Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A romantic, childhood dream

So what prompted me to have The Tan Family coat of arms created?

Since young I have always been very fascinated with country/family coat of arms. I thought it was incredibly meaningful that each and every component of the coat of arms was a symbol of some bigger or deeper meaning. That even the colour had meaning, and how the coat of arms was sectioned and divided meant something. I was always very intrigued by it and read about it a lot. I often wished that we had our own family coat of arms.
bucket shop heraldic designs
I recall, even back in the late 1990s, I went so far as to search online for coat of arms under the last names of Tan (my dad's surname) and Lee (my mum's surname). A search on Google just done today reveals the above. Only the first one is a Tan (apparently of German ancestry!) and the other four are Lee - from the UK and other parts of Europe. There are online shops (known as "heraldic bucket shops") selling stuff with all these coat of arms emblems too. Certainly, I knew these are not part of my family history, I just searched for the fun of it.

In my teens, when I went a bit crazy on this topic and read whatever I could find on coat of arms and flags etc, I also read that families in medieval times had family coat of arms that would be combined when the families married. I thought it was incredibly romantic and symbolic to marry the man of your dreams and create your own family emblem that symbolised your union and your new family. Thus, it was a childhood dream, a romantic dream, that one day, I would have my own coat of arms for my family.

How two become one - the combined coat of arms for
Prince William and Princess Kate
While googling to get images for this blogpost, guess what I came across? Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton's coat of arms! Apparently, usually only nobles or royalty had coat of arms. Kate Middleton, being a commoner, was not required to have a family coat of arms. But in the lead up to her marriage with Prince William, Kate's father had a heraldic design commissioned as well.

So romantic, yah? But truth be told, this was not the trigger factor to make me want to have my own family coat of arms... Actually... it was... Harry Potter! :p Yes, I'm a huge fan of the world of Harry Potter. And his school Hogwarts, has its own coat of arms. Sectioned into four - each quarter bearing the emblem of the four houses in the school. And each symbol had a meaning to it...
Coat of Arms (L to R): Hogwarts, Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw
So yeah, that was the tipping point. If Hogwarts had a coat of arms, I want one too. Hah! :p I'm glad I did it though. What started out as a whim on a fancy, turned out into a very meaningful exercise. May this be the start of a meaningful tradition for the Tan Family. When the kids each turn 18 years old, I shall have them all design their own personal coat of arms. And when they get married and have their own family, they can design their own family coat of arms. Yes, I'm having grandmother dreams already! Plan ahead, ya know!

Monday, 30 July 2012

The Tan Family Coat of Arms

This is the Tan Family coat of arms. Ain't it cool?! I love it, and so does hubbs. And judging from the comments and "likes" we got for this picture when I changed the profile picture for our Tan Family Chronicles Facebook page just before the weekend - loads of people like it too. 

Would you like to know what the different components mean? Most of it seems pretty obvious at first glance. But there's kinda a story behind everything, so let me share that with you.

The three kids, Isaac (top), Asher (left) and Shawna (right) form the main support of the emblem. The kids are the very heart of our family, and they hold up the shield (symbolising the family unit) in the middle. Isaac is on top because he is the oldest, the first born. When I was pregnant with the twins, Asher was on my left and Shawna was on the right, of my tummy. Hence their respective positions.

The top left hand quadrant shows our wedding rings. The lines on the rings are not for show. Our rings are made of white gold and yellow gold. This is because the modern "angmo-fied" me prefers white gold, but "ah beng" hubbs prefers yellow gold. When we saw these rings that combined white and yellow gold, we knew it was just right for us. Hence, the rings represent hubbs and I, joined as one. The yellow of the quadrant with the glow emanating from the middle where the rings are signifies the sanctity of marriage, symbolising that the state of the marriage and relationship between hubbs and I are vital to the health of this family.

Spidey resides in the top, right hand quadrant! As many of my friends would know, we're crazy about Spiderman! Okay, okay, it's me, I am the one crazy about Spiderman, but hubbs and the kids have grown to like Spidey as well and they allow me to dress us all up in Spidey garb. People have come to associate Spidey with us as a family, such that many friends call us "The Spidey Family" and think of us when they see anything Spiderman. The rich, red colour symbolised the strength, vitality and passion that we value and hope to have and inculcate in the kids. A stylised symbol of Spidey is used to avoid copyright issues signify uniqueness and creativity, also values we believe in.

