What one doesn’t see

So while a baby and dog may look real cute in photos, trust me, it’s not always the case. Last week was my mom’s turn to take a break so HJ and I took leave to take care of Nat and Cookie, the family pet. I can’t say this in any better way – I am SO GLAD I can go back to office tomorrow! I really salute the moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas who stay home to take care of young kids and/or pets. Really.

This is just a snapshot of what usually happens with a baby and dog in the same small house.

  • Baby tearing tissue paper
  • Dog and baby almost scratching each other during play time
  • Dog hiding under bed and refusing to come out because of a thunder storm
  • Dog mistaking rugs for a pee pad and staining almost all of them

What isn’t captured is Cookie barking whenever our neighbour comes home because she thinks they are the “enemy” and then barking at 2/3am because she is afraid to sleep alone in the living room. After barking at such unearthly hours, our friend, Nat is woken up and has to be soothed in our adult bed.

Moral of the story: I know this cannot compare ever to having 2 kids but if this is anything of a preview, I am definitely not cut out for taking care of so many small beings.

This is a rant post.

I need to go back to work tomorrow.

To my mom who has to look after both baby and dog daily, I don’t know how you do it but you’re a superwoman.

– CK

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Tokyo and Kyoto in a week

Japan – you have been awesome! Will share briefly how we covered Tokyo-Kyoto-Nara & Yokohama within a week in this post. Now, at least HJ is open to more trips when he previously stayed away after the 2011 nuclear plant incident. Osaka-Kobe-Hiroshima next time? We’ll see. I really don’t fancy Osaka that much but it’s an inroad to Kobe and Hiroshima, which I’m more interested in.

Day 1: 28/11 (Tue)

  • Departed Singapore for Tokyo
  • We chose a night flight so that we can snooze on board and start touring once we arrive

 

Day 2: 29/11 (Wed)

  • Arrived in Tokyo really early at 7am
  • Visited the Yasukuni Shrine after we stored our bags at our hotel near Shinjuku station – I missed this in my previous trip so it was a must-go for me in view of its historical significance.
  • We didn’t go to the Meiji Shrine based on preference and I had also visited that before but if you stay near Shinjuku or Shibuya, the Meiji Shrine is nearby!
  • After checking in, I bought HJ to see the main tourist spots in the city since it’s his first time (Shinjuku/Shibuya and Harajuku).

 

Day 3: 30/11 (Thurs)

  • Left for Kyoto via Shinkansen, which was where I wanted to spent the bulk of our trip (3 days, 2 nights in total).
  • Kyoto has A LOT of temples but we narrowed down to a few must-sees that was near our hotel – Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Kiyomizudera Temple (both of which can take up the whole afternoon and evening if you take your own sweet time).
  • We also managed to visit a few malls i.e. Takashimaya in the evening. The big malls close daily at 8pm, which is quite early compared to Singapore standards so one way is to go shopping first and then have dinner after 8pm since most food places open until 10/11pm.

 

Day 4: 1/12 (Fri)

  • We set off early to the Arashiyama bamboo forest and the Kinkaku-ji temple (golden pavilion), which is in the same area as the bamboo forest.
  • If we had more time, I would have visited the Tenryu-ji temple, another UNESCO heritage site that is located quite near the bamboo forest. You can visit the temple first, and then exit via the garden, turn left and enter the bamboo forest grove.
  • After lunch and before the sun sets, we took a day trip to Nara (45 minutes away by train on the JR Nara line) to see wild deers roaming in Nara Park. The sun sets around 430pm during winter so we had to ensure that we reached Nara by 3pm so that we could spend some time in the park before it became dark. 
  • The famous Todai-ji temple (with the giant Buddha) is also located in the park and closes at 5pm.
  • We spent the evening having dinner and souvenir shopping in Nara before heading back to Kyoto at night.

