day 710 | august 14, 2014 | Willing Hearts

Willing Hearts Soup Kitchen

Soup Kitchen operates from 6:00am to 4:00pm
Address: 11 Jalan Ubi Block 6, #01-51
Kembangan - Chai Chee Community Hub
Singapore 409074

"Unless you have a big group, you need not inform WH in advance of your visit. They do not have a regular roster for volunteers so you have the flexibility of helping on the day and at a time of your convenience."

I've been meaning to get the kids involved in volunteer work. Several friends cautioned that both my little ones might be a tad too young, but I think it depended on the kind of work they are tasked to do. When I found Willing Hearts, I knew I'd found something I could regularly engage the kids in -- a meaningful cause that will expose them to different types of work, drive awareness of underprivileged Singapore, and get their hands working on what the heart believes in. Planted a simple idea on how we were going to help prepare food for elderly people who cannot afford to buy their own food. Both were reasonably excited to try to help, and even packed their own knives.

For 12+ years, Willing Hearts has been operating a soup kitchen that prepares, cooks and distributes daily meals to the needy, including the elderly, adults, and children in Singapore. On the day that we served, the target was 4,000 meals. We arrived to a flurry of activity. Everyone looked busy -- peeling and chopping vegetables, cooking, stickering packets, loading meals onto trucks, and running off for deliveries. All this at 8 in the morning!

We asked a lady where we could be of help, and she looked at Roo and Red speculatively. "Do you think they can peel cucumbers?" "They can peel and chop them!" I replied fairly confidently. She looked at me strangely, before handing me a couple of peelers to start with. And off we went with peelers and boxes of cucumbers, setting up a cozy little workstation where we could work shoulder-to-shoulder with other volunteers.

Knowing what the little ones can do is different from knowing if they would be willing to do it. I needn't have worried about pep talking the two of them though. They dove right into the work, and only hesitated when they couldn't quite get the peeler to work smoothly. Spent a couple of minutes guiding them, and they caught on pretty fast.

There's a certain buzz to the place. You may be strangers standing beside each other, but you figure out what role you can play, and you work at it. A natural instinct to weave yourself into this engine that runs, tireless and thankless, for an idea that you're doing something good.

We were in the outdoor kitchen until 2:00pm, and were among the last volunteers left standing for that day. The kids didn't complain that I hadn't fed them lunch, or that they didn't get to do anything else. We went through tons of cucumbers -- peeled them, washed them, chopped them. At least 4 boxes of cucumbers, that until today, I can still smell phantom cucumbers in the air. My young volunteers are little warriors -- enduring, strong, inside-out beautiful. And this is yet another instance when they made me extremely proud to be their mom, their friend.

For next month's visit, we will try our hands at cooking eggs early in the morning, as well as in delivering the food to the distribution void decks. I hope the little ones will appreciate how the simplest tasks fit into the bigger objective; as well as meet and empathize with the recipients of the food we've labored on -- to see firsthand the reason why we were chopping veggies to begin with.

An extra-special treat (they were tickled that Red is their youngest volunteer so far), we were given a tour of the premises -- the giant cooking pots, fried rice machines, ginormous hansel-and-gretel ovens, and an opportunity to go into one of the freezers! We were also privy to facilities yet to be launched. They are opening a TCM pharmacy, general clinics, a dental clinic, a legal consultation service, and physiotheraphy classes for the elderly within the next month. And perhaps even a matchmaking service!

As we were leaving the premises of the community center, Roo tugged at my hand. "Everyone here is super nice, mommy. People are so kind..." And I'm glad that she's seeing this side of humanity, beyond the commercialized, epicurean influences that we are constantly exposed to. I affirmed the work she's done for the day, and reminded her that she too is strong, and kind, and persevering. The smile she gave me in response was starburst. We'll definitely be coming back!

day 709 | august 11, 2014 | Rock Out Party!

When Mommy E invited us to Laylapalooza, Layla's Rock party, I got very excited. So much so, that I volunteered Roo to perform a song for L's birthday without consulting with her first. Breathed a sigh of relief when Roo readily agreed after I finally got around to mentioning it to her.

I expose the little ones to all sorts of music -- but there are some favorites we keep on coming back to: Corner by Allie Moss, Way I Am by Ingrid Michaelson, Animal by Neon Trees, King of Anything by Sara Bareilles, If It's Love by Train, Payphone by Maroon 5, Stellar by Incubus, and recently Sky Full of Stars by Coldplay... but we struggled to find something she'd like to sing. Then the littler one started to ask for songs from Frozen. Urk.

Thankfully, Roo chose another Train favorite, Hey Soul Sister. (Pat Monahan and Drops of Jupiter. Dreamy sigh. Excuse me, little ones, as mommy reverts back into a fangirl.)

She worked through the lyrics on her own -- I passed her a print of the lyrics one morning, before I left for work, and when I came back that evening, she was well on track to memorizing the whole thing. She voluntarily committed to mastering the not-so-easy bridge, a segment of the song I wouldn't be so confident in singing myself. Pressure was on to try to support her with a little bit of back-up, and we brushed up on our well-kept out-of-tune guitar. When I told her that Mommy E only expected us to sing until the chorus, she insisted on singing the whole song -- because she loves the lilting notes of the final 'tonight.'

