Friday, November 21, 2014

Travel with kids: What to pack

Our family is quite used to travelling. The hubs is Malaysian, so we are used to making trips back to visit his family. During our stint in Europe, we explored 11 countries with two kids in tow. Then, Junior J was three, while Lil J was just a baby, and I have fond memories of our trips: Baby J eating baguette every day in France, me sitting in front of some masterpiece while surreptitiously nursing a baby in a museum, the boys having fun exploring castles and nature and zoos. You could say we love travelling, and in general the older two boys are pretty good travellers (Baby J is a different story, but I think he just needs time).

Given that we've done so many overseas trips, you would expect that I am a seasoned and fast packer. Unfortunately, I am not, and I still take ages to pack, and have a tendency to overpack. (The hubs tells me that packing is easy, and all that is needed is for me to choose the clothes and toss everything in. Which usually gets me very upset, and makes me harbour the thought of NOT packing his socks.) That aside though, I thought I'd share some packing tips that have worked for us thus far:

:: Food-related stuff: If you have a weaning baby with you, or want to cook for your kid(s), try booking apartments with a kitchen so that meal prep is easier. If not, bring along an electric lunchbox. It works like a mini steamer, and usually comes with two bowls that fit inside so that you can actually cook two things at the same time (eg. pasta and pasta sauce, or porridge and veggies). Remember to bring along a universal adaptor just in case the place uses a different plug! We usually pack a small chopping board, a knife, a peeler, baby spoons and Sporks (for the adults). 

Our electric lunchbox. We usually carry our baby spoons in a cutlery holder from Daiso.
The Sporks are very useful, especially if you need to eat instant noodles! ;)

We use silicon bibs, which are way easier to clean compared to cloth bibs. These just need you to wash with soapy water, or if you are in a rush, you can just wipe them clean with a wet wipe. Much easier compared to having to wash cloth bibs!

If your trip is short, or you do not have time to look for a supermarket, bring some easy to cook food for the kids: pasta, oatmeal, canned tomatoes and tuna. If you're travelling in Europe though, do note that jarred baby food is common and pretty cheap, which might be an option to consider if you're headed there! That aside, don't forget snacks for the kids too: raisins, dried fruit, nuts, cereal and biscuits are some of the easier things to bring along. And a nursing cover if you are still nursing.

:: Clothes: I admit I like to dress the boys up to be matchy matchy. So when packing, I usually try to pack similar coloured tops and bottoms for them, and fold all three tops together so that I can pull them out together when changing all of them. This has a few advantages: the kids look co-ordinated in photos, they are easier to spot in a crowd, and it's also easier to remember what the kids are wearing if they get lost (touch wood!). It's easy for me to match their clothes, since we usually go for simple designs like stripes or plain coloured tees. 

If you can, pack darker-coloured clothes, unless you are travelling to some where very hot. This way, you don't need to worry so much about the kids getting dirty (which will happen anyway!) and the grime and stains showing up. White tops are quite a nightmare, especially during meals (think messy kid dribbling pasta sauce down his white tee during lunch!). Light-coloured bottoms are even worse (especially if you have boys who think rolling on the floor or splashing in puddles are the world's best form of entertainment!) Chances are, you won't have the time to rinse those stains out at night, and you won't want to be lugging half-damp clothes around anyway!

Pick neutral-coloured bottoms that can easily match with most of the tops that you bring along for the kids. Pockets are great, for holding that random sea shell or pebble.

If you're travelling to somewhere cold, do check the weather forecast and bring a jacket to match. While you'll probably be layering alot (for babies, do the tights plus onesie for the base layer so that baby's tummy doesn't get exposed), in most cases you'll be going in and out of buildings as you travel, so having to take off just one layer (the jacket) beats having to peel off two or three thinner layers off your kid. Jackets with hoods are useful, since the hood can help in drizzles and windy conditions. 

:: In case of emergency: For the case of kids with food allergies and other allergies, please bring along anti-histamines. Lil J has an egg and prawn allergy, and having anti-histamines at hand really really helped. In many instances, eateries may not be sure about allergens and may advise wrongly, so it is always good to have meds on standby. Once, we had a case where Lil J's eye started puffing up, and he started rashing, and we didn't have any meds at hand, so the hubs had to dash out to the pharmacy. That was a lesson learnt for us! When it comes to bringing meds, try rolling a diaper around each bottle, so that the diaper absorbs the leaks if there are any.

