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Friday, November 8, 2013

Lillydale Farm Part II

One of the things we wish for in our holidays, is to slow down our pace without the need to constantly do something or be engaged.  I want the kids to embrace outdoors and enjoy the simple living.  We took long walks, sip hot coffees, hold hands, watch the kids, read. 
It was a farm on sprawling grounds that you can explore unguided by yourselves for hours.  Head down to the lake, row a boat, get near the ducks.  The boys took a test drive before getting us girls on board.  In the background, i was asking like 10 times, do you reckon it's safe?!   Well, there was not a single soul around. 
So there we were, spending some time yaking, right in the centre of the lake.  It was beautiful.
Other times of the day, the kids have Rexy following them around or was it the other way round.
Picking fallen pecan nuts fresh and munching the creamy flesh quickly became one of the highlights. 
In the afternoon, you could have a session of boomerang.
Continue with our feeding.  We brought with us to the farm, 4 whopping XL loaves of bread and truckload of carrots.  We knew it would come in handy  :)
 
Took a tractor ride that traces all around the farm estate.  Learn a bit of history and mostly enjoying the sunshine.  It's definitely much colder here.
As we say good night, time to head off to Brisbane the next day for our flight back to reality.  I am sure all of us have something etched in our memories that makes us smile.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lillydale Farm

It would be a pity if we didn't spend some time away from the city.  A 2 hour drive out of Gold Coast to Lillydale farm, a place near Mount Barney area with no internet connection.  We en-routed to Mount Tambourine on the way for a nice lunch up the mountains and checked out the glow worm cave.

It was an easy drive with the GPS before it started to get funky on our way down the mountain (i had to switch to my Ipad maps to get out).  I was getting a bit nervous as we should try to reach the farm before it turns dark in the early evening and we could lose connection as we get nearer to the farm.  There were hardly any road signs around so the GPS and Ipad maps are our best friends.  By now, the kids are sound asleep at the back.  When we arrived, the kids couldn't wait to start feeding the animals in the farm.
We are going to spend the next 4 days right here.  Behold, beware, there is no internet or phone connection, hardly any souls except for the owners, no shops, a tiny TV in the room with very basic amenities and you have to take care of your own meals (meaning, you come prepared with your groceries).  But in the morning, you wake up to this.   It's an incredible feeling for us city dwellers to be out in the country side and gasp at the nature's wonders.
The kids were sold.  Not for the view, but being right here in a farm and hanging out with Farmer Doug, getting some light chores done daily.   
They never got tired of doing their rounds of feeding twice a day.  Oh they did make friends with Rexy, the farm's pet dog. 

The two little ones did their pony rides.  Every morning, they rush to collect eggs at the barn.  You learnt about how leaving one egg behind at a specific spot will lead the hens to lay eggs at the same place daily. 
Part 1 of our farm stay.  More coming up. 

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Gold Coast, been there, done that? Maybe, maybe not all

This year sometime in May, we went for a fantastic self-drive 8 day holiday in Gold Coast.  Holiday is a time to recharge our batteries, be excited about and with the 2 little ones, less is always much much more.   Shopping and crowds are not our cup of tea and if given a choice, i would very much prefer to be up in a mountain cabin.  


