Monday, 11 September 2017

What would I do if I had an 18-month old again?

I gave a talk to 80 families whose babies turned 18-months old. That stage feels like so long ago. My eldest is 18 years old! Gosh, did 18 years just evaporate like that? I asked myself: What would I have done differently?

I would have enjoyed them more.

I was hung up on certain things and was too engrossed in wanting to bring them up 'properly'. I was chatting with the hubs, and he has a whole different outlook of their early years.

He really enjoyed their company, and if he could turn back time, he would love to have a bunch of 5 little kids again. Initially when I heard that, I was going to jump at him with the "That's because I did all the work while all you did was play with them" line. However, as I mulled over it, it dawned on me that it was up to me how I chose to see the 'job'.

I saw the tantrums, the mess, the challenges. He saw their joyful responses, the spontaneous cuddles, the happy laughter. That's not to say he did not discipline them - he is the disciplinarian in the house. Rather, he never let one part affect another, nor his mood, which I tended to do.
Baby Kate
I would make time for myself.

A short walk around the block, a phone call to a good friend, a book in the park. I lived with a "not enough time" mentality for many years. I didn't even have time for a decent shower, let alone coffee with a friend.

Finally, I took a 2-week pilgrimage with my mum as she's getting old, and turns out, they could survive without me! I should have given myself permission to take an hour or so every fortnight, or even 15 minutes every day to care for myself. It would have helped my sanity tremendously in those trying days. A happy, recharged mum would definitely make a better mum, don't you think?

And most importantly, this is what I would do differently.

I would discipline them with love.

To discipline is to teach, and because guiding them was a huge part of raising these little people, I swung from a patient, loving mum to a yelling monster, sometimes in the span of minutes and sometimes it became a daily occurrence. With 5 kids under the age of 10, you can imagine how often my patience got tested.

With Kate, I have finally learnt that you can still love your child while in the midst of disciplining them. It was such a radical experience for me, to come from a place of peace and love, standing firm with her boundaries, without feeling my anger or frustration rising with each passing second! It starts with awareness and gets better with practice.

Since I can't turn back time, I can only share these hindsight notes with you :) Happy parenting your little ones!


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

Tip #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Tip #9: When the gramps can't say 'no'
Tip #10: 6 Tips to stop tantrums in toddlers
Tip #11: Who has the energy to discipline our kids?
Tip #12: What a day out with #1 taught me


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


Friday, 1 September 2017

KinderBike Morph Hybrid

Kate has been using her Kinderbike E Series for about 2 years and she's been zooming down slopes like a pro. I felt it was time for her to progress to the next stage of adding in pedals.

I contacted Tikes and Bikes and the lovely owner recommended the Morph. She explained that instead of moving to a bigger bicycle with pedals, a gradual transition would be for the child to get used to a bigger and heavier bicycle without pedals first, and once she is comfortable with that, the pedals can be added on.
Kinder Bike Morph
Kate's cycling journey began with her little red E Series when she was 18 months old, and she hops on to her niffy bike every time we go to the playground. It is light and very manageable even though she is pint sized.

It grew with her and I easily extended the handle bar and seat higher as she became taller. Most kids are ready to ride a proper bicycle with wheels when they are around 4-4.5 years old, as their coordination and gross motor skills are developed sufficiently by then.
Wheeee!
She was extremely excited to go down and collect her brand new bike. It came in a huge box, and as I was wondering how to carry it to the car, the lady asked if I would like it assembled. At that, Kate immediately whooped, Yes!

It was fixed up in a matter of minutes and she taught me how to convert the bike to the pedals when Kate was ready. I was thinking that I should have brought the hubs along, but was pleasantly surprised that it was a very simple 1-step maneuver to switch it from a balance bike to a regular bike.
Feels like Christmas
All you have to do is to remove the entire back wheel and replace it with another back wheel which comes with pedals.

Just a simple sliding action, pop in the screw and viola! It morphs into a regular bike with wheels!

It is a very sturdy bicycle, which offers a comfortable ride. The seat and handlebar are adjustable to grow with her.
Balance Bike

Once we were out the doors, Kate got on her new bike and pushed off, thrilled with her new set of wheels.

When we got home, Kate wanted to have a go with the pedals and I changed it back for her. However, she is still not used to the bigger and heavier bike, and could not balance herself enough to lift her leg off onto the pedal.

