Monthly Archives: April 2014

Music for Baby

Jasmine: I shall not go down Andrew’s route of promising that this shall be a “short’” post only to have it turn out to be essay-length. (Andrew: I was intending to keep that post short, not expecting you would add so much to it!) Although I am a big fan of DIY toys and un-toys (household/ untraditional objects used for babies’ play), I am willing to spend on one category of toys, namely, quality musical instruments.

Why? Well, this is not musical training- “training” being a word I’m wary of especially when used in relation to very young children, because I’m not out to raise a Mozart, and I don’t believe in forcing a young child to learn an instrument before he is developmentally ready, and more importantly, interested. (Andrew: I am hoping my children will love music and learn how to play an instrument. I’m personally quite sad that I never persisted in my piano lessons or continuing my er-hu after I left school!)

However, studies have shown that infants can recognise tunes from as early as two months old! Moreover, infants can not only differentiate good music from bad or out-of-tune music, but exhibit earlier communication skills and are easier to soothe with frequent musical exposure. Thus, we have amassed a small collection of musical toys for Dylan’s enjoyment!

IMG_4568 While in Bali, we bought him a hand drum and thumb piano from Ubud Market. Check out the intricate dot designs on both!

1. Drums

Dilly loves drums, or for that matter, any chance to make a loud noise. We have two drums. This hand drum was a souvenir from Ubud Market which cost a few dollars…

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And the Lollipop drum from Remo, a well known percussion company. Dylan adores drumming on this with his hands or with the mallet, as it has a resonant sound. It’s interesting that he has been playing with this drum for months now, whereas his interest in the Balinese drum was somewhat shortlived, probably because the sound quality of the Lollipop drum was so superior.

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Oops, hit his eye instead.

Andrew: The way he plays with these instruments also shows him slowly growing in his hand-eye coordination skills! Initially he used to only be able to bite on the drum sticks and we had to stop him from stuffing them into his mouth, especially the one from Ubud. Then he moved on to using his hands to smack on the drums or hold the drum and smack it against the floor, and now, he can hold on to the drum stick and hit the drum with it! Looking at him play with it though has also taught me how restricted we can be as adults – we see a drum and a drumstick and can only think of ‘one correct way’ to play with it, but for babies, there are so many ways to do it, and ultimately with the same result – making sound (or noise)!

Jasmine: Yeah anything that makes noise is a guaranteed baby-pleaser. Dyl is just as satisfied clanging on pots and pans, or yesterday, a set of metal biscuit tins. I was beating out a rhythm on four Redondo biscuit tins, and he was clapping and dancing (putting both fingers in the air and swaying his body, as you’ll see in the video later) along to my beat!

2. Thumb piano (kalimbas)

Jasmine: We heard from our Balinese driver that this thumb piano, or kalimbas, is a popular instrument played to help the Balinese relax. It has several metal prongs, each of which produces a vibrating sound when plucked. Interestingly, when one prong is plucked, its vibration sets off the prongs next to it, which vibrate in different tones as well, giving the thumb piano a very unusual, slightly discordant quality.

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Jasmine: At six months old when we bought it, we thought Dylan would be too young to pluck it, but he gamely figured it out.

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Jasmine: I love picking up musical instruments on our travels, even if they’re just tourist souvenirs, as it exposes Dylan to music of another culture. Plus, erm, they’re really cheap. My ultimate dream would be to buy Dylan an angklung– I’ve always enjoyed its timbre.

Andrew: This was his favourite toy when he was 6 months old when he couldn’t quite sit up straight yet and we had to prop him on the sofa, in between two cushions. I guess he liked this toy too because it gave him some ‘support’ to prevent him from falling forward. Heh. Anyway, I have too many shots of him playing with this ‘piano’, because he always looks so intently at it and plucks it with such vigour, as if he really thinks he’s playing a masterpiece.

 3. Xylophone

Jasmine: Or Glockenspiel, as it is otherwise called. Again, I’m happy to invest in quality instruments, as they stand the test of time (and toddler tantrums) and sustain a baby’s attention much longer due to the clear musical tones. There were many baby xylophones available on Amazon, but reviews noted that they were not in tune or had a tinny, shallow sound. This glockenspiel from Hohner, however, plays a full octave accurately and echoes nicely when struck. I’ve even heard Andrew try to play whole songs on it.

Agnes came over for a playdate and this was one of the first toys that both babies gravitated to (the others being my sensory basket of balls, and my lava sensory bottle, which I am very gratified and pleased about haha).

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Jasmine: The Hohner glockenspiel also comes with an easy-to-tote plastic bag and scores with a variety of popular jingles. The yellow stick for hitting the glockenspiel can also be attached to the back of glockenspiel so you don’t lose it- you can just about make it out in this picture, behind the red key.

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Andrew: Once again, Dylan’s progression and growth can be seen in the way he interacted with this toy. In his younger years (or, I mean, months), all he could do was smash it and bite the stick, but now he can take the stick and slam it on the keys – I think he knows he is making music. He used to love the colours too and would always crawl towards it when I started playing it. Well, now he also uses this as an ‘alternative’ walker – putting his hands on it then pushing it all around the home. Basically, anything that he can put his hands on to give him some stability to ‘stand up’ becomes an instant walker with him. 

4. Maracas

Jasmine: These bumblebee maracas were an accidental find when The Better Toy Store opened a booth at Parkway’s atrium. They had a “buy 2 and get 1 free” promotion, so I got these maracas, a bottle of German bubble solution and a coloring ball (crayons embedded in a ball for easier manipulation by baby fingers). Total cost was about $22 for all 3 items? These maracas are such a hit with Dylan because the reward from shaking it is so immediate. I kinda wish I had bought more to give away.

Agnes liked it… When Steffy said “party time!” Agnes started shaking one, then both maracas like a pro.

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And here’s Dyls having a blast with it. Sometimes he examines the bumblebee faces, and sometimes he just treats the stick end as a chew toy…

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Andrew: What an adorably cheerful boy! I remember he had a great time with the maracas at Blue House, and when we got him his own, he loved them a lot too! This was the toy that he used ‘correctly’ immediately, no chewing, no slamming – just immediately shaking it!

5. Piano

Jasmine: But of course, there’s no better thing than the real thing. Dylan loves the piano in my mum’s house, which must be at least 20 years old, as both my sister and I played it when we were in kindergarten and primary school.

Dylan loves sitting in Ee Ee’s lap while she plays the piano. He also likes standing at the piano like a maestro and banging on the keys with his hands or feet while Char plays.

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Andrew: And recently, he’s gotten into dancing too! Check out the video below!

Jasmine: Even when we don’t have musical instruments, Dylan loves for us to sing and dance with him, as we do the waltz, swing him around or throw him in the air. It’s a great way to bond!

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Hide & Seek!

Andrew: Unlike our usual entries, this will be a shorter one as I just wanted to share this really fun game we used to and still play with Dylan. (Jasmine: “Shorter”..  Ahem.. Wait till you see how long it became.)

Hide & Seek used to be one of my favourite games as a kid! I never knew that you could play it with a baby as well and we kind of stumbled upon this game unknowingly.

So here’s how we play it with our dear Dilly and there are 3 versions, all of which result in tonnes of fun for both baby and parents! Dilly inevitably ends up giggling uncontrollably in all variations, though Variation 1 seems to work the best.

Obviously this would be hard to photograph, so this post requires more imagination! Hope our descriptions are clear enough 🙂

Variation 1: Adult hides together with baby, while another person tries to ‘seek’.

Andrew: For this variation, one of us will carry baby and hide behind a curtain which has to be rather sheer, so that the baby can see that others are trying to find him.

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Boo!

Jasmine: We’ve found that this works best with our sheer rather than opaque curtains, as Dylan can make out the our silhouettes but not see fully. This increases the tension. He can also choose to peek out from the curtain for total visibility.

Andrew: After that, the adults will then ‘pretend’ to ‘seek’ baby throughout the room by:

  • Opening cupboard doors violently
  • Lifting up pillows/bolsters
  • Searching under beds/ and surfaces

It’s important throughout to also keep voicing that you are trying to find him by saying, ‘Where’s baby? Is he….. IN the cupboard? (opens cupboard door) Is he…… UNDER the PILLOW? (throws up pillow)’.

