Memoirs of a Budget Mum

Mother to five, parent in progress and occasional kitchenista cookerella

Category: Media

{{Giveaway}}:Hassle-free Baby Weaning with Haakaa from Mama Warehouse!

A MOBM Review & Giveaway 

I’m a busy mama, like the rest of you reading this and the busiest hours of our day have got to be mealtimes, hands down.

I mean, meal planning and grocery shopping are already mentally and physically exhausting.

Throw in prep time for ingredients, cooking early (so we can clear up early), and then the actual “peak hour” where hungry little ones start hovering earlier that you expect…boy…you need several handfuls to feed these many mouthfuls!


Our kids have rehearsed their “Mum, I’m very hungry” cue-pitiful-look line to the T and some days, it is enough to make me warble at your stove, while I desperately scavage for a cracker or two to divert them from swooping in too soon!

At this point, I haven’t even begun to describe the mealtime “carnage”.

Reminders to the kids to eat neatly, even the older ones are still in order. “Eat with your mouth over your plate please.” is on repeat mode. Nonetheless, drips and drops are still inevitable.

And then, we have the one year old who is currently keeping me on my toes in her self weaning, food exploratory stage—read utterly, completely, messy dining.


Sometimes I swoop in to collect the spills but most times, I have to pick up half a ton of food which lands in her bib and on the floor, dig out sticky  rice on her clothes and food bits wedged between her legs.

Not sleek at all. 

Imagine the “yays” in my head when MamaWarehouse sent the Haakaa Silicon Cloudmat and Haakaa Silicon Breast Milk/ Baby Food Freezer Tray our way!


If you’re a busy mama, you know what I mean when I say we constantly look for TOOLS that actually HELP us get better at our mothering jobs – tools that help us be nifty, quick and actually help to make our life easier!!!

Let me start first with the Silicon Cloud Mat:  

1. Haakaa Silicon Cloud Mat 


If you have a baby or toddler who’s started self-weaning, the silicon cloud mat is quite a dream.
These handy little placemats have suction cups so they stick to the table and the perfectly positioned food tray hangs off the front catching all those bits that drop down.

Suction cups work really well as they stick to most surfaces very well and baby can’t pull it out like they tug at bibs.

My 1 yo loves touching and exploring her food and the textures with her fingers. The silicone cloud mat really pairs well with this stage and minimizes the hassle for me.

The mat is perfectly contoured to fit the perpendicular groove at the table edge and the catch-all bin is deep and prevents food bits from falling out.


Dishwasher safe and heat proof this handy little placemat allows you to put warm food on a slip free surface and chuck in the dishwasher when you are finished.

What I like: 

  • Large surface area…catches 90% of the food bits especially if you pair it with a bib with a pocket.
  • No more wiping off rice or food bits on the table. Just peel off the whole silicon mat to wash at sink with all the food bits on it, leaving your clean table surface.
  • Portable: You can roll this tightly into a tube and slot into your baby bag to use outside on high chairs when you eat at the food courts especially when you’re not sure if table surfaces are clean.


Finally, our trusty silicon cloud mat taking up no additional space and making our kitchen sink “pop” with colour!

2. Haakaa Silicon Breast Milk & Baby Food Freezer Tray 

The next kitchen tool that has really helped is none other than the Haakaa Silicon Freezer Tray. 

Each tray has six compartments where you can make-ahead soup stock,  purees, homemade baby food and portion them out to freeze for a rainy day.  Breast milk too!!


Before this came along, I was using a plastic ice cube tray and a silicone IKEA ice cube tray where I had to waste additional cling wrap to protect the food.

Needless to say, it didn’t work well with soups and thin liquids. I tried this on the ABC soup that I wanted to save up for no-cook days and I loved that I could pour the warm soup right in without worrying about  letting it cool down first.

The compartments come in three different sizes (125ml, 50ml, 35ml) (with the deepest being most versatile , in my opinion) and is made 100% food grade silicon! I was able to even put the potato and carrot bits into the deep pockets of the tray.


As you can see, the Haakaa tray makes baby food storage safe and practical with a customized cover.


It is also totally heat proof, microwave safe, BPA, PVC and Phthalate free, dishwasher safe and free of any leaching nasties. You can keep food fresh up to 6 months.

The best part of it is the easy pop out silicone body makes removing cubes a breeze.

Just watch how easy it is: no frantic knocking…just gently twist and the crack line will appear…


Effortless easing out of its shell. And this is rock hard immediately out of the freezer!



Neat!! The good quality silicone saves me time and effort than it would normally take! Love this sooooo much.

GIVEAWAY GOODIES!!

Here’s the good news…

Mama Warehouse is giving away 1 Haakaa Silicon Cloud Mat (worth $32) to ONE lucky winner and 1 Haakaa Baby Food Tray (worth $29.90) to a SECOND lucky winner! {one different winner per product}

Click here to enter the giveaway!

 

Winners of Giveaway! Congratulations! 

Winner of Haakaa Silicon Food Tray

Yin Shian

Winner of Haakaa Silicon Cloud Mat

Karen See

Thank you all for participating! We will be contacting winners via email shortly! 

