Archive for the ‘learning topics’ Category

It’s been a long time since I did an update on our food adventure! Got caught up with researching new recipes and well, eating!

Then June holidays happened.

And then Harry Potter happened (a story for another time).

And now it’s back to regular programming :)


So, moving on with our foodie journey. Just to recap, we were exploring Australian food. Having gone through a barbie and eating a traditional damper, I thought I’d have some fun and freak out the kids by suggesting we eat… Witchetty grubs! You can’t get more Australian than that!

It kind of happened by accident. I was searching around for Australian food, saw a picture of the grubs and was quite repulsed by it. But later on when I was getting something from BreadTalk, I saw some bread that really reminded me of grubs.

Does this…


…not look vaguely like this?

witchetty grub

Picture credit: CNN Travel

Or ok, maybe there’s a greater resemblance when there are more of them.


Picture credit: news.com.au

It does right? Right?

Anyway, I was so tickled by the resemblance, and more so by the thought of the kids being completely grossed out, that I had to buy some home to prank them.

I announced to them when they came back home that we were having witchetty grubs for dinner.

“What’s a grub?”

“It’s like a big fat worm or juicy caterpillar. And you eat it live.”

“WHAT? EEEWWWWW!! No I’m not eating it!!”

“But remember? We said the rule was at least two bites of everything!”

And I see the look of regret on Asher’s face. Priceless!


I showed them pictures of grubs, which elicited a whole range of sound effects from the boys. Then I uncovered the plate from afar, held it quite high so that they couldn’t quite get a good look of it, and as they leaned away in disgust, I put it on the table. There was a pause. And then, finally, they laugh with nervous relief and exclaim, “That’s just bread!”

Oh man. Moments like these remind you of how entertaining it can be to be a mummy.

The kids happily tucked into the “grubs” and joyfully declared how wonderful they were. To BreadTalk’s credit, the bread was really delicious! Even the youngest went, “Want more grubs!” It was hilarious to hear.

Apparently, the real deal is nutty-flavoured and is full of nutrients. But I’m pretty sure I’ll never quite pluck up the courage to try it for real.

Then again, never say never huh?

Loving 'grubs'!

Loving ‘grubs’!

Follow us as the adventure continues!

Nair Food Adventure

  1. The Beginning of Our Food Adventure
  2. Week 1 – Down Under: Barbie
  3. Week 1 Down Under: Damper

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That wasn’t the end of the barbie.

After the kids went to bed, I randomly googled a bit more about Australian food and read about damper. It’s a traditional Australian bread prepared by travellers as they went through the bush. The traditional recipe requires very few ingredients because the travellers would only have had basic rations with them on their long journeys. The basic ingredients are flour, water, and salt. As the camp fire died down, the damper was buried in the ashes of the fire and left there to cook.

I ran to check if the ashes from the barbie were still hot. They were!

Hurried to the kitchen. There was just enough flour.


My unbaked damper

Quickly mixed the ingredients together, kneaded the dough, flattened it, and with tongs in hand went back to the mini-pit. I made a small depression in the ashes and put the dough straight onto the bed of ashes in the traditional way, then covered it with more ashes and the remaining hot coals. Actually you can also use a dutch oven to cook the bread in the fire, but I thought why not do it as traditionally as we can since we’re at it.

Buried under the ashes

Buried under the ashes

It did cross my mind whether it was healthy to have ashes sticking to the dough, but I figured that this was a traditional method that has stood the test of time, plus many cultures cook food in the ground. So I crossed that thought out.

I went to shower and do other things. In fact, I almost fell asleep!

As I was nodding off I suddenly remembered my damper and ran to retrieve it from the ashes. It was cooked through, and had a hollow sound when tapped. That’s the test to know if your damper is cooked. The centre bit was burned from being cooked too long though.

Burnt in the middle!

Burnt in the middle!

I left it to cool on a rack and headed to bed, eager to tell the boys about it the next day.

The boys were so surprised to learn that you could cook bread from the hot ashes of a barbie. They gamely tried the bread and loved it! We had it with honey, jam, and butter. I loved the smokey flavour of the bread. Pity that I had left it too long and the middle part was inedible.

