Turning 40. Quite liberating, really.

Turning 30 hardly seemed like a big deal, but hitting the big 4-0 feels different. Such an exciting milestone as we are at the halfway mark of our lives. Kind of like a checkpoint.

What have I achieved? What else do I want to achieve? Am I happy? Am I living the life I want to live? Lots to contemplate.

As a mum of 6, birthdays signify two things. A party at home where I get to see friends and family all at one go that I normally don’t have time to meet with, and a day to myself where I can do whatever I want.

Icy cold beer, anyone?
We had a fabulous party over the weekend – good food (prepared by the hubs of course), great company and wonderful conversations. Which always leaves me knowing that I need to carve out more time to connect with the people I care about.

On my birthday itself, I had a whole day to spend as I pleased. Imagine that.

So what did I want to do?

Big decision.

I decided to get up real early to get the most out of the day.

I haven’t gotten up at 5.30 in many years, and I truly miss the mornings. The stillness and silence of the unbroken dawn. The promise of a new day ahead.

I put on my track shoes (ok, it was my daughter’s) and walked out the door. Breathing in the familiar smell of the morning brought back memories of my secondary school days. I used to wake up early before school and jog a few rounds around the condo. Now, I can barely jog for 10 minutes before running out of stamina, so I decided to go for a long walk.

There is something surreal about the morning air. It makes me feel alive. I should really do this more often.

Tranquility in nature

I made my way to the nature reserve and spent a few hours immersed in the beauty of nature. I need that every once in a while.

This year, I decided to spend the day with just 1 child. The bunch of them got me upset last year, so this time, #3 had the privilege of hanging out with mummy. Why her? Well, #1 has school, #2 & #4 would be badgering me to take them home soon enough, and I definitely wanted a break from having to care for the 2 younger ones.

We started off with a wonderful lunch at Alkaff Mansion as I love places with a bit of history. All that grandeur was not lost on #3 and she was a fine lunch companion. (Truth be told, I chose this place partly because we get 50% off with the Amex credit card. Doubly satisfying!)

Lobster Linguine. So good.

We spent a relaxing day shopping, laughing and having a swell time doing silly things. #3 is such a joy to hang out with as she is easy-going and doesn’t complain at all (hungry, tired, bored, none of that!) She was my fashion adviser and ensured that I bought more trendy styles.

It was nice just to allow myself a day with nothing on my mind. Everything could wait till tomorrow. I was going to put aside the to-do lists, paperwork, emails, kids’ logistics, upcoming plans and what-not cluttering my mind. It felt good having nothing to think or worry about (like a kid being left forgotten to be picked up). Bliss takes on a new meaning after having children!

Of course, dinner with the full force was a riotous affair as usual. I decided buffet was best as the kids could be fed and entertained with minimal effort on my part. The kids love Starz Restaurant at RWS, and since they were having a ‘kids eat free’ promotion, I went along with their choice.

I found a perfect way to keep Kate occupied throughout the meal. She had recently gotten inducted into our family’s love of crab, and spent a long time slowly digging out the flesh. #5 was also kept busy going back to the buffet table to fetch her 1 crab leg at a time (don’t ask me why it didn’t cross his mind to pile up a whole plate of it).

Hard Rock Hotel, RWS

It was one of the best birthdays I’ve had in a long time, and I was also immensely touched by their thoughtful gifts.

After the kids went off to bed, I had time to sit and reflect.


You know, it’s funny how life has turned out. When I was in my teens, I was not one of those girls who dreamed of having x number of kids. In fact, I remember wanting to be a nun! And there was another phase where I wanted to move to a remote place and be a farmer. I think the meaningless-ness of our rushed existence bothered me, and I was yearning for simplicity and authenticity.

I never had any goals of making tons of money, having a super career, living in a mansion, or marrying a tall, dark and handsome prince charming, like some of my friends had. I never ever imagined that one day I would have a brood of 6.

