Wednesday, March 4, 2015

RideSafer travel vest: A safe car-seat alternative.

Have you ever traveled with little ones to New York City, or anywhere else where you have to rely on taxis? Do you carpool with other parents, who don't always have an extra car or booster seat? Have you ever tried to bring a car seat on vacation? Since we moved from Minnesota to Singapore with our little one, I have experienced every one of these situations. As a Minnesota mom, I am used to driving my own vehicle where my daughter's car seat in properly installed to insure her safety. However, while we're living in Singapore, we don't have a car and we have to rely on public transportation (mostly taxis and friends' cars) to get us from point A to point B. It's just not practical to drag a bulky car seat and a 3-year-old from place to place, having to install the car seat every time. This is especially true when you need to bring a stroller with as well. Can you imagine trying to juggle all of this EVERY time you need to do a quick grocery run, go to a play-date, get to school, etc.?! No way, man.

Recently, I found the perfect alternative to our bulky car seat. The RideSafer Travel Vest is a convenient, portable, and legal way to ensure your child's safety in a vehicle when a car seat just isn't an option. It's crash-tested and suitable for kids as young as 3 years old, and at least 30 lbs. I carry our RideSafer Travel Vest in my bag with me everywhere we go in Singapore, and it just slips on like a jacket when we need to hop in a taxi. Once the vest is on, you simply thread the seatbelt through the vest's shoulder and lap straps, and click the seatbelt just like you would normally. Sure it's easier to be able to jump into your own vehicle, where your child's car seat is already installed, but when that's not an option, the RideSafer Travel Vest is the next best thing!

I have seen too many small children riding around in cars while completely unrestrained in Singapore. While that has never been an option for us, I have never felt safe putting our 3-year-old in only a seatbelt in a taxi. When I heard about the RideSafer Travel Vest, I had a million questions. Is the vest REALLY safe? Is it legal? Can I use it on an airplane? All of my questions were answered on the website's FAQ page, and after considering our other options, we decided to get one. Our 3-year-old wears her vest on the school bus, in our friends' cars, and every time we're in a taxi. Yes, I'd rather have my own car with Linna's car seat properly installed in Singapore, but that's just not an option. We feel very confident knowing our daughter is traveling safely each time we get into a taxi.

It was the videos on the RideSafer website that sealed the deal for me. The videos show the comparison between a child in a booster seat, and a child in a RideSafer Travel Vest. When I compared those videos to the video below of a child wearing only a seatbelt, the decision to purchase a RideSafer Travel Vest was an easy one to make.


Purchase Info:

Price - $110 - $149
Easily available online

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The dark side of the 3.5-year-old.

The day Linna turned 3 1/2 years old in Singapore.
Well, we're about a week into Linna being 3 1/2 years old... and I'm already over it. In just one short week, this kid has proven the strength of her lungs, vocals, and her ability to throw a record-breaking temper-tantrum. Papa Saigh and I have found ourselves just starting at each other in horror when the 3 1/2-year-old gets into one of her "moods", while I'm pretty sure we're both thinking...

A. How quickly can I make up an excuse to leave the house?
B. Linna obviously gets her rage issues from you.

"Threenagers" sure are a treat.

Quick example: Papa Saigh skyped us from India yesterday afternoon when Linna got home from school. Our laptop is hooked up to our TV so Linna can watch her shows on Netflix. When Papa Saigh called, I had to turn her show off so we could chat with him. Papa Saigh watched with his jaw on the floor as Linna started screaming at me, and hitting me with "Snuggles" (her blanket). I chose to ignore it at first, but after a few minutes of her disgusting behavior, I told Papa Saigh that we'd call him back after I put Linna in a time-out. That time-out lasted 45 minutes, and how our neighbors never called the police is beyond me. I took away the 3 1/2-year-old's "Snuggles", and she completely lost it. With a bright, red, vein-popping face, she screamed "NOOOOOOO!" at me in an almost possessed-sounding voice, flung her body around, etc. I was sweating, but I stayed calm and didn't raise my voice... even though I seriously wanted to lock her in a cage for acting like an animal. I explained to her why "Snuggles" got taken away, and that when she calmed down we could talk about it. This tantrum definitely landed a top spot on Linna's "Epic Meltdown" list.

