Lesson #23: To measure our lives in love

Last weekend, I went for a semi-silent retreat. I finally found the answer to a question that had been bugging me for a while now. After volunteering at the hospice, I knew that at the end of the day, all that mattered in life was people, not wealth, nor status. But how to go about my day loving those around me? With Kate entering the very (and that’s an understatement) challenging ‘terrible two’s and #1 moving full swing into the unchartered teenage years, I found myself living in compartments of ‘loving them’ and ‘not loving them’ moments. I was only able to love them when they were well-behaved, showing love to one another or being really cute/looking angelic while fast asleep (that applied to Kate). And for the past few weeks, it seemed like the ‘not loving them’ moments greatly outnumbered the times when I could really look at them and feel great love for them. And our house definitely didn’t feel like a haven of love and peace.

Beautiful quiet grounds

At the retreat, I learnt to ‘measure our lives in love’. That sentence spoke to me immensely. I realised that I was measuring my life by all sorts of yardsticks, so it was no wonder that at the end of the day, I was frustrated and felt like I had been a horrible mum. Especially if the siblings fought a lot that day, or if the whole day had been ‘wasted’ and we didn’t do anything productive. And I was really drained at the end of most days.

As I was writing this post, #4 came and wanted to show me how she braided her hair in a new style which she just learnt. Normally I would be annoyed because I was interrupted, and even though I would talk to her, deep inside I wished she would hurry so that I could go back to what I was doing. However, this time, I gladly stopped what I was doing because now I saw it as another opportunity I had in that day to love. So I turned to her and gave her my full attention. She gayly demonstrated her new technique, gave me a kiss then skipped away.

Just a tiny paradigm shift, but it has transformed the way I relate to the children and to everyone around me. With this sentence as my guiding principle, everything became crystal clear to me. If I could love them with all my heart each moment of the day, in all the good AND the bad, then those moments would become days, and the days become years and the years would become a life lived with love and in love.

Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things in which smiles and kindness, and small obligations given habitually, are what preserve the heart and secure comfort.    –Humphry Davy

Other Thursday lessons (which I’ve learnt the hard way):

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Koji Jap restaurant – I have fallen in love with Omakase

We took the kids out for dinner to celebrate #3’s results and decided to try the new Japanese restaurant Koji Sushi Bar at Pickering street. Besides the usual menu, they have Omakase which literally translates as ‘chef decides’. There is no menu, and the chef is free to whip up a Japanese style 11-course meal with whatever fresh ingredients he has on hand. When you make a booking, they will enquire if there are any foods which you do not eat. This is our first time trying Omakase, which seems to be all the rage now, and we went for the $100 nett dinner. Most times I find it hard to decide what to eat, so I was happy to go with the flow and be surprised by the dishes.

We started off with a cold dish of century egg tofu with tobiko (flying fish eggs). Very yummy.

Century egg cold tofu with tobiko

Next came a simple platter comprising of hamachi with truffle, snow crab and fish cartilage. Fish cartilage!

We all love chawanmushi (steamed egg custard), and this version with truffle oil was delicious.

Chawanmushi with truffle oil
Fresh assorted sashimi

After all those interesting light dishes, they proceeded to serve single portions of sushi one after another. As expected of any respectable Japanese establishment, very fresh Uni (sea urchin) sushi was included in the line-up.

Uni sushi

The kids enjoyed ‘painting’ their sushi with soya sauce. The older ones tried mini bites of the more exotic sashimi like the uni and scallop but didn’t like them, so the hubs and I had extra portions!

Fresh scallop

Just as I felt I couldn’t eat another piece of sushi, along came a nice hotpot with slices of raw wagyu beef. 

Thin wagyu slices

It was truly a lovely dining experience. Great for people like me who can’t decide what to eat, are open to trying new food and love surprises!

Koji Japanese restaurant

Koji is a cosy little establishment, so do make reservations. Prior booking of at least 2 days notice is required for their Omakase menu. Let them know your budget (starts from $80 nett). We were informed that the central air-con switches off at 10pm so don’t expect to hang around till late.

There were some bronze statues of coolies some steps away from Koji and we ended the night having a great time taking funny pictures and laughing about how much (or little) we knew about the history of Singapore.

Koji sushi bar

3 Pickering Street
#01-42 Nankin Row
Singapore 048660

Tel: 62256125

Opening hours:

Lunch: 11.30am – 3pm
Dinner: 5pm – 10pm

Sun & PH closed

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

PSLE score – what’s it to you?

This year was the first time I went to school to collect the PSLE results. #3 asked me to go because both of her best friends’ mums were going. Needless to say, the anticipation in the school hall was killing everyone. I don’t know who was more anxious, the students or the parents.

