Monday, September 28, 2015

Sammy's 4th birthday

Dear Sammy

Just like that, 4 years have passed and you are such a little man now.

You hand-made some invitation cards with Mummy cos you were allowed to invite some kindergarten friends over for your birthday party. This is the first time we had a kids-only party because many of Mummy's friends with kids were still not back from their vacations.

We re-used your "Cars" theme from your first birthday (not that you would remember that) and we DIYed all the decorations and food, except for the birthday cake.

The lovely Fara hand-baked the chocolate Cars cake and it was absolutely, smashingly, wonderfully beautiful. Both pleasing for the eyes and the taste buds.

The only drawback of the party was the meagre amount of food that 4-5 year old boys eat! Most of them ate like mice - nibbled on their food. They were mainly interested to play rather than eat.

We first had about an hour of food-cum-free-play at home, during which Daddy' ear drums almost popped out of his ears. Mummy found it really sweet to see how you totally enjoyed having your friends over.

Thereafter, you boys had a mini treasure hunt around our neighborhood which last clue involved going back to square one (home) to look for mini treasures - takehome goodies wrapped in a bag.

Once we got home, we took out the lovely chocolate cake, sang you your birthday song and you blew out all the candles.

You unwrapped your presents and were totally overwhelmed with the sheer amount of presents you were bestowed on!

The finale of the party was when you guys played "hit the pot" game. Basically, you boys took turn to be blindfolded and with the help of a wooden spoon, you would have to locate the pot by crawling around the floor.

Once you found the pot, you would overturn it and get the little treasure below (a little packet of gummy bears or chocolate bar). Gabriel was the last one to have his shot at the game and he totally acced it because he saw what the other kids did.

Once most of the guests left, you were so exhausted that you were melting down by the second (ie. unexplained tantrums and crying). We called it a day, gave you a shower and you were in bed by 8pm.

It was a very lovely 2.5-hours party and we're really glad we went ahead to have a children's party. It turned out less stressful than having the usual full-blown parties that we've been having until now.

For many kids, their earliest memories started around the age of 4. We hope that in time, you'll remember with fond memories how we celebrated your birthdays.

We love you so much little one. You're such a blessing to us. We are constantly aware of how God uses you to encourage our hearts. You would very often say, "Mummy, thank you for ..... " Even for little things like me bringing you a glass of water.

Thanks for appreciating me / us darling. Thankfulness is a real virtue to be cultivated and we hope that with age, you will only grow in wisdom, deeper thankfulness and a keener sense of God in your life.

We love you always.
Mummy & Daddy

(Due to protecting the privacy of the other children, I have chosen not to include pictures that show their faces)

My desert table. And may I say I'm proud of the way it turned out? :)

Traffic light bites. A pinterest idea which looked so easy, but involved quite a bit of chocolate burning the fingers!

Chocolate chip wheels

Berry muffin garage which was an almost-disaster in the oven, but we managed to salvage some

Some savory bites of cheese and tomatoes, carrots with garlic dip (not pictured)

The "Cars" backdrop. Same as those from 3 years ago.

The hub giving instructions for the next treasure hunt clue

Believe it or not, one of the clues fell through the trampoline hole and we had to fish it out!

Sammy's lovely birthday cake

Pardon the bad quality, but that's the safest photo I could post that didn't include all the other kids' faces

Cake-cutting. The cake was the one thing the kids were most interested in!

During the "hit the pot" game

DIY cars cup and serviette-holder which the boys really didn't care about.

The take-home goodie bags. The kids loved it!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Toilet-training my 2 year old

(Warning: Post for Mummies or those who are simply interested in how toddlers learn to control their bladders.) 

We started toilet-training Gabriel shortly after he turned two because I tried to use the summer temperatures to let him run around the house half-naked. There was only a one-month window of opportunity before temperatures dipped again and it became too cold to let him run around naked.

So far, what I've been doing is removing his diapers and letting him sit on the toilet bowl at regular intervals throughout the day. I try to concentrate my toilet-training efforts when Sam is at kindergarten and I have Gabriel at home with me.

At the beginning, it was horrible! He refused to sit on the toilet bowl and would climb off as soon as I got his butt down. But now, he's quite content to sit on the throne with a book in his hands. I do tell him to pee or kaka (German for poo) and he would just repeat after me "kaka!"

And I'll be like, "No Gabriel, you gotta pee / kaka". And he would just look at me and play with his ah-hem, down there. After 2-3 mins of sitting down, I would let him resume his normal activities and repeat the entire process in a couple of minutes time.

Needless to say, it's been a LOT of work!

This boy knows exactly what he has to do, but refuses to do it! He's very capable of holding everything in and would wait for the opportune time to let everything out when I'm forced to wear him a diaper when he goes down for his nap or when we have to pick Sam up from the kindy.

