Monday, September 1, 2014

Weekend Wanderings: Sensorium 360º and mucking at the mangroves

Our nature inquiry co-op decided to break from our usual outdoor trips and visited the Singapore Art Museum last week. We explored the Sensorium 360º exhibition, which showcases Southeast Asian and Asian works of contemporary art that focuses on how sensory experiences help us to understand the world and ourselves. 

There was so much to experience in the exhibition, and I think the children had a great time exploring. Most of them loved jumping around in the noon-nom exhibit, which featured soft sculptures covered in organza made to represent female breasts. Another favourite exhibit would be the Cage, which employed the use of green iodide lasers and fog machines. 

You can read about the exhibits in the guide. Sensorium 360º runs until the 22nd of October in the Singapore Art Museum. More details can be found here, and do note it is at the main building of the museum and NOT at the building on Queens Street.)

We had a really full weekend, and one of the highlights was the homeschool festival (more about that next time), as well as a visit to Pasir Ris Park. We visited the stretch of mangrove which I blogged about previously (directions and details here), and the boys had a good time just digging about and spotting all manner of wildlife. We saw fiddlers, we spotted mudskippers and various birds, and even unearthed the shell of a horseshoe crab. 

These times are the best. These are the times when the kids are up close to nature. They have space to run, to explore, to appreciate God's creation. Baby J was so busy looking around he refused to nap! 

 How was your weekend? I hope it was a blessed one.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Chalk: Dinosaurs

This week, we've been trying to get our stalled engines running again with regards to homeschool. The boys have recovered from the flu, and we've started reading and writing again. Junior J wasn't too keen on learning much, so I just asked if he wanted to draw dinosaurs on the blackboard, and of course he said yes. 

I love the way he draws them. They mainly resemble stick-figure versions of dinosaurs, but he manages to incorporate all the key distinguishing features of each species, from plates, spikes, horns to the number of claws they have. 

This dino-mania has taught me something: it really makes it much easier to teach when you let a child learn according to his interests. He flips non-fiction books on dinosaurs, sprouts all sorts of random facts (he knows what a World War is, because that was when the Spinosaurus fossils were destroyed in Berlin), and plays with his dinosaurs every day. He tries to teach his younger brother about them, and Lil J has also learnt the names of all their dinosaur toys. The baby is just content to attack and chew on Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus. 

Amongst all the dinosaurs books that we've read, I've found two to be particularly comprehensive (in terms of being reference books that is): Scholastic Dinosaurs A to Z, as well as Dougal Dixon's Amazing Dinosaurs (affiliate links attached). The former has all the dinosaurs sorted out in alphabetical order, which really helps when you need to read up about a certain dinosaur of interest. I find most books tend to present dinosaurs in random categories, which can get confusing. The latter is available in the library. Both are not available on most online bookstores, so we purchased second-hand copies from Amazon. 

With our engines running slowly now, I'm hoping we'll be able to go full-steam ahead next week. Have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wild Wednesdays: Hunting for fiddler crabs

I love Pasir Ris Park. It is huge, it has all sorts of interesting areas to check out, from a mangrove boardwalk, a fantastic playground, to a rather interesting maze (read this post by fellow mummy blogger Ing, for more things you could do at this park). If you or your family are early birds, the beach at the park also is a great place to watch the sunrise!

One of my favourite spots in this sprawling park would be this tiny little stretch of mangrove near the mouth of Sungei Tampines. This was my research site last time when I was doing my Masters dissertation, and I spent many a hot morning standing there taking notes. While it can be full of trash (unfortunately, the beach over at Pasir Ris is not too clean), this little spot boasts of a huge population of fiddler crabs. 

Uca annulipes, female

Uca annulipes, male, at the mouth of his burrow.

Fiddler crabs are rather interesting to watch. The males wield one enlarged claw, while the females can be distinguished because both their claws are the same size. This stretch of beach is home to two main species of fiddlers: Uca annulipes and Uca vocans, which can be identified from their colours and markings. 

The males engage in waving behaviour, where they wave their enlarged cheliped, usually to attract mates. It sometimes gets pretty funny to see a couple of males waving frantically at a passing female, while she scuttles past ignoring them! 

Waving aside, these crabs are usually busy foraging at low tide. They dig themselves out of their burrows, neatly rolling the wet sand into mudballs which pile up at the burrow entrances. These critters are really shy, and would run for cover with the approach of birds or humans, so if you'd have to stay still and quiet, and wait for awhile before they would emerge from their burrows. 

Uca vocans, male.

The best place to park would be at Car Park C. Cross Sungei Tampines,
and walk all the way down to the beach (area circled in orange). This map was adapted from this post

If you would like to bring the kids to go fiddler crab spotting, do note:
1. Please bring lots of water, insect repellant, sunscreen, and wear covered shoes (unless you want them to splash at the beach). The mangrove area tends to catch alot of washed up trash, and it can be dangerous for exposed little feet.

2. Teach the kids to respect nature: They would have to stay still and wait patiently before the crabs would emerge. And please, resist the urge to catch the crabs!