 

Day 5: 2/12 (Sat)

  • For our last morning in Kyoto, we decided to go to the silver pavilion – Ginkaku-ji temple, having visited the golden one.
  • Near the temple is also the Philosopher’s Path, which is famous for being lined with peach blossoms but as it was the tail-end of autumn, we got to see a myriad of orange and red leaves instead.
  • In the afternoon, we headed back to Tokyo via Shinkansen and spent the rest of the evening shopping at Tokyo station, Ikebukuro and Sunshine City.

 

Day 6: 3/12 (Sun)

  • On our second last day, we decided to go to Yokohama, specifically to visit the Ramen museum and Nissin cup noodles museum.
  • If we had more time, maybe I would have visited the Kirin beer museum? However, between the 3, HJ preferred the food-related ones.

 

Day 7: 4/12 (Sun)

  • Half a day in Tokyo and flight back to SG

In retrospect, if we had 1 more day, to really max out the 7 day rail pass, I might have included a trip to Mt. Fuji.

Between Mt. Fuji and Yokohama, we chose to do the latter instead because HJ did not really want to take a a 2.5 hr bus ride to Mt. Fuji to and fro Tokyo. After all, I had also been to Hakone and Mt. Fuji on my previous trip but Yokohama was the first for the both of us.

So visiting Tokyo & Kyoto 6-7 days is very doable. It just needs prior planning and scoping of the sites depending on what you want to really see and do.

Between the two, we definitely preferred the slower pace of Kyoto! Am so glad we spent almost half the time there.

Will surely be back to Japan in the near future! HJ says next year – that’s too soon for me but I definitely won’t wait 6 years to come back unlike my previous trip in 2011!

CK

Last trip without Nat

We’re in Japan for our end of year trip while Nat is having his own ‘vacation’ at my mom’s. This is our longest time away from him – 7 days. He still seems rather oblivious? Actually, Nat has never been very clingy but after 6 days, we are eager to see him ! For our next trip in 2018, guess he will be traveling with us…

Generally, 2017 has been an awesome year vacation-wise.

We managed to go to Hanoi (June), Hong Kong (Aug), Penang (Sept) and now Japan.

Partly, it was to make up for a whole year of being in Singapore when I was expecting Nat.

HJ also does not want to travel with Nat yet because it’s very different, traveling with and without a baby. Bluntly speaking, dealing with a carrier, pram, milk powder and diapers isn’t what we have in mind when we think of a vacation.

Yet, I think after a year of reliving our 2015 travel days, I’m ready to bring Nat along with us next year. He’ll be 1 year plus and not really a baby anymore. We’ll see how it goes…

CK

Little Steps

At 12.5 months, Nat has begun taking more steps on his own! We noticed that he feels safest at home to walk unassisted and barefoot whereas outside, he’ll still prefer to hold onto our hands most of the time. I’m cool with that. To be honest, we are also baby-proofing as he ventures around the house.

I am not an expert on how babies progress from crawling to walking or some even skip the crawling stage altogether. For the longest time, Nat remained at the standing-up and cruising stage.

Around 7/8 months Nat could already stand inside his crib or playpen but he didn’t really cruise until 11 months? He just preferred to crawl inside his room or from one bedroom to another.

Nat also doesn’t get a lot of cruising time when he’s at my mom’s because her place isn’t as baby-friendly and she was/is undergoing some toilet renovation so there is dust everywhere. As a result, most of the “free-roam” time happens on weekday nights or on weekends. I don’t know if this affected when he started walking in anyway but I figured that once Nat gains more confidence, he’ll be able to walk for longer distance unassisted at my mom’s place too. On our part, we also need to help baby-proof her house pronto! Like we got to at least be on par with him and not always catching up.

So on weekdays, Nat gets to “walk” when they go to the playground in the morning or in the reading room at our place before he goes to my mom’s house. This picture taken a week ago when Nat still preferred to hold onto to our hands.

