Keeping It Rail In Japan

In which J and Little E take the Odakyu Limited Express ‘Romancecar’ train between Hakone and Tokyo.

P.S. Check out my trip to Japan here on my Owl Fly Away travel blog.


Sugar does not make kids hyper!

Dr Aaron Carroll explains what a randomised controlled trial is and debunks the hypothesis that Sugar Makes Kids Hyper.

However, he does mention that there is anecdotal evidence that children may have an observable change in behaviour after ingesting sugar[1], however, this does not prove there is a causal link between sugar and hyperactivity in children.

There are many other good reasons why sugary treats should form a very limited part of a child’s diet…but I do find that it is much, much easier to stop random, well-meaning grownups from offering sweets to my kids by saying “No thanks, this stuff makes them start crawling on the ceiling” instead of saying “No thanks, this stuff has little nutritional value and will ruin their appetite. And their teeth.”[2]

By the way, I do like the way that Dr Carroll cuts through the doctorspeak in his video. It’s important to have a doctor that is good at explaining things[3].

1. I draw your attention to the Great Yakult Caper of 2010. The Aged Ps still refer to that event in horrified, hushed tones.

2. The conversation usually goes like this:

Well-meaning auntie/uncle: AIYOH you are SO cute! Come, come, Auntie/Uncle give you sweet!

Debs: Oh, no thank you, they are not allowed any sweets right now.

Horrified auntie/uncle (loudly): WHY CANNOT

Debs: Well…they are going to have lunch soon…

Indignant auntie/uncle: Aiyah, never mind lah, they are just children.

Debs: (feigns desperation) Nooooooo…let me tell you – it’s because they will become (stage whisper) Too Active. (mimes shaky hands)

Understanding auntie/uncle: (nodding sagely) OOooooOOooh. Yah lah, it’s true. (Addresses children) You listen to auntie/uncle – too much sweets is not good for you okay? Now don’t go and give your mummy trouble har.


3. I used to work with a surgeon who would wave his hands mystically over patients, whiffle a little through his moustache and then wander off, leaving me behind to translate in a feeble stammer, “Er…h-h-h-he said that we’ll have to amputate that whole leg. Tomorrow.” Great communicator, that guy.

Disney’s Princess Film Festival Preview

Last weekend, my family and I were very privileged to be invited to a preview of Disney’s Princess Film Festival at Cathay Cineleisure Orchard.

Disney’s Princess Film Festival will be taking place from 16 – 27 November 2013 at Cathay Cineplex Cineleisure Orchard and AMK Hub. The film festival will showcase five classic Disney Princess movies and culminating in the release of Disney’s latest animated feature, FROZEN, on the 28th November 2013.

As part of the Film Festival, we attended a screening of Disney’s first full-length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Little E and J were very excited as they had not watched this movie before, so it was a real treat for them! There was also a fancy dress competition at the preview, so both the children were very busy the day before putting together their costumes.


Little E and J are all dressed up

Can you guess who J and Little E were dressed as?

(Hint: J is carrying the movie weapon of choice – a frying pan!)


Our current favourite Disney movie, Tangled

Yes! They were dressed as Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from the movie, Tangled (which will also be shown during the Film Festival)!

If you are wondering why both J and Little E are clutching fresh apples in all the pictures, it is because they were each given an apple as a token of welcome from the lovely Snow White, who was waiting to greet all the children.


Who’s the fairest of them all?

Both J and Little E were kept happily busy – munching on their apples – so when the good folks from Caricuturist came by, they were both standing quite still and made for great models. Adam, the caricature artist, was able to capture both J and Little E on paper within minutes, deftly sketching their smiling faces and adding details from their costumes. Watching him work was like magic! I think I shall be framing those pictures for their bedroom wall.


Caricatures, Princesses and Prizes

It was such fun to see so many little children decked out in all their finery. Some of the little girls even wore official Disney Princess costumes! In the picture above, you can see Sophie from A Juggling Mom dressed as Ariel from The Little Mermaid, and Anya from Life in the Wee Hours as Cinderella.