Performance day, and she rocked it out with pink highlights, a borrowed Barbie shirt (her younger sister's) and leggings that were at least 2 sizes too small. We didn't bring the guitar, and I didn't need to sing with her. She sang on her own, with a quiet sort of confidence, standing between her friends and accompanied by cool electric guitars, in front of a small supportive crowd, parents and little ones singing along. This momma couldn't help but beam with pride. Oh yeah, that's my girl right there... :)

Thanks for having us, Mommy E, Daddy A, L and Z! We had so much fun preparing for your party, and being in your party, catching up with friends we hadn't seen for a while, and soaking up all the prettiness prepared for the celebration. We only wish we could have seen your whole family jam. Maybe when Daddy A's arm heals. Rock on! :)

day 708 | june 21, 2014 | Flow Anilao

I've been following FlowSurfYogaSamba for a while now. They specialize in running retreats hosted in various beach resorts in the Philippines (and expanding into Indonesia). So when they posted about a quick getaway from the urban jungle on the same weekend we were in Manila, just had to grab the opportunity. The proposition was simple enough:

"Renew and refresh with a relaxing yoga class.
Learn the Brazillian martial art of Capoiera.
Dive and explore the colorful coral reefs of Anilao.
Learn how to prepare healthy eats.
Lounge and unwind on the resort's sun deck."

The little ones mostly did the lounging (and laughing at their mommy and daddy's attempts to be more flexible). The highlight of the trip for me was diving again after such a long time. I was nervous going into the water, and worried that I'd forgotten how to use equipment. It surprisingly came easier than I expected. Doing yoga before diving seems to have lent me a certain calm. I don't remember being as steady and zen in all my previous dives as I did on this one. Will be trying more yoga before the next dive!

Definitely signing up for another retreat -- something with surfing and samba, somewhere in Palawan or Siargao...(and for a longer period!) :) Felt so re-energized after this trip!

day 707 | may 13, 2014 | Curious Little Chefs

It started from watching episodes of the first season of Junior Masterchef Australia, and falling in love with Pierre and Jack, and the rest of the little kids doing big things in the kitchen. Such grace, maturity, and culinary skills well beyond their years. This had fed my growing fantasy of having my kids prepare dishes like herb-crusted lamb chops with stuffed mushrooms,  or something like poached pear with cranberry syrup, vanilla mascarpone, and tuile biscuits. Or maybe a blueberry, passionfruit and banana pudding with butterscotch sauce. Not very demanding, huh?

For the month+ we didn't have a helper, I sought help from the kids to prepare simple lunches and dinners. They were excited by the tools from Curious Chef, and were very game in helping me create a humongous mess in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I couldn't offer them a better mentor -- my skills in the kitchen are limited to 'survival.'

Red's knife skills are getting pretty steady now, and with some time, and a better mentor, perhaps the little ones will soon be able to cook a sumptuous meal (for me...).

day 706 | may 31, 2014 | Holi Color Fight

With many thanks to Mommy E of Bottomsupblog, we were finally able to throw another color fight party -- something which we'd intended to do since the first time we tried it two years ago. I ran much less this time around, and was very deliberate in rubbing various colors into people's faces and bodies, especially the untarnished ones. Less wasted powder that way, as compared to throwing. :) The bigger kids definitely had more fun than the littler ones.

Won't babble on, and will let the images tell the story. Tons of fun. And if you want ideas on running this activity yourself, go ahead and check out these kid-friendly holi party tips.
Getting armed and ready

day 704 | february 15, 2014 | Tinysaurus Red: Scooter

Looking for Touch-me-nots
An episode out of many 'tales of tinysaurus red,' which chronicles Red's toddler misadventures. Sharing this piece because I love how the little ones look out for each other, to the point of sacrificing their personal agenda. That, and sometimes, mommies can be just as manipulative as the little ones.

Roo was scootering ahead of us, while Red and I took a more leisurely pace behind her. I could feel Red slowing down beside me, which meant it wouldn’t be long before she asked me to carry her. True enough, within a few minutes, she complained of leg pain. “My legs are so SO SOOO tired, mommy!” she dramatizes for my benefit.

day 703 | november 30, 2013 | Between Sand and Sky

Whether it's at the beach, on top of a hill, by a lake, or in a vineyard, outdoor weddings always get me excited. It's no surprise that I'm fondly remembering L&C's lovely Boracay wedding, and finally blogging about it. So much inspiration. Lady L did an awesome job planning this (remotely!) and I really do think she can make a career out of wedding planning. :)

Sharing some of my favorite images from the day. Roo and Red enjoyed this one tons. What's more, I've broken down the elements that I loved, in hopes that perhaps this might be helpful to those who are planning their own outdoor wedding. :)

day 702 | january 26, 2014 | Frozen

The Frozen Fever still hasn't died down. Here's a snap of Princess Red's coronation, with gloves, a blanket/cape, and her makeshift orb and sceptre. The scene is completed with Princess Roo playing along as Anna in the background. :)

The whole family's a "Frozen" fan and not ashamed of it. I especially love the Sami yoik they started the film with, which brings back memories from the Arctic Circle. The girls love the songs, the sparkly cape, and the hair styles; and I'm trying to make sure they pick up more than the pinkish purple frilly things.
Coronation scene from Disney's "Frozen"