Friday, 14 October 2016

A Day in the Life of a Mum with 6 kids

For the past 4 years, I was a stay-at-home-mum, and prior to that, I worked from home for a decade so that I could be around for my kids as they were growing up.

Now that #1 is turning 18 and not-so little Kate is in school for 4 hours a day, I can finally pursue my own work without feeling bad that I have left so many kids at home to be cared for by the helper and a hubs whose eyes are focused on the computer screen most of the day.

The funny thing is, the kids are so used to the hubs and I both being at home that they find it a novelty that mum goes to work!

When they see me coming down all dressed (instead of being in home attire most of the time), the teenagers will ask, "Mum, where are you going?"

"To work."

"Oh wow, you have work to go to." They are amused, and I'm sure they are (secretly) proud of me. Well, I hope.
Our Brady bunch
So how do I juggle my days now that I am a working mum?

As my own boss of an enrichment centre, I am fortunate to have the flexibility of time and can choose to work partly from home. The flip side however, is that even when I'm home, I tend to be on the computer (there is always more to do!) and Kate has pleaded with me on several occasions, "Mummy, can you stop your computer and play with me?" I need more self-restraint to block out time meant for the kids!

My weekday schedule hasn't changed all that much as I try to fit my work schedule around the kids' school day. In the mornings while the kids are in school, I go to my centre for training, brainstorming sessions or to touch base with my staff. I leave at 12noon to pick Kate up and spend the afternoons with the kids as they return home from school. After the younger kids have gone to bed, I get some work done before calling it a night at 12 or 1am, although some nights I'm exhausted and fall asleep while putting Kate to bed.

My weekend. The day which has changed the most for me is Saturday. I documented our Saturday a year ago, where it was a balance between seeing to the younger and older kids' different needs while making time for simple activities as a family.

Now, I work almost every Saturday, to personally run our weekly trial classes as our concept is new to parents and many do not understand what we do even after browsing our website. I have come to enjoy these sessions as we are on this parenting journey together, and it is always nice to get to know the parents of the kids whom we are working with.
Our Little Executives
Saturday mornings: I take Kate along with me, and she attends her class while I speak to the parents. Some days she stays the whole day with me, and keeps herself entertained by playing with the other kids at our centre, or simply playing by herself.

Meanwhile at home, the 4 older kids sleep in on weekends to make up for the sore lack of sleep on school days. My dad has learnt to Whatsapp them directly to see who is at home, and my parents will detour to the market to buy brunch over so that our helper doesn't have to cook.

My mum will see to the needs of the kids and ensure everything is ok. She usually spends time chatting with the teens and takes an afternoon nap in their rooms. My parents have been such a life saver for the past 18 years, and even though they are in their 70s, they enjoy their role and the company of the kids.

Afternoons: Some days, the hubs might come by to my centre with #4 and #5  to pick Kate up. He has stepped up to the plate knowing that I am busy with work. Wish I had done this earlier!

There are times when I can't figure out what they get up to when he sends across such pictures, but I'm glad he is spending more time bonding with them. Now that I'm at home much less to supervise him, #5 spends too much time watching TV and playing on the computer, so the more time in nature, the better.
Dad.. we are exhausted
This Saturday arrangement has been working well and occasionally, I get time in between my sessions to meet up with old friends for lunch to celebrate birthdays.

Initially, when I started to work on Saturdays, I was apprehensive about being away on a weekend when everyone else was at home, but it has turned out really well and Kate has been enjoying her Saturdays tremendously. Time alone with mummy. Fun times with daddy and siblings. Friends to play with or going out for nice meals. What more can she ask for?!
Happy times are made of these
Evenings: I return home in the late afternoon or evening, depending on how many sessions I run, and the hubs would be fixing a nice dinner for the kids. We sit with them for an early dinner (around 6pm) and have a few small bites while seeing that they are all fed.

Once everything is settled, we prepare to head out to meet with friends for dinner, leaving the older girls in charge.

