Tag Archives: advice

My Top 10 Toys to take on the Plane with Kids

It’s that time of year in Singapore. The international schools are on their summer break, its hot and humid (even more so than usual, that is!), and most of the playgroups and sports classes are on hiatus. Many of my expat friends have disappeared to Europe, US or Australia to see their families or take a long family holiday.

We are well-versed on the art of travelling with kids. More is better. Bringing out toys or snacks one at a time is a must. Keeping as much of the kids routine intact on the plane as possible (dinner, PJ’s on, brush teeth, story, milk, sleep). Xavier at 3.5 is easy, happy with an iPad, a movie, a snack. I still bring toys etc to occupy him, but on the most part he is a dream. Marcel at 1.5 is hard work. Stubborn, confident, distracted and wilful. Hence my need for oversupply of options to keep his active little mind engaged.

For those struggling to think of ideas of what to bring on a plane with their little ones, here are my top 10 Toys/Activities to take on a plane.

Playdough – It’s amazing how long I can get out of a couple small tubs of playdough and a few cutters and rollers!

Books – I always bring 2 lift the flap books for Marcel and one of Xavier’s favourite (longer read) books.

Stickers – They will end up everywhere, but will keep the kiddos entertained. Ideally one with a sticker book.

Mini Puzzle – The best we have found are small (9 piece ) puzzles you can colour in, great craft and activity for 3 +

Activity Books – Xavier loves activity books (word finds, mazes, colouring). Marcel will have a scribble of a wipe clean book, or a felt/magnet book works well.

A bag of small toys – I usually pack a lunch bag with a variety of small toys – takes ages for them to sift through.

Duplo or Lego – a small zip lock bag of Duplo for under 3, Lego for 3+ works a treat. You will likely spend a good deal of time hunting under the seats for all the pieces, but it will definitely give you a few happy moments with the kids!

Etch A Sketch – Just a small one. Marcel loves scribbling and pulling the lever to wipe the screen clean.

Finger Puppets – Easy to carry and interactive. Trying to get the puppets on their chubby little fingers is half the fun.

Giftwrap a New Toy – Gift wrap a new toy for the plane (matchbox car, dinosaur, something small). Only bring it out when all other avenues are exhausted. Unwrapping is half the fun.

FullSizeRenderHopefully this list will provide some respite!

Happy travelling.

My Neo Life



My Sick Boys. How I deal with illness.

As every parent out there, I hate when my babies are sick. Marcel and Xavier have just come through a chest infection/cold. Fever, runny noses, coughs. Hearing your little ones laboured breathing and coughing is the worst. I just want to do anything I can to make them better.

I’ve learnt a lot about how to deal with kiddies sickness over the last 3 years. I’ve learnt that if they don’t eat for a few days its ok and nothing to worry about, as long as they keep their fluids up. The worst thing to do is try to force them to eat. I’ve learnt that all rules are out the window. If they want to be fed at night, feed them. If they want to fall asleep on you, let them. If they want to watch TV for most of the day, fine. It’s all about keeping them as comfortable as possible and their minds off feeling sick. Medicate them. Putting off giving a baby ibuprofen or paracetamol makes no sense to me as it lowers their fever and gives them the chance to get into a deep and restful sleep. If they have a really high fever wearing one less layer makes sense, but taking any further layers off or lowering the air conditioning just gives them chills and will make them sicker. If they are asleep don’t wake them for any reason, their body is trying to heal.

My boys handle sickness in completely different ways. Xavier, even at 3, will wake multiple times during the night  and needs a lot of comforting. He always wants his daddy when he is sick. He will go off food for ages. Marcel sleeps and sleeps and sleeps. Yesterday I think he slept 18 hours of the day. He wants mummy and no one else. Sitting him in his baby bike and wheeling him around the house cheers him up.

I’ve found that blowing bubbles and baths are amazing distractions for both boys. Playing music. Icy poles and watermelon are two things they will always eat, and give them a little energy. I know now that a great way to lure them back into food is to cook their favourite things (even if they aren’t the most nutritious), and if they only eat 2 bites it’s a win and they are on the way to recovery.

And importantly, make sure to (try) to take care of yourself. The hardest thing is if you are sick concurrently with your kiddies. The best defence is to eat well, drink lots of water and sleep when you can. You will need your energy.

We are off to Sydney and Tasmania this weekend for a holiday and friend’s wedding. It couldn’t come soon enough.

My Neo Life



My Neo is ONE.