I just lived. I had great trust in God that everything would turn out fine and there would be nothing to worry about.

I am indeed thankful for all the blessings I have today. A basketful of children, supportive family, true friends, and great opportunities.

Gifts from the kids

Turning 40 doesn’t make me feel old. It makes me feel empowered. There is a sense of urgency of if not now, when?

When we were younger, fear or embarrassment stopped us from doing certain things. Now, I look forward to meeting the unknown face to face, and the encounters have usually left me the better for it.

One thing I need to do better is to guard my time well. Not to be afraid to say no to people or events which are not in alignment with my values. To know my priorities and let all else fall away.

For the past 15 years, my guiding mantra was efficiency. I didn’t have much choice because I had to get a lot done in the 24 hours I had. As such, kindness, gentleness and compassion were pushed aside. I was usually curt. Impatient.

I need to bring all of that, and more joy and humour back into my life.

The next decade looks very promising.

It is no more a time of searching, but of consolidating.

A time of being confident and pursuing with passion what I believe in.

A time of embracing and a time of giving.

A time to be me.

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


Discipline #9: When the Gramps can’t say ‘no’

When we were growing up, my dad was busy working most of the time. On the occasions that we were out together and I asked him to buy me something, he would gladly do so because he wanted to see his kids happy. Now as a grandfather to my children, it is no surprise that he dotes on them, sometimes excessively.

Anything to see them smile

I still remember the first time it happened. It was many years ago and my parents had taken the 5 kids to market for breakfast. They came back and I saw one of them holding a handheld game. Then I noticed that ALL of them had one. “What’s all these?” My voice must have been raised. “Gong gong bought for us”.

 
I stared at my dad for some explanation. “They started arguing so to settle the problem I bought them one each. It’s just $2 anyway.” (everything to him is just $2, whether it’s actually $5 or $20!) My mum noticed the look on my face and said to me quietly. “Your dad is getting old and he gets very stressed when they bicker. Just let him be. It is no good for his high blood pressure. Let him enjoy his grandchildren.”

Things started going downhill from there. It became like a me-against-my-parents mini war.

About a year ago, #5 wanted to buy a set of LEGO Ninjago with his angpow money. I allow them a portion to spend as I wanted to teach them budgeting and delayed gratification. My dad was free to take him out and I gave him specific instructions that he was not to pay for it as #5 has his own money. He came back with the set and I thought that was the end of it.

The truth came to light when my friend brought her son over to play and she commented that they have the same set. She was lamenting how expensive toys cost, that $39 gets you a small structure and just one figurine.

Wait a minute.

ONE?

I was certain the set came with 6 figurines. She insisted her set had just one. We called the boys in and lo and behold, #5 admitted that the other 5 figurines were bought separately, with gong gong’s money. And gong gong told him NOT TO TELL MUMMY. I looked at his distressed innocent face and I knew I couldn’t get angry with him. After all, it wasn’t his fault.

I had a talk with my dad and wanted to tell him that not only was he spoiling #5, but he was teaching him to lie. I expected him to feel bad about it, but guess what? He thought I was the one who was crazy!

Before I could even finish what I wanted to say, he told me that I was being mean and ridiculous and that my son is just a young boy and if that makes him happy, he should be allowed to have his toys. I was the one who needed some sense drilled into me. Unbelievable.

Over the weekend, I caught #5 secretly eating a whole tube of sweets. I asked him where did he get it from and #4 chimed in, “Of course Gong gong la. He has a whole bag of sweets.” I scolded him and reminded him about all that he went through with his teeth. I asked my dad why did he buy him so much sweets and he replied, “I did not.”

“You did not? Then where did he get the bag of sweets from?”

“Oh, he asked me for money.”

Faint.

After so many years, I have finally stopped being angry with my parents for the lack of boundaries with regards to the kids. Some old folks tell me it is the parents’ job to discipline the children and the grandparents’ job to spoil them.

