Increase birth rate? Dollars & cents and so much more

The latest Budget 2016 has included a new enhancement to the Marriage and Parenthood package.

The First Step Grant of $3000 will be deposited upfront into the CDA accounts of all newborn babies born from 24 March 2016.

Finance Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat kicked off the social portion of his maiden Budget speech in Parliament, describing Singapore as a “great place to raise a family”.

I have to acknowledge that the measures rolled out by the government over the past 15 years has been significant.

With 6 kids, every Budget became interesting to watch, as we wondered what new measures would be rolled out in a bid to encourage more couples to start a family.

Photo credit: Straits Times online

Over the years, the schemes that have been administered have helped families, such as the CDA co-savings scheme, more maternity and paternity leave, the Proximity housing grant, more childcare centres and tax incentives for working mothers (although this last incentive seems to be dulled by the recent cap on personal income tax), just to name a few.

So why has there not been any resounding success in raising Singapore’s birth rate?

Perhaps it’s time to address the intangibles.

Having been a part-time financial adviser for 10 years, I worked with many couples and singles addressing issues such as family budgeting, retirement savings, and leaving legacies for future generations.

We often discuss the topic of having children and they are curious and marvel at how the hubs and I can manage to raise so many kids in Singapore. I tell them that we do it by eschewing all conventional methods.

Some even joke that the measure of wealth is no more by the 5 ‘C’s, but by how many Cs you can afford to have – yes, children.

For many couples, it is not that they do not want children, but the top 2 reasons I hear over and over again as to why they are hesitant to have kids or would stop at 1 or 2 are always the same.

The first is the financial burden, and the other is the stressful environment the children have to grow up in.

Right from the O&G medical expenses, hefty pre-school fees, tuition, enrichment classes, all the way to university fees, the figures are mind-boggling.

Besides the already daunting financial obligations, people share with me that the picture of raising children in today’s society does not seem appealing at all.

They look at their siblings, friends or neighbours and witness how their lives have transformed into a mad rush.

From hectic weekdays trying to juggle work, school and logistics, to even busier weekends ferrying their kids from one class to another. Week nights are not spared either, with parents having to rush home to coach their children in spelling or upcoming tests. Everyone seems to be sucked into a spiralling pressure cooker.

The other big issue which impacts a woman’s decision to have more kids is the dilemma of having to choose between work and caring for her children.

It’s time mothers have real options.

You want to work full time? Plenty of jobs available.

You want to stay-at-home? We will support you.

You want to work part-time? Of course.

You want your young kids to be close to you at work? Why not?

You want time off to care for your sick children and to be there for all their important events? We totally understand.

We want a career landscape where we are able to find a good balance between work and family.

The way families are living their days is testimony to what other young couples would want to aspire to.

To see families enjoying their lives together, actually being happy, is the best advertisement to encourage young couples to start a family.

The day that Singapore is truly a great place to raise a family, will be the day you see birth rates increasing.

Because the ones who want to have kids will have them anyway, and those who are hesitant will not be swayed by dollars and cents.

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Diary of a PSLE mum: Keeping a balance

When the 3 older girls had their PSLE, I couldn’t believe that some of their friends’ parents stopped their kids from engaging in all family and recreational activities after chinese new year so that they could ‘focus’.

Even as adults, we need a balance in our lives, what more these 12-year olds who are going through a rather stressful year.

The hubs bought himself a new toy recently, some fancy camera, and this time I didn’t complain because suddenly he became more proactive in taking the kids outdoors.

Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden

Being in nature has so many benefits, which includes allowing them to concentrate better and relieving stress.

Best of all, it doesn’t cost a cent!

My kids are kampung kids.

They climb trees and organise their own games with neighbours at the playground.

Monkeying around

After this post, I’m afraid I won’t be continuing Diary of a PSLE mum as #4 has changed her mind about documenting her year online and I respect her decision.