I read somewhere once that we are merely caretakers of our children’s lives. We have them for a few precious years where they trust us implicitly, are dependent on us for love, care, support. And then it all changes. They want to do things for themselves. They start to have their own opinions, beliefs, aspirations, goals. And ultimately their own lives.

Which makes the first few years even more precious. My baby, Marcel is ONE this week. No longer an infant. No longer waking during the night. Starting to stand and will soon take his first steps. Saying “Dadda” and “Hi”.

My eldest, Xavier is three and already asserting himself as an individual in his own right. He knows what he likes and doesn’t like. He prefers Daddy to Mummy (most of the time). He wants to go to the toilet on his own, put his shoes on himself, and pick his night-time story. He loves going to preschool, and doesn’t like telling me anything that happened that day (“what did you do at school Xave?”, “We played Mum, that’s all”). He loves dinosaurs, animals, riding his bike.

I still remember vividly when both boys were born. That feeling when you hold your baby for the first time. They were so alert, eyes wide open, staring at the world (and YOU). I love the squishiness of a newborn. The way they smell. It’s just so precious.

And whilst there is part of me that finds it so sad that those baby days are over for both my boys, the older the boys get the more exciting motherhood becomes for me. Seeing their little personalities emerge. The changes to the way they look. Their likes and dislikes. What kind of person they will become. (I just hope they are kind and happy). I’m excited to see them grow and develop.

But as I head towards the weekend and Marcels birthday, I’m going to hug my boys tighter. Consciously take snapshots of their interactions, the funny things Xavier will say and the concentration on Marcel’s face as he tries to stack blocks. Because it is all going to be over in an instant. And I want as many memories of these days as I can get.

My Neo Life



My Travelling Life.

Living the life of an expat means one thing for me. Travel. Travel to see your family, travel to explore your new country or region. When we lived in the Caribbean in our pre kiddo existence we would head off every 6 weeks or so. New York. Los Angeles. Toronto. London. Cuba. Jamaica. Sydney. The flights were sometimes long, sometimes delayed. I once booked a connecting flight and mixed my ams and pms up and spent a night at the Miami airport. I read a lot of books. Watched a lot of movies. Drank.

Life travelling with kids is so different. Delayed flights go from being a mild irritation to a quick calculation of adjusted sleep times. Snack, nappy and toy inventory. I no longer saunter around the airport buying duty free makeup, stocking up on magazines and sneak in a cheeky vino prior to the flight. I no longer wear a cute outfit and bring all my toiletries for a quick re do of my makeup before landing.

Having said that it’s not all bad. The upside constantly taking the kids on flights (Marcel had his first international flight at 12 days old!), is that you and they are well trained on the drill. You know what to expect. You know what to do to keep them happy on a plane. You know exactly what and what not to bring. And you also lose the anxiety of what will happen on the plane. Because you know after a few short hours it’s all over. You have arrived.

Xavier, at 3, absolutely loves flying. He knows the drill. He insists on bringing “Dog” his favourite toy who has been on every flight with him. As soon as he is seated he will pop his headphones on and watch a movie or kids programme. He has a drink and snack. Sometimes a nap. Does his colouring. Plays with his dinosaurs. Really, he is a dream. Marcel is at the age where his attention will only be on one thing for a maximum of a couple minutes before he is onto his next. He needs lots of toys, snacks, attention. My husband and I will take turns occupying him and given Xavier can amuse himself for a period of time, with any luck we can both can now (almost!) fit in a movie and eat our meal on the plane.

I have learnt to always bring more rather than less. Don’t just bring a bottle of milk and a toy. I have a Mary Poppins bag of epic proportions, crammed with toys, extra clothes, snacks, treats, IPad, books, colouring books, crayons, wet wipes. And always a change of clothes for Mum and Dad (I learnt that the hard way!).

I also learnt that the timing of the flight is critical. For us, night flights are avoided like the plague. The kids will sleep ok, but you never do. Arriving at your destination with two tired kids and two sleep deprived parents does not a fun holiday make. We love morning flights. Earlier the better. Waking the kids up for a flight usually means by the time you board, they are close to needing a nap. With any luck we can have both boys sleeping at the same time. Heaven.

