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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thank You, Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Our founding father of modern Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away on Monday morning. As a mark of respect for him, I will not be posting or hosting the Wordless Wednesday linky party this week. It will resume next week on 1 April after our period of National Mourning from 23 March to 29 March 2015.

I never thought his death to hit me so hard. I woke up on Monday morning and first thing I saw was my sister's message that Mr Lee passed away early that morning at 3.18am. It immediately brought me to tears and I just could not shake off that dreadful feeling throughout the day, especially when reading through all the heartfelt tributes to him. Worst was when I saw PM Lee fighting back his tears to complete his ministerial duty to us when he announced the passing of his own father. I let them flow freely on his behalf.

I think I scared the boy too. I looked, sounded and felt like someone close to us had passed away. I've never met Mr Lee in person before, but hearing his stories from my parents and seeing his contributions everywhere, the pain of losing someone dear struck me hard as he was truly like our nation's Ah Kong. It was a sad, sad day for me, for us, for Singaporeans all over the world.

We knew the inevitable was coming. In the days leading up to his passing, there were those sad one-liners from the PMO and we wished desperately for more information. However, deep down we knew they couldn't give us more in case it drove us deeper into hope or despair. We prayed fervently for a miracle that he would at least live long enough to celebrate SG50 with us on 9 August this year.

Alas it was not meant to be. Words cannot express the gratitude and utmost respect I have towards him, as I've never been good with them during grief. But I'll try a short one.

"Dear Mr Lee,

You have lived a life worth living and brought Singapore to where it is today. You have made us proud to be Singaporeans, to stand tall whenever people ask where we come from. I've never lived through the hard days and can only imagine how difficult it was for you to bring us to this state of glory in just one lifetime.

It is my honour to have called you our leader, and I am greatly saddened that you're not around anymore.

As a citizen, I will continue as best as I can to live up to your expectations and build on what you have given us. As a parent, I will continue as best as I can to make sure my daughter does not forget your legacy, and grow to keep Singapore outstanding for many more generations to come.

Rest in peace, Sir."

Thank you, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Thank you for giving your life to us, and for keeping your vision and determination to build a better Singapore for all of us.

Mr Lee's body will lie in state at Parliament House from today until Saturday 28 March, for the public to pay their last respects. They can do so from 10am to 8pm daily during that time.

The Lying In State is part of the State Funeral procession, and is a tradition in which a coffin is placed in public view to allow the public to pay their last respects to the deceased. All members of the public can pay homage to the late Mr Lee. While there is no age restriction, children should be accompanied by adults.

There is no official dress code or code of conduct when paying respects at the Lying In State, but the public should be mindful of the solemnity and decorum of the occasion, both in their dressing and bearing.

A state funeral service for Mr Lee will be held at 2pm on Sunday 29 March at the National University of Singapore's University Cultural Centre, followed by a private cremation at Mandai Crematorium.

Condolence books and cards will be available in front of the Istana main gate from Monday to Sunday, for those who wish to pen their tributes to the late Mr Lee. Condolence books will also be opened at all overseas missions for overseas Singaporeans and friends.

The public can express their condolences and share their memories of the late Mr Lee at the official website. People can also call the 24-hour hotline on 6336-1166 with queries, or visit Remembering Lee Kuan Yew Facebook page for more details.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bub & Me: Disney's Beauty and The Beast Musical, Marina Bay Sands

Last night we caught Beauty and The Beast gala opening performance in MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands. Seen by more than 35 million people, the original Broadway musical spectacular came to Singapore for the first time!

Based on the 1991 Academy-Award winning animated feature film where it premiered on Broadway in 1994 and ran for 13 years, the show's original Broadway creative team reunited after 20 years to re-imagine the international tour of Beauty and the Beast and bring this Broadway classic to life. 

Ever since Lil Pumpkin saw the posters up when her daddy brought her to watch Disney Live! Three Classic Fairytales performance in November last year at the same theatre, she's been reminding us to bring her every now and then. That's a whole 4 months of "nagging"!! Gosh, the Force is strong with this one :P

Nonetheless, really happy to have made her dream come true :)

After collecting our tickets, we had some time to spare so took a quick look at the souvenir shop.
There were the usual T-shirts {S$40}, caps {S$20?}, charm bracelets {S$30}, mugs {S$20} and magnets {S$15} but nothing really caught our fancy. Wish they had like magical rose light-sticks, princess capes or some other more interesting stuff. 

In the end we bought a musical program to read more into its production {S$20} - it's our must-have souvenir whenever we watch musicals - and took at photo at the Canon booth {S$10}. The photo cost goes to the Singapore Cancer Society and the print-out is much bigger than the one we took when the boy and I watched Phantom of the Opera.

