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 ~

Yummiest chee cheong fun

A good friend came back from Sydney for a few days and asked if I was free to have breakfast with her. At first I was hesitant as Kate was still sick. However, I was exhausted from taking care of her for most of the day yesterday and my arms were aching from carrying her. I decided to give myself a breather to recharge.

She missed eating local hawker food and suggested the popular big prawn noodles at Pek kio market (opp KK hospital) which she has been dying to try. She had gone there twice over the Chinese New Year period but the stall was closed. I quite like the prawn mee, but I was delighted she wanted to eat there as I absolutely love the freshly made chee cheong fun stall there.

When we reached there, guess what? The prawn mee stall was closed! They used to close only on Mondays but now they close on Tuesdays as well. She’s really not fated to try it. Anyway, we ordered the char siew and the scallop chee cheong fun and she liked it.

The uncle makes it on the spot so it is fresh and very smooth. I love the char siew and the prawn versions best. My kids can each eat a plate of the char siew one. It is also fun for the kids to watch how he makes it. 

He spreads it out really thinly.

Then rolls it up and cuts it.

Another friend joined us and we ordered more food!

We had a lovely time catching up over good hawker fare. I had my break and it was time to head home to my little girl.

I ordered more char siew chee cheong fun to take away for the kids’ lunch as my helper was too busy looking after Kate to cook. I like it that they separate the sauce and I can just heat the sauce up and pour it over when the kids come back.

Sane tip: Give yourself a break once in a while to recharge your body and mind. Ask for help from your helper, hubby, mum-in-law, kind neighbours, lovely friends, awesome colleagues… and return the favour another day.

Save tip: Eat hawker food. Cheap and good!

Opening hours: 6.30am – 1.30pm
(closed every alternate Wed)

Address: 41A Cambridge Road #01-25
(Pek kio hawker centre)

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

“Doctor?” Nah..

Today, Kate did not seem to be her usual cheery self.  She was a little more whiney and wanted to be carried. I felt her forehead and it was a bit warm. I checked all over her body and found little red spots on her legs, about 10 on each leg. I took her temperature, it was 39.0. This was the first time in her 9 months that she fell sick.

Little red spots on her legs

My helper (who has only been with us for 6 months) was very worried and asked me to take her to see the doctor. I explained to her that I do not take my kids to the doctor unless absolutely necessary. Usually if it’s just a common cold, or a fever, I will keep them hydrated, make them as cool and comfortable as possible and ride it out. She refused water from her water bottle so I gave her sips of it from her milk bottle cap, which she accepted. I googled her symptoms and found out that it was most probably a virus and that treatment is symptom control and time. I continued to observe her and as she didn’t look too listless or lethargic and was still moving around, I decided that a visit to the doctor was not necessary.

Sick but still very alert

I try not to give my children any medication because I believe that the body is then able to build up its own defences and its immunity will be strengthen. #3 has never taken any medication in her life and her immunity is the strongest. From what I can remember, hardly anyone of them has missed school in the past few years due to illness. Besides, there are so many viruses out there nowadays with H1N1, HFMD, etc, it’ll be worse if she caught something contagious at the clinic. I will then have a bigger problem on my hands!

The 5 of them were so sad to see her sick and took turns looking after her so that I could have a break. (you wouldn’t believe the coincidence but the contractor came today to fix some leaks and my helper was busy cleaning up the whole mess).

Getting worse…

She had her nap and when she woke up she was feeling really unhappy 🙁

Poor baby

We had a quick and quiet dinner, then the kids prepared for school tomorrow and settled themselves to bed. I finally have some quiet time. I’m really tired and ready to crash. Hope she’ll be better tomorrow!

Sane tip: Don’t panic, sometimes it looks worse than it really is. Stay calm and trust your instincts. After a few visits to the doctor, you will slowly be able to tell when it’s serious and when you just need to monitor and ride it out. Some parents feel that they would rather give medication to make it more comfortable for the baby. However, I would rather suffer for a few days (both the baby and myself) for a much stronger immunity in the long run. Some of my kids have not fallen sick at all in many years.

Save tip: Save consultation, save medication, save transportation.

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

Our very first camping trip

(written by #3)

Over the National Day weekend, my #4 sis and I went camping with my aunt and uncle, and about 10 of their friends. The place that we were going to camp in was in Malaysia so we had to drive there. We saw a lot of greenery on our journey. It took us quite a long time to drive there but it was all worth it. After driving for about 4 hours we reached our destination. We were greeted by this beautiful scenery.

The first thing we did was to pitch our tents. We chose a flat spot right near the waterfall. It took us just 5 minutes to set it up. Ours is a 4-man tent and it has a rain cover. 

After settling down, we all went to have a swim at the waterfall. One of the uncles told us to jump into the water so that we would smell like the natives and the insects won’t bite us. I don’t know if that is true but we all jumped in. The water was freezing! After swimming for about an hour, we got out and changed.

