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School Dental Centre 21 September, 2016

Posted by dear1dear2 in Baby, Dear2, Sports & Health.
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When Baby1 was in N1, we were very concerned that the childcare centre that she attended did not seem too keen to teach the 3 year olds on oral care. “If childcare will start to teach the children self independence, like eating on their own, keeping their own bags etc, shouldn’t teeth brushing be taught early?  Plus the kids have their meals and milk in the centre.  Plus shouldn’t good oral practice starts from small!?”  We tried to persuade the centre to start inculcating teeth brushing after meals, but the centre only acceded to train the kids to rinse their mouths, and only after lunch before bath. Duh.

Dear1 and I truly believed that good oral care should start young, so we made sure that Baby1 brushes her teeth every morning since then.  Night brushing was challenging, as we counted on her dozing off and having a good night/ uninterrupted sleep while drinking her bedtime feed.  At both the grandparents’ places, we prepared her tooth brush and mug, and constantly reminded the grandparents to brush their teeth, but gramps being gramps, they seemed to encounter different types of difficulties in enforcing the brushing of teeth, haiz.

The last part of oral care have to be regular visits to the dentist.  I am one who is okay with dentist visits.  Of course it’s usually uncomfortable, and always bloody and painful, but I like it when the dentist always removes all the hard plague, something that I could never prevent from ‘growing’ despite my rigorous daily brushes.  Dear1 is more squeamish about dental visits.  Something about the “eeeeeeeh……… zzzzzzzhh…..” of the machinery sounds that Dear1 couldn’t stand, (or simply a childhood fear which is surprisingly very common among many adults?  keke).

Dear1 suggested that we bring the kids along when we go for our (supposedly) yearly dental check-up.  I said “Are you sure?” and “Am I really up to it?”  One: What if Dear1 freak out during his visit?  Two: What if I freaked out during MY visit.  Luckily at this point, I chanced upon a mummy’s blog about the School Dental Centre.  This mummy’s eldest child is about the same age as Baby1, so I was very curious to see how other mummies tackle this issue (which we have to start SOON!).

The School Dental Centre is located in HPB Building in SGH.  It seems to be providing dental services to school-going children, but pre-schoolers can visit them too.  We made an appointment for Baby1, which the earliest Saturday slot was a couple of months later.  Since this is just our first introduction to dentists for her, we were in no hurry.  In fact, a few weeks leading up to the BIG DAY, we borrowed a couple of books relating to dental visits from the library.  Through the picture books, we preempted Baby1 of what’s to happen during the visit.

On the actual day, true enough, Baby1 was scared to the max.  The Dentist was all nice and friendly.  There were many other kids around but that didn’t make Baby1 any braver.  Nor the many colorful cartoon stickers on the walls or equipment liven the atmosphere any more.  Baby1 wouldn’t sit on the chair no matter how we coaxed (or threatened, when all patience and encouragement failed).  She finally relented when the Dentist allowed her to sit on Papa while Papa sits on the chair, phew.

The Dentist did a very swift check (lest Baby1 decides to back down).  Luckily her teeth was in very good condition, which we all kept praising her (and fueling her pride) afterwards and continually even till now, keke. The Dentist also showed her the proper techniques for brushing teeth (seems like the protocol).  Before we left, the Dentist whipped out a box of stickers for Baby1 to choose.  That was the WOW.  For braving the ordeal, all the kids get to bring home a sticker!  How encouraging!  With the permission of the Dentist, Baby1 took 2 stickers, one for herself and one for Baby2 who had been silently watching the whole process with us.  Dentist said Baby2 should come too (though she was only 2 yo then).  We made two appointments for both girls approximately one year later.

Since then, we have been to the School Dental Centre for three times for the kids’ yearly checks.  Next year, Baby1 can no longer come here, as she’ll be in Primary School which the school will take over the yearly dental check ups. For Baby2, she’s still very much looking forward to the next year’s visit, because she’ll get a sticker after the visit!  Keke!

We highly recommend the School Dental Centre for kids.  Baby1’s going to be 7 yo next year, and she’s still having her entire set of her baby teeth, plus 3 molars sprouting at the back.  All kudos to the nice dental experiences (frankly, I think the reason why many adults still have phobia of dentist, must surely be due to bad childhood experiences, hush hush), she’s proud of her pearlies and always takes care to brush them well.  And it’s only $9 per visit (for Singaporeans), so do book an appointment for your kid soon!

– Dear2

Japan 2016 – Part 4 Kidzania and Disneyland 17 August, 2016

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Travel & Discovery.
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We arranged the most fun kids activities for the last league of the trip, in case the kids can’t have enough and want to have more for the remaining part of our trip, disrupting our plans.  So last league it shall be.

We’ve been to 2 Kidzania thus far, and every time it was fun!  But today we’d only had a very small window, being a long travelling day out from Kinosaki Onsen. Although we set off in the morning, by the time we reached LaLaport Toyosu, with our luggage in tow, it was 4pm.  We bought the two-hour tickets, with an additional one hour thrown in for us (gee..), and left all our luggage at the Kidzania luggage hold (nice! as we couldn’t find any luggage deposit at the mall or the train station).

A very familiar Kidzania City, this time in Tokyo. We saw quite a lot of school kids here.

A very familiar Kidzania City, this time in Tokyo. We saw quite a lot of school kids here.

