Saturday, 31 January 2015

Kate's antics: Young punk

Reality check. Time flies, and it is nowhere more apparent than seen by the changes in a small child.

This picture was taken a year ago. Kate was so little, so adorable, so innocent.
15 months
Just one year later, she has grown into a toddler with an attitude! She saw #5 strike this 'cool' pose and quickly followed suit. Monkey see, monkey do.

27 months
They grow and change so quickly! Dealing with the demands of raising the 6 kids, the days sometimes seem long. However, looking back at Kate's photos never fail to jolt me into remembering that the years fly by all too quickly.

Carpe diem!

And don't forget to take more photos and videos while they are growing up. The hubs has always been bugging me to do that and now I wished I had taken way more photos of the older kids.

Happy weekend folks!



More of Kate's antics:

Nice warm drink
Meow…
The long slope
Santa on a Buggy

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

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Carcinogen-Free Baby and Household Products

It's that time of the year we've been eagerly awaiting (especially the kids). Chinese New Year! Which also means, time for spring cleaning. It couldn't have been a better time for us to receive a very practical parcel. The lovely people behind Ecobaby kindly sponsored us Attitude's range of household products.

So what's Attitude all about?

  • Free of all chemicals linked to cancer
  • Packed in recyclable plastic
  • Manufactured with 100% renewable energy
  • Free of animal testing
Need I say more? By the way, did you know that babies are 10 times more susceptible to carcinogenic chemicals than adults?
Baby and Home Cleaning products
Kate is at the age where she seems to be washing her hands a gazillion times a day. I am so much happier that she is now using Attitude's Foaming Hand Soap which cleans the hands properly yet is gentle on the skin. My only bugbear of using organic products is that they usually smell funny, but this one has a pleasant mild smell, derived from natural ingredients.

Oh, notice the two little bottles in front? Those are Hand Sanitisers from Bacoff. It is 100% natural, alcohol free, and is safe for kids. It also contains aloe vera to moisturise the hands. It can be purchased from Sunkiss Babies website, which carries lots of other nice things too.
Giveaway!
Ok, now for the fun part. I am delighted to be giving away ONE set of products from Attitude and Bacoff.

You will be receiving products worth more than $50!
  1. Foaming Hand Soap 295ml ($9.90)
  2. Bacoff Hand Sanitiser 50ml ($9.90)
  3. Baby Wipes 72 wipes ($11.90)
  4. Window & Mirror Cleaner 800ml ($7.50)
  5. Floor Surfaces Tiles & Wood Cleaner 1L ($7.50)
  6. Daily Shower Cleaner 800ml ($7.50)
All you have to do is:
  • Like Mummy Wee's Facebook page
  • Like this post on Facebook
  •  Leave a comment on Mummy Wee's Facebook post stating your email address
Details:
  • 1 lucky winner will be chosen at random
  • Open to Singapore residents only
  • Ends 1 February 2015
  • Winners will be announced on Mummy Wee's Facebook page on 3 February 2015
  • Winners will be contacted by our sponsors for delivery

Disclaimer: The giveaway and product review have been sponsored by Ecobaby and Sunkiss Babies. All opinions are my own.

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

Monday, 26 January 2015

6 tips to choose the right preschool

Kate has just started preschool. Hooray for mummy! I have chosen a school near our home, one that is cosy, with a small enrolment. She will start off with 3 hours a day (8.30 - 11.30am), moving on to 4 hours as she gets older. I find this timing perfect as she comes back and has her nap from 12-2pm.

These days, the range of preschools available is simply mind-boggling. Besides the PAP, church-based and Montessori ones, there are the play-based, right-brain-left-brain, Emilio Reggio, and 'branded' preschool chains with long waiting lists.