We agreed that this was definitely something we want to make again, and that we should try it at the next barbeque. Apparently you can even cook it on a stick like how you cook marshmallows. Some travellers got tired of waiting for the bread to cook in the ashes, so they wrapped a bit of dough around a stick and cooked it over the fire. They’d then fill the hole that was left in the bread with jam or honey and pop the whole thing into their mouths. Sounds delicious!

Ellery came home telling me how he told everybody in school about damper, how he had promised to bring some for them, and how I had to make it again. So he woke me up at 645am in the morning to make damper for his friends.

There are many modern versions of damper that use more ingredients and bake the bread in the oven. We made a damper using milk, but deliberately decided to keep it as simple as possible because we wanted it to be authentic, so left out the butter and cheese, etc. Ellery was even skeptical about using milk because he really liked the plain, traditional version.


Shaping the dough into a ball

Pressing down the dough in the pan.

Pressing down the dough in the pan.


Oven-baked damper

This modern damper was still good, and went well with butter and jam. Like a bushman’s scone I suppose! But the ash damper has an extra oomph that we all prefer.

I cut a hunk of bread for him to bring to school to share with his friends. You could see the look of satisfaction on his face at being able to share something he had baked himself :)



Traditional Damper

2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp of salt
2 cups of water

Mix everything together. It will be a bit runny at first. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a bit. Not necessary to knead for a long time (I saw one video where the lady didn’t even knead it). Shape the dough into a ball then flatten it. Make imprints all over it with your fingers. Make a clearing in the ashes, put the flattened dough straight onto it, then cover it with more hot ashes. Cook for about 40 minutes.

*The updated version we did was to substitute milk for water. There are many other versions you can find online, including adding herbs. I thought rubbing in butter would make it too much like scones though, rather than bread.

This video shows how to put the dough into the ashes.


Nair Food Adventure

  1. The Beginning of Our Food Adventure
  2. Week 1 – Down Under: Barbie

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First stop, Australia!

My first thought when we picked this country was, barbeques! Or barbies, as they are better known in Australia.

So we started off our food adventure with a little barbie in our balcony. Sounds like a nice idea right? I imagined us sitting around a barbeque, chit chatting, letting the kids turn the food on the grill. Lots of good, fire-side bonding.

Nope. It’s probably the last time I’m gonna have a barbie at home. I wouldn’t say I was going to burn the house down, no, not at all. But I think we did create a lot of smoke. Enough to make people downstairs think there was some kind of fire, possibly. I realised the culprits were the meats. The oils from the popping sausages, and the marinades from the chicken dripped onto the hot charcoals which resulted in a lot of smoke. I kept trying to fan it outwards, away from the house, but found that there was still a slight smoky smell lingering in the house after the barbie. We ended up hiding behind the balcony doors, while I quickly popped out into the balcony every now and then to turn the food on the grill. Not quite what I had in mind.


Tucking into the food. We decided to sit by the balcony for dinner :)

But oh boy. The food was so good. And I think the kids must have been so hungry by the time the food was ready that they were full of praises for the food too. I was especially surprised to see Asher repeatedly asking for more sausages! He’s never really wanted to eat them in the first place, yet here he was happily tucking into them, telling me how yummy they were. Maybe it’s the type of sausage. Note to self, chipolata sausages go down well with the kids. They really were fabulous though! Sausages grilled over a fire win sausages cooked in a pan or toaster any day! And the pre-marinated chicken we bought tasted perfect. On offer too. Score!

The highlight was the pineapple though. I remember loving the grilled pineapples from the restaurant Brazil Churrasco, somewhere I haven’t gone to in more than a decade, and wanted the boys to try it. It was a hit. They couldn’t get enough of it! And it was a breeze to cook – no smoking!


Balcony barbie. Waiting for the pineapples to be ready.

Overall, the barbie was a success. The kids continued to talk about the food right up till bedtime, saying we should have another barbeque again soon :)


Nair Food Adventure

  1. The Beginning of Our Food Adventure

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Out of the blue during lunch one day, Asher came up with this idea.

“Mummy! How about we have food from a different country every week?”

That sparked off an interesting discussion about how to decide which country’s cuisine to try, how many meals per week, what else we can learn in the process. We both got really excited and couldn’t wait to share the idea with Ellery!