Terms and conditions

1. This giveaway ends on 15 July 2017; 12am. The winners will be randomly selected from Rafflecopter and announced on this blog post the following day. 

2. Winners will be contacted via the email address provided and will have 48 hours to respond; failing which a new winner will be selected.

3. By entering this giveaway, you agree to release your email address to the sponsor for verification, contact and marketing purposes.
This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.

Disclosure: We received a Haakaa Silicon Cloud Mat and Food Tray for review purposes. All opinions are our own.


Learning Math with Slime! – LearnersEd Openhouse 2017

Media Invite  


Last weekend, we were invited to attend a workshop with an irresistible offer- an opportunity to make slime and learn math all at the same time. 

For the kids it was a no-brainer. Make slime? Sold. For mummy me, it was a no brainer too, make slime …without getting the house messy and gucky? For sure! 

So off we trooped to LearnersEd, a Math learning centre, nestled in the cosy neighborhood of Potong Pasir, ready to get our hands mucky and our brains some mathematical exercise.

 The “Discovering Math with Slime” Open House 2017 looked promising to boot.




Greeted by the clean and welcoming premises, the kids went about to their respective classrooms for the day’s programme. 

The aim of the activities of the day: 

• To instill hands-on learning and creativity in children through the process of making slime and butter.

• To bring about an experiential learning process where Maths and Science concepts are infused in the making of slime and butter.



First up, the kids explored the concept of density by observing how oil floats on water. Food dye and salt were added next which would sink through the layer of oil.

 


They recorded their observations eagerly as they watched the effects of the elements interacting.  It was an interesting science appetizer before moving on to the real deal–making butter and slime. 

DIY Slime

Children were given DIY tools to do simple measurements of the ingredients. 

Along the way, they were encountering Maths in real life through the process of making slime and butter. Very cool. 




The verdict was in: “Best Day Ever!” declared little Miss as she rolled and squeezed the green goeey ball of slimy satisfaction, gleaming from ear to ear. 

What we loved: 

  • Integrating fun with learning. 


Honestly, I was curious to see how math would be introduced into the greater scheme of things through an activity like making slime. 

Turns out the way they did it below was meaningful: through concepts of measurements and fractions. 

  • Hands-on experience 

Many times learning is dry and formulaic with rote methods that bore rather than excite. 

So I truly appreciated the centre’s efforts to make learning so energizing with real ingredients at play (the kids earlier made their own butter with marbles and whipped cream). 

The kids also took home practical applications that would lock in their impressions of what they were learning thereby making it more impactful and memorable.

  • A Learner-Centric Program 

Learners Ed has a well-thought curriculum designed by skillful teachers who are familiar with the demands and rigor of Mathematics at the Primary and Secondary School levels. 

The centre runs small group classes (maximum 6 per class) as they value a cosy student-teacher ratio. 

Recognising that every student has different starting points and varied interests and abilities to learn Mathematics, LearnersEd breaks down and simplifies Mathematics concepts into “bite-size” portions so that the students find learning of Mathematics manageable and enjoyable. Lessons are crafted to build in rigor and fun elements. 

Check out their timetable of primary and secondary math classes here! 

LearnersEd truly lives us to their motto of “Taking Math to New Heights” judging from the smiles on these little faces! 

Disclaimer: All opinion for the purposes of this review are my own. 

****

Giveaway Promotion to  MOBM Readers!

LearnersEd is giving away: 

ONE free class + 15% discount for the 1st month of sign up (applies to all levels) 

for the first 10 lucky readers who make a booking with them. 

{Quote promo code: blog27}

Contact LearnersEd now to claim this exclusive offer for a limited time period only and subject to vacancies!

{{No More Reluctant Readers!}} Giveaway: ilovereading.sg Magazines for Children & Youth!

{{Giveaway & Sponsored Post}}


Is Your Child Reading Well?

Does your child read and how much time does he or she spend time reading in a given day? 

It may appear that I’ve asked a redundant question: our children go to school don’t they? Shouldn’t they be reading something and reading enough?  

Perhaps cursorily so- with the obligatory 5-10 minute “silent” reading imposed before the typical school day starts. 

Apart from formal English lessons where they comb through the requisite Stellar books in the classroom and the occasional series from the library,  time for reading may in fact be short.

A good part of the day is easily spent clearing homework set from school, or rushing between tuition, extra-curricular classes and activities. For most, it could be hard to find downtime just to read amidst all these nagging priorities. 

Has reading for pleasure become a lost art? 

What really has become of it?

Reading in Jeopardy 

It isn’t surprising that reading has faced some stiff competition from an onslaught of digital entertainment and the rise of smartphone use among the young. 


Distractions, distractions.
The headlines are depressing and statistics don’t lie. A large proportion of people are preferring online pursuits to reading. 

“Children’s reading shrinking due to apps, games and YouTube” a Nielson Book Survey of 2000 British children reports with a staggering 50% of family households now owning at least one tablet. 

That was in 2013, mind you.

Our very own local broadsheet, The Straits Times declares a similar toil on reading: “Low reading rate: Lack of interest, time cited as factors”, according to a 2016 National Arts Council (NAC) Survey. 