So how did I go about choosing the one that suits Kate best and what advice do I give my friends who ask me this million-dollar-question? Having had the experience of putting the 5 older kids in 4 different preschools, here are 6 things I would suggest you consider.
Security checkpoint
1. Your priority

To begin with, you need to sit down with your spouse and decide what are the top 3 priorities you want out of a preschool. The truth is, there is NO preschool which is the best. Yes, I know all parents want the best for their child, but every preschool has it's pros and cons, with different philosophies and approaches, and other factors as well.

It is virtually impossible to compare apples to oranges. For example you might really like a particular preschool's curriculum but it may be very far, or the only available slot is the afternoon session when it is your child's nap time. Which ranks higher on your priority scale? The curriculum? Protecting your child's natural nap schedule? Or having proper sit down meals at home? (I know of preschool kids who have their meals in the car as they get shuttled to one preschool in the morning and a different one in the afternoon).

Then there is the option of either choosing a childcare or kindergarten. If you need the childcare option, it is simpler as you rule out the kindergartens. However if there is someone at home taking care of your child, you can either choose to enrol your child in a kindergarten or if you like the curriculum in a particular childcare, you can choose the half-day option. There are government subsidies for childcare centres but not for kindergartens.

What I advice my friends to do is to jot down their priorities. Do you prefer more play or more academic work? More emphasis on Chinese? Outdoor play everyday? Extras like speech and drama? Aircon or non-aircon? I personally prefer a non-aircon environment as it minimises the spread of viruses going around.

After listing it all down, rate it in terms of priority. Then try and match it with the preschools you have shortlisted.

Without knowing your priority, you will be easily swayed when friends tell you they heard that this school is very good, or that school has a long waiting list "so it must be good", and you will be confused all over again.

2. Distance

Once you know what you are looking for in a preschool, you can start checking out the available options closest to your home, office or parents' home (depending on your family's transport arrangements).

Personally, I will never drive from one end of the island to another as I believe there are no schools out there way above the others to warrant the inconvenience and time wasted, not to mention having the child endure the long commute every single day. I would rather use the time to have a proper sit down breakfast together or let the child have enough sleep and be well-rested.

Instead, I will try to achieve the desired outcome with different means. For example, if my top priority is to immerse my child in a Mandarin speaking environment but the reputable preschool which is strong in Mandarin is too far away, what I could do is to engage a native Chinese university student to come over twice a week to converse with Kate. That's 2 hours free babysitting as well!

3. Teachers

I have seen how teachers have impacted my 5 kids (both positively and negatively) during their kindy years, so this is also one important aspect to consider. As the child is very young, the teachers who are in direct contact with the child is very important for 2 reasons.

Firstly, it takes a young child time to get used to the teacher before she builds a bond with her. If the teacher keeps changing every few months, it will be unsettling for the child. Secondly, as the child is unable to articulate all that is happening in school, if a teacher is not treating the child well, we may not know what is happening until much later. Thus I would choose a school where the teachers genuinely care for the children.

Insider tips to find out if the teachers are good? The best way is to ask friends or neighbours with kids already in the school. If not, go earlier or linger around after the scheduled appointment with the principal and see how the teachers interact with the kids and if they look happy (yes, both the teachers and the kids). I will also ask about the teacher turnover rate, and would not put my child in a school with a high turnover rate.

4. Curriculum

I firmly believe that young children should be guided to open their minds at this early age. They should be exposed to a lot of different experiences, topics, modalities, and of course a lot of play and experimentation. I would not choose a school where there is too much desk time and worksheets. It is easy for teachers to simply hand out worksheets and get the kids to sit quietly to do pencil work.

I would choose a curriculum where the teachers are actively engaging them, telling them stories, singing, and getting them to explore. As they move into Kindergarten 1 and 2, the focus will gradually be more on acquiring the skills and knowledge for primary school, hence there will be more table work, which is understandable. However, I would still expect them to be taught to think, be creative, and have ample opportunities for hands-on experiences.

5. Good fit for your child

When my son entered preschool at 2, I knew I had to send him to a different school from his 4 older sisters. Being a very active boy, there was no way he could sit for 30 minutes in a big group of 20 listening to the teacher standing in front of the class. In the end I opted for a Montessori close to our home as he would be free to roam and explore and to learn via a more hands-on approach.

