A tumultuous O level year!

My daughter’s O level exams has just started and it will last through the next 4 weeks. She is a slow and steady learner and drew up a timetable system to work through the chapters one by one for the various subjects.

She decluttered her room and tidied her desk to create a conducive study environment. She was all set to give it her best in this last spurt. Little did she know that her plans were going to be shattered.

An unfortunate situation cropped up, as grandpa had a fall at home. Our repair works had to be brought forward and undertaken immediately as the wooden flooring in his room had rotted and popped up.

We thought that replacing floorboards in 2 rooms wasn’t such major works, and the contractor said it would take A WEEK.

We could deal with that.

Well, it is obvious that we have never done this before – living IN the house while rooms are BEING renovated.

The first two days was deafening! Non-stop drilling and hacking, and the house felt like it was vibrating. In the end, we couldn’t take it anymore and escaped to the nearest eatery to do our work.

The siblings packed their stuff and bunked in with each other, and we reminded them to take EVERYTHING they would need for a week because there was no walking into the room when there was wet cement!

There was a quick shifting of furniture and the one who’s supposed to be revising for her major exams seems to be getting distracted by the others who are on holiday and I hear more chatting than studying.

The first night was like a fun sleepover but soon the contrasting sleeping and living habits started becoming a problem. She had to sleep early for school the next morning, while the others are on holiday. And she got annoyed as the rest are not as tidy as her. Rooming together takes a lot of compromise, understanding and acceptance!

The hubs decided that since the floors and walls have already been taped, it was an opportune time to get in the painters to repaint parts of the house plus do bits of repair works and not have to go through this again. So the living rooms are also out of bounds, and the kids are confined to their rooms because there is so much dust and debris all around as workers are walking in and out hauling cement and planks of wood.

Kate stepped off her school bus and exclaimed, “Why is there a safe entry in MY HOUSE?!”

Morale of the story, DON’T RENOVATE your house while still living in it, especially if you have children. Do it while you are on vacation or let the kids bunk in with their cousins for an extended holiday sleepover! (no one will take our entire troop though haha). We have planned a staycation to celebrate Kate’s birthday and are literally counting down the days till we can escape.

If any of you have done it successfully, please share any tips to survive this! The timeline is never what they promised and it looks like another week or so of chaos.

It is indeed crucial to guide our children to be adaptable and resilient because life is unexpected and things do crop up.

This poor child had a never-ending emotional rollercoaster this year. The sister who roomed with her left for the UK in January, and she cried when she left and it took her awhile to get used to her closest sibling being away (plus the empty room syndrome!) Just when she settled down and rearranged the furniture to suit her own needs, the pandemic hit and her sister was recalled home suddenly!

On top of that, her cohort had to adjust to remote learning in their crucial year, and lost the face-to-face support of their teachers and peers as they moved to a new normal. Then now, this topsy turvy house. What a year it has been.

I can only hope that she continues to hold up, as she tries to find the best way to cope with this year of constant changes!

About MummyWee

Michelle Choy is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 7-turning-17 tween, she is also co-Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and executive function. She conducts small group parenting courses to help parents navigate this challenging journey, and has been featured on national TV, radio and print media.

10 tips to manage Sibling Rivalry

Does this seem to be a daily struggle in your household? It sure was in ours! The kids would squabble over toys, who has more of this or that (not fair!), who sat here first (this spot was mine!) and other seemingly ridiculous issues, both big and small.

If you are at your wits ends, try these 10 pointers and see if it helps. We made so many mistakes in parenting them, but have learnt and gotten better over the years. And despite having some nasty fights when they were younger, my kids have grown to love and care for one another.

1. Expect and Accept

There was an article by a psychologist which changed my perspective. He gave 6 reasons “Why siblings squabble all the time.” The first reason:

Because they can.

We think our children should naturally get along beautifully.

I used to get annoyed when they started quarrelling, and sometimes I would yell at them in anger. Again! Why can’t you all just get along?

Children are not born having the skills to resolve conflict and the family is where they learn how to get along with others peacefully.

After I realised that, I stopped fuming and got to work helping them learn the skills to get along. This would also help them deal with friends and with their future spouses or flatmates.

2. Make it a Family goal

This is a great place to start.

