Friday, December 30, 2016

Math: Friend or Foe?

Humour has become a big part of my parenting style, I swear it is the only reason I manage to not lose my temper about 20 times a day. I can manage to turn around most situations - with a joke or anecdote or just a quip - on D(11) and S(8) and avoid tantrums - theirs and mine ;).

When it comes to teaching especially, I have a tough time holding on to my patience but again with most subjects, we manage without too many explosions. I also made sure to inculcate self-study in both the kids, all the better to avoid teaching situations and let me stay in my calm bubble. The odd instance though, definitely comes up from time to time, and Math has lately become our nemesis. Weirdly enough, both the spouse and I used to love the subject when at school, but now D has got it into her head that "she's bad at Math" and nothing I say will get her out of that mode - especially when she's finding a particular topic tough.

The latest? Algebra! Don't kill me, but I actually find it fascinating, at least at the simple levels when I can actually teach it pretty well. But our early learning sessions went like this:

We are reading questions and trying to construct the equations -
D: 3 consecutive even numbers add up to 36. Find the numbers.
Me: Ok, can you tell me the equation for this now? What is the first number?
D: x
Me: Great, so what are the 2nd and 3rd numbers.
D: ... I think the numbers are 10 and...
Me: Why are you going to the answers? Tell me the equation first.
D: I don't know how.
Me: If the first number is x, what is the next. The point of algebra is to start from the equation, not to just guess at the numbers and try to find them!
D: I don't know.
Me: It's the next even number. Think.
D: I don't like Math.
Me: Try! You know this!
D: I'm bad at Math.



...A meltdown and 2 hours later, we finally go back to it, find the equation and the numbers.

And this is why I make weird faces when someone asks me why I didn't think of moving to teaching as a profession ;).

Plan for 2017: I am determined to get D proficient at Algebra, at least so that she can teach S in a couple of years and I don't have to go through a repeat of this.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Walking the tightrope of Parenting

It's time for one of the now-occasional parenting related posts on the blog ;). As the kids grow older, I have got more caught up in privacy concerns, and wondering if they would want so much about them online. This means that I analyze quite a bit before putting up anything in this space. D, who's now 11, has also read through many of my older posts, which made me all the more wary of writing something that might make her uncomfortable :D. Of course, in a couple of years, she might be online herself and sharing stuff, but I will have to leave that to be her decision and her learning.

Canva pic courtesy Shailaja Viswanath :)
But oh well, it seems like parenting is similar to walking on a tightrope most days. As young parents, we feel that babies are TOUGH, and it's great when they grow up and start eating/drinking/sleeping on their own, but the challenges don't end - they just change :). When I was faced with a surprise phone call from my 11 year old a few days back, it took a lot of self-control to sound calm and give her advice, though I was panicking a bit underneath. That set me thinking of all the times when we must let them do their thing, just to help them grow, though I have not always wanted to!

- When S, at 4 years, wanted to start bathing himself, simply because his sister had been doing so for a few months and he didn't want to feel left behind. Was it efficient? Definitely not! It took a few weekend scrubs to make up for the weekday self-baths, but on the whole, it was worth it! He has always tried to take to things earlier, simply because of the competition ;), and it has mostly ended up making our lives easier with less to "teach".

- When I took the decision to stop studying sessions which had me "asking questions" before every exam, to let D do her own preparation. She protested, I worried about the effects it would have, but I found that it hardly had any impact on her performance. Humbling much? For sure :P.

Sibling Beach fun!
- When they forget school items or submissions at home, and even if I know it's something important, I took the decision that I would never run to school to get it to them, but let them handle the situation on their own. It did help that both their schools have been a bit far from home so it would be a huge effort to just get there. I also hoped that not being super-organized myself, they would develop this habit on their own. It's an uphill task on many days, but I know they can definitely handle unexpected situations with just a little advice and nudge from us now and then.

- When D had a stay-back at school for one day a week, and offered to come back on her own by public transport, I was a bit concerned, but I knew that not letting her do it would set a bad precedent. We thought we'd give it a week or two and see how it goes, and surprise surprise - she's doing really well!!

