Sunday, March 29, 2015

Singapore 2015 - Flying 13 hours with 2 toddlers alone


On the flight to Singapore when hub was still with us


I flew back from Singapore to Germany with my kids. Sam was 3.5 years old and Gabriel was 19 months old.

Till today, I can't believe that I did it!

Actually I think that Moms who fly long-haul with their toddlers deserve a medal of their own!

To be honest, I never thought that I would attempt this feat! The only reason that made me attempt it was that I wanted the kids to experience Chinese New Year.

CNY is a huge festival in Singapore. It has even more public holidays (2 days) allocated to it compared to Christmas (1 day).

My childhood memories were filled with many CNYs when I filled up my pockets with lots of red packets that were filled with money! And somehow after having lived in Germany for almost 9 years and having missed all but 1 CNY, I felt that it would be a waste if we left 2 weeks short of CNY.

Well, 4 weeks after my "feat", I would say that it was worth it! The extra 2 weeks in Singapore and CNY experience for the boys (and myself) was definitely worth flying alone!

I thought that I should document my experience as a keepsake for myself as well as to encourage any of you Moms out there, who at some point in time might consider doing just the same thing!

Some little tips that helped me!

My cheeky monkeys just before our maiden flight with 2 kids to Singapore


1. Tell yourself that YOU can do it! 

Mind before matter right?

There's nothing more scary (or maybe there is) than to be stuck in a confined space and be outnumbered by your kids.

But if kids and long-haul flights are so incompatible, then airline companies would have banned kids from travelling before a certain age.

So, since there isn't an age-restriction, I figured "It can't be THAT bad!"

Read up on the flight experiences of others Moms who have done it and tell yourself, "If they can do it, so can I!"

I also meditated on the verse, "I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me" Phil 4:13.

2. NO stress even if you're doing it for the first time

While I was reading up on the flight experiences of a frequent flyer Mom, one thing she said struck a cord in me.

There is NO correlation between frequent flyer kids and well-behaved kids.

She said that sometimes a first-time flyer can be an angel on board while her frequent flyer kids can be total xxxxxx .... or shall we say "just the opposite".

And even if the outbound flight was a nightmare, there's hope that the return flight would be a breeze!

So since the only predictable about kids is their unpredictability, just relax and go with the flow - or at least try. :)


3. Throw away your expectations

We took an afternoon flight from 2pm to about 3.30am (Singapore time), 8.30pm (German time).

Both kids napped like angels around 5pm for 2 hours. When they woke up, we had some small snacks and I continued to walk the aisles with Gabriel.

Ahhh.... 2 hours of peace!


Close to midnight, I started getting stressed that Gabriel didn't show ANY signs of wanting to sleep.

And I was getting tired of keeping him entertained after almost 10 hours onboard.

I did the next best thing I could think of.

I held him in an iron-grip in my arms and tried to put him to sleep.

It was SOOO bad!

He screamed like a madman! I swear, people probably thought I was torturing my baby.

The whole ordeal lasted only about 15mins (I think) but it felt more like half an hour.

And to make matters worse, a lovely old man stood up from his window seat, stood at the aisle and stared at me THE ENTIRE TIME!

I was THAT close to tell him to just mind his own business!

I have thickened my skin with regards to busybody onlookers when it comes to dealing with a cranky kid, but I was getting MORE stressed at having somebody stare at me over my shoulder than I was stressed about having a screaming kid in my arms!

It was quite hard to tell if he was really staring at me cos the cabin lights were off, but what else could he have been doing? He certainly wasn't talking to anybody!

Argh!

Back to my story, my dear Gabriel didn't fall asleep and I decided to sit him on my lap and watch my movie with me.

It was then that he fell asleep within the next 5 mins! - After I stopped trying!

So Mommies, if your kid doesn't want to sleep, don't stress about it. They will sleep when they are too tired to keep awake. 


4. DON'T, I repeat DON'T feel so apologetic whenever your kid cries. 

I read this from a fellow Mom's flight experience. 

I paid full price for Sammy's ticket and Gabriel's tickets albeit cheaper, still cost us money.

We're not free-riders. Our kids are paying passengers. Just like everyone else.

As much as the cries from a kid is a nuisance, that is life. It's normal. Every baby / kid cries. More so on a flight. In a confined space.

So, hold your head high, take a deep breath and take care of your kids the way you always do.



5. Have a back-up just in case

What do I mean?

Ok, at the risk of people judging me, I hand-carried a child medication meant for nausea / headache that causes mild drowsiness.

I figured, if all things fail, I would literally give my kid some help to fall asleep.