Then recently at his 1 year check-up, I asked Nat’s PD about his toes because I noticed that sometimes his feet would turn inwards. The PD called it “in-toeing” and asked us to just monitor and get firmer shoes for outdoor use.

Initially I researched that for first-time walkers, the shoes should be soft and not too heavy as their toes need to grip the floor. However, as Nat’s toes tend to face inwards, firmer shoes are recommended to keep his feet in place.

Nonetheless, the best is still walking barefoot and not assisting too much so that they can master their own sense of balance and gain confidence to walk unassisted. I got some quite useful advice from this article but how much we can actually control what happens when we are at work is another thing altogether.

Now we just have to ensure the place is safe and someone is with Nat at all times when he does his walks because he leaves a trail of destruction behind!

– CK

Nat & Art

This is a bit overdue but for Nat’s actual birthday last week, HJ and I took leave to bring him to the Children’s Art Gallery after the drizzle foiled our Botanic Gardens plans. We hope to make it a monthly thing where we try and bring him to such exploratory places aka “learning journeys”, as how my mom aptly put it LOL #teachersforlife

Details for this Children’s Art Gallery can be found HERE.

It’s located at the National Gallery and it was such a pleasant visit because we took leave last Wednesday and avoided all the weekend crowds.

However there were some galleries there were closed for school visits from 10-1130am but that’s also the time when Nat was napping in the carrier so we just chilled in the cafe until he woke up.

Previously, we have brought him to the ION Art Gallery on Level 4 but it depends on whether there are any exhibitions happening in that space.

Where to next?

Maybe our Botanic Gardens plan in Dec 🙂

– CK

Sleep Training (Again??)

Yup. Recently, Nat will wake up 1x between 3-6am and cry because he’s alone in his crib and can’t get back to sleep?? This time I’m quite sure it’s separation anxiety because he isn’t hungry. Sigh. So if I am conscious enough, I have to resume sleep training by soothing him back to sleep in his crib. Each time he’s carried to join us in bed just conditions him more to dislike his crib. 


The above was a failed attempt by me to “hide” and have him sleep on his own during his PM nap. 

Nat refused to lie down in his crib. I can’t cradle him to sleep becsuse he’s too heavy. Out of curiosity and desperation, my last resort was to just lie on the floor out of sight to see whether he will calm down. 

It failed because he found me at the corner hahaha 

In the end, he did fall asleep in his crib after 5-10 minutes of carrying. 

What I fear more is the early morning episode because it’s random and when we sleep at 12am and have to wake up at 630am, it’s extremely tough to be disciplined to sleep train him. Thankfully it’s only once a night on some nights but still… 

What this article says about separation anxiety is SO TRUE! 

“… your baby can feel panicked when he wakes during the night and doesn’t see you — especially if you were there when he drifted off…”
Hopefully this will pass without us entrenching certain associations that will remain in the long run such as the association of nighttime sleep with our bed instead of his, which is already happening. Sigh.

– CK 

Nat’s Eric Carle Party 

Nat’s party was a 2 month project in the making because we decided to do all the decor ourselves. After this, I told HJ I don’t think I can do anymore parties – 1st month and 1st year should suffice! All in all, everything went smoothly. It was very tiring but worth it. 

The genesis for the theme was quite straightforward – Nat loves The Hungry Caterpillar. The book and toy was a gift for his 1st month and he seems to have a fondness towards it. 

Nat around 7 months with his favorite toy

So with the theme settled, the deco naturally had to be everything related to Eric Carle. In terms of colours, we had to stick to primary colours since those featured in most of his books. 

The brains behind the decor was mostly my mom and sis. We decided on using the following criteria to guide our decor decisions. 