If you haven’t already done it, sit your children down when everyone is in a happy mood (definitely not when they are in the midst of a quarrel) and make your expectations explicit, explain why it is important for them to have a good relationship and give them examples of what it looks like. Decide as a family on something fun to do on the weekend if they have tried hard to get along during the week.

3. Don’t be the referee

When a quarrel erupts, we typically jump in with What happened? Who started it? The stories from both sides will come fast and furious and sometimes it’s hard to know who to believe.

If you take sides, there will be a child who ends up thinking you are not being fair. This fair/not fair business is something we need to be mindful of. Some adults continue to harbour unhappiness at their parents for favouring another sibling (despite it being true or not).

An older sibling might use language to make it sound like he is not the one at fault, while the younger one may use tears and play victim. Either way, by going in to be the referee, you may end up siding with the wrong party and someone (usually the older sibling) may feel wronged and resentful (and may lash out at the younger one when parents are not around).

Instead, tell them that you expect them to settle it themselves. They are to stay in a designated room together (without toys) and are free to come out after they have worked it out.

4. Use “I feel” not “you did this”

Teach them positive communication skills, using “I feel” sentences instead of “You did this or you were mean”. This enables their sibling to understand how that made them feel which they may not be aware of.

Eg. “I felt embarrassed when you called me a loser in front of my friends” instead of “He was such a horrible, mean brother for calling me names.”

5. Sharing is caring

Allow them lots of opportunities to share. My dad, the doting grandpa used to buy them 5 of each toy because he couldn’t bear to hear them quarrel. I explained to him that they had to learn to share. Even though they were 2 years apart, they would pass down their toys to the next sibling and were used to receiving hand-me-downs. In fact, the younger girls looked forward to having the “cool” clothes from their older sister and sharing became a normal part of life.

6. Welcoming a new baby

Start by acknowledging their emotions, that it is tough that mummy has to give her attention to someone else. Shift the focus from why is the baby getting all the attention to wow, you are such a caring brother/sister and instead of feeding the jealousy, help them be aware of all the “big things” they can do with mummy and daddy that baby can’t, such as playing on the swing, cycling or going out for ice cream.

My kids were allowed to help with baby chores such as holding the milk bottle for the baby, changing the diapers and their favourite was to be given the great responsibility in carrying the baby.

7. One-on-one time

Make an effort to spend 1-on-1 time with each child. They need your attention, and are fighting to get it. When you allocate a specific time which they can look forward to, it helps to give them a sense of security.

It doesn’t have to be a huge effort. We used to take walks to the nearest petrol station and would get an ice cream and walk back. Depending on how many kids you have and their ages, you could allocate 1 day per week for each child. The important thing is to stick to your promise to keep this time special just for that child.

This is easier said than done, and I have learnt not be too quick to promise so much if I know that my schedule at work may be unpredictable. It is better to promise something small which you can commit to 100% than to promise them too much and they end up getting disappointed and lose their trust in your word.

During the 1-on-1 time, don’t focus on homework or grades. Talk about their interests, or each other’s day and let them know that they can open up to you if there is anything bugging them. What you don’t see doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Besides one-on-one time, have different permutations of family time. Dad and the kids, mum and the kids, dad with one kid while mum with the other. I noticed that some siblings are naturally closer to another, and when the group dynamics are mixed up, different bonds are given the space to form.

8. Don’t discourage them from being a “big brother” or “big sister”

So long as it is within safe limits, encourage them in their older sibling role and they will develop a sense of responsibility and joy from being of real help to their little brother or sister.

#5 wanted Kate to share in his great delight of riding the bicycle and begged me to allow him to “tompang” her. As he was steady on the bike, I allowed it. I supervised by walking next to them as they went round and round our garden. He was a proud big brother that day!

Find a comfortable balance between being over-protective and ensuring the safety of the kids.

9. Find challenges to bond them

Our kids have too comfortable a life. It’s no wonder that they bicker a lot! My aunt used to tell me that even with 11 siblings in their family, they hardly fought because the older siblings were busy taking care of the younger ones and in their free time they made up their own games from pretty much nothing.

What I do is to set up bonding activities for them, like our Family OBS where I took the 6 of them by myself (without the hubs!) to experience climbing real cliffs. They learnt to rely on each other and everyone had to pitch in.

10. Take sibling concerns seriously

Sometimes the younger child may be tormented regularly by an older sibling and tries to speak up but if the parent doesn’t seem to be listening or thinks it’s a minor issue, the child will stop trying to tell you. Some siblings bully each other quite badly when parents are not around.