In the end we agreed to do this:

  • At least 3 meals per week from the selected country
  • We would choose the country by playing a game
  • We must take at least 2 big mouthfuls of food, no matter how yucky looking or sounding it might be

Ellery got on board very quickly and we couldn’t wait to start our game to choose where we’d be ‘travelling’ to for our meals.

We took our map, got a counter from one of the board games, and took a dice too. Starting from Singapore, the number on the dice would tell us how many countries we can hop. We assumed that we would travel by land, unless we reached a country that was by the ocean, then we could take a boat/plane to any other country with a coastline. We’d take turns and the player could move anywhere they wanted without interference from others.

It was really fun seeing how the kids discussed with each other where to go, and I thought I’d better limit the number of countries to just six for now. Just to be safe. Just in case I couldn’t keep up with it!

After we’d chosen the six countries, I started to wonder…hmm…how will I ever cook stuff from there? I’ve never even tried their food before!

Want to know where we go and what we’re eating? Stay tuned! :)

World map with spices and herbs (Pic: Getty)

(Source: www.mirror.co.uk)

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(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.)

I came across a link to Little Passports and was so intrigued by the concept. Jon and I used to travel a lot before the kids came along, doing the whole backpacking on a shoestring thing. Such wonderful experiences! We still have the travel bug in us and would love for the kids to see and learn more of the world and its varied cultures. But with kids, travelling can get expensive. So we are saving many many destinations for when the kids are older and better able to appreciate wherever we go, and better retain memories of those holidays. With Alyssa’s arrival our timelines have been pushed back even further!

In the meantime, Little Passports offers us a way to teach the kids about the world and to explore a new country each month. There are many monthly subscription boxes nowadays, but I’ve never subscribed to any of them. This one, however, really appeals to me and I can’t wait to try it out! Especially since the June holidays are almost upon us!

Each World Edition subscription (for kids 6-10 years old) comes with a little suitcase and a passport (how cute!), a map, letters from pen pals Sam & Sofia, stickers, activity sheets, and other things. Each month you receive a kit featuring a new country, with activities and collectibles. There’s also a world edition for younger kids (3-5 years) called the Early Explorers, and it’s a simplified version that’s more appropriate for that age group. And if you are really keen to learn about all 52 states of the USA, there’s a USA edition too.

The little suitcase and the things that come with the World Edition subscription (Photo taken from Little Passports site)

Each World Edition subscription comes with a map (Photo taken from Little Passports site)

If you, like us, love for the kids to learn more about the world, Little Passports could be for you. I think this will be a really fun June holiday activity with the kids! Perhaps you’ll find that one destination the entire family simply must visit in person for the December holidays :)

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Asher took part in his first art exhibition. I was thrilled to learn it would be held at the Arts House because it’s such a beautiful building, and so historically significant.

He painted a fish and called it ‘Fish in the Sea’. It took several lessons to finish this piece, and he was happy with the final outcome. There were times when he was starting to lose steam in the process, especially when doing the collage bits because he found it tedious to tear and stick the little pieces of paper. I like how it turned out though, and he’s happy with it too.

It was good to see all the other art pieces on display as well, and especially interesting to see how one theme was interpreted by people in so many different ways.

Art is one of the things that really makes Asher happy. I wonder how far he’ll take it :)

All of us with his art work

All of us with his art work

On the wall with other sea creature art works

On the wall with other sea creature art works

He likes art!

He liked the other art pieces he saw there too

Outside the Arts House & Ellery photobombing the pic

Outside the Arts House & Ellery photobombing the pic

Being boys

Being boys

Ellery so pleased that he could climb up on his own

Ellery so pleased that he could climb up on his own

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LEGO is such a timeless toy and the boys are big fans of it. They regularly create various machines and creatures, breaking it apart, recreating, and improving their designs. When I  heard about LEGO robotics, I thought it would be something that would definitely interest the boys and would introduce an exciting new dimension to the their LEGO playing.

