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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Good bye 2019

In another blink of an eye, 2019 has passed as we ushered another new year. 2019 is a year of trial and transformation for myself and my family. Days seem like years, yet the year seems like days. Olivia has grown up so much that we are running out of space for her to roam around. Anyway, every year my last post is about thanksgiving, and this year ain't any different. So here goes my end of year recap. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Olivia's First Birthday

Dear Olivia,

One year ago, you came into our lives like a wrecking ball. Parenting was a steep learning curve, perhaps the biggest lesson to be learnt in life. When you just arrived, Mama and Papa have to learnt how to breastfeed, how to swaddle, how to handle poopie, comfort you and how to wake up over ten times throughout the night.
And as you grow older, we learnt how to concoct recipes, how to plan your activities, how to chase after you, how to soothe your mini-dictator's tantrums and decode your googoo's and gaga's.

It wasn't easy. Mama and Papa fight, we quarrel over little things that we never known before, but thank you to our Heavenly Papa who watch over us, we have already made it pass one year! 
Through this time, you taught us...

How to sacrifice - the personal things in life, the alone-time we had, money, all these we sacrifice just to spend a little more time with you.

How to be patient - through communicating with you, and with Mama. 

How to trust - that each and every day will be better than the day before.

How to become better people - so that we can impart right values to you.

How to be a child again - through seeing and exploring the world we thought we knew so well. All through your little eyes.

And above all, how to love - like how God loves us unconditionally, we aim to love you more and more each day, even in your not-so-cute moments.
May God help Mama and Papa to become better parents for you and for Him. Happy ONE year old to my dear princess Olivia. With the authority Heavenly Papa has given Papa, I pray that,

The Lord bless you and keep you.

The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.

And that's what your name is. Olivia. That whatever you do, you find peace. That whoever you meet, you grant life and blessings. That wherever you go, you bring with you a spirit of reconciliation and victory.
Papa love you deep deep.

With lots of love,
Papa Thomas

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

11 MUST-TRY Food in Osaka and Kyoto

Ohayo! It's a few months (at the time of writing) since we got back from Japan, but the Nihon bug still bites deep as we realised that we frequent our local Japanese eateries way more nowadays. But to be honest, it is hard to fault us, especially if you've been to Japan. Their streets are beautiful, the culture is amazing, and not to even mention their overt quirkiness (just look at their vending machines). This country is amazing in so many ways, but for this post, I am gonna focus on my favourite - food!

1. Matcha
This is absolutely the pinnacle of all teas, and in Japan, they come in a heck lot of variety - fondue, pancakes, mochi, shaved ice, ice-cream, or if you like the basics - matcha tea. If you're a matcha lover like me, head to Kyoto and have your share. Do you know that it's packed with anti-oxidants? Talking about delicious and cancer-killing health benefits, yes please.

Friday, June 21, 2019

11 Pro-tips for Osaka and Kyoto

Ohayo, our latest and long-awaited trip brought us to the land of the rising sun, among other things, such as its rich history, great sushi, and weird fetishes. Like many others, we faced the common dilemma of where to lose our Nippon virginity - would it be Osaka or Tokyo? We chose Osaka ultimately because it seems to be more cultural appealing, cheaper, and its close proximity to Kyoto and Nara. For now, to us, Tokyo seems just like another city, busy, crowded, albeit lively. So Osaka, it is.

If you haven't, click here to see my 1-week Osaka, Nara and Kyoto itinerary!

After visiting Japan, I understand why it remains a popular holiday destination for Singaporeans. In many ways, Japan is similar to Singapore, just that its cleaner and neater, the people are more friendly and courteous (arguably more beautiful), almost everything looks like an art-piece from their food to toilet seats. It's as if perfectionism seeps in their blood. Despite our existence on the same continent, here are things you should know before you arrive in Japan like a headless chicken. This post will focus on the cities of Osaka and Kyoto which we temporarily made "home" for a week.
See #10 for USJ tips!

1. Get your passes in advance.
There are a lot of different sites to do this, like Klook, Kkday, Changi Recommends, etc. The first thing you should do is to compare their prices and check out their existing promo codes. We went with Klook and got our travel passes (inter-city, SUICA, etc.), 4G SIM card, and attraction passes (USJ, Kaiyukan Aquarium, HEP5). Not only it is cheaper, it also saves you queuing time. You just simply flash the QR code, beep, and you are good to go.
Train leaves on time, just sayin'.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Japan: Osaka + Nara + Kyoto 1-Week Itinerary

Ohayo! Japan is one country that has been on our travel bucket list for the longest time (heck, I was even a huge J-fan before Kpop comes about), and we finally checked it off in May 2019. Because of our pregnancy and the early stages of caring for baby Olivia, it was the first trip we did in almost nine months (the last was Taiwan in August 2018). It wasn't exactly easy to leave our six-month-old baby to go on a holiday, especially for mummy who worried day in and out, but it was a much-needed break.