Of course he has peed all over the house too! Even our brand-new sofa has only gone through the initiation ceremony! (I've since washed that spot VERY thoroughly).

I must say that my patience was beginning to wear itself thin after numerous unsuccessful attempts over many days.

But somehow, something clicked!

In my desperation to get him to co-operate, I started the same method that worked brilliantly for Sam - A reward sticker wall! I pasted a piece of paper on the wall in the toilet with some space to paste stickers. Then I asked Gabriel to choose one, so as to reward his behaviour of sitting on the throne.

Apparently, he was so fascinated with the stickers that without me realizing it, Sam and Gabe went ahead to fill up the entire paper with stickers! (Facepalm)

At dinner time, Gabriel suddenly said "kaka!" I automatically checked to see where it was that he peed again (he usually announces only after he has done the deed). But I realized to my amazement that everything was still dry! And he started to hop impatiently. I swept him up in my arms and ran to the toilet. He actually managed his first successful pee session!

Well, almost. Let's just say that the trigger was pointed in the wrong direction and I had to readjust the trigger to point at the right target before everything was fine.

I was ECSTATIC! I was jumping around the toilet and giving my boy high-fives or rather high-tens. It felt like I had struck lottery!

My boy did his first pee in the toilet at 2 years 3 weeks old!

I only toilet-trained Sam at about 2 years 7 months because when he was 2 years old, I had a 2-month newborn to care for and potty-training was the last thing on my mind.

Since then, Gabriel is able to tell me whenever he needs to do the deed (pee) and would go to the toilet on his own and even climb on the throne. 

It's early September now and Gabriel goes diaper-less most of the time when we're at home during the day. I still wear him diapers at night and when we go out of the house.

Let's see how long it will take for us to take the plunge and go cold turkey on the diapers!

I don't want to pressurize Gabriel to make the switch until I feel that he's ready. And now that the weather is colder, I'm assuming that it would take longer than if it had still been warm. But for now, I'm glad to say that at least half the battle is won with Gabe being able to control his bladder at will.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dear Gabriel - You have turned TWO!

My not-so-little guy

Chilled strawberry cake with a layer of vanilla pudding and light sponge cake underneath

Gabriel absolutely lurved his candle train!

Dear baby-of-the-family Gabe

You have officially entered the terrible terrific twos, although I must say that similarly to your older brother,  I don't see any difference in your behavior for the worse now that you have crossed this threshold.

The only thing that has perhaps changed is your explosion of vocabulary!

You didn't use to talk much. But since you turned two, it's like this switch was turned on. All of a sudden, you started repeating words or even saying words without us prompting you! It totally took us by surprise and from a day-to-day basis, you would pick up even more words to surprise us!

Recently you even said your first two-word sentence, "Mama come!"

Your words so far are -  auto (car in German), Opa, Oma, Papa, Mama, ball, done (when he's done eating), pam-ma (his own invention for falling down), Ge Ge (his defacto answer whenever I ask him why he's crying), come, pika (baby language for bicycle), moom (for moon), star, butt (for bus!) - This one totally leaves me in stitches. 

You're such a darling and absolute Mummy's boy. While Sammy was all "Bye Mummy!" and he "forgets" about me whenever his grandparents took him out for the day, you're quite the opposite. Thankfully you don't have separation anxiety for people that you're familiar with. But I've been told that after a couple of hours, you would keep calling my name in a "I-miss-Mummy" kinna way. *heartmelt*

I'm so thankful to be a SAHM to just be there with and for you. From the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, you're pretty much my little pet.

The only "structured" activity we go to regularly is the English playgroup on Thursdays for 2 hours. But other than that, we do not have any planned activity and I usually plan my days and weeks as they come. I don't believe in packing up your schedule at such a tender age and I doubt I would pack up both yours and Ge Ge's timetables when you grow older either.

There's enough stress and hecticness in the world and I just want to give both of you as much of a childhood as you can have.

Both you and Ge Ge indulge in lots of free, unstructured play. Your grandparents have even marvelled at how long you both can occupy yourselves with just a train track or a puzzle.

I do try to bring you out almost everyday, usually after your nap time. Oh yes, thank God both of you still nap simultaneously for about 2 hours everyday. It's a real breather for me because I find myself sooo tired in those post-lunch, before-dinner hours. The 2-5pm time slot is a real killer, I kid you not. Even when I was working at a corporate job in Singapore, I found it hard to stay productive during those hours. I do think there's reason in having a siesta.

Ok, enough diversion.

Gabriel, you're still very much the baby of the family. You still fit into your onesies and we still enjoy squeezing those lean thighs of yours. You have the funniest way of running, sorta like running on your ballerina toes and you have the most infectious laugh when we tickle you. Oh and you're still at the stage when you enjoy being tickled so we're gonna milk it as long as it lasts!