On this same day, I received a note from Linna's teacher saying that Linna had a "not so good day" at school. She said that Linna became angry easily, didn't want to participate, and just wasn't acting like herself. This, accompanied by the "threenager" behavior we've been noticing at home, made me realize that something needed to be done.

Linna's teachers in Singapore are really great about letting the children decide
what activities they'd like to do each day. The water-play table is on of Linna's favorites.

When I really take time to break down the situation and Linna's current behavior, I realize that we/I don't really let Linna make that many choices/rules. We simply tell her how it is, and that's that. Lately, when Linna becomes angry, she'll shout things at me like, "If you don't do that, I will put you in a time-out", or, "I don't love anyone anymore, because you are having bad behavior". I'm honestly shocked by some of the things she says.

While I think it's important that all kids know that their PARENTS make the rules (not the kids), it's also important to give our little ones the ability to make their own choices, so they feel like their voices are heard. I'll be honest and say that the "control-freak" side of me hasn't really let our 3 1/2-year-old make many decisions lately, when that's all she really wants to do. How can I blame her for getting so upset over me turning off her TV show yesterday to answer Papa Saigh's Skype call, when I didn't even ask her if it was ok before I did it? I'd sure be pissed off if someone just turned off my TV show without warning or asking me first. These kinds of things happen every day, and as busy parents we kind of just over-look our own behaviors toward our children... when it's our behaviors that they're learning from.

After yesterday's epic meltdown, I apologized to Linna for not asking her if I could turn her show off, but I also explained that it is never ok to hit... EVER! I told her that I would work on asking her questions and letting her make decisions, as long as she would work on using her words when she becomes angry or frustrated. I also made a point to let her pick out her pajamas, the towel she used after shower time, her dinner, and her snack for school today... you know, the things that really don't matter. These decisions make her feel valued, and her voice heard, which I'm hoping will make for a much more peaceful household. And if not, you'll continue to find me numbing the "threenager" pains with a bottle of vino.

Fellow "threenager" parents... we got this!

Making patterns at school with Miss Wallace. Another activity Linna loves to do!


Monday, February 9, 2015

Linna's first gymnastics class at mini-hops.

If you have a 3-year-old like we do, you know that they just never seem to stop bouncing around. While we were back home in Minnesota for a visit this fall, we decided to sign Linna up for a few gymnastics classes, so she could burn off some of her excess energy and learn something new. I did some online research on some gymnastics schools in the Twin Cities, and decided to enroll our 3-year-old at Mini-Hops in Minnetonka, as a few of my fellow Minnesota Mamas recommended it. Although I never took classes there, I knew about Mini-Hops when I was growing up. The school has been around since the late 1970s, so it's a pretty well-known school with a great reputation. Mini-Hops is also a non-profit, so it's not crazy expensive like some other gymnastics school in the Twin Cities.

(This is Linna at her very first gymnastics class at Mini-Hops.)

(In the big gym with Coach Stef.)

Linna was put in Coach Stef's "Just Me" class on Tuesday mornings. Coach Stef is the director of Mini-Hops' preschool programs, and is simply amazing with the kids. On Linna's first day, she grabbed Coach Stef's hand and headed into the gym without any hesitation. The kids would go from the smaller gym to the big gym during their 40-minute class, learning how to use the uneven bars, monkey bars, trampolines, incline mats, and the foam pit. The gym is set up in a parent-friendly way, where spectators can watch the classes in each gym from behind a glass window. Linna loved when her Nana and Bompa (my mom and dad) would come watch her classes, because she could show off her new tricks! The teachers and coaches at Mini-Hops do a really great job at letting the kids decide what they'd like to do, while encouraging them to try new things. The kids also learned from each other by watching their fellow classmates try new skills, which I feel gave our daughter some much-needed courage and encouragement (she's a bit hesitant to try new things).

Stretching with Coach Stef in the big gym.

Candy corn on the balance beam for Halloween week.

Walking up the wall with Coach Diane.

During the month Linna was at Mini-Hops, she learned how to do a forward roll on her own, and really built some upper-arm strength by practicing on the bars and rings. She loved the long trampoline in the big gym, and the ring-swing in the smaller gym the most! The best part is that Linna was completely happy there. She was always excited to go to class, and felt so proud of herself when we left. One day, Linna had a new male coach/teacher in her class, and while I thought that she'd be intimidated by this, she actually warmed up to him right away. It was nice having a little change of pace, as we've been used to having female teachers in Linna's dance classes in the past.

