Happiness is... getting used to the new routine

Posted by ~Summer~ on July 24, 2020

It's true to say that the pandemic has changed the way we live, behave and think. 

It has made us more appreciative of the time we get to stay home as a family, more conscious about personal hygiene and the need for social distancing, more creative in coming up with ways to pass time, more adventurous when it comes to cooking for the family, more joyful for the moments we get to be out and be close to nature, and more grateful for the opportunities to gather with our loved ones.

In June, it was still very much a stay-home period for us although the girls started going back to school on alternate weeks. We tried our best to remain home as much as we could because other than being safe than sorry, we also thought that was the responsible thing to do. Nonetheless, when Phase 2 commenced, we were overjoyed that the kids could get to see their grandparents again and the boy finally returned to his preschool after a long 3-month break too.

Life at home was pretty much run-of-the-mill for us yet I wouldn't say it was boring in the least. I do appreciate how the circuit breaker has brought us closer together and gave us much more family time to spend and treasure together. We might have to make many changes in our daily lives nowadays but family love is the one constant that keeps us going. In this post of "Happiness is...", it's about getting used to the new routine.

Staying home doesn't mean life has to be dull and boring. We are always thinking of new things to try out and in fact, I realise the kids have creative minds of their own and are pretty good at inventing new games and activities too.

Anyway, we tried making glutinous rice dumplings, both bak zhang and nyonya zhang, and we realised how hard it was to get a perfect looking one, haha. Thanks to my in-laws, I had a chance to educate the kids about this tradition and let them have a go at wrapping the rice dumplings too. We spent hours doing them and despite me trying my best to keep them nicely shaped and compact, a couple of them still failed eventually and I can only say we still have a long way to go in this. Was it fun though? Yup, tiring but very fun!

Back in our kitchen, the chef hubby continued to impress us with his creative mind and culinary skills as he whipped up yummy meals for us on the days he was home. Yup, he has started working his usual long hours on some days but could work from home on others and these were the days that we extra cherished (it meant the kids had a playmate and I didn't need to cook!). We loved the tasty chicken rice where the chicken was cooked perfectly, the delicious spread of juicy wagyu steak, chicken chop and pan fried salmon, and even the simple but yummy bak chor mee was much appreciated too.

As for me, I'm really not that good a chef but I do try my best to make sure the kids are well fed and get to enjoy my simple homecooked meals. Well, at least I tried something new this month - bacon wrapped asparugus and homemade lor mai gai - both of which got devoured by the kids and earned their praise so I think I passed, haha.

The little sister is still the best helper in the kitchen because she totally loves cooking and looks forward to it. Nowadays, I leave the chopping of the garlic and shallots to her because she can do a pretty good job at it already without my supervision. Well, hopefully she can soon learn to cook an entire meal for the family on her own? That would be superb, wouldn't it?

We've been continuing with our online art lessons at heART Studio and it's a good thing that the kids still get to draw and learn. Of course, they were definitely more thrilled when Phase 2 was announced because it meant that lessons could resume and they could see their teachers in person again. That said, it took quite some time for the 4yo boy to get used to the classroom setting because he was after all on a long break for the past few months. He refused to enter the classroom initially and only did so on the condition that the door would not be closed and that I would remain in his sight. Haha. This boy is still so sticky and demanding for attention yet I wouldn't trade this growing up phase for anything.

The kids also looked forward to their online interactive Heguru classes and as usual, loved all the puzzle solving, song singing and fun memory games. I appreciated the fact that the teachers decided to hold off from reopening the centre for a couple of weeks even after Phase 2 commenced. Yup, our kids' safety is still of foremost priority and I am also confident that they will work on making sure that the safety precautions are in place before resuming lessons.

We've been trying to carve out time for family exercise every night, even if it is a short 20-minute or half an hour session. The kids and I still love to dance but we've also been picking up a bit of yoga here and there too. Okay, that was before I injured my right shoulder (probably tore a ligament somewhere) and had to take a rest for a few weeks. Still, I encouraged them to continue every night because we are truly putting in effort to make healthy living our way of life. The good news is that the hubby and I actually lost weight during CB instead of gaining even though we still had our share of snacking and watching Netflix when the kids had gone to bed. Phew!

Home-based learning continued for all three kids and while I had to accompany the boy for his lessons and guide him through the classwork, the girls are pretty much quite independent nowadays though they still holler for me whenever they have a question that they can't solve. It might be weird but I actually love knowing that the kids are home and learning at their own pace, giving us much more time to spend together.

Sleeping is usually a luxury that we parents don't have much of but I do think I did mange to clock in quite a good number of hours of sleep in the past month. I think the slower pace of life did us good and I was very thankful that I could take short naps in the afternoon too, especially when the hubby was around to help with the grocery buying and dinner preparation. Yup, 我是幸福的.

