Been another long while since I did a post on our kids! So, lots of pictures in this update post. I think we’re blessed in that both Hannah and Peter’s birthdays are in the month of June – which nicely coincides with the stipulated school holidays in the public school calendar. We celebrated both their birthdays at home; with friends in Hannah’s case, and with our larger family for Peter. Hannah is of course at an age now where she recognizes the significance of having a birthday, and that it’s not just about having more presents and toys to play with. Peter on the other hand was completely nonplus about it and probably wondered what all the fuss was about when the family all gathered around him for the celebration song.
Catching up on another post of our children in the last fortnight. Another recent thing we’ve gradually realize of our new home is that the Tranquil World-facing bedrooms of our unit – which includes Hannah’s room – gets a seasonal blast of direct sunlight. We didn’t observe this earlier in the year at the time we collected our keys, but possibly also in good part that the weather has turned hot and humid again, their room gets a good toasting in the early to mid-afternoons every day. As a result, We’ve been looking closely at solar films and will have some notes to write on very soon.
We’re still thankful that Peter sleeps soundly every night, but boy – can he make a royal din in the day time. It might be the effect of his room facing inwards against other neighboring blocks and how sound bounces around coupled also with his very healthy pair of lungs, but when he yells, we’re pretty sure everyone can hear it. Yep; he yells for attention, not merely cries for it! Hannah loves playing with him still, but when she’s busy with something else (like her art n’ craft), our boy gets all moody and will holler when he’s left alone in his cot.
Ling was sharing too the other morning that our girl has reported being occasionally called names by her friends in school. Nope we’re not going to step-in at the moment, since this is part of growing up and she doesn’t seem too bothered by it. But if that’s indeed happening, it doesn’t surprise us too much either – on account that Hannah is just a little bossy and has no compunctions telling other kids off when they engage in acts she believes are wrong. She has the makings of a a social butterfly for sure.
And of late, she’s returned again to carrying sheets of stickers that she brings along with her when we’re out of home, and passes them out to other children that she walks past. “Mommy/Daddy/whoever’s nearer, can you cut this sticker out? I want to pass it to that 妹妹 (little sister)!” In fact, we’ve had to reign her in a little one time when she wanted to run off to the other side of a Metro store to look for a girl that walked past her several minutes ago LOL.
It finally happened. We were at Isetan department store @ Nex just before the Labor Day public holiday when store patrons heard the following over the PA system:
Paging for the parents of a 4 year old girl who got lost; her name is Hannah Foo and she has a Pluto plush toy. Please come to the customer service counter at level 3!
We were at the store to pick up a Panasonic microwave oven (I finally reconciled against my long fears of eating microwaved food). Hannah wandered off to look at toys after I joined a long queue to pay for the appliance while Ling was looking for some face towels, and somewhere in between our girl couldn’t find her way back to us. Hannah was completely red-eyed and sobbing when we picked her up clutching onto her constant companion Pluto, and in uncontrollable tears. But just 30 minutes later when we were driving our way back home to Minton, she was rattling off to the both of us that she wasn’t lost, but it was mommy/daddy who were lost, and how we should know better!
Our two kids have adjusted very well to our new home @ Minton, with Hannah easily having the best view in the house now. Her bed overlooks Tranquil World, and it’s quite a pretty sight with the nearly a hundred path lights lining the many walkways and ponds. Every night, we’ve taken to spend time to look at the sights with her on her bed before she turns in. Peter has also a larger floor space now to crawl around too.
The adults though are still gradually easing into the new home. Perhaps because that the space is now larger with a lot more partitioned areas, we found ourselves having to walk a lot more and turn around corners to get to everything in the house! Frequently heard of late also – especially from me – is the line “Dear, where did you put the spatula / Hannah’s milk carton / table spoon / plastic bag / dishwasher capsule / masking tape / Hannah’s socks / Peter’s towel / coffee powder…??”
Couple of pictures using the 17mm and 25mm primes:
Amidst the torrent of blog posts on our Minton home renovation project, it’s been a while since I wrote a post on our kids, so here’s one. Of the big changes in the last month or so, we experienced a one in the form of a change of the children’s nanny. It wasn’t an easy change as we weren’t given much time for both parents and kids to make the change, but we were fortunate (and definitely very blessed!) to find one at short notice who’d be able to take care of both kids, and whom is also a Christian too. The new nanny’s home is also situated at both our work places’ general vicinity – which has both pros and cons. Good because picking up the children after work is easy, bad because it means Hannah has to wake up even earlier now to make the time for her daily school-bus pick-up (the school bus needs to travel further from the new nanny’s place to her school).
