Friday, 24 March 2017

What a day out with #1 taught me

Continuing on from my car-less saga, I spent last Saturday with #1 around town. She accompanied me to a book launch after which we grabbed a simple lunch followed by a trip to Spotlight.

We ate at a hippy-looking eatery, and the self-service ordering process was so complicated that #1 had to decode his questions and ended up making the decisions about what toppings, sauces or sides I wanted.

Too many choices to be made under pressure in dim surroundings. All too much for me. I felt like an auntieBut it was a lovely mummy daughter meal sans little kids blabbing non-stop.

After making our way through spotlight, I was beat and ready to head home. At the bus stop, she checked her phone and announced that the bus would be coming in 7 minutes.

Oh yes, bus apps. That was nice to know.

The bus came promptly in 7 minutes, and after chatting for a bit, I fell asleep. What a nice change from me driving and people falling asleep behind me! I was gently woken up by #1 whispering, "Mum, wake up."

I opened my eyes and noticed that it was pouring.

Oh dear. It was a far walk home and we didn't have an umbrella.

"Don't worry mum, I've already called an Uber and it will be here in.. (checking her app) 2 minutes."

Surprised at her quick thinking, I was glad, but wondered if it was a waste of money since it was just a short ride in to our estate.

Reading my mind, #1 added, "It's just 1 cent! There's a promo."

Really?! Wow.

I looked up at her.

Suddenly, I felt small. My kids can now take care of me?

The way technology is taking over our world, soon I will be reliant on them, and not the other way around.

It was a humbling moment.

The memories of those years of screaming at them and punishing them in mean ways go stand outside the door if you cannot abide by the rules of this house! or no going to the playground for a month! where I was boss and they were at my mercy, came flooding back.

I was a monster mum.

It was only many years later that I learnt the proper way to discipline them. To guide them gently yet firmly, and always with love.
Ice cream night
Thank goodness children are forgiving.

I still trip up at times, and just last night, #5 was testing my patience, refusing to pack his bag and get ready for bed and I ended up yelling at him, something I haven't done in a long time.

Kate came next to me and said, "Mummy, don't shout. You will lose your voice and then you cannot talk to me."

That calmed me down instantly!

I need to constanly remind myself that the other kids are watching and how I respond will be they way they learn, imitate and treat their younger siblings and children in future.

Other discipline tips (which I've learnt after having 5 kids):

Tip #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Tip #9: When the gramps can't say 'no'
Tip #10: 6 Tips to stop tantrums in toddlers
Tip #11: Who has the energy to discipline our kids?

~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~ 

Monday, 20 March 2017

Shaped for a Purpose by Sherena Loh

At 2am, I picked up the newly published book Shaped for a Purpose by Sherena Loh, planning to read one or two chapters before going to bed. Before I knew it, I had reached the final chapter and it was past 4am! I was drawn to the story because through her sharing, it gives one hope that anyone can rise to triumph above adversity, drawing strength by finding and fulfilling our life's purpose.

Sherena has Muscular Dystrophy, a debilitating disease in which the muscles progressively weaken. Doctors told her that she would only live until 25 years old. But many years later, she is still alive - and living a full life. She was one of the founding members of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (Singapore) (MDAS) and now serves as its Executive Director. In her book, she mentioned her late sister Shook Fund, whom many fondly remember as Mrs Tan, ex-principal of Fairfield Methodist. I'm extremely proud yet humbled to call them my cousins.

Despite her own limitations and challenges, Sherena gives of herself so generously as she journeys with the families of children and youths who come through MDAS. That is how Sherena is, and at our family gatherings, she is always cheerful and positive, radiating joy to both young and old.
Shaped for a purpose
This book is not meant for people with disabilities alone, and it is just as inspiring for us able bodied, as all the more, we should be asking ourselves if we are living life to the fullest. At times, we may feel that life is tough and the challenges around us are insurmountable. However, after reading her story, it puts things in perspective and I feel ready to face my own uncertainties and obstacles without hesitation.

Here's an exerpt from the chapter Fell down? Then get up.

I fall so often that I can say I have a Masters degree in falling! I have accidents in many novel ways, and I have learnt just as many ways to recover from falls.

