Home Sweet Home

It is the crazy relaxing weekend, which means family night for us! OK, now with a little imagination, let’s just say that one tiny master bedroom is crammed with Cheeky Koko sleeping on the recliner, Daddy Joe and Baby B on the spare mattress spread over the floor and usually, the queen mother and her princess sharing the king-sized bed for the night. It’s a family tradition that we have always had even though the kids have their own bedrooms. It saves the electricity bill, and we get to chit chat a little into the night sharing with each other our ups and downs over the past week, and most importantly, because we get to pray as a family just before the sleepy fairy ushers us into the snooze land which is really special for us.


As we shushed the kids to quiet them down after their noisy sibling chatters and kiddie jokes, Baby B suddenly asked to join his big brother at the recliner sofa and as he climbed next to Cheeky Koko asking his brother to cuddle him to sleep, he also asked Cheeky Koko to sing some bedtime songs for him. Being the ever unconventional and creative brother that he is, Cheeky Koko sang the Old Macdonald Had A Farm song with a twist – good ol’ cow’s “moo moo here and moo moo there” was replaced with a cold-blooded iguana as the farm animal which “lick lick here and lick lick there”, and as Pumpkin Mei-Mei laughed uncontrollably over her brother’s creativity, Daddy Joe who was half asleep already remarked sternly, “it’s bad singing, Koko, so bad… I can’t even sleep anymore. And any of you boys and girl who continues to talk will just have to go back to your own bedroom!” and the room fell silence at once, not before Pumpkin Mei-Mei laughed even more hysterically over the bad choice of her brother’s bedtime lullaby.

Good night, OH!” and so, with a gentle tug, Baby B hugged his new soft toy OH to sleep and ever so quickly, like an angel. And I am quite certain, somehow his dream tonight will be filled with an adventure with OH from the latest DreamWorks Animation movie, HOME, which we were simply privileged to catch just before the school holiday is over, all thanks to Paradigm Mall at Kelana Jaya, as part of its on-going commitment to contribute positively to the community it operates in.home2

As a busy working mother, attending events are a rare luxury when normally I’d rather be spending my weekend with the three happiest little people of mine. But we love movies! This movie is all about finding one’s home and perhaps, even a sense of belonging and optimism even when things do not pen out the way we want in life which makes it a great story for family with kids of any age, and even for the 15 underprivileged children from the Nalini Rumah Kasih Home in Kelana Jaya who were invited to attend the preview screening of the blockbuster at GSC.home5

I have invited my two boys to watch this movie together (since I have just had a mother-daughter date with Pumpkin Mei-Mei just over a week ago for the Cinderella movie). Along with the children, we were treated to a deliciously crunchy yet moist and tender fish and chips brunch from Fish & Co. Paradigm Mall before we were ushered to an instant photo booth that was decorated with adorable characters from HOME. As an icing to the cake, Baby B was overjoyed to have received the very-lovable, misfit alien OH character soft toy from the organiser as a souvenir too.home3

As the movie title suggests, it is all about discovering that home is where the heart is, and where one finds love and acceptance – which drives home the point that Paradigm Mall endeavours to be the mall where everyone feels at home and welcome and that the mall’s continual commitment towards the society at large extends beyond its physical building into the heart of its surrounding community.

Yummy brunch courtesy of Fish & Co.!

Yummy brunch courtesy of Fish & Co.!

If you are an animation fan, HOME, starring big name stars like Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Steve Martin and Jim Parsons will be released in Malaysia on 26th March 2015. It is about the adventure of a girl named Tip and her new-found alien friend OH as they embark on a journey to discover the meaning of home.

As everyone finally snoozed away in their respective dreamland, I looked around our tiny room squeezed every corner with one of the five of us either on the floor, on the bed or on the recliner sofa, I thank God for this tiny home of mine, where love is shared everyday many times over, especially when a classic nursery rhyme is sung imperfectly and peppered with an iguana from a brother for his toddler brother.

That’s HOME, in every sense of the word for me.