The activity stations in Japan’s Kidzania are slightly different from the ones in KL or Bangkok.  In Japan, each activity spans about 30mins, and younger children can participate in most of the activities.  Longer time means that the kids get to enjoy the role longer and have more time to understand the profession.  At 3.5 years old, Baby2 had a wide selection of professions to choose from, which means that Dear1 and I did not have to split up to take care of Baby1 and Baby2 separately like the last times.  Also means that the two sisters get to participate and have shared experiences together too.  Nice!

For the 3 hours, the girls role played four professions – ANA Flight Attendants, Takyubin delivery man, nursery taking care of newborns, and as Department Store Sales Assistant.  At the end of the day, they went to the bank to cash out the initial 50 Kidzos.  The bank even gave them each a wallet to keep the monies.

Waiting outside the TA-Q-BIN store. Baby1 and Baby2 were the only 2 "workers" and so they received the full attention from the staff who was also trying his best to speak English to the children.

Waiting outside the TA-Q-BIN store. Baby1 and Baby2 were the only 2 “workers” and so they received the full attention from the staff who was also trying his best to speak English to the children.

The children got to take a ride in the TA-Q-BIN delivery van.

The children got to take a ride in the TA-Q-BIN delivery van.

The age limit typically starts at 3 years old which makes Tokyo Kidzania much more child friendly than the other we've been to. Also, the longer duration for each activity meant more time for the children to be immersed in their job.

The age limit typically starts at 3 years old which makes Tokyo Kidzania much more child friendly than the other we’ve been to. Also, the longer duration for each activity meant more time for the children to be immersed in their job.

By the end of the day, both kids were tired and hungry, and we towed the luggage in search of the Mystays Maihama hotel which will be our one night stay before we head to Disneyland tomorrow.

We were up early next morning, and dropped the luggage at the Disney Welcome Centre before entering Disneysea which opened at 8.30am.  It was a bit of a walk from our hotel to Disneysea, but all that to save money as one night stay in Disney Hotel costs ~$650 and we really only needed the room for sleeping at night. :p

Doing early check in at the Welcome Centre. Our luggage will be forwarded to our rooms but we still had to carry our valuables. Poor Dear1 carried around his laptop for the whole day.

Doing early check in at the Welcome Centre. Our luggage will be forwarded to our rooms but we still had to carry our valuables. Poor Dear1 carried around his laptop for the whole day.

Dear1 and I had been to Japan Disneyland during our 2008 honeymoon, and had brought Baby1 to Hong Kong Disyneyland in 2011.  Since Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, we scheduled today to be Disneysea first, and saved the most most most fun part for tomorrow!  Boy, it was a good plan indeed.

Disneysea looked cooler and more adult-like as compared to Disneyland.  Everywhere it’s waters so there’s a lot of walking to get from one land to the other.  As a newer park compared to Disneyland (this year, Disneysea is celebrating its 15th anniversary), the robots here are more advanced compared to those in Disneyland.  Dear1 and I were quite awed by the technological advances, keke.

Dancers parading at the morning show.

Dancers parading at the morning show.

For the kids however, the technology did not seemed too impressive.  Perhaps it was the theme that inclined towards older kids as well. For instance, we made sure to rush for the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as our first stop for the very popular Fast Pass. Alas, it was a long round and round and round down until we reached the dark dark Underworld, and being dark and scary, the kids’ very first impression of Disneysea was not so impressed.

20000 leagues under the sea was the first ride that we went to. It was a bit too dark and scary for the children.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was the first ride that we went to. It was a bit too dark and scary for the children.

Dressing up with many Disney character hats at the shop. Hello, Chip and Dale!

Dressing up with many Disney character hats at the shop. Hello, Chip and Dale!

There weren’t many colorful or fun rides suitable for kids too.  The Flying Carpet Ride was perhaps the most colorful ride in the whole of Disneysea, LOL.  We also enjoyed the fuzzy logic ride of the Aquatopia.

The children enjoyed the Flying Carpet so much that we went twice.

The children enjoyed the Flying Carpet so much that we went twice.

Aquatopia was fun with its random movements.

Aquatopia was fun with its random movements.

We had Chandu's Tail for a snack when the children got hungry. Keke.

We had Chandu’s Tail for a snack when the children got hungry. Keke.

For dinner, Dear1 specially made a reservation at Mickey Cafe where we’ll get to dine with Chef Mickey, so by 6pm, we took shuttle bus over to Disney Ambassdor Hotel.  The dinner was considered over-priced as the buffet spread was neither sumptuous nor delicious – it was just a very so-so buffet.  And Chef Donald, Daisy and Minnie only came by our table to take pictures a total of 3 times.  Overall, I’ll give this a miss the next time if we come to Disneysea again.

We reserved Chef Mickey for dinner.

We reserved Chef Mickey for dinner.

Minnie gave us a surprise by popping up from behind our sofa seats.

Minnie gave us a surprise by popping up from behind our sofa seats.

Chef Donald came to say hello too. We had interactions and photos with Donald, Daisy, and Minnie throughout our dinner.

Chef Donald came to say hello too. We had interactions and photos with Donald, Daisy, and Minnie throughout our dinner.

We timed the dinner seating to be leisurely ahead of the fireworks, so that we could return to Disneysea for the much-anticipated fireworks.  By this time, both kids were tired out, and both of them fell asleep along the way.  Dear1 and I considered to check in to the Hotel now, but Disney’s fireworks is a must-see! So we painstakingly carried both sleeping babies back to the park, only to hear the announcement that fireworks display has been cancelled due to bad weather, boo hoo!  It was probably due to the strong winds which we had been feeling the whole of today, sobz!