Jasmine: In articulating the places that we are looking for him in, we, English teachers by training, also seize the chance to educate him about prepositions e.g. “in”, “under”. The repetitive sentence structure also clues Dylan in on what to expect.

Andrew: To our greatest surprise, Dilly actually starts peering out from behind the curtain and then squeals in delight whenever we shout ‘HERE’ or we look under a pillow.

Then as you start reaching nearer, you can even look VERY closely at baby through the curtain and say, ‘Is he behind here??’ and finally fling the curtain away and say ‘I found you, I found you!’.

It’s a LOT of fun and he ends up squealing so uncontrollably sometimes that we can’t hold him in.

Jasmine: Dilly was able to do this from about six or seven months of age– anticipating that we were searching for him and squealing in response from the suspense– prompting my mother (obviously a biased source) to say that he was a very smart baby. Heh.

Variation 2: Parent hides and baby ‘seeks’.

Andrew: Now that baby loves running around on his walker, this is a new variation I’ve created.

What this involves is simply calling out to baby when he is on his walker, and say, ‘Oh, where’s Daddy? Where’s Daddy?’, then run away to a hidden corner or behind the curtain. Most important thing to ensure is that he must be able to see where you have disappeared to, so that he can ‘seek’. If he doesn’t know, he’ll just start going around aimlessly.

Then when he turns up next to you, you just shout ‘You Found me!’ and that inevitably brings squeals from baby. It’s additional fun when I’m behind the sheer curtain, because he can actually see my feet and he will creep nearer and nearer – as he comes nearer, I will just keep saying ‘Where’s Daddy?’, and he starts giggling, until I eventually throw off the curtain as he comes near and that brings out a loud scream from him.

Jasmine: Yup, sometimes Dilly squeals so shrilly and excitedly in the living room that I can hear him from the bedroom.

Variation 3: Baby scuttles into hiding place on his own, adult pretends to ‘seek’.

Andrew: Okay, so this is a variation with pictures we can take! Dearie got this idea from Blue House to add a little curtain below our bookshelves, which could serve as a hiding place for Dylan.

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The reading and music nook at Blue House- similarity in the fabric we chose purely coincidental, as we needed to match our celadon blue walls

Jasmine: Yes, it was a really easy project! We got someone to hem the fabric (which was on sale at Spotlight) and attached it under the bookshelves with Velcro! My actual plan was to make use of the dead space under the shelves by adding some plastic boxes for storage and hiding them with the curtains, but of course it would turn out to be a great hiding place for Dylan. My only regret was not adding a “window” that he could peek out from.

Andrew: Actually, even before the curtain was there, he always enjoyed crawling under our bookshelf to the corner, and then just hide there for a while. We could just go around there and ‘pretend’ to seek him again, by saying ‘Where’s Dilly?’ – same as Variation 1.

However, recently, he’s gotten a little smarter and he would just suddenly crawl behind the curtain and start laughing – as if inviting us to come play with him!

Jasmine: Sometimes, he will stay there quietly and it takes a minute for us to notice he is even gone. But his little feet give him away, and saying, “Where’s Dilly?” very loudly, we will approach the curtain, start touching his feet, reaching under to tickle him… And he gets such a thrill!

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If I can’t see them, they can’t see me…

Andrew: We can’t see his reaction but we can hear his squeals and his movements are evident from the movement of the curtain. Heh. When we fling open the curtain, he would excitedly try to pull himself out:

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Oh, and as a bonus, there’s even a video of this!

Jasmine: This little fella just makes my day!

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Integrating Baby Dylan into Our Lives

Andrew: We’ve mentioned this quite a few times before, but one of the most important tips I read before Dylan came was to get back into your regular activities as soon as possible by finding ways to make your child a part of it. Honestly, it isn’t quite possible to really go back to life as per normal, but accommodations can definitely be made to ensure that you can still engage in activities that used to be part of your life. Here, we share some tips on how we’ve found ways to make Dylan a part of our regular activities.

By making ‘a part of’, we mean more than just him being there and us ‘coping’ with him, but I actually mean trying to make him a part of the activity too.

1. Church

Andrew: This will probably differ from church to church, depending on whether the church offers playgroup/ infant-care services (apparently New Creation does, and parents do not bring their toddlers into the main hall). However, for our church, the structured children church programme only begins from 18 months onwards, hence we’ve to think of ways to keep Dillie occupied.

We also have cell group prior to service, which is usually held at any available spaces around our church (e.g. outside the church itself, at void decks, playgrounds etc.) Obviously, this required more consideration once we had Dylan.

One of the biggest help was … the Supermat! 🙂

Yes, the most important need of parents is actually a clean space where the kid can be put down and move around safely, while still being within your sight and control. The Supermat was great for cell because it could be placed within the circle and all our cell members at various parts of the mat could serve as ‘gate-keepers’ to either catch him or hug him when he reached them. Our church used to have an entire floor just for parents, so we would place the mat there and it used to attract many other kids to the mat too. However, due to some restructuring of services, the service we attend now is very crowded, so it’s now impossible to place the mat on the floor.

Cell at the sheltered space between void decks

Andrew: An important tip we learnt from a fellow parent in church was to learn to involve your cell group in caring for your child.

Jasmine: Yes, this was a very sagely piece of advice which really transformed my mindset towards bringing Dilly to church. It made me go from thinking, “I can do it on my own”, to “We can do it so much better when the whole village helps to raise the child”.

Cell has been more manageable than service as we have cell members who love him so much and can carry and entertain him. Sometimes though, I suspect Dilly ends up being a distraction, as he turns around and smiles at everyone and people start smiling back. Heh. We have taken to having cell beside a playground so even without the Supermat, Dilly can scoot around the rubber floor and occasionally ride a plastic bike.

photo(9) Cell beside a playground- note how our cell members and their belongings are surrounding Dylan like a sort of safe boundary

Andrew: As for service, there are times when Dearie’s not feeling well that I decided to bring Dylan to church on my own anyway – those are the times I’d need more help during service. (Jasmine: My pastor once saw Andrew alone at service with Dilly and told me, “Wah, this Andrew quite good ah!” And he is. Thank you, Superdear.) Once, I got my cell boy to meet me and sit next to me. It’s helpful just having someone around to do simple stuff like clip the carrier, hold the baby’s toy for him etc. He helped too in taking this cute pic of Dylan, eating a banana. Heh:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chomp chomp

Another thing I’ve learnt that helps a lot is to be unafraid to ask strangers for help. Yet another time when I was alone, Dillie started crying loudly for his milk and unexpectedly, the water dispenser at church wasn’t plugged on, hence there wasn’t warm water. In panic mode, I was fumbling with the various utensils like spoon, milk bottle, powder dispenser – when a very kind-hearted lady just offered to help me out with the milk. She was a life-saver!

I know this section is already rather lengthy, but just wanted to add a final point on us getting Dylan involved in the service. Well, he can’t quite get involved during the Word at the moment and that’s usually the segment we try to get him to nap, so we try to get him involved in worship. Initially it was just swaying him around and bobbing him during worship, and he used to smile as we sang. But lately, he’s gotten more into it, clapping along and even raising his hands:

Jasmine: Honestly though, it’s still tough bringing a little one to church. Sometimes I can barely pay attention to the sermon ‘coz I am so busy taking care of Dilly, feeding him and of course placating him when he gets cranky as service runs past his bedtime. However, when I see Dilly growing and imitating our actions, be it clapping or raising his hands, it gives me a sliver of hope that all the slogging is going to be worth it one day.

Andrew: Even during the altar call time, I try to get him involved and focused to raise his hands up in prayer as we pray for those who receive Christ. Hopefully these small little actions will build nice habits in him that will put him in good stead as he grows up. 

2.  Museum-hopping

Andrew: Avid followers of our blog (Jasmine: there are? haha) previously would know that we used to love going for exhibitions. Actually, we didn’t go to as many after we got married and now that we have a kid, it’s even less likely that we would go. However, this year, I just felt that I didn’t want to miss out on the Singapore Biennale yet again, because it used to be such a fun activity for Dearie and I, as we walked through the halls and discussed the meaning and aesthetic value of each piece geekily. And so, we went!

“I am made for Sam”

Now, integrating him in the activity goes beyond just carrier-ing him around while we geekily analysed the art pieces (which we did!). It also involved us spending more time at pieces which he was more engaged in, like this one below:

 

Andrew: There were many little holes in the floorboard, with images within, so he had quite a field day crawling all around and peeking into the little holes.