Blocks of Fun

I sat there sipping coffee listening attentively to some girlfriends shared about their recent vacations excitedly. One said the close encounter with a pride of lions at the Safari in Kenya was mind-blowing. Another showed us the latest LV Monogram she had bagged from a recent trip to the Europe. The more outdoorsy one took out her phone and showed us scenic photos of the beautiful snow-swept plains in Hokkaido. Noticing that I haven’t said a word yet, they all turned to look at me.  I asked shyly, “does blocks and blocks of Lego count?”


Okay, so all of my holidays destinations in the last few years and the next few years may not be very glamorous but where can I possibly go with my small set without going broke at the prospect of flying five big and small persons, finding a decent accommodation without being squished like a pancake and feeding all five constantly hungry stomachs?

One possible answer is in LEGOLAND Malaysia at Nusajaya, Johor. The theme park offers the opportunity of seeing the miniaturized Lego version of some of the iconic landmarks in Asia (without the need to physically fly everywhere to see them) and packs in wholesome family adventures, only if you don’t mind the heat, that is.

tajIt’s as if suddenly I have a “Kiasu” disease (a originally Singaporean Hokkien term which describes an irrational fear of losing in a socially competitive situation) that I need to emphasize this, but folks, this is the FIRST Legoland Theme Park in Asia and I am super-proud of this fact.

We stayed at the Grand Blue Wave Hotel at Johor Bahru city centre which was a 30 minutes car journey from the theme park because The LEGOLAND Hotel located at the theme park was still under construction. The hotel room we had was a suite with its own living room, dining table, a small pantry and good TV channels. Staying in a suite was a really good decision as the kids needed room for their energy, while the parents needed room to get away from their noise momentarily. 😛

We bought the entrance tickets online from LEGOLAND website two weeks before our trip which came with an early bird promotion of 20% saving off the normal price, but apart from the saving, we almost kissed the ground for our smartness because we discovered that we could also skip the really long queue to buy tickets at the park entrance with our own printout tickets. Just imagine, we just strode through the entrance passing the human traffic effortlessly, pretty much the feeling one gets whenever one zips past the long jams at highway toll plaza (with a smirk and feeling very intelligent) because we have the SmartTag!

Frankly, if I were my kids’ age, I would go bonkers at the sight of Lego blocks everywhere!  While we hadn’t noticed there were over 40 interactive rides, shows and attractions, the overall experience somewhat seemed more of an utopia for younger kids below 10 years old.


First of all, there was the gigantic LEGOLAND toy / souvenir store selling Lego products of all sorts – Lego toys, even the small bricks in different colours , stationery sets, magnets, tees and other goods. We must have spent there close to an hour as it was near impossible to drag the kiddos and their dad out of the store. Daddy Joe claimed that he was actually very busy comparing the price of the stroller fan he wanted to buy for Baby B to rid of the heat, but really, I can’t explain why we have got a Dark Vader mini figurine travelling with us in our car now. 🙂

It’s best to visit LEGOLAND with your own stroller fan or portable fan as the park has not planted enough trees or placed sufficient canopy for shades and the fans they sell in the store costs 30% higher than the ones sold elsewhere. We felt the intensity of the scorching heat at noon time and were mostly sweaty and dehydrated throughout the visit. It is partly the sunny weather to blame but really, the park would do much better if it could install more shades and some mist fans.

For the two older kids, the LEGO® TECHIC was quite educational. It was like a Lego buffet where kids get an oversupply of Lego blocks to build models, be it castles, cars, skyscrapers and whatever they fancy and bring some of them for a strength test. There was also a splashing fun ride on the outdoor but because the queue was so long (estimated to be 45 minutes waiting time) we had no choice but to skip it.

Most of the rides are mild, perhaps they are mostly catered for younger children

Most of the rides are mild, perhaps they are mostly catered for younger children

On that note, because we were there during the school holidays, most of the rides were minimally 45 minutes in queue time. Coupled with the heat and lack of shades, we just gave up trying to get on the queue for many popular attractions such as the LEGO® Studio 4D and some of the fun-tastic rides such as the racy, crazy and 18-metre high Project X that Cheeky Koko and I so wanted to try.