They went for a trial Junior Robotics Engineers class at Wonderswork, a place that offers courses for children on robotics and inventions. Wonderswork seeks to nurture creative and inventive thinking, problem solving, critical thinking, and cross-cultural communication in children. The LEGO robotics programs, in particular, aim to educate and equip children from young with essential skills in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

At each Junior Robotics Engineers class, kids are given a project to complete. This project involves following instructions on a computer to build something, then using simple graphical programming to make the object perform a particular action. A graphical format is adopted so that it is not too complex for children, but yet still teaches them the logic and thinking behind programming.

While I was confident that Asher would be able to follow what was going on, I was a little worried that Ellery would be distracted and unable to keep up. I was also concerned about whether they boys would have problems using a computer because, if you can believe it, the boys have never used a computer! They’ve watched things on a computer, but not used one.

So I was happy to see that Enzo, the founder of Wonderswork, and the other teachers were extremely patient with both of them, and especially so with Ellery. They took the time to explain how to use the computer (!) and the computer programme, they guided Ellery on how to determine if what he was doing was correct and let him figure out whether he was on the right track by posing questions and letting him draw his own conclusions.

Tapping on the arrows to move to the instructions for the next step

Tapping on the arrows to move to the instructions for the next step

I would say the teachers functioned more as facilitators. Children are guided through the project and assisted when the teachers saw they needed help, or the kids asked for help. I thought that was a good approach. It is in the doing that kids learn best, and they need space to figure things out for themselves. I found out from Enzo that this is also how they approach the Young Inventors class as well. In that class, kids are given a challenge and have to create their own solutions to solve the problem.

It was also good to see that the other boys who were there for their regular class had very good rapport with the teachers. The kids and teachers were talking and joking with one another, clearly enjoying themselves.

I was surprised at how Ellery remained focused on his task throughout. He has a tendency to be easily distracted when disinterested in something, but that was clearly not the case here. By the end of the session he had built a rocking horse, and with some guidance had programmed the horse to rock back and forth. He was happily tapping on ‘Enter’ and ‘Esc’ to start and stop the horse over and over again. He was also able to explain to me how the horse could rock – that the electricity came from the computer and powered the motor, that the motor moved one a long block that was connected to the base of the horse, and that in turn moved the horse.

Ellery's rocking horse

Ellery’s rocking horse

Enter! Esc! Enter! Esc!

Enter! Esc! Enter! Esc!

For Asher, he was delighted to have been given a Star Wars walker to build. It even had a sensor that made the walker stop when it reached the edge of a table. Enzo also showed him how the sensor could be triggered to do different things. Besides stopping at the edge of a table, it could be programmed to play a sound when something came near. Asher’s favourite was when the walker made laser shooting sounds whenever he put his hand in front of it :) He was quite amazed by the sensor and mentioned it to me several times after we left the class, and was one of the first things he told Jon.

The Star Wars walker

The Star Wars walker

Watching his walker move

Watching his walker move and waiting for it to reach the edge of the table

The Junior Robotics Engineers class was fascinating and the boys loved it! I’d definitely recommend the robotics class, especially if your kid – girl or boy – is interested in LEGO.

Wonderswork conducts its robotics and invention classes weekly. There are also two holiday camps coming up – a Space Inventors camp and a Master Inventor camp. Five sessions of each camp are being conducted until the middle of December, but spaces are limited so you should sign up quickly if interested! You can click on the links above for more details.

Space Invention Lego Robotics Invention School Holiday Camp Nov - Dec 2014

Camp 1: 17-19 Nov (over)
Camp 2: 24-26 Nov
Camp 3: 1-3 Dec
Camp 4: 8-10 Dec
Camp 5: 15-17 Dec
All camps from 10am-230pm

Master Inventors Lego Robotics  School Holiday Children Camp Nov - Dec 2014

Camp 1: 20-21 Nov (over)
Camp 2: 27-28 Nov
Camp 3: 4-5 Dec
Camp 4: 11-12 Dec
Camp 5: 18-19 Dec
All camps from 10am-230pm

Wonderswork also offers a by appointment one-time drop off class that’s held on weekends. This is great for parents who want to meaningfully engage their kids while they take a much needed coffee break :) You can find out more about the regular classes and other programs here. If you are interested to sign up, they are currently running a promotion on the program fees.