The bottom left hand represents sports in our lives - not just cycling. Hubbs and I are both very sporty people. He much much more than me, though. The bicycle was chosen as a representative symbol as it is easily recognisable as a symbol of sports. Moreover, cycling is currently the sport which hubbs is engaged in the most often. Isaac has also learnt to cycle on two wheels just a few months ago. I myself love cycling. And this is the sport which we are confident we would be doing a lot of, together, as a family, when the twins get big enough to cycle on their own. We already had our maiden outing cycling as a family when we all went Pulau Ubin cycling together - blog post on that coming up soon! The blue background of the quadrant symbolises the water sports (swimming, kayaking, canyoning etc) and air/sky sports (sky-diving, kite-flying? haha) that we also enjoy. 

The mannish symbol in the bottom right hard corner is called a "meeple" and it represents boardgames and gaming in our lives. The word meeple is a portmanteau of the words "my" and "people". It is the shape of a pawn that is commonly used in Euro board games. Our closer friends would know that hubbs and I are crazy about board games. Well, me much much more so, than him. I love playing strategy board games and have a sizable personal collection of boardgames numbering a few hundreds. On route playing games with Isaac, starting him on boardgames when he was just 17 months old, I have since moved on to starting an online business importing and retailing boardgames at www.MyFirstGames.sg The green of this quadrant, symbolises the "greener pastures" I hope to be moving towards with this business of mine. As Isaac will be starting Primary 1 in 2013, I hope to be able get the business moving to the extent that it can earn me a modest salary (at least enough for the twins childcare fees!) to quit my full-time job by then and do the business full time.

Lastly, the symbol smack in the middle of the shield/coat of arms is the chinese word "Chen" written in old chinese wording. Chen is how we pronounce our surname Tan in chinese. Tan is the anlicised way of spelling the surname. On the scroll below, is simply stated "The Tan Family" as I have yet to think of a motto. Also, it would be good with we have the kids input in thinking up a motto, so that will have to come later.

Oh, and in case you were wondering: yes, my surname is Tan, and I married hubbs, whose surname is also Tan. So, yes, I went from Miss Tan to being Mdm Tan, Ms Tan, or Mrs Tan-Tan. Nice surname, yah, Tan? Or maybe I'm biased.

So, that's us, in that coat of arms. The Tan Family coat of arms. How would YOUR family coat of arms look like?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The one with the watering can

Isaac circa April 2012

I think one of the most challenging things about being a parent is trying to explain things to your child in a simplified yet accurate way, instead of brushing them off with a "when you grow up you will understand." or something similar.

We often encounter this when we have to explain to Isaac why we can't send him to every holiday camp his childcare teacher tells him about. Or why we can't buy everything he wants or likes immediately. We find that, the older he gets, these instances are getting more and more frequent. 

Last Sunday, after lunch at the coffeeshop, we had a bit of spare time and decide to shop around a bit. Window-shop, that is. We're rather controlled when it comes to buying stuff, and we hardly even go shopping a lot, but now and then, if it was convenient, we do like to look at stuff...

Isaac:"Mummy look at this!"
Me:"Oh, a watering-can."
Isaac:"Yes! We can buy this to water the plants!"
Hubbs:"No, we don't need that. You don't need a watering can to water the plants."
Me:"What plants?"
Isaac:"Our plants! In the garden!"
Hubbs:"You can use a cup, to take water, and still water the plants in the garden."
Me:"What garden?" (We stay in a hdb flat, so I was rather confused.)
Isaac:"Our garden! our huge garden! Our TREES ARE DYING! If you don't water them, they'd DIE!"
Me:"Huh? Our huge garden with plants and trees???" 
Hubbs gives me a significant look. 
Me:"OH, yes, our huge garden." (We've come to adopt the common gardens below "ours", just like how we have a nice playground, and a huge carpark (the multi-story carpark) etc.)
Isaac:"Yes! We need to water the plants in our garden. So we must buy this watering can."
Me:"Okay, we'd think about it." (escapist, me)
Hubbs:"No, we only buy things that we NEED. We don't need this to water the plants."
Isaac:"Why can't we buy?! Everytime we just see, see, see. It's soooo boring!"
Me:"Really? So boring? Okay, then we shouldn't see at all next time. No more shopping. Come, let's go."
Isaac:"No! We should BUY! Seeing is so boring! Should BUY! Buy, then more fun!"
Me:"Seeing is fun! It's more fun than buying. When you buy, you need to pay money, then you bring the thing home, at home already so many things, no place to put."
Hubbs:"Isaac, we should only buy things we NEED."
Me:"Yeah, see, you can only BUY things you NEED. But, you can SEE - EVERYTHING! Even things that you don't need, you can SEE! Isn't that great!? It's so fun!" (Hubbs sniggers in the background)
Me:"Ah! Isaac, you know what?"
Isaac:"What, Mummy?"
Me:"Let's go home and make our own watering can! Let's take an empty plastic bottle, poke holes, then you have your watering can already!"
Isaac:"Yes, Mummy! That's a great idea! Now, we just need to make a handle!"
Me:"That's right! Oh wait! If we use the Meiji milk bottle, it even comes with a handle!"
Isaac:"Oh yes! Let's do that!"

