which picture the teacher is going to choose afterwards

3) Problem solving

Puzzle solving is a big part of every Heguru class and even at his age, Asher is being exposed to puzzles like the Iroita and Tangram. These puzzles help to boost their intellectual development, analytical and problem-solving skills. I like that this is a hands-on learning experience and that the kids get to feel a sense of achievement every time they complete a puzzle.

I remember how Asher would pick out all the circles (they are his favourite shape) whenever we did the Iroita when he first started. He didn't really realise what shapes he needed to form or what pieces he needed, and basically he was in a world of his own just picking out all things round and holding them tightly in his hand. He has gone a long way from then and now, he is able to identify triangles and squares and while he still needs to work on his rectangles and semicircles, at least he is able to solve a part of the puzzle on his own before needing any assistance or prompting from me.

Working on his Iroita puzzle which is made up of basic shapes and consists of a few pieces joined together

Matching shapes and learning about the words triangle, rectangle, square and circle

Making use of the tangram pieces of solve a puzzle, which can be quite tricky for his age

4) Psychomotor development

Of the three kids, Asher has always been the most developed in his psychomotor skills. He can throw a ball, catch a ball and even dribble it before he turned two, which was more advanced than his sisters (not that we like to compare). It is easy to sense his enthusiasm in the motor skills activities during his Heguru class because he would always carry them out with energy and anticipation. Sometimes, he would even be dismayed when it was time to stop the activity and the teacher had to collect back the materials.

Over time, we have seen how his psychomotor skills improved even further and I am glad that he gets to work on his gross motor skills - for example catching a balloon or walking to a bin to drop a ball, and his fine motor skills - for example moulding clay, pulling strings or scooping small objects with a spoon at every Heguru lesson.

Let's feed the shark! Insert the pompoms into the shark's mouth one by one

Using a spoon and without touching it, transfer the pompoms from cup to bowl

5) Language and social skills

He may be the most advanced in psychomotor skills among the three but he is also the least advanced in terms of vocal and language development. Many people tell me that this is common for boys as they tend to learn to speak at a later age than girls. Even if I wasn't particularly concerned since I understand that every child develops at his/her own pace, I was nonetheless eager to see when my boy would finally start to learn to talk.

His breakthrough came last month when he suddenly picked up over a dozen words and was better able to articulate himself when he wanted something. Since then, he has been learning more words each day including sounds of animals, names of family members, colour names and so on. While I think it can also be accredited to his age and our constant teaching at home, I think being exposed to a variety of both English and Chinese words, nursery rhymes, poems and even foreign language songs in Heguru class helps to play a part too. Morever, he gets to interact with his classmates and the teachers (who all dote on him a lot) and that helps to develop his social skills in more ways than one too.

One of his favourite words is "Baby" and he says it whenever he sees a picture of it or a cute baby on the street

Being able to interact with teachers and friends makes him more confident and helps to improve his social skills

I'm pretty sure we still have many more benefits to reap from Asher's right brain training journey but for now, I'm just very thankful that we get to do this together as mother-and-son and that he is enjoying his weekly sessions with his teachers and friends at Heguru Education Centre. Till more updates on his progress next year!

A Parent's Lecture is given out after class to recap the concepts learnt with suggestions for home practice activities


A look at how the girls are doing

While the toddler still has a long way to go in his right brain training journey, the two sisters have been in it for over a year and a half already. Yes, it's amazing how time flies!

In my previous post, I share with you our experience, feedback as well as the areas of improvement I've noticed in the girls. As mentioned, I'm very concerned about whether they are happy coming to Heguru because it means cutting short on their naps and having to commute and attend 1.5 to 2 hours of class every week - on top of what they do in their schools. In fact, I was just talking about this to them yesterday and both of them said "But I love Heguru" and Ariel even said "I don't want to stop my Heguru class, ever". I guess that speaks volumes about how much they love their class, the teachers and the activities.

I did a quick check with their Heguru teachers and they revealed that both of the girls are still thriving and performing well in class. Not only are they able to complete many activities on time, they also show enthusiasm in answering questions and they manage to complete many of their tasks independently too. That is quite a relief to hear because I do know of kids who lose interest and stop paying attention after some time and that is when the classes do not benefit them as much.

Solving the Pelican puzzle on her own

The number memory activity is one of our favourites
From the puzzles and memory games to the arithmetic and problem solving questions, it seems like both of the girls have a common liking for these class activities. Even though it can be quite hectic at times considering that every lesson consists of over 60 activities, the good thing is they are loving the challenge and are kept occupied at all times during the class.

