Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Melbourne with Kids

We did a 10 day self drive holiday in Melbourne with 3 kids (aged 6, 5 and 1 year old). It was our first holiday as a family of 5. I was feeling rather apprehensive initially but my worries were unfounded. We had a whale of a time!

We much prefer to move from place to place (changing accommodation every few days) to save on travelling time instead of doubling back.

Not many photos in this post as we took over 10,000 photos and the husband hasn't sorted thru them yet. If I were to wait for him to give me the photos, this post will never get published. Hence, I decided to publish it with whatever photos I have for now. :P

We took a red-eye flight to Melbourne and I'm so glad that our 15 month old slept through the flight. I had to take him out of the bassinet multiple times due to turbulence, but he slept right thru. :)

Rental Car
We rented a Toyota Kluger (7 seater) from Hertz. The Hertz counter is a short walk from the arrival hall, which made car collection easy for us. We brought along two Trunki Boostapak's for the older boys and rented a car seat for the baby from Hertz. We did not opt for the in car GPS. Brought along an iPad and bought a local SIM card for navigation using Google maps instead. Seating arrangement in the car - mum was driver and dad was navigator. The kids sat 3 in a row (buckling them up was kinda clumsy as there wasn't much space between the car seats and boosters) and we collapsed the last row of seats to fit our luggages. We were initially thinking of having one of the boys in the last row, but that proved slightly tricky.

Places of Interest
1) Victoria Market - Our very first stop. As we had time to kill before check-in at our first hotel, we decided to head straight to QVM. There were stalls selling lots of yummy cooked food - doughnuts, oysters, kebabs, hotdogs... And also stalls selling fresh fruits, crafts and little knick knacks. Limited seating. Stroller friendly although it can be quite crowded, so slightly difficult to manoeuvre.

2) Sovereign Hill - The underground mine tours are a must do! You need to get tickets for that separately. Allocate a full day for this attraction. Lots of fun for the kids and adults too. We had a peek into what life was like in a gold mining town. Gold panning, candy making, candle making, riding horse carriages, wheel wrighting... One of my favourites was seeing pure gold melted down, poured into a mould and made into a gold ingot worth $100,000. The boys enjoyed the candy making demonstration and were thrilled when they were given warm candy to try. Check the daily time table. Some activities go on throughout the day, some are only run once or twice at specific times.


3) Farm stay at Johanna River & Farm Cottages - It was our very first farm stay and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Johanna River & Farm Cottages is located off the Great Ocean Road. We took the scenic route to the farm, stopping by at scenic spots for photos. We had lunch near the visitor centre before the start of our Great Ocean Road drive and stopped by Apollo Bay for groceries. The farm cottage comes with a kitchen with everything you need to prepare lunches / dinners during your stay. We stayed three nights and the boys had such fun running in the wide open spaces, feeding animals and playing with the farm dogs.

Our home for 3 nights

4) Cape Otway Treetop Walk - Supposedly a rainforest walk that will take an hour but I think we took 2 hours with the kids. It was nice walking in the cool winter weather. We didn't bring along a stroller as I didn't think it was going to be stroller friendly. Most of the route is flat and a stroller would've been useful. There were some steps on the return leg, but I still think it would've been a good idea to bring a stroller along in spite of that. The return leg was mostly uphill, so a bit more strenuous. We took time to slow down and appreciate nature in its glorious beauty. We managed to get discounted tickets from Johanna River & Farm Cottages, and Cape Otway gave us vouchers to enjoy discounted entries at Cape Otway Lighthouse.

5) Cape Otway Lighthouse - Awesome views of the ocean from the lighthouse! Dress for strong winds and hold onto your hats and scarfs!

6) Queenscliff Ferry - We drove our car onboard the Searoad Ferry to cross the bay (Queenscliff - Sorrento). The ferry journey was just 40 minutes and it saved us about 2.5 hours in driving time. The passenger deck was very comfortable. Sandwiches, drinks and ice cream are available for purchase on board. We bought takeaway from McDonalds on our drive to the the Queenscliff Ferry Terminal for our lunch onboard. There was a small playground for the kids, and we could also go onto the open deck for fresh air. The designated driver was glad to take a break from driving and the kids got to stretch their legs.

Lounging at the passenger deck

7) Enchanted Adventure Garden - An adventure wonderland located on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula. The park is filled with thrilling tube slides, fun brain teaser puzzles, challenging mazes, and my boys' favourite - a tree surfing course! If you are going before lunch, consider packing a lunch picnic. 
All ready for tree surfing!