Don’t let things escalate. If physical acts like hitting, scratching, spitting or throwing objects at one another are not stopped quickly, it will get worse. Make it known that such is not acceptable in your household, and punishments have to be meted out.

Sibling rivalry may be the one thing that is driving you almost insane right now, but hang in there, take a deep breath, know that you can turn this around and never for once feel guilty. We all make mistakes. We all started at a place where we didn’t know better.

Take it one step at a time, and celebrate small wins. You can do it!

Learn from the million mistakes we made along our parenting journey so you don’t make the same!


About MummyWee

Michelle is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 6-turning-16 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in their 4Qs to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.

Renault GRAND SCENIC BOSE – Truly a family car

When Renault offered us the use of their newly launched 2019 GRAND SCENIC BOSE edition, I was hesitant to take up another review with my hectic schedule. However, with 2 newly minted drivers in the family, the older girls were quick to shout, “Let’s give it a try!”

The first thing that struck us was the ultra-modern technology. Yes, we have been rather spoilt with keyless entry on most cars where we simply press the button on the remote control or on our door handle. With Renault’s GRAND SCENIC BOSE, they go one step further, and I don’t have to press anything at all!

The sensors pick up my palm motion around the door handle and it unlocks as I am about to open it! In fact, with the remote control key in my handbag, as I approach the locked car, the side mirrors open up to welcome me. And when I arrive at my destination, I walk away and it locks itself automatically!

That’s the overall feeling we get with this car. You feel pampered. You know it’s been designed to make your life easier. 20 years since Renault invented the world’s first compact MPV, they have never stopped innovating and have pushed frontiers in areas of performance, fuel efficiency and safety.

They move with the times, recognising our busy lifestyles and I really appreciate the little luxurious touches. Over the week, we didn’t even manage to explore all the special features built into the car!

Renault GRAND SCENIC BOSE

When we entered the car, the feature that captured our attention was the inbuilt BOSE Premium Sound System. We use a BOSE system in our house, so it got the nod of approval from the family. To have it fitted in an MPV was an unexpected bonus!

The 11 high performance speakers strategically positioned around the car made the teens very happy. They immediately plugged into their playlist on their phones, started singing, and that put them in an excellent mood. These days, it’s not easy to get them together on a family outing unless it’s for a good meal or to someplace really fun but with this car, they were happy to go anywhere. 

Then I heard them exclaim, “Wow! There are 2 phone outputs for us! Plus 2 more in front for mum and dad.” Loving the well thought-out little details not only for the driver but for the rest of the family as well.

At the touch of a button

It also surprised us to see that the GRAND SCENIC BOSE was fitted with solid 20″ sports rims. Not only does it make the MPV look way cooler, but it improves the ride and helps with better fuel economy. Definitely plus points for me.

At the start of the school holidays, we bought Kate a new 2-wheeled bicycle and she was excited to go for a good ride. With the press of a button, she managed to get the seats down and was able to load her bicycle in the boot independently. With the last row fully collapsed, and 2 seats in the middle row down, we had no problems getting in an adult-sized bicycle, Kate’s bicycle and a folded scooter.

Ample space

Off we went to the Marina Bay area and had a carefree time cycling with the wind in our hair. It really felt like the holidays were upon us.

To be honest, I’m not a car person. For me, a car was simply a vehicle to get you from Point A to Point B. But with the Renault GRAND SCENIC BOSE, it seems to be so much more.

They have cleverly balanced practicality and safety with the personal touch, to give the whole family comfort, luxury and the promise of adventure. It even has massage features on the front seats!

Wheee! Life is great!

Their cutting-edge technology could be seen in the revolutionary multimedia system with voice control and drag and drop functions, to name a few. I love how we were able to customise the profiles for the 4 of us. Depending on who was driving, all we had to do was to select our own profile on the touchscreen tablet and the driver’s seat would move into our desired position and individual driving mode selected.

For the hubs, the first consideration he has for MPVs (or most cars for that matter!) is the performance of the car. As we regularly have a full load of people and the fact that MPVs are heavy, the car needs to have enough power so it doesn’t crawl up a slope.

He likes it on Sports Mode to optimise the performance, while I prefer to put it on ECO Mode, which is better for fuel consumption and keeps environmental footprint to the minimum.