  1. We wanted to have another type of ‘happy birthday’ sign so instead of balloon letters or a garland, we decided to make a sign in the shape of a caterpillar. Google & Pinterest gave us a lot of ideas! One can buy ready-made Eric Carle party decor online from Etsy but I didn’t want to pay for shipping. 
  2. We initially thought that the photowall could be the one with the ‘happy Birthday’ sign but my sis said that a photowall backdrop should be white so she bought pinwheels and balloon bouquets in Eric Carle colours to create the photo backdrop. 
  3. As for the cake table, I was very sure that I wanted it simple and uncluttered. We also did not want desserts on the table because it would be a waste if people didn’t eat them. Conversely if people are the desserts, then the photos would show some half-eaten desserts. Instead, we displayed Nat’s name using the TYPO letters from his room shelf and featured 3 of his Eric Carle books. This way, no extra money was spent on the cake table’s decor. 
  4. The last bit of decor was the photo montage. We already had an album of Nat’s photographs according to his various milestones so my mom used the spare construction paper and some apple cut-outs to create the decor for the photo montage wall. I have no idea where my sister found the ‘Celebrate’ banner but it was less than $2. I was shocked. It was such a steal. 

Food-wise, we catered from Elsie’s Kitchen as HJ and I previously ordered food from them in 2014 for our student wedding party. 

Although Nat’s party was between 12-3pm, we ordered the biggest high tea menu, consisting of 11 food items and 1 drink instead of the usual buffet lunch menu.

I decided not to get the heavier lunch buffet menus because I rather have smaller food items but more variety and choice. In case there was not enough, we added on extra servings for the more popular savoury items such as chicken satay and drumlets. 

As I was still worried that there might not be enough food, we supplemented with some sushi, cocktail sausages and jelly. The last two are some of my childhood favorites that we decided to make for Nat’s party. 

Location-wise, we booked the function room and the adjoining KTV room so that some people could seek refuge there in case the crowd got too big. 

I guess it was a cosier gathering compared to his 1st month which had all our extended family members. This time round, the guests consisted mainly of our immediate family and close friends. 

I’m just glad it’s over because it was one hectic weekend and the best part is, Nat has no clue! 

– CK 

Almost 1

Can’t believe that Nat is going to be one soon! This time last year, I was in physical agony, 18kg heavier and my hips felt like they were in two parts. Then I realized something last night – he’s still co-sleeping in his crib! These few months, I’ve sort of lost track of the original plan to shift him into his own room by 10 months. Then the moment I returned to work, I think I’ll miss him if he was in a separate room. 

With regard to his sleep, Nat usually does a 845pm to 7am stretch with the occasional cry at 4/5am. If we are too groggy, HJ will just carry him to our bed. Previously, I could soothe him back to sleep in his crib but once I returned to work and started sleeping later, I am a total zombie at 4/5am. 

For 11 months, babies should get around 2-3 hours of day sleep followed by 11 hours of night sleep as per this website. Nat is somehow still sleeping a lot in the day like 3.5 hours avg over two naps. So some days when he wakes up close to 6pm, he only sleeps at 9pm. So it’s a chicken and egg problem as the later he sleeps at night, he’s tired in the day and naps more. However, these 9pm nights are usually an exception so as long as he’s in bed and almost on the verge of sleeping before 9pm, I’m cool. 

Interestingly, Nat’s last feed also dropped on its own. I still remember those days we gave him a full 160-180ml feed at 1030pm so it could last him until the next morning. It dropped to 120ml, 90ml, 60ml and most recently 30ml. Most nights he doesn’t want to drink any top-up milk so his dinner and post-dinner milk of 60ml seems enough to last until the next morning. Interesting how babies naturally ‘drop’ the last feed themselves. 

In terms of his eating habits, Nat still has a monstrous appetite. 

7am: 100ml milk feed 

8am: oatmeal and fruit breakfast 

930am: 60ml pre-nap milk feed 

1130am: 60ml Post-nap milk feed 

12pm: lunch (porridge/noodle/pasta/pie)

1230pm: fruit dessert (tiny amt)

230pm: 60ml pre-nap feed 

5pm: 50ml post-nap feed

530pm: fruit & cereal tea time 

615pm: dinner (porridge/noodles) 

645pm: fruit dessert (tiny amt)

830pm: 60ml pre-sleep feed 

Yup… a monstrous appetite… but we won’t have it any other way. 