Jasmine: These interactive artworks were the best because Dilly could engage personally with them. Here, he was crawling around to inspect the marbles embedded in the floorboards with archival images of historic Singapore- which was not too far off from the intent of the artpiece, which wanted viewers to literally take a closer look at our past.

Andrew: He also liked this little ‘sound board’ below, which played sounds of Singapore (like political speeches, sounds of old Chinatown in the 1960s etc.) whenever you clicked on any button and you could play a few sounds together to create your own unique Singapore ‘sound-scape’. Obviously this didn’t mean anything to Dylan, who just treated it like any other electronic book of his own. 🙂

We haven’t since brought him to any exhibitions, but I recall Dearie and I attending a Children’s Art exhibition a few years back at SAM@8Q – wonder if that’s still being done now, because that would be a fun one for him.

       

Jasmine: My major contribution at the Biennale was convincing Dear to buy an inflatable Walter the bunny for him from the museum shop, to play bunny boxing with.

3. Going out to Malls

Andrew: Well, I spoke earlier about me resolutely bringing Dylan to church alone even when it was extremely tough. Dear is similarly resolute and resourceful too – when it comes to shopping! She has brought Dylan alone on shopping trips where she’s tried and bought many pieces! (Jasmine: No lah, just one or two pieces, and for work purposes, so totally legit.) How does she do it – I’ll leave her to show you:

Andrew: Some might say that’s baby-abuse. Dylan, the little innocent one, is none the wiser and just looking all cheeky and cute in that pic.

Jasmine: This was before I got preggie, and could still strap Dilly in the carrier and head out. It’s actually quite convenient going places considering that our place is just 5min walk from the MRT, and the shopping centre just above, if I’m lazy to take public transport. Believe it or not, it’s also quite easy to use the washroom with him in the carrier! But I can’t envision how I will do this when I have two babies next time.

Andrew: However, we’ve read something more fundamental lately on Xiaxue’s blog about going out with a child. She wrote in an entry that many times parents just think they can go about their own activities and drag the child along, hoping that the child will enjoy him/herself. However, that would be extremely selfish for a parent, because we do not drag even our spouses along to activities they don’t enjoy. She wrote that it was important to learn to engage in activities that the kid would enjoy too as part of your outing, so that the child truly becomes a part of your family and not just someone who tags along.

Good tip indeed – since then, we’ve tried to insert a Dylan-centric component (Jasmine: MOE has Student-centric, Values-driven education; we have Dylan-centric, Andrew-driven exploration?) whenever we go out on weekends, hence the entries on playgyms you have seen so far. We try to bring him to the playgym first, tire him out, then after that, go about doing our own stuff, like shopping or exploring PasarBella while he is napping. In that way, both parent and child win! 🙂

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Sleeping snugly in the Mr Christmas sweater from Joyce though it’s just past Easter

Andrew: Xiaxue also wrote about how only those who have parents will understand truly how parents feel when bringing a kid out. This doesn’t quite fall under the same category, but we’ve also started trying to have more play-dates with fellow parent friends, so that we can catch up (not just on parents’ stuff, of course) and the kids can have fun socialising too.

One of our play-dates with Ruth and Roman!

Dillie & Agnes at Giggles

Jasmine: Actually, we would not have expected to get parenting advice from Xiaxue but I did find myself vigorously agreeing with many of those points. We are trying to go out more with our friends who are also parents, not only because there are so many common topics, but because they also see the need to prioritise their children’s happiness so that every member of the family can have a good time.

Much as I’d like to, as a working mum, I don’t have that much time to bring Dilly out for playgroups and classes. I’m thus quite glad to not have to actively source these on my own as my cousin Steffy invites me for playgroups that she knows I and Dilly would like, like the baby signs class and also the mummies’ meetup at Blue House, though obviously I used to be more available when I was on my last maternity leave or clearing HQ leave end-last year.

We also love having our friends and their babies over at our place for a simple lunch (for the mummies) and playtime (for the babies), as it’s less confined than at restaurants. It’s easier to nurse and of course we can let the babies loose on the floor, which isn’t possible in every restaurant.

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Playdates with babies Agnes and Bruce at our house!

Jasmine: That having been said, we have been out a couple of times with Dylan and our non-parent friends, and they have been really understanding and helpful. For instance, we met two of Andrew’s guy friends for coffee, Anand and Yong Chuan. Though they were very shocked when we pulled out the whole milk tin from the bottom of our stroller (“Whoa, does he drink that much each time??”), they were very helpful in requesting hot water and moving all breakables away, and pretended not to mind Dilly’s loud crying as we were preparing the milk.

Andrew: There are actually many more things I’d like to write about this entry like travelling with Dylan and one on how we planned meticulously to get him involved in a photo-shoot in Shanghai, but those deserve entire posts on their own!

Just like to conclude by saying that having a child does change your life significantly, no doubt about that and it is not quite possible to have the same life as you used to if you want to involve your child. Finding ways to involve your child might be tedious, but ultimately in the long run, it’s beneficial as you learn to spend time together as a family and also, as cliche as it might sound, joy is multiplied when good times are shared with more.

Best Buys from Amazon.com

Jasmine: We have done shopping posts previously [see good stuff for parents and good stuff for babies here], but thought that we should feature some of our favourite items specifically from Amazon for mummy, baby and the home. We have gotten plenty of some stuff over the last few years after browsing reviews and comparing prices, but this post will focus mainly on the things that we can’t find in Singapore or that would cost much more here.

Andrew: I used to only buy books and DVD box-sets from Amazon (of my various TV shows!) – now I know you can literally buy anything from Amazon. Actually many things are cheaper on Amazon, minus the delivery charge, hence buying in bulk always works (as Jas will mention later) or getting a friend in US to help – thanks Anand! Anand also helped us to hand-deliver the Medela Breast pump which we ordered from Amazon back home as it cost one-third the Singapore retail price. When asked if it’d be awkward for a man to carry a breast pump thru customs, he said it wasn’t his first time! Haha!

Anyway, here’s the list of things:

1. Leachco Back ‘n’ Belly pregnancy pillow

Jasmine: For my first pregnancy, Andrew bought me this ginormous pillow when I was six months preggie and complaining of backache all the time. I have brought it out of storage now that I am halfway into my second pregnancy, and it is still as lifesaving as before. For one, I toss and turn quite frequently due to the weight of the baby and the back/ rib pain. While there are pregnancy pillows half the size of this, it’s nice to turn and not have to shift the whole pillow over or supplement the other side with bolsters. The curves of the pillow are also in just the right place to support both the tummy and the back. (Andrew: There was even one we bought which claimed to support mainly the tummy, just a small wedged-shaped pillow, which was absolutely useless.)

When our friend Anand saw this, he immediately said this pillow could be marketed to potbellied men. Heh.

We call it ‘the cloud’ because it ensconces the sleeper snugly, and it is as large as one (takes up half our queen-sized bed). Dilly finds it very comfortable too, it’s like one big pillow fort! (Andrew: Sometimes when I’m lazy to run around with Dylan, I put him on the bed, within this pillow fort and let him play within. He does enjoy bouncing around within the pillow.)

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It’s mine now, Mummy…

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Jasmine: The only minus (besides it being hard to make the bed haha) is the cover- after we wash it, it takes both of us to struggle to put back the cover as if we are casing a bursting sausage. I wish they would make a cover with a concealed zip on the outside seam but perhaps that would jack the price right up. (Sidenote: Not to be confused with the zippered cover available for their other similar model, the Back ‘n’ Belly Chic. The Back ‘n’ Belly Chic covers won’t fit the Original, which is the one we have, due to differences in the placement of the seams, so I can’t buy that.) Leachco does sell a replacement cover for the Back ‘n’ Belly Original on Amazon but it’s identical to the current one, e.g. more sausage casing, so we didn’t buy it.

Andrew: The other minus (for me) is how much space this pillow takes up! Heh. This pillow squeezes me all the way to the corner of my bed.

2. Books

Jasmine: We have bought at least half a dozen books from Amazon that probably merit a post of their own, but we will just share our most recent acquisition- the Art for Baby book, which features black and white renderings of iconic Pop Art works by Keith Haring. Takashi Murakami etc. (Andrew: Honestly, we have bought enough books for Dylan that would last him at least until he is 2 or 3, when he can actually understand words.)

