A Walk Along The Beach

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions but a walk along the beach on New Year Day’s morning to catch the sun rise put me in a reflective mood.

My husband and I had spent the last hour of 2016 doing what we love doing together.

We cycled to catch the biggest firework in town. We counted down to the New Year, watched the fireworks shoot up into the night sky. The spectacular display was reflected vividly on the glass that framed up Flower Dome, a part of our multi-million dollar garden that houses many different species of flora and fauna. It was like a double fireworks or a reminder that a reflection was much needed.

We went to sleep late that night, yet I couldn’t will myself to wake up later the next morning. It has became some sort of a date between me and him, the New Year Day’s sunrise, like a secret rendezvous.

A flu bug had been going around at home and everyone hasn’t been feeling too well this holiday season. It was bad enough to make me feel like 2016 sucks until I paused and think. And I am glad I did.

We had many FIRSTs in 2016. Some were scarier than others but overall we grew and we had fun.

The younger one joined Primary School and the elder one sat for his first National Examination. The Dad did some amazing carpentry work with the boys for our home improvement project. He showed them how much they can achieve if they were willing to get their hands dirty and put in some effort!

I had a taste of my first trail run and went for my first holiday without the boys. We ended the year with a charity project and a camper van holiday.

2016 had been a full and exciting year for us and we sailed through it relatively well except for some minor illnesses. So what not to be grateful for?

As I walked along the beach, watching my footprints being slowly washed away by each rushing wave, it came to me that the biggest concept I grasped last year had to be ‘Letting Go’.

As a parent, I have so often read and heard how we should take a step back and learn to let go so that we won’t rob our children the precious chance to fall, to fail and in the process, learn some valuable lessons.

If success is the cake then failure would be a key ingredient. We don’t always think of failure as an important ingredient in something good because it’s not sweet like icing sugar; it’s more like the bitter baking powder that interacts with the other ingredients to make the cake rise. Without it, you’d have a sweet, lumpy rock that would go straight into the bin.

So very often, fear grips me as I watch my boys try out something new or “dangerous”. At the playground, going down those staircases on their bikes, hiking up and down those 2200 rocky and steep steps in New Zealand. My intervention would have robbed them the chance to gain the confidence to overcome a new challenge, the chance to fall, to pick themselves up, to dust themselves off and try again. The chance to gain independence and to build resilience.

So often I was tempted to rush in to ‘rescue’ them from their school work when they did badly for a spelling, a test or even an exam. But I stopped myself, instead, took their cues on whether help was needed, reminded them their responsibility to know their work and do their best before taking a step back, bit my lips and let them try again.

Their year end results showed that the younger one is improving even though he started the school year quite clueless. The elder one has done relatively well for his PSLE despite failing miserably for his Chinese just last year. He managed to get into the school he wants and we are all happy for him.

They’ve learned that there is nothing shameful about failing and so long as they are willing to put their heart into it, nothing is quite impossible.

On a personal level, letting go encompasses more than just the fear of failing. It entails negative feelings and for me, something as simple as the ‘should haves’.

As I strolled on the beach, letting the morning sun bathe me in its warmth while dodging the next rushing wave, I felt a deep sense of calm, peace and joy, a strange new feeling from a place so familiar.

On such a morning, I would have Usually run or cycled. It was unlike me to just do neither and just walk along the beach. I knew too well I would struggle and couldn’t get pass the ‘I should haves’

I should have jogged
I should have cycled
I should have left home earlier
I should have done a longer distance

But then and there, so rarely, none of these were on my mind. I was living that moment. The sunrise, the warm sensation, the sound of the lapping waves.

Perhaps this is what they called mindfulness, an awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. A thing that my preoccupation with the ‘should haves’ has robbed me of.

It seems so easy to get there, yet so difficult. A place so new to me.



Touring In A Camper Van

We toured South Island New Zealand for 2 weeks in a camper van. It was our first time doing a camper van holiday and I must say, it was quite an experience.

So I thought anything with a ‘camp’ in it sounds like roughing it out and thus must be cheap, budget and economical, no?

Apparently not.

Our first revelation was a few years back during a camping trip to Charmonix in France when a motorhome pulled up right next to our 2 man tent.

While we struggled to pitch our tent and cook over a portable stove, our new neighbor extended out his awning from their van, set up some outdoor chairs and a picnic table, ready for a BBQ cookout. We realized that camping comes in different grades and classes.