Although we have been going out much less as a family these past 2 months due to me working on Saturdays and preferring to stay in on Sundays to rest and recharge, the timing couldn't be better as #4 has been busy with PSLE preparations and #2 has been spending the weekends catching up on sleep and studying for her O level exams which commences next week.

Occasionally, the hubs will cook up a storm or start a little BBQ and roast some nice meats, and my parents and brother's family will join us for dinner or we might head out nearby to have dinner together.
Slow roasted BBQ ribs
Night out: It's nice to relax and unwind from a long week over a nice dinner with 1 or 2 other couples, and there's usually some interesting event going on somewhere.

Late night: After a heavy meal, I find it hard to sleep so what's the best thing to do when the kids are asleep and the house is dead quiet? Besides the hottest topic everyone is heated up over these past few days..

I work. My work is akin to a hobby. I turn to it every spare moment I have, and it brings me great joy and satisfaction.

If my brain cells are buzzing, I'll put in some heavy work like reading research papers, writing up rationales of our curriculum or doing some bookkeeping. But if I'm brain-fried, I'll do relaxing work like blogging or sorting the kids/family admin, which is another never-ending task!
Wine pairing dinner
It may be unimaginable, but I'm happiest now than I have ever been since having kids.

I don't know if anyone can relate to this, but there was a period of more than 5 years when I did not have time to meet with friends nor go out with the hubs. It was routine, routine, routine. So much so that now as I make time to re-connect with old friends, my kids are surprised. "Mum, we didn't know you had so many friends!" Yup, I'm accustomed to such bluntness. Is it just my teens?

Getting the 5 young kids to eat, sleep, and bathe took up my entire day and every ounce of energy. The focus was more like 95% kids, 5% work (to hang on to my sanity), 0% me, 0% fun. I didn't know any better, but oh well, I survived and emerged stronger.

After 18 years, I finally have balance.

Family time with the children, yet ample time away from them which is just as important.

Work which I enjoy; both meaningful and mentally stimulating, and working with passionate, like-minded educators who bring energy to my days.

Time with the hubs, good friends, and adult conversations where we chat and laugh ourselves silly, as I have almost forgotten how it feels to enjoy the company of friends without my thoughts constantly revolving around the kids.

I become more ready to take on the new week.

I am in a good place now.

For that, I am thankful.

For more glimpses into our days, this is how my week looks like. It does get pretty crazy around here! The last time I documented my weekday was 2 years ago when Kate was 2, and looking back, things have changed significantly.

Next up on this blog train is Dorothea, a mum of two boys, aged 6 and 4. She writes about life, love, parenting and faith at A Pancake Princess, and is also a regular contributor to The New Age Parents, an online magazine. These days, she also enjoys crafting customised artwork and holding watercolour / calligraphy workshops, and goes by the name of Dottishop. Meanwhile, most of her time is spent chasing make-believe dinosaurs, making messy art, breaking up fights and picking crumbs off the floor - and she wouldn't have it any other way.

Thank you for hopping on board this blog train hosted by the inspirational Justina of Mum in the Making. Click on Day in a Life blog train to take a peek into a day in the life of other mummies!

~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

What I'm excited about these days

Ever since starting my enrichment centre 3 months ago, the focus of my days have taken on a new dimension. Besides seeing to the needs of my kids, I'm immersing myself in rich research and surrounding myself with other people's children. Life couldn't be more enriching!

During our September holiday Astronaut camp, I was hanging around making sure everything ran smoothly. Even though I wasn't teaching them, the kids came up to me with comments and questions.

I was drawn in and became more and more involved, as it was impossible to resist these innocent faces and incessant questions, and found myself thoroughly enjoying being with them.

As an incidental discovery, I've found the answer to a contradiction which had baffled me for years. At every PTM, my daughters' teachers would tell me how well-behaved they are, what a delight it was to teach them, and all of them won model student awards.

Yet at home, they came nowhere close to this brilliant picture painted and the hubs and I concluded that they had the Dr Jekyll-Mr Hyde syndrome.