Heading back to Disneysea to catch the evening show.

Heading back to Disneysea to catch the evening show.

Goodbye Disneysea. We had great fun today.

Goodbye Disneysea. We had great fun today.

We took the monorail over to the Disney Hotel to do check in, which was just a stone’s throw away from Disneysea, keke. This morning we had dropped off the luggage at the Welcome Centre, so we needed to do the proper check in now.  The kids stay fixed at the mini tv at the hotel lobby while papa did the check in and waited to collect the items which we had purchased from the stores earlier this afternoon.

The Disneyland Hotel was spectacular. It really felt like we were returning to our castle after a long and fun-filled day.

The Disneyland Hotel was spectacular. It really felt like we were returning to our castle after a long and fun-filled day.

We booked the Twinkle Bell Room, and boy was it cute!  The room’s furnishings were simply cute and I’ll highly recommend Disney Hotel to families wanting a memorable hotel stay!

Our Tinkle Bell Room!

Our Tinkle Bell Room! There is one more cozy bed on the right, outside the picture, where Baby1 slept for 2 nights.

Look at the giant pencil used as the leg of the bedframe.

Look at the giant pencil used as the leg of the bedframe.

Next morning, we were ready at the gates of Disneyland by 9am.  As usual, it was crowded to the max, keke!  Today, we had a lot more fun at the colorful and lively park.  We couldn’t get enough of the  Monster Inc Ride, Go Kart Ride, Spinning Teacups, Carousal, Small Small World, various parades and shows, and we even had a go on the Roller Coaster.  Yes, roller coaster!  We kinda tricked Baby2 into thinking that only brave children gets to go on this, so when she passed the minimum height requirement and got a wrist band for it, it boasted her confidence so much that she can proudly recount afterwards how she cried but was only whimpering, when she was really scared throughout the ride, clutching mummy’s arm tightly, haha.

Waking up the next morning and being greeted by the wonderfully sculpted garden outside our window.

Waking up the next morning and being greeted by the wonderfully sculpted garden outside our window.

Getting ready to enter Disneyland. Hotel guests have early entry, but there were so many fellow hotel guests.

Getting ready to enter Disneyland. Hotel guests have early entry, but there were so many fellow hotel guests.

The iconic Cinderella's Castle.

The iconic Cinderella’s Castle.

We had the chance to see 3 parades in 1 day. This was the morning Easter Parade.

We had the chance to see 3 parades in 1 day. This was the morning Easter Parade.

Spotting Tinkle Bell during the regular day parade.

Spotting Tinkle Bell during the regular day parade.

Like yesterday, today Dear1 made early dinner reservations at the Golden Horseshoe.  This was so much more worth it!  The Show was super entertaining, the dancers were superb, the meal was more high class, and we got to bring home a Mickey handkerchief as part of the magic show.  After dinner, the fireworks was again cancelled today though the weather was much warmer today, sigh… We watched the dazzling display of lights at the Night Parade, and bid goodbye to Disneyland (and Japan). We went back to our Tinker Bell Room for one last night before setting off to the airport early next day.

We reserved a dinner show at the Diamond Horseshoe.

We reserved a dinner show at the Diamond Horseshoe.

Mickey shaped food for the children.

Mickey shaped food for the children.

The show was very entertaining, and we had pretty good seats, second row from the stage.

The show was very entertaining, and we had pretty good seats, second row from the stage.

A handkerchief as souvenir from the dinner show.

A handkerchief as souvenir from the dinner show.

This is the roller coaster that we all took together. Brave Baby1 and Baby2!

This is the roller coaster that we all took together. Brave Baby1 and Baby2!

The third and last parade of the day, the Electric Parade. And farewell to Disneyland and Japan.

The third and last parade of the day, the Electric Parade. And farewell to Disneyland and Japan.

So, that was our 13-day Japan trip. Dear1 and I gave ourselves a pat for planning such a fun trip for the family.  We got to have different experiences in this trip, got to eat many yummy authentic Japanese food, and most importantly, both Baby1 and Baby2, and ourselves of course, have such fond memories of this trip.

Love you, Dear1!

– Dear2

Japan 2016 – Part 3 Kinosaki Onsen 16 August, 2016

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Travel & Discovery.
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Taking the early morning ~3hr train from Shin-Osaka to Kinosaki Onsen.

Taking the early morning ~3hr train from Shin-Osaka to Kinosaki Onsen.

Kinosaki Onsen is a small area with many onsens, and the locals are known to hop from one onsen to the other after their dinners.  Hmm…. I find this inconceivable.  Since Dear1 was so keen on this, we’ll just have to go have a look. And luckily we did!  All of us had so much fun and nice memories here!

Lots of ekiben to choose from for breakfast at Shin-Osaka station.

Lots of ekiben to choose from for breakfast at Shin-Osaka station.

We had a hearty breakfast on the train before the children took their morning nap.

We had a hearty breakfast on the train before the children took their morning nap.

We had ekiben in the Shinkansen (which the kids learnt what a bullet train is now, keke) and changed a couple of trains before finally reaching our ryokan, Morizuya.  As the room was not ready yet, Baby2 had her nap at the nearby shelter where Baby1 played at the playground.

We arrived at Kinosaki Onsen. Wah... It really is a peaceful and relaxing town.

We arrived at Kinosaki Onsen. Wah… It really is a peaceful and relaxing town.

Baby1 went to play at the local playground while Baby2 took a nap.

