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Yosemite August 2013

Last year August we made a trip to Yosemite with some other Singaporean families. It was a really fun trip as the children enjoyed each other’s company. And it too a good break for me as RE basically sticked herself to the rest of the kids and I “didn’t have to do much”. It was summer time when we went there, although there isn’t any waterfall and the creeks were dried out, it was still scenic nonetheless. The drive up to Yosemite was about 4 hours and speaking of which; a 4 hours drive is nothing compared to our drive up to L.A which was about 7 hours. (we will be doing another super long –  16 hours road trip in a couple  of months!)

Here are some pictures:

Since there were 4 families, we booked a cozy lodge and this is how it looked like.

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and after exploring our awesome abode, we drove out to the legendary yosemite national park.

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Wonders of mother earth.

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This one is fearless. It is soooo near us!

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Ee fann is going to “dislike” this picture. (He has since lost ALOT of weight) awww… my ZE looked so little then.

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We packed a couple of picnic baskets and here is ZE, clearly enjoying her tomato.

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If you had tried putting more than 5 children together to attempt a group picture, you will also agree that is is mission impossible.

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spot the animal!

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My happy RE. and yeap, definitely “daddy’s sweetheart”.

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We actually made a mental note to revisit Yosemite in winter for the wintry scene but alas we didn’t. We made other plans instead. It’s almost Spring now, maybe it’s still a good idea to revisit?

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Updates!

Hi there! Im back and recharged.

For the last 2 few months I took up online courses, one after another. I even did 2 classes concurrently and in the end it backfired. I over committed and got burned out. It took me a long while to get myself back on track again. I didn’t like how I have been ending my nights, feeling really sluggish. Yikes! So I did some exercises at home and felt much better. I have lots to update. Are you ready?

Okay, so I’ve learnt to do ONE thing at a time.

Will take about halloween here in the U.S.

Over here, they are BIG on halloween. Everywhere is beautifully decorated. I mean everywhere. Shopping malls, houses, basically every turn and every corner are highly decorated. It’s an awesome sight. Back at home, we didn’t do very much for our place except for some simple pumpkin decorations.

On the day of halloween, all the children living in our community are out and about, decked in their costumes going door to door for trick or treating. Rou Ern couldn’t wait for the magic hour (starts here at 5pm) and who can blame her? It’s the only day she gets to collect all her sweets and eat them. So before we left the house, we left a basket full of sugar treats for the other children for trick or treating. Zi Ern didn’t know what to expect and so she follows wherever Rou Ern goes and after some time, she gets it and helps herself to the buffet of treats each time she hears Rou ern calling out “trick or treat!” It’s really fun to just chaperone them around, watching in amusement.

My neighbour's deco

My neighbour’s deco

RE helping herself to the treats! Happy time!

RE helping herself to the treats! Happy time!

She took ALOT of sweets for her little sister too.

She took ALOT of sweets for her little sister too.

Checking out the weird looking pumpkin.

Checking out the weird looking pumpkin.

is that a dog? or a sheep?

is that a dog? or a sheep?

my little mermaid

my little mermaid

"What? a skeleton?! Who cares!"

“What? a skeleton?! Who cares!”

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Let's go! To the next coutyard!

Let’s go! To the next coutyard!

The following pictures were taken at another halloween event.

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Our family

Our family

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Rou Ern

Rou Ern

pony rides!

pony rides!

Sweets, sweets, more sweets and pony rides. Childhood should be like this shouldn’t it? Ha!

Okay! That’s it for now. Hope your halloween was just as splendid!

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Zi Ern at 15 months

Zi Ern is now 15 months, very cheeky now and getting more and more assertive. She is known to the people who got to know or acquainted with her as “a very happy baby” mostly because she is so smiley and she laughs at her own silliness too; which tickles me all the time. She is also surprisingly okay with most people that carries her. She doesn’t fuss much unless she is sleepy or hungry.

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She is talking so much. Mostly baby talk but she surely understands more than I think she does! I think being a second time mum, I would like to think that I am more “experienced” and I do make an effort to speak to her more. She understands simple requests like “please drink some water.” (she will then reach for her water bottle that’s on the table) “We are going now, go get your shoes.” (and she will walk to the shoe rack and fiddle with the shoes) “mummy is going to change your diaper now.” (and she ignores and walks away.HA!) Her favourite activities when we are out are looking for aeroplanes when she hears them and she points and goes “ba ba!”, birds “beh!”, dogs “ba!” and cats “ka!”

