Monday, 14 August 2017

Rock Climbing at Railay Krabi

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

The majestic limestone cliffs form part of the world's largest coral reef, stretching from China to Papua New Guinea, offering spectacular views for climbers. My kids enjoy rock climbing and were excited to try the real thing.
Railay
At Ao Nang, we picked The L hotel mainly because of its location. It sits in the middle of Ao Nang Beach Road with the boats anchored directly across the road. There are shops and dining options flanking it, and this stretch is livelier than Nopparat Thara Beach.
The L Hotel
We bought tickets from the booth at the beach front, which cost 100THB (approx S$4) per person. Buy your return tickets from here even if you are staying at Railay for a few days otherwise, you'll have to haggle with the unlicensed operators when you depart.

It was low tide and the boats were unable to come close to shore so we had to wade out. We should have donned our swimwear underneath our clothes. The water level was around our waist when a wave washed up, adding to our adventure!
Not so sure if I wanna climb..
It was a picturesque 15-minute ride from Ao Nang to Railay as we soaked in the sights of the massive limestone cliffs. Railay is only accessible by boat due to the cliffs which surround it, and there are no cars on this isolated peninsular.

We stayed at the Sand Sea Resort, and as our boatman alighted us at Railay Beach West, the resort was right in front of us. Perfect.
Longtail boat
Checking in at reception, we were dismayed at the poor attitude of the service staff. Instead of the typical warm greetings you would expect from the Thais, they were curt and unfriendly. Perhaps Railay is getting a little too touristy.

Our rock climbing session was booked online with Krabi Rock Climbing school, and in the email, I requested to be picked up at our resort. Our instructor was punctual and it was a 5-minute stroll through the sleepy "Walking Street" to his shop for the kids to be geared up.
Walking Street
I didn't expect Kate to climb as the minimum age stated in their website was 5 years old and she's only 4, but seeing her older siblings don their harnesses, she stood in line. We were amused that they did have tiny shoes small enough to fit her as she's rather petite.

Everyone was handed a bottle of mineral water and off we went. Don't forget the insect repellent and sunscreen!
Krabi Rock Climbing
It was another 10-minute walk as we were led through the middle of Railay to get to Railay Beach East. Being the start of the monsoon season, there were fewer than 20 climbers there. We were fortunate that the weather held out for us despite thunderstorm forecasts and we could enjoy Railay without peak season crowds.

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

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

I'm glad they persevered and pushed past their limits to reach the rings where he anchored the ropes. It's a great sport to build grit and resilience.
Posing for a pic
They took turns, resting between climbs, and progressed to the more challenging routes. The kids were exhausted but really enjoyed it. Faces flushed, beaming with a sense of achievement.

We had purchased the half day climb, which was from 2-6 pm. The morning climb starts at 9 am, which was too early for the teens. The good thing about the afternoon climb was that the sun was starting to wane and it wasn't too hot. It costs about S$45 per person for the 4-hour climb.
Descending carefully
The kids had no problems with the descend as they knew how to use their legs to kick off the wall, but we did see a lady who did not do it the right way and she swung around and her body hit the wall. It is best for kids to get some experience with the artificial walls before coming here.

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

There are pros and cons of staying at either side of Railay. Railay West is nearer to the rock climbing walls, and you won't get wet when alighting from the boats, but you would have to trek across to the other side to hang out at the beach. For us, the accessibility to the beach was the main reason we decided to stay at Railay West.
Railay Beach East
Kate was content watching her siblings ascend and descend, but when it came to her turn and she was hooked onto the rope, she suddenly burst out crying. I asked if she wanted to climb just a little bit and she wailed, "Noooo!" We all laughed and her maiden climb ended even before it began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Related post: Why I took 6 kids on holiday by myself

Another paradise: Maldives - A most memorable vacation

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

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

And the hubs went away too

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

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

OH. Right.

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

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

The meetings were in the afternoon so I had the morning to prepare. I would be back around 8 pm which meant that one of the girls had to fix dinner. I peered into our freezer and pulled out meat that could easily be popped into the grill.
Breakfast, lunch and tea
A hearty breakfast. The next morning, I jumped out of bed at 5.30 knowing I had a long day ahead. I was so tempted to give them bread and butter, but seeing that they have been polishing everything up (my teens can eat a full meal at 6 am!), I wanted to give them nutritious food at home as they don't eat well at school and outside.

