Thursday, October 29, 2015

Preparing Your Body for Labour

When it comes to birth preparation and natural birthing, a lot of attention is given to your mental state. In other words, preparing yourself mentally for the challenge ahead.

In my case, I read a lot (for both pregnancies) and was very interested in the whole hypnobirthing approach. It's very much about preparing your mind: getting yourself into a positive 'state'; being relaxed; and repeating various visualisations daily in the run up to your birth to keep you on track.

Not a lot of discussion is made of how to prepare yourself physically for labour.

I'm no expert and all I can share is my own experience. But when pregnant with my first child, I swam a few times a week, walked a lot and did prenatal yoga once a week. Inbetween classes, I would practice my yoga poses at home a few times a week and I felt physically 'right' and prepared for birth when it came.

With my second pregnancy, I am trying to replicate my first program but have had some issues with the swimming side of things (the haze in Singapore makes outdoor activity a loser at the moment) but I am doing prenatal yoga classes twice a week and a few times at home. And once the weather is better I will be swimming too.

I don't think you can do enough stretching throughout your pregnancy (whilst being mindful not to hold poses too long or to over stretch, which is easy to do during pregnancy due to relaxin coursing through your body).

In our yoga classes we focus a lot on stretching hamstring, calf and pelvic muscles which makes a lot of logical sense. I am told by my obstetrician (whom I trust) that the key is to find balance in your exercise, to make sure that your body is aligned and therefore baby is evenly supported during pregnancy (by your many muscles and ligaments) to aid a straight forward (pardon the pun) labour and birth.

When the body is physically imbalanced, it might tilt to one side which can make your birth canal literally not so straight forward!

He gave me a useful article, from his partner midwife, at Spinning Babies that I wanted to share:

To read more about Spinning Babies and their approach to preparing your body for a natural labour click here!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Where Families Live in Singapore

Singapore is a very small place which actually makes it easy when deciding on a place to live. Location is everything but it depends on your criteria. 

  • Some families choose to find a place smack bang on an MRT (train) line. This is particularly helpful if you don't intend on getting a car. 
  • Some like being as close as possible to the action and the central business district.
  • Whilst others opt for being a bit further out, in the country. Yes there are plenty leafy locations in Singapore! 
  • And then there are the breezy coastlines to consider too. 

As a general guide here's where most expats tend to live:

1. East Coast

East Coast Park is a long stretch which is great for cyclists!

There are lots of lovely condos and landed properties around the Myer Road, Mountbatten and East Coast Road areas. You've also got East Coast Park on your doorstep and no end of restaurants, bars and shopping centres. If you're closer to the coast, or high up, you can also get a lovely breeze. Downside to the east coast is a lack of MRT stations. Most people use buses/taxis but these can be unreliable. 

2. Sentosa Cove

Quayside in Sentosa Cove Village is where all the shops, restaurants and boats are located!

Many locals think Sentosa is miles away from everything but it's actually a very central, convenient location. It has a village, community feel, a lovely calm and leafy environment and there are lots of condos to choose from on both the North and South Coves. 

Unlike other parts of Singapore, where you'll only get super high rise apartment blocks, Sentosa has more of a range with high rises as well as circa 6 storey condos. Landed properties exist but are expensive. There's a lovely beach nearby, plenty of restaurants, bars, supermarket, doctors, hairdressers. Basically everything you need is right there. 

3. West Coast

Pasir Panjang Village on the West Coast has everything you need!

There are a mix of condos and landed properties on the west coast. Clementi Road, Pasir Panjang Road as well as South Buona Vista roads are all popular. 

There's a fast freeway that connects the west coast with the city which can make getting to work an easier task. The West has a number of large shopping malls and is close to many international schools. It's also where the Science Centre, Jurong Bird Park and Jurong Water Park are located. 