Peter has also just started teething, which he’s – thankfully – been able to ease into, alongside an increasing acceptance of solid foods that both nanny and Ling has been continuing for him. Unfortunately, he’s also been experiencing a bout of gastric flu, which – operationally – means that about five to six times a day, he’ll unload big time baby-style into his diapers! Each unloading has required a quick shower of his bottom, an exercise he initially wailed loudly about but seems to have gotten used to the routine.
The experience between Peter’s first year has been very different from Hannah’s. We only now realized how true is that old mommys’ observations of how much stronger baby boys are compared to baby girls. Peter baby punches, pinches, kicks, squirms, and scratches – and the both of us have our battle scars to show for it LOL.
Using as a reference our annual family photos taken during the Lunar New Year, it’s fun to watch how we change over time. Not the adults mind you, but the kids. My oldest nephew is now so tall at just 14 that he’s nearly at his dad’s height. Hannah is also fast closing the height gap with her cousin, and this year too, we had Peter in the pictures as a new addition. Too bad he looks a little sickly with the return of mosquito bites he suffered over the last couple of days.
Funnily, post-first days of CNY, Hannah, Peter and Ling are all down with varying degrees of illness. Peter and Hannah have got mild colds, and Ling is down with mild fever too. The weather has certainly been odd for this time of the year, with the cold front lasting longer than normal. It’s been quite dry – it hasn’t rained for a week now – and yet relatively cold too with evenings for the last week now hovering at 22-23 degree celsius lows.
Like the last year, the Nikon D7000 stayed at home, with the two micro four-third cameras pulling all photographic duties. The family pictures below were taken using the 17mm f1.8, and stepped down to f4.0 offered sharpness that was almost scary.
Next year at this time will see Peter just over a year and a half-old, and Ling should be able to dress him up in little boy clothes then.:)
We went by The Minton over the weekend for a meeting with a curtains/blinds maker we’re interested in engaging. This particular contractor is based in Johore Bahru, but commutes to Singapore every day for work. He was a particularly jolly fellow and we like him, though at times he was chuckling at his own jokes! There’s no lack of curtains/blinds makers in Singapore of course, but for those of us on a budget, the contractors who’re located across the causeway are possibly a more affordable alternative. For our home, we’re looking at day and night curtains for the living/dining room, blinds for the bedrooms/study, and frosted films for the master bathroom windows, and hopefully we’ll receive a quotation from him soon enough as to how much it’s gonna cost us for all these.
Rectification work has also started for the long list of defects we forwarded to the Developer too last midweek. A good number of chips and cracked lines along the wall edges at the front balcony and also bedrooms have been rectified, though others at the back balcony and kitchen have not been touched yet. Workers were also sanding down the parquet flooring on Saturday, and during a follow-up visit on Sunday afternoon, the same floor had just been varnished too. A couple of residents were reporting that the defect rectification team have (accidentally) caused a few more defects when they did their patch-up work – we’re hoping that that doesn’t happen too much for us. We wouldn’t want a continual cycle of new defects caused by rectification teams!
More pictures of The Minton flora here.
It’s the end of another year, and Ling was asking just the other day when I was going to do another one of my end-of-year review of our big ticket and asset decisions in 2013. To be fair, we’ve kept the decisions that cost a lot of $$$ somewhat minimally this year, given the large expenditures we’re projecting for 2014 i.e. home renovation. Looking through the list, we had a large number of interesting (or just fun) purchasing decisions though mostly still relatively small purchases. Going with the list again in chronological purchasing order…
Panasonic-Leica 25mm f1.4 (Win). 2013 was the year where I picked up a number of micro-four-thirds lens, all of which turned out to be great purchases. The first one in the year was the 25mm f1.4, which is closest the m4/3 standard has to a ‘standard’ focal length reach. The lens focuses very quickly, and has become one of the two main-stay lenses for my two m4/3 cameras. The only issue I can think of – and this is really being creative – is that the lens makes an odd soft squeaky sound when it focuses. And er, that’s it.=)
Panasonic-Lumix 14mm f2.5 (Win). This lens normally comes bundled with an earlier generation Panasonic m4/3 cameras, and lots of people were selling the lens out of the bundle for cheap on eBay. In terms of focal length, the lens is redundant since it’s covered by several other kit zoom lens already, but as a semi wide-angle and very compact prime, it works great. Attach it to the E-PL6 and the form profile is small enough for the camera to be pocketable. I don’t use the lens as much, favoring the 25mm and 17mm, but it’s still a win because of how cheap it was.
