Happiness is... learning to accept reality

Posted by ~Summer~ on February 13, 2019
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It isn't always easy writing a "Happiness is..." post because the truth is, some months are just harder to bear than the rest. It's like with the good days come the bad days and there is no way any of us is ever gonna escape from the cycle. We just have to accept that life has always, and will always, be full of ups and downs.

I guess it's easy to say things like "Without the bitter, how can you savour the sweet" or "The bad days are there to teach you to cherish the good" but when in face of dismay, it's never easy to keep that smile on our faces and stay positive at all times.

But maybe, we don't have to.

Maybe it's okay to feel down. Maybe it's okay to cry. Maybe it's okay not to be perfect. Maybe it's okay to feel like a failure. Maybe it's okay to think that life is unfair. Maybe it's okay to let it all out because when we learn to see life as it is and make peace with it, that's how we can stay on the bright side.

In January's "Happiness is...", it's about learning to accept reality, to accept life, to accept ourselves.


January 2019 was when I wrote my first morbid post on this blog (read "Nothing Gold Can Stay") because with all the devastating deaths that had happened near and far, there was this whirlwind of emotions deep within me and even up till now, I'm still trying to decipher what they mean, how I feel and the best way to move on.

It's hard. And it's harder knowing that such grieving experiences will happen to all of us, again and again in the future. It's part and parcel of life yet one of the toughest challenges for us, the living, to overcome. I can only say be strong, don't give up and cherish our fragile lives while we still can.


With the kids all in school on weekday mornings, it means I have a couple of hours free to myself and I've been able to cook more, clean more and do more laundry in peace. Haha, yup, chores are an indispensable part of my SAHM's life. I'm still trying to find more time to catch up on doing the growing up videos of the little ones, so hopefully I'll churn something out for these eager kids soon.



That said, I've long ago accepted the fact that I'm not a domestic goddess and will never be. Cooking is not one of my passion and I do it solely for the fact that my kids will have healthier, homecooked meals, not because I love doing it. Yup, if given a choice, I would much rather take my craft materials and craft away than spending time checking out new recipes on the internet.

There will still be days when I don't manage to run out to get groceries in time or I'm just not in the mood or in time to cook. So yes, even though we've cut down on it, we still do takeaways at times. I'm not proud of it but I'm not ashamed of it either. It's because I'm human, not superhuman; and I'm an ordinary mum, not supermum; so it's okay to leave the chores undone, to live with a messy house, to have dishes in the sink, to see lots of hair lying on the floor and to eat food with a little MSG on some days. I don't beat myself up over it, and so shouldn't you too.




While our weekdays are usually packed because of their enrichment classes, afternoon naps and the endless homework that the 9yo comes home with, our weekends are usually kept free so that we can enjoy some outdoor family time together. Yup, we are still going down the no-tuition route for now and it's my strong belief that learning takes place anywhere and I would want my kids to get out more, get dirty more, explore more, be curious more and see the world more. No matter how much homework they have, there is always time for play and relaxation.

Now that we've renewed our 4-park pass, I definitely hope to make outings to the Zoo, Night Safari, River Safari or Bird Park a regular weekend affair. It's amazing how much they enjoy every trip regardless of how many times we've walked past the same exhibit and seen the same animals up close. It's definitely a good way to reduce the screen time and for now, since we don't give them phones yet and we have no iPads, screen time is strictly TV time and I'd much prefer to bring everyone out than to stay in on weekends.




The start of the year marks a huge milestone for these two younger ones, one who started on her primary school journey and is now a happy P1 kid and the other who finally began preschool and is now a whiny N2 kid. Haha. Okay, it's not that bad because he stopped crying after a week. Initially, he didn't want to go to school, refused to let go of me, cried, screamed and struggled whenever the teachers wanted to take him to class. It made my heart ache to see him like that, which was very unlike his sisters. All I wanted to do was hug my koala tight and let him know I'll never leave him, but deep down I knew it was time for him to grow and reach his next phase of life too. Yup, I'm still trying to learn to let go of my kids, in more ways than one.



That said, the teachers said he's been nothing but a gem in class and is a bubbly, happy boy. When I'm not around. Lol. Yup, they have to do that to us mummies, right? He still whines a little every morning and he reminds me a thousand times that I have to wait outside of his school for him, that I can't go home or to the supermarket or even to pee. Awww, my clingy little boy, let's see if you even remember such moments years later or can't wait to get rid of Mama then. Haha.

