My Gap year, as an adult

I took a gap year last year. Trendy right? If kids need a break after studying for 4 years, I deserve a mighty break after running a 25 year marathon! Finally my brain could switch off, not having to worry about keeping a company afloat nor dealing with issues of the almost-adults in the house, much of which happened concurrently.

Some young people tell me that they need a gap year to “figure things out”. Wise words indeed. As I’m heading towards the big 5-0, it was the perfect time to recalibrate and reassess my life. 

We closed TLE as the business side of things was not something either of us enjoyed nor was adept at. I made time to focus on my family. And to grieve the change and loss. The end of a shared mission. The excellent staff we parted ways with. The children we saw week after week, whose lives we transformed. The wonderful parents who poured forth their support right till the end. Some offered us their condo function room to continue our programme, professional expertise in business development, capital injection, even jobs for our teachers. So much gratitude for the community we built.

So what did I do? It was a year of stepping out of my comfort zone, adding the long forgotten aspect of fun into my life and fulfilling many things on my bucket list.

I worked at a fast food outlet. Yup, my friends had a good laugh. It all started because I’ve been playing “Overcooked” with the kids and just had to experience real life “Overcooked”. It was an eye opener and I loved how everyone worked together under time pressure to get the meals served. I even got to man the fries station all by myself!

But what was most humbling was seeing the aunties who have worked there for 20+ years. My heart went out to them. One told me she comes in a few hours early because it’s too hot at home. I met a 19-year old girl who travelled daily from johor to work and save up for her University fees because she didn’t want to burden her parents. Here in Singapore, our kids take so much for granted.

I spent time travelling – 10 trips with different people and different agendas. It was the first time I did a 1-1 trip with just one child. Such a great idea, why didn’t I think of it before. My 21-year old was off to Paris and Budapest on a solo trip, and a week before she left, my hubs felt that it was better if I accompanied her.

I’m glad she accepted the suggestion of her uncool mum tagging along. I was surprised when she said “Mum! It’s fun hanging out with you. You are different on this trip, more like a friend than a mum.”

Something changed within me on that trip. I felt free. Without too many kids to manage nor packed agendas, I was able to shed the stiff Mum identity of always being responsible and keeping things shipshape. We ditched the Uber and scootered around Paris, which seemed reckless to me, zipping so close to cars and trucks!

In Budapest, I followed her to a hip festival where 40,000 youths camped out for a whole week in tents, and partied with them way past my bedtime. I attended a tantra session, a trauma healing workshop conducted by an art therapist who works with holocaust survivals, and several other funky activities that we don’t get here. We also met a lot of random young people from all over the world and had meals with them. My daughter seems to have the ability to draw people into conversation, even the snobbish Parisians.

While in Australia visiting my eldest, instead of doing the usual, I spent a few days at a “find your inner joy” retreat in the mountains. So zen, so refreshing. Will share more about the fruits of my travels in another post.

When we came back, inspired by our new found carpe diem mentality, I realised that I didn’t have to revert to my old boring self. I could take baby steps out of my comfort zone.

Instead of taking my daughter for a meal, we flipped the experience. We did waitressing together! It was such a bonding opportunity working together and I really enjoyed interacting and serving people. I even got a big tip from a family who brought 2 sets of grandparents out for a meal.

One activity I enjoy but stopped doing since I had kids was dancing. My kids are now of clubbing age and have asked me to join them. As much as I appreciate them asking, I’ve been reluctant to go to crowded clubs with unfamiliar music. Finally, there was a retro night organised by the expat community and we had a blast! Even strangers were heartened to hear that they were my kids and partying with our young adults became the new parentgoals.

It was also a year of learning. I took up courses I’ve put on the backburner for decades. At 12, I decided I wanted to be a therapist after reading about it in the library. I was drawn to music therapy, art therapy, play therapy and was keen to continue with a Masters in Art Therapy after attaining my OT degree. But with 5 young kids, I relegated all of that to my bucket list until now.

Thanks to skills future credits, I signed up for a dance movement therapy course. It was very insightful as I witnessed how things can be drawn out so much quicker and more authentically than talk therapy. It became a beneficial modality in my therapy toolkit that I attended the follow up course for therapists and also went on to take an art therapy course.