4. Holland Village

Holland Village has lots going on and can be noisy but also has plenty of quiet leafy roads

Holland Village is great for families. Close to the MRT station you have a number of landed properties on surprisingly quiet roads. You also have lots of condos on Tama Warna Road, Leedon Road and Farrer Road.

Chip Bee Gardens offers a lovely a strip of restaurants, cafes and services such as physiotherapist etc along with a great baking supplies shop! 

Dempsey Hill is close by too which has a heap of restaurants there, a butcher as well as multiple furniture shops. 

Holland Village shopping centre has everything you need inside: banks, coffee shops, supermarket, pharmacy and multiple services upstairs such as hairdressers and foot massage places. A number of bars and restaurants are located behind the shopping centre (photo above).

5. Robertson Quay

Rob Quay is a really lovely place to live

Super close to the city, many people love living in Rob Quay because it means they can walk to work. Being along the river, Robertson Quay has lots of paved walks and a range of restaurants to choose from. Much more homely and quieter than neighbouring Clarke Quay, Robinson Quay has a wide arrange of condos making it my preferred city location. 

6. Orchard Road

The nightlife is in Orchard!

Obviously smack bang in the middle of the shopping district, the Orchard area can be noisy. But lots of people love it for it's convenience to the city and main shopping centres. There are lots of condos around 313Somerset and Dhoby Ghaut too. Condos tend to be smaller and pricier but everything you could ever need is right on your doorstep. 

7. Newton

Newton Food Centre

A popular area just north of the city, Newton is leafy and close to a number of international schools. Cluster houses are quite common around this district as are high rise condos. 

8. Bukit Timah

Get into the jungle in Bukit Timah!

BT is right in the countryside but still close enough to make a relatively easy commute to the city. There are absolutely stacks of playschools in this area and it is close to many international schools too. 

Rents tend to be a bit cheaper than central and again, there are many places to choose from. You might even see wild monkeys and large lizards in the national parks and reservoirs around this area!

Happy house hunting!
Rebecca x

Property Options for Expats in Singapore

When an expat rents a property in Singapore they tend to sign up to a two year contract. There are ways of course to get out of a contract earlier than this, but a two year stretch is the standard approach here. 

We are nearing the end of our first two years and are very happy where we live but, with a new baby on the way and a new school location to consider for Elise next year, we thought it best to explore our options and see what else might be about. 

And it got me thinking about all the various places our friends live and which locations really work best for expat families. 

Most expats live in condos here but some live in landed properties as well (both stand alone houses and semi detached). Cluster houses are also fairly common outside of the city. Here are the differences between the options and some pros and cons:

A Condo

A high rise condo on the East Coast

A lower rise condo development in Katong

  • The newer ones have decent fittings (not always but usually). 
  • Usually have excellent shared amenities including swimming pools; BBQ pits and communal eating areas; clubhouse; gym; playgrounds
  • As a result of this you're more likely to become part of a social community which can be very useful when you have young children
  • There's a huge range of condos to choose from in Singapore!

  • Rooms can be smaller. 
  • You might have noisy neighbours above, below and /or nextdoor! Luckily we've never had this problem in Singapore. 
  • You may not get any outdoor space or balcony but if you do, the space is usually small. 

Landed house

A villa style landed house

A beautiful 'black and white' property

  • You get a lot of space for your money in the main - obviously this is location dependent. 
  • You might get a garden or private pool. 
  • Rooms tend to be bigger than condos. 
  • You might land a pretty black and white house! 

  • Singapore is hot and your children will rarely use your garden!
  • A private pool and garden require maintenance. And you lose the community of meeting other children at your pool. 

Cluster house

A cluster development

  • Cluster developments are usually homely environments. There will be about 20-40 houses within a development. They might be built in a long terrace or in a circular shape for example. 
  • They often have shared amenities such as a swimming pool, climbing frames, BBQ pits 
  • Because of the point above you actually see your neighbours and there's a greater sense of community than you get in a house or semi detached. 