Phew! And another episode has been averted. 

I wonder where they get these notions that "buying is fun" but "seeing is not fun" from. When I was a child and buying was not a real option, I certainly derived loads of joy from "seeing". Ah well, next time, we'd just make everything. At least that's an activity I like! :p

Friday, 20 July 2012

In3Labs Robotics trial class giveaway

Thanks to a recommendation to the organiser In3Labs by my blogger friend Susan, we were invited to a free robotics trial for bloggers with kids aged between 5.5 to 8. Isaac is only approaching 5 years old in August this year, but as he is rather matured for his age, so I figured he could handle it.

The trial was conducted at Peek-a-Boo indoor playground which is on the second floor of Kallang Leisure Park - which was conveniently located right next to the new Stadium MRT Station (Circle Line). I decided to park and ride the MRT instead of driving there coz I know the roads have changed quite a bit in that area since I last went there.

There were three blogger families there that day. The J Babies, the Seng Kang Babies, and us. Four kids of age to participate in the robotics trial, and off we started. Mr Yama, the trainer has experience teaching kids, so he did try to rah-rah the kids by asking them to make hand signals and actions, and gave mini quizzes to 'test' the kids' knowledge of 'robots'.
The highlight of the session was when Mr Yama demo-ed the different robots the team brought with them that day. Especially popular was this particular robot which could walk and dance a jiggly dance on the spot. Isaac loved it when he finally got a chance to hold the controls to the dancing robot and have his go at controlling the robot.
Unfortunately, this robot was not the one we were going to construct that day. We were going to use this Korea-made robotics kit below called RoboKids. It was Lego-like bricks and some robotics components like a CPU and wheels which could be connected/plugged-into the CPU. There was also some nifty contraption which could read the cards that came with it and was like a pre-programmed thing.

Subsequently, Mr Yama taught the children how to recognise and count the rows and bumps in a lego brick so that they could follow the step-by-step instructions flashed on the screen to create the "robot" below. Basically, it was a lego structure with wheels that was connected to the "CPU" brains of the robot which was encased in plastic and had the lego bumps on its surface.
I'm no expert on robotics, but I felt that the trial did not really touch on robotics at all. I gave this feedback to the In3Labs team, and they admitted that perhaps the trial was a little too short to cover everything they wanted to cover. They were receptive to comments and showed the want to hear them so that they could improve themselves. I thought that was a good attitude to have.

The team conducts "RoboLads Beginners Certification Course" details below, and on their website. They provided us with their course outline for our perusal. So if you're interested, perhaps you could email them to ask for the course outline to see more details. 

For parents and children who are keen to find out more. They can join In3Labs at their monthly talks about their Robolabs programmes. The talk is free and the next one will be held this Sunday, 22 July 2012, from 5 to 6pm at Peek-A-Boo indoor playground @ 5 Stadium Walk #02-12  Leisure Park Kallang, Singapore 397693.

Though one thing to note, robotics sets will be provided during the course, and you cannot take them home after the course, though if you wish, they are available for purchase. As only one kit will be provided for every three kids to share, you may wish to purchase your own set before the course commences so that your child will have his own set to use during the course. Well, that's what I would do if I sign Isaac up for the course, just a suggestion.

Well, now's your chance to go for a free trial yourself! We've been tasked to conduct a  FREE RoboKids Workshop Trial Class (worth $75) for one child (aged between 5.5 years old to 8 years old). This is actually the first lesson of the RoboKids Workshop (details above).