With these additional skill sets, I have become more effective when I counsel teens and children with a range of issues like self-harming behaviour, parent-child conflicts, divorce of parents and depression.

The learning bug has continued and currently I’m undertaking a course to get certified as a mentor. Can’t wait to start my mentoring journey.

Besides all of these fun stuff, the one thing that I found the hardest to do, is trying to be a good cook! I’ve been persevering at it and hopefully I’ll see the fruits of my efforts soon.

With a year of deep thinking and reflection, I’ve crystallised what I love doing and what I don’t. I want to continue working on my passions, being intentional about not getting sucked into being saddled by work that I have no interest in. I’ve stepped up my volunteering activities and they have brought me a lot of fulfilment and it is so true that we receive more than we give when we volunteer with a sincere heart.

I went off social media and focused on living in the present and centering back to self. It made me realise how nice it is not to be ensnarled by the web of the polished bits of the world out there.

Instead, I filled my year with adventure, contemplation and growth. Stepping back allowed me to step forward with more clarity and purpose. Taking a full year to breathe life is a privilege I am deeply grateful for.

I am so ready to take on a big new goal!

Living life with a brimming heart

Being in hospital wakes you up. To life.

I had such a scare 2 weeks ago. Went in A&E due to a severe allergic reaction to a heat pack where I struggled to breathe (sounds bizarre right, it was placed on my skin and I didn’t even ingest anything!) and ended up staying for 8 days.

At one point, the doctors were alarmed with the test results pointing to an internal bleed and it was one test after another to find the site of bleed or clot.

It was a pretty terrifying time of not knowing what is wrong, and it didn’t help with the covid restrictions, making it all the more lonely without family around.

However, the silver lining was that the scans picked up several other issues that I needed to see to before they become bigger problems.

The whole thing started because of a pain behind my ribs, and my daughter gave me a heat pack to try to relieve the pain. Any movement like a cough or sneeze or turning in bed caused sharp pains, and I couldn’t even take proper breaths.

Being stripped to your bare functions, the only way is up.

It makes you grateful for every single thing that we have, and not to take anything for granted. Being pain free, able to move about, that is such freedom!

so glad to go home!

The time in hospital became an unexpected gift.

For the first time, I could rest. My body and mind.

Time stood still. No agenda. Nothing on my schedule. I was alone, with my thoughts and prayers.

I’ve been running non-stop since I had #1. People assume I’m an over-achiever or type A personality, but I’m not!

When you become a mum, the wheels start to turn, and there is no PAUSE button.

And somewhere along the line, I lost myself. Many a day, we were struggling to keep our heads above water.

And here I find myself, 23 years later, finally being able to pause because I am in hospital. Having the luxury to stop, take a deep breath, and recalibrate.

It seemed like not so long ago that we held our firstborn in our arms. And now she has graduated. She is the same age as when I had her! She’s been working hard curating an online museum for her final project and was feeling stressed. And we had a good laugh when I did a “in my time..” Sometimes, shifting their perspective helps them know that they can rise up to the challenge.

In my final year overseas as an Occupational Therapy student, I was attached to a hospital for 2 months. It was physically and emotionally draining working with burns patients, a lot of heavy lifting, and I remember a gentleman who was in my care and he suddenly passed away in the middle of the night. His wife and children were flying in to be with him, but never got to see him for the last time. Heart wrenching.

After work, I went home and cared for my little one, who was still not sleeping through the night. The hubs and I had decided to have a second child as we thought that 2 years was a good age gap.

I guess it was all too much for my body and I had a miscarriage scare and the doctor told me to take it easy.

What were we thinking, right?! My classmates used to look at me in disbelief. This heavily pregnant petite girl, with a toddler in tow, walking around campus, trying to get all my work done before I went into labour.

That momentum never stopped and one thing led to another. The 6 kids, our first failed business, my blog, starting The Little Executive and being a parent coach.

It was never about setting out to achieve anything, nor was it about making money. I just feel compelled to help. My mind is always bustling with ideas on how I can better reach out to parents and children, and this has been my focus for the past decade.

Suddenly being stuck in hospital, with shocking scares of internal bleeding, a lump found, elevated cancer marker, falling blood count, it jolts you.

Not being able to see Kate and the other kids, simple things that are suddenly taken away, it refocuses you to the real priorities in life. Work becomes the last thing on your mind. All you want is to be well again. To be healthy, so that we can be here with our family.

