Thursday, June 18, 2015

Loving Summer!

Everybody loves summer here.

In a temperate climate like Germany's, weather rarely gets warm enough such that you don't have to wear a jacket. We probably only get 2-3 months of real summer and 9 months of cold(er) weather! So now that summer has finally shown its elusive face, we've been making full use of the warmer temperatures! Days get dark only around 8pm so kids can stay outdoors longer too. 

Here's what we've been doing:-

Going to the playground! 


Compared to last summer, Gabriel is able to move around more independently now. This little monkey totally loves running around at the playground and being on the swing. Sammy also has more of a playmate in Gabriel now that he can actually run around with him.

As you can see, summer time has gotten a notch more fun and interesting for me! I'm able to leave both kids to play on their own and would only have to give the little one a hand if he needs to go down a long slide or go on a swing.

Of course having two toddlers also means that I got to be on my guard that none of them disappears out of the blue. Sam has a knack of doing his own thing, while Gabriel has this thing for bushes.

I must say how much I treasure the dry summer air here. It gets humid sometimes, but is nowhere as humid as Singapore. We are able to have playdates in the afternoon with no fear of the scorching sun. And best of all? It's all FREE!

It could be summer all year round if I had my way!


Gabriel at the playground about a year ago. I had to carry him everywhere

Gabriel at the playground now

This is what he does when I say, "say cheese!"



Mouths wide open

Who would have thought that playgrounds can be SO fun right?

The three musketeers

Here we were on a steam train at the park

Our first family train ride with the hub too

 

Going on bicycle tours


Sammy is such a champ on his Puky bicycle and has such stamina that we are able to go on long bicycle tours on the fields around our house. I so love this time when we can all cycle together as a family of 4! Sooner or later, Gabriel would probably not want to be a pillion rider anymore, so I gotta milk it as long as it last!


Taking a break on one of our bicycle tours


Even Gabriel's tired out by the cycling


A wefie with my littlest

A family that works out together strays together

 

Barbecuing! 


Hub got a Weber BBQ gas grill for his birthday and we've been making full use of it! We place it on our balcony and because our balcony is just next to the kitchen, we have the convenience of BBQing without the hassle of bringing all the utensils / meat to-and-fro. Yay!

I made chicken satay for the first time from scratch and it was heavenly!

Like really. It tasted so great! And I'm not bragging here. I got a great recipe here for anybody who wants to try making it.

Our Q1200 Weber grill making its home on our balcony

No photoshop needed for this amazingly tender and juicy chicken satay!

Of course satay had to be eaten with a spicy peanut sauce, cucumbers and onions

Chicken Satay recipe here.

I'm so glad that summer has barely just begun!

Here's to an awesome summer of enjoying the sun, pool and outdoor nature with your family and loved ones!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sammy's first performance

Sammy's kindergarten had their annual Summer Festival last Friday.

I heard from my neighbour that the kids would put up a little skit followed by barbecue.

Thing is, my kids still nap everyday so I had to pick Sammy up earlier and put both of them down for their naps before the festival began at 4pm.

I must have overestimated my ability to wake the kids up and get them out of the door. Needless to say, I was running late and had to hurry the poor boy down to the kindergarten, while pushing the stroller with Gabriel and carrying a big bag with my potluck contribution.

I had hoped that they wouldn't begin punctually at 4pm because which kindergarten's performance starts on time right? Last year's Christmas play started at least 20 minutes later than planned and I was one of the earlier ones so I had to wait.

My heart skipped a beat when I realized that the entire garden surrounding the Kindergarten was completely empty!

Where were the kids??

I rushed up the stairs to the performance hall and heard one of the Mothers say that they were waiting for "Sammy". Ahhhh!

I brought Sammy backstage and heaved a sigh of relief when the school leader said they still have to wait for one or two children who had to go to the toilet.

When the curtains opened, EVERY single kid was looking earnestly at the audience for their parents! When Sammy saw me, he was sooo happy and kept waving! I realized how important it is for a parent to be there for special occasions! It might seem like an insignificant event but to the child, it means the world to him / her!

Hubby tried to be there by 4pm but only managed to make it around 4.40pm. He was held back at work and was stuck in heavy traffic. It turned out fine though, because Sammy's performance was the last.

I felt so proud of my little man. He was an angel dressed in white and waved a yellow star. Funnily enough, when I was in preschool, I remembered being dressed in yellow and waving a yellow star too!

I wish I got it all caught on video / a proper camera. But in my rush to get out of the house, I only had my trusty iPhone that cannot take proper long-range photos.