On days that I was alone with the kids and too lazy to cook, we would order takeaways and that was fine with me too. Yup, fellow mums, please don't be too hard on yourself and know that you deserve a break from time to time, yeah? I also let the kids and myself eat plenty of ice cream and we snacked together during our Friday movie nights - which was something that they kids always looked forward to.

Art and craft is always a good way to pass time and now that we seem to have more of it on our hands, we try to find opportunities to do more hands-on projects and let our creativity flow. While the big girl has fallen in love with nagomi art and would willingly use two hours to complete one artwork (she did the Forever Friends card for Papa, cute, right?), the little sister likes to make use of recycled materials to create something new (see her 'trophy' using a toilet roll, milk carton lid, straws and more) while the little brother had fun playing with clay and mixing the colours together.

For the first time, the little sister received her Education Merit Award and she was most thrilled about it. Even though the award ceremony had to be done online due to the pandemic, she was still very happy and proud to be wearing her uniform that day as she listened to our MP giving a speech via Zoom. The hubby and I told her how proud of her we were and I also dedicated a beautiful bouquet of flowers to her to remind her to always bloom where she is planted, regardless of the environment or circumstances.

We managed to gather with our parents to celebrate Father's Day since it was in Phase 2 but instead of crowding with others in restaurants or even attempting to eat zi char at kopitiams, we decided to cook and have them over at our cosy home. It was nothing fanciful yet everything turned out to be fabulous, especially since it was such a long time since we got together. We ended off the night with a cake cutting celebration where the kids presented handmade cards and gifts to their Papa and granddads.

It took me a long time to do so but I am finally able to display the kids' personalised pearl portraits side by side, woohoo! Yup, this circuit breaker made me snap out of my procrastination and provided me with the motivation to complete projects that I wanted to a long time ago. Did it do the same for you too? I had quite an emotional morning doing this and ended up in tears (read here to find out why) but it only made me realise how blessed and loved I am by these kids.

So yup, finally all three are done! Yay! They are now proudly on display in our living room and the kids love seeing their baby pictures and knowing that each frame is a symbol of my unconditional love for them. Three kids, triply blessed.

How long has it been since the kids last visited the playground? Well, definitely a long time. We are still reluctant to bring them to crowded places but we do try to find secluded playgrounds and visit when the sun is shining bright to make sure that we are the only ones around. It's awesome that they get to run around, perspire and release some of the energy that has been pent up over the last few months.

For the first time in a long while, we also made our way to the beach and chose one which we knew would be quite desserted compared to the more popular ones. Indeed, we found a quiet spot, built some sandcastles, caught a fish, hunted for bugs, soaked our feet in the seawater and guess what? We even spotted a raft of otters swimming past us and the kids said we were so lucky!

Yup, I have no doubt about that. We are definitely blessed and fortunate to be where we are. May we always remember to count our blessings and be thankful for the little things in our lives. Till more updates next month!

Bloom where you are planted

Posted by ~Summer~ on July 15, 2020
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I'm not particularly fond of receiving flowers but I do love gifting them. In a sense, I think I am more of a practical person who prefers receiving presents that are lasting or functional, like a handmade card or a frying pan. That said, I do acknowledge the power of a beautiful bouquet and I've seen how it can brighten up a home and bring joy, comfort and solace. Many of my good friends love flowers and even my daughters said that they love them too because "Flowers are pretty" and "Flowers make me happy"

As my girls grow up, I wish to let them know that it's perfectly okay to have their own likes and dislikes which might be vastly different from mine or from each other. I want them to know that as individuals, they have the freedom to choose their own paths in life and write their unique stories too. So even if they love things that I never felt affection for, like flowers, durians and creepy crawlies, by all means, go ahead.

Recently, I decided to present the little girl with a surprise bouquet because I wanted to congratulate her on a job well done. You see, for the first time in her life, she achieved the Edusave Merit Award and was longing for the day when she would go onto the stage to receive her prize. For years, she had witnessed her elder sister doing it and finally, it was her turn to be in the spotlight and her turn to shine. Her excitement was plain to see and she told me how she was eagerly looking forward to the award ceremony. Alas, the pandemic thwarted plans and eventually, the ceremony was cancelled, much to her disappointment. 

It would have been logical to ask her to shrug it off, see the bigger picture in life and understand why things had to be the way they were. It would have been easy for me to say "There's always next year" and dismiss her efforts for the past one year. It would have been mean to make comparisons like "If your sister can do it year after year, so can you." I wanted her to know that I understood how much it mattered to her and as a result, it mattered greatly to me too. I wanted her to know that I was so proud of her for working hard and that with or without a ceremony, she was a champion in my eyes. Most importantly, I wanted her to be appreciate the present, learn to be contented and be positive even when life gets hard.

