“Everyone Should Play Pokemon Go” – according to my 8 year old

Well, not really. I mean, yes – and no.

That particular line was his speech which he prepared for one of his assignments in school, and he decided to extol the virtues of playing Pokemon Go. I asked him what his reasons “for” were, and he couldn’t remember them all – but his top reason is “It helps you to exercise.”

Pokemon Go launched in Australia just a month ago, and I have to confess – I was the one to download it first, and I told the boys about it. Before this, they’ve never watched a single episode of the cartoon, they don’t have the Nintendo handheld game sets, so they’ve also never “caught” a Pokemon before. They have seen some of the Pokemons around, but have no real idea of the background. I was introduced by reading up some articles, and we were all very excited to download it. I put in on my iPhone, and also on the boys’ two iPads (which were wifi enabled only).

So on July 10, 2016, the game was downloaded and we were all ready to start catching some Pokemons. Given my reluctance to waste precious data, we decided, during the boys’ school holidays, we would take a walk around the University campus. Unfortunately, the day we chose to go a-hunting was July 12. The day the game experienced such a huge load. That is crashed. So there we were, faced with the blue screen of death and it totally rained on our parade. Catch Pokemons? PFFFFT! The boys got bored of it in 30 minutes, and even after I realised what was happening, the boys were OVER IT. The game had let them down. Boo.

That day, we checked out the original Pokemon cartoon series (thank you, YouTube!) and the boys finished through the entire Season 1 of the series (and a little of Season 2) by the time their school holidays ended.

And then the Pokemon fever really started. The boys realised that their friends were playing the game. And more than just Pokemon Go, the Pokemon trading cards were making a HUGE comeback on the school grounds! (NO) Thanks to past trading cards that Woolsworths rolled out, the boys were experienced card-traders, and before I knew it I found myself getting Jayvon a box of Pokemon trading cards.

So the trading cards, combined with the cartoon series on YouTube has really helped to spark both the boys’ interest.

More than just being a spectator, Jayvon decided to create his OWN card series, naming it Plasmamon. He created four cards, drew his own “monsters” and thought up of their quirks and attack powers, and his friends were instantly drawn in. Even in the class setting, together with his friend, they were creating new cards, and almost everyday after school, the boys would be regaling me with the latest and greatest in their card game land.

And all this, in turn, has helped the boys become interested once more in Pokemon Go.

I’ve always been maintaining the account on my mobile, as I find it something to do on my long 1KM walks to the boys’ school. Plus – living on campus means we are literally living above two PokeStops (yes, I know, you may hate me) and the campus itself is a huge network of maaaaany Pokestops within walking distance from our home. So walking the short distance to the car, I can walk past about 5 or 6 PokeStops each time. Now that the boys have a rekindling of their interest, it makes for many interesting encounters.

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The boys with their iPad in hand!

Like that time, when Jayvon and I were walking home from school (Xavier was home sick that day), and we hatched a Pikachu. We. Hatched. A. Pikachu. We turned, mouths agape as that pic showed, and Jayvon literally screamed in joy – “PEEEEEEEEE-KAAAAAAA-CHOOOOOOOO!” Hahaha! It was hilarious, but only because I was as excited as him.

Or that time when we had just pulled up to the carpark, and when I turned the app on… lo and behold, we saw the silhouette of the elusive Kangaskhan. KANGASKHAN! We piled out of the car and tried walking around to see if we could catch him, but alas! No such luck that day.

So this game has provided plenty of fodder for conversation, and fun aside, we also laid down ground rules.

Our Pokemon Go Ground Rules

#1: No walking on the road and playing. Even when I am walking back from school with the kids, I will have the app turned on, but I will either close my cover, or use the battery-saving mode, and flip the phone over so that the screen goes blank. When there is a Pokemon to catch, my phone vibrates, and then I pass to the boys in turn to catch, before we continue walking.

#2: A turn is a turn is a turn. So you may catch a Pidgey for each of your turn, but too bad, there’s no wriggling and “stealing” a turn. The boys are pretty good at cooperating, and they know any argument of any sort is really a lose-lose situation, so this has worked well so far.

#3: Even with my Rule #1, there can be times it can get crazy-exciting, so the key is always in safety first!

#4: And this is my personal rule… there shalt be no evolving without my expressed permission. Haha!

Check out some of our Pokemons!