I've travelled alone with Sammy when he was barely 5 months old. He was still a baby and could sleep anywhere and everywhere.

This time, my 2 kids were toddlers and as much as I was prepping myself that all will be fine, I just wasn't so sure if everything would be fine.

The flight could be filled to the last seat, both my kids could have been screaming for entire 13 hours (highly-unlikely but not impossible), and I could have been at my wits' ends before arriving at our destination.

Every Mom should make a judgment call for herself, but personally, the medication was more a psychological thing for me than anything else. I knew that I would only use it as a last resort.

The only reason why I didn't use it when Gabriel screamed blood murder was because I didn't know how potent the drug was and if he would be totally knocked out for the next few hours such that I would have had to carry a sleeping baby, my hand luggage as well as bring my older kid out of the plane. That would be too cumbersome compared to having both kids awake and walking.

I had already survived 10 hours of flight time, so 3 hours would be manageable. It could very much have been a different story if Gabriel was screaming constantly for hours!


6. Find something to pass the time... For yourself. 

I managed to watch 3 full movies during our 13-hour flight!

I kept my earphones in, while my eyes were glued to both Gabriel and the screen. It worked out pretty well overall because Gabriel played with his cars quite often.

I couldn't always watch all the scenes but since I kept the earphones in, I could still follow the story line.

Another idea would be to read those magazines they have onboard. While walking up and down the aisle with Gabe a million times, I was glad to have something to hold and read. I read while he played with other passengers, or made his pit stop at the air-stewardesses "kitchen".

Breaking up the flight into pockets of movie time / walking time / toilet breaks helped to break the monotony of a flight.


7. Bring extra change of clothes for yourself

I was so diligent in packing a lot of change of clothes for the kids. Gabriel went through almost 6 / 7 diapers in 13 hours!!! That is mega unusual of him, but he seemed to have a very active disgestive system at higher altitudes!

Sammy didn't need any change of clothes.

But I totally forgot to pack something for myself. Once I was drinking a soft drink and Gabriel climbed onto my lap and started jumping on me.

Needless to say, I had coke spilled ALL over my jeans! That was the only time I got a flight personnel to take BOTH kids from me, so I could somewhat try to save myself from being an ant-magnet (not that there are ants up there).

My jeans couldn't dry completely so I had to sit uncomfortably for the rest of the flight. Lesson learnt!


8. Don't choose the baby seats just behind business class

I'm not sure if this only applies to Singapore Airlines, but my experience was that my kid was not allowed to take a step into Business Class.

It was quite impossible to stop him though! There was this curtain that separated Economy and Business class and that curtain is THE most fun playtoy for a kid!

He would walk through the curtain and play with his toy car on one of those cushy sofa seats. The flight was extremely empty, so the nearest business class passenger was 3-4 seats in front of the seat that Gabriel was playing at.

But I was told numerous times to take him out because of "company policy".

Bottom line, if you need a basinette seat, choose the ones further back in the plane, since business class is usually in the front.


9. Decide for yourself at what age do you want to travel with your kid

All this time, I've been talking about my younger one. Why?

Because my 3.5 year was a breeze!

Sam absolutely loved being on a plane! He loved it! He loved his movies!

Or should I say "movie".

What movie does a kid watch when he's on a plane?

"Planes" of course!

That boy watched that movie 4 times I believe! He only took breaks when he had to go to the toilet.

He never once screamed and when I told him, "Ok Sam, once you're done with this movie, you nap ok? Gabriel is already napping.", he went down like clockwork!

What I wanted to say is, the age of a kid plays a big role!

0-1: Great for travelling because the baby sleeps and eat. I'm speaking of the typical case of course.

1-2: The age that is hard hard hard! No pattern, kid is uninterested in media and requires constant   movement and attention.

2-3: Similar to 1-2 but a bit easier (I think). Sam was 1.5 years old when we flew once but I can't remember much of the flight.

Above 3: A breeze. Child understands what it means to watch a movie.

I think that about surmises my thoughts of flying alone!

If you have any more tips, do let me know!

-----------------------

And because this week has been such a sad week for Singaporeans, I'll leave you with some goofy pictures of the boys.

I was reflecting today and thought to myself, "Man, if LKY didn't exist, there could be a high chance that I wouldn't have met my hubby, since my parents might not have had enough money to send me abroad and my kids might not even have been born!"

So here's to LIFE - May we make each day count and labor in the strength that God enables us to. 

To LEADERS - May we continue to pray for them that they would continue to be incorruptible, visionary, humble and not afraid to do what's right.

To the GOD who blesses us with EVERY good and PERFECT gift - May we continue to seek Him first before all things.


