15 tips to dining out with young kids

Posted by ~Summer~ on 20.1.17
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I get asked these question very often, be it from friends, family, readers or just strangers we meet on the streets, "You are out with three kids?", "Where is your helper?", "Are you sure they are all yours?", "You mean you have two more kids other than this one you are carrying?" and "How do you even manage?". It's so much so that we've gotten used to it and the girls would also strike a conversation with these strangers, who are kind to us most of the time and would say things like "You all must be very good kids" or "It's not easy, you all must help Mummy okay?"

I personally don't think it's a big deal because I have friends who have three kids or more so I think my brood is not considered big. Perhaps it is the sight of with an active, kicking baby on my chest and each of my hands holding another kid, the sight of me pushing two kids in a bulky pram and one on the kiddy board, the sight of me trying to look as cool as a cucumber when my kids act up in public or the sight of me appearing to be nonchalant when I should be flustered by the constant demands of these tiny beings.

Anyway, I've been wanting to write about this for a long time and today, I'll be sharing with you on just what really happens when I bring the kids out for a meal. Since I've been doing it at least twice weekly for the past few years (we usually eat out after their enrichment classes and I'm quite happy about it because that means I don't need to cook), I think I have accumulated some experience and the truth is it still doesn't get all smooth and easy. It's the same and will always be the same as with every parenting challenge, right?

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I have three kids - aged 7, 4 and 1. Is it all rainbows and cupcakes when we have a meal - you know, that ideal scenario where you start off with appetisers, chat and bond with each other, savour the main dishes, talk about anything under the sun, finish up with dessert, foot the bill with a smile and walk off feeling like you just had a very satisfying meal?

Well, never. 

The truth is - I'm usually struggling to keep everyone in their seats (that is if we can find one), I'm doing ten things at a go and none of it involves eating my own food, my baby just pooped but it's so darn hard to go and change him right away when you have two other hungry kids to settle, the floor is in a huge mess because the baby just throws everything he sees, the table is all covered (except within 50cm radius of the baby) yet there doesn't seem to be enough space, the little girl is trying to be picky and discreetly leaves out the vegetables, the big girl is complaining of a tummy ache or that she needs to pee urgently, and it usually feels like everyone is looking at us because with 1A3C and a stroller, we are not the most usual, or quietest, group around.

The fact is that some days are better than the rest, days when the kids seem willing to cooperate, when they are not picky and devour everything on their plates, when we manage to get seats without much hassle or waiting, when I don't spill any hot soup on myself, when I somehow manage to feed myself in between feeding the baby and helping the preschooler and nagging at the primary schooler, when the world seems to be a little kinder to this mum who chose to stay home with her three kids, who doesn't have a helper, whose hubby returns home past midnight on most days, and yet she bites off more than she can chew and still likes to bring the kids out on her own every so often. Read my 12 tips on travelling on the public transport with young kids here.

So, I might not be good at many things like driving or reading maps but I can say with seven years under my belt, I am not too bad at dining out with kids. While I do lose my cool at times, I think the key to having a good meal with them is to learn to let go, to remain chill, to do it the ang moh way which is to breathe, relax, eat, smile and not fuss over every single thing that the kids do. Here's sharing some of the tips I have for dining with young kids and hopefully they can come in handy for you too!


1) Keep the kids in sight

I know, it's easy to say but hard to do at times. We eat at coffeeshops, hawker centres and food courts too (restaurants can get too expensive after a while) and sometimes, you are thankful just to get a seat even if it's tucked away in a corner. If you are lucky, it's near the stall you are ordering food from, but if you are not, you might just have to leave the kids for a few minutes while you dash to get the food. Yes, don't judge, I've done so umpteen times. No matter what, I always try to look over my shoulder and turn to look at them (hopefully they are in my line of sight and not blocked by pillars or other diners) just to make sure that they are still sitting there. I do train the kids, especially the elder ones, not to get off their seats, not to run around and not to talk to any strangers other than the cleaning aunties. If the queue is long, I take the baby with me to line up and order the food and when it comes, I first walk back to the seat to buckle him up in the baby chair or stroller before returning to the stall to take the tray of food. Right, eating at kopitiams is hard but not impossible!

2) Empty their bladders first

Always ask (and if you have to, force) the kids to go to the toilets first before going to eat. I can't tell you how important this is because I really dread to have someone telling me she needs to pee in the middle of the meal because that will give me a logistics nightmare (with the half eaten food, stroller, bags, barang and two other kids). Nonetheless, it does still happen once in a while so don't be afraid to ask the staff or fellow diners for help. I'm also training the elder ones to go to the toilet themselves (I don't mean pee by themselves because they can do that already, I do mean look at the signboards and find their way to the nearest toilet and then come back to the restaurant) so that I have less pee and poo issues to resolve during a meal.