Now that I'm on the other end, I tell parents what a pleasure it was to have their child with us, how well-behaved and well-mannered they were, and the parents are surprised and divulge that such is not the case at home.

Ah! I'm concluding that children know how to be on their best behaviour in front of teachers they like. I had some of the P1 and P2 girls coming in half an hour before camp started because they wanted to see if there was anything we needed help with. Such sweet darlings. It is such a joy to teach other people's children! I'm one of those mums who find it impossible to teach my own kids. Tempers will flare and the relationship risks being ruined, so I don't even try anymore.
What's that machine?
When you have a bunch of riveted, absorbent minds watching you (notice how Kate is the only one not bothered with me) knowing that what you say and what you do will have a great impact on them, that knowledge and responsibility is at once astounding yet humbling.

Of all the sayings I've come across about teaching, this one struck me greatly.

"To teach is to stand on hallowed ground."

How sacred. We have the potential to mold hearts and minds.
Memory work
Children at every age present so much for us to marvel at. The pure emotions of the little ones, the wide eyes and the quick smiles. The inquisitive minds of the older kids and their desire to do their best. Facilitating them, encouraging them to work together, to go beyond their comfort zone, seeing them grow in a short span of 3 days, there was a tangible reluctance all around when it was time to part.

Besides the holiday camp, Kate has been following me down to my centre and she enjoys the weekly classes. Although I wish our team could churn out curriculum fast enough to include #4 and #5, I'm glad that at least 1 of them gets to benefit from this whole new approach towards learning.

After 10 years of disappointment at our education system for being mostly concerned with teaching to the test (although now I understand the constrains), and believing that there must be more that can be done to impart real education to our children alongside content delivery, I am finally heartened to discover that there is a way, and we can bring that to a new generation of children.

In the process, I have been learning a lot (embracing life-long learning!), reading voraciously, and picking the brilliant minds around me. My dear partner, Michelle, never fails to inspire me with her passion and dedication towards the development of children, and her generosity of mind to share with us her special gift of deciphering every child's learning needs and identifying how gaps can be closed and potentials stretched, so that as a team, everyone grows along and becomes strengthened as educators.
Patterning activity
Our activities may look random, but each activity is backed by scientific research and careful thought has been put into designing it for the best learning outcomes, while disguising it as play as that is the form kids learn best.

Take for example this activity at last week's session, where Kate was developing her sequencing skills. It might look simple, but patterning and sequencing is such a critical skill. By encouraging kids to spot patterns, they can create and use patterns to make sense of the world where there is none; by providing order in chaos.

All about patterns. Patterns are one of the first ways we see predictability, hence allowing us to make educated guesses. In school, patterns are essential for Math (basic patterns), Science (life cycles), English (reading) and social relationships (cause and effect), to highlight simple examples.

Do you know that out of all mental skills, pattern recognition is said to have the highest correlation with general intelligence? Imagine that.

Ever wondered why IQ tests and the GEP tests are full of patterning questions?

Although patterning is taught in school, here it is taught as a skill, instead of being part of a subject.

Therein lies the difference. As such, our children understand that patterns exist in an infinite number of situations, vis a vis being exclusive to a particular subject. They also come to the realization that their actions can affect and impact patterns, and create or break them. Powerful realizations.

The problem in schools is that we teach too specifically, hence students are not able to apply theories across subjects and their knowledge does not expand past the classroom walls.

Mastering pattern recognition requires persistence and practice, and the younger the child starts, the better. Experts go so far as to predict that the younger the child is able to observe patterns in his environment, the stronger their future thinking skills will be. (I'm going to expect great things from Kate!)

Besides that, with each activity, not only are we developing the essential skills, we incorporate positive learning habits and encourage a growth mindset; core tenets of our approach. Kate's teacher noticed that whenever she is presented with a task which she found challenging, she would use avoidance tactics and ask to go to the toilet or ask for permission to look for me (what a convenient excuse).