Best part of being home? To be reunited with my hubby again!

Goofing around

All serious


Peek a boo!

There I am again!


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew



I'm Singaporean. Born and bred.

Although I've lived for almost 9 years overseas, I've never once considered exchanging my passport for a European one.

I can't describe what it means for me to be Singaporean.

Ask any overseas Singaporean and they'd probably tell you it's the Singlish or the local food that you miss no matter how long you've lived abroad.

It didn't matter if you're Chinese, Malay or Indian. You'd inherently feel a sense of patriotism of being Singaporean. Singapore is a multi-cultural, multilingual and multi-religious society so intrically-woven together that every person, regardless of race or heritage is proud to be a Singaporean.

I've always felt proud of being Singaporean.

It's safe, the food is the BEST in the world, everything is efficient and it was home to me for the first 23 years of my life.

Once, I had to renew my Singaporean passport in Germany and seriously, it was as easy as an online application and voilĂ ! I got it within a couple of weeks! I was mega impressed!

I enjoy hassle-free visa-free travel to so many countries in the world. The last time I went to Bali with my family, everybody had to pay a visa-upon-arrival fee of about US$30 per person, while I could happily go through for free.

When I first relocated to Germany, I could conveniently convert my Singaporean driver's licence for the German one because Singapore fell under the list of "exception" countries that Germany recognized had high enough standards of driving requirements, such that I didn't have to fork out another 1,000€ to re-do my driver's licence here.

These are real conveniences of being Singaporean. 

When I got the news that LKY died, I felt so upset.

It felt like my own grandfather had passed away.

I didn't know LKY as a person, but without him, the Singapore I know wouldn't be in existence today.

I've been reading all the articles and videos of LKY that have inundated my FB the past 2 days. And each read only made me feel so deeply appreciative, grateful and thankful for all this man has done.

He was truly a gift to Singapore.

One thing that struck me was that when LKY became PM of Singapore, he had to take care of 2 million Singaporeans - create jobs for them, housing, schools, root out corruption, ensure the security of the country....

2 million! That's 2,000,000 people!

My hubby is boss to a medium-sized company with 25 employees and I know the type of issues and level of decision-making he has to deal with on a regular basis.

I have a family with 2 kids. And taking care of these 2 kids is enough to tire me out at the end of everyday! 

LKY took it upon himself to take care of the welfare of 2,000,000 citizens!

One only does that when one truly has a heart and a vision for this people. He literally lived and breathed Singapore.

Due to the government's policies of meritocracy, Singapore has one of the most rigorous education systems in the world.

I say this from experience. I had my first exams in English, Maths and Chinese when I completed kindergarten. Can you imagine my pleasant surprise when I found that in Germany, children do not have any tests / exams in kindergarten?

One is not required to know how to read / write properly before grade 1. I think you only need to know how to write your name?

Sammy, in comparison to his Singaporean friends, is most definitely trailing behind when it comes to academics even at this age!

I graduated from university almost 10 years ago (ah-hm) but I still recall having nightmares of Chinese exams years after I graduated! That's how terrified I was of exams, especially Chinese exams!!!

I do appreciate the fact that children are allowed to have more of a childhood in a laid-back environment in Germany. And Germany's economy is still prospering, (despite) its lack of a rigorous early education environment.

My point is, growing up in Singapore, I know that the government's policies may not have been the easiest for everybody. For myself, my entire childhood was made up of studying, exams and more exams.

BUT at the end of the day, this education system brought forth a lot of fruit for the economy and produced a people who are known worldwide for their efficiency and high standards of work ethics.

I was whatsapping a fellow Singaporean of mine and we both felt that, when LKY was around, there was this sense that Singapore would do just fine.

Economic crisis. That old man knew what to do to turn Singapore around.

Terrorism. SARS. Whatever you name, it felt that as long as LKY was around, Singapore was in safe hands.

I'm so thankful that LKY stayed on in cabinet even after he stepped down as Prime Minister. He was in cabinet for 52 years (!!!) and was the longest-serving PM in the world when he finally stepped down in 2011.

He could have easily chosen the easy path of retirement but instead he stayed on to mentor the next generation of leaders.

I realize that my opinions of him might not be shared by every person. To each his own. 

LKY's works speak for itself.

He may not have been perfect but nobody is. (Except Jesus. And even he had enemies who wanted him dead). 

To me, LKY was the best gift that Singapore could ever have.

Lee Kuan Yew truly is Singapore.

-- A truly grateful Singaporean

#remembering LKY

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Singapore 2015 - Botanical Gardens

While I'm still on the topic of what I did in Singapore, I want to mention that Botanical Gardens is not just superb for Jacob Ballas.