3. The crabs will only emerge at low tide. Check the tide tables and plan accordingly. 

Read our previous post on fiddler crabs for more tips! And click here if you'd like to read about more nature areas in Singapore. Have fun exploring!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Thankful Tuesday: Where we are is enough

These days, I've been catching myself doing some wishful thinking. The phrase "if only" keeps coming to mind. If only baby J was older and didn't need so many naps. If only he could sleep well when he was out. If only we could make it for all the interesting co-ops that have been springing up in the homeschool community, without having to sacrifice the baby's naps. If only the older two would grow up and not monkey around when outside, which makes it so hard to bring them out. If only they would listen and learn. If only they were older and didn't need mama's help for so many things. If only mealtimes were peaceful times when I didn't have to feed, chase and nag each kid. If only sprouting teeth didn't cause so much discomfort.

If only.

I realized those words, when spoken enough, breathe discontentment in my already tired soul. I look at what we do not have: the learning opportunities, the ability to go out without worrying about missed naps or cranky kids, having older kids who know and behave better, easier times at home.

Then my heart starts to chafe, and I forget about what we do have:

:: The wonderment of babyhood. Those ready smiles, those squishy hugs, the wonderful times when they start babbling and saying "papa" and "mama". The cuddles and snuggles and sweet soft baby smooth skin.

:: The chance to grow men, and build character. Those times spent home, mediating fights, disciplining the older two, having repeated talks on why we do not hit others. We may not see fruit right now. But these times, these tiring times, are the times we build their character like a brick wall, stone upon stone, while reminding them that we are built upon Jesus, a rock that can never be shaken. These times of building are easier, when the child is younger and he is more malleable.

:: The opportunity to learn, no matter where we are. We read a story about London and the boys excitedly asked to play with their train tracks. Why? They wanted to use the bridge as Tower bridge, and they remembered they had a little clock tower that represented Big Ben. I was reminded that children make connections all the time, they absorb like a sponge, they learn ever so quickly. While we may not be able to give them so many co-op opportunities now, while the time I can spend reading with them is limited, while I am not able to prepare many structured activities, they will still learn. 

:: The blessing to be able to journey as a family. Where we are, this phase, where travelling with three littles is challenging, where outings can be exhausting, where each day can be difficult with its non-stop call for vigilance with crawling babies and constant fights... this is our reality, and this is our journey, and it is not without its joys. The joys of having little ones who still want to hold your hand, who still lean in for a kiss and a hug. The times of wonder when drains and excavators excite, where nothing beats going to the park and picking leaves. The unreserved laughter of children because they are young, and they are carefree.

This week, I am reminded that where we are is enough. There will always be "what ifs". But if we look behind them, we will find that there is enough joy to sustain each day, and each tomorrow. So choose joy.

What are you thankful for this week?
Mum in the Making

Monday, August 25, 2014

Fun for Free: Hunting for saga seeds

When I was a child, I loved collecting saga seeds. There was something just so pretty about those small shiny bright red seeds, and I would keep them safely in a jar, and occasionally pour them out to admire them. 

Junior J and Lil J seem to share my fascination with these crimson pretties, and have been picking up seeds at various places in Singapore. There are some saga trees near our church, so they would always ask for time to search for seeds after church. However, the trees are by the road, and we usually don't end up with more than ten seeds each time, since many get crushed by cars, or fall into the drains. Another place that the boys have found seeds would be the zoo: there is a saga tree along the pathway from the Fragile forest leading to Rainforest Kidzworld, as well as another at the kangaroo feeding area. 

Imagine my delight when I read there was a saga tree resource on Google Maps, that showed you the location of many of the saga trees in Singapore! I found out about this when reading fellow mummy blogger Evelyn's post about saga seeds and pine cones, which also has some interesting links about these seeds. 

One of the locations on the map was Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West, where there seems to be at least two trees on the slope along Ang Mo Kio Street 12 (Opposite Blocks 126 and 134):

The park itself is lovely: There are a couple of wide green open spaces that kids can roam freely, and there is a great playground near Macdonald's. Lots to see and do! (Note: Bring insect repellent. There are a fair bit of mosquitoes there!)

Saga trees-wise, the trees are pretty fruitful, and the boys are able to collect a fair bit each time we visit the place. The trees are not easy to spot, but look out for those sporting these leaflets, as well as yellow seed pods that curl open when ripe! Do ask the kids to be careful though, since the trees are on a slope, plus the roots of the trees are home to some pretty big ants.

After our last visit, we counted the seeds we picked up, and Junior J had 117 of them, while Lil J (who refused all help) had about 50. The seeds are fairly easy to spot, since their bright red colour makes them stand out. 

I don't know what it is about kids, but they really love hunting for these little seeds. Even I find it rather therapeutic taking time to spot them and pick them up. Perhaps it is just the act of taking time to hunt for something rather insignificant, that forces me to slow down and notice the little things around me.

We've been asked many times what we are going to do with these seeds. I guess we might try some sensory play, or perhaps do some seed crafts and use the seeds to decorate something! For more ideas, you could check out some seed crafts here

PS: I wanted to share about where to find fiddler crabs in Singapore, however, baby has been really cranky with his 5th tooth and the older boys were sick, so I'm going to leave that for another post this week. Stay tuned!