I look at things differently now. Every moment we have with people we love is so precious.

It reminded me of a personal story a lady shared with me. She lost her young son to cancer, but what was beautiful was that they spent every waking moment enjoying life with him in the months before he passed on. How many of us parents live like that? We never imagine our kids being taken away from us, and we go through our days with a lot of yelling, unhappiness, unresolved conflict.

I don’t want to go through my days living a life of dull routine.

I want to live a life where my heart feels like it is bursting with love and joy! Where every day feels like a miracle of life.

I remember living like that, before the responsibilities of being a parent, challenges of making a marriage work, financial worries and chronic sleep deprivation pushed me into a zombified state. Where the pressures of keeping a business afloat occupies your mind constantly.

I need to acknowledge that we have come a long way. I live my days with calm, no more a screaming momster, I make time for self-care, and both the hubs and I have learnt to become better parents.

It’s time to take the next step, to not just get through our days, but to live it with passion and a heart brimming with life! Both the good and the bad.

I want to wake up in the morning and jump out of bed! Simply because it’s a brand new day!

And to shout it on the mountain top, that

Life IS a miracle. Every moment of it.

Haha, not sure if anyone can relate.

But I’m determined to find that magic back!

About MummyWee

Michelle Choy is an Occupational Therapist and mum of 6. She is also co-Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre developing resilience and executive function in children. She is a Parent Coach and her signature Mummy Wee: Parenting Secrets courses help parents navigate this challenging journey. She is an Award winning blogger and is regularly featured on national TV, radio and print media. Get her FREE guide: 3 easy ways to get your kids to do exactly what you want them to do without nagging, shouting or caning.

Bespoke Perfume Workshops at Maison 21G

We were invited to Maison 21G for a Family Perfume Workshop and my girls said that it was the best workshop ever! The ambience was posh, service was excellent, and product definitely very unique and much needed!

I was very keen to customize my own perfume because it’s not easy to find the perfect scent that I really really like. I don’t want it to be strong and overbearing, and I also don’t want to smell like someone else in the same room!

I wanted a signature scent that was me, which gives me a spring in my step as I walk out my door to take on the day with great enthusiasm and confidence.

Upon entering through the glass doors, we were transported into an elegant atelier where strong scents hit you.

We were warmly welcomed by Amanda, and the workshop commenced with a short introduction about the world of perfumery which was quite interesting.

The usual Eau de parfum fragrance concentration is 20%, while Maison 21G has the highest level of perfume concentrate in the industry at 21%. This basically means that it can last longer and take you through the day. In comparison, Eau de toilette is 12% and Eau de cologne is at 5%.

Do you notice that your perfume changes slightly throughout the day? That is because all perfumes have 3 parts to it. Top notes are like first impressions and lasts about 30 minutes while heart notes which makes up the character of the perfume lasts about 6-8 hours. Bottom notes has the longest and most complex molecular structure, which is like your soul, or the impression you leave behind.

Maison means “home” in French, and everyone is welcomed to feel at home, where you have total freedom of self-expression to create your very own scent according to your desires, whether you want to feel light and fresh, sophisticated or sexy!

Maison 21G specialises in clean perfume which are made with natural essential oil blends. Their fragrances are freshly blended by hand, and are preservative-free, cruelty-free and vegan which is great for sensitive skin and noses. They are also transparent and sustainable in the sourcing of natural ingredients. Definitely a brand that resonates with my environmentally conscious young adults!

After the presentation, the fun began!

We started with a Personality quiz. That helped to narrow down some suitable scents for each of us from the 35 individual scents.

We were advised to choose between 3 to 4 different scents. We had to resist the urge to be too “greedy” as more is not better!

I wanted something for the day, which could be grounding yet sophisticated, and with a zing to inspire me. Something that when I spritz on in the morning, I get invigorated to get to work or whatever event I have for the day. Haha, sounds like a tall order?

Amanda was a great help in guiding us, and she did understand the scent I was envisioning.

At one point, my girls got slightly FOMO when they sniffed each other’s chosen scent. I heard them going, “what did you put in there, it smells nice!”

With her expertise in the combinations of the perfumes and in reading people, she helped us to settle on our final scents. Once that was decided, she calculated the exact weight of each scent which was to be added, as different percentages would bring out a different end result.