The rest of the gardens, which span 74 hectare, is a haven for kids because one can play ball, feed fish and do all sorts of outdoor activities for free! In a very well-kept garden.

Sam is born only a couple of months apart from some of his friends from church in Singapore. Naturally, each time we're back, we had to make it a point to meet up and catch up!

So, with 5 kids and 3 Moms, we managed to go on an epic playdate! To botanics no less.

It was so fun! And so chaotic and stressful at the same time!

But fun nevertheless! And memorable!

To give you a glimpse of how chaotic it can be go out with 5 kids, one of the kids even vomitted on the cab ride on the way to the gardens!

I think she had some motion sickness cos she wasn't sick otherwise.

But you can imagine what it was like for 2 moms to get out of the cab and try desperately to clean up all that puke, change her and clean up the cab a bit!

That was thankfully the only unexpected event of the day.

The kids had a whale of a time playing ball, roaming the gardens and just do things that kids do!

We ended the day at a very kids-friendly restaurant called "Food for thought". It's on the opposite end of Botanical Gardens from Jacob Ballas. So do not make the mistake of thinking that you can go to Jacob Ballas and walk to the restaurant. It'd take you 1.5 hours (I think).

This restaurant is pretty much the only restaurant in Botanics and it comes well-equipped with children utensils, kids' menu and even has a small playground on the outside where the kids can play while the Mummies eat.

I ordered a pasta dish - which left much to be desired, but I heard that their burgers are pretty good but they were already sold out by the time we had dinner there.

Would highly-recommend this restaurant to end off playdates at the garden!

This is more of a photo blog entry because I simply had to share these shots with you.

Looking at them makes me sigh with contentment and happiness. We are blessed with such great friends - both Mummy and kiddo friends! And even though we live halfway across the world from each other, we'll still be able to cheer each other on in our journey of motherhood together! 

All excited just before embarking on their little outing

We were feeding the ducks!

Swans and the black mass which were actually catfish

Tranquility

 All the birds tried to snatch some of the breadcrumbs! The kids got quite afraid of them!

 Gabe trying his hand (or should I say "foot")at football with his first female fan


He was genuinely interested in the name of the flower!


My friend, V told her son, "You gotta run for the ball! Sam is German, he's not gonna give you face!" LOL!

Love how Sam crossed his arms like a big boy!



Sam and S. born a few months apart

Gabe started crying cos he didn't want to have his photo taken!


I think the Mummies looked forward to dinner more than the kids! No photos of food cos we were famished!


Everyone busy calling for a cab home!

Food for Thought

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Singapore 2015 - Things we did with 2 toddlers under 4

So here we are. Back from our epic 6-week holiday in Singapore and Bali.

It has been so AMAZING!

This was the longest trip I spent in Singapore since I got married and moved to Germany in 2006! 

Now that I'm back to the daily rut of washing laundry, preparing meals, cleaning up after meals, fetching Sam from preschool (the hub brings him), spending 24/7 with my little pet Gabriel, I figured that I should revive my blog! 

I guess this trip to Singapore was long enough to make me feel homesick again! 

Don’t get me wrong. I always feel homesick whenever I leave Singapore but after having lived in Germany for the past 9 years, Singapore has become more of my second home / holiday destination. The fact that I’ve never stayed there long enough for me to really remember what it was like to live there and not just have a holiday, made it somewhat easier for me to leave again. 

This time though, I had my hubby with me for 4 weeks and my 2 boys with me for the entire 6 weeks. It was Gabriel’s maiden trip and Sammy’s second Chinese New Year. There's something so heartwarming to watch your own kids share in things from your childhood! I wish they would be exposed to the Singaporean culture as much as they are to the German one. 

Foodwise, Gabriel is more adventurous and would gobble up his char siew pau (pork bun) and sliced fish soup. Sammy would usually be quite skeptical about “unfamiliar” food and would only chew his food hesitantly after seeing his brother take his first bite. 

My boys in their crew cuts savoring their fresh mango juice

We found an old-school shop that sold biscuits from my childhood!


Both kids took very well to the weather and other than a mild case of diarrhoea towards the end of the trip, none of us fell sick during the entire 6 weeks! Praise God!

We really spent our time in Singapore relaxing, swimming (lots!), hanging around in malls and meeting up with friends and family over food, food and more food!

Love Bak Chok Mee!

We didn't want to burn a hole in our pockets since we had just moved house and still have to be cautious with our spending (ah-hem), so we opted for cheaper or better still, FREE things to do!