My most frightening accident happened when I was about 20 years old. At that time, I was still walking. However, my legs had a mind of their own. At unexpected and inappropriate times, they would go 'soft' and I would simply crumble to the ground. On this occassion, I was cutting through a private housing estate to get to a bus stop. As I reached the bottom of a slope, I saw a pack of huge dogs. There were about four to five dogs in this pack. I was shocked and suddenly my legs gave way. Oh no! Unlike other people, I cannot scramble to my feet after a fall. I would need somebody to help me up, or hold onto nearby furniture to pull myself back on my feet. "Help!" I called out. The dogs had, by this time, quietly come down the slope and gotten closer to me. In fact, we were at eye level because I was seated on the road. They looked into my eyes; I could see their tongues lolling from their open mouths.

I saw a pedestrian. "Help!" I called out to her. Incredibly, she asked "Why?" and gave me a wide berth. I felt that even the dogs scorned me, because they eyed me a little longer and went on their way. I was alone again. There was no help to be had. I had to do something to get myself out of my pathetic situation. I crawled on the ground until I came to a stone kerb. Using the low support, I used all my strength and might to pull myself up. I was frightened, exhausted and humilated. I still had to walk to the main road to hail a taxi before I could get back to the safety of my home. Struggling physically and emotionally in the taxi, I had to remind myself not to give in to self-pity and lose focus, because I could not afford to fall again!

Later, at home, I tearfully recounted my harrowing experience to my mother. As I untangled my thoughts, I realised that I was not upset by the fall or the dogs, I was most affected by the callous attitude of people who turned away from a person in need.

But not every passerby responded to me with indifference. I remember another occassion when I fell in public. Again, I could not get up without help. A lady hurried up from behind. Both of us struggled as she tried to heave me to my feet. When I finally regained my balance, I turned to thank her and only then did I realise that she was pregnant! I was touched by her incredible kindness in risking her unborn child to help a stranger.

Sherena ends each chapter with words for us to ponder:

Are you going through a season in which you feel like you are falling and failing? What would make you a failure is if you quit. But as long as you don't quit, you have not failed yet. Everyone knows Thomas Edison as the inventor of the lightbulb, but few of us know that he was branded a failure before that. Nevertheless, he was not daunted by his setbacks or criticisms from others. He said, I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

I have found 10,000 ways of recovering from a fall. And I hope you would too.

Another takeaway I got from her story was the pivotal role of her mother, my aunt. Besides the agony of seeing her own child suffer an incurable illness, their family faced many tragedies, yet my aunt and cousins remained courageous and united in the face of despair. We mothers are the anchors of the family, and it is not so much the circumstances life deals us, but our responses and how we guide our children to make sense of them that is important.

Sherena was blessed to have the unconditional love of her family, and she writes:

Is there one thing in your life that helped to make things bearable? Something that built a core of resilience in you, although you did not know it at that time? For me, it was my family. They were my harbour in the storm of life. They nurtured my self-esteem even as it was taking a bashing in the open sea. I am grateful for the advantage that my family gave me.

My family showed me love. They accepted who I was, including my limitations. My younger siblings could have sidelined me as I got physically weaker while they got taller and stronger, but they continued to show me respect and henced bolstered my self-esteem. My parents could have chosen to see my disability as a burden on the family, instead all I felt was their love and concern as they searched tirelessly for a cure for me.

Being a voice for the disabled, Sherena sheds light on how we can help them in practical ways.

1. Empower, not overpower

People generally are kind and wish to help when they see a person with disabilities. However, some people may not know how to help appropriately. There is a temptation to overpower rather than empower a disabled person. Instead, it might be more helpful to ask, "What would you like to do?" rather than make decisions for the MD person.

2. Give space for wheelchair users

When I was exiting the train, I had to reverse my chair. I checked around me and said "Excuse me," before I set my chair on reverse. Suddenly, I felt a smack on my shoulder. A lady snapped that I had hit her foot, although I hadn't felt my wheels going over an obstacle. I was shocked by her slap. Through this incident, I have grown to be more sensitive to others in public areas. Sometimes, it is not any party's fault; so if we can be tolerant and forgiving, it will make it much easier for people to live harmoniously in the same environment. From then on, whenever I have to reverse out of a train, I would say, "Excuse me, I need to reverse" in a loud voice, so that people around me are forewarned. I would also add, "I don't want to roll over anybody's foot." The last sentence really gets people's attention, because nobody wants a smashed foot!

