Review: Mr Benn (Kid’s Fest 2013)

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The story of Mr Benn, of the same named TV show and books starts off he same way as it always does. Mr Benn, who purportedly hates fancy dress parties, leaves his home at No. 52 Festive Road and visits a fancy dress shop where the purple hat wearing shopkeeper eggs him on to try on an outfit. Whilst in the changing room, Mr Benn (with two Ns, thank you very much) exits via a magic door into a costume appropriate adventure, be it to fight a dragon, or to save zoo animals from being abused.

 

I only know of the show because I’ve seen the books online and thereafter gone and youtubed this very ordinary man with extraordinary adventures. Plus, I love the fact he wears a bowler hat and speaks pretty darn good english. I don’t know why I never introduced Mr Benn to Q, come to think of it.

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When I found out Kid’s Fest was bringing in this show, I was a little apprehensive to take Q seeing as he has never heard of said bowler hat wearing dude but we decided to go anyway; Kid’s fest shows have yet to disappoint. And we were so glad we did.

Like the books and cartoons, this staging started with Mr Benn (with two Ns), receiving an invitation to a fancy dress party to which he was not keen to attend, because, well, you know, he doesn’t have anything to wear. Anyway, one day, he finds himself outside a fancy dress shop where a fez-wearing shopkeeper invites him to try on a cook’s outfit and when he leaves the changing room through a magic door, he finds himself with a palace crisis.

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The show blends several Mr. Benn episodes together seamlessly as they whisked us off to meet princess Annabella who refuses to eat and thereafter to help a harassed sea monster. The show hints at many other episodes, where Mr Benn becomes a magician, an astronaut, a cowboy and the brave red knight.

The four man cast steal the show with many musical numbers, each done in a different and distinct music genre. Impeccable stage timing, well placed magic tricks throughout the show meant that the kids were as wowed (how did he do that?!) as they were entertained.

Another strong show by the Tall Stories troop! Two thumbs up!

From the Sistic Page:

As if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared…

One ordinary day, Mr Benn receives an invitation to a fancy dress party – and comes across an extraordinary shop. As if by magic, the shopkeeper appears with an array of costumes, and shows him into the dressing room.

Inside is a mysterious door that leads Mr Benn into incredible adventures, full of dragons, princesses and sea monsters… Will Mr Benn ever go back to his ordinary life?

 

 

 

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That magic moment before bed

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As a full time working from home mom, I don’t have any defined office hours- not on most days, anyway, and work,  mummyhood and wifeyness all flows one into the other.

On any given day, I could be painting with Q one minute, then answering an email the next while waiting for him to take his bath, and then prepping my grocery list for a later-in-the-day grocery run while watching Evan practice his new fangled walking skills out in the garden. In between, I field calls, answer SMSs, pack the kids’ forever messy room and try and feather through the latest book I am trying to read, usually something on parenting, education or politics. I have help that sorts the unsavoury household chores (no more toilet cleaning, laundry and ironing! Yay!), and, for that, I never cease to be grateful. Small mercies eh?

But for all the here-and-there-ness that is my day, I relish when night rolls along cos there is simply something magical about bedtime with my boys. It’s a time that is different from all the other amazing moments in the day: quieter, calmer and more peaceful.

Evan sleeps earlier, usually about 830pm give or take and still has to be held pretty much to sleep. He snuggles into my neck, bounces himself (I joke that he needs to expend the last of his residual energy) and, for lack of a more accurate description, sings himself to sleep. It’s when this rambunctious child finally winds down, slows down and we spend those sacred quiet moments that are so far and few between in the day. Its when we say our goodnights, our night bedtime prayers and I talk about his/our day. And when he’s almost at sleep’s door, I put him down and he squiggles and squirms and enters dreamland.

The parade is the same with Q who now goes down at about 930pm, no thanks to school (yay!). We both squeeze in his little bed, he needs to arrange the stuff in his bed just so- the panda yiyi bought him, his blanket, the crocodile bolster Uncle James brought from Abu Dhabi… we talk about our day (I prod him along, he does the bulk of the talking), about what we are going to do the following day and funny things that stood out. Today, it might be Evan playing peek-a-boo, tomorrow might be a funny show he watched during TV time, sometimes its a made up story or joke. Then, we “say goodnight to God”, give thanks for the day, and pray for loved ones as we call an end to the day.

So, for a moment, or in my case, two- I get to slow down and go to a quiet place with my children. I get to go to a place where I  get to leave my crazy busy life aside for just a while- no emails, no calls, no interruptions; and just be mummy. It is a time that calms me down, allows me to catch my breath and soothe my soul.