Ah well. I wonder what sort of grandparents we would be when it’s our turn.

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

Discipline #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?

I was caught off guard when Kate’s teacher informed me that she had told a lie. I have to admit that in my earlier years of parenting, when faced with such an awkward situation, I would have either fumbled for a reply, made some excuses or doubted the teacher. My kid? No way! There must have been some mistake.

Instead, I remained calm and wanted to know the whole story so that I could figure out how to deal with it. This was how it went.

Uh-oh

Kate had taken a new activity to play with, and her Chinese teacher asked if she had been taught how to work with it. Kate immediately replied, “Yes.” Her Chinese teacher knew it was not the case and asked who had demonstrated it to her. Kate responded, “Ms Sha”, without batting an eyelid. Ms Sha overheard the conversation and walked over. Kate knew her lie had been exposed and looked down, afraid to look into Ms Sha’s eyes. Her teachers took the opportunity to teach her that lying is wrong.

The thing was, we were shocked that a 2.5 year old knows how to lie so blatantly!

On the way home, I reiterated that it was wrong of her to lie. However, I knew deep down in my heart that the problem lies with us, not her. After all, little kids imitate and absorb what they see and hear.

At dinner, I told the rest of the family what had transpired that day. The kids were old enough to point out that “adults also tell white lies, even you and daddy, so that must have been where she picked it up from”. They recounted many instances where the truth was not spoken.

  • You always say, “Everyone is going”. (to a child, everyone would literally mean every single person. Ok, I’d better wipe that one off my list of constantly used words.)
  • Dad tells whoever we are meeting that “We are almost there” when we had just left the house. I heard Uncle T say that last week too.
  • Aunt J always promise us that she’s coming to visit soon. But she never does.
  • You said you’ll be back in 15 minutes. You lied.
With 5 “witnesses” to our daily behavior, the examples came fast and furious.
 
I had nothing so say. The kids were right.
 
The next day, I was on high alert to what I was saying and what others around me were saying to Kate.
  • Kate spotted the Crocs shoes her cousin passed down to her and wanted to wear it. As we were going to the mall (we try not to allow Kate to wear Crocs on escalators), our helper said, “Cannot”. Kate persisted. “I want”. She quickly replied, “Cannot. Got lizard poo poo.” Kate said “Where? Let me see.” (of course, there was none.)
  • The girls were eating sweets and when Kate asked for some, they replied, “No more.”
  • I went home and found #5 quietly giving Kate his snacks (which are too salty for her) and when I boomed, “Why are you giving her the pretzels?”, he said, “Just a few.”. I’m sure she had way more than a few.
  • There were countless instances where words came out of my mouth before I realised they were not the absolute truth.

I noticed a pattern here. We instinctively try to shade the truth to avoid her whining or crying, so that we don’t have to deal with it. Unknowingly, we taught her to lie.


It’s not about her.

It’s about us.

It’s about me.

So. Where do I go from here?

I’ve decided that I’ll start focusing on improving one parenting skill at a time until I conquer it. Then I’ll work on the next one.


Here’s the first:

SPEAK THE TRUTH.

Anyone joining me?



Here are some good tips on how to help your child deal with lying, over at Life’s Tiny Miracles blog.

Other discipline tips (which I’ve learnt after having 6 kids):

Discipline #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Discipline #9: When the gramps can’t say ‘no’
Discipline #10: 6 Tips to stop tantrums in toddlers

Discipline #11: Who has the energy to discipline our kids

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

Thankful for… the gift of Easter

On Easter Sunday, I was remarking to the kids that despite being a more significant day than Christmas, there isn’t the atmosphere of great rejoicing and ‘feel-good’ happy feelings associated with Christmas. How ironic. #1 sagely replied that it was the secularism of Christmas, the beautiful lights, carols, and presents which added to the mood.