Tube slides!

8) San Remo's Fish & Chips - Best fish & chips we had on the trip! Arrive about 11.30am to get a table indoors. Pelican feeding occurs daily at noon.

9) Panny's Chocolate Factory - Between lunch at San Remo's and Penguin Parade at Philip Island, we had some time... so we spent about 2 hours at the chocolate factory. Check out the statue of David made entirely out of chocolate!

10) Philip Island Penguin Parade - This is our main reason for visiting Philip Island. We bought the Penguin Plus tickets and paid extra for a Behind the Scenes tour (just $25 more for our family of 5). The Behind the Scenes tour was totally worth it... We had the best seats in the house! We saw hundreds of little penguins waddling to their burrows at dusk.

11) Puffing Billy -  We spent 3 nights at Belgrave South and the Puffing Billy station was just 5 minutes drive from our accomm. We bought round trip tickets that took us from Belgrave to Lakeside but opted to alight at Emerald (one stop before Lakeside) so we could take a short hike through the Emerald Lake Park. The kids got to have some fun at the playground and watch a man fly remote control planes at a wide open field. Such a treat! We packed a picnic and ate at one of several tables around the lake. The kids were thrilled to ride a steam train, sitting with their legs hanging out the window.

12) Rayner's Orchard - As it was winter, most of the fruit orchards were not open for u-picks. Glad we found out that Rayner's had fruits growing all year through. We took a tractor tour on their farm and tasted the juiciest apples ever!

Sweetest and crunchiest apples

Tractor tour

13) Healesville Sanctuary - A trip to Australia isn't complete if we do not see Australian wildlife native to the country. We saw koalas, platypus, wombats, kangaroos, and even got to feed some of the animals. Note that the park offers free entries to children on weekends and public holidays, but it tends to be crowded on these days.

14) Glen Harrow Tree Adventures - The boys enjoyed themselves so much at the Enchanted Adventure Garden, we decided to have another go at tree surfing here since it's just 10 minutes from our accommodation at Belgrave South. The tree course here isn't as long and varied as the one at Enchanted Adventure Garden, but the boys had fun nonetheless. It was heart warming watching them work together to complete the course. :)

14) DFO Shopping at South Wharf - Spent a couple of hours at the Direct Factory Outlets. Expect to find brands like Adidas, Speedo, Puma, Billabong, Skechers... Prices are just slightly lower than what we find in Singapore.

We spent the last night at the airport hotel which was walking distance from the Hertz car rental at the Melbourne airport.

I'm so thankful that we got to take time off our busy schedules to spend time as a family. A memorable holiday for our family of 5.

Check out our family friendly holiday destinations...
Bali with Kids
Bangkok with Kids
California with Kids

Saturday, May 14, 2016

On Two Wheels

Noah has always been cautious... He'd not slide down from a slide that is too tall, ride on an amusement ride that's too fast, jump from a playground platform that is too high... He does not mind being the only kid sitting out because he is scared, even though everyone else is having fun playing with something he deems dangerous.

He'd rather walk than ride a bike or scoot, even though everyone else is on a bicycle or scooter. So for the longest time, he wasn't keen to learn how to cycle. Recently, I manage to cajole him to ride a balance bike. That was how Nathan learnt to cycle. We used the Kazam with Nathan. When he was confident cruising with a balance bike, we bought him a two wheeler... He needed some help starting off but had no problems balancing and keeping a straight course.

Kazam Balance Bike

With Noah, we got to try out the Kinderbike Morph Hybrid. The Kinderbike is a balance bike that can be converted to a two wheeler. No need to get a new bicycle when the child is ready to transit. Perfect!

At a weight of about 3kg, it is perfect for 3 to 6 year olds who are learning to cycle. The saddle height and handlebar heights are adjustable, making it a bike that grows with your child.

Kinderbike Morph Hybrid

When the child is fairly adept at crusing with the Kinderbike, add the pedals and get him riding on two wheels... I think the fact that it is still the same bike (with pedals added) gives the child that added confidence. Noah was hesitant when I told him that we will be trying to ride on two wheels like his big brother. But when he saw that we were still using the same bike that he has been using (in balance bike mode), he was not afraid to try with the pedals. He still needs us to run alongside him when he cycles, but it is a big step forward for him, thanks to Kinderbike!

You can get your Kinderbikes from tikes N bikes.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

2015 in pictures

And so December rolls around again. This year was a lot busier with the addition of a new member in our family, and hence, this space isn't as frequently updated as I would have liked. It was nice re-reading what I wrote in 2012,  2013 and 2014. Each time I do, my heart overflows with joy and thanks for all that God has showered upon me and my family.