As we were advised, she needs to get the hang of this bike without the wheels first, the same way as she has been doing with her little E series, before trying to cycle with the pedals.
IMM
I'm certain this new bike of hers will share many adventures in the months to come!

We went down to their warehouse in IMM, but several bicycle retailers do carry their stock as well.

Tikes N Bikes
2 Jurong East St 21
#02-154 IMM Building (warehouse section)
Opens:
Saturday 12-6pm
Cash only.

Disclaimer: We were sponsored the KinderBike Morph Hybrid. All opinions are our own.

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

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

My BEST Parent Teacher Meeting EVER

I dreaded to attend #5's PTM. Every year, his teachers complain about the same things. He doesn't pay attention in class, blurts out irrelevant things while the teacher is talking, is always fiddling with something, does not hand in his work on time and can't file his worksheets properly.

They have tried everything - the soft approach (talking to him nicely), the hard approach (scolding him), punishing him by making him stay back during recess to finish his work, but nothing works.

In their eyes, he is a mischevious and problematic student.

While walking into school, I seriously contemplated turning back. I don't have to subject myself to another round of complaints from his teachers, exhorting the same problems. I can already hear it coming... "He talks too much, is distracted, likes to do his own things."

But I took a deep breath and as the PSLE is next year, I wanted to keep tabs on what he's been up to in school.

I entered the classroom with trepidation. Finally, it was my turn.

Mrs Lim, his Science teacher sighed and said, "You are xx's mum..." (yes, she did let out an audible, resigned sigh. I'm sure I wasn't dreaming it).

I looked at her pleadingly like ok, give it to me straight.. what else am I going to hear this time. Let's get it over and done with.

She started with the same old. "He doesn't pay attention and is always busy fiddling with his pencil case and I have to confiscate his things."

I probed further. "What do you mean by not paying attention?"

Now I'm almost an expert on attention issues, having seen all permutations of kids who come to my enrichment centre because they are bright but not reaching their potential.

Sitting across his teachers trying to figure out his learning behaviour made me realise how much firsthand experience I have gained in this one year by being the bridge between hearing from parents and seeing the changes in the kids by isolating their problems instead of seeing them as being "naughty", "lazy" or "distracted".

I wanted to get to the root of the problem so that we could work together to help him.

Mrs Lim elaborated. "Halfway through my lesson, he will stop listening and do his own things. Thus when it comes to doing the worksheets, he does not know what to do because he has stopped listening."

Ah, he had the same problem last year and his Math teacher discovered exactly what was happening. She said that the first time she introduces a new concept, he is interested and will be listening attentively. But when she repeats herself the second or third time to cater to those who did not fully understand, that is when he will switch off and start fiddling in his pencil case to create something. She realised that he understands concepts easily and gets bored when the lesson is moving too slowly.

So his Math teacher decided that she would let him fold his origami quietly if she has to repeat herself for the other students. This is better than him turning to his friends to start chatting. So long as he is not disturbing anyone, it was a reasonable solution.

However, because he has switched off, he would miss important information and thus would not be able to complete his homework. She would then call his attention before issuing instructions. It took her many months, but she finally figured him out. In a class of 40, it is not easy to move everyone along at the same pace, thus it is inevitable that some students fall through the cracks.
#5's tinker corner
Mr Tan, his form teacher, had been listening quietly as I chatted with Mrs Lim and he finally chipped in. This is the first time #5 has a male teacher and I was keen to get his perspective.

I asked him directly. "Is he naughty in school?"

"He is not naughty. Yes, he is playful and very active and tends to talk loudly. But he is not what I'd call naughty. In fact, he has a caring side. When classmates do not understand their work, he will explain to them."

Music to my ears! Finally. A teacher who could see past his challenging behaviour, and in turn, he probably behaves himself better in Mr Tan's class.

He asked me what he does at home and I described how he likes to while away his after school hours tinkering with engineering concepts.

He starts by looking at the manual, but would toss it aside and freely create what he envisions in his mind. He would spend hours cooped up in his room and has no problems being able to focus on a single activity for several hours.

He built this structure and allowed Kate to place the little balls at the top and watch them drop into the collection cup he fashioned. He patiently problem-solved and shortened or lengthened the various threads and added or removed segments of the track to align it at the precise height for the ball to turn smoothly. He must have adjusted it a few hundred times! Such perseverance.