Then we gathered the BBQ things and brought it down near the water. The adults needed to start a fire to cook the food. They dug a tiny hole in the sand and poured special charcoal on it. They did not need to light it up as when they threw the charcoal in, there was a fire automatically. They found 2 small logs which they placed at the 2 sides and then they laid the grill on. We roasted satay, pork, beef patty, sausages, mushroom, capsicum, pineapple, cucumber and pumpkin. We got our tent chairs and waited for the food to cook. The food was delicious!

When we needed to pee, we went behind the ‘pee tent’. It was actually a huge banner propped up by 2 long sticks. At night we went into our tent to sleep. It was quite a warm night. When we woke up the next morning, we sat by the waterfall. It was so peaceful and nice. 

Mummy asked us which was the best part of our trip? We enjoyed the whole trip very much but the most fun part was being massaged by the waterfall 🙂

(note from mummywee: Before they set off, I asked #3 to take some pictures and prepare a post. However, after they returned I found out that the place is part of a private property and visitors are not allowed. I didn’t want to disappoint #3 for all her effort so I decided to share with you her pictures. In future, I will definitely include details about getting there etc for places that are open to public)

Sane tip: Good for the kids to relax in the beauty and serenity of nature. Keeps them sane.

Save tip: Free lodging, free meals, free entertainment… what more can I ask for 🙂 

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

6 easy peasy ways to make baby smarter

We all want baby to be smarter but we’re too busy and we don’t want too much hassle (so demanding, aren’t we). Forget about plonking baby in front of an iPhone. Yes, it will help you to babysit junior but even the educational apps will not make her smarter. 

There are 2 windows of opportunity where the brain undergoes rapid development. The first brain spurt happens during pregnancy, starting from the eighth week after conception to the fourteenth week. The second spurt starts around 10 weeks after baby’s birth and continues its rapid profusion for around 2 years. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to maximise your baby’s potential so that she will have a good headstart. Isn’t it exciting?

Here are 6 cheap (mostly) and simple ways which will make baby smarter.

1) Create a stimulating environment at home

It is the number of interconnections between the brain cells which determines your child’s intelligence. To increase the number of interconnections, we have to provide different intellectual and sensory opportunities for baby. Make your home rich in colour, textures and aromas. Don’t forget to also make it rich in laughter, conversation and love.

When your older kids bring home their art pieces, instead of relegating them to the far corner of your cupboard, why don’t you pin them up on the walls instead? It will add colour for baby, and your older ones will feel so proud of their work. Dig out your sweaters, scarves and hats to let baby touch and feel different textures. Let baby smell the lovely sweet aroma of a ripe mango and talk to baby about the fruit. 

2) Enjoy nature

Take your baby outdoors as often as you can. Mother Nature can teach baby countless lessons. From the rustling of the leaves to the movement of the clouds, baby’s imagination and creativity can be stimulated. Besides, instilling a love of nature and the great outdoors can go a long way in letting him stay active and healthy.

3) Keep moving

Physical exercise helps the brain develop new synapses which makes baby smarter. Take your baby to the playground every day if possible. Reduce the time spent carrying your baby around or putting your baby in activity centres or support chairs. Yes, I do agree that it’s the most convenient way of leaving baby by herself while you are busy, but they do need ample opportunity to move around. Either childproof your whole house and let your baby move around freely, convert an unused room to a playroom and pad it, or get a playpen. Since I don’t have any spare rooms (obviously, with so many kids) I borrowed a playpen to let Kate play in, and rotated the toys offered to her.

4) Learn more languages

Babies are born with the ability to learn an infinite number of languages. The earlier we expose them to a second or third language, the better their ability to master the language. Research has shown that learning more languages does make children smarter. Perhaps mum and dad can speak to baby in English while grandma and grandpa does so in Mandarin. The other set of grandparents can converse in their dialect while the Indonesian helper speaks to baby in Malay. There you have it, she will pick up 4 languages without much effort!

5) Music, music, music

Let your baby listen to all genres of music. Besides the usual children’s songs, you can let baby listen to classical, jazz, pop, mandarin, k-pop, R&B, etc. The broader the baby’s auditory landscape, the better her neural functioning. Go a step further and allow baby to bang on pots and pans to create her own percussion band.

Singing along to her own music

6) Eat good oils

We need omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) for the brain to function properly. Children who have sufficient EFAs are able to learn faster and focus better. Just add a teaspoon in baby’s purees just before serving. Rotate between flax oil, hemp oil, coconut oil or olive oil (cold pressed). It is safe to feed baby 1-2 teaspoons a day from 9 months.

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 🙂

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 ~

Kate had amazing fun at Kidz Amaze

Today the kids celebrated National Day in school, and were released at 10.30am. #3 took opportunity of the early dismissal and had it all planned with her 2 best buddies. I was to take them for pepper lunch, followed by dessert at sogurt, then adjourn to Kidz Amaze indoor playground at Jurong Safra. They get unlimited play till 7pm for $8.25 (that’s the current promotion for weekday, non-school holiday price). I dropped them off at Kidz Amaze and left to settle the other kids.