The boys return to school and we welcome Liza to our family. I have put off having a live-in domestic helper in our family for as long as I could. But with a new baby joining our family, I knew I needed more help. Liza has been a blessing and a great help in so many ways. I hope we will be the family she has away from home and that we will grow together as our lives are now intertwined.

Being the planner that I am, I was fretting over not knowing when our baby will arrive. I was worrying about the older boys' routines, and would very much like the routines to be undisturbed, as far as possible. When Valentine's day rolled around, I thought... ah ha! Now would be a good time... It was a weekend, and so it'd be minimal disruptions to the boys' routines. But, no. Baby was not ready. When Chinese New Year's eve rolled around, again I thought... hmm. Now would be perfect. A nice long weekend ahead. And lo and behold, our baby was born on the first day of the Lunar New Year. The hospital gifted us with a celebration dinner, and I just had to put my little bundle of joy beside all the yummy food. :D

The newly minted kor kor turns 4. This boy has been such a darling... he is the more affectionate one of the two, and I really enjoy listening to his non stop chatters, and am amused by the questions he comes up with.

This was a month filled with numerous transitions. D was travelling quite a bit for work. Our helper was on home leave and I had a confinement nanny to fill her place for a month. There was just half a day overlap between the time the nanny leaves and the time our helper was due to return. I was worried that they'd be a screw up with the schedule and I'd be left without help. But thankfully, everyone eased into the transitions smoothly.

Nathan won a music composition competition. When his music teacher first told him about the competition, he was set on winning it. The first place winner gets US$200. He told me that he was going to win the competition and take the family to Disneyland. I wanted to manage his expectations... so I told him that there were many people from all over the world taking part. Like about a thousand people. So it's not easy to win. I'm not sure he understood the math of the probability of winning. But he was determined. In the end, he took second place! I was pleasantly surprised. No prize money for second place winner, but his music teacher let him choose a prize from her treasure trove and nai nai offered him US$100 prize money. That was a lesson for me to not undermine his efforts.

The boys took part in the church Easter choir. Practices were held on Sunday mornings and Dean took them to church early several weeks in a row for this. He later shared that Noah didn't seem like he was paying attention during the rehearsals and waking up early on Sundays was getting kinda taxing. But when it came to the actual choral presentation on Easter Sunday, Noah sang with such gusto, it was so heart warming to watch. After that, the boys asked to join the next choir. I'm so glad the boys had the opportunity to serve in the church choir and had so much fun doing it.

Nathan was chosen to take part in the YMCA PESA. We enjoyed preparing the 'speeches' and Nathan spent a lot of time perfecting it. He did not win in the end but I think it was good effort on his part. He was disappointed about not winning, but I suppose it was good for him to realise that as much as we would love to win, sometimes things do not go the way we desire. 

We sold our very first home and it was kinda bitter sweet. I brought the boys to take some photos before the official handover. They had so much fun... Noah asked if we could stay "just 1 night", and I was sad to disappoint him. This was were our family of 2 became a family of 3, then 4. Noah hasn't started walking when we moved out and we did not get to utilise the playgrounds and swimming pools as much as we would've liked.

Since Nico was so young, we decided not to go on any overseas holidays. Instead, we spent some time exploring familiar haunts as a family. D took some time off work and we got to spend quality time together. Lovely!

We celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. I am so thankful for D and the boys that God has given to us. 

This is one of my favourite shots from our trip to Sentosa. Several attractions in Singapore were giving free entries during the national day weekend. We decided to take the boys on the free cable car ride. It turned out that the queue to board was several hours long! In the end, we decided to sign up for the Faber Pass which gives us free rides for a year.

Since this was Nathan's final year in SJCK, we decided to organise a birthday party for him with his kindy friends. He took a liking to rock climbing since trying it several months back, and so we decided to hold the party at the rock wall.

Nathan's graduation concert at SJCK. He was very excited about putting up an item with his classmates and took all the rehearsals seriously. Kinda bitter sweet watching him all dressed up in his graduation gown, topped with a motar board. I am thankful that he has wonderful memories of his kindy years and we look forward to the next phase of his life as he starts Primary School.

Noah took his very first "exam" and was awarded his yellow tip. A day before the grading, there was some scrambling as he couldn't seem to execute his 'moves'. I had a video of the 16-step pattern and daddy spent a whole afternoon coaching him. Good job, daddy!