Apparently, Renault’s GRAND SCENIC BOSE has unrivalled fuel efficiency and the friendly Marketing lady even challenged me to finish the full tank of petrol over the week. We were astonished to see that there was still more than half a tank of petrol despite us going out to several different events everyday!

Large touchscreen interface

It’s no surprise that the New Renault GRAND SCENIC BOSE has been clinching awards such as “Best 7-Seater MPV” from the 2017 ST-Torque Awards and “Best MPV 2017” from the UK Car of the Year Award, and emerging as the ultimate Reader’s Choice in The Straits Times 2017 Car of the Year.

I’ve grown quite attached to it, and love the Carmine Red model I’ve been driving around.

Family fun and antics!

Buying a Renault was never on our radar but I have to say we were impressed by the experience. Check it out for yourselves and go for a test drive. You will be as awed as we were!

The All-New Renault GRAND SCENIC BOSE is retailing from $133,999 while the standard variant of the GRAND SCENIC is retailing from $113,999.

Renault Singapore
28 Leng Kee Road
Singapore 159105

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

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

Rock Climbing at Railay Krabi

We went rock climbing in Krabi during the June holidays. From Krabi International Airport, it was a smooth 45-minute drive to Ao Nang. From there, we took a longtail boat to Railay, a climbing paradise with hundreds of different routes catering to beginners as well as experts.

The majestic limestone cliffs form part of the world’s largest coral reef, stretching from China to Papua New Guinea, offering spectacular views for climbers. My kids enjoy rock climbing and were excited to try the real thing.

Railay

At Ao Nang, we picked The L hotel mainly because of its location. It sits in the middle of Ao Nang Beach Road with the boats anchored directly across the road. There are shops and dining options flanking it, and this stretch is livelier than Nopparat Thara Beach.

The L Hotel

We bought tickets from the booth at the beach front, which cost 100THB (approx S$4) per person. Buy your return tickets from here even if you are staying at Railay for a few days otherwise, you’ll have to haggle with the unlicensed operators when you depart.

It was low tide and the boats were unable to come close to shore so we had to wade out. We should have donned our swimwear underneath our clothes. The water level was around our waist when a wave washed up, adding to our adventure!

Not so sure if I wanna climb..

It was a picturesque 15-minute ride from Ao Nang to Railay as we soaked in the sights of the massive limestone cliffs. Railay is only accessible by boat due to the cliffs which surround it, and there are no cars on this isolated peninsular.

We stayed at the Sand Sea Resort, and as our boatman alighted us at Railay Beach West, the resort was right in front of us. Perfect.

Longtail boat

Checking in at reception, we were dismayed at the poor attitude of the service staff. Instead of the typical warm greetings you would expect from the Thais, they were curt and unfriendly. Perhaps Railay is getting a little too touristy.

Our rock climbing session was booked online with Krabi Rock Climbing school, and in the email, I requested to be picked up at our resort. Our instructor was punctual and it was a 5-minute stroll through the sleepy “Walking Street” to his shop for the kids to be geared up.

Walking Street

I didn’t expect Kate to climb as the minimum age stated in their website was 5 years old and she’s only 4, but seeing her older siblings don their harnesses, she stood in line. We were amused that they did have tiny shoes small enough to fit her as she’s rather petite.

Everyone was handed a bottle of mineral water and off we went. Don’t forget the insect repellent and sunscreen!

Krabi Rock Climbing

It was another 10-minute walk as we were led through the middle of Railay to get to Railay Beach East. Being the start of the monsoon season, there were fewer than 20 climbers there. We were fortunate that the weather held out for us despite thunderstorm forecasts and we could enjoy Railay without peak season crowds.

He briefed the kids and #1 went first. They said that the difference between this and the artificial walls back home was that these walls were much rougher on the hands.

Our instructor gave the kids clear instructions when they were unsure which foothold to reach for next. Each route took about 10-20 minutes and he kept shouting encouraging words to motivate them to reach the top, and the girls managed to complete their climbs.

I’m glad they persevered and pushed past their limits to reach the rings where he anchored the ropes. It’s a great sport to build grit and resilience.

Posing for a pic

They took turns, resting between climbs, and progressed to the more challenging routes. The kids were exhausted but really enjoyed it. Faces flushed, beaming with a sense of achievement.