All the girls we saw at the Film Festival looked so pretty in their spangly dresses, so we were all absolutely bowled over when Little E won a small prize for her Rapunzel outfit! Yay, Little E!

Little E was absolutely thrilled to be called up to receive her prize -a Snow White Dress Up Kit – from Snow White herself. She couldn’t stop looking at it! I had to pry the box from her little hands once the movie started.

Both J and Little E LOVED watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Little E was so moved by Snow White’s treble singing voice, that she started to cry. Watching this classic film on the big screen brought back so many childhood memories for me! There’s so much detail in the film that I missed as a child, and it was amazing to watch it again with my own little girl sitting next to me.

Before the movie started, we were shown the FROZEN trailer, which you can see below:

I gotta say that it is looking pretty good! J and Little E were intrigued by the palace of ice and snow, and they laughed when Olaf the snowman appeared. Now that I’ve seen the trailer, I am really looking forward to the release of the new Disney film on 28th November 2013!

Disney Princess Film Festival 2013

Tickets to Disney’s Princess Film Festival are now on sale at Cathay Cineplexes and you can also buy them online here. Tickets are priced at $9 ($8 for Maybank Cardmembers) and every pair of tickets entitles you to a limited edition FROZEN sticker sheet.

What’s more, if you buy 6 tickets in a single transaction, you get to bring home a special Sparkling Princess Doll from Mattel. Cool, right?

I’m thinking of taking the kids to see Sleeping Beauty, or maybe Beauty and the Beast.

The Husband’s favourite Disney film is Aladdin – because of the Genie played by Robin Williams of course! It has nothing to do with Jasmine’s midriff baring outfit.

Or so I’m told.


Peep ta Drop a Rhyme

So, mah Gangsta playa Chris introduced mah crazy ass ta dis joint called Gizoogle, which is both a search engine n’ a White Person ta Gangsta language translator.

This joint is pimped out. I dropped a entire afternoon lookin up random shiznit on dat s**t. I even searched Owls Well n’ just sat there guffawin non-stop all up in tha way it reads.  (Best posts up in jive so far is dear Mista Special Snowflake n’ What Happens when we Waste)

For instant laughs, try readin tha Straits Times or tha Sydney Mornin Herald all up in dat s**t.

By tha way, tha translator is by no means curse free n’ is definitely not safe fo’ work. What you readin right now be a edited version dat removes most (but not all) of tha sbustin.

Weekend Special: Science Street Fair 2013 at the Science Centre Singapore

Hurrah, hurrah for Science Centre Singapore’s 35th Anniversary!

This year, the Science Centre Singapore is throwing a huge celebration with an Open House from the 8 to 11 November 2013, held in conjunction with Singapore’s first Science Street Fair. This is a carnival with over 100 stalls featuring science-related performances, games and hands-on workshops for all the family. Admission to the Science Centre is free during the open house, although some of the stalls and workshops require the purchase of coupons.

This is a brilliant time to visit, as there are a ton of brilliant science demonstrations going on at all hours and purchase of Science Street Fair coupons include discounts to other gated attractions such as the new Titans of the Past Exhibition (which is definitely worth a visit).

We started off our visit with the Fire Tornado Show, which takes place at 3pm and 7pm daily during the Open House. J and Little E were both awed by this impressive display which is contained within a 6 metre high glass and steel structure with angled vents at the bottom that draw in air to feed the flames and twist them into a tower of fire.


Feeling hot, hot, hot!

The Fire Tornado exhibit is an original masterpiece designed by local inventor, Dr Her-Mann Tsai, who is a fellow of the Science Centre Singapore. Yay, Singapore!