3. Volunteer for MDAS Flag Day

Their annual flag day is on the 1st of April 2017 and it would be a meaningful way to spend a Saturday morning with the children and expose them to volunteerism. The young ones will get to hold their own tins and people usually do not reject a cute, enthusiastic tin bearer! (details at the end of this post).
Book launch, with Sherena & co-author Pauline Loh
Above all, Shaped for a purpose challenges us to reflect if we have indeed found our purpose, and it gives those of us who feel we might be "different" or "special" in any way optimism that our uniqueness may indeed be a blessing.

Although it was written with adults in mind, one of our nieces who is 9 brought the book to school for silent reading. Her classmate became interested in it as well, and our niece was saying how she can't wait for her friend to return the book so that she can continue reading!

I have asked my kids to read it too, especially the teenagers as this is the age of questioning and searching for their purpose in life.

I recommend everyone to go out and pick up this book, not just to support my cousin, but to be inspired to live life meaningfully, with a renewed sense of purpose. And no matter what physical limitations or brokeness we may have, may we be able to embrace it.

Personally, I hope that one day, we can call ourselves an inclusive society, as I believe that in God's masterplan, both the weak and the strong have a part to play. And in this march together down the path of LIFE, if we can walk side by side, supporting one another, how beautiful life will be.

For the disabled may indeed be the ones to pull us up, maybe not physically, but in ways we were blind to.

We were all made for a purpose. Let's find our purpose and let our light shine, as Sherena has.

MDAS Flag Day

Date: 1 April 2017 (Saturday)
Venues: Bishan, Tampines, Woodlands, Jurong Point

Shaped for a Purpose is available at all major bookshops including Kinokuniya, MPH, Times and Popular Bookstore, retailing at $18 (before GST). Publisher: Armour Publishing, ISBN No.: 978-981-47-6559-6.

~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Sinar Eco Resort in Johor, Malaysia

I like the kids to spend time in nature, and besides the usual zoo and bird park which my parents take them to every so often, I have discovered the Turtle Museum and Farmart.

Kate enjoyed feeding and patting the small animals that I decided to take it a notch up. An overnight kampung experience sounds about right for my urban kids.

I did our booking via Whatsapp (+60 14 2523678) and it was fuss-free.
Sinar Eco Resort
To be honest, I never intended to blog about the weekend, but their hospitality was so sincere that I just had share about this gem of a place tucked away in nearby Johor.

Once we arrived, the kids couldn't wait to be let out of the car having been cooped up for so many hours due to the causeway jam. We plonked our bags in the rooms and headed straight out to feed the animals. It costs RM$1 per packet of feed.
Feeding the chickens
I was apprehensive about entering the chicken enclosure, but put on a brave front and cheerfully ushered the kids in. We taught the kids to splay the chicken feed as far as they could so that they wouldn't come too close to peck us.
The horses were up next and I was surprised Kate dared to feed them. The handlers taught her to place the carrots on her flat palm and allow the horse to nibble on it.
We had another round of animal feeding on Sunday. Horses, cats, rabbits, cows, goats, fishes, chickens; the kids fed them to their hearts' content.
Meals: All the activities cease at 6pm and they start preparing for the BBQ dinner. The premium BBQ is at RM$70 and one portion is big enough to be shared with a kid. #5 really enjoyed the BBQ and I seldom see him eat so much!

Breakfast was a simple but adequate affair. Adults went for the nasi lemak with curry chicken while the kids had cereal, eggs (hard boiled/scrambled) and rice with ikan bilis.

For lunch, you can ask for the menu after breakfast and let them know what time you will be eating so the kids don't have to wait a long time for food to be served. The kids had chicken chop with fries (RM28) while we had fried rice (RM18) which comes with fried chicken wing.
Up close and personal
gor gor to the rescue
On Sunday we went horse riding, but as the kids are still young, we simply trotted around the paddock. There are options to ride around the farm or if you are an experienced rider you can take the horse out.