Now, it was time for us to take our seat at the very cool science-lab looking section of the atelier. Very carefully, we filled our perfume bottles with the exact measurements of the essential oils as per the formulation.

Ta-da! We now have our very own signature scent! Such a thrilling feeling!

It was very interesting to observe how each of my girls’ creation reflects their personality! The youngest chose one that was light, fresh and reminds me of the ocean. Another chose a floral, sweet, happy scent with jasmine. The older one chose a more complex, warm, comforting scent which had honey and almond.

Mine was a lovely scent which is grounding and sophisticated yet with refreshing and motivating notes.

It is such an indulgent experience to have an exclusive scent made just for you! Truly, a touch of luxury in a bottle.

If you want a custom perfume in Singapore, now is the chance! I have a very generous promo code for you! Just mention mummyweeblog to enjoy 21% off all perfume workshops and 15% off all online products.

This workshop is the perfect gifting idea for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, Ladies’ Day out, your wife’s birthday (calling all dads!) or even a team building event. Grab your people and create your own unique scent!

Family Atelier $350 (2 adults & 2 children, 1.5 hours, $80 per additional child)

Private Love Atelier $350 (2 pax, 1.5 hours, 2 glasses of champagne)

Private Creation Atelier $150 (1 pax, 1 hour, up to 8 people)

Team Building Atelier $150 (1 pax, 1.5 hours, 1 perfume, up to 50 people)

Bridal Atelier $150 (1 pax, 1.5 hours, 1 perfume, up to 8 people)

Maison 21G

Flagship Store

77 Duxton Road, Singapore 089536

Ion Orchard

2 Orchard Turn, #B2-48, Singapore 238801

BHG Bugis Junction

200 Victoria Street, Singapore 188021

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 is a Parent Coach and her signature Mummy Wee: Parenting Secrets courses help parents navigate this challenging journey. She is an Award winning blogger at Mummy Wee Blog and has been regularly featured on national TV, radio and print media.

Mother’s Day Hair Makeover at CINQ

I’ve been living with my boring long hair for years, easy to clip into a bun and not bother about. But Mother’s Day is coming up, and yes, I deserve some pampering and a brand new look!

Where better than the salon celebrities head to, in the heart of town. CINQ is Singapore’s Leading Hair Studio and they take pride in not only ensuring that customers get the look they envision, but they will tell you the honest truth if a particular treatment is not suitable for you and is going to ruin your hair.

That kind of integrity and brand ethics, I’m all for.

I was placed at the expert hands of Tristan and he suggested I try a bob as my hair is nice and thick at the top but straggly at the ends. I haven’t had a bob since like 20+ years ago when I had my first child! I hardly had time for a long shower, let alone a trip to the hairdressers, and just kept the most low maintenance hairstyle.

We scrolled through some images and I pointed out the ones I liked. He advised me that a graduated bob at the back would be harder to maintain as it grew out. Not only that, his opinion was that a square cut bob would suit my personality and overall look better, and he read me rather accurately! He said that as I was more the grounded, not flamboyant type of person, the cut he would suggest for me would be more classic instead of edgy.

I felt comfortable with him and was happy to leave him to do his magic!

My daughter wanted some soft highlights to liven up her hair which she had coloured previously. She knew exactly what look she wanted to achieve, and discussed with the colourist, Jackie, to ensure the colour would work well on her hair. Many a times, we like a particular look but the result ends up very different because of our individual hair texture and colour. That’s where we need the experts to advise us.

She chose an ash grey colour and it turned out beautifully. Subtle and nicely blended in. It’s also versatile which affords her different looks when she ties up her hair or fix it in a bun. Most importantly, she loves it!

For me, I didn’t want any fancy colour streaks, but because I have very dark black hair, she suggested we go with red highlights to brighten up my complexion. I do have a pale complexion and my wardrobe consultant used to advice me to experiment with brighter colours, instead of the earthy colours that I gravitate towards.

Tristan was right, and the chic bob suited me well! Paired with the subtle red highlights, my hair now looks less dull and has more volume.

Somehow, a hair makeover can make you feel amazing and happy! I walked out of the salon feeling lighter, fresher and rejuvenated! It’s like all that “auntie” vibe and mental load has been snipped off as well haha. Best of all, my older girls said I look great!