We had purchased the half day climb, which was from 2-6 pm. The morning climb starts at 9 am, which was too early for the teens. The good thing about the afternoon climb was that the sun was starting to wane and it wasn’t too hot. It costs about S$45 per person for the 4-hour climb.

Descending carefully

The kids had no problems with the descend as they knew how to use their legs to kick off the wall, but we did see a lady who did not do it the right way and she swung around and her body hit the wall. It is best for kids to get some experience with the artificial walls before coming here.

Railay East is not a proper beach and you can’t swim nor play sand. We spotted longtail boats alighting and departing from this side as well, and unlike the West, there is a stone path which leads out to the boats, keeping you dry.

There are pros and cons of staying at either side of Railay. Railay West is nearer to the rock climbing walls, and you won’t get wet when alighting from the boats, but you would have to trek across to the other side to hang out at the beach. For us, the accessibility to the beach was the main reason we decided to stay at Railay West.

Railay Beach East

Kate was content watching her siblings ascend and descend, but when it came to her turn and she was hooked onto the rope, she suddenly burst out crying. I asked if she wanted to climb just a little bit and she wailed, “Noooo!” We all laughed and her maiden climb ended even before it began.

I came prepared with a picnic mat, snacks and drinks which came in really handy as the kids started to get hungry after all that climbing and I didn’t want to leave them and walk to the convenience store to look for food.

The ground is uneven and the stones are very rough so you have to be careful especially with younger kids. Kate made up her own game of stepping up and down the strange looking rocks.

I brought a spade and she whiled away the hours digging around the hard sand. I was also equipped with wet wipes, extra water to wash their hands, a towel, ponchos, sunblock and mosquito repellent. It drizzled for about 10 minutes but stopped as quickly as it started.

#5 is not as adventurous as the girls but he did try his best and enjoyed the experience too. He was more curious about the limestone cliffs and just had to climb into the little ‘hole’ to check it out. Many of the routes are shaded by the other cliffs and it was a rather comfortable climb.

We returned the gear and headed back to the beach. The younger ones played in the sand while the teens had fun bopping with the waves.


I had a wonderful time doing nothing and simply enjoying the laid back paradise. Glad we came during the low season as the beach was not crowded.

The sunset was spectacular and it was surreal how the beach goers sat in silence experiencing this simple marvel together. Everyone stopped what they were doing and watched the sky dance in a myriad of colours for a good half hour.
Stunning sunset
The rest of our time at Railay was spent frolicking on the beach, building sandcastles and enjoying the gentle waves.
Railay Beach West
With so many kids in tow, I did not venture down Walking Street for local food. We had all our meals at the beachfront for convenience. There was a wide variety on the menus, from local to Western to pizza and pasta but the prices were typical hotel prices.
Railay Bay Resort and Spa
The kids are keen to return to try the different climbing routes and we’ll set aside time to explore the interesting limestone caves on kayaks or stand up paddles.
Little Kate
Maybe the next time I come back to Railay, I’ll be brave enough to try rock climbing. Till then! xx


Related post: Why I took 6 kids on holiday by myself
Another paradise: Maldives – A most memorable vacation

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

And the hubs went away too

Our helper was away, and although it was tough managing the household, everything was still under control. The hubs works from home and held the fort, cooking lunch and dinner for the kids on days I had to work.

Then one evening, he said that he needed to go away. The next morning. For 2 days.

OH. Right.

Springing into action I looked at my work schedule. If there was nothing urgent I could work from home. However, I had a few meetings with outside partners scheduled and it wasn’t so nice to cancel at the last minute.

Next, I went to the kids and wrote down all the different timings they would be back, and if they needed lunch.

The meetings were in the afternoon so I had the morning to prepare. I would be back around 8 pm which meant that one of the girls had to fix dinner. I peered into our freezer and pulled out meat that could easily be popped into the grill.

Breakfast, lunch and tea

A hearty breakfast. The next morning, I jumped out of bed at 5.30 knowing I had a long day ahead. I was so tempted to give them bread and butter, but seeing that they have been polishing everything up (my teens can eat a full meal at 6 am!), I wanted to give them nutritious food at home as they don’t eat well at school and outside.

#4 was going to be in school for 10 hours, so I made her grilled salmon with quinoa for breakfast, packed her a double portion of pasta for lunch, and included 2 slices of banana cake.

One down, 5 more to go.