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Jasmine: What I didn’t realise was that the book is of higher quality than other board books. It is large and sturdy, has a white, subtly pearlescent sheen, and the artworks are embossed and glossed to make them stand out on the page. Extremely presentable as a gift!

Though Dylan is past the newborn stage of being able to see only in black and white, he still loves this book, particularly this rendering of Julian Opie’s Girl, which he will bend over and kiss whenever he flips to that page. Aww…

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Apart from the high-contrast images, the other finishing touch that makes it perfect as a baby shower or full month gift is that it has a neat back pocket containing a frieze of all the images in the book! This can be pasted over the crib for a newborn to look at for visual stimulation.

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Can’t wait to read this book to baby girl! (Andrew: Read? How exactly would you read this book – or are you confusing this with all the other books we have bought?)

Jasmine: Dearie, don’t be mean! I will name the various items, describe their characteristics and let baby girl observe them. You can tell if newborns are attracted to a particular picture because it holds their gaze longer. Studies have proven so.

Andrew: Oh.

Jasmine: Don’t ever question me again.

3. Cone Sorter by Plan Toys

Jasmine: We have a set of stacking cum nesting Mula cups from Ikea which Dilly loves, so we thought that he might take well to this cone sorter, which is premised on the same concept of teaching babies about height, depth and sequence.

It’s no secret that I just have this soft spot for wooden toys and unique toys, and this one is one of the more special (and even stylish) stacking toys I’ve seen. With a 4.9 reviewer score out of 5 on Amazon, it’s beautifully crafted in wood and there are many ways to stack it.

The outer shapes are in warm tones while the inner shapes are in cool tones, so that allows for categorisation of colours and enhances the peekaboo effect- everytime Dilly pulls off one shape, at least one or two other shapes and colours are revealed.

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The inner cylinders also add a layer of difficulty as they can be stacked concentrically too, so there are reviewers talking about how this toy is a challenge even for their 2 or 3-year-old kids.

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Dylan’s current favourite activity (aside from pulling all the pieces off one by one) is practising his fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination by inserting the light green stick into the emerald green cylinder. Today, he was just sitting there putting it in and out, while giggling at his reflection in the mirror. Too cute.

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We’ve had this for a month now, and unlike the other toys that get rotated weekly, this one has become a staple plaything because he just keeps going back to play with it everyday. (Andrew: Honestly, Dear’s rotating schedule for toys gets confusing at times when I try to find a toy that has worked with him previously and can’t find it anymore. She tells me there is some form of method to this rotation, i.e. square toys, circle toys or something to that effect; but I somehow doubt it.)

Jasmine: Dear, they’re all in the nursery cupboard, in one of three boxes, labelled ‘books’, ‘music [and movement]’ and ‘soft toys’. Anyway, you could have just asked me 😀

And since you have given me an opening to talk about my rotating schedule, I decide a theme every week for the selection of toys. Last week I was conducting an experiment on electronic vs wooden toys, previous week was shapes-themed e.g. square vs circular objects, another week was on transparency and colour, another week on music and sound. This coming week is play food week… Want me to go on??

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Dilly’s play area, which is constantly work-in-progress

Andrew: This is one of my favourite toys with Dillie too! For me, the fun is in stacking it in various ways, as opposed to the ‘correct’ way, combining it with the other toys like putting little balls on top of the pyramid and letting him smack everything down. Dylan is very good currently at dis-assembling the pyramid with great vehemence – well, he’s moved from just sweeping the whole toy aside, to taking it apart piece by piece. I suppose that shows some motor skill progression?

4. Starburst Mirror

Jasmine: And one of the first items we bought off Amazon when we first moved into our home was this starburst mirror. The ones in Singapore cost hundreds and were extremely geometric, whereas I wanted something more organic to go with our “modern fairytale” theme. (If you must know, the current theme, with one baby in the house and another on the way, is “keep it clean”.) I think this mirror cost us SGD40 or 50 tops.

This picture was from when we had only moved in for half a year, and our dining room was painted the palest shade of grey, so the branches of the mirror really pop against that backdrop.

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Pls ignore the preggie me in the pic, I didn’t have any closeups of the mirror

(Andrew: Erm, think the choice of pic is quite deliberate. You’ll find any chance to post a pic again of you all dolled up!)

(Jasmine (sadly): I don’t get many chances to get dolled up… Sobs… Bring me on a date?)

Jasmine: Last November, we repainted the dining room a deep shade of cerulean blue, so now the pearly accents stand out. (Sidenote: my mum oversaw the painting when we were on holiday in Shanghai, and our helper cleaned up after the painters left, so Dylan never even had to smell a single paint fume! Thanks Mum!)

Andrew: Not sure if we ever wrote about this before, but Dylan used to have a thing for mirrors (which all babies do) when he was a newborn. So one thing I really enjoyed doing was to walk him around the house and turn him to face the mirror, which would inevitably bring the cutest smile to his chubby little face! When he grew older, he started getting more curious and stretched his hand to grab the beads, which was when I had to start keeping him further away from it.

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In conclusion, one piece of advice for shopping on Amazon: buy in bulk.  Yes. I’m dead serious about this. Sorry, Andrew’s credit card.

I’m not sure if it is still the case now, but in the past, Amazon tended to deliver smaller parcels via local carrier iParcel, which might have been cheaper for Amazon but was notoriously unreliable (just google for all the customer complaints). For instance, when I ordered a single item, the Manhattan Skwish toy, iParcel did not come to my door to deliver it (when my mum or helper is home all day, everyday) but merely left a note in my postbox saying that delivery had been attempted and I would have to collect my item from the post office. Pfft. What a lie!

However, when ordering bigger parcels or parcels containing multiple items, such as when we ordered the Supermat (another great buy that can’t be found in Singapore), Amazon sent the package by DHL, and that arrived with no issues.

Anyhow, this bedrest thing means occupying myself with lots of online shopping, and Andrew has just agreed to sponsor our next batch of goodies essentials from Amazon, so perhaps another post is in short order!

Andrew: Hmm, a bit loose with the use of the word ‘agreed’ there, more like ‘acceded’. As long as the house doesn’t get too cluttered (Jasmine: that’s why I rotate the toys weekly) and Dylan enjoys the toys and we are saving money, I have no objections!

Jasmine: Oh my gosh. Andrew thinks spending money IS saving money! I have converted him!!

Easter Crafts and Activities with a 1 Year Old

Jasmine: This week, we did a few simple activities with Dylan to commemorate Good Friday and Easter. Because I was on bedrest, the activities had to be restful and allow me to stay seated or better still, lying down.

1. Bunny Book

The first was easy, (re)reading a bunny-themed book to Dylan. This was a gift for Dylan’s full month from James and Felicia, and Dylan seems to like it more with each successive reading. This time, he squealed with delight when I made him do the actions to the various lines.

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Andrew: Hmm, you sure you read the book or just took a photo? The book’s still in the box.

Jasmine: HEY. I read the whole book. What were you doing, watching Amazing Race again?

Andrew: Oops – heh. Anyway, just to add, in terms of reading him stories, we did read him the story of Jesus’s resurrection from the rhyme bible that night. 🙂

2. Lighted Easter “Egg”

Jasmine: I wanted to calm Dylan down before bedtime, so I pulled out the trusty LED light balls, and placed one in an Easter egg/ chick (actually an old toothpick holder) to symbolise how the grave could not contain Christ’s resurrection and light. The other three lightballs, I placed in a coconut wood bowl from Bali, to symbolise a nest.

These lightballs and clear ball provided variation and helped extend the activity, as Dylan could move the chick to cover them and produce different colours.

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A closeup of the clear ball, with the three LED lightballs illuminating it from below.

3. Suncatchers

Jasmine: Sent Dear out to buy more laminate stickers from our neighbourhood Popular store, and came up with a quick “craft” activity for Dilly.

I say “craft” in inverted commas because I’m not sure cutting up cellophane triangles and getting baby to stick them on is considered very crafty/ artsy, but anyways.

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Our sophisticated, state of the art supplies included the Daiso dustpan and toilet roll, for different ways to pour and scoop the cellophane onto the laminate sticker.

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We opened up the laminate sticker so that Dylan could just stick them on immediately. Dylan could practise his fine motor skills by picking up and manipulating the triangles of different sizes. Sometimes he “accidentally” threw them on and found that they had stuck, other times he would intentionally try to place a triangle on after we showed him how we did it.