He and his papa did go on the Kid power tower at IMAGINATION which was a self-drop ride where you propel your own seat upward to top of the tower and then let go of your vehicle rope which would then drop you down the tower.

Kid Power Tower

Kid Power Tower

While Baby B took his cat nap, I also took Cheeky Koko and Pumpkin Mei-Mei on some of the rides such as the TECHNIC® Twister, Dragon’s Apprentice and Pharoah’s Revenge. The rides were really tame and may not be thrilling enough for those seeking adrenalin-pumping kind of excitement.

Just when I was about to write-off Baby B’s ability to partake in the fun we were having, Lego Duplo playroom appeared right before us, giving him his own pint size dose of fun in a playground filled with Duplo characters.

The most impressive sight had to be the MINILAND, whereby replicas of some of the iconic cities in Asia were constructed using millions of bricks, powerful creativity and amazing level of detailed workmanship. This is where working moms with three kids who cannot even build a castle and a house like yours truly should not attempt this at home for the lack of imagination and patience.

Twin Towers

Of course we also caught a glimpse of The Death Star, the famous icon from the Star Wars saga.  This was only a temporary exhibition but that the model is constructed from more than half a million LEGO® bricks and is the biggest model ever made.

After a long day of witnessing how imagination can literally build a city and in this case, a whole theme park, I am convinced that the occasional pain sustained by my feet as I step on yet another small piece of Lego bricks strewn on our floor is worth it (Ouch!). Why, I am even inclined to think that buying Lego is an investment and not just a toy, because you are investing into the imagination of your kids. Who knows, a potential architect, engineer and imagineer of the future can well be groomed starting with playing Lego blocks, one block at a time!

Tree Huggers

The sun had barely stretched its first beam of lights and lifted its rounded belly off the eastern horizon when we woke up to pack for our first trip to the National Park located at Pahang just a few weekends ago. Correction: We DID pack our bags the night before but you know how a mother with three kids would never pack enough?


So while I was still deciding if I should wear the black Dorothy Perkins leggings or my old faithful Gap jeans for the jungle trekking, Daddy Joe had already shoved us out of the front door grabbing both pants and my rattan basket filled with snacks in one hand, while cradling Baby B who was still fast asleep on the other hand and drove us Northeast bound for a wonderful 3D2N trip of discovering the hidden marvels at Taman Negara, one of Malaysia’s oldest and most pristine rainforests that boasts of lush tropical greenery as well as a variety of animals and insects.

With my brother’s family joining in the school holiday trip, the entire scenic self-drive road trip was filled with endless cheery chatters and silly jokes shared between five wonderful tweens / teens, four grownups and of course a babbling toddler.  After a four-hour drive, we reach the Kuala Tahan jetty when all of the kids could not contain their excitement anymore when we told them that we would be going for a boat ride.

River Taxi

River Taxi

The boat ride lasted only for a minute because it was merely to cross the river to the Mutiara Taman Negara Resort which was just across the jetty but still, the half-dozen city kids were thrilled!

We have booked two adjoining chalets overlooking the green forest at Mutiara Taman Negara. There was a little deck at the back of the chalet and we discovered wild boars track which was a little like a thrilling Indiana Jones moment for the kids. There was some shrieking, some oohs and aahs but mostly, with their wild imaginations of the possible danger, they quickly ran back into the chalet before one could even say Run!

First, a wild boar appeared right in front of our chalet, then a group of them made a happy gathering out of our place!

First a wild boar appeared right in front of our chalet, then a group of them had a happy gathering at our place!

In the evening before we headed for our dinner at the Seri Mutiara Restaurant by the resort, we saw a group of wild boars appeared out of nowhere in front of our chalets. We were quite worried that they would charge at the kids who were frightened of the boars getting so up close and personal with them, but they were fairly peaceful and stopped at just sniffing around near the porch.