Of the 1,015 Singaporeans and permanent residents surveyed, 56 per cent had not read a literary book between March 2014 and March 2015. And it does not help that a large proportion of people prefer online pursuits to reading books.

So how should we encourage children to read and to be excited to do so? 

ilovereading.sg Magazines 

My kids have always been fairly motivated readers and manage to sneak books in between their daily routines. I do notice their preference for comics and reading magazines and they tend to pick these up and devour them easily. I believe this is true for most children.


First, these are bite-sized and colourfully illustrated. Next, they contain puzzles and activities to make reading fun! 

Recently, we had the pleasure of reviewing a suite of reading magazines in that category by ilovereading.sg, a Singapore-based enterprise, where reading is regarded serious business.

 With their tag line “Cultivating Minds”, the publisher hopes to partner parents in providing good content and reading material for children and young people, in hope of inspiring all to read. 

Content is pleasantly packaged into assorted themes and topics that appeal to various age groups. Articles are presented in various genres and text types in bite-sized portions with huge illustrations so reading doesn’t look tedious. 

Here’s what is recommended for different age groups: 

1. Storytime (From 7years)


For young readers and lower primary school children, Storytime is a kids’ magazine packed with fairy tales, myths, poems – all beautifully written and illustrated, with kids activities like puzzles, games and colouring too! 


Every issue of Storytime comes with five classic stories, one or two poems and an extract from a favourite children’s book.

My younger kids enjoyed the activity sections and filled those in quickly! 


2. “I” (From 10years)


“I” is pitched at learners “who have little interest in the English language, see no reason why they should mind their commas, who cannot seem to get past the first page of anything they read”. 

Wow. It is hard to find a magazine catered to woo reluctant readers!

Word bank at the bottom of the story.


True to its name, ” I” , is all about the learner. 

It features  articles and comic strips of various sub-themes such as Chow Down (food), Line of Work (career), Music & Drama, among others.  

Articles are youth-centric and deal well to serve adolescent’s growing pains: from life hacks of becoming a confident person to managing anger and stress in a smarter manner.

3. INSPIRE (From 11years)


INSPIRE is an English Language magazine targeted at young readers between the ages of 11 and 14. 

This magazine hopes to present “fascinating stories, both fiction and non-fiction”.



 The range is comprehensive in INSPIRE with human-interest true life accounts, to opinion pieces, travelogues, narratives and descriptive texts. 

Texts are authentic and realistic with a good emphasis on general knowledge issues which promote good issues for discussion and debate!

4. iThink (From 14years)

iThink is specially designed for the readers between ages 14 to 16 years old. iThink symbolizes the magazine’s focus on critical thinking. “Is Pop Music Trash Now?, for example, presents a critique on the pop music industry and stories provoke critical evaluation in the reader. It is good companion magazine for advanced readers in Secondary school. 


iThink was nominated Best Educational Title in 2016 by Singapore Book Awards 2016.

Why we like ilovereading.sg magazines:

  • Exposure to text types : The magazines, in particular, I, INSPIRE and iTHINK closely follow the standard and format of texts outlined in the MOE English Language syllabuses, while maintaining the quality and concept of an interesting non-academic magazine. Readers get adequate exposure to text types and writing styles, that are crucial for expanding the breadth and depth of their language skills. If your kids, are not reading widely enough, the magazines will ensure you do. 
  • Engage: There is always an intention to engage the reader with post-reading activities such as language games, crossword puzzles, word search and anagrams. The ” I” also contains a generous sprinkle of spicy info bites (Now You Know), tickling brainteasers (Tease Your Brain), YouTube videos, SEL questions and word banks. Engagement in reading is essential. It allows the child to process content and reflect on their reading, making it more intentional. 

    • Educate: Post-reading follow up is critical and the more advanced magazines have dedicated worksheets that mirror the school exam format to provide readers with additional practice on exam-type questions that assess listening, oral, reading comprehension as well as writing skills. At the end of almost every article, there is a word bank that immediately helps the reader tune into contextual vocabulary and expand it fast and effortlessly. They also welcome student essays which are tweaked and given a makeover.

    Disclosure: All views are my own. A subscription of the above magazines was sponsored for the purposes of this review. 

    *****

    {Giveaway Alert: Get Your Free Copy of Storytime/I / Inspire /iThink Now!}

    The good folks at ilovereading.sg are giving away 1 FREE issue of a magazine of your choice for 20 lucky MOBM readers

    To participate in the giveaway, click here! 

    Terms and conditions

    1. This giveaway ends on 29May 2017; 2359hrs. The winners will be randomly selected from Rafflecopter and announced on this blog post the following day. 

    2. Winners will be contacted via the email address provided and will have 48 hours to respond; failing which a new winner will be selected.

    3. By entering this giveaway, you agree to release your email address to the sponsor for verification, contact and marketing purposes.
This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.

    ***All the best!!**

    Congratulations to these 20 lucky readers!