We are currently looking for a gymnastics school here in Singapore for Linna to join, but we'll be signing up for another round of classes at Mini-Hops when we're back home in Minnesota visiting this summer. If you're looking for a reason to check it out, Mini-Hops offers FREE trial classes for new students. So really, what do you have to lose?! We hope to see some familiar faces when we're there!

Linna's favorite... the ring swing!

Linna's Tuesday morning class at Mini-Hops.
Mini-Hops Gymnastics
131 Cheshire Lane, Suite #100
Minnetonka, MN 55305
(952) 933-2452
mail@minihops.com
www.minihops.com

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Homemade new york-style bagels and scallion cream cheese.

My finished product.
Everyone has that ONE food that they say they could live off of for the rest of their life. Mine happens to be everything bagels with scallion cream cheese... and Chipotle... it's a toss-up. When we were living back home in Minnesota, these two little food gems were very easy to come by. We lived within a couple miles of a Brueggers Bagels and Chipotle, and probably should have just opened up our own stores with the amount of money that I spent at these places. When we visit my sister and brother-in-law in Brooklyn, I go to the deli near their apartment at least once a day to get my everything-bagel fix, sandwiched with about an inch-thick of scallion cream cheese. I'm drooling as I write this.

Just my luck, two things Singapore does not have... New York-style bagels, and Chipotle. I've given up on my mission to find a Chipotle (or something similar) in this country because, let's be honest... you can't touch Chipotle (Ugh, the sour cream... NOM!). But, bagels on the other hand are flour, salt, and water. You'd think there would be SOMEONE in Singapore that could get it right!

Point blank... Singapore can't do bagels.

I've tried NYC Bagel Factory (they recently suspended/canceled their delivery service), Two Men Bagel House (Tanjong Pagar), Sacha & Sons (Orchard Rd. - Pretty expensive for what you actually get)... and while these places have some strong contenders... they simply are NOT a New York-style bagel and cream cheese.

So, I decided to make my own. When you miss something as much as I miss the crispy outside and soft inside of a garlic, onion, salt, and sesame seed-covered bagel, with a cold, creamy, and fatty scallion-packed cream cheese... you gotta do what you gotta do. After doing a quick Google search, I discovered that REAL New York-style bagels are boiled before they're baked. Interesting. I found a super simple boiled bagel recipe on the Sophisticated Gourmet blog, and as you can see, the recipe is simply dry yeast, water, sugar, salt, and flour (plus, your favorite bagel toppings)...

2 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

For full instructions, click here.

The 3-year-old eating her first bagel... a bagel that I made!
Rising bagels, pre-boiled.

I chopped up some fresh onion and garlic, and mixed it together with some sea salt and black sesame seeds (poppy seeds are illegal in Singapore - weird!). After boiling the bagels, I simply added the toppings to some of the bagels, then baked them. I realized while making these that Linna has never had a bagel before (blasphemy!), so I kept some plain for her to try. She loved them... especially the soft inside!

Simple ingredients for a fantastic scallion cream cheese.

As for the cream cheese, I simply chopped up some green onion/scallion (maybe a half cup) and mixed it in with a block of plain Kraft cream cheese. I had my doubts, but I'm not kidding you when I say that this cream cheese is AS GOOD, if not BETTER than the scallion cream cheese I've had in New York. I bought all of my ingredients at Cold Storage, and when I did the math, I figured that I made about nine medium-size bagels and a big tub of cream cheese for well under $9. The bagels are obviously better if eaten the day they're baked, as crust just loses it's crispness after day #1. This will be a regular recipe in our Singapore home, and I can't wait to gain another 10 lbs. (Gahhhhh!).

Now, if someone would only open a Chipotle in Singapore...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Linna's first week at dulwich.


Linna in her new school uniform.
Last week, our 3-year-old started nursery at a new school in Singapore. Although we absolutely loved her former school (Pasir Panjang Church Hill Kindergarten), we wanted to get her on a calendar similar to the American school calendar, and we wanted her to start going a little longer days. Dulwich College is a British school with a 400-year tradition, and a top international school in Singapore that practices a dual language model (English and Mandarin). We were thrilled when Linna was accepted to Dulwich, and it's an opportunity she just wouldn't get back home in Minnesota.

