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Moving to Singapore with kids: welcome to our expat arrivals hall

First off, let us say a very big welcome to Singapore! It’s a small island with a big, welcoming heart for sure, and we know you’re gonna love it here. And secondly, well done for finding HoneyKids! If there’s something happening for kiddos and families in Singapore, then we know about it. #humblebrag But now the intros are out of the way, you’re going to need to know a whole lot of nitty gritty essentials about your new, rather warm home. So, sound the trumpets and then settle down with a cuppa to take in our essential guide to living in Singapore as an expat newb…

Where should I live?

The team at HoneyKids and Honeycombers not only in every kinda accommodation from HDB to landed house, but can also be found in pretty much every ‘hood on the island. Dive into our guide to the best fam-friendly neighbourhoods and then tackle your condo vs landed house dilemma.

My kids need a school: point me in the right direction

Lucky for you we have our very own HoneyKids School Selector, our online tool to nailing down the perfect international school for your family. But if you’re time crunched and need info, stat, then we’ve helpfully put together a whopper of a read about all things schooling in Singapore. And don’t forget you can also send your kiddos to local school too if that’s a route you’re keen to explore. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletters so you’ll be the first to hear about our next free and fabulous HoneyKids School Fair with HSBC.

Shopping! I need groceries!

Whether your craving international goodies from home or need to know where to get your general groceries from, we’ve got you covered. Hop into our guides on supermarket shopping, the best butchers in Singapore, where to buy the organic fare, gluten free shopping, conquering wet markets and even how to track down the tastiest bread on the island.

And if I can’t face cooking?

As a nation of foodies, there is never any shortage of fab places to eat, so work your way through these awesome eateries including kid-friendly restaurants (and a whole guide to the ones where kids eat free), hawker centres for families, date night restaurants, cafes that open early and the best coffee shops in the land. And our useful info doesn’t end there either: we’ve also got the best burger joints in Singapore, where to go on a pizza date with the kiddos, top eats around Orchard Road, the fluffiest babyccinos, the yummiest milkshakes and even a guide to the restaurants you can bring your dog to. And don’t forget to check out our fun read on how to order your coffee or tea like a local, and then print out our bucket list of must try Asian foods for the fam! Can’t be bothered to leave the house? Download these food delivery apps for hawker food delivered to your door!

What fun things are there to do in Singapore with the family?

In a nutshell: tons! Stay tuned to HoneyKids Asia for our weekly roundup of ‘what’s hot for families this week’ (published every Monday) and also our weekly guide to ‘things to do this weekend with the kids’ (published every Wednesday). On top of that we have an awesome 100 things to do indoors read, and its counterpart, 100 things to do outdoors. And if you’re still at a loss then try our guides to East Coast Park, Pulau Ubin, Coney Island, Sentosa, Dempsey Hill, Holland VillageChinatown, Fort Canning, Little India, Tampines, Watten Estate and Ang Mo Kio. We’ve also got a roundup of the best water playgrounds, the fabbiest neighbourhood playgrounds, playgroups for toddlers, after school clubs for kids, affordable activities, a mega guide to indoor play centres, hiking trails for families, a guide to the Park Connector Network, cultural activities, a temple trail and the lowdown on the best beaches and islands surrounding Singapore. And to go with all that you’re probably going to need the deets on all things picnic and the best mozzie sprays to buy for kids. Phew. Is that all? Hell no. How about board games for a rainy day, or easy activities to try at home like slime making, cool craft ideas and our monthly updated list of the brilliant exhibits for kids happening the island over?

And what about getting about between all these fun activities?

We’re utterly blessed on this island with an outstanding public transport system. Hop on a bus (most will let you board with a buggy these days), ride the MRT, grab a taxi (but don’t forget to bring a car seat: we’ve got an awesome guide on the ones easy to lug around with you), or, if you can bear to part with the eye watering COE charge (currently ) then get yourself a fam-friendly set of wheels. Car leasing is also an option, and, if all else fails, there’s always the bike sharing schemes to fall back on.

What else do I need to know?

Stick with HoneyKids Asia and chances are if you’ve got a burning question about something to do with life and/or kids in Singapore, then we probably already have the answer. Bookmark our useful articles including:

You need a holiday…

After all that unpacking and getting your new life started here in the tropics, we think you probably need a holiday. Whether it’s a family-friendly beach affair, fun-packed glamping trip, or a stay on a farm, we’ve got vacay inspo in (buckets and) spades. Island escapes, city breaks, girls weekends, romantic weekends: the list is endless. Head to our travel section for the full lowdown, and don’t forget to send us a postcard.

Now all you need is our 52 ways to take a mum time moment, and you’re all set.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follÎow us for fun moments on HoneyKids Instagram!

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VIDEO: Here’s why the Griff Kids are the coolest kids in Singapore

Seeing kids being kids, playing outdoors and getting into sports is something that we don’t see enough of in Singapore. That’s why when we found The Griff Kids on Instagram, we knew we had to click the follow button right away. At six and four years old (three at the time the video was shot), Ryder and Arya Griffin are dropping down halfpipes the height of a small house on a skateboard, medalling in wakeboarding comps in Singapore, and looking super cute doing it all.

Here's why the Griff Kids are the coolest kids in Singapore

Skateboarding siblings Ryder and Arya have been zipping around on boards since they started walking – oh, and they have a half-pipe in their backyard #goals

Posted by HoneyKids Asia on Thursday, June 13, 2019

It also helps that their parents are supportive. Mark, a competitive wakeboarder and instructor himself, is very familiar with the benefits of getting kids outdoors and onto the boards. Kim, on the other hand, is the kids’ biggest cheerleader and (hats off to you, Kim) doesn’t mind having a huge halfpipe in her backyard, a smaller one in her garage and a few ramps and rails on her driveway. She also loves the fact that both her children are extreme athletes and laughs about the fact that they have zero chill.

Although both kids spend a lot of time skating, Kim says that Ryder is a very good student. In fact, she says that he actually loves doing his homework. Whether it’s the focus that he’s developed from being an athlete or sheer interest in school, we know that that Ryder has definitely benefitted from being an active child.