This August, 31 mums are sharing 31 different places you could bring the kids to explore, and they are all for FREE! Tomorrow, drop by Adeline's blog to discover another playground to check out. Adeline is a true-blue Singaporean, who loves all things free, especially if she doesn't have to queue for it. She believes in sharing all the good deals she can find, and was thrilled to discover this absolutely free playground recently. Do visit her blog, Growing with the Tans, to read about her latest find. 


And finally, here's the whole list - 31 days of free fun in Singapore. Have fun exploring!

1 Aug: Tiong Bahru Park by Gingerbreadmum
2 Aug: Queenstown Heritage Trail by Princess Dana Diaries
3 Aug: Jurong Regional Library by Finally Mama
4 Aug: Singapore Maritime Gallery by Peipei Haohao
5 Aug: Singapore Philatelic Museum by Kids R Simple
6 Aug: Sculptures of Singapore by Gingerbreadmum
7 Aug: Fire Station by The Js Arena
8 Aug: Esplanade + Merlion by Prayerfull Mum
9 Aug: Bukit Batok Nature Park by Meeningfully
10 Aug: Lower Pierce Reservoir Park by The Kam Family
11 Aug: I12 Katong - water playground by Universal Scribbles
12 Aug: IMM by Mad Psych Mum
13 Aug: Tampines 1 Water Playground by Amazingly Still
14 Aug: Sengkang Riverside Park by Itchy Finger Snap
15 Aug: East Coast Park by Toddly Mummy
16 Aug: Sembawang Shopping Centre Playground by Joey Craftworkz
17 Aug: Animal resort by Raising Faith
18 Aug: Botanic Gardens by Mum's The Word
19 Aug: Police Heritage Centre by Mummy Ed
20 Aug: Venus Loop, MacRitchie by Scrap Mum Loft
21 Aug: Road Safety Park by Miracule
22 Aug: Marina Barrage by J Babies
23 Aug: Gardens By The Bay, Children's Garden by Finally Mama
24 Aug: Changi Airport T3 by Mother Kao
25 Aug: Pockets of Nature by Mum in the Making
26 Aug: Changi Airport T1 Growing with the Tans
27 Aug: Pasir Ris Park Ingspirations
28 Aug: Gardens by the Bay Supertree Grove by My Lil Bookworm
29 Aug: Vivocity Play Area by Amazingly Still
30 Aug: Punggol Promenade + Punggol Waterway by Chubby Anecdotes
31 Aug: Westgate Wonderland by Xavvylicious

Friday, August 22, 2014

Weekend wonderings: Dealing with change

This week, I felt overwhelmed. Our cleaning lady was not able to come last week, and after a week of having the flu, the home was starting to look like quite the disaster. I realize I am quite terrible at dealing with changes in our rhythm, and having the boys sick on top of everything else gave me this frustrated feeling in the pit of my stomach. This week, we hardly got any structured learning done, since Junior J wasn't well and just didn't want to do anything except lie down on the sofa. 

Homeschooling does call for a certain amount of flexibility: in your routines, in the way you manage things, since children change, and their needs change. Family rhythms change with the times too, especially with the addition of new members in the family. I sometimes struggle with the flexibility that is required. I am a chronic list and schedule maker, I like things predictable. When we are thrown off course because of circumstances, I tend to run about like a headless chicken. I've learnt that I need to be more flexible, and I think God has been teaching me that I must learn to let go, and keep trusting Him and doing the things that matter.

I've found that the best way to cope in such circumstances is to just keep plugging away at my to-do list, which gives me a certain sense of stability, and ensures I don't freak out. Today, I was most thankful because my parents helped me with the older two so that I could catch up with some chores. I managed to tidy up the home, our cleaning lady came, and now I am feeling a lot calmer. Whatever the case, I am just glad that the weekend is almost here!

What about you? How do you cope with changes? Are you like me, or do you embrace changes and spontaneity? 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Play: DIY latch (and lock) boards

Lil J loves fiddling with things. He loves tinkering and has taken apart some of our stuff (unfortunately!), so I thought a latch board would be something he would enjoy. Melissa and Doug actually has a pretty nice latch board (affiliate link), which allow the child to see how the latches work in relation to the doors, but I wanted to DIY one since that gives you more options. 

So I asked the FIL to help me get all sorts of locks and latches from Malaysia (where its cheaper!), and we bought 2 sheets of MDF from Art Friend (Daiso also sells MDF, but it is thinner, thus the boards are not so suitable). Then one afternoon the hubby and my FIL started assembling the boards for me, while Lil J tried to help. It was interesting to see three generations of males in the family working on the boards together. :)

Putting these together is simple: you just need to arrange your locks and latches, bearing in mind that there should be ample space between them to allow room for your child to work with each lock/latch. Then you just need to drill holes and screw everything down with little screws. We hung some locks on handles, and tied the keys to handle using yarn. 

If you'd like more ideas on what you could put on your latch boards, you can visit this link. Lil J has been fiddling with the boards off and on every day, so I think they would be great for any little kid with itchy fingers!


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