Kate was the funniest. She has always preferred long hair and was shocked that I cut my hair. It was the first time she saw me in a bob since she was born! She kept asking me why did i change my hair? A moment later, she came to me and said, “Actually, mummy, your hair is quite nice.”

And when I posted my new look on my personal FB page, my lovely dear friends inundated me with “stunning”, “loving your new look” comments that really made my day hee hee 🙂

Well, now I’m motivated to spare a bit more attention on my appearance! The past 20 years have been the qet-ready-as-fast-as-you-can-no-time-to-waste mentality but I think it’s finally time for me to embrace me. Not mummy-Michelle, but ME! Thank you, Tristan, and the team at CINQ for this wonderful makeover!

Hooray to all mothers! Let’s celebrate motherhood, and take time for ourselves, in whatever self-care that works for you. The lovely people at CINQ would like to pamper all mums this Mother’s Day, simply quote Mummyweeblog for 20% off all hair services from now till 31 May 2021. Grab your girlfriends, gift your mum a treat, or make this a bonding time with your older kids or sisters. Enjoy!

CINQ

6 Scotts Road, Scotts Square, #03-16, Singapore 228209

Tel: 66360100

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

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 is a Parent Coach and her signature Mummy Wee: Parenting Secrets courses help parents navigate this challenging journey. She is an Award winning blogger at Mummy Wee Blog and has been regularly featured on national TV, radio and print media.

My brand new WEBSITE!

WELCOME, WELCOME!

Woo hoooo! Time to sound the trumpets! Haha, I’m sure you can feel my excitement.

Not so much because I’ve finally moved on from the old blog and don’t have to worry about blogger disappearing from the internet.

But I’m pleased as punch because I have OVERCOME my greatest fear!

I have always avoided anything IT related because I got stuck at every turn. Thanks to the circuit breaker, I decided to face it square on, and realised the internet is so useful. It allows us to communicate and learn from anyone anywhere in the world and there is a youtube video for almost anything! You just need a lot of time and patience to follow the instructions step by step.

And VIOLA! I designed this entire blog ALL BY MYSELF! *clap clap* thank you, thank you. My teens are so proud of me.

I didn’t even notice how out-dated my old blog was until I looked around at the new designs! Ignorance is bliss 😉

It took me 2 whole weeks, but it taught me that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE if you put your mind to it.

So that’s how I celebrated the lovely milestone of turning 45 on a high note.

things i missed..

I accomplished a ginormous task I never thought possible, and that felt really awesome! And thanks to the opening of Phase 2, I enjoyed a day of pampering and celebrations with my closest. Simply fabulous.

Believe that anything is possible, and nothing can hold you back.

I have reached a point where I can live my days with calm and peace, not because I have nothing to worry about, but because I can choose how I want to respond. Instead of focusing on problems or negativity, keep your chin up and keep persevering.

Times are hard, and it is not easy to sustain a business right now, but we have worked so tirelessly and dedicated the past few years to building this dream, we just have to do what it takes to ride through the next 6 months before things stabilise. I’m extremely grateful for our team who have stuck with us through all the teething issues young companies face, and together we will overcome this crisis.

New priorities.

With our calendars wiped clean the past 2 months, and being home 24/7 with the family, I am going to be careful what I start letting in to my days.

It is all too easy to slide into filling our lives with too much, thinking that it is important, when it truly is not.

#4 had just turned 16 and having a bit of calm after going through the most harrowing teenage years with the 4 girls, and Kate being a matured little 7 year-old sweetheart, I wish I could say that my job is almost done.

However, my greatest worry right now is my son. He is right smack in the teenage phase, and it is a very precarious time. Many have warned me, and now I’m experiencing it. The mumbled one word replies, and addiction to their online games. Very worrisome, and no easy answer. They are not children anymore and you can’t just confiscate their gadgets without starting a rebellion. Deep breath. A whole new phase for us to learn how to parent a teenage boy.

I’ve been asked to compile my advice into a book so that it is easier to access than scrolling through my past posts, and I have started on my first book during the quiet months of the circuit breaker. Hopefully I can find time to complete it before the end of the year. That would be exciting!

Thank you for staying with me over the years and accompanying us on our journey. My wish for my dear readers is that all good things will come your way!

Blessings.

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 Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and executive function, to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.