3) Make sure you have enough cash

Don't get into situations where you run out of cash to buy food after you went through so much trouble just to get a seat. I've done this just once or twice (once I had to dig through my bag to gather all the coins and thankfully it sufficed to feed us) but it's enough to make me think about my finance situation every time and make sure that I have enough cash to buy what I need. This applies to coffee shops, food courts or places which don't accept credit card or NETS.

4) Choose places which are kid-friendly

Unless your kids are perfectly behaved, have the best table manners and mastered dining etiquettes, if not, it would be better to choose a place which is more kid-friendly. It doesn't have to always have a play area or cutlery for kids, but preferably it comes with high chairs, a kids menu and doesn't chase out kids who like to sing or talk a little louder (my kids sometimes sing Majulah Singapura when we eat).

5) Be brave to try out new places

That said, you should never be afraid to try out new places. I, for one, like to take the kids to try out different food in different places. This is a trait different from the hubby who prefers to stick to the same old few places that we like and dine in most of the time. To me, nothing ventured nothing gained and if you don't try, you won't know! So, if you know of any newly opened restaurant, a new stall in your neighbourhood kopitiam, a new cafetaria in town, be brave enough to visit it the first time. If you don't like it, just don't go again. But if you like it, you will just feel so thankful that you now have another option in your list.

6) Avoid peak hours

This, to me, is preferred though not always possible. Whenever you can, avoid the lunch or dinner crowds because you just can't afford to wait too long with hungry kids. Moreover, the longer the wait, the easier it is for things to happen - like squabbles, tantrums, whines and toilet needs - and the quicker you will lose your patience.

7) Set ground rules

Set the rules that you want the kids to obey at mealtimes. For me, I don't like them to be picky about food and we also try not to waste food every time. Yup, I always recite 谁知盘中餐, 粒粒皆辛苦 if they tell me they can't finish their food. They also know that they need to stay in their seats instead of getting down and moving around because I need to be able to keep my eyes on them.

8) Train the elder ones

This is the lifesaver for me. Honestly, I doubt I can do this if I have twins or triplets, but having the eldest who is six years older than the youngest, she doubles up and stands in when I need another pair of hands. Yup, the big girl helps us to look after our belongings, push the stroller when baby wants me, carry the baby when I need help, feed the baby so I can eat, watch out for her siblings and more. It's not that she is perfectly trained and the truth is being in the defiant phase of her life, she gives me another set of issues to handle as a mum but here's the thing, without her, I probably wouldn't be able to survive dining out with three of them so often. As for the four-year-old, she is also progressing and learning to ease Mummy's burden by eating on her own, taking care of didi and helping to carry stuff.

9) Be flexible

Life doesn't always go the way you want it to. Sometimes, your favourite stall or the restaurant that your kids badly want to visit might be closed for the day. Or, you might need to do takeaways instead if you are rushing for time. Or, you might have forgotten to bring out the porridge for the baby and need to find a place with baby-friendly food or get food jars from the supermarket. Learn to be flexible about plans, don't panic and think of solutions in a calm, positive manner. Always explain to the kids for your course of action and let them understand what had to be done in that situation.

10) Let the kids be occupied

No, I don't mean using electronic devices because we are the family who doesn't own an iPad, whose kids don't usually get to play with phones (the only game they play on mine is Cooking Mama and that happens like once or twice a month) and we also try not to sit near TV screens when we eat. To me, eating time is eating time and I would want us to eat happily together as a family and talk about the day's happenings. However, I sometimes bring along some colouring materials or let them read a book before the food comes. I've come to realise that once we cultivate this habit, the kids can actually find ways to entertain themselves (the girls always play games like scissors paper stone or I Spy) and it makes for a good bonding time for them as sisters too.

11) Choose your battles wisely

Having a mealtime with three kids in a public place can be like fighting a war at times and it will be hard to emerge triumphant in every single battle. I've learnt to pick my battles on the things that really matter to me, for instance being respectful to elders and showing care for your siblings, and let go of things that won't kill me, for instance in letting the girls take off their shoes or in letting the one-year-old indulge in some french fries when he insists after seeing his sisters do so. Close one eye, take deep breaths and move on.

12) Return stares with smiles

Not everyone understands what a mum goes through when she takes her kids out for a meal single-handedly and not everyone will show kindness or compassion. I think up till now, we've done quite well in minding our own business and though we attract an abundance of stares, they are more of curious and astonished ones instead of alarmed or displeased ones. In any case, I'm learnt that the best way is to return stares with smiles or if you don't have the time, just learn not to be bothered by what others think of you. Here we are, trying to help raise the low birth rate of our country and let's just all agree that while giving birth might be fast and easy, raising a child is definitely not. So yup, I think mums have earned their rights to dine with their kids in a public place. Just try not to visit the Michelin-star ones till they are a little older, yar?

