My own planning ‘retreat’

With 6 kids, I need to pause and take stock every half year or so. I would have listed down all my priorities, their routines and rules, and the things I need to teach them like various life skills, but somehow, as the months slip by, things tend to get out of hand. This year has been a really lax year for the kids, as I didn’t have the energy or time to get them all in line, what with a rather debilitating pregnancy, getting used to a new baby, the lack of sleep, and moving house. The kids have a week of school left so I’m grabbing the chance to have a whole morning to myself to sort things out. This is my favorite place in the whole of our tiny island. We’ve been members since I was a child and I still love this place.

The golf club

As it was a weekday morning, I had the entire place to myself. What bliss. I love the sound of silence, broken only by the quiet lapping of the waves.

So what do I plan? I wrote down a whole long list of problems or things to be improved and an action plan. Next year I have to get the ship in order as the 3 older ones will be having their ‘O’ level, streaming and PSLE exams. I have to enforce their bedtimes and gadget use more stringently. I also have to start them on some tuition to plug the gaps not covered in school. On the health front, I will attempt to introduce more salads into our meals as our diets have always been too heavy on meat. And now that Kate is one, she is very interested in new things and new places so I have to start planning little outings on the weekends with the kids. The kids are so excited to take her to all those usual places we used to go when they were young. I’m so looking forward to this. For the past 2 years, when I asked the kids if they want to go do outdoorsy stuff like have our usual picnics at the Botanic Gardens by the big tree, they would say, “so hot, don’t’ want lah”. But these days when I ask them if they are keen to go to those places with Kate, they would happily agree.

A peaceful morning of “me” time in a serene place does wonders to my soul. Being near water calms me. I was hiding under the shade and it was nice and breezy. Feels like my own little paradise. I’m all re-charged to tackle the school holidays and the whole new year to come!

Sane tip: A couple of hours to myself in a tranquil place like this does wonders for my sanity.

Save tip: I didn’t have to spend a cent on travelling and hotel stay in some villa to achieve the same level of peaceful blissā€¦ (oh yes, we did have to pay a hefty sum to be members and we still do have to pay the monthly subscription fee for the hub’s golfing, but that’s another story altogether).

Linking up with:

What’s on my fridge?

A fellow blogger mom started a monthly link-up whereby we share our photos so everyone gets a glimpse into one another’s homes. The first instalment is about what everyone is sticking on their fridges.

To begin with, technically, we have 2 fridges. The hub searched everywhere for a large fridge but even the largest was not enough for our family. Then he got a bright idea, and decided to order 2 of the same fridge, one with a handle on the right and one with the handle on the left so when put together, it looked like one big fridge!

I try to keep it uncluttered, which is still possible as we have moved in less than a year ago, and because the kids have all grown up somewhat and they don’t get tons of drawings from school anymore. But I’m sure when Kate enters preschool, we will have lots of her doodles pinned up on the fridge. So for now, it’s just the necessary stuff on the fridge.

The first thing I put up was the schedule for uniforms. Our helper sets out #5’s uniform for him every morning, so she has to know if he was going to wear his uniform or his PE attire. I included the rest of the girls’ PE days as well, so that if we have a spell of wet weather, her priority is to get whichever set ready for the next day. All the other clothes can wait.

I kept all these mosaic magnets on display as they were made by the 5 kids when they were younger. They are so bright and cheery, not to mention practical, that they will probably have a place on the fridge for a long time to come. (the little red gingerbread man was made by #5 in school last week)

When Kate started her solids, I put these information up so that at a quick glance, I would be able to know what to feed her. One list is the current list of foods she has been introduced to, which I add to with each passing month. I can then look at the list when I draw up her weekly menu or when I go grocery shopping. The other is a ‘master list’ of biodiversity foods which we should gradually expose our child to. I will put a tick next to the foods after she has tried it. The extra boxes are to be ticked when she tries it the 2nd, 3rd, time etc. The other list with the pictures shows foods which are highly allergenic, so I can easily refer to it if somebody was going to offer it to her. We have lots of family and friends popping by, and sometimes they bring along fruits like kiwi or blueberries. I am careful with her as the other 5 have various food allergies.

This is a table to chart #5’s weight. Their Ah Gong comes back once every few weeks and he is worried that #5 is not eating well as he is very skinny. He told #5 to draw up a chart and to write down his weight daily so that he can track if he is putting on weight.

#5 just brought back this ‘huang’ he made in school. I love it! He explained that they rolled the clay out, then used pencils to poke holes in it for the design. I think it is very well spaced out for a 7-year old. It looks nice and as it’s our surname, it gets pride of place on our fridge!

Sane tip: These lists on the fridge come in very handy.

Linking up to Mum in the making

Yoga for life

When people ask me if I exercise to keep myself trim I tell them yes if it includes chasing after a baby. Honestly, I think the last time I did any proper form of exercise was more than 10 years ago. I hardly have enough time in my 24 hours, how to squeeze in exercise?