Arya and Ryder are two cool kids!

Want to get your kids started in sports? Mark says that it’s always better if parents are involved. Because of Ryder, Mark, a wakeboarder, took up skateboarding as an adult. A sport, he says, is not the easiest to pick up when you’re in your 30’s. Although not all of us may want to hop on a skateboard, the easiest way to get involved is by showing support. By showing our kids that we’re willing to show up to practice with them, encouraging them to get up when they’ve fallen down, the easier it is to convince them to get up, get out and get active!

Thanks Mark, Kim, Ryder and Arya!

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Under the filter of #mumlife
Conquer Fort Canning Hill with the kids!
Tackle rugby lessons for kids at these clubs

Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us for fun moments on HoneyKids Instagram!

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Debunking myths around the Instamom: why instagram mums aren’t what they seem

It’s official. Instamoms have taken over our Instagram accounts. And seriously, what’s not to like? (Literally!) Cute chubby faces, little bodies stuck in adorable tiny outfits and baby kicks, charmingly decorated and spotlessly clean nurseries complete with sticker designs on their walls, not a toy or colour scheme out of place.

Even for people who aren’t parents, it’s probably hard not to creep on these perfectly curated images of a reality a non-parent might feel so far from. Just like how we would binge scroll through a Victoria’s Secret model’s page – it feeds our need for a crazy fantasy. At the same time, not knowing what their reality truly is like might create pitfalls for misconceptions.

As a Mom myself, I hope to clear up some common misconceptions about Instamoms, and hopefully shed a bit of light into our world as mothers in a modern world.

1. Once you have a kid, you instantly become an Instamom

Sorry to burst your bubble, but it isn’t that easy. It is true that once you have a baby, you immediately level up with Mama street cred. C’mon, carrying a human being to full term and birthing a living thing is possibly one of life’s greatest feats. But after that whole shebang, to be an actual Instamom takes a lot of time and effort and hashtags. This is not necessarily something all of us mothers have the time and energy for. Posting one or two pictures of our babies while we enjoy a moment’s peace on the toilet bowl is often the highlight of our day. We don’t do it for the gram, we do it for our sanity!

2. We post happy photos of our kids for likes and personal validation

Please don’t look upon us with scorn when we try to capture happy moments with our little ones to look back on. Don’t judge us when we rather not commemorate the massive poop explosions or embarrassing public meltdowns.

Yes, there are times when these snapshots might feature our faces with makeup on. But don’t you feel a little happier and more inclined to take a selfie when you have some eyeliner and blush on too? Now take that happiness and multiply it by about three or five times. That’s how happy we feel when we manage to slap on some face, with a hyper three year old breathing down our necks.

Most of the time, we really just want to share our joy with you. Many of my single friends would literally thank me for letting them have their daily dose of cuteness. If you don’t appreciate it, just swipe left and move on. We won’t take offence.

It’s not all smiles and sunshine all the time. Photo credit: Esther Tan

3. Looking at other Instamom accounts make us feel envious and competitive

Quite the contrary! We know what being a real mom means, and we share our struggles and a common understanding. On Instagram and other social media platforms, we often look to other mothers for inspiration, knowledge and encouragement. We understand that sometimes, our posts and captions are more aspirational than anything. We all have our own image of motherhood in our heads that we want to live up to, just like how you have your own image of success that you aspire for.

4. We feel pressured to do certain things because of Instamom culture

As a Mom, we can’t help but put our kids first because it comes to us naturally and instinctively. It’s literally in our biology. Call it #momguilt or #mommadness, but it’s definitely not Instamom culture that tells us to obsess over our kids. It’s innate and we can’t fight it! Our obsession might come off wrongly when we post about what school we are deciding to place our kids in, or which pediatrician we should take our sick kid to. But think about it. It’s not that far off from how you’d post a poll about with a picture of you in Uniqlo’s changing room about whether you should get that outfit, or if you should just ditch shopping and get bubble tea instead.

5. Once you become a Mom, you lose your personal identity

Not true. Rather than losing our identity, we simply take on an additional Mom identity in our multifaceted lives. After all, we are all not one dimensional beings! We switch from different modes and roles all the time, from being professional at work to casual lunches with friends, and nurturing Mom at home. There’s no denying that being a Mom is a dynamic identity and responsibility to take on. It’s easily the most challenging one for sure! But deep down, we are still the same. You might have to dig us out of the mess of diapers and wet wipes to find us again, but we will thank you for making the effort.

In the end, I guess we Moms are just tired of constantly being judged. What we put up on our Instagrams is really our prerogative, as it is for you and your own social media accounts. If you don’t like what you see, feel free to swipe it away or mute our accounts. We promise we won’t take any offence. We’ve been through much worse, trust me.

Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy:

Cheryl Tan of beadbadwolf talks about how embroidery and family intertwine
Jani Combrink, founder of Stork’s Nest Singapore is in our interview hot seat
The mis-adventures of a stay-at-home dad
Co-founder of Aerospring, Nadine Linneberg talks about how parenting changed her life

Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us for fun moments on HoneyKids Instagram!

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HoneyKids interview local children’s book author, David Seow ahead of the launch of his 45th book!

A fantastic children’s picture book can definitely make or break a successful bedtime routine, so we always do a parenting air punch when we discover authors we can rely on to supply a fun tale. One such author is homegrown talent, David Seow: author of no less than a phenomenal 45 kids’ books and counting! We recently caught up with him to grill him on his success, his famous friends and why his latest book, ‘The Royal Pup Pack’ has been written to highlight a very special cause…
Hi David! Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m basically a big kid. I don’t feel I’ve ever really grown up , and nor do I particularly want to, and that’s why I write kids’ books.

We know that you have written an amazing total of 45 children’s books! Where do you get your inspiration from for your stories?

When I first started writing, I got my inspiration from my niece and nephews. I also get inspired by the things I hear or see: a movie, a piece of music, or a funny word or a phrase. Ideas will often pop into my head when I’m taking my dog out for a walk to do his poopsies, including my story ‘The Pooping Princess’.

And out of all those books, do you have a favourite, and are there ones that have been particularly special to you?