GOODBYE to the old

This will be my last post with this old look website.

It’s been 7 years since I started my blog and this is Post #518!

Wow, never thought I would write over 500 ‘articles’.

Kate was just 9 months at that time, and she’s now turning 8. How time flies.

Baby Kate

At that time, I had no clue about the blogging world, and the hub’s friend’s wife helped me to start the blog on Blogger. A big thank you to Amber!

However, Blogger is now outdated, and many things are incompatible with their software, and when I changed to my new Iphone, I couldn’t even update it.

So, time to move on! We have to embrace change!

Over the past few years, people have been advising me to migrate to WordPress before Blogger becomes obsolete but I just never had the time to look into it.

Ironically, the past 2 months of CB forced me to figure my way around the internet as I started to get acquainted with webinars, online courses, and remote live events.

I chanced upon a good recommendation on migrating websites and it does seem really simple!

All it takes is 30USD and their professional team will do the work of transferring my existing content over. It is not easy for me to do so because Blogger is already outdated and it will have to be done manually. Ok, I don’t know what all that means, but I’m glad somebody knows how to do it!

So yes, within a short 2 weeks, I will have a completely new hosting site and a new look!

Yay!

Before I go, I’ll have to say a HUGE Thank You! to my good friend Elaine, who helped me design this current theme and Header Logo.

I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! Nice cosy and personal feel. It’s unfortunate that it can’t be ported over.

Big girl Kate

Thank you all you amazing mums, dads out there, who have been following my blog for the past few years, sharing your joys and struggles as we all try our best to be the best parents we know how to be.

It’s been indeed a pleasure journeying with you, and the friendships and networks that I’ve formed, the people that we have reached out and touched together, those are the gems that this blogging journey has brought for me.

Bye for now, and we’ll see you soon with a whole new makeover!

(Haha, I have no clue how to design the new website, but they said “it would be a breeze”. So let’s see!)

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 6-turning-16 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and adaptability, to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.



Have we lost ourselves to LIFE?

My life has been transformed, in 11 days.

The past 12 months have been the hardest in my 20 years of parenting. I was running at full speed but struggling to keep all the balls in the air.

People assume that because we have a big brood and they generally look happy, we are awesome mums and are naturally nailing it. So not.

It is a huge challenge finding enough time to see to the individual needs of the kids. And I can’t say it enough, but the teenage years are a very trying time and we are back to square one, figuring out how to parent them. Add to that the stress of their PSLE, Os and As coming up, along with emotional crises and the daily squabbles of the 2 younger ones and my hands are full ensuring everyone stays sane.

It doesn’t help that with your own business, your mind is never switched off and the work doesn’t end. I’ve been fighting fires at work, at home, and dealing with family conflicts. I was exhausted and heavy-hearted.

Silence in the wee hours of the morning

Heal Ourself

I went on a pilgrimage to Italy where we traced the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi and his mission of peace. He was the son of a wealthy merchant but was disillusioned with a rich superficial lifestyle and yearned for something deeper. He gave up everything to dedicate his life in the service of the poor and needy, following the example of Jesus Christ.

I woke up at 5am and went for a morning stroll. No kids to tend to, no work to rush off to. I do so love the early mornings! The unbroken silence and stillness in the air. I walked out of my hotel to find a beautiful sight before me. Green grass stretching freely on both sides and the majestic basilica in the distance. As I sung hymns, something stirred in my soul and the tears flowed freely. I could feel God’s presence intensely and knew that for the past months, I have been so burdened that I was unable to let go and trust in God to provide.

Contemplative silence

Time in nature

Our lives are fast-paced and noisy and we need to detox our mind and spirit from all that clutter. Wish I could spend more time in solitude, to reflect and recharge.

As I pondered our lives, I wondered why we have allowed ourselves to buy into this Bigger and Better rat race. We have moved away from leading authentic fulfilled lives and it doesn’t seem wrong anymore to live superficial glossy lives for the world to see.

What has life become for us? We are so distracted by LIFE itself and have lost the courage to go deep within ourselves to search for its meaning. It scares me to think that I am running at breakneck speed, but at the end of it all, what kind of a life do I have to show for it?

Was it real enough? Have I touched people along the way? What legacy am I leaving to my children? Have they learned how to love, give and serve? These were the ideals I held on to, but have I been waylaid by the busyness of life and things that don’t matter?