When there's an unforeseen, even slightly worrisome, situation, and you feel like things are not in your control, there is always a sense of panic in a parent's mind. But I have learnt to control that feeling, and only portray a sense of calm to the kids. They know our phone numbers to call from a phone booth, and they have change on them if they need to.

A lot of credit is due to the spouse, who's been the enabler in most of these situations. I have learnt and adapted over the years, though I still sometimes have to suppress my initial impulse, and then go for the calmer alternative ;).

Friday, October 07, 2016

When Friendship is Forever

Best Friends Forever or BFFs is a term that I got to know from my daughter a couple of years back, yes I know I am so behind with the times. When I first heard the phrase, there was only one person who immediately came to mind! So when it came to writing a post about a close friend, similar to those who would take part in the new Zee TV chat show Yaaron Ki Baraat, I knew it couldn't be about anyone but Shailaja. In fact, when I was mentioning the subject of this blog post to my daughter, even she knew who I would be writing about :).

Our love for dupattas is not the only thing that bonds us ;)
Once upon a time, I wrote a school review on an Indian parenting website. Little did I know that it would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. When she first wrote to me, it was as an anxious mom who wanted to find the best school for her daughter, who was just a year younger to mine. Along we way, we exchanged blog links and that's about all it took to see how much in tandem our thoughts were! Our friendship has grown so much over the years, that it feels like we have been friends for ever though it has only been 5 years or so.

What clicked for both of us from the beginning is that we are both very laid back and non-critical people(unless English grammar is concerned!). It helps to bring a sense of calm when the person at the other end doesn't encourage you to gossip or talk negatively of others. Not that either of us is a saint, but we don't thrive on petty talk either. We crib, we vent, we move on, which makes for such a healthy atmosphere between us.
Miss our favorite brunch haunt!
We have discussed so many parenting challenges in the years we have known each other, and I especially fondly remember the "Yelling Less" challenge that both of us took up around the same time. With the kind of experiences that children go through nowadays, parents can really feel overwhelmed. It really helps to have a sounding board, especially a non-judgmental one, and that is what we have both been to each other.

There are so many things I admire about Shailaja, that this blog post would go on forever. To pick the top 3 - her positive spirit, her ability to share her experiences through her writing, and her wit. I have made her give me a special commitment that she would not forget me once she becomes a famous author ;), and I really mean that. There are some wonderful things in store for her, and I will be proud to stand by her, in spirit if not always in person, for each of those moments.

Even though I was in town for just 5 days, not meeting her was not an option!
Moving away to a different country has been tough on our friendship in many ways, as we can't just decide to meet for brunch or for a coffee when we feel like it. In some ways though, I would say the distance has brought us closer - we consider every chat we have on Facebook or on the phone as even  more precious as we know how much more of an effort it's taken us, what with different time zones and crazy schedules.

Here's to being Best Friends Forever, my dear lovely friend.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Fitness: Make it a Choice

Turning 40 was a milestone I wanted to remember with a smile, not as the start of new aches and pains, and this has been my biggest motivation over the last couple of years to reach a stage where fitness is a big part of my life. If I don't workout or do something active on a certain day, I feel uncomfortable, like I'm missing something. I know that many factors might change, maybe I will start that full-time job or something else might take up more of my time, but I know now that I will always manage to make time for myself and my fitness. I felt compelled to write down my thoughts on how I got here, so here goes:

Find what works for you: Different ways of exercising might work for different folks, for example - many would swear by a gym routine or a group class as the dynamic is great and setting a regular schedule works well for them. In my case though, this just wasn't the right fit as I find it easier to keep my workout timing a bit flexible. I realized that I was finding it a challenge to get to my one group workout once a week - it seems like something or the other keeps coming up just at that time!! What has clicked for me is to find home workouts that are interesting, and to set a time limit of pre-lunch at the latest to get it done. This means that I have to change up and re-plan workouts every now and then, but I don't mind that. Fitness Blender is a great example of a site that offers free workouts with a whole lot of variations and you can choose the one that fits your current fitness level and work your way up!