Her teacher makes a conscientious effort to guide Kate to adopt a different approach to facing challenges, and by gradually building up her confidence and sense of achievement by small successes while praising her efforts, Kate will be on the path to a more positive learning attitude.
Analogies worksheet
When Kate moves on to K1 next year, she will work on analogies, which is more than just an advanced form of patterning.

What is analogical reasoning? Analogical reasoning is one of the quickest way we learn new concepts and make sense of things by comparing them to what we already know. It is a core cognitive skill that contributes to general fluid intelligence, creativity and adaptive learning capacities.

In fact, studies have proven that analogical reasoning is a significant predictor of mathematical reasoning. Thus we can think of these as the building blocks for a strong foundation in academic studies. More compellingly, analogical reasoning may help students become more innovative, adaptive and intelligent; qualities our children require to forge ahead in future.

I don't know if this fascinates you, but the fact that there are activities which can be done and approaches which can be applied to shape our children's brains and learning in such a powerful way, simply blows me away.

It is as though I have uncovered some hidden treasures that I have almost lost hope searching for. The more I am discovering, the more I want to delve deeper, and the journey is doubly exciting with a team of like-minded educators as we deconstruct findings and reflect on the processes.

Looking back on how my life has unfolded, there were times when I was in two minds about whether to go back to work as an occupational therapist or become a stay-at-home-mum and relatives talked about how my overseas education was 'wasted' as I stayed home to care for my 6 kids. Fortunately, my parents were 100% behind me and never once complained.

On hindsight, education is never 'wasted' and coupled with the experience and wisdom gained through my parenting journey, I am where I am today, and although never planned, it feels so right doing what I do, and everyday I am energised and ready to go! Life has turned out marvellously.

I have also had the opportunity to meet some of my readers and work with their children, and that has been wonderful as well.

To celebrate Children's Day, we are having an Open House this Friday (10am-1pm) and Saturday (11.30am/2pm/4pm) for children to come along and experience our unique programme. It is a free event so do come by to find out more about what we do and I'm always excited to share how we can help our children on their education journey. Details can be found on my Facebook page or at The Little Executive's website.

More: Reviews of our holiday camp.

~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Champagne Brunch - Grand Copthorne Waterfront

This is the best Sunday Brunch we have been to in a long, long, time, and no, I'm not saying it just because we were invited and are not paying for it, but because it is really good.

Even though the kids enjoy the experience of going for buffets, we have stopped having Sunday brunch because we find that generally, the food quality at buffets is lower than when ordering a la carte, and the standard does not justify the price. However, this doesn't seem to apply to Grand Copthorne Waterfront's newly launched Borderless Sunday Brunch.

Why Borderless? Starting with Local and International Fare at Food Capital, adjourning to Grissini for Italian favourites and pairing it all with champagne and cocktails from Tempo Bar, this could by far be the finest Sunday brunch around.
Boston Lobster
We started with the cold selection of Boston lobster, freshly shucked Irish and Canadian oysters, snow crab, tiger prawns and scallop with roe. Fresh and succulent.

We moved on to the far end to check out what Grissini had to offer. Brilliant strategy. Not only did we enjoy the antipasti and pasta cooked a la minute, we discovered there was a BBQ section outdoors, with a selection of premium meats and seafood, grilled to perfection in their Josper oven. We tried the wagyu beef ribeye, Australian rack of lamb, baby spring chicken, Mediterranean octopus and king prawns.
Premium meats & seafood
Pasta station
Fresh pizzas

Cold cuts
There were other sections such as Sashimi & Sushi, Tempura, Salad Bar, Curry & Tandoor, Chinese Wok & Dim Sum and Western delights. This was one buffet where I was so stuffed that I only managed to try about half the offerings. The variety was that wide!

We concurred that these were our Top 3 favourites - Pan Fried Foie Gras, Laksa and Lobster Linguine. Initially, we shared the lobster linguine but it was so good that we polished a plate each.
Pan fried foie gras
Lobster Linguine
The best part is that not only is there a comfortable children's play area to keep the kids entertained, it is away from the main dining area so we did not have to worry about the kids disturbing other diners.
Kid's corner
One little word of advice to fellow mums, if you don't want your child to be on a sugar high, prep them beforehand that they are only allowed to take x number of sweets at the restaurant.