He explained to me that it should not roll too fast (or it will fly off course) nor too slow (as it will come to a halt). After playing with the same structure for a few days, he will dismantle it and start dreaming up something new.

Mr Tan said simply. "#5 is a bright boy. He is creative and inventive. He has lots of ideas and can lead others. The unfortunate thing is, he will perhaps not thrive in our local system, but I think you don't have to be worried. I am certain he will have a bright future. Are you considering sending him overseas?"

I asked him, as his English teacher, how can he tell that he is intelligent? He explained that when they discuss open ended questions, it is usually #5 who can come up with a fresh idea and he is able to back it up with a logical reasoning.

Mrs Lim, on the other hand, was concerned that this term, he has become even more inattentive. As we discussed further, she said that they are spending time covering answering techniques.

That explains it. She said that #5 is attentive when she is teaching a new Science topic. But when she teaches them how to answer the questions using the correct key words, he is not interested in listening.

Can I fault him? Should our exams even be thus? Nothing more than drilling and regurgitating, and giving the examiner the correct key words they are looking for?

As for his other 'bad' behaviour like blurting out in class, not filing his worksheets in the correct order and not handing in his homework on time, these are weaknesses in his executive function and that is a whole different set of skills altogether that is hard to address adequately in school.

I was never able to pin point them until now, and am actually relieved to discover that he is not just being lazy. He has poor verbal impulse control, lacks time management and organising skills and is weak at task initiation. Really need to work on these with him.

It was a rather strange PTM. 3 seated at the same table, coming from 3 different standpoints.

Mrs Lim was very worried and stressed that the PSLE is next year, yet he is so "unteachable".

Mr Tan who didn't quite know what to say to this parent, as he seemed stuck between a rock and a hard place. He is a part of this system, a system which is glaringly inadequate to support these mavericks, yet he recognises the different learning styles and needs of the students.

And me. A parent who wishes our education system was more progressive. I have thought long and hard about it and have made peace with the situation. We live in this country we call home, with family and friends around us, and we will stay put. It's a pity that our education system is evolving at such a snail's pace and our children are wasting too much time learning to ace exams.

It is something I have never conformed to and have decided that I will not subject #5 to it, at the risk of dampening his love of Science and of learning.

I will not force my round peg into a square hole. It is not worth it. I am prepared for whatever score he might get for his PSLE and I know it is not a reflection of his abilities nor intelligence.

I will be sure to let him know that too.

School Stories:

#1 - When your son gets into fights in school
#2 - My son the loan shark
#3 - So kids can't play once they start school?
#11 - How #2 topped her level in English
#12 - DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 - Tuition - First line of attack?
#14 - Why do exams have to be so stressful?
#15 - First day mix up!
#16 - The day I forgot to pick my son from school
#17 - No more T-score. Now what?
#18 - Tackling the new school year
#19 - She did it, without tuition.
#20 - So who's smarter?
#21 - Why I do not coach my kids anymore.


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



Monday, 14 August 2017

Rock Climbing at Railay Krabi

We went rock climbing in Krabi during the June holidays. From Krabi International Airport, it was a smooth 45-minute drive to Ao Nang. From there, we took a longtail boat to Railay, a climbing paradise with hundreds of different routes catering to beginners as well as experts.

The majestic limestone cliffs form part of the world's largest coral reef, stretching from China to Papua New Guinea, offering spectacular views for climbers. My kids enjoy rock climbing and were excited to try the real thing.
Railay
At Ao Nang, we picked The L hotel mainly because of its location. It sits in the middle of Ao Nang Beach Road with the boats anchored directly across the road. There are shops and dining options flanking it, and this stretch is livelier than Nopparat Thara Beach.
The L Hotel
We bought tickets from the booth at the beach front, which cost 100THB (approx S$4) per person. Buy your return tickets from here even if you are staying at Railay for a few days otherwise, you'll have to haggle with the unlicensed operators when you depart.

It was low tide and the boats were unable to come close to shore so we had to wade out. We should have donned our swimwear underneath our clothes. The water level was around our waist when a wave washed up, adding to our adventure!
Not so sure if I wanna climb..
It was a picturesque 15-minute ride from Ao Nang to Railay as we soaked in the sights of the massive limestone cliffs. Railay is only accessible by boat due to the cliffs which surround it, and there are no cars on this isolated peninsular.