After the service on Good Friday, one of them asked me a question I had never thought about. She understood the part about Jesus having to die for us, but why did he have to die such a horrible death? Couldn’t it be quick and easy? All I could say was that sadly, people could be extremely cruel and heartless.

It brought us back to what is happening today, all the brutality and hatred in the world that we have been reading about. It is indeed a difficult world for children to comprehend.

So what is Easter really about? Yes, the kids know the whole story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the promise of eternal salvation for us Christians. But the significance is as vague to them as chocolate eggs and Easter egg hunts.

I shared with them an experience I had volunteering in the hospice.

One of the patients had been getting weaker and one day, I fed him his lunch. I was surprised that such a simple experience had a profound impact on me.

It was not as easy as I thought it would be. It was literally a dance to fit your pace to his swallowing, to put the right amount of food on the spoon and to ensure he doesn’t choke. As he finished the last bit of porridge, I exclaimed, “Good boy!”

He managed a slight smile and gestured with his fingers. Me, 6. Him, 7.

Ah! He said he was my 7th child.

At that instant, something struck me.

Here was a stranger I have only recently met, a grandpa to his grandchildren. And yes, in many ways, he was like a child. Dependent, needing to be protected, loved.

Outwardly, we may look different. But we are all the same. If we but look to make that connection with others, our families, our friends, other people’s children, neighbors, colleagues, even strangers, then Easter is not just an event or a season. It is more than that.

I guess the gift of Easter is a time to contemplate the deeper meaning of Christ’s love for us and how we can go out to love and serve one another. To touch more lives. To use our God-given talents to uplift others.

We should be proud to be joyful Easter people.


Thankful… for our helper
Thankful… for my family
Thankful… for my mum-in-law


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

Our typical Saturday (Day In A Life Blog Train)

The 3 older girls have very gruelling school days, leaving the house at 6am and reaching home past 7pm on most days. I let them sleep in on Saturdays to make up for the inadequate rest during the week.

7:00 am: Kate and #5, on the other hand, have an internal alarm clock and they are up early even on weekends. Why, kids? Why? I tell them to be very quiet so as not to wake the rest of the household up. They make their way downstairs and watch TV while having their breakfast. This buys me extra snooze time before Kate gets bored and starts talking really loudly, singing or fighting with her gor gor. When I can hear her voice from upstairs, it is time to drag myself out of bed to attend to her lest everyone else gets woken up.

Breakfast prepared by our helper

8:00 am: Her favourite outdoor activity at the moment is cycling and she hops on her little balance bike and beckons me to follow her out the gate. To keep up with her I have to brisk walk and occasionally break into a slow jog (that’s where I get my daily dose of exercise). She knows the neighbourhood well and makes her way to the playground.

Stray dog following her

Meanwhile, the hubs is off to the market to prepare brunch for the troop. He usually whips up bak kut teh, hainanese chicken rice or roast chicken.

10:00 am: The other 4 are awake by now and we have a leisurely brunch together.

Stuffed roast chicken with potatoes

10:30 am: The grandparents come over every Saturday and they often take Kate and #5 for a little outing, either to the zoo, bird park or science centre.

11:00 am: While the 2 little tikes are out of the way, I will see to the ad hoc needs of the older girls. It could be a dental appointment or a quick trip to the mall to get stuff they need. The ones left at home will either be attacking their homework, doing ‘girlie’ stuff in each other’s rooms or using YouTube to learn things they are interested in. #2 is teaching herself to play the guitar and #4 has picked up some pretty awesome braiding techniques.

#4’s hairstyling doll

2:00 pm: The 2 younger ones are back and Kate goes down for her nap. My parents will stay on a bit to chat with the girls before leaving.

4:00 pm: With kids spanning the ages of 2 – 16, it is not easy finding an activity which suits everyone. Thankfully, we have recently found something we can all do together where I don’t get cries of “boring!” from the teens. That is – going on bike trails. It takes the hubs a good hour to get all the bikes pumped, checked and loaded into the car. We have to drive 2 cars. One for the bikes, one for the kids.