There was a barrel so huge that Kate could easily fit into that was filled with sweets and gummies. Of course, she came back to the table with 2 handfuls of sweets and a beaming smile. I told her she could only have 1 packet and her face crumpled, and the bargaining began..
Where's Kate?
When you make reservations, do ask for a table at the children's section if you want to be able to eat while keeping an eye on your kids.

I found out that Kate loves Bocconcini (baby mozzarella cheese) with cherry tomatoes. I took them for myself (my fave, but they cost too much!) and she finished them up while I went to get drinks.
Nope, that's not fishball
While the kids were entertaining themselves, the adults merrily continued with dessert. We loved the cheeses and fresh figs! There were also cakes, kuehs, cut fruits and ice cream with a variety of toppings. I only had space left for a bite of apple crumble and my, it was good!
Assorted Cheeses
As I accompanied the kids to get some ice cream and pop corn, I couldn't resist the brightly coloured bite-sized macarons and popped one, and then another.

Without a doubt, the kids had a terrific time, as did the adults.

Borderless Sunday Brunch: 12.30pm - 3.30pm

$98++ (free flow of juices and soft drinks)

$138++ (free flow of Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut Champagne, Strongbow Ciders, cocktails, house pour wines, juices and soft drinks)

$49++ (kids aged 5 - 12, free flow of soft drinks and juices)

For reservations, call 62331100 or email

Disclaimer: We were invited to experience Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel's Borderless Sunday Brunch. All opinions are my own.

~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

PSLE is finally here!

The English paper starts tomorrow. #4's PSLE journey has been quite different from her 3 older sisters. I have a broad strategy for them, which includes private tuition for all subjects to plug the gaps during their primary 6 year.

For #4, she tried a few tutors in the early months of this year, but their teaching style did not suit her so she only had Math and Science tuition and relied on her school teachers. She was cruising along fairly well, and was excited to take her mid-year exams.

However, when she returned to school after the June holidays, her spirits seemed to falter. I think part of it had to do with the rather ridiculous workload and the expectations of her teachers and peers.

As we felt that the amount of work and pressure from school was more than sufficient, we decided to stop tuition altogether, and replaced that time with fun activities to relax.

On hindsight, I find that being in an elite school is not for everyone, because our philosophy can be quite different from the PSLE culture of the school. Some days, she was given 4 mock papers as homework, and struggled to complete them.

Her classmates were discussing which schools they were aiming for, and they were all top schools. When asked, she said she wished to go to her sisters' school, which none of her friends have even heard of!

I was wondering how all these kids are so certain of scoring above 250, and she told me simply, "Mum, they have tuition everyday. Some of them have 2-3 tuition classes per day, and each lesson is 2 or 3 hours."

My dear child on the other hand, is struggling to finish her homework while making time to play with her little sister.

Talk at school constantly revolved around the PSLE as though it was some kind of doomsday, and I think it does become rather depressing and stressful. I find it strange that the focus is on this one exam so much so that the students themselves start to question what education is all about.
Grilled salmon
Since the school was doing too much, I decided my role leading up to the PSLE was nothing of the academic sort, but instead, to provide her with nutritious meals. Not only will it help to give her brain and body the necessary boost, the fact that she saw me put in so much effort everyday to prepare a healthy, balanced and yummy lunch put her in good spirits.

I drew up a special 'exam menu' for her, and the other girls have been coming back for lunch everyday as well, and brought some of their friends home too. How I wish I had more time, and could set up a home kitchen for my kids and their friends.

In fact, the kids commented that my cooking has improved by leaps and bounds!
Prawn & potatoes on a bed of quinoa
My cooking is really random, and I use a variety of grains like quinoa, buckwheat and wild rice as a base, and sprinkle herbs, wheatgerm and soaked chia seeds for a boost of flavours and nutrients.