13) Savour the experience, not just the food

Alright, we are not food connoisseurs and we will never be. When I am out with the kids, we are happy to just share two bowls of fishball noodles or two plates of chicken rice. To me, it's not the food that matters (okay, I do need food to make sure their tummies are filled) but the experience, the opportunity to be there to eat, chat and bond with the kids is what's important to me. The fact that the hubby is seldom home for dinner makes it important for me to be there with them, to show care for them, to talk to them about school happenings, to let them know how much they are loved day after day, meal after meal.

14) Give rewards

Good behaviour at mealtimes can be rewarded and this is something that will help to motivate the kids. I'm trying my best to give rewards instead of dishing out punishments nowadays because I find that the latter only instills fear and not a willingness to be good. Wait, rewards don't mean toys or ice cream every time; what I do give is a run in the park, half an hour of play at the free for all playgrounds, healthy fruits for desserts or an additional bedtime story.

15) Practice makes perfect

As always, do more of it and you'll get better each time round. With the addition of each kid, I would always wonder "Can I still do it?", "Will I survive bringing them out frequently?" and "Are peaceful meals a thing of the past?". It turns out that the answer was always I can, so long as I believe, I try and I don't give up. You know, I'm kind of scared that a day will come when I am eating all alone and the kids have no time for Mummy because they are all grown up and have their own lives. That will be the time when I will have all the time in the world to dine in absolute peace, to enjoy a cuppa and read a novel in my favourite cafe, to reminise about the good old times and wonder if I had cherished the times when my kids still needed me at mealtimes and think about all the fun and laughter, fights and tears, messes and clean-ups, up and downs we had.

When that day comes, I hope my answer will be that yes, we had made the most out of every meal we ate together.

A Happy Home starts now

Posted by ~Summer~ on 19.1.17
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A Dalecarlian horse or Dala horse is a traditional carved, 
painted wooden horse statuette originating in Swedish province Dalarna. 
Traditionally, the Dalecarlian horse was mostly used as a toy for children.
Now, it has become a symbol of Dalarna and of Sweden.



Yes, these five Dala horses, which are representative of our humble family, now stand proudly in our new house. They were brought over all the way from Sweden, a country which has a special meaning in our hearts because it was where the hubby and I spent a good five years of our lives and the very place where we embarked on our parenthood journey.

Therefore, a Scandinavian theme is naturally the ideal choice for our new house and now that we have officially moved, I have so much, just so much, to share with you about the home renovation process and I can't wait to bring you on a tour around the house too.

So, for the next few months, you can look forward to seeing every room and corner of the house, our self designed furniture pieces, thoughts about the renovation process, reviews of sponsored projects and products, and I honestly hope that our experiences will in one way or another benefit those of you who are planning to shift or revamp your homes too.

To kick off the series which will be titled "A Happy Home", here is a list of posts that I will be sharing in time to come. This post will be updated as we go along so just click on the button and the links to follow as we go along. Happy reading!

A Tour Around The House

The Foyer
The Living Room
The Dining Room
The Study Area
The Kitchen
The Pink Room
The Blue Room
The Master Bedroom
The Balcony

Reviews for sponsors and partners

Invisible Grills by Meridian Curtains & Furnishings
Curtains and Blinds by Meridian Curtains & Furnishings
Painting by Nippon
Washing machine by Smeg
Retro fridge and small domestic appliances by Smeg
Lights by Lights & Co
Ceiling Fans by KDK
Power outlet system by Eubiq
Scandinavian furniture by The Nest
Bed frames by Kids Haven
Ergonomic study desks by Goodleh

P.S. As much as I love building up my dream house and seeing it all come together, I keep reminding myself that home is where the heart is and nothing matters more to me than spending time with the kids and the people I love. This move has been fulfilling but exhausting because the hubby has been so busy with work and you can say that I did nearly all of the packing, liaison, supervision and unpacking on my own, along with lugging the three kids everywhere I go. For now, I'm really looking forward to settling down in a cosy home and continue to make memories as a loving family. Happiness - it is something very precious but it has to come from within, not from a beautiful house or pretty walls, but from a contented heart. I have to always remember that. Till more A Happy Home updates!

Having a ball of a time - Asher is ONE

Posted by ~Summer~ on 16.1.17
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It's amazing just how fast time flies when you have kids. It still seems like yesterday when I decided that I wanted a third child and how I was over the moon when that dream finally came true. Fast forward to now, the littlest in the family has turned one and even though we were so busy planning for the move last month, I knew I had to, had to, organise a party for him if not I will feel horrible that I shortchanged him just because he's my thirdborn.