Davids love of dogs AND the royal family lead to his latest story ‘The Royal Pup Pack’

My book ‘Blow a Kiss’ is one of my favourites. My mum gave a copy to the Duchess of Cambridge when she was in Singapore in 2012. Mum was interviewed about that by the London Evening Standard and the story was then picked up by Hello Magazine. Meeting the Duchess inspired me to write “A Day with the Duchess’ and ‘A Royal Adventure’ which were subsequently featured in Hello!, OK, Sunday Express and other various online publications around the world.

Besides writing books, what other passions do you have?

I like royal watching and collecting autographs, action figures and books. I told you I’m a big kid! I’ve given my books to Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Prince Albert of Monaco, The Duchess of Cornwall and celebrities including Chris Hemsworth, Charlie Cox, and celebrity chef Donal Skehan.

You’ve both self published and been published: which process was easier for you?

Both are challenging, however, you have more creative control with self-publishing the book with regards to the edits, the layout and the illustrations, as well as the marketing of the book. It’s definitely harder on the wallet when you are self-publishing though!

Your books are always beautifully illustrated! Where and how do you find your illustrators?

Soefara Jafney is the illustrator behind David’s new book

Thank you. My illustrators are geniuses! I worked with Enrico Sallustio on the first Sam, Sebbie & Di-Di-Di series, and Soefara Jafney on the new series, so I also turned to them when I decided to self-publish my own books. I discovered my two other illustrators, Keh Choon Wee (‘Race to Rio: Joseph Schooling goes for Olympic Gold’) and Mark Yong (‘Emma’s Elephant: Saving the Slow Loris’) at the Singapore Comic Con.

For all the budding writers out there, what advice do you have for them to see their ideas brought to life as a book?

You should join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). You’ll meet both published and unpublished authors there who will be able to give you some invaluable advice. Best-selling author Leila Boukarim is a member of the group.

I would also suggest that you attend the Asian Festival of Children’s Content: it’s organised by the Singapore Book Council and you’ll learn a great deal about the publishing industry as well as make some great contacts. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll walk away with an agent or a publishing deal!

We LOVE your latest royal-themed book, and especially the fact that it has been written in a way to highlight the issue of abandoned and stray pets. Is this a personal project for you? Are you a dog lover?

Kobe is David’s very best friend

Thank you! My dog, Kobe, saved me during a particularly dark patch in my life. Dogs are angels with fur. They don’t have hidden agendas. What you see is what you get. In this cold and sometimes harsh world, they have more love, loyalty and gratitude in their little paws than some people. I hate it when I see dogs being abandoned and abused.  And I am revolted by the dog eating festivals in Yulin China and Korea! Dogs belong in homes filled with love and hugs, NOT abused or abandoned and, most definitely, not on dinner plates. I’m hoping to donate at least part of my proceeds from this book to a dog charity.

Have you ever met any of the royal family, or any other famous people?

David’s books are in the possession of some rather famous people…

I’ve met Princess Diana, The Duchess of Cambridge, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince of Wales, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Prince Albert of Monaco, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Anderson Cooper, and Amanda Seyfried to name a few.  I’d really to meet Jennifer Aniston and Chris Pratt though.

Thanks for talking to us David! And if you want to get your paws on a copy of David’s brand new book, The Royal Pup Pack, you can bag your copy either on Kindle now, or get it shortly in good old fashioned print (check David’s website for deets).

All photography courtesy of David Seow

Like this interview? Here’s more we think you might enjoy:

HoneyKids junior reporters interview Mister Maker
Leila Boukarim: raising a sensitive child
Three kids, four published books and no helper: Madeline Beale juggles it all
Author Ben Cooper on his move from Hong Kong to Singapore

Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us for sneak peeks and fun moments on HoneyKids Instagram!

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Food delivery in Singapore: Deliveroo, Foodpanda and GrabFood

School’s out, kitchen’s closed, that’s the deal. After spending all day outdoors ticking off the summer holiday checklist, the last thing anyone needs is more time on their feet. Take a load off with these delivery apps. On top of school being out and rainy days in (indoor activities, anyone?), everyone’s lacking motivation to get dressed, let alone cook dinner. Hello, food delivery. All you have to do is load up the app, select the store and the meal you’d like and wait for it to get delivered straight to your doorstep. We’ve got quite the choice in Singapore, but which is the best? We’ve weighed up the options below…

Deliveroo

Have you checked out the new futuristic food market at Media Circle yet? Photography: Deliveroo via Instagram

This UK-based delivery service is hopping around to bring you food from the best restaurants. You can search by cuisine or by popular restaurants and meals, and there are no low-quality takeaway restaurants. Deliveroo Editions – remote delivery-only kitchens – have recently opened in Lavendar and Katong to serve food exclusively for delivery. For time-crunched working mums in need of easy dining, check out Deliveroo Food Market at Alice@Mediapolis. Takeout addict? Check out Deliveroo Plus to skip the delivery fee!
Delivery hours: varies with restaurants
Minimum order: up to $5 for orders under $12
Delivery charge: $3-5
Payment methods: Card only, you can choose to tip your driver
Good points:

  • Recognises allergy requests
  • Option to select family-favourites
  • Monthly subscription of $14.90 a month to enjoy free delivery on every order

Deliveroo, p. +65 3163 7074, e. support@deliveroo.com.sg
Deliveroo Editions, 114 Lavender St #01-15 CT Hub 2, Singapore 338729 and 332 Tanjong Katong Rd, Singapore 437107, Deliveroo Food Market, Alice@Mediapolis, 29 Media Circle; deliveroo.com.sg

Foodpanda

As the first on the Singapore food delivery scene, Foodpanda has secured a sizeable territory of more than 1200 restaurants. Rebranded from its neon orange to an electric pink and soon to be launching an e-wallet for easier payment, it even offers 24-hour fast food delivery.
Delivery hours: 24 hours
Minimum order: Varies with restaurant
Delivery charge: Varies with restaurant
Payment method: Cash, credit/debit card, PayPal
Cancelling: Cancel or change order within 5 minutes after placing an order
Good points:

  • Pick-up feature if you don’t like waiting in line or can’t meet minimum-spend for delivery
  • Around the clock delivery for midnight munchies
  • Largest delivery network in Singapore
  • Cash on delivery

Foodpanda, p. 6589 8669, e. support@foodpanda.com; www.foodpanda.sg

Dine Inn

If you fancy home-cooking but can’t bear to step into the kitchen, there’s an app for that too! Dine Inn allows home chefs and home bakers to set up listings for home-cooked meals and you can have them delivered, collect it yourself or even dine at the host’s place or have them come to yours as a chef for hire (that’s one way to get confinement meals!). You can even register to be a host yourself and set up your very own guerilla kitchen!
Delivery hours: Varies with host, 1h delivery time minimum
Delivery charge: $10
Minimum order: None
Payment method: Credit/Debit card payment only
Good points:

  • Home-cooked food
  • Hire a chef to come straight to your home

Dine Inn; sg.dineinn.com

GrabFood

Now that Uber has been swallowed up by Grab, Singapore has fewer ride sharing apps to shuttle us all quickly from one end of the island to the other. Grab for its part has branched out to harness the power of their drivers to deliver food as well as people.
Delivery hours: 7am – 2am
Delivery charge: Varies with restaurants with an additional delivery cost for each additional restaurant
Minimum order: None
Payment method: Debit / Credit Cards, GrabPay Credits and PayPal
Good points:

  • Offers delivery till late

GrabFood; www.grab.com/sg/food

WhyQ

Love to try your local Bak Chor Mee but find it hard to communicate with your local dialect speaking hawker? Can’t get enough of #hawkerculture? Just tap to tapao (takeaway) and get hawker food delivered to you from over 2000 hawker food stalls across 35 or more hawker centers islandwide.
Delivery hours:
Delivery charge: $1.50
Minimum order: None
Payment method: Card only
Good points:

  • Order in bulk (10 or more pax) for parties and events
  • Place orders from different stalls in the same hawker centre

WhyQ, p. 6914 2673, e. contactus@whyq.sg; www.whyq.sg

Heads up before you tap away…
Food delivery services claim to average about 30-35min delivery time, but as with any service industry it’s all about luck of the draw. Make sure you check the estimated time before you confirm your order as delivery services can get quite swamped during peak hours. It might take hours (even days or weeks!) for services to correct a delivery error… and even then your food might not have arrived. Most of the time these services are great, but as with all purchases: buyer beware. Have a backup plan or risk hungry little bellies.

Happy eating in!

Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy:

Family-friendly dining around Orchard Road
Best apps for parents: meal planners, family organisers, mindfulness and play dates
Best kid-friendly Sunday brunches in Singapore
What to eat in Singapore: 30 of the best local dishes

Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us for fun moments on HoneyKids Instagram!

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Farewell Singapore: you’ve been truly awesome

For once I am actually slightly lost for words. There are no more roundups to write, no more sneak peeks to take and no more kid-friendly hot spots to visit. My job here is done, and it’s a hugely bittersweet time for sure. I did think about writing my final swan song in a kinda ‘all the things I’ve loved (and the things that I’ve not loved so much)’ way, but ex-HoneyKids writer, Kate DiMarco, did that so eloquently that there was nothing more for me to add. How she felt? Exactly that for me right now. So instead here’s a little about me, my transformation from stay-at-home mum to editor, and how it’s never too late to make a career out of something you’re passionate about…

The backstory

I arrived in Singapore 11 years ago with a five-year-old and a four-month-old in tow, relishing the fact that I could be a stay-at-home-mum for the first time ever. I was as dazzled by my shiny new life as I was by the seemingly constant sunshine of my new island home. And life was good.

But there were also moments where crippling loneliness would creep in, self-doubt would rear its head, and, if I am honest, the boredom would be stifling. I had a third child in 2012, which definitely kept me busy and on my toes, but over the years so many of the accelerated but close friendships I formed here disappeared as quickly as they started thanks to the expat transient friendship cycle. I loved being home with the kids, but I also hankered for more than chatting to a three-year-old about who the best character in Bubble Guppies was.

All that changed when a bestie (thanks, Nicola!) tagged me in a Facebook post advertising an intern role at HoneyKids Asia: it’s funny how life works out!

So actually, what this final story is really about is not about me saying goodbye to this incredible island ahead of my relocation back to the UK, it’s actually me signing off by saying to all you mums out there that you do NOT have to be defined by your role as a mother, and that you CAN succeed not only in a fab career here in Singapore, but a new career at that. It’s never too late.

Put yourself out there

I started as an intern, and wrote my way to the helm of HoneyKids Asia

It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone, and if that makes you happy then carry on doing it. But if you are hankering for something beyond watching your child do a handstand in the swimming pool for the gazillionth time (“Yes, darling, I’m watching. That was amazing!”), then you need to get that CV sorted and start networking ladies.

Be loud and proud about your talents, and never be shy in coming forward when it comes to being heard. Join all the Facebook groups, hang out on LinkedIn, have coffee with everyone who offers (wine is even better) and apply for every job you like the look of, whether you think you’re qualified or not. One day someone will take a chance on you, like they did with me.

Then and now

My first PR event was to the Trickeye Museum, where I quickly had to learn the art of schmoozing

I’ll be honest, my first day in the office was a heap of conflicting emotions. Not only because I’ve just came from a seven year ‘sabbatical’, but also because it was my first experience as a bonafide writer. What did writers even wear to an office? What did mum writers wear to an office? What did mums who had never actually professionally worked as a writer before wear to an office? I ended up plumping for my ‘date night‘ dress, because that’s the one that didn’t have any kind of child-produced stains on it (and was also the one I wore for my interview).

I was a wreck on that first journey in. I was a bundle of nerves and also worried that a) my kids would not love me as much because I was no longer there 24/7 to wipe their noses and b) that I was out of my depth, not knowing the difference back then between an SEO and a UFO. I had no ‘qualifications’ to be a writer beyond composing excellent complaint letters for friends, and a whole heap of unpublished material living on my antiquated laptop.