However, after I gave birth to Kate, I was in a very unfit state. I had bad backaches, stiff shoulders, a sore neck and I felt very tired and drained all the time. A friend suggested I take up Yoga. I told her I had dabbled in different types of Yoga before and I didn’t like it. She told me this type of Yoga is different and persuaded me to just go for 1 lesson to give it a try. I did, and now there’s no turning back! I look forward to my Wednesday lessons and I encourage all my friends to give this type of Yoga a try. I am indeed hooked on Yin Yoga for life.

Initially, I found the postures a little hard to do. However, the instructor is very encouraging and she gives personal attention to those who are new. The others in the class are all mummies and many of us start off in a rather unfit state. We go at our own pace and we don’t feel intimidated if we can’t do certain poses well… yet. Over time, we are impressed with our own achievements!

The postures are gentle but powerful. By holding the postures for a couple of minutes each, it helps to cleanse our body from within. She will explain to us that the postures are working our inner organs such as our digestive system, our liver, our kidneys etc. This type of yoga clears up blockages in our body which gives us more energy. Our flexibility is also improved. Not only does it benefit our bodies but it also benefits our minds. It gradually trains us to be more mindful and to learn to focus. I always leave the class feeling calm and tranquil. Life is less stressful.

The sessions are on Wednesdays and Fridays 9am-10.30am. As the instructors are also mummies, we take a break during school holidays as many of us are away with our kids (perfect for all of us mummies). A new term is starting next week. Each session costs $28, payable by term. They are pleased to offer a trial class @ $20 for all mummywee readers and your friends šŸ™‚

Sane tip: I really look forward to this 1 hour of ‘me’ time every week. It reminds me to take it slow the rest of the week and maintain my ‘zen-ness’ after I leave the session.

Save tip: I used to pay thousands of dollars for membership at those big name gyms, with the greedy mentality that I will make my money’s worth and attend as many classes as I can. Ends up, my enthusiasm will slowly dwindle and I would have wasted a lot of my money. Now, I just pay for once a week sessions and I have not missed a session since.

YinSpace @ Strathmore (Alexandra area)

or contact Chrissie @ 98159789
or FB @ Yinner Balance Yoga

~   mummywee – parenting 6 kids without going mad or broke  ~

Let’s smell the roses

An ex-neighbour came back from Japan and we had a breakfast gathering as the kids had no school today. 

Her own rose garden

About 6 years ago, a few of us mummies started a playgroup for our 2006 babies. We have all remained close till today. Our Japanese friend, Miko, had been staying in Japan for the last 4 years as she has an autistic daughter and she felt that the system in Japan is much better for her daughter. It had been a very difficult decision for her as she had to choose between 

1) Giving her special needs child a better childhood and getting her prepared for an independent future 

2) Keeping the family together

This is her story:

Miko came to Singapore to further her studies. She met her husband, a Singaporean, and they got married. She climbed her way up the corporate ladder and had a promising career earning a very good income. They have 3 children. Her 2nd child was diagnosed with autism and she made the difficult decision to quit her job to manage her daughter. It was a very challenging time as her income disappeared while her daughter’s expenses ballooned. They were spending a minimum of $6000 a month on speech and occupational therapy, cranio-sacral therapy, bio-medicine and even acupuncture. 

She studied the options available for her daughter’s future but it looked rather bleak. The special schools were either full, not ideal, or too expensive. And she didn’t want her daughter to be resigned to just living her days aimlessly at home.

On a trip back to Japan, she explored the options there and realised that the system for handicapped children was more established. There was childcare, respite care, and qualified carers to take them on outings. They had sheltered workplaces where they were trained based on their capabilities from basic corporate careers to skills like gardening or baking. They were taught life skills to maximise their independence. 

Apart from the infrastructure, there was also a vast difference in the spirit of the carers and educators. In Singapore, she felt that they were driven more by monetary gains and career progression. In Japan, they found great satisfaction in their calling to serve the special needs children and they did it with much love, patience and compassion. The fresh air and greenery around her house was also more calming for her daughter.

What a tough decision for Miko. In the end, she decided that she would provide the best shot at life for her weakest offspring. She took her 2nd and 3rd children back to Japan while leaving her eldest son and her husband here in Singapore. We as parents have to make some very tough decisions. Sometimes we don’t know if it is the right choice or not. We can only choose the best based on what we know at that moment. 

Miko shared with us that life has taken on such a different meaning for her. What a far cry from those hectic days at the peak of her career. She started growing roses all around her property to stop her autistic daughter from running off. Now, tending to her rose garden gives her such peace. The term “smelling the roses” has taken a literal meaning for her. 

Her lovely roses

Maybe we should all stop and smell the roses too.

Sane tip: Whatever our present situation in life, both good or bad, I always remember the proverb ‘this too shall pass’. Sometimes we may find that our situation is unbearable. Just hang in there.

Save tip: Sometimes the simplest things like taking a long stroll or calling a friend for a listening ear is what we need, instead of hitting the malls.