When they get bored of the same, I jazz things up with something different like savoury crepes. I must have stood over the pan pouring batter and flipping crepes for almost 3 hours as the kids streamed home. It is all worthwhile, seeing the kids tucking in and telling me, "This is really good, mum!"
Chicken and mushroom crepes
For a nutritious snack between papers, I have prepared cheery boxes packed full of dried fruit and nuts. I added in cranberries, apricots, white mulberries, cashew, almond, pistachio and macadamia nuts. Her bff gets a set too!
Snack box
Besides eating well, I am getting her to sleep earlier so that she will be well rested and alert. This time, being the fourth time round, we are at the same time excited yet calm.

To fellow P6 mums, we have done all we could to support our kids. They are probably feeling very anxious right now, so just reassure them. Now is not the time to nag or give them more pressure.

For all P6s who will be taking your first major exam, even though your parents may not say it, they love you very much and are proud of you. Relax, sleep early and enjoy the exams.

All the best!

School Stories:

#1 - When your son gets into fights in school
#2 - My son the loan shark
#3 - So kids can't play once they start school?
#11 - How #2 topped her level in English
#12 - DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 - Tuition - First line of attack?
#14 - Why do exams have to be so stressful?

#15 - First day mix up!

~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

How do you respond when your child falls?

Kate's teacher related an incident at school, and commented that she is very brave.

She had accidentally dropped a toy on her toe and it bled.

She winced but did not burst into tears.

Her teacher noticed that whenever she falls, she would just pick herself up, and asked me if that was because she was the 6th child. Tough and resilient.

I think how a child reacts has a lot to do with the way the adults respond.

Kate was a few months old when our helper, Mary, came. Every time she fell, I don't know who shrieked louder. The child or the helper. Sometimes, Mary's loud scream scared her even more than the fall itself. Mary would run over, pick her up and sayang (pacify) her effusively.

I told her not to do that as her response only served to make her cry even louder so that she will be showered with more attention.
Tripped and fell
Thinking back, my mum had an even more ridiculous response when the kids fell and cried.

Once, one of the older kids knocked her head against the side of the table and cried uncontrollably.

When all soothing words failed, my mum tried to distract her by hitting the table loudly saying, "Naughty table! You hurt my little girl." Grandma and toddler ended up hitting the table repeatedly together, scolding it for her mishap.

As that response worked to stop the child from crying, my mum would do that whenever any of them fell and cried. Be it the floor that was naughty, the door, or some poor innocent toy. I can still picture in my mind's eye many a ridiculous scene with grandma and toddler admonishing some inanimate object.

With Kate, I have stopped my mum from doing that and explained that it will teach her to adopt a blaming or victim mentality. I got hurt, it's your fault. Always somebody else's fault.

The hubs, on the other hand, has his own method of dealing with it. He would try to console them for say, 10 seconds, but if they continue to sob, his patience would run out.

"That's enough. You're a big girl/boy. Stop crying. It's just a little cut." And that was that. They would have to get on with it, no matter how much it hurt.

It might stem their crying quite quickly, but it is not very healthy for them emotionally as they will bottle everything inside.

My teens and I were having a good laugh recently when they read something off social media.

When a child falls, the caucasian mum will go, "Honey are you alright?" Followed by hugs and kisses.

A Singaporean mum would scream, "Run la! Run some more!" (rub it in, shall we!)

I've had a lot of practice dealing with their scrapes and scratches, and with Kate, I'm now as cool as a cucumber.

She was running in the mall and fell face forward on the ground. The s-p-l-a-t kind of fall. The adults around her gasped and waited for the wail to follow and the rush of hands to grab her up.


For 3 seconds, no one moved.

Kate looked at me, and I gave her my yes, I know you can pick yourself up look.

She got up, dusted herself and came to me for a big hug.

I asked her quietly "Does it hurt?" She nodded, and because her hurt was acknowledged, she didn't need to cry loudly to make it known. "Where is the pain?" She pointed to the few places where she hit the ground.