But do you know what? I had a passion for making it work, and I had a team behind me who helped me get there. I’ll always be utterly grateful for women like Chris, Selina, Georgina and Kate who not only showed me the ropes and taught me the way in those early days, but who also steered me in the direction of the ladies toilets (for when I needed to go there and have a quick ‘out of my depth’ panic) and introduced me to ‘cheap Chinese food’ just across from the office. They became my colleagues but also my friends, which absolutely made everything easier. My confidence grew when my first ever story for HKA, ‘International vs Local School: One Family, Two Systems‘ was published and people actually read it. People who were not obliged to read it because they were my husband or my mum.

Since then I’ve worked my sizeable butt off to prove to myself that I am a writer and that I am, in fact, utterly capable. I have the business card and title to prove it.

I became an intern at age 39 in June 2015. In May 2018 I became the Editor of HoneyKids Asia. I cannot even begin to put into words how much that promotion meant to me and what an absolute privilege it has been to be part of a group of such an inspiring, creative, utterly awesome team. It will be a teary goodbye indeed to bid adieu to my work fam, especially my HKA co-pilots, Jana and Sheralyn.

So, I’m going out on a high, having proved to myself, and hopefully to any other mothers who want to get into a new career, that with a bit of luck, a lot of hard work and a steely determination, success is completely attainable.

Laters, gators: it’s been a blast!

Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy:

Life after repatriation
The transient nature of friendships in Singapore
Mums you’ll meet at the Singapore school gate
Are your teenagers ready for the big, wide world?

Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us for sneak peeks and fun moments on HoneyKids Instagram!

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Jani Combrink founder of Stork’s Nest Singapore is in our interview hot seat…

We love catching up with interesting parents and putting cool mums and dads in our interview hot seat, so when we got the chance to hang out with Jani Combrink, the founder and guru behind Stork’s Nest Singapore, we leapt at the chance. We’re sure we’re not the only parents who have turned to Stork’s Nest at 3am when our baby has been awake for what feels like eight days straight, or been alone when it comes to asking for advice at feeding time when our toddler has refused dinner for the fourth night in a row. Stork’s Nest has been beyond useful to so many, so we thought it was about time we spoke to Chief Stork, Jani, about how it all began, and how it’s now gone global!

Hi Jani! Before we kick off, tell us a about yourself

I am a South African qualified nurse and IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). I lived in Singapore for 10 years, where I founded the Stork’s Nest network of support groups. We have raised almost $90 000 for charity through our network, and I am still running and working on the groups from my home in Kent, UK, where we moved to about two years ago. In between, I am trying to raise three boys to become good humans, and I do some volunteering in my local community too.

Stork’s Nest has been a lifeline for many a new and experienced mum in Singapore. What inspired you to create it, and how did it come about?

Just after the birth of my youngest son (he is almost 10 years old now), I started working at the Mother & Child centre. I quickly realised how little I knew about breastfeeding, and I decided to to enrol for the IBCLC exams. Suddenly I had access to a wealth of information and knowledge, and it occurred to me that this should be available to every mother out there! I started Stork’s Nest Singapore with about 20 friends, as a way to spread incredible sources of information, but also to find my own village as I was feeling desperately alone with three babies under the age of three. The group grew beyond my wildest expectations, and we quickly started new sub-groups on specific topics. We now have a network of 14 groups, with around 24 000 members across those groups. All of our groups are really active and supportive and (hopefully) helpful to every single parent who joins.

Jani created Stork’s Nest Singapore as a platform to share parenting knowledge

Tell us about your team of Stork’s Nest Angels, and how they became part of the SN family

Ah, the Angels. They really are the most incredible team of people ever. These are women (and now men too!) who all volunteer their time and effort and knowledge to make sure the group runs safely, smoothly and kindly. Each one brings their own set of skills, their own way of doing things and their own way of parenting. Somehow, it all works, and they are all amazing. I still learn something new every day from this amazing group of people, and somehow they still put up with me and every weird idea I come up with, despite me now living so far away.

Most of the admin team are actually people I noticed on the group who were always interacting and trying to help. The ones that stood out for always being kind and thoughtful in their questions and responses. I approached each one to ask whether they would consider getting involved as an admin on the group, and they actually agreed. I’m pretty sure there are days when they wish they hadn’t, but so far so good! Without the team of Angels, Stork’s Nest wouldn’t exist.

We hear you’re going global! Tell us all about it

I was approached by Facebook last year, and invited to participate in a new product called Subscription Groups. I had been toying with an idea for a while, but had never quite been able to figure out how to implement it. This invitation gave me the opportunity to see it come to fruition, and Stork’s Nest Global was born!  We are different from SNS, in that we provide evidence based, scientific information about all aspects of parenting (from pre-conception and fertility, all the way until empty nesting, plus everything in between), directly from experts in the field. We are taking things slow, and working very, very hard to build this new community with similar ethics from SNS, and we are working on creating content to be proud of. Members have the opportunity to request topics, and the team will source the answers and information directly from experts. We are also working on implementing opportunities for members to interact directly with the experts on their given topic, and we run special give-aways from time to time too. We don’t accept any advertising, nor do we allow any marketing from external sources. Our ethics are paramount, and we want to help parents make informed decisions – whatever that may be.

Parenting is much easier when you have people to turn to for advice. Photography: Fillip Mroz via Unsplash

What are the issues parents tend to seek help with the most through Stork’s Nest?

Usually, parents want to know where to find or buy a service or an item in Singapore. Sometimes members want to know what other parents would do around a specific situation with their children. At times, they simply want to feel heard. We get anonymous post requests too, when a parent is feeling particularly vulnerable. Our community has never failed to support and show kindness, whatever the question. It is so lovely that our group is representative of all walks of life in Singapore: we have local members, expats, even people who have left Singapore but still value the information and kindness on the group. It is an invaluable peer-support group, and I still learn new things when I read through the posts and comments.

Do you have any standout posts over your years that have really made an impact on you?

There have been so many! One particular post that I will never forget was from a mummy who delivered her first baby at 24 weeks. We followed her journey for six long months, while her little boy was in the NICU and then when he went home. Sadly, he passed away at the age of six months, on Christmas Day. Some of us on SNS still light candles for him every Christmas Day, because we will never forget what a little warrior he was, and what an amazing mother she is. His mummy had a little girl in the years following her loss, and she is still a valued member of our group.