Baby1 went to play at the local playground while Baby2 took a nap.

At 3pm exactly, we checked and were awed by the large selection of colorful yukata, waist bands, hair accessories, bath bags and slippers provided by our ryokan.  Not to mention the unfamiliar instructions of the dos-and-don’ts when you visit any of the 7 complimentary onsens.  Bravely, we set off prettily for the first onsen, clog-ging cautiously down the street. Wow, by then, it was about 4pm and you really start to see men and women and kids dressed in yukata coming out and clog-ging down to the various onsens.  What an interesting sight!

Our room on the second floor of Morizuya, overlooking the main street.

Our room on the second floor of Morizuya, overlooking the main street.

We got to choose from the wide variety of colourful yukatas. There is only 1 standard design for males.

We got to choose from the wide variety of colourful yukatas for the girls. There is only 1 standard design for males.

Hmm… perhaps let me share some of the (embarrassing) lessons I’ve learnt from the total 5 onsens we’ve visited here.

  1. First and foremost, don’t be embarrassed!  Japanese onsens are stripped fully naked.  But your body and mine are just outward physicals, you have what I have, so there’s nothing fascinating about some one else’s bodies.  That was what I frantically briefed Baby1 and Baby2 just before we stripped down, LOL.  In case they start to stare or worse, comment at anybody, opps!
  2. Of course, the male and female baths are separate, so our plan was for me to bring the girls along to the female bath, and Papa goes (enjoy) himself at the male’s.  So I had to (1) enjoy the soak, and (2) bath three people afterwards.  Sounds busy ya, haha.
  3. I was really trying to enjoy the hot soak, but with a scared Baby2 not daring to enter the hot pool, and a cautious Baby1 whom I had to continuously encourage to enter, albeit inch by inch, I had probably a maximum of 10 mins soak at each bath before we had to go.  But at the end of the 5 onsens, Baby2 can proudly say that, hey, she had entered ONE pool, and Baby1 excited recounted her various “swimming” experiences.  :)
  4. Inside the pool, no hair accessories and no towels please.  Initially I had thought the ladies were looking at us constantly because I was the only mummy handling two very cute little girls.  But luckily one brave auntie came up and reminded that no towels in the pool that I realised to my deep embarrassment what the stares were about!
  5. I said luckily because that incident happened at the first Onsen.  Subsequently, after shedding my embarrassment, I was better able to enjoy the experience. Another auntie kindly told us that the outer pool was cooler, so it’ll be easier for the little girls.  Thanks for the tip!  Otherwise I would never have thought of bringing the kids outdoors into the freezing wind.
  6. However in one of the bath, the water was so hot that everyone’s skin were scorched red.  Again, luckily I did not insist that Baby1 enter the pool.  I barely could enter only up to knee height!
  7. The bathing process was part of the onsen experience too.  After the soak, people will have their full bath here.  And so we followed suit.  We each got a small stool, like the locals do, and washed and bathed seated down.  Interesting!
  8. After bath, it was suiting up again.  Yukatas are a large piece of clothe secured only by the strings and waist band.  And we had to trot back to the ryokan in this, so better secure tightly!  Times three of that, please, for myself, Baby1 and Baby2.
  9. By the time we came out from the bath, Dear1 will be relaxing at the resting area waiting for us.  Ah, what a relaxing bath.
  10. And we repeated this 4 times over 2 days.  Before and after dinner, on our 2 nights at Kinosaki Onsen.  And 1 last time at our ryokan before breakfast on the last day. :p

Our Day 1 dinner was a wonderful kaiseki spread.  The food just kept coming in, and we were worried that we’ll be too full to go bath after dinner.

The beginning of our kaiseki. We didn't take much photos throughout the dinner. Just keep eating and enjoying the sumptuous meal.

The beginning of our kaiseki. We didn’t take much photos throughout the dinner. Just keep eating and enjoying the sumptuous meal.

After dinner, we strolled along the street in the cool night breeze.  And after we tucked the kids to bed, Dear1 and I had some cold beer on our balcony which overlooks the street,  watching people clog down the streets to their onsens.  Nice~

After dinner, we went to our second bath at Ichinoyu.

After dinner, we went to our second bath at Ichinoyu.

The next day, we took the Kyoto Tango Railway to Amanohashidate which is one of Japan’s top three most scenic sights.  We had wanted to rent the bicycles, but they didn’t come with any suitable for kids, so we cross the (harbour) by ferry.  Took the (tram) up the hill (chair lift are not suitable for our young kids), and bent over to see the “path leading to heaven”.  It was an amazing sight!

We took the special TENKU-NO-SHIRO TAKEDA-JOSEKI train from Kinosaki on our way to Amanohashidate.

We took the special TENKU-NO-SHIRO TAKEDA-JOSEKI train from Kinosaki on our way to Amanohashidate.

The sandbar connecting the 2 land masses is one of the top three scenic spots in Japan. This is the view from Kasamatsu Park.

The sandbar connecting the 2 land masses is one of the top three scenic spots in Japan. This is the view from Kasamatsu Park.

We wanted to cycle across the sandbar but couldn't find suitable bicycles for the children. So we just went for a short walk along the sandbar instead. Those are pine trees.

We wanted to cycle across the sandbar but couldn’t find suitable bicycles for the children. So we just went for a short walk along the sandbar instead. Those are pine trees.

Back at Kinosaki, we went for our third at Kounoyu before dinner.