Talking about this boy, he has really grown tremendously over the past couple of months. Not just in height, but in his mindset, behaviour and the way he has overcome some of his fears too. For instance, he can now hold his pee till he gets to the loo and he is no longer scared of washing his hair under the rain shower. He now loves to trace dotted lines and will take the initiative to take a marker to write on his books in his free time. He loves to help out in the kitchen and will ask to help me pluck the vegetables or even chop garlic. Well, try as I might, I can never stop these tiny beings from growing up, right? So it's time for me to embrace the fact that they will only get bigger, more mature and possibly less cute but they will always be the kids whom I love so, so much.



Now that he's turned three, he also started on his art journey with heART Studio! I was so skeptical if he could do it because he just seems to develop slower than his sisters, is more reserved and with him being so sticky to me, I wondered if I would ever be able to leave him in class alone. It turned out that after two lessons, he was okay to say byebye! Like, wow. He is much smaller, and shorter, than his classmates but that doesn't daunt him and I'm just happy to see that he is enjoying the chance to draw, paint and be creative.

My mum always reminds me how relieved she is to see him talking so much now and tells me how worried she was for a period of time that he would be slow in development. I guess some kids just need more time to blossom and instead of rushing them, maybe we could just wait a little longer and in the meantime, continue to shower them with lots of love and never lose our faith in them.




So when the younger two went on their Zoomoov rides and were squealing with laughter, the eldest chose to sit out. I think it was partly due to the fact that the little sister could accompany the 3yo and there was an odd number, and partly because she is slowly but surely outgrowing kiddy rides. Well, she turns 10 this year, doesn't she? A little scary to think of how old she is and how long I've been in this motherhood journey, but at the same time it makes me proud and beam with pride to see this fine, young lady she is growing into. Well, this mature girl of mine even helps to fetch the sister home after school and it's because she makes me believe and have confidence in her.

Perhaps she might not like kiddy rides so much now but it doesn't mean she stops playing with us. She still loves theme park rides, playgrounds, arcades, pretend games and self-invented games that she thinks of at home so I think as life moves on, it just means we learn to adjust and move on too.


As for the little sister, she is thriving in her P1 journey and loving every day of her new life in her new school, which really heartens me and makes me feel relieved. She comes home telling me what she ate at recess, what she did with her friends, what activities she did in class and even though I know this honeymoon period will not last long, I just want her to enjoy every bit of it and be her usual happy self. The good thing is she doesn't have much homework for now so we still have plenty of time for her to rest, play, laugh and just be silly with her little brother. These two bicker a lot but can be so loving at times too and it warms my heart every time to see them holding hands, hugging and kissing each other.




Last but not least, these were a highlight of our January too so I have to showcase them here. Check out our new pet...........

MEALWORMS!

Right, I'm not kidding. They've been in our home for three weeks already and we've been diligently feeding them with small pieces of fruit. All because the big girl brought them home for a Science experiment and she was over the moon to be able to do so. Did I mention to you? She now wants to be an entomologist when she grows up.

While her classmates were getting frightened and feeling disgusted by these wriggly worms, she was taking them up one by one and helping the teacher to distribute them, and picking them from the floor when others flung them away in fear. Don't ask me why she loves them so much, because I sure don't.


Her love for these bugs has spread to her siblings who are now able to take up the worms, stroke them, talk to them and treat them like pets too. Yup, while I cringe and shudder. And I refuse to hold them the way they do. However, I've learnt to accept her love for them and not discourage her, but instead to support and help her out (such as cutting the fruits and changing the oats) when I can.



If she wants to be an entomologist, she will have my wholehearted support too. Because that's what mums and dads do, right?

I guess that marks the end of our first month of the year. It's the CNY period now so I would like to wish all of you dear readers a happy Year of the Pig and may joy, prosperity and most importantly good health be with you and your loved ones.

祝阖家欢乐,生活美满。


Creativity #119 - DIY Lava Lamp for kids

Posted by ~Summer~ on February 08, 2019
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It's been a while since I wrote a Creativity 521 post so here's sharing something fun we did a while ago. It's not a craft session but more of a scientific experiment, one which I can assure you will bring lots of laughter and squeals - and the kids won't be able to get enough of it. Haha.