When he was in K1, I decided to switch him to a different kindergarten because he was now ready to sit for longer periods of time. It was not that the Montessori system is no good, but gradually, the one that he was in was filled with children of one particular foreign race and they interacted with one another and left him out. None of them spoke Mandarin and the Mandarin lessons were conducted mostly with English translations, so I decided to move him. He settled down immediately and made new friends on the first day. Having seen that, I am of the opinion that it is fine to change preschool if there is a problem as most kids are able to adapt very quickly.

In fact, I made the mistake with #3 which I regret. In her K2 year, the teacher resigned due to health reasons. Most of us parents decided not to pull our kids out as we thought it was just 7 or 8 months left and they would miss their friends, and have to get used to a new school all over again. The replacement teacher left within a short few months. At that stage, a handful of her classmates switched to other schools. We stayed on. The next replacement teacher was pretty dismal as it was hard for them to find a good teacher at such short notice during the year end. In the end, #3 "wasted" almost the entire K2 year and hardly learnt anything at a time when other children were going full steam ahead in preparation for primary one.

6. Look beyond the hype

It doesn't necessarily mean that those branded preschools with many awards such as "Best preschool 2014" are really the best. I found out that to be awarded the 'best' preschool, one of the criteria they looked at was the percentage increment of enrolment in that year. Hence, a new school that started with just a handful of students would find it much easier to snag that title compared to another which is already running at full capacity. Even within the same chain, different branches can vary significantly, depending on the owners/principals (if they are franchises), the management, and the teachers.

Sometimes, the curriculum which has been drafted sounds absolutely amazing, but can they really carry out what they promise? The delivery of the curriculum is critical, and is an important factor that most parents overlook.

Some centres are decked out with interactive displays, fancy gyms, or child-sized pretend play centres. The school might look very impressive, but if the 'software' is not there, I won't be taken in by the 'hardware'.

Sane tip: I much prefer small to medium sized schools where the teachers have been there for ages (better still if the teachers are the owners and they started this school because they were very passionate about early childhood education). Because to me, preschool is a time when their natural love of learning should be nurtured, in a safe and happy environment.

Save tip: It doesn't mean that the more expensive the fees, the better the school is. Sometimes, the big brands have a huge marketing budget to portray a professional image, but in reality, the quality is similar to a more reasonably priced preschool.

Hope this helps to navigate the maze of options out there.


Related articles:

6 tips to choose a primary school for your child


6 tips to Really prepare your child for P1



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

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Thankful for... school

Last year, when I was invited to the Ministry of Education for a dialogue session, I met Petunia Lee, an educator whom many parents are familiar with. While walking to the car park after the session, knowing that we both felt the same way about the education system, she asked me why haven't I considered homeschooling my kids. I looked at her in mock horror and replied, "Can you imagine having 6 monkeys at home the whole day, every day? I am so thankful they go to school!"



Many of us love to complain about this highly stressful education system and are quick to point out the flaws in the system. When #1 first entered primary school, I used to be outraged at finding out that in many instances, the children do not come first, and true learning does not seem to be the focus. However, the more I understand what really goes on behind the scenes, the more I am grateful for all those involved who really do care and are trying their best to do what they can for our children. 

Here in Singapore, we tend to take school for granted. Today, I will take a moment to be thankful.

Thankful that school is accessible to all.

Thankful that our kids are safe in school.

Thankful that our kids do not need to travel distances just to get an education.

Thankful for the facilities and comfortable environment to study in.

Thankful that schools are free of negative influences such as drugs.

And above all, I'm thankful that school keeps the kids out of my hair for 7 hours every day! At the tail end of every December holidays, I can't wait for school to resume. 6 weeks with them at home is about all I can take.

Happy schooling, kids!