I am still conscious that our boys can disturb fellow passengers on planes. I really try to keep them 100% happy to minimise the irritation to others (I have been on flights where I have received the eye roll when a single guy is seated next to us). I take great satisfaction when someone comments on how well they have behaved when we are disembarking. But you know what I have learned? If we do have a meltdown, if we do have a nappy disaster, if our flights are crazy delayed. We will still make it. We will still enjoy our holiday. And the people on our flight may be bothered by our crying babies, but they will still get wherever they need to. To their holiday, their business meeting, their home. And you are very likely to never see them again.

In three short weeks we are off to Tasmania for a friend’s wedding. We have a few days in Sydney to break up the flight and see family and friends on the way. My Mary Poppins bag will be at the ready.

My Neo Life



First Flight with two boys

My Expat Life

I currently call Singapore home. Over the last decade I have spent a few years living in Sydney, the Cayman Islands (a tiny island in the Caribbean) and more recently Perth. I have learnt through all the moves, the adjustments and opportunities to form new and lasting friendships that it doesn’t really matter where I live, your experience is really what you make of it.

To make life as an expat work there is one golden rule: You need to have the mindset that this is HOME. Don’t think you can completely replicate your old life. Don’t keep wishing all your family and friends lived closer. Don’t keep trying to think of excuses to head home for long trips. Don’t count down the years you expect to be here. It is hard, but as soon as you accept that this home, the rest can fall into place. You will still miss your friends and family. But you will make new friends. Thanks to the glorious advances in technology, there are a plethora of ways you can keep in touch with your family. You can (hopefully) head home frequently enough for quality time with those dearest to you.

I loved living in Perth. We had family there, close friends, a lovely house. And Perth is a beautiful city. The weather is gorgeous most of the year. So when a career opportunity based in Singapore presented itself to my husband Mark, it took a lot of discussion, and weighing up of pros and cons before we made the decision to relocate.

We have now been living here for over a year. The move came not without its challenges. A new-born and toddler in a new country made it difficult for me to get out to make new friends initially. I found an amazing number of mothers groups, toddler groups, music and gym classes, however a lot were at conflicting times to one or both of the boys nap times, or around the time of Xavier’s preschool pick up. But, after making it through the mist and fog of the new-born stage, Marcel, Xavier and I have hit a groove. Xavier has made some gorgeous little friends, loves his preschool, and has settled into life here amazingly well. Marcel is a contented little guy, at the age where everyday brings a new discovery. I have found new pursuits, new friends, new activities for the boys, a new routine. I’ve put myself out there, organised catch ups with other mums, found some new favourite cafes, an exercise class I enjoy (as much as I can really enjoy exercise!), and even joined a choir. I’ve learnt how to navigate the traffic here. I’ve found some beautiful places. I’ve put down roots.

Singapore is ace.

My Neo Life



Mumma Neo life. No Mumsy Allowed.

There are two little monkeys who consume the better part of my energy every day. Xavier (3) and Marcel (11 months). To say I’ve learnt a lot over the past 3 years would be an understatement. I’ve learnt I have patience I never knew an impatient person such as me could have. I learnt what is important and what isn’t. I’ve learnt that sleep is something I will forever be chasing (for me and those two kiddos!). I’ve never laughed or cried so much. I’ve realised that life couldn’t get any better. I’ve learnt that I have undeniably changed from the person I was before kids. And I’ve learnt even with all this change to my being, I am still me. And as important as it is to care for the needs and wants of my family, my needs and wants are important too. For my own well-being as well as theirs.

The best advice I can give any new parent is to always try to find time for yourself. For something you enjoy. For me, in the early days with one bubs, that could merely be a square (or four, who am I kidding!) of chocolate and a flick through Vogue when Xavier was napping. Sometimes it was a pedicure. Sometimes it was a coffee and banana bread at our local café on my own. Sometimes it was an hour watching my guilty pleasure – The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (no judgements!). It could be a night out with my girlfriends. Date night with my husband. Whatever was possible to ensure I could still feel like ME whilst looking after my little humans.

I have also learnt that there are some things from your before kids life you can enjoy together. The morning café ritual still continues for me, sometimes on my own, but a lot of the time with one or both of the boys. We order a flat white and babycino. Xavier colours and puzzles. Marcel flirts with the wait staff. I take a gratuitous pic of their cuteness on my iPhone. And its great.

And I have found it therapeutic to still, every morning, make an effort with my ‘mum’ outfit. Today it’s a printed Tshirt. Drop crotch pair of shorts. Denim vest. Newbark loafers. Comfortable, practical, but still kind of on trend. No Mumsy allowed. And I still feel like me.

My Neo Life