Get an Australia data prepaid card (into the ipad, ON the hotspot, all our iphones could then have internet connection) at the airport, check into our rented car, activate the GPS and we are all set.  I have loaded audio books (Boxcar children, Winnie the Pooh) for the long road trips.  The weather is exceptionally good in May,  slightly cold with loads of sunshine.  We will be staying in a service apartment, so first stop, the supermarket Coles to load up on groceries.   J is hoping to cook quite a bit as the produce in Australia (seafood, meats and vegs) are so fresh and after 5pm, it's a dead town so it makes good sense to have a lovely meal with fine wines (okay, brag time, i have a husband that cooks darn well, period).   Definitely not for families who finds cooking a chore.
On our way to Goldcoast, we stopped by the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. Excellent attraction that houses more than just Koalas but a host of Aussie wildlife.  Well, one cannot say you have come to Australia without giving these koalas a hug right.   Sprawling grounds and free ranging kangaroos that you can take your time with.   I dare say, it's a must-do pit stop. 
Service apartments are a good deal for families who want to cook out, space for the kids to muck around and in Gold Coast, you get the sea view to die for.   At the Silvershore apartments.  For four days, this is what i call home.   When you have your breakfast looking out to this, i tell you, it's like i just want to be here forever with my dearest.
Rise and shine early as days are short in winter.   Take strolls by the beach, pack some bread and feed the birds while enjoying the breeze.   If there is anything you should wish for when holidaying, is to slow down.
A host of theme parks await us and we are choosing only to head out to Movie World and Sea World.  A whale of a time as anyone would expect.  Theme parks and children, need no explanation.  But the highlight was really this.
After a long day, what's for dinner?  Definitely seafood.  You cannot get any fresher than right here in Gold Coast.   A gem discovered, the Fishermen's Co-op where the trawlers sell the freshest catch of the day.  You can check online for updates on the freshest catch for the day, at what time.   Hands up, we were there every single day.
Over the days, we had prawns, spanner crabs, bugs, squids.  Just pop by each trawler and ask, hey, what you've got there today.  
If you ain't keen on cooking, you could buy the freshly cooked ones, dash into Coles, grab Tabasco, lemons or some Asian sauces.   Not forgetting the cheeses, olives and sun dried tomatoes to go with a good bottle of wine.  
I will never forget the most sumptuous seafood porridge ever, by J.  Anything is possible, when you have magic hands like his :)  To be fair, i did contribute somewhat.  I was the one who found the trawlers :p  roll eyes...  In between the days, we went for a cruise, Catch a crab.   I wouldn't recommend this as the crabs are "pre-planted" but you'll get to feed pelicans.....  and
the boys went out to catch yabbies !  It's freaking freezing cold and Shawn was mostly wet but they were game for anything including chattering teeth.  Before we left, the boys BORROWED a fishing rod and as easy as it sounded, caught a fish and we grilled it for dinner.   No kidding.  
We had so much fun over the last few days that i now know why Gold Coast is such a popular holiday destination for families.  There is so much to do and so little time.
Next, driving out of Gold Coast.... to the farm.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Big 6 Birthday Surprise at Night Safari!

Shawn's love for animals has not wane since young.  He's the kind of boy that lights up when he reads about the different species of elephants, tigers, crocs, etc (i know it's yawns for most).   So instead of a birthday party this year,  we planned a surprise (mummy is a sucker for surprises) right at our Singapore's Night Safari!  We booked a Classic Safari Adventurer Tour with the zoo and swore everyone in the family to secrecy.  The kids were chanting "where are we going?!?" X100 X4 all the way.   Pasir Ris Park ? Kids Kampung? Polliwogs?  Legoland?

Mozzie protection, we are ready!  I did send word to the zoo that it's a birthday treat for Shawn.  But none of us know what's in stall :)
 
His first surprise.  An entourage of very talented singers belting out their very best Happy Birthday song to Shawn.  His mouth was mostly agape, stunned by all the attention.  They even had his name done up!
The fantastic four had a warm welcome, with a burst of party poppers as they make their way in.  For some reason, the word has spread that hey we've got a birthday boy in tow.  Almost every guide / marshall we met along the way greeted,  Happy Birthday, Shawn!
Surprise 2.   Unsuspecting volunteer for the Creatures of the Night Show.   Good fun and we've got him on video.  
The start of our magical journey in the Night Safari.  After all the rain in the afternoon, it was cool and very breezy in the night.  Surreal and beautiful.  The buggy could get us very very up close with the animals.  So long as we don't get off this buggy, we'll be safe.  We had one of the best guide, Roi, very knowledgeable and extremely entertaining.  He was good fun and the children LOVE him.  He was our chaperon, guide, map, entertainer, teacher for the night.  When you meet people who are truly passionate about their job, you get infected too.  Thumbs up.

To be frank, i thought the Night Safari would just be a repeat of the Day zoo which i am already too familiar with.  But nope, it ain't quite the same (i am surprised by the less than stellar internet reviews).  We were lucky enough to catch sight of a giraffe in rest "sit-down" position (!!) and glowing mushrooms amidst the dark.  There is a reason for the dim, where the animals are active / comfy in their habitat, a sight to behold.  All it takes is a little patience, keen eyesight and a good guide.
Halfway through the trail, we were led to a cafe and surprise, surprise.   Erh, we didn't sign up for any birthday package (and i think there isn't any either) with the zoo.  But a very sweet initiative by this team of fun loving zoo marshalls!  
The team who has made this so memorable for our family.  Such a blessing. A big big thank you !!