How does parenting in Singapore differ from parenting in other parts of the world do you think?

I think all parents try their very best, wherever they live, and wherever they’re from. I actually think there are less differences than we think, and more kindness than we can possibly imagine. Once people feel informed, and if they don’t feel judged, they are more likely to open their minds to alternative parenting experiences. There are definite cultural practices that influence the way we parent. In Singapore, there seems to be a lot of emphasis placed on academic achievements. I don’t think that is unique to Singapore, but it is noticeable. Lately I have also noticed a shift in thinking, with more questions around holistic development and play vs learning and achievement for young children. Where we live now in the UK, the emphasis seems to be on fostering independence in children. It’s truly fascinating.

New mums need advice on everything from sleep issues to breastfeeding woes the world over. Thank goodness for Stork’s Nest Global! Photography: Minnie Zhou via Unsplash

And finally, tell us a funny/cute parenting story about your own tribe of three

As most parents of three (or more!) can attest, life is never dull! A recent incident that springs to mind: my youngest refuses to sing alone where he can be heard. I don’t know why, but he just won’t sing. A few days ago, he put on sunglasses, a face mask and a hoodie, connected his earphones to his iPad, and sat in the middle of the lawn. He then proceeded to belt out a tune that he was listening to for the entire neighbourhood to hear!  When I asked him later why he had changed his mind about singing in public, he told me that he was ‘anonymous’ with his disguise!

Thanks Jani not only for speaking to us, but for the real connection you have forged for mums all over Singapore and beyond through your fabulous groups.

Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy:

Facebook groups we love in Singapore
Motherhood in Singapore: Support don’t shame!
The juggle is real: Can mothers really have it all?
Five reasons we shouldn’t feel guilty about being working mums

Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us for fun moments on HoneyKids Instagram!

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Crossing the Singapore-Malaysia border with kids in tow just got easier thanks to these tips and tricks

There’s something hugely fun about throwing your stuff in the boot of your car and heading off on a road trip to somewhere new and exciting, right? But how many of us have thought “Let’s head off to Malacca for an impromptu long weekend ahead of a public holiday!”, only to change our minds at the thought of crossing the dreaded border? We’ve all heard the horror stories of endless tailbacks between Singapore and Malaysia, but play it right with these handy tips and you could be sitting on the beach, cocktail in hand on the tropical island of Rawa before you know it. And with local school hols officially kicking off today, and a lovely extra day off from work next week for Hari Raya, now is definitely the perfect time to read our guide to acing that border.

Plan ahead

Whether you’re crossing at Tuas or Woodlands, it’s fair to say the traffic at both can build up to spontaneous combustion levels, so plan ahead, folks. Download the Checkpoint.sg app, free for both iPhone and Android, and check the live video stream of the causeway BEFORE you leave home. You’ll also be able to check estimated time for crossing and the weather at both crossing points. Happy days. And while you’re downloading, also pop Beat the Jam onto your phone. This nifty little tool can compare traffic flow at both crossings, and will even give you current exchange rates, fuel prices, toll fares and a handy guide to acing customs.

Be prepared

Like all good Scouts tell us, it’s always best to be prepared! Even with those essential apps, there is still the chance that you’ll set off on your merry way and something unexpected will crop up that delays you despite your best efforts. And we all know that kids need a constant supply of decent snacks and entertainment at the best of times, so bring bag loads of your kiddos’ fave edibles along (and stash some lollies for when delays get really serious). Definitely download a few fun and educational TV shows and kid-friendly apps for when the going gets really tough. It’s probably best to bring them some headphones for the little darlings: no one wants to have Baby Shark stuck on a loop in their head for the days to come… Bring water too (of course), but try to limit drink intakes: being trapped in a car with a kid who is desperate for a wee is no fun for anyone.

Know where the toilets are!

And talking of needing a wee, know in advance where the loos are! Our advice would be to stop off Singapore-side for a toilet break where you’ll find, erm, cleaner bathrooms stocked with toilet roll and hand soap as opposed to the ones the other side of the causeway. If you do need to stop Malaysia-side, just bring some tissues and hand sanitiser with you: experience has taught us this well.

Goodbye Singapore, hello Malaysia! Photography: Tracy Tristram

Have your documents ready and your car filled with petrol

Have your passports and ID cards ready to hand over for when it’s your turn at customs. And check BEFORE you head out that your passport is in date! You will need at least six months validity on it to be allowed to cross into Malaysia. Do also check if you need a visa to get over to Malaysia, as this will need to be applied for ahead of time (have a look at this handy list to see whether your nationality is visa-free or not).

If you are driving across in a car with SG license plates, you must make sure your petrol tank is at least three-quarters full. It’s not one you can leave to chance either: drivers who do not meet the rule may be prosecuted in court and fined up to S$500! You’ll also be made to turn back to Singapore to fill up before you can try and cross again.

And don’t forget to get your Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) (20MYR) before your journey. You can do this online, and is essential if you are making the crossing in a car that does not have Malaysian license plates. Got all that? In short:

  • Passport (six months validity)
  • Visa (if applicable)
  • ID card
  • Three quarters of a tank of petrol
  • Vehicle Entry Permit

And that is you all good to go. Enjoy, and tag us in your adventures over on HoneyKids Insta!

Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy:

Is this the best fam-friendly SUV for SG roads?
Easy island getaways for a weekend of fun
Car seats for kids of all ages
Should you buy or lease a car in Singapore?

Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter for great reads and cool tips!

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Mum-friendly gardening: best plants to grow indoors in Singapore

A plant is a great addition to any home or garden. Not only do they look pretty, they purify and filter the air of nasty indoor air pollutants like dust and cleaning chemicals by absorbing it through their leaves or roots. Plus, the colour green is also very therapeutic, especially when you’re trying to find a little peace of mind. But we get it, it can be a little tricky to take care of another living thing besides the fam. We may have neglected one or two houseplants in our time, but plants can be surprisingly hardy and some are even able to survive for long periods of time without a lot of water, care and sunlight. In fact the less care you give them, the more they thrive! We found some of the best houseplants in Singapore that require very little TLC so if you’re adding ‘watering the plants’ to the chore roster, maybe assign it to the less-than-busy teens.