While it's not hard to get the elder sisters to come up with the guestlist for their party, for the baby, the fact that he doesn't have any real friends or classmates means that Mummy needs to decide on who to invite. To celebrate Asher turning one, which also happens to be a few days before Christmas, we wanted to make it purely a family gathering and thought of inviting the whole extended family - from the one-year-old cousin to the 84-year-old great grandma.

Yup, that's quite a huge range and I can say that from experience, I usually get a headache when planning for such parties because the needs and wants of the different age groups are very diverse. I have to make sure that the younger kids have games to play, the teens are kept entertained, the adults are happy and occupied, and the elderly are well taken care of. It's really not that easy to find a venue with facilities and activities that can suit everyone and just when I was racking my brains about it, The M.A.D.Z reached out to me and I heaved a huge sigh of relief because honestly, I wouldn't have been able to come up with a more perfect venue. I am also very thankful to Imagegarden Capture for helping us to capture the beautiful and absolutely precious moments from the celebration.

In this post, I share with you more about the birthday party, the theme and decorations, pictures of the birthday boy as well as take you on a tour around the place.

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Introducing The M.A.D.Z

Situated along Tanjong Pagar Road, The M.A.D.Z sits on level 3 and from outside, you can hardly imagine that there is such a spacious and charming place located within. With its Victorian themed setup, it serves as a private event venue that can accommodate up to 35 people. It also doubles up as a photoshoot studio with various Korean inspired wedding scenes to choose from.




Doesn't this floral carriage look gorgeous? Too bad it didn't fit our theme or we would have loved to have it as a photo backdrop. We did a recce before the actual party and the moment I stepped in, I was like "This place is HUGE"! Personally, I really loved the mezzanine that gives the place a very spacious feel and creates two levels for guests to hang out. The ground level is more catered towards the needs of the elderly and adults while the mezzanine level can be considered a fun paradise for the kids and teens. I'll tell you why later.




One thing that I always make sure is included or accessible in my parties - nope, not the cake or candles or party dress, but the TOILET. I mean, you have to make sure that the guests are well looked after and their needs are met, right? For Asher's full month party which was held in our HDB neighbourhood, we even rented a portable toilet just so the guests didn't have to walk all the way to our house. So, I was very much relieved when I saw that there was a toilet right within The M.A.D.Z for the guests. After all, they have to walk up the narrow stairway all the way to the third floor to get here and at the very least, we had everything we needed within reach. There is also a refrigerator for guests to make use of and we were able to store two cakes (we had a celebration for the little sister too because her birthday was just two days after), some drinks and beer too.

For those who would like a little peace and quiet during the party, there is also a pantry area that comes with a wooden table, two chairs and a picturesque blue brick wall backdrop. Yes, I have a thing for brick walls and I totally loved this setting.







Asher's 1st Birthday Party

It wasn't hard to come up with the theme for the boy's first birthday because it was apparent to me that he is in love with something for now - Balls. Yup, all kinds of balls. He loves to hold them, throw them, grab them, hit them, bite them and even chew on them. So, we wanted the guests to come over and have a ball of a time as we celebrate his big day.



What I like about The M.A.D.Z is that when I met up with the owner Zann, she was not only friendly but also very flexible and willing to accommodate our requests. When I suggested that I wanted to do up the decorations myself, she obliged immediately and even offered to help prior to the event on the actual day itself. For instance, she saw that I had a ball theme and thus shifted over the carpet grass to give it more feel and also helped us to set up the tables according to our needs.

My decorations were kept simple and minimal for this party because I was really busy with the home renovation projects day and night. To make things worse, my printer became spoilt when I needed it most and I had to settle for supplies from Daiso and Kidz Party Store. Well, at least we personalised the decor and also managed to DIY some ball games (read more on how we did it here) for our guests.

Moving onto the activities, I have to say I was really blown away by what The M.A.D.Z had to offer. Read on and you'll see why!

-> Karaoke

For a family who loves to sing, including the children and the elderly, this was very popular and from the moment the first guest stepped in to when the last guest left, there wasn't a moment of quiet because there will definitely be somebody singing! At first I was half thinking if the songs were going to be oldies but no, you do get the oldies but you can also find some really new and current pop songs too! Woohoo! Plus, the system was easy to navigate and we didn't have much problem learning to use it on our own without any instructions. You won't really expect the sound system to be as solid as those you get in Teo Heng or KBox but in my opinion, the fact that you get to hold a concert and sing to your heart's content at a birthday party was already a huge bonus. It was a showcase of talent we never knew existed in the family and I really loved how music united us and made us sing, laugh, chat and bond.