Yup, here's sharing more about our DIY Lava Lamps!

Right, it's not really a lamp that can light up but it does resemble the real one and the most important thing is kids can have fun while learning about how the scientific concept behind how these lamps work, which is a win-win situation in my view. The best part is you can keep the end products for future use because they don't spoil over time so you can use them as a reward on the good days or as a means to have some time to yourself on the bad ones. Read on to see how you can easily make one at home too!


Things you need:

1) A clear plastic bottle, preferably with a lid
2) Water
3) Vegetable oil (you can use baby oil too)
4) Alka Seltzer or any fizzing tablets (you can get them at pharmacies)
5) Food colouring

First, fill up the two thirds of the bottle using the oil. You can get the kids to help each other by holding the bottle in place.


Next, fill up the remaining third with water. Leave a little gap at the top so as to prevent spills afterwards. I personally prefer to ask the kids to put on the lids once the reaction happens because oil can be tough to clean up.



While you wait for the water to sink to the bottom, you can explain to the kids about density and why it causes this to happen. This will take some time but it's fun to watch! If you prefer to do it faster, you can add the water first followed by the oil.


Let the kids choose their desired colour and carefully pour some food colouring into their bottles.




The colouring will take a while to go through all the oil before it hits the water and mixes with it.


Now for the last and more FUN part, add in a Alka Seltzer tablet and let the reaction begin! My kids love dropping in the tablets so we broke each of them into smaller pieces to prolong the fun. I can assure you that the eruption will definitely delight the kids again and again! Mine practically didn't want to stop. Haha.


It's easier to show you than to tell you, so here's a video to see how it went!



How it works:

The oil floats on top of the water because it is less dense than water. As the food coloring has the same density as water, it sinks through the oil and mixes with the water below. When an Alka Seltzer tablet is dropped in, it sinks to the bottom and begins to dissolve, giving out carbon dioxide which floats to the top. The air bubbles bring some coloured water with them to the top and when the air dissipates,  the water sinks again. This is repeated until the tablet is entirely dissolved.

The kids have been asking me when we can do this again so I have a feeling I will be taking out those bottles - which I've kept in our kitchen cabinet - pretty soon. Hopefully they can bring them the same amount of joy as they did the first time round! Have a go at making yours and let me know how it goes, okay?


Nothing gold can stay

Posted by ~Summer~ on January 30, 2019
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Nature's first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf's a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day, 
Nothing gold can stay. 
                   ~ Robert Frost

2019 got off on a rocky start for us.

Firstly, our beloved grandma passed away in the first week of January and although she left us peacefully, it was nonetheless a devastating loss. The kids had to handle the death of a loved one for the first time, they came face to face with grief, they put on mourning pins and were a part of the rituals, and they witnessed the cremation and picked out ashes too. It hurt a great deal for many of us and the only consolation was that Ah Ma was a centenarian, lived a blissful life in her late years, had dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren who loved her and was surrounded by her family when she took her last breath.

My girls took it badly, cried buckets and even up till now, they will say they think of Ah Zor every now and then and tears will well up in their eyes, especially the secondborn. Their reactions took us and the relatives by surprise and the hubby concluded that they are just very emotional creatures like their mum, which worries me when I think of what a wreck we will be as we are forced to deal with more of such grieving processes in future.

Nothing gold can stay. It's so true. All life, all good things, all the beauty in the world has to, and will, come to an end someday. It's only a matter of when. When it happens, are we ready for it? Will we be able to bid goodbye with no sorrow? How does one actually live a life with no regrets?

And what happens when......

I'm the one who has to leave? How do I even bear to leave the kids behind? What will happen to them? Will I become that shining star in their lives? Can I see them from where I am? How do I even tell them I love them, hug them or kiss them anymore?

Morbid thoughts, I know. It's not very typical of me yet this month has been a sombre one filled with many unpleasant thoughts for me to ponder about.


Last week, the passing of Aloysius sent shock waves across our nation and even if we didn't know him personally, many of our hearts broke and we wept. Uncontrollably. I did and I still do nearly every time I read any related news article, come across his old pictures on IG, hear an eulogy or any anecdote about him.