After the flames died away, we headed over to the Inflatable Planetarium. J and Little E are big fans of the BBC series ‘Wonders of the Solar System’ so I knew that they were sure to enjoy this chance to view all the constellations and planets which are difficult to see in our city-lit night sky. The Planetarium shows are at 11:30am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm and 5.30pm, and cost $5 a person (they were kind enough not to charge me for my two preschoolers).

There is a limit of 40 people per session, so we signed up early and stuck around to do some crafts. The kids busied themselves making a paper sundial and a pin-hole model of the constellation ‘Sagittarius’.



Afterwards, we were herded into the inflatable planetarium where J listened intently to the science educator as he showed us the different constellations and talked about the planets.  Little E just lay on her back, looking up at the little dots of light and pointing excitedly.

The projected images were amazingly clear and detailed, and we could even zoom in on the surfaces of distant planets and identify surface landmarks. It was like taking a trip through space!


Indoor stargazing is fun!

We then headed round the corner towards the Watson DNA Lab, where there are DNA Extraction Workshops at 11am and 3pm (with an extra session at 4pm due to high demand!) at $5 a participant. I was able to sneak a peek into the lab, where kids were extracting DNA from samples of fruits and grains.


Mini-Forensic Scientists at Work!

(If you take a closer look, you can see Meips and Noey with V from Life is in the Small Things! She writes about the DNA extraction workshop here.)

We decided to give the DNA workshop a miss as I felt the learning content would be too complicated for preschoolers. Instead, I let the kids craft their own double-helix strand to take home.


Fun rides, performances and displays

It was really fun exploring the various corners of the Science Centre! There was so much going on there, we didn’t get a chance to see all of it before it was time to head over to the Atrium for the Tesla Coil Chainmail Demonstration.


3.5million volts of electricity goes ZAP

This demonstration takes place 12pm, 5pm and 8pm during the Open House, and it is spectacular to see the purple fingers of electricity arcing through the air! J and Little E had to cover their ears because it created an incredibly loud buzzing noise.

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, a knight appeared clad from head to toe in heavy chainmail and clanked his way to a podium. All of us watched with bated breath as he was zapped with 3.5million volts of electricity[1].

It was amazing, watching this guy basically get hit by lightning and survive. You could even see the electricity passing through the chainmail and reappearing as tiny streaks of light from his fingertips.


Chainmail dude makes KABOOM!

Finally, the knight drew his rapier and directed the electricity towards two balloons filled with highly-combustible hydrogen gas. The balloons each exploded with a satisfying ball of fire to the combined ‘WHOOOOA’ of the crowd. AWESOME. STUFF.[2]

After this, we headed over to Snow City (admission is 50% off with Science Street Fair coupons) to freeze our noses tobogganing down an icy slope in a rubber tube[3]. There are also some super cool science experiments to take part in at Snow City, including making instant ice cream!

It was close to dinner so we decided to head off, although there was still so much to see and do at the Science Street Fair. We might have to go back again for another round!

Science Centre Singapore: 15 Science Centre Road, Singapore 609081

1.Well, all of us except my dear boy, J, who screamed “FRY HIM!!!!!”
2.It made you want to punch your fist in the air and yell “SCIENCE!!!!!”
3.I would only recommend this activity if you have never had the opportunity to see or play in snow before. It can be tedious after a while, especially if you are not adequately dressed for winter weather.

How to talk to your paediatrician


Home doctoring

Since I am a doctor and also a mummy, my friends ask me loads of child-health related questions.

I’ve noticed that they tend to ask these questions after having left the paediatrician’s office. It makes me think that these are questions that parents are normally too shy to ask their own paediatrician.

But, I understand. In Singapore, our healthcare system is busy, and appointments can seem rushed. Sometimes, parents may feel that asking too many question is an unnecessary waste of the doctor’s precious time, or maybe they don’t want to appear ignorant.