I wish all families with P6 kids a meaningful year where you bond in a different way, by encouraging and supporting your child through one of the toughest challenges they will face to-date.

By rewarding hard work, not marks per se, and celebrating every significant progress with ice-cream treats or movie nights to show them that we are with them on this journey, always rooting for them and believing in them.

All the best!

6 things to do in the PSLE year

Why PSLE kids would feel like burning their books

How #2 topped her level in English

6 tips to choose the right Secondary school for your child

What I expect from a good tutor

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

{Interview 11}: Peter Draw – Artist

Peter Zhuo, better known as Peter Draw, 31, is an artist who has 4 Guinness World Records under his belt. Largest Caricature, 2007, Largest Art Lesson, 2010, Longest Drawing, 2014 and Longest Drawing by Individual, 2014. He has also been awarded JCI’s Singapore Outstanding Young Persons of Singapore for contributions to Children, World Peace & Human Rights, 2008.

This initiative is part of our 101 Paths to Success series of interviews to gain insight into how successful people came to do what they are doing, and enlighten parents that there is a vast array of occupations for our children to discover. Hopefully it might spark an interest in our children and youths to start their journey of discerning their life’s path.

Peter Draw

Describe your typical work day

I am always figuring out how to showcase life’s most important values and lessons in the cutest, simplest way. I start each day with a sip of coffee.

Tell us about your career path

Growing up, drawing was the only thing I loved and helping people was the most meaningful thing I learnt. I believe everything changes but nothing really changes, unless we start doing what we do with love. My entire career path has been to use art to protect children, especially children who cannot protect themselves.

I was very shy, but after my grandfather passed away when I was 16, I found the courage to put my shyness aside and start taking little steps to pursue my dreams.

How did you find your passion?

I fell in love with drawing when I was 3. Even today, I feel a sense of happiness when I see children drawing, and happier when I am drawing.

Which aspect of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

When a child comes up to me and lets me know that what I have done has fulfilled their childhood – with happy hopes.

There have been many incidents which gave me immense satisfaction.

The time when a little boy in Sichuan broke his only sweet into 2 and gave me one before he returned home. He wrote me a letter and secretly put it into my bag. I only found out when I was on the plane home to Singapore.

The time when a girl showed me her jotter book filled with fashion design drawings, all in black and white. She told me she had never owned any colour pencils or crayons before. Knowing it was her birthday (she is the daughter of our local driver arranged by the local ministry of Foreign Affairs), and Yangon was the last city for our tour, I took out over 100 boxes of Faber Castell crayons and gave it to her and told her “Happy Birthday”, and she cried.

The next day, on our way to the airport, her father gave me a gift – a new jotter book filled with more fashion design drawings. This time, all filled with colours, including the words. On the last page, she wrote that she hoped that one day, I would wear one of her designs. I was half happy and half confused, because all her fashion designs are sexy dresses.

The time in South Africa when a group of children waited for me at the airport to thank me and see me off with their school Principal. My flight was at night, but they came in the morning. Luckily, a fellow Singaporean recognised the name on their signboard and took the pictures which they had drawn. I chatted with one of the kids on the phone and thanked them.

The time in Saitama, Japan, when a pair of playful twin girls sat down quietly with me and started folding paper cranes which we later brought to children in Fukushima.

What does success mean to you?

Sometimes, people ask me if it’s worthwhile dedicating my entire life to pursue an ambitious dream to benefit other people. The way I see it, if at the end of my life, I fail, the loss is personal. If I succeed, children for many generations will continue to benefit long after I’m gone. To me, it’s an obvious choice. Just having the chance to do what I love and serve more children along the way, I am already contented.

You must be incredibly busy. How do you avoid being burnt out?

Even though I work very hard, I don’t think I’m incredibly busy. I hope that young people don’t get the wrong idea and focus on keeping themselves busy to feel successful. Sometimes we can’t avoid getting burnt out, but after resting, just get back on your feet and keep going. If it is something you love, how hard can it be?