    1. Karen 

    2. Carol Mei Mei Lim

    3. Robert Sim

    4. Ann

    5. Joyce Ong 

    6. Sue Tan

    7. Dawn Lim

    8. Shirley Chin

    9. Michelle Lim Yan

    10. Christy Wong 

    11. Jazry Chan

    12. Evonne Lee

    13. New Siaw Hoon

    14. Jessie Lee

    15. Winnie Lam

    16. Rebecca

    17. Angelina Joelyn Lee 

    18. Stephanie 

    19. Chua Huay Wen

    20. Joanne Soh  

    The publisher will be contacting you shortly. 

    Singapore Kindness Run 2017 Kid’s Dash Giveaway!

    Recently, I’ve taken to running and it’s taken me by surprise. 

    I am glad for my creaky muscles that are overdue for conditioning. 

    I am glad for my running pals; a group of super determined ladies who are so set on their goals towards better health and fitness it is inspiring. 

    I am glad that this new rigour is going to get me back in shape. Every pregnancy has piled on more and more weight, and it’s about time I did something for me. 

    I am glad for the mornings that I get to come off my usual routine, to spend time amidst nature. Running helps you reconnect …with yourself.

     So for all those who are hesitating to get fit for whatever reason…I do understand how you feel because for most of the years before this one, I thought the same. There’s never enough time nor energy. 

    But…there’s always a first time. 

    And there are always good reasons to start and a good race to start with. 

    The good folks at Singapore Kindness Run 2017 have a gentle run planned for you and your little ones. Here are a few reasons why this is an awesome family run:

     

    1. Race Etiquette Experience Zones

    It’s one of the unique runs with character building and soft skills factored in. A key highlight: a dedicated Experience Zone with Experiential Learning Stations to discover  Race Etiquette Tips for little junior. Well, not surprising as this IS the Kindness Run! 

     
    2. Kid’s Friendly Family Fun

     This could be your Little Junior’s First Run. The 800m dash is an achievable distance to start and the kids would be thrilled with this winner’s  box collectible of the adorable Singa Lion! 

      
    More  Singa Lion!  Can’t resist. 

      
     

     3. Run by the Beach

    Pasir Ris Park with its leafy greens and beachside view is a nice place to have a run. Easterners will be happy and city folks happy with the change of scene. One of my favorite places I run at every week too-away from maddening crowd!

     The familiar leafy terrain of Pasir Ris Park on a typical run morning.

    Some highlights after the run include family photo opportunities with Singa the Lion and a chance to mingle with sports and celebrity ambassadors!   

    Here are some FAQS answered: 

    1. When will the Singapore Kindness Run 2017 be held?

    The race will be held on 14th May 2017, Sunday.

    2. Where will the Singapore Kindness Run 2017 be held?

    Pasir Ris Park, Native Lawn (next to Car Park C).

    3. How do I get to the Race:

    Please make your own arrangements. You can use Google Maps and enter destination as Pasir Ris Park Carpark C for directions from your location.

    4. What are the categories?

    The following are the race categories for the Singapore Kindness Run 2017. There are 3 race categories. Please refer below:

    10KM Men’s Open (min age 13 years or older)

    10KM Womens’ Open (min age 13 years or older)

    800M Kid’s Dash

    7-9 years old

    9-12 years old

    5. How much is it to participate in the Singapore Kindness Run 2017?

    Please refer to the chart below:

    Category    Early Bird         Normal

    10KM           $45                     $50

    Bundle: 1x10KM + 1x800M

                           $70                     $75

    800M Kids Dash

                           $25                     $30

    6. What is the flag off times of the respective categories?

    10KM – 7:00am

    800M Kids Dash – 9:30am

    ALSO IN YOUR RACE PACK:

    Racing Bib with Timing Chip

    Flying Cape All-you-can-Learn Buffet voucher – choose from any of the 1,200 classes and attend for free (UP: $25)

    Mother Earth Healthy Snack from New Zealand  

    Drawstring Bag

     Registration ends 28 April 2017.

    Click here to sign up!

    ***

    *GIVEAWAY ALERT*

    In addition, MOBM has one Kids Dash race for your little one (aged 7-12years) worth $30 to giveaway on the blog! 

    To participate in the giveaway: 

    1. Like Memoirs of a Budget Mum Facebook  & Instagram: @memoirsofabudgetmum

    2. Share this blog post on your Facebook Wall and tag three friends. Remember to ensure that privacy settings are set to “Public”
    For additional chance to WIN: 

    3. Comment on the post here on why you and your little one would be keen to take part in the run!

     *Leave your email address so we can contact you should you win the contest!

    Giveaway ends 26 April, Wednesday @6pm. All entries are to be submitted by then! 

    All the Best!😊

    **Congratulations! Joyce Loh! 

    A Journalist for a Day (!) and other Great Reasons to Visit SmartKids Asia 2017

    Media Invite 

    The March Holidays is here and there’s an exciting round-up at SmartKids Asia 2017 for the whole family! Hailed as the continent’s “biggest educational kids fair”, SmartKids Asia back this year from 17 to 19 March 2017 at Singapore Expo Hall 6 and there’s much to do and look forward to!  

     

    Here’s our family’s take on some of the best highlights of this year’s installment: 

    1. Be a Roving WWII Reporter (New!)

    Nothing beats experiential learning and one steeped in history and time travel! To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, The Straits Times Young Storymakers Camp, is a two-day camp that brings young explorers back in time, and into the shoes of a war reporter.   