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

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

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

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

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

4 settled, 2 left.
Dinner in a foil
After dropping Kate off at school, I rushed home to marinate the char siew and boil a pot of soup. I wrapped the parcels individually and all #3 had to do was to unwrap the parcels and put the whole tray in the oven.

She often bakes cupcakes and would have no problems removing the hot tray from the oven. I set my alarm to go off during my meeting so I could send her a text reminder to make dinner. (I had a fleeting image of my famished kids trooping home for dinner, facing an empty dining table.)
#1's lunch
#1 would be in school from 12 - 6 pm and as she normally doesn't get to have lunch at home, I made her a huge meal, plus soup. That should last her till she got home for dinner!

Somehow, I think I went into this sink or swim mode, feeling the need to keep them well-fed.
Crab Pomodoro
And finally, Kate. I left the house at 12 pm to pick Kate from school and she was the lucky one. We went to Antoinette for lunch, en route to my meeting. I totally deserve a good break after all that hard work and she's been my helpful little elf too.

I'm one of those who can't eat after cooking (so stressful whipping up meals within a time limit to get them fed and out the door) and coupled with my insufficient sleep and running around non-stop from 5 am to 12 midnight every day, I lost 2kg! Haha, best weight-lost plan ever.
A little executive
Bring your kid to work. Kate was such an angel and kept herself occupied through our 4-hour meeting without grumbling or badgering me to go home. 

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

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

By the time we reached home it was close to 8 pm and I was glad that the older girls had things under control. Kate and I had a quick dinner and it was off to shower and prepare for bedtime.
After school
Fun work meetings. The next day, Kate had to follow me to work again, but this time she was in for a surprise. My meetings were at indoor playgrounds and she had a whale of a time playing by herself.

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

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

We ended our meal with a delightful coconut ice-cream treat just the right size for our family!
Coconut ice-cream
It was a tiring 2 weeks, but we pulled through, and I have much to be thankful for.

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

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

But it was a good 2 weeks.

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

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


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



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

Thursday, 3 August 2017

2 weeks without our helper. Help!

We were help-less for 16 days with our helper on home leave. I preferred that she went home during the school holidays - no routines, no early morning starts. However, she wanted to be there for her kids' year-end celebrations in school.

Previously, she went back during the June holidays and we drew up a chore list from ironing to throwing out the garbage. This time, her absence coincided with common test week and I moderated my expectations of the 4 older girls. As it is, #1 and #2 return home about 9 or 10 pm on most school nights after CCA or night study, and struggle to stay on top of their assignments and revisions.

What I didn't want though, was 6 kids hurling their demands at me. As kids who have grown up with a helper, it wasn't uncommon to hear them call, "Auntie Jane, where's my lunch?"

I get asked a lot, "How many helpers do you have? We only have one and she manages to take an afternoon nap on most days. The hubs and I believe that the kids should do most things on their own, and Kate was able to shower and get ready for school by herself before the age of 3.
My little elf
Setting expectations right. A few days before she left, I sent a text to the older girls. *Reminder: Auntie will be going home from xx to xx. Please wake yourselves up, make your own breakfast and wash your clothes. If you yell for me, I'll pretend not to hear you." I added some cute emojis to lighten the mood.

After making clear that everything was their own responsibility and that things do not happen magically around here, I went around to their rooms and checked what their plans were.

Kids being kids, they came up with creative solutions to do the chores faster. They organised their own laundry system and roped Kate in to be their distribution channel.

#3 asked pleadingly, "But mum, can you prepare breakfast for us? We have a lot of homework and revision and there's no time to make breakfast."

"Ok, but whatever I make, even if it's just bread and butter, I don't want to hear anything else besides "Thanks mum."

"Yay!!"

I'm no gourmet chef and some meals tend to turn out poorly so I had to pre-warn them if not I'll get upset with their attitude after putting a lot of effort into cooking.
Homemade wonton
Motivated Monday: 5.30 am. I was all psyched up, ready to take charge. I don't work on Mondays and dedicated the day to seeing to their meals, doing chores and planning the crazy week ahead. I stuck the daily schedule on the fridge so no kid gets missed out.