Are you involved in any voluntary work?

I try to help as much as I can. Next month, I am starting to teach art to a group of elderly, and will be working with them to draw portraits for the younger ones in their neighbourhood. I have children who call themselves “Little Draws” – little versions of Peter Draw, and now we will have our first “Senior Draws” 🙂

One piece of advice to parents

Whatever you do with and for your children, do it with love.

One piece of advice to teens

Sometimes, we don’t realise the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory. As a child, I promised my grandfather I would be a great artist and make beautiful works of art to show him. I can’t do that now as he has passed away. Thus, never take anything in life for granted, especially human relationships. Hesitate and you may lose the chance forever.

To be a good artist…

If you have created a work that you and others keep falling in love with, you have made a great work of art. Make something people love, and you can only do that with love.

{Interviews} 101 Paths to Success

#1 – Dr Karen Crasta Scientist Associate Prof at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine

#2 – Jeremiah Choy Creative Director Sing50 Mega concert at the National Stadium

#3 – Elaine Yeo Musician Singapore Symphony Orchestra

#4 – Chong Ee Jay Cyber Wellness Educator TOUCH Cyber Wellness

#5 – Professor Tan Huay Cheem Cardiologist Director of National University Heart Centre

#6 – Ruth Wan Children’s Book Author Timmy and Tammy series

#7 – Andrea Decruz Media Personality Owner of CINQ Salon & Belmont Flora

#8 – Ebelle Chong Dance Practitioner / Choreographer SSLD:7 in R.e.P 2015

#9 – Dr Phillip A. Towndrow Research Scientist Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice

#10 – Christine Teo Mental Health Social Worker Founder of Generation 414

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

DISNEY ON ICE: It’s Magical

The day has finally arrived!

I don’t have to answer Kate’s question of “Are we going to watch Frozen today?” anymore.

Although to be honest, I have been milking this event for all it’s worth.

“You want me to take you to watch Frozen? Then you had better…”

Works like a charm.

My 5 older kids remember the Disney on Ice shows we went to when they were younger, but this is the first for Kate, and it is also the very first time the Academy Award winning and Number One Animated Feature film of all time Frozen will be staged.

Queen Elsa made it snow

The buzz at the Singapore Indoor Stadium before the show started was palpable, and mini Elsas in all manner of fancy blue dresses were out in full force.

The colourful display of a whole gamut of Disney merchandise added to the festive atmosphere, and there were snacks on sale like huge buckets of popcorn and ice slushies in oh-so-irresistably-cute cups.

Disney merchandise
The older kids still remember Mrs Pots and Chip (cup) which I had bought for them probably 10 years ago at Disney On Ice.

It is so nice to be back at a show which brought back such fond memories of their childhood.
Disney Figurines

The show commenced promptly at 7pm, with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and an energetic team of skaters crisscrossing the square rink.

It put Kate right in the mood as she loves Mickey.

We were sponsored VIP tickets and being up close in the 6th row really helped to keep Kate attentive throughout the 2 hour show.

Mickey on Ice

What surprised me was that the teens enjoyed the show as much as Kate.

#3 is in Dance CCA and she was intently watching the Mermaids perform so gracefully on their skates. Their choreography, costumes and energy levels gave her much to aspire towards.

Colourful costumes

The highlight of Rapunzel’s segment was Maximus the horse, the brilliant floating lanterns and the skating thrills!


During the 20 minute intermission, we had time to buy some popcorn and browse the merchandise.

Disney Plush toys
Limited edition merchandise
Well into the second set, while the older girls were riveted by the storylines, twirls and leaps and elaborate sets, Kate started getting impatient and kept asking, “Where is Elsa?”

Beauty and the Beast

Finally, the cast of Frozen emerged!

It was probably what most of the little girls in the audience were waiting all evening for.

Kate, along with many of the little kids sang their hearts out to the familiar tunes.

