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Our Nature Table(s)

The problem with reading blogs is getting too many ideas! (Which is supposed to be a benefit, right? Everything has its flipside haha.)

For VERY long, I have wanted to do up a nature table for the kids. Even bought a bargain side table for this purpose. But… the idea was shelved for sooooo long that the side table got repurposed 😛 The delay was due to a few reasons – no space for another specialized table, no idea what to put on the table (most of the ideas on other blogs are for seasonal setups, not applicable for the year-round tropical Singapore), I was worried about the nature items attracting bugs…
Then one day, I wanted to move an extra table out of the boys’ bedroom. Was looking around the house for a suitable spot to place the table… and ah-ha! I have dumped the cardboard kitchen a while ago…. free space! And the rattan table with glass top was perfect for a nature table!

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The beginning.. when I was at a loss what to put on the table..

One of Didi's creations. Out of the 3 kids, he's the most interested in the table.

One of Didi’s creations. Out of the 3 kids, he’s the most interested in the table.

Admiring his work from another angle : )

Admiring his work from another angle : )

To avoid bugs, I set up a second nature table at the corridor, heehee. Cos I really don’t like bugs. Here, they play with the things we collect at our outings, i.e. not so clean stuff.

Seashells, saga seeds, pebbles. I also gave the boys some foodstuff like cinnamon sticks and star anise.

Seashells, saga seeds, pebbles. I also gave the boys some foodstuff like cinnamon sticks and star anise.

And a yucky experiment inspired by The Magic School Bus In A Pickle. Yep that's a pickle-wannabe, a decomposing cucumber, and a very unorganic tomato which just refuses to rot!

And a yucky experiment inspired by The Magic School Bus In A Pickle. Yep that’s a pickle-wannabe, a decomposing cucumber, and a very unorganic tomato which just refuses to rot!

The nature table changes according to what we have on hand… and what happens to inspire mummy!

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The Best Season

I feel like we are finally where I want us to be.

We have settled into a routine where each day is predictable. Mornings are usually spent at home, so that the kids have their fill of free play. Classes and outings are mostly in the afternoon. So the kids know that it’s time to go out after their nap almost everyday. I like this routine too, because I feel accomplished by the time the kids go for their nap/quiet time – even if we do nothing else, the kids have played the whole morning!

Kor Kor has started attending the classes which I envisioned him to take up since he was very young – swimming, wushu and Mandarin speech & drama. Before this, he was too young for the classes… and also too young for the daddy to be willing to pay for his lessons 😛 Three classes is a bit too much on top of school I think, so we will stop the speech & drama classes before he starts primary school in a year’s time.

Didi is also attending wushu. Though a bit young, he’s happy and enjoys the classes : ) Now, just waiting for a vacancy at swim class! And for Meimei to be old enough to start ballet and guzheng, heehee.

Now that the kids are older, we can be more flexible in terms of naps when we do go out the whole day. The boys can go without a nap occasionally, and it is quite easy to get Meimei to nap in her stroller. This means that it’s easier for us to go for nature outings, yay! (I am exploring joining Nature Society as a family. Shall update if it’s interesting!)

I am also loving our home environment. The last round of decluttering was very successful. But it’s definitely not just one round of decluttering that did the job – it’s the accumulated results of many, many rounds. I read Simplicity Parenting almost one year ago, and it’s still having a huge impact on my parenting now. I love our work spaces / activity corners around the house – art station (which I have added on to since the post), playroom, reading nook, science lab, nature table (post coming!), construction area (very new), and others. (some areas have made way though :P)

Most importantly, my firstborn is growing up to be so sensible! He gives in to Meimei a lot and offers his help when I am tired or busy. To be frank, Didi is still very whiney at 3.5 years old… But he’s really very super cute! Makes me laugh at the most tired or stressed times : ) And Meimei, our princess, she’s getting spoilt and naughty, but never mind, she’s our princess! It’s good training for the boys anyway, to learn to give in to younger ones and girls. And urmm, I am confident of correcting her wayward behaviors, hiak hiak hiak, no more always getting your way now that you are older, Meimei!