5.30 Wake #5, Make Breakfast
5.45 Check if #3 is awake via text
6.00 Prepare lunch box
6.15 Check if #4 is awake via text
7.00 Send #4 to school
7.20 Back home
7.30 Make Kate's Breakfast and lunch box
7.45 Send #2 to bus stop
8.10 Put #1's breakfast on the table
8.15 Send Kate to school
Salad box
Feeling energetic, I whipped up a hearty breakfast for the girls to last them through their exams.

After Kate was nicely tucked in school, I made a huge batch of banana cake with the ripe bananas my mum brought over from her garden. The washing up after was no fun, but the smell of freshly baked banana cake and knowing that the kids look forward to it made it all worthwhile.
Fresh bakes
It turned out to be a fulfilling domestic sort of day and if given a choice, I like life without a helper. Perhaps when Kate grows older.

For dinner, I pulled out whatever I could find in the fridge and whipped up a simple meal. The kids were impressed as I never cook dinner and usually make one dish meals. (Actually, I used the same seasoning and the same pot for all 3 dishes to save washing!)
Dinner time
After dinner team chores. It was #1's turn to do the dishes and she was stunned to see the sink filled to the brim with more plates piled at the side. "All this from one meal? That's so ineffective. We should just buy back." After she was halfway through she suddenly said, "Don't we have a dishwasher? Why aren't we using it?" With our helper around, we hardly used it and have forgotten all about it.

By Day 4, they were all missing Auntie Jane.

They were fortunate enough that our helper had arranged with my sis-in-law's helper next door to wash and iron their uniforms. All they had to do was wash and refill their own water bottles for school, collect and fold their laundry, clear up after meals and do the dishes. The hubs works from home and did the bulk of the chores.

Add a dose of humour. When the clothes were dry, I made an announcement. Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls... The clothes are ready to be collected! And pointed to the direction of the backyard with a grand flourish. That lightened the mood and was more effective than nagging.
Count down
Up at 5, out by 8. I began the week too enthusiastically and soon ran out of steam. My priority changed from wholesome meals to fast-to-cook-and-easy-to-wash meals.

Time was precious in the morning, getting 6 kids fed and out the door. Every minute counted.

Breakfast became kaya toast and the kids were quick to chope dinner leftovers. Kate's lunch box was pared down to biscuits and tomatoes, and she packed her own box on busy mornings.

I was pleased that they kept to their word and were appreciative of anything I put on the breakfast counter.
Easy meals
Kate to the rescue. She had the most spare time and willingly helped around the house. Some mornings she was woken up by my alarm clock at 5.30 and since she was already up, she helped to prepare breakfast.

When I came down after showering, I found her in the garden watering the plants, as she had seen our helper doing.
Junior chef
In the evening while I was cooking, she asked me to play. I told her I was busy and asked her to look around and see how she could help out. She spent an hour sweeping the car porch and had the initiative to put the shoes aside before sweeping away all the leaves. She's very meticulous and placed them back neatly in a row.

When her cousin popped by and asked her to play, she said, "Later ok? Auntie Jane is away so I am sweeping up the leaves." Glad she didn't throw the broom on the floor and run off to play!

I praised her and told her what a great little helper she was. She saw me bringing out the dishes and set the table without me asking.
Mini gardener
I was surprised by #5 too. He heard me delegating chores to the older girls and asked if he could help wash the dishes. I must admit that I don't expect much from him compared to the girls. If he can get his school bag and work sorted and filed without his teacher calling me, I'm already a happy mum.

Upon reflection, I realised that those are 2 very separate issues which require different skills, and he did want to make himself useful. In fact, he continued to help with the dishes for several nights when he saw that I was busy.
Enthusiastic helper
I woke up LATE! By Friday, I have been surviving on less than 5 hours of sleep per night and didn't hear the alarm go off. Suddenly I jolted awake!

#5 jumped out of bed, hopped into his uniform, grabbed his bag and ran to the waiting school bus.

I rushed into the kitchen and quickly whipped up banana pancakes for #4 and boiled pasta for her lunchbox. I literally squashed the banana, threw in wheat germ and mixed it vigorously with some milk and plonked them into the pan. They became known as my ugly pancakes but yummy nonetheless! #4 polished them up and said, "Look mum, I used a toothpick to save you washing a fork."