I kissed her to make it better and she was as good as new.

The adults looked at me and smiled. Seriously. They stood there and watched the whole 'show'.

I guess the bigger lesson for them to learn is that even if in future, they fail or fall, they will be able to pick themselves up.

~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

When mummy goes to work...

Now that I work most Saturdays, my mum has happily assumed her weekly grandmotherly role of seeing to their lunch and taking them on errand runs.

She checked with me if it was alright to take #4 to get her ears pierced as it had closed a few years ago and they were discussing it recently.

Apparently, the older girls were having an intimate chat with grandma about the distribution of heirlooms.

After I gave my mum the go ahead, she casually asked if it was ok to let Kate pierce her ears if she wanted the same as her sister, as Kate usually tags along where the action is.

That hasn't crossed my mind as the rest of the girls had theirs done in primary school when they were more aware and asked for it themselves.

I was hesitant but my mum pressed on. "You had your ears pierced when you were 4 and Kate is almost 4, so I don't see a problem."

It was one of those conversations where there wasn't a definite conclusion, but I remember telling my mum that in the event that Kate really wanted her ears pierced, they had to let her know what it entailed.

I went off to work and didn't think much about it.

Mid afternoon, I received a text from #2.

Mum! Kate had her ears pierced!!
shiny like a princess
I had the story related to me when I stepped into the house.

Apparently, when they reached the shop, my mum asked Kate if she wanted to have earrings, and being in the phase of wanting to be adorned with sparkly ornaments like a princess, she said yes!!

I would have thought my mum would let the older sibling go first, but obviously, she had an agenda.

Once Kate agreed, she plonked her on the hot seat.

#4 started getting worried and asked her por por, "Are you sure we should be doing this? We need to ask mummy first."

To which my mum confidently answered, "Your mummy has already agreed."

Punch. Kate cried. Like really, really, loudly. That grandpa had to walk away as his poor heart couldn't take her heart wrenching sobs.

And up till that point when I reached home, she did not want anyone to touch any part of her face. Or shoulders. Or even her hair, for fear of it getting entangled with her earrings.

Perfect. Just as I had expected.

After the girls were done relating the whole story, my mum calmly reminded me that I had to clean her ear lobes properly with the antiseptic lotion every morning and night, lest it became affected.

That night, she screamed as I tried to wriggle the cotton bud soaked with stinging antiseptic lotion on her earlobes.

The next morning, she tried in vain to ward me off as I brandished the bottle and cotton bud.

As you can imagine, it became a daily nightmare. Both for her and for me. I really didn't need this.

On the 4th night, Kate was playing with #3 after dinner and when I told her to get ready to shower and prepare for bedtime, she asked if she could shower and sleep with #3.

I was about to say no, but had a much better idea!

I allowed it, and told #3 to clean her earlobes after she showered.

"Sure mum, I will."

I braced myself to hear her cries.

Lo and behold, there was none!

The next night, when I brandished the cotton wool, Kate started crying and screaming. I couldn't make out what she was trying to tell me.

Finally, when she calmed down enough to speak audibly, I heard her desperately yell, "Just drip. Just DRIP!"

"Just drip? Is that what you said?"

"Yes! I said JUST DRIP!"

I tilted her head and dripped the lotion onto her earrings.

"I told you. Just drip!"

"Who taught you that?"

"Jie jie."

I should just relinquish some of my duties to my teens.

Friday came around quickly enough and #3 reminded me that they had to return to the shop for a follow-up the next day.

I called my mum to pass on the reminder to take them for their earlobe check up, and for the first time, I was happy to escape to work.

I wonder what surprises will await me week after week...

~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Friday, 2 September 2016

What makes a good Teacher?

Despite my crazy schedule, teachers' day is always a significant event in our yearly calendar, and I make time to mark this day. Teachers are such a big part of my children's lives, and besides the heartfelt words of thanks throughout the year, this is one day we can formally show our appreciation to these very special people.