St Francis’ bare room

Simplicity

St Francis’ message of peace, love and poverty is still so relevant today. Coming face to face with his bare room, and how he and his brothers lived in extreme poverty yet were ever joyful, it was stark how far we have come in this material world that when things are taken away from us, we feel upset. Though we may begrudge not having enough, we already have too much. Yet we chase after more, but at what cost?

I’ve always had this dilemma at the back of my mind, wanting to live a simple and minimalist life yet finding it hard to give up material comforts and excesses. The past few months have been very rocky for us and I feared the uncertainties of the future, but I’m not worried anymore.

Hermitage caves

Who am I?

We had time to sit in the caves where St Francis and his brothers spent days in prayer and contemplation. I used to seek out secluded spots to spend time alone when we take the kids to beach resorts and now I know it’s not an odd thing to do, but precisely what my soul needed!

As we did our Camino walk in silence, I contemplated the question “Who am I?” Surrounded by bare nature, nothing of our modern lives mattered. Not our titles, where we lived, what car we drove, what bling we wore.

I was reminded of my time volunteering at Assisi hospice where witnessing the experience of those close to death helped me to put life into perspective. Yet we forget easily and need constant reminders about what life is really about.

It was a tough trek on our long walk, and just as I was feeling tired and wishing I was back on the bus, I came to a fork and a fellow pilgrim was waiting for me with a bright smile and a flourish of her hand to wave me down the right path before hurrying off to catch up with her friends.

The uphill walk was a mirror of life. We are pilgrims on this journey and as we face the vicissitudes of life, we are here to make that journey that much easier for one another. Be gentle. Be kind. Be helpful. If we may be blessed with abundance, extend a helping hand to those in need.

Camino walk

Our response is Love

On the last day, my kids texted me an SOS! I called them and they told me what had transpired with a neighbour’s dog. Our dog saw a passing dog and ran out of the gate. She must have been excited and nibbled too hard, drawing a bit of blood. The neighbour went home and brought her mum back and they had a row with my kids. A few hours had passed since the incident, but my girls were still riled up about it. #1’s response was anger, and she argued back when the lady shouted at them. #2 attempted to use logic to win the argument while my mum was trying to keep everyone calm, saying that my kids were just kids and the dog was just a dog.

I listened and was surprised that I felt no anger towards the mum and did not feel the urge to take sides or retaliate. I simply repeated, “Peace be with you, girls.”

I told them that instead of responding in anger or making excuses, let our first response be love. They were stunned into silence hearing something so radical.

I was sharing the stories of my pilgrimage with my staff and they said, “Wow, even for us adults that would be hard!”

We try.

Keep praying

Back to Reality

The hubs took good care of Kate and the older kids left me alone for the entire trip and did not bug me with any problems except to ask if I was enjoying myself.

But it seemed like they had saved all their troubles till I returned and on my first evening back, one swallowed a fish bone, one had her wisdom tooth pushing out and her gums had split, one came down with a fever and my helper cut her finger.

Instead of going into a frenzy, I was surprised how calm I was. It was as though I was wrapped in a bubble of peace. I got them to say a prayer, then walked them through the steps. And in my heart, I knew that everything will be alright.

Daily Mass

For 11 days, time stood still. I am going to take a long hard look at our lives and eliminate everything which is unnecessary. I have decided not to continue looking for tutors for #5 as he has been showing improvement this year in a smaller banded class and whatever PSLE score he will get, we are prepared for it. The time saved rushing him to and fro will be used to live life at a more leisurely pace.

I will be guided with a different compass, and though life will continue to be messy and problems will arise, more so in a huge family like ours, I have found renewed strength to walk this path. The world as we know it could crash but we will be fine.

Wonderful lunch stop

Our Camino walk ended at La Verna, where an extraordinary event happened. St Francis had followed his calling closely and at the end of his life, he prayed that he would experience the same immense love that Jesus felt when he suffered and died on the cross. He received the stigmata – the same wounds pierced in his hands, feet and side.

As mothers, from the time of labour, we go through pain and suffering for the love of our children. And through the lifetime of our children, their pain will be our pain multiplied manyfold in our hearts. My whole perception of pain has been reshaped.

Mount Alvernia

Finding our Calling

Not many of us have found our calling, but as long as we do something about it and start moving towards it, clarity will come.