Andrew: Actually, from my observations, it seemed like Dylan was more keen on eating all the cell0phone bits, dumping them all on the floor and crumpling the whole cellophane sheet. Case in point below:

20140425_202350Jasmine: Excuse me, that was Dylan being creative and playful. Sigh, the difference between a mum and dad’s perspective.

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Getting his fine motor skills on

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The finished product, which can not only be used as a suncatcher, but also a placemat and a mask, it seems…

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Andrew: Best part of this activity (and most of those above) is that they are mostly low cost and can capture his attention for a long time (which is about 40 minutes).

Jasmine: On a sidenote, Dear gifted me with this Matryoshka Russian doll ring from NYC jeweller, Noir! It was quite pricey but we managed to obtain a discount (by feigning reluctance to buy it due to the missing rhinestone) so it came within our acceptable budget. Yay!

She is a gorgeous gold-plated, hand-enamelled doll with paistaking detailing everywhere…

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But what really stole my heart was the fact that she had a tiny, peanut-sized Russian doll inside! It seemed like a timely token for Easter weekend. Considering that I am expecting a sweet baby girl this Russian doll ring (fashioned like a mother protecting or nurturing the daughter within her) seemed to symbolise the new life growing inside me. (With an argument like that, can still refuse to buy for me?? Haha I doubt it. Take Literature, people, it comes in handy when you least expect it.)

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Andrew: Well, there was no life for my wallet after buying that, that’s for sure.

Jasmine: Thank you dear for the ring, I love it! But now that I’m on bedrest there’s nowhere to wear it to… *Hint hint*

Staycation @ Grand Park Orchard

Andrew: So – after so many entries about Dylan, thought we’d do one about some of the more ‘couply’ things we do! Yes, believe it or not, we still try find time to ensure that we have couple time. This, of course, won’t be possible without good family support, so we’re thankful when Jas’s family is willing to take in baby on special occasions and he has a ‘staycation’ of his own.

We usually have staycations at more quaint botique hotels, but this one time, we thought we’d look at a location that was more central and accessible to give us more activities (i.e. shopping and good dining!) to do. Narrowed our choices finally down to Grand Park Orchard – one of the newest hotels, right in the heart of the city.

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Jasmine: Grand Park Orchard is supposedly fashion-themed, but sticking a big mural of some model on the wall is too in your face, I think.IMG_5137

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Our view of Paragon and Taka

Andrew: You can see why the location would be attractive to Dearie.

Jasmine: Yup, especially since Andrew bought me something 😀

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Andrew: Staycations are a nice way for us to take a breather, without having to fly to another country. Not that we don’t enjoy holidays – we certainly do, but sometimes it’s nice just to be a tourist in your own country and enjoy a luxurious, pampering time without being too far away from your family.

Upon checking in, we went for a massage. Note to those who are booking this hotel – it does not have its own spa, it only has 2 small rooms and the masseuses have to take a bus from Grand Park City Hall to this hotel, so they could be late arriving depending on bus schedule. Not the best arrangement – nonetheless, the massage was still decent.

Following that, we went for a feast!

Dinner @ Lawry’s Prime Rib

Jasmine: Quite on impulse, we decided to have dinner at Lawry’s, in large part because there was no queue.

Thankfully, every course was stellar.

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Lawry’s believes that the meal is incomplete without a salad, so this crunchy, savoury salad certainly whetted our appetites. It also left me intrigued about trying their famous Spinning Salad in future, where the salad is tossed in a spinning bowl on top of ice to keep it cool.

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Holiday Greens: Mixed greens, crisp Oyster Mushrooms, Lemon Cheese and Balsamic Citrus Dressing

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Scallop Wrapped in Smoked Bacon 

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Lobster Pumpkin Bisque

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My pretty wife!

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Dark Cherry Chicken & Foie Gras with Sweet Cherry Sauce

Jasmine: This was my main course, as I’ve never been one for beef or steak, and it was quite good! The slab of foie gras, while not the highest quality, was generous and soaked up the dark cherry sauce well. Eaten in the same bite as the succulent chicken, one could not be more satisfied.

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Signature Roasted Prime Ribs

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Strawberry Symphony: Strawberry with Sweet Balsamic Sauce, Custard Pastry, Strawberry Mousse and Haagen Dazs Ice-cream

Andrew: I had heard lots about Lawry’s – especially their prime ribs, but hadn’t been there before. As Dear mentioned earlier, almost every dish being a hit from the salad to the desserts. The signature prime rib didn’t disappoint at all – tender, juicy with a lots of gravy to go with it. You don’t get creamed corn very often as a side in restaurants here. Loved it!  Yorkshire pudding brought back memories of Leeds, where it was almost a staple in the Refectory (their version of ‘canteen’) where they would just put all sorts of stews in it. Too bad it was just a sliver of it that they served – barely even a quarter of a Yorkshire pudding. We’ll be back again for sure!

Eh, not to just write about the food – but it was also great just having a nice, relaxed dinner with my Dear, without having to tend to Dylan. We had time to get a little geeky and became reflective, chatting about how we had grown over the past year as parents *gulp* – also wondered how we were going to cope in the new year with more transitions once again.

Right after dinner, we did something extremely ‘touristy’ – went to Taka food hall!

Jasmine: We have never been party animals, so we contented ourselves with buying random Japanese and German items from the Taka basement back to the hotel for our midnight snack. My favourite was the rice cracker with red bean paste. The red bean came packaged separately from the cracker to preserve the cracker’s freshness, and the combination of creamy sweet red bean and crispy salty cracker was lovely.

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The best snacks were the Jap ones: Fukuwatashi Senbei (cookie) [right most in the front row],  Kogame Mochi (Rice Cake) [middle of front row], Koganeawase (Bean Cake) [rectangular shaped cookie in the middle] and Leaf Pie [left most, front row]

Andrew: All the Jap cookies were great, but my favourite had to be the cookie in the front right and the bean cake. Yum! We even went back to buy more the next day. The huge white ball that you see is supposed to be some kind of German cookie – a tad bit too sweet for me, honestly, but still finished it anyway!

Went for a morning jog the next day around Orchard Road – first time ever being in Orchard so early in the morning – and went to the gym too. We had our breakfast (which consisted of the snacks above), we continued the ‘Jap theme’ and went to one of our favourite Jap restaurants for lunch – Tonkatsu Ma Masion!

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Andrew: I had the Hungarian Pork Loin, upon ladyironchef’s recommendation. It was tender and juicy, yet not too oily. There was such a wide range of sauces to dip your tonkatsu in, but our favourite had to be the ‘goma sauce’ dip, which was creamy and slightly sweet and sourish.

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Jasmine: Another restaurant that doesn’t disappoint! And extra points for the refillable miso soup, rice and salad too! I had three bowls of miso soup- flavourful, strong and with plenty of ingredients! Gee, now I sound like Andrew, who loves almost anything free flow.

IMG_5171To sound more like myself, I will just add that I enjoyed our impromptu staycation lots, maybe, just maybe ‘coz I scored a Paul Smith dress on 50% off and Dear bought me a Marc Jacobs wallet… To start 2014 right. Heh.

Andrew: We should really blog more about our staycations – time to trawl through old photo albums to uncover photos of our previous staycations!

Jasmine: Yes, but don’t think that replaces booking future staycations! 😀

Home-Made Baby Foods

Andrew: We’ve written quite a few posts about dining out with baby. However, obviously, that’s neither baby’s staple nor his main source of nutrition as we don’t dine out as often as we used to. So it makes sense for us to blog about the food that he eats on an everyday basis – and that’s almost just as interesting, if not more, than the food he eats at restaurants. Honestly, I used to think all babies ate was plain porridge, milk and blended vegetables, but now I realise there’s a whole realm of interesting menus that can be put together, even for a baby! We’ll have to thank my mother-in-law for her creativity and great culinary skills and my wife too for her research skills and willingness to push the boundaries (I’m the more cautious one).

Jasmine: Actually, this post would not exist if not for my mum, who created all the dishes for Dilly! Anyone who knows me and my numerous failed attempts at cooking e.g. burnt eggs which sent smoke through the house (and I still thought there was a fire in the next block) knows that I should probably stay away from the kitchen. (Andrew: Oh yes, that’d be impossible to forget given that the smell was still there when I went back the next day. Heh.)