The school is very "proper" and traditional, but modern and brand spankin' new (they just opened in Singapore in August 2014). Everytime I walk into the school I feel like I'm stepping into Downton Abbey (one of my favorite shows). Everyone at the school is so polite, and they all speak with these beautiful "posh" British accents. Linna's teacher, Miss Wallace, reminds me of Anna Bates from Downton Abbey. She's incredibly sweet, and just like an English Disney princess. Linna absolutely LOVES her! There are about 16 kids in Linna's class, which is a big change from her former school, where there were just five kids in her class. There's also an assistant Mandarin-speaking teacher in the classroom as well. Linna is in the "Early Years" school, which Dulwich refers to as DUCKS (Dulwich College Kindergarten Singapore). The classroom is bright, airy, and there's hands-on learning around every corner. There's also a bathroom right inside the classroom with toilets and sinks designed just for these little ones. I can see why Linna loves being there!

The biggest changes with Linna's new school is the start time, transportation to and from school, and the distance the school is from our home in Singapore. Linna's former school was a 15-minute walk from our house, so I was at the school every day to drop her off and pick her up. Now, I have to put our 3-year-old on the school bus (which is more like a school van with seat belts, thankfully) every morning, and she takes the bus home as well. This was a huge struggle for me. Linna is ONLY 3 years old, and I still look at her as my baby! I've really had to learn to let go a bit and put a lot of trust in people I barely know (after I got their full names, phone numbers, and background, of course). That's difficult for any Mom. Linna is on the bus for about 25 minutes in the morning, and then a half-hour in the afternoon. The school bus has a driver, as well as an "Auntie" (a woman dedicated to the care of the children), which I really appreciate. During the first week, we had some frustrating glitches with Linna's bus routes/schedules, which left both of us in tears. As we start the second week of school, I'm hopeful that everything has been sorted, so we can start the week out on a positive note.

Dulwich has swimming as part of the school's curriculum, and
swimming day happened to land on Linna's first day of school.
How cute are the school swimsuits and swim caps?!

Linna and another student working very hard on the first day of school.

She was completely wiped when I picked her up after her first day.

Quite possibly the biggest change of all... our super early wake-up time. I've been so spoilt having a good little sleeper, and Linna and I rarely wake up before 9 a.m. Now, we are up at 7 a.m. every morning to get ready for school, and be outside waiting for the school bus at 8 a.m. Linna is completely wiped when she gets home from school around 1:15 p.m., so she's in bed by 6 p.m. every night. We've dropped her nap during the school week, but she did take a 1.5-hour nap on Friday after school last week. We also have her napping on the weekends if we plan on having her up past 7 p.m.

Linna and her teacher, Miss Wallace.

On the way to catch the school bus with "Pingu" (class mascot).

Linna's first "homework" assignment: "What I did this weekend".

Although I am struggling a bit not being at Linna's school every day, I am enjoying my kid-free time. Linna's new school is located waaaaaay up in the northwest part of Singapore (close to Malaysia), and since we don't have a car here, it gets expensive taking a taxi to the school and back home. I'm planning on picking Linna up from school at least one day a week, so I can get to know the parents and teachers in her class. Everyone has been just wonderful so far. Most importantly, Linna absolutely loves her new school. She's shed a few tears getting on and off the bus during the first week, but she's completely happy once she's at school. Linna's teacher even let Linna take home the class mascot ("Pingu" the penguin) during the first week of school, when Linna was having a hard time getting on the bus to come home. Such a sweet thing to do! I am really appreciating the communication from Linna's teachers as well, and I feel like I know what goes on in the class each day.

Onto week #2!

My baby taking a well-deserved nap after a full week at a new school.

GIVEAWAY: Prenatal massage from indigo organic.