Back at Kinosaki, we went for our third at Kounoyu before dinner.

In the evening, it was bath, dinner, bath and beer again, keke!

On our second night, we had winter crab soup for dinner. The sashimi was super fresh and delicious too. Yumz.

On our second night, we had winter crab soup for dinner. The sashimi was super fresh and delicious too. Yumz.

Dinner for the kids too.

Dinner for the kids too.

The next morning, we woke up slightly earlier to have a bath at the onsen inside the ryokan, before checking out to embark on the last league of the trip – fun activities for the kids!  Stay tuned!

– Dear2

Japan 2016 – Part 2 Osaka 15 August, 2016

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Travel & Discovery.
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Umihotaru is like a building in the sea, along the expressway that links Kisarazu to Kanagawa. We stopped at Umihotaru for lunch.

Umihotaru is like a building in the sea, along the expressway that links Kisarazu to Kanagawa. We stopped at Umihotaru for lunch.

After we left Mother Farm, we took a bus to Umihotaru where we stopped for a quick lunch before checking in to Shin Yokohama Kokusai Hotel and had dinner at the nearby Ramen Museum.  In this trip, we would experience 5 different kinds of accommodations in 6 ‘hotels’ – Farm stay, hotel, home-stay, ryokan and theme park hotel.  Each style is quite different from the other, and I think we all had fun with the various experiences!

The Ramen Museum is essentially a rustic ramen foodcourt.

The Ramen Museum is essentially a rustic ramen foodcourt.

Yummy ramen for dinner.

Yummy ramen for dinner.

The next day, we took started our 7 Day Japan Railpass and took the Shinkansen from Shin-Yokohama to Shin-Osaka. Shin-Osaka was our base for 4 nights. Being a home-stay, this is the only chance for us to do major laundry washing and drying. We had tactically planned this for the middle part of the trip so that we only have to pack half the amount of clothes for the 2 weeks trip. Brilliant!

We happen to catch a view of Mt Fuji during our Shinkansen ride from Shin-Yokohama to Shin-Osaka.

We happen to catch a view of Mt Fuji during our Shinkansen ride from Shin-Yokohama to Shin-Osaka.

Day 1 of our daily trips was to Dotonburi.  This was a super touristy place – lots of shops and lots of (Chinese) tourists.  Being not so into shopping, we spent the time eating instead.  Gyoza, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, Pablo cheese tarts, macha ice-cream, and finally super yummy udon, wow, all the delicious authentic Japanese foods, we like~

Visiting the iconic Dotonburi for shopping and dinner.

Visiting the iconic Dotonburi for shopping and dinner.

We saw lots of macha flavoured food along the shopping streets. It was yummy.

We saw lots of macha flavoured food along the shopping streets. It was yummy.

A simple kitsune soba dinner at Kawafuku was delicious.

A simple kitsune udon dinner at Kawafuku was delicious.

On Day 2, we traveled out (of course by Japan rail pass) to visit the Golden Shrine, Bamboo Forest, had Tofu spread at Ine, and visited and the Red Tori Gates.  As there wasn’t much travelling in between the places of interest on this day, Baby2 has her afternoon nap at the Tori Gates , while Baby1 went around taking photos on her camera with Papa.  Good one-on-one bonding time between father and daughter.  :)

There is too many people at Kinkakuji to have a good time there.

There was too many people at Kinkakuji to have a good time there.

Yudofu is a cuisine at Kyoto. I thought it was decent. Dear2 thought it was "exotic".

Yudofu is a cuisine at Kyoto. Dear1 thought it was decent. Dear2 thought it was “exotic”.

Visiting the bamboo forest after lunch.

Visiting the bamboo forest after lunch.

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Photo taken by Baby1 at Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Day 3’s morning plan was a bit messy and hectic.  The initial plan was to go to the Mosaic Ferris Wheel near Kobe Harborland, then rush down to Kobe Sannomiya for some much-raved Kobe beef.  At the Mosaic Ferris Wheel, we saw a long queue of kids entering the Anpanman museum, but finally decided just to visit the shops in search of Classmate J’s birthday present.  By the time we reach Sannomiya, the designated restuarant was full (we didn’t make a prior reservation, sobz) and we settled at an over-priced and very average restaurant.  For the second half of the day, we conquered the 6-storey Himeji Castle.

On our way to the Mosaic Ferris Wheel. Anpanman Museum is on the right.

On our way to the Mosaic Ferris Wheel. Anpanman Museum is on the right.

Wow. Who knew Anpanman Museum could be so much fun. We bought an Anpanman and a Shokupanman.

Wow. Who knew Anpanman Museum could be so much fun. We bought an Anpanman and a Shokupanman as snack.

We visited Himeji Castle after lunch. Children took a nap on the 40 min train from Kobe to Himeji.

We visited Himeji Castle after lunch. Children took a nap on the 40 min train from Kobe to Himeji.

We climbed all the way to the top. Well done children!

We climbed all the way to the top. Well done children!

For Day 4, we took the rail to Nara.  Nara is an area with many many many shrines.  From our honeymoon experience, Dear1 and I concluded that all the shrines are more or less the same (keke), so we decided to just skip the shrines here and head straight to the fun part – deer feeding at Nara Park.  Before we head over, we made sure that we are in queue for the awesome Unagi spread at Edogawa, the day before’s disappointment of not eating mouth-salivating Kobe beef still brews sorely for us.  After a satisfying lunch, it was finally feeding, where the kids had much fun being chased by the hungry deer. Dear1 even got licked by one persistent deer, eeks!!