Our principle for baby food is simple: let Dylan learn to enjoy food! Inspired by baby-led weaning (BLW) philosophies, this meant letting Dilly feed himself where possible, letting Dilly control the amount of food he took in, and letting him experience food in a multi-sensory way through sight, smell, taste and texture. Of course, this meant that having a certain tolerance for mess (of which there was alot– both on the high chair and the floor around it!) and patience, as Dylan would sometimes reject a food on the first try. Instead of forcing it down, we would then wait a few weeks or months to re-introduce it so he might like it the next time!

So without further ado, here are some of the foods that Dilly has enjoyed!

Finger Food

Jasmine: This has been a firm favourite of Dylan’s and barely needs any additional preparation, as we simply fish it out from our adult corn soup. A mummy friend we have says her children love corn too, maybe because of the juice that bursts from popping the kernels. Even when he was toothless, Dylan was very capable of biting off 3-4 rows of kernels around the edges.

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Another finger food that keeps him occupied and quietly munching for a good 30 minutes is Granny’s potato wedges. These can be endlessly varied but the trick is to cut it into wedges or strips to make it easier for baby to hold. (If you have a crinkle cutter like those used to make fries, that works too.) On lazy days we just cut a sweet potato into strips and oven-bake it. On other occasions, Granny will mash sweet potato or potato with bits of fish and cheese, and coat it with breadcrumbs for extra grip.

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One in each hand

Andrew: Honestly, I do love Dylan’s finger food too and when he can’t finish his sweet potato strips, I eat up the leftovers (unless there’s salmon in them)! They are so healthy, yet tasty. Why we like to start off with finger food too is purely practical – it’s the part of the meal where we can practise some form of baby-led weaning and allow him to feed himself, while we try to have our own dinner before he moves on to his porridge course where we have to feed him more (to prevent him from making a mess).

photo(4)Mashed potato and carrots on carrot sticks 

Andrew: Dillie has the tendency to be rather ‘demanding’ and greedy  – eating half a piece of finger food, and then dumping it down and asking for a new piece. This is when we seize the opportunity to teach him the importance of finishing what he has first, pointing to the unfinished piece and not passing him a new piece until he is done.

Jasmine: Another great baby finger food is tamago. This was not made by my mum but by my cousin Adeline for baby Dylan and Agnes last Christmas. Adeline thought the tamago was a hit until she realised that most of it had hit the floor. However, Dylan still liked tasting it and spent ages chewing it, so I’d say it was a hit nonetheless.

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Soup

Jasmine: The soup version of the potato wedges above, this is made with chicken or beef broth, and ingredients like carrot, corn, codfish, potato and tofu are thrown in. Dylan loves soup- the only minus of this dish is that it’s not as travel or dining-out friendly as the finger foods above. Mum also does a thicker version which is closer in texture to corn or fish chowder. I’ve tried it, its tasty, creamy and yet feels very healthy and nourishing.

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Corn chowder, next to his porridge

Andrew: I am a great lover of Chinese soups, having grown up in a household where soup was a standard item of every dinner. Hopefully starting him off with soups young will also inculcate this same love in him as he grows up! Here are two other types of soup that Dillie has enjoyed:

photo(3)Beef broth

Porridge

Jasmine: I kid you not, Dylan eats more porridge than adults (or maybe just my mum and I). While I was initially resistant to offering porridge because it would be hard for Dylan to feed himself, my mum was very keen on doing so. This porridge is packed with good stuff, like oats, brown rice, broccoli, carrots and fish, and at a regular meal, Dylan eats the equivalent of two adult rice bowls.

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Mum has also made a brown rice risotto version which Dylan likes too!

What I like about this is that we can incorporate so many superfoods into this one dish, which are great for his cognitive and physical development. We also cut the cubes of carrot and fish bigger so that Dylan can practise his fine motor skills by picking them up and popping it into his mouth.

Andrew: This is no regular bowl of porridge – it requires a lot of effort and some skill in order to get the required texture that Dillie loves. Our helpers often couldn’t achieve the required texture and it ended up too grainy, and Dillie just spat out the porridge after a few bites. Well, babies are the most honest judges of food, I say. The rice grains need to be soaked for at least one or two hours before boiling and after that, they need to be boiled at medium heat, stirred from time to time, adding water when it becomes dry, until the rice grains break and the porridge achieves a creamy consistency. When done right, Dylan laps the whole bowl up voraciously, wailing in between spoonfuls if we are too slow to feed him. Granny has recently even started introducing oats into the porridge too.

Jasmine: And a shoutout to three items which have made the feeding experience much much less daunting: the Ikea Antilop high chair, the Calibowl and the Beaba spoons.

There are tons of fancy high chairs with cushioned padding and what not, but that leaves us with too many nooks and crannies to clean. The Ikea Antilop, at $29.90 (including the tray), is super easy to wash, and is a must for the BLW messes that inevitably result.

The Calibowl, also pictured below, has a strong suction base. This means that Dylan’s attempts to explore gravity e.g. drop the whole bowl of food on the ground cannot work and the food is not wasted. The Calibowl also has a spill-proof lip, and there have been several occasions where Dylan tried to tilt the bowl over (usually when the suction did not work due to porridge or water getting under the base) and the lip stopped the food inside from spilling out. It also has a lid so we can pack finger food and bring it out with us.

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Andrew: And here you can see the great thing about the Calibowl – porridge offers a great amount of sensory play for the little one. So when baby has his fill and no longer wants to eat, we just put the bowl there and let him play and he has great fun, while making a great mess.

Jasmine: Lastly, the Beaba spoons (not pictured) are my favourite! The Beaba spoons have just the right shape, and can hold enough liquid or food while being small enough for baby’s mouth. The other spoons we tried from Pigeon and Avent were too shallow for soup or water. As a result, we also use the Beaba spoons for feeding medicine to Dylan- he thinks it’s a nice supper treat and laps it up happily, sometimes going back for seconds, whereas if we tried to shoot a syringeful of medicine in his mouth he would wail miserably. Definitely getting more when baby girl is ready for solids, especially since they come in the prettiest colours, like pale green and mauve.

Dinner Platters

Jasmine: Clearly an act of love by his Granny! On special occasions or at her house, Granny loves to whip up a feast for Dylan using ingredients from the adult meal! This is spaghetti (great for sensory play) with steamed vegetables, including another favourite, broccoli (because it has a built in “handle”) and a swanky glass of water- actually just disposable partyware that I saved from a themed staff retreat.

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Andrew: It’s a combination of all of the above things, all in one platter. 

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Breakfast Foods

Jasmine: And most recently, Granny has been coming in earlier so she has started preparing breakfast for Dylan too! This week, Dylan got to have banana pancakes and raisin cheese toast. Yum!

Andrew: Even I don’t have such good breakfasts!

Jasmine: Well… you have your, erm, instant kopi C.

Banana Pancakes

Jasmine: These are banana bites, in a chip shape and coated with pancake batter for easier grip, but Dylan did not seem to like it so much. We waited a couple months….

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And re-introduced it this week as banana pancakes, with smaller banana chunks spread throughout. Result: Dylan loves it now!

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p.s. These two gorgeous plates were bought by my mum. The blue floral one from Kyoto in Japan, and the white one from a household sale for a few bucks. I love using gorgeous functional items and it’s great that Dylan can appreciate and handle such beautiful fragile items (albeit under very close supervision) from young.

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Andrew: Banana is undoubtedly Dylan’s favourite fruit; to the extent that I try not to eat it around him or else he will look at me longingly, pointing at the banana, until I can’t help but give him a bite. Combining it in a pancake just makes it all the more hearty for this little boy. Look at how he stuffs one whole pancake in his mouth.

Twice-Toasted Raisin Cheese Toast

Jasmine: Another quick and fuss-free breakfast was lightly buttering and toasting a slice of Dylan’s favourite raisin bread from Four Leaves, then toasting it again with some mozarella and cheddar on top. My mum then cut it into cubes and let Dilly feed himself.

Apparently, he ate everything up. Mum hypothesizes that it is because the mozarella was gooey and warm but the bits of cheddar gave it a more robust flavour, and that complemented the sweetness of the raisins and buttered bread. Food critic in the making, y’all…. I wrangled a slice for myself too (made from the crusts that weren’t good enough for Dylan, humph) and it was crispy and rustic!