Kate went to her school bag, pulled out her water bottle and lunch box from the day before (thankfully it was empty and clean-ish) and washed them while singing an upbeat song really loudly. At 6.45am.

It was one of those moments when you feel so drained. But seeing them trying to help cheered me up.

Between planning, executing, disciplining the younger ones and counselling the older ones, I was TOTALLY EXHAUSTED.

It is a herculean task to work, put 3 square meals on the table, take care of the kids and keep the house in order.

Those who have been doing this day in day out, seriously, hats off to you. You need to share your tips!

I can get through one more week. Just one more week...


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

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Drum lessons at Believer Music

I have newfound respect for drummers. Really. We usually think of them as the cool guy, showy and loud. But after going through a term of lessons with #2, I have found the opposite to be true. Drummers are probably the most disciplined member of the band and their role is extremely crucial - to keep time, as the other members are depending on him.

I was going to turn down this collaboration, but as usual, my older girls asked me "How's your day been, Mum?" I casually mentioned the email and was surprised at #2's enthusiasm. Being the President of her school's band, her personal goal is to pick up as many instruments as possible, and she wanted some real lessons to learn drum fills.

I decided that I should set aside an hour a week to spend time with her as she's been really busy this year and I hardly get to see her except during meal times. Besides, a mother-daughter angle would be nice for the review.

Having passed my Grade 8 in piano (waayyy back then), I thought how hard could it be to play percussion instruments right? The kids thought it was pretty cool that mummy was taking drum lessons, but honestly, I never imagined picking up another musical instrument as an adult. I hardly even have time to play the piano anymore.
Believer music
We started at the Beginner level but with our music background, found the lessons rather slow. Our instructor, Jason, decided that we were ready to move on to Level 2 after a few lessons of teaching us the foundations.

It was good that he spent time reinforcing basic things like holding the stick properly; as a boy who came from another music school found it difficult when we moved on to play at a fast speed and his incorrect technique hindered him. It is always better to start off learning the correct method, and our instructor ensured we did that.

We were expected to purchase our own set of drum sticks and bring our own earphones. I belong to the don't-let-kids-pick-up-drums-because-it-is-so-noisy era, but my fears were allayed as these electronic drums do not make a din.
Enjoying her lessons
Each week, we learned a new rhythm and Jason was patient and very experienced in breaking down the parts into manageable bits. #2 could follow the speed of the class with no issues and was able to do the improvisations.

As for me, it was more challenging than I expected. Your right hand is playing one rhythm, your left another, your right foot is stomping to a constant beat while you have to keep your left leg on the left pedal to keep the high hat closed. Not easy! And just when I got into the groove, it was time to transit to a different rhythm for the Chorus! I had to focus fully to keep everything going. It gets better once I got the hang of it, relaxed and allowed the music to take over instead of trying too hard to follow the notes as you do with piano scores.

It is actually a good instrument for kids to learn to develop their concentration and coordination, besides the musical aspect.

We chose the Contemporary Track, and during the 1-hour lesson, a section was devoted to group sharing. This term's theme is "the story of mankind" and he would go through the different civilizations and discuss how history impacts culture and humanity. They also have a Praise Track for Christians, which is also suitable for small group sessions.
Concentrating hard
After 11 sessions, I felt such a sense of achievement and we thought it would be good to do a recording to showcase my newfound drum skills. It took me a good 45 minutes to record just one song, keeping (almost) perfectly on time and with smooth transitions.

I was so proud of myself.

However, when I returned home and showed the video to the kids, they were unimpressed. #5 commented, "Mum, drummers don't play like that. They must hit the different drums very quickly."

I wanted to launch into an explanation of how much effort it took me to learn all that and how much concentration was required to get through a whole song perfectly. Ah well. I know how much I have progressed and am content with my own achievements. One day perhaps, they will have drum lessons and come to the same realisations ;)
Kate on the drums
All in all, the lessons were very enjoyable, and it was immensely satisfying to pick up a new musical instrument. Some weeks, I had to practice the more tricky rhythms before going for class and #2 patiently guided me.

Role reversal! And now she's proud to say that her mama can play the drums too. It is an awesome feeling to bond over music with your kids, being in sync, drumming to the same beat. That was what motivated me to focus hard and not let them down!