We stayed at the Sand Sea Resort, and as our boatman alighted us at Railay Beach West, the resort was right in front of us. Perfect.
Longtail boat
Checking in at reception, we were dismayed at the poor attitude of the service staff. Instead of the typical warm greetings you would expect from the Thais, they were curt and unfriendly. Perhaps Railay is getting a little too touristy.

Our rock climbing session was booked online with Krabi Rock Climbing school, and in the email, I requested to be picked up at our resort. Our instructor was punctual and it was a 5-minute stroll through the sleepy "Walking Street" to his shop for the kids to be geared up.
Walking Street
I didn't expect Kate to climb as the minimum age stated in their website was 5 years old and she's only 4, but seeing her older siblings don their harnesses, she stood in line. We were amused that they did have tiny shoes small enough to fit her as she's rather petite.

Everyone was handed a bottle of mineral water and off we went. Don't forget the insect repellent and sunscreen!
Krabi Rock Climbing
It was another 10-minute walk as we were led through the middle of Railay to get to Railay Beach East. Being the start of the monsoon season, there were fewer than 20 climbers there. We were fortunate that the weather held out for us despite thunderstorm forecasts and we could enjoy Railay without peak season crowds.

He briefed the kids and #1 went first. They said that the difference between this and the artificial walls back home was that these walls were much rougher on the hands.

Our instructor gave the kids clear instructions when they were unsure which foothold to reach for next. Each route took about 10-20 minutes and he kept shouting encouraging words to motivate them to reach the top, and the girls managed to complete their climbs.

I'm glad they persevered and pushed past their limits to reach the rings where he anchored the ropes. It's a great sport to build grit and resilience.
Posing for a pic
They took turns, resting between climbs, and progressed to the more challenging routes. The kids were exhausted but really enjoyed it. Faces flushed, beaming with a sense of achievement.

We had purchased the half day climb, which was from 2-6 pm. The morning climb starts at 9 am, which was too early for the teens. The good thing about the afternoon climb was that the sun was starting to wane and it wasn't too hot. It costs about S$45 per person for the 4-hour climb.
Descending carefully
The kids had no problems with the descend as they knew how to use their legs to kick off the wall, but we did see a lady who did not do it the right way and she swung around and her body hit the wall. It is best for kids to get some experience with the artificial walls before coming here.

Railay East is not a proper beach and you can't swim nor play sand. We spotted longtail boats alighting and departing from this side as well, and unlike the West, there is a stone path which leads out to the boats, keeping you dry.

There are pros and cons of staying at either side of Railay. Railay West is nearer to the rock climbing walls, and you won't get wet when alighting from the boats, but you would have to trek across to the other side to hang out at the beach. For us, the accessibility to the beach was the main reason we decided to stay at Railay West.
Railay Beach East
Kate was content watching her siblings ascend and descend, but when it came to her turn and she was hooked onto the rope, she suddenly burst out crying. I asked if she wanted to climb just a little bit and she wailed, "Noooo!" We all laughed and her maiden climb ended even before it began.

I came prepared with a picnic mat, snacks and drinks which came in really handy as the kids started to get hungry after all that climbing and I didn't want to leave them and walk to the convenience store to look for food.

The ground is uneven and the stones are very rough so you have to be careful especially with younger kids. Kate made up her own game of stepping up and down the strange looking rocks.

I brought a spade and she whiled away the hours digging around the hard sand. I was also equipped with wet wipes, extra water to wash their hands, a towel, ponchos, sunblock and mosquito repellent. It drizzled for about 10 minutes but stopped as quickly as it started.

#5 is not as adventurous as the girls but he did try his best and enjoyed the experience too. He was more curious about the limestone cliffs and just had to climb into the little 'hole' to check it out. Many of the routes are shaded by the other cliffs and it was a rather comfortable climb.

We returned the gear and headed back to the beach. The younger ones played in the sand while the teens had fun bopping with the waves.

I had a wonderful time doing nothing and simply enjoying the laid back paradise. Glad we came during the low season as the beach was not crowded.