We had a good laugh during the dinner when we finally discovered that they had possibly come because Daddy Joe had unknowingly packed Baby B’s soiled nappy in a plastic bag and left it at the front door which he planned to take along to throw into the giant rubbish bin at the lobby. No wonder the plastic bag with the soiled nappies were gone! (On the hindsight, if the wild boars had really gobbled up the content of the soiled nappies, well… at least they were fresh and organic, weren’t they! :P)

The next day we were up for the real deal in the green. We completed a two-and-a-half-hour jungle trekking and discovered many magnificent tree species and wonderful tracks and traces of animals which made the entire experience the perfect geography lesson for the kids.

We went nuts spotting a Tapir next to our restaurant!

We went nuts spotting a Tapir next to our restaurant!

This National Park is also home to many wonderful home grown herbal medicines. Somewhere between hiking and paying attention to our trekking guide’s detailed explanation about the different plants we spotted, I thought the trip has made a good biologist out of my kids who now understood that the ginger flower was used to cure fever and that there was a type of leaf with antibacterial action that the locals used to stop bleeding and cured all types of pain.

Now if height is not your cup of thing, you might find it daunting that there is a canopy walk that stretches 400 metres in length and is suspended about 30 metres from ground. To us, it was the highlight and the ultimate experience of the trip as some of us conquered our fear of heights and did our walk in the sky. It was also exhilarating to soak in the bird eye view of the entire forest and felt in awe with God’s creation all at once!  

Do a deer, a female deer...

Do a deer, a female deer…

We also took to the river for an exciting thrills and spills time as the boat that we were in went past six mini rapids causing quite a delightful splash and cooling sensation!

To beat the heat, we ended the day with a really cold dip in a river called Sungai Tahan.

At this trip we found ourselves relax just by being away from the city, and it was good to let the green-loving giant in each of us awake amidst acres of lush jungle greenery. We learned a great deal about tropical forest and most of all, created a fond memory of being one with nature for the kids and grownups alike. rapid3

Have Kids (or Baby) Will Travel

Over our date night I shared with Daddy Joe one of my many unfulfilled dreams to kick start our much delayed backpack travelling to see other parts of the world, starting from where we are, at Asia, then Australia and if the piggy should so kindly have some leftover, we would advance to the Europe, the Americas and if I lived long enough, even Africa and the Antarctica.

When the kids grow up, right?” He mumbled nonchalantly while taking a big bite off the last piece of Bruschetta. Oh God, my man has an uncanny accuracy about my maternal obsession and had just burst my dream with reality check. He knew it was all about the kids NOW, that I would not be able to leave my kids with our family and just go on a trip with him as a couple without filling our luggage with an overload of GUILT and WORRIES. I’d miss them before I even leave the door step.

While this remains an unchecked item on my Must-Do-Before-Age-40 List shamelessly year on year, we have done fairly well fulfilling our love for travel by packing our kids with us on many local and low budget overseas trips rather seamlessly. We have conquered caving, picnic, waterfall, jungle trekking, few island and overseas trips and attended many weddings and covered even more hometown road trips quite successfully even when our kids had barely turned 7-8 weeks old. As an outdoorsy couple, our motto for relaxation is quite simply, Have Kids Will Travel!

There is definitely a way to make family trips with your baby (and/or kids) a pleasant one with these travel essentials:

1)      Muslin / Nappy Cloth. I was going to be a hard core earth mama when I gave birth to Cheeky Koko 11 years ago. I bought so many of these square muslin cloth nappies that I could have diapered all the baby bums in the neighbourhood. I dedicated the next few years to using them creatively and have found them to be just as useful to be clamped to the car windows as a sunshade, a blanket (just sew two pieces together for a bigger baby), a towel to wipe down the wet messy baby who is starting to self-feed, a nap mat on the beach, a diaper change mat while in the car or even as a puke soak-up cloth (ewww…).

2)      Baby / Kids Car Seat.

Invest in one that can recline fairly well because then baby can sleep longer and more comfortably on a road trip. Baby B uses one that is cushy, reclines almost 160 degree and comes with a sun canopy, love it.20130208_121357

3)      A Baby Carrier. The metal framed backpack style carrier is heavier to carry especially if you are carrying a heavy baby like Baby B but is more comfortable and airy to be in for the baby especially in hot humid weather. My only advice: Do your own heavy weight lifting to buff up those shoulder muscles months before the trip!