After Kate had her afternoon nap, I took her, #4 and #5 to Kidz Amaze to join the rest. The main play area is actually not suited for babies under 2 years as there are a lot of older kids there and they tend to be a bit rowdy (admission is for children until age 18).

Main play area

However, the older ones were so excited to take her on all the slides and since it was not so crowded I agreed to let her go in. She has so far only been on slides at the playground. This was the first time she went on a big slide. She seemed to enjoy it.


Next, they took her to the King of Slides! This 3-storey slide is the highest indoor spiral slide in Asia! It does look intimidating, especially for a 9 month old baby. The kids told me it’s not very fast, but sometimes it makes them a little bit dizzy. I looked at the structure and since it goes round and round, not straight down, I was quite certain she could handle it. And she absolutely loved it! I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s the youngest baby to have tried this slide.

I went down the highest indoor spiral slide in Asia!

She spent the rest of the time climbing all around the huge play zone. Her siblings had to surround her as there were a lot of other kids scrambling and running about and they might just knock her over or step on her little fingers.

With 5 of them looking after her, I could take a breather and I went over to sit at the café to write this post. If your child doesn’t have any older siblings, why not rope in older cousins or neighbours when you take her out to such fun places? The older kids will be more than happy to babysit and you can have a break!

There is a separate little play area meant for the 0-5 year olds. Although it is a tad small, the good thing is that it’s right by the café so you can keep a close watch on your toddler.

She was there for probably just over an hour but she sure was exhausted. I guess now that she’s tackled this giant indoor playground, my options on places to take her have suddenly widened. I have so far only taken her to Gymboree and SingKids at United square. I can now try the rest of the other indoor playgrounds that have sprouted up in recent years.

Sane tip: I like such indoor playgrounds as the kids can entertain themselves while I chill at the cafe.

Save tip: I always take opportunity of such school ‘free days’ to take them to places which are cheaper on non-peak times. We always inform one another on special promotions going on. Do email me if you know of any and we will spread the word 🙂

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

Don’t babies naturally fall asleep when they are tired?

When my eldest was 3 days old, the midwife came over for a home visit to check her weight and height and to see if I needed any help with breastfeeding. My baby yawned a few times, which I thought was completely normal. I mean, how many times have we seen cute pictures of babies yawning, right? The midwife said ‘poor baby, she is so tired’ and she looked very concerned. My hubby and I exchanged looks and we were thinking ‘What’s the problem? When she’s tired she will just sleep. She is sleeping most of the time anyway!’ We didn’t know about bedtimes, routines or sleepy signs. Some days she would cry incessantly and we had to put her in the car seat and drive around. She would promptly fall asleep. However when we carried her out of the car she would wake up and cry again! When she was 1+, she would sit and do jigsaw puzzles till 10 or 11pm while I did my assignments and she would just take her bear, get into bed and fall asleep almost immediately.

Her first pair of sandals

When she started to walk, I went to the mall to get her some shoes. I couldn’t believe it when the saleslady told me that the cheapest pair of sandals cost $50! Made of leather. Leather? Why in the world would kids need leather shoes? Mummy needs a new leather handbag… In the end, she convinced me how important it was for toddlers to wear the proper footwear with good support.

What a great fashion sense… red socks with sandals!

During winter, I just pulled on a pair of socks with the sandals as I was definitely going to let her wear that pair of sandals till she outgrew it! I honestly didn’t notice that the other toddlers were togged out in closed-toe shoes and some even in boots. Her toes must have been freezing most of the time. Oh and our pram was a $40 one which my mum got from OG and brought over to us, and I used to wonder how come the other babies looked so snug in their ultra bulky and comfortable strollers which were covered on all 4 sides, while my baby looked so exposed in her flimsy pram.

Her favourite toy

She used to play with our phones, the remote controls (don’t ask me what it is with babies and the most important gadgets in the house) and even my spectacles. Of course we told her not to touch those things but we were not consistent or firm enough and many gadgets were spoilt by her. As she grew up, I thought she would just know how to behave and how to be a good girl. Ok, I must have been the most naïve parent in the world. But of course she didn’t, and the other kids just followed suit, both the bad and the good.

Her next favourite toy

I have since come a long, long way. I now know how important sleep is for children (and mummies too!) and I know for certain that babies or children will not just go to sleep when they are tired. In fact, when they are over-tired, they become hyperactive (as some hormones are released) and will find it even harder to sleep. Kate goes to bed at 7pm, and the 3 other kids in primary school go to bed by 8.30pm. I also know for certain that we definitely, positively, without a doubt, have to discipline children. And it should be done as early as possible. With Kate, from the time she was 6 months, when she wanted to take our phones to play, we will say no and take it away from her. Consistently. It saves us a lot of money on replacement specs, phones and whatever else that she may decide to destroy. I will share with you my journey on all the different aspects of parenting in my million mistakes as we trail Kate’s development.

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