Yummy unagi rice at Edogawa. Certainly one of the best meals of the trip.

Yummy unagi rice at Edogawa. Certainly one of the best meals of the trip.

Bought the famous mochi at Nakatanidou. Also saw the mochi pounding performance live.

Bought the famous mochi at Nakatanidou. Also saw the mochi pounding performance live.

Feeding the deers at Nara Park. The deers recognized the biscuits right away and chased after us. They also knew when we were out of biscuits.

Feeding the deers at Nara Park. The deers recognized the biscuits right away and chased after us. They also knew when we were out of biscuits.

For the afternoon, we went to Yodobashi-Umeda and Hankyu shopping mall at Umeda.  There were shops and shoppers everywhere, but we had long decided that lugging 2 kids along is never an enjoyable experience for us 4.  However we have to join the Japanese crowd at (depachika) for dinner purchasing!  You see all these people peering at the exquisite foods and wonder that they can’t all be tourists like us too!?? We joined the long queues and bought a wonderful spread of the local delicacies, some for dinner, and some for souvenirs to bring home.  Coincidentally, today Dear1 realised that there’s a supermarket nearby our accommodation.  What the!?  We had been searching high and low for days for one, and only discovered this on our last city day, LOL.  After dinner, we strolled over and stocked up with more local tidbits to bring home as souvenirs, just nice as we had to pack the luggage today too.  This concludes the city-stay part, which means no more major shopping from this point on.

We bought Bake Cheesetarts and other yummy and exquisite snacks at the basement supermarket at Umeda.

We bought Bake Cheese Tarts and other yummy and exquisite snacks at the depachika at Umeda. Also bought takeaway dinner to eat back at our apartment.

Visited the supermarket nearby our apartment after dinner. Everything was so much cheaper. If only we had discovered this gem earlier.

Visited the supermarket nearby our apartment after dinner. Everything, such as canned coffee and yogurt drinks, was so much cheaper. If only we had discovered this gem earlier.

Setting off to Kinosaki Onsen tomorrow~

– Dear2

Japan 2016 – Part 1 Mother Farm 9 August, 2016

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Travel & Discovery.
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We went on a 13 day trip to Japan during May.  By far, the longest trip for our family of 4, without helpers.  The initial plan was to go on a month-long trip during end of the year, but we couldn’t decide if it’s gonna be Europe or US (since both seem to be equally dangerous constantly), plus Baby1’s Primary School uncertain plans, hence we brought forward all the plans to pre-June so that we have the second half of the year to settle all the Primary School stuff.  We settled on Japan also because to use up the Yen that we had leftover from our honeymoon 7 years ago.  Due to the radiation fears, as far away from Fukushima as possible, heehee.

As usual, Dear1, the holiday-enthusiast took charge of the entire planning.  From accommodations, to flights, to where to go, and what to eat, and how to travel, Dear1 handled it all.  Along the way, Dear2 helped to fine tune certain details, like placing the most fun theme parks to the end of the trip, or making sure that Dear1 catered sufficient nap times (not like that last disastrous Perth Fremantle day-trip), and luggage-packing.  This style of complementing each other seemed just nice for us.  :)

To document down the wonderful memories of the Japan trip, it is a definite that we post it here.  So I’ll start off with our first 3 days in Japan – to Mother Farm we go!

Mother Farm, here we come!

Mother Farm, here we come!

Being seasoned parent-travelers, the flight itself is part of the fun for the kids. So no-no for night flights.  As Japan was a 7 hour flight away, we woke up in the wee morning hours for the 7am flight, and touched down at 2pm.  Took the rail to Kimitsu Station, ate a yummy dinner of tonkatsu at Katsuhana, and flagged a cab to Mother Farm. Alas, the taxi driver didn’t seemed to know that Mother Farm actually has a ‘hotel’.  He brought us to the main entrance of the Farm, but by then it was pitch dark and of course all the visitors had left and the Farm was closed. We circled around and there didn’t seemed to have another entrance anywhere.  He helped us call the Farm’s lobby.  The first call was unanswered and we started to panic; luckily the staff picked it up at the second attempt, and we safely checked into the ‘hotel’ via the same main entrance.  Inside, there were 7 houses, and ours seemed to be only one of two occupied.  *sweatz*

The path leading to our cottage for 2 nights.

The path leading to our cottage for 2 nights.

Next morning, we woke up to beautiful weather.  We joined the first Farm Tour where Baby1 got to feed sheep nibbling from her palm and we saw how sheepdogs chase sheep and how sheep huddle to each other.  We watched the Sheep Show, the Duck Show, the Piggy Race Show, chased after the gigantically slow turtle, and plucked 2 baskets of fresh tomatoes.  There was a strawberry-picking session too, but we completely missed the 1-hour window for it, urgh. Towards the late afternoon when all the activities have wound down, we sat back and enjoyed the cool Japan breeze on the slope overlooking the gorgeous fields and sky, and took lots of photos amidst the sea of purple flowers in spring-bloom.

The itinerary for the guided Mother Farm Tour.

The itinerary for the guided Mother Farm Tour.

This giant tractor drove us around the farm during the tour.

This giant tractor drove us around the farm during the tour.

The very entertaining sheep show.

The very entertaining sheep show.

Many local kids participated in the piggy race. Instead of encouraging the piggys along, many of the kids got chased by the cute piggys.

Many local kids participated in the piggy race. Instead of encouraging the piggys along, many of the kids got chased by the cute piggys.