Since it was the Opening Night there were lots of celebrities and media personalities around. When we were walking in to watch the show, I was pleasantly surprised to be stopped by Justin Ang {half of the Muttons} and Timothy Oh from Class 95fm!

They were on the lookout for the "Best Dressed at the Theatres" and they chose me {was wearing my Lark & Peony Princess in Crimson modern cheongsam} so I won a pair of tickets to watch the next musical, Singing in the Rain, at Marina Bay Sands! Woot woot! So lucky!!

I guess it does pay to take time and dress properly when you go to watch shows and musicals, especially if you go to a grand venue like MasterCard Theatres. I think it shows respect to the artistes and performers as well when you turn up well-attired :)

List of the company cast who were performing last night.

Here's an interesting trivia: Hilary Maiberger who plays Belle and Darick Pead who plays The Beast are a couple in real life, as well as on stage! I guess that's why their love emotion for each other seemed so real during the performance.

Before there was Frozen's Elsa to show the world that not all fair maidens in fairytales need a prince to come and rescue her for all her dreams to come true, there was Beauty and The Beast's Belle. Brave, intelligent and independent, Belle was was truly a strong heroine in her own story who was kind and saw past the exterior of someone to their true interior and love them for who they are.

It's something I hope Lil Pumpkin would learn and grow to remember, and Beauty and The Beast is an excellent way to reach out and tell her these important values in a simple way that children as young as her can understand.

It was a strange, happy feeling watching Disney's Beauty and The Beast cartoon unfold on stage. Could real human beings with limited special effects bring out the magical moments that were drawn from the imagination of some of the world's best cartoonists?

Yes they can! And if there was anybody that was meant to represent Belle in reality, Hillary Maiberger was her. Her demeanour, beauty and voice was everything I expected Belle to be. Oh that voice!! It was just so unbelievable!! In the original cartoon, Belle was voiced by Broadway actress Paige O'hara and I think she would be very pleased with Hilary's performance of Belle last night.

Darick Pead as the Beast held up his end well too. He was really funny and strong, although I felt he could be a bit more ferocious!?

Lil Pumpkin laughed and laughed at all his jokes though heh. I'm so glad she was well enough to make it to the show. She was feeling rather sick since last night and slept most of the day yesterday before the show.

But I guess even if I wanted her to stay home and rest, she would still insist to go and not miss it for the world!!

It was wonderful hearing all my fave Beauty and The Beast songs like "Be Our Guest" and "Tale as Old as Time" again.

As a musical based on a Disney Princess cartoon, I was afraid the boy would not like it and be so bored. However, he told me that it was really enjoyable and it gave him a "fuzzy feeling" i.e. goosebumps, in a good way, from all the wonderful singing and dancing.

So yay, this show is daddy-approved too! :)

Highly recommended for the whole family, the whole 2 hours will just fly by from the non-stop laughter, singing and dancing. With maybe a tear or two at the end when you see The Beast finally learning the lesson of how to love someone other than himself, and Belle coming back to save him.

Oh, I heard that there are some Disney "Easter eggs" or hidden elements of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse within the show. I didn't spot any since I was so mesmerised by the whole performance, including the elaborate costumes and stage settings. Let me know if you go and spot any, please! :)

If you plan to go, do book your tickets early as the show is in Singapore for only about 3 weeks and as you can see, it's really popular! If these people from last night liked it as much as we did and tell everyone they know, I think the show is going to sell-out soon :P

Photography and recording is strictly prohibited during the performance, but take a look at the video above to see some behinds-the-scenes shots and a sneak peek at what the actual performance is like.

Beauty and The Beast Musical
MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands
Event period: Sat 21 Mar - Sun 19 Apr 2015
Ticket Price {excl. booking fee}:  S$65, $85, $115, $145, $170, $190, S$460 {Box seats 4 pax}, S$760 {VIP Box 4 pax}
Show Times: 8pm {Tues to Fri}, 2pm & 8pm {Sat}, 1pm & 6pm {Sun}
Duration: 2.5 hrs {incl. 20 minutes interval}
*Kids under 3 years old may be admitted free of charge & must be seated on the lap of a parent or guardian. Kids aged 3 years and above require a ticket for admission.

Also check out the rest of our Bub & Me activities or list of kid-friendly places in Singapore :)

* Disclosure: This is a review for Beauty and The Beast Singapore Musical. All opinions are my own. Unless otherwise stated, image credits to Base Entertainment.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Prepping for P1: Scholastic Hidden Picture Puzzle Books & Pictionaries for Increasing Vocabulary

Lil Pumpkin's going to Primary 1 next year and as most parents in my situation, I'm wondering if she is ready. Is she learning, experiencing, understanding enough at school and at home to prepare her for the "big kids school".