The flurry of activity started the day before in our kitchen as #3 and her bff spent the whole afternoon making cake pops. This year, I decided to use a fairly simple chocolate chip recipe to bake cookies for Kate's teachers so that she could do most of the steps with minimal assistance from me.

It was dinnertime by the time the last batch of cookies were done and she packed them into little boxes and used her name stickers to seal them. All set!

In the morning, I taught her to hand the boxes to each of her teachers and she giggled and gave them hugs while wishing them.
I can bake!
After depositing her in school, the hubs and I prepared to go over to #2's school as she was performing a solo item! Unfortunately, before her act, the hubs had to rush off to pick Kate up. That's how it's like when you have too many kids.

We were extremely proud of her for the courage to want to go up on stage to sing on teachers' day. It wouldn't have been possible if the teacher in charge did not back them up, allow them this opportunity, and give them words of encouragement as their nerves took over.

Despite the hurdles of not having rooms approved for her, the pianist and the drummer to practice together, and of being in the middle of prelims, they pressed on and did a good show to wild screams from their peers.

It didn't matter that the singing wasn't spectacular, but such spirit! One seemingly small step of a student going up on stage to sing. But the message was strong. Nothing is impossible. Dare to dream. Have the strength to persevere. I'm sure they will remember this for a long time to come.

And who knows? Many may have been inspired to step out of their comfort zone and rise up to challenges as they leave this school and embark on the next phase of their lives.

As part of the parents' support group, we were invited to the teachers' day celebrations where we showed our appreciation on behalf of all the parents by handing over the gifts we made, and thanking the teachers for their hard work.

Together, we prayed a beautiful prayer for teachers,

May our gift of teaching;
Awaken minds to new ideas, and expand hearts beyond boundaries.

May our love of learning;
Lead students to awe and wonder at their participation in our sacred universe.

May our story-telling inspire imagination and creativity;
And our example lead those we teach to be generous and noble.

May your desire to educate;
Evoke the unique gifts of each student, and the deep desires of each heart

And, as you bless your students on their way;
May you delight at the gift your life offers to the future.

What struck us mummies was that teachers' day celebrations in school are a far cry from what we had in our day.

Students from the media CCA groups came up with video montages and the young teachers gamely posed, danced and lip-synced to the delight of their students.

They also had a fun segment where awards were given out to teachers amidst much cheering, and it was heartwarming to see the camaraderie between the teachers, students, Principal and VPs.

We had a late lunch with their friends before coming back to the other kids.

#4 related an oral practice session they had in class and the topic was "What makes a good teacher?"

Given how much I had been hearing about their teachers piling them with homework prior to the PSLE countdown, I half expected things like, "A good teacher is someone who doesn't scold us" or "Someone who gives us less homework."

However, I was surprised how matured these 12-year olds were.

These were the top 8 traits they listed, ranked in order.

1. Someone who is patient.

2. Someone with the ability to make lessons interesting.

3. Someone who is understanding.

4. Someone who is fair to all.

5. Someone who is approachable.

6. Someone who is helpful.

7. Someone who is kind.

8. (She couldn't recall what the eighth trait was).

My faith has been renewed in children! We tend to think of children collectively as being from a spoilt, 'me-first' generation.

It probably takes a saint to have all of those traits all of the time!

To all teachers, we wish you a very Happy Teachers' Day! Enjoy the long weekend with your family and loved ones. We appreciate the good work that you do, day in day out.

And now that I run an enrichment centre, I have a team of teachers!

Let us never forget the why behind what we are doing, and besides enjoying teaching the easy and teachable kids, when the going gets tough, when the children are challenging, may we remember that it is a calling to be an educator, a responsibility as much as a privilege that we must never take lightly.

And not only is it the job of educators, but we parents are our children's first teachers. I leave you with this prayer, which we ended the teachers' day celebration with:

Enable me to teach with wisdom for I help to shape the mind.
Equip me to teach with truth for I help to shape the conscience.
Encourage me to teach with vision for I help to shape the future.
Empower me to teach with love for I help to shape the world.


~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~
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