Here are 11 pro-tips if you're heading to Osaka and Kyoto!

Korea was one of our choices, but then decided to strike it off we have both travelled there in the past, and perhaps, friends have been posting lots on their recent Korea trip. Japan was an alternative, one that I'm glad we chose. It is timeless, and it is amazing how their traditions and cultures still seep deeply in the architecture and its people. It was late spring when we travelled - the warmth in the afternoons coupled with the cool evening breeze.
Read on for:
  1. Our full, actual itinerary (places of interests are marked in orange!)
  2. More travel tips to Japan's Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto districts.
  3. Budget breakdown

Friday, May 31, 2019

Month #5 & 6 - Rolling Over and Starting Solids

These two months have seen some major milestones for baby Olivia, and perhaps, some of the most hectic ones. Her daytime naps are better, but her bedtime remains a total mess - largely due to our habits of latching her to sleep when she wakes. I wouldn't say it's a bad habit because that's just natural for the mother to nurse her child, yet with this sleep association, it isn't exactly healthy for both the parents' and the baby's sleep, as she wakes up approximately 8-10 times from 7am to 7pm. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Advice We Wished We Knew as New Parents

On a faithful afternoon in November 2018, my dear wife and I welcomed our daughter after a long-awaited 40 weeks. Less than a year as husband and wife, we had our (yet another) promotion to parenthood. As compared to the former, this one is literally life-changing and will turn your lives topsy-turvy and in very unexpected ways. Trust me, life - as you know it - will never ever be the same. New responsibilities, change in schedule, and needless to say, a new cause for stress and anxiety. That's right, say good-bye to lots of personal time and sleep. As of the time of writing, we are more than four months into this new role, we are still surviving, taking each day as it is while learning a never-ending list of things.
This post is about advice that we wished we know when we just had our baby, and we thought that it may be of help to new parents. You might have already received tonnes of (unsolicited) advice. I know, I know, we have been there. Your parents telling you one thing, and friends telling you another, there are hundred-and-one methods to sleep train your child, internet resources contradict each other and what not. Read on if you would want to hear our two-cents:

Friday, April 5, 2019

Month #4 - Sleep Training and Sleep Regression?

Whoever says that it will be easier after three months should be hung upside-down. The 4-month milestone sees a SHARP decline in sleep as the baby goes through a heck lot of internal changes - mainly the notorious 4-month sleep regression, and as if that's not enough, BAM. It coincides with the 4-month growth spurt... and a shitnami of things struck:

Frequent wakings
Gone are the days (hopefully temporarily) when baby Olivia could sleep for 5-6 hours straight at night. At four months, she's going through a process called sleep regression, or sleep transitions as experts claim. According to them, the term "regression" means to take a step back, but this is a healthy developmental milestone whereby sleep cycles get adjusted to being more like an adult's. To explain this briefly: One full sleep cycle lasts approximately 45min for babies (it's 90min for adults). Unlike adults, most babies have not learnt how to transit to the next cycle. If you are lucky, they might whimper, shift their bodies slightly, or cry for a few seconds if they have to, and fall right back to sleep for another cycle. Otherwise, parental intervention is needed, such as assurance by patting, humming, or carrying.
Baby, it's not time to wake up yet.

But let's be honest here, waking up every 30-60 minutes (and especially when you are already in deep sleep) sucks big time. For both the baby and the parents. Late last month, we spent between 1 hour to a terrifying 3-4 hours to lull her to sleep, only to have her waking up in 30 minutes. WHAT. Oh, and I can't describe how stressful it is to anticipate involuntarily when she is going to let out a cry. My small heart can't take this.

Heads up from the world of the internet - this process lasts from two to six weeks. To indefinitely. Very helpful information.

Sleep training?
In mid-March, we had a consultant came over to advise us on her feeding and sleeping, and that's when she protested a heck lot. To be fair, weeks of intense rocking, doing squats to make her sleep had already formed some kind of habit. Mummy couldn't take it and cried during the training and even signalled me to end the consultation as soon as possible. It's $200 to have the consultant come over for 3 hours by the way.

Thank God, we started to see the gradual fruits of sleep training - we adopted the gentler shush-pat/pick-up-put-down method. Towards the 4-5th day of sleep training, she's able to sleep in her own cot after 20-30 minutes of shush-pat and minimal rocking, but then sleep regression struck and she's waking up every 45 minutes or so. Uh, what? Here's something to prep ourselves for the near future - we would probably have to restart sleep training every once in a while after certain incidents, such as going overseas, sickness,  and sleep regression. The bad news is that there are approximately five of them until the baby is two years old.