Thankful… for our helper
Thankful… for my family
Thankful… for my mum-in-law



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

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The Udder Pancake - Upper Bukit Timah

Cafes seem to be popping up like popcorn, which is great as there are plenty of options to take the kids to. Is it just me (getting older) or are cafes being opened by younger and younger people these days? You've undoubtedly heard of Udders the ice cream parlour. Now they have branched into the increasingly popular pancake market with "The Udder pancake". These people have a great sense of humour. From the moment we walked through the 'broken' glass entrance, the kids and I couldn't stop chuckling at the 'do not break' (or in this case 'do break') red boxes adorning the walls.


Before I could get them seated, they had their own mini tour of the cafe, wandering around and calling out to one another, "Look at this one!"
Awww
There was even a thousand dollar bill in one of the boxes. And they kept asking me "Can we break it? Can we? Can we?"
Hilarious
The food is ordered at the counter and served to your table. We were there last weekend and the place was almost packed full mostly with teenagers and young adults.

Sadly, we found the standard of the food to be pretty mediocre. The only thing they polished up were the homemade 'naked' pancakes.
The Full Monty $21.90
The good thing was that we have a choice of ordering either a full or half size for the fancy pancakes. We chose the half sizes for more variety and to try out what's good. The Salmon, Crab & Caviar Egg Benedict pancakes (the dish in the background) was interesting. We didn't quite like the Pulled Pork Egg Benedict pancakes because the pancakes ended up being rather soggy. You must be wondering what that deep fried bomb-looking thing is. It's some kind of giant white button mushroom wrapped with bacon. Sounded very yummy on the menu, but was a pity none of the kids liked it.
Pulled Pork Egg Benedict, The Udder Shrooms
Despite the so-so food, the kids enjoyed themselves tremendously at this cool cafe. Do they want to come again? You bet. For the plain pancakes and the truffle fries. Oh, and the ice cream which you can order from the adjoining Udders ice-cream outlet.

This stretch of shophouses on Lorong Kilat is getting very hip with several new cafes, in addition to Nook the DIY pancake place which is popular with families.

For 6 family-friendly restaurants which we love, click here.


The Udder Pancake

17 Lorong Kilat
#01-09
Singapore 598139

Opening Hours:
Mon - Thur: 12noon - 11pm
Fri: 12noon - midnight
Sat: 9am - midnight
Sun: 9am - 11pm

Tel: 64661055

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

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Fun on the Run travel bag

Do your kids complain of having nothing to do during long car rides? Or are you looking for an alternative to handling them an iPad to keep them quiet? We were sponsored this very handy 'Fun on the Run' bag which works as a portable table cum organiser for use in the car. It easily clips on to the neck of the head rest of the front seat. Normally, my kids would be chatting, singing or quarrelling in the car, but it was funny how even the older kids clamoured to sit in the hot seat. Hmmm maybe I need to get 6 of these.

For older kids
The straps are adjustable so it should fit all cars. It can be used with booster seats as well. For car seats, as the child would be seated at a higher level, instead of strapping it around the neck of the headrest, you can just hang it around the headrest.


For babies
Besides being great for kids to do their activities on during car rides, it is also handy for school-going kids to do their homework while waiting to pick up other siblings. It is also helpful for mums with babies to prepare their formula or have baby's toys organised all within easy reach.

Useful for mums too
I love how it zips up nicely into a slim shoulder bag. It can be purchased online on Qoo10 by searching Ministry of Tots. For further enquiries, do email them at ministryoftots@gmail.com.

Easy to carry around
Sane tip: Recently there was an article in the papers saying that more drivers are being caught not strapping their kids in properly, and the most common reason being that the kids are reluctant to sit in the car seat. This would be useful to entice the kids to sit in their car seats.

This would also be perfect for our road trips to Malaysia to keep Kate occupied. Usually I would prepare a bag of toys for her and they end up rolling all around the car and we have to keep picking them up.