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Life in the rumble

Before I had a chance to share about our holiday to Goldcoast, within 3 days upon our return, we cleared 10 years of our life (somewhat) into garbage bags for this evacuation. I used the word "cleared", meaning poured all our belongings into those gigantic black trash bags as there was simply no time to pack. There was just so much things hoarded over the years, which includes J's car number plate from our uni days! Keep or toss?

Well, i told him if you have kept that for close to 15 years, what's another 15 right ? Gee, so that got to stay. By the way, the number plate is kinda cheesy too, it's called "RAW". Gulp, what kind of number plate was that!

We were out of the room in just 2 days, a warped thought came to mind when I look back at the empty room.  Never say quits to a relationship, coz you can really be OUT in just 48 hours. I digress.

We now call ourselves the refugees of 2nd floor. 8 weeks, counting down.

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

The slow down

Dwindling blog posts, not coz not much been happening but rather too much, that it's been hard to catch up.  First thing first.  After the operation, we do see immediate changes.  Shawn does not snore anymore, restful sleep and appetite has picked up.  It's one of those,  been there done that and wish we knew about it earlier (fear aside).

Work's running hectic.  The bank is now running with 2 banking entities so loads is churning in the background.  I have a wonderful team of people that has truly helped with my work life balance and sanity, thank you.  I squeezed a trip to Oslo for work in between, met some incredible people at Head Office and catching sight of the sun setting at 8pm +.

We kinda hit a block with the renovation.  Now going through designers/ contractors, trying to get everything started. Plus a holiday to the down under... ... Planning , planning, planning.  J's been like the Indian chief for everything that he's falling sick all over .  I seriously have to badger him to rest early.

Life is fulfilling. Life is eventful. Life is when you make it happen.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tidbit sharing : A good job book?

Some mothers have acid tongues.  I do.  And often on bad days, words/thoughts like “I feel like ripping you alive”, “shut up” comes to the tip of the tongue almost spewing out.  You just get tired of coo-ing at your “babies” and it’s much easier to drive your point across by raising the volume.  Seriously, sometimes it does actually work.  And at times when it doesn’t, you feel like steam is being let out somehow.  Terrible.

Another thing that came to mind was children are a part of me.  It’s almost second nature that you want to correct them.  After a while, you seem to have something to correct about them all the time (like how my mum does it too!).  Boohoo.

Over the last couple of months, I started a “good job” book for the children.  For me, a diary of seeing the good in my children, and for them, it’s a pat on their backs, “good job, I appreciate that.”   I pen them down in simple english.  It’s kinda one of those positivity vibes that i try to build for the children.

It’s a motivation for them and I don’t start the practice of rewarding children with material things.  Come to think of it, it’s so much easier to unleash anger / annoyance than to keep up with this book.  But i am glad to start this first step.
May we have many of these books in our library years to come.    

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Operation

It’s 5.30am.  The last 2 times we were up that early was for Shawn’s and Alyssa’s birth which was filled with excitement and happiness.  But today, it’s a mix bag of anxiety and jitters.  Daddy is all for the op and has been looking forward.  That’s how men and women genetically differs?  We’ve come a long way to this decision, after 2 ENT specialists and Shawn’s consistent thundering snores (affecting his teeth bite too) in the night was the final shove for Mummy to give the green light.

The silver lining is Shawn loves the ENT doctors, thinking it’s uber cool to have a super duper camera (read: scope) into his nose which proves too daunting for Mummy even.  I am totally not cool with any kind of foreign object into my nose but hey, to a child, it can be cool and fun if we pretended so.  And so it was.  The next step (which till date, I am a bit torn whether should I have better prepared him with more details) was to prep Shawn about the operation.  We lightly called it cleaning of the nose and throat’s phlegm.  He will be given something to smell, drift off to sleep while the doctor “clean him up” and there will be slight pain when he wakes up.  I rather not go into the gruesome details for fear he will put up a fight even before going into the operating theatre.