Billingham Hadley Pro (Win). My luxury camera bag for this year, and the last messenger-styled bag I’ll need for a while. The bag normally costs a lot when purchased here and nearly as expensive even through Amazon stores. For some odd reason, the bag is much cheaper in South Korea, and after assuring myself I wouldn’t buying an imitation, I picked up one through eBay. The bag has accompanied me for all of this year’s Minton shoots from March, and it holding my two m4/3 bodies, several lenses, filters, and a camcorder.
Olympus 75-300mm II (Win). This lens is a consumer-grade long zoom lens – as compared to the f2.8 equivalents which cost twice as much – and an improved model over the earlier generation lens of the same focal length range. I picked it up locally mostly for the Minton pictures. There’s some very slight perceivable loss of resolution and image degradation at its longest focal, but with the 2X crop factor, it’s a pretty cheap way to reach up to 600mm.
Zojirushi Bread Maker BB-HAQ10 (Win). The first of three presents I got for Ling this year, and I’m one of the main beneficiaries of it! I’ve been able to enjoy home-baked bread in the form of packed lunches to work, though Ling is quite concerned with the flour-intake when she bakes an entire (small) loaf for me to finish in a day.=)
Olympus 17mm f1.8 (Win). The second of my preferred lens for m4/3s. Robustly constructed, focuses very quickly and reliably, and nicely balanced between offering both a very slightly wide-perspective, and also capable of subject isolation when used wide-opened. I picked up the silver edition of the lens, and it looks gorgeous when attached to the similarly-colored E-PL6.
Olympus 45mm f1.8 (Win). The fifth and last m4/3s lenses for 2013. The lens is a small telephoto prime and while it doesn’t quite have nearly the same kind of reach as the 75-300mm, it’s a fast prime. The lens has allowed for some very nice close-ups of the two kids with plenty of subject isolation. The focal length also lets me put some distance between myself and them too, and Hannah is also less self-conscious as a result for it too.
Viking E20 Sewing Machine (Win). Ling’s birthday present this year. She hasn’t blogged about it yet though, but she’s already sewed a dozen baby bibs for Peter. She mused that these bibs sell for $15 each. This could easily become an alternate source of income if she ever decides to churn these out like a sweatshop.=)
Olympus E-PL6 (Win). The best sensor that Olympus has created in a smaller body. Handling is quite different from the older E-M5, the mode dial is fiddly, and you don’t really get to use the full 3 inch screen when previewing RAW images. But the camera allows for selfies and was picked up for cheap. Both the E-PL6 and EM-5 are in my bag whenever we’re out as a family.
Samsung Galaxy Note III (Win). A new phone that came out of my renewal of a teleco plan this month. Snappier and looking more gorgeous than the earlier generation device. I was considering numerous devices to upgrade to – including the LG G2 and the even humungous Sony Xperia Z Ultra – but none of them offered the stylus.
Google Nexus 7 (2013) (Win). Not an easy decision here as there are so similarly sized tablets. Among them included the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 (nearly bought this because of its stylus, but did not because of the comparatively low-resolution screen), the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.0 (low-resolution screen – ugh), the LG G Pad (ideal size, high resolution, metallic back place, but no 4G/LTE arrgggh!!), and the new iPad Mini Retina (but didn’t want another iPad). The updated Google Nexus 7 won out in the end, given how reasonably future-proof it is, low-cost, great screen, and that it’s such a popular device that custom ROM developers have been churning out builds for it like no tomorrow.
Krups Dolce Gusto Circolo (Win). Ling’s Christmas present from me, though we’re again both beneficiaries. We’ve been enjoying gourmet coffees every evening now, and are gonna try the entire range of brews over time. The machine is one of mid-range models in the popular line of coffee makers, and is for the most part well-reviewed by purchasers. Interestingly, a couple complained about the apparent lack of full automation, but I actually appreciated that you can control the amount of water you’re using when brewing each cup.
That’s it. Happy 2014.=)
Ling was sharing a story that she posted on Facebook just this morning. Conversations with Hannah again.
H: Mommy, what’s the fan for?
Mommy: To cool us down when we feel hot.
H: It can also blow my hair dry.
H: Mommy, what’s the fan for?
Mommy: No more already.
H: No, it can also blow the mosquitoes away so that they won’t bite me when I’m sleeping at night.
Mommy: Oh, okay.