-> Pool 

Seriously, you mean there is a pool table in The M.A.D.Z? Yes, there is and you bet the youngsters were thrilled about it. I think it was very smart of the owners to bring it in because it made a huge difference and left behind an impression. Well, when was it that you went for a birthday party and managed to play pool, right? It makes me miss my secondary and JC days so much because that was the time I would hang out with friends after school to hit the pool table and the arcade.



-> Mahjong

So our family likes to sing and we also love to play mahjong. Just so you know, I learnt to play it when I was a small child and no one taught me; I just picked it up by watching my mum, dad, grandma, uncles and aunties play the game. For those with guests who love to have a round or two, you can easily set up a mahjong corner for your party because they have everything you need here - from tiles to table and chairs.



-> Darts

I think one of the reasons why we love this place so much is that it has so many of our favourite games! Well, I used to be the darts captain back in my hall in NTU and the hubby was also outstanding in this game. I remember how we always liked to challenge each other and we even set up a darts corner, with a real darts board, in our house in Sweden which slowly became unused when the kids came along. For those who love the game and would like to try it out at the party, they can do so at the mezzanine level.



-> Board games

Right, talking about the mezzanine, it's meant to keep the young ones entertained and you can find plenty of games and activities here. Located on the bookshelf on the right are boards games and also toys for toddlers and small kids.



-> Ball pit

It might not be huge but at least there is a ball pit to provide some fun for the small kids too. Just nice for a ball themed party, right?



-> Mini golf

This was also a hit with the kids and even adults who tried to achieve a hole-in-one.



-> Video games

Last but not least, kids and teens can also have fun playing the games on Wii and Playstation too! You see, there just isn't much chance for one to feel bored, right?



If you would like to, you can also set up your own games because there is ample space to do so.


While The M.A.D.Z doesn't provide food for the party, you can get a caterer of your choice and have your buffet spread set up at the ground floor right across the staircase landing. We chose to go with Elsie's Kitchen, same as for Asher's full month party, because the feedback we received was positive. The good thing is there are plenty of spare chairs, tables, sofa, bar stools available in The M.A.D.Z so you most likely don't need to get these from the caterer or bring along your own.





Time for the star to make his appearance! Check out the birthday boy who was looking all sporty in his new Real Madrid jersey (the hubby is actually a Liverpool fan but try as I might, I couldn't find a kid-sized one in the stores)! I must say he was really a darling who slept through the first half of the party, and allowed guests to eat, play and enjoy themselves, before waking up just in time for the cake cutting ceremony and displaying his best smile.

Not only did we have a football themed backdrop, we also had a huge football for the birthday cake. I got this from Prima Deli and though it wasn't my first choice, which was out of stock, I think this turned out to be perfect and it totally matched the setting.




It was a joy, and a blessing, to be able to sing the birthday song for the boy in the presence of all the family members who love him so much and I was thankful for every moment of the party even though I still had to handle tantrums, settle squabbles (what's new?) and didn't manage to sit or eat in peace. Anyway, after the caking cutting, the photographer asked if Asher could eat some cake and so we put a plate with a huge slice in front of him in the hope that he would gobble it up and make a cake mess.



It turned out that this boy is either not a fan of cakes or he was way too gentle because after a good few minutes, he was still poking it with a fork and getting none in his mouth. So we ended up smearing it all over his mouth and face and that was when he suddenly realised that 'cake is yummy' and wanted more and more.

Well, very soon, my dear! You can eat cake and candies and fries and all things junk very soon! Meanwhile take your time to grow up so I can cherish more of you as my cuddly, needy, clingy, lovely baby.

A big thank you to all the family members who made this party such a memorable one for us, to my grandma who made the effort to come all the way here and stayed from start to end, to the parents for all the help rendered, to The M.A.D.Z for giving us the perfect venue, to Imagegarden Capture for the photos, to the hubby for being the chauffeur and my best helper, and to the sisters for being awesome siblings and showering the birthday boy with so much love.

To my dearest baby Asher, I hope you know just how loved you are and how lucky I am to have you in my life. It's been such a fabulous first year with you and seeing your happy, smiling face every day is the reason why I love being a mum. Not just a mum, but your mum. Thank you for reminding me that motherhood is a blessing, that life is filled with wonders and beauty, that we need to learn to treasure the simple joys of life and be grateful to love and be loved.

Happy turning one, my baby boy. I love you.