*** CONGRATULATIONS to AMANDA WILCOX! You are the winner of a 60-minute prenatal massage from INdiGO Organic. Please email us (minnesotababyinfo@gmail.com) with your mailing address and phone number, so we can verify and get you all set up for your relaxing session. Thanks for participating everyone, and stay tuned for another giveaway coming very soon! ***

While I was visiting my in-laws in Mankato, MN over the holidays, I made another stop at one of my favorite salons in SW Minnesota. I've had a couple fantastic hair cuts and styles, and incredibly relaxing massages at INdiGO Organic, so I always find myself going back. Plus, I can pick up some healthy snacks for our 3-year-old in the shop that's connected to the salon. The owner, Shelly Bartlett, is a good friend of mine through the Miss America Pageant system, and her staff at INdiGO Organic is always very friendly and helpful. Did you know they have a certified organic deli too?! The deli will be under construction in January 2015 in order to keep up with the demand in SW Minnesota, but look for it to open early this year! They'll have soups, teas, juices, coffee, sandwiches, etc., and EVERYTHING will be certified organic. This makes me incredibly excited to get back to Mankato when we're home this summer!

*** To celebrate the amazing growth of INdiGO Organic, we're giving away a 60-MINUTE PRENATAL MASSAGE to one of you!!! ***

There's two ways to enter for a chance to win:

1. "Like" the Minnesota Baby Facebook page, and share this contest post with your Facebook friends (you must click "share" under the INdiGO Organic contest post on our Facebook page).

2. Comment on this blog post (below) with your first and last name, along with the city you currently reside in.

Two simple ways to enter, and if you complete both ways, you'll double your chances to win! You must enter by Sunday, January 18th at 8 p.m. (CST) to be eligible, and this contest is only open to US residents. One winner will be randomly selected to win a 60-minute prenatal massage at INdiGO Organic in Mankato, MN (valued at $60). The winner will be announced on this blog. Good luck everyone!


MORE ABOUT INDIGO ORGANIC:

INdiGO Organic is a clean air salon, offering salon and spa services as well as a lifestyle shoppe featuring USDA organic food items and lifestyle products. They incorporate eco-friendly practices to protect the future of the earth. They exclusively use Intelligent Nutrients hair and skin care products for salon services (free of sulfates, parabens, silicones, ethyoxylates, PEG, pthalates and synthetic fragrances). Every aspect of their salon is based on organic practices, designed to nourish the inner and outer beauty of their clients.

1541 East Madison Avenue
Mankato, MN 
(507) 386-0021

Thursday, January 1, 2015

One more year in singapore.

Happy 2015 from our Minnesota Baby in Singapore!
Since it's the start of a brand new year, I thought I'd update everyone on our family's plan for the coming year. There has been a lot of change and questions in our personal and professional lives over the last few months, and we finally have some answers.

1. We've decided to extend our stay in Singapore. When we initially "moved" to Singapore, we signed on for a 3-month visit. That 3 months turned into 2 more years, which would be wrapping up this coming March. However, due to another fantastic opportunity for Papa Saigh's career, we have decided to extend our stay in Singapore until March 2016. Our decision to stay was not easy, as we have really been missing our family and friends back in Minnesota. But for now, we need to focus on Papa Saigh's career and soak up another year of exciting opportunity for our family here in Singapore. Linna and I plan on coming home for a long visit this summer, and the 3 of us plan to be back home in Minnesota for Christmas.

2. Our 3-year-old starts college next week. Ok, not really. But Linna has been accepted into one of the top international schools, and will start at Dulwich College in Singapore on Tuesday. We are so excited about this change, as Dulwich has a fantastic Mandarin immersion program, and the school calendar is similar to the American school calendar. Dulwich is a British school with a 400-year tradition. This school offers swimming as a part of their curriculum, which is very exciting for our little fish. This opportunity is one that Linna wouldn't get back home in Minnesota, so we are taking full advantage. Although we have nothing but good things to say about Linna's first nursery-school experience in Singapore at Pasir Panjang Church Hill Kindergarten, we are excited for Linna to be able to attend longer days at school (8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.), so she's prepared for the full days that start in August. More about Linna's new school to come!

3. Will there be a Baby Saigh #2? We're working in this:)

As you can see, there is a lot of change going on with the Singapore Saigh family. It's important to go into the new year with a positive mind-set, no matter how much we miss everyone back home. We are so thankful for the opportunities we've been given over the last few years. We are incredibly lucky, and I am so excited to see what 2015 has in store for us!

Stay tuned...