So here's what I managed to capture.

Spot him on the right? With a star on his forehead
Looking a bit bored while waiting for his turn


He kept waving while walking in circles


I do so enjoy being a Mom.

It's milestones like this that I want to treasure. This boy totally warms my heart. I feel so blessed being able to watch him grow up and am even more honored that God chose me to be his Mom!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Date with my firstborn

I went on my first date with my 3.5-year old last week.

Guess where we went to?

A soccer match no less! It was a friendly under-16 match between Germany and France.
 
Sounds like such a fun date right? But it definitely got on to bad start! 

Firstly, all regional trains were on strike, so there was an increased volume of traffic on the already-crowded streets (ie. Traffic jams everywhere!)

Needless to say drivers were in the worst of all moods. I've not encountered SOOO many impatient and frustrated drivers! Whenever I need to change lane, the driver in the other car would speed up, so I couldn't squeeze in!

Secondly, it was drizzling quite heavily that day. I was considering cancelling our soccer plans but I didn't want to disappoint the kiddo. So I decided to carry on with it. (The seats in the stadium are sheltered). 

When I finally arrived at the venue, I was sooo relieved that we were almost there. But my relief was short-lived because I realized that the police had cordoned off the entire multi-storey carpark where I had wanted to park! Turns out that it was a working day so the employees from Daimler needed the carpark for themselves.

While driving around the stadium to search for the alternative open-air carpark, I was getting all flustered and discouraged. We were already late and I had no idea where we could park!

There and then, Sammy said a prayer that we would be able to find a carpark! This boy totally touches my heart! His prayer worked almost immediately and at the very next turn, I found the entrance to the huge open-air carpark.

When I wanted to get out of the car, I realized to my horror that I had forgotten to bring Sammy's thicker waterproof jacket and it was SOOO mega cold! That was such a last straw for me! I simply couldn't wrap my head around my kiddo sitting in the cold and watching a soccer match for 90 minutes!

But I also didn't want all the effort of making it to the stadium to be in vain just because I didn't have a thicker jacket for Sammy! I even called my friend (who invited us for the match) and told her about my dilemma. She convinced me that the stadium wasn't that cold because it was sheltered and there's a lot of people sitting together. I decided that Sammy would simply wear my pink cardigan on top of his fleece jacket and that should do the trick.

We finally got to the stadium at close to half-time!

But we got there! That's the most important part right?

Our seats were really close to the field so we could see the game pretty well. I really enjoyed watching a live match! It was such an eye-opener to see how a real match works! Everything was exactly the way you see it on TV but so much more exciting! And so much louder! It dawned on me that France and Germany raise up the next generation of World Cup champions by grooming their own young! 

I wish I could say Sammy was all blown away and got inspired to be a professional soccer player. Hah. But he was mainly interested in the birds flying over the stadium! Oh and waving the German flag! He would wave the German flag whenever the German side was playing.

I felt so proud of my kiddo. He's turning 4 this year and growing to be such a little gentleman! Taking him out one-on-one makes me so happy to be able to spend quality time with him! I could hold his hand and walk together! He has such a gentle and sweet nature. I know it sounds weird, but I would so totally date this guy if I weren't his Mom! LOL.

We ended off the day by having Macdonalds for lunch and going to visit an ex-neighbour friend and her kid for a playdate!

You bet we'll be going on more Mummy-son dates soon! Definitely recommend date days for all you Moms out there! It's so heartwarming to be able to bond with your child! You just see a different side of him / her, without the usual role of playing referee between the kids! - You know what I mean!


Rocking my pink sweater!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The story of THE breakfast

You know how they say that after you get married, things get dull?

Ok, to be fair, things don't get dull. They get .... repetitive. And when you have kids, things get routine.

Now that the kids are 3.5 years and almost 2 years, hubby and I have sorta settled into a very well-adjusted family life of 4. It's a very comfortable feeling.

But then again, you read news of people doing special things for other people on Facebook. Like on Mother's Day. Or Father's Day. Or birthdays. Or anniversaries.

And you think, "Oh, that's so nice and sweet..."

And you try to stop yourself in mid-thought before you go into the, "I wish my husband ..... " Cos you know you shouldn't compare.

And Facebook is so crazily distorted anyways. Nobody is going to post a photo of the laundry done. Or the cleaning of the house. Or the regular "my hubby came home from work today after working 10 hours to provide for our family".

But that's real life! But who cares about real life right? It's mundane and usual.

People care about the extraordinary. The crazy. The out of this world. The "WOW!!!" factor.