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Yes. Jayvon renamed each Pokemon captured!

I enjoy our Pokemon Go adventures with my kids. Even Zoie has caught a few herself. Though she did waste use 13 of my Ultra Balls just yesterday, trying to catch a Bellsprout. The boys were beside themselves “Nooooooo Zoie!!!!! STOP! Not THAT ball…. NO!!!” But of course she ignored them. My heart might have cracked into three pieces then, but love overcomes all.

I do it… for the common conversation. It is hard to find a game that they love and that I am good at. The kids love Minecraft but oh goodness me, I can only last 15 minutes TOPS before a headache comes on. But apart from Minecraft (which I have at least come into contact with so I have a vague idea of what they are talking about), we try to be involved in every other activity they are interested in.

Jayvon is 8 years old now. Xavier is 5.

I have no illusions that in just a few years time, “Mummy” might be too uncool to hang out with or talk to. Building common bridges is something I think should be done now, not when they are 16. So the hubby talks to the kids about all matters concerning soccer (which Jayvon loves), and argue about who THE greatest soccer player is, and how to become a professional soccer player in the future, he talks to them about science, about space… and yes, as shallow as it may seem, I at least have Pokemon Go in common with the kids. My knowledge about space and science is limited to say the least. Haha! But hey – Pokemon Go is one more bridge of a common love, and we get a common language too.

(The hubby doesn’t play Pokemon Go, by the way, and has on more than one occasion made disparaging remarks about people on the street who seem over-engrossed in their phones, which he quickly assumes are Pokemon hunters. But he has now learnt to live with it, and even tried to help us with the Kangaskhan-hunting that time too. But see, I don’t understand soccer either, so we each do what we can).

There are dangers – yes. Even in school, Jayvon would be telling me his teacher would speak to them about how people have been in accidents or even caused accidents due to the game. And that’s a good thing to teach the kids, to be aware of the dangers around even when playing the game!

Do you play this game too? Do you allow your kids to? Why and why not? 

Do Your Kids Use Swear Words?

Or maybe the first question ought to be, as a parent, what is your stand on your kids using swear words?

I promise this won’t be preachy – but let me first share where the inspiration for this blog came about. Two instances stand out. When Jayvon first started Kindy (this was 3 years ago, and we’d just arrived in Australia, all bright-eyed and maybe a little naive), and when I was picking him up after school, and as we were walking across the school grounds to head home, I saw one of his classmates having an angry conversation with his mother, and calling her a “f***ing b****”. And this classmate would be 6 years old – tops. But that was 3 years ago. Why bring it up now? Well, Xavier, who’s now the one in Kindy, was invited to a classmate’s birthday party, and it was a pretty informal one, held at the nearby playground. So all the kids were being their usually rowdy behaviour, all running amok at the playground. I thought I heard someone saying “f***ing b****” but quickly dismissed it. Till the hubby brought it up. It was spoken by one of Xavier’s classmates, again, 6 years old tops, and it was directed to another classmate who “dared” to invade the boys’ space. AKA a play structure that they declared to be the “boys”.

I am disturbed. Perplexed. Worried. Concerned.

Not trying to be holier-than-thou. I know of friends who can swear and cuss, and I’m a big enough girl to be able to handle swear words thrown at or around me. But while I can accept an adult using this kind of language to let off steam, hearing it from a 6-year-old is disconcerting to say the least. And since I was a distance from the particular boy (and the hubby being nearer cos he was keeping an eye on our boys who were at the structure), I could barely make out the words, but he wasn’t saying them under his breath as well!

I don’t use swear words. I would like to say I NEVER SWEAR… but I also can’t lie, and my slip-ups come especially when I am driving and particularly when someone else does something dangerously stupid. But I have a love for the English language, and a teaching instilled in me, from my pastors and leaders in church, that we should watch the words that come out of our mouths. So yes, I make the concerted effort to keep the swear words out.

It’s a tough battle, what with the Youtube and even the seemingly innocuous “Cartoon Network” which is code for cartoons that derive pleasure and laughter in being mean and obnoxious.