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Andrew: Looks perfectly delicious for an adult’s breakfast even. 🙂 Even at such a young age, Dylan is quite discerning about his food – he much prefers the 4 Leaves raisin loaf to the one from Breadtalk, which I fed him once when I brought him out with me to Toastbox for my favourite kaya toast set breakfast. He is quite the bread-lover and occasionally enjoys buns from Mugiya too! Just look at him delightfully savouring his breakfast below:

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Jasmine: Thanks Granny for giving Dylan so many happy memories of food! We like to say he is a greedy baby but he is growing so well!

Maternity Clothing Rental

Jasmine: Andrew insists that this is a post he can’t participate in.

Anyway, when I was expecting Dylan, I wanted to look fashionable and try out maternity styles (something quite different from my second pregnancy, where I’m trying to stay in my regular clothes for as long as possible.. haha), but not spend a bomb on things I would only wear once, such as maternity evening gowns and cocktail dresses.

As such, even I am a bit half-hearted to share this great little secret- a Singapore store that allows expectant mothers to rent brand-name maternity clothes!

The premise is simple- if you like something at the store, you can rent it or buy it. The pricing structure offers two options: take a package which will entitle you to a certain amount of store credit per month, or rent pieces a la carte.

The price tag on each piece states both the full price and the rent (usually about 20-25% of the full brand-new price). For brand-new pieces, the cost can be quite high, in the three digit range, as the store carries higher-end labels such as Maternal America, Japanese Weekend and Seraphine Luxe (for evening and occasion wear). For pieces that are not brand new, the price will be marked down depending on the condition of the piece and how many times it has been rented out. The markdown can be extensive, sometimes up to 50-60% of the full price for a brand new piece.

When you rent a piece (for a month), you have to pay the full price. When you return the piece in good condition, the remainder will be refunded to you.

I went on an ASOS maternity shopping spree as I knew I would need formal dresses on a daily basis for work, but there were some things that I only wanted to wear once or twice, like jeans or a formal dress.

Here are some of my picks from the store. I’m guessing most people will be curious about the prices, so I’ve tried to list the prices as best as I can remember but due to the passage of time and too many baby to-dos (for both Dilly and his unborn sister) clouding my brain haha, do forgive me if I’m not entirely accurate. Also, the prices may strike some as expensive, but I think it’s ok given the quality and comfort:

1. Maternity jeans (full price $190, rental price $80)

Most people would consider this a wardrobe staple, but as I prefer dresses, I only wanted these jeans for dress-down Fridays as well as my Tasmania trip, where we would be doing alot of walking.

These jeans were comfortable (think stretch waist band instead of button up) throughout the Cradle Mountain trek.

imageThe great thing was that they were nicely tapered and just the right length too. The store does alteration for a nominal fee but they also used to sell these metal studs with super-strong adhesive that you could use to instantly alter a hemline. I regret not getting those, even for my regular wear.

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2. Maternity cum nursing dress (full price $190, rental price $40)

One thing that I now realise after having gone through one pregnancy is how useful it is to buy maternity dresses that can also be used for breastfeeding. Usually, these will have cleverly concealed nursing access at the side or hidden under another layer. This dress was one such versatile option and my only regret was not getting it earlier- it accommodated me through the 17kg weight loss after birth and made discreet breastfeeding easy.

There was also a navy blue polka dot print, but I have quite a few of those in my wardrobe so I went for this instead:

The “Super Cute” romper, complete with a star cape, was also from the store. We bought it for our superhero baby to commemorate his first month, but turns out he likes sleeping on the job.

 

3. Cocktail dress (full price $90, rental price $50)

As it turned out, Andrew’s brother got married when I was 7 months pregnant, so I needed dresses for both the morning tea ceremony and the dinner banquet. For the morning, I went with this cocktail dress and paired it with a laser-cut leather necklace bought from a weekend market in Sydney years ago:

I liked the fishscale pattern of the dress and the mixed metallic hues gave it a nice party look while not being too obvious about the baby bump.

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(This is me at 6 months pregnant)

4. Evening gown (full price $690, rental price $160)

This was one of those big ticket items that didn’t make sense to buy for a special event only to never wear it again. As the rental was for a month, I timed it such that I could wear it for both Andrew’s brother’s wedding and our maternity photoshoot.

The gown is quite versatile. It has two loops on the back so you can thread the sash through. Hence, it can be worn on one shoulder, as a halter, as off-shoulder sashes or as a strapless dress. My favourite was the one-shoulder look:

Stills from our shoot.

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And one from the evening of Andrew’s brother’s wedding banquet. Random but I love the way my makeup artist did the makeup and hair. Usually the only special treatment my hair gets is erm, shampoo. Haha.

Andrew: Dearie looked just so ravishing and gorgeous in that evening gown! Never seen a more beautiful pregnant woman before 🙂

Yes, I did refuse to participate in this post and always tell Dearie that our blog is becoming increasing more ‘niche’ from being mostly about nice date places in its early stages to now very specific topics like self-made toys. Heh. On this post, I just have some comments to add that given that I’ve heard women many years ago say that they don’t want to have kids because maternity fashion just suck (and it’s a valid concern – but probably not the main concern), I’m glad that maternity fashion has moved ahead – or perhaps it’s just that Jasmine is so resourceful – if you drop her an email, she’ll probably be able to give you a list of online shops where you can order and custom make stylish maternity wear (at a (high) price). (Jasmine: Nonsense, my prices where got high… Careful or your comments might suddenly vanish, dear!)

Playgyms: Petite Park at City Square Mall

Jasmine: We decided to bring Dilly to Petite Park at City Square Mall last week! Not only is it an eco-friendly mall, it is surprisingly kid-friendly too. More on that at the end.

We started off two doors down, with lunch at the budget-conscious, kid-friendly Saizeriya. The staff were prompt and friendly to Dylan, and for busy parents with their hands full handling kids, there is a call button on every table that you can press for assistance, instead of futilely waving your hand trying to attract a waiter.

Food was very decent given the price range. My chicken doria (baked rice with cheese and chicken) was tasty, creamy and filling.

To give you an idea of the pricing, mushroom soup is just $2.90! Paired quite nicely with the crispy, savoury garlic butter bagettes! There is also a drinks bar where you can have free flow soft drinks, coffee, tea and Milo (though sadly the machine was out of order that day) for just $3 top up.

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Andrew: In addition, the carbonara was $6.90 and the escargots were $5.90 for six – the escargots were deliciously buttery and garlicky, perfect for bread and good for the price! Definitely going to come back again. Our rather elaborate meal with drinks and a few starters (incl potato wedges for Dylan) cost us only $30. Coffee really sucks though. Heh. And yes, bring back the Milo! I actually witnessed one of the restaurant patrons complaining about the lack of milo to the waiter and asking her to serve him free flow milo! Singaporeans are the most demanding customers!

Jasmine: Unlike Hokey Pokey at Millennia Walk with its amazing array of make-believe play areas , this one has more interesting active play areas, which are designed and imported from Japan, such as the carousel (but meant for older children who can hold on independently) and the ball pool and balloon cage connected by slides. I actually intended to visit SingKids at Vivocity, but after close Internet photo comparisons, I happily realised Petite Park at City Square Mall had the exact same play structures and was much nearer to our house to boot!

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And the good ol’ staple bouncy castle. We only brought Dilly in when it was empty, and he loved jumping in it and making it bounce!

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Jasmine: The highlight for Dylan would have to be the balloon cage. This was essentially a netted area with fans blowing in to make the balloons float.

Very clever use of space too, as you could have a view of the entire play area and the space under was converted into a den for life-size foam building blocks. I would probably have capitalised on the darkness and done something glow-in-the-dark, though.

IMG_5320 IMG_5322For more safety-conscious parents, all the Japanese structures were padded, making it very safe for staircase-loving babies. (Andrew: This is where I felt it was better than Hokey Pokey in Millennia Walk. I felt like I could just let Dylan run all around here on his own and he wouldn’t get hurt.)

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Andrew: What I really liked about this space was that it wasn’t some toy you could just buy and place within your own home, but it was something creative and not replicable in your own home. Dylan was quite mesmerised by the balloons when he first went in and just sat there – staring at them. I guess that’s the same as why the TV attracts him too – moving images and sound capturing his attention.

IMG_5342  Almost impossible getting a Daddy and Dylan shot coz Dylan was too interested in chasing balloons. Ah well, at least he wasn’t chasing girls again.