On the other hand, a soft structured baby carrier would be ideal if your destination was fairly cool, such as malls, museums or one that involved many sightseeing or leisure strolls. I truly think this is one  parenting gem to invest in as it is also a safety measure to keep your child always close to you (haven’t we heard enough of cases of kids that went missing in a crowded place?) and your gentle body movement would lull the baby to sleep easily. A good one makes carrying your baby a really comfortable experience especially if it is well constructed with thick good padding around the waist and shoulder straps.


A metal framed baby carrier is ideal for outdoor adventure

4)      A light umbrella stroller if you are travelling to modern cities and lugging all the victorious conquest from Prada store the whole baby nursery with you. But do Google a little on the city that you are travelling to if it was child friendly. Some cafes and shops in Hong Kong, for example, have such tight, narrow walking space between the tables that you would not be able to manoeuvre through the aisle easily.

5)      A battery-operated or car-powered mini fan for the car / the stroller so that you can kiss goodbye to the superhot Malaysia weather.

6)      Baby’s Lovey or whatever that makes the baby feels like home. Be it the Yellow Sponge Bob Square Pants or the Neon Pink Monkey, anything that can soothe the baby cry and save some parental sanity is so coming with us on that road trip!

7)      Baby snacks and food. It would be good to keep some snacks and baby food handy, as you will never know when you travel to a camping site or a third world destination that you cannot find any clean, decent baby food until the next stop at a town four hours away. You may not like the idea of feeding your baby with MSG and preservative laden processed foods served at the restaurants as well. I have travelled with a mini slow cooker to cook simple baby porridge overnight with some veges we bought from the local market. Otherwise instant baby food such as oat porridge would make an ideal nutritious baby meal. Remember to pack baby utensils, a small scissors to cut pasta, meat or noodles into smaller, digestible chunks, a feeding bowl with lid and a small jug kettle or sanitizing tablets to sanitize the baby bottles and breast pumps.

8)      Sunblock and bug repellent. When we do jungle trekking with our baby, our anti-leech trick is to buy a pair of cheap lady pantyhose, cut into equal length and wear it over baby’s hands and legs (yes, not very manly looking for baby boys I would say but unless you want your baby to donate blood to this blood sucking creature) and a bug repellent such as Mosi-Guard (this is made of natural ingredients and can prevent sand flies and mozzies too) over the baby’s body and the pantyhose. We picked up this wonderful tip from http://www.mysabah.com/wordpress/how-to-prevent-leech-bite/

9)    A first aid kit stocked with bandages, plasters, tissues, medicine for bruise/cut (we heart Pot of Gold, an all-natural, one for all cream we got online for our kids’ eczema, cuts, wounds, and etc), baby’s regular cold, cough, fever and pain relief medicines or suppository because the last thing you want is to be stuck in the jungle and your baby started getting a fever spike at 3am on the first day of your trip.

10)   Baby clothing. Daddy Joe used to freak out seeing me pack an overflowing supply of kids clothing on our trips. I have since perfected the art and developed this lean-packing formula to estimate the number of clothes for the little ones that has worked for us. Baby’s clothes = (Tops & Bottoms: No. of days x 2 sets each day) + (PJs and socks: No. of Day x 1 set each day)+(1 set of outer wear for cold weather)+(1 pair of shoes)+ 5 Diapers a day (can be a mixture of pants diapers for easy diaper change in the car)+Wet tissues.

11)   Kids & Grownup Clothes = (Tops: No. of days x 1 sets each day + 1 extra set for the emergency eg. A 4D3N trip would be 4 tops + 1 extra top) + (Bottoms: No. of days divide by 2 x 1 set + 1 extra set for the emergency eg. A 4D3N trip would be 2 bottoms + 1 extra bottoms) + (Socks: No. of Day x 1 set each day)+(1 set of PJ and 1 set of outer wear for cold weather)+(1 pair of walking shoes + 1 pair of casual slippers).