    Participants from ages nine to 12 will get to walk through Singapore’s rich history, and learn news reporting techniques from The Straits Times journalists. This is an awesome opportunity to gain insight to the profession too!

    Register here.

    2. Parent your way to Success

     

    Also making its debut is The Straits Times Parenting Masterclasses – a two-day seminar for parents to learn and discuss parenting tips from experts such as Sha-En Yeo, a positive psychology coach and award-winning author. 

    The News-in-Education specialists from The Straits Times Schools Team will also discuss how news stories are useful resources for imparting character education and English language skills to pupils.

    Check out the list of speakers & lineup

    3. SmartKids Asia Storyland (New!)

     

    In partnership with National Library Board, the event will unveil SmartKids Asia Storyland for the first time.

     For three days, this segment will showcase timeless classics in the form of theatrical plays and storytelling from Goldilocks & The Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood to Hansel & Gretel, and more. 

    Pororo Park Singapore, the Official Play Partner of SmartKids Asia 2017, will also be a part of SmartKids Asia Storyland presenting a rendition of Jack & The Beanstalk featuring its main character, Pororo The Penguin. 

    Visitors at SmartKids Asia 2017 can also look forward to a host of other fun activities:  

     

    1. Meet & Greet sessions

    SmartKids Asia will bring forth two sets of popular characters: My Little Pony featuring Apple Jack, Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash; and Pororo & Friends featuring Pororo, Krong and Petty for three days of performances and Meet & Greet sessions.   

    2. Free Trial Classes

    Three days of trial classes from educational and enrichment providers will happen from 10am to 8pm daily. The programmes are tailored for ages 2 – 12 years old, encompassing English, Maths, Science, technology, arts and more. Registration is available here.

    3. SmartKids Asia Activity Area The Activity Area will have hands-on activities specially crafted for parents and children ages 3 to 7. Parents can look forward to arts and crafts activities such as puppet-making, cake-pop making and printmaking from partners such as Playeum, and Spurbox.

    4.  Daily Lucky Draws with prizes worth more than $10,000

    Visitors will be entitled to one chance in the lucky draw with every receipt of purchase. Happening daily at 7.30pm, $10,000 worth of prizes will include a family suite at Amara Sanctuary Resort worth $2,800, family passes to Bounce Singapore and many more.

    5. Goodie Bag Giveaway (Worth up to $50)

    With a total of 1,500 goodie bags to be given away, registrants are to redeem the Goodie Bags at the event from 10am onwards. Participants can reserve a goodie bag through pre-registration on SmartKids Asia Facebook page or be the first 200 to queue at the door. 

    6.  SmartKids Asia’s Fun Passport

    The Fun Passport is an interactive activity for children of all ages. Participants are to complete activities from different pit stops held at various booths. Completion of the Fun Passport entitles one to spin the prize wheel with exclusive prizes up for grabs.

    7. SmartKids Asia Talent Time  

    As a new stage segment, Talent Time is open to children from all walks of life to display skills and talents in the areas of dancing, singing, and playing an instrument for the coveted title of SmartKids Asia Talent Time champion. The top participants will walk away with prizes worth more than $1,000 in total. Registration is available here.

    8. SmartKids Asia Art Contest 

    In partnership with The Dim Sum Place, a new F&B joint by the creators of The Ramen Stall, the art competition caters to children ages 9 – 12 to showcase their creativity at SmartKids Asia. The top 10 winners will walk away with retail vouchers from The Dim Sum Place worth more than $500 and more. Register here.

    9. Stabilo Junior Colouring Contest  

    SmartKids Asia and Stabilo is introducing a Colouring Contest for children in the younger age group of 5 to 8 years old. Happening on all three days, the winners of the contest will walk away with prizes worth more than $500 in total. Registration is available here

    **Bonus fun FREE Inflatables!!  

    Hope to see you there! 

    For more information on the latest updates and event highlights, visit www.smartkidsasia.com or www.facebook.com/smartkidsasia.

    Why Change in the Education System Really Starts from Within Us

    Each of us are change agents and change in the education system must start from within. Today’s performance of “Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi” drove this point home well.

    A collaboration between 100 Voices and Bud’s Theatre with support by education platform Flying Cape; the interactive play held in forum theatre style, swiftly brought to fore hot button issues in education through familiar scenarios involving key stakeholders in the education system–students, parents, employers, educators and the education ministry.

    The plot holds a mirror up to the current educational reality: escalating stress on our young, high parental expectations, KPI-driven education, weary teachers and jaded employers.

    As a former educator and mum of five children (with children both homeschooling and in school), the script and action resonated on many fronts. The lines are familiar ones that I could have uttered from my own mouth as a Singaporean parent finding my footing in a Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi landscape. Here are some choice scenes:

    Scene 1:  Tommy, just 10 years old has just failed his exam and his mother is having a fit over it. She hurls her worries and exasperation at Tommy’s father, who doesn’t seem to think it’s much of an issue. They can’t agree on how to respond to their son’s poor grades.

