Tuesday, 29 July 2014

'Mummy Wee' turns 1!

It's been exactly 1 year since I wrote my first post "You have 6 kids?" Everything happened so quickly, and I must say that the past year has been phenomenal. I met many wonderful and inspiring people, did fun things with the kids we would otherwise not have experienced, wrote my bucket list and managed to get some ticked off, and received many emails from readers thanking me for helping them in some way. And the strange thing about writing is that you gain clarity in your thoughts while writing to share with others. Before I go on to thank everyone who has helped me create this blog, let me briefly explain how this blog got started.

I left Prudential after a decade of working as a financial adviser and was trying to discern what my next path should be. Within a week, many different friends told me about blogging. Prior to that, I didn't even know what the term blogging meant. Ok, please pardon my ignorance. With so many kids, I really didn't have time to surf the web.

So here I was, with a new baby after a break of 6 years. Friends were laughing and saying I might as well write a book about my experiences raising 6 kids. Precisely! I was busy answering texts from friends needing advice about their kids. They suggested why not start a blog and write it all down so people can just refer to it. Another group of friends were remarking how expensive it must be just paying for diapers and milk powder. Then someone went on to suggest why not be a blogger? You might get free diapers and milk powder! Wait a minute. Seriously? I was all ears. But I had one huge hurdle. I'm a total nerd when it comes to the computer. I only know how to open emails and use Word.

Subsequently, we had dinner with another bunch of friends and the topic of blogging came up again. They even threw up names for me: "Half a dozen", "Mum of 6", and simply, "Mummy Wee". Well, the 1st two domain names were already taken, so I went with the last one. After dinner, the fellas decided to adjourn for a round of drinks at someone's house. The wives had nothing much to do, and began setting up the blog for me. And viola! Mummy Wee was up and running.

So on this first birthday of what feels like my 7th baby (also needs tending to), I would like to say a very sincere and big THANK YOU to all of you who have helped me on this blogging journey.

To Amber, for setting up the blog template for me. To my eldest, for putting all the information into the template and teaching me how to use it. To Elaine, for doing the beautiful graphics even though you are in Australia. I know I can always count on you. To Gloria, a new but great friend, who supported me from day 1 and got your friends to read my blog too. (She was the one who read my very first draft. She put it down, gave me a blank look, then said very gently. Er, blogging is not writing an essay. You can break this up into 5 posts. And add more pictures). Oh. I see. To Mer & Chang, my 2 oldest friends of 30 years - for giving me constructive criticism and enlightening me on why people read blogs - "for info, honest opinions  and if there's humour, all the better." To my dearest friend Sandra, for teaching me the nitty gritty tech stuff and for confirming that #1 was right all along, that the Facebook account should be a page, where we add fans not friends. To my brother-in-law who read my first few posts and said encouragingly, "Very good! But you need to work on your photos. You know they are blur, right?" Well actually, I didn't know. Prior to this whole blogging thing, I have hardly taken a photo in my life. That was the hub's arena. I only knew that I had to get the object into the square. So please pardon my photos. I have come a long way. And yes, I do know that there is still much room for improvement. To all the mummy blogger friends whom I have had the pleasure of getting to know (thanks to Pamela) thank you for your advice, encouragement and inspiration. And last but definitely not least, to you, my dear readers. For without readers what's a blog right?

Last week, #4 asked me, "Mummy, what is your job?" #3 quickly replied, "Blogger lah" (sounds way cooler than telling their friends I'm a SAHM). #4 continued, "But if my teacher ask what does a blogger do, what do I say?" #3 replied even more impatiently, "Get free things and write about it lah."

Just as my kids think a stay-at-home-mum does nothing the whole day, they also think a blogger does nothing besides getting freebies for their kids. Why does my work seem 'invisible' to everyone else? Ah, the sad story of my life ;) Oh, and just for the record, we still have not been offered free diapers nor milk powder.

Yay! (Kate still doesn't know what we're all excited about)

So join us in celebrating this happy day! Jump off your chair, fling your arms wide (be careful not to smack your colleague/child in the face) and yell

Happy 1st Anniversary to Mummy Wee! 

Or, um, you could just quietly type on your computer or phone some nice wishes with smiley faces and send it off to us. Feel free to tell me what you'd like to see (or read) more of in the coming months. Have an awesome, awesome day, everyone!

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

Thankful… for the hub's cooking
Thankful… for #5's cooking and caring of Kate
Thankful… for #3 in so many ways
Thankful… for sister-in-law #1
Thankful… for our helper
Thankful… for my family
Thankful… for my mum-in-law

Linking up with:

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

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Food for Thought @ Singapore Botanic Gardens

It was a rare opportunity that I had my oldest and youngest home with me on a school morning. #1 had a day off from school as she wasn't taking certain subjects for her 'O' levels prelims. Instead of my daily jaunt with Kate at the playgrounds, I decided to take them for a leisurely breakfast. We needed a cafe that was open early and where Kate could roam for a bit after breakfast. Food for Thought nestled in our beautiful Botanic Gardens was a perfect choice.
Ample seating
This eco-conscious cafe is very kid-friendly and has several configurations of seatings to accommodate groups of different sizes. It is very spacious (no problems with strollers), and has a playground right outside.
Grilled Ham & Cheese $9
We ordered the Ham & cheese and the mixed berries pancakes. All their pancakes are served with fresh cream and gula melaka syrup. Kate loved the pancakes and helped me finish half of it!
Mixed Berries pancakes $11
After she had her fill, she went off to play by herself in the little playground outside. It's great that the outdoor area is separated by glass walls so we could keep an eye on her while we finished up our breakfast. Even though the playground is outdoors, it is pretty much shaded by trees so it wasn't that hot.
Deep in thought
This signage cracked the both of us up! Check out rule #2. Hmm, are adults so deprived of fun? Perhaps they also need to run around and de-stress.
Small but fun playground
Right above Food for Thought, there is a little koi pond and Kate was mesmerised by the fishes. We spent some time just hanging around enjoying the lush greenery. What a perfect morning. Lovely. Just lovely.

Sane tip: Bring some wheelies along and let the kids loose in the beautiful gardens. Will do that when I take the whole bunch of them here the next time! Parking is right outside Food for Thought.

Save tip: Early bird special (8-10am) - Chicken laksa or Mee rebus @ $5, add coffee/tea for an extra $1

Food for Thought
Botanic Gardens
1 Cluny Road (Tanglin Gate)
Singapore 259569
Tel: 64791080

Opening hours:
Daily: 8am - 9pm

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

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Lesson #8: What have we done to our children

Last week I attended Brahm Centre's charity dinner and I'm glad I went. It was immensely inspiring to witness the many men and women who contribute their time, money and effort for such a good cause. This voluntary organisation's mission is to offer educational programs and activities to promote happier and healthier living. It was at this centre where I shared my personal experiences during my talk on "Parenting 6 kids without going mad or broke" in April.
Group MD of American International Industries & Board Member of Brahm Centre, Brahm Centre's yoga instructor, International speaker & author of 'Search inside yourself', CEO of Tan Chin Tuan Foundation
There were so many prominent business leaders and luminaries yet they selflessly give of their time in voluntary work. See the photo above? So many cool people. Coincidentally, one is my ex-classmate, one an ex-neighbour, and one a cousin-in-law. And me? Maybe I should give myself a title - CEO of the Wee kids (after all, we are almost a SME). Then at least it would seem like I have achieved something.

Brahm Centre published a book The day the ball didn't bounce written by Dr Peter Mack, with a forward by our 6th President, S.R. Nathan. I read it in one sitting and it really tore at my heart. It tells the true story of a 16-year old boy who committed suicide last year. It troubles me that a child or teen would even contemplate wanting to end his or her life. According to statistics, 20% of primary school children in Singapore have harboured suicidal thoughts. That is simply alarming.

A secondary 4 girl in #2's school committed suicide last year. The principal gave instructions that the students are not to talk about it at all. Will hushing it up and hiding from it help? Perhaps it was out of respect for the family. But as a society don't we need to talk about it? We need to have our kids know that they can turn to someone for support, that problems can be worked through. In many cases, such as the one highlighted in the book, the cause of suicide is unknown. Could it be due to the academic stress of the 'O' levels? Could it be relationship problems? Could it have anything to do with the family?

Sadly, many parents these days are overly concerned about one thing. That is, the achievement of stellar results. But at what cost? Are we literally driving our kids to their graves? I heard with disbelief about a primary 5 boy who committed suicide over his spelling marks. I know of parents who give their kids a tight slap in front of their friends if the grades fall below a certain expected mark. I have even heard one story where the parents told their son not to come home if he doesn't score above 90 for his exams. In the end, a police report had to be made because the child was afraid to come home and couldn't be found. Strangely, or perhaps it is not so strange after all, these stories come mostly from top schools.

Are we taking the easy way out by blaming the competitive system? Are our hands really tied? As parents, we do have more control than we think. If our child came back with 60 marks, we can choose one of two responses: "Why so bad? Your cousin always gets above 80. You are such a disappointment. So useless!" or "That's an improvement over your last exam. I can see that your effort has paid off. Well done!"

If we choose the former, what are we inadvertently telling our kids? That their self-worth is linked to a grade on a piece of paper? That we love them only based on their achievements? It is no wonder many children grow up with such hurt, bitterness, and a sense of worthlessness. And many become adults who are searching for ways to fill that emotional void as they never had a sense of security for being good enough just as they are. There is such a delicate line between wanting to motivate them by pushing them harder, and breaking their spirit with harsh words.

My heart aches for the children of this generation. Many may look rich with materialism but are poor and broken inside. For every child who unfortunately succeeds in committing suicide, there are more who attempted suicide but did not succeed. Something has gone wrong. What can we do? How can we stop their pain?
Invisible sufferings

It was heartwarming to hear from Tan Chade-Meng, the keynote speaker at this event, who is a Singaporean working in Google. I love his self-depreciating humour. It takes an incredibly self-assured person not to take himself seriously. You won't believe it, but his official title on his name card says "Jolly Good Fellow". And his job description is 'Enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace'. His story is truly inspiring. He started out as a software engineer at Google and spent his leisure hours studying meditation and mindfulness. He managed to create such an impact that he headed GoogleEDU's head of personal growth and went on to deliver a TED talk at the United Nations and even gave a speech at the White House! You can learn how to transform your life with his book Search Inside Yourself - The unexpected path to achieving success, happiness (and world peace).

I was really impressed at his rise to fame, so during the Q & A, I asked him what was the 1 thing which contributed to his success. I'm sure there are a lot of other mindfulness speakers out there, so how did he get to be where he is today?

His answer was "Luck". I was taken aback, but he went on to explain. Behind his "luck" are 3 important factors.

1) Being at the right place at the right time, and always being prepared.

2) Giving his best effort in everything he does. Thus when an opportunity arises and the people above are looking for someone, they will say "How about Meng? He's very dependable".

3) Being surrounded by good people. He believes in treating every single person with kindness, no matter who they are. As it turned out, there were many people he met who were prominent people. I experienced this firsthand during the Q & A, as when I started with a "Hi", he immediately replied, "You're Michelle, right?" Wow. Talk about treating everyone with compassion and respect.
I'm taking his advice and 'surrounding' myself with good people!
Sane tip: I left the dinner with a renewed sense of wanting to reach out more to those around us, and was reminded of the notion that nothing is impossible. No matter what our age, we can still dream big dreams, believe in ourselves and perservere. I have been trying to instil in my kids the importance of giving to those less fortunate than ourselves, and we attempt to do some charity work together every school holiday. I guess we need to look into ways to do more. Dr Peter Mack puts it so eloquently:

Charity Begins at Home:

Many other little actions go a long way towards establishing the child's resilience, including developing the habit of expressing gratitude. The ability to express gratitude is a strong asset in life. Let the child learn to be charitable because it is the antidote to selfishness and self-centredness. Donating money for a good cause is fine but it is the charitable work that makes the greatest impression in developing the child's identity. This is because charity work allows the child to see himself as part of a greater whole in society.

Being involved in voluntary causes also gives the child circumspection - a perspective of how fortunate he is compared to many others. Through charitable activities done with friends or family, the adolescent can see first-hand for himself that it is possible to survive tough times by reaching out to others in times of need. By giving back to society, the adolescent comprehends that it is possible to survive with much less, and that it is possible to smile through turbulent periods by learning to rely not only on his own abilities, but also on other people in times of need.

- Dr Peter Mack in The day the ball didn't bounce

Save  tip: We were each given a copy of The day the ball didn't bounce at the charity dinner. As President Nathan wrote in the forward,

"It should be evident to the reader that the main tool, in our hands, to prevent a suicide would be to recognise the early signs of stress that appear from behaviour and make the person aware that you care enough to want to listen to his or her troubles and want to work together to resolve them… I believe this book will be an easy and yet valuable read for all parents and teachers."

I have 3 copies with me which I am happy to give away. Just leave a comment here or on my FB page with your email so that I can contact you if the book is yours. If there are more than 3 readers, I'll get Kate to pick 3 names randomly. The book can also be purchased from Brahm Centre (free with a $10 donation).

This August, the talks lined up at Brahm Centre includes topics such as 'Laughter and Happy Living', 'Back pain - When is it serious?', and '"Pa and Ma, I love you!" How to Engage our elderly loved ones meaningfully'. Hop over to their website for the dates and times. Admission is free.

If you are looking to do some meaningful volunteer work, why not consider their Youth Program (coaching, skills training, leading activities), Virtual Hospital Program (befriending, cooking, coordinating) or if you have expertise in such areas, you could give a talk on various happiness or health topics. Just fill in their online form.

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

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Giving Treehouse @ Marine Parade

Over the June holidays, #4 was invited to attend The Giving Treehouse's holiday program, where parents send their kids from 9am to 5pm while they are busy at work. Initially I was going to turn down the generous offer from this student care centre located at Marine Parade due to the distance, but after looking at the activities lined up, #4 was so excited that I agreed to let her go. In fact, the older kids also wanted in!
Rock-climbing at Yishun Safra
She loves outdoor activities so the rock-climbing and archery outings immediately caught her attention. Other interesting things included deciphering morse code while learning about different forms of communication tools, making their own camera obscura with recycled material while learning about the history of photography, learning basics of first-aid like the Heimlich manoeuvre for choking, having a 3-course meal to pick up dining etiquette, and even grooming sessions, just to name a few.

This student care centre really makes the effort to engage and immerse the kids. After a session on learning about nutrition and the different food groups, they went out to the nearby mini-mart and each child was given $10 to buy their own ingredients to make up a healthy meal. To instil the value of giving and of serving the wider community, the kids were taken to Pasir Ris MRT station and sold flags to raise funds for Boys Town. Two thumbs up!
Deciphering morse code
The Giving Treehouse stems (excuse the pun) from the story of one of my favourite children's book 'The Giving Tree' by Shel Silverstein, which places great emphasis on the value of giving, nurturing and love. Essentially, this is what sets this student care centre apart from the rest.
Made their own camera obscura
Set up by 3 working mums, The Giving Treehouse aims to provide a home away from home, thus placing an importance on the holistic development of the children who are placed under their care, in a vibrant yet homely atmosphere.
Multi-touch interactive table at IDA
The founders have also included the component of leadership which acknowledges and appreciates that each child is unique with his or her own gifts and talents. With the foundation of their programmes being the 7 Habits of Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, the student care centre has further included enrichment sessions parked under an artful and unconventional name - Journey to the Centre of the Earth. This boasts a myriad of activities encompassing music, art, writing and oratorical skills. Each student is believed to already be a leader in his or her own right and has a leader portfolio created for him where an individual personality profile is included, apart from his or her goals and achievements which are charted.
Archery - a first for many
Besides the truckload of fun the kids have during the school holidays, they are well taken care of and occupied during the school term. All students will have an individualised study plan to allow the coaches to partner the students, parents and teachers more effectively when it comes to areas that need more attention. During the crucial P6 year, small group learning support will be provided for the PSLE exam preparations.
Yoga - relax and destress!

Sane tip: Even though I'm not a full time working mum, I did put #4 at a student care centre as I felt it was a good idea to let her finish up all her homework with some supervision (as I am not familiar with the syllabus) so that when she got home, we could spend all our time playing and relaxing together. However, I withdrew her as I couldn't find any good quality student care centre in our vicinity. If The Giving Treehouse was in my neck of the woods, I'd definitely put my kids there. And for the busy working parent, their leader portfolio can be a very useful point of reference to figure out your child's strengths and weaknesses.

Save tip: Not only do they focus on academic excellence, but they also strive for a holistic education with includes values development and sports and team-building while exposing the children to a wide array of enrichment activities. Their centre is cosily furnished with a reading corner, music corner, games corner and even a research corner.

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

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

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Kate's antics: Stranded on an island

What do you do when you find yourself stranded on an island?

"Maybe someone will come and rescue me"
"Maybe I'll bump into someone"
"Maybe if I keep waving, someone will appear"
And if all else fails?

Rely on your survival skills which was naturally acquired as a 6th child.
"Hmm… pizza or pasta for my dinner?"

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

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Tip #6: Ban books? What are you gonna do about phones?

I was reading about the saga following the National Library Board's (NLB) removal of 3 seemingly 'unacceptable' books regarding homosexuality. Apparently it has been confirmed that at least 6 books have recently been pulled off the shelves.

While this issue of censorship has been debated furiously on social media, I have also been facing the same issue of censorship with my teens. And the more I think about it, the more worried I'm getting.

It all began with giving them their iPhones and iPads (which by the way, was both the hub's idea).
The 2 oldest kids got their first phones when they were 12, as a reward for doing well in their PSLE. If I had my way, I would hold out as long as possible. Unfortunately, the hubs is a huge fan of gadgets, and he enjoys buying them for the kids. His rationale? "You can't shield them forever". So his job was to make that 1 awesome purchase, with the kids hailing him as hero, thereafter, the onerous job of instilling limits and rules on gadget use fell on me.

As with most parents, my top 2 concerns were duration of use (not too long and not too late), and usage (the apps they were downloading).

When #1 was first given her phone, my concerns and rules were relatively straightforward.

1) Phones out in the living room at 8.30pm every night (I didn't want them to be using their phones instead of sleeping)

2) Limit amount of talking on the phone (exorbitant phone bills)

3) Monitor their Facebook use (concerned about internet safety)

4) Limit amount of YouTube use (content and too tiny screen)

How naive I was. Fast forward 4 years later, and I have totally lost control. #1 and #2 are now 15 and 13 years old respectively, and their phones are almost like an extension of their hands. Not only are they constantly on it, but talking on their phone has now become the least of my concerns. In fact, I am happy to see them talking on the phone (the house phone, that is). These days, kids hardly even communicate verbally. They spend a large part of their time communicating digitally. Facebook is also not much of an issue, because as any 'cool' teen will tell you, "Who even uses Facebook? Get with the times, mum."

So now, what is worrying me? One main thing is Twitter. Firstly, they can 'Follow' anyone they want to 'Follow', and that is where they get a lot of their information. Believe me, your hair will stand if you read some of the tweets. Your teens will be exposed to the opinions and ideology of literally any other teen or celebrity in the world. Secondly, the tweets happen every other second, so before they know it, your teens will be addicted to these tweets. Remember how in our time, we went crazy over pop stars or movie stars? Well, they have certainly taken crazy to new heights. I can accept the posters all over their bedroom walls, and their ears constantly plugged in to music. But now they also have 'fandoms' on Twitter, where a community of people who admire the same idol come together to discuss and rave about that celebrity. They end up getting addicted and spend a whole lot of time on Twitter sharing information about their idol. They then become friends with a whole array of teens hailing from different countries as they feel a connection with them, and move on to communicate one-to-one via Whatsapp.

Then there is Snapchat. I have been watching my teens using Snapchat for some time now. They will take fun shots of where they are or what they are doing (eating, shopping, playing) and it will be sent to their circle of friends. It is however not quite like normal photo sharing. You can allocate a certain time for your recipient to view it (1-10 seconds) and the photo will vanish after that. However, the party you have sent the image to can save it if they quickly screenshot it or use another device to take a picture of it before it disappears. It did seem relatively harmless to me, but when I was reading an article on this issue, it describes Snapchat as dangerous. Yes, now that they mention it, I can see how this can get dangerous if they start to snap indiscriminate photos of themselves, and of their locations. And what if their friends turn against them one day and start to disseminate their photos.

Needless to say, the phone is seriously one potentially dangerous piece of gadget you will be giving to your child. And the scary thing is, you will not be able to see the dangers until it is much too late. By that time, the amount of uncensored information that has entered your teen's head is astronomical, and it is insidious. One day, you will be having a conversation with your teen and you will suddenly think to yourself "Is this my kid? The kid that I raised under my roof?" And that will be a sad, sad day for you. I just experienced that, and was disconcerted and depressed for a whole week. I couldn't place my finger on the reason I was feeling down, but now I think I know why. You give of your best and try to bring them up well, but all comes to naught as their minds are gradually brainwashed by social media and the friends they make online.

I understand the sentiments of those parents who are fighting for the books to be kept away. That was my first response when I realised my teens were getting access to so much unregulated information on the internet via their phones and iPads. Yes, we can fight to take away 3, 6 or even 60 books. But how are you going to fight to take away all the information on the internet and on social media that goes against your values?

As I was mulling over this, not only with my mind but with my heart, and wondering how I was going to re-address the issue with my teens, yesterday's article in The Straits Times provided me with my answer.

Dr Lim Sun Sun (associate professor in the Department of Communications and New Media at the NUS) says that a 'Cot bumper approach' to raising kids won't work. 

"You hold the key to building your child's defences against perspectives that contradict the beliefs that you subscribe to, and that you want your children to subscribe to. You can interpret, moderate and mediate for your child the media content that he is confronted with…. It is an ongoing journey of trust, sharing, discussion, and debate. Rather than obliterate all opinions that you consider deleterious, embrace each alternative view as an opportunity to rationalise to your child why you disagree with it. Foster a relationship of mutual respect and understanding where your child knows that she can turn to you when she encounters messages that are confusing or upsetting. Instil in your child the skills of discernment that will see him through every PG movie, First-Person shooter video game or inflammatory online comment."

At the beginning of the year, I had a conversation about LGBT relationships with #2. I was surprised that she had such strong opinions on the issue and she felt that it doesn't matter whether it was between heterosexuals or homosexuals, but if they loved each other, what was wrong? And why must you judge them? I went on to explain to her our values and our religious stance and finally I said that what her friends are doing or what their orientations are are not of my concern, but because all of you are my children, I expect you to get married to a person of the opposite sex and have children. Then she replied, "Oh, then what are we arguing about? I thought you were against other people being gays and lesbians."

Times have definitely changed. For every standpoint you make, they would have heard a hundred other counter opinions of it. And trust me, they would not be as subtle as 2 male penguins raising a baby penguin. It will be direct, passionate, in-your-face statements.

I'm going to need to take a deep breath and psych myself up to face this new wave of challenges I can see heading my way. And we all thought it was tough dealing with the terrible twos.

Sane tip: Before you even hand them their very first phone, find out all the current apps that teens are using. Sit down with them and set limits on which apps you allow and explain to them why you do not allow them certain apps. Also set basic rules on time limits such as no phone use after 9pm, during mealtimes and homework time. I wish someone had enlightened me about all this before I gave #1 her phone. It is so much harder both for me and for them to re-negotiate their gadget use after they have been on those apps for so long.

The good news is that there is an app called TimeAway which was created by an American working at Google. She is now living in Singapore and noticed that the kids were glued to their gadgets. She spoke to many parents and realised that while they wanted to give their kids phones for various reasons, they also wanted to prevent addiction and social isolation. TimeAway was created to solve the problem as it allows the parents to monitor and control device usage and app downloads. It is able to pause devices, set time limits and even block apps that cause concern like Snap chat (gulp!)

Save tip: If I had my way, I'll be giving them flip phones! Although as #1 informed me, "they are obsolete mum".

I would love to hear from parents who have some good ideas on how you work this out with your children.

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'

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

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

A Loom-my gift

If you haven't already heard (then you must surely have been hibernating), the current craze for kids is this rainbow loom thing where you use exorbitantly priced rubber bands to make all sorts of things with the aid of a plastic loom. I hear adults have also gotten into the fray and make wonderful things with the coloured bands like handbags too!

The only one amongst my kids who is really hooked on this is #4. So for her birthday present, #2 decided to custom make her a little caddy to hold her bands.
Simple materials: satay sticks and glue
She noticed that #4 needed some hooks to hang the finished wristbands and some compartments to store the various other designs she made.
Reinforce the base, she tells me
She fashioned it entirely out of satay sticks and toiled for days to complete the gift on time. Her thumb became the casualty from all that cutting and it even went numb for a couple of days.
Complete with hooks to hang the finished bands
Needless to say we were all impressed with her finished product. It even has miniature drawers and spins on it's base! So proud of #2, she's turning into a nifty lil' crafter.
Spins on its base
#4 has been making me those bracelets but she noticed that I have not been wearing them. She googled for more ideas, made me a pencil-dangle and put it onto my pen. She added a little Daffy duck as she knows how such funny looking things never fail to make me laugh!

Pencil dangle

Sane tip: One good thing that came out of this craze is that it kept them busy during the school holidays. One busy looming, one busy cutting sticks.

Save tip: With 1 kid around who can create anything out of sticks, we don't need to pay through our nose… but then again, I still can't get over these over-priced rubber bands. Thankfully she received a whole stash for her birthday.

To check out #2's other creations, click here.

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

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Maki San: Sushi @ The Cathay

#1 mentioned to me some time ago that there is a cool sushi place which is popular with the teens. You get to pick and choose the type of filling you want to put in your sushi. Sounds great to me, as the kids enjoy such fun food places.

So here's how it works.

Step 1: Take a sheet of menu list which is placed right there at the glass display. See it? Yup, the purple list is for Sushi and the green list is for Salad. The kids went to take a look at the ingredients to decide what appealed to them.

Step 2: Tick all your selections. You get to choose the Wrap (Traditional Nori or Healthy Soy - extra $1), the Essentials (fillings), Specials (meat or fish, optional), Sprinkles (chicken floss, sesame seeds, tempura crunch etc), and Sauces (yuzu sesame, teriyaki, wasabi mayo etc).

Step 3: Queue and pay. That's it!

They had a wide selection of Essentials to choose from such as zucchini, mushroom, tamagoyaki (japanese omelette), corn, avocado, tuna mayo, crab stick, ebiko and more.

The kids stood and watched their sushi being rolled on the spot. They were placed in such pretty boxes. The kids couldn't wait to open them! The japanese sure know all about presentation. Half the battle won, when it comes to kids and food.
Irresistible parcels
For the Little San ($7.90), you get a choice of 3 Essentials + 1 Sprinkle + 1 sauce. For the Mega San ($9.90), it includes 5 Essentials + 1 Special + 1 Sprinkle + 1 sauce.
Mega San $9.90
I tried the soy wrap with brown rice. Not bad for a change. The only gripe we had was that we didn't quite like the sauces. Next time we would probably skip the sauces. Besides sushi, they also have salads from $7.90 to $11.90. For the base, you can choose from mixed veggies, cold pasta, brown rice, cold soba or sweet potato noodles.
Healthy version for mummy
The crowd seemed to be mainly young people. Made me feel young too! The sitting area is not that big and might get crowded during mealtimes on the weekends.
Tucking into their own creations
Sane tip: We had a very enjoyable dining experience and they were more than eager to finish their very own sushi rolls. It also gave me some ideas for new ingredients for our DIY sushi nights at home.

Save tip: #5 couldn't finish his Little San. If your kids are not big eaters, 2 can probably share a Mega San.

Maki San
2 Handy Road #B1-17
The Cathay

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

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Kate's antics: Rub-a-dub-dub, baby in a tub

Someone needed a good scrub.
"Yay, I can fit into this pail"
Then she realised she had a problem.
"My biscuit get wet how?"
The helper told her she will wait for Kate to finish her biscuit.
Problem solved.

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

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Let's just say it: Parenting can be depressing

I was reading this article in yesterday's Straits Times, which was taken from the New York Times. It was basically saying that many parents experience distress, even 5 years after the birth of the child. However, it seems only socially acceptable to acknowledge that everything is ok, because after all we love our kids dearly so how can it be depressing right? 

When we read about other people's lives via their blogs or on social media, we see images of adorable kids and happy families. But what actually goes on behind closed doors? Not only are there the sleepless nights, endless crying and financial worries, but as they grow up, you wonder if you have done a good job parenting. And if your teens start to stray or pick up ideology far different from yours, it can be heartbreaking.

We tend to keep it to ourselves, and face it alone. Because we think we might be seen as failures or bad parents if we admit that sometimes we feel depressed with the overwhelming challenges we face or when some days we look at our kids and don't like what we see.

So let's give ourselves a break, and not look at the impossible standards around us and feel we have to live up to it. For they are just the nice bits. The reality is that all parents will sooner or later face set backs, disappointments, even despair somewhere along their parenting journey. Some more so, some less. I used to think that once the kids grow up and enter school, my job will be much easier. Yes, definitely physically easier. But it is replaced by other challenges. I think the only way is to expect that it may happen, and be ready to face it. And to have good friends to share their experiences or even a listening ear.

When I had so many questions swirling in my mind, I found my answer in something a friend shared on Facebook. It read: No matter how the craziness of this whole parenting thing turns out, the reward of loving is in the loving. I was lamenting how difficult it is to keep sacrificing selflessly without expecting anything in return. Finally I get it.

As Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in his poem in 1850,

'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all." 

I reckon the same can be said for parenting. No matter how rocky the road has been and will continue to be, I am honoured to have the opportunity to take on the role of everything a mummy stands for, to 6 persons brought into this world, and even if I had known that the path will be fraught with challenges, I wouldn't have chosen any other way.

I chanced upon this quote last week when I was feeling miserable. Don't you find it comforting? I would love for someone to say that to me and I hope I've been doing some of that to those around me. I'm going to keep that in mind, and remember to give a hand to my kids, friends in need, new mums I meet.

Just when I was feeling wobbly about this whole new phase of parenting teens and wondering what on earth am I doing as a blogger when I myself haven't got the answers, it cheered me up to learn that I made it to the Top 10 finalist for the Best New Blog Category of the Singapore Blog Awards 2014. Yay. If you have enjoyed reading my blog, do spare a minute each day (one vote allowed per day until the end of July) and vote for me :)

I would also like to say a big thank you to you, my dear readers, for your support these past 11 months for reading, leaving your comments, and most of all for your encouragement. For we all have our down days, don't we?

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

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Dream Factory by Ines Ligron - Celebrity fashion expert

During the school holidays, I received a media invitation for my kids to attend the Dream Kids workshop, where they will get to learn about style, build confidence and have fun strutting down a real runway. Sounds fabulous! But Ines who? I have never heard of her, and later found out that this celebrity stylist who has worked with top fashion houses, global beauty brands and internationally renowned fashion magazines has recently descended on our humble shores. This remarkable but down to earth lady has spent the last decade working with the Miss Universe Japan Organisation, and even produced the 2007 Miss Universe winner and two Top 5 finalists. She has also styled Hollywood celebrities like Liv Tyler, Kate Moss and Sarah Jessica Parker, just to name a few. I was intrigued and definitely didn't want to pass up the chance for the girls to learn about style and to be a bit more ladylike.
Dream Kids workshop
Initially, it looked just like any other modelling class where the girls were taught to walk confidently on the catwalk. However, when I spoke to Ines herself, I was enlightened. She told me it was not just about getting the kids to walk properly, but it was about bringing them out of their shell, to empower them to feel proud of who they are, and to be confident in their own skin.

Their coach was no less than our very own Miss Universe Singapore (2011) Valerie Lim. She was very good with the kids and had a way with them. It was no wonder, when I discover that she is trained in Child Psychology. Beauty with brains. Impressive.
For kids aged 6 - 12
She was really encouraging and #4 who normally doesn't like such things like parading in public (eeks!) enjoyed herself tremendously.
Don't forget to smile!
Even boys have a part in this, as what they are trying to achieve here is for everyone, not just the girls.

A table full of fun clothes with matching shoes for the kids to pick from. The little ones got changed and were ready to be back on the catwalk with their new found skills.

I really have to take my hats off to this inspiring woman. #2 was not having a particularly fun time probably because she was the oldest there and felt out of place. Ines picked her out amongst all the kids present and did a make-over for her. In the very short span of time whilst doing her makeup, I heard her constantly re-affirming #2 that she was beautiful and to be confident of who she is, to stand tall and believe in herself. This issue never even crossed my mind as I assumed my kids were comfortable in their skin. Besides, as Asians, we hardly talk to our kids about beauty, and how beautiful they are. Ines said it was all in her body language, the slouch of the shoulders and the negative and disbelieving  responses when she told #2 how beautiful she was. She commented dryly in her French-accented english, "I can see how you are, what you are thinking. Life is boring. Nothing interests me". I burst out laughing. Precisely. I was just mentioning this to a friend, that our kids are so lifeless. Once they pass the age of around 10, they stop having that glow on their faces. Maybe too much gadget use has numbed them. Or maybe it's the burden of school. Or maybe they have infused our culture of rushing everywhere without savouring the moments.
Her first make-over
Boy, with just a change of outfit, and little things done to her hair and make-up, I was surprised how fabulous my girl looked! After that, I emailed Ines to thank her for what she did for #2's confidence, and this very busy lady took the time out to send us a very lovely reply that really boosted her self-esteem. She even invited #2 to come and watch her teenage models who are from different nationalities, and to see how vibrant they are, so full of passion for life. I asked her what she thought about the unhealthy lifestyle of models, and of having to be stick-thin to stay in the modelling industry. She doesn't subscribe to that, and takes her teen models as they are, whatever size they may be, and she teaches them to be comfortable in their bodies. Really good to hear.
Now it's the mummies' turn. I was invited to the Dream Mama session for mums who want a new style. It was all very informal and Ines took questions from the mums present on how to be a hot mama! She gave us tips and ideas on how to step out in style in just 5 minutes, how to be a Dream mama even with young kids in tow, and she showed her expertise as she transformed several mums into very stylish mamas. She shared with us ideas on how to dress to accentuate our body shape while hiding our flaws. You can also sign up for their Transformation classes to develop your own personal style!
Look hot even with a tot
Save tip: To spread her love to our local ladies, the Dream Factory is having a pop-up store at ISETAN Scotts from now till 10 July 2014. Do head down and check out the one of a kind merchandise from international brands, personally selected by Ines.

Ines and her Dream Team, which comprises of Valarie (Miss Universe Singapore 2011) and Hiroko (Miss Universe Japan), will share their expertise in several complimentary styling sessions for the public where you can pick up some fashion tips!

Friday 4 July (6-8pm)
Makeup / Hair: Demonstration of the latest hair and makeup trends

Saturday 5 July (11am, 2pm, 5pm)
Fashion Police: Witness the ultimate transformation by Ines as she picks out from the public!

Sane tip: She gave us lots of little tips to step out in style with minimal time and effort spent. One very trusty item in her make-up bag is a creamy light pink lipstick which doubles up as a blusher. She showed us how to quickly dab some on the lips, cheeks and even the eyelids, to instantly brighten up the face. She also emphasised how having the right clothes, with a good cut, good fit and good material is important. She is also a big fan of accessories, such as cuffs, heels and bags to complete the look.

Disclaimer: We were sponsored the Dream Kids workshop, and given ISETAN shopping vouchers to help kick start our Dream Mama wardrobe! 

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