Junior Robotics Engineer (for 5yrs and above) – $380 (Usual $500)
Young Robotics Engineer (for 8yrs and above) – $460 (Usual $550)
Young Inventors Level 1 (for 5yrs and above) – $380 (Usual $500)

Displaying Wonderswork Lego Robotics Workshop 2.jpg

Kids at a Robotics workshop (Photo courtesy of Wonderswork)

Displaying DSC04738.jpg

The kids who attended the last space camp (Photo courtesy of Wonderswork)

Displaying Space-Camp.jpg

Testing their space inventions (Photos courtesy of Wonderswork)

I’ve signed Asher up for the Space Inventors camp and he’s extremely excited! I’m excited to see what he’ll get to do too! Ellery is unfortunately too young to attend, but I might bring him back for some of the other workshops instead.


Wonderswork offered a complimentary trial class for the boys. All opinions are my own.
You can call Wonderswork at 6333 4088 to arrange for a trial class if your kids are interested.

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I was intrigued by the concept when I first heard about the Human Body Experience at the Science Centre and was very keen to bring the kids. Wasn’t quite sure how they’d take it. I heard that some kids really loved the experience, but some really hated it. My guess was that Asher would initially be more afraid, and Ellery would say he’s afraid because he tends to copy whatever Asher says. With the right coaxing I hoped I could get them through and it and hopefully they’d really enjoy it.

My parents were curious about the exhibition too, so all of us trotted off to the Science Centre together. It was their first time in eons and my Dad was quite happy to wander about and look at the various exhibits. Quite a few times we had to look for my Dad, rather than look for the kids haha! :)

When we first got to the entrance – the mouth – it was hard to see how we’d get in. From the front you see an open mouth with a tongue and there’s no way through. Only when we got up close did we realise we had to climb up the tongue and slide down the throat! The boys were initially quite hesitant, but they still tried touching everything and went through ok. I couldn’t possibly leave Alyssa outside so I carried her in the sling and in she went too! Sound asleep the whole time, might I add.

It’s an immersive experience and it was very funny to finally be ‘pooped out’ of the body. And because all six of us came out together we joked that the man was having diarrhoea :) The boys thought being squeezed through the different parts of the stomach was the most fun, but they didn’t like where the ground was squishy. It was also a pity that the first time we went through the voice box was faulty and there was no sound when we pressed against the walls. Later on I managed to coax Ellery to go through with me again and the voice box worked, so we  spent a little more time playing there. Ellery said the second time was much more fun than the first (I guess because he knows what to expect), and I think Asher would have thought the same if he went in again too (but he was caught up with some other activity).

Overall, I wouldn’t say the boys loved it, but they somewhat enjoyed the experience. Ellery, in particular, seems to have enjoyed the experience more and is quite interested in the learning about the human body now.

After being 'pooped out' :)

Survived being eaten!

On that same outing we went to watch Animalopolis as well because it sounded interesting and something that would interest the kids. But it’s really not worth the money. It’s not really a documentary about animals. Rather its a stylised presentation of animals, in a humourous way, yes, but not something I’d pay so much (there were 5 of us!) for. It’s more like something you’d be able to watch on Sesame Street, but longer.


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Road to Easter

I was looking for something to do in the lead up to Easter to make the occasion memorable and meaningful for the boys.  I stumbled upon this e-book called A Sense of the Resurrection by Amanda White that provides a guide for activities leading up to Easter.  There are 12 days of activities that you can do consecutively or spread out over a longer period.  I found it almost exactly 12 days before Easter, so I started immediately and have been doing one activity everyday with the boys.

A Sense of the Resurrection

I like that the activities are short and simple, and that you end up leaving reminders around the house so that Easter and Jesus’ love and sacrifice are never far from your mind.  For example, they decorated glass bottles and filled it with essential oils.  Every time we smelled the scent we would remember how Jesus died for us.  And they made chimes from yoghurt containers.  Each time they heard the containers rattling, they’d say, “Hosanna!”

Each day there is a theme, a reading list taken from the Bible, a craft activity, and a colouring sheet which can be assembled together with colouring sheets from other days to make an Easter bunting.  For the reading list, I usually just find the equivalent story in the kid’s picture Bible so that it’s more engaging for them.