Plan ahead: There was a point when I ended up missing days simply because I spent too much time looking for what to do on a particular day :P. I learnt my lesson and now make sure to have at least a general idea of what I want to do for a week or month. Picking up a challenge or a 60/90 day workout plan works even better as long as you plan according to your fitness level. In my case for example, I feel comfortable with a one hour workout but sometimes have to modify some of it to low impact to be able to complete it. I prefer to stick to challenging workouts, that I almost can't complete, rather than aim too low, as this is the only way to keep getting better. You can also keep track of number of reps, weight lifted etc so that you can easily make out your improvement over the days/weeks.

Watch your form: If you're new to working out, doing new exercises at a gym under a trainer's eye might be a good approach. I would recommend this for yoga as well, as personal feedback about poses helps a lot for beginners. Once you are clear in your mind about the form, then doing it at home becomes a good option, possibly in front of a mirror to check if you're doing it right. This is essential because just expending energy and sweating it out will not have the results that you want, if the form for the exercises is incorrect.

Don't let setbacks stop you: There will be illnesses, work, travel, and a million other reasons for a break in your workout schedule. Don't let this dishearten you - just back sure that you get back every single time. I am currently trying out the P90X workout, and have been joking that it might take me 180 days instead of 90 :). But the important thing is, I know I'll get it done.


Develop your knowledge: I started going to the gym in my 20s, but now I realize that I had no clue what I was trying to achieve (except to lose that tummy, which remains an eternal goal ;)). I just used to blindly follow what the trainer told me, and while I'm sure they were well-meaning, you need to understand your own body to get the results you want. With the learning from classes I've been to, and understanding better about how specific types of workouts affect my body, I can now workout a schedule tailor-made for me. While cardio/steps taken were the main focus earlier, I now find strength training to be the most important component of my workout plans. I don't think anyone should wait to turn 30 or 40 to start weights, the earlier the better! I make sure my workouts are intense enough, while at the same time know when to take a break or a rest day when I cannot manage a full workout. On such days, even a light walk or an hour of your favorite game helps keep the momentum going.


Motivators: Only you can find your own - It could be a workout partner, your family, or it could be an online group. A wonderful fitness conscious group on Facebook called "Fit Right In" was a big reason for my growth in this area. Folks who don't just share knowledge freely, but also follow up on you if you go missing, that's what you get with a good fitness support group or partner. In a smaller way, the Fitbit and other stats-based apps have also helped to quantify my improvement, so these could be worth checking out as well. I recently wrote about the Fitbit Blaze, and its earlier version, the Flex, was one of the motivators for my getting on a fitness regimen.
Catch 'em young!
I know that was a long one, so thank you for reading this far :). This is the story of how I decided to be #fitbyforty and now am very close to my goal of being #fitatforty.

Do you have a workout plan? How did you arrive at it? Do share with me in the comments!

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Semakau: Visit to a Landfill

If you know me personally, it is very probable that you have heard my views on waste management ;). Thanks to getting to know a lot of amazing environment conscious folks when in Bangalore, some time after I started composting at home (my first post on the subject in 2011 here), I also started segregating my waste. This was some time before it was made mandatory, though unfortunately I didn't see enough enforcement especially at the individual home level, even till the time I left in Dec 2015.

When I first started living in Singapore, I was a bit confused by the lack of waste segregation at the household level, and wondered how a country this size handled its waste. Enter Google and other useful links shared by folks in a local FB group, and I slowly started getting the picture. I also looked around for organizations that I could volunteer with, to make some small contribution in the area of sustainability, and found the Singapore Environment Council or SEC. Thanks to them, I have made a couple of trips that helped me understand the waste management in Singapore a bit better. I also hope to volunteer in a couple of upcoming events, to do my small part in making a difference.

Step 1 in the waste management process here is removing the recyclables - this is ideally at source in our homes - mainly plastics/paper/glass and a few other components. Recycling bins are provided all over the island, and the contents are taken to centers where they are segregated into different types before being taken to bigger centers where they are processed in different ways. Some removal of recyclables is also done from the mixed waste collected from homes, to minimize any plastics and non bio-degradables that might reach the next step. A visit to a recycling centre(my first trip with SEC) threw some light on the importance of details - how plain paper is easier to recycle as coloured paper needs some treatment to remove the inks, for example!!