The kids asked to go on the river cruise again as it was a different exprience from going out in the night. #5 enjoyed the night cruise as it was such an adventure going out in pitch darkness! Pity we didn't see any fireflies. The 30 minute ride costs RM100 per trip for the whole group.
RM30 for 2 rounds
What made our stay memorable was the service. The manager Devaa tried to accomodate our many little requests for the kids, and I have to commend a most helpful staff, Mohammad. He happened to assist us with many of the activities, and even though we couldn't communicate fluently, he was kind and considerate of the childrens' needs. Nothing was too much trouble, and he attended to us with patience and sincerity. It made the stay a happy one for all the kids.
He carried the kids one by one up to the driver's seat, and though they could only pretend to steer the tractor, that made their day. Kate spotted the cows in the enclosure and asked to feed them. He obliged, and also showed us where the milk collected was stored. That day, Kate finally learnt where her "supermarket" milk came from!
tug of war
Accomodation: The kids' reactions when they unlocked the room door and burst in was quite anti-climatic. Looked, paused, and finally let out a "Huh, so small?" followed by "How come the TV got no 313?"

For me, so long as it's clean, I'm ok. This farm resort was opened last year and the rooms are new and modern, albeit small.

What I loved was waking up at 6am, stepping out and hearing the stillness of the farm. Shortly after, the kids were woken up to the sound of cock-a-doo-da-doo, and it was not coming from an electronic book.
Container rooms
We stayed on the ground floor and it was convenient, without having to climb the stairs every time we needed to grab something.

All in all, I really enjoyed the slow weekend away, and it was definitely an eye-opener for the kids.

Such a lovely family-run farm with the guests' experience at the heart of it. Every sheltered Disney/Lego-land kid should try coming here once.

Maybe I'll book a whole week the next round. I'm sure to hear cries of "there's nothing to do, we want to go home". And home they will return to, with a grateful heart and rested spirit.

Just a few things to note:
- Insect repellent is a must. We protected ourselves with patches, arm bands and liberally spraying repellent.
- Slap on sun block and bring a cap.
- Wifi is available, but slow if too many people are logged on.
- We were lost getting there and ended up in a dumpsite (a first for the kids), but Devaa said it was just us. We keyed Pekan Nanas on our GPS, but it is a surburb, not a street, and our GPS decided we needed an adventure. I'm sure you'll have better luck. Thankfully, on our return drive, it took us a mere 30 minutes to reach the checkpoint.

Sinar Eco Resort
Johor, Malaysia

~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The day I had no car

We had car troubles and I couldn't send Kate to school. I asked her to wait for her cousin to pick her up to go to school together.

"No mum, let's walk to school!" she said excitedly.

So off we left at 7.45am with me dragging my feet. What an irony.

I was half prepared for her to complain that she was tired or ask for rest stops along the way. The last time we walked out to take a bus was a year ago, and it took us a good hour to reach the bus stop!

Surprisingly though, it turned out to be a really pleasant morning stroll. She was in such high spirits and pointed out lots of interesting things along the way.

Kate: Mummy! Look at that! Is THAT a dinosaur print?
Me: Do you think it is? How big were dinosaurs?
Kate: Really big!
Me: So could that be a dino footprint?
Kate: No. What is it?
Me: It's the footprint of a... *suspense*
Her eyes were glistening, as though I had pulled a bird out of a hat.
Kate: Yes!! It is! It is!

And the questions came fast and furious.

"How did the footprint get into the ground?"

"Why did the bird fly down? Was it looking for food?"

She was so absorbed in the moment, marvelling at the discoveries around her.

Ah, what it's like to be a child, with the gift of wonder.

Hearing her questions made me smile. I did not give her answers but guided her and gave her space to arrive at her own conclusions.

I love her thinking mind and hope that her curiosity never gets dampened.
Best view up front
Even though it was a long walk out, she was hopping and skipping and enjoying herself. Her cheer was infectious and it lifted my mood. Instead of trying to hurry her and deposit her off in school so that I could head in to work, I decided to enjoy the time with her.

A mindset shift from this is wasting my time, I have so much on my to-do list to being present to her and enjoying the morning made me feel much better.

Oh well, I could change my plans and work from home.