      
    “Boy, if you don’t do well, you probably need to…have tuition.”says his weary father, not because he really believes tuition to be the remedy but because it could be the one solution to calm his livid wife. Frustrated Tommy, who sees his parents quarrelling, feels sorry for the trouble he’s caused and threatens suicide. 

    Scene 2: Tommy’s form teacher is hurled an email and called to the Principal’s office to account for the suicide threat. 

     “When something good happens it’s always about good parenting or our good school system, but when something goes wrong, it’s always the teacher’s fault.”, she laments as she feels the weight of the system bearing down on her, piling on more responsibility than she is comfortable with. One blindspot she says is, “All parents want their kids to be number one. The only problem is there can only ever be one number one.”

    Scene 3: The Principal meets her Superintendent who moots the idea of a (gasp)”suicide seminar”. “Our education system is the best.”says the official, obviously proud of the system’s efficacy and reputation across the world. He speaks of the latest changes: “With the new PSLE scoring system, let’s hope parents will stop pressurizing their children to chase the last mark?”

     

    Scene 4: Tommy’s mother, who also holds a management position in an SME, bemoans to her HR manager the hiring woes she’s faced in employing locals. “…Every top scholar seems to come from China or India. I’m not going to hire locals, they are just too troublesome. When was the last local we hired? “James Lee Wei Wen.” How long? 15 days. Why? He quit to go scuba diving in the Philippines. ”  

    Thrust into the thick of this action, the play invites the audience to “act” on the outcome. 

      
    Traditionally, forum theatre, otherwise known as the “theatre of the oppressed” demands audience members to be change agents. The audience can stop a performance, suggest different actions for the actors to carry out on-stage or reenact a portion of the play. 

    The interventionist nature of the play incites change and invokes action– which quite a number of audience members readily engaged in. Surprisingly, many spoke up, which is good, as change must always start with conversations. 

    This is also why the play’s format is appealing: it nudges us to stop being passive consumers within the education system and to merely sit back, watch and complain. Given the power to change the plot, it is no longer acceptable to be an armchair critic or inert byproducts of a system that manufactures consent. 

    In fact, it is not enough to speak up for change…we have to BE that change. 

    That is the mental mindset we need to overcome. 

    Rather than push the blame if you are a parent to the school, or as a teacher to the system, or as a ministry to the parents or as employers to the greater universe, we can start with ourselves. How can we invoke change where we already are? 

    The play reminds us of the complex interactions between all stakeholders in education, pulling us into an intriguing exchange of perspectives. By representing the myriad of constraints and considerations on all ends, we get a glimpse of what attitudes and mindsets may ultimately inhibit us from moving forward. 

     Undeniably though, we HAVE inched closer in stitching together the fabric of conversations and I am grateful to the good people from 100 Voices for leading that change. 

    The greatest tragedy that could result from this would be to make this a play that is “all talk, but no action”. 

    We need to take action: to be that curious and unfazzled student, that supportive parent, that enlightened educator and employer.  Perhaps we don’t need the education ministry to first lead the way because real change begins with us.

     Image credit: Flying Cape

    A Pressure Cooker Education System? #Giveaway# Tickets to “Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi.”

    Today I asked my 10 year old son, who has attended Singapore mainstream school for a year, Australian public school for another and homeschooled locally thereafter; whether he thinks education in Singapore is “stressful”…like a pressure cooker.  Image credit: Smiletutor.sg

     This is his reply: 

    [About homeschooling]: 

    – “I like it coz we get to breathe fresh air…not “stress-air”…you know?”

    – I get to do other things I like (hobbies) and spend more time with my family.

    [Three things that can be done to relieve the pressure:]

    – “MOE should make students feel that going to school is like going to play. It helps us that way.”

    – “More outdoor time. Not just work work work.”

    – “To have teachers that are really inspired by the syllabus. (“You mean you think some teachers are not?” I say) …yup, some teachers don’t inspire. If they were, they would teach from the heart. And not try to make it stressful.”

    These insights are keenly felt for a little boy his age but I’m sure he’s not the only one feeling this way. The truth is, everyone of us, has something or other to say about the Singapore education system. More often than not though, we keep our grumbling to ourselves, nag out our frustrations on our kids and try to keep the lid of pressure down with remedies like tuition while trying to remind ourselves not to be caught up in the educational arms race. To be honest, nobody really wants to be left-behind and we end up like hamsters in a spin wheel trying to keep up. At the heart of the issue is: what drives us to be “kancheong”, “kiasu”or “kiasi” or rather, how NOT to be?

    Well, a group of good people have come together to start this much-needed conversation. 

     

    100 Voices, a parent-led advocacy group, together with Buds Theatre, are bringing to you “Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi”, an interactive production based an original piece written by Stanley Seah, conceptualised by Jack Sim (100 Voices) & Claire Devine (BTC).  This forum theatre play aims to challenge perspectives and help the audience to recognise the need for a more open and accepting society  and examine our educational challenges as a nation. I caught up with Dean Yap, founding member of 100 Voices who shares more about this production: 

    1. In a nutshell, why this play and why forum theatre? What is at the heart of this work? 

    For years, we have been in pressure-cooker education environment. There has been a lot of talk on this, but the situation remains. Why? Education is a complex subject involving many stakeholders. There is no single solution. To reform this, we need to have deep conversations with all stakeholders, so we grow understanding and empathy for each other. Only then, can we effect changes. 