Queen Elsa
Sophia Adams, a two-time competitor in the United States National Championship, who plays Queen Elsa, certainly did not disappoint.

While I still don’t get why little girls all over are so in love with the Elsa character in Frozen, I must say that Adams, who is half-Koaren, cuts a very striking figure as Elsa and I really liked her stage presence.

After the show, I asked the teens what they enjoyed about the show. “Everything! It’s all so pretty!”

Kate, not one to be left out of anything, chipped in, “I love Elsa. Mummy, I want to learn to ice-skate.”

Ah, the success of any production is when it inspires, isn’t it?

DISNEY ON ICE: Magical Ice Festival 2016 runs till tomorrow. It’s your last chance to be drawn into the magical world of Disney!

Ticketing information:

Disney On Ice: Magical Ice Festival

When: 11 to 20 March 2016

Where: Singapore Indoor Stadium

How much: $25 to $120

Tickets can be purchased via:

2. Sports Hub Ticket Hotline: 31587888
3. SingPost outlets.

Disclaimer: We were sponsored tickets to DISNEY ON ICE: Magical Ice Festival. All opinions are my own.

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Sentosa Kidz Flea

I heard about this interesting concept a few years ago and have been meaning to expose my kids to this experiential form of entrepreneurship but the timing was not right until now.

Sentosa has been organising this event for the 5th year running, and I am really impressed with the effort they have put in to tailor this flea market specially for children.

The kids have to think about what business they want to run, come up with a stall name, and man the stall from 3-8pm. They can choose to run the stall for a day or an entire week.

Kid-sized stall

To prepare the budding entrepreneurs, a 2-hour session is provided where they cover the basics of running a business such as factors to consider when pricing your goods or services, tips on stall display and communication with customers.

Besides teaching kids to run a business, they also believe in inculcating altruism in them. 20% of sales are to be pledged towards charity, and this year they will be giving to The Autism Association (Singapore).

I told #5 we would have to arrive at 2pm to set up the stall. He counted the hours and exclaimed, “That is as long as a school day! How can I stand in one place for so long?”

Sounds like a tall order for a young child?

Actually, the organises are very flexible and parents are allowed to help out if the kids need to take a rest, have their meal or take a break and enjoy the planned activities.

In fact, most of the children rose to the occasion and they were energetic and anxious to increase their sales that they didn’t rest besides taking toilet and meal breaks.

The event is held at the Merlion plaza where there is good foot traffic. In addition, professionals were hired to run children’s activities on stage to increase patronage to the stalls.

Some kids sold handmade jewellery and stationery while others displayed their pre-loved items like toys and books. There were also game stalls where the kids used recycled yakult bottles to create simple games, and some creative kids whipped up freshly made slime!

Many kids went around with baskets filled with their wares and they were really brave to approach strangers to ask them to buy their goods.

Sentosa Kidz Flea

Most of the stalls were rented by families who wanted their children to get a sense of running a real business, but there were also a few primary schools who participated in this event and everything the students earned was pledged to charity. Kudos to the teachers, students and parents!

What amazed me was that in a short span of 5 hours, strangers became friends and ‘competitors’ became collaborators. This lovely lady was so warm that the kids from the other stalls came and sat with her for hours and helped her to promote her wares.

At one point, it was pouring and business was slow. We mucked around, gave ‘neighbour’ discounts to one another and engaged in barter trade.

We met Peter Draw, the affable artist with 2 Guinness World Records under his belt, who was hired to run some kids’ activities at this event. He really has the gift of the gab and was going around helping kids to attract customers.

Peter Draw

Before we packed up, I invited the kids from the schools to come over and pick up anything they wanted from our stall for free. They had worked hard, all for a good cause.

The kids were so polite and adorable. They picked up a couple of items each, showed them to me and asked, “Can I take these?”

At the end of the day, it was definitely not about how much we earned, but the experience and life lessons the kids learned.

Do support these little bosses and head on down to Merlion Plaza.