12)   If it’s a self-drive road trip which means I can pack my more into the car trunk, I would pack an inflatable mattress or a sleeping bag for the older kids as they are at the age whereby squeezing in with us on a king-sized mattress at the hotel will just seem too acrobatic, and paying for an extra room and extra beds will be too costly. We save where we can to squeeze more family trips out of a year’s budget. =)


An inflatable bath tub ensures a safe, fun and comfy bath for the baby

13)   On that note, when he was much younger, we also pack an inflatable bath tub for Baby B.

14) Swim suits and swimming floats for extra safety and fun.

15)    Baby toiletries and towel. I hate the idea that the hotel towels have been used by many a hundred, even a thousand strangers before us, and although it has been washed and some sanitized, I still prefer my own kids to use their own towel. On a practical side, the hotel usually furnishes only two towels per room anyway.

Never mind that the hubby would look utterly shock over the number of luggage he has to lug around. Men, they have no idea about our stress level if we could not exactly find what the baby might need in the middle of the jungle! They are easily stressed whether you under or over-pack, aren’t they? 🙂

Of course, depending on your travel destination, some places do boast of many kids-friendly features such as access to baby food and spare disposable diapers that one does not even need to pack more than the basic necessity such as baby clothes and own medicines.

It also depends on how innovative one is. We have travelled to places with just the baby clothes and bathed the baby in the sink and even in a cooler box! We have also passed our sleepy baby from one person to the other within the family when one’s arms gotten a bit sore to save the hassle of bringing along a stroller. For easy access to our baby things, we sometimes use a recycled carton box to neatly organize all the items in the car trunk instead of using a luggage.

I hope, like me, that travelling with the little ones become the contentment of your life!

Balik Kampong to Kota Bharu

I am married to a Kelantanese boy and admittedly being a city gal, I am jealous of him growing up on a beach-front town. Coconut For the most part of his childhood, he used to ride his bicycle regularly to a beach we still frequent these days called Pantai Cahaya Bulan to watch the strong waves lap against the heady outcrop of rocks by the beach side. Now this appeals to the romantic side of me because I can only recall growing up with buildings and automobiles and inhaling the polluted air of the city as part of my childhood!

Of course, being his wifey, here’s where the perks and privilege come in as to being able to leave our footprints (started with us two, then when the kids slowly came along, all 5 big and small pairs of footprints) on just about every beach in Kelantan over the years. One of our favourites is Pantai Irama near Bachok which is a lesser known beach there. irama

Kota Bharu (KB), which is the state capital of Kelantan and the hometown of Daddy Joe is a captivating gem with the serenity of a laid-back town quite unlike the others. It is a bit of an old meets new here with the old part being the many century-old wooden houses and the slow-driving drivers in their twenty years old Protons that clog the streets and come to a sudden halt to swing by the many small Keropok Lekor (think sliced, fried fish cake one eats by first dipping into sweet chillis sauce) and fresh coconut juice stalls along the roads. This is also an old town that is remarkably dotted with as many green padi fields as small obscure road signs hidden wearily behind the bushes.

Daddy Joe teaching local kids we have befriended on how to fly a kite!

Daddy Joe teaching local kids we have befriended on how to fly a kite!

The new being its own Tesco hypermarket, KB Mall, famous Thai and local Malay food restaurants at the commercial hub of the city to meet all the gastronomical and daily necessities needs of the locals and tourists alike. Somewhere in between are the royal palaces, several museums, batik stores and local night markets which add vibrant colours to the landscape of KB.

Being Malaysian, there’s always the food part – a must try is Nasi Dagang and Nasi Kerabu, which are the favourite rice-based food of the happiest little family on earth. Even Baby B loves them with his drooling stamp of approval.

Baby B is fascinated with how the grainy sand move under his feet.

Baby B is fascinated with how the grainy sand move under his feet.

While its landscape and town-planning are not exactly primed for major touristy attraction, the friendly smiles of the locals may just make it up for the unhurried and even a little sluggish pace of the town. sunset

This school holiday I am definitely heading for the beaches again with a fresh coconut juice in hand and watch my kids fly their kites over the clear blue sky of KB. I can finally stop being jealous as I partake in Daddy Joe’s love of nature with my own account of seaside indulgence albeit for just that few hours of admiration.