You have a constant fascination with planes, trains, cars and birds. Planes are "da!", trains are "ta ta", cars are "auto" and birds are "boo boo". Oh and bicycles and bikes continue to be his "pi-ka" no matter how diligently I try to correct your pronunciation.

On your actual birthday, I baked a strawberry cake and prepared craft for the English playgroup. You were totally fascinated at your candle train and how everybody was looking at you while singing you your birthday song. Your stunned expression speaks volumes on how you haven't really understood the whole concept of birthdays yet.

Two weeks later, we celebrated your birthday again with only family and Godparents. There were only 8 adults and 3 kids in total and we did a BBQ.

This is such a far cry from the crazy birthday parties that we organised for Sammy. I think Mummy has reached the point of having more meaningful, smaller and more intimate parties than huge, crazy ones.

Love you little mini-me. One more year before you start preschool. Mummy loves having you around in the morning. Don't grow up too fast baby. Your time with us is too precious to be rushed. Our prayer is that you will be a strong warrior for the Lord and you'll find your place in this generation.

With all your heart
Mummy & Daddy

Friday, July 10, 2015

Whirlwind trip to Zürich

We took a 2-hour drive to Zürich recently to see my friend, Beverly and her family from Singapore.

We met them when we visited Singapore in January this year. Her two boys are around the same age as mine, so playdates are awesome. Sammy remembered Hunter and Carter too and he was so excited to see them, he went to bed the night before saying, "Yay, we're gonna see Hunter and Carter tomorrow!"

Originally, we had planned to spend the weekend at Zürich and stayover at a friend's place, but poor Gabe had a bad fall on Thursday. We had to observe him for the next 24 - 48 hrs so I didn't want to make any trips within that time frame.

Hence, we had to cancel out on my friend, but still decided to drive down to Zurich on Sunday. It was after all only a 2-hour drive away.

It turned out to be a fantastic idea to drive on a Sunday, cos the roads were empty!!! Apparently long vehicles are prohibited from driving on Sundays unless they had a special permit and I guess most people do road trips on a Friday or Saturday.

One thing I must say is that drivers in Switzerland are super obedient! They would always keep to the speed limit, whether or not there are traffic cameras around. I told hubby that they have probably been "fined into obedience!" Traffic fines in Switzerland are known to be cut-throat! My Dad once drove in Switzerland and was caught on a traffic camera for "speeding" at only 58km/h where 50km/h was allowed.

Guess how much he had to pay???

80 CHF!!! That's 80€ for exceeding the speed limit at less than 10km/h!

The weather was scorching hot that day! A real proper heatwave. So the girls made a spontaneous decision to go to the outdoor swim area at the lake rather than to the park as we had originally arranged.

The boys had to borrow swimtrunks from Bev's friend and I decided to be the offical photographer for obvious reasons that I had no swimwear and it was also that time of the month.

It was a beautiful outdoor swim area. They had cordoned off part of the Zurich lake so the boys went down a giant water slide right into lake which temperature was only a meagre 19 degrees!!!

I was so proud of my boys, cos although they were shivered (the younger ones), they very much kept wanting to go on that slide repeatedly!

We alternated between the chilly lake waters and the baby waddling pool which water was a little bit warmer. Read: little.

After a couple of hours at the pool where lunch was a mix of food we brought along with us and a pizza that cost a staggering 20CHF (that's double the price of pizzas in a restaurant in Stuttgart), we adjourned to a playground at the nearby park for even more outdoor play.

It was quite a cool experience to meet a fellow friend from back home, halfway across the world and share some common experiences on our continent. 

The kids were so knackered they fell asleep on the way home.

We got home by about 10pm and since the kids had slept in the car on the way home, they were awake until close to midnight before falling asleep again.

I'm so keen to head back to Zurich lake and try some outdoor swimming for myself! If only Zurich weren't so expensive, it would definitely be on one of our favourite daytrip destinations!

The giant slide that goes right into Zürich lake. The water was 19 degrees! Brrr!

Both Dads helping their little ones out of the water

Have I said how proud I felt at my boys? They were shivering but kept wanting to go for more!

And off they go for their next slide!


Switzerland for you

Chocolately-mouth Sam

Notice the difference in skin colour?

Gabe showing where he got his boo boo. He fell off a bench then, but all's good now!

They actually partitioned that circle on the left, so people could swim in a safe, enclosed part of the Lake

The 3 men I love the most in my life

 Sammy can be such a protective older brother!

 See what I say about how my boys lurrve their swings?

That  hat actually looks quite cool on Gabriel! It belongs to Carter btw.

Sam and Hunter "reconnecting" after not seeing each other for 6 months

And that's my friend, Bev whom we came over to see!

The best photo I could get of the 3 boys. Gabriel was already in the car.
Their expressions speak a thousand words

And with that, we said adios to our friends! Until we visit Singapore again!

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



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!


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