******

The M.A.D.Z Pte Ltd
91B Tanjong Pagar Road Singapore 088512
http://www.themadz.com

Imagegarden Capture
18 Sin Ming Lane #07-32 Midview City s573960 
http://imagegardencapture.com/ 

Disclosure: We were invited by The M.A.D.Z to review their place as a party venue and received complimentary usage for Asher's 1st birthday. Photography credit goes to Imagegarden Capture. All opinions are our own.

Creativity 521 #105 - DIY Ball Games

Posted by ~Summer~ on 6.1.17
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Woohoo! It's time for the first Creativity 521 post of the year 2017!! Yes yes, I do hope to keep this series going even though I don't think many of you are interested in reading what we do for art and craft at home. It's the best way for me to keep motivating myself to carve out some time no matter how busy we get and let the kids get creative once in a while.

So, we held a ball themed party to celebrate the baby turning the big one and I'll be sharing more about the party with you very soon! You know what I always love to DIY stuff for our parties so even though we are so busy with the move, we still managed to do some very simple games for our guests to enjoy. Here's a look at what we did using only recycled material we had at home.

1) Toss the ball

Materials:
- Plastic cups
- Cardboard box
- Balls
- Number/alphabetical stickers
- Sticky tape
- Scissors

Remember the simple but fun carnival game where you get to toss balls and score points? Well, this was done in a similar sense. I found an empty box at home and we filled them up with plastic cups which each had a number to represent the score 1-5.

We also decided to have five special cups which spelt the name Asher since this was his birthday after all. If the ball lands on any of these five special cups, the player will receive a whopping 10 points!



Lastly, we stuck the cups into the box using sticky tape at the bottom. We looped the tape so that it functioned as double sided tape and also arranged the cups to make sure they were neat and as close to one another as possible.

During the game, the players had to take turns and had three tries at every turn. The one with the highest score would win and receive a ball themed toy (I bought baseball bats, balls, bowling pins, ball guns, mini golf, mini basketball and more!) Guess who was the only one who managed to hit one of the bonus cups that day?






2) Kick the ball

Materials:
- Cardboard box
- Scissors
- Sticky tape
- Aluminium foil
- Wrapping paper

So this was done in a matter of 30 minutes and only because I wanted the kids to be able to play a game which required the use of their legs. So using just an unwanted cardboard box, we turned it into a goalpost by cutting a hole and wrapping it with aluminium foil and wrapping paper.


Using a ball of the appropriate size, the players just had to take turns to try and kick the ball in! The further it is, the harder it gets and to be honest, it really wasn't that easy after all and even I myself had trouble getting it in!




3) Catch the ball 

Lastly, this was the game that delighted the girls for a long time and it brought back childhood memories for me too. Do any of you remember the cup and ball game? Yup, this was it and it was done so simply that any of you can do it too. It would make for a great craft session for kids at a party too!

Materials:
- Foam cups
- Yarn
- Christmas balls
- Markers
- Scissors

We wanted the cups to be personalised so the first thing we did was to let the girls decorate and design the cups - one for each guest and for themselves too.

Since both of them love to draw, this was a good opportunity for them to be creative and come up with their own special designs too.


I thought it was quite sweet that the big sister wrote things like "Happy birthday Asher" and "Happy turning 1" on the cups! Awww, so much love!



Now, the reason why I decided to use Christmas balls is that firstly, we had plenty of these in the house and secondly, they come with loops so it would be very straightforward to tie them to a string of yarn. All you have to do is go through the loop, tie a double knot and cut the excess yarn.



For the other end, poke two holes on the bottom of the cup as shown below and string the yarn so that you can tie a double knot in the middle. This will ensure that the ball hangs from the bottom of the cup. You can adjust the length of the yarn to suit the age and height of the guests.


And we are all done! I love how colourful and festive they turned out, don't you? Just perfect for the boy who turns a year old near Christmas.


I also realised that while slightly older kids might not find this difficult, it definitely was a challenge for the four year old. (The baby had my help, obviously, and the big sister could somewhat master it after practising many times). To make it more age appropriate, you can considering giving time limits (shorter time for older kids) or set rules for instance you have to catch the ball xx number of times (xx corresponds to your age).



Yup, so that's all for our ball games which I hope helped to bring about some laughter and spice up the party for the kids. Till more updates on the party where I'll be sharing more about The M.A.D.Z and how it makes the perfect venue for a family celebration!

For more DIY tutorials and craft inspiration, visit my gallery here.

Happiness is... looking forward to new beginnings

Posted by ~Summer~ on 1.1.17
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It's the last day of 2016.

Yes, I feel a little disbelief even as I type that. Though I always feel like the years zoom by, this was one particular year that seemed to pass so fast and I haven't had time to even sit down to think about what actually happened in the past 364 days.