They have lunchtime classes at International Plaza and also classes for children aged 7-12, as well as holiday programmes. Kate is too young to start but she couldn't resist donning the earphones and having a go at banging on the drums.

Besides drum lessons, Believer Music offers a whole suite of courses including guitar, electric guitar, ukulele, keyboard and voice lessons.

Registration for Term 4 is open until 30 July 2017.

Believer Music
Tel: 63230304

International Plaza (IP)
10 Anson Road #03-28
Singapore 079903

Tampines Plaza (TP)
5 Tampines Central 1 #01-01A
Singapore 529541

One Commonwealth (OC)
1 Commonwealth Lane #06-05
Singapore 149544

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


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

Monday, 17 July 2017

Why I took 6 kids on holiday by myself

I did something I've never done before. I took the 6 kids rock climbing in Krabi without the hubs.

Even friends who knew that I used to take the 5 little kids out everywhere by myself, to places like East Coast beach and Sentosa said, "Sounds crazy. Good luck, and tell us how it went!"

I was on a mission. It was going to be a family OBS. Kids these days take things for granted and don't appreciate how good they have it.

We cushion our kids too much and then wonder why they have an entitled mentality. On family trips, they are constantly asking, "Daddy, can you turn on your hotspot?" After which they would busy themselves snapping Snapchat or Instagram pictures.
Railay Bay
It was easy choosing the destination. Every school holiday, I take them rock climbing and they have been to all, including Yishun SAFRA, with the tallest wall in Singapore. Since they managed to make it to the top, the next step was to let them experience the real thing. And the best place to go? Railay, Krabi - where climbing enthusiasts from around the world flock to scale the magnificent limestone cliffs.

With that decided, the fun began!
25m wall in Yishun SAFRA
I had another purpose for this trip. #1 was talking about going traveling with friends in her gap year. It's time she picked up life skills and I'd rather she made mistakes under my watchful eye.

I took our adventure one notch up by handing over the reigns to the teens.

The first thing I tasked them with was to Plan and Budget. Usually, the hubs will be in charge; booking the hotels, arranging for a rental car, checking out restaurant reviews while I'll be googling suitable activities.

This time, I gave them a budget for the entire trip and they were free to choose the accommodation and plan the itinerary. #3's reaction was "Wow! We get to plan everything? Oh great. Dad can't make us go to Chinatown while on holiday."

They spent days searching the internet for the best hotels which still kept under budget. They read reviews on everything before booking, including finding a reputable rock climbing school.

We had plenty of dinner discussions to consider details such as location, where the airport was in relation to the beach/town, how to get around, how long it would take to travel from one place to another, and they realised how much goes into planning a trip.

Unforeseen circumstance. Everything was booked, packed and we were ready to go. The night before, #1 came home from a hockey game and said, "Er Mum, I busted my ankle at hockey. I think it's swollen. But don't worry, I can probably still go rock climbing."

With 6 kids, I was prepared for the probability of something popping up and took the news in my stride. I looked at her ankle and asked if she wanted to stay home. She assured me that it wasn't too bad and she was fine to go ahead. I advised her to minimise putting weight on that foot and alleviate it when possible. The younger siblings assisted her and helped with luggage.

Briefing. At the airport, I gathered them and did a briefing before we left. I stressed that safety was paramount, and they had to stick together at all times. I assigned them in pairs, and they were accountable for one another at all times. The last thing the hubs said to me when he dropped us at the airport was Make sure no one gets lost ok!

I also told them to be careful with what they ate and drank, especially roadside food, salads and exposed drinks with ice. I gave the 2 older ones the added responsibility of holding on to a small portion of the cash and to be mindful of our daily expenditure and they took their role seriously.
Low tide
The first hurdle came when we had to take the longtail boat from Ao Nang beach over to Railay. We bought our tickets from the booth and the lady pointed to the boats. As we made our way across the sand, we stopped in our tracks as it dawned upon us that the boat wasn't able to come near enough to shore.

We had to wade out. With our luggage! In shoes and dry clothes!
Longtail boat
We stood there for a few seconds and finally one spoke the obvious. "We need to take our shoes off." The boatman carried #5 while I carried Kate. When a big wave washed up, the water reached our waist!