Perhaps him being one of my favourite actors and the fact that I've supported him for years - seeing how he is a down-to-earth, sincere and hardworking lad - made the news all the more unbearable. Even my kids know him from his shows too and it's still a shock to all of us. Perhaps my heart broke because I felt for his parents and for Jayley, and it is shattering to know that the life of a filial son and a loving partner ended way too soon. Perhaps it was because he always felt like the boy next door, someone you can relate to, someone whom you see often, someone who could have been your family, loved one or friend and we feel the wrench somehow. Perhaps it reminded me of my life as a navy wife and how I will always be worrying for the sailor hubby who chose to put his life on the line and serve his country. Do I understand the need for that, for putting country before self? Yes, I do, even if it means he has to sacrifice family time and be away from home. I can't do the same for my country but I take pride that he helps to keep us - and many more families - safe in our land and the least I can do is hold the fort at home and support him in every little way.

I thought about it for a long time, of why this hit me so badly and I think it all boiled down to the realisation of how fragile life can be. So, so, so fragile. No one can ever know for sure what will happen tomorrow because the future is unpredictable. And it will always be so. One moment you're having the best time of your life, the next moment you are struggling to live. You take tomorrow for granted but forgot that every today is a gift. You might have big dreams and aspirations but it turns out that fate has other plans for you. You wish to see your kids growing up, attend their weddings and one day hold your grandchild in your arms, but the truth is, things might not happen the way you envision them to be.

We assume that this kind of tragedy will not happen to us or the people we love but one day, it just might hit you in the face. We might think we know what is grief, sorrow and loss but actually, we don't. Until the day we experience these unexpected, life-changing moments. It's a wake-up call, for me at least.

Death. It's not something I like to talk about on this happy blog of mine yet ironically, death is the one thing that made me think so much about life recently.

Have we, while we still can, made the most of our passing lives?

Have we, while we still can, let our loved ones know how much we love them every day?

Have we, while we still can, put down any grudges we have and spread more love and kindness into this world?

Have we, while we still can, worked hard towards fulfilling our dreams and minimise our regrets when the day comes?

Have we, while we still can, learn to be present in the moment and truly focus when we are with the people we treasure?

Have we, while we still can, tried our best to do something good for the less fortunate and do our part for society?

Have we, while we still can, learnt not to sweat the small stuff in life and find the silver lining in every cloud?

Have we, while we still can, cherish every breath we take, every moment we live and not take our precious, can't-be-bought life for granted?

It's easy to say that I wish to live each day as if it were my last but when you get bogged down by the mundane routines and endless tasks, we all tend to forget.

I hope I can remember and do better from now onwards.

Being a mum with three lovely kids, being a wife to a good man, being a daughter with still healthy parents who taught me that contentment is bliss - these are the real gems in my life and the things I need to better cherish each day. Because at the end of it, nothing gold can stay.

May they rest in peace and be in a better world.


5 reasons why we love On & On Diners

Posted by ~Summer~ on January 23, 2019
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I try to cook for my kids at home because it's a way of showing my love for them and ensuring that they have a balanced diet as much as possible. However, I have to frankly admit that I can't cook well and it isn't something that excites me too.  So, when it comes to their birthday parties, buffet catering is the way to go.

Over the years, we're tried engaging several party food caterers - usually based on word-of-mouth or online recommendations - and from experience, there are some companies that we prefer over others, some that we don't mind using again and some that we will never go back to.

If you've read about Ariel's Moana party and Asher's Arcade party, you will know that I highly recommend On & On Diners because all of us, including my friends, family and even the kids, thoroughly enjoyed the food served at both parties and it's not a common sight to see that there were not much leftovers. In this post, I share with you the five reasons why On & On has become one of our top favourite caterers.

******



Started in 2009, On & On Diners is a Halal catering company with nine years of service experience. They offer authentic flavours combined with unique creations and have an emphasis on fresh produce and healthier oil approach.

1) Impressive set-up

The first thing that struck me was the level of detail and effort that went into setting up the buffet table. I mean, look at the beautiful table runner, flower pots, decorative fruits and vegetables, the laminated menu, and the meticulously arranged cutlery. It was all professionally done and everything looked so cheery and inviting which makes you feel good as a host. This is by far the best set-up we've seen and it received plenty of praises from the guests too.