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As for her appetite… despite her cute chubby self, she does not eat much. She is still pretty much on breast milk more than solids. She skips breakfast and eats very little for lunch and takes her dinner and I’m okay with that. Despite her not eating much I still enjoy taking her out for meals with me as she is quite well behaved. Except for the times she starts throwing food on the floor, testing the law of gravity, and banging her utensils on the table. Otherwise she sits with us, play with the crayons provided by the restaurants (most of the restaurants here have these crayon supplies to keep the little ones occupied.) The only thing about taking her out is timing. I do avoid taking her out when it’s nearing her nap time as all mothers would know, it’s best to be avoided.

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When she is at home with me, we read books together. She favors books that has animal pictures. This one is also going to be an animal lover. Maybe curiosity got the better of her; she has no fear with animals much bigger than her like cows, goats, sheep. She tried to touch them at the zoo or at the farm when we visit. She chases after the geese with her cute charlie Chaplin walking style which is ultra cute but I got to hold her tight as she is going to charge right into the water together with the geese!

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The picture above shows her putting the handkerchief in her mouth and thereafter chuckling to herself. I find it so funny that I laugh along with her. She is at the stage where she loves to imitate what we do (No, i do not put handkerchief in my mouth!) for instance, she uses the kitchen towel to wipe the table and floor, pretends to read a book (babbling to herself while leafing through the pages), she too, insist on having a spoon or a fork during her meals. She will point at the utensils and ‘demand for it’ in her ultra cute baby talk till I pass it to her. She sings into the microphone and dance. Oh this girl LOVES to sing. She will sing together with me and she tries to follow my pitch. Its super adorable.

As for walking, she only really started walking recently! When she first started learning how to walk, with me holding both her hands up, she loves to walk on anything but proper paths. Like grass, sand, gravel road, water puddles, dried leaves – she loves stepping on them and hear them crackle. I let her and I take my time with her, reminding myself that THIS is life.

Till the next update!

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Back to school

Just a quick update on Rou Ern.

She started her 2.5 hours thrice weekly mandarin enrichment class yesterday and it seems to me that she is loving it. When I picked her up, she looked so happy and told me “mummy I had a great day today.” Teachers said she did fantastic in school, ate her snack and did everything by herself. When we reached home she proudly showed this to me:

happy cookie

happy cookie

A week prior to school term we attended an ice cream social organized by the school. It was to familiarize and get us acquainted with the respective teachers. Rou Ern didn’t care much about the school and the teachers as her main objective that day was to get her ice cream. Somehow it became “popsicle social” instead because of allergy issues but she Rou Ern wasn’t bothered. Something sweet and cold in the hot summer sounds like a plan to her.

popsicle time!

popsicle time!

Rou Ern will be attending another school come September! That will be really exciting. It’s an outdoor school which is every Tuesday and Thursday for 3 hours. Basically just drop her off at her “school” and they will take the school van and go for field trips! I must say we were really lucky to get a place for her as the communication via MANY emails started in April, with the waitlist and so on… finally we managed to get a space and it fits nicely into her school schedule. How lucky!

That’s it for now!

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Announcement

We are really excited to finally announce that we have a new baby! I am really excited as this mean so much to me and even more so for Rou Ern. I have been telling her about it and she can’t wait for that day! … Which is tomorrow!

Leona came up with the idea of a joint effort with the three of us (leona, alicia and me) to set up a whole new blog to document what the kiddos have been up to. Brilliant!

The idea behind it is really to connect the kiddos since we are currently in California and Rou Ern misses her good old pals dearly. She made lots of new friends here and are on very good terms with them BUT she still will miss her friends back in Singapore every now and then. So… This is going to be really exciting for us.

If you would like to share our excitement or just to get some activity ideas, do check out happyplaywonder

Happy National Day and have a wonderful long weekend!

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Make and take – Andy Warhol inspired art piece

A month has passed since the day I volunteered to lead the play dates group. I have been itching to do something and decided to gather all those who are keen to a “make and take” arts session!