    “Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu & Kiasi’ facilitates this conversation by giving every stakeholder a voice to engage with one another.

    2. What stories, narratives & conversations does this work hope to bring out? 

    The actors will demonstrate the challenges and conflicts in the 4 acts below. 

    – a family quarrelling over a child’s exam results.

    – an overwhelmed teacher struggling with self-harming students.

    – a Principal and MOE Director at a loss to eliminate youth suicides.

    – a worry-stricken CEO who can’t find innovative local employees.

    Audience can share their opinions, change the scenarios or offer alternative solutions to the actors in the hope of producing new outcomes. 

    The forum theatre format helps us to see the perspectives of different stakeholders and start a conversation on the baseline of empathy and betterment. We hope the audience will walk away with broader perspectives and greater empathy for all stakeholders. We hope the work can trigger deeper self reflection and drive changes in our behavior that can alleviate pressure experienced by our children. We hope the audience can see the great misunderstanding that results in misaligned goals, which drive us all into a narrow rat race and pressure-cooker education culture.

    3. Who should attend and why? 

    Parents, children, youths, teachers, principals, MOE policy makers, college enrollment officers, recruiters, employers should watch this play as they are influential actors at different stages and parts of education system. 

    If we can start off by understanding challenges faced by each stakeholder, we can then take the conversation to deeper level to uncover underlying reasons (or triggers). From there, we can explore solutions to reform our education in impactful and inclusive manner. Reform comes from everyone taking his/her own actions to make changes in alignment.

    4. Three fun facts about the production 

    1. You (the audience) don’t have to sit still and keep quiet throughout the play, unlike the typical performances.

    2. You are the Director! You get to tell actors what to do.

    3. Your suggestions will be heard by MOE Officials for consideration in shaping the education system.

    You will get to know others who face similar challenges like you – you can take heart that you are not alone!

    <<*Giveaway* >>2 Tickets to watch “Don’t KKK” on Sunday, 26 Feb 2017, 3pm

    To enter the giveaway: 

    1. Copy and Share this link on your Facebook Profile (Set to Public) 

    2. Leave a comment on what makes you kancheong, kiasu or kiasi as a parent!

    *The giveaway will end on Wednesday, 22 February. 

    Tickets can be purchased here

    My Year in Review

    2016 was a monumental year for our family  for so many reasons. Some were big and some not but the days, always felt full and well-spent. 

    We started off the year on unsure footing with the anticipation of welcoming our fifth child in the first quarter. We ended the year graduating our first into teenhood and a new phase of life.

    In between that, Life showed up and we have been dealt with kindly, with generous portions of grace for each day. 

    Here are some of our key takeaways from our family’s year in review: a necessary exercise in sobriety lest we forget that we have much, much, much to be thankful for. 

    1. Recognize and Seize the Gifts

    In 2016, we welcomed our fifth child, Jubilee into our family. I actually really gave birth to another human being! 

    Although we were not quite sure we would be ready for big family dynamics (when will anyone ever be?), we felt real peace within when we received the news.

    It was a peace that transcended the fluttering of anxiety, the fear of the unknown and the future, a peace that filled the void of lack, and a peace that sent societal expectations of what a standard family should look like, crashing. 

    We let go of pragmatism and seized the gift. The gift of life is an extraordinary gift. There are no assets you could trade it for that could be worth its value. Such a gift deserves no excuses. 

      
    Perhaps our days might be a little inconvenient or slightly topsy turvy, but…we knew we would somehow work it out. We had a precious bundle of life ready to kick her way into the universe and we couldn’t let our microscopic and myopic concerns steal away our joy! 

    We spent a good part of the year enjoying our newborn and all the accompanying joys and stresses. Her cherubic smile is worth every ounce of effort and every extra brew of coffee.   

    The kids all rose up to their “extra” duties in helping out around the house: not always autopilot but good enough! They know when to replenish her diaper stash and check for poo!  

    The word “family” became a verb,  a collective effort . We were each challenged individually to pull our own weight and to do what we could to chip in to help the other. 

    In between her siblings’ squabbles, this little one unifies with her adorable expressions and antics. We are a tighter and stronger ship because of her.

    2. Flee Parenting Perils

    In 2016, we persevered through our third year of homeschooling our two older children and graduated my firstborn through THE PSLE. Both my husband and I are relieved to have survived the aftermath

    Was it tough? I don’t deny it was. It was hard because we had to juggle all the other family dynamics together with it. The year was well paced but also intense. We had to constantly evaluate why we do what we do and assess where we were heading, understanding the outcomes we valued and had in mind. 

      

    Picture credit: momastery.com

    We also had to conquer our fears of the PSLE and renew a vision of success and education that was broader and deeper than a mere T-score.

    Ultimately, it was a test of our own parenting-speak and what we said we believed in. 

    Through it, we had to remain grounded but at the same time, take leaps of faith. Parenting had never appeared more paradoxical and it was easy to jump into an abyss of insecurity and run with the tide in a mindless paper chase. 