Succulents

Succulents come in all shapes and sizes. Photography: Reid Beels via Flickr

These are some of the first few plants you’d see in Gardens by the Bay’s Flower Dome. Succulents are the ultimate family of un-killable plants. They’re fairly happy growing in pots of any size which makes them good desk plants. They store water in their stems, roots, and leaves, that means they don’t require a lot of water (they’ve got loads) and hardly any sun. As long as you don’t get a little overzealous with the watering these guys are super easy to grow and will thrive on their own. They can grow from just a little cutting and some soil. You can choose to grow any one of its variations including flowering cacti and aloe vera, just stay away from the prickly ones if you have small kids and pets.

Palms

Palms give the home a refreshing feeling.

Cruising down the streets in a taxi, bus or car, you’re sure to spot the endless rows of palms lining the roads. Palms are a main staple of Singapore’s jungles and add a tropical feel to any garden or home. One of the most popular palms is the Yellow Palm which is a multi-stemmed plant with feather-shaped fronds and naturally golden yellow leaves. These palms are very hardy and will thrive whether in sun or shade as well as purifies the air, but some pruning is needed due to its clustering growth to give it space to grow.

Ficus

Fiddle Leaf Figs are a great addition to any home.

This family of plants make popular indoor houseplants. Fiddle Leaf Figs in particular are one of the most well-known variations and you can grow them any way you like, whether as a tree or a small pot plant. It’ll happily sit on a windowsill or in a corner of the room. Water it once a week, just enough to make the soil wet, keep it sheltered with some light and it’ll do the rest.

Ferns

Spruce up your balcony with a fern.

Ferns are versatile plants with a variety of uses from food to medicine, natural filters on top of being ornamental plants. You’d be hard pressed to not spot a Bird’s Nest Fern or two wedged in between branches of trees. Most ferns grow best in indirect sunlight in humid airs which makes them great for keeping in the bathroom or kitchen as well as a hanging plant. The Boston Fern is a popular choice. Although ferns like moist soil, be sure that the soil is dry to the touch before watering your fern.

Snake Plant

Snake plants look great no matter what size they are.

Topping the list of some of the toughest houseplants on the planet is the Snake Plant. Also known as Mother in Law’s Tongue (no comment), these plants are known for their sharp leaves and stubborn resilience. This plant isn’t too picky unlike its namesake and it likes plenty of light, but can handle less if necessary.

Money plants

The plant that mums swear by. Photography: zlady via Flickr

Also known as Devil’s Ivy because of how impossible it is to kill, this plant stays green even when kept in the dark. If you’ve got furkids, especially young ones, be sure to hang this one up high because it is toxic to cats and dogs.

Bougainvilleas

Even if you can’t grow them at home, you can enjoy these blooms at East Coast Park.

For houseplants that will add a little dash of colour beyond just green, bougainvilleas are a favourite. You can spot these hardy bushes lining the cycling path in East Coast Park and many overhead bridges dotted around Singapore. If you have a garden, you can just leave a pot out and water it every week, Singapore’s weather will do the rest. You’ll be able to enjoy blooms in purple, red and white a few times a year. Just mind the thorns.

Swiss Cheese Plant

It’s a jungle with these plants in town. Photography: Kara Eads via Unsplash

Also known as Monstera Deliciosa, Swiss Cheese Plants are synonymous with tropical climates which it is native to. Taking care of these plants is relatively easy, just top up the soil every time it feels dry and don’t subject it to direct sunlight. You can even grow a cutting in water with no soil.

Herbs

Cooking with fresh herbs is so satisfying!

Plants don’t just look good, they taste good too! Here in Singapore, we’re a little tight on space and many crop plants require a lot of space and care. So while starting a veggie garden on your balcony is totally doable thanks to urban gardening, there are smaller plants you can keep in pots in the kitchen that are easy to care for and make great garnishing. Mint and Basil are both herbs that thrive in mild light as long as you keep them watered. The Curry Leaf is also difficult to kill but it’s not resistant to bugs. Indian Borage or Mexican Mint can also be used as garnishing or as a home remedy to treat coughs and sore throats. You can chew the leaves or pop them in boiling water to drink.

Gardening quick tips
  • For an easy fertiliser, pour about a teaspoon of cold un-drunk plain black coffee (you can get dregs from the espresso machine) or black tea into your plant pots every couple of weeks.
  • Prune your plants every couple of weeks and remove dead foliage
  • Skip chemical pesticides: if you spot an insect on your plant, just use a dry cloth to wash it off, or use horticultural oils. Homemade sprays like garlic and onion or  Chrysanthemum tea also do the trick
  • Despite what we might think, not every plant likes direct sunlight, especially houseplants. You can move the plant until you find a spot where it responds well to the environment and then just leave it there
  • Remember: the less you fuss the better!

Good luck, mums!

Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy:

Flex those green fingers and get the kids into urban gardening
A perfect day out at Botanic Gardens
Urban gardening in Singapore: 5 reasons why we should teach city kids about gardening and growing food
Getting started with urban gardening

Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us for fun moments on HoneyKids Instagram!