Alfresco dinner

5:00 pm: The kids are hungry so we have an early dinner enroute. We like the picturesque and relatively quiet Labrador park trail, going across the boardwalk which snakes behind the Reflections and Caribbean condos to the Marina at Keppel Bay. Here’s my previous post with more pictures and directions for Labrador Park. 

We take it slow and steady as we have to wait for those lagging behind. Frequently, that’s me. The kids love to stop and pose for photos and to take in the beautiful scenery, especially the setting sun.

Pit stop for pictures
8.30 pm: Upon reaching home, we’ll have some fruits and everyone takes turns to shower. The younger ones prepare for bed while the hubs might put on a movie for the teens to watch. 

That’s how we spend our weekends – slow and simple. Long have I abandoned the crazy weekends of before where I need to unwind from the weekend.

Here’s a peek at how our typical weekday looks like.

Next up is Mary who blogs at Simply Lambchops. She is mum to not one, not two but three little lambs. She writes at Simply Lambchops – her little online space to preserve precious memories of her children, and to encourage anyone through her littlest one who is born with Down Syndrome.

Mary’s lovely family

Thank you for hopping along on our Day in A Life Blog Train which is hosted by Jus of Mum in the Making. Click on the button below for a peek into other mum’s lives!

Lesson #17: What are we worth, mums?

All that talk about the worth of stay-at-home-mums (SAHM). Talking Point recently did a session on it and a fellow blogger wrote about the worth of a full-time-working-mum (FTWM), as the issue has been hotly debated since our Annual Budget 2015.

Wait a minute. Why is there even a need for us mothers to justify our choices to others, whether we choose to work or to stay at home with our kids?

Over the past 16 years that I have been a mother, I have thought long and hard about my priorities and tried different ways to find a balance between being around for the children and earning an income to contribute to the family’s finances.

 
I have been a FTWM, a part-time working mum (PTWM), a work-from-home-mum (WFHM) and mostly, a SAHM. I have even been a FTSM. What’s that, you say? It’s a full-time-studying-mum.

Let us imagine for a moment, a world, a world without say, politicians. Or CEOs, CFOs, bankers, brokers, or television personalities. They may be top wage earners but does that automatically reflect their worth?

Now imagine a world with no mothers.

Would there be today? Well jokes aside, without the influence of mothers; their love, gentleness, compassion, patience, wisdom and devotion, what sort of a place would this world be?
However a mother chooses to best take care of her children, is for nobody to judge. To talk about her worth is derogatory, vulgar even. Our value is not to be reduced to mere dollars and cents. To some, doing the best they can may mean being there for their kids 24/7, while to others, it may mean giving their kids a good life which they themselves never had growing up.

We all have different circumstances. Different aspirations. We are also in different life-stages. We don’t need anyone to define our worth for us.

Let us keep our heads high, our resolves strong. Let us soldier on as we have always done. SAHMs, FTWMs, PTWMs, WFHMs. These are just labels.

We are first and foremost, simply, mums.
Other life lessons (which I’ve learnt the hard way):

Life Lesson #2: Don’t over-sacrifice
Life Lesson #4: My bucket list
Life Lesson #6: Passion vs Family
~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~
 

How we plan our March holidays

When they were young it was very straightforward. I plan an activity and take them all along. Now that the 6 of them are between the ages of 2 – 16, it’s way more complicated.

Before the start of the holiday, I will draw up a schedule with a column for each child.