Hubby and I don't really celebrate special days like Mother's or Father's Day. We don't even buy presents for each other on Christmas. Or birthdays for that matter.

I think we're more practical people. We buy what we need / want whenever we need / want to, so we don't usually need / want anything by the time our birthdays come. Makes sense? And why spend money on something just because it's a birthday right? We'd rather go for a massage or a nice dinner together.

So anyways, that's why I was sooo surprised and even somewhat shocked when hubby gave me a huge surprise over the weekend!

He made this!

My own hotel-styled breakfast served in bed! Notice the yakult?


To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement!

I was over the moon! It was so romantic! And totally what you see in the movies! 

The omelette tasted perfect! There were bits of mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and cheese inside! So yummy I refused to share it with any of kids clamoring for my food (they had already eaten).

It was his way of commemorating Mother's Day - one week later.

Thing is, hubby is one of those special babies who was born on Mother's Day. Great Mother's Day gift but that also meant that my Mother-in-law has spent most Mother's Days celebrating the birthday of her son instead of getting pampered by her children and/or husband.

And now that I'm a Mom myself, I'm also in the same "predicament".

So when I saw this breakfast made with love, it totally touched my heart!

To be honest, it wasn't a real surprise because truth be told, a postman had to ring on our door on a Saturday morning! I was still lying in bed and wondering why my hubby had not opened the door. When the bell kept ringing, I realized that hubby was probably not at home so I jumped out of bed in my PJs, ran straight to the door and pressed the button to get  my parcel.

Totally puzzled at my hubby's absence, I asked Sammy where Daddy was. He replied, "Daddy went to the car to get you something nice to eat!"

I was like, "Car? What car?"

And Sammy was like, "I told you! Daddy went to the car to get you something nice to eat!"

2 minutes later, hubby comes back through the main door carrying some groceries. Turns out, he had gone to "Ede-ka" (therefore the word "car") to get some groceries to prepare me my breakfast! Edeka is the name of a supermarket just downstairs from our house.

The hub was so upset that his surprise was ruined! So he told me to just go back to bed and pretend to sleep! hahaha. I sat in bed and played on my phone while waiting for my surprise breakfast to be made.

It was totally worth the wait! It was sooo good! He totally exceeded my expectations! And you know how they said home-cooked food is the best? It really is! It felt sooo good being on the receiving end of great service!

The "sad" thing is that I had to rush through my breakfast, because:-

My kids couldn't wait to help me to eat it! My yakult was gone in seconds (but hubby brought me another one), my grapes were devoured by the baby, Sammy kept asking me for the yoghurt so he ended up eating it and best of all......

I was SOOO worried the kids would end up dropping food all over MY bed!

In short, I REALLY, totally enjoyed the experience of having breakfast in bed. But in reality, I realized it would have been MUCH better had the kids been locked out of my room so that I could have my breakfast in peace.

Love you hubby! And so you know, I could get used to having breakfast in bed sans kids every weekend!!!! Hahah.

Breakfast in reality - sharing it with kids (in the background)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dear Gabriel - 22 months

Dear Gabriel

You're 2 months shy of your 2nd birthday and Mummy is too many months shy of your monthly updates!

You are one rambunctious, über sweet, super loud and altogether too cute little darling!

As a second child, you've had to learn to make yourself heard. Your 哥哥 (older brother) is always complaining about how you "scream in his ears" and bite him.

To be fair, you don't scream in his ears but you scream so loudly that your brother thinks that you're screaming in his ears.

And sadly enough, biting, hitting and other forms of pain infliction are included in your extensive list of self-defense mechanisms. Or shall I also say "scaring people off" techniques.

You do respond very well to time outs though. You would readily gesture "Sorry" which involves a clapping together of your fists. Thereafter you would proceed to hug your brother.

But before Mummy can relax and enjoy a few moments of peace, more often than not, I would hear

"Oh Mummy, Gabe Gabe bit me... AGAIN!"

That's the glamorous life of being a Mom!

But Gabriel you can be sooo sweet too! You would hardly ever kiss on demand. So whenever you take the initiative to kiss us on the lips, it would completely take us by surprise and our hearts would melt in that instant!

You're still not speaking much but you have no problem making yourself understood.

Whenever Mummy asks you if you want "milk" or anything for that matter, you would raise your hand up in the air! Just like a little schoolboy! Have no idea where you learnt that from, but it's too cute!

Whenever you know that we're heading out the door, you would open the shoe cupboard, take out your shoes and pass them to me.