When we finally reached the bus stop, I told her we were going to take the bus to school as it was still a really long way away and she was overjoyed. To her, it was more interesting than being in a car.

After dropping her off at school, I made my way home and found #1 in the kitchen trying a healthy recipe my friend had just taught her.

Just mash some ripe bananas, crack an egg in, and stir in flaxseed meal. Viola, healthy homemade pancakes.
Yummiest strange looking pancakes
I realised how rare it was for me to have breakfast with #1 alone, and rarer for her to cook for me! We had a lovely conversation and I was reminded how time flies. In almost a blink of an eye, Kate will be standing before me like #1, grown up, with her own life, own opinions and thoughts.

Our kids are ours only for a short time, to shape and to guide. I hope never to have regrets of not being there enough for them as they are growing up.

~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Monday, 6 March 2017

Farmart - Animal Corner

Ever since we discovered the little known Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum, we've been back to feed her turtle friends so many times that I've decided perhaps it's time she was introduced to new animals!

I've heard of all these far away farms and finally plucked up enough courage to venture to Sungei Tengah, near Choa Chu Kang. The teens politely declined the invitation to tag along. "Mum, we have more important things to do, like homework?" Ah well, I shall protect Kate's childhood and even if I have to take just 1 kid, I will make the effort.

And the verdict is, we've found a new place to feed a variety of animals to her heart's content!
We purchased a basket of food for $5 and she headed straight to the rabbits. After feeding and patting them, she asked if we could take one home. I told her about the responsibilities of raising a pet and she concluded, "Ok mummy, I'll do all the rest, and you just have to help me with cleaning the poo and the pee."

Good try, but no go, dearie.
I thought she might be afraid to feed the pumpkin seeds to the birds directly, but after watching an older child, she followed suit. It was amusing to hear the parrots say, "Hello" and "Goodbye".
Colourful birds
There were terrapins in this farm as well, but they were much smaller compared to the giant turtles at the Turtle Museum and she wasn't keen on them.
There is a little pond with catfishes and she fed the pellets one at a time, watching how they opened their huge mouths and swallowed them one by one.
Finally, she was left with the green leafy vegtables and the long beans and she proceeded to feed the goats.
Feed em'
Pat em'
All in a day's work
She enjoyed feeding them so much and asked if she could buy another basket of food. This round, she was concerned about the animals at the back of the cages, and ensured that all the sidelined animals were fed.
The Animal Corner is tucked in a corner of Farmart, and next time we might try coming in the evening to see what else is going on. We were there on a Saturday morning and by the time we left at about 11am, there were some adults prawning, but the food stalls and the rest of Farmart seemed quiet.
Farm in Singapore
Farmart Centre
67 Sungei Tengah Road
Singapore 699008
Opening hours 10am - 10pm

~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

What does it take to keep a marriage going?

I have friends married for the second time and they tell me, "It's not easy raising kids and keeping the marriage going. Please share your wisdom!"

I'm embarressed to say that I don't have much advice to dole out, and happily married for 18 years is hardly an accurate description of our union. I'm still scratching my head, because those successful marriage cliches like "don't go to bed angry" or "go on date nights" are easier said than done. In the first 10 years of our marriage, I didn't even have time for proper meals, let alone go out for fun?


I don't know how we made it through all those years with 6 kids thrown into the mix. It must be God's grace.

The odds were stacked against it.

We've had (more than) our fair share of arguments revolving around the usual issues of differing parenting styles, chore division, financial burdens, plus we were young. Young, immature and saddled with a child. And then some more. The responsibilities and obligations kept mounting, and statistically, this marriage would never work.

Seeing our brood, people tell us how fortunate we are, and automatically assume that it must have been a textbook marriage. It couldn't be further from the truth.

We all know what the experts say. Get married for the right reason, find common interests, communicate, communicate, communicate. I totally agree that all of that makes things so much easier.

But relationships are complicated matters. What if most of it doesn't apply to the both of you?

Friends who know us find us really amusing as we are poles apart in so many ways.

Common interests? The hubs spends hours on the golf course, while I do yoga with some mummy friends. I enjoy watching deep, meaningful movies, while slapstick comedy or battling it out on screen with the kids is his preferred form of entertainment.