I don't deny it, it's been hard trying to juggle both blogging and looking after three kids. Actually, it's impossible on most days and as much as I have the heart and will to write, I just don't have the luxury of time or energy. So do pardon me and stick around if you've been a faithful reader because I do have a lot of things that I wanna share with you. Just like I said I would at the start of the year, I've been taking it slower but one thing is for sure - I still wanna be a mum blogger. Come 2017, I hope to roll into action once again and I can't even wait to start writing all about our new home!

The big girl has done well in Primary 1, not just in terms of academics but also how she has adapted to the new environment, made friends and started to enjoy each day of school. That is a huge relief for me and though I initially planned to switch school for her because of the move, I think fate has decided we will stay for now and she will commute by school bus. All I hope for is that she can continue to find delight in going to school and always see the joy in learning and being with friends.

As for the little girl, she is going to switch school to one nearer to our new home and it's going to be a time of uncertainty again but seeing how cool she has been about it and never once did she complain about the change, I foresee that she is going to settle down well. One thing though, due to the full house in the mornings, she is going for the afternoon session (lasts 3.5hrs) and will be skipping afternoon naps so we gotta adjust our timings accordingly very soon! Wish me luck!

For the boy who just turned one, I am still amazed by how quickly he has grown from the time I laid my eyes on him and can only be thankful that he is growing up well. Sure, we've had two bouts of pneumonia, battled measles and other illnesses like cough and fever. I can keep asking if there was anything I didn't do properly as a mum and keep feeling the unbearable guilt, but I can also move on and learn my lesson from these ordeals and try harder to provide him with a safe and healthy environment to grow. I still think things happen for a reason and the consolation is we've emerged stronger as a family from these experiences.

As for me, I'm currently working day and night on my big project now and that is the home renovation. Yup. You can say I'm the supervisor, interior designer, contractor, receiver, point of contact for every single thing that happens in the house. Boy oh boy, it's definitely been a hectic period but I'm also feeling a sense of satisfaction as the house slowly takes shape. I'm so grateful that the kids have been my angels throughout this period because they willingly tag along with me to and fro and I can only usually keep them in a bedroom. With no TV, no phones, no tablets. Yet they have listened to me, entertained each other and also helped me as much as they could. Awww. I can't wait to share more on each renovation project with you and I hope some of you will be excited to read about it too!

So, in this last post of "Happiness is..." for the year, here's a roundup of what we did in December. Updated at 1 Jan 2017 3am - There's some breaking news on an incident that just happened and it's pretty dismaying for me to end off the year this way. Still, I can only hope that 2017 will be a better year for all of us and may the kids always be safe and healthy. More updates below.



We've been visiting places like IKEA and Courts to shop for stuff for the new house and the kids are always with us. Sometimes we drop the elder two at Småland, sometimes we try to close one eye when they squabble, sometimes we just have to deal with meltdowns even though all the hubby and I want is to settle our needs for the house. Oh well. All parents need to be able to multi-task, right?

Packing has been progressing slowly and the baby's hospitalisation also inevitably caused everything to be delayed. By hook or by crook, we'll get there! Gosh, I still can't believe the amount of stuff we have and I still don't know where or how we're going to keep everything because there is no storeroom in the new house. Haha. Oh well, one step at a time!







You know what I am glad for when I see the kids caring, feeding, eating, loving and looking out for each other? I feel relieved that they have each other. Yup, despite the fact that they get into fights, pull hair or shove each other at times, the truth remains that they are close siblings who will grow up to protect and support each other for the rest of their lives. Thank you dearies for putting up with a busy mama who has so little time for you these few weeks and for being such understanding and helpful kids. Everything will get better once we settle down, I promise!




This year was the first time we participated in the Boys' Brigade Share-a-Gift project and we were just glad that our family had a chance to contribute to the society. We delivered hampers to the needy elderly and it was such a blessing to be able to spread some love and joy.


We also managed to watch Charlotte's Web at SRT and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it. It was the last time Ariel would get to go on an excursion with her classmates in this school and I hope this outing left behind some precious memories for her.



Talking about shows, yes we are still finding time to watch movies at the cinema. This month, we watched Moana and Sing and the girls just keep singing those songs over and over again! I wish I had the chance to watch Underworld with the hubby and go on a romantic movie date, but I guess that will just have to wait for now.



Yes, the baby turned one in the blink of an eye and we had a most awesome family celebration for him at The M.A.D.Z. I hope everyone had a ball of a time! Will share more updates about the party in another post soon!

Coming to one of the highlights of the month, that would be how we spent Christmas 2016. It wasn't what I expected, but life never fails to go against our expectations, right? Yup, we spent Christmas in KKH because the baby was admitted due to pneumonia. It wasn't as bad as the last time but from experience, we really didn't want to delay things and decided to bring him in once his fever and cough persisted and he started to be irritable and lost all appetite.