I get lots of emails from mums telling me how inspired they are but I don’t usually get much encouragement. I have been blessed by many on this trip who have shared their words of advice and stories of similar adversities and I am uplifted.

I now know how much my sharing could mean to another new mum struggling to make sense of this parenting journey or be the beacon of hope that there is light at the end of the very long tunnel.

Let us support one another in this journey of life.

Rainbow in a bright sky

It is so good to get away every year or so to rest our body, mind and spirit.

This sense of deep peace.

With stress lifted from your shoulders.

Of feeling connected with people around you.

With joy replacing worries.

Contented with what you have.

Your mind completely free to be present in every moment.

It is so elusive but I’ve found it.

And I hope you will find your peace too.

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


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

2018 – Can I run and hide?

2017 went by like lightning because work picked up momentum. I finally felt the weight of a working mum holding down 2 jobs. A busy work week, followed by an even busier weekend of seeing to the kids’ needs. I was on a bullet train that couldn’t stop.

After a nice, slow December, I am all rested and recharged. I have put Kate in childcare which took a load off my mind. Initially hesitant to move her at K2 as she was happy in her preschool but glad she managed to settle well today, with just a little bit of tears halfway through the afternoon. She missed her mummy, her old friends, and has to adjust to a new routine.

If 2017 was crazy, 2018 will be pure madness. Our student numbers have tripled and it’s going to be an exciting run with my team of teachers this year.

On the home front, first of all, I have a PSLE child. After going through this 4 times, the PSLE is just another year to me. However, dealing with my boy is a whole different ballgame altogether. His Chinese has been deteriorating year after year and is now at a miserable 20/100. He used to enjoy Science and was scoring 80+ but failed his P5 SA2 exam paper. This was what he wrote:

Yes. The type of answers we laugh about on Facebook. When I questioned him, he explained the whole molting process and exclaimed, “Mum, such a tough life right?!” His imagination is that vivid. I went for a talk recently and the speaker was explaining how children can be categorized by their fingerprints and he called this group of kids Type R. Creative, full of original ideas, our future designers and architects, but constantly getting into trouble with teachers.

Headache.

This requires a different tact from how I guided the girls, as I’m sure if I left him to his own devices, he will go through the week without any homework handed in nor relaying important messages from school.

His teachers said that a big part of his problem is his motivation, and we are scratching our heads on how to get him to buy into the idea of having to conform to the PSLE structure and memorizing appropriate key words for the sake of doing well in the exams so that he can go into a better school. This is something that baffles his immature 11-year old mind.

Thankfully, the older girls do understand the importance of the crucial years as the 3 of them are taking the O and A-level exams as well as Sec 2 streaming. I do worry though, that they don’t get enough sleep and it will doubtlessly be a stressful year even without me putting any pressure on them.

As for #1, she is in a bit of a dilemma trying to decide what her next step should be. After 3 years in poly, she realised this is not where her passion lies, but her interest is veering towards design. She is unsure which aspect of it should she pursue, and several friends in this field have shared their own experiences as we are exploring whether to go for a degree, another diploma, or gain some experience working. Such a tough decision with no clear answers.

Academics aside, these teenage years are the hardest in our parenting journey. The influence of friends and social media is a big concern, along with raging hormones, doubts, self-esteem issues, being critical of everything, and their world view being starkly different from ours.

Sometimes after an exchange with the lot of them, I feel like I’ve come out of a battlefield. Parenting a bunch of teens is not for the faint-hearted.

When I stop and think about this coming year and how I’m going to fit everything in while setting aside enough time to guide this brood properly, it looks extremely overwhelming. You know, the deserted island in The Last Jedi? The notion of escaping is enticing. Being alone. In silence. Where no one can find me.

Ah well, it’s nice to dream for a moment. But this is my reality, these, my responsibilities.

I am so thankful for little Kate.

She’s the ray of light with her sunny disposition as she runs into my arms like a furball greeting me with an exuberant “Mummy!!”

Whether it is after a long day at work, or when a heavy issue is weighing on my mind, I can still smile.

When things seem impossible, I can only put my hand in God’s hand and let go. By faith, I can find hope. I can find peace.

Rejoice always
Pray without ceasing
In everything, give thanks

Bring it on, 2018! I am ready 🙂

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