Ok, I’m sure all of you want to know what #3 got, since I did put #1 and #2’s score up on my blog previously. Some people are secretive about it, but to me, it doesn’t say very much. So here it is. She got 4 ‘A’s with an aggregate of 229. We are all very proud of her because even until P4, she was hyperactive and found it hard to sit for more than 15 minutes. She had always been in one of the last classes and was still failing some subjects at the beginning of P6. The fact that she took the exams very seriously, was motivated to do well and gave of her best efforts was already cause for celebration. She was jumping for joy and exclaiming “I got an A for Chinese!”

On the other hand, her best friend scored 246 and cried.

The whole day, my phone beeped non-stop with people asking me her results. I understand how anxious her tutors were to know if their hard work had paid off, and I understand the concern of family. But there were many other people who just wanted to know her score.

What is it about people wanting to know other people’s kids’ scores? So that they would feel better about themselves if their kid scored higher? Or that they could put a number to a child’s intelligence? Or make all sorts of judgements about the child and his family?

Poor kids. I really feel sorry for them when adults asked them their grades and they have to face their reactions, and worse, sometimes face expressions with a split second of “oh gosh, that’s bad” before the adults regain their composure and said something positive. And strangely the adults seemed only interested in knowing the aggregate without asking them if they felt they had done their best, if they had shown an improvement, or anything else about the child as a person.

So before you ask a child his or her PSLE score, please ask yourself why do you want to know it, and what is the message you would want to tell the child after you hear it. Because kids are shaped in part by society, and your reaction to the child might stay in his or her mind for a long time. Please spare a thought for these children who are grappling with what these 3 numbers mean. 

Related posts:

Why we went on vacation just before the PSLE

Countdown: 3 months to the PSLE

6 things to do in the PSLE year

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

School Stories #5: Lessons learnt from #1’s ‘O’s

The ‘O’ level exams are over. I am disappointed in #1 because she didn’t give of her best. I am also wondering if I should have done it a different way. For their PSLE I had a good strategy, but this is a whole new ball game altogether. In the short 4 years of secondary school life, the kids grow up very quickly and become more independent, more opinionated, even rebellious perhaps. I left it mostly up to her, and gave her some guidance and monitored her from arms’ length. I thought it should have been ok as she had her goals and seemed motivated to want to get into the JC of her choice, and she had her study time-table meticulously scheduled. However, she lost steam halfway and didn’t study as hard as she could have. On hindsight, these are some of the areas I should look into for the other 5 kids when it’s their turn.

Exam schedule

1) Use of gadgets

As she’s already in Sec 4, I thought I should be giving her more freedom. I did consider putting a curfew on her phone use, but she said that she texts her friends when she has questions and thus needs her phone. Her classmates also have group chats where they discuss school work and for this generation of teenagers, the phone is a major part of their lives. Something I think is detrimental, but what to do? (please enlighten me if you’ve got it all worked out). I’m sure she did spend unnecessary amounts of time using her gadgets instead of studying. Even adults find it hard to exercise self-control with regards to phone use, what more teenagers whose social lives are played out via their phones.

2) Sleep

Then there is the issue of sleep. During their PSLE, I ensure they get an adequate amount of sleep. However, in Sec 4, everything seems to go haywire. They get home late after school, and by the time they shower and have dinner, it is not unusual to sleep at midnight. In the days leading up to the exams, sometimes she studies into the wee hours of the night as she finds it more conducive then. However, her sleep pattern ends up topsy-turvy and that would have had a negative impact on her ability to concentrate.

3) Relationship issues

In my time, we’ve all seen friends breaking-up with their boyfriends/girlfriends during the crucial exams which affected their ability to study properly. Now, we are the parents having to worry. It is alarming how many secondary school kids are in relationships. Even if they are not in a relationship, the teenage years is a time when their hormones are running wild and they get easily attracted to others, which becomes a distraction. Again, I have no answer to this.

4) Prom night

I wasn’t so pleased that her prom night fell on the day right after her last paper. Being girls, they spent a lot of time stressing over getting the right dress, right shoes to match, and what to do with their hair and make-up. And she spent a considerable amount of time discussing this with her friends, surfing the net, and shopping. This distracted her from the last few days of revision. I wish the school could have spaced it out further.

I am pondering how to guide the rest of them better, and how to balance my input while giving them the trust and space to deal with it on their own. Because at 16, they are not young anymore, yet not matured enough.

What are your thoughts? Any advice?

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

My Gym – Kate loves the different activities!

We have come to the end of our term at My Gym which our sponsors have so kindly extended to Kate. She really enjoyed the classes and keeps asking to go back to ‘gym school’. What I really liked about their sessions is the wide variety of physical activities Kate was exposed to which I couldn’t possibly carry out myself. They change their activities weekly which was perfect for her, as she figures things out much quicker than before and gets bored with the same activities. My post at the beginning of our term showcased the different segments of the 1 hour session, so here I shall give you a glimpse of the different physical activites she enjoyed over the 10 weeks.