Preparation work is tedious but no less fun! I lost sleep many nights thinking about it mainly because I cant decide on an appropriate theme for all the various age groups and was googling for more ideas. Lots of thought process went into organizing it from deciding on the actual activity, getting all the necessary items, preparing all the materials (lots of paper trimming), really thinking through the execution process, getting more materials, (at the very last minute) and contingency planning.

The fun began with playing some games with their hands, admiring them, investigating some uses with their hands, celebrating their useful hands with a handprint, talked about colours, giving a demonstration of high contrast versus low contrast etc.. There were a lot of participation from the children especially ern who was so eager to answer all my questions! It was really very encouraging witnessing the enthusiasm and focus of the children. The whole activity took about 2.5 hours and when we were done, the results were nothing short of awesome! The process and experience for me and the children were even more amazing. Each time after leaving the children with a simple set of instructions, I went around savoring every moment by taking pictures.

Along the way I met an 8 years old girl who were a little upset that she had “accidentally” used both her right a d left hand for the print. (All the rest used the same hand for the print) in fact, she was so upset that she didn’t want to carry on with it. I was glad I had the chance to assure her that art has no rules and in fact her “mistake” had turned her art piece unique like no one else’s and that in itself is art. She smiled, nodded her head and continued with it. It’s interesting how as a child grows older, they tend to seek perfection , the desire to produce what they had conceptualized and accept nothing else and that’s when they get frustrated and want to give up. It happens to adults all the time too right? But today, I saw the younger children, even though they knew they made a “mistake” they couldn’t care less! I could see it in their eyes that they loved that mistake. Maybe we can take a leaf from them.

This is where my inspiration came from:http://artolazzi.blogspot.com/2011/04/handy-andy.html

My initial plan was for the children to use paint for the different layers. I even ordered luminous acrylic and luminous tempera paint for special effect. After much deliberation I decided to scrap the idea as we needed it to be dry and complete the project in one sitting. So, here’s our version:

getting ready

getting ready

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Look amazing doesn’t it? : )

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Joanie’s Cafe

YELP.

I depend on yelp when it comes to stepping out of the house. (where to go)

This time it’s for breakfast. 7 minutes drive; we reached the cafe at 9am sharp and it was crowded! (like why?) So the first thought was the food MUST BE GOOD! And indeed it didnt disappoint us. We ordered egg benedict (for myself) and some parisian french toast (rou ern) and it was soooo good… am still thinking about it. But the portion is too much (as usual) and I keep forgetting that its American portion here. So we had to doggy bag the rest – which is a very common practice here.

There was an evening when we were out eating in a restaurant, the food was oh so good but we were sure that we had enough to call it a day. There were leftovers and the server suggested for us to take away the rest which we declined and she went “Oh why? was the food not to your liking?” “Oh you can microwave it the next day.” (we dont have a microwave….) “Oh the next time when you come again you may request for a half portion…”

As I have observed, Americans usually take their time with the food, wine and usually finish their food. They take it slow and easy. I want to… but not easy with kiddos around. These days Zi Ern can be really cheeky. Even when she is strapped onto her high chair, the next moment you will see her standing on it with a big grin on her face that says “I did it AGAIN!” So sometimes taking the girls out on my own is like having my very own acrobat show, with one hand feeding myself, another hand feeding zi ern and another hand (??) holding her when she stands up. With my mouth chomping on the food and “another mouth” reminding ern not to play with her food… ok it’s not the most glamorous scene here. Relax, take it easy with the food and chill? Ha! But it STILL IS enjoyable nonetheless, in a more exciting kinda way.

Some pictures taken this morning:

Joanie’s Cafe

405 California Ave, Palo ALto, CA 94306

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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s palo alto duck pond!

Ask any child and feeding animals like rabbits, horses, sheep, goats, cows, BIRDS etc will most likely excite them. With just less than 20 mins drive from where we stay, a chance to repurpose stale bread; it’s a must visit.

At first glance, Palo Alto duck pond doesn’t look very impressive, with its scruffy looking appearance and less than fragrant aura but look it through a child’s eye and you will see that it’s a quiet setting with its sparkling water, full of activities going on as the seagulls swoop in for a feed, the aggressive goose (only one) fending its food, the ducks moving expertly in the water searching for food.

Breathe easy I told myself as I take a breath of old fashioned “fresh air”. Taking it all in, we saw planes after planes coming in for a land. Palo Alto duck pond is right next to the palo Alto airport so we got really good view of the small planes. This place was initially build as a swimming pool fortunately however due to siltation issues it was eventually turned into a duck pond.