Pre-cooked lunch

Kids home alone. I told #5 that he would be all alone when he gets home after school. It’s possibly the first time ever in his life! In a big household, with siblings, our helper and both sets of grandparents always around it is rare that anyone is home alone. I checked if he was going to be alright and he said, “Woah, ok!” He might have been thinking: I have the whole house to myself!

He listened attentively as I gave him instructions for lunch. All he had to do was heat up the sauce on the stove, microwave the pasta, and pour the sauce over it. Done.

He can fry an egg and boil pasta and I knew that he would be safe using the stove. I didn’t want him to be doing something new with no one at home to supervise. One portion was his, and the other was for #3, who would be back 2 hours later.

#2 had night study and would be back late. So thankful that the mums and dads from the parent support group helped to provide dinner for the students.

4 settled, 2 left.

Dinner in a foil

After dropping Kate off at school, I rushed home to marinate the char siew and boil a pot of soup. I wrapped the parcels individually and all #3 had to do was to unwrap the parcels and put the whole tray in the oven.

She often bakes cupcakes and would have no problems removing the hot tray from the oven. I set my alarm to go off during my meeting so I could send her a text reminder to make dinner. (I had a fleeting image of my famished kids trooping home for dinner, facing an empty dining table.)

#1’s lunch

#1 would be in school from 12 – 6 pm and as she normally doesn’t get to have lunch at home, I made her a huge meal, plus soup. That should last her till she got home for dinner!

Somehow, I think I went into this sink or swim mode, feeling the need to keep them well-fed.

Crab Pomodoro

And finally, Kate. I left the house at 12 pm to pick Kate from school and she was the lucky one. We went to Antoinette for lunch, en route to my meeting. I totally deserve a good break after all that hard work and she’s been my helpful little elf too.

I’m one of those who can’t eat after cooking (so stressful whipping up meals within a time limit to get them fed and out the door) and coupled with my insufficient sleep and running around non-stop from 5 am to 12 midnight every day, I lost 2kg! Haha, best weight-lost plan ever.

A little executive

Bring your kid to work. Kate was such an angel and kept herself occupied through our 4-hour meeting without grumbling or badgering me to go home. 

She came to sit on my lap after 2 hours of doing her own drawing and writing, and after 20 minutes of listening to our boring adult talk, went back to her table. She spent the rest of the time having a tea break, chatting with the other adults and playing with her little toy puppy.

They were so impressed that a 4-year old could sit through a long meeting without constantly interrupting us. Proud of her!

By the time we reached home it was close to 8 pm and I was glad that the older girls had things under control. Kate and I had a quick dinner and it was off to shower and prepare for bedtime.

After school

Fun work meetings. The next day, Kate had to follow me to work again, but this time she was in for a surprise. My meetings were at indoor playgrounds and she had a whale of a time playing by herself.


We grabbed a quick lunch at a cafe, and I was stoked that we could get a decent meal for $6.50 in an aircon place, with 2 small sides, unlimited ice-cream, soft drinks or hot chocolate/cappuccino.

Now Kate wants to follow me to work all the time.
Thai dinner

The hubs is back. By Friday, we’ve had enough of cooking and washing and decided to eat out. Now that #1 has her driving license, it made things so much more convenient. We did not have to go all the way home in peak hour traffic to pick the kids, but she could drive them to meet us, which saved a lot of time.

We ended our meal with a delightful coconut ice-cream treat just the right size for our family!

Coconut ice-cream

It was a tiring 2 weeks, but we pulled through, and I have much to be thankful for.

For the hubs who did most of the household chores, my sis-in-law’s helper who took care of the kids’ uniforms, my dad-in-law who filled the freezers to the brim afraid that the kids would starve, friends who had Kate over for playdates, and my mum who came over to make Saturday night dinners.

The house was in a constant state of disarray, we switched to survival mode (what didn’t need to be washed, swept, ironed could wait) and at times, tempers flared.

But it was a good 2 weeks.

The kids know how much goes into running a household and all the “unseen” work that mummy does on a daily basis, and they learnt to rely on each another as many hands make light work.

All of them missed their auntie, and I’m sure that they will appreciate her so much more.


More stories of our first week: Two weeks without our helper. Help!


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

Where can I find happiness?

I remember having a happy childhood, surrounded by family and friends. Dad worked long hours but mum was a stabalising presence at home.