Parents, if you are reading this, do not fear your paediatrician! Your paediatrician is here to help you with your child, not question your intelligence or judge your immortal soul. [1]

Here are the top 10 questions that you should never feel afraid to ask during a paediatric consultation:

1. When can I expect my child to get better?

When kids are sick with ‘common’ ailments such as coughs, colds, or diarrhoea and vomiting, they will often remain unwell for a few days. Some colds and coughs can linger on for several weeks! Even with bacterial infections, it will take at least two days before the antibiotics take effect.

Ask your doctor when you can expect your child to get better. This will give you an idea of when a return visit to the clinic is necessary.

2. Are antibiotics really necessary?

A paediatrician or GP will often prescribe antibiotics because they feel that this is what parents expect. If you don’t expect antibiotic treatment for your child’s viral infection, ask if the prescription is necessary and find out if there are other ways you can manage your child’s condition.

3. Should I expect any side effects with this medicine?

All medicinal drugs have side effects, although most children will never suffer any problems at all. It is worth knowing the symptoms of common mild side effects as well as the signs of life-threatening ones so that you can monitor your child and make an informed decision on whether to continue or stop the medication, or when to seek help.

4. If my child has had an unpleasant reaction to a certain medicine, can he continue taking it in the future?

There is a difference between experiencing an unpleasant side effect to a medication and a true allergy.

If you child has experienced an unpleasant side-effect, the doctor might be able to help with that by choosing a different dosage or preparation or advising you on ways that you can administer the medication which will minimise the unpleasantness.

If your child experienced a true allergic reaction, then they can no longer take that medication or any other medication that is in the same chemical ‘family’.

5. How long should I continue to give the prescribed medication?

There are some medicines, such as antibiotics, where one must complete the entire course of treatment whether or not the child continues to exhibit symptoms of the illness. Other drugs, like cough syrups or paracetamol, are given only as long as the symptoms last.

6. Do I need to wake up my sleeping child at night in order to give them their dose?

Sometimes, the dosage instructions are not very specific. Find out how flexible the timing of the dosages are, and what to do if you miss a dose.

Tip: The best person to ask dosing advice is the dispensing pharmacist!

7. Can I give the prescribed medication together with over-the-counter drugs or traditional Chinese medicines?

It is usually not advisable to ‘mix and match’ different types of treatments. My grandfather, a traditional Chinese physician, always said that whichever method you choose to treat an illness, western medicine or Chinese medicine, follow the physician’s instructions strictly and do not mix the two.

Nevertheless, if you would like to include alternative medicine in your child’s management plan, it is worth discussing it with your doctor first. Most paediatricians are quite open-minded nowadays!

8. Why are we doing this test?

Before your child has an X-ray, MRI, or any potentially painful procedure (even a blood test), it is worth asking the doctor if the test is really necessary and how it is going to change your child’s management plan.

Make sure that the risks and benefits of the test are fully explained to you. You should able to clearly explain the procedure to your own child in order to prepare them for what is to come.

9. What are the results of the tests?

Generally, most parents are happy to assume that ‘no news is good news’. However, if you don’t receive the results of the tests after a reasonable length of time (a week) be sure to check in with the clinic.

10. Is there anything else I can do to help my child?

There are a host of simple remedies, therapies, and exercises that one can do at home to help boost the immune system, speed up the recovery process, and make your child feel more comfortable during the day. Knowing these things can help you to feel more confident in managing your sick kid at home and prevent unnecessary trips to the hospital.

Tip: Talk to the nurses, pharmacists and physiotherapists working in the same department. They have plenty of experience with sick kids and you never know what useful advice they will have to offer!

I hope this helps! Parents should never have to leave the paediatrician’s office without getting all the information they need to understand everything that is going on with their sick child.

1. Although, I suppose some people might argue that the cost of private medical healthcare would require one to sell whatever soul is in one’s possession. This is entirely untrue. Consultation fees are not equivalent to an immortal soul. Maybe part of one. But certainly not a whole soul in pristine condition. I (and most others in the medical profession) personally do not endorse soul-trade, but if you are considering entering into negotiations with a doctor who accepts souls as currency, please consult your pastor or priest.