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It isn’t the migrating season yet so we didn’t get to see the migrating birds. That didn’t bother ern at all of course.

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Here’s a short video of ern feeding the birds:

The gulls are really fast. They flap their wings and eat the feed even before the food can touch the water. The poor ducks can only wait patiently. I came up with a few ideas with ern to feed the ducks. So I will throw out a piece of bread to lure the gulls away and when I’m doing that, ern will throw the bread at to the ducks! It worked really well and ern chuckled at the silly gulls. she also tried to pretend to throw out a piece of bread and then quickly released it to the ducks and that requires a lot of speedy movement so after a while she just fed them altogether.

A place we will visit again for sure.

The Baylands and the Duck Pond
2775 Embarcadro Road, Palo Alto, California 94301 | 650-329-2506

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Alpine Inn

That’s the venue where our first TGIF was held. It’s an off the beaten path local spot with a lot of character and history.

Among other things, it claims to be the birthplace of the Internet, as researchers from SRI apparently made the first transmission using internet protocol technology in the 1970s from one of the picnic tables outside. Cool huh?

It is a very casual food and biergarten spot, with lots of outdoor seating and with outdoor space for kids to run around.

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It was quite a hilly ride up the mountain to get to this place, the two-way road was a little narrow and so you can imagine how much focus ee fann needs to get us there safe and sound. However, the moment you step right through the restaurant into the open area, the relaxed atmosphere calms your nerves again.

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(It was a little too noisy for ern’s liking so we quickly made our way to the “picnic tables” in the open area)

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The following pictures were taken when ern was playing with friends, allowing them to checkout her new binoculars. After which she started collecting things like stones, feathers etc and then I gave her a discarded carton box for her to contain her stuff which drew a few more children to join her in her “discovery play”.

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There is something magical about sand and this went on for the rest of the evening. (She also has been ROLLING in the sand at our shared playground) A very kind old man came up to me and said “this, (pointing at ern) THIS is good. (Smiling) these days children are exposed to too much electronic devices, Xbox and what have you. But THIS is good for the soul.”

Though I totally agree with what he said….

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I thank god for technology – washing machine!!! Hahahaha!!

And here’s a pic of daddies with babies. He is one of ef’s study group mate. His baby is 7 months old. Cute!

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Have a good week everyone!

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Nicely settled

Just a quick update before calling it a day. Its been a loooong day..

We are all settled here, very happy to be here. There are ample space, lots of greeneries, no pressure (except for ee fann), no hurry. It feels refreshing and invigorating to be so close to nature.

We live in a small but cozy place, with a yard which birds love to visit (will tell you why in a separate post). Ern is STILL making new international friends each time she goes out into the courtyard and she is enjoying every bit of it.

Here in Stanford, we have parties AT LEAST once a week. We just hosted one at our place last night and tomorrow (friday) there will be another one organized by ee fann’s school. There will be parties every Friday as they really do mean it when they say its TGIF! So it’s party after party … Oh we can really get used to this! Lots of mingling around, lots of games to entertain the children, lots of fun and laughter.

And for me, I am totally enjoying my time here, doing stuff with the children, cooking their meals, taking it all in. We are still exploring, taking small little holidays during the weekend. (We dove up to L.A / San Diego) to visit Disneyland and San Diego zoo respectively).

Prolly the only thing … i miss (after family and friends) is the food back home .. Laksa with lots of bloody clams… Fried hokkien mee, char kway teow, kway chap.. The list is endless! Any kind soul to send me some freeze dried durian chips? ; p

And for zi ern, she is a happy baby, charming people she meets with her generous smile. Think it’s the culture here, people here are more outspoken and i receive a lot more compliments from strangers (even in the restroom) about zi ern. It’s always a very nice feeling knowing that the baby made someone happy.

Here’s some pics that was taken during the first few days of settling in:

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(San Diego zoo)

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(San Diego zoo)

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We went on a road trip to L.A abd San Diego before we settled in! So boxes were unpacked, furnitures were still in the packages waiting to be installed, things were everywhere, we grabbed the necessary items and off we went! We just had to make full use of the long break before ee fann’s school term starts.

Ok that’s it for now!!