Always have plastic bags with you. Or if you are flying, take those air-sickness bags with you. These bags are great for various emergencies: for pee when there is no toilet in sight, for puke especially if your kid gets motion sickness (especially if you head out to sea or drive up a windy mountain road), for soiled clothes. Or even pine-cone or sea shell picking should the occasion call for it!

:: Entertainment: We usually pack some books (along with their book of Bible stories for bedtime reading), their sketch books, crayons and stickers, plus audio-books if we plan on travelling around by car. The audio-books are really useful for keeping the kids occupied on long car rides (we like this, this and this)!

:: Others: The baby carrier is a must for us, especially now that it is essential that we have our hands-free to care for the older two. The carrier is also great for long plane rides when you have to bring baby for walks, and for everything else! We usually bring along the pram if we intend to go out in the afternoons and will need the younger kids to sleep on the go. We also bring our clip-on high chair for certain trips (something like this one), when we know that it'll be hard for us to get high-chairs. (We used to bring a Sack-n-seat, but the two younger ones proved to be too wriggly to stay in there!)

All in all, I've learnt not to fret too much about the packing, because if I forget something, we usually can make do without, or buy it while travelling. What are your packing tips for an overseas trip?

PS: The clothes pictured in this post were kindly sponsored by FOX. I particularly like their fleece jackets, which are so soft and comfortable! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thankful Tuesday: Small things

We are approaching the end of the year. I cannot help but be reminded of that, as my Facebook feed floods with Christmas craft posts and ideas. Looking back at the year that has been, I was just reminded of how far we've come since January.

We've been homeschooling for almost a year. Progress for Junior J has been slow, but steady. There were all these hiccups at the start, but now we've settled into a rhythm that works for us in this present moment. What enabled the progress were little changes made, bit by bit, to incorporate structured learning into our everyday lives. Not everything worked, and the boy wasn't the most co-operative student. We've had to throw out some curricula, we had to adjust and tweak our expectations. However, I've learnt that with just a little bit of time each day, and some faithfulness in the little things, we are able to cover a fair bit of ground.

Baby J is almost one. This boy has been starting to speak, and now calls "Mama" and "Papa", and loves kissing the pictures of animals in his books. He reminds me again, that growth always happens in little bits, and again it is these little bits that add up to something.

Lil J turned three, and is now slowly easing out of his terrible twos (I hope!). It has been a challenging journey, and I am taught again that change never happens overnight, but takes time. He now helps out alot more at home, and still never fails to make us smile.

So I am thankful. For these reminders that the small things matter. That we do not need to invest our time in the spectacular. That all we need to do is to be faithful in the little things, and that God extends enough grace to take our little things and bring growth and change, just like how He multiplies the tiny serving of five loaves and two fish to feed a multitude. And as we step into a busy December ahead (and now even busier because we celebrate three birthdays in the family!), I am thankful that we just need to do it small step by small step.

What are you thankful today?

Mum in the Making

PS: And speaking of small things, I am so thankful for all your support for "Grateful Gatherings". This is our 100th link-up!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Read: JJ's Science Adventure: Magnets (Review and Giveaway)

Junior J loves science, and loves reading about various science topics. So he was most interested when he spotted this copy of "JJ's Science Adventure: Magnets". In fact, he found the book amidst my pile of letters on the table and helped himself to it, and even asked me when I would read it to him.

JJ's Science Adventure is a series of educational comic books authored by Aurelia Tan, and educator, and published by Harvest Edutainment. The books are designed to help readers to master learning objectives in the Primary School Science syllabus, by engaging readers in stories that introduce various scientific concepts.

In the title on Magnets, we follow two children, Joyce and Jonathon, as they journey into the world of Magnets via a teleportation portal. As they continue on their adventure, they learn to solve the puzzles and challenges that they encounter. Readers learn more about magnets, about their physical properties (eg. how certain metals are magnetic, and about the poles of the magnet), and their various applications (eg. maglev trains and electromagnets).

I was rather impressed by how Aurelia managed to weave most of the learning points for the topic into an adventure story. The puzzles encountered by the two children are interesting (for example, having to cross a gap using magnetic gloves with polarity). Incorporating all these puzzles into a cohesive story made learning so much more relevant and exciting, compared to if the concepts were presented in the usual textbook format. There are bite-sized chunks of information introduced along the course of the story, with more information on the various applications of magnets at the back of the book. 