And my boys love it. They love these cartoons. My 8 year old enjoys watching these cartoons, he enjoys watching Youtube videos of other people playing Minecraft and all. He uses phrases like “What The!” (Which grates me), and his latest pet phrase – “idiot”. Oh and he picked up the words “shit”, and understand that “F***” is a rude word, so he spells it out to me, in the context of telling me his classmate said that in class. We make it clear to the boys that when they pick up nonsensical words and use them with glee, then it’s high time for a screen time break. But of course, they also pick it up in school. And it’s a constant tug of war.

Their friends use these words. The words sound funny and cool. But they are slowly understanding I have a low tolerance for such swear words.

“If you can’t speak in proper sentences, without using such words, then instead of watching your iPad, read the dictionary and find new words to use.” Yup, I told my 8-year-old this. I also explain what the words mean, and why the words are offensive (especially to me). It is kind of like a repeat of when they were much younger, and the words “poo poo” caused them to roll over in laughter – but I told them that words should also be used in context, and using this word to talk about something unrelated is unacceptable and silly behaviour. So it is quite the extension of what we’ve always tried to teach them.

It is an uphill battle.

I personally think it’s a lazy way to speak. And yes, I can see eyes rolling already. But that’s what I think. Rather than using words like “very”, “extremely”, “so” or other words, a simple swear word replaces it. Rather than sharing what gets you irritated, you can just spurt out little nuggets of disgust.

Simply using these words gets you in a frame of mind that is angry, frustrated, and often at a loss for words, so more such “nuggets of disgust” come rolling out.

I know of people who can’t even talk normally without peppering their speech with swear words. I may not do it, but I can take it.

But when a 6-year-old does it?

That is just so wrong. I am not judging the parents, but it is a sad thing to see.

The New ‘Kid’ On The Block – Oli6 Dairy Goat Milk Formula

Brought to you by Nuffnang and Oli6

Quiche, coffee and chit-chat with newfound friends.

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Oh, and a very informational morning spent with experts, learning more about the newest “kid” on the block – Oli6 with its brand new product line of dairy goat milk formula.

Now, back in Singapore, as a mom, I’ve heard about goat’s milk as an alternative to cow’s milk, and suitable for kids who are 12 months or over. But I must admit, that hearing it as newborn infant milk formula? Now that was a first for me.

Did I mention experts? Yeah, we had two of them speak to us, a dietitian and a university professor, who were expounding on the health benefits of goat’s milk. And I must confess, while I was captivated by the first speaker (who was sharing about her personal journey as both a dietitian and a foster parent, wanting to give the best to her foster children), when the professor walked on, I took an extra big gulp of my coffee, and a silent prayer that my long sleepless wrestle with my girl the night before would not rear its ugly head then.

But I was wrong. Sure, there were huge sounding, multi-syllabic words that were mentioned, but I was intrigued! Sure, we’ve heard of words like “prebiotics” and “probiotics” – even if we didn’t know what exactly they did once inside of us, but by golly, if that smoothie had it, we had to have it then! (Goat’s milk is a natural source of prebiotics too, by the way).

Breast is best – and that should be choice #1 if any mommy can do so. But in the event choice #1 isn’t available, or there’s no other choice, well, there’s a few choices that a parent can go for. One of the takeaways I had in this event was that the nutrition structure of goat’s milk is actually closer to breast milk compared to standard cow’s milk – now that’s something to think about for sure!

If you are looking for a formula milk, do check out Oli6 – a 100% Australian-manufactured product, available in Stages 1 to 3.

Oli6 Stage 1 to 3

Oh, and how about the taste test? Well, I took back a tin of the Stage 3 formula. My kids are past the age of drinking formula, but I use the milk powder & added chocolate powder for Xavier’s daily cup of hot chocolate which he asks for by reminding me, “Mummy, you said you will make me hot chocolate everyday…” Yes, I am held accountable to my promise to him, cos it’s $4 for a cup of hot chocolate outside when I can make the same yummy goodness in the house. And he couldn’t tell the difference! A winning formula, indeed!

The 3 Year Mark Recap: To Stay or Not To Stay?

My life in a photo

My life in a photo

Zoie turns 3 in just over a month’s time.

And this means we would have been in Sydney, Australia for almost 3 years (come June). It seems almost surreal, really, to think that Nic’s PhD journey is almost all done!

And the one thing I’ve not really bothered thinking too much of, has now come back to me in full force. To stay or not to stay, that is the question.