H: *giving me a cheeky grin*
It might just be a thing about young children, but they sure are fond of saying or pointing out the most obvious things! Or maybe she just likes an audience, and goes about chatting to everyone who is around her, and to herself when there are none within earshot. To be fair, we’re of mixed feelings here. On one hand, we’re thrilled that she’ll go out of her way to engage with us. On the other hand, we wonder if she’s just a little too friendly and without restraint! On a couple of occasions now when we’re out of home at shopping malls, she’ll bring along Disney character stickers, and give them out to other children she walks past. And we’ve observed before too that she has no compunctions telling others off when they do things she believes to be wrong – like shushing other children in the public if they make too much noise around her and if Peter is trying to nap in his pram. So far we’ve not had angry glares from irate parents in return yet, but who knows.=)
And of Peter; we were again reminded last week how quickly stronger he’s grown compared to Hannah at coming to six months old. It often takes the both of us to apply his facial creams to deal with his drool rash, and when we’re arm carrying him, he’ll continuously struggle to break free – and we’ve found ourselves having to exert a lot of energy just trying to keep him from tumbling off our arms. I guess it comes down to gender; many parents have shared before how more energetic baby boys are compared to baby girls. I imagine how different we’d be feeling if Peter had come first before Hannah – we were would be appreciating how much easier Hannah is to carry than her brother.
Several more pictures too taken over the last fortnight, including on my birthday.
About the latter – I’m a little tempted to get the Tab 3 for kids for Hannah – it’s really loaded up the gills with child-friendly applications, several of which seem quite educational, and it helps that the tablet comes with parental controls for accessibility and the like – e.g. to control usage. Hannah enjoys her gadgets time, but at least she doesn’t pine after them too much, which at least removes my concern about addiction to these toys if we were to get her one at some point later.
The SON is a champion drooler.
Between Hannah and Peter, one is an occasional leaky tap while the other is an OPEN tap. Peter started drooling when he was about 2 months old. Initially I thought he might be teething but hey, wasn’t that a bit too early? This boy loves to suck his fingers and smear saliva all over his face, ears and neck. To make matters worse, his bed sheets and waterproof sheets were constantly soaked through and he would sleep on his tummy with his cheeks plastered onto the wet bedsheets. Consequently, he developed drool rash with his cheeks and chin being the hardest hit.
My first reaction was to clean his face and hands regularly, before and after every feed. With quiet resignation, I have been taking out his bedsheet and waterproof sheet from his mattress to blow-dry with a fan every time he wakes up from a nap. I’d then tuck in the air-dried sheets back to the mattress just before his next nap. I do this about 5 times a day. Because he overwhelms his bedsheet with so much saliva, I need to change it every 2 days. Yeah, we have that many bedsheets.
ARGHHH!!! Somebody turn off the tap!
To treat the drool rash, I tried the steroid cream prescribed by his pd for his acne prior to this rash thing. It helped but it also lightened his skin tone and thinned out his skin. Definitely not a long-term solution. As usual, I searched the Internet for ideas to treat this condition. I was inspired to try Aquaphor but this product is not available locally. (This is a crime!!) Next, I bought California Baby’s Calendula cream but the rash didn’t go away. Wasted $$. I also tried his diaper cream, Desitin creamy. Well, it wasn’t an effective barrier between the skin and saliva. I started digging my stash of baby skin products bought previously for Hannah. Found her Mustela Stelatopia moisturizing cream – saw only a little improvement. In the end, I’m left with a tube of pure aloe vera gel to experiment. I took a skeptical glance at the colourless substance and wondered what healing agents it could possibly contain to treat the rashes. I was on the verge of giving up. Checked its expiry date and duh, it expired 6 months ago. I couldn’t care less and so I applied a thin layer on Peter’s rashes.
I was so wrong! Miraculously, the angry rashes on Peter started to tone down. Amazing! The inflammation subsided. I diligently applied this humble-looking gel about 3-4 times a day, each time making sure that his face was properly wiped clean with a damp cloth. I also ensured that the gel dried up on him first before letting him do his usual antics with his hands. The rashes didn’t disappear overnight but they gradually went away. Hooray!
So my friends, do not judge a book by its cover, nor a gel by its colour. LOL :P
P.S. If you know how to fix a ‘live’ tap, I’m all ears! :)
The two kids have been at home with Ling over this December holiday stretch, and that’s given them plenty of opportunities to interact and know each other. Ling was remarking that Peter especially seems to enjoy Hannah’s company, possibly because Hannah has a way of making him laugh with her antics. Though come to think of it, Peter hasn’t quite learned how to laugh out loud. His version of laughing is, at the moment, a wide open-mouth grin and silent laughter of sorts!