  • Cluster houses tend to be tall and thin and so are built over 2-4 levels. It means there are often lots of stairs (consider all the stair gates if you have small children!)
  • Having multiple floors can be tricky if you have children. For example you might need to bath one child upstairs whilst the one downstairs needs feeding. At least in a one level condo you can hear everything that's going on and move easily between your juggling acts!
  • Many have roof gardens. Singapore is just too hot for roof gardens. Even party couples might want to think twice about renting a place with a roof garden!
To read about which districts Singapore expats tend to live in, click here.

Love and hugs
Rebecca x 

Making a Halloween Pumpkin with Daddy!

Ross and Elise came home from the shops today with an enormous pumpkin. Ross seemed pretty certain how to create a scary Halloween lantern so they got to work straight away!

First Ross cut a 'lid' around the stalk, making sure to leave a lip (see photo at the front). This helps you place the lid back in exactly the right spot at the end:

Next was the fun bit: pulling all of the gooey guts out of the pumpkin. Elise really, really enjoyed this step! Ross scraped as much of the gooey flesh out as he could with a serrated avocado knife to leave a smooth inside shell.

Next they drew on the face they wanted and Ross cut it out with a knife. This was actually easier than I thought it would be! Given how long it takes me to peel pumpkin, I was very impressed with his speed!

And lastly, the finishing touch: putting a battery operated tea light candle inside and replacing the lid: scaaaary!

Happy Halloween!!
Ross and Elise x

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Making a Halloween Card for Cousin Monty

Elise has one cousin - he's called Monty and he's the son of my brother Ben and his wife Kelly. He is without a doubt the most smiley baby on the planet. He's currently 7 months old and Elise felt it necessary to make him a Halloween card to send with a toy spider she bought him. Well, why not?

Here's a really simple design that you could adapt for any occasion and it's easy as pie to make with a toddler.

What you'll need:

  • Some thick card (we used black as it's Halloween)
  • A piece of paper, slightly smaller that your card
  • A craft kinfe
  • Some glue
  • Some colours
  • A tiny bit of creative flair...

1. Use your creative flair to draw your picture on your card! We are doing a pumpkin as it's Halloween. Cut the various shapes out, including the main pumpkin:

2. Add some text:

3. Use the hole that's left to trace the same shape onto your white paper:

4. Elise then added plenty of colour to this line drawing... lots of reds, oranges and yellows!

5. Stick the white paper to the back of your card:


6. Glue your eyes, nose and mouth on top and... voila! A quick, fun Halloween greeting card for Monty! Scaaaaary!

Love and hugs,
Rebecca and Elise x

How to Make a Black Cat Fancy Dress Costume for Halloween!

Ross laughs at me when I decide to start a new sewing project because I tend to sew in the evening, when we are chilling out watching TV and Elise is asleep. I get thoroughly engrossed in it but am far from a professional seamstress. I prick my fingers, I sometimes swear and I always laugh at the end results!

My projects don't need to withstand the pressures of time... so long as Elise gets plenty of play out of whatever I make, I am happy.

So this week's project is for Halloween and although Elise is a bit young for trick or treating really, we always like to partake in the festivities.

Last year, she was loving the book, 'Room on the Broom' which had been a gift - from our friends Si and Louise, James and Ben. It's another brilliant tale from Julia Donaldson and Axel Schaeffer that gets read and re-read all the time in our house.

'Room on the Broom'

Elise's uncanny replication of the 'Room on the Broom' book cover!

Here's a pic of Elise during Halloween last year (what a cute, yet positively scary, witch she was):

Elise, Halloween 2014

This year, she has asked to be a cat, like 'Mog' from the 'Meg and Mog' book series (Helen Nicoll and Jan Piankowski).

Hmmm... a cat. Well at first I was a little perplexed and as I am all for trying to keep things simple (and easy) I've opted to make a black and white cat costume, just like Mog:

Meg and Mog sharing random smoothies

So I went for a trip to DAISO, which is the Japanese $1 shop here in Singapore to see what inspiration I could find. And I struck gold :) I bought...