The sunset was spectacular and it was surreal how the beach goers sat in silence experiencing this simple marvel together. Everyone stopped what they were doing and watched the sky dance in a myriad of colours for a good half hour.
Stunning sunset
The rest of our time at Railay was spent frolicking on the beach, building sandcastles and enjoying the gentle waves.
Railay Beach West
With so many kids in tow, I did not venture down Walking Street for local food. We had all our meals at the beachfront for convenience. There was a wide variety on the menus, from local to Western to pizza and pasta but the prices were typical hotel prices.
Railay Bay Resort and Spa
The kids are keen to return to try the different climbing routes and we'll set aside time to explore the interesting limestone caves on kayaks or stand up paddles.
Little Kate
Maybe the next time I come back to Railay, I'll be brave enough to try rock climbing. Till then! xx


Related post: Why I took 6 kids on holiday by myself

Another paradise: Maldives - A most memorable vacation

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

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

And the hubs went away too

Our helper was away, and although it was tough managing the household, everything was still under control. The hubs works from home and held the fort, cooking lunch and dinner for the kids on days I had to work.

Then one evening, he said that he needed to go away. The next morning. For 2 days.

OH. Right.

Springing into action I looked at my work schedule. If there was nothing urgent I could work from home. However, I had a few meetings with outside partners scheduled and it wasn't so nice to cancel at the last minute.

Next, I went to the kids and wrote down all the different timings they would be back, and if they needed lunch.

The meetings were in the afternoon so I had the morning to prepare. I would be back around 8 pm which meant that one of the girls had to fix dinner. I peered into our freezer and pulled out meat that could easily be popped into the grill.
Breakfast, lunch and tea
A hearty breakfast. The next morning, I jumped out of bed at 5.30 knowing I had a long day ahead. I was so tempted to give them bread and butter, but seeing that they have been polishing everything up (my teens can eat a full meal at 6 am!), I wanted to give them nutritious food at home as they don't eat well at school and outside.

#4 was going to be in school for 10 hours, so I made her grilled salmon with quinoa for breakfast, packed her a double portion of pasta for lunch, and included 2 slices of banana cake.

One down, 5 more to go.
Pre-cooked lunch
Kids home alone. I told #5 that he would be all alone when he gets home after school. It's possibly the first time ever in his life! In a big household, with siblings, our helper and both sets of grandparents always around it is rare that anyone is home alone. I checked if he was going to be alright and he said, "Woah, ok!" He might have been thinking: I have the whole house to myself!

He listened attentively as I gave him instructions for lunch. All he had to do was heat up the sauce on the stove, microwave the pasta, and pour the sauce over it. Done.

He can fry an egg and boil pasta and I knew that he would be safe using the stove. I didn't want him to be doing something new with no one at home to supervise. One portion was his, and the other was for #3, who would be back 2 hours later.

#2 had night study and would be back late. So thankful that the mums and dads from the parent support group helped to provide dinner for the students.

4 settled, 2 left.
Dinner in a foil
After dropping Kate off at school, I rushed home to marinate the char siew and boil a pot of soup. I wrapped the parcels individually and all #3 had to do was to unwrap the parcels and put the whole tray in the oven.

She often bakes cupcakes and would have no problems removing the hot tray from the oven. I set my alarm to go off during my meeting so I could send her a text reminder to make dinner. (I had a fleeting image of my famished kids trooping home for dinner, facing an empty dining table.)
#1's lunch
#1 would be in school from 12 - 6 pm and as she normally doesn't get to have lunch at home, I made her a huge meal, plus soup. That should last her till she got home for dinner!

Somehow, I think I went into this sink or swim mode, feeling the need to keep them well-fed.
Crab Pomodoro
And finally, Kate. I left the house at 12 pm to pick Kate from school and she was the lucky one. We went to Antoinette for lunch, en route to my meeting. I totally deserve a good break after all that hard work and she's been my helpful little elf too.

I'm one of those who can't eat after cooking (so stressful whipping up meals within a time limit to get them fed and out the door) and coupled with my insufficient sleep and running around non-stop from 5 am to 12 midnight every day, I lost 2kg! Haha, best weight-lost plan ever.
A little executive
Bring your kid to work. Kate was such an angel and kept herself occupied through our 4-hour meeting without grumbling or badgering me to go home. 

She came to sit on my lap after 2 hours of doing her own drawing and writing, and after 20 minutes of listening to our boring adult talk, went back to her table. She spent the rest of the time having a tea break, chatting with the other adults and playing with her little toy puppy.

They were so impressed that a 4-year old could sit through a long meeting without constantly interrupting us. Proud of her!

By the time we reached home it was close to 8 pm and I was glad that the older girls had things under control. Kate and I had a quick dinner and it was off to shower and prepare for bedtime.
After school
Fun work meetings. The next day, Kate had to follow me to work again, but this time she was in for a surprise. My meetings were at indoor playgrounds and she had a whale of a time playing by herself.