The details of the free trial class are as follows: 
Date: 29 July 2012, Sunday
Time: 1.30pm - 4pm
Venue: Waterloo Centre
(Blk 261 Waterloo Street #04-37 Classroom 2, S180261)
Free Trial Giveaway Submission Rules 
Email me before 1159 hours on 22nd July 2012 at "emailpamela@yahoo.com" with the following information
  1. A nice unique name for the robot above in 5 words or less
  2. Name of parent (Please indicate relationship of parent to the child.)
  3. Parent's Mobile contact number
  4. Name and Age of child attending the lesson (remember from ages 5.5 to 8)
The winner of this giveaway will be announced on this blog at the end of this post on 23rd July 2012. Good luck and have fun thinking of the name!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Me

My first ever Wordless Wednesday - inspired by PC of ScrapMumLoft
Yes, that's me!

Oh alright, so I'm a copy cat! It's a great idea though! :) Thanks, PC!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Breed Positivity, Speak Positively!

Breed positivity with a positive way of speaking! This was one of the theories I mentioned in this earlier post. Given that kids repeat everything they hear, it is also good that they hear positively phrased statements and learn that from young :)
My happy trio: Isaac, Shawna  & Asher | Circa April 2012

Here's a list of what I usually say to the kidzes as opposed to their commonly used alternatives.

SAY: Please be a good boy.
NOT: Don't be naughty!

SAY: Please be polite. / That's not polite.
NOT: Don't be rude! / That's rude!

SAY: Please speak softly.
NOT: Don't be so loud!

SAY: Be gentle, please.
NOT: Don't be so rough!

SAY: That's not nice.
NOT: That's horrible!

SAY: Please move aside.
NOT: Go away!

Just keep talking like that and soon it'd become second nature and you won't even notice it. In fact, it comes naturally to me now, such that, there're more examples but I can't think of it at the moment. Thus, I'd add on to this post, as and when it occurs to me.

Meanwhile, tell me, what other positive phrases do YOU use? Add to my list, please! :)

SAY: Please brush your teeth if you want them to look nice and feel clean.
NOT: You better brush your teeth, if not, they will all rot until black black and drop out!
(reminded by June Yong :p Thanks!)

SAY: Please come over and wear your shoes. Please hurry, we're running late and Grandpa doesn't like to wait.
NOT: Wear your shoes NOW! FASTER! Late already!! You don't wear now, I'm going to leave without you!
(reminded by Lyndis Lee :p Thanks!)

SAY: Please don't climb. Please come down. I want you to be safe. I don't want you to get hurt. Would you like me to read you a book? (or something - to distract the kid)
NOT: Don't climb! You want to fall down and break your head, is it?!
(reminded by NerdyMum :p Thanks!)

Monday, 2 July 2012

Make-Your-Own-Car today!

Shawna, Asher and Rebecca  with Cars with Cork Tires aka Cars Version One
I'd always loved playing with toy cars, ever since I was very young. I still have my collection of Matchbox cars and Tamiya cars which I have not even let Isaac peek at. I also enjoyed crafting and making stuff. So when a certain crafty mom Alicia Tan suggested a Crafty Linky Party - I knew I wanted to make a vehicle of some sort. I initially wanted to do boats, but I thought it'd be more fun to do cars instead. And I was right! The kids enjoyed playing with the cars very much. .
Make your own Medicine Bottle car!
The cars are very easy to make, and if you're handy with a penknife, takes probably only 15 minutes to put together. Here, in the first version of the cars, I used the following materials:
  • sliced a used wine cork for wheels,
  • a medicine bottle for the body/chassis of the car
  • toothpicks and yakult straws for the axels
That's it. Very economical, ain't it? :p Of course, other tools you would need include the penknife and a large safety pin (see picture above) which I used to poke a hole in the cork first so that it'd be easier for the toothpick to go in later - if you skip this step, the toothpick may keep breaking and/or not enter the cork in the angle you want (which is like perpendicular to the surface - straight in).

Do they run well? yes, they do! See this video! :)

I also made a cork-tired car with a Yakult bottle. But as the width of the Yakult bottle was wider than that of the medicine bottle, I had to use satay stick and a regular sized straw for the axels instead of a toothpick and yakult straw. It actually ran smoother than the medicine bottle car coz the regular straw was much wider than aYakult straw, and gave more room for the satay stick axel to turn. The car that Rebecca's holding in the top right hand corner of the top picture, is a yakult bottle car.