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Yes, I am happy and love my days together with my children. I love being able to be with them and to seek learning opportunities together.

But let there be no illusion. Happy is one thing, TIRED is still very real. Just because I manage to do it, doesn’t mean I don’t feel exhausted. I am half-dead by mid-day, after the lunchtime rush. I don’t know what my point is here, just want to say, I am really very, very tired. Oh well 😛

 

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Decluttered!

Last week, I suddenly got the urge to declutter. OK, it wasn’t just a random feeling, it was because I was inspired (again!) by Mum In The Making. I love her home decor!

I think the first step to a beautiful home is neatness (and of course basic cleanliness). I had done a few rounds of decluttering prior to this, but somehow, there were still lots more to clear! Once I got into the groove, I gave away many things and kept many things away in the storeroom and storage boxes.

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The result of my hard work over three days

The difference is not very obvious in the photo. (It’s like housework – very obvious if not done, not so obvious when it’s painstakingly done!) I cleared ALL surfaces in the WHOLE house, from kitchen to bedroom! Tidied and dusted the display shelves and cleared everything on top of cabinets and shelves (which was such a convenient place to deposit stuff!).

I used to try to keep the top surfaces neat, perhaps just one small filing rack. But everytime, more and more stuff ended up there.. until it was ‘overflowing’. So I decided to keep surfaces bare – everything must go inside drawers or cupboards. I can tidy the insides when I am free, but at least the house will look neat. If there isn’t any more storage space, that means it’s time to throw things!

This nth round of decluttering, I finally feel different. I feel liberated. In the mornings, I wake up feeling yay, the house is clean and neat. At night, if I get an idea about an activity to do with the kids the next day, I feel like anything is possible. And most importantly, I finally feel like I want to stop buying things for the kids. (If my hubby is reading this, he is probably jumping for joy haha)

So, having been a shopaholic-mummy (a very dangerous combi, cos there are just too much kid-related stuff out there!) for the past five years (the buying started before the baby arrived) and now a newly-converted minimalist (haha), what are my insights?

There is really no need to buy too many toys or educational whatnots. Not that the toy is useless, but there simply isn’t enough time to do all of them with the child. I have had sooooo many good toys, but I realised hey, the kids hardly touched them…

Take for example, a stacking toy. By the time the boys finally played with it, they were already old enough to do the stacking on their own, despite never having been ‘taught’ before… Which means, they ‘learnt’ how to do it without the toy… and without anyone teaching them… And since they now know how to do it, there was never a need for the toy in the first place! Argh!

Letting the kids see me giving away their toys is therapeutic. I posted on a freecycling group the items which I wanted to give away, and the recipients came to my place to collect. So the boys watched with their own eyes (in horror??) people going away with their toys. It was an effect I did not expect, otherwise I would have made full use of the impact. Now the boys know I am serious about giving away their toys and I REALLY will do it.

(I never had any qualms about carrying out my ‘promises’, but I knew that if I had to throw their toys away, I would feel quite sad. But now I actually feel zen and I think I will be quite happy if I get to clear more toys out! *rub hands in glee*)

When I first told the boys I would be giving away some of their toys, the boys cried and wailed and said they wanted to play with the toys. But seriously?? They had not touched the toys for years!

Kids’ imagination increase as their toys decrease. Perhaps it’s having more physical space, perhaps it’s having fewer things competing for their brainspace.. The very first afternoon after I started decluttering, the boys started using their remaining toys to ‘substitute’ for the toys they lost.. by pretending! And we are still in Week One After Decluttering. I am sure I will see more improvements in their play. Click here to read why fewer toys will benefit your kids.