Stilt walking

She must be thinking, “What’s this strange contraption? Feels like a swing, but it isn’t.”

Swinging Disc
The teachers said Kate had strong arms and is able to pull herself up. Very soon she can join her older siblings at rock climbing!

Baby mountain climbing

They have cool stuff which the older siblings were envious of, like swinging on the trapeze.

Trapeze artiste in the making?

Even though she’s usually the youngest in the class, she is quicker than the others, thanks to her daily training at the playground by her gor gor. She didn’t even need her teacher to hold on to her. Real monkey.

2 little monkeys climbing up the wall

This ‘hanging hoops’ activity looks deceptively easy, but it takes a lot of coordination to hold onto one of the coils without letting go, while grabbing the other swinging coil. Concentrating so hard…

Nearer, nearer…

The older kids love doing this ‘flying fox’ thing which they sometimes find at big park playgrounds. Kate finally has a chance to try it out for herself.

Space Flight

Kate thought it was easy peasy walking up this little slope, but then it started to tip.

Lots of leg work and body awareness involved to steady herself. After gaining her balance, she managed to walk down slowly unassisted.

Sometimes they have a game at the end of the session instead of the toy box. When the teacher announced that they were going to play “What’s the time, Mr Wolf?”, I was thinking to myself, “They’re only 2, no one’s going to follow your instructions.” I was really surprised they could get the hang of the game (although many were happy to run towards the wolf to get caught). Kate had watched her siblings play it before, so she was wary of the wolf.

Who’s for dinner?

There is also ample opportunity to socialise with the other children.

Playing peek a boo

Someone’s cheating

It is without a doubt that Kate thoroughly enjoyed her time at My Gym. The teachers are very encouraging, and they are patient even with those kids who keep crying and are reluctant to try the new activities.

Her first certificate!

She especially liked teacher Javier, who made it so much fun for her! 

Some of my friends think that they should only send their child for gym classes if they are clumsy. Personally, I feel that physical activity is so important to kids from a young age, irregardless if the child is ‘active’ or ‘clumsy’. If you can afford it, it is good to send your child for such lessons. For kids who are very active, it is a great way to let off the excess energy in a safe environment. For those who seem to have ‘two left feet’, they can work on their physical abilities and learn some exercises which you can follow through at home. And for kids who are already quite physically competent, this would stretch them further.

MY GYM is a U.S. program with 30 years of experience in children’s fitness. Their classes are suitable for children from 4 months to 10 years. Classes are 1 hour long and fees are $468+GST for a 10-week term + $60 one time registration fee. If you are thinking of what to do for your child’s birthday, why not give them a call and find out more. Their Birthday Bash looks really exciting, and are specially catered to kids all the way from 1 month to 10 years old.

Disclaimer: My Gym sponsored Kate a term of lessons. All opinions are my own.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Christmas – simple is best

It’s that time of the year again. Christmas! I love this season, simply because it is filled with 2 of my favourite things. Friends and food. And they go together so well, no?

As we approach the advent season, I am reflecting on our priorities in life. It is easy to get caught up in this year end frenzy, so I have decided to make a conscious effort not to be drawn in to all the unnecessary excesses. I will try to simplify our activities and preparations and pare down to the essentials. Perhaps I will get the kids to list down some non-material gifts they would like to have and when their grandparents or aunties ask them what they want, they don’t have to accumulate more material things. On my part, I will try to fill our home with more love, patience and peace. Hard to do, especially with Kate entering the ‘terrible twos’ and #1 getting into her ‘teenage ways’. But I will try. As Christmas is about baby Jesus coming into our world, I will let go and let God.

It is also the school holidays, and a time for the kids to remember the less fortunate. The kids saw me taking out the scrapbooking box and they can tell this Christmas crafting is going to be one of our yearly routines. Last year we had lots of fun making handmade tags, with the proceeds going to MINDS.

This year, along with our community of mummy bloggers, we will be supporting Radion International, a non-profit organisation working in one of the roughest neighbourhoods in Thailand. They are dedicated to transforming the lives of street children, abused women and broken families.

These lovingly made Christmas tags will be going at $3 each. You can place your orders in batches of 5 for $15. Designs are one of a kind as all our materials have been donated.
5 for $15
For more lovely designs, hop over to the other crafty mummy bloggers for a variety of Christmas cards and tags. More will be added to this list in time.

1) Little Blue Bottle
2) A Pancake Princess

Do support us and place your orders via email at mummyweedotcom@gmail.com or our Facebook page. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

School Stories #4: Things teachers say

I wrote a post last week about #5 getting complained by his teacher almost daily, and her suggestion that I should limit his play time and start him on tuition since he is already in P2. I didn’t expect all the negative comments I received on my Facebook page regarding the teacher.