Step 2 is the wet or miscellaneous waste handling and incineration was the process of choice. To someone like me, that sounded almost blasphemous, as burning of mixed waste was a big problem in Bangalore, especially as it is done in open spaces and exposes everyone to the carcinogens it lets off. Here however, it is a contained process, with large incinerator setups in different parts of the island. These are called waste-to-energy plants and our tour guide jokingly mentioned about how we pay for our waste to be disposed and then also for the electricity generated from it :). The resulting gases are handled by a filtration method before being let out into the atmosphere. As incineration compacts the waste to nearly 10% of its original volume, it definitely sounds like a smart choice when you don't have the luxury of space. (I hope to visit one of the incinerators sometime soon, if so will add more details here)

Step 3 is the handling of the ash which is the main end product of the incineration process. This is where a landfill enters the picture. My head used to throw up scary landfill images which are based on what I've seen in pics or in person in Indian cities - huge mountains of refuse with scavengers hanging around and a stink that is far reaching. That image is now changed for ever.

Resort like views all around :)

It was HOT out in the open, the hat bought for D's outbound trip helped!
Singapore has kept the landfill away from the main populated areas by making an offshore one out of two of its islands (Pulau Sekang and Pulau Semakau - see pic below). Large ferries bring the ash here, and they are then transported by lorries to be dumped into assigned areas. The dumping zones have been created by building an encircling wall that includes an impermeable geo-membrane, and the sea water is regularly pumped out to adjust the sea level. Once the maximum level has been reached, a few feet of topsoil is added so that the upper layer is fertile and can serve as a home to greenery.
(Side note: There are also some leachate handling plants on the island that serve as backup if any of the incinerators might give out for any reason.)
The presentation showed us the lay of the land.. err water.
We learnt in the presentation that followed the tour that while the earlier practice was to make smaller zones out of the entire dumping area (as shown in the top part of the pic above), it has now evolved to using one large zone which seems to work better for their needs. A movable platform serves as the base for the trucks, and as one portion fills up, the entire platform is moved to the next part.

The mangroves - there was a recent round of planting the previous year as well
to try to compensate for anything that has to be removed for expansion.
There is a lot of thought about affecting the water quality around the islands, and some of the eco-conscious measures that have been carried out include:
1. Mangroves at the ends of the island - these create a root barrier for flotsam, as well as act as a warning sign for deterioration of water quality - the foliage apparently would start showing significant areas of drying up which would immediately trigger extensive tests and remedial measures.
Testing well
2. Testing wells - These are numbered and located all over the island. A water sample from each is tested once a month, with the number pinpointing the location in case of any unusual results.
3. Marine life - Spotting of marine life such as dolphins and otters is considered a positive sign, to indicate that the island provides a comfortable environment for these species.

A few industries are being tried out on the island, such as this deep sea fishery 
To make the best use of the space here, there are also trial runs of a few chosen industries. Some of the mentioned ones were deep sea fisheries, work on biodiesel using the plant Jatropha, and a company that is working on harnessing natural energy from solar, wind, and water.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Things to do with kids in Singapore: Treetop Walk & Trick Eye Museum

Continuing the series of things to do with kids in Singapore (first post here), here are 2 more places that we went to in the last few months that proved to be fun:

Treetop Walk: Photos of the Treetop Walk that I'd seen online made me want to get to this place at the soonest. When I was researching it however, it seemed like the 4-5 km one-way walk (through the MacRitchie Reservoir) might be a bit too much not just for the kids, but possibly even for me in the hot and muggy weather. I looked around a bit more and figured out that that a particular entry (the Venus Drive Car Park side) seemed to be a shorter walk at 2-3 km. We have been ardent users of the public transport here and so I found the route using the MRT & Bus that would take us closest to this point.

Right at the beginning.. feeling as fresh as the surroundings :)

We ended up dilly-dallying a bit due to some other chores and it was past noon when we finally made it there, but the weather was so cloudy and gorgeous that day that we didn't have any issues with the heat and could just ramble along until evening. I felt quite suspicious of the signs that said 1 km, 2 km, and so on because with all the ups and downs of the path, it definitely felt like we walked a LOT more. My Fitbit too, reported a much longer distance than the signs it, and you know which one I'd trust ;).