Review: The Gruffalo

Most moms would agree that one of the must have books in a kid’s library is Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo. I am one of those Julia Donaldson living moms and said book is one of our favourite.

The inimitable book is about a clever mouse that outsmarts hungry fox, owl and snake and, beyond anyone’s belief, the Gruffalo too by, well, being just that tad cleverer than her hungry preys.

Needless to say, Q and I were really excited when they were part of kid’s fest 2013 (Jan/Feb) and bought our tickets early to watch the widely acclaimed show.

And the show did not disappoint! It was funny, engaging, fairly true to the book and highly musical. They kept the core rhyme pattern of the stories so the young Gruffalo fans (and their parents) were able to say the lines along with them; like when mouse says: Silly (old Fox), doesn’t he know? There’s no such thing as a Gruffalo!”


As someone who has read the book what seems to be a million times, I was surprised to find myself rooting for mouse more than I usually did. And even the Gruffalo was more cute, funny and cuddly- and hence a tad less scary for the younger members of the audience.

Q had an amazing time. He laughed, he recited lines, he played along and cheered for mouse when she made the Gruffalo run away in fear. Even our 10.5month old had a great time; he sat through the entire show, clapping alongside his brother and watching mesmerized through the musical numbers.

The Gruffalo stage version is much better than the movie, and to an extent, better than the book. Which, is a pretty neat feat.

Even if your kid has never read the book, take them anyway!

Cannot wait to do some Gruffalo activities tomorrow!


From the sistic synopsis:

Join Mouse on an adventurous journey through the deep dark wood in this magical musical adaptation of the award-winning book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (described by The Observer newspaper in England as “a modern classic”).

Mouse can scare hungry animals away with tall stories of the terrifying Gruffalo, but what happens when he comes face to face with the very creature he imagines? Let your imagination run wild with songs, laughs and fun for everyone aged 1 to 101!

Our firstborn is off to school!

Because we were ill when the new school term started, Q only started school this week. Since we knew he would not have the luxury of parent accompanied orientation days like the rest of his classmates, we did our best to psych him up as far as we could. We talked about how fun school would, be, that there would be playground time, oodles of new friends and, most importantly, it would only last three hours and he would still have time to go do all the fun stuff we used to do, like the zoo.

All things considering, he weathered his first day at school fairly well. He had never been to an accompanied class before after all. There was the usual waterworks but we claim small victories like the fact that he didn’t kick up a fuss on day 2, wearing his uniform happily and trotting off to class albeit in a more somber mood. Teacher reported some intermittent tears but we think he’ll get there at some point. He burst into tears when I came to pick him but calmed down by the time we got home and was quick to tell Evan he had a great time in school even if he cried.

The decision put Q in school was a deeply deliberated one as we considered homeschooling for a long time. After considering our family’s needs and lifestyle, we decided we would send him to school, but to one that was a more relaxed and play-orientated one. And most importantly, a school that understood that loving the kids is always more important to educating them, however crucial that was.

We were originally attending the accompanied cherrytots class at Cherrybrooks- which we loved, but their kindy at 4.5hrs, was longer than we liked. We settled on Gracefields Kindergarten @Gilstead. We really liked the school even if it is not Montessori. (We figured maybe I’d just go get certified. Heh.) The school is a Christian school and runs slightly more like an “old style” kindy with a more relaxed approach to education. The fact at they have three playgrounds and fees that did not cost an arm and a leg didn’t hurt. Also, seeing as our housing plans are still up in the air, their more central location suited us well.

So, In what seems like a twinkling of an eye, we begin this long journey of school. And because we live in a tiger mom rampant age of tuition center placement horror stories, school pressure related child mental meltdowns and suicides, and an incessant barrage of enrichment class ads that tell you that good parenting means packing your child’s day with classes; I do worry for my children but take heart that we are acutely clear that that is not how we want our children to grow up.

A child psychiatrist friend (and soon to be godfather to my kids since he’s marrying Godma) once reminded us that in the face of rat races that can sometimes begin as young as birth, it is our duty as parents to protect our children’s childhood. That they are still meant to climb trees, wade in rivers, catch ants and run through open fields of hope, freedom and unbridled joy.