Sentosa’s Kidz Flea is on until Saturday 19 March 2016.

The stalls are for rent at $28 per day (weekdays) or $40 per day (weekend) and is something you can consider for your kids (aged 7-12) next year!

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Nassim Hill Bakery

Now that Kate goes to school for an extra hour, my mornings have become more productive.

Previously, she was in school for 3 hours and I barely had enough time to commute, do what I needed to do, and rush back to pick her on time.

Now, I drop her off at 8.30am and get to enjoy a proper breakfast with my mummy friends or have casual meetings over breakfast for the new projects I’m working on.

Nassim Hill Bakery

I’ve been meaning to try this cafe for quite a while now as it opens early at 8am and is conveniently located at Tanglin road.

I brought #1 along to my breakfast meeting as she is on term break and she remembers this place as the ‘treehouse cafe’ which they loved going to when they were younger.

Eggs Benedict $19

They have a wide selection of egg items on their menu and it is good to know that they use antibiotic and hormone-free eggs.

Our food came fast and their presentation is good and portions generous.

Somehow though, I expected the pancakes to be fluffier.

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancake $18
Cheddar Cheese Bacon Waffles $19

#1 was adventurous and went for the Cheddar cheese waffles, but found the cheese flavour a little too overwhelming.

Their steak and eggs plate is what I call a hearty breakfast to start the day!

Brings to mind my late aunt who used to advice us to “Breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince and dine like a pauper”.

Steak and Eggs $23

It was nice and quiet when we arrived at 9am and the crowd picked up just before lunch.

I’ve found an unpretentious cafe to add to the list of ‘after school-drop-off breakfast options’.


Nassim Hill Bakery

Nassim Hill Bakery
56 Tanglin Road
Tanglin Post Office
Tel: 68351128

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

School Stories #16:The day I forgot to pick my son from school

Last week, I caught a stomach bug and was throwing up through the night.

I was exhausted and weak and drifted in and out of sleep the whole day while the kids were at school.

The hubs was away and I asked my sis-in-law to pick Kate up.

At 2pm, while lying in bed, I could hear the familiar noise of #4 and #5’s school bus dropping them home.

I tried hard to think.

What day was it today?

Tuesday? Or Thursday?

It must be Thursday.

It was the week before CA1. Was there CCA?

I strained my ears to pick up their voices.

Normally, if the both of them were on the bus together, there would be a commotion as they race each other into the house, shouting, “Me first!”

But if it was just one child coming back, there would be silence.

In my foggy state of mind, I heard some voices and convinced myself that they were both safely home.

Waiting in vain
The thought of having to drag myself out of bed to go downstairs to check if the both of them were home seemed like a herculean task at that point in time.

I drifted off to sleep.

I must have slept for 3 hours.

Suddenly, my phone rang.

I woke up, looked at the unfamiliar number, and croaked into the phone.


“Is this Mrs Wee?”

My hair stood on end.

Having been slightly energised by the nap, my mummy instincts kicked in.

Something has happened to one of my brood.


“I am Mrs Ong, the VP. Your son is here with me in the general office and he seems upset.”

I started blabbering, “Oh gosh! I’m so sorry! I was sleeping. I was not well. I’ll be there right away. Please tell him to wait for me at the general office.”

I tried to think. How long must he have waited?

He ended CCA at 4pm. It was now 5pm.

Poor boy. He usually waits for me at a designated spot just outside of school.

He must have stood there for what seemed like an eternity as the other parents’ cars drove off one by one, leaving him all alone.

Without a phone, he must have felt helpless and afraid.

We have a no phone policy for the younger kids, but it is something we have to re-look.

As I was rushing out the door, Kate asked me what was happening.

She had come into my room earlier to look for me but I told her that I was really sick and could not attend to her.

Yet the next minute, she saw me up and about, frantically grabbing my car keys, dashing out the door.

“I forgot all about your gor gor! He is still waiting for me in school!”

She trailed me with her million questions as she followed me into the car.