He fills our travels with activities while I prefer to simply stroll around and absorb new cultures. When we were up in the mountains of Switzerland, his aim was to make it to the top and take lots of jaw-dropping pictures. Me? I stopped halfway, and I just had to sit there for an hour, letting the vast expanse of the snow-capped mountains envelop me. It was such a profund experience, being transported right into the palm of creation, listening to the sound of silence. When we regrouped, he was ecstatically showing me his amazing crisp shots while I was trying to explain my experience. We both could not comprehend the other.

Time and again, we hear how important communication is in a marriage. Well, the hubs is a man of few words, and when my friends with caucasian husbands sweep them off their feet with words alone, I do wish he was more eloquent. But I guess there are different levels of communication, no? I understand the hubs, without words.

We don't share the same religion, and in the early years when I saw happy couples in church with their offsprings, how I wished we had the same faith as surely, life would be easier.

I love to read and ponder things. He loves to tinker with gadgets and machines. He cooks, and I eat. Well, maybe marriage experts meant complimentary interests?
doesn't this make you hungry?
In today's world with social media encroaching into our days, one unfortunate effect is the "if only" syndrome. Suddenly, we are privy to other people's private lives. Well, the polished parts, mostly. If only we could afford luxurious holidays like the Tans, we would be happy and smiling.. If only you would buy me big, expensive gifts, our marriage would be blissful.. If only, if only.

Over the past two decades, our circumstances have changed in so many ways.

We tried to build a business together, in the hope of giving our children better opportunies, but it failed, and we went through tough times with no money in the bank and several mouths to feed.

We used to live all crammed together, 7 in a room (before Kate was born), together with my in-laws. Now, we have a nice place to live in, with lots of space. And if one day all of these were taken away, I doubt it would matter very much.

Material possessions do not make a marriage fundamentally any better. Yes, perhaps for a brief moment. Soon enough, whatever unhappiness or discontent that was there, will still be there.

Over the past 18 years, we have been through so much. How did we make it this far?

I think it was simply these. Trust, shared values and commitment. A promise to stick together. To try, and try again. No matter how hard the going got.

Happiness can be here. In good times or in bad. In a big house or a small room. In health or in sickness.

Look around us. The institution of marriage and family is being threatened. Raising kids and keeping a marriage going are probably 2 of the hardest things to do.

But they are worth it, aren't they?

Happy Valentine's Day!

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

~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Chinese New Year 2017

Chinese New Year every year is more or less the same for us. A few weeks before, we start decluttering and spring cleaning the house. I'm getting better at letting go of things, yay! The hubs and I will make an annual trip to Yong Peng to buy his favourite pineapple tarts from a family bakery and seeing the table full of cookies in the red-capped bottles signifies the start of the season for the kids.
Breakfast with her bear
The day before CNY, the excitement picks up as the younger kids dress up for celebrations in school. By 11am, all the kids are home and there's a buzz around the house. With kids spanning such a wide age range, busy with their own schedules, I can see the wisdom in the reunion dinner tradition and schools and workplaces giving everyone half a day off.
Steamed bamboo clams with garlic
The hubs and our helper start cooking early in the morning and relatives come over for prayers followed by lunch. After which, the older kids head over to my parents' place to help prepare our steamboat reunion dinner. We have an early dinner with my family and return home by 8pm for Round 2 with the hubs' side of the family.
Yu Sheng
This year we had a lavish reunion dinner complete with freshly shucked oysters. Stomachs full, it was time for the rather riotous "lo-hei" ritual.
Annual family photo
We take our annual Wee family photo on reunion night as that is the only time everyone gathers at the same time.
Gadgets, gadgets, gadgets
Kate and her cousins, and the ubiquitous gadgets. This is what bonding looks like in their generation.

It's a long day for the kids as they woke up at 5.30am for school, and we call it a night just past midnight.
Look at those cheeks!
The 1st day of CNY is spent at my parents' place as that is where my dad's clan will descend. He is the youngest in a family of 11 kids, so it's twice as many relatives on my side of the family. Sadly, because we only meet once a year, my kids are not close to their cousins. We get home and the hubs starts cooking again for friends and relatives who come visiting.