We grabbed a quick lunch at a cafe, and I was stoked that we could get a decent meal for $6.50 in an aircon place, with 2 small sides, unlimited ice-cream, soft drinks or hot chocolate/cappuccino.

Now Kate wants to follow me to work all the time.
Thai dinner
The hubs is back. By Friday, we've had enough of cooking and washing and decided to eat out. Now that #1 has her driving license, it made things so much more convenient. We did not have to go all the way home in peak hour traffic to pick the kids, but she could drive them to meet us, which saved a lot of time.

We ended our meal with a delightful coconut ice-cream treat just the right size for our family!
Coconut ice-cream
It was a tiring 2 weeks, but we pulled through, and I have much to be thankful for.

For the hubs who did most of the household chores, my sis-in-law's helper who took care of the kids' uniforms, my dad-in-law who filled the freezers to the brim afraid that the kids would starve, friends who had Kate over for playdates, and my mum who came over to make Saturday night dinners.

The house was in a constant state of disarray, we switched to survival mode (what didn't need to be washed, swept, ironed could wait) and at times, tempers flared.

But it was a good 2 weeks.

The kids know how much goes into running a household and all the "unseen" work that mummy does on a daily basis, and they learnt to rely on each another as many hands make light work.

All of them missed their auntie, and I'm sure that they will appreciate her so much more.


More stories of our first week: Two weeks without our helper. Help!



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

Thursday, 3 August 2017

2 weeks without our helper. Help!

We were help-less for 16 days with our helper on home leave. I preferred that she went home during the school holidays - no routines, no early morning starts. However, she wanted to be there for her kids' year-end celebrations in school.

Previously, she went back during the June holidays and we drew up a chore list from ironing to throwing out the garbage. This time, her absence coincided with common test week and I moderated my expectations of the 4 older girls. As it is, #1 and #2 return home about 9 or 10 pm on most school nights after CCA or night study, and struggle to stay on top of their assignments and revisions.

What I didn't want though, was 6 kids hurling their demands at me. As kids who have grown up with a helper, it wasn't uncommon to hear them call, "Auntie Jane, where's my lunch?"

I get asked a lot, "How many helpers do you have? We only have one and she manages to take an afternoon nap on most days. The hubs and I believe that the kids should do most things on their own, and Kate was able to shower and get ready for school by herself before the age of 3.
My little elf
Setting expectations right. A few days before she left, I sent a text to the older girls. *Reminder: Auntie will be going home from xx to xx. Please wake yourselves up, make your own breakfast and wash your clothes. If you yell for me, I'll pretend not to hear you." I added some cute emojis to lighten the mood.

After making clear that everything was their own responsibility and that things do not happen magically around here, I went around to their rooms and checked what their plans were.

Kids being kids, they came up with creative solutions to do the chores faster. They organised their own laundry system and roped Kate in to be their distribution channel.

#3 asked pleadingly, "But mum, can you prepare breakfast for us? We have a lot of homework and revision and there's no time to make breakfast."

"Ok, but whatever I make, even if it's just bread and butter, I don't want to hear anything else besides "Thanks mum."

"Yay!!"

I'm no gourmet chef and some meals tend to turn out poorly so I had to pre-warn them if not I'll get upset with their attitude after putting a lot of effort into cooking.
Homemade wonton
Motivated Monday: 5.30 am. I was all psyched up, ready to take charge. I don't work on Mondays and dedicated the day to seeing to their meals, doing chores and planning the crazy week ahead. I stuck the daily schedule on the fridge so no kid gets missed out.

5.30 Wake #5, Make Breakfast
5.45 Check if #3 is awake via text
6.00 Prepare lunch box
6.15 Check if #4 is awake via text
7.00 Send #4 to school
7.20 Back home
7.30 Make Kate's Breakfast and lunch box
7.45 Send #2 to bus stop
8.10 Put #1's breakfast on the table
8.15 Send Kate to school
Salad box
Feeling energetic, I whipped up a hearty breakfast for the girls to last them through their exams.

After Kate was nicely tucked in school, I made a huge batch of banana cake with the ripe bananas my mum brought over from her garden. The washing up after was no fun, but the smell of freshly baked banana cake and knowing that the kids look forward to it made it all worthwhile.
Fresh bakes
It turned out to be a fulfilling domestic sort of day and if given a choice, I like life without a helper. Perhaps when Kate grows older.