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Hiring a domestic helper in Singapore: how to interview and employ a maid

Hiring a helper in Singapore can be an absolute blessing when it comes to juggling our careers, kids, running a household and trying to keep up with the rest of our lives. Extra time with the kids instead of drowning in a sea of laundry? Yes please! But how do you go about finding the perfect extra pair of hands to whip up endless batches of homemade muffins, host a fun playdate, and still manage to keep your house looking like a bomb hasn’t hit it? It’s a tall order and a minefield for sure! We’ve come to the rescue with our guide to what steps you need to take to employ a helper, tips on how to find the right lady for the job, and some all-important interview questions…

Employer requirements for hiring a helper

Before you go about employing your first FDW, you need to check the current criteria as stated by Ministry of Manpower (MOM), but in a nutshell you’ll need to be:

  • At least 21 years old
  • Have no undischarged bankrupt proceedings against you
  • Have the mental capacity to fully understand and discharge you responsibility as an employer

If you are hiring a helper for the first time, you must also attend an Employer Orientation Programme: an easy peasy online exam to check that you know to treat your helper like a fellow human being…

The pesky paperwork needed for hiring a helper

If you have decided to use an employment agency to process the paperwork necessary to legally employ a helper, they will handle all of the documentation and submissions on your behalf. Phew. However, hiring directly is also an option, and often saves you some money in the process. If you are going it alone then once you’ve agreed working terms with your new helper (days off, work expectations, pay, etc), then you will need to swiftly get the pesky paperwork sorted:

  1. Apply for her work permit from MOM. This can be done online (make sure you have your SingPass to hand) and you will need to make a payment of $30.
  2. Buy a security bond. Once purchased this will be registered automatically with MOM. Also purchase personal accident and medical insurance. The more cover you can afford, the better. The bond and the insurance are often sold as one package: expect to part with around $250+ for two years cover.
  3. Once your helper has arrived you will need to send her for a medical exam within 14 days of her employment with you. MOM will send you a letter which your helper will take along with her to any GP for her check-up.
  4. Set up your monthly GIRO to cover your helper’s monthly levy (current charges are $60 concessionary rate – applicable if you are Singaporean and have a child or elderly person living in your household – or $300 for everyone else).
  5. If your helper does not have a bank account then it is a good idea to set one up and arrange her salary by monthly transfer (current average salaries for an FDW range from around $550-$800 per month). POSB offer a Payroll Account which is easy to open and designed especially for helpers.
Hiring a helper: The questions you need to ask in The Interview!

If you have young kids, you need someone confident to watch them: kids run fast! Photography: Hisu Lee via Unsplash

1. Check transfer and work history: If she is leaving a contract early then find out why, and even if she is transferring from a completed contract, do check her reasons for moving on. Investigate thoroughly and don’t always believe what you are being told in terms of back story – always check for yourself via references. 

2. Personal situation: Her personal situation (her marital status, etc) may have some bearing on her interactions and capabilities as an employee, so do find out what you can (which may not sit easy for those of us who feel like a nosy parker asking such personal questions!).

3. Religion: Often helpers from Indonesia are Muslim, and as such are unable to handle or eat pork (not ideal if you live on bacon sandwiches) or interact with the family pets. Equally many helpers do not live by strict religious codes, but you should still check what personal boundaries she may have when it comes to what she can and can’t do/eat/touch because of religious o personal restrictions.

4. Her Future Plans: The chances are your FDW is working here to help out family back home, and probably intends to return one day to her home country. Her plans may have relevance to how long she stays with you, but also by knowing her aspirations you can help support her towards her goals. We love a woman with a plan!

5. Children: If childcare is something that your helper will be involved in, then you need to make sure she likes small people! If your potential FDW is a fan of kids then check what kind of playmate and carer she might be to your children. Find out what games she likes to play, what nursery rhymes she knows, and what the typical kind of meals would she prepare for your child would be.

6. First Aid: With young kids in the house prone to bouncing off walls it is essential that your potential helper knows some basic first aid. Check whether she has taken any first aid courses, and if not would she be happy to go on one? Give her simple first aid scenarios to respond to (we asked a helper what she would do if our toddler bumped his head and she said she would make him a sandwich: we didn’t hire her).

7. Her Daily Routine: Engage her in a chat on how she spends a typical day in her current job. Suggest some tasks she would be expected to do within your household and get her to rank them one to five. If you are looking for a Nigella in the kitchen, but she would rather get on with the ironing, then chances are the fit is not going to be great for either of you.

8. Cooking: Check her culinary skills and ask her to name 10 meals she is confident in cooking. If she really does know how to cook this will be easy for her. If cooking isn’t her bag then then you can decide how important her kitchen skills are in the grand scheme of things.

Make sure your potential helper is happy to hang out with any pets in the family too!

9. Pets. If you have furry (or slithery) creatures in your home (the kids don’t count) then check whether she has cared for pets before and make sure she is happy to hang out with your fur kids

10. Off Days (or days off as we would say): Ask her if she has any hobbies and what she enjoys doing when she is not working. Her answers will give a really good clue as to her character.

11. Marketing (Grocery Shopping): How does she feel about doing the marketing and which supermarkets in Singapore is she familiar with? Is she used to budgeting and making grocery decisions by herself?

12. Food: What does she like to eat? Does she prefer her own food, or will she be happy to eat whatever you guys are eating? Does she expect a food allowance? Is she allergic to any food? Are there foods she is unwilling to handle? Food can be a huge minefield if you end up with a helper who only eats meat while your family are strictly vegetarian!

13. Drinking/Smoking: Encourage honesty and ask her if she drinks alcohol and/or smokes. You may have strong views, and if she does partake in the odd beer and like a cigarette with her friends on a Sunday this may not be a deal-breaker for you, but if she lies about it then that can cause issues later down the line.

Our tips for finding The One

Finding ‘The One’ makes family life so much happier for everyone! Photography: Thiago Cerqueira via Unsplash

As a team of working mums, we here at HoneyKids’ HQ are all blessed with amazing right-hand women who help the juggle of life that bit easier. Our tips for finding a good ‘un?

  • Take your kids with you when interviewing: the ones who try and make a connection with your child are the ones to put at the top of your hire list.
  • Speak slowly and use simple English: Going into an interview in full Cockney slang is not going to get anyone very far (yes, husband, I am talking about you).
  • DON’T listen to all the horror stories. For the all the ‘my maid tried on my bikini’ stories, there are many, many successful relationships.
  • Keep your ear to the ground for recommendations. The Facebook online groups often have details of fabulous helpers looking for new employment.
  • Arrange for a second interview in your home, preferably when the kids are around for her to interact with.

Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy:

Help for when you have no helper
Make your kids earn their pocket money
Teaching your kids to be street smart
Hurrah: FDW medicals can now be done at home

Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us for sneak peeks and fun moments on HoneyKids Instagram!

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