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Our Reading Nook : )

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Nice?? Just a week ago, this was just a wall (decals already on it, part of a Home Improvement Project I started a bit earlier). There are many, many books in the boys’ bedroom, but they hardly spent time reading there. When they did hole themselves in the bedroom, it was usually to play with Lego on the study table which is too high for Meimei to reach. When they wanted to read the books, they would bring the books out to the living room and read on the sofa instead. I guess it was not comfortable to sit on the floor to read, which was what they did on the rare occasions that they did read in their room. (There are two adult-sized chairs, two child-sized plastic chairs, an IKEA child-sized armchair, and a cute stool in the room. But they just don’t use them for reading. No idea why!)

So, it was pretty much just a waste of a good space. Good space = a neat, uncluttered, aethestically pleasing space. Waste = good but not being used! Then one day, I saw Gingerbread Mum‘s new reading corner and was inspired! Hers is a small space between the sofa and a wall, which she has done up very nicely. The furnishings did not seem hard to get; it was more an issue of where to do up such a reading corner in my home. So I walked around the house in search of a suitable space, and EUREKA! A trip to IKEA and two cushions & two rugs later, we have our new reading nook!

That’s why I love reading blogs. On top of the many ingenious ideas which other mummies come up with, often it’s not the creativity itself that makes the difference. Rather, it’s the motivation, the inspiration, the extra timely push. YAY to more!

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Ok, actually I prefer this photo, cos Meimei is smiling. But Didi is scratching his butt again! But I decided I still wanna put it up here!

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Our Cardboard Kitchen

When I saw the cardboard kitchen and fridge at Mum In The Making, I was inspired! I had come across such cardboard furniture before, but back then, there was no real incentive as we already have a Little Tikes kitchen. But now that there are three kids, one burner is no longer enough. To buy a toy kitchen big enough for three kids would be seriously big money. DIY it shall be!

Other than Mum In The Making, I only referred to one other blog for ideas. I did view many cardboard kitchens on Google Images and tried to find one which would meet all my needs so that I could just copy exactly. But it was a futile attempt, because we all have cardboard boxes of varying sizes in our treasure chest storeroom, and also because I did not want to have to buy anything extra.

Fridge with freezer compartment

Fridge with freezer compartment

 

I didn't make any shelves in the main body of the fridge as who knows what the kids might put.. just in case too heavy

I didn’t make any shelves in the main body of the fridge as who knows what the kids might put.. just in case too heavy

 

Stove with shelf and oven.. Four burners!

Stove with shelf and oven.. Four burners! More than my real stove, haha

 

Very proud of the see-through oven door!

Very proud of the see-through oven door!

 

Sink

Sink

 

100% my invention!

100% my invention!

 

Tata!

Tata!

I wish I took photos during the DIY process so that I could share in detail how I made this (I am handicapped in crafts, by the way), but I was too excited and didn’t want to pause. So here are just a few points:

1) Don’t try to find or wait for perfect boxes. For example, my freezer box isn’t the same as the fridge box, but it’s ok la.

2) I use self-adhesive velcro to keep the doors closed.

3) For the see-through oven door, I cut a hole and pasted one cover of a folder on the inside. I am a genius, right? Hee hee.

4) I use plastic bags as the door handles – easy to push through the holes, easy to tie, easy to replace if they come to any mishap. (Tried pipecleaners for two of the doors too, no problems either)

5) Pasted majong paper over some faces of the boxes. I chose to leave some sides uncovered, so that the completed items have a I-can-make-anything-out-of-any-random-box feel. Oh well, just the whims of an artist :p OK, seriously, this might mean the kitchen doesn’t look as neat, it depends on your preferences.

6) I made the tap like that cos I want it to look like the one we have in our kitchen, with a long spout and an up-down lever. The transparent spout is a water hose.

7) The sink is just a food storage container. The two blogs I referred to both did something quite similar, and it seems to be a very common method. Fabulous idea!

Most importantly, just get started! Gather the boxes, penknife, masking tape, velcro, scissors, and create according to the materials on hand!