  1. We start filling in the 1-week calendar with the activities that are a must. #3 has CCA practice as SYF (Singapore Youth Festival) is in 2 week’s time. #4 has to complete a project with her classmate. #1 has to work as her manager is away on annual leave. So these few things take priority.
  2. We make a list of some activities which we want to get done. For the June and December holidays we can fit more in, but this week, we’ll be lucky if we can get 1 or 2 things done. I have decided to take their grandaunt out for lunch with us.
  3. We look to see if there’s any slots left where everyone is free and block that out for family time. We’ll decide on the activity later. If there isn’t any, we’ll have to either shift someone’s activity or skip one which is not that important. It looks like we have Friday and Saturday mostly free.
  4. I have to make sure that no 2 activities clash where I am needed.
  5. Along the way, if something else comes up they will check with me before confirming the appointment.
  6. If I am out with one of the older ones, the hubs will be around with the younger kids. His activity of choice? Letting them watch a movie. Keeps them entertained, quiet, and happy. Hmm.
  7. It’s good to jumble the kids up once in a while as we get different dynamics going on and it’s important for the kids to bond. Some days when there’s 1 or 2 of the older kids left at home, they will go out together to catch the latest movie.
  8. The last day of the school holidays is generally kept relaxed so they have time to prepare for school and rest before going full speed into the next term.
The kids don’t know how much logistics go into planning the school breaks because I make it look effortless, thanks to years of practice. If I don’t do this, they will be pulled in every other direction and it would be impossible to find a common time where the family can spend time together.

I try not to pack our schedule, as the kids need a break to rest their bodies and minds. The CA1 had just ended and #2 and #3 had a pretty exhausting few weeks. They were home mostly at 7.30pm because of CCAs and other things going on in school, and by the time they finished revising, they barely had 7 hours of sleep most nights.

Usually after dinner, they are happy to chill in the room playing the guitar and singing. Kate can even sing some of their ‘pop’ songs! I hear lots of laughter in there and I’m sure some of their best memories are made of simple times like these.

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

Our CNY through the lens

Here’s what we have been up to for the past few days.

Reunion dinner is always a pretty rowdy affair as the whole clan on the hub’s side descends on our house. Some of us go for an early dinner on the other side of the family and come back for round 2. The traditional Lo Hei is the highlight of the meal and we do it when everyone is back.

Yu Sheng

This year we were more controlled and didn’t need to send in the dogs to lap up the food from the floor.

Riotous celebration
Annual photo-taking of 3 generations on Reunion night.
The Wee clan
The 2 youngest in the family for now.
Kate’s latest ‘smiling pose’
The girls had to vacate their rooms as our house was turned into an inn for our relatives from KL. They did it quite grudgingly because they kept asking why couldn’t it be the other 2 who had to give up their room. Maybe next year we should draw lots. In the end, they had a great time with their cousins and wished they could have stayed on longer.

The men holding fort in the kitchen. Thankful to have many good cooks in the family.

Seasoned salmon sashimi

Quiet afternoon bonding over card games with their uncle. #5 trying to explain his move. He surprised us by how well-thought out his move was.

More visiting. Little missy telling me the dog bit her finger.

On Sunday night, we had a simple dinner at home as the kids had to settle down and prepare for school. I love eating fried nian gao but had the impression that it was too difficult to make and have to wait for my sis-in-law to make some. #2 loves it too, so we decided to google the recipe. It was surprisingly easy! Just whisk together some flour, baking powder, eggs and cold water, dip it in and fry it. But somehow, the batter didn’t turn out crispy. And we found out that we should have refrigerated the block of nian gao to make it easier to slice. Will try again tomorrow with hopefully a better recipe.

Supper with the older girls

This year we had a rather pleasant Chinese New Year as we didn’t pack too much activity into each day and could relax, feast, and enjoy one another’s company. Kate is also much easier to look after as compared to last year, and thankfully she’s very sociable and allowed her older cousins to take care of her.


We are indeed fortunate to have such large families both on my side and the hub’s side of the family. Every year as we gather with our extended families, I am reminded to be grateful for familial ties which gives the children roots and traditions to ground them in an ever changing world which is moving towards individualism. I hope they will grow up with the same kampong spirit so evident in our parents’ generation.


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