IMG_5338 Darn cute! He was chasing after a balloon.

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IMG_5323Jasmine: Connected to the balloon cage was a series of three slides and two more ball pools. Nice fast route to get down, though I thought it would have been even more fun if the slides were of d ifferent heights or gradients.

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Jasmine: Not to forget the usual smorgasbord of kiddy ride-ons. I found the blue rubber cow quite endearing (maybe I was craving Ben & Jerry’s) but Dilly thought otherwise- see how mournful he looked when I tried to sit him on one for a picture.

There were also a couple of merry go rounds, the one with horses would be better for younger children as you can push them slowly, and the pink-and-white striped one in the background of the fourth pic, which kids have to push themselves on and can go super fast.

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Jasmine: And this old standby, the Fisher-Price rocking horse, which Dylan loves getting on at every indoor playground and toy store, which granny now wants to buy for him… But my house where got space? And also, um, it doesn’t go with my color scheme. Sorry, I know that’s superficial.

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Jasmine: Another play structure they had, which proved quite popular with the kids both big and small, were these “roller coasters”, made of undulating tracks and a ride-on. Dylan was too small to go alone (we were afraid he would tumble off as it sped down) but had such a blast with his Dada escorting him.

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Andrew: I was really tempted to let go of him and let him have fun, but I couldn’t – guess I’m still the more protective kinda dad. Heh. He really had a great time though on this toy!

Jasmine: Although we went for the active play areas, Petite Park’s make-believe play area was not to be scoffed at, either. There were train tables, musical instruments (including, unusually, a concertina which had several kids quite entranced by the sound and  movement) and a lineup of cutesy kitchen sets.

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Jasmine: I somehow thought that Dylan would be too young for imaginative play, but he was super-attracted to the wooden food table, especially the pizza set (with Velcro toppings) and the cake set, the layers of which were held together by magnets and which had fruity decorations that could be poked into the topmost layer. (Afternote: I found the same pizza set by Melissa & Doug on Amazon! I’m still on the lookout for the cake set though. I saw some pretty and affordable plastic ones while Christmas shopping for baby girls last year but I would really prefer a wooden set for durability and aesthetics. Call me old school, handling the weight and feel of wooden toys is quite a different experience from plastic.)

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Dylan also tinkered for a long time with all sides of this revolving wooden activity cube..

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And busied himself pushing this minimalist pram around, sometimes getting himself into tight little spots.

IMG_5430 Also, a cubbyhouse which Dylan spent quite a long time in, and revisited too. He loved peering out from the various windows. Perhaps I can make something similar from a cardboard box!

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Speaking of cardboard houses, this grocery store might be worth making too! Dylan loves going grocery shopping with us. I like to think it is a multi-sensory experience of sights, smells, textures and colours, but in truth, I suspect kids just love riding in the supermarket trolley. Anyhow, the “Grocery Store” canopy can be reversed to say “Lemonade Stand”, and although Dylan was too short to stand behind the counter, the tubs of fruits were at the perfect height for him. No surprise then, that he picked out his favourite banana "(or “nana” as he calls it) and put it in his shopping basket right away. Heh.

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This “nana” tastes weird, Mum

Jasmine: Ending off with the one and only family selfie we took at Petite Park! We aren’t very good at angling our camera for selfies but at least Dyl is smiling for the shot. At $18 for 2 hours on weekends, its pricing is average in the costly world of indoor playgrounds. However, the convenience of it being a 7-min MRT ride from our home means we might be back at some point. There’s also Daiso there- my new favourite “toy department”! (Andrew: Oh, better Daiso than Toys R’ Us.)

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Andrew: We should find a weekday to come back – it’s only $10 for unlimited play – though I’m not sure how long I can last beyond 1.5 hours at playgyms. Heh. City Square Mall is also an extremely baby-friendly place with wide aisles, lots of kids’ shops, family rooms on every other floor, and even seating for kids within the toilet cubicles!

Playgyms: Hokey Pokey@Millennia Walk

Jasmine:During weekends, we like to spend time as a family and do special things for Dilly, like bringing him out to playgyms!

I used to think that indoor playgrounds (or playgyms, as they’re sometimes known) were overpriced gimmicks, and that children would be much better off at free outdoor playgrounds, the beach etc. However, since becoming a parent, I’ve realised that the best kind of time out is where both parties win: the child is happy and immersed while the parent is comfortable- something that I quite honestly would not feel if I were sweltering in the sun at a park or beach. (Andrew: You’ve gotta get used to it at some point, Dear, cos once our little boy + girl get older, we’re bringing him outdoors more – my best childhood memories were at playgrounds and beaches – Pasir Ris Park being my favourite! The only compromise is perhaps we can bring him in the evening, when it’s less hot.)

Entry fees are pretty steep on weekends, averaging $20-25 for 2 hours of playtime at most places. A search repeatedly turned up Hokey Pokey @ Millennia Walk as one of the best playgyms in town. [Andrew: Coincidentally, a male colleague and I started talking about playgyms at lunch today – yes, I know, what a manly topic right – and I found out that him and his wife do enjoy bringing their 16 month old son to playgyms too! Their favourite is Fidgets at Grandstand, which only costs $10 for unlimited play. That’s going to be our next stop!]

There are roughly two types of play at playgyms, active play (climbing structures, ball pits etc) and make-believe play (pretend houses, dress-up stations etc). Hokey Pokey’s undoubted specialty is make-believe play. Just a point of interest also that I visited Toys R Us a few days later (to comfort Dylan after he got a jab) and realised that many of the rides and toy sets at Hokey Pokey cost a few hundred each! Yikes!

Andrew: Another benefit of bringing Dylan to play gyms, which cannot be replicated at home as easily, is the socialisation and getting him comfortable around strangers. When we first brought him to Blue House, he was rather clingy to us (and there was no-one in the play area!) and I realised that we needed to do was to bring him out more. He’s been much better so far, until we now have to chase him to keep up with him – more on that in our post on The Petite Park @ City Square Mall.

Jasmine: Behold the make-believe mega play area:
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This little “shopfront”was quite a hit with the children!
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Dress up station for boys and girls
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I can imagine this being a little girls’ heaven, but I also saw little boys having lots of fun “cooking” and selling things at the “shop” too- and why not, since imagination is gender-neutral!

There was also another awesome make-believe section with train tables and car ramps.
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This is a glimpse of the locker area, shoe benches and a bar counter where parents can hang out while supervising older children. From this bar, there is a full view of the play area for older children, while the section for younger tots like Dylan is at the end, since parents would have to accompany these younger children anyways. (Andrew: Like I said in earlier posts, I can’t wait for the time when I can just ‘release’ my child in a playarea and chill out at the bar with a cuppa.)

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And a quick look at the party room:
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There was also an active play area, dominated by the huge ball pool, with a castle and swing/ slide set nearby.

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A ride down the slide with Dilly! Later realised it wasn’t such a bright idea coz the little one inside me might have been jumping around. Heh.
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But Dilly was thrilled!
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The castle set near the ball pool. We were too big to enter so Dylan crawled in himself and didn’t even seem to miss us. Heh.
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Rides area
There were at least a dozen rides and vehicles that children could choose from, both 1-seater and 2-seater types!
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Play area for younger babies

Having a play area for younger children is really useful as older kids tend to be quite boisterous and frankly, self-centred, especially in the absence of parental supervision. This does not stop older children from entering the area, of course, but it does help in reducing their numbers, making it safer for the littlest ones.

In addition to the usual smaller ball pool and activity tables, there was also an interesting tunnel structure with what looked like the mother of all sensory bottles:
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This was also where Dilly met a friend, four-year-old Kayla, who ignored her fourteen-month-old brother and played with Dylan instead haha:

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And here’s our dear son, smiling at girls once again

And a very weird baby-sized box with lid whose purpose seemed to be to entrap young children.
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Result? Dylan, all tired out after an hour:
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Andrew: Honestly speaking, I was extremely exhausted too by the end of 1.5 hours there that I wanted to end the play early. Somehow 1.5 hours in a playgym is more tiring to me than 1.5 hours in an actual gym. I wonder why…

Jasmine: Family selfie in the ball pool! Look how exhausted Dilly looks! Better for us, oops, as he fell asleep within 5 minutes of leaving Hokey Pokey and allowed us to do some shopping for upcoming baby showers at nearby Marina Square:

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