The view from our lunch spot. We had some curry rice, mutton, and alcohol-free beer.

The view from our lunch spot. We had some curry rice, mutton, and alcohol-free beer.

Dear1 ordered the Manchu-BBQ spread for dinner. The restaurant offered to send this to our house as we really were the only diners there.  Luckily we did not take up the offer.  The BBQ was sizzling non-stop!  Our room would have smelled terrible after this, LOL.

As per our usual night time routine (even during holidays, yes), we were ready for bed by 8+pm. The kids were quietly playing when suddenly Dear1 and I felt the house trembling.  “What was that?” Both of us were very puzzled.   It took the both of us a full minute before we realised that we were experiencing an earthquake. OMG.  At the restaurant earlier, we were aware that we were the only family in that restaurant which can hold probably 200 tables.  And we had noticed that all the visitors had left the Farm when it closed at 5 just now.  So. we. are. alone. here!

Being both our firsts, Dear1 and I tried to rationalise our next steps.

Risk of house collapse – Only tall concrete buildings have a major risk.  Ours is a one-storey, looks-like-wood-cottage, so this seemed unlikely to fall on us.  The main door doesn’t seemed to pose a risk of blockage too, as again, only the roof is above our heads.

Gas leaks – Nope, not cooking anything now.  And there doesn’t seemed to be any neighbours around us.  Even if we have to run, we’ll just run outside, where there. basically. is. nothing. outside. except. dark.

Call the lobby – The lobby probably knows that we are the only people here, since we. are. the. only. people. here.  Foreigners some more, so I believe they’ll call if there’s anything.

Hide under table – Yes, we have a dining table, but one that seemed to hold more hazards than any falling objects.  We quickly cleared the kettle and glasses and shifted all the chairs away.

Torchlights, handphones, escape routes, kids, all in place, and we packed everyone to sleep, but fitfully the whole night, constantly waking up to see if the walls still tremble like earlier.  Dear1 had checked the earthquake alert websites – tremors measuring 3.1 were felt nearby so this was probably the same waves.

Next morning, we woke up to the sounds of pita-pata raindrops. By the time we finished our hearty breakfast at Makiba Cafe, the rain was still not abating.  Some visitors who came earlier, left, after seeing how it’s gonna be a rainy day today.  We were soooooo lucky!  From our previous farm trips, we learnt that you need to stay at least 2 nights in order to cover all the farm’s activities. But what happens if your only full day at the farm is a rainy one like today?  Basically, there’s nothing that you can do in a farm on a rainy day, boo-hoo. We felt really thankful.

Today, we’ll be travelling from Mother Farm to Shin-Yokohama (via Umihotaru) where we’ll stay for a night before embarking to Shin-Osaka tomorrow.  Shin-Osaka will be our base for the next 4 nights where we utilise our Japan railpass fully by making daily day-trips out from Shin-Osaka.  Stay tuned for the next post!

– Dear2

Our hectic weekends 31 July, 2016

Posted by dear1dear2 in Baby, Dear1, Learning Training.
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Lately, our weekends have been characterized by busy schedules. And it doesn’t look like it will change any time soon. In fact, it might become even more hectic.

On Saturdays, we would wake up at around 8am. Usually, it would be breakfast followed by piano practice for Baby1. Why? Because Baby1 attends piano lessons from 11-11.30am on Saturdays. Once we return home, it would be lunch time. Lunch is usually a 1-hour affair for us. After a short rest, the children would be off to their afternoon nap at around 1pm. We still enforce nap times for both children because we believe that sleep is very important for the children’s development. During this time, it would be our turn to catch a nap ourselves, or catch up on some K-dramas. Dear2 usually starts preparing for dinner too. The children usually wake up around 3.30-4pm. Dinner is served around 5-5.30pm. After dinner would be rest, then followed by bath time. By 7.30pm, everyone should be all clean and comfy. Lately, the children have been interested in my board games, especially Flash Point. So we would spend around 1-1.5 hours playing board games in the living room. By 9pm, the children would get ready for their bedtime stories and go to bed. The adults spend a bit of time with each other before going to bed.

On Sundays, we also wake up at 8am. This morning is usually a little unplanned so we have some flexibility to do learning, go grocery shopping, etc. But, Baby2 usually need a quick morning power nap because she has ballet lessons at 1pm. Anyway, 11.30am is lunch time, and we set off for Baby2’s ballet. By the time we get home, everyone is tired and off they go for their afternoon nap. Dear2 prepares dinner. By 4pm, the children are awake and we get ready for Baby1’s ballet class at 5.30pm! We will get home around 6.3opm for a late dinner. It is probably 8pm after bath and we have a little time for board games or some other simple leisure before it’s bed time stories and bed time again.

Every so often, when piano or ballet class was cancelled, it would be a godsend for us. For that weekend, we would be able to go for picnics, attend Uncle L’s second daughter’s birthday party, go on our own holiday, etc.

This is our typical weekend schedule. And, this is not taking into account special ballet exam preparatory weekly classes that occurs for about 6 months every year. And we also intend to sign the children up for more “essential” classes such as swimming. And Baby2 is likely to want to take up piano classes as well, to be the same as her elder sister.

With just 2 children and a total of 3 classes on weekends, I’m already feeling the crunch. I can’t start to imagine how parents with more kids and more classes on weekends would feel like.