~ mummy wee – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Family Command Centre

Obviously with 6 kids, there are a lot of logistics to handle on a daily basis. I have to be organized or it gets really stressful when things are left to the last minute. There were countless times when a child did not have the materials ready for the next day’s show and tell, they forget they had an excursion and we didn’t have the right ‘healthy’ snack for the lunchbox, or worse, they forgot they had a Math exam and forgot to tell me that their calculator had run out of batteries. Even when I had only 3 kids and had no proper system, I was going crazy. Now I’ve got the whole process down to a pat.

My Command Centre

I rely on these to keep things running smoothly:

Family Wall calendar
Weekly meal planner
Daily To-do list
Yearly pocket calendar
Some notebooks

I love kikki.k over at ion. They have lots of organisational tools to help us busy moms stay on top of things. Colour really brightens my day and all these pretty stationery helps to keep me motivated to get the boring paperwork and administrative work for the family under control.

#3 drew the cute lil’ minion

I needed a huge magnet board so I recycled #2’s old board by turning it around and using the back. We got this magnetic board from Ikea many years ago. There were 2 holes at the back which were meant for hanging the board up. I tied some rope across the top so that I could peg photos of the kids and keep them rotated. It always cheers me up to see them smiling. I got the magnets from Daiso and added some stickers to personalise them.

This family calendar is just perfect for me – it has 6 columns. I got it from Tango Mango at Tanglin Mall, and you can also order it directly from Organised Mums which ships to Singapore. Whenever the kids come back with notices from school, I immediately pen it down on the calendar before tagging it on the board. This way, I will never forget to pick up any kid after ad hoc activities and we’re always prepared for events like wearing traditional costumes for Racial harmony day etc.

Menu planner from kikki.K
Having a weekly meal planner is really a life saver. Before I had it, I would just mentally plan some meals in my head. There were many a time when I was busy and before I knew it, lunch (or dinner) was upon us and I had nothing prepared for the starving kids. We usually ended up eating out (expensive), getting take-away (waste of time and not nutritious especially if it was fast food), or cooking instant noodles (definitely not nutritious). Once you get the discipline of setting aside a fixed time to decide what you’re going to cook and going to the supermarket, it will become a family routine.

On Sundays, I look at the week ahead and mark off on the family calendar which kid is back for lunch on which days so that I can see at one glance how many kids will be eating and which ones. If all or most are eating, I will prepare those meals that they are all ok with. If 1 or 2 are back on a particular day, I can then cook that child’s favourite food.

To-do list from kikki.K
I really like this To-do list as it’s got ‘Top 3’ things to do. When I used to have those normal To-do lists which just runs down, I will get really frustrated if half of the list is undone. Now, if I get my 3 most important tasks accomplished and a couple of the others, I’m a happy mom. Talk about a shift in perception! There’s even some cute icons to let us track how many cups of water we drink a day. Anything that helps to keep us healthy gets my two thumbs up šŸ™‚

Lovely notebooks from Prints at ion

Whenever I saw something interesting in the newspapers or on the internet that I would like to take the kids to some day, I used to tear out the bits of newspaper or scribble the info down on post-its. However when the school holidays or long weekends came about I couldn’t locate the info I wanted. So I got some lovely bounded notebooks from Prints at ion (they have a shelf with past season items at 50% off) and started a resource book where I categorized the stuff I did with the kids and jotted down the info as they came, straight into the right pages. That way, I would just open up the book and scan the options and we’ll decide where we wanted to go or what we wanted to do that day.

Mail stand from Typo
I use these giant paper clips to sort my mail. I got them from smiggle (they have many outlets). I will handle the urgent ones, and when I have free time I will file the rest away properly.

The little yearly calendar is to keep track of things like when I paid their enrichment fees, when I paid my helper, or any other info where I can easily flip back to track. We have a Chinese tutor who comes over to tutor my primary 5 girl and to read to the 5 of them (Kate included). With the calendar I would know how many sessions she has already done and when to pay her. I also get the tutor to sign on the calendar so that there’s never any dispute.

Handmade birthday calendar

#2 made this lovely birthday calendar for mother’s day a couple of years ago. It is really handy as I can look ahead in that month and note down which birthdays are coming up. I will then shop for the necessary presents all at one go. This saves time and money as nowadays a trip to the mall is really not cheap if you include petrol, ERP and the exorbitant parking charges!

Gift cupboard

I also keep a cupboard stocked with presents suitable for a range of ages so that whenever the kids get invited to a birthday party I don’t have to make a trip to the shops just to get a present. I usually stock up my gift cupboard during the bi-annual private sales at Isetan or Robinsons as they have good discounts then. For the younger girls I get craft, playdoh or dress up/jewellery type gifts, for the older girls stuff like board games or DIY activity sets. For the younger boys, construction toys and for the older boys, science experiment sets.

Sane tip: With 6 kids, being organised is not an option, it’s mandatory!

Save tip: I realised that being organised helps to save a fair bit of money over the long run.

To know how we manage 6 kids, click here.

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