As a teenager I went through the typical phase thinking that happiness could be bought, only to discover it is short-lived – until the next purchase.

The greatest challenge came when we started having kids and the past 18 years have by no means been easy. In my toughest and darkest moments, I struggled to find meaning in the sacrifices and sufferings of those early years.


On hindsight, it taught me so much.

It shaped me into who I am today. It made me strong.

Living life at survival mode with the 5 older kids, it dawned on me that happiness could be found in the simplest of things and hey, I lived to tell the tale, share my experiences, and hopefully inspire others along this journey of life as parents.

I have been fortunate to enjoy the past 4 years since Kate came into our lives, seeing the world through the lens of a child. It was a breather for me, to recharge body and soul.

The next few years will be rocky, in many aspects. My parents are past their 70s and this is the first time seeing dad hospitalised. Soon, they will be unable to care for my brother which adds to their burden.

As a mother, your worries never end. Slowly but surely, I will have half a dozen teenagers on my hands. Our childrens’ joys are ours, their sadness, multiplied a thousand times in our hearts. The paths they choose to walk may give us sleepless nights. I need to brace myself emotionally.

I have been pondering things the past few weeks, and worries started to surface.

Someone shared these lines, and it has redefined happiness for me.
Being happy is not having a sky without storms, work without fatigue, or relationships without disappointments.

Being happy is finding strength in forgiveness, hope in one’s battles, love in disagreements.

It is not only to treasure the smile, but to reflect on the sadness.

Being happy is not an inevitable fate, but a victory for those who can travel towards it with your own being.

It is not only to cross the deserts outside of ourselves, but still more, to be able to find an oasis in the recesses of our soul.

In your spring-time, may you become a lover of joy. In your winter, may you become a friend of wisdom.

Happiness is not about having a perfect life but about using tears to water tolerance, failures to carve serenity, obstacles to open the windows of intelligence.

These words shine like a ray of light.

We can find happiness in the bad, as much as the good.

At church, one of my kids asked, “Why is Good Friday good when Jesus suffered and died? It should be called Bad Friday.”

It is precisely because of Good Friday that the miracle of Easter Sunday is celebrated.

As much as laughter and joy will flow, so will tears and pain.

I am not afraid. In darkness and despair, I shall find peace.

And when the storms blow over, the bright hues of the rainbow will be appreciated like never before.

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

Lesson #15: What are we worth, mums?
Lesson #16: What do you do when you get sick of parenting?
Lesson #17: The tragedy of our society

Lesson #19: Are we slowly killing ourselves?
Lesson #20: What does it take to keep a marriage going?

~ www.mummyweeblog.com: A blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Chinese New Year 2017

Chinese New Year every year is more or less the same for us. A few weeks before, we start decluttering and spring cleaning the house. I’m getting better at letting go of things, yay! The hubs and I will make an annual trip to Yong Peng to buy his favourite pineapple tarts from a family bakery and seeing the table full of cookies in the red-capped bottles signifies the start of the season for the kids.
Breakfast with her bear

The day before CNY, the excitement picks up as the younger kids dress up for celebrations in school. By 11am, all the kids are home and there’s a buzz around the house. With kids spanning such a wide age range, busy with their own schedules, I can see the wisdom in the reunion dinner tradition and schools and workplaces giving everyone half a day off.

Steamed bamboo clams with garlic

The hubs and our helper start cooking early in the morning and relatives come over for prayers followed by lunch. After which, the older kids head over to my parents’ place to help prepare our steamboat reunion dinner. We have an early dinner with my family and return home by 8pm for Round 2 with the hubs’ side of the family.

Yu Sheng

This year we had a lavish reunion dinner complete with freshly shucked oysters. Stomachs full, it was time for the rather riotous “lo-hei” ritual.

Annual family photo
We take our annual Wee family photo on reunion night as that is the only time everyone gathers at the same time.
Gadgets, gadgets, gadgets
Kate and her cousins, and the ubiquitous gadgets. This is what bonding looks like in their generation.

It’s a long day for the kids as they woke up at 5.30am for school, and we call it a night just past midnight.
Look at those cheeks!

The 1st day of CNY is spent at my parents’ place as that is where my dad’s clan will descend. He is the youngest in a family of 11 kids, so it’s twice as many relatives on my side of the family. Sadly, because we only meet once a year, my kids are not close to their cousins. We get home and the hubs starts cooking again for friends and relatives who come visiting.