The lovely view that we experienced on the actually short stretch of the walk above the treetops, was totally worth it!! We were so high on the experience that we even had enough enthusiasm to go and catch a movie after ;). Must plan another round sometime, with the longer route through the reservoir, but maybe I'll do it on my own before trying with the kids.
That accomplished (and slightly tired) look

How to get here: Flame Tree Pk or Opp Flame Tree Pk are the bus stops to get to. We took an MRT to Marymount and then a bus from there, but depending on your starting point you might be able to take a bus directly as well. The entry to the Treetop walk closes at 5 pm so do take that into account while planning your outing.

Trick Eye Museum: We had seen the main highlights of Sentosa on our earlier holiday, so I hadn't really paid much attention if there was anything new opening up there. Thanks to a kind friend who asked us if we would like to join her and family on an outing to the Trick Eye Museum, we discovered this unique museum where the kids especially had loads of fun.

Relaxing.. in the past apparently :)
It's filled with paintings and other artfully arranged set-ups, where you can pose for a photo, with the end result tricking the eye of any spectator. It really made kids out of us adults too, with trying out the various settings and checking out the end result in photos, as much or even more than the kids did ;).

Expression also to suit the setup :)
Help! The lava!
Who says only the kids should pose ;)

No dearth of actors in the family
How to get here: As far as Sentosa goes, it is really easy to get to by various means - taxi, MRT or bus - and the Trick Eye Museum is quite close to the parking lot. It's on the same stretch as Universal Studios.

If you have any suggestions for places to add in my list of things to do with the kids in Singapore, do comment and let me know :). 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Fitness and the Fitbit Blaze

Fitness is something I have spoken about on my FB timeline on and off, and I truly believe that this is something we MUST prioritize in our lives. I have traversed quite a roundabout route to get to my present state, starting with gym memberships in my younger working days that I made use of for hardly a few weeks in a year, to many varieties of yoga classes (some learnings definitely stuck with me!). It was in my late 30s that I acquired some additional incentive to work on my fitness, as I found that joints and muscles that go about their functioning without much thought in the 20s, start showing signs of aging unless you consciously work on strengthening them in the next decade. What works for me now is a combination of home videos for cardio and strength training (Fitness Blender/Leslie Sansone), Yoga and my latest love - Aqua Aerobics. I still have quite a way to go, but at least I know I'm getting there :).

I love metrics and statistics (funny that I never had a career in this area, but I always enjoyed this part of any job I was in), and found to my delight that a device like the Fitbit really helped to improve my motivation. Competing with like-minded friends, or even just with yourself, is a real feel-good factor and keeps you going on days when you would rather just relax on the couch and watch the latest TV show, or yes, while away time on Facebook. After a couple of years of using the Fitbit Flex, I decided it was time for an upgrade ;). My main requirement was a device that doubled as a watch, and also helped with heart rate monitoring. I decided to stick to the already familiar interface and so - Enter the Fitbit Blaze.

Availability: I looked around a bit, and ordering on Amazon.com seemed to work the best for now. If you have someone in the US who could bring it back for you, or if you travel there on work, jump at the chance. I did when the spouse offered to bring back something on a work trip ;).

Looks: I love large-dial watches, so the size of the Blaze works well for me. I thought it was a bit sleeker(though broader) than the Fitbit Surge, and the screen size is nice for navigating menus or looking at stats for the day. If you're not used to a slightly big watch on your wrist, it's best to check out the size of the Blaze in a store in your city. Another fun aspect that the Blaze offers over the Surge is the option of replacement straps. There are quite a few on offer including leather and metal ones. I ordered a metal one as I had some allergy issues with the Flex bands and wanted to make sure I had a replacement handy when I needed it.

Steps: The calculation of steps remains the same as in the Flex, depending on the movement/cadence of the arm. This means that if you're pushing a cart in a supermarket, there's a chance your steps might not be counted. In my time of using the Flex, I found it quite accurate, and I expect the same of the Blaze. Other friends who use Fitness bands have also reported the Fitbit step calculation to be one of the best.

The "Today" section gives a view into the day's statistics.
I have been very low on exercise in the last couple of weeks
and it shows in my resting Heart Rate :P
Heart Rate Monitor: This was a big reason for my upgrading to the Blaze, and I have been getting interesting readings and trying to make sense of it all. My base rate is around 62-64 and it feels as though even a short walk sends me into fat burn mode.. which is a good thing I suppose. I am still trying to understand how the different routines of cardio and strength would impact heart rate and what is the optimum balance I should aim at. For now, I am happy with fat burn ;).