    Thankfully, we kept it real and our priorities ordered. The kids are happy with where they are at and ready to embrace the new year.

    3. Streamline and Don’t Apologize

    On the homefront, we had adjustments to make in order to accomodate all the above changes. The key discipline I had to learn this year was self-control. 

    We had to be ruthless in determining how thin we spread ourselves across each 24 hour day. We took caution not to overschedule and overcommit. If that meant we had to cook less and order takeaways, so be it. 

    In order to avoid a hectic lifestyle, we had to opt for less: forgo some activities, co-ops, get-togethers and consider them only when we have some breathing space. We also had to streamline logistics and cut out the non-essentials so that we wouldn’t need to do too much running around.

    We also used and offered our home more as the base for interactions or for people and friends to drop by. Good friends always did and we never felt isolated nor like we were missing out. 

    4. Never say Never 

    Most surreal of all this year was stepping out of a comfortable and familiar place. For me, that was the home and in my years as a stay home mom… having a semblance of pursuing my passion was something rare and fleeting in the growing years. 

    This year, I never thought it would happen but it did. I was invited to be a part of a panel of experts to share my views on the PSLE in the national newspapers.

      Source credit: The Straits Times

    I also wrote a piece from my heart about the PSLE t-score which was published in The Straits Times. In addition, I have started to take on freelance writing and editorial projects on the side. It was a great honour to have the opportunity to enjoy my family and work at what I love doing at the same time. 

    Things will always work out somehow. At the end of the year, we need to regale ourselves with such a sentiment. While 2016 sets on us, let us approach the new year with the hope and assurance for greater beginnings, with love from our family to yours.

     

    Dr Bronner’s Castille Soap

    Most conventional grocery produce has pesticide residues on the surface and has high probability of being waxed. The waxing is used to increase appeal on the store shelves and to give it a longer shelf life.

    We’ve just started discovering Dr Bronner’s 18-in-1 Magic Castille Soap in our household. The great thing about it are its multiple uses and one of it is a very practical fruit and vegetable rinse. I like the fact that what’s used in the bathroom for example, is clean and safe enough (a mix of organic coconut, jojoba, olive oil) to be used for cleaning our food in the kitchen. It simplifies the things we need to buy and eliminates the need to purchase a separate and oft expensive “veggie wash”.

    Put 2-3 drops of the soap into a bowl of water, dunk your produce and scrub with hands to get off any dirt. Rinse in cold water.

    Citrus Orange Castille Soap courtesy of Nature’s Glory – The Name You Trust For Health. Opinions expressed are my own.

    Avocado Cream & Pomegranate Salad

    Avocado Cream and Pomegranate Salad in christmas colours

    Christmas is reining the year in to a holly jolly close and thought I’d try something random and Christmassy-that’s void of too much effort …lest it add to our already frenetic and mind-boggling tasks of procuring presents for the X’mas season!

    The obvious fuss free choice was salads. We love our greens and the great thing about salads is you can throw in pretty much what you have dangling in the fridge for a nutritious munch. For this, we had some ripened avocados and pomegranates, donning the official colours of X’mas, which were just begging to be whipped up. Further to that, the kind folks at Nature’s Glory sent us a bottle of Dr Bronner’s Fresh Pressed Virgin Coconut oil to experiment with, which couldn’t make a better X’mas gift for this budget mama.

    Certified organic to USDA National Organic Program standards, Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade & Organic Whole Kernel Virgin Coconut Oil IS health food. Cold-pressed from fresh, carefully dried coconuts, and can be used as an alternative to butter and other oils for stir-frying, making sauces, and baking. Increasingly, doctors and nutritionists are now recognizing coconut oil as an oil that may offer many health benefits ranging from improving good cholesterol, digestion, brain health and improving thyroid function. Read more here: http://www.natures-glory.com/sub_toiletries_details.asp?ProductSID=7081&CatSID=114

    This dressing is super simple to make, gluten free and dairy free. It is also really versatile: use it over a salad, in slaw, as a sauce for pasta or grains, as a dip for crackers, and so on. It would even be great as a sauce on tacos or a spread on sandwiches. A little kick of cumin to raise the heat slightly and a nice tartness with the lime and apple cider vinegar. Of course, the VCO binded it well together with a nice consistency and mildly sweet fragrance.

    Creamy Avocado Dressing – Gluten-free + Dairy-free

    1 large (or 2 small) ripe avocado
    1/4 cup Dr Bronner’s Fresh Pressed Virgin Coconut oil
    1 handful fresh cilantro
    1tsp cumin powder
    2-3 cloves garlic
    1 tsp lime juice
    2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    1/4 cup water (you may want more if you want it thinner)
    Blend together in blender till smooth and spoon over salad!

    Salad: lettuce, cucumber, cherry toms💖

    ******

    Good news for those who like the benefits of coconut oil or who are racking their brains for a meaningful family gift:

    **Nature’s Glory is offering a clearance promotion which offers 1 large bottle of whole kernel Dr. Bronner’s Coconut Oil at $39.80 + a small bottle worth $21.90 free!**

    For reading on the many benefits of coconut oil:http://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil/

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