I loved the way they look, with the cork tires and medicine bottle chassis, very Muji look, I thought. But perhaps they'd look nice with some colour as well. So it was time to decorate it! Initially, I tried letting the kids colour the cars' body with permanent markers (results as seen in the video). Here are the kids colouring the cars with permanent markers.

But by the next day, the cars were still kinda sticky from the marker ink! So, I decided that we had to "colour them" another way. You could paint it, I suppose. But I didn't want pain flaking off the kids' hands when they played with the cars, so I went with pasting magazine paper over and white glue. Plus this is a nice and safe activity which the kids could get involved in - and there was no danger of permanent ink going on where it shouldn't be.

Top row from L to R: Rebecca, Natalie, Isaac + Isabelle
Bottom row from L to R: Pamela, Pamela and Asher
Yes, I was a bit perfectionist and did the first two on the bottom row. Shawna helped squeeze the glue for me, though. And I'm really proud of Asher for pasting all the green facing up! Green's his favourite colour!

The only problem with these cork-tire cars, was that, kids being kids, were kinda rough when playing with the cars - and the wheels would drop off. Also... friends were commenting that it wasn't easy to find corks (seems like nobody is crazy like me and collected the corks from my wedding reception - er, like 7 years ago). So... I had a brainwave! Use bottle caps! Surely that'd be easy enough to collect!
I would recommend using a normal straw and a satay stick as opposed to a yakult straw and toothpick.
Previously, with the cork tires, you just had to sharpen the satay stick to be like a toothpick, and just pierce it right through. Now, with the bottle cap, you have to shave the tip of the satay stick like below. It must have two features (1) the tip should be sharp (2) there should be a groove - this groove is very important. This is where your wheel will be held in place. So what you do, is that after you fashion the satay stick in the way shown above, you poke a hole in the centre of the bottlecap with the safety pin, then poke the satay stick through till you hear a click, or feel the wheel getting engaged in the groove. Do that to all four sides, and your car is done! :)

The above shows a close up of the axel. Don't forget the straw - it's very vital for the smooth-running of your vehicle. Your straw just needs to be a little longer than the width of the bottle that you're using as the chassis. And the stick just needs to be a little longer than the straw is - remember to leave an allowance on both ends. So, push in your wheels and you're done! I was very pleased with this version of the vehicles coz it kept the wheels/tires on very tightly. Shawna tried to pull them out and she couldn't!

Subsequently, I made a vehicle the same way with a 500ml bottle, at first with cork tires. But Isaac liked the bottle cap tires so much he requested to have the tires changed. Watch the two videos below of Shawna and Isaac playing with the bus - oh yes, we called it the bus because it was more than twice the length of the cars.

The possibilities are endless! You could use boxes, but I like to use bottles as they are more durable than thin cardboard boxes are. Build an entire fleet of cars, buses, and other vehicles. Isaac has drawn me his blueprint of how he thinks a tractor can be built. So, what are you waiting for?  Make-Your-Own-Car today! :) Or better yet, get Daddy to do this!!! :)
Isaac and his bus!
This post is part of the "Two Weeks of Creative Fun" series mooted by the brilliant Alicia Tan, An Accidental Homeschooling Mum - so there is more creative goodness out there for you! Ain't that simply faboo! :) Just go to the links below!

June 21 - Alicia - Eric Carle inspired piece of art
June 22 - Adeline - Decorating a photo frame with polymer clay
June 23 - Sandra - Dinosaur galore!
June 24 - Winnie - Recycled train craft
June 25 - Susan - Finger puppets: We're building a farm!
June 26 - Ann - Goopy goodness
June 27 - Justina - Celebrating Spring
June 28 - Adora - Creating a Family Tree
June 29 - Regina - sMOOp Dogg!
June 30 - Sarah - Crazy box cake
July 1 - Jennifer - Plant Poke
July 2 - Pamela - Make-Your-Own-Car today! - That's us!!!
July 3 - Ming Yuan - DIY Carousel Craft
July 4 - Dominique - Making a Subway
July 5 - Karen - Egg Craft

As you can see from the above schedule, next up is Ming Yuan! She is a mom who is always on the lookout for exciting adventures and interesting activities to engage her super-active 3 year-old. She blogs about their lives together to capture their memories, so that years down the road when when her girl grows up not remembering how she spent her childhood, she will know. And so that days, months or years down the road when people ask Ming Yuan about what they do together, they will have their blog to share.


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