On the 2nd day of CNY, we go over to my parents’ place for lunch as relatives from my mum’s side and family friends will gather, as they have been doing from as long as I can remember.

Bak kut teh

By Day 4, the hubs was exhausted from 4 days of cooking. We had friends visiting from overseas, and as the kids were back in school, we accompanied them on the drive up to Meleka. It was a nice 2-day break and we took things really slow.

We like this aunty’s bak kut teh, and it’s quite amusing how everyone at the coffeeshop sat and waited patiently as this aunty cheerfully prepares the claypots for one table at a time.

Memories

Felt like we were transported back in time as we strolled the streets and spent the whole day eating, without background complaints of “Where are we going? Why are we eating again?”

It’s been a good CNY thus far with no tempers raised nor cranky meltdowns, only hoarse voices from too much bak kua and pineapple tarts.

I was asking one of my kids what she liked most about Chinese New Year. Is it the ang pows? “No”. The food? “No.”

“I like that there’s a lot of people around. And relatives. And your friends.”

There’s grounding in family and traditions. I hope that’s something we will pass on from generation to generation.

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

The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum

In my bid to spend more time in nature and to slow down our hurried lives, I took Kate to the Turtle museum. Not only has she never seen giant turtles, she has also never stepped foot in the Chinese Garden. Perfect outing for a Friday afternoon!

I expected the place to be fairly quiet, but was still surprised that there was only 1 other family there, and they were tourists. Must be because the place is so ulu (secluded), and I guess turtles doesn’t seem exciting to kids (nor parents) these days. It is called a museum, but is more like a garden.

They have a really impressive collection of rare species from around the world, but all that was lost on Kate. She just wanted to see them and feed them.

Free to roam turtles

We purchased our tickets along with a bunch of long beans ($2) and entered the garden. As Kate approached the pond, the turtles seemed to know she was bearing food and started climbing out of the pond towards her. Seeing an army of turtles advancing, she ran away terrified!

Relating the story to the older kids at dinner, they were amused, “What kid is afraid of turtles? Kate, as-slow-as-a-turtle, you know?”

Hungry turtles

We moved away to the tortoises kept in the enclosures and she felt much safer. She fed them by dangling the beans and dropping them when they opened their mouths.

First time feeding tortoises

There are many different species of turtles housed in the tanks, and several strange looking ones like this pig-nosed turtle that I pointed out, but she was hardly interested in the amazing facts I was reading out to her.

Pig nosed turtle

She much preferred the open garden, and went back to look for the bigger turtles and tortoises. I encouraged her to go nearer, but she kept a good distance, thinking they might crawl to her very quickly like the small ones in the pond.

I demonstrated how to stick the long beans out, and we watched the turtle chomp on it.

Kate tried to be brave, and edged closer and closer, but chickened out and threw the beans from a safe distance before backing off. I was amused watching her doing that repeatedly.

“Here, for you!”

It was rather hot at 4pm, but Kate thought we were on an adventure and gayly explored the place. She found a (really) little cave and called out to me excitedly to come explore with her. City kids.

She asked to buy another round of beans and spent the rest of the time simply watching the turtles, as they climbed on top of one another to get to the food.

We spent more than an hour there and I’m happy that she is still at the stage where it does not take much to keep her entertained. I’m sure the older kids would have walked one round, fed 1 or 2 turtles, and ask to leave after 10 minutes complaining that it is “too boring”.

Live Turtle Museum
In fact, Kate loved the experience so much that we went back to feed her “turtle friends” 2 more times!
Getting braver..
She managed to face her fears, and hung on to the beans instead of dropping them quickly. On our third visit, I was surprised when she wanted to challenge herself and finally dared to touch the ambling tortoise.

She was exclaiming jubilently, “I touched the shell! I touched the shell!”
and braver!

We bought a cold ribena from the auntie manning the entrance (she sells drinks and ice-cream) and sat here enjoying the silence and serenity.

Just what my soul needed, to wind down from a hectic week.

Great spot for ‘me time’
The Chinese Garden is now top on my list of favourite outdoor spaces to unwind with the kids. They even have lovely picnic spots!
Garden picnic

The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum is located within the Chinese Garden, near the entrace. Just walk up this slope and it’s housed in the pavillion in the background.