As mums, we can somehow summon our inner reserves even though we are running on empty.

I reached his school, and as I drove past the playground, I spied a boy who looked a lot like #5, playing with 2 younger boys.

I quickly parked the car and walked towards the playground.

Yes, it was my son.

Thank goodness he was happily playing with some new friends he found at the playground.

He ran towards us and scooped Kate in his arms. “Mum, can we play at the playground for a little while?”

I am constantly baffled how boys get over things so quickly. My girls would have been fuming.

Of course I had to oblige.

“Just a little while ok, mummy is not feeling well.”

As I waited in the car, the hunger, weakness and light-headedness came flooding back. Physically I felt really awful.

But the emotional roller-coaster was over.

My son is safe. All is well.

Back home, I asked #4 why was there a commotion earlier when she was the only one alighting from the school bus?

“Oh, my bus mates were shouting bye to me.”

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?

#11 – How #2 topped her level in English
#12 – DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 – Tuition – First line of attack?
#14 – Why do exams have to be so stressful?
#15 – First day mix up!

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore 

DISNEY ON ICE: Magical Ice Festival 2016

“Mummy, can you take me to the Frozen show?”

These days, even 3-year olds are more up-to-date than I am.

If you are like me and haven’t already heard, Disney On Ice will be presenting Magical Ice Festival during the March holidays!

Elsa and Anna

Kate has been belting out “Let it go” with her 4-year old cousin often enough, to her older siblings’ lament, “Isn’t the Frozen fever over?”

To which I replied, “Girls, there will always be 3-year olds. Let Kate have her fair share of it, ok?”

Anna and Olaf

When I announced that I had been sponsored VIP tickets to Magical Ice Festival 2016, they changed their tune and all wanted in on it!

With beautifully choreographed figure-skating moves, elaborate sets and familiar tunes, who could resist?

They started reminiscing about the Disney on Ice shows I had brought them to when they were younger, and how over the years, they ‘came of age’ and had to save up their ang pow money to purchase those tickets themselves.

Their all-time favourite was the High School Musical Ice Tour 8-years ago, and we haven’t gone to any others since then. Now that we have Kate, the teens have an opportunity to re-live their childhood memories of their favourite Disney characters!

Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy

This year’s theme, Magical Ice Festival, takes you on a sensational journey with your most loved Disney characters on ice. Experience a medley of Disney movies from The Little Mermaid to Beauty and the Beast, with special appearances from characters of the Academy Award winning and Number One Animated Feature film of all time – Disney’s Frozen!

Little Mermaid

With an extraordinary line-up of hit songs, memorable scenes and never-before-seen characters to look forward to, here are 10 magical moments behind Disney On Ice to get you all geared up for the show.

1.     Disney On Ice was founded in 1981 and has since travelled to over 75 countries and 6 continents
2.     The average size of the ice skating surface is 140ft [42m] x 70ft [21m]
3.     There are approximately 180 costumes presented at one Disney On Ice show
4.     And more than 100 people work on these costumes
5.     It takes 18 trucks to transport all production equipment for set-up
6.     And it takes between 12-15 hours to set up one Disney On Ice show
7.     But just about 4 hours to tear down the entire production
8.     Over 80 different colours of paint are used on the 183 props for this production
9.     The youngest performer on this year’s show is 19-years-old and the oldest is 44-years-old
10.   Each performer may change up to 8 costumes in one show
Elsa makes it snow

Kate can’t wait to be enchanted by her first Disney On Ice extravaganza. She keeps looking at the calendar and counting down the days.

To be honest, I’m also looking forward to it!

Ticketing information:

Disney On Ice: Magical Ice Festival

When: 11 to 20 March 2016

Where: Singapore Indoor Stadium

How much: $25 to $120

Tickets can be purchased via:

2. Sports Hub Ticket Hotline: 31587888
3. SingPost outlets.

Photo credits: Feld Entertainment.

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~