2) Great service

The staff from On & On arrived early at Asher's party and as we were informed that we were only allowed to enter the party room half an hour before, I was still on my way to the venue when they called me. It turned out that they had already managed to gain access into the room and started setting up already! The guy who called me sounded very polite on the phone and was very patient in waiting for me to arrive to sign the papers too. Just before the party ended, I had to call him and let him know he needed to come earlier so that we could clear out for the next party - and anyway the food was already almost all gone too! - and he obliged and said he would try his best to rush down as soon as possible. Also, just a few days before the party, I had to increase my number of guests due to a last minute change and I wrote in to the the sales team who promptly replied me on the day itself and helped to make the necessary amendments too. From these experiences, I would say the team is professional and efficient in meeting our needs and we are more than satisfied with their good service.





3) Wide variety at affordable pricing

I like to be able to choose from a good variety of dishes so that I can better cater to the tastes and preferences of the guests. This is especially important when more than half of ours are usually made up of kids. On & On provides a wide variety of menus from you to choose from and within each menu, you can pick from a good selection of dishes too - including different types of rice, noodle, vegetable, tofu, poultry, chicken, fish, prawn, side dish, dessert and beverage. There also also themed menus for you to choose from, for instance the ongoing one is the Chinese New Year menu. As mentioned, all the food from On & On is Halal certified and there is also a vegetarian menu available too. Most importantly, I think that the pricing remains affordable for most days - although it does peak during the festive periods - and that is a good thing considering the wide selection offered. There are also some unique dishes, for instance the Herbal Chicken with Wolfberries and the Sweet and Sour Fish with Nata De Coco were something new and refreshing to us too.








4) Able to cater for small gatherings

Personally, I prefer to keep most of my parties on a small scale, say around 12-18 pax including kids and adults. It's not easy to find caterers who are able to meet our demands because most of the menus being offered require a minimum order for 25-30 pax. So you can imagine my pleasant surprise to find out that On & On offers a Mini Buffet menu which only requires a minimum order for 15 pax. Hooray!

For this Mini Buffet, no set-up is provided and the food will be served in disposable trays and plastic containers, like what you see below. You will need to set aside the space - which doesn't require a lot - and the beverages come in the form of either mineral water or packet drinks. All the disposable cutlery, including ladles and serving forks, are provided and can be retained after use. I like how fuss free it was and we could easily take home the leftovers, if any, using the trays too. There was also a nicely designed menu displayed on the table and it was even personalised for the birthday girl/boy, how thoughtful!





5) The food is YUMMY!

Lastly and most importantly, everyone gave their thumbs up for the food! It's quite rare to have friends and family coming up one by one to ask me for the caterer's contact but we did receive queries from both of the parties. As you know, our parents were there for Asher's party too and all four of them were telling me that "The food is very good!" It was a joy seeing the guests devouring the food and I was amazed that the birthday boy, who by right should be engrossed in his arcade games, took time to eat his lunch and even asked for a second helping too. If it's any indication that the food was indeed delicious, it's that we ordered a 30-pax buffet for our arcade party which had 31 guests (including 12 kids) and guess what, the food was almost all gone at the end. Yup, I even brought along plastic containers thinking that we needed to tabao the food but ended up using not even a third of it.






One of our favourites has to be the Salted Egg Yolk Fish Fillets which the hubby says is a must try. The taste is unique and flavourful and it is one of the best dishes of all that we tried too. If I had to pick something we didn't like so much, it would be the small prawns in the Buttery Cereal Prawn and the Soon Kueh that ended up sticking to each other and were hard to pick out. Still, the taste for both dishes was satisfactory and that's the more important part.





All in all, we will definitely engage On & On Diners again for our future gatherings because of all the positive feedback we received. Some of you were asking me for the contact too so I hope this post has helped you in one way or another. If you have any questions, drop me a PM any time and I'll be happy to help you in your party planning! Have fun and happy CNY in advance, people!

ON & ON DINERS PTE LTD

Tel: +65 6570 9939
Call Center Hours
Monday to Friday: 9am to 6pm
Email: sales@onandon.sg
Website: http://www.onandon.sg
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/onandondiners/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/onandondiners/

Disclosure: This is a collaboration with On & On Diners. We received sponsorship for Asher's party but paid for their catering service for Ariel's party. All photos and opinions are our own. Big thanks to A Million Little Echoes for helping us to capture some of the above shots at the party.


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