Initially, I wasn't all that keen on getting him started on TKD. But he was persistent and kept asking to learn. After some discussions with D, we decided to let him try. He looks forward to every class and was pleased as punch when he was awarded his new belt. I marvel at his enthusiasm and determination.

The year ended with us spending time together as a family at church camp. It was Nathan & Noah's second church camp and I'm glad they were able to attend the children's program on their own. Nico hung out with us at the adult sessions and it was an enriching time for all.

These boys keep me busy all day. And as much as I crave some me-time now and then, I am enjoying every moment I spend with them. I thank God for watching over us in 2015 and look forward to another great year. 

And so... it took me 3 months to get this post published! Gosh... am glad it's finally up. Till next year.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Happy 5th Birthday Noah!

Dear Noah,

You have been looking forward to your 5th birthday. Even making random notes of who gets to go to your party and who doesn't... Very often based on whether they have been in your good books or bad books. We didn't have a big party this year but still had fun with your dear big brother and your best friends at Safra Toa Payoh and Big Hero Cafe. Such a joy to see your big wide smile.

At the traditional birthday party in school, mommy and daddy had a glimpse of what goes on in your classroom. I was amused to see how you take little responsibilities given to you so seriously, and make every effort to make sure you do a good job. This triat will see you thru life. :)

Since we never ever have enough chocolate cake, we decided to have another one from our favorite Awfully Chocolate. Yums!

5 random facts about you...
1) Loves LEGO minifigures and can spend hours playing with these all by yourself
2) Latest interest in knights. Tried to get us to buy knight toys for Nico so you'd get to play with it too... "Hear that? Nico said 'Knights! Knights! Knights! I think he wants a Knights Playmobil set for his birthday."
3) Favourite shows include Mr Bean and Tom & Jerry. Silly humor.
4) Highly independent, very generous, always full of wise cracks.
5) Favourite food - porridge and eggs.

Happy 5th birthday Noah! I love it when you ask for a hug and a kiss before you sleep, and when you look out 

Love you lots,

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ready... Get Set... Crawl!

Nico's a lot more mobile these days. He was crawling commando-style at 9 months although he is capable of lifting his tummy off the floor.

At 10 months, he finally figured that lifting his tummy off the floor and going on all fours is faster...

Now that he is more mobile, it means that he's has access to more places by himself... His play area has widened much to his delight.

The Comflor Playmat is where he likes to play. Ours has a picture of Noah's ark and even the iconic Marina Bay Sands!

It measures 2.1m x 1.4m, and is about 15mm thick. Durable, water proof and easy clean.

There are several designs and sizes available and I am pretty sure that you'd find one that meets your needs. Dwinguler Singapore is giving away an Animal Ark Comflor Playmat (pictured above) to one of my readers. To win, submit your entries thru the rafflecoptor below. Contest ends 7 Feb 2016.

In addition, Dwinguler Singapore is offering a 25% discount to readers who want to purchase the Animal Ark Playmat. Place your orders here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A new beginning - Primary 1

This is a momentous year as my first born starts Primary 1, and I join the ranks of parents with kids in primary school. We have been looking forward to it for quite a while... We talked about the longer school days, taking part in CCAs and having money to buy his own food during recess. He was mostly excited, though slightly apprehensive. I was mostly excited, though a bit sad that my boy is growing up so quickly. The day before the first day of school, I tucked him in early to prepare for the early start. I had difficulty falling asleep myself... It almost felt like MY first day of school.

At 6am on 4 Jan 2016, I was woken up by the beeping sounds of my new old school alarm clock...

I took a shower before proceeding to wake Nathan up. He woke up in a jiffy and we got changed into his spiffy new uniform. Gosh! He looked so grown up in his new uniform. We managed a quick breakfast before driving off to school. This is a journey I will be making for the next 12 years!

The hours passed rather speedily as I sat in the canteen with other parent volunteers waiting for the boys to join us in the canteen for recess. I guessed that Nathan would end up buying chicken rice for himself and decided to buy a plate to try. It was yummy! The chicken was boneless and cut to bitesized pieces. True enough, he got himself a plate with the help of his P4 buddy. I think he might end up eating this whenever he gets a chance to buy his own meals. 

The subsequent days, he got the chance to explore the other parts of the school with his buddy - the eco garden, the school library and his favourite - the playground. I'm glad he managed to navigate the library system all by himself and came home with library books that he borrowed all by himself. He has been reading quite a few books ever since school started. It seems they have quite a bit of free time during the school day as he has completed quite a number of books all by himself during the free time in school.