However, he suffered aplenty this time round because of the IV cannulation. According to the doctors, his veins were so fine that they had trouble inserting the plug and the first time, he was tormented for half an hour, he screamed till his voice got hoarse, yet they failed to do it. All I could do was listen from behind closed door and paced up and down the corridor with my heart about to jump out of my chest.

As if it couldn't get worse, after a senior doctor did it successfully for him, the plug fell out the next day and we had to go through the screaming cycle all over again. This time round, the hubby took him but even when I was in the ward, I could hear my baby's cries loud and clear and it just stabbed me in the heart. Yup, it was bad. Plus, the doctors failed to cannulate him once again and they waited till he fell asleep at midnight before they came to take him away to do it for the 4th time. Gosh. He was left with quite a number of bruises on his hands and even legs because they tried to poke it there too. Poor baby, I hope this won't happen too often!

The good thing was we managed to get a single ward on the second day and the siblings could come over to camp out and accompany the poor little sick baby. They brought along toys, books and balloons but I think actually all he wanted was... them.


So on Christmas day, who came along but Santa himself! Yup yup, we decided to get the hubby to dress up as Santa and we bought some gifts to distribute to the other kids. It was a small act that brought about great joy and we even had kids queuing up outside our room just so they could receive a Christmas present. What we never did expect was that the family in the ward next door even went to buy a gift so that they could give it to us in return. How sweet, right?

Thanks to friends who really care, we received a bagful of thoughtful presents right after we got discharged and the kids were too happy. You know who you are and thanks to all of you for being there for me when I was feeling down.

So the little girl's birthday comes only two days after the baby boy and of course, we had to make her feel special! We went to her school to have a cake cutting ceremony with her teachers and friends and also let her give out some presents which we wrapped and decorated ourselves.


We asked her where she wanted to go on her birthday and her reply was "I wanna go Night Safari!". So, after having the celebration in school, we went to have lunch and played at the arcade, then we watched a movie, next we took them for art class, and finally we made our way to the Night Safari! Right, and we are officially Friends of Wildlife so you bet we will be visiting the zoos and parks even more often next year! Happy birthday, Ariel!









With me trying to look after the sick baby and keep him away from crowded places, it was a good opportunity for the girls to bond with Daddy. I was proud and amazed that he managed to bring them to explore some new places and that he actually survived being out with two on his own! Kudos, dear! So, first they went to the Air Force Museum, which I've not been to, and took some pretty awesome-looking pictures there with the aircraft exhibitions.







Then, they also went on a daughters-daddy night out to Universal Studios for the RSN Family Day 2016. Yup, I wished I could have joined them but we reckoned it wasn't wise to bring along the baby who had just gotten discharged a day ago, so never mind, there's always next year! A big thanks to the families who helped to look after the girls or grown ups who accompanied the big girl for rides (it's never easy to work with odd numbers and kids who are not too tall yet), they had so much fun and stayed till the park closed at 1am (exclusive for the RSN families). Woohoo!



So the hubby just got a new phone and I have to say I'm loving these pictures he took of the kids and the Christmas lighting at Universal Studios. The girls just looked so happy too! (I wonder if they had missed me at all?)



Breaking news - The little girl fell and busted her chin an hour before the stroke of midnight and we did our New Year countdown as a family of five in KKH. Yup, we ended the year with blood, tears, guilt, horrible feelings as parents and six stitches on the girl. *Sob* So they tell me accidents do happen and there is nothing you can do to prevent it when it is fated to be, I still feel terrible because I saw her fall in front of me in our bedroom and I can't help but think that I failed to protect her. Sigh. I'm so, so sorry, my baby girl.

The bad news is this will leave behind a scar on her chin and in my heart forever. The good news is she was as cool as a cucumber and stopped crying shortly even though the blood kept flowing for a long time. We had to wait for over 1.5 hours at the hospital but she didn't whine or grumble a single bit. Unlike in Sweden where we could stay right beside our child, we were ushered out of the room this time and I couldn't be by my girl's side no matter how badly I wanted to. I was crying when I looked at the closed door and was relieved that the big girl was there to hold my hand and keep me strong. I felt, and still feel, like the worst mum ever to let my kid endure this. Thankfully. the doctor said that Ariel was a darling and never once did she move or fidget during the whole procedure. I am hoping your wound will heal well, my dear. May this incident bring us closer, make us stronger and let us grow wiser.

What a ride 2016 has been and as we move forth into a brand new year, I hope this year will be filled with blessings, good health and joy for all of us and for all of you too. Happy New Year!

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