My name is Janice, I live in Singapore, and I’m the mother of two wonderful little girls. I am a writer/editor and illustrator in the few gaps of time I have in between motherhood. I also work on Bikbik & Roro, my little shop of handmade toys, which I started on Etsy about five months ago. I’d been making toys locally for some years already, and finally decided to take up the suggestion of getting on a global, online platform. From my past experience with handmade toys, I now endeavour to make Bikbik, Roro and their friends as child-safe as possible, sewing with reinforced stitching, and avoiding the use of choke-able items like buttons. I like repurposing fabrics, and using Asian textiles like vibrant Indonesian batiks and cute Japanese prints.
What kind of house do you live in, are you and the kids happy here or is there anything you all terribly miss …?
We live in a fairly large house that has three levels and a garden. We love it here – it’s peaceful and quiet, and we live close to the beach, where there is a sprawling park with bicycle paths and a large playground. What do we miss? Perhaps more room!
Do you like to spend time on decorating your home and the children’s room?
Yes I do, but that would be if I had the time, which usually I don’t! When I was pregnant, I did have some time to do some decorating, like painting and putting up shelves and pictures, but now that the kids are older, I think I spend more time picking up after them and trying to have some vague semblance of neatness.
What are your children’s favorite items in your house?
I think it’s either the bed or the big chair in front of the telly. O, they love the bathroom too – they can spend ages in there blowing bubbles, making potions, and scrubbing the tiles with old toothbrushes (I know, go figure!).
What places in your new neighborhood do you like to go to for shopping?
There isn’t actually much shopping in my neighbourhood because we’re really on the outskirts. The nearest mall is some distance away, and we mainly go there for practical things like groceries or the bank. If I wanted to really shop, for books or clothes, I’d have to make an entire special day of it, because I’d have to take the train downtown. Thank goodness for mail order and the internet.
What's it like to raise a child in your town?
We’re very blessed to live where we do, close to the sea and nature. Singapore itself is largely a very modern, bustling, developed city, with lots of buildings, like New York or Tokyo, so we’re very fortunate to be able to go for walks whenever we want, or cycle or have fun at the playground. At the same time, Singapore has a very efficient public transport system in place, so it’s easy to catch a bus or train to wherever we need to go. Being a tropical island does mean that it’s usually pretty sunny, so we tend to wait till twilight before doing any outdoor stuff.
What is your idea of a perfect day with your children?
Doing anything pleasant for a whole day with my kids would be perfect. Perhaps having cheesy pasta and hot chocolate at some nice coffee house, and then going to a museum, or spending time at our favourite book and toy stores. Or just lounging about at home with no worries at all.
Can you tell us a funny story, quote or remark one of your children recently made or happened?
I caught my finger in the scissors just the other day. Later that evening my older girl told my Dad, “Your dear daughter cut her finger”. When my Dad, who’s a little hard of hearing, said, “Who?”, she answered, “The person who’s now my Mom”.
Are there any books you can recommend for parents and how to raise your children?
“The New Basics” by Dr Michel Cohen.
Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ values?
Hm, I shall have to think about this a bit as I’ve never had to formally describe them. Well, I try to teach them to
1. Be positive – I encourage them to expect good; to always look for the “silver lining”; to avoid speaking or thinking negatively about anything or anyone; to pray if they feel troubled, and then not spend time uselessly worrying.
2. Be confident – I praise and compliment them – within reason – on their achievements, their big dreams, their looks, their efforts, their good behaviours. I remind them that they don’t need other people’s approval to feel worthy, or good about themselves. What matters is God’s approval.
3. Have integrity – I stress the importance of being honest, sincere and fair in all their dealings and even in little things.
3. Be kind, compassionate and thankful – I remind them that we are in many ways so much more blessed than many others around us or in the world, and that we must help those who are less fortunate in whatever way we can – by giving of our time, money or resources. It matters to me that they care about all living creatures, including bugs and each other.
What kind of DIY projects do you like to do with your children?
We do many art and craft projects, like drawing, painting, clay sculpting and origami. The kids aren’t old enough to actively do any DIY house projects like furniture building, but they’re pretty good at bringing me things I need and passing comments from the side.
Any tips for keeping the house clean when crafting?
Try to throw away the stuff you don’t need anymore in the dustbin – RIGHT AWAY!
What do you do with all the projects your children made at home or in school?
I keep almost everything. I hang or stick them up somewhere if possible, or put them away in a folder with plastic sleeves.
What are favorite games in your home?
Hide-and-seek is much loved. But a lot of times it’s whatever the kids think up – spell-casting, dress-up, catch, and yes – scrubbing bathroom tiles.
Are there musical instruments in your house?
Yes. Besides the piano downstairs (I play, and am teaching the kids how to as well), we have several guitars, harmonicas, tambourines, xylophones, drums, and sundry noise-making devices.
What are all time favorite books for the children?
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I also read them classics like Jane Eyre, and David Copperfield, and poetry from my own book as a child, “Read Me A Poem”. It’s a beautifully illustrated book published in the 60s, and has poems by the likes of Blake, Tennyson and Frost.
What movies do your children like to watch, is there one from your childhood you would love to show them too?
I got them “The Rescuers” on DVD, which I remember loving as a child. They watch it again and again. They also like Pocoyo, Little Einsteins, and Trotro. I have to admit they quite enjoy the Barbie movies too. I avoid the “teenage/fashion/boyfriend” stuff, and let them watch the ones that focus on overcoming the odds, and caring for others, like “The 12 Dancing Princesses”, “A Christmas Carol”, “A Mermaid Tail”, and “Thumbelina”.
Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food’ lover or both?
Both :) I especially love making (and eating) pizzas and fruit pies and things involving eggs.
What kind of place do you like to go to on vacation with and or without the children?
I like to go to places with a lot of history, places with museums and old historic sites. If we are travelling with the kids, we make sure that the place is child-friendly and there are lots of things for them to do as well.
Tips for traveling with a plane or a long-time trip on the road with children?
Thankfully, both the kids travel well, with hardly any fuss. I make sure they have activity books to work on, and lots of snacks.