The kids have been enjoying the daily Easter activities, and I’m so happy to see that they are learning little nuggets about Easter that they didn’t know about before.  Each activity is not very deep or complex, but there is always a simple key message for the kids to remember, and they have!  Hopefully it will not just be head knowledge, but something they will learn to internalise over time.

There are still a few days to go before Easter.  You could always check out the e-book to extract parts you think are suitable for the remaining few days.

Easter 1

Easter 2

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It’s been a while since I posted an update on our tadpoles.  All of the first batch have now become froglets!

These last few weeks I’ve enjoyed looking at the little guys everyday, several times a day actually, just to see what they’re up to, how they’re developing, etc.  I think I’ve taken more pleasure out of this than the kids.  I really do think the froglets are handsome, yes, handsome.  Every single person I’ve said this to has taken issue with my choice of word.  I guess I was expecting them to look like slimy little ugly things, but discovering they were tree frogs, albeit common ones, and seeing their lovely stripes and angular heads, that word just couldn’t help but pop into my mind.  Or perhaps I’ve simply grown attached to them.

The other thought in my head these few weeks was how the development of frogs is similar to the development of children.  There are the fast ones, the majority, and the late bloomers.  Out of our remaining 9 tadpoles from the first batch (gave away 3), the first froglet crawled out of the water on 9 Jul, followed closely on 11 Jul by another.  The rest then followed one-by-one, and by 18 Jul, all except for one were froglets.  That last one hadn’t even grown back legs!  The last tadpole continued to grow and grow in size, and finally little sprouts of back legs started to appear.  Then it was another eternity before front legs arrived.  Then several days more before it tried to crawl out of the water.  It finally became a proper froglet on 29 Jul, a good 20 days after the first one, and more than a week after the rest.  The interesting thing is, it is larger than all the other froglets.  Significantly so.  I guess in the animal world, being the largest kind of makes you the alpha?  So perhaps being slow isn’t so bad afterall.

Batch 1, wk 7, 9 Jul: First froglet

Batch 1, wk 7, 9 Jul: Froglet climbed higher than the day before

Batch1, wk7, 11 Jul: Froglet number 2 crawled out.  The fairly long tail disappears overnight!

Batch 1, wk 7, 13 Jul: Two mini frogs

Batch1, 13 Jul: Most of the tadpoles have grown back legs, and several have front legs too.

Batch1, wk8, 19Jul: Meeting on how to escape

Batch1, wk8, 19Jul: The late bloomer!
Batch2: 4 little tadpoles wondering who the big fellow is

Batch1, 25Jul: Tubefax worm feast


Batch1, 30Jul: The late bloomer is the biggest one on the rock

The boys have enjoyed having them around, but it’s not a constant attraction, more like moments of excitement before they move on to play with other things, which is fine.  I think that’s pretty normal for kids.  Both of them have helped with cleaning of the tanks, helping to scoop the tadpoles from one tank to another.  And they’ve helped with the froglets too.  Asher totally loved playing with the little froglets, and at one point we had several hopping around our kitchen floor :)  He was soooo amused when they hopped onto his arm, and was laughing away merrily when they didn’t want to let go of his fingers when he tried to put them back into the tank.  Ellery too showed no fear of the little froglets and gamely let them sit on his fingers and arms.

They continue to live in a tank on our dining table (which initially irked my husband but he’s grown used to their presence).  They’ve even had an upgrade of living quarters.  From a small tank to a medium sized one.  They just looked so cramped especially since they could easily hop from one wall to another in the small tank.

I’m not sure how long more we’ll keep them.  They’re still really small and unobstrusive so I guess they’ll be with us for a while more.

A new giant frog in the tank??

As for the second batch, I guess like with second kids, they’ve not been getting as much attention hahaa.  From almost 180 tadpoles (or more), I gave away all but 2.  20 were sent to Asher’s school but I think all except for 2 have died (though at the point of writing this, I’m not actually sure about the status of those remaining two).  It seems tadpoles don’t take too well to migration.  I’ve heard from so many mothers that their tadpoles didn’t make it.  I really wonder how many of the tadpoles are still alive and swimming.

Batch2, 30Jul: Left with two

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