About CCAs... I wasn't sure if he should take up a CCA in Primary 1. And I wasn't sure if I wanted him to be put thru an audition. We shortlisted the String Ensemble as a possible CCA and they required auditions. I decided to leave it to Nathan and he was keen to try. We prepared for the audition and I figured whether he made it thru the auditions or not, it will be a valuable lesson for him. We were glad he made it thru and he's really looking forward to joining the String Orchestra.

The first week of school went by quickly and I am glad he enjoys school. There's lots more installed for him and I am excited to be walking this journey with him.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A date with my son

I love being able to spend one-on-one time with my boys. Firstly, when the boys are not together, I don't have to deal with sibling squabbles. Somehow, they have their way of cranking each other up, irritating each other, and then, I have to play referee. I suppose that is part and parcel of growing up with a brother. But not fun for the mommy who has to play referee. More importantly, I think they also enjoy having my undivided attention. We talk, we laugh, we enjoy each other's company.

Today, I got to spend sometime with Noah while Dean went roller blading with Nathan. Noah's request was simple - eat at the Japanese restaurant that has a conveyor belt and serves food on aeroplane plates, go to a toy shop, then eat ice-cream.

It was a simple and enjoyable outing. I remember how I feel guilty for not spending enough time with Noah when he was a baby, unlike Nathan. They are born just 18 months apart, and I put Noah in a childcare centre in the initial years. Now that Nathan is older and spends more time in school, I get to spend more time with Noah. I suppose there are seasons... And now, although I am so tied up with the older boys and tend to neglect Nico, he has the love of his dear brothers, and there will come a time when he gets more of my undivided attention.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Preparing for Primary 1: Name Labels

I have been looking for name labels to label Nathan's belongings and was glad to chance upon Stickerkid. The stickers are known for their quality and durability, and they come in so many different shapes and sizes to suit different uses.

Ordering the labels on Stickerkid's website was so easy... and what you see on the screen looks exactly like what you'll receive in the mail!

These small stickers are good for stationery. Pencils, colour pencils, rulers... I labelled everything in Nathan's pencil case. You can even include Chinese characters.

These iron-on labels for labelling uniforms are good to have. Given that the children are expected to change from their school shirt to their PE tank top, then back to their school shirts after each PE lesson, it'll be good to label their uniforms so they don't end up bringing home the wrong clothes.

We also got these shoe stickers for Nathan. Check out the superhero logo! These stickers are also good for musical instrument cases, lunch boxes and wallets.

To get a 10% discount for your Stickerkid order, enter 10discountSGSTICKERKID at check out. 

Happy labelling!

 Disclaimer: Stickerkid provided us with a pack of stickers for this review. All opinions are our own.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Starting Solids

Being a mom to three boys (all 6 years old and below), I have found the following quote to be so true... 


Most days, I am dead tired by the end of the day, and just want to crawl into bed for a good night's rest before the SAME OLD routine repeats again. Some days, I wish that my boys will grow up quicker so they'll be more independent and demand less of me... and yet, when we hit a new milestone, I wish I could just hit 'pause' on the remote control cos I can't bear to have them grow up so quickly.

It doesn't seem too long ago when Nico was born. In the blink of an eye, he just turned 9 months old. He has started to crawl commando style and his big brothers are scrambling to keep their precious belongings off his reach because he tends to put EVERYTHING that he can get his hands on into his mouth.

He has also started taking semi solids though he doesn't seem quite as excited about it as yet. Here, we share some essentials that have come in handy as he embarks on a new gastronomical journey...

We use the Philips Avent Combined Steamer and Blender to prepare Nico's baby food. We've been using this since Nathan's time and it is still serving us well.

We usually make his food in bulk (about a week's worth) and freeze them in Baby Cubes. These cubes fit in the bottle warmer so we can heat them up easily before each meal.

Soft tip spoons are good at this stage because they tend to chomp down hard on anything that goes into their mouth. The one pictured below is from Philips Avent. There are several other brands that are available. Check out Mothercare and other leading retailers. 

Bibs are a must at this stage and my favourite is the Make My Day bib. The bib is made of soft food grade BPA free silicone, and can be easily wiped / washed clean after each use. It comes with a crumb catcher and has adjustable straps so it can be used till the day a bib isn't required. It comes in many different designs - functional and stylish. :)

Meal times are rather messy affairs... But I am reminding myself that this too shall pass!

Excuse me... is dinner ready?