In terms of academic performance, Ariel has been doing well in Kindergarten 1 at her preschool and is picking up new knowledge and skills well. Her teachers have reflected that she is a fast learner and enjoys school and being with her peers. As for Angel, she has gone on to top her class at Primary 2 level and also achieved Best in Math. Her good memory has also helped her to handle all her spelling tests with ease. While it can be debated whether or not their right brain training has contributed to their overall academic performance, I do think a lot of credit must be given to their beloved teachers at Heguru - who are ever so patient, kind and friendly in guiding the little ones. Thank you Teacher Shi Xian and Teacher Jocelyn! It is evident to me that the girls are progressing well, learning at a good pace and finding joy in everything they do - which means we are on track in choosing the best suited enrichment classes for them.

Link memory activity helps them to focus and boost their memory by having to memorise a series of cards

Doing the string puzzle within the time limit of 3 minutes
I'm not big on enrichment classes for kids but so far, art and right brain training seem to be working well for mine so I'll just stick to these two for now. As long as they're happy doing what they do and are keen to learn, I think this positive attitude is what will carry them far in life. So, we will be continuing our journey in Heguru Education Centre and see where it leads us. Till more updates next year!

Heguru Education Centre outlets are located at Waterway Point, One KM, Tampines and Sengkang. To find out more about the courses offered and read up on right brain training, visit www.hegurueducation.com.sg or their Facebook page.

Disclosure: We have been invited by Heguru Education Centre to review their courses and the kids attend complimentary lessons in return. All photographs and opinions are our own.

Happiness is... knowing every little bit counts

Posted by ~Summer~ on November 08, 2017

The month of October was a rather slow and sluggish one for us, which is something out of the ordinary. Perhaps it was due to the big girl's year end exams, or that I was feeling more lethargic than usual, or that the hubby had to travel to Australia for work and thus leaving me to solo parent our three kids 24/7 for a good 10-day period (which explains the lethargy, right?).

Anyway, I was reminded of something during this period and it's that every little bit that we do can matter a great deal. Like a handmade Children's Day card, staying up late at night to send Daddy off, making origami hearts for a friend, cooking a fuss-free meal, having a simple craft session etc. They might not involve great efforts and they are nothing much to boast about, but these little acts and little things we do are usually more important than we think they are.

In this month's "Happiness is...", it's realising that the simple things in life can turn out to be the most extraordinary ones and to never forget that every little bit counts.

Friday nights are usually late night outings for us and I like to hang out with the kids after dinner, be it having a dessert, catching a movie, playing at the playground or just running in the field. Having some yummy frozen yoghurt at llaollao has become one of our favourite things to do and it feels so nice to just sit down, enjoy a cold treat with my kids and talk about anything under the sun. Yes, dining out with three kids (read my tips on how we survive) will always be challenging but that won't stop me from trying to savour every moment of it.

I don't like to spend a bomb on Children's Day but I do like to make my kids feel special. Just like how we insist that Teacher's Day presents should be handmade, I also like to do a little something for these three special people in my life. These cards are so simple and easy to make and didn't take me more than a day, but I know they are going to leave behind memories in their hearts (and mine) for a long, long time to come. We picked these saga seeds ourselves and every little seed speaks of so much love, warmth and memories. Yup, a simple seed speaks a thousand words in this case.

I've been trying to let the big girl help out more in the kitchen despite the fact that her exams were coming. Hey, chore duties cannot be stopped just because you have to study, right? She's been a gem on most days and she also began to learn how to fry vegetables. We have a long way to go and she is going to need a lot of my guidance, but every bit helps, right? I can only be thankful that she is willing to learn and doesn't shun away from her duties. Not that she has a choice, haha.

It hadn't been easy trying to cook because I'm always alone with the kids and it can be very tough trying to get busy in the kitchen when the little one doesn't stop whining or demanding for me and the elder ones can't get along. On some days, I just give up altogether and go for takeaways. But on the good days, I task the big sisters to look after their brother just so I can whip up a simple meal for us. It's always so heartening to see them gobbling up the food I cook (and knowing that it's much healthier than outside food) so even if I can't do it for every single meal of the week, every simple homecooked meal matters - even if it means I end up with lots of washing to do - and I know my efforts do not go unappreciated.

The hubby didn't want us to send him off on his red-eye flight but I insisted that we do so, even though it meant the kids were kept up past midnight. Just another late night adventure for us, in our pyjamas no less, right? We played 123木头人, we ran around, we threw the kids up high and had a good time while waiting for his crew to get checked in.

It was a heartwarming sight when the kids ran up to Daddy to give him a farewell hug and to say "I'll miss you, Papa." Yes, group hugs are something we do daily nowadays (that's the good thing about having more kids). Did the kids get emo? Well, not really as they were waving to him and saying goodbye with smiles on their faces. For good or bad, his absence has become something quite habitual for us and while the kids love him to bits, they don't really mind that he has to go. On the contrary, they have told me that I am not allowed to leave them, not even for a day. Haha. Oh well. I like to see it as how much they need me and how blessed I am to be needed, instead of lamenting about the lack of freedom or me-time. How many years will it be before they don't need me anymore? I dread to think about when the time will come.