One thing I really must commend you about is that you are very often the first person at the dining table waiting for your food. Warms my heart to see that someone in the family takes his food business seriously!

When the food comes, you'll devour your food at lightning speed and your appetite at 22 months is voracious! I'm pretty sure you eat as much as, if not more than your brother who's 2 years older than you!

You're still very much Mummy's little boy. In the mornings when your brother goes to Kindy, you'll wake up together with me and we'll have a leisurely breakfast together. Thereafter, you'll either go play with your toys while Mummy tackles some housework or we'll go cycling together (with you sitting behind me) whenever the weather is good.

Once a week, we take the train down to town to run some errands and grab some lunch before heading home to pick your brother up by 1.30pm. I really treasure those one-on-one times with you because it's less stressful with one kid! hee. No really, I really enjoy looking at the world through your eyes! You're always observing and pointing at things and going "Da! Da!" And I would be saying, "Train!" "Bus!" "Plane! and repeat 100 times!

In the trains, you would always be on the lookout for people who would give you their attention and you would play "peek-a-boo" with them. Mummy would warn them that you could carry on with your game for hours! 

Your words these days are "Papa" "Mama", "Ge Ge", "ball". Not much I know! But oh so cute!

You love to wave at people and at things! Whenever we need to leave, you would wave at your toys or at your surroundings before you do so.

You continue to have a fiery streak in you. You've thrown your toys on the floor umpteen times such that I've had to give you time outs because you've created dents in the floor because of the impact!

It's such a joy watching you and your brother bond together. He's ever so protective over you and you're always watching him, sometimes in a very admiring and "I wish I could do what he does" kinna way.

You love nature and would wander off in the grass / woods all by yourself with no regards for how long the grass is or how much underbrush there is. On one hand, its very interesting to observe this adventurous side of you (since your older brother was never one who liked getting himself stuck in the bushes), but on the other, you've given Mummy a couple of scares cos you would just disappear within seconds!

You simply adore the swing. The slide comes at a distant second. You would always head straight for the baby swing the second you spot one. That said, you're able to sit on the regular swing as well because you're very cautious and would hold on pretty tightly.

Oh and one last thing. You simply LOVE to sing. You'll sing everywhere we go such that people have often looked at us with curious and adoring smiles. I wish I could capture you singing on a video at some point in time!

We love you little one and pray that God will continue to mold you to be a strong man of GOD!

Lots of hugs and kisses
Mum and Dad

Baby of all faces

One of my fave shots! Baby in boots! Too adorable!

His size in relation to a life-size tractor
Sheer joy at getting a mini Magnum
That's so typical Gabe - Alone and contented on a swing

He even looks like he's whistling here!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Ludwigsburg Castle

We had some visitors from Singapore recently.

My best friend's sister, Jamie and her husband, K. visited us over a period of 2 days!

We love having guests over and now that we have a 3rd bedroom, we actually have more space to do so!

I must say that I was quite impressed by my two young men. You could tell that they were very overjoyed to have visitors! They were so hospitable and always looked forward to playing with Jamie and K. and showing them their toys.

Either that or they are so deprived of visitors, that they go crazy on those who stay overnight at our place! LOL. 

Sammy even went to their bedroom when he first woke up before realizing that they were still sleeping!

The poor hub was down with a terrible virus during their visit, so I brought the kids out with me and we spent the day at the castle in Ludwigsburg and on the garden grounds.

The kids were pretty good troopers and even though they didn't nap much, they were pretty well-behaved during the 1.5-hour tour of the castle.

Ahem, by "well-behaved" I mean they didn't break any of the artefacts or do anything forbidden. For the most part of the first hour, they walked through the castle just like anybody else. But for the last 30 minutes, they were running up and down the hallways like boys litted up.

The Ludwigsburg garden grounds is beautiful! There's a fairytale - themed park with interactive figurines of Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel and other characters from the Grimm brothers' stories. Sammy absolutely loves pressing the buttons and listening to the figurines "talk".

It's a pity that the stories are in German with no English language option, otherwise this garden would be very suitable for international visitors too.

There's even a little boat ride which is safe enough for kids to go onboard with their parents. Very relaxing! We went on a mini steam train which costs extra. But was an absolute hit with the kids.

The children were so mesmerized by all the things they could do! And as we parents would know,

Happy kids = Happy parents 

There's cafés aplenty so we stopped for some french fries and German sausages. The weather was superb on that day. Perfect summer temperatures in April! It was simply the perfect day to be out and about.