On the 2nd day of CNY, we go over to my parents' place for lunch as relatives from my mum's side and family friends will gather, as they have been doing from as long as I can remember.
Bak kut teh
By Day 4, the hubs was exhausted from 4 days of cooking. We had friends visiting from overseas, and as the kids were back in school, we accompanied them on the drive up to Meleka. It was a nice 2-day break and we took things really slow.

We like this aunty's bak kut teh, and it's quite amusing how everyone at the coffeeshop sat and waited patiently as this aunty cheerfully prepares the claypots for one table at a time.
Felt like we were transported back in time as we strolled the streets and spent the whole day eating, without background complaints of "Where are we going? Why are we eating again?"

It's been a good CNY thus far with no tempers raised nor cranky meltdowns, only hoarse voices from too much bak kua and pineapple tarts.

I was asking one of my kids what she liked most about Chinese New Year. Is it the ang pows? "No". The food? "No."

"I like that there's a lot of people around. And relatives. And your friends."

There's grounding in family and traditions. I hope that's something we will pass on from generation to generation.

~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum

In my bid to spend more time in nature and to slow down our hurried lives, I took Kate to the Turtle museum. Not only has she never seen giant turtles, she has also never stepped foot in the Chinese Garden. Perfect outing for a Friday afternoon!

I expected the place to be fairly quiet, but was still surprised that there was only 1 other family there, and they were tourists. Must be because the place is so ulu (secluded), and I guess turtles doesn't seem exciting to kids (nor parents) these days. It is called a museum, but is more like a garden.

They have a really impressive collection of rare species from around the world, but all that was lost on Kate. She just wanted to see them and feed them.
Free to roam turtles
We purchased our tickets along with a bunch of long beans ($2) and entered the garden. As Kate approached the pond, the turtles seemed to know she was bearing food and started climbing out of the pond towards her. Seeing an army of turtles advancing, she ran away terrified!

Relating the story to the older kids at dinner, they were amused, "What kid is afraid of turtles? Kate, as-slow-as-a-turtle, you know?"
Hungry turtles
We moved away to the tortoises kept in the enclosures and she felt much safer. She fed them by dangling the beans and dropping them when they opened their mouths.
First time feeding tortoises
There are many different species of turtles housed in the tanks, and several strange looking ones like this pig-nosed turtle that I pointed out, but she was hardly interested in the amazing facts I was reading out to her.
Pig nosed turtle
She much preferred the open garden, and went back to look for the bigger turtles and tortoises. I encouraged her to go nearer, but she kept a good distance, thinking they might crawl to her very quickly like the small ones in the pond.

I demonstrated how to stick the long beans out, and we watched the turtle chomp on it.

Kate tried to be brave, and edged closer and closer, but chickened out and threw the beans from a safe distance before backing off. I was amused watching her doing that repeatedly.
"Here, for you!"
It was rather hot at 4pm, but Kate thought we were on an adventure and gayly explored the place. She found a (really) little cave and called out to me excitedly to come explore with her. City kids.

She asked to buy another round of beans and spent the rest of the time simply watching the turtles, as they climbed on top of one another to get to the food.

We spent more than an hour there and I'm happy that she is still at the stage where it does not take much to keep her entertained. I'm sure the older kids would have walked one round, fed 1 or 2 turtles, and ask to leave after 10 minutes complaining that it is "too boring".
Live Turtle Museum
In fact, Kate loved the experience so much that we went back to feed her "turtle friends" 2 more times!
Getting braver..
She managed to face her fears, and hung on to the beans instead of dropping them quickly. On our third visit, I was surprised when she wanted to challenge herself and finally dared to touch the ambling tortoise.

She was exclaiming jubilently, "I touched the shell! I touched the shell!"
and braver!
We bought a cold ribena from the auntie manning the entrance (she sells drinks and ice-cream) and sat here enjoying the silence and serenity.
Just what my soul needed, to wind down from a hectic week.
Great spot for 'me time'
The Chinese Garden is now top on my list of favourite outdoor spaces to unwind with the kids. They even have lovely picnic spots!
Garden picnic
The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum is located within the Chinese Garden, near the entrace. Just walk up this slope and it's housed in the pavillion in the background.

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