To our dear son Quentin:

As you embark on your schooling journey, it is our deepest prayer and hope that you will never lose your sense of wonder about the world around you, or your natural curiosity for new things, your tenacity to keep at something till you succeed and the humility to know when to ask for help. And most of all, that you will always rest secure in the knowledge- deeply embedded in the depths of your soul, that you are loved unconditionally and supported unequivocally.

Mummies don’t get to fall sick, not really.

images-1I am fortunate insofar that I really rarely fall sick. I may have one or two off days but I usually bounce back fairly quickly; life never even misses a beat, I am none worse for wear.

I do my fair share to stay healthy: I eat fairly well, loads of vegetables, fruits and juice. My one big unhealthy indulgence is that I love Lemon Tea- I have been told that too much tea is not great for the system. I reckon, too much most things are bad for any system anyway. Plus, I always joke with W; that mummies are usually not allowed to fall sick. So we rarely do.

It was probably culmination of a crazy work schedule meets travel demands, add a stint of not sleeping well, a dash of far too many activities and festivities and a sprinkle of an over active mind that never stops that finally did me in. Shortly after Christmas, as we entered the new year, not long after W and Q fell to some bug, my body finally gave out on me and left me- even after a two week course of anti-biotics, at the mercy of what will be the worst sinus infection of my life.

I had 38-39 degree fever (chills, shivers and all) for almost a week over the new year, and could only medicate with the usual over the counter Flu and sinus stuff because most medical places were closed and I really needed a specialist cos clearly the GP level stuff weren’t working. During which time, we still had to cope with W being ill, Q’s fever not bating (took him almost five days to be rid of the bug, night sponge baths and all) and Evan generally being unhappy because Mummy could not carry him, Daddy was flat out and Kor Kor was banned from playing with the bub. Gratefully, our helpers stayed healthy, as did Evan.

I was pretty much a wreck: days flowed into nights into days. And my fever persisted, my sinuses were clogged beyond relief and I was developing awful sinus related headaches. I barely ate, felt nauseous mostly (from backdrip) and lost weight that I didn’t have to lose.

I finally got to see my Ear Nose and Throat doctor (the wonderful Dr. Leong Hoo Kwong at Mt. E, if you are interested); second patient, on the second day of the new year. And he took one look at me and figured out I was probably hit by some super sinus bug. W convinced me to get a sinus washout which he (under) described as a mere saline rinse. I almost had a heart attack when the nurse took out two ice-pick looking things and explained the doctor would have to break some bone before being able to do the rinse. I’m sure there’s some cool fangled medical term they use, but, as far as I was concerned, my husband signed me up to be half lobotomised. If I weren’t already LA-ed, set up and in pretty much sinus hell, I would not have signed the consent form.

To cut the gross story short, they did the washout, sent stuff to get tested (its streptococcus pneumoniae) and I was sent home with a new course of antibiotics, more meds, orders to rest rest rest and a hilarious offer for medical leave. Looking back, I should have taken it and given it to Evan; maybe he’d stop being mad at mummy cos she’s suddenly always holed up in bed.

It took another two days for the fever to bate sufficiently, another two after that for my nose to stop bleeding (finally) and as I write a week hence, I am much better, but hardly in the all clear zone. I am still blocked up though my osteopath and Rolfer have done wonders to help with the situation and in helping me ease those awful sinus headaches. I still find myself needing more rest than my schedule can afford.

In between, Q missed his first week of school (he was sick, we were sick, and we didn’t want to be that family that sends the runny nosed, coughing kid to school; worse, with the nose bleeding, nasally congested accompanying mom).

Upside to all this? I got tons of readings done, caught up on all the world news (mainly politics, which is a lot) and spent oodles of time with W, who was also, like me, banned from being around the kids much. We even manage to catch up on some TV shows. Small mercies.

My lovely across the street neighbour- who feeds us ever so often, was quick to remind me that this was probably God’s way of making me rest, slow down and take time for myself. I do many things well, resting is not one of them. As a full time working from home mom, my days are choker-block full. In any given day, I barely have time to be mummy, wife, boss, much less, to simply be me. As is, that I no longer battle housework on the day to day basis, is already absolutely wonderful.

And as I take stock of these very difficult past weeks, and knowing it might be several more before I am completely right as rain, I am grateful the kids are none worse for wear, if only a little cabin fevered. And that W is getting better. And that I have somehow toddled through the worst of work stuff whilst sick leaving the rest of the year fairly easy going (I hope). We have also figured out our work stuff, gave up on some huge projects since we have decided to prioritise our bandwidth better and planned several well spaced family holidays.

Not the greatest way to start the year, but grateful anyway.