For dinner, I pulled out whatever I could find in the fridge and whipped up a simple meal. The kids were impressed as I never cook dinner and usually make one dish meals. (Actually, I used the same seasoning and the same pot for all 3 dishes to save washing!)
Dinner time
After dinner team chores. It was #1's turn to do the dishes and she was stunned to see the sink filled to the brim with more plates piled at the side. "All this from one meal? That's so ineffective. We should just buy back." After she was halfway through she suddenly said, "Don't we have a dishwasher? Why aren't we using it?" With our helper around, we hardly used it and have forgotten all about it.

By Day 4, they were all missing Auntie Jane.

They were fortunate enough that our helper had arranged with my sis-in-law's helper next door to wash and iron their uniforms. All they had to do was wash and refill their own water bottles for school, collect and fold their laundry, clear up after meals and do the dishes. The hubs works from home and did the bulk of the chores.

Add a dose of humour. When the clothes were dry, I made an announcement. Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls... The clothes are ready to be collected! And pointed to the direction of the backyard with a grand flourish. That lightened the mood and was more effective than nagging.
Count down
Up at 5, out by 8. I began the week too enthusiastically and soon ran out of steam. My priority changed from wholesome meals to fast-to-cook-and-easy-to-wash meals.

Time was precious in the morning, getting 6 kids fed and out the door. Every minute counted.

Breakfast became kaya toast and the kids were quick to chope dinner leftovers. Kate's lunch box was pared down to biscuits and tomatoes, and she packed her own box on busy mornings.

I was pleased that they kept to their word and were appreciative of anything I put on the breakfast counter.
Easy meals
Kate to the rescue. She had the most spare time and willingly helped around the house. Some mornings she was woken up by my alarm clock at 5.30 and since she was already up, she helped to prepare breakfast.

When I came down after showering, I found her in the garden watering the plants, as she had seen our helper doing.
Junior chef
In the evening while I was cooking, she asked me to play. I told her I was busy and asked her to look around and see how she could help out. She spent an hour sweeping the car porch and had the initiative to put the shoes aside before sweeping away all the leaves. She's very meticulous and placed them back neatly in a row.

When her cousin popped by and asked her to play, she said, "Later ok? Auntie Jane is away so I am sweeping up the leaves." Glad she didn't throw the broom on the floor and run off to play!

I praised her and told her what a great little helper she was. She saw me bringing out the dishes and set the table without me asking.
Mini gardener
I was surprised by #5 too. He heard me delegating chores to the older girls and asked if he could help wash the dishes. I must admit that I don't expect much from him compared to the girls. If he can get his school bag and work sorted and filed without his teacher calling me, I'm already a happy mum.

Upon reflection, I realised that those are 2 very separate issues which require different skills, and he did want to make himself useful. In fact, he continued to help with the dishes for several nights when he saw that I was busy.
Enthusiastic helper
I woke up LATE! By Friday, I have been surviving on less than 5 hours of sleep per night and didn't hear the alarm go off. Suddenly I jolted awake!

#5 jumped out of bed, hopped into his uniform, grabbed his bag and ran to the waiting school bus.

I rushed into the kitchen and quickly whipped up banana pancakes for #4 and boiled pasta for her lunchbox. I literally squashed the banana, threw in wheat germ and mixed it vigorously with some milk and plonked them into the pan. They became known as my ugly pancakes but yummy nonetheless! #4 polished them up and said, "Look mum, I used a toothpick to save you washing a fork."

Kate went to her school bag, pulled out her water bottle and lunch box from the day before (thankfully it was empty and clean-ish) and washed them while singing an upbeat song really loudly. At 6.45am.

It was one of those moments when you feel so drained. But seeing them trying to help cheered me up.

Between planning, executing, disciplining the younger ones and counselling the older ones, I was TOTALLY EXHAUSTED.

It is a herculean task to work, put 3 square meals on the table, take care of the kids and keep the house in order.

Those who have been doing this day in day out, seriously, hats off to you. You need to share your tips!

I can get through one more week. Just one more week...


Other lessons (which I've learnt the hard way):

Lesson #15: What are we worth, mums?
Lesson #16: What do you do when you get sick of parenting?
Lesson #17: The tragedy of our society

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