1. Sentosa

Sentosa has become so easily-accessible by train from Vivocity so we brought the kids there about 3-4 times! Sammy lurved the Luge, while Gabriel had a love-hate relationship with it! I had to navigate the slopes slowly with him otherwise he would scream his lungs out! The view from the lift up the slopes was awesome though!

We would leave home by late morning, have lunch at Vivocity (much cheaper than in Sentosa), take the train to "Beach station" and just hang out at the beach and go to the Luge.

We didn't bother much with Universal Studios or the aquarium, since we went to the latter during our previous trip and our kids are still too young to meet the minimum height requirement for most of the rides at Universal Studios.

After the Luge rides, we would have some bubble tea (they have Gong Cha there) and Old Chang Kee. Oh yeah! Gabriel loved the "bubbles" from bubble tea and both kids loved anything deep-fried from OCK. Who wouldn't?


On the ride up the slopes

Helmets make us all look DOH!

The boys squirming over their helmets

Sam rocking his helmet

The beach at Sentosa actually looks pretty nice!
Sand gorgeous sand
Recognize that OCK stick?? Yum!

2. Shopping malls

The afternoon sun is blazing hot in Singapore so the next best thing to do is to take shelter in the malls.

I made the mistake once of bringing the kids to an open-air playground at noon! I guess those years of living abroad blurred my memory of how hot the sun really is! Sammy couldn't even go on the swing because he said the seat was burning his bum! 

Thanks to Dad for the Maclaren double stroller, my boys could nap on the go.

The only problem we had very often is that the boys wouldn't nap simultaneously. Of course one would wake up exactly when the other went down for his nap. Still, one kid awake is only 50% the work of 2 kids right?

Oh, you won't believe how many people asked us if they were twins! I suppose that question should be expected when one uses a double stroller, plus the fact that they do look pretty similar. But we were still quite surprised at how often we would have to answer, "No. They are 2 years apart."

Things in Singapore have gotten sooo mega expensive - more so now that the Euro is so weak! Argh! Hence, we were so thankful that my Dad blessed us with quite a bit of shopping vouchers so we could buy summer clothes for the boys "for free!" Singapore is after all a shopping paradise!

I did spend one long afternoon at Paragon Shopping mall for their indoor playground. The stores on that level are exorbitant - think Armani kids prices. But if you go there to just let your kids run crazy in an enclosed area that's FREE, this is the place for you.


They absolutely love this "Chuggington" train! It's a money-making machine!

 3. Botanical Gardens - Jacob Ballas

Seriously, this garden deserves an award of sorts.

It's THAT good!

I would bring my kids there everyday if I lived in Singapore!

Gorgeous kids-sized waterfall
The kids' play area is one-of-its-kind! There's a waterplay area, sandplay area, waterfall, suspension bridge, treehouse with 2 slides and all sorts of educational spots where one can learn about flora and fauna.

The garden is also enclosed, so if one loses a kid, the kid wouldn't be able to leave the garden without passing through a barricade which is always watched by some botanical garden staff.

And the best part of it? This entire garden is free!!!!

There is even a cafe just outside the garden where one can grab some very reasonably-priced fish and chips. Oh the tables and chairs are even miniature. And the toilets too.

Gosh. I'm missing the garden even as I'm writing about it.


Spot the little monkey running around?





 Taking turns to splash each other


 The story behind this is that I told Sammy that he shouldn't pour water on Gabe because Gabe hates it. So he decided to pour water on himself instead! And he got such a kick out of doing so!

So proud of my little man who insisted on helping his friend buckle up

The walk thru botanics is beautiful too!

4. Couple dates

I think it's an age thing. But as we get older and especially now with 2 kids in tow, we find that we would rather meet up with less people and have more quality time.

Couple time was far and few between but we managed to sneak out for some supper time after the kids fell asleep - which was very rare and very late. No thanks to the fact that we all sleep in the same room and they wouldn't go to bed when we're not there.

We went to Cajun Kings after hearing so much about this place! I first thought it would be down town so I was pleasantly surprised when it was hidden away in a private housing estate! Not far from my Dad's place too!

The food was AMAZING! The cajun prawns, mussels mix is not for the faint-hearted though! So very spicy it is! But very shiok!

Highly-recommended to go for a finger-licking good time with friends!

One rare couple shot.
At Cajun Kings - We had such superb cajun shrimps, corns and mussels!

15-1 Jalan Riang
Singapore 358987

We did quite a bit of other stuff in Singapore and Bali too. But these were the main things that I felt was worth mentioning in a nutshell.

I hope to be able to sort out my photos and blog about it before the year is over!!!! - Just kidding..... (hopefully!)

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails