Monday, 30 June 2014

Happy birthday… to me

Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions, right? For many years, my birthday was just another ordinary day. There would still be babies to be fed, crying toddlers to be carried, squabbles to be settled. And a dinner celebration would still entail lots of work taking care of them. But I didn't mind, because that's how it is with young kids. After about a decade of such non-existent birthdays, when they were finally older, I decided to go out for lunch with my friends and give myself a break. Then it extended to lunch followed by a peaceful day of shopping all by myself. Strangely, after a few years of that, I started to wonder what on earth was I doing by myself on my birthday. When I saw families together, I wanted to go back and be with my kids. But after half an hour of being with them, I wanted to be alone.

The hubs also told me that the kids were asking how come mummy spends the most part of her birthday with her friends instead of us. So this year, I figured I should be able to spend an enjoyable day with them as the oldest is already 15. The weekend before my birthday, the hubs prepared a lovely BBQ and we had a nice little party.
Our fave salmon dish
On my birthday itself, the kids and I decided that we would watch a movie and take some fun photos at the photo booth. The day started well, with homemade breakfast, wishes and very thoughtful presents from my girls.
Earl grey cupcake baked by #1
When I asked #5 if he had made a card for me, he said, "Oh, it's your birthday?"  and ran off to make me a Lego card. It was really cute and could even be opened and closed!
#5's special birthday card to me
We went for lunch, then watched Malificent, and we laughed ourselves silly fooling around before the movie started. After the show, we hopped over to the photo booth and that's when I got upset with the 3 older girls. One of them doesn't like taking pictures, so after 1 shot, she refused to take anymore even though I asked her to. Then when it was time to decorate the photos, one of them wanted to draw ridiculous things on the photos which I didn't allow her to. And then the other quarrelled with another about decorating the photos. That was it. I yelled at them, that just for 1 day in a year, couldn't they get along without quarrelling and accede to my simple requests when I do so much for them the whole year round.
Popcorn buckets
I did some soul-searching. Was I being unrealistic to expect that from the 4 older ones? And why was I so angry? This little incident must have been the straw that broke the camel's back. Was my anger fuelled by other issues? Perhaps that I had spent 15 years of my life taking care of them and I expected gratitude in return? Or that my every thought is always for the good of them, yet they mostly see it as mummy nagging or being mean.

The next few days, I was angry at them no more. But the anger was replaced by a heavy heart, though I couldn't put my finger on the reason. At lunch, the younger ones asked me to play 'I-spy' but I didn't feel like it. When we got home, they asked me to play Monopoly with them, but I couldn't bring myself to oblige them. At dinner, they kept rambling and expected me to reply, but I just wasn't in the mood to entertain them. I was very quiet the entire day, and sat around them but had no energy to respond to them. And looking at their disappointed faces, I felt miserable.

Being a mum, it is natural to give them your attention when they ask you so earnestly to. To play Lego with them even when you would rather not, to fold origami when you struggle with the intricate steps (and end up with a headache), to force yourself to get up and read to them when you almost fell asleep putting another child to sleep. And it is draining. I looked at the younger ones, then at the older ones. I shudder to see the cycle happening to the rest of them. You keep giving and giving, but sometimes the well runs dry. Every decision I make, both big and small, are always made after considering their needs. But when they morph into teenagers, they suddenly become separate entities from you and sometimes say hurtful things and are stubborn with their own ideas. When the kids are young, even how hard things were, when your little one puts her chubby little arms around you and smile at you with all her heart and soul, all the tiredness is forgotten. But now that the kids are teenagers, there is no cute face or chubby arms to remind you that all your sacrifices are worth it. In it's place, there are faces buried in digital gadgets, closed doors, and unspoken words.

The scary thing is that it's not that I need a break from them to re-charge. That is easy to fix. I just had a long and lovely holiday away from them and I was re-charged. And everyday I take time out from the kids, be it a walk, quiet time alone, or having coffee with a friend. This time, it is something more that is bugging me. Was I completely drained from taking care of so many of them for so many years? And yet the outcome is not what I envisioned? It felt like I had run a long and gruelling race yet the finishing line was murky. Was I feeling sorry for myself for this thankless job? 

The hubs took me out for a very lovely dinner but still I was troubled. Oh, how difficult it is to keep sacrificing selflessly without expecting anything in return. It's been a long while since I felt down like this. Maybe I should just embrace the sadness. For I know it will soon pass. Maybe I'm on the cusp of the next phase of the motherhood journey. Of dealing with teenagers. Of raising young adults. Of sleepless nights. Of heartbreak.

I have deep respect for mothers who have emerged from this journey unscathed and who have kids who are unscarred.

Perhaps next year, I should go on a holiday on my birthday. Because if I hear them bickering, it will make me angry, and lead to another round of rumination. What is it about birthdays? Is it just me?


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

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Hello Kitty Town - Johor

We took the 4 younger kids across the causeway to Nusajaya (Johor) to spend an afternoon at The Little Red Cube and they had so much fun. It took us about half an hour to get there by car as it was smooth crossing the causeway at 1pm on a weekday. This is the first Sanrio Hello Kitty Town outside of Japan, and the kids were excited to take Kate there as they had enjoyed the Hello Kitty Land in Tokyo a few years back. I was surprised that even #3 who is already 12 enjoyed herself. We spent 4 hours there until closing time and they weren't done playing.
Lots of Hello Kitty merchandise on sale

FIRST FLOOR:

The 1st floor houses Hello Kitty town where there is a mix of activities such as simple cookie decoration, dressing up for a photo, a live show, a little playground, and Black Wonder - an interactive dim arena where they have to solve a mystery.
Spinning cup
You need this activity card as some of the activities can only be carried out once and they will give you a stamp.
Keep this with you
I think this was called jewellery making, but it's more like just getting a free Hello Kitty necklace because there's really nothing much to make. Thankfully we did not have to queue for this. A friend's daughter queued for half an hour thinking she could create some jewellery, and was disappointed when it was simply putting the chain into the pendent loop.
Kate's clasp broke by the time she got home
Kate ate her cookie plain while waiting for them to decorate theirs
Kate was mesmerised by the 15 minutes show as she has never watched a live show up close before. The music is rather loud so you might want to sit further back if your kids are young.
Song and dance routine

SECOND FLOOR

The 2nd floor houses a little arcade, a playground, Angelina Ballerina Dance Studio, Barney stage for a live show and more which the kids didn't have time to explore. The older kids spent about 45 minutes at the arcade itself as they were thrilled that the games were all free!
Kate the referee
The arcade games are suited for kids as they are all of a mini version. #5 did a victory dance every time he managed to shoot a hoop and Kate would cheer him on.
"Go, gor gor, go!"
The 2 older ones were still not done at the mini arcade so Kate and #5 went next door and played in the playground. Even though it was not very big, the 2 of them had lots of fun racing up and tumbling down the little slope repeatedly.
As quick as her little feet can carry her
There was a couple fast asleep on the bean bags and everyone who walked past peeped in and sort of jumped back in surprised. While the kids were busy running around, I was sitting there being entertained by this reality 'just for laughs gag'.
They must be exhausted running after their kids

THIRD FLOOR

They spent the longest at the 3rd floor which had lots of rides. The Malaysia school holiday had just ended last week so the place was quite empty. There were no queues and the kids went on the rides to their heart's content.
"I'll be your co-pilot, gor gor"

Bumping buffer's steamies ride

Bertie the bus
Thomas the steam engine winds around a 2-story indoor playground. It was a really decent indoor playground and they played there until closing time.
Knapford station

Sodor indoor playground
Adjoining the indoor playground is a proper lounge. Ah, I should have known. Next time I'll bring my reading material and relax here while the kids take care of Kate.
Parent's lounge
We will definitely be back as we don't have to drive all the way up to KL where we take the kids every year to have similar fun at Berjaya Time Square. That one is great if you have a wide age range (like if we take all 6 kids), but if it's just those below 12, this is more than sufficient to entertain them. It is also newer and cleaner, and the kids would love the different characters like Hello Kitty, Barney and Thomas. I guess the kids could play for half a day because there were 4 of them. If you only have 1 or 2 kids, invite another family along and I'm sure the kids would have a swell time.

There are a couple of eateries outside of the amusement area such as Sushi King, Taiwanese snacks, and Starbucks. If any of the adults decide not to enter, the eateries extend to the back and is a nice place to wait as it overlooks the bay.

Eateries overlook this bay

Sane tip: Avoid the Malaysia school holidays as when it is crowded, you spend a great deal of time queuing up for a simple activity and it is quite frustrating. I heard that the Johor school week has recently been changed. The kids now attend school from Sundays to Thursdays. So it might be ok to go on a Sunday. However, if it is crowded, you could also go against the grain of the crowd and start on the 3rd or 2nd floor.

Another thing is to be prepared for a jam on the causeway. As the kids were famished, we decided to have dinner there before we headed home, and we were caught in a 2 hour jam home. I didn't bring an extra milk feed for Kate as I didn't expect the kids to play for so many hours as feedback from many friends was that it was not that fun. Thankfully, she didn't kick up a fuss when we told her to just close her eyes and sleep first and we would give her milk when we reached home.

Save tip: Definitely go for the 2 park pass. For another S$15 each, they get to play at the other 2 floors. Friends who only went to Hello Kitty Town itself said it was boring and not worth the visit. Bring your own snacks as the food there is very basic. Kids below 3 enter free.

Hello Kitty Town
Nusajaya Johor
The Little Red Cube
(10 minutes away from Legoland)

Operating Hours:
10am - 6pm daily

Entrance Fee:
Hello Kitty Town alone: RM75 (Adult/Child)
Hello Kitty Town + Little Big Club: RM110 (Adult/Child)
Kids under 3: FREE


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

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Jurong East Swimming Complex

Jurong East Swimming Complex is probably the most comprehensive public pool in Singapore. They have a play structure for the little ones, a wave pool, a lazy river, big slides, a jacuzzi, and a competitive pool. 
Kate having fun jumping in and out of the water
She's pampered by her siblings who would prop her up to touch everything she points to.
She loves sprays of water
Lazy river (in the foreground) and the wave pool (background). Every once in a while, there is a huge spray over the wave pool. Be prepared to get drenched!

For the older kids there are 3 water slides. 2 of the slides require the use of the float.

The older kids went off to try the slides while Kate played happily by herself.
"Ain't it fun?"
We arrived at 4.30pm on a weekday during the school holidays and they ran out of floats to rent. It costs $2 for 2 hours of rental, plus you need to place a $3 deposit which will be refunded.
Float rental located under the stairs
The only food available inside is Pastamania. What happened to the good ol' days where they sold fish balls on sticks and fried bee hoon? I needed a cup of hot milo and it costs about $4! Will remember to bring a whole flask of it the next time.
The decor at the background is just a facade
I walked one big round to look for the entrance to Pastamania, and it is just a windowed counter at the far right end.
Pastamania's teeny weeny counter
After about 2 hours, Kate had enough and she sat and had her snacks while waiting for the older ones to enjoy themselves without having to take care of her.
Contented with her fill of play

Sane tip: Do note that it's closed on Monday, to avoid disappointment. The last school holiday, the kids were all prepped to go and alas, it was a Monday and the gates were closed. We ended up in Jurong West Swimming Complex instead. Be prepared for a huge crowd during the school holidays and weekends.

Save tip: It can't get any cheaper than this for a ton of water fun! Pack your own picnic and you can easily spend half a day there.

Jurong East Swimming Complex
21 Jurong East Street 31
Singapore 609517

Operating Hours:
Daily (except Mondays)
8am - 9.30pm

Entrance Fee:
Adult: $1.50 (weekday) $2 (weekend)
Child/Senior: $0.80 (weekday) $1 (weekend)

Other Swimming Complexes:
Jurong West


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

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Willing Hearts (Soup kitchen) - anyone can volunteer!

Every school holiday I try to get the kids to spend at least 1 day doing something for charity. As this June break has been rather hectic, we did not get anything organised. #2 remembered her teacher telling them about Willing Hearts and that anyone can go and volunteer. The good thing is that you don't need to give them advanced notice and can just drop in and lend a pair (or many pairs) of willing hands!
#2 brought a friend along
Willing Hearts prepares about 3000 meals everyday for the needy, so you can imagine how much chopping, cooking and packing needs to be done.

We arrived at 10.30 am and the place was a hive of activity. There were many groups of teenagers around and they were all busy with different tasks. We walked right in to see what else was happening and there were many aunties hard at work cooking up a storm. A middle-aged man noticed as wandering in and he immediately asked, "Looking for something to do?"

As he saw that my kids were young (7 - 13 years), he gave us the easy job of preparing the beans. He hauled 2 cartons full of beans onto the table and demonstrated how to pluck off both ends and remove the stringy line running through the beans. Within 5 minutes of entering the premise, we had an assembly line going.
1st time plucking beans
All was going well until the kids found some little white worms on the beans. "Worms! Worms!" they shrieked. The gallant SJI boys working opposite us helped the kids get rid of the worms. They had been here since 7 am and came with their CCA mates to clock 5 hours for their CIP (community involvement programme), which is mandatory for secondary school studentsBesides volunteering in the soup kitchen, you can also help with delivery of the meals or collection of the supplies. 


After an hour of plucking the beans, the monotony got to them and when the older boys were needed to help with other tasks like hauling boxes, they took over the chopping which they said was so much more fun.
Taught how to slice with a slant
We were there for 2 hours and the kids were all hot and tired and asked if we could leave. As there was just a little bit left, I told them to quickly finish up the 2 boxes and we could go for lunch.
4 trays of our hard work!
Trays heaped with beans, cucumber, chilli and lots of other vegetables.

By doing charitable works, not only does it enable us to help the less fortunate, but it never fails to remind us to be thankful for all that we have. It's a sombre reminder for myself and my kids that while we take our 3 meals for granted, there are people out there who don't have enough to eat.

Sane tip: This is one of the rare few charities which allow children to volunteer. Unless you are turning up with a big group, you do not need to inform them. As this is basically a giant kitchen, it might not be such a good idea to bring very young children unless you are able to supervise them well. The best time to go seems to be early in the morning as things start to wind down at 12. If you go in the afternoons, it would probably be to help preparing the kitchen for the next day's cooking.

Save tip: A great way to spend a morning with the kids (or several mornings) to do something meaningful during the school holiday, instead of spending on activities to entertain them. After we cleared up and was about to leave, the nice uncle invited us to stay for lunch as there was a mass lunch prepared. If your secondary school kids need the CIP hours, they have forms there and the uncle will sign it for you.

Willing Hearts (Soup Kitchen) 
Operating Hours:

6 am - 4 pm daily

50 Genting Lane
#04-06 Cideco Building
Singapore 349558

As of 1 August 2014, they will be moving to a new premise:

11 Jalan Ubi Block 6
#01-51 Kembangan - Chai Chee Community Hub
Singapore 409074


Thankful Tuesdays:

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has" - Epictetus


Linking up with:


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


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Ed-Quest - Mandarin Enrichment Centre

Typical of many families these days, my kids are hardly exposed to Mandarin outside of their school classrooms. It is no surprise that they end up failing their Chinese year after year. I asked around and was recommended some of the big name enrichment chains. I signed the 3 older ones up for a year but found no improvement in their grades. Now my strategy is to give them one-on-one tuition during their P6 year and so far, the 2 older ones managed to get an 'A' with 1 year of chinese tuition.

When we were extended an invitation by Ed-Quest for #5 to attend a Mandarin Enrichment holiday program for a week, I was apprehensive to send him as he already dreads Mandarin lessons in school and I wanted him to have a good break and enjoy the June holidays. I glanced at the program and was surprised that it looked interesting and very hands-on. I finally decided to let him join as #3 and #4 were also going to be tied up with school for that week. In the end, I'm glad he went, as it was a fun way to expose him to the language and he found out that Mandarin doesn't have to be dry and boring.
Having fun making lanterns
In his 1 week holiday program, they did lots of interesting activities like wrapping rice dumplings, cooking jiaozi, folding dragon boats, just to name a few. I like that they adopt the approach that Mandarin is not merely an academic subject but a language that is rich in history and cultural roots. As this week's theme was on food, they explored the food items with their five senses, then created and tasted what they cooked. As their interest was piqued, they were more interested to learn the related descriptive words. The holiday program is catered to children between the ages of 5 and 8 years old. The older kids were exposed to more phrases and idioms, and they also wrote poems and short essays about their experiences thereafter.
Tea appreciation
#5 got his good buddy to join him for the holiday program, and when I picked them up, I asked Wu laoshi for feedback and if they behaved well. She said they enjoyed themselves and mentioned that #5 is a visual learner. I quipped, "He hardly understands Mandarin, so he watches to know what to do!" I probed on about his behaviour as his school teacher keeps telling me what a naughty boy he is in school. Wu laoshi mentioned that he is rather mischievous and always tries to push the boundaries. He would also make jokes constantly and tries to do things his own way. Spot on. She deciphered him in 1 lesson. I asked her if she was able to handle him and what methods she used because his school teacher was at her wit's end.

She shared with me that she did not scold him but was very firm with him and patiently explained why his actions are wrong. Perhaps he can tell from her tone that she is not merely nagging him, but was genuinely concerned about him. She also explained to me that I have to break this behaviour if not he thinks that it is acceptable to play up in every class. Needless to say, I was extremely impressed with Wu laoshi. I relayed my feedback to the management and they told me that they believe in hiring very experienced and competent teachers.

Making jiaozi

I was surprised that #5 actually looked forward to going for the classes and Wu laoshi told me that he started behaving really well and even helped the younger boys. One of the days, they were taught how to make jiaozi (meat dumpling) and she noticed that #5 was fumbling and was probably on the verge of rebelling or giving up. She explained to him why the edges should be tucked and sealed and he went on to improvise and made a whole dozen! I'm glad laoshi didn't insist on him making it that one and only way and she allowed him leeway for his creativity.

His UFO-looking jiaozi

Ed-Quest has been around for more than a decade, and with Mrs Patricia Koh (founder of the first Pat's Schoolhouse) as Education Director, they firmly believe in bringing the language alive and making it relevant to the children. My sentiments exactly. If only our schools can adopt this approach, along with having smaller classes, many of our kids won't be struggling with the language.

The fees for their holiday program are at $250 for 1 week, 9am - 12noon. It runs through to July to cater to the international students as well. Do contact them at 6356 8186 for more details. In addition, they have regular classes for both children and adults.

Sane tip: I'm glad #5 had a very positive first Mandarin enrichment exposure. I'm now all for exposing them to Mandarin in fun and interesting ways. If they can slowly build up their vocabulary and listen to the language spoken more, it wouldn't be so tough on them during the PSLE year. Ok, here's my new strategy: Let them join fun Mandarin lessons during the school holidays (I get to have a break too!), listen to some Mandarin CDs, and give them private tuition during P6.

Save tip: I believe in giving my kids quality extra academic classes. No point wasting the child's time and my time sending them and put them in any enrichment classes from P1 just to make myself feel secured that I'm doing something extra. I always follow up on their progress and ascertain if there is any improvement in grades. If there isn't, I will stop after 3-4 months because I believe that if the child finds the right fit of the teacher and the method, we will definitely see an improvement in their grades or at least in their interest in learning that subject.

Ed-Quest

177A Thomson Road
Goldhill Shopping Centre
Singapore 307625

Tel: 63568186


Disclaimer: We were sponsored this holiday program. All opinions are my own.



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

Thursday, 19 June 2014

6 simple things we do during the school holidays

During the school holidays, in between taking them out for activities, these are some of the simple things we do at home to get them away from their gadgets.

Things to do during the sweltering afternoons:



1. Paint pebbles

"Eww, what's that on my finger?"

It's never about the end-product but the process, isn't it? They have an interesting story behind every creation.

Handmade paper weight, anyone?

I was actually inspired by these… but alas, it looks easy but it's not!

For Kate, I got her an old styrofoam box to paint on.

2. Bake yummy cookies

These cookies are the best! Made by #2 of course, with her assistants. Slightly crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Recipe to follow soon, when I get the time to do it up. Promise.

 Homemade cookies are still the best
Then spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying a slow leisurely tea with freshly baked cookies.
"Small ones all for me?"

3. Play boardgames or card games

There's never a lack of players in our house. We get a lot of our games from the local online website My First Games. They have a mind-boggling selection of very good games which doesn't rely on luck to win.
Looks simple, but a test on speed

Things to do once the sun goes down:

4. Go to the playground

There's so much to do at the playground. Play hide and seek around the play structures and trees, play ball, badminton, soccer, frisbee. I brought my sidewalk art set which I bought from the U.S. and all the other kids at the playground joined in as well. Lovely.
Sidewalk chalk and paint
5. Swim and pack a picnic

In this heat, the kids love mucking around the pool. There are so many fun swimming complexes all over our island and we're taking Kate to them one by one.

Easiest to pack dinner along so we don't have to rush back when the kids are hungry. Also gives the mummies more time to relax and chat!
Too lazy to pack? Just order
6. Fun walk after dinner

I made up this little game with the kids a couple of years back. When I first started asking them to go for a walk, they said "Huh. So tiring". I told them we would walk to the nearest petrol station and back. I brought along some money in my pocket and asked them to guess the amount. Each child had 1 guess. If they got it right, they would be rewarded with the full amount to be shared amongst them. If they got it wrong, they would each be entitled to buy just 1 item with a cap of $2. The kids still remember the walks we had years ago and the fun they had trying to collaborate and out-guess mummy.

Sane tip: I used to be very ambitious and spent a lot of effort to plan and prepare activities to keep them occupied during the holidays. It really drained me and I became high-strung as I had more expectations. I have learnt that simple activities work just as well, and because I didn't spend a lot of time and energy on the preparations, I am able to relax, go with the flow, and enjoy doing the activities along with them. And even if it doesn't turn out the way it's supposed to, it doesn't bother me anymore.

Save tip: You can get chalk from Ikea which works well too. To make sidewalk paint, just pound up the chalk, put it in a plastic container, add water and stir.


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