But this is life, now. Our routine will surely change with each passing phase. Just have to see the positive side of things and make the most out of what we have. For now, we usually do our weekend groceries on Friday evenings. While one child is at ballet class, we would pop over to Jurong Point for a quick Llaollao fix. Yumz!

Onwards!

-Dear1

Things we throw during our trips 18 June, 2016

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Travel & Discovery.
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We travel roughly about twice a year, so we’ve accumulated a fair bit of traveling experiences. One of the ways that we’ve been optimizing our packing is by bringing overseas items that we don’t intend to bring back (i.e. to be thrown away overseas). There are several advantages to doing this:

  1. We will have more luggage space on the return leg. Good for packing and bringing back our shopping goods from overseas.
  2. We will have less dirty laundry to handle.
  3. We tidy up our house at he same time.
  4. It is liberating. :)

So here’s a list of things we’ve thrown overseas:

  • Shoes / Slippers / Sandals – Footwear takes up a large amount of space in the luggage. Usually, I would have my covered shoes, and maybe a pair of sandals for comfort at the hotel. Depending on the situation (i.e. conference, cruise formal dining), I may need a pair of formal shoes as well. I’ve thrown away an old pair of formal shoes in France before. Dear2 have thrown away multiple pairs of sandals and flip-flops over the year (the earliest I could recall was our Bintan trip).
  • Socks – For our most recent trip to Japan, we decided to get rid of our my old army socks. So I gathered all my green army socks (7 pairs in total) and pack them into our luggage. Then, at the end of each travel day, my socks would go straight into the hotel dustbin.
  • Toothbrush / toothpaste – Packing the toothbrush was always a last minute item, the one that we would pack only after the final brush on the morning of travel. This meant the toothbrush was always wet, and also sometimes forgotten. Instead, just pack the old toothbrush early and start using a new toothbrush as home. On the last day of the trip, throw that old toothbrush away. Same thing for toothpaste, pack the old tube, and start using the new tube at home, then throw away the old tube at the last hotel.
  • Towels – Towels are big and bulky and takes up a lot of luggage space. However, old towels becomes thin and worn and not so comfy anymore, perfect for bringing overseas. And don’t bring them back.
  • Lotion / Moisturizer / Shampoo – These items frequently have non-rectangular bottles which are difficult to pack efficiently in the luggage. So, we usually bring just enough for our trip and throw away all the bottles after our last bath. This frees up lots of luggage space for our overseas shopping goodies, which usually *do* come as rectangular boxes.
  • Disposable underwear / pull-up diapers – Packing dirty laundry back into the luggage is always a problem. This is because we separate the dirty laundry from the rest of the luggage by packing them into plastic bags first. This process of packing into plastic bags implies less efficient use of space within the luggage. Also, hygiene is an issue if the dirty laundry remains unwashed for longer trips. Instead, we use disposable underwear on our trips. They are lighter, smaller, and easier to pack, and they do away with the dirty laundry problem. Cotton disposable underwears are quite comfortable. For the same reasons, we let Baby2 wear pull-up diapers as her underwear even-though she is already diaper trained.
  • Bottle brush – Another thing that we take the opportunity to throw and replace during a trip.

With these throwaways, we usually have more space in our luggage for shopping. Besides, it feels great to throw out the old stuffs!

-Dear1

The Financial Perks of a Working Mum 1 May, 2016

Posted by dear1dear2 in Baby, Dear2, Dollars & Cents, Slice of Life.
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The clock is ticking away…. It’s gonna be May tomorrow, soon it’ll be June, then July, when parents of all Primary One going kids get stressed over the which Primary School to go to.  After that, what’s the arrangement like?  Urgh……

I am very grateful to Baby1 and Baby2’s current childcare centre. Kudos to the teachers there.  We deposit the kids around 7.30am every day, and ah gong picks them up at 6pm every day.  It’s 10 and a half hours in “school” everyday.  Compare to our 8.30 to 6 jobs, the kids spend more time in “school” then us adults in office everyday!

But when next year comes, and Baby1 goes to Primary School, who’s going to take care of her after school?  Urgh, I’ve been procrastinating on this question every since people start asking me “which Primary School” ever since a few years back.  And we still don’t have a plan yet.

The grandparents that we want help from, don’t want to help; and the grandparents who we don’t want help from, want to help.

Ideally, kids should be cared for by their own parents, so that we parents cannot complain that the kids watch too much tv, or eat too little dinner, or play too much, or didn’t do any homework, or get fed with sweets and snacks after school.

The drawback of such an arrangement: the money, of course!

Having been in the company for coming to 10 years, I have always been appreciative of a regular salary that paid employment provides.  As we consider being a full time SAHM, suddenly the medical reimbursements, medical leave, paid 21 days annual leave, additional annual leave if public holiday falls on a Saturday, paid 6 days child care leave, employer’s contribution to CPF, working mum tax relief, childcare subsidies for working mum, all these suddenly feels too lucrative to forsake. (Salute!  Salute to hubbies of full time SAHM, now I know how much more money you need to bring in for your family!)

Can we afford to become a SAHM?  Haiz, I don’t know, but it sounds tough…

The best situation is if I can work part time, and be home in time when Baby1 gets home after school.  This seems like a tough proposition, given that my company doesn’t seem very family-pro.  There has been much talk recently (actually, for many years le), on changing Singaporeans mindset on having kids, or having more kids, but ultimately, if our society is only selectively encouraging, we mummies can only suffer silently in this society.

There’s still 8 more months to go, we’ll take one step at a time…

– Dear2