The year end period is usually a busy time for me because all my babies are born around this time. So, we've started planning for some simple birthday celebrations and I've also asked them to put in some effort for the preparation, no matter how little. I can't wait to share more with you about our parties and I hope that even though I've kept them simple, the kids and the guests will still enjoy every moment of it and have a total blast.

The boy might be turning two soon but I'm hoping to continue nursing him for a while more. Or actually, for as long as I can. Yes, I can't bear to part with this magical journey. Yet. So, let's just hope I can keep the flow coming because well, every drip counts! I love, love, love how you gaze into my eyes and how you fall asleep snug against my chest, my dear.

When the hubby was not around, I made sure I still brought the kids out to explore, to play and to have fun. We had tea break at Long John Silver which we had not visited for over a year, we met up with my parents for dinner, we did gymnastics in an indoor playground. Yes, I mean it! For the first time in a long while, I did cartwheels and also helped the kids to practise their forward rolls, splits and handstands. Even though I didn't even get to read a line of the book that I brought and I couldn't drink my tea while it was still hot - the kids took turns to ask for my attention and the toddler still needs constant supervision, it was such a memorable and fun-filled session for us and I know they will remember how Mama tried to do a cartwheel but couldn't keep her legs straight and how we all tried to do splits but only one of us could do it. Not me, obviously.

We learnt that a friend was going through a tough time because she just lost her baby, which is one of the most devastating things that can ever happen to anyone. I felt such an urge to do a little something and the kids joined me in folding some origami hearts to show our love and care. A small act that brought about some consolation, I hope.

I wanted to try making cakes with the girls and even though we don't always succeed, it's nice to know that we made an effort to try and that they also enjoyed themselves in the process. Let's just hope we can find more time to bond in the kitchen when the school holidays come! I might not be able to cook or bake well, nor am I creative when it comes to conjuring up new dishes, but I hope we can still try out simple recipes and have a good time learning and making mistakes together.

It's been hard trying to find time to craft with the kids but at least I can let them do some art together when I am busy cooking, cleaning or washing. The boy is loving to paint, just like his sisters, and while he needs to learn to share and take turns, the good thing is they always have each other for company and seeing them in moments like this just makes me go "Awww." Every art session, no matter how short or how simple, is always something fun for them and something worth looking forward to.

The night before the hubby returned, we had more group hugs and kisses than usual and it was a very sweet, heartwarming night for me when the kids showered me with so much love. Yes, despite the fact that I have to reprimand, nag and discipline them every single day, they are also the reason why I look forward to waking up every morning and seeing their lovely faces. Their kisses and hugs are things that I will never get tired or enough of, and I'm cherishing every moment that they still love to hug and kiss Mama.

The big girl took the initiative to do a welcome poster for the Daddy (read all about it in a heartfelt post here) which melted all our hearts. It wasn't a fanciful poster but it was made with all her heart, done with all her sincerity and filled with all of her love. Those simple words carried so much weight and I know they made my eyes well up with tears when I first read them. Thank you, my dear Angel, for reminding me on how the little things matter, how family is so very important, and a small gesture can touch hearts and bring immeasurable joy.

It's been a while since we went to the cinema but even though the big girl was still in the midst of her SA2, we went for the preview of My Little Pony: The Movie and ended up loving it more than I though we would. Even the hubby said it was nothing like what he imagined and the show, which talks about friendship and perseverance, was captivating from start to end. I love the forever optimistic Pinkie Pie and wish I could be like her too - always cheerful, always bubbly, always hopeful.

As for the little sister, her highlight of the month was when she had to dress up as her favourite storybook character and she was thrilled to be Rapunzel for a day. Awww, seeing how her jiejie's outfit now fits snugly on her, it only reminds me that time flies as the kids grow and we can only try our best to make every day count. Don't grow up so fast, will you, my baby girl...

We also made it to the Animal Resort (read our review here) again and spent a happy afternoon there. It was so nice to see all our animal friends again and the kids had fun just feeding and admiring them. Just a few bucks for a few hours of joy, it's really more than what we can ask for. It's heartening to see how the kids love the animals and are not scared to come up close with them or let them feed from their palms (okay, the boy was scared of the horse a little), I'm pretty sure we will come back again in future!

Last but not least, we did an outdoor family shoot and it was the first time we used a tripod! I think we captured a few nice shots and I'm really grateful for that. As you probably can tell, I'm taking on less sponsored reviews recently simply because I think I can better spend my time on being with the kids, or on sleeping, lol. So, I've been really selective in working with sponsors and I'm only taking up a handful of projects which will benefit the kids and the readers too. Matching family wear is something I find hard to say "No" to because we love to be in matchy matchy outfits. I'm just glad I get to host giveaways and share some goodies with all of you too even if it's not a lot. Every little bit of my effort counts, yes no?

Till more updates in November and I still believe we are just less than two months away from a brand new year!

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