It’s a tough choice. All our family, our friends, our work, our church is back in Singapore. There in Singapore lies our ties, and the fact we can get the $1 cup of teh-tarik at the food centre and that $3 bowl of yummy bak chor mee. I miss church back home, miss the style of worship, I miss our weekly cell group meetings, I miss hanging out with the “gang” which has since about doubled in size (no) thanks to the number of kids between us!

And yet, there’s Australia. No doubt it has won our hearts… but perhaps the bigger pull factor is that it has won the hearts of our kids. Jayvon, being 8, has the most vivid memory of life back in Singapore. He misses the arcade back there, he misses the extended family, and he has told us on more than one occasion that he would LOVE to go back…. If he didn’t have to go to Primary School. Hahaha! (Like I said, he has memory – and those 2 months in Primary 1 has given him the shudders of the weekly spelling quizzes). Life here is so much simpler. Hardly any homework. He is in Year 3, which is his NAPLAN year, and in a recent meeting that his form teacher had with the parents, one asked how they could help the kid to get ready for NAPLAN… and the teacher’s reply was, “Don’t worry about it.” And then she moved on to the next question.

Yup, I can see all my Singaporean friends’ jaws dropping collectively right now. I feel you. I was flabbergasted too! Haha!

Jayvon, having struggled through his awkward Kindy start, and an equally challenging Year 1 & 2, has finally found his footing, learning how to balance work and play, how to work hard (he proudly tells me his accomplishments in the classroom) and play hard (for the FIRST time since we’ve come, he received 2 play date invites this year from 2 different classmates, and he was ecstatic!)

Xavier has started Kindy this year, and with his older brother in the same school, he has it MUCH easier. He has taken to hanging with Jayvon about every break that they have (much to Jayvon’s irritation cos Xavier “doesn’t let him have fun with his own friends”) but it’s been almost 2 months since the start, and Xavier’s breakthrough was in playing ball with his own classmate just last week – instead of running after Jayvon.

Zoie is enjoying herself in her childcare, having older brothers mean she enjoys playing with the older kids – and they enjoy having her too. She has her heart set on dance lessons next term, so we shall see. Haha!

They speak with an Aussie-twang (Xavier & Zoie being the most pronounced of the lot), they have the palate of Aussies (Jayvon has recently taken to asking for carrot and cucumber sticks for his recess breaks. Like… WHAT?), they can spend all day at the beach, and all in all they’ve assimilated to the Aussie way of life much, much better than Nic and me. Well, better than me anyhow. Haha!

I’ve had so many people ask me “Are you staying on in Australia?” “Are you going back to Singapore?” and if I were very honest, my answer to you then really depends on where I am in that mental battle! Hahaha! Some days I feel like we should just all go back to Singapore. It’s so much easier with friends and family around. I miss not having a regular monthly salary. I am sick of struggling with the budget all the time. I want to buy nice things for my kids. Then other days, I feel like we should just stay on in Australia. There’s so much more to offer the kids here. They have so much fun here. It’d be almost too cruel to subject them to the Primary school education back in Singapore, and to study Chinese – ohemgee, it might kill us all! Then another day, I’d be pro-Singapore once again. I would meet random strangers who gush about how they love Singapore, and I would agree. The level of security, how I can bring the kids out on my own and walk back with them at 9 p.m. without having to constantly look over my shoulder. How they would miss out on having fun with their aunties and grandparents. How they would miss out on church back home. And my job! How could I not go back to work at CHC? But then Australia tugs at my heart-strings again… and it continues.

In other words, I am still struggling. Still praying about the best decision for not just me and Nic, but for our three kids. And I know of people who’re very “for” one decision or the other, but the truth is, there is so much to weigh, that I feel it deserves a lot more thought and prayer.

I don’t envy other parents who might be in this same situation, thinking of whether or not to uproot their kids for a chance at a better life. I just think our decision was made harder – because we’ve already uprooted them once, three years ago, and if this next move is going to be easy for them.

Till then, there’s at least a year more to Nic finally graduating. A year more for me to enjoy my status as a stay at home mom, and to spend time with the trio.

Goodbye 2015… Hallo 2016!

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It’s been a while since my last post, as I get all busy with the kids and life. Before I head on to reminisce the old and welcome the new, here’s my very own, very quirky New Year greeting (taken at the Twelve Apostles)

Happy new year, and may you have the strength and grace to get through it (especially if you are a parent haha!)