  • 4 pairs of black and white woolly leg warmers (couldn't quite believe I found these in a tropical place like Singapore but there you are)
  • 2 pairs of woolly children's black gloves
  • Some cat style eye masks (I got two because I couldn't decide)
  • Cat ears and even a sparkly bow tie
  • And a bag of mini polystyrene balls... I'll explain why in a bit

And then I went to a shop and bought some black leggings and a white long sleeved top:

And now to create the fancydress costume!

So you need two leg warmers for arms, two leg warmers for legs and the rest, I am going to cut up to make a tail. The black gloves will become paws.

To make the front paws:
1. Turn two of your leg warmers, and two gloves, inside out and sew a glove to one end of each leg warmer. You'll need a 'left' and a 'right' remember... don't make two 'lefts' (I forgot this which resulted in my first mini outburst "Ragggh..!" Ross just laughed at me). This will make your two arms / front paws.

 Step 1 - inside out, sew your paw to your leg

Bottom: finished front paw and leg / Top: inside out paw and leg being sewn together

To make the back paws:
2. Turn the second pair of gloves inside out, cut off the thumb and sew the hole up. (You could use black socks instead of course but I made the call that they would never be as furry as the ones I had and I like that effect seeing as I'm trying to make a cat costume). These socks will become your 'back' paws. 

NOTE: I don't suggest attaching these gloves to the leg warmers. If your child is anything like mine, s/he will want to take their socks off within a few minutes. At least let them wear the socks for long enough to get a photo!

To make the tail:
3. Take another pair of leg warmers and cut them open along the seam. Then cut them in half to make 4 pieces in total.

Step 3

4. Turn each piece inside out and sew along one end to seal the end of the tail... and then sew up the open side to create a hollow cylinder:

Step 4

5. Leave the second small end open and stuff it with small polystyrene balls. I found it easiest to do this with small handfuls and to push the balls down with my fingers, or a plastic spoon (a wooden spoon gets stuck to the wool).

Step 5

6. Repeat step 5 with each of the remaining three pieces of 'tail', remembering to keep the joins open. Sew the joins up to make one long continuous 'tail'.

Step 6

Here's a picture of the finished front paws, back legs (+ back paws) and tail:  

And here's a photo of Mog the Cat, ready to go trick or treating. Even Dolly has her own sweet bucket!

Love and hugs
Rebecca and Elise x

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

UN Day - White Lodge Preschool 2015

White Lodge preschool is a wonderful environment for Elise. It is truly multi-cultural. Their core value is 'accepting difference' and Ross and I love the fact that every week, Elise is learning something different about another culture, country, type of food, group of people or landmark.

This week they have been learning about Niagara Falls for example and pouring water down a plastic mini waterfall. Last week they made chipatti and in a week's time they will be celebrating Diwali! It never ends.

UN Day is no exception and the school really goes all out on this event. It is held annually at the American School in their gymnasium and parents and teachers volunteer to host stands for the many different countries the students originate from. The stands showcase national costumes, share cultural artefacts and customs and offer tray upon tray of delicious local foods. Our scones were on the UK stand of course!

This year, there were stands for UK, USA, India, Japan, Switzerland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, China, Bulgaria, Germany, France... the list goes on. It is an incredible event that never disappoints.

Here are some photos from the event:

The day started off with a clash and a bang with a traditional Lion Dance
We were greeted by a character bringing good luck... must research who he is!

Here is the stand representing Japan - a teacher hands out origami shapes and animals to the children
The school's Mandarin teachers treat us to a traditional Mongolian dance
Uncle Mo, the resident musician, plays the sitar for us all
The South Africa stall was my favourite!
Elise's 'passport' showing all the 'countries' she visited on the day!

A very special day which was lots of fun and we all learned a great deal!

Love and hugs
Rebecca and Elise x