I asked my friends if they felt weird surrounded by so many kids in the park and was relieved when they said that they themselves have gone to Legoland in Malaysia so they are quite used to be surrounded by kids.

It was such a pleasant visit! Thanks for blessing us with goodies from Singapore! Please come back and visit us again! :)

Sam took this shot all by himself! My little budding photographer!

He took this shot too, but I had to photoshop it

Playing in the haystack

A mini scarecrow
Gabe couldn't be bothered to pose for the camera!



There are various exhibitions throughout the year and this was a farm exhibition. All made from straw!

Funny babies!

On the mini boat ride!

Look at how they loved hanging out with Jamie and K!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Bali 2015 - Our hotel (The Courtyard by Marriott in Seminyak)

Looks like a postcard right?
Closer view of the pool from our room

The check-in area


Love the open spaces

We had the most amazing stay at Marriott.

This was our first visit to Bali with 2 kids, the last time being in 2009 without kids.

I knew that our kids are too young to do the crazy stuff we did the last time, so we simply had to have a children-friendly hotel. Preferably one with a kid's club. And definitely in Seminyak, so we had easy access to restaurants and massage parlors.

I was so tempted to get a water villa because Bali is the place where one can afford a water villa without having to burn a hole in one's pocket. BUT with 2 toddlers, we couldn't foresee ourselves lounging around in our villa without having to worry that our kid(s) would fall into the pool! (Both of them can't swim yet). And of course with a villa, one would have to contend with the issue of mosquitoes. Hmmm.... eh, no thank you!

So, a hotel it would be!

After spending hours researching online, I was convinced that Courtyard by Marriott was the right one for us. It's a very new hotel, only built in end 2014 and everybody raved about the breakfast on Tripadvisor.

True enough, the breakfast was the best that we've had at a hotel!

HUGE selection of food!

Asian selection

Fresh juice and fruits in the fridge on the left

Where's my food?

All that fish / chicken / rice / noodles. I was stuffed!

Breakfast was one of our daily highlights. We always looked forward to waking up for breakfast which was available until 11am - another plus for us! There was a huge selection of pastries, bread, pancakes and even ice-cream and waffles!!! Winner! It was hard negotiating with Sammy about why he couldn't just have ice-cream for brekky!

Housekeeping came by twice a day. It was so lovely to come back from our day trips / pool visits to a brand-new room! Staff was awesomely friendly! I don't know if it's just the Balinese friendliness, but we were always greeted with very warm smiles and "Hello Madam. Good morning!"

The kid's club was great. BUT it's a bit of a bummer because our kids were 3.5 years and 1.5 years back then. Hotel guests get 2 hours of free babysitting at the kid's club for children 4 years old and above.

I tried to bargain with the staff that my boy turns 4 this year and he's actually pretty tall for his age, but they kept to their guns. If we wanted to use the kid's club, we would have had to stay with our kids.

And of course we'd rather do other things with them than to be stuck indoors playing with toys in Bali right?

We managed to find a great way to circumvent this though! - Will blog about it later.

We stayed in a family suite so the kids had more space to run around the room. We had 2 TVs! One for the bedroom and one for the adjoining room. Our hotel room was located on a higher floor because we read the reviews that it can get pretty loud on the lower floors.

See the adjoining bedroom and dining area

Comfy beds!

Sleepwise, we got a complimentary travel cot from the hotel. Sammy still fits (barely) into the travel cot, so that was his bed, while Gabriel shared the master bed with us. Obviously Sammy loved our bed too much, so very often he would climb into our bed at night and the four of us would be somewhat squashed come morning.

The kids LOVEEEEED the pool! And so did we. The kids' pools were shallow enough for Gabriel to walk around with his floaties and yet deep enough for Sammy to swim around in his goggles.

Water was nice and warm. Sometimes even too warm. But I ain't complaining here, since I'm used to much colder waters in outdoor swimming pools.

Morning swims were enough to tire out the kids (and us) so we often napped together - As I said, it was a very relaxing trip! 

The pool bar had SUPERB cocktails and finger food. There was live music on certain days, so we were also pretty happy we stayed on a higher floor so that it wasn't too loud for us.

Pool bar

 Caesar's salad and one-for-one cocktails at the pool bar!


Gabriel's expression says it all!


Lounging at the pool area

 Lounging in the hotel room / on the balcony


All in all, a SUPERB stay! If it weren't for the fact that by the time we go to Bali again, our boys would probably be too big to stay in one room with us, we would love to go back there again! Highly-recommended for anybody who is looking for a place to stay in Seminyak, Bali!

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