It was a lovely 15-minute journey, with the magnificent limestone cliffs in full view. Kate was the only one apprehensive about the whole wading-out-to-sea episode and probably wondering what else was in store!
Sand Sea Resort
We stayed at Sand Sea Resort and ordinarily, they would have made comments about how run down the rooms and bathrooms were, but because they had a say in choosing it, there were no complaints. Anyhow, we spent most of the time out of the rooms, either by the beach or in the swimming pool.

Being the start of the monsoon season, the tourist numbers were low and Railay Beach was nice and not too crowded. However, the weather forecast for that week was scattered thunderstorms. I prayed hard that it wouldn't rain or our trip would be dampened.

It rained hard through the night and while we were tucked safely indoors having our meals. Remarkably, every time we were done and wanted to step out, the rain stopped.
Headed for the cliffs
On the day of our rock climbing session, the weather was beautiful. No rain and not too hot. Our guide met us at our hotel and took us to gear up before walking to the climbing site. It was a good 15-minute walk and we took turns calling out, "C'mon Kate. Walk faster!"

Finally, we reached the climbing site, and seeing all the tattooed, muscled men and the high cliffs, their jaws dropped. And here I was, with 6 kids, and a picnic mat ;)
Limestone cliff
Amazing experience. The friendly instructor started them off on the beginner route and the older girls progressed to the challenging ones. They really enjoyed the climbing experience and with the encouragement of the instructor, pushed themselves to reach the top. Way to go, girls! I was also proud of #5, who tried his very best.

Kate? She went along with the rest, but when she was buckled to the rope and we lifted her up, she burst into tears! I asked if she wanted to try just a little bit and she wailed, "Noooo!" We all laughed, and her first climbing experience in Railay ended as quickly as it began. Maybe next time, Kate :)

After the 4-hour climb, we relaxed by the beach and watched the spectacular sunset before dinner.
Railay Beach
With daddy not around on this trip, #5 took over his role. He carried Kate around the swimming pool and when she was tired he offered to carry her. I was heartened to see them take responsibility for themselves, their belongings and look out for one another.

The older girls were really good and took care of Kate and #5 while I had a nice hair wash and massage on the last day. They really bonded over this trip, working everything out themselves.

They were careful in ensuring we had enough cash to last us until the end of the trip and started noticing how much everything cost. They even learned to bargain!

Kate had no choice but to be independent. Not only did she pack her own luggage, but she had to lug it around too. It was pretty comical how when an item in a store caught someone's eye, the whole line had to halt and everyone waited till that person was done before moving off (more often than not, it was #1).
Big bro
On our last night, we bought takeaway from MacDonald's back to the resort as I didn't want to travel out again for dinner. We had a leisurely time dipping in the pool while #2  set about re-heating the food and setting the table.

After dinner, we showered, packed, and prepared for an early pickup. But guess what?

Our adventure took another turn. At 11 pm, I heard someone throwing up. I rushed to the bathroom. #2 was hit by food poisoning!

We had eaten and drank the same food. Fear gripped me. It would be catastrophic if all 7 of us fell sick!

Who was going to carry the younger ones and it would be horrible having to catch a plane with everyone wanting to throw up or needing the toilet urgently.

I prayed so hard.

Thank goodness no one else fell sick. Of course, I couldn't sleep a wink as #2 came out to throw up every few hours. I had to monitor her condition and remind her to take sips of water. Poor girl. Yet, in her sickness, I saw her strength.

Weak from throwing up and not having any sleep, she still insisted on carrying her own backpack so as not to burden us. She said, "It's ok Mum, it is not heavy." I insisted and it was heavy.

Home sweet home. When we stepped foot in Changi airport, one of them blurted out, "It's soo good to be home!"

I told #5 not to carry Kate but he said, "I can, Mum. I can." Well, at least it was a nice change from constantly bickering with her.
she ain't heavy
Yes, it took more effort guiding the kids to plan the trip instead of doing it myself. Yes, I had to be vigilant every step of the way, ensuring the safety of all 6 of them. Yes, I was exhausted by the end of the trip.

But it was well worth it.

We broke a glass in the hotel room, misplaced one room key and lost a charger, but I dare say the kids passed my little 'challenge' with flying colours and gained so much from this experience.

Mission accomplished ;)


~ www.mummyweeblog.com - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singaproe ~  
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