The Before.  He’s really excited and happy about going into the operating theatre.  He knows he will be given something to sleep.  And he thinks it’s super cool to have a gloves converted into a balloon for him.
After he’s wheeled in for the 1.5 hour operation, us parents have a seat in another room.  The best treatment for anxiety and whatever horrid wild imagination is distraction.  I brought along my ipad screening some Chinese period drama which provided some sort of a relief.

It was the longest 1.5 hours.  When he’s done, this is where all the mama drama rolls on.  Daddy J was by his side, carrying him while he was roused from his GA.  The immediate was disorientation, crying, screaming of pain.  Everyone could hear him loud and clear, fighting whoever that comes near.  I was totally unprepared for this scene.  Any mother’s heart will drop.  We were assured that that CRYING will continue for another 30minutes and after that he will drift into deep sleep.

The next 45 minutes were totally unexpected.  He was screaming and screaming.  Angry with the doctor, angry with the Daddy while I carried him up and down the corridor like a baby.  He woke every child up with his screams of anger that it’s so painful.  It’s realization that hey, it’s NOT the deal he has signed up for.  Soon enough, he drifted off to sleep.  When he woke, he was a changed person.  He asked for Daddy (whom on Mummy’s command, has scurried across the road to Toys R Us ) and was delighted that Daddy will be back soon with toys. He goes, “I love Daddy.”  Hmmm

Did I mention that the immediate diet after the operation is ice-cream and gummy bears ?  He was smiling, eyes shining at his new toys, ice-cream and packets of gummy.  We were out of the hospital by evening and the days of recovery went well without a hitch.   He’s back in school within a week and bragging to his friends about his operation.  He’s a brave one and no qualms about going back to the doctor for his follow-up checks.  Children bear no grudges :p
 
I am glad this episode is now finally over and our family can start yaking about a holiday to the down under, Goldcoast next month J  

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tidbit sharing: Quick guide to reading level

How do i choose the reading list for my children?  From blogs to homeschooling websites and in particular, i like the recommendations from Sonlight (one of the many sources).  With the suggested booklist from Sonlight's cirriculum, i then hop over to amazon.com for reviews which often has a "quick look" function inside the book (i will always do this to see i like the book) before purchasing them from bookdepository.com. 

In our home library, we do picture books, chapter books and readers.  It's a mix bag but each has its importance.  Picture books for greater understanding and enjoyment, chapter books for improving vocabulary & fluency and readers for his own confidence building.

If you too would like to have some good books at home, here's a quick guide for some ideas:
1) Booklist by age group
http://www.sonlight.com/curriculum.html

2) Readers
 http://www.sonlight.com/quick-reading-assessment.html
Take this quick reading assessment of your child, that can help you with the suggested level of independent reading.  For Shawn, he's in between the Grade 2/3 set so that helps me in my purchase of readers. 
http://www.sonlight.com/2RP.html
http://www.sonlight.com/3RP.html

Hope this is useful to anyone who would like a list or need one like i do so that i don't feel like i am searching in the dark.


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Monday, April 1, 2013

Bali Safari

In Bali Safari, where you could watch the animals have a good play with each other, frisking about right in front of our rooms. If you are big about animals, then this is uber cool.

We planned this holiday right before Shawn's adenodectomy + tonsillectomy + endoscopic submucous reduction inferior turbinoplasty (a mouthful of words that churns any parent's stomach) operation.  Oh well, we had a great time.  To memories. 

It was very hot, humid and at most times, we are oiled from head to toe with sunblock, mozzie sprays and in our hat gear.  Hey, I am a city dweller.  I asked Shawn, isn’t it too hot for comfort? He was puzzled, hot?? NO!

Till today, they still talked about the lions the hippo and the meerkats at the breakfast place.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Black Gold

One of the things we do ever so often, is to indulge in each other talking about how cute can she get!  Her smile, laugh, frown, pout can be ever so charming. 

Her new nickname in Hokkien is “au kim” for "black gold".  She’s a very very tan babe.  Spotting a shade color, of likely NC 40 if she ever pop by the MAC cosmetic counter.  You get the picture ?   :p

Apart from her fiery temper, she is independent, with loads of spunk in her.  She says her “please”, “thank you”, “love you”, “good bye yeye , nai nai” whenever she goes out.  Well, she’s got basic manners of a lady.  Phew.

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