Calories: The Fitbit calculates calories based on all your activities not just exercise. This means that it might show 200-300 calories soon after you get up, and about 2000 calories expenditure for a moderate to slightly high exercise day with ease. You need to set a baseline of what Fitbit calculates for you on a sedentary day and aim accordingly.

Floors: The calculation of floors climbed is not strictly accurate, and it may consider uneven terrain with ups and downs, and probably even an escalator climb or two as steps climbed. This was not a big requirement for me, so I have no issues here. For those who would like an accurate count here, you might need to keep track of your counter before any intensive climbing to be able to make sense of your final tally.

Active Minutes: The active minutes on the Flex were measured based on the steps - any continuous walking of 10 minutes or more contributed to the active minutes. On the Blaze, any exercise that I enter counts also towards the active minutes, and that makes it a bit more accurate to track your actual activity for the day.

Exercise tracking: Other than the ability to enter exercise details that was available with earlier models, the Blaze also brings with it an automatic sensing of exercise (walk, bike and a few others) when done for 15 minutes or more. This means that a walk for grocery shopping that I might not think to enter in myself is counted by the Blaze as exercise :). It also comes with a built-in set of exercise options, FitStar, which is apparently one of it's unique selling points even compared to the Surge.

Battery life: The promised battery life is 5 days, but I was initially getting only about 3 days worth. I later realized that I was probably looking at the screen a bit too much (common with a new toy!), and checking my phone for the metrics instead keeps it going longer, so I'm at about 4 days as of now. As looking at the time is one of my major needs behind buying it, and this would possible take up battery as the display is turned on every time, I am happy with this much for now, which is still an improvement over the Flex.

Notifications: These are restricted to just calls and messages at the moment, and I hope they would be adding more apps as we go along. I am finding even this much useful though, as it saves me from missing calls in noisy places, even if finding your wrist vibrating can be a bit startling :).

Other possible points of consideration (do let me know in the comments if there are any other Blaze features you would like me to add in this post, and I'll add my personal view):
  • The Blaze doesn't come with GPS but can use the GPS of your phone. 
  • It is water resistant not waterproof, which some have found surprising for the price range of this model. 
Current price at the time of this blog: 179.99 USD on Amazon.com

PS: Please pardon the quality of pics, as an amateur, I found it challenging to find the right light and eliminate reflections. Please see other pics online, and the product in person to get a clear idea of size and looks :).

Monday, June 27, 2016

Things to Do with Kids in Singapore - Gardens by the Bay, Science Centre

On our holiday to Singapore about 5 years back (described here and here), we covered many of the common touristy sights, so now that we live here, we decided to turn our attention to some other fun places :). I hope to make this one a series on things to do with kids in Singapore, maybe it would help visitors who might like to add these to their itinerary as well.

Gardens by the Bay: Earlier this year, it was time for some fun with grandparents(G's parents), who were visiting here during the 2 week school holiday. The Gardens by the Bay (a touristy place all right, but it wasn't around 5 years ago!) exhibit has 2 conservatories and I decided to explore one of them - the Flower Dome - so as to not overdo spending too much time on our feet.


So fascinating to see the bud to flower transformation !


Tough to capture the beauty of that symmetry
We were lucky to be there at the time of the tulip exhibit, and it added even more color to the already beautiful space. One more conservatory (The Cloud Forest) shall be explored soon, as also the skywalk and lights show which is supposed to be quite spectacular.

Couldn't take a selfie without these two photobombing :)
What did I tell you ;) ?
Finding matching tulips to click a pic :)

How to get here: The closest MRT station is Bayfront on the Downtown Line, and on a hot day it would be advisable to take the shuttle for $3 from the MRT exit to reach the domes. On cooler days (if you're lucky!) it might be a nice and picturesque walk. This and more details about any scheduled closures available on their website.