Yes, I'm definitely feeling the primary school parent jitters again as it gets nearer and nearer to the date of registration, and my mum has reminded me at least 3 times that I must absolutely be in Singapore from June - August this year, because that's when the registration will be tentatively conducted.

Okkkk mummy, no travel plans then :P

I think it's pretty important for Lil Pumpkin to have a strong vocabulary so that she can think more deeply, express herself better, and learn new things more quickly. That's why we read books and pretty much anything whenever we can actually. Signs, movie posters, catalogs, newspapers etc.

I've read that most of our daily conversations draw from a vocabulary bank of no more than 3,000 words, yet the average adult knows upwards of 20,000!! That richness comes from print.

Recently we were introduced to the Sam and Sally series of books from Scholastic Education to widen and deepen her vocabulary on various familiar contexts. On each page, Lil Pumpkin has to search for and color the hidden pictures, which also provides the opportunity to learn {new} words in context and develop spatial intelligence. Learning new vocab is pretty straight-forward, but I think not many children books focus on spatial intelligence much.

Spatial intelligence is what we do when we visualize, mentally generate, rotate, and transform images in our “mind’s eye”. It’s the mental feat that architects and engineers perform when they design buildings. What a chemist needs to contemplate the 3D structure of a molecule, or a surgeon to navigate the human body. Also known as spatial visualisation, it plays a critical role in engineering and scientific disciplines and something that we need to train our kids on too. 

Each Sam and Sally book feature 8 thematic picture puzzles with over 200 words, 9 two-page challenge puzzles, a thoughtful question in each puzzle to encourage thinking and speaking skills and practice on various visual discrimination skills.

Sam and Sally At Home topics
It's pretty fun to do and usually Lil Pumpkin will finish up a page or 2 at a time. She loves to colour and barely finds it as additional "homework" to do!

Lil Pumpkin likes me to colour with her and so we'd do that together. She has free reign over what colour she wants, and I like that the image-filled pages provide us with many conversation prompts to talk and think about.

Sam and Sally Out & About topics
It helps her to deepen her understanding of the word by talking about its different meanings and using the word in different sentences. For example, reminding her that uniforms are not just worn by kids for school, but by adults in various groups or organisations and getting her to tell me some examples e.g. police, army, airlines etc. Also, pointing out that "uniform" also means staying the same at all times and encouraging her to give me more examples of that.

Sam and Sally Go to School topics
Sam and Sally books are meant for preschoolers, and come in 3 titles - Sam and Sally At Home, Sam and Sally Out & About, and Sam and Sally Go to School. They are available at POPULAR bookstores and retail for S$7.40 each.

My World of Words, also a series of books from Scholastic Education, uses a different style and makes learning vocabulary enjoyable through picture stories. The colours are vivid and the stories relate to kids' everyday life.

It takes young learners on a delightful journey to discover their world with thoughtfully constructed two-part picture stories based on a before-after scenario, thinking questions and activities to develop speaking and writing skills, and additional ideas for activities to extend the learning. There's no colouring activities.

There are two things I really like about these books. Firstly are the illustrated dictionary pages, where each word is explained in simple language for kids as young as Lil Pumpkin to understand, and comes with example sentences to build vocabulary. Secondly, the picture stories convey important messages related to good values, manners and global citizenry in a fun and interesting way.

My World of Words and My World of More Words are available at POPULAR bookstores as well and retail for S$9 each. I'd recommend them for preschoolers, as well as lower primary kids due to the difficulty of some words used.

If you're looking for more ideas on increasing your kids vocabulary, do check these books out. They are very useful resources for home-based learning, and not that expensive too given the good-quality {coloured} prints. 

* Disclosure: This is a review for Scholastic Education books. All opinions are my own.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wordless Wednesday {linky}: Singapore Playgrounds - Tampines Mangosteen | Week 10

Where is this week's playground?
Block 858, Tampines Avenue 5.
 Walking distance from Watermelons playground.

FUN Factor?
6/10. Novel, and good for playing catching but
very small & swings hanging from the bar has been removed.
Inside walls of Mangosteens have sadly been filled with graffiti :/

One of the Singapore Heritage Playgrounds.
Suitable for kids of all ages.

Note: Currently under refurbishment. Check back at it a few months later.

There used to be a Pineapple Playground in Tampines too, which I thought was really cute!
But sadly, that was demolished in 2009 / 2010.

Play is important for children to her to learn, grow and discover the world we live in.
As we visit as many fun, nostalgic and even quirky playgrounds as we can this year,
I hope to inspire you to make play an even bigger part of your kids' lives and
explore much more of our beautiful Singapore!

This photo is part of the 52 Weeks Singapore Playgrounds series,
and Susan's SG Heritage Playgrounds series.


Sakura Haruka's wordless wednesday
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