Save tip: From now till the end of January 2015, it is going at a promotional price of $23 (U.P. $25). Shipping fee $4.50.

Here's the good news. To kick off the new year, I am pleased to announce that I have 5 sets to give away to my dear readers!


All you have to do is:
Details:
  • 5 winners will be chosen at random
  • Open to Singapore residents only
  • Ends 20 January 2015
  • Winners will be announced on Mummy Wee's Facebook page on 22 January 2015
  • Winners will be contacted by Ministry of Tots for delivery

Disclaimer: The giveaway and product review have been sponsored by Ministry of Tots. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

All 6 in school. Now what

The day has come. My 6th and last child has finally been packed off to school. "How does it feel?", friends ask.

Awesome. Freedom!

I had put my life on hold for the past 16 years to take care of them. It didn't make economic sense to put 6 kids in childcare. And if I left them to the helper none would survive a year. (the helper or the kids? I'm not sure which). The only jobs I could do were those with flexible hours. I needed to 'escape' and work at least 1 morning a week if not I would have gone berserk. 5 kids demanding your attention at the same time made for pretty intense days. We opened a spa hoping to earn enough to raise the kids but that failed miserably. I went on to sell life insurance but realised that I gained more satisfaction counselling my clients upon a loved one's death than closing a sale.

#4 plaited Kate's hair
Looking back, I'm surprised I survived it all and haven't gone mad. We were young, had no one to turn to for guidance and learnt everything the hard way. The good thing was, I gained wisdom and humility through this arduous parenting journey, and I guess that is a good place to start.

Kate goes to school for 3 hours and has a 2-hour nap when she gets back. That leaves me with a good 6 hours to do as I please! It feels like somebody has just handed me a key, and it opens the door to infinite possibilities ( I think only SAHMs can relate to this). My life is all mine. What do I want to do with it?

For starters, I would like to work. To do something meaningful. Say from 8am - 2pm so that I'm home for the kids after school. I have a rough idea of what I want to do, but need some time to search within myself to figure out exactly what I would be happy doing. I like to talk. I like to write. I would love to work with children. With the sick. The dying. With those who are grieving.

That's the thing about being stay-at-home-mums. Your qualifications become obsolete (yes I know, 16 years is a long time to stay home). Oh well. I shall take things one day at a time and see what comes up.

My prayers have always been answered, many times in more perfect ways than I anticipated and I don't doubt it will be any different with this. I shall keep my eyes, ears and heart open.

I'll be turning 40 this year. So exciting. My life (outside of the kids) is about to begin.



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

Friday, 2 January 2015

6 tips to Really prepare your child for P1

You would have read many articles on how to get your child ready for the big transition from K2 to P1, about things like teaching them to take care of their belongings and buying food at the canteen. Besides those basics, let me share with you 6 essential tips to ensure mummy (that's you) doesn't break a sweat for the next 6 years.

1. Their school bag is their responsibility

When #1 started Primary 1 a decade ago, I bought her a school bag, handed her the whole stack of books and told her that she was in charge of it. I laid out all my expectations. She was to pack her own bag, finish her homework and listen attentively to her teachers. From the get-go, she had no problems handling all of it, and neither did her 3 younger sisters. I never had to nag them to do their homework nor help them to pack their bags. Don't worry that they are too young to start managing on their own. When they are in P1, the teachers are more forgiving and it is the best time for them to make mistakes and learn the skills of being independent. #1 had a classmate who was so used to her mum packing her bag that when she went to Secondary 1, she exclaimed that she didn't know how to pack her bag!

Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to work for #5. I gave him the same instructions but his homework never gets completed and bag never properly packed. I have to double check every night to make sure his things are in order. The first time I peered into his bag, I almost fainted. I expected a neat, organised school bag with books properly placed according to height (that's how all my girls' bags looked), but his bag was in a complete mess! Worksheets were stuffed into the crevices (some even balled up), books were folded in half top down (don't ask me how that happened), and there were bits and pieces of erasers, paper, and other rubbish in his bag. No wonder my friends with boys keep complaining and can't understand how I can stay relaxed with so many kids. Anyhow, it is still important to expect the same for boys, but be prepared to step in to provide more guidance. A LOT more, if your son is anything like mine.
#4's P4 unseen dictation
2. Learning their spelling is also their responsibility

In this climate of very involved parents, I constantly hear friends saying they have to hurry home to test their kids spelling. With 6 kids, my chance of having a life would be zilch if I did this. They know my expectations and will learn their spelling themselves and test themselves. I don't like to molly-coddle my kids but try to encourage them to find their inner tenacity.

During the exam period, #4 asked if I could sit with her to supervise her revision like all her friends' mummies did. Before I could open my mouth, #3 told her: "Don't you know what mummy is trying to teach us? To be independent and self-motivated so that even when she is not with us, we will know what to do. If you need to rely on mummy being next to you, then next time how?" Ah, proud mummy moment.

However, this didn't work for #5, especially for his chinese spelling. Why am I even surprised. I have resorted to bribing him with 30 minutes of iPad time if he gets it all correct. Works beautifully.

3. Allowance

Initially with #1, I gave her a daily allowance for recess and encouraged her to save the rest. I realised that after a few months, she worked out her own brilliant plan by 'saving' on food and using the leftover money to shop at the bookshop. I thought about this whole allowance business very seriously and decided to separate the school recess money (which is for them to eat a proper meal) with allowance for toys and their other wants and came up with a simple but detailed system to teach them how to use their money wisely.

Instead of giving them a fixed amount for the 6 years, I checked out the prices at their canteen and found out that $1 can buy them a plate of chicken rice or a bowl of noodles. Since they bring their own water bottle to school, $1 is enough for them as they are not big eaters. My kids think I'm Mr Scrooge as most of their friends get around $2 per day. I asked them if they are going to eat $2 worth of food, and if not, then they don't need $2. What I did instead was to give them an incremental allowance based on their age. They get $1 per day for P1 and P2, $1.50 for P3 and P4 and $2 for P5 and P6. It gives them something to look forward to!

4. No TV / electronic devices rule

I used to allow them 1 hour of TV but found that they protested more when it was time to turn it off than when I set a blanket ban on TV during school days. Now, it's not just the TV, but their iPads, laptops, computers and iPhones which robs them of time. They end up not having enough time for their homework and also resulted in them sleeping later. Besides, it's hard to monitor their gadget use if I'm not at home, so it's easier just to take them all away during the school week. Every Sunday night, they have to turn in their gadgets and they get them back on the weekends. Yup, I have to run my household almost like a military operation. If you need more tips on how to control their gadget usage, read my 10 house rules for digital use.

5. Stationery

It amazes me how much correction tape kids go through. Or how many pencils and pens go missing in school. At one time, Popular bookstore became our regular shopping destination. One fine day, I had enough, and made a new rule. We would go stationery shopping for school supplies once in December and once during the June holidays. They were to purchase the necessary items to last them through 5 months of school. Anything extra they needed would be out of their own pockets. (Unless of course they require ad hoc purchases for projects). Overnight, their stationery requisition reduced dramatically. Not only that, it taught them to plan, budget, and stick to their allocation. When they know their correction tape refill is running low they will be more careful and stop using it with abandon.

6. Early Bedtime

I can't fathom how kids can thrive with insufficient sleep. Many of their classmates sleep at 10pm and wake up at 6am. For us, their bedtime is at 7.30pm, and it moves incrementally to 8.30pm at P6. When they are well rested, it is much easier to wake them in the morning, not to mention they will be more attentive in class. Our helper just has to call their name once and they are out of bed. She prepares their breakfast and they are on auto-pilot and out the house at 6am. And me? Still in la la land...

Hope these tips will ease the transition into formal schooling for your child and keep you sane!


Related posts:

6 tips to choose a primary school

6 things to do in the PSLE year



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





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