These days camping come with all the comforts of home. Our home for 2 weeks was a 6 berth camper van that could sleep 6 people and comes fully equipped with a bathroom, fridge, kitchen, TV and even a DVD player. And a camper van like this doesn’t come cheap especially during summer time, at least not in New Zealand.

Apart from the basic campervan rental, there was the diesel for driving the behemoth around and heating (yes, we needed heating even in summer), LPG gas for cooking which cost about $3-4 per kg to top up, and highway use tax based on mileage, as well as campsite fees.

Besides the campervan rental, the campsite fees worked out to be the most significant. It went by the number of people staying in the camper van although they usually charged half price for children.

The cheapest we paid was NZD $13 per adult per night for an unpowered campsite. Without A.C. power, we couldn’t use our kettle for boiling water and we ran the risk of not been able to switch on our lights at night if we ran the van’s battery flat. So on days when we freedom camped or camped at unpowered sites, we had to ration the amount of electrical appliances we used and we were always keeping an eye on the battery meter.

When it comes to bathing, there were public bathrooms where we had to pay a dollar or two to get hot water for a limited time of 5-10 minutes. Our van came with a heated shower. But on days that we needed to shower in the van, we worried about running out of water, power (for running the water pump), and even overflowing the potty and waste water tank!

For the better campsites, we paid about NZD$20-25 per adult which worked out to about $70-80 for the whole family PER NIGHT. These campsites were powered sites, so our camper van could be brightly lit at night. We could refill water and there were shower facilities with unlimited usage of hot water. I swear, having basic things such as light and water(HOT) were luxury!

On top of all these, we paid a premium for a camper van which was relatively new as the last thing we wanted was to have a break down in the middle of nowhere!

So if you do the maths, touring in a camper van actually doesn’t come cheap. It may be even more expensive than renting a car and staying in hotels. If you really want budget and cheap, pack a good old tent in your backpack and hitchhike. Or, if you have a couple of weeks or months to spare and are so inclined, pack all your essentials (including a tent) onto a bike like this, battle uphill slopes, freezing rain, relentless sun, and insane 30-40 km/h winds.

Some say touring in a camper van is like paying a small fortune to live like a homeless person. I agree.

For 2 weeks, this diesel powered truck was where we ate, slept and did our business. It was our shelter, our transportation, our home.


This entry was posted in Travel.

The Season For Giving

December month, my favourite month of the year, there is so much to love about this month. The cooler weather, the annual family vacation and the beautiful Christmas light up everywhere you go. It’s a month for shopping, feasting and merry making.

I have to admit, it’s hard not to be sucked in by the commercialization of Christmas where gift buying and fancy Christmas decorations has become the focus of the holiday and it’s even harder to teach our kids that Christmas is not all about ticking items off their wish list.

But we try.

Our home decoration has been kept simple for the last couple of years. Our Christmas ‘tree’ is made from some fallen branches collected from the park or a dead tree we found in the backyard

Apart from our very simple tree, we also re-use most of the Christmas craft ornaments we’ve made over the last couple of years. We love the simplicity of it all and are pleased that we have helped to save another young fir from being decapitated.

This year, apart from recycling our ‘tree’ from last year, the boys did a very last minute fund raising project by selling their handcrafted Harry Potter wands.

They learned in school that some of their classmates have to rely on financial aid for their daily meals during recess and that led us to Straits Time School Money Pocket Fund.

From their website,

Straits Time School Money Pocket Fund provides pocket money to children from low-income families to help them through school. The children can use this money for school-related expenses, such as buying a meal during recess, paying for transport or using it to meet other schooling needs. The financial help also eases the burden of the many parents who are already struggling to feed their families on their meagre incomes.

The boys made some of these wands to sell at their school’s charity flea market and found out that they were a hit with the kids. They decided to make more wands during the school holiday. The initial plan was to make 100 wands for our charity project and sell them at $5 each.

Unfortunately, we ran out of time as we had to fly off for our vacation. We only managed to make 64 wands and raise SGD 400.

However our friends at SimplyLampchops continued the project while we were away and together, we managed to raise a total of SGD 605, exceeding the initial target of SGD 500 that we have set!

Here’s a heartfelt thanks to friends and readers who helped spread the words and bought the wands. With your help, this holiday is a little more meaningful for our children. They have learned that with enough effort, even the wee little ones can help make a difference and experience the joy of giving. Hopefully they will continue to do so not just this Christmas but throughout the year!

Have a very Merry Christmas!






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