Can’t wait for him to cross the 1 year mark which also opens up the food possibilities.

– CK 

MOSIN 2017

So over the weekend, we had our annual staycation at Mandarin Oriental Singapore (MOSIN) to celebrate our wedding anniversary a bit earlier due to our work schedules. It was also a much-needed break after working late for a few consecutive nights. This year was so much better than the last because Nat was out and about on the floor and I was no longer heavily pregnant and immobile! 

So once again, MOSIN displayed impeccable service standards. 

We have gone back to stay at MOSIN every year since our wedding in November, 2014. For the past 2 years, they would treat us to some form of a room upgrade and/or late check-out. 

This year, there was initially a hiccup that didn’t quite meet our expectations of MOSIN but it was rectified very quickly. 

  • We were given a room that had just received a fresh coat of lacquer or vanish on its door so the smell was quite overpowering and I tend to be very sensitive to such things. As such, I developed a headache after spending just 30 minutes in the room so I did not feel comfortable having Nat sleep in the room, smelling the lacquer. 
  • HJ called the reception to see if anything can be done and within 15 minutes, they allowed us to switch rooms. The second room was a bit smaller in size to the first room they gave us but it had a much better view so I was very happy with the room swap. 
  • Later on at 530pm, a manager visited us in the new room and offered to make up for the earlier unpleasant incident by giving us a 4pm late check-out option the next day! 
  • Their excellent service was demonstrated again when we went for Martini happy hour. As we had Nat with us, we were brought to the Morton’s restaurant as they had more comfortable table seating arrangements as opposed to the high tables at the bar. I actually had no issue with the high tables because we were carrying Nat in the carrier but seating at tables made it easier to feed Nat his dinner while we enjoyed our Martinis. 

In view of the above and more, there will never be a place in Singapore that can replace MOSIN 🙂


Now, it’s back to the reality of work and more work…
– CK 

Complicated

Really? This weekend has been quite a thought-provoking and uncomfortable one. Simply because, the end of the year is here and it’s the season to think about what happens in the next few years. That is very tough for me because I’ve not been one to move my own chess pieces or rock the boat. 

The questions do seem very complicated. 

Do I/we want to further our studies?

If we get a scholarship or didn’t have to pay the entire tuition fee on our own – why not? I’m not entirely closed to the idea but I’ve also not given much serious thought to it.  

Then the question is what do I/we want to study? 

Something related to our individual areas of expertise – Chemistry and History? Or something related to Education? The latter makes sense to me if I am going to be in education for a while, which is what I want anyway. 

Should we look for local or overseas Uni options? 

HJ has no qualms studying and living overseas – kid or not kid but I am paralyzed with fear when I think about it. I have no idea where to begin thinking. 

What about childcare options? My mom?

Can both of us study at the same time? 

What is going to happen financially? 

And after all the above is said, am I even cut out for it? 

Clearly I don’t have the answers to all my questions above yet.

I probably need to think really carefully about what happens after my current stint. 

Previously in 2013, I did consider doing a Masters in Asian Studies at a local Uni but before I could submit my application, I was given a posting to where I am now. What was originally a 2 year stint has become a 4 year one (ending in 2018). 

At that time, it was quite clear that God had other plans for me even though I thought I had a plan – the Asian Studies Masters. 

However, I am really not so sure what to think now. 

Somedays, I can’t help but think that a lot of decisions would have been easier without Nat in the picture. Want to go overseas to study? Sure. 

However, there’s no point having such thoughts because Nat is a reality. Having my mum retire early to take care of him is another reality. The fact that both our parents are getting on in years is also a reality. 

The only straightforward thing I’m getting out of all these is that there is never really a good time to do anything. 

– CK