Before you think she is some mean monster, I have to say this in her defense. In the 2 years that she has been teaching #5, she has never treated him maliciously and I believe she said all those things in his best interest (even though her views may be wrong). The reality is that the majority of his classmates do have tuition (I guess it’s because he’s in one of the top schools and the parents are generally wealthy AND ultra kiasu) thus the teacher was quick to suggest engaging a tutor.

Photo Credit: Sheknows/JGI/JamieGrill

If you think her comments were shocking, my other kids have come back with worse things their teachers have said to the class:

“There is no way I will ever like anyone of you.”

“You are all not of normal stupidity. Your stupidity is extreme.” 

(translated from Mandarin)

“I don’t care what you all do, I will get my salary anyway.”

And things some of their teachers did…

One teacher made the whole class sit on their textbooks on the floor, and if you refuse to do so, she will fling your textbook out the door and chase you out along with it.

And finally, this one takes the cake.

#3 was in P1, and she was day-dreaming during Chinese lesson. The teacher must have told her to pay attention, but she did not hear (she was day-dreaming, remember?) The teacher stormed over, and with herculean strength, she flipped the entire desk over and it crashed to the floor with a loud thud that shocked the entire class. (I reported it to the form teacher and she told me that this was not the first case and the teacher was being counselled).

Sometimes I really wonder what do teachers expect from these P1s. Just 2 months prior, they were still little kids in kindergarten. Almost overnight, they are expected to morph into mature, sensible, silent little robots who will obediently pay attention during 6 hours of school. Poor kids. Especially the active boys.

I must admit that the first time I heard about such unexemplary actions from the teachers, I wanted to storm straight into the principal’s office to sort it out.  Thankfully I’m not a hot-headed person. However, after having 5 of my kids go through this stressful, competitive rat-chase-rat education system, and after speaking to so many teachers, I can see that it is not easy being a teacher.

So why am I writing this post?

For the parents, so that when your darling child comes home and tells you what bad things her teacher said or did in class, you won’t jump out of your chair and head straight to the principal’s office. Take a deep breath, try to get the whole story from your child, and imagine yourself in the same situation.

Now that I have desensitised you, you can gently and gradually prepare your child that sometimes the teacher might say mean things out of frustration, but tell her not to take it personally. Kids do look up to their teachers, and they might hold what their teachers say in their hearts for years (both the positive and negative things). It might be good to let your children know that if there is anything bothering them which the teacher had said, they can discuss it with you.

And to all the dear teachers out there, most times, I can totally understand why you say what you say or do what you do (except the flipping of the table). Already with 6 kids I yell at them things which I regret later. Don’t ask me what I will do with 40. However, may I humbly remind you that your words are powerful, and they can either be uplifting or demoralising to the children.

Having said that, I am still utterly grateful to all the teachers who have taught my kids over the years (especially those who have touched them in one way or another), and to all teachers out there. Because being a teacher these days is no walk in the park. For you to do what you do year in, year out, I salute you.

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

~ www.mummyweeblog.com –  a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Lesson #22: Confronting death teaches you about life

I’ve been volunteering at a hospice as I’ve always been drawn to palliative care from the time I was a student. This morning, I was pushing an elderly lady around the gardens and she asked me to stop to gaze at the colourful flowers. They brought a smile to her face. Then she spotted 2 little sparrows and she was delighted.

It struck me how alike she is to my kids when they were young. How they would stop to inspect the flowers and burst into childlike wonderment at the beauty of a flower.

It got me thinking. At the beginning of our lives, it’s the simplest things like having the love of mummy and daddy which is most important.

At the end of our lives it is again the warmth of family that we need most. 

How do we end up chasing after all the wrong things throughout our lives? How do we allow our priorities to shift so dramatically?

As I left the hospice, I asked myself, if I was on my deathbed what would I regret? Most likely, I would regret being overly harsh on my kids and yelling at them so much, instead of disciplining them with gentleness and love. Most likely, I would regret the many times I brushed them aside while I tend to all my seemingly more ‘important’ work. Most likely, I would regret choosing to be angry at them instead of immediately forgiving them and hugging them tightly in my arms.

And I asked myself, if I was on my deathbed, what would I be thinking about? Would I be able to easily bring up all the beautiful and happy moments with my family? Would I have uncountable memories of good times, filled with fun and laughter, tears and joy with my closest friends?

At the end of my life, what would I be left with? Things? Titles? Or People?

It takes death to put life into perspective.

And I know, it is the little things which make up L I F E.

However, to live life fully like there is no tomorrow, that is the hard part.

Linking up with:


Other Thursday lessons (which I’ve learnt the hard way):

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~