Junior J enjoyed the book very much, and I would say the series would definitely engage children, especially with those animated illustrations typical of comic books. We paired the book with various hands-on activities involving magnets: the boys got to see how like poles repelled each other, they picked up paper clips with magnets, and also got to experiment with various metal discs to see what type of metals would be picked up by a magnet. 

Of course, it must be said that using comics to teach Science has its limitations. While effectively covering the main teaching points for the topic, the book should ideally be paired with hands-on activities (as with all Science topics). Also, comic books predominantly cater to visual learners, since the text and illustrations go hand in hand in telling a story. I found that the impact of the book was lessened when I had to read it aloud to my three year old, so ideally this book would be more suitable for children who are already reading and can manage the simple text. 

All in all, the book is highly recommended, and I'm looking forward to the next title on heat and light! If you are interested, you can purchase your copy from various sources, which are listed here


Aurelia is kindly giving away copies of "JJ's Science Adventure: Magnets" to three readers of this blog! To enter in the giveaway, follow the instructions given in the Rafflecopter widget below. Don't forget to leave your name and email address in the comments section below, so that we can contact you if you win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Do hop over to the Mum Craft blog to read Diana's review on the book, as well as increase your chances of winning a copy!

Disclaimer: We received a copy of the book for review purposes. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are our own.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Our week: Topsy turvy

Upside down: Baby's not in his cot, but his brothers are.
They love camping inside when they have to look after Baby J for me.

The whole family has been taking turns to fall sick since the weekend, so it's been quite a topsy turvy week. With all that was happening, I decided to just take a break from blogging this week so that I could take time to "reset". It has been very busy on the shop front too, so the break was timely. 

Junior J now helps his brother with his sandals. Lil J struggles like crazy to put these on, and gives up half the time.
So now, big brother helps him. 

Anyway, it has been a week of lots of building. The kids have been helping themselves to various construction sets and building various things. They've been building cars and lollipops from their Superstructs set:

And all sorts of things using their Plus plus pieces (I love this midi set. Big enough for baby to explore, and so many possibilities!):

It has been a week of thunderstorms, and getting stuck out in heavy rain. The boys loved it, watching the rain and seeing it stream down the side of the road.

And Baby J has been having a field time. He's learnt how to climb up and down the sofa, he's constantly wrecking all his brothers' creations, and he's now saying "Papa", "Mama", "bear", "mummum" (for food), and waves and says byebye. His latest discovery? The building sets storage cupboard. He knows how to open the door and would sit there emptying out all the boxes!

Many people have asked me about these boxes.
These are shoeboxes from Daiso, and they fit neatly (3 in a row) in the Besta units from Ikea.
We store all our building/construction sets here, like Citiblocs, Lincoln logs and regular blocks. 

All in all, he's a pretty happy camper. He's finally succumbed to the bug that has been going around, but I'm hoping next week we'll be all back to normal.

Have a blessed weekend! 

[Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.]

Friday, November 7, 2014

Our Week: Introducing art again

Junior J's painting: 2 microscopes, fruit and french fries. And duck footprints.

Lil J's painting, which for once isn't drenched with painting water.

Junior J now has a new art set, to keep him occupied during his younger brothers' naps.

More fiddling with the light table.

Using Math U See to learn how to skip count by fives.

Sorting animals into their habitats.

Trying out a new game, Trucky 3, that he received as his birthday present.

This week, we've been trying to incorporate art and craft into our weekly routine again. I realized I've stopped letting the kids paint, simply because I find it daunting to have to clean up the messes that Lil J makes while having to care for a crawling, active baby. Lil J isn't much of a doodler, unlike his older brother. However, I've observed he likes working with art materials, but in a more kinesthetic way. He wants to smear the paint with his fingers. He wants to swirl water all over his paper. But, if some rules are enforced, the mess is more or less manageable on a good day. This week, we also managed to work with clay too (but there are no pictures because I was way too busy preventing Lil J from running off with the clay). Junior J is still the prolific doodler, and fills his workbooks with random scribbles and as usual, his drawings of dinosaurs.

Art aside, we're making slow and steady progress. We've taken to reading poetry instead of readers for a change, and I love hearing Junior J read as he tries to figure out what these curling swirling sentences mean. We're chugging along with regards to Math: he's taking awhile to get the hang of skip counting by fives, but he's gotten pretty good at addition. We've fiddled a little with the light table, but I've yet to find a set-up that I really like. I'll share when I do!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lil J's 3rd: Games and gifts

This round, we kept the activities simple as usual, since we figured the kids would be happy to be left to their own devices (which turned out to be the case). Since the party was a vehicle/construction theme, we set up a drawing station where the kids could sit and do up their own little city/road scene. We provided construction paper, vehicle stickers and colour pencils, and it helped to keep the kids occupied while we waited for the other guests to arrive.