Well, guess what we did in the end? The big sister and I went to collect the certificate and vouchers from the community centre when the little sister was in school. Then we set up a makeshift stage at home using whatever we could find. When she got home, we told her we were going to have a mini award ceremony right in our home! I became the emcee while the big sister became the prize presenter - she said she was an MP, haha. We read out the little sister's name with pride and saw her beam from ear to ear as she made her way up the 'stage' to receive her prize and take a photo with her beloved sister. That moment was definitely a special one for all of us and one that we will fondly remember.

Besides my heartfelt congratulations, these flowers you are holding contain a very important message from me to you, my dear. It is to bloom where you are planted. For you can and you will.

This gorgeous surprise bouquet came from FARM Florist and when the little girl saw it, she said "So huge! So nice!" which made me thankful to see that she loved it. The big sister also told me to pass all of the flowers and leaves to her when they have dried up so that she can use them as decorations in her scrapbooks and handmade cards. I must say that is definitely a good way to maximise usage and make sure no petal is wasted, right?

Our bouquet was a sweet combination of roses, eucalyptus, thlaspi, caspia, eustoma, alstromeria, eryngium, hypericum and sweet william. Yup, more than half of them sound foreign to me, which was why I decided to leave it at the hands of the experts to create this beautiful bundle. I can safely say that the flowers looked fresh and pretty when they arrived at our doorstep and the floral scent instantly gave our living room a nice fragrance too.

Looking back, this is the first bouquet I have ever presented to this soon to be 8-year-old. Yup, I've bought several bouquets for my mum on special occasions in the past but never for my daughters, even though they are growing up to be big girls who love all things pretty. This was a first and hopefully it reminded her of how much she is loved and how she is my pride and my joy, no matter what happens.

There, our dining table looks much better now, doesn't it? Like I said, I don't deny how flowers can freshen up a room and I have to say that the vibrant hues that greeted us every morning helped to start our day on a good note too.

My conclusion is regardless of whether you are a flower lover or not, they are definitely a good way for us to show care for our loved ones and inject colour and positivity into our lives too.

As most of us are still staying home as much as possible (I hope), let's not forget to send some love to our family and friends during this period and let them know we are thinking of them. For those who are keen to get a bouquet or two, visit www.farmflorist.com. Their website is easy to navigate and you can browse by product catergories, search for occasions or filter by price too.

I was intrigued to see that on their website, there is a tab that says "ONE HOUR FLORIST". Apparently, they promise to deliver your flowers within 60 minutes and in the case that they are late, you are entitled to a receive a full refund on your order. Fwah! This would definitely come in handy for me as many a time, I forgot it was a friend's birthday till the day itself and I would wonder if I could get a gift in time.

Last week, I had planned to send a care packages to two of my best friends who are currently going through rough patches in life and have tough decisions to make. Besides packing a bag full of fresh fruits, jellies, gummies, snacks, Milo and Barcardi Breezers - which will eventually be shared with their spouses and kids - I wanted a gift that was solely meant for each of my girl friends. Yup, this would also be one of the times when I would say flowers work best because they bring happiness, love and most importantly, hope.

I chose to get these bloom boxes instead of bouquets because they looked pretty and seemed much easier to carry around since I would be personally delivering them to my friends. I was half afraid that the flowers would not be arranged neatly or that they would not be as fresh as I like due to the 60-min delivery guarantee. Well, luckily my worries were unfounded because the blooms were as fresh as can be and sat snugly in the boxes when they arrived. Don't you just love the striking red colour of these gorgeous roses?

I looked through their catalogue and saw that as of now, there are only four items available at One Hour Florist. Yup, hopefully this will expand over time so that customers can have a greater variety to choose from. Nonetheless, seeing how this list includes popular choices like bloom boxes, hand bouquets and heart boxes, it should suffice to meet most needs for the time being. The best part is still the reliable 1-hour free delivery which does not require a minimum order value.

After writing a message for my friends - nothing beats a handwritten one - it was time to mask up and head out! See how fuss free it was to carry the bloom box? Yup, I could carry both the box and the personalised care package in one hand!

Were my friends surprised? Yup, totally. It greatly warmed my heart to see their smiles too and knowing that they felt touched by this simple gesture. It was my way of reminding them that flowers do not bloom without a little rain, that every flower blooms at a different pace and that no matter what happens, our friendship will always blossom and never wilt.

We just have to try to make life fruitful, even when it throws lemons at us, and be reminded that we are never alone in this journey.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored collaboration between A Happy Mum, FARM Florist and One Hour Florist. All opinions are my own.

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