Singaporean mamas are doing amazing things all over the world! Today we speak with mama of two, food blogger and former Singapore Airlines girl Jolene Sng-Ong in Houston, Texas USA
It’s not all cowboys and ranches in Texas, at least not in Houston anyway (outside of rodeo season). Singaporean mama Jolene Sng-Ong has been living in Houston for nearly 10 years with her two children and her husband – and curing her homesickness one dish at a time with her food blog. She shares with us what she likes about raising children in the Southwest and her favourite places to head to with her kids.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Jolene and I am a 37-year-old stay at home mom (SAHM) to my nine-year-old daughter, Isabella, and five-year-old son, Jamie, as well as wife to Kian San. Apart from caring for my family and our household, I am passionate about fitness, fashion and food. I have a food blog called Miss Crumbs-A-Lot where I document some of my Singaporean food creations as well as other quick and easy to prepare recipes that are perfect for busy families.
What brought you to Houston, Texas? How long have you been living overseas?
We have been living in Houston for nine years now. We moved here for my husband’s job when he was offered an overseas assignment. We have grown to love the Lone Star State and now call Houston home.
Favourite aspect of living in Houston?
Houston is one of the most ethnically-dynamic cities in America. By and large, people here respect differences and are generally very friendly, probably more so than in most large cities in my opinion. When we first moved here at the beginning of 2010, I never once felt out of place. I felt very welcomed and honestly, this positive start made the move so much easier.
And the worst part?
The only down side that I can think of is Houston is so far away from Singapore that it makes visiting Singapore or having family come visit us quite challenging.
Your most recent purchase
… for your children?
CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with Sunscreen and PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion for Isabella. Her skin is starting to become dry and we want to make sure that she learns how to care for her skin now and not wait till puberty.
Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes. I need to set a good example, right?
How do you think parenting in Houston differs from parenting in Singapore? What do you appreciate most about it?
Parenting in Houston, in a Western society, is definitely different from parenting in an Asian culture like in Singapore. I do appreciate that most American kids are encouraged to be independent at a very young age. Babies often have their own rooms and do not co-sleep with their parents. Beyond nursing and bottle-feeding, children are encouraged to feed themselves regardless of the mess they make.
It was rough for me since I am the kind of person who appreciates cleanliness and tidiness but I’m glad I stuck with it. Jamie was feeding himself at a very young age and now, at five years old, he is able to take a shower, brush his teeth, get ready for school and go to bed in his own room without any resistance. These days, I just struggle between feeling proud of him and squirming at the fact that there’s a chance he might not have cleaned himself thoroughly enough.
Did you give birth to your children in Houston? If yes, what was memorable about the experience?
Isabella was born in Singapore and we moved to Houston when she was a little over one year old. Jamie was born here in Houston though. I think what was interesting about my birth experience here was that my doctor asked if I was going to have any other family members or friends with me during delivery apart from my husband. My mom was in town but she preferred not to be in the delivery room as she felt this was a special moment for both my husband and I so she stayed at home with Isabella instead.
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
Before having kids, I was a flight stewardess with Singapore Airlines. Although I was with them for just a couple of years, I felt really blessed to have traveled to so many countries. I left the airline after getting married and joined the National Museum of Singapore as Development Manager. There, I was exposed to culture and heritage and developed a huge passion for the arts. At both places, I worked with some amazing co-workers who are now close friends. After having Isabella, I wanted to try staying home full-time with her and it was definitely a wonderful privilege to have been able to do that. Just before she turned one, we were offered the opportunity to move to Houston. Since then, I have committed to being a SAHM.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Houston?
There are so many great kid-friendly restaurants here in Houston but one of my favourites has got to be Lupe Tortilla. This Mexican favourite has a great patio overlooking a playground with a sand play area full of toys as well as amazing beef fajitas!
Top five places in and around Houston you would recommend to parents traveling with kids?
Houston Museum of Natural Science – One of our favourite museums, especially for slightly older kids. The museum is a major science learning centre that houses a planetarium, a giant screen theatre, a butterfly centre, and permanent exhibitions that examine a broad range of fascinating topics from astronomy, space science, Native American culture, palaeontology to energy, gems and minerals, seashells and Texas wildlife.
Dewberry Farm – It’s a fun place to go in the fall. There are acres and acres of fun attractions such as a corn maze and a pumpkin patch. Come Christmas, you can buy live Christmas trees and they even have a magical Trail of Lights!
Children’s Museum of Houston – The museum offers a wide variety of exhibits and promises kids engaging and action-packed fun.
Altitude Trampoline Park (Katy) – This huge trampoline park is one of the largest trampoline parks in Texas at over 30,000 square feet with facilities including a trapeze, super trampolines, open jump trampolines, dodgeball courts, basketball dunking lanes, a huge multi-sided rock wall, foam pits and battle beams!
Houston Zoo – Although I am biased and feel that the Singapore Zoo is the best in the world, the Houston Zoo certainly doesn’t rank too far behind. They have over 600 animals and you can be guaranteed to have a fun and engaging experience.
Any advice for surviving a flight with young children?
I always pack their favourite snacks and activities or small toys. LEGO and Plus Plus are great construction toys to keep kids entertained. A spare change of clothes for both kids and adults is highly recommended, too.
Is there something that you do to keep your children in touch with their Singaporean roots?
I always make an effort to celebrate holidays such as Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, and Singapore National Day by making traditional Singaporean food at home. I hope to keep my family emotionally connected to Singapore through its unique food culture and the diverse flavours of its different cuisines. My home is also filled mostly with furniture, prints, paintings and decor from Singapore.
Best souvenir one could bring back from Houston
…for a child: Cowboy boots and hat.
…for a mama friend: Local artisanal chocolate from Araya Chocolate.
What do you find is the hardest part of being a mother living in a foreign country?
I think one of the hardest parts is to be away from our extended family. I often feel guilty that my kids do not have much opportunity to get to know their grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts. These are precious memories that I wish I could make with my family.
On raising multilingual children …
It takes effort and commitment to ensure that our children are multilingual because English is so vastly used here. There are not a lot of opportunities for us to use a second language in our daily life.
What do you always bring back from Singapore for yourself and for your children?
Pineapple tarts from Bengawan Solo, kaya and if customs isn’t so strict, and my godmother’s homemade belachan chilli.
Your top makeup tip for a busy mama?
I believe in “less is more” and that it is important to take really good care of our skin. With clear, smooth skin and a few beauty products, one can look polished and put together in no time. I am a fan of the 15-minute routine using a primer, concealer, eyeliner, mascara, blush and lip colour.
Read more: The 5-minute makeup routine for mamas
Tell us about your go-to recipe for your family:
Hainanese chicken rice is a family favourite and often makes an appearance on my dining table. I’ve introduced this dish to my American friends and it is extremely well-received. For a busy weeknight, my fail-safe zero-fuss recipe would have to be bacon-wrapped chicken.
What’s the one thing you would miss about Houston if you moved away?
I think I would miss getting all Western for a weekend during rodeo season. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a dusty, rowdy and all-out remarkable jewel of Texas. Keeping old and new traditions alive, this event is the largest livestock and rodeo show in the world.
Read about more Singaporean mamas abroad!