We also played a simple game (I hardly had time to plan for games, since Baby J was sick for the few days before the party. Remind me to start planning earlier next time!). Almost all the construction themed games I thought of involved sand (think construction site!), which was a no-no indoors. I ended up telling the kids to pretend they were cranes, and giving them magnets tied to chopsticks. They were supposed to lift out vehicles from the "construction site", which was filled with crepe paper. The vehicles were either little metal cars (which came with the magnets, and were purchased from Popular), or construction vehicles printed onto construction paper and cut out, with a paper clip attached. The kids were allowed to bring back their fishing rods as well as whatever they caught, and I think the game got pretty intense! At the end of the party, Junior J and Lil J took off with the box of crepe paper and I found them pretending they were otters playing amidst seaweed!

As for the party packs, we bought all the kids buckets and sand toys from Daiso (since digging is construction related right?), as I thought those were less gender specific and pretty useful. We also threw in various types of snacks. We opted not to include a drink since one of our friend's kids did not like the usual drinks like Ribena and Milo.

So that's that for Lil J's 3rd. His birthday usually marks the start of the crazy festive period for the family, since we are looking at three birthdays in Dec along with Christmas, followed up by Junior J's birthday in January and then Chinese New Year. So I better start planning for the Baby J's birthday which would be up next!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Thankful Tuesdays: Thank you

October has come and gone, and we managed to finish the #oct2bthankful challenge! Looking back, the month has been a hectic and crazy one, and I am glad we are in November. Anyway, I know quite a few of you have hopped onto the challenge halfway through the month, so here's a lil reminder to change the tag to #30xthankful (thirty times thankful) instead, since we are no longer in October!

Also, I just want to say a big big thank you to all those who hopped on for the challenge. It has been such a encouragement to log into FB or Instagram, and see all those photos chronicling the blessings in our lives. We certainly have lots to be thankful for... so I've decided I'll continue counting those blessings over in November. Life isn't easy, life can be exhausting, but there's always something to give thanks for!

Mum in the Making

Monday, November 3, 2014

Poolzies: Pool shoes for anti-slip protection (Review and giveaway!)

Recently my MIL was on the hunt for pool shoes for my nephew. Apparently, pool shoes are compulsory for swimming over in Norway, but were really expensive over there. Over here though, pool shoes are rarely seen, so I was rather intrigued when I was approached to review Poolzies, a homegrown brand of pool shoes.

Photo source: Poolzies

Poolzies was founded by Steve and Pia, an expat couple living in Singapore, who decided to design and sell their own pool shoes after finding that these were not readily available in Singapore and around Asia. (You can read more about their story here.) The shoes offer non-slip protection, with a Toughtek sole. The fabric used to make the shoes is lightweight and has UPF 50+ protection from the sun, and come in various designs. Another plus point would be their affordability: they are cheaper than those sold overseas.

We tried the shoes out on Baby J during our recent trip to Penang (he's wearing the denim design). Baby J has started cruising, but is generally not used to wearing shoes. So his first instinct was to grab them and pull them off. However, once he was in the pool, he totally forgot about the shoes and started playing, so I would assume these are pretty comfortable. They do look comfortable, since the fabric is really lightweight! Another plus point for the lightweight fabric was that these shoes dried pretty quickly after they were washed.

The shoes were great for protecting his little feet when the ground was hot. The non-slip soles were also good for the slippery floors around the pool area. It would be hard to ascertain how useful these shoes are in the long run, since the boy is still too young to run about, but I would think these would be especially good for water play when the ground gets too hot. That being said, these pool shoes are uncommon in Singapore, and I think some pools and certain water play areas have a no footwear rule.(eg. public pools and Gardens by the Bay, however the shoes are ok in other water play areas and condo pools). However, I think Steve and Pia are working towards getting approval for these shoes to be used in these areas. Hopefully that comes to pass! 


We are giving away a pair of Poolzies this week! Just follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below, and don't forget to leave your name and email address in the comments section for this post:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have a great week ahead!

Disclaimer: We received two pairs of Poolzies for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are our own.


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