Lovely varieties of tulips with a shredded edge
There was a collection of cacti and we were all fascinated with this one that looked like a brain

Science Centre: Singapore has a wealth of museums and the like to cater to the young and the old, and as the whole point was for the grandkids to have as much or rather even more fun than us adults, we decided to check out the Science Centre. I dare say this was not a super-modern space - I believe the newly set up ArtScience Museum is more dazzling, but it still offered a lot of interesting experiments and exhibits for folks of all ages to experience and learn.

Trying to understand the workings!
I wonder what this is about :)





















The fire-tornado was dazzling conclusion to our visit, though a bit scary with the amount of heat generated. Of course the museum personnel were very careful with leaving space all around and keeping kids away from the heat. 
A closer look at its hottest!
Fire Tornado just starting up





















Travel posts have always been a lot of fun to write, and so this is my latest attempt to revive and keep the blog alive with the places we visit locally :). Do let me know how you liked the first one, and if there are any places you would like to see added to this list of things to do with kids in Singapore.

The series continues:
Treetop Walk and Trick Eye Museum

Monday, April 25, 2016

Parenting Truths

All this wisdom has been floating around in my head, and I thought I must share ;). Please do let me know your additions to this list, in the comments section.
  • Always teach kids good habits like remembering to remove the spoon from the jam bottle when they're the last to use it. When it comes to Nutella however, you may occasionally "forget" to remind them ;).
  • Never spoil kids by teaching them to expect neatly ironed clothes all the time, or you'll pay the price for it at some point in life.
  • When you have 2 kids who are close in age, never buy white socks that are just a size apart. This is the stuff of laundry nightmares. (Yes I discovered fabric markers, but still) Also, they WILL get dirty to the level of becoming irredeemable, so focus on numbers rather than expensive quality.
White socks galore
  • Trying to teach kids about nutrition WILL come back to bite you one day, such as the time you forget to shop for fruits and have none in the house.
  • Having a kid means needing to pay attention to a LOT of stories, and memorize stuff like friends' and classmates' names. It also means you have to remember details such as "A's sister used to be in the Badminton team" the next time that you have a conversation on the same subject. Don't confuse A with B or Badminton with Tennis, or you'll be told you're getting inattentive :P.  (Multiply into number of kids)
  • When you need to track hygiene habits for the kids and to ask "Have you brushed your teeth?" multiple times on a rushed morning, some days it will strike you that you forgot to brush your own ;).
  • However uncrafty you consider yourself, you will very probably at some time as a parent, create elaborate fancy dress costumes for your child. You can view some of my early work in this area on an earlier blog post here, that pic always makes me smile and be thankful for capturing those moments :). 
A recently made Shark costume

Saturday, March 19, 2016

For the Love of Reading

I always hoped that the kids would take to reading, but I almost did not anticipate the extent of it! With D, I have actually had to curtail her reading time, due to concerns about her eyesight. With both D and S, not being allowed to read is one of the biggest threats possible, so my job here is definitely done :). The weirdest part is when I am trying to enforce some discipline on the subject ("finish homework first", "drink your milk first" and so on), and I remember my childhood and episodes of reading the book that I wanted, smuggled inside a schoolbook as a cover :D. Nothing like flashbacks to make your parenting cliches sound even lamer.

The library system in Singapore is great, and members are allowed to borrow or return books in any branch. This also means that I have traveled the length and breadth of the island (literally) to visit a branch for a specific book (usually for D who's in her stuck-to-an-author phase). But who am I kidding, I used to be exactly the same. Even now, when I start a series by an author, I have to read the books in chronological order and missing any one along the way just spoils the fun ;). For the record, the same goes for TV show episodes.

I'm always vying with the children to borrow an extra book or two, especially when I discover a great new author or series. To my delight, I found that my local library branch has this amazing collection by Wodehouse - surely not an author new to me, but it has been too long since I read his books. I am not yet sure if all the books are available, but many of his early ones seem to be around. In my enthusiasm to renew my memory of his books, of course I had to start with his first published one :). It's a school story called "Pothunters" for those who're interested :). Here's a glimpse of one part of the lovely set at the library:


I have found some great book recommendations from my friends on FB, some of whom are on reading challenges which also seem to be a great way to discover new genres. I had posted once asking for Indian mythology recommendations, and found some gems there as well! You can see the thread here, in case you missed it at that time :). I must admit though, that nothing beats just browsing through a library, picking up a book at random and discovering an all-new favorite!