Hey, since we are at this topic, let's delve into sleep training for a little.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Olivia's 100th Day Celebration

"Days like years, and years like days" was one advice I got and how true is that. One moment we just got news that my dear wife was pregnant, and nine months later, we were at the hospital welcoming the birth of our firstborn. Days and weeks later, we were (and still are) fretting and pulling our hair about fixing her schedules and worrying about her well-being, and the next moment, she was already hitting 100 days old.
We get questions, like "eh boy ah, why 100 days? Last time all full month one." To be honest, we pondered upon whether holding a full month or 100-day celebration was better for us and Olivia. And ultimately, we chose to do the 100-day for a couple of reasons.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Month #3 - Eat, Play, Sleep?

The third month is not without its challenges. There’s one thing we learnt and that is, you never stop learning when it comes to raising up a child. There’s an endless list of things to learn and explore about your child, and some times, they are paired with glass-shattering screams and wall-shaking cries. And when the baby cries and not handled appropriately, it becomes a stressor to the marriage. Trust me, we are still learning how to cope. You don’t need a eureka moment to know that parenting is real tough commitment. Here’s a salute to all parents once again.
CNY Day 1, huat ah!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Month #2 - Newborn cough and drinking water.

The second month, as compared to the first, was slightly easier to cope. Perhaps the baby is a little less fragile now, or perhaps we are more accustomed to waking up twice or thrice at night. Here's a summary of baby Olivia's second month for Lady M and myself:

Bringing Olivia out.
Bringing a newborn out is like preparing for a 4D3N field camp. Without the confinement nanny, you gotta have your packing list and battle plan. Food, bottles, diapers, diaper rash, extra clothes, a mental map of where's the nearest nursing room and what not. Besides the doctor visits and photo shoot (which we had the nanny with us), we first brought her out alone when she's about 5 weeks old to a cafe meet-up with our friends. It was meant to be a playdate, but the two kids were sleeping 90% of the time. To be fair, that's a good thing. We rather have her sleeping soundly compared to screaming her lungs out in the middle of a cafe. I shit you not, even after bringing her out for a couple of times, we still get a little anxiety. Every single time.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Month #1 - Confinement, impetigo, breastfeeding and baby blues.

The first month is, I shit you not, a fearful month - the month of major transition and sacrifice. After the bouts of our loved ones visiting and sending their heartfelt congratulations to us, a sudden loss of what to do engulfs us. Back at Thomson Medical, nurses were serving us 24/7, arriving just seconds after a button’s press. If not for the presence of our confinement nanny (thank God she was already at our place on the day of discharge), I wouldn’t even want to fathom the lives we were going to live for the first month.

Sitting the month.
And so we entered an ancient Chinese tradition of the confinement period or 坐月 (zuo yue) which literally means sitting the month. So, if you are unaware of this ching chong practice, whereby the mother does only two things - (1) restore her body and (2) feed the baby. There are a lot of don'ts. Don't get out of bed. Don't read or use your phone. Don't cry. Don't wash your hair (my wife lasted 15 days). The confinement nanny should be an adept for this, gorging your body (and your husband's) with all the herbs and tonics which are supposed to restore your yang energy. Herbal soup, chicken cooked in Chinese wine, and the confinement classic, pig trotters in black vinegar. It's hard not to get fat.

Impetigo what?
Nearing 1.5 weeks, a small blister grew on Olivia’s chin, then it grew bigger and even spread to other areas on her chin. We tried to find out possible sources, was it the feeding cup? Was it how the nanny handled her? Was it because of abrasion from the clothes? We started to google for possible sickness and stumbled on “impetigo” - a highly contagious skin infection. Blisters and rashes, checked. Honey-coloured crust, checked. Spreading of rashes, checked.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Maternity and Baby Photoshoot with FACE SG

Lady M and I knew that we wanted something to document our pregnancy and the baby's first few weeks, all thanks to influenzas who posted really cute pictures of their child wrapped up real cuddly and in the most absurd way. And so we did. Back last year, we were strolling one of the baby fairs with a list ingrained in our minds, one of which is none other than a maternity and baby photoshoot package. That's when we stumble upon Face SG.
There are a few reasons why we signed up with Face SG.

1. Their portfolio impresses us. The photos were creative, had a wide range of styles and backdrops. To some extent, I thought their standard even matches up with those "higher-range" studios, which could costed 2 or 3 times more than this.
2. Their prices were really competitive, which you could check it out here. If you want the best deals, you could sign up during baby fairs. Details, including how many backdrops, change and rental of clothes, photos, accessories were discussed before signing and payment.
3. Their staff were friendly and not overly pushy. Okay, we know, people want their sales, but there's a limit to everything. We visited another booth before this and we had the impression that we were being forced into signing the package, which apparently had the opposite effect on us.

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves (there are others scattered in other posts as well):